Washington Prowler

Go Figure

John Edwards' fuzzy math. Dick Gephardt wimps out at a machismo moment.

By 7.23.03

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EDWARDS' FUZZY MATH
Sen. John Edwards apparently has hired Bush-obsessed New York Times columnist Paul Krugman as his speechwriter. Picking up on the president's supposedly untrue 16-word sentence on Iraq and uranium included in his last State of the Union address, Krugman last week posited that another sentence in the speech "wasn't true." The sentence read, "We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents and other generations."

No surprise, then, when this week Sen. Edwards took Krugman one step further and claimed he was going to attack 16 words Bush said in the State of the Union address about the economy. In Edwards' reading, those 16 were, "We will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents and to other generations."

Too bad Edwards can't count. His version contained not 16 but 17 words. (Democrats, it seems, have lots of problems with little two-letter words like "is" and now "to.")

Edwards, who was making his comments in South Carolina, is desperately attempting to latch on to any populist message that will give him a boost against Howard Dean and John Kerry, the two men he views as his key competition in that Southern state. Edwards has practically pinned his entire presidential hopes on winning South Carolina and emerging from the state of his birth as one of the few survivors of the early primary season.

"You can't be surprised that he's basically ripping off Krugman," says a Howie Dean staffer in New Hampshire. "When you've been in politics for so little time as Edwards it's hard to come up with original ideas."

New ideas or not, Edwards has been raising money down South prodigiously. And while Sen. Bob Graham of Florida earlier this year was claiming he would be the kingfish money man of the South, Edwards has outraised him in South Carolina thus far, beating out Dean, Kerry, and Joe Lieberman as well.

GREAT TIMING
Another Democrat grasping at just about anything is Rep. Dick Gephardt. While polling numbers in Iowa reflect that he remains the leading candidate there, just about everywhere else he's tanking. Which may be why he showed up in California on Tuesday for a speech at the San Francisco Bar Association, where he gave a scathing anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war speech to an enthusiastic audience. He especially decried Bush's foreign policy "machismo."

"Unfortunately, while he was making that speech we were hearing that Hussein's kids were dead, or maybe had been arrested," said a lawyer attending the speech. "But he never mentioned that."

Gephardt finds himself running far behind front-runners Howie Dean and John Kerry, and even Joe Lieberman. Lieberman must be breathing a sigh of relief after seeing numbers in California that show him running third. Never mind that three months ago he was leading the pack out west.

"We're just glad he's in the top tier," says a Washington-based Lieberman adviser. "We've had so much bad news lately, anything like this is welcome."

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