Benny's World

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

JRE Buzz: Iowa is Edwards Country

Yesterday, I got back from a trip to Tom Harkin's Steak Fry. It was like a cross between a big football game of rivals and a rock concert. It was far more diverse than I expected. One woman commented that she had never seen buses from Waterloo before. Waterloo has lots of African-Americans and Latinos in their town, according to one of my friends.

To give one an idea of the scene: Obamaians marched in from a rally across the street. I spoke with one of Obama's unpaid interns and he was very nice. Most Obama supporters were enthusiastic, but they were not rude like the punks for Madam Clinton. There were young cheerleaders for Madame Clinton who shouted at Fry attendees as we walked in. Then these same punks also tried to hijack an Edwards rally---older Iowans did not like it at all as they were Edwards' supporters. The older ones who supported Clinton didn't do those kind of antics.

Iowans take their retail politics very seriously.

A word about Tom Harkin first. He is so down to earth and he understands his constituents very well. He had some great lines, such as these:

"This is my idea of surge" and reported this was a record turnout of over 12,000 people.
"Ready to do some preaching to the choir. Who is better a better choir than fellow Iowans?"
"We are ready to kick some....elephants!"

Harkin made the grandest speech of the day, outlining things Iowans (and this Illini) wants: bold movement towards universal health care, global warming, etc. I liked it that he used a WWII expression that was the theme of the event, particularly for JRE:

"We will fight, but fear not".

I parked my camp chair and gear by some other JRE supporters in the back as I wanted to sit back, observe what was going on, and get into some conversations with Iowans at the event. The ones I talked to were impressed that I drove from east Central Illinois just to witness "a lifetime" event. I was not too far from the Edwards booth, which offered hand paddle/tambourines to shake and offered John Edwards pasties for temporary tatoos. One could also get face painting. The lady next me got a photo of her little girl with Jack and Emma Claire. That's impressive. I also liked the huge vertical signs that read Edwards 08. They stood out, as well as the airplane that flew about with a banner that read "Iowa is Edwards Country"

A HRC supporter and her husband, who was leaning towards Obama were to my right. I asked the HRC supporter why she supported her. She didn't have a clear cut answer, but my impression was that it was because Clinton was a woman. The supporter mentioned that her son was now in Iraq. I asked her if she knew if Clinton had a plan to get out of Iraq. She confessed that she had not heard one from Clinton. I said that I wish I could ask Clinton that question in addition to another: when in upstate NY International Paper was threatening to burn tires for heat and energy, workers wrote and called Clinton to ask to intervene. Clinton did nothing. They burned the tires, but the state finally got wind of it, and made them stop. So if Clinton was so concerned about occupational hazards and global warming, why did she let it ride?

The supporter's response? "Oh, I didn't know that".

Or when Clinton spoke later and said she would create jobs. I turned to the JRE supporter on my left and said, "She will? Why is it that she touted a foreign company (and paved the way) near Buffalo and said they would create jobs. They have 10 employees and they have outsourced all of the work to India?"

The JRE supporter said, really, and added, "well, she hasn't been to my part of the state, and probably won't get there. " I replied, "and she's not likely to, if your town is only 5000 in population."

Clinton lacked any empathy in her voice. She came across like she is seen in the 1984 video/Youtube. Even David Yepsen thought Clinton was not that great.

I had a few things to say Obama's record as well, such as he voted with the President most of the time and he voted to confirm Condelezza Rice. At this rally, he said he would not vote for supplemental funding for the war without a deadline (whatever that means). He claimed in 2004 there was no black or white America, but I think on that vote, it was more racially based. I also mentioned to the HRC supporter that Obama voted "present" on women's health issues while he was in the state legislature, but was glad to see he has progressed since then. His supporters though showed passion when he used the expressions "Fired Up, Ready to Go" and repeated after him when he said repeated the words 3 times.

"Good cheerleader" said the Iowan to my left.

Bill Richardson canvassed among the crowd. I said hello to him and took his picture. He has a good sense of humor and of himself. But I sure disagree with him on removing all of the troops from Iraq and leaving no residuals within 6-8 months. I don't think that is possible. He also commented that Al Gore was right, but he also hoped Gore would not run. Hmm, is that his worry? I think if I were he, I would be concerned about the uranium stock piles that haven't been accounted for 12 years.

Chris Dodd more or less told his story about being in the Peace Corps, inspired by JFK's call of service for our country. To his credit, the International Union of Fire Fighters were there to help promote him at the event. But Dodd said something really odd, such as that he would "restore the Constitution of the US" on his first day. I know what he meant, it had to do with Gitmo, but it was phrased so weirdly. I liked how he ended the speech with humor, saying that all of the 12,000 attendees were invited to spend the night at the WH if he were elected president.

JRE was by far the most revered of the candidates. (No I didn't get my pic made with him this time, but I got to give him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek which he returned in kind) To get a good summary of what he said (I took too few notes on his since I was familiar with his words), Patrick from the Century of the Common Iowan has a good report on his blog. But I will tell you that when Tom Harkin uttered "John Edwards" the crowd went wild and the folks in the front started chanting. Harkin was pleasantly interrupted a few times during his introduction. And when Edwards said we don't want to trade "Republican Corporate interests with Democratic ones", that got the most applause along with being able to sign a union card as easily as joining the Republican party. I also remember that Edwards said that all kinds of health care coverage would be included. A Native American man, who was on crutches, held one of his crutches up high in support. I took his picture later.

I felt the most sympathy for Biden. He had to follow Edwards, and he took too long to get to the meat and potatoes of his speech. I do remember that he talked about Iraq and it was more like a report rather than what his plan was, although he did believe the country should be segregated into three states so that the Sunis, Shias, and the Kurds would quit fighting each other.

As aside, I wish my good acquaintance Taylor Marsh had been at the Harkin Event and read the other reports about Clinton, whom she has a high regard for. Instead, Taylor has been very critical of Obama and Elizabeth Edwards for their criticism of last week's ad in the NYT about General Petraeus. I have to say that I disagree with Taylor on this one because MoveOn ultimately changed their ad on YouTube to focus on Bush rather than calling the general a traitor. Based on her show yesterday, I think Taylor is a bit displeased with the Edwards Online campaign for not being as responsive, but that's just my opinion. Keep listening to her, BW readers. She's still the best radio talk show host out there.

Speaking of media, you can find me on C-SPAN's show of the Harkin Fry. I'm there for 2 seconds about 2 hours into the program.

Anyway, I left the Steak Fry at 4:30, and didn't stick around as I needed to get to my host's place by dark. But it was a wonderful event. I only wish I could go caucus for JRE as Harkin said, "to make the vote heard around the world" in January.

More JRE buzz l8tr...

Update: Iowa for Edwards has videos of JRE's speech up now.

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