Presidential hopeful John Edwards addressed a crowd of approximately 400 Dartmouth College students and Upper Valley residents at the Top of the Hop Monday night. His speech focused on corruption in American government and how he would address it as president.
Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina who ran on the Democratic ticket in 2004, was met with a standing ovation as he began his speech with an attack on the current administration. He argued that the government needed to start "truth-telling," no matter how uncomfortable the truth may be.
"It's really important to realize what is happening. We might be the first generation to leave America in worse condition than our forefathers," Edwards said, citing both the slow reaction by the government to Hurricane Katrina and the government's mismanagement of the Iraq war as examples of the Bush administration's ineffectiveness.
"We know there is incompetence in the Bush administration, but what has happened now is corruption -- something that had been building up for decades," Edwards said.
Edwards cited corruption as the reason the American people do not have national health care. Lobbyists of drug and insurance companies control Congress and "literally write the laws," according to Edwards.
"How long are we going to let these big companies control health care? When are we going to grow some backbone?" Edwards rhetorically asked the audience. "And I'm not just talking about Republicans here. I'm also talking about my party."
He directed his attacks on the Democratic Party towards Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., deeming her a "corporate Democrat" who would not fix the political system because she is too big a part of it. He noted that she has received the most contributions from lobbyists, drug companies and the defense industries -- more than any other presidential hopeful. He also criticized Clinton's vote to send more combat troops into Iraq, and her vote in the Senate that would give the Bush administration power to declare Iran's 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization.
"Voting with Bush and his plans is not turning up the heat," Edwards said, referring to Clinton's new campaign slogan. "There is too much at stake. We learned our lesson the hard way with Iraq."
Edwards also concentrated on two of the specific policies that he felt differentiated him from the other Democratic candidates -- his policies concerning Iraq and Iran. He outlined specific plans for a withdrawal from Iraq, promising to withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 American troops from Iraq immediately following his inauguration into office. He also promised to have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of his first term.
"We don't need a surge in Baghdad," he said. "We need a surge in New Orleans."
After his speech, Edwards answered questions from the audience. In answering a question on national health care and how he would successfully implement his policies, Edwards said he would be a president willing to fight for his issues.
"When I'm sworn in as President, I'll say to every member of Congress and the Senate, 'If you don't pass universal health care, I'll do everything in my power to take health care away from you,'" Edwards said, referring to the benefits legislators receive. "There's no excuse for them to have health care when America doesn't."
Edwards also touched briefly on tax reform, suggesting he would remove tax cuts for the rich, investing the taxes instead to create a universal health care system. He also said his goal would be to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. But, he said, the American people would need to work together to "sacrifice, and do it together.&qut;
"We need a president who will ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than the war," Edwards said.
To finish the night, Edwards asked the audience to judge the candidates before casting the ballots.
"George Bush destroyed the trusted relationship with the people of America," Edwards said. "I ask you to judge us: up, down, trustworthy or not. The next president has to re-establish that trust. We now have an epic fight on our hands, and that fight is for most of America and against monetary interests that lie between you and democracy."
According to Zogby Intenational, Edwards is in third place in Iowa, with 21 percent support, only behind Clinton's 28 percent and Obama's 25 percent support. Among Democratic voters in New Hampshire, Clinton leads Obama, 35 percent to 21 percent, with Edwards at 15 percent.
© 2007 The Dartmouth via U-WIRE