Thursday, May 24, 2007

Those Who Can't Do, Preach

Hypocrisy is so low on my list of politicians' flaws that I'm often surprised how prominent a role it plays in debate.

For instance, this opening paragraph in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Democrat John Edwards has eloquently established his credentials as an advocate for the poor with a presidential campaign focused on the devastating effects of poverty in America. But the former North Carolina senator's populist drive has hit a series of troubling land mines: a pair of $400 haircuts, a $500,000 paycheck from a hedge fund, and now a $55,000 payday for a speech on poverty to students at UC Davis.
Who cares how rich he is? If you think his programs are good, vote for him.

It's the same with many of those who lecture us on the sacrifices we need to make for the environment. The belt-tightening measure they suggest could seriously effect the quality of most people's lives, but not theirs--they can afford carbon offsets (however that works) and continue to live in luxury. But, once again, if they're right about the environment, it's still good advice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah but it throws doubt on the veracity of a claim if its most ardent proponents don't believe it is true for their own lives.

7:24 PM, May 23, 2007  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Edwards has been super-rich for a long time, and has been in favor of programs that he thinks will help the poor for as long as he's been in politics. Why doubt he believes in them?

As for the environment, I doubt a politician would ask for sacrifice unless he meant it.

12:30 AM, May 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt Edwards believes in helping the poor because as far as I can see he has never done anything to actually help the poor. I don't doubt that Edwards believes in bigger govt.

And as for politicians asking for sacrifice from others, you must be kidding.

8:46 AM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger New England Guy said...

The reason John Edwards has a credibility problem here is the same reason the Director of Chastity Programs resigned when his phone records showed up in a call girl/takeout massage operation. There is a PR aspect to public service

12:32 PM, May 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not have a problem with pointing out hypocrisy by politicians, but this is not hypocrisy. John Edwards is not arguing that it is better to be poor or that everyone should try to be poor. (That would make him comparable to the "Abstention Only" proponents who have questionable sex lives.) He is arguing that those who are better off should help the poor. Being rich does not disqualify one from making this argument. Actually, it makes the argument more compelling. He is not a part of the interest group for whom he is advocating.
As to whether he has ever helped the poor, as a former plaintiffs' lawyer myself, I wish plaintiffs' lawyers were better at arguing for themselves. They take on cases for those in society who cannot pay big hourly fees. They risk not getting paid at all, if they don't win or settle their cases. It may look easy to outsiders, but it's not. Then, if they're successful, they get reamed for having done well. Believe me, John Edwards could not have made as much money as he has as a plaintiffs' lawyer without helping an awful lot of people who otherwise could not afford a lawyer.

2:06 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger QueensGuy said...

Ok, this is my busiest season at work, so I've not been doing more than lurking, but I'm afraid I can't let that last one stand unanswered. I was defense counsel for several years, and dealt with dozens of plaintiffs' lawyers, so I'm not quite an "outsider." In my experience the successful plaintiffs' lawyers were focused like lasers on profit maximizing behavior -- charity and justice were simply irrelevant. All that mattered was the settlement/judgment value of the case, and the odds of success. Those who calculated well and pushed hard became millionaires, those who didn't, didn't. Oh, and maybe there are plenty of plaintiffs' lawyers who do as much pro bono work as many of us on the corporate defense bar did, but I never met many of them.

5:16 PM, May 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's LA Guy when we need him -- pointing out that you can't read people's minds? The plaintiff lawyer's profits are tied to the benefit to his clients -- far more directly than those of the defense lawyers. (By the way, I've done that too.) Pushing for good settlements and doing accurate calculations of the value of your clients' cases is how you serve them well. Making a profit is how you can serve more of them and not go out of business. My point is not that plaintiff attorneys don't want to make a profit. It's that they help the little guy as they make a profit. Those are not inconsistent.

5:36 PM, May 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If more than 10% of the media attention that John Edwards gets mention his being a trial lawyer he is dead in the water--Anonymous 5 & 7's wall of words might play at a bar convention but won't play to larger audience- successful trial lawyers- whatever worthy goals stand behind their activity- personify what people hate- argumentativeness, divisiveness and casting blame. (For similar unfair reasons, prosecutors tend to be much more popular) I think the republicans are routing for him

6:46 PM, May 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been a theory of mine that the average voter doesn't make a distinction between "trial lawyer" and "lawyer." They don't like lawyers for the reasons outlined by Anonymous #8, and the Republicans play upon this dislike. Probably they've had contact with insurance lawyers or they've read stories about slick lawyers. However, if the Republicans were clear that their position is: "You should give up your lawyers, but we'll keep ours, thank you," their message wouldn't be so appealing.

11:13 PM, May 24, 2007  

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