Monday, June 11, 2007

Edwards Not Responsible for Morality?

Sojourners sponsored a discussion of Democratic candidates' religious views on CNN last week. There are some very interesting comments made, as seen in the transcription in the New York Times.

Our own John Edwards was evasive as could be, and still managed to say more than he wanted to. For example, in this exchange he basically says that, as president, he is not responsible to follow the dictates of his conscience:

CNN's SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: "If you think something is morally wrong, though, you morally disagree with it, as president of the United States, don't you have a duty to go with your moral belief?"

JOHN EDWARDS: "No, I think that, first of all, my faith, my belief in Christ plays an enormous role in the way I view the world. But I think I also understand the distinction between my job as president of the United States, my responsibility to be respectful of and to embrace all faith beliefs in this country because we have many faith beliefs in America. And for that matter we have many faith beliefs in the world. And I think one of the problems that we've gotten into is some identification of the president of the United States with a particular faith belief as opposed to showing great respect for all faith beliefs."

Edwards changed the subject so quick it's a wonder he doesn't need a neck brace this week. Respect for other faiths does not mean denying the responsibility toward your own, even if you're president.

How about this comment that I summarize as

"Jesus: The poor you will always have with you. John Edwards: No, I can fix that."

JOHN EDWARDS: [E]verything I can do, everything in my power that I'm able to do, I will do to drive the issue of poverty in this presidential campaign so that everyone is required to talk about it. Because I think it is the great moral issue of our time. I've committed, actually, to an agenda of eliminating poverty over the next 30 years.

In context, Jesus was pointing out there were opportunities to do good in different ways at different times, and there was a fleeting opportunity to show honor to the Son of God. The unelaborated principle, I believe, is that poverty is a relative measure, and by implication, unless everyone is at the same level of affluence, there are going to be some with more and some with less. You only have to look at poverty in places like Panama, for example, to realize that the North American poor are better off than Central American poor; that doesn't make their situation good in either place, but it serves to illustrate the hubris of Edwards' assertion that he can make poverty go away, as if he could abolish "down" and leave only "up" as the permanent state of man.

Frankly, the only way Edwards can accomplish what he proposes is to institute the strictest of socialisms. No doubt he would echo communist apologists of an earlier era who said, "Of course it's not working -- it isn't worldwide yet."

Compare Edwards' statements with those from Barack Obama, which express his intention and sentiment for assisting the poor, but without the arrogance of the man from the UNC poverty center. The same solutions underlie Obama's plan, but there's no claim for Utopia rising.

Edwards is not doing himself favors with this line. But since when is that news?

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