[This post is dedicated to Neil Sinhababu, my fellow Ezra weekender, who has long endeavored to make me—and the rest of the world—fall deeply in love with John Edwards.]

Tonight, while watching John Edwards on The Daily Show, a great appearance which culminated in Edwards giving absolutely the right response to the Seat of Heat question (if he’d been vice president, who would he have shot in the face? “Dick Cheney.”), I was struck by something quite peculiar and wonderful…

Now, mind you, I’ve always really liked John Edwards, finding him clever and witty and genuinely decent, and I respect him immensely for being the only politician in recent memory who has so passionately advocated for addressing endemic poverty. But tonight, watching that infectious grin make its way broadly across his face, and listening him to speak about the poverty center he founded, with an evident concern for the less fortunate among us, it occurred to me that there is perhaps not a politician in America today who is more completely a perfect reverse image of George W. Bush.

No sneering, condescending, beady-eyed mug, but an open face with kind eyes and an easy smile. No stumbling, nonsensical regurgitation of ideological talking points, but an eloquent discourse on the issues close to his heart. No alienating cynicism and nastiness, but contagious optimism and amiability. This son of a mill worker really is everything that Bush is not.

He is the antidote to Dubya.

I pictured what it would be like to have a president who was quick to smile and to laugh, who was hopeful and visionary and truly cared about other people, after these six long years of a petulant, sniveling leader with pretenses of dictatorship. I can only imagine that following G-Dub with his ultimate antithesis John Edwards would be like stumbling out into the sunshine after a very long internment in a dank and light-starved dungeon. I long for that sunshine.

The GOP dismissed Edwards as a lightweight, and, in large part, the left didn’t argue to the contrary very convincingly. But he is a skilled and knowledgeable politician who polled well among undecided voters. In his exile from Washington, he has proven himself capable and determined, successful in his advocacy in much the same way Gore has been, but to less acclaim. He’s not a junkyard dog, though he doesn’t need to be—the Democrats have reclaimed both houses of Congress, and he can safely leave the snarling to them. (Not that he’s incapable of delivering a scathing bit of snark without breaking his smile, in that uniquely Southern way.) A potential match-up against the disagreeable and famously temperamental McCain calls to mind the notorious debate between Nixon and JFK, who effortlessly made his grumpy challenger look like a cantankerous, constipated geezer.

I’m still holding out hope that Gore will run, and surely Edwards himself couldn’t blame me, if he heard how I’ve been waiting for him to be my president for half my life. But if Al’s a no-show, and the last two years of G-Dub’s presidency prove just as ruinous and grim as the first six, I’ll be looking very closely at John Edwards. By virtue of being everything Bush is not, both aesthetically and ideologically, he may just be the cure for that which ails us.

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