Saturday, January 20, 2007

John Edwards in Iowa

I met John Edwards very briefly today. He spoke town-hall-style at the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus. Afterward, I shook his hand and thanked him for coming to talk with us. He thanked me for coming as well. He certainly has mastered the art of making you believe that you are the most important person in the room, even if it's the briefest conversation ever.

Other thoughts:

We're electing his wife, too. When asked what her plans were as First Lady, she took a good bit of time to go over her three priorities. The first was after school programs, the second was offering a conduit for military families to say what they believe without fear of reprisal, and... I can't remember the third. The Senator and his wife are clearly equal partners and come across as very much a team. At one point, John asked his wife to fill in a word he couldn't think of. At another point, she pulled him aside in between questions and reminded him of another point he should make. And when she was speaking, he tugged her pant leg down when it was riding up a little bit. It was the kind of cute thing we all do with our spouses and it was so natural that it spoke to how close they are.

The best answer he gave was when he talked about gay rights. He made it very clear that he supports civil unions with all the basic rights, but stops short of gay marriage. He said he might be wrong about it, but that he couldn't get past his own upbringing on this issue. He mentioned that his daughter told him it wouldn't be an issue when our generation is running the country. (I think she's right). Although he never used the word religion, I think that's pretty much what he was stopping him from supporting gay marriage. What I liked best about the answer was not the fact that he's not for gay marriage (because I am), but because he was willing to admit he might be wrong. What I saw was a very real person who has doubts and is doing the best he can. He became very real to me in that moment.

He also said that he does support the death penalty because he believes there are crimes that deserve the ultimate penalty. But he recognizes that the justice system has some serious flaws that need fixing. Once again, he said not what everyone wanted to hear (the crowd was very, very liberal), but what he believed and I respected him for that.

When talking about the deficit, he made it clear that reducing the deficit was not more important than universal health care and energy independence. He said that if politicians claimed they could do all three, they were using funny numbers. Again, not exactly what I wanted to hear, but it sounds like the man is a realist.

Overall, I was very impressed. So I'm torn between Edwards and Obama.

Of course, the woman sitting next to me made it very clear that Obama was not a "real" Democrat. She said his voting record shows he's not progressive. And she said that before he became a Senator, he was willing to talk to the poor. Now that he's Senator, he has no time for them. And she made an allusion to Chicago politicians (where Obama got his start) all being crooked.

So that was interesting. Obama may be a rock star to the country, but the bleeding heart Dems don't like him that much. At least, this woman didn't. Of course, this woman also talked about moving to Iowa just she could caucus for Edwards. Which seems to me to be an extreme reason for moving to another state.


T.M. Lindsey said...

The third thing Elizabeth Edwards said she would champion as first lady was campaign/election reform.

I think Democrats, especially those who procalim to be progressive need to hold off on passing judgment on Obama. He hasn't even begun to campaign, and it sounds like the woman you were sitting next to is espousing what she wants to hear/believe about Obama. Keep in mind that Edwards's Senate voting record wasn't exactly progressive during his brief tenure. He's grown since the last campaign and has shifted his thinking and priorities since then, and it's only fair we give Obama a chance to articulate his vision as well.

Anonymous said...

Very, very insightful discussion regarding your meeting with the Edwards. I just can't get past that he made his money as an "ambulance chaser". Feeding off the misery of others and trying to place blame on accidental occurances.

You mentioned that he hit on topics such as gay rights/marriage, the death penalty, the deficit, universal health care, and energy independence. Any words regarding global warming, or how about global terrorism or the war in Iraq? Any words on nuclear power in North Korea or Iran? These are topics that should not be omitted and I'm curious as to what he had to say on any of them? Don't mean to be controversial here, just curious...

Matt said...

Oh he talked about getting troops out of Iraq at the beginning of the speech. Nothing really new there. He talked about engaging with the other nations in that part of the world because they don't want a chaos filled Iraq any more than we do. My problem with that approach is that no one is specific. What exactly are the proposals you would make to these other countries? How does that stabilize Iraq? The Dems need to put some specifics out there to win support for their position. Right now it's just based on emotion: "No more soldiers should die!" and "They lied to us!" I don't like the idea of an escalation, but I would like a specific plan from the other side. And back to Edwards... he didn't offer that.

He didn't talk directly about global warming, but it was clear from indirect comments that he recognizes it's a huge issue that needs to be addressed. He was taking questions, so he was limited to answering what people asked and no one asked about global warming. (My question had I been called on: "Have you seen Al Gore's movie? What did you think?")

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Matt. I'm with you in that I too would like to see a real plan to help stabalize Iraq. I need to hear their thoughts on North Korea and Iran, and I need to hear their plan for anti-terrorism. It's a scarry world out there and I need to know exactly how the candidates will deal with all of it. I am so sick of them talking in circles. It's almost impossible to prioritize the issues this year. Thanks for sharing your assessment of the meeting.