Clinton's poverty proposal a signal to Edwards?

Is Hillary Clinton's proposal to add an "anti-poverty czar" to the Cabinet targeted at John Edwards?

By Alex Koppelman

Published April 4, 2008 10:16PM (EDT)

In a speech she gave Friday to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Hillary Clinton called for the creation of a new Cabinet-level position, a "poverty czar," an idea King's son advocated in a recent Op-Ed.

"I believe we should appoint a Cabinet-level position that will be solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it in America, a position that will focus the attention of our nation on the issue and never let it go," Clinton said, "a person who I could see being asked by the president every single day: 'What have you done to end poverty in America?' No more excuses. No more whining, but instead, a concerted effort."

The Politico's Ben Smith wrote that this proposal "might be seen politically as something like a job offer for John Edwards." We think that's on the right track, but don't think that's quite it. After all, a job offer in a Clinton administration might not carry that much weight right now, since the chances she'll make it that far look very slim. Surely, her campaign knows that.

To us, this seems like a gesture to Edwards, a way of demonstrating she's committed to his principles -- or is at least willing to be committed to them -- as she continues to angle for his endorsement ahead of the North Carolina primary.

In the speech he gave as he exited the Democratic race earlier this year, Edwards emphasized how important that kind of commitment was to him:

I've spoken to both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama. They have both pledged to me, and more importantly through me to America, that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency. And more importantly, they have pledged to me that as president of the United States, they will make ending poverty and economic inequality central to their presidency. This is the cause of my life. And I now have their commitment to engage in this cause.

The New York Times' Caucus blog reports that Edwards supports Clinton's proposal. Through a spokesman, he said, "America's need to address the great moral issue of poverty demands strong action, and a Cabinet-level poverty position is exactly that kind of action." The Caucus also reports that Edwards called John McCain and asked the presumptive Republican nominee for his support for a poverty czar; McCain stopped short of making such a commitment.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Hillary Rodham Clinton John Edwards War Room