AFSCME sponsored my coverage of the Carson City Democratic Forum. I thought I'd share some of my liveblogging with Huffington Post.... Enjoy! Oh, and for those of you who don't know, this is warts and all. That's why it's liveblogging, so you're likely to see some typos, but I wanted Huffington Post to get exactly what I reported for AFSCME. We start this right after 3:00 p.m. today.
Chris Dodd is up first. His opening statement's bottom line: enough of the "on the job training." It's time for experience in the White House.
Straight out of the gate, George Stephanopoulos says Ne-vah-da, then gets heckled. As an aside, I just want to say that This Week is often preempted in many places in Nevada. No doubt, George wants to make This Week a Sunday staple. It won't happen by talking saying Ne-vah-da.
That's okay, George, I do it all the time.
Questions from the audience, with the 2nd one about Iraq. Yes, my vote was a mistake, said Dodd. There are two things politicians hate to say: "I made a mistake and I don't know." As for redeploying in Iraq, "How much more chaos can we create in Baghdad?"
"I'm probably the only candidate here that gets mail from AARP and diaper services." - Chris Dodd
Dodd also made a point of saying that the Senate spent the last few weeks debating whether they should debate on Iraq. Glad somebody said it.
Next up, Hillary Clinton. Her opening statement was straight at the union audience, talking about universal healthcare, as well as the right to collective bargaining. She then talked about government contractors and the "privatization" of the federal government, promising to cut those private contracts by 500,000 when she takes office.
Then Steph turned to Iraq. Hillary added a new word to her Iraq points. Her vote in 2002 was "a sincere vote" and she takes responsibility for her vote. She then went on to describe the problems in Iraq. She then talked again about cutting Iraqi funds for their military as being the way to go, putting as much pressure on the Iraqis as possible.
"I want to have universal health care coverage by the end of my second term." - Hillary Clinton
Steph also asked about the Obama - Geffen - Clinton scuffle. She talked about running a positive campaign. To add, her campaign has put out several statements already. But Hillary didn't miss a beat, making sure she said she was "proud to be here in Carson City." Glad to be talking to the people here today. It was an obvious dig at Obama skipping the debate.
Vilsack was next. It was all about Iraq for him, especially since he's been a governor and knows what the National Guard goes through. Health care was one of the questions and Vilsack talked about "wellness" and "curing the curable diseases." His closer also reminded the audience that he started out in an orphanage. A remarkable story.
Next was John Edwards.
It is time to end George Bush's war. It is not a time for political calculation." - John Edwards
Edwards in the media room after talking with Stephanopoulos.
Edwards' opening statement dealt with the middle class and the importance of unions and all he's done to help move this issue forward. Clinton's opener went long. Edwards was even longer and he wasn't going to be deterred. He referred to his "brothers and sisters," which was directed at the unions he feels are his kin. He also said that he wouldn't wait for 6 years to get universal health care. He'd start the day of his inauguration to get it done, purposefully contrasting himself with Clinton.
When he got to Iraq, it is not editorializing to say that he was directing some of his remarks directly to Clinton. He referred to the importance of a candidate to be different than George W. Bush, because he couldn't admit a mistake. A president that can be open and honest is important, but Edwards made it clear that he felt that Iraq needs more than a "political calculation" for a president. He closed by saying "thank you" to the unions, especially for health care, which his own family benefited from.
The reason I missed Richardson was because Edwards took the time to go into the media room and answer a lot of questions, starting off with Iraq.
What about poverty and gambling, was another question. Edwards was flat out honest, saying he hadn't thought about it, but he would after the question and thanked the reporter for asking it.
The last question came at the same time someone came to tell him time was up. What do you think about legalized prostitution in Nevada? Edwards laughed and said, "That's a good question to leave on." Then laughing and leaving the room Edwards added with a laugh, "I can't believe you asked that question." Chuckling as he walked out the door.
One editorial comment at this point. Clinton didn't bother to go into the media room and field questions. Edwards and others did. But watching Edwards, all you can come away with is that he's The Natural. Whether you like him or not, like his politics or not, there is a breath of fresh air about him. It's unmistakable.
Richardson was next and I missed quite a bit of it.
