ABC And NBC Grill Edwards While CBS's Harry Smith Lobs Softballs
Former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards announced on Thursday that he will once again be a candidate for president in 2008, and he appeared on all three network morning programs to discuss his aspirations. Given the treatment he received on NBC’s "Today" and ABC’s "Good Morning America," it is clear he is not the darling of the media for this campaign cycle as ABC highlighted a potential campaign by Barack Obama, and NBC portrayed Hillary Clinton as the inevitable Democratic nominee.
On "Good Morning America," George Stephanopoulos accused Senator Edwards of exploiting hurricane Katrina by announcing his candidacy in New Orleans and wondered why Democrats should nominate him over "someone who was against the war from the start, like Barack Obama?" On NBC, "Today" co-host Matt Lauer inquired on whether Edwards can truly connect with the "have-nots" in America, given that he lives a luxurious lifestyle, and would he once again accept a nomination to be vice president, this time with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, "So down the road, would you consider a vice-presidential slot for Hillary Clinton?" However, on CBS’s "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith gave Senator Edwards a softball interview. He asked simple questions that did not challenge Mr. Edwards record or current positions such as what advice Edwards would give President Bush on Iraq.
Yet, Edwards can be satisfied that his presidential announcement received media attention. There are several presidential candidates, who have announced their intentions and received little or no time on the morning shows, and here Mr. Edwards appeared on all three networks in the same morning.
Transcripts from all three of Senator Edwards’ morning show appearances follow:
Good Morning America
George Stephanopoulos: "And now we're going to turn to another man who wants to be president, former North Carolina Senator and vice presidential candidate, John Edwards. He's making it official this morning, he's running for president in 2008. Just the third candidate to officially announce a run for the White House. I spoke to Senator Edwards just a few moments ago, from New Orleans. Back in 2004, you criticized President Bush for exploiting the tragedy of 9/11 by having his convention in New York City. Aren't you exploiting Katrina by announcing your candidacy in New Orleans?"
Senator John Edwards: "Well, what I hope we're doing by, by coming to New Orleans is the same reason I came to New Orleans last spring, George, which is, number one, to draw attention. People--a lot of people here think they've been completely forgotten. Nobody's paying attention. All you got to do is go from house to house to house in the ninth ward, where I am right now, to hear that and secondly, we want to get America to get involved with what's happening here. Not just talk about what the state or local or federal government's not's doing, but to actually take responsibility and take action for something that's happening in our own country. That's--we can't wait for the next election, we can't wait for whoever wins the next election to fix all our problems. We have to do this together and that's why we're here in New Orleans."
Stephanopoulos: "Let me turn to Iraq. We heard those tapes from President--former President Ford, this morning, where he was very critical of the decision to go to war, especially the focus on weapons of mass destruction. You said last year that you were wrong to vote for the war in 2002. If that's true, why shouldn't Democrats nominate someone who was against the war from the start, like Barack Obama?"
Edwards: "Well, first of all, I think the most important thing we need from a president is a willingness to be honest, tell the truth, to have integrity and take responsibility for both what they've done in the past and what they're going to do in the future. Unfortunately, that's a problem that we've had in the last six years and we've seen the result, both--not just here in America, but all across the world and what it's done to our standing in the world. So, I hope, at least, and this will be a judgment for America to make, not for me to make, George, but I hope that people will understand that what I've done is told the truth about what's happened with me and Iraq in the past, and I, I intend to tell the truth about what's happening now, which is there are no good choices. And anybody who suggests that if we take this path in Iraq, we're going to be successful, is not being honest today. We have to be honest about both what's happened in the past and about the very difficult circumstances that we face right now in Iraq."
Stephanopoulos: "You say the situation's very difficult. Do you think Iraq is a lost cause?"
Edwards: "No, I wouldn't say that. I, I think that, that the choices are, are, are bad and worse, which is essentially what the Iraq study commission concluded. But I think that we can maximize our chances for success by making clear that we're going to leave Iraq, we're not going to stay there forever. I think, I think it would be a huge mistake to put a surge of troops into Iraq. I think that sends exactly the wrong signal. The underlying problem there is not a military problem, it's a political problem and the only solution is a political solution. And we have to recognize that, and the, the Iraqis themselves are going to have to determine their future."
Stephanopoulos: "Are you more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be president?"
Edwards: "That's not my decision to make. I, what, what I believe is that the next president of the United States is going to have enormous responsibilities. And I think there is a, a maturity and a depth that's required to make those judgments, to make those decisions. And I think the single largest responsibility, there are lots of important ones, but if I was to say what I think is the single most important responsibility, is the next president is going to have to reestablish America's leadership in the world."
