In my article on the 2008 ticket, I wrote that John Edwards appears as Hillary Clinton's best company in the Iowa polls. None of you disagreed with me really, but many North Carolinians wrote me with criticism of Edwards.

I say that if you’re truly opposed to Edwards now, there is very little he can do to win your vote for 2008. His challenge is creating an expanded platform that appeals to the middle.

W. Russel Congleton writes:

One other advantage Edwards has that you did not mention is this: he has almost no record other than the Iraq war vote to be concerned with. Being relatively unknown can be a tremendous advantage for a presidential candidate since an unknown can be a political chameleon. Such a candidate can say anything in a snappy sound bite and not be embarrassed by a vote on an obscure appropriations bill from 10 years ago that is 180 degrees opposed to the present positions.

He’s Al Gore with a personality and without the baggage. The GOP will be hard pressed to find anyone similarly situated.

SRE: Great point, thank you!

David Bradford of Gastonia, North Carolina writes:

As a North Carolinian, there's a reason we voted Edwards out of office.

1) He was for economic trade policies which would further hurt and had already wounded textile industry in the state and it did.

2) When it came to military base presence here in North Carolina, which is vital to much of the state's economy, he was for closing of one base, and partial closing of others that would further hurt the state.

3) When many of the residents would make inquiries or petition him, neither he nor his office would ever respond.

These are the top three reasons most North Carolinians wanted him gone. A senator is supposed to represent the state, its people and their political and economic welfare on Capitol Hill. Edwards showed none of that. He was however, a good Democrat who supported his party over his constituents.

As an independent, I could care less if he was a Republican, any one who represents their political party over that of their state dishonors the Senate, the State and their constituents and does not deserve any public office!

SRE: Thanks David, you point out the hardship in transitioning stagnant industries with trade liberalization -- an issue it might be helpful for Edwards to address. I think that understanding his former-constituents’ criticisms will be useful for his presidential run, particularly the South Carolina campaign.

R. Patrick Snoddy of Charlotte, N.C. writes:

While I generally admire your reasoning, John Edwards is an empty suit. The real reason he didn't run for reelection in North Carolina is that there wasn’t a poll in the field that said he could hold the seat.

He is a money-grubbing personal injury lawyer who has much to explain about taking huge chunks of settlements at the expense of clients with lifetime injuries. Put your money on him if you want. Remember that Edwards could not even deliver his home state to his ticket; nor did he deliver a single state around it.

My money says this cartoon character of a candidate fades at the first severe stress placed on him. The best thing that John Edwards has going for him?: Elizabeth Edwards.

SRE: Thanks Patrick, although I think it’s fair to say that lawyers fees are usually one-third of the award and that most of the cases he successfully litigated were deserving of the large sums. However, your point was echoed by many North Carolina residents and I am fascinated by your comment on Elizabeth.

As for my argument on female clerks in the Supreme Court, I spurred another debate on women and merit...

John Musselman writes:

Your article is a good one, Susan – you demonstrated the value of the position, both in terms of the job itself and in the privileges that attend to it, along with compelling evidence (5 to 7, etc.) that women are being excluded…

My comment concerns the nature of this particular example – I doubt that many readers really connect with the ‘problems’ of such an elite group, and would think that most would be more interested in uncovering discrimination issues that apply to ordinary workplace environments…

SRE: Thanks John, excellent point.

Another reader writes:

Did it ever occur to you Susan, that that the court may not be discriminatory? Has it ever occurred to you that it may just not be a job that women want?

SRE: No it hasn’t, as women account for at least half of law students now and apply for clerkships and reach the top of their class with equal regularity to men. While some might make that argument for private practice partnerships, which purportedly affects women’s family lives, the immense prestige of a Supreme Court clerkship, the doors it opens, and the length of time one is a clerk don’t allow that argument to apply here.

Chip Daigle of Mandeville, La., writes:

I think the statistics you quote are simply a result of the fact that there are more males on the Supreme Court and they want someone just like them to clerk for them.

If fact, I'll bet that female judges have more female clerks than men.

Did you check on this?

SRE: Great point, although it furthers my belief that the decision not to place women on the Court has lasting ramifications. Unfortunately, I don’t have a database that allows me to access all of the state and federal clerks.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership.

Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.