Was Ed­wards’ fall from grace re­ally tragic?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The Wash­ing­ton Post has is­sued a post­mortem on the ca­reer of John Ed­wards (“Amer­i­can Dream is Ir­re­vo­ca­bly Un­done”) and finds tragedy and pathos.

“The man born Johnny Reid Ed­wards had it. Great gobs of po­ten­tial.”

He might have been, the Post laments, “a great hus­band, could have been an en­dur­ing states­man . . . pres­i­dent.”

But fate in­ter­vened. With his in­dict­ment on mis­use of cam­paign funds, “Amer­ica wit­nessed the lat­est dis­taste­ful episode in . . . (the) fall from grace of a po­lit­i­cal comet.”

Grace, as any un­blink­ered ob­server could de­tect, is not a word that ever be­longed in the same sen­tence with John Ed­wards. But from the be­gin­ning of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, lib­eral en­thu­si­asts gushed about his tal­ents. He was, Peo­ple mag­a­zine pro­nounced, Amer­ica’s “sex­i­est politi­cian.” Ni­cholas Le­mann of The New Yorker called him “the next Bill Clin­ton”, with­out irony. Katie Couric was im­pressed by more than his looks: “He was the first to raise is­sues like poverty, uni- ver­sal health care and cli­mate change,” she said. “He bucked the con­ven­tional wis­dom and took po­lit­i­cal risks, speak­ing hon­estly about why he wanted to raise taxes, for ex­am­ple.” Ah, yes, buck­ing the con­ven­tional wis­dom by talk­ing about uni­ver­sal health care and cli­mate change.

The Wash­ing­ton Post doubt­less speaks for Couric and her crowd when it sees in Ed­wards’ fall “the spi­ral of the Great Man.”

In fact, John Ed­wards, Mr. For the Lit­tle Guy, who, in his own words, “rep­re­sent(ed) peo­ple who were in very dif­fi­cult places in their lives and tr(ied) to give them a shot,” made his for­tune as an am­bu­lance chaser. No one who ex­am­ined his ca­reer as a for­tune-hunt­ing, slick, and un­scrupu­lous trial lawyer should find any in­con­sis­tency in his later in­car­na­tion as a ma­nip­u­la­tive, men­da­cious, and morally bank­rupt politi­cian.

As a trial lawyer, Ed­wards spe­cial­ized in su­ing ob­ste­tri­cians af­ter the birth of ba­bies with cere­bral palsy. Em­ploy­ing junk science and the­atri­cal court­room ora­tory, he con- vinced ju­ries that the doc­tors’ fail­ure to per­form Cae­sarean sec­tions soon enough caused the dis­or­der. The Ed­wards tech­nique in­cluded speak­ing for the un­born child. In his sum­ma­tion at one such trial, an emo­tional Ed­wards told the jury: “She speaks to you through me. And I have to tell you right now, I didn’t plan to talk about this, right now, I feel her. I feel her pres­ence. She’s in­side me, and she’s talk­ing to you.”

The jury came back with a $6.5 mil­lion ver­dict in that case. It was one of 60 such cases Ed­wards han­dled dur­ing his ca­reer, half of the ver­dicts were for more than $1 mil­lion. Trial lawyers usu­ally pocket be­tween 30 and 40 per­cent of jury awards.

And though Ed­wards claimed that he was proud of his ca­reer, and that he gave “lit­tle guys” a shot, The New York Times quoted a fel­low trial lawyer: “He took only those cases that were cat­a­strophic, that would re­ally cap­ture a jury’s imag­i­na­tion. He paints him­self as a per­son who was serv­ing the in­ter­ests of the down­trod­den, the wi­d­ows and the lit­tle chil­dren. Ac­tu­ally, he was af­ter the cases with the high­est ver­dict po­ten­tial.”

It never trou­bled Ed­wards’ sleep that stud­ies have shown no con­nec­tion be­tween de­liv­ery-room de­ci­sions and cere­bral palsy. A 1989 re­port from the In­sti­tute of Medicine ar­gued that ob­ste­tri­cians were be­ing falsely blamed. Law­suits like those Ed­wards filed led to the wide­spread use of fe­tal mon­i­tors dur­ing hos­pi­tal de­liv­er­ies.

The re­sult has been a surge in the num­ber of Cae­sarean de­liv­er­ies, many of them un­nec­es­sary.

This, in turn, has con­trib­uted to com­pli­ca­tions like in­fec­tion, blood clots, longer re­cov­ery times, and more ma­ter­nal deaths, to say noth­ing of the in­creased med­i­cal costs.

And here’s a bit­ter postscript: De­spite the in­creased use of fe­tal mon­i­tors and the much read­ier re­sort to C-sec­tions, the in­ci­dence of cere­bral palsy in the pop­u­la­tion has re­mained un­changed. In fact, a study in Swe­den sug­gests C-sec­tions may in­crease the in­ci­dence of cere­bral palsy.

Ad­di­tion­ally, thanks to Ed­wards and his col­leagues, med- ical mal­prac­tice in­surance rates for ob­ste­tri­cians have sky­rock­eted, lead­ing many doc­tors to aban­don the field.

Mr. For The Lit­tle Guy adamantly op­posed leg­is­la­tion that would have capped dam­age awards and set up a fund for the 99 per­cent of brain-dam­aged chil­dren who did not win big ver­dicts.

Be­tween the 2004 and 2008 cam­paigns, Mr. FTLG joined Fortress In­vest­ment Group, a hedge fund. While ac­knowl­edg­ing that mak­ing money was “a good thing, too,” Ed­wards stressed that he was pri­mar­ily mo­ti­vated by a de­sire to learn more about fi­nan­cial mar­kets and their re­la­tion­ship to poverty. Where, oh where, was the press’s gag me­ter?

Ed­wards se­duced a co­op­er­a­tive press corps with os­ten­ta­tious dis­plays of af­fec­tion for his stricken wife, “the love of my life”, in­clud­ing an­nual vis­its to the Wendy’s where the cou­ple sup­pos­edly passed their first an­niver­sary. Fall of a great man? How far can a worm fall?

Mona Charen is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.