The other night, a friend recalled John Edwards' first political speech. It was in November 1997 when Edwards, a surprise Senate candidate, appeared before the Wake Democrats. "I could see he had something even then," my friend said. I didn't remember it that way, so I pulled out the story I wrote. There it is in black-and-white: "Edwards Will Be President Someday."
No, not really. "Looking Good" was the headline, but soon I was pontificating about how Edwards was elegant but had little to say--and hadn't said it that well, either.
Three weeks later, there was Edwards at the Independent's holiday bash, pushing through the crowd until we were practically nose-to-nose. "Don't give up on me!" he said, tilting his head in admonition. And then he broke out in that wondrous grin and allowed as to how he needed to get better--and would.
I've been a John Edwards fan ever since.
I voted for D.G. Martin in that Senate primary, not Edwards, and I pulled for Howard Dean this time, but that doesn't mean I don't think John is the right addition to the Democratic ticket, because I do.
At no time since that Senate campaign has Edwards strayed from the center path of Democratic politics, which has its downside (Iraq, e.g.) but also its ups: Democrats are supposed to be about people, and trying to help, and Edwards is a genuine people person with a capital "G."
I think of him as Bill Clinton without the egocentrism. And, yes, he's gotten a lot better at it since '97.
I was in Washington last weekend, getting cut off by rude drivers and thinking how Southern folks actually smile when they let you in. After George W. Bush, Washington needs a good smile, and whatever John Kerry's virtues, that isn't one of them. But when John Edwards is on the stump, you'll see a man who's smiling on the outside because he's smiling on the inside too.