The John Edwards haircut won't go away. The Republicans resurrected it most recently in their second debate, when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said, in a quote that the national wire service story called "the most memorable sound bite of the night," "we've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop." Republicans have been focusing on symbolic character attacks since Nixon branded George McGovern, who'd flown 35 B-24 bomber missions in World War II, "the candidate of acid, amnesty, and abortion." They've been branding their opponents as limousine liberals of questionable masculinity since Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, called anti-war critics "an effete corps of impudent snobs." If the attacks aren't adequately answered, too often they work.
In a culture that wasn't so distracted to death, and where men such as Karl Rove weren't weaving a constant fabric of distortions, the issues like the Edwards haircut would be irrelevant. But until American voters unequivocally reject such manufactured distractions, candidates can't prevail against these kinds of attacks by simply ignoring them. They need to respond as clearly, comprehensively, and saliently as possible, while highlighting the bankruptcy of the politics represented by those who would promote them. Only then will they have a chance to address the real issues that we face.
Monday, May 21, 2007
"The Haircut That Won't Die"
Paul Rogat Loeb: