Accepting His Fate

John Edwards has finally given up on the presidency. Even as he was standing behind a podium in New Orleans announcing his withdrawal in late January, we didn’t really believe he was done. Remember, this is the same guy who mounted a failed campaign to be the Democratic nominee in 2004, went along for a failed vice presidential ride, and got back on the saddle for a failed campaign in 2008. Moreover, after he fell on his face in New Hampshire this year, he kept on begging for the country’s vote like a spurned teenage lover. When a politician that determined to become president claims he’s dropping out of the race, it’s hard to take his words at face value.

But now we’re sure that he’s ready to slink away from the bustle and grind of electoral politics. After months of not endorsing either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, Edwards said yesterday that he wouldn’t accept a vice presidential slot on either candidate’s ticket. After a rocky road with John Kerry in 2004, Edwards seems to have finally acknowledged what the American people have been trying to tell him all along: They don’t want him to be president.  

This is the culmination of a rough few months for Edwards. He abstained from leveraging his superdelegate star power for either candidate; his Iowa delegates deserted him once he dropped out of the race; and neither of the candidates has paid much lip-service to his poverty agenda. Now he’s putting the kibosh on his last chance to get back in the game—before anyone even asked him to play. If he doesn’t reinject himself into the conversation now he’ll be as dated as an episode of Temptation Island .

While he rattled off moribund stump speeches between New Hampshire and his withdrawal, we sat Edwards down on the Freud sofa and psychoanalyzed his candidacy . At the time, there were five stages to his grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. His recent no-VP comments show that he’s finally reached the acceptance stage. He knows that the only way he’ll be in the Oval Office is as an invited guest.

But just because he’s done with the campaign trail doesn’t mean Edwards is done with politics. Hillary Clinton announced that she wants a Cabinet-level “poverty czar” in her administration—a position probably created with Edwards’ endorsement in mind. If Hillary doesn’t sweet-talk her way into the White House, Edwards can always emulate a certain former vice president and become a Poverty Gore rather than a poverty czar. What Al did for the environment John can do for the poor. Hell, if Gore’s current status is any indication, more people will want Edwards to be president when he isn’t trying to become one.