Chip Ellis: ‘By becoming a politician, John Edwards did something good for the country – he got out of the courtroom!’

☞ Well, I have made a lawyer joke or two myself over the years . . .but contrast Chip’s view with this Washington Monthly excerpt forwarded by David Bruce (known, for the purposes of this column, as Bruce #1):

The defining case in Edwards’ legal career wrapped up that same year. In 1993, a five-year-old girl named Valerie Lakey had been playing in a Wake County, N.C., wading pool when she became caught in an uncovered drain so forcefully that the suction pulled out most of her intestines. She survived but for the rest of her life will need to be hooked up to feeding tubes for 12 hours each night. Edwards filed suit on the Lakeys’ behalf against Sta-Rite Industries, the Wisconsin corporation that manufactured the drain. Attorneys describe his handling of the case as a virtuoso example of a trial layer bringing a negligent corporation to heel. Sta-Rite offered the Lakeys $100,000 to settle the case. Edwards passed. Before trial, he discovered that 12 other children had suffered similar injuries from Sta-Rite drains. The company raised its offer to $1.25 million. Two weeks into the trial, they upped the figure to $8.5 million. Edwards declined the offer and asked for their insurance policy limit of $22.5 million. The day before the trial resumed from Christmas break, Sta-Rite countered with $17.5 million. Again, Edwards said no. On January 10, 1997, lawyers from across the state packed the courtroom to hear Edwards’ closing argument, “the most impressive legal performance I have ever seen,” recalls Dayton. Three days later, the jury found Sta-Rite guilty and liable for $25 million in economic damages (by state law, punitive damages could have tripled that amount). The company immediately settled for $25 million, the largest verdict in state history. For their part, Edwards and Kirby earned the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s national award for public service.

There will be folks who read this and say that the cost of swimming pool construction is needlessly high because of lawsuits like this, and that the industry was making decent cost-benefit trade-offs. But my guess is that such readers do not have children who like to swim.


This editorial forwarded by the estimable Bruce Chemel (Bruce #2) is notable because it comes from the Dallas Morning News. Forgive my tardiness in posting it:

Iraq Trust Gap: You’ve got a credibility problem, Mr. President
11:41 AM CDT on Tuesday, June 22, 2004

. . . We supported his presidential candidacy. We backed the war in Iraq. But we now wonder: What happened?

U.S. troops have found no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. And the 9-11 panel says there was no working partnership between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. President Bush presented both WMD and the al-Qaeda/Hussein link as reasons for striking Iraq before it attacks us.

The president has a credibility gap here, and he needs to address it right away. Vice President Dick Cheney tried but failed miserably. He said, in effect, “we know more than you and you better trust us.”

The country did just that when we went to war in Iraq, but things aren’t working as promised. The administration needs to respond with specifics, not like members of a secret society with keys to the kingdom.

If the president or any member of his administration knows of concrete links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, we implore them to speedily present that information to the 9-11 commission. Commissioners say they’d welcome contradictions to their claim that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were not in cahoots.

A poll conducted by Republican Bill McInturff and Democrat Stanley Greenberg for National Public Radio shows 54 percent of Americans think the country’s off track. Those are serious numbers, Mr. President. Arrogance will not change Americans’ perceptions. Plain-speaking will. The country needs that, sir.

☞ For all this – at least as of last month – the editors still supported Bush. But when they’re beginning to doubt in Dallas, we’re making progress.


As you may have heard, Ron Reagan will be speaking at the Democratic Convention. The only bigger coup I can think of would be Bruce Springsteen (Bruuuuuuuce!). To my knowledge, he doesn’t do political events, and won’t. But for those who take their cue from The Boss and wonder where his sympathies lie, click here:

A few weeks ago at N.Y.U. Al Gore gave one of the most important speeches I’ve heard in a long time. The issues it raises need to be considered by every American concerned with the direction our country is headed in. It’s my pleasure to reprint it here for my fans.

Tomorrow: Free Treo 300 – and a note on the gay marriage thing that’s got the President so worried


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