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Campaign Snapshot: Senator John Edwards

December 11, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: And finally, another of our snapshots from the Democratic presidential campaign trail. Tonight, excerpts of remarks made recently by Sen. John Edwards to voters in Santa Fe, N.M.

WOMAN: Our jobs that we need are so important to our people here.


WOMAN: And I think keeping the jobs on American soil is one of my main concerns. We have too much exporting going on.


WOMAN: And not enough jobs for our people.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: You’re absolutely right. Big issue. I think we ought to identify the places in America where jobs are needed, where unemployment is high, and I’m standing in one right now. And we ought to say in those areas, in those communities, if you’ve got a new business you’re starting up and you’re willing to locate in one of these areas, and you provide quality jobs — not minimum wage jobs, quality jobs with good benefits — we’ll give you the seed money to get started.

We’ll give you the venture capital to get started. And one other thing that I think we ought to do — we ought to get rid of these provisions in our tax code that give write-offs to American companies — that go overseas and take jobs with them.

What is that all about? (Applause) I’d actually go a step further than that, and I would give tax breaks to American companies that will keep jobs here in America. Let’s export American products, not American jobs. That’s my theory. (Applause) Yes ma’am?

WOMAN: When you’re president, what will you do to reduce our horrific debt?

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: Our debt, our deficit?


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: First, I’d get us seriously back on the road to fiscal responsibility. And the way I would do that, is I would stop Bush’s tax cuts, people who make over $200,000 a year, number one.

Number two, I would — and I think I’m the only one proposing this — I would actually raise the capital gains rate for people in the top income bracket.

And then third, I would close some corporate tax loopholes and some specific corporate tax loopholes. A number of them need to be closed. ( Applause )

And just so you’d know what that would do, is it pays for my health care plan, what I want to do to make college available, how to strengthen middle class.

All the things that I want to do are paid for with that, plus it leaves hundreds of billions of dollars for deficit reduction. So it actually moves us back to the place that we need to be. And it’s a big issue. I’m glad that you pointed it out. Yes sir.

MAN: I’m quite concerned about the so-called Patriot Act and the rapid shredding of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.


MAN: And I’d like to know what you’re doing today in your platform in the Senate, as well as what you would do as president, to help fix that.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: Glad to tell you. This is something I feel very strongly about. One of the things we have to be so careful about, is the very things that we’re supposed to be protecting, they’re most endangered at times like this. And after Sept. 11 … one of the things I always think back to is the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, which we’re all ashamed of, at least we should be ashamed of now.

Well, I want my kids and my grandkids to look back to this time and say when it really mattered, my country stood up for the rights, the freedoms, the liberties that make America great, which means we need to do, in my judgment, the following things.

Number one, we need to change the Patriot Act. There are actually some provisions in the Patriot Act that don’t take away people’s rights, that, you know, bring laws up to date with modern technology that allow going after money laundering, which are fine. Those can stay in place.

But the ones that do do damage, are allowing the attorney general to go into bookstores and libraries and find out what books are being bought and checked out without … adequate safeguards in place; to allow what they call sneak and peak searches, you know, without giving notice to people, without adequate safeguard … any adequate safeguards in place. Those things got to be changed. (Applause)

MAN: I’ve got some friends here in the audience who came to see you tonight, and you know we have a Democratic caucus coming up on Feb. 3.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: I know it very well.

MAN: And they want to know, they want to know why you instead of Howard Dean or General Clark and those are the … those are the three particular they’re kicking around. And they heard you tonight, and I think you’ve done a pretty good … a pretty good job, but I’d like to hear you brag a little and tell us why you’re the man.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: I want you to know I didn’t plant this question. ( Laughter ) But I do appreciate it very much. There’s a simple answer to that question.

Because of the way I grew up … you know, I come from a working family. My grandmother was a sharecropper, my father worked in a mill all his life, I was the first person in my family to even go to college. It was a big thing, and then I spent almost 20 years in courtrooms battling big insurance companies, big corporate America on behalf of kids and families.

It’s exactly what I’ve done in the Senate. Because of how I grew up, what I have fought for my entire life, these are the very people that George Bush has left behind and who will decide this election. I mean, I have … this is not academic for me.

This is not some issue that somehow I’ve figured out what the right policy positions are. This is what I am. It is what I have been my entire life. This is my life’s cause — this fight.

And the only thing I’ll say to all of you who are still deciding who to support, I hope you walk out of here supporting me, because if you make me your nominee, I will beat George Bush in 2004, and we’re going to give America back to its people. Thank you all very much. Thank you for being here. Thank you. ( Cheers and applause )

JIM LEHRER: We’ll have similar campaign snapshots of other presidential candidates in the days ahead.