Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Republicans quick to label Edwards `that trial lawyer'


Business groups mobilized quickly after the selection of Senator John Edwards to fling the two words they think will most sour voters on the Democratic vice presidential candidate: trial lawyer.

"As a trial lawyer, Edwards is associated with a controversial fringe of the legal profession that conducts raids on companies that not infrequently lead to larger financial gains for themselves than their individual clients," Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a statement.

"This fringe group of trial lawyers frequently drives viable companies into bankruptcy and puts thousands of Americans out of work," he said.

Trial lawyer, in other words, equals greedy and seedy.

It may well work. Lawyers rank barely above stockbrokers, advertising officials, insurance salesmen, health management organization managers and car salesmen in the occupations people find least honest and ethical, a November CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found.

"The public really believes the legal system is messed up right now, and blame the personal injury lawyers like John Edwards," said Republican pollster Frank Luntz.

At the same time, experts said business leaders -- including US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney -- should tread carefully because the public doesn't hold their profession in high regard either. Business executives ranked just two spots above lawyers for honesty and ethics, with congressmen in between.

Bush was part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team and was a Texas businessman, primarily in oil, before being elected governor in 1994. Cheney ran the Halliburton oil-services company before resigning in 2000 to become Bush's running mate.

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