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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Edwards vs. Clinton’s Coat

posted by on July 24 at 9:15 AM

Last night at the YouTube/CNN debates, the Democratic candidates were asked a cheesy closing question: What do you like, and dislike, about the person to your left?

The answer from John Edwards was particularly cringe-making. Politico calls it flat-out dumb. Others have called it sexist. What Edwards chose to criticize about Clinton was her choice of jacket ó live, on-stage, to her face, in front of a national audience.

I admire what Senator Clinton has done for America, what her husband did for America. Um. I’m not sure about that coat.

(The Edwards comment starts at 3:00)

For people who find Edwards smarmy, the look on his face as he criticized Hillary’s debate-night fashion choice is sure to reconfirm their sense that Edwards is, to use the immortal post-debate phrasing of Lynne Cheney from 2004, “Not a nice man.”

Edwards seemed pleased to have delivered his sly, potentially-humiliating insult. Parts of the audience groaned, however, and one couldn’t help but have sympathy for Clinton in that moment.

Her response:

John, it’s a good thing we’re ending soon.

And then a few moments later Obama, ever gentlemanly, offered this:

I actually like Hillary’s coat, I don’t know what’s wrong with it.

I don’t know how much attention this exchange will end up getting, but I bet it turned a lot of debate-watchers off John Edwards, or at least confirmed for Edwards-haters that they are right to see him as a creep with a great smile.

RSS icon Comments


It was Edwards' attempt at a joke (thnk John Kerry). They were supposed to say something good and something bad about the person to their left, and his point, I believe, was, that he couldn't really think of anything bad to say about her, so he pulled something out of the air.

Unfortunately, the joke didn't work.

It was a passing moment, though, and barely worth even discussing.

Posted by duncan | July 24, 2007 9:23 AM

I thought Edwards performed very poorly throughout. It's not the smarminess, it's the inability to answer the question or to give a straight answer on anything. Obama also disappointed me terribly; I want to like him, but he sounded dishonest, unfocused, scripted yet oddly incoherent last night. Biden was typical Biden -- 50% absolutely right on, 50% completely idiotic. He gets points for not sounding afraid, though. My favorite, Bill Richardson, was only so-so.

I'm afraid Hillary mopped up the field last night. But she annoys and worries me, because she STILL SOUNDS AFRAID -- afraid to actually take a position on anything. Not all of the time, but that is the Democratic disease.

I'm also not hearing enough forward looking. Even in 2008 you're not going to win unless you have a vision for the future -- even if that vision is completely retarded, or a complete lie, you have to be about the future and not the past. That's why Bush is president now.

Posted by Fnarf | July 24, 2007 9:31 AM

I like Edwards because he is scrappy. His book, Four Trials, left me with that impression.

Posted by duncan | July 24, 2007 9:35 AM

joke gone bad. possibly one in poor taste, as well.

Posted by infrequent | July 24, 2007 9:35 AM

agree w/Duncan @1. Irrelevant little remark, it was such a stupid question to begin with.

Fnarf @2: Hillary is terrible, reminds me of our junior Senator, supposedly representing us. Voted for every Iraq-enabling item, and every PATRIOT Act item. Crap.

Posted by Dem Bones | July 24, 2007 9:37 AM

Have you figured out who Greg Palast is yet, Eli?

Posted by DOUG. | July 24, 2007 9:39 AM

Or maybe it's a silly answer to a stupid question, Eli, and some things don't mean as much as you want to think they do.

This sort of overanalysis is a symptom of polarized political analysis.

Posted by Gomez | July 24, 2007 9:39 AM

I think Biden had the best response to this question: "I think this is a ridiculous exercise."

Sometimes it seems like he's the only grown-up onstage, and the only one answering questions like a human being and not a candidate-bot.

Posted by Scott H | July 24, 2007 9:40 AM

Well it was just an attempt at a joke so I'd be tempted to write it off, except that he has already proven (think: his debates in 04) that he can't really think quickly on his feet. This cements this. Obama, on the other hand, can.

