Home>News Center>World

Edwards: Kerry full of 'Washington talk'
Updated: 2004-03-01 09:34

U.S. Democratic presidential underdog John Edwards dismissed John Kerry's ideas as "the same old Washington talk" in a feisty debate Sunday, two days before the 10-state slate of contests known as Super Tuesday.

Edwards shed his congenial style and delivered his toughest critique yet of the Democratic front-runner. He said Kerry voted for bad trade agreements and that his proposals would "drive us deeper and deeper into deficit."

In a swipe back at the freshman senator from North Carolina, Kerry, a 19-year-Senate veteran, said the country needs a president with experience and "proven ability to be able to stand up and take on tough fights."

Polls show Edwards trailing in all the states that vote on Tuesday, and he faces increasing pressure to bow out if he can't turn it around. He rejected the suggestion that he was angling to become vice president.

"Oh, no. Oh, no, no. Far from it," he said, then tried to prove his point by putting Kerry on the defensive.

When Kerry said he and Edwards had the same position on trade, Edwards ticked off a list of agreements on which they differed ! pacts with Singapore, Chile, Africa and the Caribbean that Kerry voted for and he opposed.

When Kerry said he would have a 120-day review of all trade agreements, Edwards said that would be of little comfort to the jobless. "Don't worry, we've got a Washington committee that's studying this for you," Edwards mocked.

Kerry, of Massachusetts, questioned how someone who served five years with him in Congress can call anybody a Washington insider. "That seems to me to be Washington, D.C.," Kerry said.

The two leading candidates, joined by Al Sharpton of New York and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, sparred hours after Haiti's embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned and flew into exile. As the capital fell into chaos, the United States said international peacekeepers ! including Americans ! would be deployed soon.

Edwards agreed with that, but accused U.S. President Bush of neglecting the nation for too long.

"He's ignored Haiti the same way he's ignored most of the countries in this hemisphere," he said.

Kerry said he would not have allowed Haiti to spiral out of control as Bush has.

"He's late, as usual," Kerry said. "This president always makes decisions late after things have happened that could have been different had the president made a different decision earlier."

The hourlong debate came two days before voters in 10 states award 1,151 pledged convention delegates ! more than half the 2,162 needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Kerry has 688 delegates, according to an Associated Press tally, more than four times Edwards' total.

Of the 10 contests, Edwards has virtually ceded the four New England states to Kerry and stands little chance of victory in the biggest battlegrounds, New York and California, or in Maryland. That leaves Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota as his targets ! and polls show him trailing in those states.

Edwards hopes to score multiple victories Tuesday to keep his candidacy alive until March 9, when four Southern states vote. But even his own supporters say the odds are long, with the end of his campaign seemingly near.

Edwards went from the debate to a rally in Brooklyn, then flew to Albany for an airport hangar rally. He later returned to New York City to attend two fund-raisers and was to spend the night in Toledo, Ohio.

He campaigns on Monday in Ohio and Georgia.

Kerry met with Jewish leaders in New York before traveling to Buffalo, N.Y., where he promised to promote policies that can help their unemployment-plagued economy. He also reunited with fellow veteran Steve Hatch, who he had not seen in 35 years since they served together in Vietnam.

On other issues during the debate, Kerry and Edwards agreed that military action against North Korea can't be taken off the table, and said Israel has a right to secure its borders with a fence.

Both reiterated their opposition to gay marriage, though they support legal rights for gays under civil unions.

"I've been to the wedding of somebody who has gotten married who's gay," Kerry said.

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said he attended the commitment ceremony of Rufus Gifford and Russell Bennett two summers ago on Nantucket. Gifford is the son of Chad Gifford, Kerry's longtime friend and chairman and chief executive of FleetBoston Financial Corp.

Some of the biggest sparks of the debate, sponsored by CBS and The New York Times flew between Sharpton and moderators Elizabeth Bumiller of the Times and the network's Dan Rather. Sharpton objected that he wasn't getting enough speaking time and said he would not "sit here and be window dressing."

Kucinich, too, had to break into the conversation to make a point, once cutting off Kerry to criticize Edwards on trade and tout his own positions. "No, this is my turn," he said as Rather tried to elicit a response from Kerry.

Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe said he hoped to have a presumptive nominee in the next couple of weeks so he can begin to counter Bush's multimillion-dollar ad barrage, which begins Thursday.

"We need, at some point, to be unified," he told "Fox News Sunday" before the debate.

Edwards was endorsed Sunday by the Cincinnati Enquirer, southwest Ohio's leading newspaper. Kerry, meanwhile, won backing from a dozen newspapers, including The (Baltimore) Sun; The Buffalo News, the Daily News and Newsday in New York; the San Francisco Chronicle and The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Pakistanis may be near bin Laden's aide al-Zawahri



Government relaxes control of airfares, finally



U.S. launches WTO complaint against China



Report: China, Iran sign US$20b gas deal



FM to pay official visit to DPRK



women bosses urged to date and marry


  Sources: Al Qaeda No 2 leader surrounded
  S. Korea won't send troops to Iraqi city
  Powell visits Iraq on eve of anniversary of US invasion
  US doubles reward for capture of bin Laden
  Poland 'misled' on Iraq, President says
  Kosovo death toll rises to 31
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Edwards unveils plan to cut US poverty
  News Talk  
  The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2003