Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said on Thursday night that one of his top priorities, if elected, would be to rebuild the diplomatic relationships that he contends President Bush destroyed.
In an abbreviated appearance before more than 400 at hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St., Edwards slammed the president at almost every opportunity while laying out his plan to right wrongs both international and domestic through trade.
Citing the recent closure of the Maytag plant in Newton, Iowa, he said that trade deals such as NAFTA are hurting American workers most. He said some companies are using these deals to seek cheaper labor overseas and thus forcing Americans out of jobs.
"President Bush and his corporate cronies are actually pushing to increase NAFTA, and some Democrats, including Sen. [Hillary] Rodham Clinton, are going along with it," Edwards said, taking one of several shots at the senator from New York, one of his main rivals.'
In discussing foreign trade, Edwards was able to encapsulate most of his regular stump speech: protection for the environment negotiated with trade deals, better public education so the next generation can fill the jobs he'll create, and universal health care to make businesses more competitive internationally.
In all, he said, not only will his trade plan restore America's image abroad and economy at home, but it will make the nation safer in the process.
"The question is whether or not we will meet the moral test that 20 generations before us have met: providing a better life for our children," he said.
The crowd's questions covered common Democratic platform issues: What will Edwards do about global warming? Will he participate in international organizations? What about Iraq?
Edwards said he's in full support of Al Gore and that global warming is an "emergency." He said America creates a "leadership vacuum" that is filled by chaos when we neglect international organizations such as the World Bank and that he would pull troops out of Iraq.
UI students Erik Schuessler and Brett Weiss said they were at the event shopping for a candidate.
"We'll wait and see how this speech goes," said Schussler, who added that he will vote for a Democrat next November.
He said he wanted to hear Edwards address the huge portion of the federal budget that is spent on the military.
"It makes me want to throw up. You can quote me on that," Schuessler said.
Jessica Smith, an Iowa City resident who said she's politically independent, said she liked Edward's plan to restore international relationships.
"A lot of people care about safety," she said. "But if you think beyond that, it's about helping people all over the world."
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