From NBC's Andy Merten
Speaking days before the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11, John Edwards gave a policy speech on terrorism and counterterrorism today in New York City, just blocks from Ground Zero. He used the podium to take several jabs at the current administration and GOP presidential frontrunners -- as well as some subtler criticisms of those in the Democratic field -- and also rolled out his plan for a multilateral international organization for combating terrorism.
The former senator began by blasting the Bush Administration's initial waging and subsequent management of the Iraq war, saying the president used the 9/11 attacks "to justify a preconceived war against a nation he now admits had no ties to al-Qaeda," adding, "George Bush literally gave us his father's war, but without his fathers allies or his father's sense of decency." But while Edwards sometimes makes a point to acknowledge and apologize for his yes-vote for the original authorization of the war, he made no mention of it today.
He continued by lamenting Osama bin Laden's continued at-large status, calling it Bush's "starkest failure," and commenting on reports of the al-Qaeda leader's first video appearance in nearly three years. Said Edwards: "I don't need to wait and hear what this murderer has to say. My position is clear. I can make you this solemn promise: as president, I will never rest until we have hunted bin Laden down and served him justice."
Edwards turned to his proposed solution for protecting against continued terror threats about halfway through his approximately 30-minute speech, touting a two-pronged approach of "strength and cooperation" in the form of a multilateral organization called the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO). The "historic new coalition" would create a forum for member states to voluntarily share financial, police, customs, and immigration intelligence, he said, adding that nations that join will be required to meet standards of rooting out extremists within their borders.
The presidential hopeful drew upon this week's foiled terror attack in Germany as an example of "the promise of a new multilateral approach," adding, "We must be able to coordinate similar operations throughout the world, in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and anywhere terrorists would attack."
While the speech served as Edwards' introduction of his CITO plans, he did reiterate his now well-known pledge to help alleviate world poverty as a tool for preventing the breeding of extremists who fuel terrorism. "Millions of people around the world are sitting on the fence," he said, adding, "If they perceive America as a bully, it will drive them in the other direction." He went on to assert that expanded American funding for global primary education, microfinancing, and preventative healthcare would aid in stemming the extremism that fuels terrorism.
As for his political digs, Edwards named his potential Republican opponents by name, saying, "Some politicians, like Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain have responded to the shortcomings and backfires of the Administration's approach by essentially doubling-down."
He adopted a more between-the-lines approach for his jab at Clinton by adding, "Some running for the Democratic nomination have even argued that the Bush-Cheney approach has made us safer." And as for Pakistan, Edwards sounded a lot like Obama: "If we have actionable intelligence about imminent terrorist activity and the Pakistan government refuses to act, we will."