What Was That About Trial Lawyers?….Remember the good ol’ days, when Bush tossed off blatant applause lines in his State of the Union address, skewering trial lawyers while the networks immediately cut away to a shot of John Edwards sitting patiently? When the GOP came out swinging, calling Edwards “a disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal and friend to personal injury trial lawyers” just minutes after his selection as Kerry’s running mate was announced?

You may have noticed, however, a curious silence on the subject in Republican circles lately. Wasn’t this supposed to be a slam-dunk issue the Bush/Cheney camp could use to tar Edwards as a fake populist? Apparently not. According to an article in today’s Washington Times — “GOP Reluctant to Criticize Edwards Over Tort Reform” — Republican strategists are worried that continued attacks on Edwards’ trial background could backfire. Because it’s not as if Edwards had no clients. And their stories are pretty darn compelling. Pretty darn television-worthy, in fact.

Who would have thought? Well, the The Washington Monthly’s own Josh Green, for one. Back in 2001, Green predicted that Edwards’ background as a trial lawyer would not be the liability that salivating Republicans hoped it would. In a Monthly essay, Green wrote:

Edwards is uniquely situated to refute Bush’s attacks on trial lawyers and tort reform because he’s the living embodiment of how a trial lawyer can serve a regulatory function in the face of misbehaving corporations, cities, and professionals. Indeed, attacking him is one of the surest ways for Bush to inadvertently highlight his own greatest vulnerability: the perception among voters that he’s a shill for corporate America. As Carlton Carl, the trial lawyers association spokesman, is quick to point out, “People hate insurance companies more than they hate lawyers.” By reprising the ’98 Senate race at the national level, Republicans play to Edwards’ greatest strength.

So go ahead — bring it on.

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Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.