All Quiet on the Northern Front

But a General Alarm Spreads Through the State

It's hard to know these days what those values are, but in Clark's case they appear to be steeped in military life. Those values seem to be telling him that as a civilian, he needs to follow a moderate, pragmatic course, set most likely by advisers. Political insiders could care less about these inconsistencies. They see the possibility of painting Clark as a strong, patriotic figure with a wealth of firsthand military experience to run the war on terror and hunt down Al Qaeda—the job Bush couldn't handle. Most of all it's the ties with Clinton that count.


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Joe Lieberman and Berliner Mark Milstein hold a summit meeting at a back table in The Tea Birds Cafe.
(photo: Cary Conover)
John Edwards remains pretty much of a sleeper. He managed to squeeze in a brief trip to Exeter early last week for a town meeting, then dashed back to Iowa. In the Exeter town hall, 300 townspeople huddled in their overcoats, sitting in a circle against a background of what was meant to look like ye olde small town New England meeting. They all had done this before, probably many times, and knew by heart their parts as bit actors in what Edwards hoped would be a photo op in a folksy setting made for a TV ad. The North Carolina senator, looking as smooth and cute as the president of a glee club, told them how he had risen from the working class to become the politician who faced off against Jesse Helms's powerful machine and won. The audience politely applauded. He went on to say it was a "moral imperative" to solve the problem of two Americas—one rich and one poor. He is against war profiteering in Iraq. But not against the war.
General Wesley Clark officially invades Lebanon (the town).
photo: Cary Conover
General Wesley Clark officially invades Lebanon (the town).

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Edwards couldn't keep from descending into the muck of good ol' boy Southern politics. He told how he could win the South: "They'll say, 'Well, you know, George Bush is so strong in the South, he's so popular in the South' . . . Again, let me go back to simple language: The South is not George Bush's backyard, it is my backyard!"

The audience listened patiently but remained poker-faced. Absolutely not one clue as to what they were thinking. Again, they applauded politely, without much enthusiasm, while the senator's staff whooped and hollered, trying to give the gathering the look of a mad and crazy political rally. And sure enough, within an hour or two, the Edwards PR machine was citing the Exeter town hall meeting as yet another indication of the senator's gathering strength.


Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel and Alicia Ng

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