John Edwards got a big round of applause from union workers in Florida when he shared his policy direction on the environment. He told the crowd that Americans should be prepared to sacrifice, and the first sacrifice should be the sports-utility vehicles that American drivers prefer:
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told a labor group that he would ask Americans to make a big sacrifice: their sport utility vehicles.
"I think Americans are actually willing to sacrifice," Edwards said Tuesday during a forum held by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "One of the things they should be asked to do is drive more fuel efficient vehicles."
The former North Carolina senator was asked specifically if he would tell them to give up their SUVs, he said, "Yes."
Well, SUVs have been the target of environmentalists for years, even as most of them have become more efficient. They make great targets, after all, with less-than optimal gas mileage and their size on the road making them easy to spot. They're also popular with Americans, including the Sierra Club, which fetched Arianna Huffington in one model for a 2005 appearance -- three years after she started a jeremiad against the "metal monstrosities".
But that's not the entire story about Edwards' call for sacrifice. One union member asked the candidate why other Americans have to sacrifice while Edwards' family sucks up energy and space in a 28,000-square-foot mansion. Edwards drew himself up in righteous indignation:
He said he came from nothing, worked hard all his life, has always supported workers and fought big corporations as a lawyer.
"I have no apologies whatsoever for what I've done with my life," he said to loud cheers. "My entire life has been about the same cause, which is making sure wherever you come from, whatever your family is, whatever the color of your skin, you get a real chance to do something great in this country."
Oh, okay. If one accepts the notion that Edwards came from "nothing" -- his father had a pretty decent job while Edwards grew up -- then it's acceptable and even laudable to engage in conspicuous consumption. Edwards must think that he purchased the sacrifice offsets as a kid, and now can use them to take a pass on the same sacrifices on which he will insist if elected President. He can criticize the decisions of ordinary Americans in purchasing their vehicles with concern to safety, but don't dare criticize his decision to live in a house the size of Luxembourg.
Most Americans work hard for their money. Most of them would make the kind of sacrifices that Edwards asks if the country really needed them. It's impossible to take that kind of demand seriously from a rich personal-injury lawyer standing in front of his enormous mansion. (h/t: CQ reader Roger B)