Iowa Public Television

 

Former Vice-Presidential Candidate John Edwards

posted on April 1, 2005

Borg: REESTABLISHING PRESENCE AND PROFILE: FORMER U.S. SENATOR AND UNSUCCESSFUL VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN EDWARDS IS BACK IN IOWA. IS IT AN EARLY STATEMENT ABOUT ANOTHER RUN FOR PRESIDENT? A VISIT WITH JOHN EDWARDS ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."


FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION… FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, APRIL 1 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE OUTCOME OF LAST NOVEMBER'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WAS KNOWN, SPECULATION LEAPED TO 2008. THE POTENTIALS INCLUDED BOTH CANDIDATES AND POSSIBLE ISSUES. SPECULATION METERS ESPECIALLY JUMP WHEN POTENTIAL CANDIDATES STEP ACROSS THE IOWA BORDER AND INTO THE STATE WHERE PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE CAUCUSES FIRST MEASURE THE CANDIDATES. AND THAT'S WHY FORMER NORTH CAROLINA SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS IS GETTING KNOWING NODS THIS WEEK. A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AGO, HIS STRONG FINISH IN THE 2004 IOWA CAUCUS CAMPAIGNING EVENTUALLY LANDED HIM ON THE DEMOCRATS' TICKET WITH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN KERRY. HE WAS WITH US A COUPLE OF TIMES ON "IOWA PRESS" DURING THE CAUCUS CAMPAIGNING, AND WE WELCOME HIM BACK NOW. WELCOME BACK TO "IOWA PRESS." AND I KNOW THAT YOU'RE ACTUALLY IN IOWA RAISING FUNDS FOR CONGRESSMAN LEONARD BOSWELL.

Edwards: THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT. I CAME BACK TO DO A NUMBER OF THINGS. ONE WAS TO HELP CONGRESSMAN BOSWELL. ANOTHER IS TO TALK ABOUT MY NEW INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, SOMETHING I'VE BEEN WORKING ON FOR A LONG TIME AND I CARE A LOT ABOUT, AND ALSO JUST TO SAY THANK YOU TO FOLKS.

Borg: YOU KNOW, THE TWO PEOPLE ACROSS THE TABLE KNOW YOU WELL BECAUSE OF ALL YOUR TIME IN IOWA, AND YOU KNOW IOWA WELL. INTRODUCING THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR, LET'S START OFF BY DEALING WITH A QUESTION THAT DEAN RAISED IN THE INTRO TO THIS PROGRAM. YOU'RE BACK IN IOWA. YOU RAN FOR PRESIDENT ONCE. WHAT'S YOUR FUTURE? IS THIS A SIGNAL YOU'RE RUNNING AGAIN?

Edwards: NO, I HAVE A CAMPAIGN RIGHT NOW AND A CAUSE, BUT THAT CAUSE IS NOT POLITICS, IT'S POVERTY. AND IT'S SOMETHING I'VE CARED ABOUT FOR A LONG TIME BEFORE I EVER GOT INVOLVED IN POLITICS, AN ISSUE THAT I'VE WORKED ON, HELPING PEOPLE WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH POVERTY. WE STARTED A NEW POVERTY CENTER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL, WHICH I'LL BE THE DIRECTOR OF. AND I INTEND TO DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO DEAL WITH WHAT I THINK IS ONE OF THE GREAT MORAL CAUSES IN AMERICA TODAY.

Glover: WELL, WHAT'S YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS AS WE LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT ELECTION? WHAT'S THE TIMETABLE FOR YOUR MAKING A DECISION? WHAT SORT OF PROCESS DO YOU GO THROUGH? WHAT ARE THE FACTORS IN THAT DECISION?

Edwards: WELL, AS BOTH OF YOU KNOW VERY WELL, WE'VE GONE THROUGH A PROBLEM IN MY OWN FAMILY BECAUSE ELIZABETH WAS DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER. SHE'S DOING VERY WELL, BY THE WAY. HER SPIRITS ARE REALLY GOOD. HER TREATMENT IS GOING WELL AND THE DOCTORS ARE VERY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT IT. SO OUR FIRST PRIORITY BY A LONG SHOT IS TO MAKE SURE WE GET ELIZABETH WELL. AND THEN SECOND, I'M POURING MY HEART AND SOUL INTO THIS POVERTY EFFORT, TRYING TO BRING THE NATION'S ATTENTION TO WHAT I THINK IS A VERY SERIOUS ISSUE AND POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS TO POVERTY. SO THAT'S WHAT I'M FOCUSED ON, AND WE'LL JUST HAVE TO SEE WHERE THAT TAKES US.

Yepsen: SO IT'S CLEAR, SENATOR, THAT ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL RUN IS CLEARLY AN OPTION FOR YOU IN THE FUTURE. WOULD YOU RUN IN IOWA IF GOVERNOR VILSACK IS ALSO RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT?

Edwards: THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS, WITH MY FOCUS ON POVERTY, WITH MY FOCUS ON ELIZABETH, THOSE ARE NOT THINGS THAT I'VE FOCUSED ON YET. AND I HAVE A VERY HIGH OPINION OF GOVERNOR VILSACK. HE WAS WITH US LAST NIGHT AT CONGRESSMAN BOSWELL'S EVENT. I THINK HE'S A TERRIFIC PERSON AND A TERRIFIC GOVERNOR.

