Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Edwards in the Evergreen State"

mcjoan (front-paged on Kos):
Those of us in the upper left of the country tend to feel a little left out in the presidential stakes. The state can't offer much in the way of a primary, so we have to hope that the fundraising potential here is enough to pull them in and that they’ll leave enough time between the high dollar fundraisers to have a public event or two. The Edwards campaign did just that yesterday with a town hall at Everett Community College (a bedroom community of Seattle). A die-hard crowd of roughly 1,000 waited, listening to the standard rally music fare of U2 and Aretha in a loop that need to be about 20 minutes longer, given the candidate's hour-late arrival. I don't think anyone needed to hear "Beautiful Day" yet another time.
But the repetition, the wait, the close quarters in the packed room, and klieg lights that sent the heat rising didn't dampen enthusiasm too much for the man when he finally showed. Unfortunately, that hour delay sent him rushing through his stump speech to leave enough time for audience questions.

The strongest part of his speech, surprisingly for the two Americas candidate of 2004, was in talking about international issues and the nation's place in the world. Noting that the day was "an unfortunate anniversary," the fourth anniversary of "Mission Accomplished," Edwards deemed it a "sad day," and talked about the mission that Congress has to complete--ending this war. Talking about the veto, Edwards stressed

It's George Bush who is trying to thwart the will of the American people. The Congress is acting on behalf of the American people who want to us leaving Iraq. This is not about politics, this is about life and death. It's about men and women who are losing their lives in Iraq. It is about war.

He urged Congress then to do what he is urging Congress to do in the ads he released today: keep sending back a bill with timelines for every Bush veto, and to keep its backbone and stand firm against Bush. All easy to say when you're out of Congress, but urging that his counterparts still in the Senate will hopefully heed. (On this issue, I'd agree with Chris Dodd in urging Edwards to agree in principle with Feingold-Reid and its redeployment date of March 31, 2008.)

Edwards went on to talk about the image of America that he would like to see projected around the world in responding to crisis such as Darfur, HIV/AIDS, and humanitarian crises, concluding "We cannot be seen as a force for good and be the country of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," and vowing to close Guantanamo the day he is inaugurated. Along with proposals for primary education around the world, programs to provide clean water, and microfinancing, Edwards has a number of proposals to combat global warming, bringing up the key line he used in the Democratic debate about it being "time for the president to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war," and to sacrifice for energy conservation.

Then, perhaps aware of the ticking clock, Edwards rushed through his domestic agenda for health care, education, strengthening the workforce and combating poverty, all solid, good Democratic proposals popular to the highly receptive community college kind of crowd. The best moment for Edwards in this was when he seemed to break out of the standard speech to talk about his version of Howard Dean's "you have the power."

I listen to Bush and Cheney, and this is what I hear. Bush saying "You stay home, watch television and Dick Cheney and I will take care of you." I don't want them to take care of me! I think that is not who we are. We are better and stronger and more courageous than that.

Edwards did leave time for a substantive question and answer period in which he fielded questions on privacy and civil liberties, youth in politics, pension reform, veterans care, education, and health care, questions he handled well. Then came the part that he didn't leave substantial time for: the press availability. There were only a five of us there: a reporter from The Nation, one from the local NBC affiliate, one from the Everett Herald, a student reporter who joined a little late, and me. Here was the only off note to Edwards’s appearance. He shook hands and took one or two questions from three of us, the print and television reporters, and acted rather as if he didn’t see me or the student reporter standing beside the others. It was a strange and off-putting experience.

He was pressed for time, but the few seconds it would have taken to at least acknowledge the presence of the others of us certainly wouldn’t have set him back that much further. The fact that those of us he blew off were women made the appearance of his actions even worse. Some free advice to Senator Edwards, in a group that small, shake all the hands and answer at least one question from everyone.

Since I didn’t have the opportunity to ask my question of him yesterday, I’ll pose it now: Senator Edwards, if you were still in the Senate, would you sponsor Reid-Feingold and vote to use the Congress’s Constitutional power of the purse to end this war?

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