Stephanopoulos: "You ran with John Kerry in 2004. After that campaign, he told friends that you promised him that you wouldn't run against him in 2008. Is that true?"
Edwards: "Well, I never talk about personal conversations I had with John Kerry."
Stephanopoulos: "That didn't sound like a denial. I just have one final question. You say again and again and again you want to run a different kind of campaign and you want America to see who you really are. What one thing do you want them to see?"
Edwards: "What I want them to see is the power--their power to change things on their own. If they actually take responsibility and take action and don't wait for the next election, don't wait for the next elected leader, but decide they're going to change this country themselves, the power to change this country does not just reside in Washington, D.C., although the government is important. The power resides out here among the American people, and we can't sit back and complain. We have to take action, and that's what I want to see them do."
Matt Lauer: "And John Edwards is in the lower 9th ward of New Orleans this morning. Senator, good morning to you."
John Edwards: "Good morning, Matt."
Matt Lauer: "4 years ago you came on this program and told me you were going to run for President of the United States. What do you want to tell me this morning?"
John Edwards: "I'm here to announce I'm a candidate for President of the United States."
Matt Lauer: "And tell me why. I mean, is this an inner voice that you're answering? Something you've been hearing for 4 years or is this a reaction to the voices of the people you've been talking to for the past 4 years?"
John Edwards: "It's some of both. I mean, I've reached my own conclusion that this is the best way to serve my country. I hope anyone who's running for president is running for that reason. And just over the last few years since the last election I have seen a lot and learned a lot. I've seen what regular people across the country can do when they take responsibility and take action and they don't wait for somebody else-- stay at home and complain and wait for somebody else to solve the problem. I mean we've seen things like the minimum wage raised in six states, college made available to kids who are willing to work for it. Organizing workers so that they can have a decent wage and decent health care. Humanitarian work in central Africa. Just over and over and over, I've seen the power that Americans have when they take things by the horns and don't wait for somebody else to do it."
Matt Lauer: "Four years ago you talked about 2 America's. You talked about it a lot during the campaign, the haves and the have-nots. And you're there in the lower 9th ward of New Orleans. Clearly the issue of the have-nots front and center there. Critics, though, Senator say you're a have. That you live a very privileged lifestyle. You're building a $3 million home in North Carolina. You are an advisor to a multibillion dollar hedge fund, so how can you reach out, how can you connect to the have-nots?"
John Edwards: "Well, first of all, it is true that I've now had everything you could ever have in this country. It's not the place I came from. I came from a very different place, which everyone knows. I now joke about being the son of a mill worker and people laugh. But the truth is most of America's heard that story as much as they care to hear it. But, I came from that place and I've now had everything you could ever have. And the lesson for me, though Matt, is I didn't get here by myself. I mean, my country was there for me. America was there for me. It's the reason I've been able to live the American dream, and there are millions of people across this country now, including a lot of folks right here in New Orleans, who want to live that same dream, and they're facing such incredible obstacles. And can I just say one other thing because I heard you all talking about the 2 Americas that I talked about in the last campaign. You know, we always learn, and one of the things that I learned since the last campaign is it's great to identify a problem, and it's talk about hope and inspiration, which I've certainly done in the past, but the way you change things is by taking action. And that's what we want people to do in this campaign. We want them to actually take responsibility and take action. Not after the election, but starting right now."
Matt Lauer: "Let me ask about some of the criticism 4 years ago as you ran for vice-president was that you didn't have enough experience. One term in the U.S. Senate, not a lot in terms of foreign policy. I've looked at your travel itinerary over the last couple of years. You gave traveled to Russia, China, Israel, Great Britain, India, Belgium, I'm sure I've left out some trips, all to meet with leaders and discuss some regional issues. But being absent, not being in the Senate for the past four years during a time of critical foreign policy decisions and debate, do you think that puts you at a disadvantage over some of your possible opponents?"
John Edwards: "No, I think the truth of the matter is that-- you're right, I have spent an awful lot of time overseas, but about half my time working on issues overseas, and it has been helpful. It's added to the depth and maturity of what I think America needs to be doing in the world. But, if you kind of look at what's happened over the last 6 years, I mean we had, with Rumsfeld and Cheney and others, one of the most experienced foreign policy teams ever, and they've been a complete disaster by any measure. And I think the truth is that what we need in the White House is we need somebody who has a real vision and somebody who has the capacity to adapt to a rapidly changing world, and that's what America is faced with now."
