Why is Barack Obama obsessed with John Edwards’ looks?

This is kind of weird.

“I want to wait and hear what John Edwards has to say, he’s kind of good-looking,” Obama envisioned Iowa caucus-goers from the small town of Clinton telling themselves. During an appearance in West Burlington, Iowa, the phrase appeared again, this time with Edwards as “kind of cute.”

Here’s the uncharitable interpretation, set forth at greater length at Sadly, No: Obama is subtly trying to push the notion that Edwards is too pretty to be taken seriously; that he’s kind of Breck Girl-ish; that he’s, well, maybe Ann Coulter was right after all.  Bear in mind also that Obama, like Sen. Clinton, initially booted his response to General Pace’s ghastly comments on homosexuality — though Obama, like Clinton, later corrected the initial mistake. 

If anyone’s got a more charitable interpretation of Obama’s weird comments, I’m listening.  For now, this looks to me like a really stupid thing for Obama to be doing, and he should stop it.

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  1. read it in context

    If you read it in context, it isn't weird at all.  Sorry to see you fell for the Limbaugh take!  If you agree with me, I suggest you take down the diary, or better yet, re-write it to point out that context matters.

    ... Obama said he welcomed the fact that voters would make side-by-side comparisons of the candidates.

    "I know Iowans are notorious about wanting to lift the hood and kick the tires," Obama said Saturday at the event in Clinton, a small hamlet in eastern Iowa, saying he could guess what some in the audience were probably thinking: "I want to wait and hear what John Edwards has to say, he's kind of good looking. And you know, Hillary Clinton, you know, she's interesting." While he never finished the thought, Obama mentioned her in a similarly understated way again later that night during a rally in Davenport, and that time drew hisses from some in the crowd.

    • I dunno, Laurel.

      I'm not sure the context makes it any better.  Hillary=interesting; Edwards=good-looking?  I still don't get why he's fixated on Edwards' looks, other than to play into the Breck-girl meme.

      Hilarious, though, that the China Post is the source for the full story!

      • Here I go defending Obama...ha

        but I think you're taking "good-looking" in the wrong sense.  In the context I think he means as a candidate he appears to be a good...candidate. 

        calling him "kind of cute"?  That, I am unable to rationalize aside from casual I-act-gay-with-my-friends-but-I'm-really-not-gay horseplay.

        • I agree, Joe

          At least insofar as I don't think this had anything to do with Coulter. However, I wouldn't be shocked if Obama was trying to poke at Edwards youthful presence like people did last time around. Again, like my reply below suggests, that would be stupid on Obama's part... because he's just as young and just as good better looking.

          • wait wait wait..

            you think Obama is better looking than Edwards?  Really?

            • oh yes

              Obama is hot! lol

              I say that as someone who really doesn't want to vote for his obfuscating, can't-stand-up-to-John-McCain arse. But he is hot. And I may just have to vote for him, for lack of better options. (Hillary is just killing me.)

      • it does make it better because

        he's not saying whacky things about them, he's planting those frivolous ideas into the minds of his listeners.  he is not saying that he Edwards is cute. 

        I think it is a mistake in any case to help the Limbaugh types perpetuate a false sense that those are Obama's thoughs on Edwards.  I'm no cheerleader for Obama, but I'm surely not willing to be an abettor of Limbaugh's.

        • Respectfully disagree

          Just because Limbaugh says it does not mean the subject should not be addressed. The debate should be on the merits, whatever those may be. In this case, Obama should address Edwards' ideas, not his looks.

        • But don't you think

          that by repeating the Limbaugh-isms, Obama is playing into exactly what you are speaking against?  Strikes me as standard-issue nasty politics: someone else says something nasty about one of your opponents, so you get a twofer: repeat the negative and unfair meme as often as possible, thereby reinforcing it in the minds of voters, while not actually claiming to believe said negative thing yourself.

          If Obama doesn't want people to think that that's what he believes about Edwards, the easiest thing to do is stop saying it.

