updated 8/30/2004 8:30:40 PM ET 2004-08-31T00:30:40

Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said Monday the Bush administration’s military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have alienated allies and increased the threat from terrorism instead of reducing it.

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Campaigning in his home state on the day the Republican National Convention opened in New York City, the senator accused President Bush of a “failure of leadership.”

“We have seen what this administration’s approach does to our standing in the world,” Edwards said in a speech at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“It isolates us. It costs us respect from our allies. It means we must face these new challenges alone. And their failed leadership means that they cannot deal with the new threats we face in America.”

Edwards sought to counter Republican depictions of Bush as a “strong and steadfast leader” the country needs to carry on the war against terrorists.

Offering a contrasting portrait of Bush’s leadership, Edwards charged the climate in which prisoners were abused by American soldiers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison resulted from the administration’s sending “our troops into battle without a plan to win the peace.”

In an interview last week with The New York Times, Bush said he made a “miscalculation of what the conditions would be” after U.S. troops went to Iraq.

“The president called it a miscalculation,” Edwards said. “You can call it anything you want, but the truth is, it was a failure of leadership.”

According to Edwards, the administration also erred by going to war without strong allies, turning its back on Afghanistan, waiting three years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to reform intelligence operations, failing to listen to recommendations of the 9/11 commission and standing by while North Korea and Iran advanced their nuclear weapons programs.

“But I don’t need to tell you or the American people about all that’s gone wrong in the last four years,” he said. “You know.”

The Bush administration has led America “right down a hole,” he said.

Edwards drew several standing ovations from the crowd of about 1,000, which included retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former Democratic presidential candidate who introduced 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.”

“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,” he said.

Edwards later took tourists by surprise as he made an unscheduled stop at a West Virginia arts and crafts center. He is scheduled to make an appearance Tuesday with an AFL-CIO official at the town square in Beckley, W.Va.

West Virginia is considered an important swing state in the presidential race. Kerry, Edwards, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have all campaigned repeatedly there.

“You’ll probably be tired of seeing me before this campaign is over,” Edwards told the craft makers.

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