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Special Report Roundtable - June 5

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel pretty, oh so pretty. I feel pretty and witty and bright, and I could be--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Now that's a piece of old video that's been up on youtube for a long time. But it was making that rounds on the cable channels today, and why was that? It was because it was new news, if that's what it was, about John Edwards and his taste in hairstyles, or at least hairstylists.

It turns out that the person who delivered the $400 haircut also charged $1,250 for one particular haircut, which required him to take a couple of days and do some travel, and that was all added into the expense.

So the question arose whether John Edwards has been entirely forthcoming about these $400 haircuts, which he maintained was something that was arranged by the staff and he didn't know anything about it. Now it turns out they cost more, and he may have known more, or at least how it seems.

Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor for the Weekly Standard, Jeff Birnbaum, columnist for the Washington Post, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributors all.

Well, Fred, I think it's fair to say that the $400 haircuts were an embarrassment to the campaign. Is this new story that came out today in the "Washington Post" interview with the hairdresser, or the hairstylist, add anything substantive to our knowledge of this story?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: No, but repetition can hurt. And the only thing substantive added is that the haircut costs went up when you added into the travel up to $1,250 which I have to say is pretty darned expensive haircut.

HUME: We also found out the he, personally, had more to do with this than--

BARNES: Well, he had gone out to California and he consulted with this hairdresser, hairstylist, and some stylist about suits, and everything. And I don't know that -- there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The problem for John Edwards, is that this is one thing, among others, that show that the man does not match the message that he's pursuing in the campaign.

It's really as simple as that. And you may say that's unfair. He's talking about poverty, and yet he's the guy that has the expensive haircuts, and he has the $6 million mansion, and he worked for this zillion dollar hedge fund, and so on.

And you can say that F.D.R., he championed the poor, and he was a rich guy. But that was a different time. We didn't know, for instance, that F.D.R. was in a wheelchair. But now we know all about these candidates now. They're an open book, it's a different environment.

A guy named Jay Cost, who's a blogger, I think his blog is something like horseraceblog.com., wrote something recently very good about Edwards. He said he's pursuing the campaign as if he's still a trial lawyer. A trial lawyer is trying to persuade a jury, and he's trying to persuade, as well, the electorate with his message that he's going to reduce poverty and so on.

But there is an additional thing he has to do that as a trial lawyer he doesn't, and that is sell himself, as well. But he's the guy who can be trusted to really carry his agenda out, and there's the mismatch.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: I agree with what Fred said, but I think there's the emphasis on candidates having a lot of well groomed hair. I think that's misplaced. I don't think that's a god idea. I don't think having a lot of hair is a good indication of anything. Just speaking for myself.

But, I do think that John Edwards does have a problem in that he's going to have to deal with that, which is that people will be talking about his hair and not take him seriously as a presidential candidate, and he needs that.

Even though he's doing very well in the polls in Iowa, his standing nationally is a distant third. His money-raising in the last quarter was lower than the first quarter. And he becomes the butt of late-night talk shows.

And that's a problem. When people are laughing at a presidential candidate, they can't also support him, or they find trouble supporting him. And presidential campaigns are a series of stories that are woven together by voters into a narrative, and his own vanity, in this case, is part of his profile.

HUME: Every politician and everyone in public life, including people like all of us here, have to be concerned, to some extent, about how we look. In Edwards' case, do these episodes suggest a vanity beyond the norm, and speak to a potential possible lack of seriousness in the man?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think that's exactly the problem for him. The clich, in Washington is that an anecdote is only important to the extent that it reinforces a perception or an image. His perception is that he's a rich, shallow, pretty boy.

And when something like this happens--a $1,200 hair cut can only happen to someone who is rich, and narcissistic, and shallow--it doesn't happen to other people. So it is a definition of his image.

And his problem is, of course, that his signature issue is a serious one, poverty. No other candidate takes on poverty. Everybody else is a champion of the middle class. He is a champion of the poor, which is new. We haven't had that, essentially, since Robert Kennedy. And a serious issue by a guy who unserious.

And lives like a king, acts like a king--as Fred indicated--in a mansion, worked for a hedge fund, and pretends that the reason he did that is so he can understand how capitalism works in order to help the poor. Everybody knows the reason he joined the hedge fund was to make a bundle.

HUME: And he made something like $500,000 for a year's work.

KRAUTHAMMER: And received a bundle from his colleagues as the campaign contributors. So you have got this complete disconnect between his ostensible message and his image, which is, again, reinforced by these incidents.

