Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Edwards Ad in Iowa: "Health Care"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 433

John Edwards has put up a second ad in Iowa. The 30 second spot, titled "Health Care," runs as follows:

“When I’m president I’m going to say to members of Congress and members of my administration, including my cabinet: I’m glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don’t pass universal health care by July of 2009 – in six months – I’m going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you. [Applause] There’s no excuse for politicians in Washington having health care when you don’t have health care. I’m John Edwards and I approve this message.”

The rhetoric and tone of the ad are vintage John Edwards. But I have questions. For instance, where the ad states "I’m going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you," what does that mean, exactly? What powers, specifically? A press release issued by the Edwards campaign today says, in part, "On the first day of Edwards’ administration, he will submit legislation that ends health care coverage for the president, all members of Congress, and all senior political appointees in the legislative and executive branches of government on July 20th, 2009 -- unless Congress has enacted universal health care reform.[emphasis added]" If John Edwards is planning to make good on his threat to end health care coverage for Congress by introducing legislation, isn't he forgetting that legislation is passed by Congress? I mean, Edwards does know that, doesn't he? Does John Edwards really expect the Legislative Branch, the castigation of which has become his main campaign theme, to suddenly change from the hopelessly corrupt institution he's been saying it is, and pass legislation that eliminates health care coverage for its own members? The bill would be dead on arrival, and its introduction would do nothing but irreparably poison from the outset Edwards' chances of achieving anything with Congress. Including, of course, universal health care.

If not legislation, what then? Executive order? Not likely. Presidents don't get to rule by fiat, no matter what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would have us believe. Any attempt by the Executive Branch to eliminate health care for the Legislative Branch with a stroke of the presidential pen would face immediate challenge in the courts as a violation of Constitutional separation of powers. The likelihood of the order being upheld in the courts is remote, at best.

So what is John Edwards getting at here? If the answer is that John Edwards is the voice of the common American in this election, and this latest ad continues that strategy, then is it likely that this will win him any votes he doesn't already have? If it does, and this strategy ultimately delivers the White House to John Edwards, what will become of his ability to govern once he has tried, and likely failed, to achieve his objectives through unilateral application of presidential power?

Like so much about John Edwards, this latest salvo over health care, and the ad promoting it, just doesn't stand up to examination. The tragedy of John Edwards in this campaign cycle is that the approach he advocates to achieve the change that so many good people cry out for is so inherently flawed that it simply cannot succeed. Those who look to Edwards to deliver on his rhetoric will be sorely disappointed in the lack of results, leading to further disaffection of citizens from their government and the perpetuation of the apathy that is killing our democracy.

Change, in so many areas, simply must be achieved in this country. And sincerity, dedication, good intentions and even fiery rhetoric will all be necessary to make it happen. But they will not be enough, in themselves, to finally deliver results. That will require statecraft, and it will demand compromise. Ultimately, it will depend on the ability of the President of the United States to persuade people of all political viewpoints of the rightness of his/her cause, rather than merely exacting pain in consequence of defiance. Increasingly, John Edwards is demonstrating that he does not possess, or cares not to use, that ability. Whatever gifts and assets John Edwards may possess as a candidate, the fact that he no longer even feigns interest in the essential work of bringing people together to produce results for the American people makes him a very poor choice for our next president.

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