Edwards Recalls Legal Victories
To Reinforce Outsider Image
Former Sen. John Edwards is reclaiming his professional roots as a trial lawyer.
Locked in a make-or-break battle in Iowa with Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate presents himself as a fiesty outsider who will shake up establishment Washington and reclaim government for the little guy. It's a style that traces back to Edwards' long career as a star defense attorney. But this year, he hasn't much bragged about his courtroom work to political audiences.
That appears to be changing. The former senator is lacing his public remarks with references to his legal victories, and a senior Edwards aide said the candidate would make prominent mention of his trial work during his address tonight at the high-profile Jefferson Jackson Day dinner. It's a career that made him a multimillionaire, but that also put Edwards on the map in North Carolina, where as a political novice he beat GOP incumbent Lauch Faircloth to win a Senate seat in 1998.
All those medical malpractice and product liability cases provide Edwards with a framework for his populist message, which some of his rivals have questioned as election-year posturing. But they also risk tarnishing the squeaky clean image that Edwards has carefully honed, vis a vis special interests. The trial lawyers' lobby is one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Washington - and its members have proven highly generous to Edwards throughout his political career.
Speaking at a Farmers Union summit in Des Moines this morning, Edwards lamented the plight of family farmers, asserting, "We need somebody to stand up for you. Somebody to fight for you. Somebody who will fight against those who are trying to take your way of life away from you," Then he added, "I walked into courtrooms for 20 years where there was a whole army of lawyers on the other side representing corporate America.And I went into that courtroom, and I fought them, and I beat them, and I beat them, and I beat them again. And I will beat them as president of the United States - you can count on it."
Edwards then described one of the lawsuits that made him famous - and rich. He was hired to represent the family of a little girl seriously injured in a swimming pool drain. "And I sat with her and her family, and said I know I know this is hard for you. But we can do something about this and then I walked into that courtoom, and I gave that company hell. And that is exactly what we need to do."
The jury award in the swimming-pool case: a record $25 million.
November 10, 2007; 4:46 PM ET
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