          • I wholeheartedly agree

            with Bob and David.  And, I have to wonder who's creating the talking points that Obama is using.  This is why I'm supporting Mike Gravel (who would not have a problem speaking about these underlying memes openly and with an amusing amount of honesty) until Gore steps in.

          • political obnoxiousness yes; weird and obsessive, no

            I agree that he's being a slimy political animal - I don't disagree with you there.  What I disagree with is the implication that there is something "weird" and "obsessed" about what he did.  As far as I know, this is standard campaigning fare.  It may be slimy in a Limbaughesque way, but it is not weird or obesessed.  Maybe I'm stuck on your word use because I think Obama is trying to get silent mileage off the Coulter "faggot" comment.  So to say Obama must be weird and obsessed (rather than a slimy pol) when mentioning Edward's looks, to me just buys into his ploy (although now that I think about it - it backfired on him because you though he was weird... hmmm).

            But whatever, this is tiny stuff.  As I said I'm not Obama's biggest fan, and I will only go so far in defending a guy who was unable to say, when asked directly "no, gays are not immoral".  (Edwards, to his credit, actually was able to say that right off the bat - no chugging campaign machinery needed to 48 hrs later squeek out a little clarifying sticky note, as with Clinton & Obama.)

            • Ah, OK.

              I think we agree, then.  "Slimy in a Limbaughesque way" is how it looks to me as well, and I do agree that Coulter's comment is in the back of Obama's (or at least his strategist's) mind on this.

      • I agree, plus he insults Iowans

        It's not much of a compliment to Iowans either.

        But maybe it's to head off the "he's articulate" talk that Obama gets which is ulitmately destructive, by pointing out that his opponents aren't old wise Trumanesque white men either, to dismiss the cosmetic considerations and say let's get to the issues, you're not stupid like that.  And anyhow, being a little insulting once in a while demonstrates he's not a computer controlled polite house candidate.

      • China Post

        Hilarious, though, that the China Post is the source for the full story!

        What's with that font?  How do they achieve that "assembly instructions" look on a web site?

  2. Obama and Clinton both too calculating

    for me at least.

    And now this?!

    Edwards and Richardson merit more attention.

    • NO! David (& Limbaugh) quoted him out of context

      See my post above.  Was Obama making a dig at Edwards.  Yeah.  Was it weird?  No, not if you read the lead up to the quote, which puts it in context.

      • fuller context useful but it's still wierd/unsettling

        but I'm not gonna let it suck up attention that should be given to gaining a more substantive understandng of the various candidates bios, policy issues, etc (if anyone has time and links to the various Dem Cand's websites to put them up in a BMG post, that'd be great!)

    • Edwards

      obfuscates just as much, which is saying a lot. That's why I haven't picked a candidate yet: none of them are very good. People like to talk about how bad the Republican candidates are - the dems aren't that much better. I actually think our last set of candidates were just as dynamic and in some ways better. At least there were choices last time around.

      I'm really hoping Al will jump in.

    • Edwards and Richardson

      Edwards and Richardson will only not look calculating as long as they are not frontrunners and not in the media spotlight.

      I don't understand this. To run for president, you would have to become extremely careful about what you say. Everything you say is weighed for its significance as to your character and future actions. Democratic candidates, in particular, have to do this a lot. If you look at them uncharitably, yes, they look calculating, but so do job interviewers.

      Contrast the most mavericky maverick who ever was whom Wolf Blitzer and Chris Matthews will invite on for some "Straight Talk". Or America's Mayor, Rudolf Giuliani. The media practically gives these guys theme songs. That, by the way, is how we ended up with the underqualified lunatic currently occupying the Oval Office.

      Could we please, please, please be more sceptical about this "calculating meme"?

  3. Considering the fact that

    Obama is pretty too, it would be silly to push that. Heck, I think he's kinda hot - and I don't feel that way about Edwards at all. Just sayin'.

