Transcript: John Edwards, presidential candidate, Oct 31 2007

Thom Hartmann interviewed presidential candidate former Senator John Edwards about the latest Democratic presidential candidate debate, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment and campaign finance.

Thom Hartmann interviews presidential candidate former Senator John Edwards, 31 October 2007

[Thom]: John Edwards on the line with us. Senator Edwards, welcome to the program.

[Edwards]: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Thom.

[Thom]: I am so pleased to have you on the program and I want to specifically thank you for coming on this program without giving me a list of questions to ask you or a list of questions that I can't ask you, which I will tell you right up front, other candidates have said those were the only terms on which they would come on this program, and I'm unwilling to have them on under those terms. Thank you for coming on with no preconditions. I appreciate it.

[Edwards]: You're welcome; I'm happy to do that.

[Thom]: I honor it, and my listeners know that I've given money to Dennis Kucinich once and to you five times. Every time I do, I announce it on the air, so I guess there's a certain bias here that my listeners are familiar with. So, in any case, last night's debate. Any thoughts on what happened last night that you'd like to just toss out here, before we get into... ?

[Edwards]: You mean, in the debate?

[Thom]: Yes, sir.

[Edwards]: Yeah, I think the debate was a defining moment in the campaign. I think it became very clear during the debate what choices Democratic primary voters have. You know, they have a choice between the status quo - you know, compromise, triangulation, bobbing and weaving - and somebody who actually believes the system is corrupt and it must be changed; we can't defend it. And if we don't change it we're going to hand this mess over to our children and our grandchildren and there's a risk that our children don't have a better life than we have. If we want to ensure that that happens, we're going to actually have to be willing to take on a system where the corruption has crept in over a period of 20 or 25 years.

[Thom]: Yeah, well there's been this declared and undeclared war against the middle class. It started with Reagan basically trying to roll back the New Deal. And many of us out here are waiting for, hoping for, another Franklin Roosevelt, essentially; somebody who will say, 'yes, capitalism's fine so long as it's appropriately regulated'. Your thoughts on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. I think Jimmy Carter was the last person to president to really use it; breaking up AT&T.

[Edwards]: Well, I think it's one of the tools that I would use as president to help deal with the extraordinary consolidation of business. By the way, we also have, we need to be using the FCC to do something about the consolidation of media, because what's happened is we don't have the divergent Democratic voices that we need in this country any more. My basic view about it is that we've gotten in a place where we have a concentration of money, and very wealthy people and big corporations, and they as a result have been able to corrupt the government. And it feeds the cycle of the government instead of representing all Americans, representing the few; it's the few, not the many. And so the combination of the concentration of wealth with a concentration of power that unfortunately has allowed this government to be taken away from the American people.

[Thom]: Yeah. We're talking with Senator John Edwards. This has been a theme throughout all of your campaigns; I mean, for the Senate, for vice president and now for president. Last night you mentioned Hillary Clinton's vote in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman resolution. What are your concerns about the direction that we're going with regard to Iran? I realize this is probably a soft ball question, but I want to give you an opportunity to talk about it.

[Edwards]: We've got to stop this president. We've got to stop Cheney. These guys have been rattling the sabre on Iran for years now. They've ratcheted up their sabre-rattling. They wanted to have the Senate say 'yes' to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard being declared a terrorist organization, and, you know, I guess you'd expect some Republicans to enable this president, but you wouldn't expect Democrats to do it. We know we've got to stop it. And I just say two good Democrats are running for president, Biden and Dodd voted 'no', but Senator Clinton voted 'yes' and it doesn't make any sense. I mean, it just, you can't say you're going to stand up to Bush and then when this neocon language, which is exactly what it was that's in this resolution comes before the Senate, you vote to enable Bush again. I mean, you just, sooner or later you've got to stop him.

[Thom]: Right.

[Edwards]: And so, that's my basic view about it and I think it's hugely dangerous and it's been proven to be correct because a few days ago Bush and Cheney declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a militia group, inside Iran a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. That language sounds very familiar, because we've heard it in the lead up to Iraq.

[Thom]: Yeah, scary echoes. How do you respond to those who suggest that your campaign, because you've taken money from trial lawyers and groups associated with them, is just as in bed with the establishment as Hillary Clinton who has taken money from lobbyists and PACs, and Barack Obama, who doesn't take money from lobbyists and PACs, but has raised an enormous amount of money? What differentiates the three of you, for example, in that realm? And how do you respond to that accusation that's been tossed at you by...

[Edwards]: Let me something about myself, first. 93% of my contributors are people who give $250 or less. So the vast majority of my contributors give small amounts of money. Second, I've never taken a dime from a Washington lobbyist or from a PAC; a special interest PAC the entire time I've been in politics, including in my presidential campaign. But the point of this is not to pat myself on the back. I'm not pure; don't claim to be. In anybody's race, millions of dollars cannot be pure. The answer though is, and here's the difference I have with Senator Clinton, I believe the system's broken. I believe we have to change it. I think it's corrupt. And Senator Clinton defends it. I mean, she said it's perfectly fine to continue taking money from lobbyists. It's perfectly fine in her case to be the biggest recipient of Washington lobbyist money of any candidate, Democrat or Republican. She's taken more money than any Republican candidate from Washington lobbyists. And actually, too, the most startling thing: she's also taken more money from the health industry than any other candidate, Democrat or Republican, and more money from the Defense industry. For goodness sakes, we're Democrats. How could that happen? So, I don't think you can change the system unless you say no to that.

[Thom]: Senator John Edwards, thanks so much for being with us today, sir. Good luck.

[Edwards]: Thanks for having me.

[Thom]: Much appreciated.

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