I saw John Edwards in the shampoo aisle

Yes, the presidential hopeful got two overpriced haircuts -- but when he's at home he goes to the local grocery store like everyone else.

Topics: 2008 Elections, George W. Bush, Democratic Party, Healthcare Reform, John Edwards

I saw John Edwards in the shampoo aisle

My wife and I ran into John Edwards in the shampoo aisle the other night. No, really, we did. My wife didn’t believe it was him at first. “Yeah, right,” she said. “He’s behind us … buying hair gel?” But there he was, at the neighborhood grocery store. His 8-year-old daughter, Emma Claire, was with him, and she was busy devouring something with a straw. This was no staged press event, like George H.W. Bush’s ill-fated trip to a grocer’s convention during the ’92 campaign, when he was famously accused of being amazed by a checkout scanner. There were no cameras, no entourage. Just a dad wearing a T-shirt and shorts, with his little girl, stopping by the store to pick up something on the way home. A dad who also happens to be running for president.

John Edwards has been in the news a lot lately. But it hasn’t been for his universal healthcare proposal, or for his ideas about making it easier for most Americans to file their taxes. Not even for his wife Elizabeth’s courageous fight against her recurring cancer and their decision to carry on with a presidential campaign. Edwards’ most recent round of publicity has been all about his hair.

When first-quarter campaign finance reports were filed with the FEC, enterprising reporters learned the Edwards campaign had picked up the tab for two $400 haircuts for the candidate. Team Edwards claimed the bills had been sent to the campaign by mistake, and Edwards personally reimbursed his campaign treasury $800. He later explained to Iowa voters he hadn’t realized how high the charges were going to be, and that his staff arranged for the two haircuts in California hotel rooms to save time between campaign stops. Appearing on the nationally syndicated Ed Schultz radio show, he called the episode “really embarrassing,” and admitted “no one should pay $400 for a haircut.”

The gaffe made Letterman and Leno, Maureen Dowd wrote a column about it, and it landed the Edwards campaign unwanted publicity nationwide. For the media, the story was irresistible, especially in light of Edwards’ signature campaign focus on looking out for the little folks. A $400 haircut doesn’t exactly square with focusing on the plight of working- and middle-class families or a war on poverty.



There’s a problem here, though. When the media spends time covering “issues” like a candidate’s haircuts it blatantly overlooks what’s really at stake: Whoever sits in the White House has enormous power to change things for America, for good or bad. Right now our country is falling apart, thanks to two terms under the worst president in history. We can’t afford another George W. Bush. The media has a responsibility to help voters make sense of how the men and women running for the Oval Office would operate once they got there. Haircut stories don’t cut it.

At a time when more and more of us are finding the American dream harder and harder to achieve, there’s a lot for the 2008 candidates to address. To Edwards’ credit, he is the first Democratic contender to release a detailed plan for achieving universal healthcare coverage. Rising healthcare costs and lack of coverage is the No. 1 issue most voters say worries them about their economic future.

Growing numbers of Americans are losing their homes because they can’t afford the rising payments. In the first quarter of 2007, home foreclosures increased by 35 percent from the same period in 2006, with 37 states reporting an increase. For all of last year, there were 1.2 million foreclosures, which itself was 42 percent more than in 2005.

A big part of this foreclosure crisis is that nonexistent oversight of lending companies under the Bush administration allowed them to sucker people into loans that would be almost impossible to pay back. It should come as no surprise that Bush put the wishes of big financial firms first, since credit card giant MBNA has been his single largest corporate donor. Edwards’ platform includes legislation to help stop predatory lending, which he recently called a “shameful practice” that is “compromising our strength as a nation.”

Let’s not forgot the war in Iraq, now in its fifth year. Bush’s war drains American lives and resources daily — an estimated $8.4 billion a month that could be spent addressing needs here at home. Edwards has repeatedly apologized for his vote to go to war in Iraq, calling it a “mistake,” and pledges to withdraw all troops if elected president.

For the record, we didn’t see John Edwards pick out any hair products in the store. He used the regular checkout lane, chose plastic over paper, and put his own cart away before leaving. Edwards may have gotten two overpriced haircuts on the campaign trail, but when he’s home, hanging out with his kids, he goes to the grocery store like everyone else. That should count for something. Especially at a moment when our country is in trouble because the Bush administration never cared about the interests of average Americans, the kind of people who shop at grocery stores.

Erik Ose is the co-founder of Musicians Organized for Voter Education and a veteran of Democratic campaigns in North Carolina. He authors The Latest Outrage, a blog devoted to exposing right-wing shenanigans.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>