Edwards' International Call Is Returned

From CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Chip Reid, who's covering the Edwards campaign:

DECORAH, IOWA -- When John Edwards told reporters earlier today that he tried to reach Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, there was some skepticism among the press corps as to whether the call would be returned.

Well, news flash: Edwards just told a town hall in Decorah, Iowa that Musharraf did call back.

Edwards says he "urged him to continue the democratization" process in Pakistan and also urged him to allow international investigators inside Pakistan to investigate the cause.

Edwards has spent a sizable chunk of time since 2004 traveling the world, meeting foreign leaders, and trying to build some semblance of a foreign policy resume.

And today he did his best to sound and look presidential in response to the Bhutto assassination.

He wore a suit instaed of the usual jeans and open collared shirt, and he began a town hall at a jam-packed diner in tiny Waukon, Iowa, by calling this a sad moment and praising Bhutto as a "symbol of hope". He then ticked off a number of points intended to overcome doubts about his qualifications on foreign policy:

-- He said he met Bhutto at a conference in Abu Dhabi a few years ago where he was speaking, noting that she told him about how Pakistan's democracy movement had been "baptized in blood";

-- He said he knows the region, has spent time in Pakistan, and spent time with Musharraf.

But no one here seemed to care very much. He quickly moved on to his bread and butter -- the rising up of the middle class to fight corporate power and greed -- and there wasn't a single question about Bhutto or anything in that part of the world.

So maybe it doesn't matter much at this time and place that critics say he lacks gravitas on foreign policy. After all, his chief competitor in these small towns, Barack Obama, has the same problem.

But it's sure to matter down the road, in places where Edwards' laser beam focus on economic populism doesn't rule the day.

He did utter some strong words in a brief interview with CBS News after the town hall, declaring that he would "use every diplomatic and economic tool available" to force Musharraf to move toward democracy, threatening to cut off aid if he doesn't.

And the good news for Edwards -- at least he didn't make any mistakes in dealing with an enormously complicated issue.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.