Kerry Chooses Running Mate
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KWAME HOLMAN: John Kerry announced his choice early this morning at a rally in Pittsburgh.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I have chosen a man who understands and defends the values of America, a man who has shown courage and conviction as a champion for middle-class Americans and for those struggling to reach the middle class, a man who has shown guts and determination and political skill in his own race for the presidency of the United States, a man… ( applause ) …a man whose life has prepared him for leadership, and whose character brings him to exercise it. I am pleased to announce that, with your help, the next vice president of the United States of America will be Sen. John Edwards from North Carolina. (Cheers and applause)
This campaign for the presidency really began two years ago, and throughout those two years, as well as for four years before that, I have worked with John Edwards side-by-side, and sometimes head-to-head. I’ve seen John Edwards think, argue, advocate, legislate and lead for six years now. I know his skill. I know his passion. I know his strength. I know his conscience. I know his faith. He has honored the lessons of home and family that he learned in North Carolina, and he brings those values to shape a better America together with all of us. (Cheers and applause) John Edwards is ready for this job. He is ready for this job. And there is something else about John Edwards that is important in this campaign and our country at this critical time. As you know, I am determined that we reach out across party lines, that we speak the heart of America, that we speak of hope and of optimism. And John Edwards will join me in doing that. ( Cheers and applause )
KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. Edwards wasn’t with Kerry. He spent much of today secluded at his Washington, D.C., home, staked out by scores of reporters and camera crews hoping for a glimpse of the newly minted vice presidential candidate. Late this afternoon, Edwards and his family emerged, but did not address the assembled media.
JOHN EDWARDS: We can do something about this together –
KWAME HOLMAN: Edwards challenged Kerry for the party’s presidential nomination, but ended up finishing a distant second in the delegate count. He captured just one primary contest in his native South Carolina. Edwards, whose father and mother both were mill workers, was raised in North Carolina. He went to law school there, and became a very successful trial lawyer. In 1998, Edwards made his first run for political office, winning a seat in the U.S. Senate representing North Carolina. He’s still serving his first term. At this morning’s rally, John Kerry talked about what John Edwards brings to the ticket.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: As so many of you know, throughout this campaign, John talked about the great divide in America, the two Americas that exist between those who are doing very well and those who are struggling to make ends meet in our country. That concern is at the center of this campaign. It is what this is all about. It is what the 35 years of my struggle have been about. And I am so proud that together John Edwards and I are now going to fight to build one America for all Americans. ( Cheers and applause )
KWAME HOLMAN: The two candidates will get together at Kerry’s home in Pittsburgh this evening, and make a public appearance there tomorrow before setting off to campaign in Ohio.
JIM LEHRER: More on the man who would be vice president, and to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: And for some insight into John Edwards the man, we turn to two North Carolina reporters who have covered him for years. Adam Hochberg reports on the South for National Public Radio. He is based in Chapel Hill. Jim Morrill is a senior political writer for the Charlotte Observer.
Welcome to you both.
When you talk to people who have known John Edwards for a long time, Adam Hochberg, what words do they use to describe his personal qualities?
ADAM HOCHBERG: Well, as he said during his campaign, he’s a very optimistic person, and when you talk to people who have known him a long time, the one lesson you come away with is never to underestimate him. And that’s a lesson that people who knew him started to learn even when he was a young man in the small town of Robbins, North Carolina, a town where his father worked in the mill. Nobody in his family had gone to college before he did. When he went off to college, his parents sent him to North Carolina state university. His major as an undergraduate was textile science. Their dream for him was that maybe he could come back and work in the mill, be a manager in the mill, do better than the people who worked on the lines. But John Edwards never came back to that mill. He got a law degree. As a young lawyer, he wasn’t content dealing with wills or drawing up real estate closings. He gravitated towards civil law, toward more complicated plaintiffs-type cases.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me interrupt you for a minute. Tell me more about his upbringing, because he, of course, talks about – I mean, that’s the first thing you hear from him on a campaign stop, being the son of a mill worker or two mill workers. How modest was his upbringing? Was his family poor?
ADAM HOCHBERG: When he was born, his family was poor. He’s fond of saying that his parents needed to take out a loan to pay the hospital bill to get him out of the hospital after his delivery. In later years, as he became a teenager and his father got better jobs within the textile industry, he moved up to a condition I think most of us would call “middle class.”
MARGARET WARNER: Jim, but he did… he does sometimes talk about the fact that he felt his father was really held back, even though his father moved up in the mill management, but because he didn’t have a college degree and that he felt this sort of divide.
JIM MORRILL: Yeah, I think that he was always conscious of being raised in a mill family, and his mother worked in the mill and also worked for the postal service, so I think he’s always conscious of that, and certainly has brought that to the campaign. I think another thing people would say about him is he’s supremely confident. He was confident when he went to law school. He was confident when he ran for the Senate the first time against a better-known challenger in the Democratic primary, against a Republican incumbent. He was confident enough to run for president when he was still in his first term.
MARGARET WARNER: Jim, tell us about him as a trial lawyer, because that’s, of course, where he, “a,” made this reputation, and “b,” so much money. What was he like as a trial lawyer? Why was he so successful?
JIM MORRILL: Well, I think one reason he was so successful is the same reason that people think he’s a successful campaigner. If you see him in front of audiences on the campaign trail, you can see the sort of connection he makes with different audiences. If you have covered him, you can see it in audiences, African American audiences, middle class audiences, in the Midwest, in the South, in the Northeast. I think it’s the same kind of connection that he was able to make with jurors. And he was able to find cases where he could represent people like a young girl who was injured in a swimming pool accident, very badly injured in that with, you know, her life at stake.
