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    August 10, 2007

    Grade the Dems: Edwards gets a B

    Posted by: Chris

    Johnedwardshrcforum_2(Don't forget to vote in the Vizu poll in the right column below on which candidate you think did the best last night.)

    Let me just get this out of the way: I don't trust John Edwards. He comes across as all slick and no willie — or Bill Clinton without the substance, as I've said before.

    That said, the man has considerable charm and persuasive skill, from years as a trial lawyer and politician, and he's honed those skills to a fine point for this race, which represents his best and last chance at being president.

    On the issues, Edwards was effective last night, hitting every major policy point, including a few not touched by the others, like gay couple adoption rights, gay-inclusive curriculum in public schools, homeless gay youth, a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and even immigration rights for binational couples ("We have such work to do to keep loving couples together who are separated because of immigration laws that are unfair.").

    The most interesting exchange came again, with my old pal Joe Solmonese, who pressed Edwards on marriage. With almost no prodding, Edwards backtracked on previous occasions when he said his faith led him in part to opposing full marriage equality. It was a point that had stung him in the CNN-YouTube debate, and he was clearly prepared for it here.

    But Edwards did not go on to say what, if not his faith, did lead him to stop at civil unions. Prodded again by Solmonese, Edwards said, "We're past the time for political double-speak on this." Apparently not, since Edwards still never spelled out why he won't support marriage equality.

    He chided Obama for dodging when Solmonese had asked whether he could see why civil unions sound "separate but equal" to most gay people. "It makes perfect sense to me that people would feel" that stops short of "real equality," added Edwards, but then he never explained why then his position hasn't changed. One step forward for candor, two steps back.

    He also took a sideways shot at Hillary Clinton, saying "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" isn't just wrong now, but was wrong when it was adopted. That's a slam on Hillary, who has called it the best that could be done politically at the time. But the shot was a cheap one, as far as I'm concerned. Edwards' early Senate record from the late '90s was decidedly mixed on gay rights, and I have zero doubt that if he'd been in the Senate way back in 1993, he would have gone along with Sam Nunn and other Southern Democrats in the DADT "compromise."

    Further evidence of that? DOMA. Edwards also said the Defense of Marriage Act was "wrong then and is now," and yet when he ran for president last time around he defended the half of DOMA that allows one
    state to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states. In fact, I've nowhere seen Edwards specifically commit to full repeal of DOMA. If he did last night, it was for the first time.

    Jonathan Capehart picked up that line, pushing Edwards to explain why we should believe he would defend our rights when the politics get heated, considering how he and running mate John Kerry did everything but just a few short years ago. Edwards never explained his previous reticence, and his promise of future support rang hollow — at least to me.

    Here's the full 15 minutes of Edwards during the forum:



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