For the last few years we've been playing a just-for-fun softball tournament with co-workers from my station at WHO-TV against KCCI and WOI. This morning, we resumed our tradition. What a beautiful day, too. Sunny...temps in the high 70s or so.
First up....KCCI. We won 20-16. I don't want to say it was bad pitching and bad fielding. We'll just say it was a lot of good hitting.
And in the championship...WOI. Yep, we won that, too, 14-10. (I won't go into detail about how my legs are already sore, how I have a blister on my right hand and how I scraped up the palm of my right hand and right forearm. It'll make me feel too old).
But who cares? We won! As one of our sports guy, Shawn Terrell, put it best...We are "Central Iowa's Softball Leader." We'll work on a better slogan...maybe next year.
Obama just started, about five minutes early. That hasn't happened much lately. I don't mean with him. I mean with most any candidate it seems.
Here are some of his words...
"Who is going to stand up for me?" (He was talking about union members)
Obama talked about sanitation workers in the South who earned little money and little respect in the 1960s. These are the people he says who have worked to lay the foundation for jobs that these union workers now enjoy.
"You believe in organization without intimidation."
The guy in the Oval House doesn't care about workers (I missed a word, I think, but this is almost his direct quote)
“You fight for the right to organize, but the business lobby fights back by getting their friends in Congress and the White house to block card check, and stack the labor relations board with their friends and allies. Well it’s not the Department of Management, it’s the Department of Labor, and it’s time we won that fight too.”
Obama says the White House is the most anti-union administration in generations.
He said the only way a person can make changes that will help union workers is for the country to elect a person who can bring people together. He said he is the person who can do that.
"I will sign a universal health care plan by the end of my administration." (Can he still do that if voters give him a Republican Congress? We'll have to hold onto this quote for later.)
Obama reminds the room that he spoke out against the War in Iraq before it started. He's been doing this at most every recent stop I can remember. Just a subtle reminder, without actually saying the words, that Edwards and Clinton voted for the war.
I think the country band here at the AFSCME convention in Des Moines is called Crossfire. The lead singer just asked the audience to sing. Too bad the audience is eating right now. This might get messy.
Hillary Clinton just took the stage to the sounds of Celine Dion (Americans really voted for that song?). Crossfire must not have known any Celine. Celine came from a recording.
Some of her words tonight...
"Let's end this outsourcing of America." Clinton said she wants to cut 500,000 federally-contracted employees.
"The government is not against you. Your government understands the important role you (unions) pay in society."
"I think we need more middle class tax cuts."
I just spotted a few more leaders...Ako Abdul Samaad, the DSM State Rep., Bruce Hunter, who's also a DSM State Rep. Dan Albritton is also here. He's the former CIETC consultant who was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of trying to cover up the pay scandal there.
O.K., back to the Clinton comments...
"Women are good at cleaning."
I think there are actually birds flying over our heads inside the hotel here. Those are actually my words, not hers.
No, that's not ice cream. It's butter! Butter? It's on each table here at the AFSCME convention at the Holiday Inn near the DSM Airport. Who needs that much butter?
It's a noticeably different feel here tonight for Hillary Clinton than it was around lunchtime when Bill Richardson took the stage. No box lunches for dinner. Tonight there's a nice spread of pork chops, potatoes, beans, salad, carrot cake and who knows what else...
Security's much different, too. I don't remember any security for Richardson. But there's the usual entourage of maybe a dozen or so secret service, police, etc. for Clinton.
Des Moines Senator Dick Deardon and Des Moines Representative Janet Peterson are among the crowd. So is Secretary of State Michael Mauro.
And, man, is it hot in here. I hope it doesn't melt the butter.
I'm sitting inside the Holiday Inn just across from the DSM Airport. Bill Richardson just took the podium before about 150 AFSCME members from Iowa. Why is this appearance important for him? Perhaps, his own words explain... Richardson said, "An AFSCME endorsement is, perhaps, the ultimate prize."
