John Edwards' Classy Exit


Ever since the late media maven Michael Deaver cued an aircraft carrier to pass behind President Reagan as the cameras rolled on his D-Day anniversary speech, photo-op stagecraft has been an essential part of any politician’s media strategy.

From the moment a politician announces his or her candidacy—at a hometown VFW hall or, maybe, in front of an aircraft carrier (as John Kerry did in 2004)—finding the right backdrop that’ll play on TV is huge.

John Edwards offered a new twist on the technique yesterday when he chose to announce his decision to drop out of the presidential race in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward neighborhood—the very place he announced his candidacy more than a year earlier.

Back then, the scene looked more than a little contrived, bordering on exploitative, with the former senator, clad in jeans and a too-crisp work shirt, standing amid the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina a year and a half earlier.

But there was a kind of poetry in his return to the scene yesterday. Wearing virtually the same costume, standing before a backdrop that showed signs of progress, Edwards brought his anti-poverty Two Americas campaign theme full circle—as if he were simply going back to the work of building "One America," one neighborhood at a time. In taking his exit, he let the backdrop upstage him.

By Joel Topcik