More UAW locals in Iowa backed Edwards

Sorry for the quick hit diary, but I didn't see this posted here yet. Over at Century of the Common Iowan, noneed4thneed linked to a blog post by Marc Ambinder yesterday. Although Barack Obama won the United Auto Workers' straw poll of locals in Region 4 (which includes Iowa),

(1) 48% of the voting members of UAW's Region 4 came from Illinois. Barack Obama comes from Illinois.

(2) 22% of the voting members come from Iowa. It turns out that, in today's straw balloting, John Edwards won twice as many Iowa locals as Obama did.

The UAW has a fair number of members in Iowa, many of them in delegate-rich counties for Democrats such as Black Hawk (Waterloo) and Dubuque.

Noneed4thneed adds,

It is looking like the Iowa delegates from the UAW will be split between Edwards and Obama, even if Obama officially wins the endorsement.

You have to remember that Gephardt won the UAW's endorsement in 2004 and that didn't help him much. On the flip side, many think it was the UAW's endorsement that carried Chet Culver to victory in 2006.

I have heard people speculate that the UAW made the difference for Culver in the 2006 gubernatorial primary. Others think it was his successful mobilization of pro-choice women (Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa's Freedom Fund PAC endorsed Culver and went all out to get him the primary victory).

Anyway, I obviously would rather have Edwards getting the UAW endorsement than Obama. But it is heartening for me to know that Edwards would have won the straw poll if only locals in Iowa had been voting.

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UPDATED: The Peru FTA's Expanded Giant Sucking Sound Just Got Louder - with Clinton and Obama's help

In a few moments, I will sign three agreements that will complete our negotiations with Mexico and Canada to create a North American Free Trade Agreement. In the coming months, I will submit this pact to Congress for approval. It will be a hard fight, and I expect to be there with all of you every step of the way. We will make our case as hard and as well as we can. And though the fight will be difficult, I deeply believe we will win. And I'd like to tell you why: first of all, because NAFTA means jobs American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't support this agreement.

- Former President Bill Clinton speech on NAFTA, Sept. 13, 1993

Well, that didn't work out so well for us, did it? In fact, third party presidential candidate Ross Perot was more accurate when he described NAFTA as a "giant sucking sound." So what's up with the Peru Free Trade Agreement currently being pushed through Congress? Is it more of the same?

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Highlights: John Edwards at the AARP forum

Disclosure: I am a volunteer precinct captain for John Edwards in the Des Moines suburbs.

If you missed the AARP Democratic candidates' forum on health care and financial security last Thursday in Davenport, Iowa, I encourage you to go watch the whole thing on the Iowa Public Television website. The format was better than that used in previous debates, and Judy Woodruff did a good job as moderator, asking direct questions and following up when it was warranted.

All five candidates who participated did well, in my opinion. While no one had a bad night, I thought John Edwards was outstanding, and I would like to call your attention to what I consider particularly good comments by him during the debate.

I couldn't find a transcript on the IPTV website or anywhere else. Thanks to Tracy Joan of the Edwards campaign, who was able to send me a full transcript, from which I pulled the excerpts in this post. (I added a few explanatory notes to the transcript in square brackets.) In lieu of video clips, I have included information about when these exchanges occurred, so people who click over to the Iowa Public Television website will be able to find the relevant parts easily.

One important skill for politicians is to be able to answer not only the questions journalists ask, but the questions you wanted them to ask. I have seen John Edwards take questions many times, and he is very good at bringing his answers around to the themes he wants to emphasize.

This answer begins at about the 9:30 mark in the video of the AARP forum:

>> Woodruff: Senator Edwards, what do you think about this question of letting the states go first [in implementing health care reforms]?

>> Edwards: Well, it's not a state problem. This is a national problem. I mean, there are lots of folks here in Iowa who don't have health care coverage. Unfortunately, I've met too many people in Iowa who don't have health care coverage. But this is clearly a national problem. I have a very strong view about why we don't have universal health care. I think America doesn't have universal health care because of the drug companies, the insurance companies, and their lobbyists in Washington, DC. They stand between America and the universal health care that we need, and we do--I want to follow up on what Senator Biden just said. We desperately need a president who is not working with compromising with those people, who want to stop universal health care. We need a president who's actually willing to stand up to them, and I've been doing it my whole life and I'll do it as president of the United States.

