Mrs. Edwards is up first and as she introduces her husband she gets a standing ovation for this line:
We are well past the time where we need and deserve a good, decent and honest President in this country.
She also encourages people to get involved in their communities doing something, anything, on whatever issue is important to them. “As a child of the sixties,” she knows full well that political involvement and activism by young people in this country can have a very strong and lasting effect on the nation. She singles out Carol Shea-Porter as a great advocate for the people of her district and a recent shining example of the people powered grassroots campaign that Carol ran last fall. Congresswoman Shea-Porter did her primary with less than 30K, no DCCC support and turned in a stunning upset win in the general election against incumbent Jeb Bradley who has already declared his candidacy for 2008. She never led in the polls, but on election day her ground troops got the job done and turned out her vote.
Edwards’s remarks are offered here in three clips:
- Video: John Edwards – Part 1 (5:42)
- Video: John Edwards – Part 2 (7:07)
- Video: John Edwards – Part 3 (7:42)
He begins his remarks with a new bit of rhetoric: we tend to have a box for different issues in a campaign dialog and this is the wrong way to look at things. A message should be integrated and although specifics are important a strong vision should tie all the position papers together. He also ties his domestic agenda to the foreign policy box of his message.
Everything we do here affects the way the world sees us and everything we do in other parts of the world affects us here at home. It’s really important for us to recognize this connection that exists between all of the issues.
He starts with a discussion about Iraq, “a bleeding sore that we are faced with every single day,” and frames it as a couple of headlines. On the one hand a death toll for the number of Americans to die in Iraq on Monday and then Senator McCain’s insistence that the situation has improved enough that one could stroll the streets of Baghdad to do some power shopping. Edwards thinks that Congress should stand firm on the Iraq Spending Bill that includes a timetable for withdrawal and that if the President vetoes the bill then the Congress should send another spending bill to the President with the same timetable and then another and another. “This is not politics. This is about war. This is about life and death and we need to be strong.” He gets a very positive response from the crowd and then points out that if Bush vetoes the bill, “then he takes responsibility for the support not being there for our troops in Iraq. We have to save him from himself and we cannot let him continue on this course.”
But Iraq, as important as it is, fits into the context of what I believe is needed: a bigger vision of how America engages the world. America has to once again be seen as a force for good in the world. I mean it is the only way we can lead. It is the only way we can help to stabilize an extraordinarily chaotic world. The President of the United States, the new President not this one, needs to speak to the world about what it is we represent.
What is the ideal that fits America? And for me what we represent is equality and diversity. That’s what America is in our heart and soul and the world needs to hear that from us.
I like this frame on the remarks because I personally believe that Iraq works for the Bush administration on many levels. Even with the public support for the war and the president at historically significant lows, Iraq obscures the bigger picture in this country. It sucks all the oxygen out of the discussion and it turns the country away from the fundamental dialog that I think we need to have as a people.
- Who are we?
- Do we even believe in ourselves anymore?
- Do we believe that it’s right for health care or a college education to be the privilege of a professional class?
- Do we believe that what is happening today on the Gulf Coast is what America is about?
- Do we accept that poverty is a tolerable consequence of the economic system that most of us benefit from in America?
- Do we even benefit from crony capitalism when corporations control the political dialog and have turned into the largest recipients of government welfare ever seen in this nation?
- Do we accept the kind of income inequality in America not seen since before the New Deal?
- Do workers even have rights in this country? Is that okay?
Edwards said something quite remarkable in Durham: “the top 300,000 earners in this country now pay less in taxes than the bottom 150 Million Americans.” Think about that for a minute. That is not the kind of country I want to live in and it’s not the kind of America that the rest of the world needs us to be at this point in time. Greedy, vapid, corrupt, war mongering and fully accepting of inequality on so many levels but particularly on economics are not the cornerstone issues that define us as a people, not by a long shot, yet this is the face we show to the world.
But as I said, NH-ites had much to ask and say in their comments so let’s go their questions and answers.
Video: Jen (2:54)
I heard a rumor that you’re building a 20,000 square foot house, shouldn’t you be leading America [by example] in energy conservation? But I also like you.
like I said tough crowd
JE: “First of all, you’re allowed to like me. I also like my house.”
- The campaign has adopted a carbon neutral policy, we’re the only one with that policy.
- The house is a 5 star rated, energy star.
