Former Sen. John Edwards said he opposes sending more troops to Iraq in an interview with “Hardball” host Chris Matthews on Friday.
“I think that’s the last thing we should do,” said Edwards, who voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq during his single term as a senator from North Carolina. “I think it’s a mistake to escalate this war.… There is no military solution to what’s happening in Iraq. The only solution’s a political solution.”
On his first full day as a declared candidate, Edwards came out strong against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a potential challenger for the White House from the Republican camp, as well as President Bush’s handling of the war.
“I think it’s a mistake to have this McCain doctrine adopted as a policy by the United States,” he said. “I think what it does is it sends a signal that we’re going to be there forever, or for a long time. It takes responsibility away from the Iraqis.”
Edwards also criticized Bush’s recent press conference in which the president encouraged Americans to “go shopping more.”
“What planet is he living on?” Edwards asked. “I have absolutely no idea. I mean this is the man that’s in charge of this war in Iraq. You know, after September 11th we had an extraordinary moment of unity and a proud feeling of patriotism. I had it myself. All of us had it. And it was a great opportunity for us to tap into the will of the American people to do great things together, not just for themselves, but for America.”
Edwards insisted the post-9/11 feeling of patriotism is not completely lost and recovering that sense of unity will be a challenge for the next president.
“If you actually want America to be great, you’re going to have to step out and take some responsibility yourself and do something.”
Edwards said this perspective — the idea that it will take many Americans to solve the country’s problems — is what differentiates him from potential Democratic challengers like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who have not yet officially declared their candidacy.
Edwards is using his early entry into the 2008 race to shore up support in key states. After announcing his intention to run Thursday in New Orleans, Edwards led a town hall meeting in Iowa, then visited New Hampshire and Nevada on Friday. He will host two events in South Carolina on Saturday, according to his Web site.
His message to supporters focuses on five key issues: Providing “moral leadership in the world,” strengthening the middle class, guaranteeing universal health care, ending the “addiction to oil” and fighting global warming.
Edwards told Matthews it was a mistake for Al Gore to shy away from his passion for global warming during Gore’s 2000 presidential run.
“He should have revealed his heart and his passion for something that — there aren’t many people on the planet that know more about it than he does,” Edwards said. “And it would have shown what his character was…. I think he’s been extraordinary in the time since that election in promoting this cause and making a huge issue out of it.”
Since Edwards and Sen. John Kerry lost the 2004 election, Edwards had been using his time to head the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina. The center’s mission is on line with the “Two Americas” — one rich and one poor — platform Edwards ran on in 2000, a theme that he is carrying into his current presidential bid.
“We need to create more fairness and more opportunity, more educational opportunity,” Edwards told Matthews. “I wish there were an easy answer. But I don’t think there’s an easy answer.”
Watch each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.