NEW YORK – Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic candidate John Edwards, lambastes his rival Barack Obama as "holier than thou" on the Iraq war and accuses Hillary Rodham Clinton of failing to show leadership on health care and Iraq.
As her husband trails Clinton and Obama in national polls, Elizabeth Edwards has been an outspoken critic of his opponents. Last month, she said her husband would be a better champion for women as president than Clinton and more recently said, "We can't make John black, we can't make him a woman. Those things get you a lot of press, worth a certain amount of fundraising dollars."
In an interview published in the August issue of The Progressive magazine, Elizabeth Edwards complained about Obama, who opposed the war when he was a state legislator in Illinois and later as a Senate candidate but has since voted for funds for the military.
John Edwards, then a North Carolina senator, voted in 2002 to authorize the military invasion of Iraq. Since then, he has said his vote was a mistake. He also voted against several funding requests while in the Senate — but not all, as Elizabeth Edwards claimed in the interview.
"And honestly, the other candidates?" Elizabeth Edwards asked. "Obama gives a speech that's likely to be extraordinarily popular in his home district, and then comes to the Senate and votes for funding ... So you are going to get people behaving in a holier-than-thou way. But John stood up when he was in the Senate for exactly the thing he's asking these people to stand up for now."
In response, Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said Obama "was proud to be against the war from the beginning and has a plan to bring about its quickest possible end."
Edwards also criticized Obama and Clinton for not using their influence to line up additional votes to block an Iraq funding bill in May. The two senators were among just 13 Democrats to vote against the bill.
"We're electing the leader of the free world," Elizabeth Edwards said. "They should have been making speeches about why it was they were doing this, and standing up and trying to rally. And they didn't. They weren't leaders."
On health care, Edwards said Obama's plan for universal coverage was inadequate because it left 15 million uninsured. Obama has said his plan would become universal over time, after his proposed reforms reduce the cost of insurance enough so people can afford to buy it.
She also criticized Clinton for not producing a health care plan and for questioning whether there was sufficient "political will" to enact universal care.
"Hillary is saying we need to develop a political will. She hasn't been talking to people if she thinks we need to develop it. We do not. There is consensus on this issue," Edwards said.
Edwards even suggested Obama's signature theme — a plea for hope and political unity — had been lifted from her husband's 2004 presidential campaign.
"You listen to the language of what people say, particularly Obama, who seems to be using a lot of John's 2004 language," Edwards said, noting that Obama's media adviser, David Axelrod, worked for Edwards that year.
The Clinton campaign declined to comment on the Elizabeth Edwards interview.