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JOSEPH BISCHOF for the Missoulian

Poverello Corner

Watching our political system at work is always refreshing. Some of the debate can seem almost vicious, but you have to simply marvel at how the political process works when you look at it closely.

As I watched the Iowa caucuses on television the other day, I was reminded of the classic Yogi Berra expression, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

I listened to many of the talking heads on television discussing the latest polls, who would still be in the race after the day, who was strong and who was weak. It was wonderful to see many of the projections turn out to be wrong.

Predicting human behavior is always a dangerous game. People usually show their real hands only when decisions must be made based on convictions.

That's why watching the speeches from each of the top four candidates after the results were known was so refreshing.

I expected the usual comments from gracious winners and losers, but what was shocking for me were comments from Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who finished second in the race, exceeding expectations by the pundits.

I knew that Edwards grew up in a middle class family, son of a mill worker. I also knew that he was a lawyer and had become fairly wealthy pursuing major cases and class-action suits.

Instead of the usual political pabulum expected at times such as that, Edwards spoke of the

35 million Americans who live below the poverty level and struggle to put food on the table each day.

He spoke of the many workers who hold down full-time jobs and cannot afford health insurance, own their own homes, or properly provide for their families.

I have heard many political speeches over time; I find that in times of extreme emotion, either happiness and sadness, politicians reveal most about themselves. Sen. Edwards' obvious passion for the poor reminded me of Isaiah 11:2:

"And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord."

Edwards' words ring true in Montana, where wages are low and many of our fellow citizens or businesses cannot afford basic health care. Depending on the source used for numbers in Missoula and Ravalli counties,

14 percent to 17 percent of the population lives in poverty.

In some cases, it is the system itself that traps people. One young mother I spoke to recently said she had to accept lower pay to keep health insurance for her newborn. The total difference in dollars for the higher pay would not have been enough to pay for insurance for her child.

That is wrong no matter how you look at it.

As it says in The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians 1:27: "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty."

It is time for our nation to correct some of these wrongs in our country. If we could accept President Kennedy's challenge

to place a man on the moon, we should be able to find a way to solve the issue of poverty in America.

Joseph Bischof is the executive director of Missoula's Poverello Center Inc. Reach him by calling 728-1809 or e-mailing

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