Voters who want to see universal health care adopted will have to decide who has the best political strategy to get it done, and I think Edwards makes a powerful argument here.

Here's another passage I enjoyed, which begins at around 19:00 on the video on the IPTV website. Here Edwards takes a question about how he would pay for health care reform, and he quickly addresses that (using more accessible language than what Woodruff used in her question). But note how he leaves himself enough time to segue to the need to reform our tax system, which currently favors wealth over work:

>> Woodruff: Thank you, Senator Clinton. Now, Senator Edwards, you've said that you will pay for your health care plan by repealing the Bush tax cut on individuals making over $200,000 a year, returning the top tax rate to 39 percent and keeping the estate tax. But my question is it's been noted that that would not raise the $100 billion plus that would be required until into your second term, if you were elected. So my question is would you consider raising the tax rates on the very wealthy above 39 percent.

>> Edwards: Well, I've already proposed--and let me just make clear what you just said so that the audience understands. I'm proud of the fact that I was the first candidate up here to come out with a truly specific universal healthcare plan, which I did many months ago. And I'm glad to see that others are speaking on this issue now because what's important is we're talking about this issue for America. What I proposed was, my plan costs--I don't claim it's free. It costs $90 to $120 billion a year. And what I propose is to pay for it by getting rid of George Bush's tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year. That was my proposal.

Now, beyond that I'm also proud of the fact that I've laid out a very specific tax reform proposal which goes beyond just getting rid of taxes on those--getting rid of Bush's tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 and beyond doing something about the estate tax. For example, I believe that the capital gains rate in America, which is now at 15 percent, is completely out of whack with what working people pay on their income, on their working income. What happens is people like Warren Buffett--and he says this himself, by the way. People like Warren Buffett pay 15 percent of the millions of dollars that they earn from wealth income, which is investment income, while their secretary is paying a higher rate on her work income. It's not right. What I have said is we ought to change the capital gains rate from 15 to 27 percent for people who make over $250,000 a year so that we actually treat work with the dignity that it's entitled to in the United States of America.

The wealth/work portion of Edwards' stump speech has always been one of the most effective, in my opinion.

I like this next part as well, which begins around 22:30 in the video. Edwards is responding to Governor Bill Richardson, who claimed he can provide universal health care without raising taxes and listed various cost-saving measures that can be implemented:

>> Edwards: I just wanted to respond briefly. My proposal actually saves $120 to $130 billion a year by doing all those things. It has preventive care, chronic care, long-term care covered. It requires electronic record-keeping, requires the use of technology, puts limits on what insurance companies can charge for profit and overhead at 15 percent. But the thing I want to say about this is I think it's really important, particularly in this election. Since the American people have been misled for seven years, it is time for us to tell people the truth. And we cannot have universal health care for free. And I think we need to be honest about what it costs and honest about how we intend to pay for it.

>> Woodruff: And are you suggesting other candidates on stage have not been?

>> Edwards: No, I'm suggesting that for decades what's happened is politicians have rolled through Iowa saying we're going to give you this, we're going to give you that, we're going to give you this, and, oh, by the way, by the way, we're going to get rid of the federal deficit. It is not reality and people need to hear the truth from us.

Cosbo already covered this next part in a diary complete with a You Tube clip. It begins around the 24:00 mark, when Edwards joked about the similarities between his plan and Hillary's:

>> Woodruff: All right. I do want to come back to you, Senator Edwards, to pick up on something you said a few minutes ago. You have been very critical of Senator Clinton's acceptance of lobbyists' money and what you call her ties to corporate America. You've said, among other things, you guarantee your picture wil never be on the cover of Fortune magazine as the corporations' favorite candidate. Well, you've now had a chance to look at Senator Clinton's health care proposal. Do you think it was influenced by her associations with these lobbyists?

