Edwards visits Jeff City, touts health care for all, higher minimum wage and an end to Iraq war
Jefferson City, Missouri, January 29, 2009 – John Edwards brought his populist campaign to central Missouri Tuesday, invoking the names of Harry Truman and John Kennedy in a bid to keep his presidential aspirations alive.
Edwards pledged to push for universal health care, a minimum wage of $9.50 an hour and an end to subsidies for factory farms that are driving family farmers out of business. He told a boisterous crowd of supporters that he would end the war in Iraq his first year in office, improve care for returning veterans and shut down the debate on what type of torture is permissible in the United States.
“No torture is permissible in America or by America,” Edwards said. A crowd of several hundred people who packed into a banquet room of the Jefferson City Eagles’ lodge responded enthusiastically, particularly when Edwards spoke of the middle-class struggle to pay the rising cost of gasoline, food, health care and a college education.
They are the themes that have defined Edwards’ campaign. People responded most when Edwards spoke about health care and Bush’s handling of the war on terror. Edwards noted that 47 million people in the United States lack health insurance. But the crowd appeared particularly moved by his reference to his wife’s battle with breast cancer.
“Tomorrow, just as sure as I’m standing here, women across America will do what my wife did,” Edwards said. “They’ll do a self-exam, they’ll find a lump and find out later that they have breast cancer. But some of those women, unlike Elizabeth, will not have health care coverage. What are they supposed to do? You can’t get chemotherapy in the emergency room. Where are they supposed to go?”
Edwards said no person should be denied care because of a pre-existing condition. And mental illness should be treated just as physical problems are. The crowd cheered when Edwards described a dysfunctional health care system whose costs have spiraled out of control.
“People can’t keep paying these prices,” Edwards said. “It’s absolutely killing them.”
His plan, he said, would not be cheap. But the $120 billion cost could be paid by rolling back the tax cuts that Bush pushed through early this decade on people with incomes of more than $200,000 a year.
Edwards pledged to bring a quick end to the Iraq war and to close overseas detention centers. And he said there would be no more illegal spying on American citizens. “Here’s a radical idea for you – suppose we had a president of the United States who believed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” he said.
After his remarks he was besieged by supporters. He signed autographs and spoke to several people, including Bob Pund, a quadriplegic from Columbia. Pund asked Edwards to consider boosting Social Security disability payments because it was impossible to live on the current amount. Edwards assured him that he would look into the problem. Pund said later that he appreciated Edwards’ response.
Edwards never mentioned his consistently third-place finish in the Democratic primaries already held. He avoided criticizing Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama except to say that he was the only one of the three who had never taken a dime from a lobbyist or special interest fund-raising committee.
He also touted his plan to make college affordable by having the government pick up tuition costs for any student who qualifies to attend and is willing to work 10 hours a week. The plan could be paid for by cutting banks out of the student loan business, he said.