Other candidates must agree this is a pretty big weekend. John Edwards spoke yesterday. Hillary Clinton's flying in tonight just for this event. Chris Dodd stops by tomorrow evening, so will Barack Obama, who is also flying in just for this.
A few more words from Richardson...
"I don't have their rock star status, but I'm working on it?"
"Have you seen my ads? Do you like 'em?"
"There are no free riders in my state." He was talking about legislators' attempts in Iowa to pass what they called "Fair Share", so that non-union employees don't get free services from the unions. New Mexico has this. Here in Iowa, despite a democratic governor, a democrat-controlled house and democratic-controlled senate, it went no where last session.
"I know last time the (AFSCME) endorsement went a little off-key." ("off-key"...get it? AFSCME endorsed Howard Dean last time around)
I was about to head to the gym this morning, when someone called me about a story in the L.A. Times. Here's a recap... Tom Vilsack ran for President. Vilsack went into debt. He dropped out. Vilsack endorsed Hillary Clinton. That same day, the Clinton campaign said it would help Vilsack pay off his bills. Two days later, Vilsack told me that wasn't the case. (You can watch the story here)
He would pay back his own bills, he said. About four months later, the L.A. Times figured out Clinton backers have also been giving money to Vilsack's now-defunct, but still-in-debt campaign. Hmmm...
It reminds me of a day in 2004. John Kerry won the caucuses in January. Christie Vilsack had endorsed him. Her husband hadn't. After the caucuses, I was in the Governor's office with several other reporters. We asked Vilsack if he would endorse Kerry. He told me "no". The next day, the Des Moines Register reported Vilsack would endorse Kerry. I later found out that Vilsack already knew at the time he was endorsing. He said his staff said it would be o.k. to release his decision to the newspaper. I wonder why he just didn't tell that to me and the other reporters standing with me? I wonder why he told me he'd pay off his own bills? I wonder...
Jim Gilmore has just dropped out of the republican race for Prez. The news for many of you in this may be that this means Jim Gilmore had actually been running for President in the first place.
Here's what he sent out to his supporters, or his family, whichever the case may be...
I am today withdrawing my candidacy for the Republican nomination for President. It has been a positive and rewarding experience for me, for my family, and for my supporters.
It has become apparent to me that the combination of my late start, and the front loaded nature of the primary schedule, have made it impractical to continue to pursue this path towards further public service.
I am proud of the fact that my campaign focused on the issues, worked hard to block amnesty for illegal immigrants, brought attention to the need to protect private property rights, and called for a new path in Iraq that would provide our valiant military men and women with a more clearly defined and achievable mission.
However, I have come to believe that it takes more than a positive vision for our nation's future to successfully compete for the Presidency. I believe that it takes years of preparation to put in place both the political and financial infrastructure to contest what now amounts to a one-day national primary in February.
In the coming weeks and months, I intend to remain active in the Republican Party and in the public debate. I will be forming a state political action committee to assist Republican candidates in the General Assembly. Additionally, I will be actively looking for other opportunities to continue in public service in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Thank you for your interest and support of my candidacy. I look forward to finding opportunities to continue working with you in the future so that together we can make America an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
John Edwards usually seems to bring up that infamous $400 haircut during the Iowa stops I've covered these last few months. But tonight in Ft. Dodge is the first time I remember someone in the crowd bringing it up...and it wasn't all that pretty.
A woman first asked him if he would consider living on the "food stamp diet' a few members of Congress are trying. He told her he hadn't heard about it, but if he could make it work on the Presidential campaign trail, he would think about it. Then she brought up the haircut. She told him her family lives for weeks on what he paid for that one haircut. The comment brought a collective "ohhhh" from the crowd and silence for a bit from Edwards.
Tomorrow Begins Today...that's printed on the big banner hanging across the Ft. Dodge Public Library tonight. We're hoping this event begins tonight and not tomorrow. John Edwards is already nearly 30 minutes late flying into town. We already have a bit of what he'll say tonight.
