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Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate, Republicans Spar on US Airwaves - 2004-10-10


Democratic Party vice presidential candidate John Edwards has sharpened criticism of the Bush Administration's conduct of the war in Iraq.

For weeks, America had seen little of John Edwards, except at campaign stops in key, so-called "battleground" states. But last week the senator returned to the national spotlight, squaring off in a debate against Vice President Dick Cheney.

On Sunday Mr. Edwards kept up the high profile, appearing on five U.S. television network talk shows.

Speaking on ABC's This Week program, the Democratic vice presidential hopeful congratulated Afghanistan for holding national elections, but noted that much of the country remains lawless and that opium production has skyrocketed.

Senator Edwards reserved his strongest criticism on foreign policy matters for the situation America faces in Iraq. He began by acknowledging that both he and Senator John Kerry voted last year to authorize the Bush Administration's use of force in Iraq.

"But we did not authorize this president and vice president to make the mess that they have made," said Mr. Edwards. "They did not do the work to put a coalition in place before they went [to war in Iraq]. They did not allow the [United Nations] weapons inspectors to do their jobs. If they had, we would know what we know now, that they [Saddam's regime] did not have weapons of mass destruction and did not even have an active program. And, they had no plan to win the peace [in Iraq]."

The Senator contended that America needs a change in leadership to boost the chances for success in Iraq.

The Bush administration and Republican officials sharply disagree. Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation program, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie alleged that Mr. Kerry has shown he does not believe in America's mission in Iraq, and without that belief success is not possible.

"As commander-in-chief, if you do not believe that this cause is just, how do you commit the troops? How does John Kerry commit troops to a cause he does not believe in? The American people understand: we are better off fighting the terrorists now and over there [overseas] than fighting them later and over here [at home]," he said. "And that is the choice that confronts us. Senator Kerry sends mixed messages which are the wrong messages."

Wednesday, President Bush and Senator Kerry will take part in the third and final presidential debate ahead of next month's election. The debate will focus on domestic issues.

In his television appearances Sunday, Mr. Edwards was repeatedly asked to comment on questions surrounding the cost of healthcare in the United States.

Before running for the Senate in 1998, Mr. Edwards gained fame and fortune as a lawyer who sued physicians and other healthcare providers for medical malpractice. Such lawsuits are blamed for inflating the cost of insurance for doctors, and, ultimately, the cost of healthcare in the country.

Senator Edwards responded to the questions by saying that frivolous medical malpractice suits need to be stopped. But he added that the problem of access to affordable healthcare extends far beyond the cost of litigation, requiring a comprehensive plan that he and Senator Kerry have put forward.