Yepsen: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN A MORE ABSTRACT FASHION, THEN, SINCE WE'RE NOT GETTING ANYWHERE WITH YOU ON YOUR OWN CANDIDACY. [ LAUGHTER ] SHOULD IOWA CONTINUE TO BE FIRST? SHOULD NEW HAMPSHIRE CONTINUE TO BE THE FIRST PRIMARY? YOUR PARTY IS HAVING A NATIONAL -- HAS A NATIONAL COMMISSION TO STUDY ITS CALENDAR IN THE WAY IT NOMINATES CANDIDATES. WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT COMMISSION OUGHT TO SAY AND, SPECIFICALLY, SHOULD IOWA CONTINUE TO BE FIRST?

Edwards: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, IOWA AND WHAT I LEARNED GOING THROUGH THE IOWA CAUCUS PROCESS WAS ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT. I THINK ANYBODY WHO GOES THROUGH THE GRASS-ROOTS POLITICKING OF HAVING TO STAND UP IN FRONT OF IOWA CAUCUS GOERS AND ANSWER THEIR QUESTIONS, RESPOND TO THEIR CRITICISM, I THINK IT MAKES YOU A BETTER CANDIDATE AND I ALSO THINK IT MAKES YOU, ULTIMATELY IF YOU GET ELECTED, A BETTER PRESIDENT OR, IN MY CASE, PRESIDENT OR VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. SO I THINK THAT PROCESS IS VERY IMPORTANT. I THINK THE SAME THING IS TRUE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE. SO SPEAKING FOR ME, I THINK IOWA'S PLACE RIGHT NOW IS A GREAT PLACE FOR IOWA TO BE. THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IS AT SOME POINT -- AT SOME POINT IN THE EARLY STAGES OF THE PROCESS -- I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT BEFORE IOWA; I'M TALKING ABOUT IN THE EARLY STAGES OF THE PROCESS, I DO THINK IT'S -- YOU KNOW, I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO WIN THE SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY, WHICH WAS THE FIRST PRIMARY WHICH HAD ABOUT HALF OF THE PRIMARY VOTERS BEING AFRICAN AMERICANS. AND DIVERSITY DOES MATTER. AND WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYBODY'S VOICES ARE HEARD IN OUR NOMINATING PROCESS. BUT SPEAKING FOR ME, I THINK THAT WHAT I LEARNED GOING THROUGH THE IOWA CAUCUS WAS ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT.

Yepsen: AND WOULD IT BE A SOLUTION TO THE PARTY'S CONCERNS IF YOU SPREAD OUT YOUR NOMINATION CALENDAR. THERE'S A CONCERN THAT IT'S COMPRESSED SO TIGHT THAT AFTER IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE, IT'S JUST A RAPID-FIRE SERIES OF EVENTS THAT REALLY IT TENDS TO ENHANCE THE INFLUENCE OF THESE TWO STATES, AND ONE SOLUTION MIGHT BE TO SIMPLY SPREAD THE THING OUT. IS THAT AN OPTION?

Edwards: SURE IT'S AN OPTION AND IT HAS SOME VALUE. I THINK THAT'S WHAT THE COMMISSION IS LOOKING AT RIGHT NOW. I MEAN THEY'RE LOOKING AT IS IT BETTER TO HAVE THE SYSTEM AS FRONT LOADED AS IT WAS IN 2004 AND WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO ADD SOME DIVERSITY TO THE MIX IN THE RELATIVELY EARLY STAGES OF THE PROCESS.

Borg: YOU TALKED ABOUT DIVERSITY. I'M INTERESTED IN EXPANDING THAT. PHILOSOPHICALLY AND TACTICALLY, WHAT LESSONS NOW -- IN REFLECTING OVER THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS SINCE THE ELECTION, WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN FROM THAT LAST ELECTION?

Edwards: WELL, I DON'T -- FIRST OF ALL, I'M NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF ANALYZING ELECTIONS. THAT'S WHAT YOU GUYS DO AND YOU'RE VERY GOOD AT IT. YOU DESERVE THE CREDIT FOR THAT. I WOULD NOT CLAIM TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT, AND THAT'S NOT WHAT I'VE SPENT MY TIME FOCUSING ON. I'M LOOKING FORWARD, WHICH IS WHAT I THINK WE NEED TO DO. AND I HOPE WE GET A CHANCE TO TALK TODAY ABOUT THE ISSUE OF POVERTY THAT I'M WORKING ON, WHAT I THINK CAN BE DONE ABOUT POVERTY. AND ALSO, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I BELIEVE STRONGLY -- I BELIEVED IT WHEN I WENT INTO THIS WHOLE CAMPAIGN PROCESS -- IS I THINK WHAT MOST PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR IN LEADERS IN THIS COUNTRY IS THEY'RE LOOKING FOR STRENGTH AND CONVICTION AND A CORE SET OF BELIEFS THAT THAT LEADER IS PASSIONATE ABOUT. THEY WANT TO KNOW WHAT DRIVES YOU EVERY DAY, WHAT YOU GET UP BELIEVING IN AND FIGHTING FOR. AND I THINK THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE ARGUING THAT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS SOMEHOW LOST ITS WAY AND DOESN'T KNOW WHAT IT BELIEVES, DOESN'T KNOW WHAT IT STANDS FOR AND THAT THE SOLUTION IS TO START CHANGING AND NUANCING OUR POSITIONS, I THINK THOSE PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY DEAD WRONG. I THINK WHAT WE SHOULD DO IS STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR THE THINGS THAT WE BELIEVE IN, THE THINGS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS STOOD FOR. AND THAT'S WHERE WE SHOW STRENGTH. WE JUST NEED TO MAKE IT CLEAR TO IOWA AND TO THE COUNTRY WHAT IT IS WE BELIEVE AND WHAT WE'RE GOING TO FIGHT FOR EVERY DAY WHEN WE RUN THE COUNTRY.

