Since he's ending on grassroots movements, I'll note that earlier some dude was making fun of his campaign for the cheap ($15) ticket prices to their after party -- "ha ha, I guess you gotta love the grassroots." Oy. I think he was a reporter for E!
[6:27] So, Melissa Etheridge is kind of a disaster on class -- first (during the Obama section), she said some odd thing about how gays and lesbians might be after (or below? don't have the transcript yet ... ) everyone else (e.g., economic classes and races) in the us-versus-them divide, and now she wonders if Edwards, who she thinks is good on health care for low-income people, also understands that gay couples deserve health care. Or something rock-star bizarre like that.
But Edwards, well, for a presidential candidate, all in a stream he just talked about universal health care and homeless queer youth at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. Now if only he'd talk about what might happen to that place and others like it as Hollywood continues to gentrify ...
MS. CARLSON: Our next candidate, John Edwards, was elected
North Carolina in 1998 and ran for president six years
later. And of course in 2004 he was the vice presidential candidate.
Welcome to Senator John Edwards. (Applause.)
MS. ETHERIDGE: Hi.
MR. EDWARDS: We've been listening to your music. I want you to
MS. ETHERIDGE: Good.
MS. CARLSON: Senator Edwards, welcome. We're so delighted that
you're here. Thank you for coming.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you. Glad to be here.
MS. CARLSON: We're going to have -- Melissa's going to start off
She was bragging that she's neither a politician and not even a
MS. ETHERIDGE: (Off mike.)
MS. CARLSON: Maybe she'll -- but we can't sing. So --
MR. EDWARDS: That's a great place to start.
MS. ETHERIDGE: All right. There you go. (Laughter.) All
MS. CARLSON: Melissa.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Yes, welcome. And thank you so much for being
MR. EDWARDS: Of course.
MS. ETHERIDGE: We're so grateful for that.
Your wife and I actually have a lot in common, both suffering
through cancer and such, and I wish her the best.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And I send her lots and lots of love.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And we also share more than that. Both her and I
are very fortunate to be able to afford the best health care.
MR. EDWARDS: Yes.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And, you know, this -- I remember being in
chemotherapy and, you know, having a shot once a week that was $3,000
and wondering how anyone else could afford this.
And I know you understand the health care need of lower-income
people, but do you understand the special needs of people in gay and
lesbian couples who cannot depend on their partner's insurance for
protection because they are not a legal spouse or have to pay extra
taxes on the benefit? What would you do about this?
MR. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me say thank you to HRC and
thank you to all of you for your leadership.
And the answer to your question is, those rights should be
available to gay and lesbian couples. I admire -- I, actually, was
the first candidate to come out with a universal health care plan,
which I'm very proud of, and I've made it very clear that those rights
to gay and lesbian couples would be exactly the same as they would for
straight couples. And so those health care benefits would be
available to -- to someone in that situation.
And I might add, just a few weeks ago I was at the LA Gay and
Lesbian Center , which is an extraordinary place which I'm sure some
people here are familiar with here in the
Los Angeles community, where
they're doing amazing, amazing work. But there's a message from my
visit there that I think is really important for
America to hear,
which is I met a whole group of young people who were there because
they were homeless. And they were homeless because they came out of
the closet and told their parents the truth, and their parents kicked
them out of the home. And there they were, the only -- they were
living on the street, had nowhere to go. Thank God for the LA Gay and
Center being there for them, an extraordinary woman who runs
But without that place, where would these -- where would these
young people go? And it just can't be that in
America people think
that's okay. They can't believe that's okay. And they need to hear
and see exactly what I saw when I was there, because it was moving, it
was touching, and I actually believe that that kind of experience
would have a huge impact on the American people if they could just see
MS. ETHERIDGE: It seems like it's had a -- it seems like it's
had a huge effect on you, and that's really nice to see because I have
heard that you have said in the past that you feel uncomfortable
around gay people. Are you okay right now? (Laughter.) It's okay.
MS. CARLSON: Senator Edwards, you look very calm.
MR. EDWARDS: I'm perfectly comfortable.
MS. ETHERIDGE: No, but it's experiences like that people need to
know, people need to see, and just how universal and how we are just
all people, the same.
