Presidential Gathering Overshadowed by Edwards Verdict

BY Christina Bellantoni and Katelyn Polantz  June 1, 2012 at 9:07 AM EDT


President Obama and former President George W. Bush in the East Room Thursday. Photo by: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Summing up Thursday in politics: A guy who desperately wanted to be president upstaged another guy who wants the job, two former commanders in chief and the one currently living in the White House.

Former Sen. John Edwards was acquitted after jurors reached one not-guilty verdict and deadlocked on five other counts in the trial that merged sex, scandal and campaign finance. The news came just after President Obama welcomed former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush to the White House, a jovial event that yielded some pretty great photos and one which surely would have dominated the news cycle.

Edwards won’t be going to jail, but will he ever return to politics? The one-time Democratic Party golden boy sounded like a future candidate when issuing a lengthy mea culpa, thick with lessons learned and a request for forgiveness.

“I did an awful awful lot that was wrong,” Edwards said outside the courtroom, appearing to choke back emotion. “There is no one else responsible for my sins. … It was me and me alone.”

You can watch his full speech, and the NewsHour’s complete coverage of the trial here.

And watch here or below Ray Suarez’s conversation with the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker about what went on in the courtroom as the judge declared a mistrial.

THAT HAPPY FEELING

The news didn’t stop Mitt Romney — mostly gone from the campaign trail this week as he holds a series of private fundraisers in California — from going up with his third television ad of the general election.

The spot comes out as Friday’s jobs numbers show the unemployment rate rising. In it, Romney pivots from the Day One theme he’s showcased previously to add that Americans will just be more optimistic about life should he win the presidency.

Sure, Romney will focus on the economy and the deficit, put jobs first and talk tough to China on trade, but there “something more than legislation or new policy,” the narrator explains. “It’s the feeling we’ll have that our country’s back, back on the right track.”

Watch it here or below:

The campaign did not disclose where the ad is running, but it did release a Spanish-language version for the third time. Watch that here. Team Romney also is out with another web video hitting the president on Solyndra. Watch that one here.

PRESIDENTIAL PALS

Three members of “the Presidents Club” were united at the White House for the unveiling of Bush Jr.’s official portrait.

After a luncheon hosted by the current White House occupant, attended by 14 Bush family members, Mr. Obama commended his predecessor:

“In this job, no decision that reaches your desk is easy; no choice you make is without costs. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to make everybody happy. I think that’s something that President Bush and I both learned pretty quickly. And that’s why from time to time, those of us who have had the privilege to hold this office find ourselves turning to the only people on earth that know the feeling. We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences.”

The president also thanked Bush for leaving “a really good TV sports package…I use it.”

But it was the man of honor who got in all the good zingers, with Bush telling his assembled crowd of “rowdy friends” that he was “pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W.” He said he was “also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask: What would George do?”

It wasn’t all laughs, as the former president became emotional thanking his father: “I am honored to be hanging near a man who gave me the greatest gift possible: unconditional love. And that would be number 41.”

The portraits, painted by artist John Howard Sanden, feature the former president and first lady both resting their hands on chairs with the ex-president in the Oval Office and Mrs. Bush in the Green Room. Bush Sr. also rested his hand on a chair for his presidential portrait.

See the photos here and here.

The gathering of the three powerful men was a perfect segue for Gwen Ifill’s discussion with Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy about their new book “The Presidents Club.” The conversation is filled with fascinating tidbits from the world’s most exclusive fraternity.

Watch it here or below.

The NewsHour also put together this slideshow depicting ex-presidents rapt in conversation with on another.

(And while we’re at it, you might as well click on this BuzzFeed slideshow featuring Bush 41′s eccentric choices for socks).

DAILY DOWNLOAD

Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn of Daily-Download.com shared with Margaret Warner in their regular segment the raw facts of Obama’s dominance on social media.

Obama has about 16 million Twitter followers compared with Mitt Romney’s 520,000. Followers don’t equate directly with votes, though; nearly half of Obama’s followers live outside the United States, they noted.

For more on how the candidates have reached out on Twitter, watch the segment here or below.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Huffington Post’s Jon Ward went to Nevada and found out what the heck is going on out there now that Rep. Ron Paul supporters have taken over the state party. The answer? The Republican National Committee has set up a shadow organization.

  • The Associated Press reports the presidential contest has already racked up $86 million in spending on TV ads in the nine most hotly contested states. “The Obama campaign has been the largest single advertiser so far, pouring $31 million into commercials. Romney’s campaign has spent slightly more than $5 million on ads,” Beth Fouhy and Thomas Beaumont write.

  • The New York Times continues its investigative reporting on the Commander in Chief. Today’s paper features a scoop on Obama’s directions in cyberattacks against Iran.

  • Team Obama is out with a new web video starring Republicans critical of Romney’s Massachusetts record. Watch that here.

  • The Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh assesses what Romney did and didn’t do in the Bay State.

  • Bloomberg tracks down the spending on the latest Obama ad about higher education policy, which seems to have been made especially for Buckeyes.

  • Talking Points Memo’s Ryan J. Reilly takes a close look at what Florida is doing with its voter rolls.

  • Former First Lady Nancy Reagan endorsed Romney after a meeting over lemonade and cookies.

  • Big super PAC donors have been showing up at the White House, the Sunlight Foundation reports.

  • The president’s support for gay marriage “will be tested this fall in Minnesota, where opponents of a proposed gay marriage ban are hoping the president’s enduring popularity here will help persuade skeptical Democrats to vote it down,” the AP reports as the president heads to the state.

  • The president also may need to revise his health care policy if he wins a second term, Bloomberg reports he told donors. A Supreme Court decision on the policy looms this month, with the justices back in session Monday.

  • Marin Cogan of GQ conducted an exit interview with former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer after he exited the presidential race.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Judy Woodruff interviewed the New York City health commissioner and a New York restaurant association spokesman about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban large sizes of sweetened drinks.

  • Some New York legislators aren’t as sweet on the proposed prohibition.

  • Sunlight looks at Big Soda.

  • Two weeks before former Virginia Sen. George Allen faces a senate primary, his democratic opponent, former Gov. Tim Kaine, has outraised him by almost $500,000, the Hill reports.

  • Monica Davey of the New York Times casts Wisconsin’s upcoming recall election as a national soothsayer. Today Bill Clinton visits the state.

  • A Democracy Corps poll assesses the strength of incumbents’ political brands. The GOP House majority isn’t safe, the Washington Post reports.

  • Elizabeth Warren and the non-issue issue that just won’t go away.

  • The Missouri gubernatorial race is getting closer, Public Policy Polling finds

  • Christina will be a panelist at a [Personal Democracy Forum] (http://personaldemocracy.com/conferences/nyc/2012/speakers) conference in New York later this month.

Reporter-producers Tiffany Mullon and Cassie M. Chew and Politics Desk Assistant Alex Bruns contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama will tour a factory in Golden Valley, Minnesota at 12:45 p.m. and give a speech “urging Congress to act” on his “To Do List” at 1:10 p.m. Then the president holds a series of campaign fundraising events at a Minneapolis restaurant from 2:15 p.m. until 3:25 p.m. Mr. Obama will speak at a fundraising event in Chicago at 7:10 p.m. and then speak at fundraisers at two private residences in Chicago at 8:25 p.m. and 9:55 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney has a third day of private fundraisers in California.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon and @dePeystah.