IOWA CITY, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is accusing rival Hillary Rodham Clinton of a two-faced foreign policy and failing to do enough to stop what he says is President Bush's march to war with Iran.
"Senator Clinton is voting like a hawk in Washington, while talking like a dove in Iowa and New Hampshire," Edwards said in remarks prepared for delivery Monday at the Iowa Memorial Union. Excerpts of the speech were provided by his campaign.
The 2004 vice presidential nominee was stepping up criticism of Clinton's vote in Congress to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, which Edwards said is a mistake. He has said that by her vote, she and other lawmakers are allowing Bush and Cheney to "rattle the sabers" of war, and giving them the excuse they need to attack Iran, just as they attacked Iraq.
"The war in Iraq isn't even history yet, but the Bush Administration is repeating the march to war with Iran, and they're getting help from people who should know a lot better," Edwards says. "George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the neocon warmongers used 9/11 to start a war with Iraq and now they're trying to use Iraq to start a war with Iran. And we have to stop them."
Clinton has argued she was voting for stepped up diplomacy, but the campaign has been concerned that Iowa voters may not be getting that message. She sent a mailer to Iowa Democrats explaining her position.
Edwards echoed another Democratic rival, Barack Obama, in favoring better diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran than has existed with the Bush administration. Edwards favors low-level talks between government officials with the goal of full diplomatic relations.
Edwards offers one caveat that a high-level meeting be contingent on ensuring U.S. security and avoiding a session for propaganda purposes.
While Edwards emphasizes diplomacy, he's quick to point out that if he were president, he would keep his options open when it comes to Iran — which he says is a dangerous country that appears to be working toward building a nuclear bomb, supports terrorist activity, rejects U.N. Security Council resolutions and threatens Israel, a U.S. ally.
With two months before voting begins in Iowa, Clinton has a slight lead in state polls but Edwards and Obama are not far behind.
Obama also has criticized Clinton for her vote and has said he would personally negotiate with Iran, offering economic incentives and a chance for peaceful relations if Iranian leaders would forgo pursuit of nuclear weapons and support of terrorists.
"We need a new direction — one that will defuse the Iran threat, rather than aggravate it, one that will make America safer, not make the world more dangerous," Edwards says.