December 31st, 2007
01:06 PM ET
14 years ago

Edwards hits Obama: Too 'nice'

John Edwards campaigns in Iowa Sunday. (Photo Credit: AP)

(CNN) - Democrat John Edwards suggested to an Iowa audience Sunday that presidential rival Barack Obama is too 'nice' to battle Washington's special interests.

Speaking on the stump in Boone, Iowa, Edwards didn't mention the Illinois senator by name. But as he related his familiar campaign mantra of battling interest groups inside the beltway, he implied that Obama just wasn't up to the task.

"I hear people say you can sit at a table with these people, negotiate with them, and they will volunteer their power away," Edwards said. "That is a complete fantasy. You can't ‘nice’ these people to death."

Obama often says he has ability to bring people together while forging compromises, making the idea a major cornerstone of his campaign's 'change' theme.

Special interests " will never give their power away," Edwards said Sunday. "The only way we are going to get their power away, is we are going to take their power away from them, and we have an epic fight in front of us. …"You’d better send somebody into that arena who’s ready for the fight."

Edwards' jab is part of a days-long back-and-forth between the presidential rivals as they battle to be the ‘Clinton-alternative’ in Iowa. Several recent polls show the Democratic race there continues to be deadlocked between the two men and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Obama hit Edwards on his record over the weekend, suggesting the former North Carolina senator has changed his position on several key issues.

"We are less likely also to win an election with somebody who had one set of positions four years ago and has almost entirely different positions four years later," he said. "We've been through that."

Related video: Edwards appears on CNN's American Morning Monday

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Iowa • John Edwards
soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. Anonymous, Somewhere, MI

    Though I much prefer Edwards to Clinton, I think Obama's got it right. We've had 8 years iof partisan warfare under one clinton, 8 years of it under another Bush. This, more than all other developments in our society as of late, is going to destroy this nation. We're more divided than ever, and it's going to take a far more conciliatory approach to things to heal that rift. Can Obama do it? I don't know. I'm under no illusions about how effective a policy-maker he will be with a nice guy approach. However, it's a step in the right direction. Edwards wants to take a confrontational approach towards those he doesn't see eye to eye with, and that's not what this country needs right now.

    December 31, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  2. Joe, Boston, MA

    It's funny, if Hillary said that about Obama then the media would be out in full force reporting how she is going negative and getting desperate. But Edwards says it and it's okay. And if Obama said something like that, no one would even report it. Obama is getting such a pass by the media. Totally not fair to the rest of the candidates.

    December 31, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  3. J

    If Hillary Clinton gets the nomination and Bloomberg runs, the Repulican is going to win the White House. Is that what you want? both Clinton and Bloomberg are extreme lefties....but Clinton has a huge unlikeability factor here. I know I cannot bring myself to vote for this woman. So, I will vote for Bloomberg if she gets the nomination, like a lot of people will.

    I do not feel like having another Democrat in the office that divides the democratic party the way Bill did in the 90's. Then, it will take another 16 years to get this country back on track.

    December 31, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  4. stan pitts pa

    Let the Leaders Lead, Arcadia, Iowa December 31, 2007 2:17 pm ET

    Barak Hussein obama is a nice and gentle man who just got his college loans paid off. I have two sons under 35 and they both have paid off their student loans. Obama is a great Vice Presidential candidate. John Edwards is the next leader of this country. Hillary will contine with a successful Senate Career and when John is done Obama will be the next president. Lets think long term here. The Democrats have a chance at 16 years of leadership. Do what is right for now, vote John Edwards on January 3.

    As far as foreign policy is concerned america needs a new direction, i will take a highly educated and "nice" president anytime anyday over an insensitive, selfish, hot-tempered and warmongering one anyday, we need peace in the world and America is ready to really lead again, reagan was a nice guy and he is considered one of the greats we have had, ill take nice guy obama anyday! the guy knows his stuff and acts with class, a true American gentleman!

    December 31, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  5. Steve, Pennsylvania

    So which is it, John? Is Obama "too nice" or is he being too negative towards you?

