Edwards Comes Full Circle on Iraq

No top-tier Democratic presidential candidate has been clearer than former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina in pushing for an aggressive confrontation with President Bush over his veto of an Iraq spending bill that included a timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal.

His latest move has been to create a television ad to pressure members of Congress to send Bush "the same bill again and again" until the president relents on a timetable for withdrawal.

Having already gotten to the left of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., by publicly apologizing for his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq, the post-veto showdown with Bush is central to Edwards' efforts to get to the left of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

"The more clarity you have on the war and where you stand, the better it is," Edwards senior adviser Joe Trippi tells ABC News.

Obama began the race against Edwards with the most sterling anti-war credentials, having spoken out against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq before it began, but he drew criticism from some in the liberal blogosphere earlier this spring for suggesting that Bush could get a clean bill with no timetable for withdrawal by vetoing the initial war spending measure.

"Nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground," Obama told The Associated Press. Shortly thereafter, Obama was accused of caving in to Bush by Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, a prominent liberal blogger.

Shortly after Obama raised hackles on the left with his comments, Edwards seemed to counter the Illinois senator by telling members of MoveOn.org, a liberal anti-Iraq War advocacy group, "This is not a game of chicken, this is not about making friends or keeping Joe Lieberman happy, this is about life and death."

After yesterday's veto, Obama issued a statement urging Republicans in Congress to "help override" Bush's veto. But like Clinton, Obama has not yet committed to a course of action if the override effort fails as expected.

Freed from the need to cast actual votes in the Senate, Edwards' new television ad urges members of Congress to stand firm.

"President Bush isn't listening to us," says one person in the Edwards ad, which airs in the D.C. market on broadcast and cable perhaps as soon as Thursday. Another person says in the ad, "Don't back down to President Bush."

In addition to the traditional television ad, the Edwards campaign is also making it possible for people to create their own messages to Congress and Bush on the war and to post them to Edwards' campaign Web Site and YouTube.

"We're out there doing everything we can to send that bill back," Trippi tells ABC News. "Clearly that's not where Clinton or Obama are at. They are talking about finding the 16 Republican votes for an override. I don't think there is anybody on the Republican or the Democratic side who believes that's possible. There's no reality to that position."

Speaking to a candidates' forum sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund on May 9, 2003, the same day that Saddam Hussein's statue came down in Baghdad, Edwards said, "I support the cause in Iraq. I have always supported the cause in Iraq. I think it is a just cause. I think that what we're doing is right. I think it is a fight, among other things, for the liberation of the Iraqi people."

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