Democrat vibes permeated the annual Stephen Philbin Awards, held at the Dallas Bar Association for the 23rd year at 11:15 a.m. Couldn't help but be, with several dozen new judges, fresh from the all-but-sweep of the Dallas County courthouses, in attendance for the legal writing award ceremony.
Add to that a keynote speech by lawyer and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards--already stumping for the 2008 presidential election.
Mix it up with an introduction by tort king and big Dem-donor Fred Baron, who reportedly has relocated temporarily to North Carolina to run Edwards' next national campaign.
And finally, since most lawyers--at least the personal tort guys and the criminal defense attorneys--are Democrats, just like their compadres in the press--you got kiss-kiss all around.
The Philbin Awards are named for Stephen Philbin, a lawyer with a passion for First Amendment law, who died at age 34 of leukemia 24 years ago. Each fall, seven cash awards are bestowed on journalists who have contributed a story about legal issues in the previous year. This year, the grand prize went to Jennifer Emily of The Dallas Morning News.
Other winners were Mark Donald, of Texas Lawyer; Michael Grabell of the DMN; John Browning of the Rockwell County Herald-Banner, Lisa Poiso, Joylyn Niebes, Laura Oertling, and Shelley Hawes Pate of Dallas Child; Ginger Allen, Todd Bensman, Daniel Penz, John Brown, and Troy Larken of CBS 11-KTVT; and Glenn Mitchell and Jeff Whittington of KERA-90.1. This award, accepted by Mitchell's wife, drew a standing ovation in memory of the beloved radio reporter, who died unexpectedly last year. All well-deserved.
The speech by John Edwards wasn't about freedom of the press but about, well, John Edwards. He popped in and talked for 15 minutes, then popped out. He started by hawking his new book called Home: The Blueprint of Our Lives, about the places were famous and not-so-famous people grew up. This is to remind folks about his down-home roots as the son of a mill worker. Proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity and the International Rescue Committee. You can catch him tonight at Borders, 10720 Preston Road, at a 7 p.m. book signing.
After John Kerry and Edwards lost the presidential election in 2004, Edwards has been running the non-partisan Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Can't get more inclusive than that.) But most of his speech was about his travels around the world boning up on foreign affairs.
In anticipation of his next presidential run, Edwards has been to China, Uganda, India and other far-flung places, and he's discovered that most of the globe is poor! Delhi is a shit hole! And the Chinese execute people for practicing their religion but have tart retorts to any Americans who bring up their long-standing human rights abuses: "Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo!" In other words, "We got no room to talk."
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Edwards insists that America has lost its moral authority when a crazy Iranian president can stand up in the U.N., spout nonsense and get a standing O! And what about Africa, where America is letting genocide run rampant and doing nothing about the AIDS crisis!
Gee. Since most of those things were also happening under Clinton, it's hard to know how anyone running as a Democrat in 2008 is going to get any traction with such pabulum without actually coming up with answers.
But Edwards did have a funny story about appearing on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. After interviewing Edwards about the book, Stewart put the former vice-presidential candidate on "The Seat of Heat," a kind of truth-or-dare chair surrounded by flashing red lights. "If you had been elected vice president in 2004," Stewart asked, "who would you have shot in the face?"
Edwards' answer: "Dick Cheney." Can't wait for 2008. --Glenna Whitley