Iowa: Edwards Takes on Corporate Greed

Live Iowa Campaign Journal

Dubuque, Iowa -- Amid a heavy snow storm Friday afternoon, an overflow crowd of several hundred supporters bundled into a meeting hall in this economically battered town to hear candidate John Edwards escalate his closing campaign message of opposing "corporate greed" and denounce what he called a "small group of profiteers" dominating American life.

"Everything about America is threatened today ... this is an epic struggle for the future of America," Edwards told the cheering crowd. "Corporate greed and the very powerful use their money to control Washington and this corrupting influence is destroying the middle class."

While all of the presidential campaigns have refocused to some degree on foreign policy in the wake of the murder of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, Edwards is keeping his message of economic fairness front and center during the final week of campaigning here. "We will defeat greed and fear -- and strike a blow for working people, for those with no voice, for those Washington has ignored too long." Edwards made no mention of the Pakistani crisis in his newly re-tooled stump speech.

While Edwards has consistently campaigned on an economically populist program, his speech today in Dubuque was marked by a noticeable ratcheting up and radicalization of his critique of corporate wealth and power.

"Why on earth would we expect the corporate powers and their lobbyists, who make billions by selling out the middle-class, to just give up their power because we ask them nicely?" Edwards asked. He made no mention of rivals Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in today's speech; in the past, he has slammed Clinton for being too indebted to powerful Washington lobbies.

Edwards is in the midst of a final 38-county push to win next Thursday's Iowa caucuses. Even his own supporters will concede that taking Iowa is a do-or-die must for a campaign running third in national polls, but in a virtual dead heat in the Hawkeye State with rivals Clinton and Obama.

Nestled on the gritty Illinois border, Dubuque has been hit hard by the collapse in American manufacturing jobs and offers itself as a perfect venue for Edwards' message of economic fairness. The local Flexsteel plant has lost about two-thirds of its 800 jobs over the past decade. Paper maker Georgia Pacific, another big employer in town, has also been hit hard by job exports.

"Iowa has lost twice as many jobs to unfair trade deals than it's won in the so-called technological revolution," Edwards adviser Dave "Mudcat" Saunders told the HuffPost before today's event started. "What kind of revolution is that?" Saunders said Edwards would stay on his message of opposing "unchecked greed" and that it was a theme that resonated deeply throughout the state.


Friday Afternoon
Clinton, Iowa

I'm sitting in the gym at the Washington Middle School here in the eastern Iowa town of Clinton waiting for Barack Obama, who's running an hour late, to show up for one of his half-dozen events he's scheduled for today. I've been in Iowa less than 18 hours and have already logged more than 350 miles and driven through two snowstorms to catch three separate campaign events -- and I'm not complaining.

Say what you will about the undemocratic, unrepresentative nature of the Hawkeye State caucuses, but they beat the hell out of just about every other undemocratic, unrepresentative aspect of American electoral politics.

Here's the bottom line: Spend any amount of time in this extraordinary form of retail politicking and you can't help but conclude that every cliché about the collective wisdom of the American electorate is actually true. If we could agree on one basic takeaway from this whole process, it should be that we outright ban all TV political advertising and insist that the Iowa model be followed in every state of the union--no matter its size.

Take, for example, the Joe Biden event I attended last night in Council Bluffs, about ten minutes after I drove out of the Omaha airport. At least 150, maybe 200 people gathered in an Elks Lodge, during the dinner hour, on a week night with the thermometer reading 18 degrees to hear ... Joe Biden! And it was vintage Biden. He talked and talked and talked some more, often taking 10 minutes to answer one question. His brother, Jim, three times threatened to literally cut the microphone cord. And three times Biden said, wait, wait, just a few more questions.

An ego trip? For sure. But much more than that. Yes, there was the predictable question about ethanol from the rural crowd. But there was a cascade of queries about foreign policy, Biden's forte. Russia and Putin? The Israelis and the Palestinians? Should we talk to Syria? Explain that Biden Plan for Iraq, will'ya?

This from guys in jeans with John Deere caps and from their wives clutching plastic bags from Target. Biden, of course, was only too happy to accommodate. And on several occasions he prefaced his remarks by apologizing for the long-winded and complicated answer he was about to give.

This went on for two hours and came to an end only when Brother Jim had to literally drag the candidate to a waiting car. At no point did the audience grow restless or bored. After each answer, five or six more hands shot up. The interest was avid and, in fact, Biden's biggest applause line of the night had nothing to do with the usual sort of pandering, bur rather when he vowed that in a Biden administration he would outlaw all forms of torture.

The whole thing was rather restorative -- a word you usually don't find in any sentence with the word Biden in it. But it was. And it was a stark reminder how the process, and almost everyone in it, from the candidates to the consultants to the media managers insult and underestimate the intelligence of the American voter. Good for Biden.

Obama's bus just arrived. So more later.

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