Here's part of the release that'll come out...
EDWARDS CALLS FOR INVESTMENT IN RURAL AMERICA Also Highlights Plan for Universal Health Care During Town Hall in Fort DodgeFort Dodge, Iowa – During a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge today, Senator John Edwards called for a major new federal effort to reinvest in rural America and highlighted his plan to guarantee health care to all Americans. “I grew up in a rural community, and I saw what happened to people just like my dad when the mill closed down,” Edwards said. “For too long, the needs of rural Americans and their communities have been neglected in Washington – and the result has been a steady exodus of jobs and opportunity. As president, I’ll make it a major priority to bring those jobs back through investments in renewable energy and main street small businesses.”Edwards' Rural Recovery Plan would: Restore economic fairness to rural America by helping small businesses thrive and grow. Edwards will create the Rural Economic Advancement Challenge (REACH) Fund to bring capital and management expertise to small town America.
Create a new energy economy in rural America by establishing the New Energy Economy Fund to jumpstart renewable energies. Edwards will create new markets for ethanol, invest in renewable energy research, support locally owned biorefineries and require 25 percent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2025.
Strengthen rural schools by improving pay for teachers in rural and other hard-to-staff schools to help attract quality new and experienced teachers, and by creating digital learning opportunities.
Improve health care in rural America by rewriting the unfair Medicare and Medicaid funding formulas that punish rural states and communities, and supporting investments in telemedicine. Additionally, Edwards' plan for universal health care will cover the 9 million rural Americans that lack insurance and establish a nationwide network of safety net clinics and public hospitals.
Rid rural America of methamphetamines by investing in the enforcement of drug laws in rural areas, help states make meth ingredients more difficult to get and expand programs that successfully treat addicts.
Edwards also highlighted his plan to guarantee quality, affordable health care for every American – the only specific plan offered by any candidate in either party for truly universal health coverage. His plan is based on the principle of shared responsibility: businesses, families, and governments must each do their part to achieve universal health coverage and a better health care system for all of us. The Edwards Plan achieves universal coverage by: Requiring businesses and other employers to either cover their employees or help finance their health insurance.
Making insurance affordable by creating new tax credits, expanding Medicaid and SCHIP, reforming insurance laws, and taking innovative steps to contain health care costs.
Creating regional "Health Care Markets" to let every American share the bargaining power to purchase an affordable, high-quality health plan, increase choices among insurance plans – including the option of a public plan - and cut costs for businesses offering insurance.
Once these steps have been taken, requiring all American residents to get insurance.
I'm looking for some republicans, democrats and independents. Here's why: We asked the presidential candidates (19 in all, I believe) some questions I think are pretty important. But did they actually answer them? That's where I need your help. We're going to bring in some folks to look over the candidates' answers to see two things...1. Do the answers make sense? 2. Did the candidates actually answer the question?
Hillary Clinton...Barack Obama...same time, same city...our first showdown (yeah, I know we still have six months til the Caucuses)
10am--the showdown begins. Or not. 10:15 for Clinton, I'm told. 10:13 for Obama. That's where I am this morning. Clinton is releasing her plan on how to end the war. (I'll copy it below)
Obama seems to be a little extra fired up here at Des Moines Area Community College (we're just a few blocks away from the Clinton event downtown). Is he trying to compete with Clinton? Is it because it's 1000 degrees inside this garage? Or is he just "on" today?
Obama received the longest ovation that I remember recently here on the campaign trail. (Bill and Hillary Clinton received a big one, too, last week at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.)
He told the crowd of about 500 there are no "do-over's" when it comes to issues like Iraq (take that, Hillary). He repeated his phrase that the war should have never been authorized (take that, too). Big applause. (I'll copy some of his remarks and post them under Clinton's comments).
We get a little 1 on 1 time with him afterwards. More on that later. The campaign's been giving us more access to him lately. Not the case with HRC.