    Edwards has never been a serious contender in this election. A vote for Edwards is a vote for Hillary.

    December 31, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  6. Julie - Albuquerque, NM

    To all the Democratic politicians including Edwards – the more celebrity endorsements Obama racks up, the less I'm inclined to even consider voting for him. It's turning me and thousands of voters off.

    December 31, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. Linda

    Simply outrageaous.

    I am so disappointed in Senator Edwards. I have worked really hard for Senator Edwards in 2004, met his wife and dedicated myself to bringing him to the white house with John Kerry but what he implied really makes me question him.

    No one can be too nice and I think everyone who knows Barack Obama's record and have heard him or met him personally know that he has the charisma and personality to bring people together.

    I am so disappointed.

    December 31, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. Nick

    Let all who read this understand that this country needs CHANGE. People need to get invloved in the Primaries and vote for their Candidate to Win. This country has been involved in so much corruption and inside political cover-ups it time for a NEW Change. If you are an independent or a Democrat your chance to win in O8 is with OBAMA. The country does not want more of the same OLD Clinton back in the white house. Edwards has tried before in 04 and lost. The poise, charisma, statesmanship that OBAMA will bring to the White house will allow the US to have an opporunity to once again become a unified country. Both EDWARDS AND HILLARY are very divisive individuals so please search within your hearts and choose OBAMA as the Democratic nominee. Keep in Mind that I am a Repulican who is changing over to the Democratic party due to OBAMA's vision for change, intergirty in his words and the honesty in sharing about his past transgressions as well as his deep desire to help the middle class and poor citizens of this great nation. The TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW. Let your not vote be wasted. Remember BUSH came into the presidency based on his Name and family roots and the proof is in the pudding. So please vote not for popularity or name recognition but for Change. God Bless America and all who participate in our voting process.

    December 31, 2007 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  9. James

    What this really show is how much Clinton is disliked by the democrates. 2/3 dont want her for President. I really hope Obama, or Edwards wins so the Democrats will have a viable choice for President.

    December 31, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  10. stan pitts pa

    Nice guy ill take at least everytime he opens his mouth the price of oil is not gonna spike to enrich his buddies!

    December 31, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  11. sarah, El Paso TX

    Iowans have 90% literacy – smart people. I hope you do realize that Edwards no matter what he does he cannot win a general election. Therefore, a vote for Edwards is literally a WASTED vote. Even more alarming, it is a vote for Hillary. To make things worse, in the caucuses Hillary is no one’s second choice which means when Hilary loses all her supporters will go for Edwards because it is better to lose to him than Obama. Like many have said, if the American people are smart they will nominate Obama and McCain.

    December 31, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. Charlestonbill

    Vote for Edwards. He is the man for the job.....

    December 31, 2007 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Adam L. Barr, Washington, DC

    CNN needs to stop with the misleading headlines. Journalism sholdn't be able page clicks.

    December 31, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. Jean

    I graduated from the UW , Madison and think your argument is nuts. What kind of liberal supports aggression? Well, maybe a Hilliarite. Edwards is wrong, Obama knows how to relate to people and get then to resolve issues, not just fight.

    His "niceness" is going to get him elected too. This sets it out.

    Obama has the Independents and many Republicans who are pining for someone genuine and "clean" who purposely sets out detailed policy [see his website under Issues.] His wife not only looks like a model, but speaks extremely well. Have you heard the speech: "Be not afraid"? So powerful you are ready to nominate HER!

    Besides, neither of the "mandated" health programs can go anywhere. You have to have 3/4 of congress in agreement to mandate anything. We can't even get 60% so where is that going to with Hillary's failure pile. Conservatives like Obama's pragmatic approach. Make it less expensive and people will buy it. We are going to need them too to get the National election won.

    December 31, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  15. Lisa, Des Moines, IA

    I am extremely weary of the negative comments concerning Edwards for being a trial lawyer. If physicians and hospitals would police their own, and insurance companies would play fair, there would not be a need for lawyers like Edwards. If an individual is harmed while in the care of a physician or hospital, then that individual is entitled to some form of compensation.

