- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2004

RALEIGH, N.C. — President Bush yesterday criticized Sen. John Edwards for blocking his judicial nominations and bluntly dismissed the one-term North Carolina Democrat as too inexperienced to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Asked by a reporter how the 51-year-old senator would “stack up” against Vice President Dick Cheney — a five-term congressman who served under three presidents and was secretary of defense during the 1991 Persian Gulf War — Mr. Bush replied: “Dick Cheney can be president. Next.”

Campaigning with his recently chosen running mate in Dayton, Ohio, Sen. John Kerry defended his pick.

“John Edwards has more experience than George Bush when he became president of the United States,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “But let me tell you what he was right about. Dick Cheney was ready to take over on Day One, and he did, and he has been ever since.”

The president jetted into Mr. Edwards’ home town just one day after Sen. John Kerry picked the former trial lawyer — a trip Bush officials said was long planned — and blamed the Democratic ticket for obstructing his judicial nominees, 25 of whom have not been put to a vote on the Senate floor.



“They’re the types of senators who are blocking the advance of these nominees,” Mr. Bush told reporters after meeting with three judicial nominees from North Carolina, including one nominated by the president in early 2001.

“Take, for example, here in North Carolina. Senator Edwards will not allow two of the nominees to whom I referred to even get to the committee for a hearing,” the president said.

A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Edwards has refused to allow confirmation hearings before the committee for two of the three nominees Mr. Bush met with yesterday at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign shot back, saying, “President Bush has packed the courts with judges whose thinking is shared by the tiniest sliver of the far right. He has turned the issue of judicial nominations into red meat for the right wing, hoping the rest of us aren’t paying attention.”

The Democratic National Committee also rushed out a mock bulletin to reporters: “This just in. Worried about tightening polls in North Carolina, George W. Bush continued his pattern of waging the most negative presidential campaign in history, launching a negative attack against John Edwards by name a scant 24 hours after Edwards was named to the Democratic ticket.”

A June 22 poll by Research 2000 for a North Carolina TV station showed the Bush-Cheney ticket leading Mr. Kerry by 47 percent to 42 percent, but election analysts predict the addition of the young North Carolina senator will change those numbers. A Mason-Dixon poll in May showed Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney in a dead heat with a presumed Kerry-Edwards ticket, 46 percent to 45 percent.

No Democratic presidential candidate has won North Carolina since 1976. The Bush-Cheney campaign carried the state by a 56 percent to 43 percent margin in 2000.

“I did well here in 2000 because the North Carolinian voter understood we shared values. I’m going to do well again in 2004,” Mr. Bush said. He predicted that adding Mr. Edwards to the Democratic ticket won’t erode Republican strength in the South.

“I did well in the South last time, I’ll do well in the South this time, because the senator from Massachusetts doesn’t share their values, and that’s the difference in the campaign,” the president told reporters.

Later yesterday, Mr. Bush headlined a $2.5 million Republican fund-raiser in nearby Morrisville. The president then flew to Michigan, where he met with six more judges whose nominations have been stalled and attended a $2.5 million fund-raiser in Bloomfield Hills in the Detroit suburbs.

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report from Cleveland.

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