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Remember John Kerry’s Running Mate?

From The Scrapbook

May 7, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 32 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook admits that it has taken some interest—well, more than a little interest—in John Edwards’s fraud trial in North Carolina. Like many grand catastrophes in the political world, it combines bizarre facts and distasteful anecdotes with an unseemly element of satisfaction. If any political figure of recent times had to fall, and fall hard, who better than the self-infatuated, expensively coiffed ex-personal injury lawyer-turned-freshman senator who ran (twice) for president?

Photo of John Edwards

And that has been, for the most part, the way the press has played it. Inevitably, the New York Times sent Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd down to Greensboro to dispatch her patented snark about Edwards’s hairdo and the curious cast of characters that surrounded him: his star-struck aide-de-camp Andrew Young, for instance, who seems to have regarded Edwards as a combination of Charlemagne and Abe Lincoln; and his mistress/cinematographer/baby mama Rielle Hunter, who combined a taste for high living with a firm adherence to a series of weird New Age beliefs. Very amusing.

Yet it has been noticed, and with good reason, that while many of the dispatches from Greensboro have been lavish with these kinds of entertaining details, they have failed (for some mysterious reason!) to note ex-senator Edwards’s party affiliation. If you follow the AP’s thorough coverage of the case, for example, you would not necessarily be aware that the defendant is a Democrat, served a term in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, and indeed was the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee. 

Need The Scrapbook point out that such journalistic evenhandedness would probably not apply if Edwards were a Republican?

Well, that’s just the usual double standard, with which Scrapbook readers are wearily familiar. But the two words that The Scrapbook has been straining to hear—and has yet to find anywhere in evidence—are “John” and “Kerry.” There seems to be full agreement, in retrospect, that John Edwards is an especially slimy specimen, and that the American body politic is well rid of him. But there seems to be further agreement to wholly ignore the fact that, just a few years ago, he was the choice of John Kerry and the Democratic party to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. 

Is it possible that John Edwards’s fitness for the presidency suffered a startling decline in the period between then and now? Or is it entirely more likely that Edwards was, plain and simple, then as now, an appalling choice in 2004 for the Democratic ticket?

Given the level of acrimony and plain viciousness expressed on the left about Sarah Palin—who, last we heard, is not on trial for fraud in Alaska—this squalid episode, which could very well result in imprisonment for John Edwards, ought to raise a few reasonable questions about his patron, Sen. John Kerry. If, for example, President Obama is reelected this fall, and Kerry remains the odds-on favorite to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, are we prepared to put American foreign policy in the care of someone who, when running for president, surveyed the landscape for a fit successor in the White House—and chose John Edwards?

Extra Credit

Sometime in the next few weeks, the Senate will vote on a proposed law that should warm the heart of just about any small-government conservative. By doing away with some burdensome, outdated government rules, the bill would free up billions of dollars in new credit for smaller businesses that desperately need it. All at no cost to taxpayers. 

The Small Business Lending Enhancement Act runs less than 1,200 words and, at a glance, has a sterling free-market pedigree: Conservative stalwart Ed Royce (R-Calif.) is its lead sponsor in the House, and he has gotten dozens of his Republican and Democratic colleagues to join him. But, in the Senate, things are different. In the upper chamber, only three Republicans—Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (both from Maine) and Kentucky’s Rand Paul—have joined sponsor Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and 18 other Democrats who have signed on.

The probable reason? The bene-ficiaries of the bill’s deregulatory actions are credit unions, smallish, democratically run depository institutions that focus on lending to people who can’t get credit from banks. (The amount that credit unions can lend to businesses is currently capped.) The banks, already facing well-known problems of their own, just don’t feel they can stand even a tiny increase in competition and have thrown their weight into defeating the bill. For any member of the Senate who wants to campaign on cutting burdensome regulations, however, the calculus should be simple: Deregulatory efforts should be spread to every group, not just the ones with the most clout in the Republican party.

Required Reading

The Scrapbook sends warm congratulations to our friends at the Claremont Review of Books for reaching two milestones: a decade of publication and the release of the journal’s first compilation. We’ve been dipping into Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Ten Years of the Claremont Review of Books, collected by CRB editor Charles R. Kesler and managing editor John B. Kienker, with edification and gratification.

Truth be told, the review released its first issue in the fall of 2000, but publishing can be a leisurely business. We’re glad to see the volume in stores now: The nearly 60 reviews and essays reprinted display the Review’s admirable range. There’s James Ceaser on “The Presidential Nomination Mess” (a prescient piece published four years ago), Steven Hayward on the “gathering backlash among academic scientists against the straitjacket of orthodox environmentalism,” Harvey Mansfield on Harvard ousting president Larry Summers, and Joseph Epstein arguing “Against the Virtual Life.” (And those are just a few essays by some of The Weekly Standard’s frequent contributors.)

But what else would you expect from an editor who compares his magazine and its competitors to David and Goliath, and in passing connects the biblical story to the work of Quentin Tarantino? Elsewhere in his introduction, Kesler succinctly sets the CRB apart, not just from the liberal reviews of books, but also its conservative brethren:

Some conservatives start, as it were, from Edmund Burke; others from Friedrich Hayek. While we respect both thinkers and their schools of thought, we begin instead from America, the American political tradition in all its genius and profundity, and the relation of our tradition to revealed wisdom and to what the elderly Jefferson once called, rather insouciantly, “the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.”

Kesler believes this “approach clears the air. It concentrates the mind.” So does a dip into this excellent sampling of the CRB’s first decade.

The Jeopardy Standard

Last week, readers who also watch Jeopardy!—The Scrapbook suspects there is a lot of overlap in that Venn diagram—may have noticed a diverting question, er, “answer” on the popular game show: “This editor of The Weekly Standard can also be seen on Fox News Sunday.” The screen then showed a publicity photo of our illustrious editor. Much to our collective relief, a contestant correctly asked, “Who is Kristol?”

If we may engage in a bit of ideological ribbing, in January when Alex Trebek posed the answer “This cable TV newswoman received a doctorate in politics from Oxford,” accompanied by a picture of Rachel Maddow, the contestants were stumped. And if we may brag a little further about this magazine’s Jeopardy! pedigree: The Weekly Standard’s advertising director Nick Swezey had a successful run on the show a few years ago, ending up in the Tournament of Champions. One of our founding editors and current film reviewer, John Podhoretz, was a five-time champion on the show in 1986, back when they limited contestants to five wins. And regular contributor and columnist and blogger at the American Enterprise Institute James Pethokoukis won on the show in 2002.

Now you know why whenever we hear “Jeopardy! our question is “What is The Scrapbook’s favorite game show?”

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