Liveblog: John Edwards at Coe College

Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College in Cedar Rapids is packed. I’m not sure how many the theater holds, but I’m estimating there are 400 people here. Parking, as always, was a huge issue for those who wanted to come this event featuring Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.

It’s 7:43 now and the show was supposed to begin at 7:30 p.m. So, at any moment now I think we’ll be underway.

7:45 p.m. – The are are about 50 people on stage, serving as the event’s backdrop. Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller is up there and appears to be sharing a joke with some others — at least they are all laughing.

They’ve got the press regulated to the back four rows of the theater. There’s some grumbling about that both from media members who doesn’t like being so far back and from attendees, who are wondering why they can’t sit in the empty seats.

The natives are getting a little restless now. Someone has started a clapping and it has caught on. *Clap* *Clap* *Clap* The folks on stage are looking off to their right like maybe they see someone about to come on stage. “I Feel Good” is playing in the background.

7:52 p.m. – Audience members have now stopped listening to staff and are sitting in the press section. Any port in a storm, I guess.

7:56 p.m. – And we are underway. Sheriff Don Zeller was introduced by a Coe student (alum?) and it looks like he will be doing the introductions.

“Bonnie Raitt is a highly respected nine-time Grammy winner,” Zeller said, and starts listing off bio information.

“Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002,” he said and then lists some further background.

8:00 p.m. – Jackson Browne enters the stage to a standing ovation and nearly immediately begins playing an acoustic guitar and singing.

It is an anti-war ballad and the audience reacts very positively. He finishes, accepts the applause and then welcomes Bonnie Raitt to the stage.

“Davenport for breakfast,” she sings and draws a big “whoop” from the crowd when she asks if they’ve saved the best for last.

Browne is wearing jeans and a black sports coat over a button-down shirt. Raitt is inn black jeans and a black shirt with red embroidry. There is another fellow on stage playing bass — not sure who he is.

This is another politically-charged ballad. “Sun going down in the U.S.A. — Sun coming up 100 years away.”

Sun going down in the USA.
Down on Main there’s a family sleeping in a doorway.
Around the corner you can hear the sound.
People dancing around the golden calf
Those who have not, those who have
On the billboards and the T.V. screens
They got food and cars and toys and trucks and jeans
Like a homeless child’s fitfull dreams
Smiling faces free from wanting
Life’s abundances beyond counting
World in motion — speed your changes
Close your distances, find your angels
Lose your fears and meet your dangers
World in motion
Once we were running through smoke and fire
Running into the sun
In the rush of youth, for love and truth
Our deeds were done
Now we awake with a world at stake
And a race we run
We run
Sun going down on the USA
Sun coming up a hundred years away
On another world and another time
Things like hunger, greed and hatred
One way or another, gonna be eradicated
World in motion — speed your changes
Close your distances, drive your angels
Lose your fears and meet your dangers
World in motion
‘Till the world I look out at this world and see
Is the world I know this world can be
You have a volunteer in me
Now come on

8:10 p.m. – The crowd is loving it. “It is such a treat to be on the road here with John Edwards,” Raitt said. “We had a choice to make and we chose John Edwards.”

“This is for all the people that didn’t get a chance to make their lives worth something,” she says before beginning another song with Browne.

This is her song, “Angel From Montgomery.”

I am an old woman
named after my mother
my old man is another
child who’s grown old
If dreams were thunder
and lightning was desire
this old house it would’ve burned down
a long time ago
Make me an angel
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
that I can hold on to
to believe in this livin’
is just a hard way to go
When I was a young girl
I had me a cowboy
he wasn’t much to look at
he was a free ramblin’ man
That was a long time
and no matter how I tried
the years they just rolled by
like a broken down dance
Make me an angel
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
that I can hold on to
to believe in this livin’
is just a hard way to go
There’s flies in the kitchen
I can hear them there buzzin’
And I ain’t done nothing since I woke up today
But how the hell can a person
go on to work in the morning
come home in the evening
and have nothing to say
Make me an angel
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
that I can hold on to
to believe in this livin’
is just a hard way to go

“Gimme that electric guitar,” she says when the song is over. The next song is dedicated to true love, like “that of John and Elizabeth.”

She strums the guitar after it is brought out to her and then apologizes for it being too loud. The audience reacts with laughter and encouragement to turn it up.

This is “A Thing Called Love” — a song from her 1990 Grammy Award winning album “Nick of Time” — and the audience is enjoying the upbeat and clapping along.