"We should not be known for Abu Ghraid." - Bill Richardson
Richardson arrived about 1:00 p.m., according to a reporter in the media room. He talked about "worker protections" and "environmental protections" in our trade agreements, which he believes should be fair trade, not just free trade, which includes dealing with "wage disparity."
Richardson closed by talking about the world and Darfur, but made a point of saying we need to talk to our enemies, too.
Joe Biden is up.
You've got to make Iraq the world's problem not just ours. ... If we don't get it right we're going to be shackled for a very long time to come. ... You need a federal system. - Joe Biden
Biden actually did a two minute opener, the only one of the day. He also mentioned his website, telling the audience "in the interest of time," you can see his my plan for Iraq there. It takes giving Sunnis a piece of the pie. He's "betting his career" on the need for a federal system in Iraq.
Biden is Iraq centric, because that's his sphere of expertise, foreign policy. He wants regional involvement and talks. He asked the audience to go further than just getting out of Iraq, but ask the candidates who want to get out: What next?
Education was a question, with Biden saying he sleeps with a teacher every night, his wife. Teachers need to be paid. Classrooms need to be smaller. Biden also mentioned his wife just got her doctorate, and that he handed it to her. He then went on to quote... saying with a laugh, "I'm very careful about quoting." The audience got it.
"We have an incredible opportunity to change the world," but Bush is going to leave the next president a mess that requires "no margin for error."
I then went into the media room to listen to Joe Biden. Most of the questioning was on Iraq. He's good on it, no doubt. But an opener question had to do with only campaigning positively. He made mention of the "11th commandment," ala Reagan: never say anything negative about a fellow Democrat. Then back to foreign policy.
But it was Biden's pledge to not say anything negative that got him in trouble when I got to ask the last question. I asked Biden what he thought of Hillary's plan to withdraw funding from Iraqi troops. He bowed his head, smiled, then said, "Next question."
Then Biden said he would deal with all the proposals together. It's obvious he didn't want to say anything negative about Hillary's plan, even though he'd criticized it before. Then he took each plan, going back to his question, even if you withdraw from Iraq it sill comes down to "What's next?"
He then walked off the stage and straight to me and shook my hand.
"I'm getting better," Biden said with a smile.
"You didn't answer my question," I said honestly.
"I'm getting better," he said again.
Then out he went. I ended up standing next to a woman. She turned to me and said "He's got a plane." Then she added, "I'm his sister."
I told her, "You need to tell him to answer the question."
She said, "Well, he doesn't want to..."
"I know, say anything negative about anyone, but it's not negative to stand up and tell the truth," I said to her.
"He did answer your question. ..."
"No, he didn't. He can be honest and answer the question, without being negative. He should just say it."
She was a bit surprised.
It was a very honest exchange between Senator Biden, his campaign, as well as his sister. There's no doubt that he got the message. He's good, no doubt about it. But he should not be afraid of sounding "negative," when he's simply stating his opinion and telling his truth.
In the same article, Biden criticized Clinton's proposal to cap American troops and to threaten to cut funding to Iraqi security forces.
"From the part of Hillary's proposal, the part that really baffles me is, 'We're going to teach the Iraqis a lesson,"' Biden said. "We're not going to equip them? O.K. Cap our troops and withdraw support from the Iraqis? That's a real good idea."
I would have liked to hear him say straight out he disagrees with Clinton's proposal, which he does. It's early, so maybe he will next time around.
The forum is over and I've got some tape of Kucinich, as well as something Mike Gravel offered that was, let's just say, very interesting. He wants to abolish the tax system.
That's all for now, folks. I'll be uploading audio a bit later. Pictures too.
AFSCME did a great job on this. Lots of information and access. Clinton was the only candidate to my knowledge that didn't stop by the media room and take questions.
...Oh and to finish it up, Eric George of PoliticsTV got Jonathan Singer of MyDD and myself together to do a media wrap up. At the end of a very long 24 hours for all of us, I just hope we all got our message across. The Democrats have some terrific candidates. As a funny aside, Roger Simon was sitting close to where we were filming. You could tell he was very irritated and annoyed by the interview and conversation. The second we finished he said something like, Now that you guys are finished could you move... then gestured for us to, well, basically get lost. Crotchety old fart. He's just jealous because PoliticsTV didn't ask him for an interview. Just kidding. That's it from Carson City. I'm off to Reno to catch my plane now. It was fun. Thanks, AFSCME.
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