Politics & Policy

One Candidate, Two Positions

John Edwards's 2008 contradiction problem.

John Edwards is often compared to Bill Clinton. Supporters of both cite charisma, charm and an ability to connect with regular people. However, since losing the 2004 presidential election, Edwards has shown additional similarities and some differences with Clinton that both reflect poorly on his chances to remain in the political spotlight as a contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Over the weekend Edwards made a bid for liberal credibility and electoral viability by declaring he was wrong to support the removal of Saddam Hussein in 2002. In a Washington Post op-ed, Edwards wrote: “The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda. It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002.”

While claiming to accept responsibility for his vote, Edwards spends most of the op-ed blaming President Bush, the “imperial image” of America, and independent contractors for the protracted battle in Iraq. Not once does Edwards find space to blame the terrorists themselves. Those who aspire to murder Americans appear as victims stirred into action by the presence of Coalition forces. Edwards has a three-part proposal to ending the conflict. His first recommendation is an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. military forces and all independent contractors. After that, forgoing an established democracy and “getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help” are the ingredients in his recipe for success.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence or logic to bolster his rationale. Edwards asserts we must simultaneously reduce our military presence in Iraq while building up Iraqi forces. How an already daunting challenge could be accomplished by reducing the necessary resources is a curious notion. Secondly, even critics of President Bush’s Iraq policy acknowledge the overwhelming success of the nation’s two recent elections. Why is Edwards so eager to give up ground on one of the war’s widely acknowledged successes? Finally, it’s strenuous to imagine a single soldier, commander, or politician who would not welcome viable assistance. Those who choose not to act do so for political considerations or are limited by economic and military restrictions. Having a Democrat in the White House would not change this.

It’s not enough to simply state that Edwards lacks the proper remedy for success in Iraq. His current stance is a direct contradiction to his position in 2002 and 2003. Beyond voting to authorize the war, Edwards decried critics of the administration who said America rushed to war. On March 19, 2003 Edwards said: “Make no mistake. Saddam Hussein alone has chosen war over peace. He has defied international law rather than disarm his weapons of mass destruction. Our world will be safer when he is gone.”

In other words, with or without weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein refused to comply with international sanctions requiring him to disarm. If Edwards believed it was simply the weapons and not the man behind them who posed a threat to America, he failed to convey that belief.

Opponents of the war argue Edwards has reached his newfound beliefs through moral conviction and integrity. This might be easier to digest were it not evidenced through other actions his moral compass is most easily directed to opportunistic avenues. Since the 2004 election Edwards has aligned himself with the likes of Cindy Sheehan and the liberal activist Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

As has been well-documented, Sheehan has called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from all foreign countries, labeled Osama bin Laden an “alleged terrorist,” advocated the destruction of Israel and even called Hillary Clinton a warmonger.

While Cindy Sheehan merely accuses others of being criminals, ACORN itself has engaged in alleged criminal activity. In 2004, ACORN was at the center of a Florida investigation into voter fraud for allegedly throwing out Republican voter registration cards while paying individuals to gather Democrat cards. ACORN has been accused of involvement with voter fraud in 10 other states, including the swing states of Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. There is no shortage of irony here coming from the vice presidential nominee of a party who has made a habit of accusing Republicans of stealing elections. According to the website activistcash.com, big money supporters of ACORN’s efforts include MoveOn.org, the NEA and an assortment of labor unions.

Like Bill Clinton, Edwards possesses charm and charisma. However, Sunday’s op-ed revealed Edwards also has the Clintonian tendency to blame others for his failures. In the first year since the 2004 campaign Edwards has shown that unlike Clinton he no longer has a use for or interest in the moderate voter. It has become increasingly clear Edwards believes his strongest path to the 2008 nomination is by lurching to the left of aspiring centrist Hillary Clinton.

After losing the last two presidential elections Democrats speak regularly of their intent to not repeat the mistakes of past campaigns. Of paramount concern is not again nominating an individual who lacks a core set of beliefs and a philosophy congruent with the values of most Americans. As Edwards abandons his former moderate image in favor of a liberal activist mold he is showing that on both counts he has failed to heed the lessons taught through his past defeats. Instead, he may simply be setting himself up for many more.

Eric Pfeiffer reports for National Review Online.


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