Matt Lauer: "Talk about adapting, in 2002 you supported the war in Iraq. A few years later you wrote an op-ed, said 'I was wrong' and you changed your opinion. You're now calling for the immediate withdrawal of some 40 or 50,000 U.S. troops from Iraq. General John Abizaid, the commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, testified recently that a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq over the next 6 months would lead to an increase in sectarian killing. So, why are you right and why is the top military commander of U.S. forces on the ground wrong?"
John Edwards: "Well, there've been a lot of people who've been wrong about Iraq so far, Matt, and the American people don't need me to say that, they can see it from just looking on their television screens. I think we need to be honest about what's happened in the past in Iraq. We went there believing there were weapons of mass destruction. I believed it, and I was wrong, and I've taken responsibility for that, and I think it's important for all of our leaders to do that. And then second, I think we ought to tell the truth about what's happening now. Our choices are bad and worse, as the Iraq Study Commission [sic] concluded. And anybody who suggests they know exactly what the path to success is, is not being honest. We don't know what's going to work. And we have to just use our best judgment. My best judgment is we may need to make it clear that we're going to leave and turn responsibility over to the Iraqis, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving."
Matt Lauer: "Real quickly, this is the time where we start to ask candidates like you: Would you consider a vice-presidential slot. So down the road, would you consider a vice-presidential slot for Hillary Clinton?"
John Edwards: "[Laughing] I thought you were going to ask me about me. That's way, that's way too far down the road. Right now I'm going to focus on what I need to do in this campaign, and what we need to do for the country."
Matt Lauer: "And there in the city of music, you did a little dancing there Senator, nice job. It's nice to talk to you this morning. Good luck to you."
John Edwards: "Thank you, Matt. Great to be with you."
The Early Show
Harry Smith: "A familiar name is officially getting back into the presidential race. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate, will announce later today in New Orleans that he is running again, and Senator Edwards joins us this morning. Good morning sir."
John Edwards, 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee: "Good morning, Harry."
Harry Smith: "Just a word, if you will, about President Gerald Ford. You know, one of the things that was said about him yesterday, that he was too nice a guy. Can a nice guy get elected President of the United States?"
John Edwards: "I absolutely think so. I loved some of the things that President Ford said. Even some of the things that he said recently. I saw a quote from him where recently he said, you know, we have candidates--when we have candidates without ideas and consultants who don't have convictions and campaigns that don't have any content, the result is we have elections without voters. And that's a great description of the problems that American campaigns are going through right now."
Harry Smith: "Yeah. You have been down this road before, we followed you in Ohio, and Minnesota and New Hampshire and Iowa. And I'm wondering what is inside you that makes you want to go back down this road, again?"
John Edwards: "It's really, in large part, what I've seen over the last few years. First of all, my desire to serve and my decision that this is the best way for me to serve my country, and what I have seen over the last few years is an incredible power of ordinary people in this country to change the country when they take action. For example we got tired of waiting for Congress to raise the minimum wage so we went out and did it in six states in this past election. We've organized workers so that they can have decent wages. We've made college available to kids who are willing to work for it. I saw a bunch of young people doing humanitarian work in Uganda with the International Rescue Committee. The lesson from all of that is when we as Americans take responsibility and take action, we can really change this country."
Harry Smith: "You know, in the last--since November, magazines have been filled with pictures of two people, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you look at any of the polls, those are the people who dominate in terms of what Democratic preferences are. Do you have a chance to find space in there between those two very dominant people?"
John Edwards: "Well, first of all, I would say just as a practical matter having, you know, I am not having to guess about this, Harry, I've been through it before and I know what's involved. And in the early states where the decisions are made, I think I'm actually doing very well. And more important than that, we have a chance, especially if we start doing things now and don't wait for election day, we have a chance to bring about the kind of change this country needs, if we can engage, as I hope we will be able to, millions of Americans in this cause. This is going to be, for me, a grass roots campaign, we're going to be reaching out to people, asking people to take action, to bring the changes that America needs."
Harry Smith: "The president is soon going to decide what to do in Iraq, more troops, fewer troops. If the president had your ear what advice would you give him."
John Edwards: "That it's absolutely crucial that America reestablish its moral authority in the leadership he role in the world, starting place is Iraq. And I think we should first tell the truth about how we got there and second we should tell the truth about the circumstances we face now where the choices are very, very difficult, and nobody can guarantee success, including the president. And my own view is that the best way -- the best course in Iraq is to make it clear that we intend to leave and the best way to make that clear is to actually start leaving."
Harry Smith: "Senator John Edwards, good luck."
John Edwards: "Thanks, Harry."