Senator John Edwards
It is with great pleasure that I am writing you this letter today. I want to thank MoveOn.org for providing all of the presidential candidates with this opportunity and I want to thank MoveOn.org’s membership for taking your time to learn about my candidacy. To that end, I’d like to use this opportunity to tell you about myself and about my vision for America.
My father was a mill worker. When I was young, we moved from mill town to mill town until we settled in Robbins, North Carolina. It was hard work, but he did his best because he wanted to give his family a better life. He believed, as I believe, in the basic bargain of America: if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you'll have a chance to do better for yourself and your family.
Unfortunately, this president neither understands nor respects that bargain. President Bush comes from a very different place. Where he’s from, success is inherited, not earned; where opportunity is hoarded, not shared. He honors wealth while I honor the work that creates it.
I am running for president because I believe in an America where Main Street has as much value as Wall Street. I am running for president because I want to fight for the interests of regular people.
George Bush didn't get the most votes in 2000, but that hasn't stopped him from acting like he has a mandate to shred our values and walk away from our most fundamental responsibilities. He's mortgaged our future to put money in the pockets of people who need it the least, pursued dangerous fiscal policies that will destroy Medicare and Social Security and managed the economy in a way that has already cost millions of jobs.
We have no time to waste. This could be the most important election in our lifetime. I will not concede any state in America in the battle to reclaim our government and restore our values.
I bring a unique and different perspective to this race, and would take that with me to the White House. I am someone who has spent the majority of my life outside Washington, fighting on behalf of regular people every day. I worked in the mill with my Dad, I worked my way through school, and I spent nearly twenty years fighting on behalf of families and children across North Carolina. If I'm president, I will wake up every single day, fighting to put the interests of working Americans first. The values of working Americans are the values I was raised with, and their fight has been the cause of my life.
Once again, thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions. The Democratic primary is many months away, but we must start to work hard now if we are going to recapture the White House in 2004. I am the candidate who will work everyday to make a win in ’04 a reality. I have a vision for change and a passion to make this country great. I have laid out vision for America that includes a plan to make the first year of college free for any young person willing to work for it, a plan that protects working Americans from losing their pensions, a prescription drug plan, and $2500 family leave tax credit for new parents.
I encourage you to visit my campaign website at:
I hope you will sign-up and support my campaign (and please forward this to your friends, family and colleagues).
Thank you so much.
Senator John Edwards
June 17, 2003
These seven questions were among the most popular of over 1,800 posted and rated by MoveOn members on a MoveOn ActionForum. You can also read all of the interview responses on a single page.
1. PEACE (see what other candidates said)
The Bush administration has established the pre-emptive war doctrine as a cornerstone of its foreign policy. There is no end in sight to the ways in which this doctrine can be misused -- simply observe the lack of evidence to support the case for war in Iraq. In other words, barring a change in policy, any country can become the target of our military might. Furthermore, pre-emptive war only legitimizes military aggression by other nations as well. Will you repeal Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine? -
--Ricardo Cisternas, Engineer (June 12, 2003; Carlsbad, CA)
The Bush Administration's preemption doctrine is unnecessary and unwise.
The United States has always had the right to protect itself against threats to our national security. It's called self-defense -- it isn't controversial and it doesn't need a fancy new doctrine. But this administration hasn't just reasserted our right to self-defense. That would have been fine, especially when our security sometimes requires us to act before terrorists strike. Instead, they asserted a new doctrine that suggests a uniquely American right to use force wherever and whenever we decide it's appropriate. Some in the administration seem to believe that military force should be used as first resort to meet our legitimate foreign policy goals.
The Administration's provocative new doctrine has been distracting and damaging.
At a time when we should be working to lead the world towards solutions on critical problems like North Korea and postwar Iraq, it was completely counter-productive for the administration to pronounce a doctrine that is not only unnecessary to justify action, but that alienates most of our friends and makes it harder for countries to cooperate with us
The world knows we’re powerful. But America must have a foreign policy that leads in a way that brings others to us, not that drives them away. And I say to every American family: your family is safer in a world where America is looked up to and respected, not in a world where America is hated.
