Democratic presidential hopeful, former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., center left, appears with S.C. State Rep. Leon Howard, D-Richmond Co., left, Shirley Blassingame, center right, and her husband Rev. James Blassingame, second from right, as they depart Mount Zion Baptist Church following services, in Sumter, S.C., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
(AP) Democrat John Edwards on Sunday waded into a dispute between his rivals, criticizing comments by Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband that some have considered disparaging to Barack Obama and black people generally.
"I must say I was troubled recently to see a suggestion that real change that came not through the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King but through a Washington politician. I fundamentally disagree with that," Edwards told more than 200 people gathered at a predominantly black Baptist church.
Sen. Hillary Clinton recently was quoted as saying King's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while Bill Clinton said Obama was telling a "fairy tale" about his opposition to the Iraq war. (Click here to read more.)
Edwards did not name either of the Clintons in his speech, but turned the argument back on them.
"Those who believe that real change starts with Washington politicians have been in Washington too long and are living a fairy tale," he said.
Speaking in his native South Carolina, where he hopes to win the Democratic presidential primary on Jan. 26, Edwards said he was pleased with the civil rights progress that's been made in the South and lauded Obama, an Illinois senator.
"As someone who grew up in the segregated South, I feel an enormous amount of pride when I see the success that Senator Barack Obama is having in this campaign," said Edwards. He then added, with a laugh: "Some days I wish he was having a little less success."
Obama won the first contest in Iowa, and finished second last week in New Hampshire. Edwards placed second in Iowa, third in New Hampshire.
A former North Carolina senator and trial lawyer, Edwards ran for president in 2004 and earned his only primary victory in this state. He was helped by black voter, who made up nearly half the primary ballots cast. But this time around, those votes appear to be heading either to Obama, who is vying to become the nation's fist black president, or Clinton, whose husband's presidency is remembered fondly in the black community, surveys show.
Edwards, who is touring the state by bus and hoping to again appeal to black voters with his populist, working-class message, told the congregation that the work of the civil rights activists needs to continue.
"We are not being true to ourselves or the heroes ... if we do not continue this journey to bring about real change," he said. "Real change started in churches just like this."
"What the election is about is about building one America," he said.
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