Don’t have to humble yourself to me,
I ain’t your judge or your king,
Baby! You know I ain’t no queen of Sheba.
We may not even have our dignity,
This’ll just be a powerful thing,
Baby! We can choose you know we ain’t no amoeba.
Are you ready for a thing called love?
Don’t come from me and you, it comes from up above.
I ain’t no porcupine, take off your kid gloves.
Are you ready for a thing called love?
I ain’t no icon carved out of soap.
Sent here to clean up your reputation.
Baby! You know you ain’t no Prince Charming.
With your lilly fields I got a home,
Some kind of peaceful situation.
Baby! How come the cry of love is so alarming?
Are you ready for a thing called love?
Don’t come from me and you, it comes from up above.
I ain’t no porcupine, take off your kid gloves.
Are you ready for a thing called love?
Ugly ducklings turn into swans,
Glide on down the lake.
Whether your sunglasses are off or on,
You only see the world you make.
Are you ready for a thing called love?
Don’t come from me and you, it comes from up above.
I ain’t no porcupine, take off your kid gloves.
Are you ready for a thing called love?

8:22 p.m. – Raitt is welcoming John Edwards to the stage and the audience is on its feet again, chanting “Go, John, Go! Go, John, Go!”

Edwards compliments the crowd and then thanks his special guests. He tells us (as usual) that Elizabeth is doing well and sends her love.

“I want to start by talking about the war in Iraq,” he said. “We must bring this war to an end.” Pockets of people in the audience are on their feet again.

“Every one of you aught to make every presidential candidate answer some basic questions,” he says and proceeds to list them — way too quickly for me to type along. He speed talking tonight — past the point of just being fired up. He’s speaking more quickly than I’ve ever heard him do.

He just took a swipe at Clinton for leaving troops in Iraq before moving on to Bush and Cheney “saber rattling” about Iran. He’s hitting the Iran guard vote and crediting Dodd and Biden for their opposition votes. The audience responds. “Clinton voted yes. She’s entitled to her opinion. I just happen to disagree with it.”

“What are we going to hear from the Senators who voted with Bush and Cheney on this? ‘If I’d only known then what I know now.’ Yeah, we’ve heard that before.”

He says we are setting out to be the first generation who has not left our country better better than we got it.

“Speaking the truth,” he says, “Corruption has creeped into this government.” He says it has gotten worse with Bush/Cheney but it has been going on for decades.

His giving the audience a bulleted list — bam-bam-bam — of examples of the corruption in the government… Blackwater, no-bid contracts, etc. “We have to do something about this… there is so much at stake in this election.”

We can turn our backs he says, or we can do what 20 generations of Americans have done before us — stand up, show a little back-bone and re-claim this democracy.

A standing ovation started… slowly… and not everyone in the audience had joined in by the time it ended.

“If we aren’t willing to do it, we’re gonna have to look our children in the eye and tell them that we’re leaving this mess for you,” he said.

Corporate money is a wash in Washington, he says. He wants to know if the audience thinks a change from Corporate Republicans to Corporate Democrats is going to create change. “NO!” yelled the audience.

We are roughly 35 minutes into the event and no one is shifting in his or her seat. The audience is paying attention… riveted to what Edwards is saying and reacting positively to what is mostly a mesh of previous stump speeches.

He’s hitting on his recent television ad in which he pledges to issue Congress an ultamatum — and gets pockets of a standing ovation, applause throughout the theater.

35 million Americans went hungry last year, he said. We have 37 million who wake up worried about feeding and clothing our children. “It says something about our character and what we are willing to do about it,” he said.

8:40 p.m. – There are good people running for the office of president, he said. Edwards said we cannot bring about change by bringing the oil and gas companies and the pharmaceutical companies to the bargaining table.

I’m having flashbacks to 2004 as John Edwards begins talking about “hope” again. He’s retelling the story about his last case — the girl and the swimming pool drain — he says he gave her family hope and then went into the courtroom and gave the corporation hell. He moves from that story to the man who lived most of his life with a cleft pallet.

“When are we going to have James Lowe hope and give those drug companies hell?” he asks and the audience applauds approval.

“Americans have always risen to the challenges. We have always stood up when we saw risk to our children and grandchildren. We don’t go cower in the corner when we see a challenge in front of us. But I’m here to tell you, Brothers and Sisters, if you are ready for the fight, I’m here to lead you in that fight.”

Edwards gets a standing ovation complete with numerous “whoops” from the audience.

Now we are moving into the question-and-answer period.

Thanking Edwards for being here — thanking Edwards for his plan. Says he went to Tanzania and was struck by HIV/AIDS impact there. Want to know from you that you’ll stand by commitment to spend $50 million over next 5 years to combat the HIV/AIDS crisis.

There will be several children born with AIDS in Africa today because their mother cannot afford $4 for medicine. He says that he’s for education and for making the drugs available — says it is “America’s moral responsibility” and “the right thing to do.”

