Haircut’s never over: Maureen Dowd’s mockery of John Edwards as an aspiring “metrosexual in chief” for his $400 haircuts (a $400 haircutter’s house call, to be precise) has prompted a blogburst of reactions. The Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum breaks down the ” four different schools of thought about this in the liberal blogosphere.”
School No. 1 is the “Edwards is an idiot” (Drum’s words) camp. At least some liberals think Edwards should blame himself for the bad press. The American Prospect’s Garance Franke-Ruta, writing on TheGarance.com (her personal blog), notes that for pretty much the entirety of his time on the national political stage, “Edwards’ hair has been as much of an issue as was Hillary Clinton’s in the early 1990s. Which is to say, Edwards has had the last four years to realize that his political enemies like [to] make his hair into an issue if they can, and that charging personal haircuts to his campaign, and hence opening their costs to scrutiny, was probably not the best idea.” She continues, “This is a ridiculous story, but it could have been avoided with wiser campaign accounting. (Or, you know, cheaper haircuts.)”
In another post on the same blog, Franke-Ruta elaborates:
Edwards has never run a tough campaign where he’s been subjected to the full glare of the national press. This was a newbie error, and the product of bad staffing. Edwards could have gotten $1,000 haircuts and as long as his staffers combed his Federal Election Commission filing to make sure they weren’t in it, no one would have been any the wiser. But they didn’t, perhaps because they weren’t instructed to. This staffing error is reminiscent of the campaign’s poor planning in hiring Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan without fully vetting them, and then allowing them to continue their controversial personal blogs during the midst of a national media firestorm. These unforced errors were campaign errors, not candidate gaffes, but ultimately they reflect a central fact about the candidate.
That fact is this: Edwards has run and won precisely one political race in his life — his 1998 Senate contest.
Franke-Ruta also defends the American instinct to mock people who get $400 haircuts: “Nobody likes flashy rich people, and it’s one of the cool things about American culture [that] the wealthy are still expected to ape the habits of the less-well off instead of going off and building palaces for themselves.”
The American Prospect’s Ezra Klein is mystified by Edwards’s decision to pay for the haircuts with campaign funds (though Edwards now says he will use personal funds to repay his campaign the $800). He writes on his personal blog:
To be clear, for all I care, Edwards can live in Versailles and give Alan Greenspan gold bricks to cut his hair. But every Democratic presidential candidate since Clinton has been tagged for expensive haircuts. Everyone knows appearances matter, and populist credibility is harmed by accusations of opulent personal habits.
Klein concludes, “Edwards could have avoided this. Why he didn’t, honestly, baffles me. And so much as I’d like to say — and genuinely believe — it’s a completely useless subject for inquiry, given that such inquiries will be made, the question of why he showed such poor political judgment is a legitimate one for Democratic primary voters to ask.”