Last night Gwenn Ifill asked Sen. John Edwards a very important question, and I'm glad she did.
IFILL: You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?
Good question. In fact, I think this is one of the most crucial questions of the campaign, as well as one of the most interesting and one of the most difficult for Kerry/Edwards to answer.
Would hypothetical President Kerry have left Saddam in power? The Bush campaign made this charge, which the Kerry campaign angrily sort of denied.
With her question, Ifill gave Sen. Edwards the chance to explicitly refute the charge. Here is his complete response:
EDWARDS: Here's what it means: It means that Saddam Hussein needed to be confronted. John Kerry and I have consistently said that. That's why we voted for the resolution. But it also means it needed to be done the right way.
And doing it the right way meant that we were prepared; that we gave the weapons inspectors time to find out what we now know, that in fact there were no weapons of mass destruction; that we didn't take our eye off the ball, which are Al Qaida, Osama bin Laden, the people who attacked us on September the 11th. Now, remember, we went into Afghanistan, which, by the way, was the right thing to do. That was the right decision. And our military performed terrifically there.
But we had Osama bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora. We had the 10th Mountain Division up in Uzbekistan available. We had the finest military in the world on the ground. And what did we do?
We turned -- this is the man who masterminded the greatest mass murder and terrorist attack in American history. And what did the administration decide to do?
They gave the responsibility of capturing and/or killing Saddam -- I mean Osama bin Laden to Afghan warlords who, just a few weeks before, had been working with Osama bin Laden.
Our point in this is not complicated: We were attacked by Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.
And these connections -- I want the American people to hear this very clearly. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th -- period.
The 9/11 Commission has said that's true. Colin Powell has said it's true. But the vice president keeps suggesting that there is. There is not. And, in fact, any connection with Al Qaida is tenuous at best.
Let me get this straight. If Kerry had been president, he would have confronted Saddam, but he would not have rushed into war like Bush did. And further, the pre-war global testing would have taken enough time for us to figure out that Iraq had no WMD.
So that's the answer, isn't it? No WMD, and no connection to Al Qaeda, according to Edwards. So no reason to invade, right? So, in other words: Yes, if Kerry and Edwards had been president and vice president 2000-2004, then Saddam Hussein would still be in power today. No elections for you, Iraqis.
Is there another way to read this?