Glover: WE'LL GET TO POVERTY BUT IN JUST A MINUTE. WE'VE GOT A COUPLE MORE POLITICAL QUESTIONS. LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT ELECTION, WHAT SORT OF TACTICS SHOULD DEMOCRATS ADOPT IN TERMS OF A GEOGRAPHICAL FOCUS? IS IT TIME TO WRITE OFF THE SOUTH AND START WORRYING ABOUT BUILDING UP IN THE WEST, BUILDING ON YOUR STRENGTHS IN THE NORTHEAST? GEOGRAPHICALLY AND TACTICALLY, WHERE SHOULD THE PARTY HEAD?

Edwards: EVERYWHERE. EVERYWHERE. IF WE WANT TO BE A STRONG NATIONAL PARTY, WE HAVE TO COMPETE EVERYWHERE. THAT MEANS COMPETING IN THE PLACE WHERE I'M FROM, IN THE SOUTH -- AND I DON'T MEAN STARTING TO COMPETE IN THE YEAR OF THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. I MEAN STARTING TO COMPETE NOW. IT'S GOING INTO THESE PLACES, TALKING ABOUT THE THINGS THAT WE'RE PASSIONATE ABOUT -- IN MY CASE THAT'S POVERTY -- BUT GOING EVERYWHERE IN AMERICA AND COMPETING. I THINK IF WE WANT TO BE STRONG AS A NATIONAL PARTY, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, WE HAVE TO GO EVERYWHERE AND COMPETE EVERYWHERE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, AFTER THE LAST -- THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, SENATOR LIEBERMAN SAID HE WOULD NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT THAT YEAR IF VICE PRESIDENT GORE RAN AGAIN. DO YOU HAVE A SIMILAR ARRANGEMENT WITH JOHN KERRY THAT IF JOHN KERRY WERE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT AGAIN, YOU WOULD NOT?

Edwards: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, JOHN AND I ARE VERY GOOD FRIENDS. OUR FAMILIES ARE VERY CLOSE. I HAVE A HIGH OPINION OF HIM. I WAS PROUD TO BE ON THE TICKET WITH HIM. I THINK HE WOULD HAVE MADE A GREAT PRESIDENT. I BELIEVED THAT THEN AND IT'S SOMETHING I CONTINUE TO BELIEVE. I HAVE ALREADY ANSWERED THIS QUESTION EARLIER. IT'S THE SAME ANSWER. WHAT I'M GOING TO DO IT GET ELIZABETH WELL, KNOCK ON WOOD, AND PUT MY PASSION AND ENERGY INTO FIGHTING POVERTY IN AMERICA. AND I WILL MAKE A DECISION SOMEWHERE DOWN THE ROAD, BUT THAT DECISION WILL BE BASED ON WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH MY OWN FAMILY AND WHAT I THINK THE COUNTRY NEEDS AND WHERE WE ARE IN THIS EFFORT ON POVERTY.

Yepsen: LET'S SWITCH GEARS TO POVERTY THEN, SENATOR. SOMEBODY ONCE SAID THE POOR WILL ALWAYS BE WITH US. SO I'M CURIOUS WHAT YOU THINK WE SHOULD BE DOING DIFFERENTLY IN AMERICA TO FIGHT POVERTY.