>> Edwards: No, no, I don't. I think her health care proposal is actually a very good health care proposal. It's very similar to mine, so it's very hard for me to be critical of it. [laughter]

And I'm proud of the fact that, you know, six, seven months later, Senator Clinton came out with a plan that is very similar to mine. [...]

I do think that--as much as I respect her, I do think we have some differences about the most effective way to do this. I don't believe you can take money from health insurance, drug companies, insurance company lobbyists, sit at the table with those people, let them pay to play, and negotiate and compromise your way to universal health care. I think if that worked, we would have universal health care today. I don't believe it works. And what I believe is the system in Washington is broken, and I don't think it works for ordinary Americans. And that's what I believe has to be challenged in order to bring universal health care to America.

What's important to my mind is not the joke, but the fact that Edwards again is making the case that he has a better strategy to get this done than Hillary. I know that the Clinton supporters disagree with him, but I think that what he says will resonate with a lot of Democrats. Also, I think this message is important enough for him to repeat several times during the debate.

Here's another part I thought was effective, beginning around 34:45 in the video. The first couple of sentences are a response to Joe Biden, who had earlier implied that Edwards was unable to get a patients' bill of rights through the Senate. The rest of it deals with the problems in Medicare:

>> Edwards: Briefly. Joe, we did pass the patients' bill of rights in the United States Senate. It was Bush who stopped it. I just had to respond to that. But here's what I think. The reason that the Medicare prescription drug law is as bad as it is, is a perfect living example of what's wrong with the way Washington operates, because the drug company lobbyists got everything they wanted. Everybody on this stage wanted to allow Medicare to negotiate better drug prices. Everybody on this stage wanted to dole out prescription drugs into this country from Canada.

>> Woodruff: But this question about [she is trying to ask about the solvency of Medicare] -

>> Edwards: Let me finish. Let me finish, please. Everybody on this stage wanted to do something about drug company advertising on television, where they spend much more money than they do in research and development. We all wanted to do that. The problem is because of the way the system works in Washington, these drug company lobbyists got exactly what they wanted. They literally wrote the bill. And the result is for all these seniors in Iowa and for millions and millions of seniors across America, they can't pay for their prescription drugs. This has to stop. We have to give the power in this government back to the American people and take it away from that crowd in Washington, the insiders who are running our country today.

Later in the debate, Woodruff asked several questions related to the solvency of Social Security. Again, Edwards brought up how our tax system favors wealth over work. This part begins around the 43:45 mark in the video:

>> Edwards: I just want to follow up on one thing that Senator Biden said just a minute ago, but he mentioned it briefly in passing. There is something we can do to generate more revenue for Social Security. Today for those in the audience who may not be aware of this--and I suspect most of them are--it caps out at about $97,000. In other words, if you make $80,000 a year, you're paying Social Security taxes on every dime of your income. If you work on Wall Street and you make $50 million a year, you pay Social Security tax on the first 97,000, no Social Security tax on the rest of it. This is not right and it's not fair and what we need to do, in my judgment--[applause]

I don't--to the point that Bill just made, I do think we need to have a bubble above that 97, probably up to about 200,000 so we don't raise taxes on middle class families. But above the 200,000, these millionaires on Wall Street ought to be paying their Social Security taxes.

Later, Woodruff turned the discussion to pensions. Several of the candidates, including Biden and Clinton, made good points about the unconscionable behavior of corporations that used bankruptcy code to wipe out workers' pensions while giving top executives lucrative compensation packages.

