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Edwards vs. Shrum

An interesting story today from the AP about a forthcoming book by Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.

Democratic strategist Bob Shrum writes in his memoir to be published in June that he regrets advising Edwards to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. He said if Edwards had followed his instincts instead of the advice of political professionals, he would have been a stronger presidential candidate in 2004.

Which is all very nice of Shrum to say no doubt. Problem is, Shrum's account is bad for business.

Edwards spokesman David Ginsberg disputes the suggestion that Edwards was making a political calculation with the 2002 vote that he has called the most important of his career.

Throughout the 2004 campaign, Edwards and John Kerry could never successfully spin their Iraq war votes. Which is why both Edwards and Kerry - who isn't even running - ended up saying after the election simply that they made a mistake. This calmed the antiwar activists, even if it elided over some inconvenient statements Kerry and Edwards had made back in 2002 about the threat Iraq posed to the United States.

So it's understandable for Edwards' spokesman David Ginsberg to say this in response to Shrum's version of events:

John Edwards cast his vote based on the advice of national security advisers and the intelligence he was given, not political advisers," Ginsberg said. "He got political advice on both sides of the argument, and made his own decision based on what he thought was right, not political calculation.

While this argument lessens the charge that the administration lied, it does serve to cast Edwards as a responsible politician, one who makes decisions based on what he knows and is prepared to admit mistakes.

But what of Shrum's version?

Shrum writes that Edwards, then a North Carolina senator, called his foreign policy and political advisers together in his Washington living room in the fall of 2002 to get their advice. Edwards was "skeptical, even exercised" about the idea of voting yes and his wife Elizabeth was forcefully against it, according to Shrum, who later signed on to John Kerry's presidential campaign.

But Shrum said the consensus among the advisers was that Edwards, just four years in office, did not have the credibility to vote against the resolution and had to support it to be taken seriously on national security. Shrum said Edwards' facial expressions showed he did not like where he was being pushed to go.

But go there he did, and, unfortunately for Edwards, Shrum's account makes him look as if he was swayed for political reasons.