The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Breaking Down John Edwards on Meet the Press


I know John Edwards is in a tough spot. He’s apologized for his vote authorizing military force in Iraq, but he’s got to also figure out how to deal with his rhetoric supporting the war beforehand, and even into 2004 as John Kerry’s running mate.


But to say on Meet the Press, essentially, ‘well, I didn’t really think about it until after the election’ doesn’t strike me as the best possible answer.

(Videotape, October 10, 2004)


MR. RUSSERT: If you knew today, and you do know, there is—there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, would you still vote to go to war with Iraq?


SEN. EDWARDS: I would have voted for the resolution, knowing what I know today, because it was the right thing to do to give the president the authority to confront Saddam Hussein. I think Saddam Hussein was a very serious threat. I stand by that, and that’s why we stand behind our vote on the resolution.


(End of videotape)


MR. RUSSERT: That’s a year and a half into the war.


SEN. EDWARDS: Mm-hmm. Perfect—that’s a very fair question. I can tell you what happened with me, personally. We got through—I was—at that point, I was in the middle of a very intense campaign, one that I thought was very important for America. When the campaign was over and the election was over, we had a lot going on in my own family. Elizabeth had been diagnosed with breast cancer, we were taking care of her. And for the first time I had time to really think about, number one, what I was going to spend my time doing, and, number two, my vote for this war.

Later, Edwards makes something of an odd comment about Obama – indicating that his opposition to the war – which is now, essentially, Edwards’ position – was poorly informed. And yet, somehow, right: 

MR. RUSSERT: Another opponent in the Democratic race for the presidency is Barack Obama of Illinois. In October of 2002, he was a state senator in the Illinois legislature. He came out against the war, and I want to share his words with you and our viewers. “ I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military is a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.


“I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”  His judgment was on the money.


SEN. EDWARDS: Yeah, he—he’s correct. Now, I will say, he wasn’t burdened, like a lot of us with the information that we were receiving on the Intelligence Committee. And as members of the United States Senate, we were getting very intimate, detailed information about what was actually happening in Iraq. Senator Obama, I think, you—what’d you say?–was a state senator at the time. So he obviously wasn’t, wasn’t in the Congress and wasn’t part of the—of the decision making. But a lot of those predictions turned out to be true.

I find myself in odd agreement with Edwards on this point: 

MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned the vote in the Senate, and this is what you said about it. “ That nonbinding resolution against Iraq troop surge favored by Barack Obama? ‘Useless,’ said Edwards. ‘Exactly like a child standing in the corner and stomping his feet.’”




MR. RUSSERT: So the Democrats shouldn’t vote for the resolution against the president’s surge.


SEN. EDWARDS: Oh no, it’s fine to vote for the resolution, but the—complaining at this historic moment in American history is not enough. I mean, we won the election. We’re now in charge of the House and the Senate. We have—we have the power to actually do something about this escalation.

Later in the program, Edwards talks about health care with a lot of “I want to do this, I want to do that,” and, to his credit, some details about expanding Medicare and S-CHIPs and something called “health markets.” He admits several times he’s willing to raise taxes on people making more than $200,000. But here’s the part where he drove me nuts:

SEN. EDWARDS: Well, here’s, here’s what I think we’re going to have to do, actually, in both cases. This is such a hot political issue that it will require serious—this is the one area where it will require really serious bipartisan effort to get anything done. You know, this has been approached and approached and approached in the past. But I do have—and, and so what I would do is, let me first say what I would do as president of the United States, I would bring together leaders on both sides and experts and put—try to put together something that would work on both Social Security and, and Medicare.

Arrrrgh! Yes! How original! Let’s try and work together in a bipartisan fashion! Let’s bring together leaders on both sides and experts! That’s never been tried before!


Then, in a move either gutsy or foolish, Edwards speculates that as president, he might make Americans pay a lot more in Social Security taxes. 

MR. RUSSERT: But what about for Americans, say, who are 50 and younger, the next generation? Could you establish something different for them?


SEN. EDWARDS: I think there’re multiple ways to do it. You know, we could do—one example is, we now have a cap on, on, on the taxes that’re paid. About—it’s about $90,000. And does that cap make sense? Maybe not. Do we need to be—do we need, perhaps to—if we’re going to raise the cap or eliminate the cap, do we need to have a bubble for middle income families that earn over $90,000 a year? Maybe. I think there’re—I think there’re tools available to us, and we certainly do need to deal with it.

If I’m reading him correctly, eliminating the cap on Social Security taxes would mean raising taxes 6.2 percent on every dollar made past $90,000, which would make for a huge tax increase on top of his previously proposed increase in federal income taxes.


Beyond that, Edwards said he was rooting for the Colts – and when Russert pointed out that decision will cost him the Illinois primary, Edwards responded that Obama probably has that wrapped up anyway.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


Subscribe to National Review