Sen. John Edwards disses Meet the Press

Posted: Jan 11, 2003 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Edwards, following advice from political handlers, reneged on his commitment to return to NBC's "Meet the Press" to counteract his poor performance on that program last May, which negatively impacted his presidential prospects. Edwards had told many people that he intended to "get back on the horse" and field another round of tough questioning by "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert. However, strategists planning Edwards's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination ruled out a Russert repeat as too risky. Instead, Edwards went to ABC's "This Week" program for a softer interview by George Stephanopoulos. A footnote: Edwards raised eyebrows during the Stephanopoulos interview when he was asked to name his favorite book. He mentioned only "The Trial of Socrates" by the late radical journalist I.F. Stone, who has been identified as a covert Soviet agent. ANTI-TAX-CUT REPUBLICANS Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, a deficit hawk who usually supports the Bush administration line, rose during a closed-door conference of Republican senators Wednesday to severely criticize President Bush's tax-cut plan. Voinovich was followed by a half dozen other GOP senators also negative about their president's major initiative. None has gone on record against the plan, fostering hope at the White House that the tax-cut critics can be turned around. A footnote: To pass the Bush tax cut in the Senate by a simple majority vote, it must be folded into a budget bill. Accordingly, the Senate Budget Committee has added six Bush loyalists as replacements on the Republican side. DEMOCRATIC TAX-CUTTER While current Democratic leaders denounce President Bush's proposed repeal of the tax on stock dividends, President Carter 25 years ago was on the verge of pushing that same remedy to revive a sluggish economy. Bert Lance, then Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, on March 31, 1977, publicly floated dividend tax repeal at a Manhattan meeting of the Association for a Better New York. It was estimated to cost $25 billion in lost tax revenue when the budget deficit was around $75 billion. Carter was skeptical, but his old friend Lance had convinced him that the proposal was necessary. The idea lost momentum because of a cool reception from the Business Roundtable, led by Merrill Lynch's Donald Regan (later the Reagan administration's Treasury secretary). Nevertheless, Carter probably would have pursued the repeal had Lance not been forced to resign in September 1977 because of alleged banking irregularities. DISAPPOINTED WHIP Sen. Tom Daschle's political aides were stunned when he bowed out of the 2004 presidential race, but nobody was more disappointed than his faithful deputy the last four years: Senator Harry Reid. Reid, Senate Democratic whip since 1998, had rounded up enough support to succeed Daschle as floor leader. That would have fulfilled Reid's desire for leadership and also helped his 2004 re-election campaign in Nevada. After being elected to a third term in 1998 by 428 votes, he faces another tough Republican challenge next year -- probably from Rep. Jim Gibbons. A footnote: Daschle's withdrawal raised speculation that he feared a presidential campaign would spotlight lobbying in behalf of United Airlines by his wife, Linda (though she limits her work to the House). NEW YORK'S SAVIOR Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accused by Republicans of losing the party's 2004 national convention because of his pugnacious attitude, ended up saving the event for New York City with a last-minute sales pitch. Bloomberg offered a sweetened economic guarantee and a mediation plan to ease Republican fears of labor troubles. Although word had spread through GOP channels that New Orleans was in the lead for the convention, no decision had been made until Bloomberg's final offer. A footnote: Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's office informed this column that he really was supportive of Tampa's bid for the convention. Nevertheless, the widespread perception in national Republican circles was that the president's brother was unenthusiastic about hosting the party gathering.