Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe, Strom and Jesse

Republicans were quick to attack Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate today, just as Biden jumped into his role of partisan attack dog during a speech in Springfield, Illinois.

But the Delaware senator, after three decades in the Senate, learned to get along with even those Republican colleagues he disagreed with so vehemently, including two from the Carolinas.

In 2003, Biden delivered a eulogy at the Columbia funeral of longtime GOP Sen. and one-time segregationist Strom Thurmond.

"I disagreed deeply with Strom on the issue of civil rights and on many other issues, but I watched him change. We became good friends; I'm not sure exactly how or why it happened. I grew to know him. I learned from him, and I watched him change, oh so subtly.

"Like all of us, he started off as a product of his time. But he understood people; he cared for them. He knew how to read people, how to move them, how to get things done."

Last October, I covered an appearance by Biden in Rock Hill. It was during the senator's own short-lived presidential campaign. When the crowd was gone, he came up to me, the only N.C. reporter there.

"Tell me one thing," he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "How's Jesse?"

Like Thurmond, Jesse Helms was Biden's polar opposite in so many ways. But that didn't stop the two men, colleagues on the foreign relations committee, from sharing a mutual respect.

Last month, Biden was one of a handful of prominent Democrats at Helms' funeral in Raleigh.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Enquiring into Edwards affair

If Democrat John Edwards thought last week's interview with ABC would end the stories about his affair with a former campaign worker, he was wrong.

A one-time friend of Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, has been appearing on national TV alleging the affair lasted longer than Edwards suggested. He said in a statement that it lasted for only "a short time" 2006.

But Pigeon O'Brien, who describes herself as Hunter's former friend, told ABC and CBS that the affair began months before Hunter was hired. She said Hunter referred to the former N.C. senator as "Love Lips."

"She said that they had a very deep connection and that they were spending time together in a romantic and sexual way, very, you know, very early on and in a very intense way," O'Brien told ABC.

And the National Enquirer, which broke the story of the affair last October, plans to publish additional details this week.

Editor David Perel says the paper will address Edwards' denials that he knew about payments made to Hunter by Dallas lawyer Fred Baron, his friend and former campaign finance chairman. Here's what Edwards told ABC:

BOB WOODRUFF: There are reports that you have tried to cover up. They call it alleged hush money. That there was money paid to try, to cover up this affair. Was there?

EDWARDS: Uh, this is what I can tell you. I've never paid a dime of money to any of the people that are involved. I've never asked anybody to pay a dime of money, never been told that any money's been paid. Nothing has been done at my request. So if the allegation is that somehow I participated in the payment of money -- that is a lie. An absolute lie, which is typical of these types of publications.

WOODRUFF: You never even heard about that before?

EDWARDS: I've heard about it from reporters like you just in the last few days. It's the first I hear anything about it.

"We’re going to report this week ... that Edwards absolutely knew that Rielle was being paid and that Rielle told him she was being paid,” Perel says. "I don’t think that passed the smell test.”

Perel dismisses Edwards' claim that he had "no idea who that baby is" after the Enquirer published a photo it purported to be Hunter's baby during a late-night meeting at the Beverly Hilton last month.

"That was ridiculous," Perel said. "I have the advantage of watching that interview and knowing what I know. That's 100 percent Rielle's baby and he’s holding that baby at the Beverly Hilton.”

A lot of questions remain, including the whereabouts of former Edwards aide Andrew Young, who last year claimed Hunter's baby was his.

But Perel and his often-maligned paper, dismissed by Edwards as "tabloid trash," are enjoying the moment.

"Do (we) feel vindicated?" he says. "The answer to that would be yes."