HUME: Can he recover from this?

BARNES: It's going to be hard. And, look--

HUME: Jeff?

BIRNBAUM: I think he can, yes. I think he can, because he's doing so well in the first caucus state.

KRAUTHAMMER: He can recover, but he's weak, and he ain't going to win.

HUME: When we come back with our panel, does Hillary Clinton risk being overshadowed by her husband now in their joint campaign appearances? We'll be right back with more from the all-stars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Well, there they were, on the road again, Hilary and Bill Clinton. And there are all kinds of different views on whether this helps, or hurts, or what. But we are back with our panel, and we will ask them about it.

So, he's out. Does he overshadow her? Does he help her? Both? Neither? What? Fred?

BARNES: He does overshadow her. That can't be helped. He is this guy, and he gets out there, and he uncorks all his charisma, and it's hard to resist. And most of these crowds are trying to resist.

And then she's there, and she's not exactly the world's most scintillating person. She's got a completely different personality, I feel sorry for her in that regard.

But I have to say--and I was in doubt in Iowa, I just saw them on television--it actually worked pretty well, I thought, just a theatre. It wasn't awkward, as I suspected it might be.

Whether he'll help or not, you know, there's one poll number--Hillary has these great poll numbers running for the democratic nomination--but there's one poll number that's persistent that it kills her, and that is this one about 50, 52 percent of Americans say they'll never vote for her. That's the one she's got to work on, and maybe he can help.

BIRNBAUM: I think that it probably does help, but only narrowly. I think that it does raise the prospect of bringing back the "two for the price of one" comment that Bill Clinton, himself, made about his wife when he was running for president.

HUME: It didn't go over very well.

BIRNBAUM: It went over very badly.

And this was carefully staged, these presentations in Iowa--

HUME: Aren't all these events now carefully staged?

BIRNBAUM: Yes, but, in particular, he was just to introduce her in about eight minutes, or so, and then she came on for the main speech of 25 minutes or so--

HUME: And he sat there.

BIRNBAUM: And he sat there adoringly, or, as some people said, maybe, bored in listening to her.

HUME: Some reporters that were there said that he looked phenomenally uncomfortable. That they had him sitting down at times, and he was kind of prowling the stage when he wasn't.

BIRNBAUM: And sometimes calling attention to himself, maybe wittingly, and maybe unwittingly, when he's off to the side rather than merely being a prop.

I think that he can benefit her, certainly, by teaching her the ropes, how to loosen up, which has been a problem--not a problem for him, obviously, but for her. He's, sort of, taking her to school. He's there, also, to get support among elected officials for her, so he has to be there anyway. He's a major fundraiser for her.

The danger is that people will remember the pairing and think that she can't be president without him. And that is the danger if this that persists for a long time.

HUME: And is it a factor at all that this whole Scooter Libby sentence commutation arose about the time that Bill, with his record of 141 pardons, including some that were very controversial on the final dau, Bill turns up on the campaign trail?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it is a coincidence. That is probably a one or two-day story. It does show a certain irony, obviously, in this, and these people are almost impervious, the Clintons, to irony. So it's shameless in that sense.

But I think the real problem here is that there's a real change in strategy. He had been kept in the wings behind the scenes until now, raising money. But now he's out there with her.

I think that changes a lot. Until now, when he was hidden, you had an image of her as president in the Oval Office, and him, either padding around all day in a bathrobe, being a nuisance, you know, in the White House. Or, sent overseas as an ambassador of good will to NATO, or somewhere, and kept out of sight and out of mind. That's something people can accept.

But when you have him up there, and you have this image of the two together, exactly, as you said, it means you buy one, you get two. And I don't think Americans like a co-presidency. They didn't like it when Gerald Ford concocted as an idea with Reagan in 1980.

And there was an irony. It sort of smacks of Argentina, and presidents appointing their wives. In fact, the day before this event in Iowa, the president of Argentina announced that wasn't going to run his wife, who is a senator, a formidable person in her own right, is going to run in his stead, and will win, which will open up the presidency for the husband again in 2011--eight years of co-presidency.

Americans don't like that. And if they have an inkling of that happening here, they're going to be quite unhappy.

BARNES: Remember what happened to Hillary's when she was first lady, when she was seen as someone who was practically a co-president during the health care days. They went down. When she was seen later, not involved, and then the wrong woman, up they went.

BIRNBAUM: If change is the issue, then having Bill Clinton around all the time is not good for Hillary Clinton.

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