- The family did get rid of a gas guzzling SUV recently and bought a Ford Escape because we wanted to have “credibility on this issue” going out to the voters.
Video: Bob (4:48)
You spoke earlier about equality and poverty in the world. What are you going to do about farm subsidies, in this country, that directly impoverish others in the world?
JE: “This is a very difficult political issue because farmers are struggling in America. And that creates a tension with the question that you’re raising… I’m very concerned about this issue because it’s an issue of the poor around the world and it’s an issue of America’s credibility in trade talks. You’re exactly right, sometimes talks break down over this very issue.”
- Eliminate the subsidies for large multi-national corporate
farming operations which we’re doing right now.
- Address the vertically integrated farming operations that cause exactly the problems you mentioned.
- Limit subsidies to individual farmers with income less than 1 million dollars.
I’m sure that’s not going to go over big in Iowa, but this is a very good question on Bob’s part and given the above frame on fairness and the role America plays in the world the question and answer were even more relevant to the discussion that night.
And my apologies to Bob, I couldn’t get a clean shot of him because of where I was standing.
Video: Linda (3:07)
What would your proposal be to deal with immigration issues?
JE: “It is true that what is happening on our southern border can not be sustained. We have to do something and be aggressive about it.
- Stop the flow that is occurring there now.”
- Provide a path for the millions here now to earn American citizenship
- Comprehensive reform: immigrants here now illegally should pay a fine and overall immigrants should learn to speak English because it’s the “language of commerce in America”
He got a big applause line on the requirement for speaking English in Durham. He also said this in his response to Linda’s question: “Those of you in this room may or may not know but you can be in front of very very rabidly Democratic crowds and they do not agree with what I just said. They do not like this idea and are vehemently opposed to it.”
It’s all about the Jenny. This comment even got Miss Thing on her feet. It was the only time that evening that Mrs. Edwards chimed in with a word to the audience after her intro.
Jenny is a Senior at UNH. “I’m going to throw you a zinger here, more of a comment than a question. I’ve been on my own since I was 14. I’m one of those people you mentioned that are impoverished. Instead of going to school I could have gone to a … bad place. I need help. I need to be able to look to my leader and see hope, words of encouragement. I need to be able to trust that person. I need to know that I’m not going to grow in a world filled with hate and prejudice and racism. And to know that I matter. That I wasn’t just dumped in this world for no particular reason. Words of encouragement? Something? Just give me something.”
Well Jenny you came to the right event. This is kind of the cornerstone for whole the campaign. You. It is all about the Jenny Ballentines in country and this world, whether they’re getting ready to graduate next month or they might not even have a college degree in their future.
JE: “First of all I believe that we desperately need a President that who believes in their heart and soul that every American has equal value no matter where you live, who your family is or the color of your skin. It’s very personal to me because I grew up in a family where my Dad worked in mills all his life. I saw circumstances where he was not treated with the respect that he deserved. I think my father is as fine a human being as any President of the United States and I will always believe that. I think it is the bedrock of what America is supposed to be.” Edwards goes on with this line of comments that I’ve heard often, but he takes it in a totally new direction once he gets into the necessity for “honesty, openness and decency in a President,” echoing Mrs. Edwards’s introduction.
We need to “believe that our President is struggling to do the right thing because you know, everybody in this room knows, that there will not be a single day in the next President’s life sitting in that Oval office where his personal political needs and interests are in direct conflict with the interests of people like you. It’s going to happen everyday. And we so desperately need, when that happens, a President that won’t be analyzing scenarios [based on politics] but will feel in their heart and soul that they need to do what’s right for you otherwise they shouldn’t be President.” Woof, I’ve seen him deliver these remarks in the past frequently but never with the admission that sometimes there is an inherent conflict.
EE: I’m really impressed with you too Jenny Ballentine and I want to ask everyone in this room to believe that Jenny Ballentine is going to be able to do it and give her a round of applause.
JE: You see now why I tag along with Elizabeth.
Video: Anna (6:17)
You talked about advocating education for all and improving higher education. I’m wondering if you have plans to improve modern education here, if you have alternatives to NCLB and what are you going to do to make sure kids graduating high school have a shot at college.
JE: We need to take a step back and recognize that the way think of education as K-12, sometimes college, sometimes graduate school, is the wrong approach. Education should be a birth through death experience in this country.