MARGARET WARNER: This is the one involving the swimming pool drain, is that right?
JIM MORRILL: Right. He was able to persuade juries on behalf of people like this. He convinced them to give millions of dollars in settlements to girls like that.
MARGARET WARNER: Adam, you covered at least… I think that famous case or one of his famous cases. Tell us about him in court.
ADAM HOCHBERG: Well, that was the case I covered. It was the last case he argued. And as you say, it involved a little girl who sat on a swimming pool drain, and because the suction was so strong it caused her very serious internal injuries. And I think he would say that he was at his best during that case. He had already made a significant reputation in North Carolina as perhaps the top plaintiff’s lawyer in the state. And I remember during that case there were other attorneys who would come into the courtroom and line the walls just to watch him make his arguments, especially his closing arguments, because they wanted to watch how he did it.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, was the confidence he had and the qualities you all have talked about– and Adam, I’ll stay with you– did that also make people not like him? I mean, was there a downside to being so confident?
ADAM HOCHBERG: Well, I think there was a downside during his law career to winning these huge, multimillion-dollar verdicts. I think a lot of people who were on the other side, people who he was suing, whether they were doctors or corporations or business people, really saw him as the epitome of litigious society run amok. Then, with his youthful appearance, with his energy, he used to jog a couple hours at night after court when all the other attorneys were back in their hotel rooms trying to rest up a little bit for the next day. I’m sure that built up some resentment, especially in the people who were on the other side of the courtroom.
MARGARET WARNER: Right. Now, Jim, tell us about his switch then into politics. In his early 40′s, he gives up this legal career and goes into politics to run for the Senate. What triggered that?J
JIM MORRILL: Well, he’s never really talked about what triggered it, but what happened two years before he ran was his son, his oldest son, Wade Edwards, was killed in a car accident in North Carolina. And after that, you know, I think he reevaluated things and sort of had some months of introspection and looked at his life and his career and decided to go into public life at that point. When he decided to run for the Senate in 1998, nobody outside of legal circles had really heard of the guy. And I remember talking to him early in 1998 when he was first interested in running for the Senate. You know, he didn’t seem at the time like he knew a lot about issues or had studied the race or had even voted very much in his life before, but he went on and proved to be a pretty quick study about it.
MARGARET WARNER: Adam, what would you add to that, the story of this transition he made from law to politics?
ADAM HOCHBERG: Well, there’s one story: There’s a political consultant in North Carolina by the name of Gary Pearce, who is well-known within Democratic circles, helped elect a number of Democratic officials over the years. And John Edwards contacted Gary Pearce through a third party and said, “I’m a lawyer in town. You don’t know me, but I’m thinking of running for Senate. Would you help me?” Gary Pearce said, “oh, so you’re thinking of running for state senate?” Edwards said, “no, I’m thinking of running for U.S. Senate.” As Pearce relates it, his reaction was: “Well, this I got to see.” Who is this guy who thinks he can run against a well-known, well-financed incumbent his first time out? But as Jim said, he succeeded in that campaign. He knocked off a better-known Democrat in the Democratic primary, and then he beat the Republican incumbent, Lauch Faircloth, in november, in ’98. So there again you have the same themes: Exceeding expectations and that supreme confidence.
JIM MORRILL: Margaret, you ask how people to react to that…
MARGARET WARNER: Go ahead.
JIM MORRILL: You ask how people react to his confidence. I think a lot of people look at it as brashness. And there’s a school of thought that he’s going too far too fast, or trying to go too far too fast, both in his Senate run and in his presidential run. I think that created some backlash among some North Carolina voters.
MARGARET WARNER: Jim, also, tell us about his wife, Elizabeth Edwards. She’s been described as perhaps the most influential force in his life. What’s she like?
JIM MORRILL: Well, she’s a very interesting person, and she’s an accomplished woman. She was working for a master’s degree in English literature, I think, at a time when she went to law school. Later, she decided to move from English literature to law and went on to get a law degree and practice for a while. Remember, too, about her she’s really had two families– their oldest son Wade, who was killed in a car wreck in 1996, they had a younger sister about two years younger than him. And then after Wade died and around the time that Edwards was thinking about running for the Senate, they started having a new family. They had a daughter and a younger son who are about three and four years old now. So she’s really had two families and a lot of things to juggle.
MARGARET WARNER: Adam, what would you add to that about her influence with him?
ADAM HOCHBERG: Well, she accompanied him at some times on the campaign trail, and with the children. As Jim said, the children are young. I think it’s an interesting contrast as we go into the vice presidential campaign. You certainly are playing into the generational difference between Edwards and Vice President Cheney, and here we have Elizabeth Edwards, who is an attorney in her own right and also a mother, and with the young children in tow, who are very playful and as energetic as their dad. So it’s going to be an interesting dynamic.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Adam, I assume today you’ve been talking to people who know him, and you’ve observed him for many years. Do his friends and associates think he’ll have any difficulty playing number two?
ADAM HOCHBERG: Well, I think that’s a concern about John Edwards because he is in his element when he is the main guy, when he is arguing a case in the courtroom. Of course, he has associates who he works with, but he’s still the person who is mainly facing the jury, the person who is mainly laying out the case and planning the strategy. In his own campaign, of course, he was the number-one guy. We didn’t get to see him very long working within the context of the Senate where he’s just one of many members, and we certainly haven’t seen him in a kind of situation where he’s supposed to stay in the shadows a little bit and not overshadow John Kerry.
JIM MORRILL: He’s gotten a lot of practice doing that in the last few weeks.
MARGARET WARNER: That’s true, Jim. Well, Jim Morrill and Adam Hochberg, thank you both.