ON THE TRAIL
Here is the first in a quick series of stories from the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Check out the links to the left for previous campaign stories.
Lieberman touts public service record
Joe Lieberman’s "Integrity One" bus pulled up to the Jefferson Point Financial Securities in Concord Friday morning with a small press corps in tow. The building, formerly occupied by Chubb Life Insurance, is cookie-cutter corporate office space nestled between tall pines, a cemetery and some public housing units. About 100 employees sat patiently in a fourth floor combination cafeteria/conference room, sipping coffee, chatting, eyeing the arriving press corps, while English muffins burned in the background.
Lieberman was escorted by two secret service agents – the first ones I’ve seen on the campaign trail – along with a handful of elementary school students who are covering the primaries for the Scholastic News. Lieberman seemed jovial about their presence, picking one girl up and joking that it would be difficult to do this with CNN’s Judy Woodruff.
"They ask me really good questions," he said.
Lieberman, clearly reaching out for more support, said New Hampshire residents had very important votes to cast in the primary. He noted his 30-year public service record, including work as a state senator, Attorney General, and U.S. Senator, work on civil rights as a college student, and said he would have the integrity to stand up for what is right.
"I will put the people and the country first," he said, "and operate from the values we all share. I will get support across party lines [and] respond to the needs people have."
With a slight attack towards his rivals, Lieberman said he had been steadfast in his approach to issues – unwavering from his position on the invasion of Iraq, on trade, on middle class tax cuts – while his opponents have changed their positions.
Touting his high ratings by environmental groups, Lieberman said he would work to make America energy self-sufficient, by adjusting the fuel efficiency of the cars of the future in order to reduce the country’s dependency on foreign oil by two-thirds. A slight increase in mileage could save two billion barrels of oil a day, he said.
Lieberman said another Bush term would be "harmful" to the safety of the nation, noting that Bush’s decisions were often "sins of commission" not necessarily "sins of omission." He called Bush "fiscally irresponsible," while at the same time, stating that the president was dismantling the country’s safety net and all that had been accomplished by previous administrations.
Kucinich promotes peace
Across town, at St. Paul’s School, students were slowing entering one of the school’s reading rooms to the sounds of John and Moriah-Melin Whoolilurie, who were attempting to create a somber and funky feel throughout the room. Dressed in red, white, blue and sparkly outfits that would make Wavy Gravy proud, John rapped into a loop sequencer while Moriah-Melin danced with a sign. The students eyed each other nervously, slightly embarrassed by the musical display, but eventually started to loosen up and clap as the California couple launched into their Dennis Kucinich rap.
Arriving a tad late, Kucinich stood off to the side, beaming.
"I got into politics to make a better world," he said. "Holistically, we are one – interconnected and interdependent."
Kucinich said the Bush administration made the world a more dangerous place by acting as a bully on the world stage. He said the United States would continue to be attacked until the country embraced a safer foreign policy, one that concentrated on building peace with the world instead of enemies.
"The bully is always the target," he said.
Kucinich said he would also reverse the fear the president had struck in the hearts of the American people and end President Bush’s usurping the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He said Bush falsely used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq.
"We were lied to," he said. "We're headed in a direction that is very dark. My administration is going to bring some light to this world."
Kucinich also promoted a single-payer health care system, pre-Kindergarten programs, and free college tuition for all Americans.
After his speech, Kucinich answered questions from the exclusive prep school audience, many of whom challenged the candidate’s view of the world and whether or not an isolationist strategy was the path to take. However, Kucinich countered that his ideas were not isolationist but democratic, empowering the billions of people throughout the world.
"We should care about the suffering of the people of the world," he said. "What we are telling them is that your life is worth less than a life in other countries. We have to ask ourselves if there is more consequence to commerce … do people have any rights at all … I think they do."
However, in a post-speech session with reporters, Kucinich grew testy with local Cleveland reporters who repeatedly asked him about his low poll numbers and whether he planned on dropping out of the presidential race.
"Why do you guys keep asking me this? I’m staying in until the convention," he said.
In another tense moment, Kucinich was left speechless after being asked if his vote-swapping scheme with John Edwards in Iowa was a shrewd political move to solidify fair trade and anti-invasion support behind his campaign – and damage both the Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean campaigns.
"Wow," Kucinich said repeatedly. "I don't know how to respond to that. Wow. You can follow up with something else if you like."
When asked again if the theory were true, Kucinich refused to answer the question.