Posted by mason | July 24, 2007 9:43 AM

I'm not sure that the "not sure about that coat" remark is any worse than "the best thing about Dennis Kucinich is his wife" especially if you know that Dennis's wife is a 20-something Amazonian supermodel-esque type.

Posted by arduous | July 24, 2007 9:44 AM

@8: Biden came off as having no sense of humor, which is not something anyone wants in their president. :P

Posted by supergp | July 24, 2007 9:46 AM

Hmmm... Edwards' joke didn't fly... that's all. He tried for a funny and failed. Well, at least Hillary laughed at it.

That said, I didn't like Biden's reply, or Hillary's. It wasn't a ridiculous exercise and it could have been an enlightening moment. The candidates mostly took it as a surface, popularity issue, when it was probably meant to be a "name something you like and dislike about their politics" question. Hillary replied to it as if it were required to be a negative comment. All she had to do was say something she liked about Obama's politics and something she would have done differently.

On another note, Bill Richardson's comments were funny... but didn't feel appropriate.

The whole question and its replies felt very much like I was watching a high school Associated Student Body election.

Posted by Phelix | July 24, 2007 9:50 AM

Edwards is hot, don't get me wrong, but he's also an asshole and an idiot. Just sayin'.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 24, 2007 9:55 AM

Oh whatever. It was "say something good, say something bad." So his bad thing was about the coat. Who gives a fuck besides right wing mouthpieces like Politico? Lighten up.

Posted by Will | July 24, 2007 9:58 AM

Why is it that people focus on these irrelevant frak ups instead of the issues?

John Edwards is the only candidate on either side who is seriously addressing our countryís severe and growing economic inequality which is a major threat to our socio-political integrity.

I would totally be an Edwards guy except for his position on marriage equality. Every time he addresses it heís just so insulting and patronizing. I know thatís but one issue out of many, but it totally turns me off his campaign and thereís no chance Iíll contribute money.

Posted by Original Andrew | July 24, 2007 9:58 AM

The correct answer to such a question is "Next question?"

Am I the only one who has enough of these stupid TV games?

Posted by ivan | July 24, 2007 9:58 AM

I really think this is a non-issue, and agree with #1. These guys have been debating, and will be debating and giving the same speeches over and over during their campaigns, I can forgive a bad joke once in a while.

Posted by super tuesday! | July 24, 2007 10:01 AM

Why is Politico linked as a source on a Slog post? Am I the only one weirded out by that?

Posted by Peter | July 24, 2007 10:04 AM


It's not really a debate. It's more of a question/answer. There is no actual debating going on yet.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 24, 2007 10:04 AM

a big problem with edwards joke is that it falls in line with all the other inappropriate/unnecessary commentary on hillary's wardrobe. it makes him look like just one of the boys, something he should be (and hopefully is) above.

Posted by infrequent | July 24, 2007 10:06 AM

Bill Richardson rocks! Glad to see someone else here likes him.

It's between Edwards and him for me.

Obama is too naive. Hillary says tons without saying anything.

I like where Edwards stands on most issues and has a strong, likeable personality.

Richardson seems to be realistic, optimistic, and genuine.

Don't think Kusunich has a chance even though I agree with almost everything he says...

And as for last night- come on people, it was a joke. Fell flat, but it was a joke.

Posted by Cale | July 24, 2007 10:16 AM

I actually hate Edwards more and more. I am really sick of his "struggle" and "personal debate" about gay marriage.

Fuck him and his stuggle; anything other than support full and equal rights for all Americans makes him homophobic.

And THANK YOU Kucinic for answering that question with a YES, I support gay marriage!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | July 24, 2007 10:23 AM

Agree with most here: A non-issue. If anything, it was just trash-talking.

Hillary should have made a swipe at his lovely locks and all would be even.

Sometimes politicians try to be funny. They usually fail.

The real question isn't about the coat, it's about how to answer stupid questions on the fly. The President has to answer billions of questions, smart and dumb, throughout the four year term so it's just a test.

