John Edwards, take a bow. Republicans are now trying to horn in on your issue,
as David Brooks talks poverty today. Honestly, I had to look four times when
I saw the column. I really wasn’t sure who I was reading. Even so, the very
first line still surprises and the curious way in which David Brooks wades into
the subject is down right odd. He posits a question.

Suppose you were going to decide your vote for president entirely on the
issue of who could best reduce poverty. Who would you vote for?

Obama and the Poor

Edwards has been talking about poverty, well, as long as I can remember, with his poverty center, as well as his focus on New Orleans, bringing up subjects that don’t exactly make the average American voter comfortable. His poverty tour ended with Obama joining in.

Obama has been a community leader and knows the problems of inner cities and
is passionate about solutions, offering his own plans to change the reality in inner cities.

The gaping void is obvious. Brooks doesn’t even mention a Republican candidate.
Not. One. For all their talk of religion and values, there isn’t one
Republican candidate that can speak to the issue of poverty in this country.
It boggles the mind.

Obama and Edwards agree on a lot, but in this matter they emphasize different
things. As Alec MacGillis of The Washington Post observed, Edwards emphasizes
programs that help people escape from concentrated poverty. Obama emphasizes
programs that fix inner-city neighborhoods. One helps people find better environments,
the other seeks to strengthen the environment they are already in.


Obama, by contrast, builds his approach around the Harlem Children’s
Zone, what he calls “an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty
effort.” The zone takes an area in Harlem and saturates it with childcare,
marriage counseling, charter schools and job counselors and everything else
you can think of. Obama says he’ll start by replicating the program
in 20 cities around the country.

The Democratic candidates are giving Brooks a sort of rhetorical angina. Last
week it was Hillary Clinton.

The biggest story of this presidential campaign is the success of Hillary
Clinton. Six months ago many people thought she was too brittle and calculating
and that voters would never really bond with her. But now she seems to offer
the perfect combination of experience and change.


Clinton’s performance will also have an effect on the Republican race,
though many Republicans are only now beginning to realize it. When you ask
Republican presidential candidates about Clinton, a smile of professional
respect comes over their faces.

Uphill Struggle

This week it’s Edwards and Obama. Professional respect from Republicans towards
our candidates is becoming a habit. It’s more and more obvious that the Grand Old
Party of the Past is afraid of getting left behind. Brooks senses it. His columns are foreshadowing.