2. FREEDOM (see what other candidates said)
The enactment of Patriot Act I is a dangerous erosion of civil liberties in the United States. The proposed Patriot Act II is even more frightening. The purpose of both pieces of legislations seems to be the stifling of dissent rather than improving security in the U.S. If elected would you revisit the Patriot Act with the view of revising or repealing it? If we cannot speak without fear, we aren't living in a democracy.
--Bonnie Mulligan, Supervisor (June 11, 2003; Lanham, MD)
America must always be safe and free. This administration has sacrificed our freedoms—without even advancing our security. While they are not taking needed steps for our homeland security, they have taken steps that endanger our most fundamental liberties.
Here is one example: President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft are now asserting the right to arrest a United States citizen, label him an “enemy combatant,” deny him access to a lawyer, deny him the chance to offer evidence he is innocent, and then keep him in jail for as long as they want. This is not how we do things in America. I have personally questioned John Ashcroft about these measures, and I will continue to criticize them as long as this administration presses them.
I supported the PATRIOT Act because it contained provisions needed to strengthen our security, but I also believe this administration has abused its powers in implementing the law. One key provision of the act requires Congress to revisit key provisions of the law. I opposed efforts to repeal that “sunset,” and I believe Congress must rigorously review the PATRIOT Act—as well as any new legislation—to see whether it advances our security and honors our values.
I agree with you that we must be able to speak without fear. A few months after September 11, John Ashcroft came to Congress and suggested that people who criticize the government are aiding terrorists. That statement violated our must fundamental values as a people, and I said so then.
3. RELEVANCE (see what other candidates said)
I think many people using MoveOn.org are concerned with the disastrous effects of the current administration. However, my sense is that most of mainstream America either does not see the faults or is too scared, for reasons related to Homeland and economic security, to question Bush's authority. How will you, the candidate, frame your message and reach out to mainstream America to show how the upcoming presidential election is relevant to their situation and demonstrate how the actions, policies, corporate influence and diplomatic laissez-faire of Team Bush is unhealthy for our country and our future?
--Karen Zgoda, (June 12, 2003; Brighton, MA)
We need to speak the truth. Americans believe in hard work. Yet, this administration honors wealth above work. The core of their agenda is to shift the tax burden away from the unearned income of the wealthy and onto work. That is wrong—economically wrong and morally wrong. I have laid out a plan to stop this radical agenda – and to once again reward work and help working families create wealth.
This president is responsible for 3.1 million lost jobs, $4.5 trillion lost in stock market, $5.5 trillion budget surplus lost, and $400 billion retirement savings gone. Since George Bush has been in the White House, our state budgets are in the worse crises since WWII, and our families are crushed under the weight of health care and education costs. While Bush calls for more tax cuts for the very wealthy, people out in real America are hurting. It matters when the local plant shuts down, when the there's no market for your crops, or a company goes under, and there are no jobs to be found. Unfortunately, this president doesn’t even see the problem; much less understand how to solve it.
Our values have been betrayed by corporate insiders who pay themselves millions while their companies collapse and their workers lose everything. This administration has stood by the insiders. That is wrong. We need to stand up for the values we all believe in: hard work, integrity, and responsibility. We need a president in the White House who will stand up for them as well.
I’ve put forward an agenda that stands-up for all Americans. My agenda includes a plan to make the first year of college free for any young person willing to work for it. My agenda for America includes a plan to protect older workers from losing their pensions, a plan to pass a prescription drug benefit and to stop drug companies from keeping less-expensive drugs off the market, and a $2500 family leave tax credit for new parents. I will take this vision to George Bush and stand-up for every American.
I encourage you to visit my website at www.johnedwards2004.com and see my learn more about my vision for America.
4. TRUTH (see what other candidates said)
I would like to know when a Democratic candidate will summon the courage to publicly question the honesty and truthfulness of President Bush. The barrage of spin alluding to intelligence failures and misleading advice of Bush's confidants belies the fact that he alone is ultimately responsible for his words and decisions. Will any candidate demand the truth and an end to this conspiracy of deceit?
--John Kowalko, Machinist (June 12, 2003; Newark, De.)
I will never hesitate to question George Bush about any issue that affects America. The Intelligence Committee, on which I serve, has begun an investigation into the intelligence surrounding the war in Iraq.
