Foreign policy advisors to John Edwards just held a conference call to talk up the proposals Edwards rolled out in a foreign policy speech delivered in New York last week.
But with General David Petraeus set to report to Congress today, the focus quickly shifted to Iraq.
The campaign made it clear that Edwards was holding a hard line on his repeated call for Congress to demand a deadline for troops. ("No timeline, no funding, no excuses," Edwards and his campaign like to say.) But when a reporter asked what they thought of a full page ad taken out in the A section of today's New York Times by MoveOn.org, which reads "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?: Cooking the Books for the White House" all the Edwards aides and foreign policy advisors said they hadn't seen it.
"I haven't seen the ad," the advisors offered, one after another, with one advisor saying, "We all live in Washington."
Which is convenient. The criticisms present a slightly prickly issue for the Edwards campaign, which probably doesn't relish the prospect of either attacking Petraeus or pitting themselves against the Democratic anti-war base they've done so much to court.
They preferred to talk about Edwards' foreign policy vision, the linchpin of which is a proposed new international intelligence sharing body to combat terrorism. A reporter asked the foreign policy advisors if that organization, which is voluntary, wouldn't be perceived as another "with us or against us" policy from the United States.
"It would be a club that you would have to want to join," answered Michael Signer, the Deputy Policy Director for Foreign Affairs and National Security for Edwards presidential campaign. He added that tough criteria needed to be met before countries could join. The group would start as small core of friendly countries before branching out into a larger multilateral organization. He cited John Kennedy in arguing that even the most ambitious international pacts, such as non-proliferation, start with small steps.
Retired Rear Admiral David Oliver, an Edwards adviser, added that the difference was essentially in tone and that under an Edwards presidency, foreign countries would understand that the U.S. desired a more open minded internationalist approach, and would want to join the new organization.