Edwards: WELL, WE HAVE 36 MILLION PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN POVERTY EVERY DAY IN THE WEALTHIEST, MOST PROSPEROUS COUNTRY ON THE PLANET, 13 MILLION MORE THAN WE HAD THIRTY YEARS AGO. THE TRUTH IS THAT THERE'S NOT BEEN A NATIONAL FOCUS ON POVERTY FOR A LONG TIME. I MEAN IT WAS EXTRAORDINARY WORK. IF YOU GO BACK TO FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT WHEN THEY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO ADDRESS POVERTY, THERE WAS EXTRAORDINARY WORK DONE BY HIM, INCLUDING SOCIAL SECURITY, JOBS PROGRAMS. AND THEN IN THE 1960S WHEN MICHAEL HARRINGTON WROTE HIS BOOK "THE OTHER AMERICA," IT LED TO LYNDON JOHNSON AND BOBBY KENNEDY BRINGING A FOCUS TO POVERTY IN AMERICA ONCE AGAIN. IT LED, OF COURSE, TO MEDICAID AND MEDICARE, A WHOLE SERIES OF PROGRAMS THAT WOULD HELP LIFT PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY. AND SOME WORK HAS BEEN DONE SINCE THEN. I MEAN BILL CLINTON IN THE 1990S EXPANDED THE EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT TO MAKE WORK PAY AGAIN, WHICH ALSO HELPED LIFT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY. BUT WE HAVE ENORMOUS WORK TO BE DONE. AND IT'S NOT JUST AN INCOME GAP. WE HAVE A HUGE INCOME GAP IN AMERICA, BUT WE ALSO HAVE A HUGE ASSET GAP. AND THE PROBLEM IS, AS I'VE HEARD ONE MAN SAY: YOU KNOW, INCOME IS WHAT YOU USE TO GET BY; ASSETS ARE WHAT YOU USE TO GET AHEAD. AND IN AMERICA TODAY, THE AVERAGE AFRICAN-AMERICAN FAMILY HAS A NET WORTH OF ABOUT $6,000. THE AVERAGE HISPANIC FAMILY HAS A NET WORTH OF ABOUT $8,000. THE AVERAGE WHITE FAMILY, $80,000. AND THE REALITY IS UNTIL WE CREATE ASSETS, SOME SECURITY FOR ALL THOSE FAMILIES WHO ARE LIVING -- I'M NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WHO LIVE BELOW THE POVERTY LINE, I'M TALKING ABOUT LOTS OF MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILIES WHO EARN $30-, $40,000, EVEN $50,000 A YEAR BUT HAVE NOTHING TO FALL BACK ON. AND THERE ARE LOTS OF IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO ACCOMPLISH THIS. SOME OF THE THINGS THAT TONY BLAIR IS DOING IN ENGLAND RIGHT NOW, SO-CALLED BABY BONDS, YOU KNOW, PUTTING $500 OR $1,000 INTO AN ACCOUNT FOR EVERY CHILD THAT'S BORN, ALLOWING THE PARENTS TO CONTRIBUTE, AND HAVING SOME GOVERNMENT MATCH OF THOSE CONTRIBUTIONS FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES. HAVING MATCHING SAVINGS ACCOUNTS, DOING SOMETHING THAT WE KNOW NEEDS TO BE DONE TO PRESERVE ASSETS, WHICH MEANS STOPPING THE PREDATORY AND PAYDAY LENDERS THAT ARE PREYING ON OUR MOST VULNERABLE AMERICANS, YOU KNOW, RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE WHICH -- THE MINIMUM WAGE IN AMERICA IS A NATIONAL DISGRACE, AND WE SHOULD RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE, WHICH WILL HELP LIFT FAMILIES OUT OF POVERTY. SO THERE'S A WHOLE GROUP -- OBVIOUSLY HEALTH CARE PLAYS A BIG ROLE IN THIS PROCESS.

Glover: I'D LIKE TO GET YOUR ASSESSMENT ON THE DIRECTION THE COUNTRY IS TAKING IN DEALING WITH ALL THESE ISSUES. IT STRIKES ME THAT I HEAR A GROWING CLAMOR AMONG CONSERVATIVES TO ELIMINATE, DRASTICALLY SCALE BACK, OR DRASTICALLY REVISE A LOT OF THESE BEDROCK SOCIAL PROGRAMS THAT YOU MENTIONED, LIKE SOCIAL SECURITY. I HEAR A LOT OF GRUMBLING ABOUT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID. WHAT DIRECTION IS THE COUNTRY HEADING ON THESE?

Edwards: FIRST OF ALL, WHAT PRESIDENT BUSH IS DOING IS REMOVING SECURITY FROM FAMILIES WHO DESPERATELY NEED IT. I MEAN HIS EFFORT TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY IS TAKING AWAY -- ACTUALLY WILL HAVE AN IMPACT ON ONE OF THE GREAT ANTIPOVERTY PROGRAMS IN AMERICAN HISTORY, SOCIAL SECURITY. WHAT WE OUGHT TO DO INSTEAD IS WE OUGHT TO STRENGTHEN AND ENHANCE FAMILY SECURITY. AND I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT JUST FAMILIES IN POVERTY. I MEAN WE HAVE LOTS OF FAMILIES -- I MET A TON OF THEM HERE IN IOWA WHO ARE CONSTANTLY WORRIED ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THEY MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY THEIR BILLS, THEY BARELY SCRAPE BY, BUT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, MANY OF THEM DON'T HAVE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE. IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, YOU KNOW, THEY HAVE A LAYOFF, THEIR CHILD GETS BADLY SICK, THEN THEY GO RIGHT OFF THE EDGE. WHAT WE OUGHT TO BE DOING INSTEAD IS WE OUGHT TO BE HELPING FAMILIES SEND THEIR KIDS TO COLLEGE, WE OUGHT TO BE HELPING THEM SAVE MONEY. WE HAVE ONE OF THE WORST SAVINGS RATES IN THE WORLD, CERTAINLY IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD, SO THAT WE CAN CREATE SOME SECURITY. CHILD CARE -- FAMILIES CAN'T PAY FOR CHILD CARE ANYMORE. YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF WORKING MOMS -- I'VE BEEN MEETING IN PRIVATE WITH FAMILIES WHO ARE STRUGGLING ALL OVER THE COUNTRY SINCE THE ELECTION. AND YOU'VE GOT ALL THESE WORKING MOMS WHO WANT TO WORK AND THEY'RE TRYING TO WORK, BUT THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO PUT THEIR CHILDREN. AND THE COST OF CHILD CARE IS AS MUCH AS THE MONEY THEY'RE ABLE TO MAKE IF THEY GO TO WORK. WE WANT PEOPLE TO WORK IN THIS COUNTRY. SO I THINK WE AS A NATION OUGHT TO TAKE ON THIS CAUSE OF POVERTY, BUT NOT ONLY THAT -- NOT ONLY THAT; WE OUGHT TO STRENGTHEN THE FINANCIAL SECURITY OF MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILIES WHO ARE REALLY STRUGGLING.