Posted by zzz.. | July 24, 2007 10:24 AM

As Sullivan points out, the problem with Edwards on gay marriage isn't that he's against it, or for it, or anything else. It's that when you ask him, he starts off on that little rap about his "personal journey". Nobody gives a fuck about his personal journey. Just answer the fucking question.

I mean, we all know WHY he won't answer the fucking question: because he's afraid, because he knows that taking a stand will alienate a lot of potential voters. But that is exactly what is wrong with Democrats; they are afraid to take a position because they're afraid to alienate some voters. The Democrats have traditionally been a "big tent" party, with a whole raft of various issues weirdos, which is cool, but if it drives you into a position where you have to agree with everybody on everything, you just look like a marshmallow. Republicans, until recently, have always managed this kind of thing much better, because they're unabashedly authoritarian. At a Republican debate, no one is going to be allowed to ask potentially divisive questions.

Democrats, on the other hand, are often ONLY interested in divisive questions.

Hillary understands this, which is good. I'm not a fan, but I think she's got the balls to slap the idiots down before they get too far along on their little raps. Which is good.

Posted by Fnarf | July 24, 2007 10:27 AM

I don't know if commenting on Hillary's wardrobe makes Edwards sexist and "one of the boys." I think it makes him more of a gay boy. "Girlfriend, I don't know about that jacket, bitch pleaze" (snap)

Posted by jhell | July 24, 2007 10:32 AM

This is a 'non-issue' the way Rick Lazio's marching over to Hillary in the 2000 senatorial debate and sticking his finger in her facing demanding she sign something was a 'non-issue'.

Even the NY Times didnít pick up on that act's inherent offensiveness to women. But the upstate, blue-haired, DAR Republican women sure did! Lazio lost the election that night.

Edwards isn't as close to winning as Lazio was, but being so dumb as to say a smarmy remark on camera isn't going to help this putz.

Posted by blanchard | July 24, 2007 10:37 AM

Blanchard at 26,

Can you really compare the two? They seem like two extremely different scenarios, Edwards was trying to be light-hearted, Lazio was not.

Posted by super tuesday! | July 24, 2007 10:58 AM

I thought the joke was funny.

It could have been a man there and he could have said "I don't know about that tie."

It was just a God damned joke. You people read so much into everything - sometimes it's just over the top.

Posted by Sam | July 24, 2007 11:24 AM

It was a stupid question, and a good reason not to do this again.

Posted by crazycatguy | July 24, 2007 11:25 AM

BTW, Why is nobody getting on Biden's ass for talking about Kucinich's wife?

the NERVE!

Posted by Sam | July 24, 2007 11:26 AM

How has no one connected the joke with the WaPo furor over her cleavage on CSpan and the press's constant carping about her hair/wardrobe? He was being sarcastic and digging at the press, not at her. Unfortunately, if you make a joke like that in that format, you have to dumb it down (the comments on this thread being evidence, apparently) so no one's offended or has to use any of their brain capacity.

Posted by switzerblog | July 24, 2007 1:10 PM

These candidates have gotten to know each other. Edwards' answer was an evasion of the request to criticize the person on his left. So he chose something trivial instead of a big issue. Dodd had already staked out his usual "no negatives" position.
What was telling was Hillary response.
She wasn't refering to the debate when she said it would be over soon but the Primaries.

Posted by zanderb | July 24, 2007 6:18 PM

Give me a break! Not a one of us can imagine the pressure that John Edwards was under in that moment: Anderson Cooper delivers the question, the first contender steals the golden retort, it's a flash round and he had to respond quickly with a critique of Hillary Clinton. He goes for the light-hearted joke so as to say nothing critical about Hillary. And it falls a little flat. Big fucking deal. Let it go.

Posted by call me a snot | July 25, 2007 12:24 AM

Clinton can't even answer the question, just falls back on her script.

Posted by Matt | July 25, 2007 9:37 AM

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