N. MIAMI BEACH — John Kerry’s voice seems always a mite gravely, perhaps from groveling overmuch to Teresa. When he comes to her with honey in his voice he usually leaves with some scratch. In contrast, John Edwards, a man who finds bonanzas in juries, generally has his vocal cords well-oiled. But the campaign trail is brutal. Now even his cackling has begun crackling; he is giving us his hoarsest sass.
Usually we have the sensitivity to humor him when he tries to crack some half-witticism. At least his jabs are not as comically ossified as those with which we are harried by Kerry. So when Jay Leno tossed him an underhanded pitch the other night — “What was that bulge in Bush’s jacket?” — we anticipated one line drive to center. Instead we get this foul bawl: “Probably his battery.”
We expect no better from Leno, an unlettered man, but Edwards? A man claiming superiority in being kind and in degree? A man admitted to the Bar and tending to victims? A man who walks the streets of Washington with a heart of gold? A man who believes in minimum waging of war? Call me conservative, but isn’t this too liberal a dose of ridicule? Even a President who stepped like Ford should not be called a robot.
Still, hey, I’m willing to be for giving the dog his day and for getting out of his hair, and one late-night mistake need not hang over his head. Yet I draw the line at a silly joke designed on a comedy show to leave them agog; no blank check to be a demagogue. And that is just what Mr. Edwards was on the stump the other day, when he commented upon the tragic passing of Christopher Reeve.
He said that were John Kerry presiding over the Federal government, Reeve might well have stood up from his wheelchair and walked again, the beneficiary of unrestricted research with stem cells. Is this political theater or the operating theater? It may be dizzying to take your show on the road, but you cannot make us swallow this drama of the mean.
Campy pain is tolerable; mining a tragedy for political effect is questionable. But hinting that your opponent might have hastened the demise or exacerbated its agony is inexcusable, utterly execrable. There must be a plausible line even in the sand of the campaign trail that is never crossed: that applause line needed to be crossed out. It may be a horse race but we don’t need this hot air at the end.
SO LET ME TELL YOU WHAT this really means. This is an attempt for a revival in a flagging campaign. Beneath a coy veil of science, behind a flimsy mantle of reason, they begin a sultry dance of revelation, a throbbing surge of passion. They begin to speak in the tongues of religious ecstasy. Come to the tall minister with his face etched in your pain, come to the golden preacher with the smooth unlined countenance, and feed your worries up to them.
Do you feel the power? It’s Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show! Put your hand in his, because that’s what it’s there for: surrender control and the pain will be immediately released. Believe their lame and halting promises and get up from your wheelchair. Rise, rise and the world is yours. It is enough to trust, to have faith, to believe in a vision of a better future.
Come on, now, don’t hold on to that gold. That gold is corrupting you now. It is eating away at your heart, washing the kindness right out. It is turning you into something ugly and grasping. You are selling your soul to greed. There, now, take out your wallets, your checkbooks. Visa and Mastercard accepted. Give it up for Uncle Sam. And the two Uncle Johns. They will cleanse you of your filthy lucre.
You will be free. Free at last. Your pockets are empty. Your soul is pure. If your soul is clean, your body is sound. It is strong. It is in the care of the lord, the lords of government. They will feed you and clothe you. Nothing can hold you back. No one can keep you down. Yes, you, you there in the wheelchair, even you. Stand up, come on, feel the power, there, there, stand right up and bear witness.
After battling the morality that our civilization, inspired and informed by religion, crafted and built over millennia, they offer us an alternative salvation. Worship at the Church of the Unholy Sepulchral Grin. Pay obeisance to Our Lady of the Presumption. Be a member at Congregation Bnai Breathless. Give to Mother Teresa at the United Shrewish Appeal.
Do us a favor, guys. Pack up your gear and get back into your little caravan and find another bunch of suckers. We don’t want your snakes or your snake oil. We have traditions and institutions that have stood the test of time. We have values that are not lightly negotiable. Mr. Edwards, shame on you. Your parroting of Kerry’s patrician baloney in a poly-cracker accent is annoying enough. But cut the shimmy and swagger.
Still, I guess that if he must talk out of both sides, then his hoarseness is an asset.