Glover: IS THE MOOD RIGHT TO DEAL WITH THAT? I MEAN IT STRIKES ME THE MOOD WAS A LITTLE DIFFERENT IN THE 1960S WHEN LYNDON JOHNSON WAS DOING PROGRAMS LIKE MEDICARE AND THINGS LIKE THAT. IS THE MOOD IN THIS COUNTRY WILLING TO DEAL WITH POVERTY AND THOSE SOCIAL ISSUES.

Edwards: WELL, THE QUESTION IS ARE WE GOING TO LEAD OR ARE WE GOING TO FOLLOW. I MEAN IF WE WANT TO WAIT UNTIL THE MOOD IS RIGHT, YOU KNOW, WE MAY WAIT ANOTHER CENTURY TO DEAL WITH THIS GREAT MORAL ISSUE, IN MY MIND. YOU KNOW, I THINK THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WE AS NATIONAL LEADERS HAVE TO BRING TO THE ATTENTION OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. I DON'T THINK THIS IS AN IDEOLOGICAL ISSUE. I ALSO DON'T THINK IT'S A POLITICAL ISSUE. YOU KNOW, I THINK THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE POLITICAL AISLE, GOOD PEOPLE AT BOTH ENDS OF THE IDEOLOGICAL SPECTRUM WHO BELIEVE THAT IT IS THE RIGHT AND RESPONSIBLE AND MORAL THING TO DO TO HELP THOSE AMONG US WHO ARE STRUGGLING. AND I MIGHT ADD, I THINK IT SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF OUR OWN COUNTRY. YOU KNOW, HOW AMERICA DEALS WITH THOSE WHO LIVE ON THE MARGINS SAYS A LOT TO THE REST OF THE WORLD ABOUT WHAT KIND OF NATION WE ARE. AND I THINK THE INTEGRITY AND THE CHARACTER OF AMERICA IS AT STAKE ON THIS ISSUE.

Yepsen: DOES ALL OF THIS HAVE TO BE GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS? I MEAN YOU MENTIONED BABY BONDS, MATCHING SAVINGS ACTS, HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE. THOSE ARE ALL INITIATIVES BY THE GOVERNMENT. SO IS THIS JUST MORE GOVERNMENT ACTIVISM, MORE GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS THAT ARE NEEDED TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

Edwards: NO, IN FACT IT CAN'T BE JUST GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS.

Yepsen: WHAT ELSE?

Edwards: IT WON'T WORK IF IT'S JUST GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS. WELL, WE ALREADY KNOW, FIRST OF ALL, A LOT OF THE WORK THAT'S BEING DONE TODAY TO HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE STRUGGLING IN POVERTY -- YOU KNOW, BEFORE I EVER GOT IN POLITICS, I SERVED AND WORKED WITH AN ORGANIZATION CALLED URBAN MINISTRIES, AND WE HELPED PEOPLE WHO WERE IN POVERTY AND WERE STRUGGLING, INCLUDING THE HOMELESS. AND WE GOT SOME GOVERNMENT HELP, BUT OUR ORGANIZATION WAS STARTED BY THE FAITH-BASED COMMUNITY. AND THE TRUTH IS THAT OUR FAITH-BASED COMMUNITIES HAVE PLAYED AN ENORMOUS ROLE IN HELPING PEOPLE WHO ARE IN POVERTY. OUR CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS HAVE PLAYED A HUGE ROLE. THE REAL ISSUE IS HOW DO WE MARRY THE HELP OF GOVERNMENT, CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS, RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS, AND HOW DO WE TAP INTO WHAT I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN IS THE GOOD WILL OF MOST PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY TO DO THE RIGHT THING, PARTICULARLY FOR ALL THOSE AMERICANS WHO ARE WORKING HARD AND STILL STRUGGLING AND WHO DO THE KIND OF THINGS THAT WE BELIEVE IN IN AMERICA?

Yepsen: SPECIFICALLY ON ONE OF THE POINTS YOU RAISE, A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE, I HEAR CRITICS OF THAT SAYING THAT IF YOU RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE, YOU ARE IN FACT GOING TO KILL JOBS -- THE STARTING JOBS FOR A LOT OF AMERICANS, FOR A LOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY, WHO NEED THAT FIRST JOB TO GET ON THE LADDER OF SUCCESS, THAT IF YOU RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE THAT THOSE JOBS ARE GOING TO GO AWAY. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

Edwards: MY RESPONSE IS IT IS WRONG IN AMERICA TODAY TO HAVE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE, WHICH WE DO, WHO ARE WORKING FULL TIME AND STILL LIVING IN POVERTY. I'VE BEEN MEETING WITH THEM. I MEAN I'VE MET WITH MOTHERS. I MET WITH A MOTHER IN EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA WHO DESCRIBED TO ME WORKING FULL TIME, WORKING 60, 70 HOURS A WEEK, WORKING FOR MINIMUM WAGE, SHE HAS NO HEALTH CARE COVERAGE, SHE HAS A FAMILY, AND SHE'S HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME GETTING BY. IT JUST SHOULDN'T BE THAT WAY IN THIS COUNTRY.

