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The Nation

Edwards Wins Colbert 'Debate'

John Nichols

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both appeared Thursday night on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

Clinton mocked her "3 a.m." ad. After fixing a malfunctioning projection screen and having a make-up artist address the challenge of Colbert's "too shiny" forehead, the host gasped, "Senator Clinton, you're so prepared for any situation."

"I just love solving problems. Call me anytime. Call me at 3:00am," said Clinton.

Obama added manufactured political "distractions" to host Stephen Colbert's "On Notice Board."

Reflecting on debate questioning about whether he wears a flag pin, Obama added "manufactured political distractions" to Colbert's "On Notice" board list of troubling phenoms.

"I think the American people are tired of these games and petty distractions," declared Obama, to Colbert's response: "Speaking for the news media, we are not tired of it, It allows us to ask the same questions over and over again, and we don't have to do any work."

So who won?

John Edwards.

The candidate of the adult wing of the Democratic party who didn't make it to Pennsylvania -- but who looks better and better in hindsight -- suddenly appeared during Colbert's faux news report on the courting by Clinton and Obama of white male voters.

"Finally, America's white men are being heard, and the candidates are attempting to address" issues of concern to them, Colbert said, as images of Clinton downing a shot and a beer and Obama attempting to bowl.

Mocking the efforts of both remaining candidates to secure his support, the former senator from North Carolina declared, "No white male vote is being courted more vigorously than this one."

Weighing his options, Edwards noted that, on the one hand, he did not want to cast a vote that was "anti-hope." But, recalling the response of a particularly virulent Clinton backer to former candidate Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama, Edwards said, "On the other hand, I don't want James Carville to bite me."

Restating his campaign call for a more serious focus on economic issues -- which were almost entirely missing from Wednesday night's debate -- Edwards announced that he would vote in the upcoming North Carolina primary for the candidate who best advocates for ending poverty and providing universal health care.

Failing that, he said, "I will only support the candidate who promises to make me a spy. That would be so cool."

Even Colbert was cracking up.

Easily the least defensive and most good-humored "contender," Edwards reminded everyone of what was lost when he left the race -- and of why the remaining candidates really are still campaigning for his endorsement.

John Nichols is a co-founder of Free Press and the co-author with Robert W. McChesney of TRAGEDY & FARCE: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy — The New Press.

© 2008 The Nation

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