Then Edwards made sure to bring up an important issue without waiting for Woodruff to ask about it. This begins around 52:00 in the video:

>> Edwards: Very quick. I really just want to say two things that have not been discussed yet. It is so important if we want workers when they retire to have pensions and to have pensions that are protected, that we strengthen the right of unions to organize in the workplace-- [cheers and applause] because 80 percent--80 percent of union workers have a pension, and that's--the result of that is the result of collective bargaining. It's a result of organizing in the workplace. We need to make it easier for workers to organize in the workplace. I want to say one other thing, and I'll do it very quickly. We ought to have a law in the United States of America that says CEO, chairmen of the boards, compensation, golden parachute pension will be treated exactly under the law the same way as the lowest paid worker in the company's pension is treated. [applause]

Here Woodruff asked a narrowly-focused question on alternative minimum tax, but Edwards used his answer to bring the discussion around to the big picture: comprehensive tax reform. This begins around the 1:06:00 mark:

>> Edwards: No, I think it needs to be modified. The AMT, it was originally designed, the alternative minimum tax, to hit at high-income taxpayers who were using big tax loopholes to their advantage. Because they had accountants, they could take advantage of these things. So the notion actually was a very good one when it was originally enacted. The problem is it's now hitting many middle class families. And I think we are going to have to change it, number one. It's part, from my perspective, of a broader, comprehensive tax reform that's needed in America. I've spoken about some of it already, getting rid of Bush's tax cuts for people who make over $200,000, not eliminating the estate tax, doing something about the capital gains rate. I think it's all these things in combination that have to be looked at. The problem with asking just about the AMT alone is it's part of a bigger problem. We need serious comprehensive tax reform in America.

There are other parts of the debate I liked as well, but this diary is getting long, so I will sign off. Again, I encourage Democrats to watch the whole video. We've got a very strong field.

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Good News for Edwards + Ben Smith is a Jackass

The news generated by Edwards has been consistently good of late. Not earth-shattering, not race-changing, just good. His sharp populist message is breaking into the dominant media narrative, and he's challenging Clinton, making Obama seem suddenly less relevant.

Last week Obama was supposed to recapture his antiwar cred, but his "major policy address" fell flat. He couldn't even bring himself to support a timeline for withdrawal (a position he'd already taken!) Meanwhile Edwards bought time on MSNBC to rebut Bush's address on Iraq, stealing the week from Obama in terms of antiwar cred. The expensive, risky move brought Edwards good coverage. For example, he was included in a discussion on Larry King from which he otherwise would have been excluded. And what a discussion it was. For months we Edwards supporters have argued that the strength and clarity of his positions would produce political benefits. The Atlantic's James Fallows--who usually focuses on policy instead of politics--was taken aback as he saw the candidates anew.

Of the three Democratic responses to the president in this hour on CNN -- Jack Reed, Barack Obama, plus Edwards -- Edwards was by a mile the most impressive. To apply the Man from Mars perspective: if you'd heard of none of these politicians before, based on this sequence you'd immediately assume that Edwards was the dominant one from either party (including the actual president).

Reed was fine, and it's always good to have a West Point grad and former Army officer in this role. But he was long on "we Democrats will offer a plan" as opposed to very crisp arguments about what was wrong with the Bush plan.

Those crisp arguments were all, and only, what Edwards presented. I don't have a transcript, but the gist was: we're patrolling a civil war, nothing matters without political progress, and that's not happening; it's shameful to keep making the link to 9/11 that does not exist, etc. Compared with the last time I'd seen Edwards handling foreign policy questions on live TV, he has come a very long way in knowledgeability and confidence..

From Obama, the opposite surprise: when did he start sounding like a Senator? So many vagued-up sentences and so little pith?

Then this weekend the candidates went to Iowa for the Harkin Steakfry, which is a test of organization first and intensity of support second. By all accounts, no candidate had more supporters there than Edwards, and anyone who watched it on TV knows his supporters were the most vocal. Newsweek's Howard Fineman said he won the day. Don't get me wrong: I don't trust Fineman (although as mainstream jounalists go, he's pretty sharp.) But it's significant that the mainstream press, which has long treated this is as a two-person race, is waking up to discover a "convincing man of the people populist" with surprising "polish."

Like Fallows, Fineman was surprised to discover how unimpressive Obama was. Indeed, sitting at home in my living room, I saw few sparks. Iowa has always presented a challenge for Obama, and he seems not to be taking the necessary steps to mitigate his weaknesses there. For example, this week he's skipping the AARP forum in Davenport--a strange decision for someone lagging behind among seniors. And he's yet to present a comprehensive plan to fight rural poverty. At this relatively late date his support remains concentrated in cities and college towns--a recipe for a poor finish in a contest that rewards well-distributed support. Let me be the first to say what's on the tip of conventional opinion's tongue: Obama's in trouble in Iowa.

