By Jeremy Jacobs - 02/21/07 12:00 AM EST
2008 presidential candidate John Edwards said Thursday it is "awfully early" for the type of bickering the campaigns of his two main rivals for the Democratic nomination have engaged in this week.
Referring to an exchange of barbs between the campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Edwards said on NBC's "Today" show that it was too early "for that sort of sniping back and forth." Instead, the former senator from North Carolina said, candidates should focus on the issues, mainly the war in Iraq.
Edwards was responding to a question about an exchange between the Clinton and Obama camps over remarks Obama fundraiser David Geffen had made this week about the Clintons.
However, while Edwards, the Democrats' last vice presidential candidate, appeared to take the high road on the issue, he also delivered thinly veiled criticism of Clinton's unwillingness to apologize for her vote to authorize the Iraq war in 2002.
Asked whether Clinton's recalcitrant position suggested that she should not be trusted as a leader, Edwards demurred.
"No, I think that question of what Senator Clinton or anyone else who voted for this war says about that vote is really between them and their own conscience," Edwards said. "It's not for me to judge."
But Edwards added that Americans are tired of politicians that don't own up to their mistakes - a tacit swipe at Clinton.
"I think that all of us who are running for president are going to be judged not only based on what we do, but also based upon whether we take responsibility for what we've done," he said.
"And I think America wants something different in their leaders," he added. "They want positive, they want honest, they want decent, and I think that's what they're looking for."
Edwards has said, including at a forum for Democratic candidates in Carson City, Nev., this week, that it was a mistake to authorize the Iraq war.
"From my perspective, for me to go around the country and talk about universal healthcare, ending poverty in America and America being a moral leader in the world again, it was important for me to stand on a foundation of truth," Edwards said at the Carson City event Wednesday. "And for me the truth was and still is that there were two things that I was concerned about when I cast my vote."
Those two things were the possibility of nuclear weapons in Iraq and whether to grant President Bush the authority to wage war, Edwards said.