Edwards & the FOX debate in Nevada

Former North Carolinda Senator John Edwards appeared at one of those "town hall meetings" late this morning in Newton, Iowa.  The event was staged in a UAW Hall, and was billed as a chance to talk with the canddate about his health care plan (a huge poster at the front of the room carried the Edwards campaign logo and the headline: "Health Care for All").  There were about 225 people int he room.

Only two of the questions posed during the event were specifically about health care. Doug Bishop of Baxter, Iowa, asked about the campaign news of the day — the debate in the state of Nevada that involved FOX News and which Democratic Party officials cancelled late Friday.

Bishop began by saying, ‘a lot of us in the Midwest are tired of having the mainstream media" tell them who to vote for, an apparent reference to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  "Thank you for coming here today.  You’re going to win this thing, one person at a time, in a room full of people like this, so keep it up," Bishop said.  The crowd applauded.

"The other thing:  I’d like to say thank you and I would imagine a lot of folks in this room would probably agree.  Folks like myself feel the FOX News Network is nothing but a mouthpiece for the Republican Party," Bishop continued.  A few in the audience said "Yes," and some started to applaud.  Bishop continued speaking over the applause.  "So we’d like to thank you for refusing to go to the debate in Nevada for the reasons — maybe you can expound on that but I think you’ll find a lot of folks in this room agree that if you’re not there because of FOX News and Rupert Murdoch, then we very much appreciate that."  A few people in the crowd laughed.  One man pumped in fist in the air and there was applause.  .

"I don’t want to take more credit than I should," Edwards replied, to some laughter.  "What actually was, for those of you who don’t have to live with this everyday and may not have heard about this news, FOX News was sponsoring a Democratic presidential debate in Nevada in August, this coming August and when I looked at the schedule — first of all, we’ve got a bunch of debates in Nevada already.  We have a bunch of forums and debates in Nevada and Iowa and New Hampshire and other places in the early states so I thought there was a lot of debates going on to begin with and a lot of forums, which are important but there’s a limit to how many of those things you need to do and I didn’t see any reason, under the circumstances, to give FOX News a forum so that really is what it was. 

"I mean, it was a combination of me feeling like there were adequate opportunities for us to be heard adn I told you at the beginning of this that’s critical.  I want everybody, everybody to know where I stand and what I want to do as President of the United States and to be able to compare it to the other candidates and that’s why the debates can be very important but in this case I didn’t see any reason to give FOX a special platform so that’s why I did what I did."

(Here’s the Radio Iowa story — the audio of this Bishop/Edwards exchange is posted at the bottom of the page.)

Edwards got the longest and loudest applause on a completely different topic.  A man who said he met Edwards in 2003 in an elevator at the Hotel Fort Des Moines asked a lengthy quesiton (filled with the man’s own views on the subject) about immigration policy.  Edwards got that aforementioned applause, plus some cheers, when he declared that immigrants should learn to speak English.  The other moment when applause was prolonged and hearty was after Edwards promised to "roll back" the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

Edwards began the event by saying he was the first candidate to offer a "detailed" health care reform plan and he warned the crowd they may be getting a DVD in the mail from his campaign in the next few days outlining the plan. 

Edwards promised more details on more issues in the coming months.  "It will not be mushy.  It will be absolutely clear…You will know where I stand."

Afterwards, Edwards talked with a group of four local reporters and was asked about his "anti-mushy message."  He laughed.

"It’s not anti-anything.  It’s pro-positive specifics.  I think that caucus-goers deserve to know where we stand, in very specific terms," Edwards said.

Speaking of "we" — all the candidates — as Edwards was leavning the hall and climbing into his vehicle, I was toting my gear to my car.  I overheard someone from Newton who had been at the event tell Edwards:  "Enjoy the weather today.  It was five below when Obama was here."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.