But the concern you raise affects many issues. Just this week, I talked about this administration’s war on work—their effort to shift the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto working people. George Bush said he wanted to eliminate dividend taxes because he didn’t want income to be taxed twice. Of course, the bill he signed allows the income of corporations not to be taxed at all because of tax shelters in places like Bermuda. This tax bill wasn’t about double taxation—it was about shifting the tax burden away from the wealth of the wealthy. We need to have the courage and backbone to stand up to Bush and fight for what we believe in.
5. SOCIAL PAIN (see what other candidates said)
The present Administration and Congress have enacted huge tax cuts and extreme military spending which may well limit the ability of government to address social needs (health care, education, affordable housing, poverty reduction, etc) for some time to come, as well as entrap future generations in debt. Meanwhile, social ills become more acute. How will you balance fiscal responsibility with the growing needs for health care reform, reinvestment in education and affordable housing, etc?
--Cindy Maxey, organizer, health care justice organization (June 11, 2003; Cleveland, OH)
We need to balance the need for fiscal responsibility against the need to invest in areas like health care, education, and help for working families.
I have proposed a series of measures to restore fiscal discipline. We need the courage to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and restore a tax code that honors work, not wealth. We need to get rid of billions in corporate subsidies. For example, John McCain joined me to try to get rid of the multibillion dollar tax break for companies that buy insurance on their janitors, but then keep the benefits for themselves. We lost that fight, but we’ll keep trying. And we need to stop wasteful spending that limits our ability to address real priorities like health and education.
6. ENERGY (see what other candidates said)
Without dependence on fossil fuels, the air and water would be cleaner and we could free ourselves from our poisonous and deadly entanglements with Middle-Eastern oil dictators. What is your view? Can you show the imagination, innovation and determination needed to serve our country through serving the environment?
--Hilary Jirka, Merchandiser (June 12, 2003; Chicago, IL)
You’re right. We have tolerated and even supported authoritarian regimes in part because we depend on them for oil. A real commitment to energy independence — a commitment this administration lacks – will not only strengthen our own economy, but will also free us to promote the values we believe in overseas. And, of course, reducing our reliance on oil will also help us keep our air clean and combat the climate change that threatens our future.
I have already unveiled some measures to improve our energy independence. For example, I have proposed setting up new biorefineries to convert agricultural wastes like cornstalks into energy that can power our cars. I also support far more research into alternative ways to power our cars—not just fuel cells, as the President proposes—and higher CAFÉ standards for cars.
In the weeks and months ahead, I hope you’ll listen for my plan for energy independence.
7. ENVIRONMENT (see what other candidates said)
The Bush administration is engaged in an all out war against the environment. Nothing is safe in this assault - not our national parks, wilderness areas, endangered species, the water we drink or the air we breathe. The administration's energy and land use policies are based on the recommendations of private corporate supporters rather than on government-funded studies, their own appointees in the EPA or on public opinion (in keeping with the general disregard for civil rights, more and more often, public comment is not being taken into consideration - sometimes not even being allowed in environmental disputes). The short-sighted policies of this administration could have devastating effects on our country and our planet. Can the Democratic candidate assure us that he will support progressive environmental policies here at home, and assume a leadership position in the global effort to protect the environment?
--A.L. Zuckerman, Associate Producer (June 12, 2003; New York, NY)
Yes. Our country needs real leadership on many critical environmental issues: safeguarding the water our children drink, preserving our national parks and forests, and achieving energy independence while addressing dangerous climate changes are just a few. For over two years, the Bush administration has been working behind closed doors to weaken our clean air laws and threaten each and every American family.
I have fought this administration hard. Here’s just one example. George Bush’s EPA is using regulations to roll back the Clean Air Act. In a series of giveaways to big oil and power companies, he is making our air dirtier. It’s going to give more children asthma attacks and more seniors heart problems, but he’s doing it anyway. I have led the fight, on the floor of the United States Senate, to stop these devastating rollbacks. We lost our first vote by a hair, but we continue to fight.
I will continue to fight—not only to keep our air clean, but to support renewable energy, work with our allies to reduce global climate change, and give our children a better environment than the one our parents gave us.