Another reporter, Les Kinsolving of WCBM, asked if Kucinich knew that a Cleveland employee he hired was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy while living in San Francisco, before he was hired by the city. Kucinich denied any knowledge of the incident.
When asked if he supported the Ohio Legislature’s support of the Defense of Marriage Act, Kucinich said, "I don’t know why they are worrying about this when Ohio has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs."
After the session, Richard Hendrick, Kucinich’s media coordinator, confirmed that the candidate could stay in the race as long as he wanted and also run for reelection for his Ohio congressional district.
Kerry rallies with veterans
John Kerry stopped by a Jewish school on Beech Street in Manchester for a noontime rally with ex-Sen. Max Cleland and outgoing-Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, both southern veterans. The school was mobbed to the rafters with voters and a national press corps bitten by Kerry's surging buzz.
"It's great to be back," Hollings said, recalling his love of the state when he ran for president in 1984 and noting that he was dressed in boots and ready to campaign for Kerry.
Hollings commended Kerry for his service in Vietnam and friendship in the senate. He noted that along with John McCain, the three had all worked on veterans' issues. South Carolina, an early primary state, had suffered from factory closings, Hollings said, adding that Kerry tried to help by supporting a textile protection bill which would have kept American mills opened. Hollings said that over 50 percent of furniture was now made in China and joked when the microphones cut out that "the Chinamen" were trying to silence him again.
"[Kerry] understands working people and their problems," he said. "He knows the problems. He’s got what it takes to be president, I can tell you that."
On the war, Hollings said, "We both got misled on it … read Suskind's book … you can see how we were misled. Little George, he’s ruining us on tax policy, he’s ruining us on trade policy, he’s ruining us on everything."
Hollings, who was also a former governor, said he was not planning on endorsing any presidential candidate and instead, planned on entering retired life quietly. But after watching the Democratic campaign so far, he decided to back Kerry.
"I've been in it for 50 years," he said of the political game. "I just figured – to heck with it – leave it alone. I’ve been elected seven times to the senate. But it is time that I do something for the country – not the campaign. We are lucky to have [Kerry] leading the country at this time."
Kerry said he was "honored beyond belief" by the support of Hollings and Cleland, adding that Hollings was the longest serving junior senator in American history, to Strom Thurmond. He called Hollings an extraordinary public servant.
"[Hollings] supported John F. Kennedy and was the first governor in the south to do it," he said. "He integrated colleges and universities, peacefully. He created a system of technical colleges which still attracts top employers to the state."
Cleland, a Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs in the war, lost his senate seat in Georgia in 2002 in what Kerry called "the most craven moment in American politics when the Republicans attacked this man’s patriotism."
Kerry said President Bush and the Republicans had decimated services for veterans, including cutting the Veteran’s Administration by $1.8 billion. Some, he said, wait six months to see a doctor.
"We need to keep the faith with those who wore the uniform of country," he said. "We don't need to take lessons in patriotism from those who would cut benefits."
Kerry said he would protect the environment and the country from terrorism, pointing to a book he wrote about terrorism four years before the Sept. 11 attacks. He also promoted rolling back Bush's tax cuts on the wealthy and would work to solve the global Aids problem.
In an effort to appeal to the younger voter demographic, Kerry campaign workers handed out copies of Windsurfer American Magazine, which offered a cover story on Kerry's love of the sport. Tim Russert of "Meet the Press," Howard Kurtz of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and the Washington Post, MSNBC and Republican pollster Frank Lutz, and FoxNews' Carl Cameron were all spotted at the Kerry event.
Interesting story here from the Cleveland Plains-Dealer on the Kucinich campaign, including some insight into why some reporters are not covering his campaign: ["Step out of the race? Not me, says Kucinich"].
No easier for Dean. Just as I predicted, there is a Mass. exodus of pols headed north: ["Beacon Hill goes stumping the Granite State trail"].
This is just so not true: ["N.H. seen as barometer for efforts to improve voting systems"]. NH has had optical scanning machines for quite awhile. It isn't anything new. Maybe they have better voter registration databases but the modern machines have been in for a couple of election cycles.
Plus, Krugman continues to fall for the Black Box Voting story: ["Democracy at Risk"].
Dean made a surprising appearance on "The Howie Carr Show" yesterday afternoon sounding hoarse yet cheery. When he was high in the polls, Dean refused to do talk and radio programs. Now that his campaign is collapsing, he seems to realize how important other mediums can be. Carr, who has repeatedly attacked Kerry's blue-blood life in his Boston Herald column and on his show which is broadcast on about 20 stations, urged NH voters not to vote for Kerry in the primary.