Brown U Prof: John Edwards Can Find Platform as Champion for the Poor

March 11th, 2009 10:58 AM

If you thought John Edwards was permanently gone from the political scene, you would be wrong. Unbelievably, Edwards is now tentatively taking steps to re-enter politics as you can read in this McClatchy report by Barbara Barrett which appeared in the Miami Herald. The idea of Edwards returning to politics might seem like an incredibly laughable notion to most of us but not to a certain Brown University professor of political science who takes it completely seriously as we shall see. Please stifle your laughter as you read about the grand return of John Edwards:

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards took another tentative step into the public spotlight Tuesday, speaking at Brown University about extreme poverty around the world and urging Americans to get involved in what he called a "fundamental moral issue."

Edwards, a two-time candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has struggled to get his message heard since a scandal about an affair he had with a former campaign staffer enveloped his personal life.

A two-timing two-time candidate. Sorry, your humble correspondent just couldn't resist. 

During 30 minutes of questions following Tuesday night's speech, just one person in the audience of nearly 600 came close to asking about the affair.

A student who said she organized for Edwards on campus and knocked on doors for him in New Hampshire asked whether politicians should be held to higher moral standards than the rest of the public.

The question sent murmurs through the crowd.

"I don't think it's for a candidate to decide what's appropriate," Edwards said. "It's something for every American to decide for themselves."

He added: "I have my own view, which I'm going to keep to myself tonight."

Gee! I wonder what the John Edwards secret opinion is about candidates having higher moral standards?

He did not address the latest accusations about his past affair with former campaign staffer Rielle Hunter. The National Enquirer, citing unnamed sources, reports in its current issue that Edwards has told his wife, Elizabeth, that Hunter's 1-year-old daughter is his biological child.

Elizabeth Edwards, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, has a book coming out this spring entitled "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities." The publisher, Random House, has described it as a "short, powerful, pocket-sized inspirational book," but has not indicated whether it will address the affair.

Edwards acknowledged the affair - though denied fathering Hunter's child - in an ABC interview last August. He all but disappeared until after the election, then made a speech in November to students at Indiana University for a reported fee of $35,000.

Edwards was invited to Brown as part of a student-run lecture series. Organizers did not disclose how much he was paid for the speech.

Hmm... It seems that John Edwards could have a bit of a veracity problem here. However, all is not lost. His former campaign political consultant holds out some hope:

Some observers say Edwards will have to tread carefully if he wants to re-emerge as a player in the national political debate.

Gary Pearce, a Democratic political consultant who ran Edwards' 1998 Senate campaign, said Edwards' options are to hope the ongoing cloud of scrutiny dissipates or subject himself to a public cross-examination.

He thinks Edwards should speak up.

"Long-term, that's what he has to do," Pearce said. "He has to tell the truth and hope that time heals all wounds if he wants to return to the public stage."

So if John Edwards finally gets around to telling us the truth, all will be well. And now for the money quote from the nutty professor. Please put your coffee aside or it could end up on your computer screen when you burst out laughing:

Scandal aside, Edwards can find a platform by positioning himself as a champion for the poor during the economic crisis, said Brown University political scientist Wendy Schiller.

"When you can voice a message the way John Edwards can, I think you can still remain relevant," Schiller said. "He should get on the trail, give speeches on populism, and make the case that even though he's got personal problems, he's still willing to advocate on behalf of those who can't help themselves."

Yeah, John Edwards already has studied the poor in depth by working at a hedge fund so perhaps President Obama should now make him the Poverty Czar. Maybe Eliot Spitzer could become Edwards' deputy. Let us ask Professor Schiller for her input on this...between the laughter. A least we have learned that Edwards is still running...away from reporters.

Edwards ended to a standing ovation from the crowd, then ducked out a side door.

He would take no questions from the media.

So did Edwards learn any great moral lesson over the past year? Perhaps this observation from Brown University student,  Erinn Phelan, who posted this comment in Twitter yesterday, could provide the answer:

Just got a smile and wink from John Edwards outside the bathroom! Made my day.