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January 21

Spent most of the day writing in my journal. Also created “Self-Employed Unite” cards out of family New Year’s cards and campaign literature from my past runs for the U.S. Senate and Congress as a Green. Called my sister in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and asked if I could spend the night.

Drove to Exeter, an hour and a half away, to see Kerry at a Town Meeting at Exeter Academy. I arrived 20 minutes early, but discovered that the doors were already closed because of the crowd. Fortunately, I was behind several Exeter students who wouldn’t put up with being shut out. I followed them to a side door, where we made our entrance. Walked up a flight of stairs to an ornate hall. Seats were still available, and I took one. Amongst the 30 portraits of past Exeter presidents was a large sign reading, “John Kerry: The Real Deal.”

Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke first. In a nutshell, her message was that if John Kerry was good enough to be her husband, he was good enough to be President. She concluded by saying there was no man she’d rather share a foxhole with.

Kerry began by stating that this Presidential election was the most important in a century. This President had the worst job record since Hoover. This President did not understand that protecting the environment meant creating jobs. Kerry pledged to have 20% of the nation’s electricity generated by renewables by 2020. This President did not understand that because the United States only had 3% of the world’s oil resources, it could never drill its way out of oil dependency; the United States had to invent its way out.

Kerry talked about his Senate record. Fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, fighting for Veteran’s benefits, fighting to expose the Iran-Contra Affair, and now fighting the excesses of John Ashcroft.

Kerry stated that George Bush would be running predominantly on his national security record. Kerry described this record as the most reckless in history. If Bush wanted to talk about national security, “Bring it on.”

Kerry spoke about several pressing foreign policy issues: the Kyoto Treaty, the AIDS pandemic, the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea. All these problems required not unilateral action by the United States, but worldwide cooperation. As President, one of his first actions would be to travel to the UN, and pledge his commitment to that international body.

It was time for questions. An Exeter student asked Kerry why he had voted to give President Bush authority to go to war in Iraq. He replied that he made that vote trusting that President Bush would use every remedy to avoid war, and if it came to war, he trusted that Bush would act multilaterally. Bush had betrayed that trust. That’s why he had voted against the $87 billion appropriation to fund the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq; he would not support a failed policy. Reconstruction and democratization of Iraq should be handed over to the UN, where we could act in coalition with other nations. The United States should continue to lead the occupation forces.

Another student asked Kerry why he voted to fund research for the next generation of nuclear reactors, but against storing nuclear material at Yucca Mountain. Kerry replied that he believed Yucca Mountain was unsafe. As concerned research into the next generation of nuclear reactors, he believed it was possible to run nuclear power plants safely; the Navy had been running them safely for over fifty years without one casualty.

Kerry fielded a question about peace between Israel and Palestine. He stated that he had already asked former Presidents Carter and Clinton to act as his emissaries for peace, should he be elected President.

Kerry was asked about the War on Drugs. He responded that there had never been a legitimate War on Drugs because there had never been treatment on demand. He would not be for decriminalization of drugs.

To a question about immigration, Kerry replied that he perceived President Bush’s new immigration policy as just a means to supply cheap labor to the United States.

Kerry was asked his opinion on No Child Left Behind. He responded that it was underfunded. The best way to help local schools was for the federal government to take over the costs of special education, which as an unfunded mandate was a terrible hardship on schools. If the federal government funded special education, there would be plenty of money in the budgets of local school boards for the arts, music and gifted programs.

Kerry’s last question concerned free trade, because many jobs locally had been outsourced to Asia. Kerry responded that the problem with free trade was that never before had there been an Administration so anti-science; witness the Bush Administration’s attack on stem cell research. The future of America and jobs lay in science. The United States was also struggling with huge trade deficits under NAFTA and GATT because most nations weren’t participating fairly under the rules of these trade agreements. As President, he would make sure that nations obeyed the rules. Also, as President he would make sure that the laws governing intellectual property rights were respected and enforced.

Kerry ended with strong applause, but few stood to their feet. I worked my way to the stage to have him sign a laminated “Self-Employed Unite” sign, but he seemed blind to the message, although I did get his signature. Then I looked for Teresa Heinz Kerry to give her a “Self-Employed Unite” thank-you card that I had fashioned with a picture of my family on the front, and a picture of my farm on the back. I couldn’t find Teresa Heinz Kerry, but I did find her chief of staff, and I gave him the card. He said she’d been talking about the self-employed.

Drove to Marblehead, Massachusetts to spend the night at my sister’s home and bathe. On the way, I listened to a radio report about the rallying speech Dean had given to his campaign supporters at a party following the disappointing results of the Iowa Caucus. I was surprised at what a national sensation the pep rally speech and scream had become, and at its damage to his campaign.

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© 2008 Mark Dunau

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