    This would be a good subject for a poll. Who's better looking? Sadly, it's probably a better way to determine who's most likely to win than any of these polls coming out lately.

  4. Of course Obama's comment about Edwards was a back-handed put-down...

    ...As was his comment about sHillary.

    I'm not sure why it would be a surprise that he would be making back-handed put-downs of his competitors for the nomination.

    • O's comment wasn't picked up & repeated because it was a surprise

      But because Obama's hinting at the meme the mainstream pundits, like Maureen Dowd, want to push.  Dowd was the original Coulter, calling Edwards a "Ken Doll" and a "Breck girl." 

      It's a dangerous game he's playing:  thinking he can use the nastiness against his rivals but not be hurt by it himself. 

      If Obama's confident in his ideas, he should characterize his rivals by their ideas, instead of insinuating that Dowd's mean-girl slams on Hillary and Edwards are right.  After all, if Dowd's insults are right about Hillary and Edwards, why wouldn't she be right about Obama?  She called him "a schoolboy."  (NYT March 3)

      Nothing offensive about a white woman using an analogy to compare a grown black man as a "boy," right?

      • Does anyone really take Dowd seriously*?

        I've always considered her something of a humorist.  And, quite frankly, not a very good one.  She can turn a phrase, but not as well as Frank Rich.  And she is oftentimes factually-challenged.

        On the larger matter, as far as I can tell, people don't win elections on their ideas.  If they did, Bush wouldn't have even come close enough in 2000 to be sElected by the Supremes.  They get elected, particularly to the pResidency, primarily on their personalities.

        Obama's comments about sHillary and Edwards were back-handed slaps, no doubt.  But they were sufficiently slight slaps that most people would probably not have consciously recognize them as being slaps.  If someone had not made mention of it here, it would have passed me over.

        *Pundits like Malkin are different.  They use the sledge hammer, but they're--um--playing to a different audience.  You know, the raw red meat set.  The Steak Tartar set (eww).  The people who like to pretend that they're butch.  /sarcasm (to use my pseudo-HTML tag)

    • Agreed...

      It seems like "damning with faint praise."  And don't forget Joe Biden's comments about Obama being a "clean guy."  They all seem do it...surface descriptions with subterranean meaning.

  5. Maybe...

    it's as simple as this:  John Edwards really is good looking.  Now, if I'm Hillary Clinton, I'm a little peeved.  Obama says Edwards is "good looking" and that Hillary is "interesting"?  WHOA...

    Can I get a ruling from the ladies on this?  Did Obama just call Hillary Clinton ugly?

    • You have to ask?

      Friend of Ed's:  Hey Ed your blind date is here.

      Ed:  Is she pretty?

      Friend of Ed's:  ... She's interesting.

    • She's not ugly

      Just not as pretty as Edwards. (Incidentally I really like Edwards--the whole pretty-boy thing is something he is just going to have to deal with, preferably with self-deprecating humor of some sort). As a general rule, people react positively to good-looking people, provided they don't seem stuck on themselves.

  6. Dismissal

    "I understand you have trouble taking me seriously because of my skin color.  Heaven knows you won't take my main opponent seriously because she has ovaries.  Well, the other guy you may be thinking about is really good-looking -- does it make you uncomfortable that you're interested in a good-looking male candidate?  So what are ya gonna do now, punk?  Might as well listen to what I have to say."

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  7. Only their consultant knows

    Did Obama mean good looking in appearance? Or did he mean good looking as a candidate? Is Hillary interesting, but not good looking? Like most all of you none of this is relevant regarding which candidate I will support. However I do believe Obama was aware of what he was saying.

  8. stupid

    It seems like a really stupid idea for Obama to bring back up the "young and pretty" angle on Edwards, especially as he's younger and than Edwards was in 03 and has been described the same way.

  9. A couple of back-handed $quot;compliments$quot;

    does not an "obsession" make. This looks like evidence of bloggers reaching hard for something to analyze to death. Isn't there some real news out there to write about?

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