John Edwards 3: Questions from Iowa City Audience
JE says you can ask about non-war subjects too. “Try not to give a speech.” Obviously he’s been to Iowa City before.
Pat Minor of West Branch. “The root of the terrorist problem is Israel-Palestine.” (Scattered applause). JE starts to cut off speech… “We need to ask Israel to accept Palestine.”
JE: I went to Israel last year, met with leaders of both sides (but not Hamas). We want Israel and a Palestinian state side by side with security and peace. Bush has disengaged from peace process (obsession with Iraq). The difficulty now – and I have a different perspective than you – is that Hamas is a terrorist group. (One applauder) But there are clearly moderate Palestinians who want peace, and America needs to empower the moderates. Israel was considering unilateral withdrawal from West Bank, but would prefer a joint process. The 2002 road map is good but someone has to get us moving. We should not ignore and misunderstand that there are other undercurrents for terrorists. Arab world sees no sign of things getting better, and they see America using its power to spread its influence. World also needs to see America’s “better angels.” We have an enormous responsibility to the world, and the next president needs to spread our moral authority. Raw Power does not work. Next president needs to tell the people of world that America at its best IS diversity, and believes in embracing other cultures and faiths. And they need to see us leading on moral issues not in our short term self interest (applause) Includes Darfur (“Sudanese govt. propped up by Chinese oil money.”) What kind of signal does our silence send? Where is the America all of us believe in? They need to hear words, and they need to see action.
Hands up all over the place.
A Jennifer from Iowa City asks about prescription drug costs.
JE: I voted against prescription drug bill. We tried to put in Canada provisions, we tried to get price negotiations, got voted down due to pharmaceutical lobby. We need to stand up to drug companies, take their power away. “Never taken a dime from Washington lobbyist” (applause). If we want to get money out of politics, go to public finance (biggest applause yet) “The real solution is universal health care.”
Carlton of Iowa City (an 04 Edwards caucus vet) asks about gay civil rights. The hoodie is off and JE jokes about being worried about anyone wearing a tie on a Saturday afternoon.
JE: we need to treat gay couples with dignity and substantive rights. For me a hard issue personally because of my faith tradition and Southern raising. My daughter totally believes this issue will disappear with her generation and it’s silly to have this debate. But it is real. The difficult question is marriage. For civil unions and substantive, not at this time for marriage. Some of that is personal and I feel internal conflict.
Regular reader Josh on the mic! Asks Elizabeth what issues she’ll take on as first lady. I expect the same answer she gave the bloggers. “Laura Bush has not used that megaphone.” She is indeed giving the same answer. I’m feeling that crowded rally room heat building up, no one’s cutting out early, not even the TV folks, and none of the usual back of the room schmoozing. Still nothing about same-day voter reg.
Melissa of IC asks about death penalty. “You’re not gonna like the answer.” I have historically supported it. Some crimes deserve ultimate punishment.” But there are huuuge problems in our justice system. I respect anti-death penalty views (hints that EE disagrees with him). Particularly people of color and crime is against a white person, you see over and over disproportionate punishment. Need to make system racial fair, provide good attorneys. “Rich people get one kind of justice and poor another.” (applause) There are also inequality problems in a number of our laws (powder cocaine vs. crack) Mandatory sentencing is also troublesome. We can’t build enough prisons to solve crime, many underlying conditions (poverty) contribute. “America is better than this.” We need an infrastructure to pull people out of The System.
EE reminds JE that he supports NC death penalty moratorium.
Jerry of IC is worried about manufacturing jobs going overseas. What’s your plan?
JE: A lot of dishonest rhetoric here. Some parts of globalization are beyond our control. But some we can control such as trade agreements. Should be fair, just, lets American workers compete. Bust must recognize shutting down trade with developing world dooms them forever. Should have trade agreements with international labor and environmental standards, real and enforceable. Should not be a ruse to shut down trade (the North Carolina accent stands out on “rooooooose”.) We could set impossible standards. We could pretend we’re trying, or we could measure and set achievable standards. No child labor. Talking about China – I tried raising human rights issue and heard “we won’t be lectured by the country responsible for Abu Gharib and Gitmo.” “We have to be the light.” Repeats the China internal focus line. “China could soon be largest English speaking country in the world, because they require a second language.” He’s turned the question into Bush and education funding.
Now completely on education and student debt (this is a campus speech after all).
The rally room temperature is in full effect.
Iowa City bearded fellow asks about deficit spending.
“Put your truth monitor on every candidate on this.” He makes fun of over-promising. Priorities are difficult judgment. I’m committed to not making deficit worse, I’ll try to reduce… but we need universal heath care more. (applause) Same goes for energy and global warming. “If deficit reduction is your thing, I may lose you on this one.” All I can ask: “make `em be honest with you. You can’t do universal health care, energy independence, AND deficit reduction.”
An Ottumwa woman asks about emotional wounds from the Iraq war.
JE: Americans need to feel next president is an honest decent human being . Sometimes it’s obvious what you questioners want me to say, but you need to hear what I really believe. Character decency honesty and trust are important. America wants to trust and be inspired again. We need to be a “national community” again. Millions of Americans worry literally about feeding and clothing the kids, and it matters. “I confess I got an ego, just like everyone else.” But are you driven by that, or by a belief that this is the best way to serve? You’ll be troubled by that every day as President.
And with that, he wraps and they crank up the Mellencamp, and the handshake scrum forms. Folks are saying “lookin’ forward to the blog” so I better go post.
Post speech: this is the only Iowa event of the day, he's back to North Carolina to watch some hoops. So some of this is fodder for the Sunday talk shows. And I never did catch Ed Fallon.