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How Holy Art Thou?

It has become the epithet of the 2008 presidential primaries, at least in the early going: "holier than thou." First there was Mitt Romney, showing a rare flash of pique in his usually unruffled front at last week's GOP debate in Iowa as he fired back at criticisms of his pro-life credentials from Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback. "I get tired of people that are holier than thou because they've been pro-life longer than I have," Romney snapped.

Today arrived the latest charge of overdone piety. In an interview published in the August issue of The Progressive magazine, Elizabeth Edwards complained that Barack Obama has been going overboard in lording his initial opposition to the Iraq war over his chief Democratic rivals John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, both of whom voted for the war in the Senate in 2002. By wrapping himself in his initial opposition, Elizabeth Edwards suggested, Obama is obscuring the fact that he has supported funding for the war since arriving in the Senate, in contrast to John Edwards, who since leaving the Senate has turned sharply against the war.

"Obama gives a speech that's likely to be extraordinarily popular in his home district, and then comes to the Senate and votes for funding," Elizabeth Edwards said in the article. "So you are going to get people behaving in a holier-than-thou way. But John stood up when he was in the Senate for exactly the thing he's asking these people to stand up for now."

The Progressive interview was Elizabeth Edwards' latest swipe at her husband's rivals; she's previously criticized Clinton for not taking a strong enough stand on women's issues. And in an article just published in Rolling Stone, Edwards again took Clinton to task. "Health care is a woman's issue; the face of poverty is a woman's face. Yet she's got nothing on these issues? Where are the programs? They're completely missing," she told the magazine.

It is probably no coincidence that the two recent uses of the holier-than-thou epithet occurred in roughly equivalent contexts -- a candidate (or candidate's spouse) taking umbrage at criticism from a rival who arrived at a given position earlier. The leveling of the holier than thou charge also provides one more point of similarity between Romney and Edwards, candidates who, as some commentators and wags have noted, share several cross-party traits in common: extraordinary wealth, good looks, impressive hair, smooth delivery and -- to the possible consternation of their rivals -- an ability to pitch to their parties' base despite previously moderate reputations.
--Perry Bacon Jr. and Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  August 14, 2007; 2:13 PM ET
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Posted by: OEST | August 15, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

peterdc is a clear indication of the problem the Edwardses face.

John Edwards' first problem is the corporate media, which decided a long time ago to push "Clobama," and crucify John Edwards. When the vast majority of the voting public gets its information from the TELEVISION SET, then of course Clinton and Obama are going to be doing the best, since the media is shoving them down the public's throat.

But, when you look at people who study this stuff in great detail and look at what the candidates actually think about most issues, many of those people being active online in the blogs where they gather to discuss the campaign, John Edwards always does better with "INFORMED" voters, like those a MoveOn, YearlyKos, and the 2004 PBS Deliberative study, or he has their respect.

He does poorly among people who get their information from the corporate media.

John Edwards' problem is running an issues campaign in a country full of idiots. The media is all about "IMAGE," and that's what most voters respond the media decided a long time ago to destroy John Edwards' image over things that don't matter at all, like the things that you just mentioned. Clobama is winning the Image Primary, John Edwards is winning the Ideas primary. The public doesn't really care about ideas, no matter what it says.

Most candidates running for President are rich. It's only a problem, according to the media, if John Edwards is rich, as if a rich person can't sincerely care about the poor. Hear that Bill Gates, Warren Buffent, Jesus Christ. The media may as well be mocking Jesus for eating with the poor while claiming to be the "King of Kings," when they assert that Edwards' can't possibly care just because he's rich.

Hillary Clinton had a $6,000 hair and make up session that was paid for out of campaign cash, Mitt Romney had a $300 make up session. The media doesn't care about other candidates doing those things, becaues they are NORMAL CAMPAIGN EXPENSES in this day and age. It's only a problem when it's John Edwards, because they need to tear him down.

Mitt Romney is worth $250 million dollars, and has several mansions. Do you think the Clintons' only place of residence is in NYC? Get real. Having a big house, albeit one that was gold-star rated for energy efficency by the U.S. DOE, is only a problem if your name is John Edwards, even though the house isn't as big as they say. The part with the basketball court and rooms for guests is the biggest part, but I wouldn't expect know-nothings like peterdc to know the details.

Bill Clinton made MILLIONS OF DOLLARS giving speeches to colleges and private institutions. Rudolph GHOULiani was getting $500,000 a pop to give speeches about the botched job that he did on 9/11. Not a problem. It's only a problem when John Edwards gets paid $50,000 to give a speech to a university just like the ones that were paying Clinton & GHOULiani at least 10 times as much to give a speech, because, let's face it, NORMAL THINGS are only issues if John Edwards does them.

Why would Bush have a ranch in Crawford, TX if he's going to be in the White House, peterdc?

