SAN DIEGO - Closing a state Democratic convention gripped with anti-war fervor, presidential candidate John Edwards on Sunday challenged Democrats in Congress to vote repeatedly to end the war in Iraq - no matter how many times President Bush vetoes bills calling for withdrawal of U.S. forces.
“Our victory in 2006 means something,” said the North Carolina senator, recalling the Democrats retaking control of the House and Senate. “If the president of the United States vetoes that bill, it’s George Bush who is not supporting the troops.
“If the president vetoes this bill, they should send him back another bill with a timetable for withdrawal. If he vetoes that, send him back another one. They should not back down from the president and let him continue on this terrible course of war.”
Edwards, running third in early presidential primary polls behind New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, was followed Sunday by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson - the last of seven Democratic presidential candidates appearing at the three-day conference.
Richardson also strongly supported the legislation passed by Congress for a $124 billion spending program that includes $90 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but includes a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
If no action is taken to wind down the U.S. role in the conflict, Richardson said that as president he would “withdraw troops before the end of the calendar year,” leaving “no residual troops. None.”
Meanwhile, he said Congress should pass a resolution de-authorizing the war, saying: “The Congress authorized the war. Now they should de-authorize it.”
That was about as close as the rhetoric came Sunday to satisfying many in the throng of 2,264 Democratic delegates, 450 guests and 700 volunteers who attended the Friday-Sunday convention.
Many spent the weekend parading with banners demanding the impeachment of the president and vice president and stronger action by Democratic leaders to end the war.
They bristled in angry protests when state party leaders favored more restrained policies, ultimately leading delegates to pass a convention resolution that demanded a “full investigation into abuse of power by President George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.”
While not calling for impeachment, the resolution called for using congressional subpoena power to investigate the administration and apply “appropriate remedies and punishment, including impeachment.”
“It is our moral obligation to speak out as a people to say that we as Californians are not complicit in the crimes of this administration,” protested Joyce Swan, a statistics and psychology professor at Woodbury University in Los Angeles as a Democratic caucus committee rejected an outright impeachment measure.
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi said the convention revealed the challenge Democratic leaders face in harnessing the anger of the party’s activist base without alienating those who feel their party isn’t strident enough.
“We need to take that anger and disgust with the Bush administration and turn it into hard precinct work in communities,” he said.
The anti-war activists could get a chance to take their cause door to door if the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agree to place a resolution by state Senate Pro Tem Don Perata on the Feb. 5 California presidential primary ballot.
Convention delegates voted in favor of including the Perata measure, which would ask voters to decide on a resolution to end “the U.S. occupation of Iraq immediately and begin the safe and orderly withdraw of all United States combat forces.”
Meanwhile, they howled in support as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., called for her colleagues in Congress to “stop nuancing ... benchmarking and playing it safe” on the war.
“Not one nickel, not one dime,” Waters said and then repeated with delegates chanting along. “Not another soldier. Not this time.”