Democrats control Congress "because the American people among other things wanted a very different course in Iraq," says former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.
He argues that Democratic leaders in Congress are incumbent to not blink in their standoff with President Bush over the $124 troop funding bill, which also included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"The Congress should stand their ground," Edwards told ABC News. "This president is completely convinced that the Congress will back down and they can't do that."
Edwards, whose campaign will launch TV and Internet ads today urging Congress to continue its push for a U.S. troop withdrawal, said that after the president's veto Tuesday evening, Congress "should resubmit another bill funding for the troops but with a timetable for withdrawal. And they should continue to do that until the president signs it."
Edwards described the president's veto as "thwarting the will of the American people."
Asked about a scenario where both Congress and the White House refused to budge and Democrats in Congress began to take heat for not providing funds for U.S. troops, the former trial lawyer threw himself into the hypothetical, arguing: "They're providing the funding. They're providing the funding. It's the president who won't sign the bill. And the president's the one who has decided the funding -- which is right in front of him -- won't be signed because the Congress won't do what he wants them to do. … The American people support the Congress. They don't support the president."
Edwards made his remarks in a phone interview from Seattle on a wide range of topics for the ABC News Shuffle Podcast.
Media Frenzy Surrounding Democratic Pool
Edwards also discussed the larger media attention given to the campaigns of his chief rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.
"There's something very interesting to the media about a woman running for president who's very well known, an African-American running for president who's very well known," he said. "None of that's surprising to me."
Edwards, however, dismissed their candidacies as possible flashes in the pan.
"Fortunately or unfortunately, I'm seasoned in this. I've been through it" in 2004, when he ran for president, he said. "I lived through the whole [Howard] Dean phenomenon last time, and then when Gen. [Wesley] Clark got into the race it was clearly going to be a Dean or Clark nominee. And that all faded away."
The Haircut Heard Round the World
Asked about the controversy surrounding the $400 haircut revealed on his campaign finance reports, Edwards laughed it off, saying, "I got a haircut about a week ago and it was $12. My life would have been a lot easier if I'd been doing that all along."
Edwards called the controversy "a monumental distraction, especially when you're talking about really serious issues like poverty or Iraq."
Political Reconciliation in Iraq
Discussions of the war took up most of the interview.
"The threshold question is 'What is it that's most likely to lead to a political reconciliation between Shiia and Sunni?'" Edwards said. "The McCain-Bush argument is that if we don't have troops there, we don't stabilize the situation on the ground, there's no environment in which political reconciliation can be reached. My view is just the opposite, where they've had years now to do it, they haven't done it, they're not serious about it. And as long as America continues to do their work for them and prop them up they will not work in a serious way towards a political reconciliation."
Edwards acknowledged that such a course might actually make the situation on the ground worse.
"Of course it's possible," he said. "Anybody who's being honest about Iraq will tell you that they cannot predict what's going to happen whatever course we take -- you know, surge, maintain our present position or start to withdraw troops. No one knows what's going to happen. What you have to [do] is exercise your best judgment among a poor group of choices."
Elizabeth Edwards' Diagnosis and Treatment
Edwards said that his wife, Elizabeth, who was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in March, was doing well.
"She doesn't really have any symptoms right now, but she's undergoing treatment because we know the cancer's back. We continue to be optimistic and the doctors are pretty optimistic about her treatment."
He said that the diagnosis was harder on his older daughter Cate, 25, than on his younger children Emma Claire and Jack, both of whom are younger than the age of 10.
"The young kids -- we constantly bring it up so that they can talk about it if they want -- but they haven't so far shown a lot of interest in talking about it. It's hard to know whether they're just blocking or whether they don't really understand how serious it is. But I suspect it's probably a little bit of both."