MR. EDWARDS: It is. It is.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Now, my next question is --
MR. EDWARDS: Can I just tell you, that's not true, what you just
said? (Laughs.) You didn't say I said it, but someone --
MS. ETHERIDGE: I had heard of it.
MR. EDWARDS: Someone else said it.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Not true?
MR. EDWARDS: It is not true. It is not true.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Okay. I will -- I take that back.
MS. CARLSON: Oh, well then you can correct the record.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I apologize.
MR. EDWARDS: No. I know where it came from. It came from a
political consultant. And he's just wrong.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Okay.
MR. EDWARDS: And Elizabeth and I were both there, and both of us
have said he's wrong.
MS. ETHERIDGE: All right, I apologize for ever taking that and
putting that out.
MR. EDWARDS: That's okay.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I have children in grade school. And I have --
they're now in 3rd and 5th grade. But I remember in 1st grade and
kindergarten, the little kids coming up to me and going, why do they
have two mommies?
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And I always felt that this was -- you know what?
This is just my place to just bend down and go, you know what? Some
people have a mommy and a daddy; some people have just a mommy, just a
daddy; some people have two mommies and two daddies. And they go,
okay, and they walk away, because it makes perfect sense to them, and
they're fine with that.
Do you think public schools should teach about LGBT kids and
families? Or do you think this is a place -- how can we bring this
into the public school system? Or should we?
MR. EDWARDS: Oh, sure, it should. I mean, the kids who go to
public schools need to understand why same-sex couples are the parents
of some of the children. They need to understand that these are
American families, just like every American families.
It's one of the reasons of course why, you know, we have tens of
thousands of kids in foster care who desperately need a home. It's
one of the reasons that we need to allow gay and lesbian couples the
same rights to adopt children, in fact, provide for them to have the
same rights to adopt children. (Applause.)
MR. EDWARDS: Margaret, can I say one other thing? I'm sorry,
I'm almost done.
But the only thing I would add to that is I do think it's
important though for the kids that their peers understand what's
happening. Because otherwise, you know, children are children. And
they can be mean and cruel, as I know that -- as you have seen. And
the question is whether we as adults have a responsibility to make
sure that they're educated, that they understand this is a good thing
and it's something that we as Americans believe in and embrace.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you.
MS. CARLSON: At what grade or what age would you introduce, for
instance, that kind of education into the schools?
MR. EDWARDS: I don't -- I don't miss a good question. I've not
thought about it enough to answer it. I know I heard --
MS. CARLSON: Well, think about it and come back later.
(Laughter.) And tell us what you come up with.
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah. There is a place, though, that I believe
MS. CARLSON: Yeah.
MR. CAPEHART: Yes. (Chuckles.) I thought --
MS. CARLSON: Jonathan --
MR. EDWARDS: We phoned you. You didn't think we were coming to
MR. CAPEHART: But I'm -- Senator, when you were the vice
presidential nominee in 2004, many gays and lesbians felt that they
were being used as scare tactic by the right wing and the Republican
Party, and that the Democrats didn't do anything to defend them. Why
should the gay community think that it will be defended this time by
MR. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, this is only one area where the
right wing uses scare tactics to divide the American people. And the
truth is, both in a presidential campaign and in governing, it is so
important that we reject this hate-mongering.
I was actually very proud, I have to say -- Melissa mentioned my
wife, Elizabeth -- I was very proud of
Elizabeth for taking Ann
Coulter on and taking her on head-on. (Cheers, applause.)
I have seen the impact of tolerance, for lack of a better word,
of hate-mongering. You know, I have seen it with language used when I
was growing up in the segregated South. And if you stand quietly by
and let it happen, what happens is, it takes hold. And it takes hold,
and then people begin to believe it's okay; you know, it's okay to use
the kind of language that Ann Coulter used; it's okay for the
Republicans in their politics to divide
America and use hate-mongering
to separate us.
If we stand quietly by -- it's not just bad for a political
campaign -- and it is bad for a political campaign, because we have to
stand up for what's right and fair and just, and we have do it with
passion and strength.
But it's also bad for
America . It is bad for
America for us to let
anybody speaking to the American people use these issues to divide us,
and it is so important for anyone who seeks to be the leader of the
United States of America to stand up strong and firm, denounce it and
speak out and speak out strongly for equality.
