Shrum: Political advisors influenced Edwards' war vote

The candidate says his 2002 vote was a "mistake" but not a "political calculation."

Published March 14, 2007 3:01PM (EDT)

Democratic campaign consultant Bob Shrum -- last heard advising John Kerry that he should just ignore the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- says in a soon-to-be published book that he helped push John Edwards into voting to authorize George W. Bush to use force in Iraq.

Shrum says Edwards called his foreign policy and political advisors together in the fall of 2002 to seek their advice about the issue. Edwards was "skeptical, even exercised" about the vote, Shrum writes, but his advisors -- Shrum included, apparently -- argued that the senator lacked the experience to be credible in standing up to the president on Iraq. Edwards has since said that his vote was a mistake. And now, Shrum says, he regrets advising Edwards to vote "yes" because a "no" vote might have made a stronger candidate in 2004.

If Shrum's story is supposed to help Edwards -- don't blame him, it's all my fault! -- it's hard to see how it does; indeed, there's an argument to be made that Ann Coulter has done more to advance Edwards' presidential chances this month than his former consultant has. In one fell swoop, Shrum manages to remind the world of Edwards' relative inexperience and to paint him as a man who let political calculations trump his own convictions about the war.

Edwards is doing what he can to limit the damage, saying he doesn't know what meeting Shrum is describing and insisting that politics wasn't part of his decision-making process on the war. "It was not a political calculation," Edwards said during a campaign stop in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday. "It was a mistake." But in Washington today, Edwards seemed to acknowledge that politics may at least have been part of the discussion prior to his Iraq vote. "Political people talk to you all the time," he said, but then added: "There is only one decision maker, and that is me."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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