- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards yesterday made his first public announcement that he will again seek his party’s nomination for president.

The one-term senator from North Carolina, who made a hefty fortune as a personal injury lawyer, chose as the backdrop of his speech the squalor left in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina more than a year ago.

“New Orleans, in so many ways, shows the two Americas that I have talked about in the past and something that I feel very personally,” he said yesterday, touching on the theme of class division that defined his 2004 primary campaign. “It also exemplifies something that I’ve learned since the last election, which is that it’s great to see a problem and to understand it; it’s more important to actually take action and do something about it.”

Asked by a reporter whether he was announcing from the now-famous 9th Ward to help New Orleans or so that New Orleans could help his political career, Mr. Edwards replied, “Yeah, well I hope so.”

“In the worst-hit areas of New Orleans, as everyone in New Orleans knows — they certainly don’t need me to tell them — you don’t see much change,” he said. “So if we can help bring Americans to New Orleans to help rebuild this great city and get people to pay attention to what’s actually going on here, I feel like we’ve done a good thing.”

Mr. Edwards faces a field dramatically altered from the one he faced leading up to the 2004 presidential elections. Then, he was a fresh face who was still sitting in the Senate. He held a great deal of promise as a Democrat from the South who might help break the Republican stranglehold on Dixie.

Today, he is no longer a fresh face and has spent the past two years out of office running a poverty center in North Carolina. Also, he proved ineffective at making inroads in the South, failing even to deliver his home state to the 2004 Democrat ticket headed by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Still dominating the field are two potential candidates who haven’t even announced their intentions: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Mr. Edwards had planned to announce his candidacy yesterday, but a computer mishap that put his campaign Web site on the Internet on Wednesday forced his team to say that day that he was running. He also sent an e-mail to supporters Wednesday night to that effect.

Mr. Edwards has another obstacle in his path to the White House: He voted for the Iraq war.

“My vote was a mistake, and I should never have voted for this war,” he said yesterday. “I do think it’s important to note for anybody who voted for the war that we didn’t conduct the war. [President] Bush, [Vice President Dick] Cheney, those people — [former Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld — they conducted the war, and they’ve been an absolute disaster in the conducting of the war. But none of that changes or affects my responsibility. I’m responsible for what I did, and I believe that my vote was a mistake.”

He also said he opposes any increase in the number of troops serving in Iraq.

Mr. Edwards also took the opportunity yesterday to criticize the Bush administration for its handling of the post-hurricane rescue efforts, cleanup and rebuilding in New Orleans.

“I think if the president of the United States had come to New Orleans, spent some time here — I mean, the president has a lot of responsibilities, he can’t stake himself out for the long term in New Orleans — but he should have spent a period of days here, saw what was actually happening on the ground and then demanded action,” Mr. Edwards said.

Hurricane Katrina hit during the final days of August last year.

On Sept. 15, President Bush delivered a prime-time address to the nation after reviewing the damage.

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