    The fact that Edwards was a trial lawyer prior to his political career is impressive. It demonstrates the fact that he has the drive and passion to fight for the little guy. He has the experience to take on the corrupt lobby system in Washington.

    The fact that he seems a bit angry at the moment is moving. A politician who is passionate about his country...what a novel idea. How can any American who truly loves this country not be angry? This is not the same America I remember as a child.

    It is time for the lobby, special interest groups, corporations, and corrupt politicians to return our country to the people who made it great...we the people.

    December 31, 2007 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. greg,new york

    I believe also that a vote for Edwards is vote for Hilllary Clinton.
    OBAMA 08

    December 31, 2007 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. Liam

    Hillary Clinton already tried what Edwards is claiming he will do. She tried it with her Hillary Health Care plan, where she was going to do it without dealing with any one else. How did that work out. Are you all currently enjoying the fruits of Hillary's health care implementation efforts in 1993.

    Edwards is promising a similar approach to governing, and will also run into a brick wall.

    It sounds to me like Edwards is also taking a page from the George W. Bush play book, since he too is saying; My way or the highway. I think we have had enough of that stupidity for at least another century.

    Without negotiations and compromise, nothing gets accomplished. "Politics is the art of the possible" JFK

    Edwards sounds childish. Does he really think that he will be able to steamroll everyone in Washington and dictate to them what he wants. Fat chance. He is either running a cynical misleading campaign, or he is far to naive to be President.

    December 31, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. Tina

    I wish all candidates good luck, their true motivations are obvious to all who wish to see. I can only say that personally I don't see anyone available in the Democratic party that can truly get any thing accomplished–except OBAMA. But then that's just the viewpoint of an independent. Edwards has no 'legs' outside of Iowa,Clinton turns too many off(and her nomination will cause 3rd party)–that's what I think of the lead dem nominees. Obama will pull indies and pubs–sorry Hillary, even if you get the democratic nomination, you won't win the generals.

    December 31, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. Erin, Omaha, NE

    Maybe it's time.. we have someone "NICE" in Washington.. someone who actually acknowledges the power of comprimise and pursuasion. Not ANOTHER politician who thinks you have to go in with all arms flailing to get something done. We've had 8 years of that (or more like 30).. and where has it gotten us.

    What will it hurt to actually try and comprimise here & there to get things to go through in DC? Nothing.. and something might actually get accomplished.

    Obama in 08!

    December 31, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  20. Dave

    Those harping on Obama's supposed "inexperience" (theoretical politics, just recently laying off school loans, lack of substance) are a perfect example of the portion of the electorate who digest only soundbites from their preferred candidates without any hint of independent research or thought. Who comes out the most substantive of these three descriptions?

    Harvard law grad & first black president of the Harvard Law Review, community organizer and voting rights advocate in the south side of Chicago, professor of constitutional law at one of the most highly respected law schools in the country, State Senator and US Senator.

    Yale law grad, lawyer in Arkansas representing corporate interests, first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the US, US Senator.

    UNC law grad, lawyer first defending corporations against lawsuits, later a very successful plaintiff's lawyer, US Senator.

    All three are lawyers, but the differences? Obama didn't go for the money (maybe that's why he just paid off his loans?) and he has personally (not through marriage) reached the top of his game at every level of private life, whether academic, professional or political. That to me is the definition of substance, especialy compared to a politician who rode her husband's fame to her only significant adult achievement and a multimillionaire trial lawyer. Add to that, he's the only one with measurable experience in state politics and thereby presumably a sense of the balance of political power between states and the feds, and he's a highly respected constitutional scholar. Think that might come in handy in this day and age of warrantless wiretaps, torture and the erosion of personal freedoms?

    December 31, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Tommy, Chicago IL

    Mr.Edwards, if you say you are going to fight against special interests, then why aren't you fighting harder against the 527 ad's that you say you don't agree with. Instead you are backing down saying there is nothing you can do but say you disagree. Is that how you are going to confront special interest groups when you are president? "My fellow Americans, I disagree with these special interest and big corporations as you well know, but ther's nothing I can do. Thanks for the votes, suckers!!!"

