July 6, 2004
WAR/POLITICS: Edwards on the Iraq War
Memory lane - an October 10, 2002 press release:
The bipartisan resolution on Iraq was cosponsored by Senator Edwards. It closely tracked provisions he spelled out one month ago. The joint resolution gives the president authority to use military force against Iraq to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. It calls on the president to work with the U.N. to make Iraq comply with its resolutions, but authorizes force if diplomatic means fail. The measure also focuses on what happens in a post-Saddam Iraq and its transition to democracy.
Senator Edwards said the debate on the congressional resolution helped make the case to the American people that Saddam Hussein must be stopped from adding nuclear weapons to his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
I posted much more in this vein at the Command Post back in January. On the other hand, see this Peter Beinart column from last fall trashing Edwards and Kerry for voting against the $87 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds:
A public memo from über-pollster Stanley Greenberg and former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta said "the $87 billion Iraq request was a shock to the country, and many voters can recite the actual number." It urged Democrats to attack Bush's request as a budget-buster, noting that "just 27 percent [of Americans] trust the Republicans on the budget and deficits, with the Democrats, remarkably, holding a 20-point advantage." A similar memo from Greenberg, James Carville, and Bob Shrum said the Democrats' "core message" should stress that Bush had "no plan for post-war Iraq." Sure enough, John Kerry justified his vote against the $87 billion by citing Bush's lack of a "real plan" to reconstruct Iraq. John Edwards, who also voted no, declared, "We don't have a plan."
In policy terms, the sound bite is almost meaningless. Whatever its earlier blunders, the Bush administration now clearly does have a plan to reconstruct Iraq. Its aid request specifies in excruciating detail how the United States will rebuild different sectors of Iraqi society. And, on the day Edwards and Kerry voted no, the United States won U.N. backing for a plan under which Iraq will write a constitution and then hold elections in 2004. But that's the whole point: On one of the key national security votes of the post-September 11 era, policy barely mattered at all. And it's not likely to anytime soon.