NBC "Today" - Transcript
MR. GREGORY: Welcome back to Des Moines Iowa, site of today's presidential caucus. Democratic hopeful and former Senator John Edwards is third in the most recent poll published by the Des Moines Register, trailing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in what remains a very tight race.
Senator Edwards is with his wife Elizabeth.
Good morning to both of you.
MR. EDWARDS: Good morning.
MR. GREGORY: I must say, no worse for the wear after the 36-hour run.
MS. EDWARDS: (Laughs.)
MR. GREGORY: As you know, Senator Edwards, this race is really turning on the question of judgment and experience. So let me ask you about that. You were a one-term senator. You have apologized for your support for the Iraq war, for the Patriot Act, for a controversial bankruptcy measure.
Given that, given the question of judgment and experience, why wouldn't it be fair for voters to think, as President Clinton suggested about one of your opponents, that it would be a roll of the dice to put you in the White House?
MR. EDWARDS: No, I think far from it. I think what you see from me is, number one, I'm being honest with people, which I think is enormously important in a president of the United States to tell the truth. People are looking for somebody who will tell the truth.
And when you look at how we respond to crisis -- for example, we just had this international crisis in Pakistan that's still ongoing. And my response to that was to speak directly to President Musharraf, to urge him to do a series of things that would move the country toward democracy, that would allow international inspectors into the country, and to proceed with the elections in an open, fair, verifiable and secure way, and I believe was a calming influence in a very volatile situation. So I think if you watch what I've actually done and what my behavior is, that I'm ready for the presidency.
MR. GREGORY: Since that time, but you still have apologized for the judgments you had --
MR. EDWARDS: Well, I was wrong. I've said directly I was wrong about the vote on the war, and I've taken complete responsibility for that.
MR. GREGORY: Mrs. Edwards, let me ask you about Senator Clinton and one of her chief claims about the question of experience; that is, as first lady, that experience makes her uniquely qualified to be president.
You would become the first lady if your husband wins.
MS. EDWARDS: That's right.
MR. GREGORY: Do you believe that that experience in the White House would qualify you for high office?
MS. EDWARDS: I think that the people who have the weight of decision-making on their shoulder get experience. I consider myself a spectator in this process, informed by it, but it is not a test of me, honestly. There's no point at which it's a test of me. The moments where you have to actually make the decisions, that's the test that gives you the experience, that gives you the depth.
But I have to say, I disagree a little bit with your premise. I think this race is not about judgment and experience. I think you want those in a candidate, but I think it's about whether or not we're going to get the change people keep talking about, whether or not it's just a matter of rhetoric or whether it's a matter of somebody taking action.
What John talked about with Musharraf is an indication that he's actually in this race, the man of action. But you see it in a lot of other ways too.
MR. GREGORY: One of your opponents, Senator Obama, said that it would be dangerous for the country to have more of these divisive food fights in Washington. But if you hear your rhetoric and hear your talk about taking on corporate interests, isn't that exactly what you're promising, an uncompromising fight against those who would disagree with you?
MR. EDWARDS: Well, really, I respect Senator Obama, but I can't tell you how vigorously we disagree about this. It is my job as president to unite America, to unite the American people around the causes that we should be engaged in. It is my responsibility, and I take it seriously, to work with the Congress. It is also my responsibility to lead a fight against entrenched monied interests -- oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies -- that stand between America and the change that they need. And I don't think this is going to happen easily.
Previous American presidents have done it -- Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman. I mean, we need a president with some backbone and strength. These people are not just going to go away, and you can't "nice" them to death. You have to actually have a president who has some backbone to stand up to them.
MR. GREGORY: All right, Senator Edwards, Mrs. Edwards, good luck. Thanks very much for stopping by.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you for having us.
MS. EDWARDS: Thanks, David.