John Edwards Has a Prayer
Does John Edwards include Jews in his prayers? Or Muslims? Or Hindus? Or any other non-Christians?
He didn't the other day. The other day, in order to commemorate those killed at Virginia Tech, Edwards led a prayer "in Christ's name" at Ryman Auditorium, which bills itself as "Nashville's Premier Performance Hall."
Edwards has a perfect right to pray publicly or privately any way he wants to. But people who are not Christians often feel left out of prayers like his.
And if prayers are supposed to comfort, I wonder how comforted the loved ones of Liviu Librescu felt.
Librescu, a professor at Virginia Tech, was gunned down after barricading the doorway of his classroom so his students could escape out the windows. Librescu was a Holocaust survivor, a Jew and not addressed by Edward's prayer.
I went down the list of the other victims, and I saw students whose hometowns were listed as being in Indonesia, India and Egypt. And it is quite possible they may have been Hindus or Muslims or a number of other non-Christian religions.
Edwards probably did not know the religions of those killed at Virginia Tech when he gave his prayer, but isn't that the point? Why not include all religions in your prayers?
If you are running for president, why not demonstrate you want to be the president of all Americans by being inclusive, rather than exclusive?
My colleague, Mike Allen of The Politico, first reported the story of Edwards and his prayer, and has a completely different take on this than I do. (I enourage you to read it on politico.com.)
In his story, Allen tells how Edwards only decided to do a prayer at all after talking with a political consultant. (I guess Edwards didn't have time to take a poll.) This consultant is a "strategist for reconnecting with the long-lost Reagan Democrats."
And Edwards prayer might have been popular with some Christian conservatives who think Christ's name should be used more in public discourse. (Some object to saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" for this reason.)
If Edwards gets to the general election, this may do him some small good. But Christian conservatives are a negligible force in Democratic politics. So, as a political calculation, this was not much of a political calculation.
Which is why, I guess, when the Edwards campaign sent out a press release of condolence after the Virginia Tech slayings, there was no mention of Christ.
Down in Tennessee, with his Reagan Democrat specialist, Edwards makes one calculation, but when his campaign sends out an e-mail, he makes another.
He is free to do either. But I do wish he had added something.
My mother, who did pray, also used to tell me, "God helps those who help themselves."
So, along with his prayer, I wish Edwards had included something meaningful about gun control.
He, and all the rest of the candidates who stayed silent on the subject, could have started with an easy one: a ban on the 15-shot gun magazines like the one the killer used at Virginia Tech. Recreational shooters don't need 15-shot magazines. Mass murderers do.
But as Jake Tapper of ABC News noted: "The campaign of former Sen. John Edwards issued a statement that seemed carefully calibrated to not offend gun owners.
"'In much of America, gun ownership is part of a way of life,' an Edwards spokeswoman said. 'John Edwards believes that the Second Amendment protects gun ownership and that we must keep guns out of criminals' hands.'"
Prayer is easy compared to actually doing something about gun violence.
This is especially unfortunate considering Edwards runs a poverty center and the poor are disproportionately the victims of violent crime.
Which brings us to something less important but equally instructive about John Edwards these days: his two $400 haircuts.
Many people, I think, missed the point about the haircuts. The point is not the cost. John Edwards is a very rich man and could afford even a $4,000 haircut without noticing it.
But why did he pay for his haircuts out of campaign funds?
Some people who contributed money to John Edwards are wealthy people. But many are not. And they sent him $5 or $10 or $20 because they believed in him.
They believed in him, not his haircuts. And he shouldn't have spent their money that way.
So why did he do it? Because presidential candidates raise so much money, they don't even keep track of it. Money loses all meaning. They spend it on everything and anything. Including haircuts.
Is John Edwards a bad man? Not at all. He is a man caught up in that moveable meat grinder called a presidential campaign. I have interviewed many presidential candidates after their campaigns are over, and they all say the same thing: You have no time to think. Scores of decisions have to be made every day, you are constantly flying around the country, and you lose all sense of what you are doing and who you are, and you start depending on strategists and consultants.
I think deep down John Edwards is a good and decent man with good and decent instincts.
He just needs to find them again.
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