Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards plans to hold a "town hall meeting" in Iowa City today (Saturday) to discuss President Bush’s plan to send more troops into Iraq.
Edwards voted for the war back in 2003 when he was a U.S. Senator representing the state of North Carolina. But as Edwards launched his second campaign for the White House last month, Edwards told an audience in Des Moines that vote was a mistake. "I voted for this war…and have since said that I should not have voted for this war. It was a mistake and I take responsibility for that. I’m not responsible for the conduct of this war. That’s Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and they bear the responsibility for that," Edwards said. "…Where we are now is we have bad and worse choices. Nobody can guarantee what the result is going to be in Iraq, no matter what path we take."
Edwards has criticized those who have suggested sending more troops to Iraq, even before President Bush announced this month that he intend to pursue that strategy. "My view is that it would be an enormous mistake to adopt the McCain Doctrine and escalate this war in Iraq," Edwards told Iowans back on December 28th, referring to Arizona Senator John McCain, a likely GOP presidential candidate for 2008. "That is not what we should do. What we should do is make it clear we’re not going to stay in Iraq and the best way to make it clear is to actually start leaving."
Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, says she’s watched her husband struggle with the issue and the turning point came in 2005 when Edwards authored an opinion piece. "He wrote a version and then of course, the staff goes at it and they took out the ‘I was wrong’ and he said ‘No, I’ve got to start with "I was wrong."’ Maybe it’s lots of good years as a husband where you teach them that they have to say that," Mrs. Edwards says. "Whatever it is, he knew he had to say he was wrong."
She says her husband argues that "holding on to the lie" makes it impossible to find the right solution.
Edwards’ apology is "intriguing" to Iowa peace activists like 69-year-old Eloise Cranke of Des Moines who has been a member of the Stop the Arms Race political action committee (STAR-PAC) for nearly two decades. Cranke was in the hall for Edwards’ Iowa speech in December 28.
"I think some of us (peace activists) are taking a good, hard, long look at him," Cranke says. "I’m not at the point of making a decision (on who to support for president), but I certainly like some of the things he’s saying about Iraq."
Cranke says she is especially impressed with Edwards for saying his initial vote on the war was wrong.
"We certainly appreciate hearing that," Cranke says.
A small group of peace activists have been holding weekly vigils in downtown Iowa City to protest the war. Edwards and his wife will be at the University of Iowa’s Memorial Union in Iowa City this afternoon for an open forum, which begins at two o’clock.