Media double standard? John Edwards has received negative media coverage from The News and Observer, The Washington Post's Sleuth blog, "behind the scenes in Washington," and hits in the blogosphere for the cost of his new home just outside Chapel Hill, N.C. There was also a sensational, insubstantial Washington Post front page story about the deal he closed on his Georgetown home. And yet there's mostly flattering coverage of Hillary Clinton's "cozy" Washington home featured in her announcement video, including an interview with her home decorator. That slab of real estate in DC cost Hillary and Bill $2.85 million when they purchased it in 2001, not to mention the 2001 price of their Chappaqua, N.Y. home, $1.7 million. So the total value of her real estate in 2001 was $4.5 million. Given aggressive inflation in the DC and NY real estate markets (60 percent or more), it's likely that Hillary's digs are valued at well over $6 million, which is the estimated value of John Edwards' 28,200-square foot space outside Chapel Hill, N.C. In truth, Edwards and his wife Elizabeth did what most homeowners seeking to move up do -- they added the price of the real estate they sought to unload -- their Raleigh home was sold for an estimated $1.46 million, and their Georgetown place was sold for $5.2 million -- to see what they could afford. Should they be penalized or criticized because you can get a lot more for your money in rural Orange County, NC than in Washington, D.C.?
I can understand why local media in North Carolina find the size of the new Edwards' estate to be an interesting and legitimate local story. But implicit in the negative national political coverage of Edwards' properties is the argument that one cannot understand or be an advocate for the poor if one lives in luxurious circumstances or makes profitable real estate deals. Or that a grand slab of real estate makes a presidential candidate (or anyone?) out of touch with the common people. If that is the argument, it needs to be made explicitly. And few, if any presidential candidates, Republican or Democrat, could pass such a strict, and in my view, SILLY, test. Must we see and assess the value of all candidates' homes before deciding who to vote for?
Update: David Kuo asks Edwards in a Beliefnet intervew about the size and cost of his home, and its impact on his spiritual life:
You've received a lot of criticism from people about the size of your house. In your book, "Home," you quote Rick Warren saying, "What I've noticed is that where people live affects how they live." If that's true, how does your home impact you? What does it say about you? And does it in any way undercut your discussion of the poor?
Edwards: I think it's a fair question, first of all. And here's how I feel about it. The book that you made reference to that Rick Warren is in, "Home," I think the overwhelming message from that is, whatever the structure, the physical structure--some of the houses in my book were very small, tiny. Some of them were huge. And what matters in the message from that book is [that] the physical structure's not important. What matters is what happens inside that physical structure, and what kind of values and beliefs and faith are taught inside that structure. And so, you know, I come from a very modest place and I've done well and we have a very nice physical structure. It's completely unimportant. What matters is what happens inside that structure.
And back to your question about Jesus and what he would be most disappointed in, what we're doing to meet the needs of those around us. I'm not for a minute suggesting we are saints or we have done more than a lot of other people have done, but Elizabeth and I have spent a lot of time building a couple of learning centers for low-income kids who need a place to use technology, made college scholarships available, helped build houses for people who don't have houses, helped with humanitarian needs in Africa. Those are some of the causes--I'm sure I'm forgetting some--that we have been personally committed to, both before we got in politics and since that time. So, do I think we've done everything we could do? No. I don't think anybody does. But I think Jesus would be happy with some of the things we've done.
- John Edwards on spiritual issues: Beliefnet interview.
- Forbes examines the financial deals of Rudy Giuliani: "The Company He Keeps: As a Businessman, He's Been Mixing with a Sketchier Crowd."
- The Arizona Republic reports that John McCain has assets of less than $100,000. His financial security and wealth comes from his wife Cindy, an Anheuser-Busch heiress, making him the seventh richest senator.