Profile: John Edwards

A profile of the former North Carolina senator and Democrat presidential candidate.

    Edwards is campaigning despite his wife's diagnosis
    with incurable cancer [GALLO/Getty]
    John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, is running for the White House for the second time.

    Had the 2004 election swung to the Democrats, Edwards would currently be the US's vice president under John Kerry.

    Instead, the presidency went to Bush, and the wealthy former lawyer is now, according to consistent polls, trailing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    Edwards has long emphasised his position as a politician who has the interests of the average working American at heart, however he is seen as inexperienced in foreign policy.

    He is also campaigning despite the recent diagnosis of his wife, Elizabeth with incurable cancer, a decision which has led to praise from many quarters but also questions as to the wisdom of his campaign.

    Rise to senator

    Edwards [r] campaigned unsuccessfully for
    the White House in 2004 [EPA]

    The son of a mill worker, Edwards, born in South Carolina in 1953, came from a modest background.

    After university he went on to become a lawyer, winning millions of dollars for his clients and in malpractice lawsuits against medical companies.

    However, the death of his son Wade in a car crash in 1996 led to a career shift for Edwards.

    Edwards became North Carolina senator in 1999, campaigning on a platform of comprehensive healthcare for all Americans and opposing George Bush's tax cuts.

    In 2004, after failing to obtain the Democratic presidential nomination, he ran as prospective vice president along with John Kerry, emphasising his populist credentials and referring to the "two Americas" that had led to economic inequality in the country.

    Their bid was unsuccessful, and Edwards spent the next few years heading an anti-poverty law centre at his old university in North Carolina until his decision to run again for the Democratic nomination.

    Global inexperience?

    n order to get the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving"

    John Edwards, US Democratic presidential candidate

    While lauded by many for his domestic policies of better healthcare and combating poverty, on foreign policy Edwards is seen as largely untested.

    In an article for Foreign Affairs magazine he attempted to address such concerns, calling the Iraq war "on of the greatest strategic failures in US history" - despite voting in favour of military action in 2002.

    On his campaign website, he also calls for US troops to leave the country within nine to 10 months, arguing "in order to get the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving."

    He has also called for containment, rather than aggression, against Iran, and urged direct talks with the nation, arguing that economic incentives would encourage the nation to adopt "regime change" and abandon its nuclear ambitions.

    Echoing one of the Democrats' most famous presidents, John F Kennedy, who created the much-vaunted US Peace Corps, Edwards has called for the establishment of a "Marshall Corps", which would assist nations in times of natural disasters and crises.

    On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Edwards told The American Prospect magazine that it was "very important" that the US engage in the peace process and stressed his desire for a two-state solution.

    However, he also is seen as largely pro-Israel, praising the link between the US and Israel in a speech as "a bond that will never be broken".

    Shift in tactics?

    Edwards' backing for the war and his vote in favour of the Patriot Act has led to some questions over his Democratic credentials.

    In recent campaigning Edwards has struggled financially against the Clinton and Obama political juggernauts and he has consistently come third in polls behind the two.

    But he has continued to campaign, becoming increasingly strident in his message and in his attacks on fellow candidates in recent months in a bid to differentiate himself from others in the race.

    It remains to be seen whether such tactics, which work so well for a lawyer, will prove enough to turn him in to a potential presidential candidate.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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