IS EDWARDS MUSHARRAF'S PICK?

Among the more perplexing moments to occur during the aftermath of the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was yesterday's call from Pakistan's dictator, Pres. Pervez Musharraf, to Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. As Edwards explained it last night to CNN's Wolf Blitzer while the latter acted as Larry King's guest host, Edwards had reached out to Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S., and asked him to pass word to Musharraf to give a jingle to Edwards, who had met the Pakistani strongman in Islamabad some years ago. (He gave the same explanation to Radio Iowa; the interview is here, via Talk Left.)

Edwards' advice to Musharraf, as he himself reported it, was wise: allow an international team of experts to investigate the assassination -- a move that could help calm the nation's troubled populis. Yet as violence spilled into the streets of Pakistan's teeming cities, it seems odd to me that the nation's leader should be spending time on the phone with a presidential candidate of any stripe, and Edwards' inner opportunist was too outwardly apparent. (Okay, so maybe, like me, Musharraf thinks that Edwards is gonna win Iowa -- it's only one state, Mr. Musharraf!)

The Bhutto story continues to irk the campaign of Barack Obama, who has been riding quite high lately, in both New Hampshire and Iowa. Talking to Blitzer last night on the King show, Obama tried to prevent Blitzer from repeating remarks by Obama adviser David Axelrod, in which the adviser seems to suggests that Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize war in Iraq helped contribute to the conditions that led to Bhutto's murder. Obama hemmed and hawed around these remarks, and did little to improve upon his rather stiff response, delivered to a gathering of Iowa voters, to news of the Bhutto assassination.

Clinton, on the other hand, hit just the right note with an elegant written statement that lauded Bhutto's courage, noted Clinton's own personal relationship with the former prime minister of Pakistan, and left the reader to infer the "experience matters" meta-message on which her campaign has run.

--Adele M. Stan

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