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Gambling and Poor Bets
Michael Ubaldi, July 6, 2004.

Reactions to John Kerry's choice of Senator John Edwards as his running mate for the White House are rolling in. As usual, IP's got a nice clutch of observations, slams and compliments.

You know what I think about the North Carolina senator's domestic message. But what about the man's strength on national security? As Glenn Reynolds notes, Edwards has been far more nimble than John Kerry and his dancing-bear-of-a-year on war issues — especially those supported before rejection (or vice versa). But we all got a peek into Edwards' mind when he and Brit Hume went toe-to-toe in a January Democratic debate. Few caught the significance of what Edwards said at the time, fewer remember it today. But it's worth another look. From my day-after review of the debate:

John Edwards made the most reasonable explanation for his vote against the $87 billion supplemental appropriation for the war. As with any debate, he believed his opposition could drive the majority into offering concessions. Edwards should have stopped there, looking collected, sagacious and statesmanlike. But he kept going, began boasting, and revealed a disturbing ruthlessness:
EDWARDS: It was not a protest vote. I voted exactly the way I thought I should have voted.

And not only that, had I been the deciding vote, I would have voted exactly the same way. Because what would have happened, had that occurred, is the president would have immediately come back to the Congress with a plan, changing course, so that he could get the approval he needed.

And I thought it was critically important for us to say to this president, "What you're doing is wrong. You have to change course."

It's all well and good to criticize him. That's just words. We came to the point where we had to stand up and take responsibility. I took responsibility.

HUME: Just to follow up quickly there, how do you know the president would have come back? And how do you know that whatever he asked for would've passed had you voted no when your vote was decisive?

EDWARDS: Because I know - Brit, because I know that the president, nor us, would have ever left the troops over there without the support that they needed. None of us would have allowed that to happen.

Of all his talents, Brit Hume's ability to subtly tease something out of a guest is unparalleled. Look at what Edwards said: confident that Washington wouldn't leave reconstruction in Iraq (the military, CPA, CERP), Afghanistan, and troops in the wider war hanging, he was free to press his concerns. What were they? United Nations control of a reconstruction from which it recused itself and later fled (after refusing protection from the Allies); and the suggestion of NATO troops on the border - utterly meaningless, as most NATO countries are already represented in Iraq. Taking pride in deciding the failure of vital monetary provisions over peanuts isn't leadership: it's brinksmanship. I hope I'm not the only one to have noticed how illustrative that brief exchange was.

As I said to Glenn, Edwards' admission was careless, and if anyone were interested in the finer points of the man's governing ethos, they'd hit him on this flash of rash arrogance — and hard.