(Project 365 Day 223)
I heard John Edwards speak today. I need to start by saying that I saw Hillary Clinton speak a few months ago, and the most exciting part was when she first walked in, not 20 feet away from me, and smilingly waved at us. I was all like, "Oo look! It's Hillary Clinton! She's right over there!" Once she started talking, it was boredom city. Everything she said sounded like it was precisely calculated to offend the minimum number of people. Her Q&A was entirely devoid of content.
Admittedly, I already had a somewhat negative impression of Sen. Clinton going in (because I felt that she'd been pandering to the center in the most cynical ways possible, through meaningless family values issues and such), but her talk cemented my impression and then some. I came out with a much worse impression of her than I had going in.
(For comparison: A friend of mine who had the same experience with Clinton also saw John McCain. We also both had negative feelings about modern day McCain, feeling that he's towing the party line a lot more than he used to, but my friend said that he had a better impression of McCain after seeing him talk.)
Anyway, back to John Edwards. I honestly didn't know much about him going in, but I really like him now. He was amazingly open and honest. He actually, well, SAID stuff and made POINTS.
He said that he'd close down Guantanamo as his first act in office. He talked about regretting his support of the war in Iraq. When someone asked him about the mercenaries we use there, he said they should never have been there, and we should pull them out. He said he wants fully publicly-funded campaigns, adding that he knows he's raised millions himself in campaign funds but doesn't like the system.
He talked a lot about foreign aid, specifically focusing on primary school education and clean water in third world countries. He admitted that it may not be a popular topic with some people, who'd rather see us spend all our money at home. He said he wants to create a cabinet-level position to oversee humanitarian aid. I think he said that he wants to spend about $5 billion a year on it.
That led him to segue into mentioning farm subsidy reform, which was what I applauded the most. (Everyone talks about Big Tobacco and Big Oil, but it's time we got Big Corn on everyone's radar!) He wants to get rid of subsidies for million-dollar farms, but he does want to keep them for "family farms". He said the trick would be drawing the line, and he figures around $250,000 a year in income would be a reasonable one.
Edwards spent a lot of time talking about the work that the people of the country need to do. He said that nothing will happen if we just vote and elect someone. For instance, he said that fighting climate change would require a lot of sacrifices on our part, admitting that changes would require conservation and hikes in energy prices. I kinda really liked this part. In a way, it's sort of obvious, but it made me feel respected. A lot of politicians want to pretend that gov't can do everything for you. That's the easier route, no? All of Bush's talk about "maintaining the American way of life" comes to mind. Or maybe since people complain about Edwards being too young, he's just trying to channel some JFK associations. :P
On that note, he said that he doesn't believe in a President who wants to move cautiously and avoid offending people, and that there are candidates in both parties who are like that (which I think might be a thinly veiled attack on Sen. Clinton). He thinks we live in a time that requires a President who's willing to make bold moves even where it's not politically expedient.
I even liked how he was very open about dodging questions. One questioner first lightened mood by complimenting Edwards on his new haircut and then asked if the US should send military support if China invaded Taiwan. Edwards laughed, said, "Why don't you just get right to the question?" and then started, with a smile, "First of all, I'm not going to answer your question." He followed that with the expected fluffy non-answer, but I think a lot of candidates would ONLY give the fluffy non-answer.
Similarly, he was talking about how when he's President, he'd want to surround himself with smart people who didn't always agree with him. When asked if he wanted to name some such people he might choose, he gave a jokingly curt, "No." I'm impressed with the way he so directly handles questions he doesn't want to answer and sort of makes them into a joke. I guess it just gives me a sense of respect for the audience, as if he were saying, "I'm not trying to pull a fast one on you, but you know how politics works."
When the host said that they were running long, and they'd only take a couple more questions, Edwards insisted he'd stay as long as he needed to. He even answered a few more questions after the next prompting. Eventually, they just had to end it. I know this is part of the politics, and his insistence on staying is a pre-considered part of the act, but I still liked it. :P I don't mind calculated actions if they're sending the right message.
John Edwards is one smooth operator. He needs to just do more of these. I think the more people he speaks to in person, the more votes he'll get. I couldn't say the same for Hillary Clinton. :P
A couple pictures of him after the speech below:
He stuck around afterward to chat with fans and take a few pictures. Note that at the beginning of Sen. Clinton's talk, the host told us that she had asked us not to take any pictures.
I tried to get a picture with him too. At one point, his minders urged him to leave; he waved over at us and said, "But what about all THESE people?" Sadly, after he left after only a couple more photos, and I just barely missed the cut. :P Again, I know what he said was calculated and designed to sound charming, but it still worked. :)
Funny how I went in knowing nothing about him, and by the end I wanted to take a picture with him. With Sen. Clinton, I wanted to take a picture of her before she came in, but by the end of her talk I just wanted to leave. :P I wonder if I would've dug Edwards so much if I hadn't seen Clinton first? :)