- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Two Americas

When Sen. John Edwards ran for president four years ago, the North Carolina Democrat declared that President Bush had divided the nation into “two Americas … one America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward.”

Turns out that the other America lives right next door to the 28,000-square-foot, $5.3 million mansion Mr. Edwards has built near Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Edwards’ neighbor, Monty Johnson, lives on 42 acres that the Johnson family has owned for decades. Mr. Johnson, 55, has been known to brandish firearms to chase away trespassers, which frightens the former senator’s wife, who called the Johnson property “slummy” and condemned its owner as a “rabid Republican.”

“I don’t want my kids anywhere near some guy who, when he doesn’t like somebody, the first thing he does is pull a gun out,” Elizabeth Edwards told the Associated Press, explaining why she hasn’t said so much as “howdy” to her neighbor.

In response to Mrs. Edwards’ suggestion that he left his property in run-down condition to spite the Edwards family, Mr. Johnson said: “I have to budget. I have to live within my means. I don’t have millions of dollars to fix the place.”

Mr. Johnson, who has posted a “Go Rudy Giuliani 2008” sign on a fence just 100 feet from the entrance to the Edwards’ driveway, says he plans to sell his property and move because of increased taxes and hostility from the Edwards family.

“I thought he was supposed to be for the poor people,” Mr. Johnson said. “But does he ever socialize with any poor people? He doesn’t speak to me.”

At HotAir.com, Bryan Preston remarked: “The Edwards family: They’re all about the little guy, even when they’re complaining about him in the press and driving him out of his home.”

‘Misleading’ story

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer over the weekend denounced as “misleading” a wire story that said he met with a leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during a trip abroad.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, met twice with Mohammed Saad el-Katatniwhen on a bipartisan congressional delegation to Sudan and Egypt last week.

The wire service quoted a Brotherhood spokesman as saying Mr. Hoyer first met Mr. el-Katatni, the head of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, at the parliament building and then at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Egypt. Mr. el-Katatni isEgyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s rival.

But Mr. Hoyer’s office, in a “clarification” statement released on Sunday, said none of the 11 members on the bipartisan trip had “personal meetings” with Mr. el-Katatni.

Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Bernards said the delegation on Thursday met with the speaker of the Egyptian parliament, who invited “about a dozen” other parliament members, including Mr. el-Katatni. The meeting, as well as the entire trip, focused on the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, she said.

Later, the delegation was invited to the ambassador’s home with 200 guests, including parliament members and groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

“Mr. Hoyer spoke briefly with Mohammed Saad el-Katatni at the reception, as he did with the other guests in attendance,” Mrs. Bernards said.

The dust-up follows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional trip to the Middle East. The Bush administration criticized the California Democrat for meeting with Syrian leaders.

New York, too

New York has become the latest state to move up its 2008 presidential primary, joining nine other states on “Super Duper Tuesday,” Feb. 5.

The change, which was approved by the state Senate and Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Eliot Spitzer yesterday, means New York will hold its primary one month earlier than in past years, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Moving the primary date to February, we will help secure New York’s large and diverse population an influential voice in selecting the 2008 presidential nominees,” Mr. Spitzer said.

California last month decided to bring move its primary to Feb. 5, prompting a stampede by other states to do the same, a move likely to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the race for the White House.

Newt at GW

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told an auditorium of George Washington University students last night that he may run for president if none of the current presidential candidates articulate their plans for change, but he won’t seriously consider the option for another five or six months.

The Jack Morton Auditorium erupted into applause, reports Amy Fagan of The Washington Times, when Kyle, a freshman, asked Mr. Gingrich whether he would throw his hat in the ring.Mr. Gingrich, who spoke as a guest of Young America’s Foundation and College Republicans, said “if we decide there is a need for it,” he will run, but added “I’m not going to think about it until September 30.”

The Georgia Republican — who said he hopes the other presidential candidates will pursue their detailed plans for change and there won’t be a need for him to run — told the crowd that in the age of the Internet, he could have a presidential campaign up and running in four to six weeks and that it’s “an absurdity” to spend two-plus years running for president.

In his speech, Mr. Gingrich railed against bloated bureaucracy and noted that business systems allow people to instantly track any package they send across the globe, yet the federal government can’t find the more than 11 million people who are in America illegally.

He told them to learn about their opponents on the left and even gave a plug for “This Moment on Earth,” the new book by Sen. John Kerry. Mr. Gingrich will debate the Massachusetts Democrat today on global warming.

But he stressed that conservatives should realize the majority of Americans agree with them on key issues — 91 percent of Americans want to say “One nation under God” as part of the Pledge of Allegiance and 85 percent think English should be the official U.S. language, he said — and “the left will find that, in fact, it doesn’t have very much support in the electorate at large.”

Obama vs. Fox

Sen. Barack Obama will not participate in a Democratic presidential debate this fall co-hosted by Fox News Channel, making him the second candidate to snub the cable network.

An Obama aide said the Illinois senator had no plans to attend the Sept. 23 debate in Detroit that Fox agreed to co-sponsor with the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute. Mr. Obama will take part in a different debate hosted by the institute and CNN in January.

Mr. Obama’s decision comes three days after former Sen. John Edwards, another Democratic presidential candidate, announced that he was pulling out of the Fox-sponsored debate.

Democrats have been under pressure from liberal activists to avoid Fox-hosted debates. Last month, the Nevada Democratic Party canceled a debate that Fox was to co-sponsor in August.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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