John Edwards, Addressing the Building and Construction Trades Conference

John Edwards: Enthusiastic reception. When he gets to the podium, the audience remains standing and starts cheering.  The head table is entirely burly, gray and balding white guys; the audience is a bit more diverse, but it’s a heavily mustached, dese-and-dose kinda guys crowd.

“My wife Elizabeth spoke in Cleveland a few days ago, and she noted, she turns on the television, and sees herself; she opens the newspaper, and there’s her picture. She turns on the radio, and she hears her own voice. And she turned to me and said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda sick of me.” (laughter) Which is consistent with what we’ve always seen with Elizabeth, she’s a remarkable woman. (Warm applause.)
Edwards goes into his “Two Americas” speech, painting the picture of the worker with the sick child who has to beg for health care in a the emergency room.
“None of these jobs were great jobs before the union came along, were they? That’s what everybody seems to forget.” It’s an all-you-can eat red meat buffet, and the crowd is devouring it.
“While we’re reforming labor law in this country, we ought to ban the hiring of permanent replacements for strikers. We used to honor work in this country, didn’t we?” (Vocal “Yeah!”s comes from the audience.) Goes through family members who are union members.
Because some of us see Edwards as a lightweight in certain areas (COUGHwaronterrorCOUGH) , it’s easy to forget what an effective politician he can be when he’s in his element, and this is his element. Enthusiastic, fired up, connecting with this perfect-for-his-schtick audience. I guess it’s raw populism.
He just referred to rolling back “Bush’s tax cuts for the richest Americans” and the crowd loved it. Yup, it’s populism.
“We can raise the minimum wage so that we have a decent living wage in this country.” What would constitute a “decent living wage”? $10/hour? $15/hour? Should everyone in every job, even the most menial or unskilled, be entitled to Edwards’ definition of “a decent living wage”?
Periodically, those of us who are not natural fans of Edwards can’t quite get how a hugely wealthy guy, with a megamansion that makes the White House look small, can paint himself as the one who speaks for the impoverished and the little guy. Well, the union crowd doesn’t mind. He’ll give them their policy priorities, and that’s all they want.
“America needs to be leaving Iraq.” He wants 50,000 out of the north and the south immediately, which I presume he means Kurdish regions and the Shia regions in the south.
His new signature line, “It’s time to ask Americans to be patriotic about something greater than war” gets a standing ovation.
He’s wrapping up… this is the first time I’ve seen Edwards live in a while. Like I indicated earlier, it’s like watching an athlete who you thought was past his prime show some of the flash of his old moves. He just knew what to emphasize to the crowd, showed a bit of emotional range, and simply avoided issues that might cause trouble (immigration). Maybe there’s some potential in the Edwards campaign yet.

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