John Edwards addressed the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council Thursday night, focusing on trade issues but touching on several other global hot spots.
6:03 and Team Edwards is in Serious Speech mode. No hoopla, few signs, no music.
We know this event is finite because some of the local Edwardians report seeing an MSNBC crew setting up near this event. Edwards is scheduled for a Keith Olbermann interview between 7 and 8 Iowa time.
Efficient Mark McCullogh hand out the prepared remarks and an unfortunate blast of feedback starts the formalities.
Overflow crowd on the second floor of Iowa City's Hotel Vetro -- my guess is 300 or so. Some prominent Edwardians but a lot of look-see-ers. Questions will be written and chosen by the moderator. Atmosphere is formal, almost academic.
6:13 and he's here; the lede on the press release is "Smart and safe trade policies that keep American families safe from dangerous imports." We'll see where the Q and A takes it. For the moment, he's taking it to toys -- that's how candidates will campaign through the holidays! "Stop putting short term profits ahead of children's safety."
Moving on to pharmecuticals and working in the corporate/lobbyist theme.
"5 million jobs lost to unfair trade" in Bush years, he says. "For too long presidents of both parties have led America into unfair trade agreements," specifying NAFTA. Makes another attack on the trade agreements "of the last 15 years," which includes Bush 43 and Clinton 42. "And too many people including Senator Clinton have gone along with it."
"Prohibiting sweatshops and child labor" draws first applause. "When negotiating trade, we need to keep in mind that one size does not fit all." Cites enforcement.
"Our trade policies need to lift up workers around the world" Draws applause.
"We need to adapt to the realities of the 21st century." Education, new energy economy, eliminate incentives to invest overseas. Share prosperity. Strengthen labor, raise the minimum wage... he's taken the foreign policy speech and made it domestic. Keeps doing so with "universal health care." But doesn't bring in the Congressional health care thing.
Working into the "20 generations/make sure our children have a better world" standard conclusion.
Prepared remarks wrap at 6:27.
First question from moderator Rex Honey: restoring America's role in world. "We undo the bad by bring an end to the mess of the war in Iraq." Bit that's not all. Close Gitmo, end illegal spying on American people, no more rendition. "No torture is permissable." Big applause to all.
We also need to be a force for good: Darfur, Uganda, education around the world. "Invest $50 billion in next 5 years around the world" on AIDS. We need the world to know that America cares -- not beligerrant and selfish. We have to be worthy of leadership. "We need a President who speaks to the world about what our values are" including equality and diversity.
Edwards and the moderator are taking Q and A seated.
Global warming and Kyoto. Edwards: "We are an example for bad -- were in competition with China" for worst polluter. Big Energy industry is an obstacle. "We have to take them on. We have to make them uncomfortable." (applause). Cap carbon emissions, bring down each year, reduce 80% by $30-40 billion. Invest that in new energy. Make polluters pay.
"Unlike Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama I am opposed to more nuclear power plants." (gets applause). "A moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants." Trots out the Patriotic About Something Other Than War line. He's been using that since at least January, but it IS a good line.
Globalization, World Bank, questions lumped together. Also World Court. Edwards: "Bush is treating the rest of the world with enormous disrespect. America dissing the UN, treaties... this creates chaos. There is an enormous leadership vacuum in the world." "We will engage these organizations in a positive way." "When I'm president, my administration will also be transparent. The presidency does not belong to a person, it belongs to the United States of America" (applause)
US and development aid (less than rest of world). Edwards: "America should not just be following" UN Millennium goals, "it should be leading." "We can't act as if as long as we're powerful the rest of the world will follow. The rest of the world has to see us as a force for good, doing things."
Calls arms deal with Saudis "complete insanity... I mean, I know they're Dick Cheney's buddies and all." "Unless I missed something, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, most of them were Saudis." Thinks it will escalate, not deter, Iran.
"I want to lead a long term int'l initiative to RID the world of nuclear weapons."
Last question (Olbermann awaits)... Russia and E. Europe. Edwards: Oh, I know this one (cites experience) There was a move toward democracy, but then Putin came along and "it's a complete autocracy. They literally own the media. Well, Bush has Fox News..." Jokes that he wonders if when Bush looked into Putin's eyes and "saw his soul" if he saw this coming. Says presidential candidates have to campaign on street corners because they aren't allowed on TV. So what to do... push for economic reform and transparency. Requires some balance and careful thought. Promote non-gov't organizations. Talk honestly but don't lecture. But be tough about the things that matter to America. It can't continue, but we have to do it the right way. "Over the long term we want to live in a world where the great powers are actually working together to solve the world's problems." If reform begins with the Russian people it'll be more effective.
6:50 and my that was short.
Highlight of the press avail is Edwards teasing a TV reporter he catched yawning: "What you yawnin' about! I caught ya!"
He manages to note that "I was against NAFTA from the start... Sen. Clinton and I have a different approach to trade." Says Russia is serious but Pakistan more unstable. The DI asks about college debt and local TV asks what he's doing for Christmas. Efficient Mark tells me the final sign in count is 417.
7:23 and we're in an only in Iowa moment. Edwards is upstairs in a conference room and the staffers and press are watching him, bounced off a satellite or two, on Olbermann in the bar. Olbermann led with questions about the GOP debate and the "planted" Hillary-backing general. I'm only catching bits and pieces but he's steering it back to taling points: "I don't think Iowans are going to vote for somebody just because they've raised the most money." At least Olbermann didn't put him on during Worst Person In The World, so it's a good media hit for Edwards. Within about four minutes of the end of the segment, Edwards is out the door.