Edwards, 53, called for an increase in community service and cuts in poverty, global warming and troops in Iraq. He said he made a mistake in voting for a resolution to go to war with Iraq, but noted that he didn't conduct the war.Shortly after making it official in New Orleans, Edwards headed to Iowa.
He also said the country should provide universal health care for all and end its dependence on foreign oil. He said he would tax oil company profits and eliminate President Bush's tax cuts to pay for his priorities.
"We need to ask Americans to be willing to be patriotic about something beyond war," he said.
He said that will include a National Call to Action Day on Jan. 27 where Americans can contribute their time to help enroll children in government health care programs, fight for an increase in the minimum wage or other efforts.
In his bid for the presidential nomination, Edwards will likely battle a host of Democrat foes, possibly including U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Biden of Delaware, Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, among others.
“And I have to tell you, it’s even better to be back as candidate for president of the United States,” he said at a Thursday evening town hall meeting at the Iowa State Historical Building in Des Moines.The Washington Post has video of the Edwards announcement from New Orleans. It's not your typical announcement with all the fanfare. The video is actually very brief.
Touting the slogan “Tomorrow Begins Today,” Edwards, 53, a former senator from North Carolina, pledged a grass-roots campaign that begins with domestic issues, such as eliminating poverty and strengthening the middle class — hence Thursday morning’s campaign announcement in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.
Edwards said that he is working on a true universal health care plan, not just access to health care or affordable health care. It’s part of taking care of the nation’s people and America proving itself once again as a model for the rest of the world, he said.
“We need to be patriotic for something other than just war,” he said.
Edwards also spoke about foreign policy issues, including beginning the process of removing troops from Iraq.
“There is so much we need to do, starting with America’s moral leadership in the world,” he said.
“That morality begins with Iraq, and it would be an enormous mistake to begin with the McCain doctrine,” he said of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s proposal to put more troops in Iraq. “It needs to be made clear that our troops are not going to stay in Iraq, and the best way to make that clear is to actually start leaving.”
Edwards repeatedly pointed out that he voted for the occupation of Iraq in 2003, but he said he did so because of information received while he was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He maintains that he has spoken out against it since.
“I’m not responsible for the condition of this war. That’s Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld,” he said referring to the president, the vice president, and the former secretary of defense.
He also focused on the dangers of global warming and America’s energy crisis and addiction to oil. Each issue had one unifying factor, he pointed out. Every American could take part in making the country better not just by supporting him, but by taking action of their own.
“I don’t want us to stand by and wait for the next election and the next president to solve these problems — although we have some hopes for that — but we want to start taking responsibility now, and doing things now,” he said.
The announcement also highlighted the changing shape of political communication. Edwards had no prepared text, spoke briefly and took a few questions from reporters. But before that, he had declared his candidacy with a video posted through his campaign Web site on YouTube, with an e-mail sent overnight to supporters and with five interviews on morning television shows.[...]Reno, Nevada was one of the campaign stops.
He sought to strengthen his foreign policy credentials -- a notable weakness in his first campaign -- through involvement with the Council on Foreign Relations. Asked Thursday about his national security résumé, Edwards said experience is no substitute for good judgment and cited the administration's record as evidence.
"We've had one of the most experienced foreign policy teams in American history," he said, pointing to Cheney and former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "They've been an absolute disaster by any measure."
Edwards, 53, made millions of dollars as a trial lawyer in North Carolina before entering politics in 1998. He won a Senate seat that year, defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth. He established a reputation as a quick study, a shrewd and tough questioner, and one of the party's rising stars -- prompting him to run for president after just four years in public life.
His 2004 campaign lagged for months but caught fire just before the Iowa caucuses, where he finished second to Kerry. He parlayed that success into a victory in South Carolina, and his performance in the primaries earned him a slot on the Democratic ticket.
After events in New Orleans on Thursday, Edwards flew to Iowa for a more traditional campaign rally in Des Moines, marking his 16th visit to Iowa since the end of the 2004 campaign.
New Hampshire welcomed Edwards back.
Former Iowa gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon is now in the John Edwards camp.
"He was my second choice last time and everything I've heard since the last election has only caused me to be more excited about him," Fallon says. "I love the fact that he's taking on poverty. I like the fact that he doesn't take money from PACS and federal lobbyists. I like the fact that I think he is articulating an intelligent foreign policy when it comes to Iraq and I like the fact that he is really well-organized. That means a lot in a political campaign. I can speak from experience on that."That's about it until after the new year.
Fallon had an Edwards button on his lapel and he was wearing a brand new "One Corps" t-shirt last night. The Edwards camp is encouraging people to join the "One Corps" and perform public service projects. That is the kind of "grassroots" organizing that Fallon says will benefit Edwards.
"He's got a very strong organization," Fallon says. "I think it's only going to get stronger." Fallon's term as a state legislator ends soon. His replacement will be sworn in on January 8th. Fallon isn't ready to say what he'll be doing next. "There's still a lot of questions as to what I'm going to be doing with my time," Fallon says. "There's several niches that I'm looking at. Certainly helping John Edwards is one of them."
Fallon, who was criticized by fellow Democrats for endorsing Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2000, says he's "in discussions" with the Edwards campaign about what role he'll play in the candidate's Iowa effort. Despite Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's candidacy, Fallon says Edwards is the front-runner in Iowa.