MS. CARLSON: Senator, did you want to take on Ann Coulter? You
could use the opportunity here. (Laughter.) Or just Mrs. Edwards?
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah, I think -- no, no. As a matter of fact, I
Elizabeth -- (inaudible) -- most things with
Elizabeth . One of
the reporters asked me afterwards, they said, "So what kind of
consultation did you have before
Elizabeth called in?" I said the
usual, and I found out at about at the same time the media --
(laughter) -- I mean, the public found out.
No, I think that what Ann Coulter does is the worst kind of
public discourse. I think she demeans everything that all the rest of
us do -- (applause) -- and I think it is -- I think it is intended to
out -- to get -- to go to the lowest common denominator in the
American people and to divide us.
And this goes to the same question -- same point I was making
just a minute ago with what I saw when I was growing up in the South,
which is if you stand quietly by and let this happen, then what
happens is hatred gets a foothold, and when hatred gets a foothold, it
is much harder to unseat. And you cannot let these people go by
quietly and continue what they're doing, which is why
up, and now I think it's absolutely crucial that we speak up in a
presidential campaign with strength and passion, not quietly and
carefully, to do what's right.
MS. CARLSON: Joe, do you have a question?
MR. SOLOMONESE: Yes. (Laughter.)
Senator, thank you for being here.
MR. EDWARDS: Thanks, Joe.
MR. SOLOMONESE: Susan Stanton is in our audience tonight. She
was, for 17 years, the city manager in
Largo , Florida . She did her
job well; she was respected and admired. And when it was revealed
that she was transgender, she was fired. So my question for you is if
a member of your staff came to you and told you that they were
transgender and that they were thinking of transitioning, how would
you react to that? And who in your life has influenced what your
reaction might be?
MR. EDWARDS: I would -- I would support them in every possible
way, including on a personal and an emotional level, provide every bit
of help and support that I possibly could in going through what they
were going through.
And, by the way, can I say about the first point you made in your
question, it's the reason we need powerful employment
nondiscrimination laws in the
United States of America so that people
cannot be fired. (Applause.)
But -- but I do -- I will say I do think that you deserve, and
the American people deserve to know, beyond your policy position, what
your reaction is to it. I mean, what is it you're actually willing to
do, on a personal level? Will you stand with them? Will you support
them? Will you support them publicly? Are you willing to do what's
right, under the circumstances? And I can tell you, I know in my
heart and soul that I would. I've had -- not on that specific
question, but I've had similar experiences when I was younger on
issues of race that were extraordinarily difficult in the place where
I grew up, where I did what I believed was right, where my family did
what we believed was right. And I think that's at least some
indication of what I would do under these circumstances.
MR. SOLOMONESE: And finally, Senator, you've expressed your
opposition to same-sex marriage, and you've raised your faith as part
of the reason for your opposition. I'm wondering if you could talk a
little bit about what is it within your religion that's leading you to
MR. EDWARDS: Well, you know, I have to tell you, I shouldn't
have said that, because first of all my -- (applause) -- first of all,
I believe, to my core, in equality.
My campaign for the presidency is about equality across the board.
And I listened to your discussion with Senator Obama a few minutes
ago. I was backstage. I was able to hear what you were saying and
what he was saying. And it makes perfect sense to me that gay and
lesbian couples would say, "Civil unions, great; 1,100 federal
benefits, great; you know, give us these rights, we deserve these
rights." And they're absolutely right about that. But it stops short
of real equality. It makes perfect sense to me that people would feel
that way. I mean, I totally -- I totally -- I can understand it. It
And the only thing I would say about the faith question is I
think from my perspective it is wrong -- because we have seen a
president in the last six-plus years who tries to impose his faith on
the American people. And I think it is a mistake and I will not
impose my faith belief on the American people. I don't believe any
president of the
United States should do that. I believe in the
separation of church and state.
And these things that we have talked about, all these substantive
issues of equality, which is really what the discussion has been
about, these are part of my heart, soul and core. And they are not
just issues that I will answer when I'm in front of you; they are
things that I will fight for every day, both in the presidential
campaign and as president of the
United States , because I think
America desperately needs and it and I believe in it deeply.
MS. CARLSON: Joe, very quickly, one more question.
MR. SALMONESE: I'm just wondering, then, if you could briefly
talk about -- as you said, it is not your faith.
