Edwards In Vegas Rails Against 'Corporate Democrats'

Democrat John Edwards on Saturday blamed the Clinton administration for trade agreements unpopular with labor unions and warned against electing "corporate Democrats."

At a speech before a regional meeting of union carpenters, the presidential candidate's comments attempted to tie his rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the interests unions claim were served by her husband's trade policies.

Edwards described the North American Free Trade Agreement as a blow to the middle class and at the same time highlighted the former first lady's failed attempt to reform health care.

"In the 1990s, we didn't get universal health care, which we needed. We got NAFTA which we didn't need," Edwards told the crowd. "I think we've been asking the wrong questions about these proposed trade deals.

The question seems to have been, 'Is this trade deal good for the profits of big multinational corporations?' ... The question of my administration will be, 'Is this trade deal good for jobs and for working, middle-class America?"'

Edwards criticized the presidential leadership leading up to the 1993 passage of NAFTA, which was started by President George H.W. Bush and passed by President Bill Clinton.

He wants to renegotiate the agreement that lowered economic barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Hillary Clinton has said recently that she believes trade agreements, including NAFTA, should be reviewed every five years to make sure "they're meeting their goals or to make adjustments if they are not."

Edwards painted the presidential race in stark economic terms.

While not naming his rivals, he suggested other Democrats in the field would not work for working-class Americans.

"You don't want to live in a country made of a few rich people and everybody else, do you?" Edwards said. "Do you want to trade a crowd of corporate Republicans that are running this country now for a crowd of corporate Democrats? That's not us."

Edwards is depending on the help of the carpenters union in Nevada, where labor is expected to play a key role in driving turnout for the Jan. 19 caucuses.

The local union and its international endorsed the former North Carolina senator and vice presidential nominee in late August.

The union has 12,000 members in Nevada, though many are Republicans or non-partisans.

Edwards met with members of another large Nevada union during his campaign stop in the state, his 14th since launching his presidential campaign.

The Service Employees International Union held a closed meeting with the candidate.

SEIU has about 17,000 members in the state.

It has said it is considering endorsing Edwards, Clinton or Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Clinton is scheduled to meet with the SEIU members Sunday in Las Vegas.

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