The “Edwards Center” fights its “political tilt”

After catching wind that U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s running mate was hired by UNC to run a research center, Jon Sanders was skeptical.

That’s the lede in today’s Daily Tar Heel article by Lindsay Michel.

Skeptical I was, and skeptical I remain. Nothing distinguished former senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards as a fighter of poverty other than his Democrat talking points and “Two Americas” bromides. Furthermore, one would think that if Edwards truly believed that Democrat policies were the way to solve poverty, then he surely wouldn’t have missed so many votes while he was in the Senate. Nor would he have kept such disreputable, self-serving company and with them been jointly responsible for raising hidden costs on the same “working poor” he now sheds crocodile tears for.

Concerning the article, once again Edwards tries to act undecided about whether he’ll run for the presidency in 2008. This is part of the Edwards Cycle: campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early primary states, and attend Democrat fundraisers nationwide, then in his brief stops back in N.C., tell us he’s not sure he’s going to run for president.

Edwards saying he’s not sure he’s running for president is like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying he’s not sure he hates Israel: it might convince a lot of folks at UNC, but very few elsewhere.

Why am I so skeptical? Because, as I told the reporter, in UNC’s announcement that it had created this Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity (which I call the “Edwards Center” since everyone else does), university officials promised it would offer “innovative and practical ideas” for fighting poverty, and Edwards said he would offer “creative approaches.” I have catalogued the Edwards’ failure so far to offer anything innovative, creative, or practical. So far, he’s offered platitudes.

Of course, UNC and Edwards also promised that Edwards didn’t take the job for political reasons. But even from the get-go it was all about Edwards’ political positioning — he announced his accepting the directorship not in Chapel Hill or Raleigh, but in Manchester, New Hampshire.

UNC officials also boasted at the Center’s opening (remember, this center was brought from idea to reality in three months, quietly — at the same time UNC faculty were throwing public fits that a donor wanted to “oppress” them by funding a program to study Western Civilization) that “Edwards will be a marvelous resource for faculty and students across campus.” Indeed he has been. Why, two months ago he spent a whole hour — that’s sixty (60) full minutes! — having coffee with students.

As for the supposed struggle within the “Edwards Center” to fight its political tilt, the reporter finds significant obstacles within:

Although political affiliation is not a criterion for holding a position at the center, 19 of the 25 staff and advisory board members are registered Democrats, according to voter registration records. None are registered Republicans.

It is difficult to pigeonhole personal ideologies when studying emotional topics such as poverty, said Arne Kalleberg, an advisory board member. And he is not surprised that mostly Democrats make up the center’s foundations.

“I think that it’s fair to say that people are drawn to the topic of poverty because of some belief that this is a problem in society,” said Kalleberg, a senior associate dean for arts and sciences at UNC. “And I think Democrats are more likely to do that than Republicans.”

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...