Former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., says George W. Bush is the "worst president of our lifetime," and "absolutely" worse than Watergate-tainted President Nixon.
In an exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the former presidential and vice presidential contender said of Bush, "He's done a variety of things -- things which are going to take us forever to recover from.
"You have to give Bush and Cheney and gang credit for being good at politics -- you know, good at political campaigns," Edwards added. "They're very good at dividing the country and taking advantage of it. What they're not good at is governing, and it shows every single day in this administration. And the country is paying a huge price for that."
The former senator, pitching his "college for everyone" program in rural North Carolina, also responded to recent criticism by Mary Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter. In "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life," Cheney, the 37-year-old second daughter of the vice president and second lady, labeled Edwards as "complete and total slime" for congratulating Cheney and his wife during their 2004 vice presidential debate for "embrac[ing]" their daughter's sexual orientation.
Edwards did not back down, telling Stephanopoulous, ABC News' chief Washington correspondent, "I think what I said then was appropriate. And I do believe that it was in a very partisan political environment. We were in the middle of a very hot campaign, very close campaign."
Mary Cheney, a close political adviser to her father, told ABC News "Primetime" anchor Diane Sawyer in May that she seriously contemplated quitting the 2004 campaign over Bush's opposition to gay marriage.
"I struggled with my decision to stay," she said.
Edwards told "This Week": "What happened … is that the vice president had mentioned in several public appearances the fact that he had a gay daughter, had talked about some differences in policy that he had with the president. He was asked a question in the debate where that was referenced by the moderator, Gwen Ifill. He responded. I said that actually the fact that they had a gay daughter and embraced her is something that should be applauded for. He said thank you."
Mary Cheney has claimed in her book that her father was acting.
"He didn't seem like he was acting," Edwards told Stephanopoulos, "although you never know with the vice president."
Mary Cheney has since returned to private life, working at AOL and living with her longtime partner, Heather Poe, in Virginia.
With regard to her father, Edwards continued to level sharp criticism.
"It is not an accident that he's unbelievably poorly thought of," Edwards said. "He is one of -- if not the -- principal architects of this disaster in Iraq. He put us on an energy path that the American people are paying an enormous price for right now. He paid little to no attention to making sure the government was prepared to respond to the kind of disaster that hit our Gulf Coast. We've got a health care crisis going on, he's had no proposal of any kind that I know of. And people don't trust him anymore, which is understandable. I wouldn't trust him."
Edwards made the pitch for a Democratic president in 2008, claiming Bush has "intentionally ignored" the law and constitution in the NSA wiretapping controversy.