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Washington Wrap

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Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris and Clothilde Ewing of The CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.

Not So Fast, Howard: John Edwards held back on Tuesday night, but the day after the Democrats' debate, he took issue with remarks Howard Dean made about the candidates' dialogue on racial issues.

During the debate, Dean defended himself against critics who say his supporters are predominantly white, telling the mostly black audience in Baltimore, "I'm the only white politician that ever talks about race in front of white audiences."

But on Wednesday, Edwards told the Associated Press, "I think what Howard Dean said last night does a disservice to everyone he stood next to and all the people before us who have raised this issue over and over again in front of all audiences."

In fact, the AP points out, Edwards urges racial tolerance in almost all of his speeches, including those he gives to white audiences; Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., refers to his involvement in the civil rights movement in the '60s; and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., talks about race and its role in his Vietnam service.

"What he said last night was divisive and divisive is exactly what we're trying to overcome" Edwards said. "He's right about one thing, politicians should talk about civil rights wherever they go. And in the future, I hope he leads by example instead of by attack." (For full coverage of Tuesday night's Democratic Debate see CBSNews.com)

Texas Fight Comes Home: Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry has called a third emergency session of the state legislature to consider a GOP plan to redraw the state's congressional districts. The 30-day session, slated to begin Monday, should be attended by the 11 Democratic state senators who took refuge in New Mexico for six weeks to prevent the GOP majority from having a quorum – and the subsequent ability to hold a vote on the redistricting plan.

Texas politics has been dominated by a plan, masterminded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and supported by the White House, to redraw the state's congressional districts to create five or more GOP-leaning districts. A federal court determined Texas' congressional districts in 2001 after Democrats, who controlled the legislature at the time, failed to come to an agreement on a new map. The state's congressional delegation is currently 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

One member of the so-called Texas 11, Sen. John Whitmire, went home to Houston last week and said he intended to attend the session. His defection gave the GOP enough senators to have a quorum. The remaining ten returned to Texas on Tuesday.

"Once he makes quorum, it's a moot point for us to be out of the state," Sen. Mario Gallegos told the Washington Post.

The Post reports, however, that the special session is not guaranteed to produce a redistricting plan immediately. There's some disagreement among Republicans about the map's layout, especially in West Texas. Democrats already have sued, saying the GOP plan violates the Voting Rights Act. And Perry has taken a major hit in the polls during the standoff with the Democrats.

The Post reports that the potential delays could prevent the GOP from redrawing the map in time for the 2004 elections.

Another Bump In The Road: On the heels of Monday's fund-raising visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, Kentucky GOP Rep. Ernie Fletcher's campaign for governor is taking heat for another personnel problem. This time it involves his deputy campaign manager, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Nicholas Mirisis, who was also Fletcher's congressional press secretary, resigned last week after stories surfaced that he had admitted plagiarizing a term paper while a student at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte. Additionally, a university board also found him responsible for e-mailing threats to the school's newspaper editor in the wake of the plagiarism scandal.

Apparently, while he was student-body president, Mirisis submitted a paper he bought off the Internet and passed it off as his own. Following the event, the school newspaper wrote a story about his academic fraud and the newspaper's editor, Mirisis' ex-girlfriend, accused him of sending an e-mail that threatened her with sexual torture and included pornographic images. Mirisis was suspended after the university board found him responsible for the e-mail; he appealed, but the university left the case alone after he transferred to North Carolina State.

In July, Fletcher's campaign manager, Daniel Groves, received a tip and eventually learned about Mirisis' plagiarism, but not the e-mail threats. Groves asked Mirisis about the plagiarism incident and kept him on "because he accepted full responsibility."

More recently, State Republican Party Chairman Ellen Williams said she received an e-mail from a friend regarding Mirisis' threatening e-mail that she forwarded to Fletcher and Groves. Groves said that was the first he had heard of that part of the story.

This is the second personnel issue involving Fletcher's campaign; he had to find a new running mate after a judge threw Hunter Bates off the ballot as a lieutenant governor candidate. The judge said Bates, who had been a Capitol Hill staffer and lived in Alexandria, Va., For several years, didn't meet Kentucky residency requirements.

In Mirisis' case, Groves said he hired Mirisis without investigating his background. With Bates, Fletcher let Bates research his own qualifications.

"To me it indicates sloppiness," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told the Courier-Journal. "In public life, it only takes two data points to create a trend - his former lieutenant governor candidate and now this young man."

Groves responded that connecting the two, "just goes beyond absurdity. One was a personnel decision by me. The other is a decision for a running mate by Ernie. Those are very, very different."

The Main Attraction: The main attraction at Tuesday night's presidential debate should have been the nine candidates running for president, but with George Clooney in attendance it is arguable who stole the behind-the-scenes show. According to CBS News producer Mary Hager, Clooney was the last one standing in the "spin room" with his fans eagerly clicking away.

With his video mini-cam in tow, Clooney was hard at work shooting scenes for his upcoming HBO series, "K Street," about Washington politics. Blending in isn't something that most Hollywood stars aspire to, but Clooney did his best as he worked in the shadows capturing the "1½ hour moment."

Accompanied by Democratic spinster James Carville and Bush ad man Stuart Stevens, Clooney stayed away from the political heavyweights and stood on the sidelines during the action. With the nine candidates all needing to spin their performance after the event, Clooney decided to do a little spinning and schmoozing of his own backstage.

As a Hollywood star who has had his run-ins with the tabloid press, the Washington Post said Clooney ducked most of the questions about the debate, but admitted, "I'm a Democrat. I'm a liberal. I grew up a liberal, I can't shake it." While smiling for the paparazzi, Clooney worked the pressroom with smiles and handshakes.

Quote of the Day: "Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean." - John Kerry muttering annoyance after his news conference when he was barraged with questions about Howard Dean. (New York Times)