Monday, April 23, 2007

John Edwards' Speech at the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 638

Following Bill Richardson's address came John Edwards. WOW - what a reception he received from the crowd when he entered the hall. And again upon ascending the rostrum and telling the audience “Elizabeth sends her love.” There’s no doubt about it: John Edwards is a beloved figure to a lot of Democrats in Iowa, and that’s something the other campaigns cannot take lightly.

Edwards began his remarks by discussing what he thinks will be the most important qualities in the next president at a time of “historic challenges”: honesty, integrity, being “a good, decent human being” who can reestablish trust between the United States and the rest of the world and between the American people and their President, someone with “clear ideas,” who can “take positions,” who can tell people “what will you do as president,” and who understands that for America in the world as it now is, there is no difference between foreign and domestic policy. Edwards said that the next president must spend his/her first few months in office traveling the world to talk about, as he put it, “the idea of America”: equality, diversity, a force for good. Moreover, Edwards continued, the next president must demonstrate through action that the United States is committed not just to our own interests, but also those of all humanity, by, among other things, “solving Darfur” and addressing AIDS in Africa. “We’re better than this,” Edwards declared. “We need to show the world who we are,” by taking the $500 billion in the current Iraq appropriation bill and using it to fund primary education around the world. “We’re not an example for good,” Edwards said, “we’re an example for bad. You gotta have vision, gotta have strength. Are we going to use high rhetoric about ‘hope’ and ‘affordable health care’, or are we gonna do something about it?” Edwards managed to smack both Obama and Clinton in the same sentence, there - nice rhetorical accomplishment.

Edwards also warned against turning inward and disengaging from the rest of the world after we leave Iraq, saying that the world needs America as a stabilizing force. Reciting the litany of challenges confronting the country into the future, Edwards said, “’There’s nothing we can do’ is the Great Lie in America.”

John Edwards concluded with a prose hymn to organized labor and the question to the audience, “What are you going to do for this country?” emphasizing that the solutions to our problems lie not so much with the next president as with the country as a whole.

At times, Edwards’ address seemed more homily than speech, brimming with conviction and a sense of mission. Indeed, for long stretches in Edwards’ remarks, the crowd was silent, as if in church. Where some other candidates make their claims on experience and leadership, Edwards seems to stress personal qualities - honesty, integrity, etc. That strikes me as trickier ground to walk, since it requires supporters to take quite a bit on faith, and the consequences to the campaign can be severe should the candidate’s halo slip. Like Barack Obama, John Edwards may be more vulnerable to character attacks than more experienced, if lesser known, candidates, and needs to guard against that. This is one of the things that, in my view, keeps John Edwards’ actual prospects for becoming president just this side of longshot territory, regardless of how he does in Iowa.



Anonymous said...

John Edwards is a phony and a hypocrite. He needs to learn to practice what he preaches. He's becoming more of a longshot with each passing day. "Champion of the Poor"...HA!

desmoinesdem said...

Wow, "anonymous," thanks for your in-depth political analysis.

The Edwards campaign spent less money during the first quarter than any of the other top-tier candidates in either party. Who's your preferred candidate, anonymous? Is it Rudy Giuliani, who demands to stay at five-star hotels? Or Hillary Clinton, who travels with a stylist? Or Barack Obama, who probably spends more on his suits than you do?

John Edwards spent no money on polling during the first quarter and a grand total of $750 on political consultants. He knows what he believes and has raised the bar with his substantive policy proposals on health care, carbon emissions reduction, simplification of tax return filing, and other issues.

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