When Edwards Nips Senate, Dodd Bites Back

By Lois Romano
Thursday, May 3, 2007

At least one Senate Democrat is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore.

Less than 24 hours after former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) released an ad calling on Congress to stand its ground against President Bush in the ongoing fight for the funding of the war in Iraq, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) put out a statement blasting his former colleague.

"As Senator Dodd was the first candidate to support the Reid-Feingold measure, we agree that Democrats in the Senate should stand up to a president who stubbornly refuses to change his failed policy in Iraq," Dodd spokeswoman Christy Setzer told our colleague Chris Cillizza. "We wish that Senator Edwards was still in the Senate for this important fight."

Dodd is the only Democrat running for president who has signed on to the legislation co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that would set a firm timetable not only for withdrawing troops but also for cutting off funding for the war.

When informed of Dodd's remarks, Eric Schultz, a spokesman for Edwards, responded: "John Edwards has called for the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 troops followed by an orderly withdrawal of 12 to 18 months," adding that the plan goes beyond proposals set forth in Reid-Feingold.

It's important to note that Dodd trails Edwards -- as well as Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) -- in state and national polling on the Democratic presidential race. In other words, Dodd needs to take his shots when he can get them.

But his response speaks to a deep frustration among Democratic senators -- especially those running for president in 2008 -- that Edwards, as a private citizen, can lob rhetorical grenades at his Senate rivals.

Why You Want to Be President, in 100 Words or Less

If the Democrats' 90-minute presidential debate last week is any guide, the 10 GOP candidates meeting in California tonight for a similar show may need to figure out how to make the most out of the five minutes they get to speak.

Some of the Democratic presidential hopefuls were not happy with the little face time they were afforded as NBC host Brian Williams tried to juggle eight of them on stage in South Carolina.

An analysis of the forum by the National Journal's Hotline shows that Clinton bested her peers with 12 minutes of talk time -- a real gusher compared with her colleague Dodd, who eked out only five minutes. The only contender to fare worse was former senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, who scraped by with only four minutes of exposure.

Tonight's Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan library in California, hosted by Nancy Reagan, will be moderated by MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Philip Alongi, NBC's executive producer for political programming, said in an interview that the network spends days developing questions for candidates to showcase positions important to each. In addition, he said, producers digitally track throughout the program how much time the candidates are getting and adjust the questioning accordingly.

But the nature of the process often allows the top-tier candidates more time.

"They have more time because people take more shots at them and we allow them to respond in fairness," Alongi said. "No one was taking shots at Mike Gravel."

Politics Trumps Prominence

Freshman Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has found herself uninvited as the commencement speaker at her daughter's Catholic high school's graduation because her positions supporting abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research are not in sync with the teachings of the church.

McCaskill spokeswoman Adrianne Marsh said yesterday that McCaskill had been invited to speak at St. Joseph's Academy in a St. Louis suburb but received a call rescinding the invitation.

"We don't want to spend a lot of time talking about this, in the interest of her daughters, who both attend the school," said Marsh. "We want to ensure the girls are able to enjoy the commencement and not be put on political display."

In a statement, McCaskill said: "I was thrilled that the great, young women at St. Joseph's Academy invited me to speak at their graduation. It was a special opportunity because my daughter is one of the graduates. I'm disappointed that the Archbishop has made this decision. It does not diminish my respect and admiration for St. Joseph's Academy, their faculty, and students."

Petraeus's Lifesaver

As Gen. David Petraeus-- top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq -- was being grilled in Washington last week about the progress of the war, he could have used that friendly face in Congress he could always count on: Bill Frist, the Republican senator from Tennessee who retired last year.

One of the less-known facts about the men is that before Frist was majority leader of the Senate and before Petraeus was dispatched to Iraq, Frist helped save Petraeus's life.

A surgeon, Frist remembers the episode with precision. It was Sept. 21, 1991 -- three years before Frist was elected to the Senate -- and the doctor was the head of thoracic trauma at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

He was at a sporting event with his oldest son when he was summoned to the hospital to handle a patient shot in an accident at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Frist met the helicopter on the roof of the hospital and found Petraeus with a gaping hole in his chest, hemorrhaging.

"Stop wasting time," a barely conscious Petraeus ordered Frist. "Open my chest this very minute if you need to."

Recounting the incident in an e-mail to The Post, Petraeus said he had been leading a training exercise when a soldier tripped, accidentally firing his M16. The bullet ripped through Petraeus about an inch from his heart -- the only time he has ever been shot.

"The surgery . . . repaired the damage done by the M16 round that went right through my right chest -- happily over the 'A' in PETRAEUS rather than over the 'A' in U.S. ARMY (as the latter is over my heart)," he wrote.

Frist and Petraeus became friends, running together and visiting each other with their families. "He is a truly great guy who is concerned about others. . . . He took a huge interest in the soldiers and families at Fort Campbell -- one time even spending a night in the barracks with our troopers to experience life from their perspective," wrote Petraeus.

But Frist was not on hand a few years later when Petraeus broke his pelvis after his parachute collapsed at low altitude. Obviously, the general lived to tell the tale.

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