A Future Democrat in South Carolina (Henry)
John Edwards might not have done well in Nevada, but the greeting he got in Greenville, SC had to warm his heart. The freezing rain was coming down, but that didn’t stop Edwards from filling the library in Greenville’s High School with an enthusiastic crowd with standing room only. Rep. Carl Allen (The Black Caucus Chairman from the South Carolina House-D), came on stage to introduce a young man that had received a full scholarship from a program started by Edwards, a young African-American Sophomore in college by the name of Tony Tyson. He gave a speech thanking Edwards for allowing him the opportunity to attend college, something that Tyson admitted might not have happened if not for the program Edwards started.
Rep Allen introducing Edwards
When Edwards hit the stage it was almost like being at a rock concert. The crowd stood up on their feet and the noise was so loud that it effectively blotted out the small tape recorder I was carrying with feedback. John Edwards made his “Stump Speech” and right behind me sat his Mom and Dad, Bobbie and Wallace Edwards.
Bobbie and Wallace Edwards
Edwards started gunning for the Republicans right away. He went into his “fight” mode and told the crowd that it won’t be easy to change this country. He talked about how many homeless and hungry we have in “The richest nation on Earth.” He talked about all the things I had read about, the homeless Vets and the corporations that are making record profits while the Middle-Class suffers. He mentioned Exxon/Mobile and their record corporate earnings last year of over 40 Billion dollars while the rich get richer and the poor are getting poorer. I expected all of this from reading about his campaign, but what I didn’t expect was what came last, which was the best part, but we’ll get to that.
Edwards on Taking the Stage
He was asking the crowd “Are you tired of corporate lobbyists running Washington?” The crowd cheered. He told the crowd that if people think that they can sit down and negotiate with the oil companies, the drug companies, the health insurance companies “They are living in a never-never land”. He said that that he doesn’t want to be “their” President; he wants to be “our” President. He mentioned Nataline Sarkisyan was being treated for cancer when her liver failed. Her insurance company, Cigna, initially denied her doctors’ request for a liver transplant on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence to show it would help in Sarkisyan’s case. Cigna ultimately reversed its decision, just before Sarkisyan was taken off life support and died. Edwards told the crowd that it shouldn’t have happened.
He said that all the Democratic candidates talk of change. He mentioned Sen. Barak Obama’s statement that Ronald Reagan was an example of a President that changed America. Edwards blasted Obama by saying that Reagan broke the back of the Unions, changed the tax structure to favor the rich, and gave unrestricted access to multi-national companies that bled the life out of America. “This is not the change we need!” He went on to say we need universal healthcare, care for mental disorders and mental heath for all, and then he mentioned that this could cost up to 90-120 Billion dollars per year. He said that he had a way to pay for this, eliminate Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. He asked “When did the Democratic Party become the party of the corporations? Why do Democrats keep taking money from corporate lobbyists?” ’This is not the Democratic Party that I believe in. The one that takes the most money from these people is a Democrat.” He also said “That you have to be willing to fight these special interests.”
He mentioned that “If we are to pass a better world to our children, we have to solve the problem of global warming.” He said we need to cut carbon emissions and use wind, solar, water power. He said that everyone has to get behind this and become “Patriotic over something other than war!” This had the people on their feet. If Edwards is losing this Primary fight, you couldn’t tell it from the hundreds of people that were shoulder-to-shoulder tonight. He said the minimum wage should be at least $9.50 per hour. He also said “That this fight is about the heart and soul of middle-class America, this is what this campaign is all about!”
Edwards told the audience that you have to be strong to take on these special interests. “You can’t nice these people.” He said that in his first year, he will end this war in Iraq. He said all combat operations will stop and that after his first year there will be no combat troops in Iraq. He explained that we have to work with other nations in the region, Syria, Iran and others to bring stability to the area. He said he will keep a quick-reaction force in Kuwait and a naval presence in the Persian Gulf. He said he would add to the force in Afghanistan. He said that there will be no permanent military bases in Iraq. He saved the best for last and here it is;
“In my first year there will be no more Guantanamo.” “There will be no rendition flights or anything like that.” “When I am President we will stop the illegal spying on the American people.” “There will be no debate in America about what kind of torture is permissible.” “America should be a force for good in the world again, a country that is worthy of world leadership.” The people there cheered for over a minute. He talked about a “Tidal wave of change, and give this country to our children the way our parents did for us, to give them a world that was better than we found it.” The people flocked to Edwards and he stopped for pictures and autographs. I said ‘Thanks for talking about our civil liberties” as I gave him my retired Army cap to sign. He looked at the cap and grabbed both my hands and said “Thank you, you’re welcome.”
After the majority of the people left I was informed that there would be a “Press avial”. I stayed on and got with a group of reporters and listened to them ask about his poor showing in Nevada. He told them that he hopes the saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. A female reporter asked him if he was in it to the end and he said “Yes”. He said this cause that he’s engaged in won’t go away”. Then another reporter asked him if he would stay in the race if he lost here in South Carolina? He said he already answered that question. I asked the last question; “Senator Edwards, are you going to make our civil liberties part of the core of your campaign?” He told me “It already is”. That was the last thing he said, and that was good enough for me.
Edwards Taking Questions from Reporters
From the welcome he got here in Greenville, South Carolina, Edwards seems to have caught a second wind. He seemed energized by the audience. He’s thinner than when I last saw him in 2004, but there is more emotional substance there. I think that this Primary fight on his home turf could be the turning point for him.
That’s the way I see it.