    December 31, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  22. Lynn

    cbs is running an article on the number of corporation bundles three candidates have. MaCain's recent "surge" in advertising seems to be financed by these:

    McCain 32
    Guliani 29
    Clinton: 18

    No change if you are beholden to corporate interests.

    Hopefully all supporters of Obama will make it out to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire to get real change rolling.

    December 31, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. Jonnie rae, Boston

    Edwards has voted against the people's best interests time and time again: NAFTA ,THE WAR, the bankruptcy law, special trade status for China in the WTO, No Child Left Behind, etc. I can't remember them all. He will spend all his time apologizing for his votes. How many mistakes can you make????
    He did nothing to help poor people that he is so concerned about now. He talks with a lot of empathy, but he hasn't done anything as a Senator to help anyone. He is now using 527's to pay for his ads in Iowa, which is borderline illegal. I used to like him, but now I think he is a phoney. He presents himself as a fighter. It's funny because nobody sees him that way. Also, he has no specific plan as to how he is going to throw out all these corporations. Nationalize them? Obama has a track record, both in Ill. and in the US Senate, of getting rid of lobbyists and special interests, the first step in giving the government back to the people. Edwards has no such record. Obama has a record of getting jobs for vets, getting heatthcare for 150,000 children in Chicago, getting daycare for those women whom the Clintons threw off welfare. He co-authored and passed nuclear non-proliferation legislation in US Senate. He co-authored and passed the transparency in government act, which allows the people to go on the Internet to see who is spending their tax dolars and where its being spent. He has taken the first steps to end secrecy in government, the disease that is killing our democracy. He is a teacher of Constitutional law, so I think our Constitutional rights will be safe with him. Please realize, that a vote for Edwards is a vote for Hilary. She is using him for her own gains. Obama will unite us and democracy.

    December 31, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  24. OhioMom

    I for one am all for anger. If we're not pissed off after two terms of Bush-Cheney, what on earth is it going to take?

    That said, John Edwards is more passionate than angry and he is fundamentally a likeable guy. Part of this is branding: of the two "change" candidates, there is one, Obama, who stands for patient, conciliatory, incremental change and one who is capable of rocking the system.

    Drug companies wrote the Medicare-D legislation to fatten their own profits while leaving millions of seniors stuck in a coverage gap that costs them thousands of dollars each year.
    Halliburton received lucrative no-bid contracts for a war that was begun under false pretenses.
    George Tenet fouled up 9-11 and Iraq and received the Medal of Freedom for his failures. Condi Rice was promoted.
    During the (in some ways effective) Clinton administration, nothing was done about global warming even though we had the most pro-environmental president in our nation's history, and instead of universal healthcare the Clintons made NAFTA their crowning achievement.
    The FEC reported in October that the two senators receiving the most $$$ from the HMO lobby were ... Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    The system needs some rocking.

    Why Edwards is right on healthcare

    Edwards passes foreign policy test

    The Upside of Anger

    December 31, 2007 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  25. justin thyme

    Remember all you Barack condemnation "patriots."

    "Variety is the spice of life."

    If elected,
    Hillary will have her own experience, just as Bill did.
    When you compare the years of prosperity with them
    to now, they look "oh so much better" than they did then....when......
    our lives were pretty darn normal.

    Bill has had a quad bipass and statistically, bipass surgeries do not
    extend normal life expectancy, 72 in men and 74 in women, or add a year
    with new stats.

    It will seem like Hillary has been president for that long after 8 years.
    How old is Bill now?

    Bipass just prevent san early loss of life
    if the person with the condition has not done enough their lifestyle
    choices. Hillary is unelectable anyway, so why are you wasting your time.

    Work for and Vote for a real leader of 'we the people, who are the government. '
    Vote for a mobilizer of all nations and all people regardless or race or wealth or status or lobbyist stature. Work for Obama08.

    December 31, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6