First of all, the President serves 4 year terms, not 8 year terms, so anyone who won, would only be guaranteed "4 YEARS" unless they got re-elected. Secondly, Presidents aren't ALWAYS in DC, and when they aren't, these days they need a complex big enough, and isolated enough, to bring cabinet members and secret service officials, as well as "FOREIGN LEADERS," to stay with them on occasion. Anyone with a brain can figure that out.

John Edwards would need a house big enough to have room for foreign leaders and their entourages, as well as members of his own cabinet, should he win, and that's no different than Bush taking people down to Crawford, TX.

Elizabeth Edwards' comments only hurt her husband because the Edwardes' foolishly believe that the American people are smart enough to figure things out on their own. The reason that Rove has been able to manipulate Bush into power everywhere is because he understands that the American people are dumb enough to fall for anything...except for the truth.

The Republicans understand the trigger points of people.

The Edwardses try to appeal to the intellect and the better part of a people who would rather have gossip than gospel.

Elizabeth Edwards should understand that the people will not focus on the SUBSTANCE of what she is saying. No one is talking about Obama funding a war that he claims to be against, they are just looking for red meat, meaning, "Elizabeth Edwards attacking blah, blah, blah."

That's what's hurting the Edwardses; believing in a people who are too stupid to get it, as exemplified by peterdc.

Posted by: OEST | August 15, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Elizabeth Edwards is going to wear out her welcome with the American public if she keeps this up.

I understand her frustration as her husband has spent two years campaigning and can't seem to get any real traction. In fact he is going downhill in Iowa and Nevada and couldn't get the union endorsements he wanted.

But maybe Ms. Edwards should look to the mistakes that John Edwards has made to see what the problems are. Working for Hedge fund and then saying he did it to learn about economics and didn't know they were doing subprime mortgages. Charging $50,000 to give an anti-poverty speech. Those silly haircuts. Building a 26,000 square foot home from which you won't be able to see any poor people.

This is what is hurting John Edwards. It's a matter of believability and he is losing that. Why build the home if you intend to live in the White House for 8 years. Why work for a hedge fund- the place where rich people try to get richer.

I like Elizabeth Edwards and I feel for her and the health problems she is having. But she should try to curb her frustration with the campaign and indirectly with the American people. Her comments are starting to hurt her husband more than they are helping.

Posted by: peterdc | August 15, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I would love for my suggestions to reach someone on the Obama advisory team for consideration and comment - David Axelrod would be great.

I have been following his campaign mainy through google news - search string "Obama". I have been reading through at least 12 stories a day for the last 3 month, and have noticed that this month the number of Anti - Obama stories has been steadily increasing (especially with an increase in the gap in the national polls). Based on this trend I've been tempted to draw the following conclusions:

The Hillary Clinton campaign / republican wing is influencing the associated press and major news media organizations and so have pursued a campaign to sink Obama in negative publicity - especially by spinning his words with often insufficient sound bites.

The associated press and major news media organizations have of their own accord endorsed Hillary Clinton - maybe for the benefits they see in her politics (namely open lobbying - a majority of the ads on CNN are insurance companies).

Though it is good for a candidate to remain steady and unmoved by every nuance of main stream reaction. The idea of inevitability around Hillary Clinton is a problem.

To gain ground quickly I have a few suggestions for campain strategy (I am a television producer).

1. Obama should use highly rated television sit downs to jump over reporters and speak to the people directly - reporters interpret and translate what's said to the masses often in skewd perspectives or with agenda. But if you want to explain most clearly your policies to the people and let them know your personality - he should do alot more television programs with high ratings (prime time)... to explain his positions eg. Oprah.. Meet the Press.. Today Show.. Larry King.. basically every sit down tv show one by one. Let them tackle at least one issue per show. It's a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short time, and then the AP and main stream news will have to maintain some objectivity in reporting on a show that everyone saw. Note. Hillary Clinton will be on Ellen D. show soon, and this is approx 2 weeks post the LGBT meeting. It is relevant.

2. Obama needs to sound more knowledgable of the history of past policies and his issues on the campaign trail. It reassures people of your experience and qualifications when you can communicate to them why the system is broken in a more detail way by including some of the problems faced. This is where Hillary Clinton is beating him. She is sounding knowlegable and it is reassuring voters that she is more competent. Advice him to sit with advisers / experienced senators WHO KNOW - for indept WASHINGTON history lessons. He doesn't have to sound long winded as she does, but more facts of the past and where he's going to go. After all YOU CANNOT COMMUNICATE CHANGING WASHINGTON IF IT APPEARS LIKE YOU HAVE LITTLE IDEA ABOUT THE COMPLEXITIES AND PAST OF WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO CHANGE. People might be left with that impression and they will eventually not buy into it. BUT.... HE DOES NOT HAVE TO LIVE IN WASHINGTON TO KNOW ABOUT THE PAST OF WASHINGTON. So he needs history lessons. How does his steps fit together to get to America to the goal (in more detail). Everybody wants peace on earth and change.. sure.. we know.. but what next?

