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Jul 07, 2007

Update From Breck World (or: Who's Wearing John's Pants?)


In the latest attack on John Edwards' masculinity, the NYT hits on the theme that Edwards is overshadowed by his wife.

Looking at the visuals in the "Elizabeth Edwards update" in last Sunday's on-line edition, the lead shot features Mrs. Edwards giving a stump speech before a large crowd in Kentucky.  The second image (above) foregrounds Mrs. Edwards while Johnny, a distant blur, addresses a puny audience of what looks like a reporter, a couple of photographers, and a guy watching the door.  At the same time, Mrs. Edwards, looking like the brains behind the operation, is dictating to a campaign aide.

Of course, one could argue this is simply a respectful article about the influence of a competent and involved spouse.  (Not that I recall many articles about the seemingly just-as-influential Michele Obama's impact on Barack, or articles making a point of Bill Clinton's strategic influence on Team Hillary ... but maybe I missed them, or maybe Elizabeth is just that much more competent than the others.)

In the "tone department," I've also been interested lately in Adam Nagourney's use of the "o" word.  Noting the impact of Mrs. Edwards' confrontation with Ann Coulter, for example, he writes:

It also made Mrs. Edwards the sympathetic face of the Edwards campaign, for a few days overshadowing the candidate himself.

Funny how both photos in question emphasize Mrs. Edwards in the leading role.  In the linked shot, we see Elizabeth in a dramatic and intimate situation, encircled by an audience paying rapt attention.  Comparing the two pics (the flag backdrop in both backgrounds helping set up the parallel), we see Mrs. Edwards dramatically outdrawing her husband who is set way back behind a podium.  And, in the second shot, we are shown Mrs. Edwards in a real power position, hand to her chin, giving orders, while talking over a fuzzy little margin-hugging John.

It might have made less of of this if the exact same theme hadn't presented itself in Mr. Nagourney's last John Edwards story published on June 18th.  In that piece (right after Nagorney asked Edwards how he felt about his candidacy being overshadowed by those of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton), the story gets into the "Breck factor" and, again, turns to the John/Elizabeth relationship -- and power balance.

The story (descriptively mirroring an accompanying video) plays up Mrs. Elizabeth holding the floor in front of an Iowa audience, John standing beside her, sarcastically making light of the haircut business.  Then, dovetailing the photo above, the story and video highlight Mrs. Edwards interjecting herself into her husband's interview to more firmly emphasize his difference with Clinton over whether America is safer since 9/11.

On one level, it's all innocent and complimentary to an involved, capable and ailing spouse.  Underneath, however, its just more to do with who's wearing the pants.

(image: Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times.  New York. June 2007. caption: Mrs. Edwards talked with a campaign aide in June as her husband answered reporters’ questions after a speech in New York on terrorism.)


On one level, it's all innocent and complimentary to an involved and ailing spouse. Underneath, its just more having to do with John's pants.

Says who? Unlike the Clintons, this couple have a geniune regard for the other's intellect and capabilities. How is John Edwards' manliness threatened because his wife takes an active role in his campaign for president? It's not. It is sexist as hell to suggest: 1) she's not capable; and, 2) that he's a "pussy" if she does.

When Elizabeth called into Chris Matthews' show, Ann Coulter asked the stupid question - "why isn't John Edwards making this call?" Because it was about Elizabeth Edwards; it wasn't about John Edwards. Elizabeth was making the point that Ann Coulter's rantings are synonymous with hate speech. (John Edwards may or may not agree with that, although he has stated he agrees with his wife's comments.) It was sexist to suggest that Mr. Edwards was less a man because Mrs. Edwards called.

Jesus-fucking-Christ! What is IT about this goddamned country that a woman cannot speak for herself. We should all be so lucky to have someone that believes in us as Elizabeth Edwards believes in John Edwards.

The MSM are shills for the insurance industry which doesn't want Edwards to be President. And, all those many (sic) 1%-ers who have all the wealth don't want to stop having a "Two-America" society, so Edwards is definitely not their man. But, see "Sicko" and you will see that Hillary Clinton is just their ticket: she's a recipient of lots of campaign contributions from the healthcare industry, among other big corporate givers.

Edwards is quite a man in my book. I wish I could have married someone with his qualities when I was young.

Unlike the Clintons, this couple have a genuine regard for the other's intellect and capabilities.

