News

Edwards takes political gamble with holiday offensive

Jim Morrill
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Laura Belin plans to take her children to a Memorial Day parade Monday. There, at the urging of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, she expects to join others protesting the war in Iraq.

"Everyone knows that we're going to have to start getting our troops out," said Belin, 38, who's from suburban Des Moines, Iowa. "And we need to start getting them out now."

Edwards has called on Americans to "honor the memory of the fallen by acting to end the war and bring (U.S. troops) home." The former North Carolina senator also is asking people to honor the troops with prayer or even a word of thanks.

But his appeal to speak out or attend holiday observances this weekend with signs saying "Support the Troops - End the War" has drawn protests of its own.

"Memorial Day has always been a day for honoring those who've given their lives for the country," said John Sommer, the executive director of the American Legion's Washington office. "It's just totally unbelievable that someone would want to politicize the day the way Senator Edwards has."

Edwards' holiday offensive is his latest surge against the war, and it's a political gamble.

This month he ran TV ads in Washington, D.C., and Iowa urging the Democratic-controlled Congress to defy President Bush's veto of a war-spending bill that set deadlines for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. He dismissed attempts to compromise as a "concession."

"He more and more seems to be running as this year's Howard Dean," said Dennis Goldford, a Drake University political scientist. Dean, a Democrat who ran for president in 2004, became the favorite of antiwar activists but failed to win his party's nomination.

There's little doubt that the war is unpopular. Polls show that two-thirds of Americans oppose it. A Des Moines Register poll this week found it the top concern among likely Democratic caucus-goers in a state that's key to Edwards' hopes of winning the nomination - and the first state where Democratic voters will begin selecting their candidate next January.

Even war supporters acknowledge the right to protest it. They just question Edwards' timing.

"There's 365 days in a year. I think it shows poor taste and poor judgment to choose a day that we set aside to honor the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice," said Bob Dionne, the commander of an American Legion post in Manchester, N.H. "There's 364 other days he could choose."

On a blog, Edwards called Memorial Day "exactly the right time" to protest the war. Campaign manager David Bonior calls it "an important time to raise the consciousness of the country."

"(Veterans) fought to guarantee our freedom so people could actually express their views and raise their voices," said Bonior, an Air Force veteran and former Michigan congressman. "That doesn't mean we can't talk about the war and the necessity of bringing our troops home."

Tim Carpenter, the director of the group Progressive Democrats, said his group was encouraged to see Edwards speak out. So is Belin, Edwards' supporter from Iowa. She puts little stock in criticism from groups such as the American Legion.

"They don't own the holiday," she said. "There are plenty of people on all sides of the issue who have connections to people serving over there (in Iraq)."

But even some liberals question Edwards' timing.

Joe Conason, a columnist for Salon.com, wrote that many veterans have joined the ranks of war critics. Still, many of them "believe that antiwar displays on (Memorial Day) are at best insensitive, reviving bad memories of the Vietnam era," he wrote.

"If people are taking a look at an alternative point of view," he said, "why would you do something that repels them?"

Some see Edwards' move as another way to distinguish himself from his top rivals, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

"Candidates all have a strong opinion against the war, and now they're trying to do something that establishes that they have credibility beyond what other candidates have," said Bill Carrick, a California-based Democratic strategist. "(Edwards) is obviously trying to assert that he has a stronger position against the war than they do."

That may prove essential in Iowa.

"The contest where he absolutely must do very well is Iowa, which is a close contest and where the Democratic Party is pretty left," Washington-based analyst Stuart Rothenberg said. "It's about Iowa, and the peace sentiment is strong out there."

It is with Belin.

"Right now," she said, "(Edwards) has the strongest position on the war."

Edwards led in Sunday's Des Moines Register poll, with 29 percent support to 23 percent for Obama and 21 percent for Clinton.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.