Borg: SO YOU DON'T SUBSCRIBE TO THE IDEA THAT JOBS GO AWAY, THEN?

Edwards: I DON'T BELIEVE IT, NUMBER ONE. AND NUMBER TWO, WE CAN HELP WITH THAT PROBLEM IF IN ADDITION TO RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE, WE GIVE DIRECT HELP TO EMPLOYERS AND BUSINESSES WITH DOING THINGS LIKE PROVIDING HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES. SO WHILE THEY MAY HAVE TO PAY MORE IN WAGES TO THEIR EMPLOYEES, ON THE OTHER SIDE THEY GET HELP WITH THEIR HEALTH CARE COSTS. I JUST DON'T THINK MOST AMERICANS THINK IT'S OKAY FOR SOME BIG COMPANY TO BE PAYING THEIR CEO, $25-, $30 MILLION A YEAR AND PAYING THEIR EMPLOYEES $6 OR $7 AN HOUR.

Glover: YOU MENTIONED ONE OF THE FACTORS THAT GO INTO HEALTH -- INTO POVERTY IS HEALTH CARE. IS HEALTH CARE THE BASE CAUSE OF A LOT OF POVERTY IN THIS COUNTRY?

Edwards: IT'S A HUGE PART OF IT.

Glover: WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Edwards: IT'S A HUGE PART OF IT. WELL, THERE ARE LOTS OF POTENTIAL WAYS OF DEALING WITH IT. JOHN AND I HAD OUR OWN HEALTH CARE PLAN, BUT THE STARTING PLACE IS WE HAVE TO BE WILLING TO ADDRESS IT. I MEAN THE PRESIDENT IS DOING NOTHING. I MEAN THESE SO-CALLED HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS ARE REALLY JUST A TAX WRITE-OFF FOR MILLIONAIRES. I MEAN IF WE'RE SERIOUS ABOUT ADDRESSING HEALTH CARE, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE WANTED TO DO WAS POOL THE CATASTROPHIC COSTS AND, AS A RESULT, REDUCE THE COST OF HEALTH CARE FOR EMPLOYERS AND FOR EMPLOYEES. WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT ALL CHILDREN HAVE HEALTH CARE. I JUST DON'T BELIEVE -- IF WE BELIEVE ALL KIDS IN AMERICA OUGHT TO GET A GOOD PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION, THEN SURELY EVERY CHILD ALSO OUGHT TO BE COVERED FOR THEIR HEALTH CARE. AND THERE'S A WHOLE HOST OF THINGS WE CAN DO TO BRING DOWN THE COST OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, FOR EXAMPLE. I MEAN WE HAVE THIS MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT NOW. BUT WE HAVE NOT DONE THE THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE TO BRING DOWN COSTS: ALLOWING PRESCRIPTION DRUGS INTO THIS COUNTRY FROM CANADA; DEALING WITH SOME OF THE PRICE GOUGING THAT'S GOING ON TODAY; DRUG COMPANY ADVERTISING ON TELEVISION, WHICH IS COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL, COMPLETELY -- IT DRIVES UP DEMAND FOR THE HIGHEST PRICED DRUGS -- AND ALLOWING US TO GROUP BUY, WHICH THE V.A. DOES TODAY, GROUP BUY AS A NATION, FOR THE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT, DRUGS WHICH WILL BRING DOWN THE COST FOR EVERYBODY.

Glover: AND ANOTHER DIRECTIONAL QUESTION: IS THE NATION HEADING IN THE DIRECTION YOU'RE ADVOCATING? IT STRIKES ME IT'S HEADING IN EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

Edwards: WELL, IT DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU DESCRIBED AS THE NATION. I THINK THE COUNTRY -- THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA WANT TO DO EXACTLY WHAT I JUST DESCRIBED. I THINK THEY WOULD SUPPORT EVERYTHING THAT I JUST TALKED ABOUT. NOW, ARE THE POLITICIANS IN WASHINGTON TAKING US THERE? NO, NOT TODAY.

Glover: WELL, THEN WHAT GETS DONE TO CHANGE THAT MIX?

Edwards: I THINK FIRST OF ALL, TO HAVE LEADERS WHO ARE CONSTANTLY OUT THERE BEATING THE DRUM ABOUT THESE ISSUES. SECOND, FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO MAKE -- ONE THING WE KNOW FOR SURE, THE POLITICIANS IN WASHINGTON WILL DO WHAT THEY HAVE TO DO WHEN THE PEOPLE STAND UP AND ARE HEARD. AND THEY'RE GOING TO BE HEARD. WE HAVE A HEALTH CARE SYSTEM THAT ARGUABLY IS IN CRISIS TODAY BUT IS GETTING WORSE. AND AT SOME POINT THERE WILL BE NO QUESTION THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DEMAND REFORM.

