Edwards Announces Presidential Run in New Orleans
by Glynn Wilson
NEW ORLEANS, La., Dec. 28 – In one of the most novel presidential announcements in American political history, John Edwards stood in a muddy back yard in the Ninth Ward in blue jeans and said he chose the site to formally say he would run for president in 2008 because the neighborhood is a prime example of the two America’s he’s been talking about for years.
The growing divide between the rich and poor is a theme he’s pitched since leaving a lucrative law practice in North Carolina nearly a decade ago to give something back by getting involved in politics.
|Photo by Glynn Wilson|
|John Edwards announces for president as a modern-day populist, in blue jeans…|
“New Orleans is a place where you can really see the two America’s I’ve been talking about. You can get out here and see what the problems are and take action to do something about it,” he said. “Instead of staying home and complaining, we’re asking Americans to help. We want people to take responsibility, to join this campaign to actually take action now, not later, not after the next election.”
The former Democratic Party vice presidential nominee and U.S. Senator said his campaign will be a grass roots, ground-up campaign for people “not afraid to get their hands dirty.”
The domestic economic issues in his campaign platform will include raising the minimum wage, pushing for universal health care and rolling back President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And in a nod to labor, which could help swing the Democratic Party’s nomination to Edwards next year, he said he has already been involved in and will continue to push for the organization of American workers.
“We need to ask Americans to be patriotic on something besides the war,” he said. “We need to get rid of some of the tax cuts for the people at the very top.”
He said he will also champion taking action on global warming, including raising taxes on the oil companies and investing in alternative energy sources.
“We need to ask Americans to be patriotic and conserve energy,” he said.
He also said America needs to lead by beginning to pull the U. S. military out of the quagmire in Iraq.
“We need to reestablish America’s moral leadership in the world. We can’t do that without beginning to pull our troops out of Iraq,” he said. “This needs to be done now, not after the next election.”
He said it would be a major mistake to escalate the U.S. military’s involvement in Iraq with more troops, as the president seems to be on the verge of announcing – in part at the urging of Sen. John McCain, who could be the chief competition for Edwards in the run for president if both win their party’s respective nominations.
In fact the entire presidential race in 2008 could come down to opposing philosophies on this issue, some experts already think, especially if the war continues to go badly and the conflict still holds center stage as the campaign heats up next year.
“If America doesn’t lead, there is no stability in the world. It’s just chaos now,” Edwards said. “It’s our responsibility to lead. The world needs to see our better angels, and they will respond to us differently.”
As he has in the past, Edwards admited his vote in support of the resolution Bush used to justify the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.
On the controversial issue of national health care, Edwards said he would not shy away from pushing for universal health care unequivocally.
“We need it desperately,” he said.
When asked at the press conference about one of his alleged weaknesses, his limited experience in government, especially in foreign affairs, Edwards took his biggest swipe at the Bush administration.
“Rumsfeld and Cheney had a lot of experience, but the war is a disaster,” he said. “Experience does not guarantee good government, vision or the ability to adapt to a changing world.”
Bush was also criticized in 2000 for his total lack of experience in foreign affairs and was expected to focus on domestic economic issues as president, until 9/11 intervened. Historians now say the outcome of the war in Iraq is likely to define his presidency, and not in an altogether flattering way – unless something changes drastically in the next few months.
Edwards said he has been traveling around the world since the 2004 campaign and has learned a lot that will help him if he is elected president.
On MSNBC’s political show “Hardball” a couple of weeks ago, Edwards handled this issue by proving he could name most of the world leaders thrown out by Chris Mathews – unlike Bush in 2000, who got stumped.
When asked what he would do to counter the notion held by the national punitry that Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were the early front runners – even though neither have announced – Edwards refused to go negative. He said America needs good people in government and politics, especially in the presidential campaign in 2008.
But he indicated he has hope that the “ground will begin to shift” after his announcement, set as it was in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, one of the most devistated areas in the country by the nation’s worst national disaster ever.
If he had been president at the time, he said, he would have been on the ground finding out what needed to be done and taking action.