Your Daily Howler keeps getting results!

MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2012

Gail Collins’ readers fight back: Incomparably, your Daily Howler just keeps getting results!

We refer to the way Gail Collins’ readers have (finally) begun to fight back. They began doing so over the weekend, reacting to Saturday’s column.

In her column, Collins wasted everyone’s time in various ways, helping us see that John Edwards is a bad person. By now, the pointlessness of this demonstration should be apparent at all.

But it made for an easy column.

Collins’ piece was pointless throughout. That said, the complaints rained down when she ended the column like this:
COLLINS (6/2/12): Anyhow, some major presidential candidates are more enthralling when they talk about what they believe than others, but they can generally at least show you how they came to be at the table. John Edwards, not so much. Yet it was hard to put your finger on what was lacking, aside from his dismissiveness of the shrimp situation. He had an excellent stump speech and was really good at not saying anything that sounded stupid in a quotable way.

But somehow, the public realized that this guy who looked so good and sounded so glib was really a fraud. Even without knowing about the secret love child or the sleazy right-hand man, or the impressive ability to stare right into a TV camera and lie like a rug, they got his number and picked other people to run for president. Voters’ gut instincts are generally pretty good. They certainly were with John Edwards. Which is, in a way, a happy ending to an awful story.
To understand that reference to shrimp, you’ll have to make yourself read the column. The complaints rained down in response to the second passage we’ve highlighted—a passage every pundit and pol knows how to recite in her sleep.

“Voters’ gut instincts are generally pretty good?” One commenter after another disagreed with this fatuous claim, which comes straight from the press corps’ barrel of Mandated Standard Remarks.

The justice was highly poetic. People like Collins type this piddle as a way of fawning to their readers. In this case, Collins’ readers finally threw a bit of her piddle back.

Are voters’ gut instincts pretty good? Especially at this pitiful time, who but a scripted pundit could advance such a ludicrous thought? That said, we were even more struck by the first passage we've highlighted. In that passage, Collins said this:

“The public realized that [Edwards] was really a fraud.” As a result, they “picked other people to run for president.”

Who could type such nonsense? In Campaign 2008, Edwards ran against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a highly historic election. Did “the public”—in this case, Democratic primary voters—come to believe he was really a fraud? That claim is absolute nonsense, as anyone alive in 2008 will of course understand.

Edwards didn’t defeat his more publicized, breakthrough opponents. But as everyone knows, he was well regarded when he left the race in late January 2008.

How do we know he was well regarded? As Collins probably knows, her newspaper conducts opinion surveys. From January 9-12, 2008, it polled likely Democratic voters about the party’s contenders.

Had the public decided that Edwards was a fraud? Here's the question those voters were asked: “Is your opinion of [Obama, Clinton, Edwards] favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven’t you heard enough about [Obama, Clinton, Edwards] yet to have an opinion?”

In that survey, 13 percent of Democratic voters voiced an “unfavorable” opinion of Edwards. The corresponding number was 19 percent for Clinton, 16 percent for Obama.

(Favorable versus unfavorable: Obama 55-16, Clinton 64-19, Edwards 45-13.)

Those voters preferred Obama and Clinton, but they were favorable towards Edwards. Unless you’re reading the latest piffle, in which case “the public realized that this guy who looked so good and sounded so glib was really a fraud. Even without knowing about the secret love child...they got his number and picked other people to run for president.”

That statement comes from the dark side of Neptune. Surely, Collins didn’t believe it. But so what! She typed it right up!

Collins does this a lot of the time, with respect to a great many matters. (Have you heard what she says about Mitt Romney’s dog?) On Saturday morning, a long line of readers finally began to complain.

Your Daily Howler keeps getting results! Although, in fairness, Collins’ readers are pretty darn sharp—always have been.


  1. Collins is flat-out wrong. Democrats considered Edwards to be the most progressive of the candidates, and he had a lot of support.

    Democrats dodged a huge bullet when Edwards dropped from the primary race. Of course, they didn't know it until later.

    Those that had voted for him early in mail-in ballots, and had Clinton as there second choice, were outraged that their vote didn't count.

    If Edwards conceded because he knew the Reille Hunter scandal would break before November, I credit him for that.

    If the potential scandal was not the reason, then he got of easy at his trial, because he was wearing a suicide vest that would have taken millions of Democrats down with him.

  2. Indeed, I was still considering voting for him in my state's primary, until he pulled out of the race.

  3. I remember Thom Hartmann did an impromptu on air poll of his listeners one afternoon in Fall 2007 and Edwards got 50% of that informal poll. He was running very strong and had he peaked before Obama could very well have benefitted from the same anti-Hillary wave that affected voters in 2008. The sense that she was so unpopular that she couldn't win was pretty much conventional wisdom. It turned out to be wrong, but it took till later in her campaign when that was clear to all and Edwards could have run away with it before then if he'd had more money.. so we MORE than dodged a bullet. And mind you.. the story was already in the Enquirer by then!!!