Glover: LAST YEAR WE JUST HAD A NATIONAL ELECTION WHERE YOU ADVOCATED THE POINT YOU HAVE JUST MADE, ALONG WITH YOUR RUNNING MATE JOHN KERRY, FOR MAJOR CHANGES IN THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM. PRESIDENT BUSH DID NOT ADVOCATE FOR MAJOR CHANGES IN THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, AND HE WON. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT THE COUNTRY?

Edwards: IT DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HEALTH CARE. I THINK THAT IF YOU WERE TO ASK AND TEST THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TODAY ABOUT WHETHER THEY AGREE WITH GEORGE BUSH ABOUT WHAT HE'S DOING ON HEALTH CARE, THEY WOULD -- THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS DO NOT AGREE WITH GEORGE BUSH, AND THEY DO NOT AGREE WITH HIS LACK OF ATTENTION TO HEALTH CARE. AND THEY UNDERSTAND, BECAUSE THEY'RE LIVING WITH IT EVERY DAY, THAT THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IS BROKEN AND SOMEBODY HAS GOT TO FIX IT.

Yepsen: SENATOR --

Edwards: SOMEBODY HAS GOT TO FIX IT. THAT'S A LONG AND MORE COMPLICATED QUESTION.

Yepsen: SENATOR, HOW DO YOU DO ANY OF THESE THINGS: BABY BONDS; MATCHING SAVINGS ACCOUNTS; HEALTH CARE? HOW DO YOU DO ANY OF THESE THINGS?

Edwards: HOW DO YOU PAY FOR IT?

Yepsen: YEAH, HOW DO YOU PAY FOR THEM IN THE FACE OF THESE HUGE NATIONAL DEFICITS?

Edwards: YEAH, THAT'S A VERY GOOD QUESTION. FIRST OF ALL, I THINK YOU CAN'T DO EVERYTHING. I'D BE THE FIRST TO SAY THAT. YOU'VE GOT TO DECIDE WHAT IS MOST EFFECTIVE, WHICH IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'RE GOING TO BE WORKING ON IN OUR POVERTY CENTER: WHAT'S THE MOST EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE; WHAT'S THE MOST EFFECTIVE MECHANISM OUT THERE FOR FIGHTING POVERTY? THEN I THINK YOU HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO PAY FOR IT. WHAT I THINK -- WHAT I THINK THE STARTING PLACE IS, IS TO STOP, ROLL BACK THE TAX CUTS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE EARNING OVER $3-, $400,000 A YEAR. AND IF I COULD GO TO A LITTLE MORE ALTITUDE ON THE BIGGER PICTURE, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I DON'T HEAR THE PRESIDENT OR MUCH OF ANYBODY TALKING ABOUT IS THE BIGGER PICTURE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING IN AMERICA ECONOMICALLY TODAY. IOWANS ARE SEEING IT. THEY SEE IT IN THEIR LIVES. BUT THIS IS WHAT'S HAPPENING. WE'VE GOT JOBS LEAVING HERE, MANUFACTURING JOBS, A HUGE PART OF WHICH ARE ALREADY GONE. WHITE-COLLAR JOBS ARE NOW LEAVING. WE'VE GOT SERVICE ECONOMY JOBS NOW LEAVING. WHERE ARE THEY GOING? THEY'RE GOING TO CHINA, TO INDIA, TO ASIAN COUNTRIES. THOSE ARE THE VERY COUNTRIES THAT ARE HOLDING INCREASINGLY LARGE AMOUNTS OF AMERICAN DEBT. AMERICA IS GOING UNDER GEORGE BUSH DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO DEFICIT. SO THINK ABOUT ALL THOSE THINGS CONVERGING, LOSS OF JOBS, LOSS OF THE VERY JOBS THAT SUPPORT A STRONG AND VIBRANT MIDDLE CLASS AT THE SAME TIME THAT THE COUNTRY IS GOING DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO DEBT, AND THAT DEBT IS BEING HELD BY THE COUNTRIES THAT ARE GETTING THOSE JOBS AND BECOMING GROWING, EMERGING, ECONOMIC POWERS. I MEAN THESE ARE THINGS THAT AMERICA IS GOING TO HAVE TO ADDRESS OVER THE LONG TERM. THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS ISSUE FOR US, NOT JUST TOMORROW BUT OVER THE NEXT 20, 30, 40 YEARS.

Borg: EARLIER YOU WERE CRITICAL OF THE PRESIDENT'S PROPOSALS ON SOCIAL SECURITY AND THE INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS. WHAT WOULD YOU DO, THOUGH, TO STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY, BECAUSE ONE COMPONENT OF THE POOR ARE THE POOR ELDERLY?

