John Edwards’ foot-in-mouth disease

“They want to shut me up,” says John Edwards, who apparently thinks jokes about his $400 haircuts are part of a plot to keep him quiet. I am on his side. Leave the man alone. Let his jaw keep flapping at 100 mph.

With every word the Democratic candidate for president utters, the public learns that much more about his demagogic, hypocritical phoniness. Even in a recent Creston, Iowa, tantrum about scary forces spouting trivia to drown out his seriousness, he was busily providing evidence that bunkum is his specialty.

Thoughts on a Hillary Presidency

BERLIN — I’m walking down a street in what used to be the communist part of this city, when my companion points to a couple of police officers strolling in front of an otherwise ordinary-looking doorstep. He explains to me that this is the apartment of Angela Merkel, head of the German government. (Rather charmingly, it’s next door to a shop called “The Empire of Art”).

Romney calls Bush’s war a failure

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Friday that the country is angry over the lack of progress in the Iraq war, a stinging assessment of the Bush administration’s handling of the conflict from a Republican candidate.

Campaigning in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor also argued that despite the nation’s frustration over the war, voters aren’t ready to replace President Bush with a Democrat.

Obama faces black resistance in SC

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama faces two major obstacles in South Carolina, the first Democratic testing ground for black support: the popularity of the Clinton name and doubts among blacks that white America is ready for a minority president.

The candidacy of the 45-year-old Obama elicits genuine excitement in a state where blacks comprise about half of the primary electorate. Yet coupled with that emotion is a strong degree of skepticism about the freshman senator’s experience and whether he can win.

Trouble ahead for Howard Dean

It won’t be a summer of love for Howard Dean, with peace and understanding in short supply.

The Democratic National Committee chairman faces several formidable challenges. Some states are determined to move up the dates of their presidential primaries despite the potential for upending the nomination process, and the party’s convention in Denver in 2008 is already dealing with nettlesome labor and financial woes.

Dean’s biggest test will come next year when the DNC will primarily serve as a shadow campaign operation for the party’s presidential nominee.

McCain dumps his ad team

Sen. John McCain’s advertising consultants have resigned from his presidential campaign, the latest in a rash of staff shake-ups in recent weeks.

McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker on Wednesday described the departure of Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens as amicable and said the Arizona Republican “appreciates their service” but accepted their resignations when they were offered Monday night.

The gloves come off

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tried to turn rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s words back on her Wednesday, saying her vote to authorize the Iraq war was “irresponsible and naive.”

Clinton had used the same language a day earlier to criticize Obama for saying he would be willing to meet with leaders of nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran without conditions within the first year of his presidency. Clinton said renegade leaders could use such a meeting for propaganda and that envoys below the presidential level should begin diplomatic work.

Edwards returns lobbyists donations

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, who reiterated his commitment Tuesday to never accept campaign donations from special interest groups, recently returned $3,400 from lobbyists.

Edwards spokeswoman Colleen Murray said the campaign returned some money donated by a registered lobbyist last week, and money from two others was refunded Tuesday after The Associated Press inquired about the donations.

“We take every precaution possible, but sometimes people slip through, and when we find lobbyist money we refund it immediately,” said Edwards spokeswoman Colleen Murray.

Thompson reorganizing his non-campaign

Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson is shaking up his still-unofficial campaign, replacing his top aide with a former Michigan senator and a veteran Florida strategist.

The shake-up comes amid consternation inside the campaign about the active role played by Thompson’s wife, Jeri, a lawyer, media consultant and former Republican National Committee official.

“Rumors are rumors,” said Thompson spokeswoman Linda Rozett. “It is not a personal issue. It’s an organizational issue. We are strengthening the organization as we enter the next phase.”

Lots of glitz, little substance

Eight Democratic presidential bandwagons got caught in gridlock Monday night at the cluttered campaign-trail intersection of YouTube and CNN.

This first-of-its-kind video/Internet campaign debate featured ordinary people doing what real journalists usually do: Questioning the candidates. It also featured CNN journalists doing what journalists too often do: Confusing news with entertainment, and especially, confusing undebatable gotcha-journalism questions with vital policy questions that need to be fully debated and challenged if we are ever going to get our country right again.