A tale of two phonies

The Washington Post op-ed page contains two fine columns today. First, Charles Krauthammer takes apart John Edwards, the man whose phoniness shocked even John Kerry. Krauthammer catalogs the issues as to which Edwards voted one way in the Senate but now purports to view completely differently in this election cycle.
Second, E.J. Dionne points out that, though Bill Clinton now savages Barack Obama for praising Ronald Reagan, Clinton did the same thing in 1991 during his first run for the presidency. According to Dionne, Clinton told reporters and editors at the Washington Post that Reagan deserved credit for winning the Cold War and for his role in “advancing the idea that communism could be rolled back.” Dionne finds Clinton’s assault on Obama “depressing.”
The common denominator here is phoniness in the cause of ambition. But the similarity ends at that level of generality. Edwards is just a huckster. Clinton is a genius of sorts. Until recently, at least, his ability simultaneously to hold and act upon contradictory positions, though motivated by ambition, was founded on a deep understanding of policy and nuance.
Clinton, entertaining though he can be, is a tragic figure. Edwards is merely a farcical one.


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