PHILADELPHIA – Elizabeth Edwards said Tuesday she is discouraged that health care is falling on the nation's list of priorities and critiqued the plans of both leading presidential candidates.
In her first public talk since her husband, two-time Democratic presidential candidate and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, publicly admitted to an extramarital affair, Elizabeth Edwards confined her remarks to health coverage — an issue that forced itself into her own top priorities after a 2004 cancer diagnosis.
She said the financial crisis that has shaken Wall Street may demand national attention and money that would otherwise be invested in fixing the health care system.
"I'm more discouraged than I was before," she said during a talk at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. "Shame on us if we don't take the momentum — even with all the other things that are happening — and translate it into a policy."
Edwards said she sparred with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over his health care policy, which mandates insurance for children but doesn't require coverage for adults.
And she had almost nothing good to say about the health care plan of Republican hopeful John McCain, charging that it would simply lower costs by forcing bare-bones policies.
Audience members asked no questions about her private life. Edwards did not mention the affair.
Through her public bout with breast cancer, which disappeared after a long round of treatments but resurfaced in early 2007 in an incurable form, Edwards has become a respected speaker on health care policy.
But she's been quiet about her latest hardship, only discussing the infidelity in a brief statement last month in which she pleaded for privacy and said that her husband had disclosed the liaison in 2006.
That statement set off a round of criticism aimed at her, as Democrats said she was too willing to keep the affair a secret to help her husband's political ambitions, as well as her own.
John Edwards has canceled all of his public events until after the election, saying in a statement through his publicist he doesn't want to be a distraction to his party's ticket.
He admitted in early August that he had an affair with a woman hired to produce videos of him in 2006. She remained on the campaign trail during the opening days of his presidential bid at the end of that year.