Until just a few months ago, 51-year-old Senator John Edwards of North Carolina was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Though he attracted a good deal of attention, not many people expected such an inexperienced politician to get the nomination. Perhaps it was for that reason that American cartoonists did not work out how they would portray him. Now that John Kerry has chosen Edwards as his running mate, cartoonists are sharpening their pencils.
Edwards is widely regarded as a handsome and charming man, in contrast to John Kerry, who has a vaguely Lincoln-like ugliness and a rather dry and unappealing public manner, at least when giving speeches. Before he became a senator, Edwards was a trial lawyer specializing in personal-injury cases, always on the plaintiff's side. To succeed in such a profession -- and Edwards was supremely successful, quickly becoming a very wealthy man on the strength of his skills as an advocate -- a lawyer needs to know how to win over juries: how to make them identify with the plaintiff and also like his or her spokesman. Republicans are rightly worried about Edwards' probable impact on voters. Vice President Cheney speaks well too, but not in a way that moves people, and many voters have come to mistrust him as a creature of the energy industry①.
Today we see how Jim Garner, who draws editorial cartoons for the conservative Washington Times, envisions John Edwards. First of all, he gives up any notion of making Edwards physically unattractive; even in caricature Edwards is handsome, but boyishly handsome. The implication is that this boy is too inexperienced for the job of president. It is hard for Republicans to make this argument openly, because in fact Edwards' five years as senator are a close match in experience for George W. Bush's five years as governor of Texas when he was elected president, not vice president.
Garner's approach is to emphasize that handsome John used to be a trial lawyer; hence the cash, some of it even stuck in his ears. Trial lawyers have a very mixed reputation in the US: they are often seen as far less interested in striving for justice than in winning cases, no matter how flimsy -- and in the process enriching themselves. Conservative Jim Garner presents us with an amateurish politician unqualified for the vice presidency, yet also a shrewd legal opportunist swimming in cash.