Kitt, do you know the Clintons and the Edwardses personally? Or are you just espousing a hypothesis based on extremely limited and shallow (if not biased) news coverage of both couples? Because unless you know them, this is an unsupportable statement about either couple.

But anyway, I think you've misread The BAG. He's arguing there's a media prejudice against John Edwards, which began long before Elizabeth Edwards became the media's focus of his presidential campaign. However, by now focusing on Elizabeth instead of John, the media has found a new way to marginalize him. And this marginalization is literally supported by and in the pictures (John Edwards is in the margins everywhere you look; check out the video linked above), as well as by the continued obsessive coverage of his $400 haircut rather than of his policies.

If The BAG had identified the pronoun it in his last two sentences, you might not be asking Says who? because you would know he meant The New York Times's coverage of John Edwards.

P.S. The reason the media marginalizes John Edwards is because he's a Democrat (so, in the neocon dictionary, he is a pussy). If you watch the video, the clip that follows the Edwards clip shows John McCain speaking to Iowans about immigration. The one after that is Barack Obama playing basketball (because what else would a black man do)!

The question you should be asking is: Why do Republican candidates get to discuss issues, but Democrats get to be fit into stereotypes (pretty boy, black athlete, untrustworthy uberbitch)?

Rush Limbaugh was the originator of the epithet "the Breck Girl." It's amazing that it is being used beyond right wing blogs, and that its implications are taken up by the New York Times. The explanation cannot be that he is a Democrat, because he's the ONLY one getting this treatment. Nor does his marginalization help the Republicans, at least not immediately. No -- let's think instead about who would most benefit from his demotion to non-contender. I say it's Hillary.

What I get from this photo is that John is all image, and it's Elizabeth dictating orders to the aide, who's scribbling down her commands. And it's a horrible picture of her; when I first glanced at the photo without having read any of the text, I didn't even realize who she was. (Before anyone objects - that's my opinion of the photo, not my opinion of them.)

But John Edwards did get the absurdly expensive haircuts, did spend all that time primping to get his hair right (and it looked the same to me anyway), and did - from what I read - get even more expensive haircuts and then try to blow off his stylist, or whatever they're called. As someone who gets cheap haircuts, and not very often at that, it's something that I have a hard time understanding.

And Obama was playing basketball, which is perfectly fine, isn't it?

As I often am, I'm struck by how polarized things are in the U.S., in terms of black vs. white and men vs. women...

Edwards -- or rather, the image he has carefully cultivated -- is just another also-ran in the 2008 Democratic primary quest. At best, he's a placeholder for Al Gore, who might give him a Cabinet post if elected. It's difficult to get concerned about anything involving his predictably-failed campaign.


I wasn't venting at 'The Bag' - I was venting at the media portrayal. I thought I had thrown in something about the MSM. Guess not.

If The BAG had identified the pronoun it in his last two sentences, you might not be asking Says who? because you would know he meant The New York Times's coverage of John Edwards.

Kitt, I read your comment several times before I commented, and I honestly couldn't tell that you weren't venting at The BAG. Sorry I misread you, but you don't normally go off like that.

Jesus-fucking-Christ! What is IT about this goddamned country that a woman cannot speak for herself.

What is it about the goddamned media that they can't seem to deal with women, period? I don't think our mainstream media represents the country at all, although that's an admittedly unsupportable statement.

ummabdulla asked, And Obama was playing basketball, which is perfectly fine, isn't it?

Ordinarily it might be perfectly fine, but it's not perfectly fine now that so many primaries are only 7 months away (Feb. 5). Because of this unprecedented front-loaded primary schedule, no one knows what will happen, but some people argue that voters need all the information they can get early to make an educated decision about whom to vote for. So, real information about candidates' qualifications for president, rather than what sport they played in high school, is a fairly urgent necessity.

OTOH, maybe that's all Barack Obama wants to present to voters: He's got game.

I tried to post a response to rtbg....above, but I get this error message that I might be a comment spammer. Am I being banned? I've never been banned! Is it my language? You are aware that I learned most of what I know from the nuns, correct?

That happens to me all the time, Kitt. Partly because I'm overseas, but there are some other things that seem to flag you as a spammer, like including links or posting a comment too soon after posting the previous one.

Whew! Well, that's a relief, ummabdulla - at least it's nothing personal. ;)

I like John's pants.

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