Friday, July 6, 2007

Edwards’ shuffle

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is reshuffling the ranks of his presidential campaign staff, adding two prominent Democratic operatives as senior advisers and shifting some responsibilities from campaign manager David Bonior.

Paul Blank and Chris Kofinis, leaders of the labor-backed anti-Wal-Mart effort “Wake Up Wal-Mart,” were expected to join the Edwards campaign as early as next week. Mr. Blank would take over day-to-day campaign operations, while Mr. Kofinis would serve as communications director.

The deal was not yet final but was expected to be completed in the next few days, advisers said.

Mr. Blank was political director for Howard Dean‘s 2004 presidential effort and remains close to former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, who is now serving as a senior adviser to the Edwards effort.

Mr. Bonior, a former Michigan congressman, would retain the title of campaign manager but step up his role as public spokesman for the campaign. He’s also expected to travel extensively with Mr. Edwards, the Associated Press reports.

The changes come after a disappointing fundraising quarter for Mr. Edwards and some ongoing communications challenges, including the continued fallout over his $400 haircuts and connection to a New York-based hedge fund.

Gephardt’s favorite

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton scooped up a presidential campaign endorsement yesterday from former House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

He told reporters on a conference call that he supports the former first lady because she is the most experienced among the Democratic contenders.

Describing himself as a “has-been politician,” Mr. Gephardt, who dropped his own White House bid in 2004 after performing poorly in the Iowa caucuses, said he wasn’t sure he would be of much help to Mrs. Clinton.

“I have no illusions about being any big factor in this campaign,” he said.

He lauded Mrs. Clinton as having the most relevant “experience and depth of character” to lead the country “from Day One,” reports Christina Bellantoni of The Washington Times.

“Hillary played a unique role as the spouse to President Clinton,” Mr. Gephardt said. “She knows what it means to be a president, has seen firsthand the variety of issues and challenges put before a president.”

Mr. Gephardt will serve as an economic adviser to the campaign.

A different tune

Members of the British rock group Arctic Monkeys have become the latest music industry stars to question whether the performers taking part in Live Earth tomorrow are suitable climate-change activists.

“It’s a bit patronizing for us 21-year-olds to try to start to change the world,” said Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, explaining why the group is not on the bill at any of Al Gore‘s charity concerts.

“Especially when we’re using enough power for 10 houses just for [stage] lighting. It’d be a bit hypocritical,” he told Agence France-Presse in an interview before a concert in Paris.

Bass player Nick O’Malley chimed in: “And we’re always jetting off on aeroplanes.”

Large parts of the band’s hometown of Sheffield were flooded at the end of last month after a deluge of midsummer rain that some blamed on global warming. Two persons were killed.

But the band wonders why anyone would be interested in the opinion of rock stars on a complex scientific issue like climate change.

“Someone asked us to give a quote about what was happening in Sheffield, and it’s like ‘who cares what we think about what’s happening’?” Mr. Helders said.

“There’s more important people who can have an opinion. Why does it make us have an opinion because we’re in a band?”

The group, whose first record was the fastest-selling debut album in British history, will clock up thousands of air miles — in normal airliners not private jets, they say — during their tour to Asia and Australia in the next few months.

They are not the only stars to take a cynical view of Live Earth, which aims to raise awareness about global warming but which will require many long-haul flights and thousands of car journeys to and from the music venues.

Bowing to AFL-CIO

“Democrats are promising to improve America’s image in the world if they retake the White House next year. Tell that to Peru and Colombia, which are watching Democrats in Congress renege on free-trade assurances that are barely a month old,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“House Democrats pulled that fast one late last Friday, shortly before a holiday weekend when few were watching. They also announced their opposition to a free-trade pact with South Korea only a day before the deal was signed, and for good measure they announced that an extension of trade promotion authority (which expired June 30) is essentially dead as long as they run Congress. Ah, bipartisanship,” the newspaper said.

“All of this is particularly embarrassing for [New York Rep.] Charlie Rangel, the Ways and Means chairman, who has tried to strike a trade compromise with President Bush. We’ve praised him for his efforts, and a month ago Republicans swallowed hard to give Mr. Rangel concessions on labor and the environment that he could bring to his fellow Democrats. The administration even agreed to weaken drug-company intellectual property rights to make Democrats happy.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi accepted the terms, and Ways and Means issued a rare bipartisan statement saying, ‘This new policy clears the way for broad, bipartisan Congressional support for the Peru and Panama FTAs.’ Mr. Rangel called it ‘truly an historic breakthrough,’ and Democrats hailed it as proof of their ability to govern.

“But they lacked the nerve to stand up to the AFL-CIO, which frowned on the deal and proceeded to lobby the rank-and-file to revolt. Mr. Rangel soon admitted privately to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson that he couldn’t deliver on the bargain after all. And then came [last] Friday’s announcement that Democrats won’t even take up the Peru trade bill until Peru first changes its labor and environmental laws. They also said Mr. Rangel will personally fly to Lima in August to instruct Peru’s government on what Congress demands.”

Squirrel hunt

“The idea that [Special Counsel] Patrick Fitzgerald has somehow served justice in the execution of his duties is discredited quickly with a simple analogy,” J.P. Freire writes at “If a man goes hunting for bear and comes back with a squirrel, he hasn’t had a successful hunt. He has only found a snack.”

The prosecution of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., Mr. Freire writes, “was on its way to being Watergate, as long as everyone respectfully played along and pretended that Secret Agent Joseph Wilson and Secret Agent Valerie Plame were involved in super-double-secret covert operations. If this couple had been singularly responsible for finding evidence to invade Iraq (which, thankfully, they were not), the eventual trial would have ended with a flourish. Instead it just squeaked like some small animal dying.”

c Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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