Edwards: OF COURSE THEY ARE. THERE ARE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE TODAY WHO DON'T LIVE -- SENIORS WHO DON'T LIVE IN POVERTY SIMPLY BECAUSE OF SOCIAL SECURITY. WHAT I WOULD DO IS EXACTLY THE SAME THING I TALKED ABOUT EARLIER, WHICH IS I WOULD ROLL BACK TAX CUTS TO THE RICHEST AMERICANS. SOME PORTION OF THAT WOULD BE USED TO STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY. BUT I FEEL THE NEED TO ADD TO THIS THAT WHAT GEORGE BUSH IS PROPOSING, THE PRIVATE ACCOUNTS, THE PRIVATIZATION, DOES NOTHING TO STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY. PRESIDENT BUSH HAS NO PROPOSAL. I WANT TO BE SURE EVERYBODY UNDERSTANDS THAT. HE HAS NO PROPOSAL TO STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY. AND AS A RESULT -- AS A RESULT, WHAT HE WANTS TO DO IS BASICALLY BORROW TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS, SEND THE COUNTRY DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO DEBT. HE ADMITS NOW -- I THINK THE ADMINISTRATION ADMITS THAT THIS PROPOSAL WON'T DO ANYTHING TO STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY IN THE LONG TERM AND PROBABLY WILL RESULT IN SOME BENEFIT CUT OVER THE LONG TERM. THIS MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL WHICH IS, BY THE WAY, I THINK WHY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE REJECTING IT.

Yepsen: WELL, SENATOR, HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THE CRITICISM THE DEMOCRATS DON'T HAVE A SOLUTION EITHER?

Edwards: WELL, I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR THIS DEMOCRAT. I THINK WE HAVE TO HAVE THE STRENGTH AND COURAGE TO SAY THESE TAX CUTS FOR THE RICHEST AMERICANS DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE GOT JUST A COUPLE MINUTES LEFT. I WANT TO TOTALLY SWITCH GEARS HERE TO AN EDGE-OF-THE-NEWS ISSUE, THE INTELLIGENCE REPORT THAT JUST CAME OUT. YOU SERVED ON THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE. THIS REPORT IS VERY CRITICAL OF U.S. INTELLIGENCE. WHAT SHOULD THIS COUNTRY BE DOING TO GET AN INTELLIGENCE SYSTEM?

Edwards: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, WE NEED A PRESIDENT AND ADMINISTRATION THAT WILL HOLD THOSE ACCOUNTABLE WHO ARE AT FAULT, WHO ARE AT FAULT WITH THE FAULTY INTELLIGENCE WE'VE HAD IN THE PAST. YOU KNOW, I MYSELF HAVE ADVOCATED FOR US HAVING DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE OPERATION SO THAT WE DON'T HAVE THIS -- JUST IN THE LAST WEEK, THERE HAVE BEEN REPORTS ABOUT THEIR CONTINUING LACK OF SHARING OF INFORMATION -- INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION AMONG THE VARIOUS GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. I MEAN HOW CAN THAT BE AFTER SEPTEMBER 11? I MEAN ALL OF THESE THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE, BY THE WAY, A LONG TIME AGO -- IT'S NOT JUST THE WASHINGTON BUREAUCRACY. THE PRESIDENT -- PRESIDENT BUSH AND THE ADMINISTRATION, THEY HAVE BEEN FOOT DRAGGING. THEY HAVE NOT TAKEN THIS SERIOUSLY THE WAY IT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN, AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE HEARD IN THIS REPORT. AND EVEN TODAY THEY'RE NOT HOLDING ANYBODY ACCOUNTABLE. THIS REQUIRES THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. THE PRESIDENT NEEDS TO GO GRAB THIS THING AND TAKE HOLD OF IT AND MAKE SURE THAT EVERYBODY IN THE INTELLIGENCE OPERATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA KNOWS THEY ARE GOING TO BE HELD PERSONALLY ACCOUNTABLE AND THAT WE HAVE A CENTRALIZED WAY OF MAKING SURE THAT INFORMATION IS GETTING TO THE PRESIDENT.

Glover: AND AS DAVE MENTIONED, YOU'VE HAD SOME EXPOSURE TO THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY. DOES THIS REPORT REFLECT YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF HOW BAD IT IS?

Edwards: YEAH, I THINK IT'S PRETTY ACCURATE, ACTUALLY. BASED ON WHAT I'VE SEEN, HAVING SAT THROUGH MANY DAYS OF INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARINGS AND LISTEN TO MEMBERS OF THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE DESCRIBE -- COMMUNITY DESCRIBE WHAT INFORMATION THEY HAVE, WHAT IT'S BASED ON -- FIRST OF ALL, YOU CAN'T TELL HALF THE TIME WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT. I MEAN IT'S VERY, VERY DIFFICULT TO GET THESE PEOPLE PINNED DOWN. AND WE HAVE TO GET PAST THAT. I MEAN WE HAVE --

Borg: SENATOR EDWARDS --

Edwards: IF I COULD MENTION ONE LAST THING. I KNOW YOU'RE ABOUT TO BE OUT OF TIME. BUT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THE INTELLIGENCE REPORT SAID WAS THAT WE DON'T KNOW TODAY WHAT SOME OF THE WEAPON SYSTEMS ARE IN OTHER COUNTRIES, WHICH IS WHY AMERICA HAS TO HAVE A SERIOUS COMPREHENSIVE EFFORT TO END NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION.

Borg: YOU'RE RIGHT. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING WITH US.

Edwards: GLAD TO BE WITH YOU.

Borg: AND THAT'S IT FOR THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." REGULAR AIRTIMES NEXT WEEK: 7:30 FRIDAY; SUNDAY AT NOON. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. CAPTIONS BY: MIDWEST CAPTIONING DES MOINES, IOWA FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA; THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

Tags: Iowa presidential candidates