03/29/2008 11:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What is Edwards Holding Out For?

Today former Sen. John Edwards, in his first public speech since dropping his White House bid two months ago, praised Democratic rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, but declined to endorse either candidate.

What is Edwards holding out for?

Interesting story in this week's New York Magazine by John Heilemann.

It's hard to tell where most of it is coming from, but the Edwards' non-endorsement is one of the mysteries of the campaign since Edwards dropped out.

Edwards, of course, was the most progressive major candidate in the race and the one who once ranked as the most electable of the Democrats.

I, and many others who longed for a progressive candidate, miss his brand of truth telling terribly.

One story has it that Edwards asked Obama for a Cabinet Post and Obama turned him down, arrogantly, as if he didn't need his support.

On the other hand, I strongly believe that Bill Richardson (whom I also admire) was turned down for a Cabinet Post by Clinton. And may have gotten a better deal from Obama.

Don't trust any of these guys. I am sure that James Carville will let us know soon enough what he meant by that "30 pieces of silver" crack about Richardson.

Heilemann, who has had good sources in the past, writes:

"In the days after John Edwards's withdrawal from the Democratic race, the political world expected his endorsement of Barack Obama would be forthcoming tout de suite. The neo-populist and the hopemonger had spent months tag-teaming Hillary Clinton, pillorying her as a creature of the status quo, not a champion of the kind of "big change"....

"So appalled was Edwards at Clinton's gaudy corporatism--her defense of the role of lobbyists, her suckling at the teats of the pharmaceutical and defense industries--that he'd essentially called her corrupt. And then, not least, there were the sentiments of his wife. "Elizabeth hasn't always been crazy about Mrs. Clinton" is how an Edwards insider puts it; a less delicate member of HRC's circle says, "Elizabeth hates her guts."

"But now two months have passed since Edwards dropped out .....and still no endorsement.

"Why? According to a Democratic strategist unaligned with any campaign but with knowledge of the situation gleaned from all three camps, the answer is simple: Obama blew it.

"Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards's imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton's plan (and by extension Edwards's) for its insurance mandate."

Heilman writes that this story suggests that Obama's diplomatic skills could use some refinement. It also raises the question, which has cropped up after New Hampshire, Super-Tuesday, and the Ohio and Texas primaries, of Obama's capacity to close the deal.

"For all its rhetoric about practicing a new, more virtuous brand of politics, the Obama campaign has been going after Clinton hammer and tongs. Rarely a day passes without his people dubbing her a liar and a fraud. (Although when it comes to Snipergate, it's hard to blame them.) They have accused Bill Clinton of McCarthyism and invoked the infamous blue dress on which he left his, er, DNA--the latter coming on a blog post arguing that he actually makes McCarthy look benign. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if the Obamans are actively trying to cede the moral high ground."

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