Edwards: 'End damage' in Iraq

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Democratic presidential hopeful, former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., answers questions during a campaign stop Friday, Sept. 28, 2007, in Columbus, Ohio.
(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
John Edwards (D)
Former Senator, NC
Born: 06/10/1953
Birthplace: Seneca, SC
Home: Raleigh, NC
Religion: Methodist
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Since 2003, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has spent a lot of time campaigning in New Hampshire as a presidential candidate. After finishing fourth in the 2004 Democratic primary, Edwards was tapped as John Kerry's vice presidential running mate in the general election.

Since those elections, Edwards has spent more than three years refining and evolving his detailed populist proposals on matters such as economic fairness, education reform at home and abroad, a universal health care program, and an end to the war in Iraq. As of Friday, he became the first major Democratic candidate to accept federal matching campaign funds, along with the restrictions that come with them.

Edwards, 54, voted in favor of giving President Bush war authorization in 2002, but he has since repudiated that vote and has been harshly critical of the administration's Iraq and foreign policy initiatives.

Edwards will talk about Iraq on Wednesday at a candidate's forum hosted by Seacoast Media Group, the parent company of the Portsmouth Herald, at the company's headquarters in Portsmouth. Before an appearance in Durham last week, he talked with the Herald about his Iraq and foreign policy plans and what he would do during his first day in office as president.

All during this campaign, you have called for a withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. What are the main points of the plan?

Assuming the war is still going (in January 2009), I've said many times that I would immediately take out 40,000 to 50,000 (combat troops) and withdraw the rest in eight to nine months.

What's your strategic thinking on Iraq?

There is no military solution to the war in Iraq. Only a political solution with the reconciliation between Sunni and Shia will help Iraq. How long will we have American troops' lives on the line for them to reach reconciliation? They've made no progress. I believe the way to maximize the pressure make it clear America will start leaving. We need to shift responsibility to the Iraqis.

We need a major diplomatic effort and we ought to be actively engaged engaging other countries in the region, because they don't want to see Iraq fall into total chaos.

What's your top foreign policy goal?

What I will do as president is help restore America's moral leadership in the world. First, it's important to end damage that's been done by the Bush administration: end the war in Iraq, close Guantanamo, no more secret prisons, no more illegal spying on Americans. All these are un-American and undermine our moral authority and leadership.

I want to make us a force for good in the world. For example, have us lead the way to provide primary education for 100 million in Africa, throughout the Moslem world and Latin America and help eradicate diseases and make clean drinking water a priority.

The idea over the long term is this: Instead of driving a whole generation of young people to the terrorists, let's draw them to our direction, and they will come if they see a country (America) ready and worthy for leadership.

When you travel around New Hampshire, what are voters telling you about Iraq?

There are a lot of very frustrated Democrats and independents who are unhappy that Congress has not forced President Bush's hand more on Iraq. Most Americans believe the elections in 2006 was a mandate. Congress just keeps funding the war.

Why is it playing out like this?

What happens in Washington, D.C., is that it's a very insulated environment with a lot of politics. But this is about life and death and war. What's important to realize is that Bush will not change unless he's forced.

What would you do on your first day in office as president?

I would do two things immediately. I would submit my universal health care plan in Congress and speak to America about it and why it's important. I would also bring in my uniformed military leadership to meet and issue an order to leave Iraq.

What would you like the American people to see during the first 100 days of an Edwards administration?

That John Edwards is a president who is ending war in Iraq and standing up for middle-class and low-income earners in America.

What have you learned about the New Hampshire primary process during your campaign?

New Hampshire is hugely important. I've spent a lot of time here campaigning vigorously and will continue to do so. New Hampshire voters are well informed, tough, and ask hard questions. (The primary) is a great test to see if someone's actually ready to be president if you campaign hard here. It is very informative because you need to give specifics and substance and show personal characteristics of leadership.

Herald Forum

What: Candidate forum on Iraq with Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Seacoast Media Group, 111 New Hampshire Ave., Portsmouth

If you want to go: There are seats available. Sign up for the event by e-mail only at mmccord@seacoastonline.com. Please include name and contact information. Look for complete coverage of the event from the Portsmouth Herald, www.seacoastonline.com and www.thenewhampshireprimary.com.