I am sure you are hearing most of these suggestions already or he has his own game plan.

God speed Obama.

Posted by: adrianedge | August 15, 2007 12:40 AM | Report abuse

I agree completely with rdklingus. John and his wife knows that if she makes these outrageous comments, no one is going to bash her. I mean who wants to say evil things about a dying woman. Negative comments against her would only put Hillary and Barack at risk of destroying their campaigns. John is such a punk!!! How dare he just sit back and let her speak for him. I would never vote for John. Their campaign runs off of sympathy.

Posted by: black_coffee_26 | August 14, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Elizabeth Edwards is absolutely right, of course.

Obama likes to say that he, quote, "opposed this war from the beginning," which is a lie, since he "supporting this war SINCE THE BEGINNING of his Senate term."

Obama never saw a funding bill for the Iraq War that he didn't like. He even liked the last one, which is the only one he has voted against, considering the fact that he didn't make known early on that he would vote against it, and instead waiting until it had basically been passed before he came out to the Senate floor to vote against it.

Sure, Obama is acting holier-than-thou by acting like he's not to blame for what's happening in Iraq, when he has CONTINUOUSLY voted to continue it since he got to the Senate in 2004.

John Edwards says that he was wrong to give Bush the authority to go into Iraq.

Does Barack Obama believe that he (Obama) was wrong to keep giving Bush money to CONTINUE it, especially after he had seen when he arrived that the Bush strategy wasn't working?

Which is worse? Making a wrong turn down a wrong way street causing an accident, like John Edwards did by initially authorizing the invasion of Iraq, or seeing the accident that was caused and jumping in the car and continuing to drive in the wrong direction, thus causing even more accidents like Obama did?

At least John Edwards had enough sense not to ever vote for any funding for Iraq, especially after it was proven that Bush was screwing up there.

The only Democrat running who has been consistent about Iraq from day one is Dennis Kucinich.

Barack Obama has no reason to thump his chest about iraq, when he has continuously voted to give Bush money to keep screwing up in Iraq.

And saying the money was for the troops is a cop-out. If they cut off funding for "the war," there would still be enough money in the Pentagon budget to withdraw troops from Iraq, and even if there wasn't, Congress could pass a supplemental bill for withdrawal only.

Elizabeth Edwards is right, even though she didn't say as much as I did.

Posted by: OEST | August 14, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I am proud to be an American when I see the way the Iowa straw poll seemed to cut through some of the hype created by the media that was in favor of the over financed candidates.

Back about 1915 or so we had a politician named Woodrow Wilson that accepted a bribe to create the Federal Reserve. They were a group of very powerful bankers and businessmen from around the world at the time. Through the monopoly of being the source of our money and by being outside of our government, or paying any taxes, they have built up a fortune that, I believe, includes owning most of the politicians of the world.

It is going to take a determined, We the People, to restore law and order in our government before we can restore law and order in our streets.

"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world. No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men."

-Woodrow Wilson

Posted by: Stokeybob | August 14, 2007 7:56 PM | Report abuse

ms. edwars makes it very easy to dislike her; she's being used as attack dog with deniability.

Posted by: shmaryahoopizzaman | August 14, 2007 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Just weeks ago I really liked Mrs. Edwards. Now, after complaining that she can't make her husband white, or a woman, and after today's frivalous attack I'm not so sure about her. Obama was against the war, but wouldn't cut funding for the troops, which is a totally respectable position! It may not play well with such an anti-war base, but that just shows how measured and principled Obama is. Edwards voted for the war, then lost his senate seat and years later when it was unpopular he conveniently started attacking those current senators that have to make the hard decision between sending Bush a message and funding the troops. I think both John and Elizabeth are showing themselves to be shallow and dishonest.

Posted by: markdmorris | August 14, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Edwards and Romney also share flip-flopping:

1) Voted for the Iraq war before he voted against it
2) Voted for Free Trade with China before he apologized for it
3) Voted for nuclear waste at the Yucca mountain before he apologized for it
4) Voted for NCLB before he suggested to scrap it
5) Voted for bunkraptcy report before he apologized for it.

It's sad to see Mrs Edwards used as an attack dog.

Posted by: yiannis | August 14, 2007 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Elizabeth Edwards is a smart person and certainly one has to empathize with the adversity in her life, but some of these swipes she is taking at Obama and Clinton are problematic. The respect and goodwill she enjoys is dangerously close to being diminished as she is perceived as her husband's untouchable mouthpiece. I suspect that were Judith Giuliani or Jeri Thompson to actively take on such a role for their spouses the media would be far more critical of them and the candidate critiques they might make. Hard to say this, but has Mrs. Edward's cancer made her holier than thou?

Posted by: rdklingus | August 14, 2007 4:22 PM | Report abuse

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