What John Edwards Didn't Say Today at Dartmouth

I posted this today at Free Dartmouth.
Presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) spoke at Dartmouth College today. The speech will eventually be on C-Span's Road to the White House . He delivered some of the best rhetoric I've heard from any candidate, but when you get right down to it, he really didn't have much actual substance at all. This was the third time I've seen him speak in person, and it was the worst speech of the three.

Edwards knows the problems, but not the answers
He did a great job explaining the problem in Darfur - but didn't tell us what he'd actually do to stop or, at least lessen, the genocide as President.

He did a great job highlighting the horrors of India's caste system - but didn't tell us what he'd actually do to change India as President.

He did a good job explaining the need for universal health care - but didn't tell us what his actual plan involves. Single payer? Multi-payer? (He did, to be fair, say details were coming very soon.)

He said we need to stop enabling Iraq - but didn't tell us what that would take. He said we must talk with Syria and Iran, but he didn't say anything about whether or not he'd talk to Maliki or other Iraqi leaders, and what he would say to them if he did.

This was just like his campaign kick-off in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Thank you, Senator, for highlighting the ignored Gulf Coast crisis; that really is a service given the media's neglect - but now would you please tell us what you'll do to remedy the current Road Home Program and the FEMA housing messes, and how you'll prevent such incompetence in the future?

What little substance Edwards did offer was in response to a question about predatory lending and changing the structures that produce poverty - he has ideas about interest rates, "work boxes," and housing vouchers. (Unfortunately, he only mentioned the vital issue of New Orleans in passing, which I found very disappointing, especially coming from him.) What I'm wondering is, where was this substance in '04, the first time you ran for President? And why isn't there more? Did it really take you this long to develop just this much?

I hate to say it, but hypocrisy was on display, as well. Edwards likes to paint himself as a man of the people, and began his remarks with your typical, "When politicians do this, they don't really mean it." But in answer to a question about voting in support of coal mining in West Virginia, he essentially said he was trading votes with Sen. Robert Byrd. Now, I have no problem with vote trading - it's what makes the Senate work. But if you partake in, don't act like you're not a typical politician and expect us to believe you! At least be honest!            

That wasn't the only hypocrisy we saw, though the other two examples were smaller. Edwards bragged about the anti-poverty college program he started and his stances on education, all while appearing at a college, but the first several questions he took were all from older audience members. Was he pandering to the CSPAN and wider NH audiences? Fine, there's nothing wrong with that, but don't play up your college stances immediately before passing up the chance to talk to students. Pick one or the other. (On another note, sources tell me that the folks who actually work at his anti-poverty center resent his involvement - they're grateful he started it and brings in money, but they feel his involvement is inconsistent and heavy-handed.) Edwards also said, on the subject of gay marriage, that he hates to think he might use his own personal experiences to influence policy decisions - but don't I remember something about economic discussions and the line "son of a mill worker"?

It's Not All Bad
Not everything I have to say about John Edwards is negative. He did give us some refreshing candor as to his GLBT stances - not everyone in the audience liked what he had to say about the issue, but he said it anyway, and discussed some inner personal turmoil. And I am so thrilled he is out there pushing these issues - poverty, climate change, and reconciliation with the populations of other countries JFK-style are crucial. He actually mentioned poverty in INDIA as part of his stump speech! (Now if only I could get him to respect the issue of Native American poverty...) Nobody talks about these subjects, so thank God Edwards is pushing the debate. But knowing what to talk about is only a good start: it's not enough to win the White House. Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK) (who's also running, but who I'll also not vote for) was right: most politicians will do a wonderful job telling you what the problem is, but if you pay close attention, they really don't offer any hard solutions. John Edwards would make a wonderful Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and I'd love to have him back in the Senate, but he must not become President.

Thankfully, there are some candidates out there who do offer concrete ideas and solutions - candidates like Joe Biden, the author of the Violence Against Women Act and the only Democratic contender with an actual plan for Iraq.

UPDATE: A New Hampshire newspaper, albeit not a local one to the Hanover area, had a decent-length article on the speech: http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/02012007/nhnews-ph-nh-edwards.html Thanks for the tip, philgoblue. Personally, I think the article shows the vagueness, but read it and decide for yourselves. You're netroots, I know you will!

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Two Americas: The Enfranchised and the Disenfranchised

America Has Historically Been Divided into "Two Americas":  Those Who, by Law and Custom, Could Be Elected to Public Office and Those Who Were Legally and Factually Disenfranchised

Throughout the history of the United States, there have been "Two Americas":  "Enfranchised America" and "Disenfranchised America".  From the earliest colonial times, there was a clear dividing line between these "Two Americas" based on race and ethnicity, religion and national origin between those who could elect and be elected to public office ("The Enfranchised") and those who could not elect or be elected to public office ("The Disenfranchised").  Women, Blacks, Indians, Asians, Jews, Latin Americans and even Eskimos lived within the boundaries of the United States, but by law and by custom they could participate neither to elect nor to be elected to public office.  And so a clear and formal division was created between the "Two Americas" - "Enfranchised America" which enjoyed all of the privileges of citizesnship, and "Disenfranchised America" which did not.

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One day later, King's lessons lost

Though I originally wrote this one year ago, I've updated it in the hopes that we never forget Dr. King's legacy.

Yesterday, millions of Americans commemorated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., remembering the words and deeds of one of the world's foremost activists and humanitarians. President Bush was no different, as he said, marking the 2006 celebration, that King and Rosa Parks, in asking America to be true to its founding ideals, "roused a dozing conscience of a complacent nation."

Bush, in that rare moment one year ago, was right in saying that King and Parks helped wake America from its slumber. But no sooner had he honored their legacies than Bush himself returned to his job, doing his best to erode the very tradition the day's honoree represented. Thanks to the president's dozing conscience and America's complacency, King would find a home today not so dissimilar than that he sought to change four decades ago.

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John Edwards 'Echoes King's Message'

The AP reports that the speech Edwards gave at Riverside Church today "echoed King's anti-war message."

Edwards spoke from the same wooden pulpit King used and was introduced by King's son, Martin Luther King III. The younger King said his father would have admired Edwards' commitment to fighting poverty.

The former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee touched on poverty issues in his speech, as well as        AIDS in Africa, energy independence and a proposed boost in the minimum wage.  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070114/ap_o n_el_pr/democrats_king

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End the War: Pay for Health Care

Dan Conley writes on Taegan Goddard's Political Insider:

It's Reaganomics in reverse and you'll be hearing a lot of it in the next two years. While the Reagan/Cheney economic strategy was to run up deficits to "starve the beast" for new government spending programs, the unpopularity of the very expensive (some estimates say $10 billion a month) Iraq War has provided an opening for Democrats to propose universal health care coverage without raising taxes or cutting domestic spending.

Democrats will use the Iraq War as a two-fer, an opportunity to fund an extremely popular domestic program and to do it without the complicated cost-control efforts that sunk Hillary Clinton's plan 12 years ago. And they will do so while sticking to a pay-as-you-go philosophy, spending no more than the current administration, just shifting the priorities.

Expect a major Presidential candidate to latch onto the "end the war, pay for health care" mantra in the coming weeks ...

-- Dan Conley
http://politicalinsider.com/2006/12/end_ the_war_pay_for_health_car.html

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