Monday, August 9, 2004

A touch of gray

Sen. John Edwards has long criticized the Confederate flag as a “divisive symbol” that should not be flown on the Capitol grounds of Southern states.

But Mr. Edwards has family ties to the Confederacy, according to Brag Bowling, a member of the Virginia branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Researchers in his group have traced Mr. Edwards’ ancestry back to three soldiers who served in the 34th and 15th Georgia infantries of the Confederate States Army.

According to the “amateur genealogists” — who worked for a month to find the information — Mr. Edwards’ forefathers include Joseph H. Edwards and Charles G. Edwards of Company G of the 34th Infantry, and WiIliam Edwards of Company B of the 15th Infantry, which surrendered to Union troops at Appomattox, Va., on April 9, 1865.

The researchers traced Mr. Edwards’ family through Franklin and Stephens counties, Georgia and Oconee County, S.C., from 1832 all the way up to 1953 — and the birth of one Johnny Reid Edwards in 1953.

“Is it no wonder he is so despised in his own state for being both detached, liberal and anti-heritage?” asked one member of the group.

“I would only question their methods of genealogy,” said another source familiar with Confederate heritage. “Edwards is a common name.”

Keene on Kerry

David Keene of the American Conservative Union is annoyed with Sen. John Kerry over his criticism of President Bush‘s decision to continue reading to Florida schoolchildren for several minutes after he had been informed of the September 11 attacks.

“John Kerry must be getting desperate. Had Mr. Bush immediately rushed from that schoolroom, today John Kerry doubtlessly would be savaging him for panicking in a crisis,” Mr. Keene said yesterday.

“Millions of Americans were inspired by President Bush’s calm, resolute and unflappable leadership on that terrible morning. Rather than frighten and disappoint those children, the president proved himself capable of keeping a cool head in a crisis. He calmly wrapped up his scheduled visit,” Mr. Keene continued.

Mr. Keene says Mr. Kerry is “taking cues” from filmmaker Michael Moore.

“To base one’s attack on the fevered conspiracy-theory nonsense in Michael Moore’s film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ is both goofy and irresponsible,” Mr. Keene said.

Cooter’s concerns

Former Rep. Ben Jones, Georgia Democrat, wants to take on fellow Georgia Democrat Sen. Zell Miller over the woes of southern Democrats.

According to Roll Call yesterday, Mr. Jones — who once played Cooter on CBS’ “The Dukes of Hazzard,” — has challenged Mr. Miller to a TV debate over “the problems the Democratic Party has in our beloved Southern region and the reasons for your recent concerns regarding our party’s direction.”

Mr. Miller supports the re-election of President Bush.

“I think that the devil has got into Zell Miller, and he needs an exorcist,” Mr. Jones noted.

While in office, he maintained a solid liberal voting record and later filed ethics complaints against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican.

Mr. Jones owns Cooter’s Place, a museum and memorabilia store in Gatlinburg, Tenn., devoted to the TV show that made a star out of a 1969 Dodge Charger called “General Lee.”

Hold the applause

One Hispanic journalist is troubled by colleagues who gave Sen. John Kerry a rousing welcome at the recent Unity conference for minority journalists in Washington — but saved a cool reception for President Bush.

“Those of us who sat there, surprised and semi-horrified, kept asking ourselves why. Why would journalists, who presumably prize their objectivity and believe in their newsrooms’ ethics codes, put their biases on display on C-SPAN?” asked Helen Ubinas of the Hartford Courant yesterday.

Mr. Kerry “connects with our advocacy side — the urge for activism that exists in so many minority reporters, the very thing that attracted so many of us to the business. It’s that urge that we must choose to put aside when we become journalists — despite the cost,” she wrote.

Miss Ubinas later concluded, “Granted, there are some kinds of activism that may be consistent with a journalist’s role. If you believe we need diverse newsrooms to cover a diverse country, advocating for more hiring and promotion of minority journalists is arguably advocating on behalf of better journalism. But publicly supporting one candidate over another is the ultimate betrayal —to everyone.”

Shy a few faces

Florida Republican Senate candidate Larry Klayman is annoyed at a local TV station and the Orlando Sentinel for their joint decision to hold a statewide televised debate today with only four of the seven U.S. Senate candidates present.

The exclusion, he says, “shows just how elitist and insensitive to the people of Florida they are, particularly when the decision is based on a poll, which is not even scientifically valid.”

Mr. Klayman said he believes the station and newspaper set ground rules that excluded any candidate who polled less than 5 percent based on a July 24 Mason-Dixon poll.

He said the poll itself was flawed because it did not survey likely Republican primary voters and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points. The two news organizations rejected any outside analysis of their findings, he said.

The poll gave Mr. Klayman only 2 percent, though other recent polls found him with at least 8 percent of the vote among likely Republican voters in the upcoming primary on Aug. 31.

Mr. Klayman, who bills himself “the conservative watchdog and former chairman of Judicial Watch,” is hoping to win the Republican nomination for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Bob Graham.

Eye on reform

The Bush-Cheney campaign released a new TV ad yesterday that highlights a promised reform of the Social Security system that has essentially been abandoned since Mr. Bush took office in 2001.

“One of the most important parts of a reform agenda is to encourage people to own something,” the president says in the ad that will run in 18 key battleground states and on selected national cable stations.

Specifically, Mr. Bush suggests owning a home, business, health care plan or retirement, telling his audience, “If you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of America.”

At a campaign stop in Annandale, Va., yesterday, Mr. Bush said he’d like to reform Social Security to allow younger workers to put aside some of their money in a private account.

Rates of return on money in the Social Security trust fund “are so abysmally low that it is impossible, virtually impossible from a fiscal perspective to make the system work without raising taxes,” Mr. Bush said.

The Kerry campaign is opposed to such reform, saying it will “put the fiscal future of America’s seniors in doubt.”

• Contact Jennifer Harper at or 202/636-3085.

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