That's perhaps why Edwards seems more concerned with Clinton. Yesterday she planned to dominate the day with the release of her health care plan (a good plan for which the country should thank Edwards.) But Edwards crashed the picnic by announcing that on his first day in office he would present a bill that would take away the health insurance of Congresspeople unless they passed universal coverage. This confounded elitists and other non-populists. David Brooks said Edwards was shrill, and Obama supporters over at Kos were besides themselves, citing an amendment to the constitution (one that most of them had never heard of till that morning) in a desperate attempt to blunt the political force of Edwards's move. What Edwards was doing was good old-fashioned brassknucke politics--something Obama and his supporters neither understand nor like.

In the afternoon came the candidates' speeches to the SEIU, a powerful, politically active union, the only one that might endorse Obama. And after Obama thrilled the crowd with his speech (let's face it, the guy can bring it, occasionally), it seemed as if he might have stolen the endorsement away from Edwards. Then reality set in. Edwards rocked the house himself, and some actual reporting found that the passion for Edwards among the service workers is deep. Either Edwards gets SEIU or no one does.

Finally, today the Edwards campaign went after Hillary Clinton for--well, for being Hillary Clinton, a corporate Dem to the core. I'll let Joe Trippi tell you the bad news:

If you want to know why we need change in Washington - and I mean real change, not just trading corporate Republican insiders with corporate Democratic insiders - then just look at Senator Clinton's schedule for today. Today at noon, Hillary Clinton will be hosting a fundraiser in Washington, DC for a select group of lobbyists with an interest in homeland security.

Tickets for the Clinton fundraiser are $1,000 a ticket and $25,000 per bundler. And for that money you get more than a meal - you get to attend one-hour breakout sessions in four different areas of homeland security that will include House Committee Chairs and members of Congress who sit on the very committees that will be voting on homeland security legislation.

Today's Clinton fundraising event is a "poster child" for what is wrong with Washington and what should never happen again with a candidate running for the highest office in the land.

That no one in the Clinton campaign - including the candidate - found anything wrong with holding this fundraiser is an indication of just how bad things have gotten in Washington - because there isn't an American outside of Washington who would not be sickened by it.

Just last month, John Edwards asked Senator Clinton to join him in taking the Democratic Party on the first step towards real reform - to become the first party to refuse and reject the money of Washington lobbyists.

But one of the nice things about being an establishment pol like Clinton is that when populists criticize you, an establishment journalist like Ben Smith comes to your aid. Here Smith, who's clearly in awe of Clinton's political skills, "tsk-tsks" Edwards for going negative, calls him "angry," and claims without evidence that this is a gift to Hillary. Never mind assessing the substance of the charge. And feel free to ignore the polls suggesting that this is a huge vulnerability for Hillary. Just keep on doing her bidding, BS. Maybe she'll give you an interview if and when you help her get elected. You're so far up the establishment's ass you can't see daylight, much less the truth.

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850,000, YES, 850K!! Being Dumped by Clinton and the Outsourcing Continues

All because of disgraced democratic (if you call him that) fundraiser, Norman Hsu.  

Why return almost a million dollars in cash?  What is really up?

Confronted with new evidence that it had ignored warnings about fundraiser Norman Hsu, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign abruptly announced late today that it was returning $850,000 from 260 donors associated with Hsu.

The announcement was made five minutes after the Los Angeles Times asked Clinton officials to respond to mid-June campaign e-mails the newspaper obtained that dismissed concerns about Hsu and his business practices.

"I can tell you with 100 [sic] certainty that Norman Hsu is NOT involved in a ponzi scheme," wrote Samantha Wolf, who had the title West Coast finance director for the campaign. She has since left the campaign. "He is COMPLETELY legit." She wrote the e-mail in June to a party official who was asking questions about Hsu and his reputation in the financial world.

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