NEW YORK, AP
Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards accused President George W. Bush’s administration Monday of making the nation less secure by miscalculating U.S. foreign policy. The attack was aimed at giving Democrats a voice on the opening day of the Republican National Convention in New York.
“Their failed leadership at home and abroad means that they cannot deal with the new threats we face,” Edwards said in remarks prepared for a speech in Wilmington, North Carolina.
The North Carolina senator accused Bush of leading the nation down the wrong path after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Because of this administration’s failures, Iraq is a mess today — and it probably will be the day we take office,” Edward continued. “It didn’t have to be this way. But it is. And we need new leadership to fix it.”
Edwards said a John Kerry administration would “go on the offensive to defeat the terrorists before they get to us,” strengthen defenses at home and build strong alliances abroad to get weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. Above all, he vowed, the ticket would bring “stability and freedom” to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This is what we will do. This is what they haven’t done,” said Edwards.
Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesman, called Edwards’ claims “a series of baseless attacks from a Democratic ticket that’s far outside the mainstream on these issues.”
He argued that the accusations weren’t credible, as they came from a team that, Schmidt said, has advocated for a “more sensitive war on terror” and said “the war on terror simply creates more terrorists.”
“The chronic vacillation and indecision demonstrated by John Kerry regarding the war on terror is one reason the American people have increasing doubts about his credibility,” Schmidt said.
Edwards sought to counter Republicans, including Vice President Dick Cheney, who plans during the Republican convention to emphasize that Bush is the kind of “strong and steadfast” leader the country needs to continue the war against terrorists.
Edwards maintained that in Iraq, the White House miscalculated by “rushing to war without a plan for the peace” and “deciding to got it alone without strong allies.” He also criticized the administration for waiting “three years after September 11th to start to reform our intelligence.”
And, Edwards accused the administration of “turning its back on Afghanistan “as well as failing to listen to the 9-11 commission” and “standing on the sidelines while North Korea and Iran advanced their nuclear programs.”
In a role reversal of sorts, Republican delegates were gathering in staunchly Democratic New York City on Monday as Edwards flew to his Republican-leaning state to give the speech alongside his one-time rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, and other veterans.
Over the past week, Edwards has become the Democratic ticket’s attack dog, hitting Bush on everything from overtime pay and poverty to intelligence reform. Aides say the point of the speech was to highlight what they called Bush’s real record on national security, not the one that Republicans will present at the convention.
Bush has defended his actions in Iraq at nearly every stop on the campaign trail. However, in an interview with Time magazine, he suggested he would have used different tactics to invade Iraq had he known “that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day.”