In the morning, I realized that the primary season might go into the spring. I kicked myself for not including in the self-employed packet a complete list of the numbers of self-employed in each state. I went to the library and created the list. I was determined to give these numbers to Dean the next day to demonstrate to him and his media people the importance of adding the word ‘self-employed’ to his small business commercial.
I talked myself into seeing Edwards at 3:00 at a Town Meeting in Rochester, 40 minutes away. I was convinced he was a phony, but tried to weigh that conviction against the fact that he might be the next President of the United States. He spoke of roots; could he ignore that his mother had once been self-employed.
I arrived at the Rochester Middle School twenty minutes early to find that the 150 seats reserved for the event were already taken. I stood with another 100 people to watch, while about 200 more waited for Edwards to make a separate appearance in the gym.
Once again Edwards gave the same performance. It looked fresh, but there was absolutely nothing new. For the fourth time, I heard this section.
“I’ve done over a hundred Town Meetings in New Hampshire, and I’ve learned a lot about campaigning here. I’ll be a better President because of the people of this state. People in New Hampshire, well, they’re blunt. Two questions I hear a lot are these:
“One: ‘You don’t have a lot of political experience, do you? What makes you believe you can get anything accomplished?’ That’s a good question. I have only five years experience as a Senator. But I believe that there are other experiences that are important to serve this nation. I’ve spent most of my working life fighting for people in the courtroom. Or take your own experiences, don’t you believe those are important?”
Edwards waited for the audience to say, “Yes.”
“Question number 2: ‘You haven’t lived in Washington very long. What makes you think you know enough about that place to change anything there?’ Good question. But do you really think a Washington insider is going to serve the people of this country? Do you?”
Edwards waited for the audience to say, “No.”
Edwards has a habit of flicking his tongue side to side in his mouth when he pauses. In my mind, his handsome face now morphed into a sparkling lizard. Apparently, all that Edwards had learned from the people of New Hampshire was how to serve himself.
In the question period, the often repeated question arose relating the loss of jobs in the area to free trade. Edwards answered by stating that environmental and labor standards should be added to these agreements, but these standards must be internationalized—the United States could never afford to retreat from these trade agreements if the international community did not cooperate in negotiations to add labor and environmental standards; that would be a disaster for this country, given our dependence on international trade.
Edwards got a standing ovation. He walked through the crowd to get to the gym, where he knew 200 more people were waiting for him. He shook hands along the way. I gave him a “Self-Employed Unite” postcard to sign. He was polite, but did not smile, clearly sick of me. The feeling was mutual.