McCain and Edwards: Huge in Belgium
The only thing that politicians considering presidential bids in 2008 enjoy more than an invitation to speak in Iowa or New Hampshire is a chance to bolster their foreign policy credentials with a speech overseas.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) are in Belgium this weekend for the first annual Brussels Forum -- sponsored by the well-respected German Marshall Fund. The gathering's stated goal is to "address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic."
For the two potential '08 contenders, the speech is aimed at establishing each as a leading voice within his party on foreign affairs, which could well dominate the issue landscape in 2008 if the country remains engaged in the wars against Iraq and terrorism, not to mention the potential for an ongoing nuclear standoff with Iran.
McCain has already delivered his remarks in a speech titled, "A Global Agenda for the United States and Europe: An American View." The Arizona senator, who has been of President Bush's most vocal supporters on the war in Iraq, dedicated much of his address to Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology.
McCain urged "immediate" action by the U.N. Security Council in the form of "multilateral sanctions" against the country and refused to rule out the possibility of military force being used against Iran. "To preemptively forswear options is to weaken our diplomatic hand," said McCain. "In the end, there is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear armed Iran."
McCain also touched on the issue of the moment in American politics -- illegal immigration. "Any real solution in the U.S. must start with a view of immigrants as individuals possessing of certain basic human rights," he said.
Edwards, who spent just a single term in the Senate before running for president (and vice president) in 2004, will deliver the final keynote address of the conference on Sunday night. His speech ("The Transatlantic Partnership in an Age of Global Challenges"), a preliminary copy of which was obtained by The Fix, offers a critique of current U.S. foreign policy.
"The current administration in Washington speaks of 'spreading freedom and democracy' so casually you would think it was a pretty mundane or easy thing," Edwards plans to say. "Freedom and democracy are not commodities owned by any one political party or by any one country."
Both men cited the upcoming G8 conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, as an important crossroads for the future of the global political landscape.
McCain and Edwards are not the first, nor will they be the last, 2008 contenders to trek overseas to burnish their foreign policy credentials. Earlier this year, ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) as well as Democratic Sens. Joe Biden (Del.) and John Kerry (Mass.) attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. McCain made a speech at that event as well.
While these speeches are not typically covered by the U.S. news media, they do give a candidate the chance to lay out his or her vision on foreign policy -- testing out ideas and proposals in advance of the 2008 presidential election. Speeches abroad also lend gravitas to a candidate like Edwards, who struggled somewhat to convince voters he was ready for the job in 2004. McCain does not face that same challenge as he has long been viewed as one of the leading voices in his party on foreign policy.
April 28, 2006; 2:50 PM ET
Categories: Eye on 2008
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