Here are the releases from Obama and Clinton campaigns about this morning...
Hillary Clinton’s Plan to End the War in Iraq as President
Today in Iowa, Hillary Clinton announced her plan to end the war in Iraq and urged President Bush to act immediately.
“Our message to the President is clear. It is time to begin ending this war – not next year, not next month – but today.“We have heard for years now that as the Iraqis stand up, our troops will stand down. Every year, we hear about how next year they may start coming home. Now we are hearing a new version of that yet again from the President as he has more troops in Iraq than ever and the Iraqi government is more fractured and ineffective than ever.“Well, the right strategy before the surge and post-escalation is the same: start bringing home America’s troops now.”
If President Bush does not end the war, when Hillary Clinton is President, she will. Her three-step plan would bring our troops home, work to bring stability to the region, and replace military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq’s future. Hillary has been fighting every day in the Senate to force the President to change course. And today she described how she would bring the war to an end.
Starting Phased Redeployment within Hillary’s First Days in Office: The most important part of Hillary’s plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq’s civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As President, one of Hillary’s first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration. She would also direct the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare a comprehensive plan to provide the highest quality health care and benefits to every service member – including every member of the National Guard and Reserves – and their families.
Securing Stability in Iraq as we Bring our Troops Home. As President, Hillary would focus American aid efforts during our redeployment on stabilizing Iraq, not propping up the Iraqi government. She would direct aid to the entities – whether governmental or non-governmental – most likely to get it into the hands of the Iraqi people. She would also support the appointment of a high level U.N. representative – similar to those appointed in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo – to help broker peace among the parties in Iraq.
A New Intensive Diplomatic Initiative in the Region. In her first days in office, Hillary would convene a regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers, and all of the states bordering Iraq. The- mission of this group would be to develop and implement a strategy to create a stable Iraq. It would have three specific goals:
*Non-interference. Working with the U.N. representative, the group would work to convince Iraq’s neighbors to refrain from getting involved in the civil war.
*Mediation. The group would attempt to mediate among the different sectarian groups in Iraq with the goal of attaining compromises on fundamental points of disputes.
*Reconstruction funding. The members of the group would hold themselves and other countries to their past pledges to provide funding to Iraq and will encourage additional contributions to meet Iraq’s extensive needs.
As our forces redeploy out of Iraq, Hillary would also organize a multi-billion dollar international effort – funded by a wide range of donor states – under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to address the needs of Iraqi refugees. And as we replace military force with diplomacy and global leadership, Hillary will not lose sight of our very real strategic interests in the region. She would devote the resources we need to fight terrorism and will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region.
Obama Discusses Economic Impact of Iraq War at Des Moines Town Hall
Iowa families squeezed by war in Iraq which costs American taxpayers $275 million each day
DES MOINES –At a town hall meeting with Iowans today, Democratic candidate for President Barack Obama discussed the ways in which Iowa families are affected by the demands of an increasingly competitive global economy and rising health care and energy costs. Obama also discussed how spending more than $275 million each day on the war in Iraq has hurt America’s ability to help working families who are feeling squeezed.
“It will be enormously difficult to invest in jobs and opportunity until we stop spending $275 million a day on this war in Iraq,” Senator Barack Obama said. “When I opposed this war before it began in 2002, I was about to run for the United States Senate and I knew it wasn’t the politically popular position. But I believed then and still do that being a leader means that you’d better do what’s right and leave the politics aside, because there are no do-overs on an issue as important as war.”
