Gauthier: No adult in the room

Deborah E. Gauthier

A quest to be "first" is one of the most powerful motivators in the world. Russia was "first" to launch a man into space. The United States responded by being first to land a man on the moon.

"Firsts" make history. Historic firsts are rare, however, and in their rarity, coveted. Such is the case this year with two presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Clinton hopes to be the first female president, Obama the first black president of the United States. If either wins the presidency in November, they will forever be held up as an example to either the black or female population.

It's unfortunate that both, enabled by the national media, have let their quest for gold overshadow the meaningful messages of their campaign.

Instead of issues, we hear accusations. Instead of substance, we hear exactly what we heard during 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns - lies, half-truths and innuendo.

We should expect better from presidential candidates and there was a candidate from which we got better - John Edwards, who withdrew from the race yesterday.

"Am I the only adult in the room?" Edwards asked at a recent debate in an attempt to get his competitors' focus back on important issues like the economy and health care.

Edwards, however, was ignored in favor of the Clinton/Obama bickering over who said what about former presidents and former black leaders. Issues of no consequence lead the news while a man who wanted only to be the 44th president of the United States - no historic aspirations beyond that - had to beg for face time.

In the 2004 election, Edwards was the vice presidential candidate with Sen. John Kerry. They ran a campaign that centered around the growing economic problems of working Americans. They spoke of "Two Americas" - the haves and the have nots.

President George Bush and the Republican machine smeared Kerry's Vietnam war record and belittled Edwards' contention that the gap between the rich and poor is growing and that the middle class - the bedrock of this country - is disappearing.

Edwards' message hasn't changed, and time has shown - as we head toward a recession - that his concerns over the American economy were and continue to be accurate.

He was the one candidate who understood, years ago, that the American people were being bankrupt by unscrupulous banking policies and corporate union-busting tactics. Many of the economic problems average Americans face today are directly related to banking and business policies Edwards warned were a recipe for disaster.

Edwards was the one candidate who refused the financial backing of lobbyists. He was the one candidate feared, and therefore vilified, by the corporate community for his populist stance. He was a candidate with a solid plan to ease the economic pain of the working poor and middle class.

The national media has a responsibility to provide voters with pertinent information on ALL candidates so that the choices we make in the voting booth are based on something other than whether a candidate would be a good drinking buddy. That kind of choice gave us seven years of a declining economy and standing in the world.

Edwards has a plan, a good one. He should at least have been given the opportunity to explain that plan, in detail, to the American public via presidential debates and national television face time.

Instead, we've heard two candidates chosen by the media, not the voters, as the best Democratic choices for president fight like preschoolers over the only empty swing in the playground.

Obama's and Clinton's desperation to be "first" have clouded their judgment and tainted their campaigns. Neither will have the vote of this working woman unless Edwards joins their podium as vice-presidential candidate.

Deb Gauthier can be reached at

MetroWest Daily News