Then, what is at the core of that resistance? I know that you said
you're on a journey, and I'm curious where and when you might end up
on that journey. (Laughter, applause.)
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah. I --
MS. CARLSON: How old are you? (Laughter.)
MR. EDWARDS: I'm too old, I'm 54.
I can tell you where I am. First of all, I think you deserve to
know the truth, and the truth is that my position on same sex marriage
has not changed. I think political -- well, we're past the time of
political doublespeak about this. I do believe strongly in civil
unions and the substantive rights that go with that. I believe we
desperately need to get rid of DOMA. I think we need to get rid of
"don't ask, don't tell." I think we need to get rid of those things.
And by the way, don't -- just as an aside, "don't ask, don't
tell" is not just wrong now, it was wrong when it began. It's been
wrong the entire time -- (applause) -- as is true with DOMA, exactly
the same thing's true with DOMA.
All I can tell you is where I am today. That's the best I can
do. You deserve to know that from me. Today I believe in all these
other things, but I do not support same sex marriage.
MS. CARLSON: I want to squeeze in a viewer-generated question,
and it's about "don't ask, don't tell." This is from Jason Knight in
Washington , D.C. He was a former Navy linguist who was dismissed
under "don't ask, don't tell." We have so many fewer Arabic speakers
thanks to that rule.
MR. EDWARDS: I know. I know.
MS. CARLSON: He said, "Since the ban cannot be lifted by
executive order, you need more" -- he claims you need more than the
president. President Clinton wanted to do more, but ran into the
generals, ran into Congress, ran into a lot of roadblocks, so how do
you do it?
What are you going to do?
MR. EDWARDS: Oh, I think the president of the
United States can
get rid of "Don't ask, don't tell." I mean, I appreciate the
question, but I -- if the president of the
United States believes that
that "Don't ask, don't tell" is bad for
America and in fact bad for
our military, which -- and it's discriminatory, all of which is true
MS. CARLSON: And when General Colin Powell says no, you can't do
MR. EDWARDS: I'm not sure Colin Powell would say no. But --
MS. CARLSON: I think he did say no.
MR. EDWARDS: Back then.
MS. CARLSON: Yes, I think he did.
MR. EDWARDS: Back then. But it doesn't matter. I mean, it's
not the job of the generals to make this determination. It is the job
of the president of the
United States to make this policy decision.
(Applause.) And I can tell you I am firmly committed to eliminating
"Don't ask, don't tell."
MS. CARLSON: Well, we're out of time with our questions. Would
you like to wrap up?
MR. EDWARDS: Oh, come on! (Laughter.)
MS. CARLSON: No, you get to ask us questions, if you'd like.
(Laughter.) But anyway, you have a minute to yourself.
MR. EDWARDS: Okay. Well, thank you.
Thank you all very much for being here, and thank all of you.
You're so important.
America -- truth is,
America owes you a debt of
gratitude. And if you've heard me -- some of you heard me talk in the
past about two
Americas and trying to have one
America . You know, if
we actually believe in having one
America , we got a lot of work to do,
don't we? And nobody understands that better than the people in this
room and the people you are advocating for.
We have such work to do to keep loving couples together who are
separated because of immigration laws that are unfair, to have exactly
what was described in one of the earlier questions, to have an
employer be able to walk in to an employee and say, "You are fired
because of your sexual orientation," and nothing can be done about it;
to have someone brutally murdered in the
United States of America --
United States of America -- because of their sexual
orientation, and not have that be a hate crime.
We're better than this. The
United States of America is better than
this. And we and all of you are important in bringing about the
change that's necessary in this country.
And the last thing I want to say -- what's -- what I would is
just to every single person in this room and everyone who can hear the
sound of my voice, the -- it's great that you're having a presidential
forum. I love that. I'm glad we're talking about these really
important issues of equality, but I want to add to that.
The real change and the real movements in
America -- they didn't
start in the Oval Office. They started in places and in communities
just like this, with people with courage and strength who went out and
stood up and fought for what was right, who marched and spoke up.
That's what you're doing today, and you're going to change this
country along with the next president of the
United States .
Thank you all, folks. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Hey, thanks. Hope they let you talk enough.
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah, you did good. Thanks.