Edwards: America a force for Good

Presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards speaks while his wife Elizabeth looks on at The University of New Hampshire in Durham on Monday night. (Don Clark photo / SMG)
John Edwards (D)
Former Senator, NC
Born: 06/10/1953
Birthplace: Seneca, SC
Home: Raleigh, NC
Religion: Methodist
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DURHAM - In the wake of the war in Iraq and declining American prestige in the world, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said at the University of New Hampshire Monday night that he wants to see "America be a force for good in the world."

Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina and 2004 vice presidential candidate, brought his message of economic populism and foreign policy idealism to a mostly friendly and cheering audience of more than 400. On the issue of the Iraq war, which he called a "bleeding sore," Edwards implored the Democrat-controlled Congress to "stand firm" against President Bush, who has threatened to veto legislation linking funding for current military operations to withdrawal time lines.

"This is not politics. This is about life and death and war," said Edwards, who as a senator supported the measure to authorize the war in 2002 but has since repudiated that vote.

The town hall-style meeting was Edwards' 14th trip to New Hampshire since 2004 and his fourth of 2007. Edwards was introduced by his wife Elizabeth, less than two weeks after the couple announced that she had suffered a cancer recurrence and that they would continue his campaign for the White House. Neither his wife's cancer nor the decision to keep the campaign going were mentioned at the gathering.

Durham residents Robert and Rita Calamari, both retired lawyers, said they waited 90 minutes to get into the meeting and were in "investigating" mode when it came to all the Democratic candidates. They said that the war in Iraq and health care were their top two issues and noted that Edwards was the only candidate "with a detailed health plan."

"We should never have gone in," said Robert Calamari about the war. "We have to get out."

In his prepared remarks and while answering audience questions, Edwards covered a number of topics - Iraq, health care, foreign policy, economic equality and revitalization, education and global climate change - during the one-hour meeting.

He said the country needs to enact a wide range of domestic and foreign policy reforms to regain that stature - and restore the nation's vitality - because all the major issues were "completely integrated." He said his comprehensive health care program would provide universal health care through a range of policy innovations - with the estimated cost of as much $120 billion a year paid for by rolling back Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, which brought cheers from the audience.

"It's time for you and America to be patriotic about something more than war," said Edwards to the college students in attendance.

The Edwards campaign said it raised $14 million in the first quarter of 2007. In early primary season polling, Edwards is running strong in Iowa and has placed in the top three in New Hampshire with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.