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Published: Saturday, 4/28/2007

Off the top, and over the top

IT'S hard to understand how anybody could pay more than a $100 for a haircut. How about $400? Most folks, we imagine, have a hard time grasping how even a wealthy lawyer-turned-politician like John Edwards could pay that much for a trim.

The first primaries are nine months off, but the campaign is already in full swing, so we can understand that looking good is important to the candidates. But you have to wonder about the priorities of a candidate who lays out that much to get his hair clipped.

A lot of people like the North Carolina Democrat, and with good reason. He's smart and experienced. He's handsome and photogenic. And he came within a hair, so to speak, of being elected vice president in 2004. But $800 for two hair cuts in Beverly Hills? Well, that's not only a little off the top, it's a little over the top.

This all came to light when a tony Beverly Hills salon sent the bill for the haircuts to the Edwards campaign, which paid them with campaign funds by mistake, Mr. Edwards' spokesman said.

The candidate immediately said he would reimburse the campaign, even though candidates for public office spend big bucks on all sorts of things, ranging from coaches and consultants, whose job it is to help them look good, to the usual advertisements, polls, and chartered airplanes.

But $400 for a haircut? Bill Clinton once got in trouble for a $200 haircut, and he was president at the time. Salon owner Joseph Torrenueva says that in his shop a haircut normally is $175. He said the extra charge was because he had to travel to the candidate. It's nice he could go that extra mile, but somehow it doesn't make us feel better.

The irony was that the 53-year-old Mr. Edwards is the son of a mill worker who made nowhere near $400 a week when his son was growing up. This is not the kind of news the public wants to hear about a candidate who claims he identifies with working-class folks, people for whom $400 would buy - what? - several tanks of gas?

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