For those living in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Des Moines, the cost of the war in Iraq will be $756.6 million through 2007. This total is equivalent to providing health care for 238,693 adults and 339,808 children; equipping 851,323 homes with renewable electricity; hiring 17,489 elementary school teachers; offering 134,819 scholarships for university students; creating 113,832 Head Start places for children; building 89 new elementary schools; recruiting 18,745 public safety officers; and hiring 12,676 port container inspectors. [National Priorities Project]
Obama said neglecting these important domestic priorities has a significant impact on workers and their families who are working harder, but falling further behind:
“You’ve seen the factories close their doors and move overseas, leaving too many cities and mill towns without their biggest source of employment,” said Obama. “I saw it when I first arrived in Chicago in the early 80s, where I took a job helping to rebuild neighborhoods that had been devastated by steel plant closings. I saw it in Galesburg, Illinois and in Newton with Maytag plants shedding jobs and moving overseas.”
Iowa families continue to feel the economic crunch brought on by soaring health care and energy costs. Iowans spend over $15 billion per year on health care, which accounts for nearly 14% of the state economy. Health insurance premiums in Iowa are increasing at an unacceptable pace – almost 4 times faster than wages over the past 6 years. In May, Senator Obama introduced a health care plan that would save the average American family up to $2500 in health care costs per year through money saving measures such as requiring competition in the insurance industry to reduce administrative costs and lower premiums, investing in Health IT and more. Click here for more information on Senator Obama’s detailed health care plan: Fact Sheet.
“We are about to receive yet another report telling us that Iraq’s political leaders have not met a single goal they set for themselves to demonstrate any kind of progress towards stability,” Obama said. “Not one goal. Well they have had their chances and George Bush has had his – we cannot keep our troops in the middle of a civil war that Iraq’s leaders refuse to end. It’s time to bring them home.”
Senator Obama also has a plan to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. In January, Obama introduced legislation that would have all our combat troops home from Iraq by March 31, 2008.
Nothing scientific here, but I had an interesting talk in a Pella front lawn on the 4th of July. I sat down with three women. They were all 55 plus. They were all white. One was a republican (who is curious about Obama). The other two are democrats, who are still making up their minds on their choices. I asked whether it will be more difficult for an African-American or a woman to be elected President. All three said running as a woman will be more difficult. Interesting. I need to do more on this...
I know it was only about 90 or so in Pella. But, man, did it feel like 110! Iowans will tell you, "it's the humidity." We were all drenched by the time Barack Obama arrived for our media avail. Best I could tell, he wasn't sweating.
A couple observations...despite the heat, the several hundred people who gathered in the front yard of the host's house to hear the Senator stuck around until he finished (including the curious neighbors who didn't come over, but did set up lawn chairs in the front yards to peak in on the activities). That's unlike what we saw Monday night at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. It was a much larger crowd. I'd guess somewhere between 3 and 4,000 (The campaign claimed 7,000 both to the media and in a followup email to supporters. I polled the national media folks, as well as a few locals I trust for their "guesstimating" skills, and no one seemed to think the crowd was anywhere near 7,000.)
Hillary Clinton spoke after her husband handed over the microphone. I counted dozens, if not hundreds of people who left early. Were they more interested in her husband? Were they just tired? (The Clintons did start the event an hour late) Were they just trying to beat the traffic? I didn't get to talk to them as they made their escape. I wish I could have. But I had to listen to the rest of Senator Clinton.
"Life is a Highway" is playing...again...for the fourth time. Not sure what the delay is, but Bill and Hillary Clinton have yet to come out for his much-heralded return to Iowa here at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. They're already 47 minutes late by my watch. Apparently, he's not much more punctual as the spouse of a candidate than he was as the candidate (in other words, yes, he's ALWAYS late).
While I'm waiting, let's move to another candidate, John McCain. The word I'm hearing is that the campaign has gutted its Iowa operations. The Iowa campaign spokesman won't say how many of the 23 paid Iowa people (that includes 3 paid consultants) will be let go, but he says there have been "significant cuts." I remember a few months ago, McCain telling us he would do better raising money than he did during the first quarter. That didn't happen. Other campaigns are whispering in our ears about how this is more than the beginning of the end for McCain's campaign. But his Iowa spokesman says an Iowa visit is still planned for mid-July and that the all of these budget cuts actually mean the Senator will now be in Iowa more, not less.