On Saturday, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards used his commencement address at New England College to call on Americans to both support the troops and end the war. “As I have said repeatedly, Congress’ only real power to end this war is to use its funding power to force an end. But while that’s Congress’ only real power – it’s not the only power in America. The irresistible power of America lies in your hands, in the hands of the American people. Each of us has a responsibility as Americans, a duty to our troops and to each other, to do all we can to support the troops and end this war. This Memorial Day weekend that means more than just getting in your car, driving to the beach, or a parade, or a picnic and saying the words, “We support our troops,” Edwards said.

“As citizens, we honor and support our troops for their service and sacrifice. As Americans, we are blessed by that sacrifice and support, which keeps us safe and keeps us strong. And as patriots, we call on our government to support our troops in the most important way it can – by ending this war and bringing them home. So today, I am calling on Americans to raise their voices this Memorial Day weekend in honor of all the brave men and women who have served in Iraq and all who have ever served America in uniform. If you and Americans across the country rise up and demand an end to this war, Congress will find the courage, and the president will find he has no choice. Support the troops. End the war,” he continued.

Edwards also called on young people to speak out against the Iraq war. “Today, we are at that place again. It is time for you — all of you — to take responsibility for your country, for your government, for your community,” Edwards said. “Help our nation break its silence, speak out.” Then quoting a line from Dr. Martin Luther King he said, “Silence is a betrayal.” The Edwards campaign also launched a new website http://www.supportthetroopsendthewar.com/ that lists 10 things Americans can do over the Memorial Day weekend to support the troops. Unlike the other candidates in both parties, the Edwards campaign has consistently demonstrated that they understand how to communicate through the Internet. They do an excellent job of creatively using the Web to get their message out.

From a strategic point of view this initiative directly challenges the Bush administration idea that the only way to demonstrate patriotism is to support the war and the troops. Edwards is encouraging patriotism as a way to bring the troops home. This is a very clever strategy, and one that I would expect the Clinton and Obama campaigns to mimic fairly quickly. I think that John Edwards might have shown his fellow Democrats the perfect counter to the conservative rhetoric that dissent is un-American, which I have always found it paradoxical for anyone to claim that dissent is unpatriotic when they live in a nation that was founded on dissent. Of course it is easy for Edwards to hold a position of dissent, now that that most Americans agree with him, but it will be interesting to see if this tactic can help change the definition of patriotism during this war.

John Edwards quotes

Related AP story

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse 

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