Edwards Slams Bush Mortgage Plan

Democratic Presidential hopeful, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards leaves after holding a news conference outside his childhood home in Seneca, S.C., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007.
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Thursday said President Bush's plan to help homeowners with rising mortgage payments doesn't go far enough and he would freeze interest rates for seven years.

"What we've got to do is not just help a few, we need to provide help for everybody," Edwards told about 900 people at Walhalla High School near his hometown in this early voting state. "We need to make refinancing options available. I do think it's a good idea to freeze these rates. I'd do it for seven years. We also need a national rescue fund to help these families."

Bush on Thursday announced a plan to freeze interest rates for five years for hundreds of thousands of strapped homeowners whose mortgages are scheduled to rise in the coming months.

Hillary Rodham Clinton also criticized the plan, saying it was designed to "help as few homeowners as possible" while proposing a moratorium on foreclosures, an across-the-board rate freeze and reporting requirements for servicers and lenders.

"America needs a plan that matches the scale of the crisis, and President Bush has failed to deliver it," Clinton said in a release. "But that is what happens when you are more interested in protecting corporate interests than struggling families."

At an earlier stop at Edwards' childhood home, the former North Carolina senator said the president had damaged the United States' reputation worldwide.

"I do believe George Bush has bullied and acted in an arrogant way and it has damaged America's standing in the world in a serious way and I intend to reverse that," Edwards said.

He was scheduled to campaign in Charleston later Thursday with musician and actor Harry Belafonte, also a harsh critic of the Bush administration.

Belafonte compared the Homeland Security Department to the Nazi Gestapo and attacked the president as a liar. During a trip to Venezuela last year, he met with socialist leader Hugo Chavez and called President Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world."

Edwards campaigned much of the day with his parents and helped open Oconee County's new Democratic Party headquarters, arriving to the Bon Jovi song, "Who says you can't go home."

Edwards' mother said her son's talk about his down-home, rural Southern roots is hardly political rhetoric.

"He's telling the truth. He grew up in a working class environment, with working, everyday people," said Bobbie Edwards, 74. "When John talks about his background, it's true."

Edwards said he was not worried an AP-Pew poll released this week showed him in a distant third place behind front-runners Clinton and Barack Obama. The poll also showed that health care was a top concern among Democrats in South Carolina, and the majority of likely primary voters said the New York senator would do the best job improving the system.

"The vast majority of South Carolina voters have not decided what to do yet. And what will happen is they will understand I have the first and the strongest universal health care plan that is central to what I want to do as president," Edwards said. "My approach is different. My approach is to shake up Washington and take on insurance companies and drug companies, which I've been doing my whole life."