HIV/AIDS is not just an issue for the rest of the world, he says. We’ve got a crisis right here among African American women. “This is the most anti-science president in American history.”

Next question — a woman. I think it is Shari Martinez. She wants to know how he plans to get rid of corporate personhood.

He says he wants to do that, but will need to think about it. He believes corporations have taken over our country.

Next question – a gentleman wearing an anti-war t-shirt. He wants to know that Edwards won’t make the same mistake again as the one he made when he voted to give the President authority to start the Iraq war.

“That is a very, very hard lesson that I have to carry with me everyday,” he said. “I’m going to have to live with it forever, but I will not make that mistake again.”

A senior citizen woman stood up and said that Edwards has won her over. He says, “Your question is off to a good start.”

She wants to know about Medicare Part D — says it is a mess and is run by the pharmaceutical company.

“First you need a president who will take these people on and I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Edwards says. He then hits the doughnut hole and drug company advertising.

“Buy their medicine… take their medicine… the next day you and your wife will be skipping through the fields, holding hands,” he said and the audience responds with laughter.

Next question is from a younger woman who wants to know about his health care plan — her brothers have autism.

“First of all you and your family are American heroes for taking care of a loved one with autism,” he said. “First off we do away with pre-existing conditions — meaning that no one can be excluded by them. We also call for mental health parity.”

8:53 p.m. – Edwards said his staff is indicating one more question.

I’ve been looking around for Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt. Because of the standing ovation and the press being at the back, I couldn’t see where they went after introducing Edwards. But I don’t see them behind him on the stage and I cannot spot Raitt’s red hair down front.

Last question is about border security — Edwards said he would use technology in a way it is not being used now, such as unmanned drones. Second thing is that we need to be much harder on employers who are knowingly breaking the law. He says he is not for amnesty, but he is for a path of citizenship. He also believes that if you want to be an American citizen, you should learn to speak English.

He’s taking another question — responsibility for rebuilding Iraq and how to do that without troops?

“I do think we have some on-going obligation as to rebuilding their infrastructure,” he said. “But I think that is a monetary obligation.”

He segways from Iraq into the problems in Pakistan. “The answer to this is not case by case by case. The answer is a serious, intentional effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.”

It is my responsibility to answer your questions. If you have one that didn’t get answered, go to my website and ask it. I’ll answer it if you were at this event. If you don’t have internet, give your question to someone at the door and I’ll answer it.

Presidential candidates roll through Iowa every four year and tell you how important the caucuses are… I have a very different message because I think George Bush has destroyed the trust between the office and the American people.

Most of this country will see us in 30- or 60-second soundbytes. You get to see us. America needs you to be the guardian of what type of person will be the next president. It matters enormously whether or not you trust (the candidates).

We were so close to ending a John Edwards event without a statement about him being the son of a mill worker… it couldn’t last. He has given a long list of the reasons he is running for president with that at the top.

The entire audience jumped up to applaud after the “thank you and have a good night.”

Raitt and Browne are being asked to come out and do one more song for us.

They begin “I am a Patriot” by Browne:

And the river opens for the righteous
I was walking with my brother
And he wondered what’s on my mind
I said what I believe in my soul
Ain’t what I see with my eyes
And we can’t turn our backs this time
I am a patriot
And I love my county
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
The people who understand me
I’ve got nowhere else to go
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And I was talking with my sister
She looked so fine
I said, “Baby, what’s on your mind?”
She said, “I want to run like the lion
Released from the cages
Released from the rages
Burning in my heart tonight
And I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
And I ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom
I am, I am, I am
I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my county is all I know
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous

And the singing duo gets another standing ovation before they exit from the stage.

9:10 p.m. – The flood gates have opened at the back of the theater with everyone trying to push their way to the exits. Even with four a time leaving the event on both sides, it looks as if it might take several minutes for everyone to make it out. Lots of smiles as people go and quite a few children and young people in the audience. Given the artists performing and the way my teenage daughter wrinkled her nose and said, “WHO?” I hadn’t expected many of the younger set to be here.

That’s it from Coe College. Everyone drive safe.

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A Republican turned Democrat who is now registered with no party, Lynda is the founder of Essential Estrogen. She and her husband live in eastern Iowa with their two (mostly good) children and two (mostly good) dogs. Their oldest child was turned loose on the world in 2011 and is making her home in another state. A journalist, essayist and hobby fiction writer, Lynda's work has been seen in Salon, RH Reality Check, the Atlantic, The Iowa Independent, UK Guardian as well as other online and traditional publications. She has also appeared as a guest on various television and radio news shows.

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