WASHINGTON – John Edwards took heavy flak when he said in May the War on Terror was nothing more than a "slogan" and "a bumper sticker." But the former North Carolina senator and current Democratic presidential challenger may have gotten his vindication on Thursday.
It turns out that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used nearly identical language —"bumper sticker statements" — to describe ways the war should be billed to the American public, according to memos uncovered by The Washington Post.
The newspaper obtained some of the many thousands of "snowflakes" disseminated by the former defense secretary. Throughout his tenure, Rumsfeld penned "snowflake" memos, which he then sprinkled down on his large staff his thoughts on defense policy, action items for his aides and press rebuttals to reports he found disagreeable.
The paper reported that Rumsfeld used the snowflakes to boost war policy -- "keep elevating the threat, "link Iraq to Iran" were among his directives. One that he also sent out: Create "bumper sticker statements" to rally support for the war in Iraq.
The Post reported that an aide to Rumsfeld acknowledged the former defense secretary's regular use of the term "bumper stickers," but complained the article took it out of context.
"You are running a story based off of selective quotations and gross mischaracterizations from a handful of memos -- carefully picked from the some 20,000 written while Rumsfeld served as Secretary," Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn wrote in an e-mail to the paper. "After almost all meetings, he dictated his recollections of what was said for his own records."
In a May 23 speech in New York, Edwards drew fire from his remarks over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a foreign policy speech.
"It is now clear the George Bush's misnamed 'War on Terror' has backfired — and is now part of the problem," Edwards told the Council on Foreign Relations. "The War on Terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan."The similarity in language to Edwards' complaints about the war's conduct didn't go unnoticed by the his campaign aides.
“As today's Washington Post reveals, John Edwards was right all along that the War on Terror is a bumper sticker Republicans use to intimidate their opponents and squelch debate. As we've now learned, Bush's former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was more interested in coming up with new ‘bumper sticker’ slogans then an actual strategy to end the war," Edwards spokesman Chris Kofinis said in a prepared statement e-mailed to FOXNews.com
Could Edwards possibly have known that Rumsfeld had issued such a memo when he gave his original speech?
"No," another campaign spokesperson said.
Still, the campaign didn't waste the opportunity to blast President Bush, who spoke in Washington, D.C., Thursday to call for continuing support in the fight against terrorists and the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In his remarks today, President Bush again fell back on his disgraceful strategy of political intimidation, asserting that disagreement with his ‘War on Terror’ approach is ‘dangerous for our country.’ This strategy is an affront to our democracy, and just another example of how broken Washington is," Kofinis said.
Edwards' original comments drew round criticism from Republicans on the campaign trail and elsewhere, and still remains a GOP punch line.
At the time, Rudy Giuliani said: "I don't understand why a Democratic candidate would be in denial of what's actually going on. ... This global War on Terror is going on whether John Edwards recognizes it or not. It not like it's controlled., there are people planning to come here and kill us."
More recently — just last week — Mitt Romney made light of Edwards' bumper sticker remarks.
"It is my personal believe that having someone like John Edwards, a senator, who goes out and communicates that there is no global War on Terror — that it's just a Bush bumper sticker — I think that is a position that is not consistent with the facts," the former Massachusetts governor said.
The Republican National Committee — which also pounced on Edwards after his May remarks — said Edwards is taking undeserved credit, and said the party wouldn't be conceding any points over the snowflake matter.
"As President Bush made clear today, he will continue to be vigilant in defending our nation ... regardless of disingenuous, or naïve statements from Democrat White House hopefuls like John Edwards," RNC spokesman Brian Walton said.
Walton also said the Edwards, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats "seem more concerned with following the lead of MoveOn.org bloggers to score points with the liberal left than they do with listening to our military leaders."
"It's hard to comprehend someone that considers themselves a serious contender for the White House and not believing that we are fighting a global War on Terror," Walton said.