Muzzling Edwards?

Robert Novak
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Posted: Sep 18, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON --  Sen. John Edwards, departing from the usual pattern of vice presidential candidates appearing regularly on Sunday talk shows, has been turning down all such invitations.

The absence of the articulate, attractive Edwards cannot be explained by fear that he would be a liability on TV. Well-informed Democrats have speculated that John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry have muzzled Edwards because they do not want him to overshadow the presidential candidate.

 A footnote: While also turning down major television interviews, Sen. Kerry has agreed to appear on non-news venues: Don Imus's radio program, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Late Show with David Letterman." Kerry has not held a press availability on the campaign trail since Aug. 9.

NO BUSH SKELETONS

 George W. Bush has assured his top financial supporters there are no more skeletons in his closet such as the driving-under-the-influence conviction that nearly cost him the presidency in 2000.

 President Bush addressed a closed-door luncheon Wednesday at Stephen Decatur House in Washington. Answering a question, he said everything negative about him has been revealed.

 Bush conceded that failure to reveal his DUI conviction was a mistake, adding that its revelation near the end of the 2000 campaign came close to electing Al Gore. The president said he kept his youthful misadventure secret, because he did not want to set a bad example for his twin, teen-aged daughters.

TEAMSTERS FOR REPUBLICANS

 While the Teamsters Union has come out firmly against President Bush's candidacy for re-election, union President James Hoffa is pursuing his policy of reaching out to Republicans in congressional contests.

 Many more Democrats are backed by the Teamsters, but Hoffa has sent contributions to seven Republicans running for the Senate and 22 seeking House seats. That includes an early $5,000 to former Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, winner of a hard-fought GOP primary and now facing a closely contested Senate race in Florida. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, engaged in a tough election fight in Alaska, also received $5,000 from the Teamsters.

 A footnote: With Teamster officials privately complaining they are being shut out of the Kerry campaign, the union is concentrating on two battleground states where it figures it can most damage Bush: Ohio and Missouri.

DISASTER PORK

 Members of Congress from both parties are working behind the scenes to expand multi-billion dollar hurricane relief with pork-barrel spending unrelated to the storms.

 The $2 billion relief bill passed into law was kept clean, but the $3.1 billion in additional relief requested by President Bush is getting loaded with money irrelevant to hurricanes. "Congress simply has no shame," said Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste, adding that the hurricanes have given the lawmakers an extra chance to pass pet projects in this Congress.

 Leading the list of extras is home heating assistance for Northern dairy farmers. Also among the add-ons likely to be included are funds for Western firefighters, drought aid for the upper Great Plains and more money for the space program.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

 Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, one of the most liberal of Republican congressmen, Tuesday won an unexpectedly easy Republican nomination for a 12th term from his upstate New York district after receiving support from abortion rights activists, the White House and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Boehlert in 2000 defeated conservative Dr. David Walrath by fewer than 3,000 votes but this time won with 58 percent of the vote against the same opponent. Gingrich surprised conservatives by campaigning for his onetime comrade in the House despite Boehlert's 39 percent lifetime American Conservative Union rating. Earlier, presidential senior adviser Karl Rove attended a Boehlert fund-raiser in keeping with White House support for all Republican incumbents.

 In 2002, Boehlert received the third largest amount of pro-choice contributions among all House members. The $33,700 given him this election cycle was $24,700 more than House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi received.