His remarks go from there and are exhaustive, no time for this transcription. If you’re interested in this issue then check out the video.
Video: Paul (9:22)
You talked about creating green collar jobs in this country, but how far can that go when the government incentivizes outsourcing all over this country?
Paul asked a complicated question and then gave me a great interview after the show. He liked the response he got from Edwards because it was honest.
In the interview he gave me after the show we also discussed the fact that GWB has been a “bad parent” to this country. I think that Americans don’t have the confidence that we should as a people anymore for a couple of reasons. First, outsourcing has humiliated American workers into thinking that we’re not good enough to compete with workers in foreign countries earning slave wages. Second, as a leader, Bush is a national embarrassment and we lack the pride we should have as a daring and innovative bunch of people. Because we are: a great nation. We don’t always get things right, but out here in flyover land we attempt the impossible everyday and often times we end up succeeding. Brilliantly in fact. But sometimes just the effort is the successful part.
Video: Andrew (2:24)
Andrew likes that America emits 25% of the greenhouse gases in the world. I’m not kidding.
This is the last question and I cut off the answer to go outside and try to get some interviews. I think that Andrew’s point is that the country is industrialized and that’s a good thing. I’ll let you decipher Andrew’s question, I don’t want to take a pot shot at him here.
So then I went outside to get some crowd reaction and feedback from the voters that are actually going to be doing the voting in this election. Here they are in the order I shot them. Thank you to everyone who took a minute to speak to me after the town hall.
Video: Ryan (3:03)
Ryan saw both Obama and Edwards at UNH and he thinks they sound very similar. He also has a problem with all the proposals that Edwards discussed in the town hall, he doesn’t see where the all money is coming from to pay for universal health care and free college tuition. Today, politically, Iraq weighs heavily on Ryan’s mind but he’s also very concerned with the student loans that he’s racked up in the last couple of years and thinks that we need to address this issue in the future.
Ryan also thinks that gay marriage is a big political issue today and supports fully gay marriage or civil unions. Cheers to the NH House of Representatives for voting to support civil unions in their state this week. The bill now moves to the NH State Senate this week. Jeers to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for not voting against a bill that represents the first step in putting a ban on gay marriage on the state ballot in 2008.
Video: Slava (2:34)
Slava is a big supporter of Edwards and has recently signed up for the OneCorps chapter in Durham. She’s a new American is very excited about participating in the nation’s first primary this time around.
She echoes Mrs. Edwards’s comments about wanting and needing a President in the White House who is decent and truthful. As a fellow little person in this country she agrees that it’s high time we get more advocates in government for ordinary people.
Video: Carmen (3:02)
Carmen wanted to ask a question about Edwards’s proposal for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but didn’t get the chance during the town hall. I posted her clip on the Edwards blog, but it looks like no one answered the question for her.
She also thinks it’s insensitive for anyone to refer to America as a nation of immigrants as Edwards did in the meeting. She is a native Californian of African American and Native American descent and she doesn’t see herself as an American immigrant. I point out that the Statute of Liberty means different things to different people depending on where they come from and that people whose ancestors were brought here in chains don’t agree with the “huddled masses yearning to breath free,” meme nor do Native Americans for obvious reasons. I think that goes for many immigrants coming across the border illegally today too. Employers want cheap labor and they come for the jobs, but they aren’t welcomed in the same way that the masses were at Ellis Island so many years ago.
Video: Chrissy (2:58)
Chrissy is a junior at UNH and a Music Ed teacher with plans to go to graduate school. She wanted to ask the Senator about his plans to get some arts back in the classroom but she didn’t get the chance. As a music ed major she would like to fulfill her dream of teaching music in the classroom someday but doesn’t see much hope for that today. She really liked Edwards’s remarks on global warming and energy conservation.
Today, politically, she thinks that gay marriage is one of the biggest issues in the country and is disgusted that gays and lesbians can not have the same rights and legal protections afforded heterosexuals. She thinks that years from now it won’t even be an issue.
I’m not affiliated with any campaign in any way, shape or form. I support John Edwards for the nomination. I do all my projects as an ordinary person who blogs occasionally about things I feel are important. I’m not paid. I use free tools available on the web, a cheap mini-DV and Windows movie maker to create the clips.
See you out there…
UPDATE: The quote should read: “the top 300,000 earners in this country now earn more than the bottom 150 Million Americans.” Thanks sean for watching the video and reading the diary.