John Edwards 2: Iowa City Speech 1/20/07
In the hall and we get BOWIE doing “Young Americans.” Not a bad pick though I’m a “Rebel Rebel” guy myself. Now we get a cover of Van Halen’s “Jump” (why not the real thing?”
I’m scrunched in front of the sound guy; we’ve got half a dozen cameras, a full press table and several hundred in the ballroom. Standing room only. This feels like opening weekend of 2008.
Took a break to look for local pals. Rep. Ro Foege’s here. Says the Harlem sermon on MLK day was fantastic, and he’s back on board. Ro was one of the few legislators with Edwards early in `03; most were with Kerry. Also sighted: Aletia Morgan from the school board, Recorder Kim Painter, former city councilor Larry Baker, and ubiquitous local Edwardian Tom Carsner working the room and no doubt persuading, persuading, persuading. Several purple and gold SEIU folks. Can’t remember if they’re officially on board but it looks like they’re headed that way.
More Van Halen, this time the real thing: “Right Now.” Wonder if they know how much of a Republican Sammy Hagar is? Now they’re Beatling with “Here Comes the Sun.” Overall musical assessment: half a notch better than usual, which makes up for the dread I felt when I walked in and heard, you guessed it, Mellencamp.
Crowd seems to be a young-old mix; lots of folks are apparent caucus veterans but the students are pretty well represented.
The war came up not at all in our pre-rally discussion, perhaps because that’s the topic of the day for the main event.
Three nice, hot wifi signals and I can’t touch any of them. Thanks, UI IT folks…
“One Minute, Media…” and applause to that. I assume for the one minute, not for the media. And he hits the stage to… ooh! Mellencamp! John, you lose points for that!
JE’s in green shirt no tie, hoodie sweatshirt. Yes, I can actually see. Elizabeth intros JE, gets big points for going to Nile Kinnick Elementary School. She cites Newsweek poll; JE leading McCain by largest margin among Dems and only Dem beating Rudy. They dispense with the usual protocol of introducing the local dogcatchers, and just go straight into JE.
He leads, as always, with the “Elizabeth’s healthy and feelin’ fine” line. Talks about going on Jon Stewart:
JS: “If you’d been elected VP, who would you have accidentally shot?”
JE: “Dick Cheney.”
On to the meat.
Bush war speech. It was very clear what we needed from Bush: Honesty, openness, decency, and a sense he was doing his best. Instead I saw a sales job, reading a speech someone else wrote.
We deserve truth. First, how we got there. I voted for this war, and I was wrong.
Second truth: ground in Iraq today. No good choices: only bad and worse. I’m dead against an escalation. (applause) McCain advocated escalation long before Bush. (running in the general, john?)
JE refers to Harlem church speech. 40 years ago MLK spoke in Riverside Church about Vietnam. MLK said he was silent too long and “silence is betrayal.” Those words apply today. America needs to hear from all of us. “America doesn’t just belong to the president, it belongs to all of us.” (applause)
Congress also has a responsibility. Those who know escalation is wrong have the power to act. Not enough to pass resolutions. Congress has power not to fund escalation. “If you know the escalation is wrong and you know you can stop it by not funding escalation, it is time to use that power.”
Big applause. This feels like a Major Speech with a national audience in mind.
Congress needs to hear how strongly you feel about this, and your country needs you.
Why is escalation a mistake? It misunderstands what's happening in Iraq. No military solution is possible. Only potential solution is a difficult political solution. Sunni’s need to be let back into the government. That’s the underlying dynamic to the violence. The militias are contributing, but there will be no peace until Shiite government lets Sunnis in so they have a stakehold in unified Iraq. We are enabling the pattern of exclusion.
Military says it would take 100,000 troops to pacify the ground, and we’re talking about sending 20,000 into the crossfire.
Iranians don’t want a chaotic Iraq. If Iraq goes, Iran as the only other Shiite majority country is in trouble. Syrians have a different interest. We need to make it clear we’re leaving, and the only way to make it clear is actually start leaving. (big applause)
It’s clear what America should do. Our leaders should not evaluate in terms of their own political careers, but need to stand up and do what’s right. They can stop this surge. It’s a test of leadership and courage. Don’t go home and worry – take action. We can’t wait for somebody else to do this for us. Your county needs to hear your voice.