A Fake Consultant Field Trip: John Edwards Visits The Fighting Trojans
It was a cool spring afternoon, the sun peeking out from behind occasionally gray and ominous patches of clouds.
The kind of spring day that carries the hope of renewal-the time of the season when it seems every team has a shot at the pennant.
The wind was blowing from right to left-the kind of wind that favors the batter.
You just knew the ball would be flyin’ out of the old yard today.
As far as I know, this is the only professional baseball team to ever take the field in tie-dye, and the “Frogstock” uniforms are a look that’s ready for “the show”.
But that doesn’t matter today.
Today we’re headed across town, to Everett Community College, the home of the Trojans, because John Edwards is expected in an hour or so.
Everett, Washington, is a former timber “hub” located more or less 30 miles up I-5 from Seattle, where logs floated downriver from the Cascade Mountains to be processed in the timber and pulp mills. As the forested land decreased, so has the processing activity downstream, and the formerly prosperous town has had to work to gain back that lost income.
Naval Station Everett, opened in 1994, supports an aircraft carrier and several other ships.
This is the city where the railroad serving the Pacific Coast makes a right turn to Chicago, but that’s hardly Everett’s biggest impact on world transportation.
That would be the Boeing assembly facility next to Paine Field, where 747, 767, and 777 subassemblies are merged into finished aircraft on production lines in the world’s largest building.
This is a blue collar town, big time.
And apparently, a town that was ready to meet John Edwards.
With an hour to go before the event, the line was already longer than the 300-seat capacity of the room. At a minimum, this would be a standing-room only crowd.
The room filled quickly, first the seats, then the standing room, then the space out behind the open door at the back of the room; and more folks showing up all the time. By my estimate between 550 and 600 turned out, for a Tuesday 2PM event.
In a move reminiscent of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Edwards’ staffers were forced to open a Riff-Raff Room for the spillover crowd.
I expected to see an early 20’s college-age crowd, but that was not what I saw-instead, staffers were observed bringing in younger faces to seat early.
The average age of the crowd was probably closer to mid-to-late thirties, with substantial numbers of audience members who appeared to be in their 60’s or older. Much of that group (perhaps 30), were in nursing uniforms, and medical programs are offered at the school.
Edwards was late, having just attended a union town hall meeting, but it was accepted with good humor by the crowd, and the Mayor of Everett, Ray Stephanson; who had to endure a collective groan from the crowd as he was introduced as the third introducer of Edwards.
But now we introduce…
Quickly: selected high points from the speech…
--The crowd strongly agreed with his exhortation that the Iraq spending bill be returned, with timelines, again and again, until it is signed. (As I’m writing a rumor is being offered that “timelines” will be replaced by “guidelines” in order to craft a deal, but I cannot verify this.)
--He suggested supporters and opponents alike consider joining One Corps-not necessarily to do politics, but if they wanted, to do politically agnostic “service” work for the common good.
--Edwards proposed the US spend $3-4 billion annually to educate citizens in other countries, as a form of foreign aid that would create affinity between those students and the US. In the Middle East, these schools would present an alternative to the madrassa system, he explained, and would help enhance US security long-term.
--He discussed the economic advantages of developing alternative fuel technologies here in the US, suggesting 1-2 million “green jobs” could be created.
--As he has often, he reminded the crowd: “You must be patriotic about something other than war”.
--“Distributed generation” and the idea of providing incentives to utility companies to compensate for lost sales caused by improved conservation efforts-wait a minute…what was that?
Yes, I said that correctly-Edwards wants to compensate the utilities for lost sales caused by conservation. Why? Otherwise there is no incentive for a utility to sell less electricity-no benefit to the producer for a change in the structure of the market, and the producer is less likely to cooperate. The crowd seemed to be in agreement.
Why conservation? We use 22 million barrels of oil a day, he reports; 12 million of that is imported.
--He again proposed a goal of 25% of electrical generation be supplied by alternative fuels, and a goal of 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.
--He discussed the “dysfunctional” nature of our health system, another topic that was well received by the crowd.
--A very popular proposal was his “college for everyone” national service initiative. It’s easy to explain: volunteer ten hours a week, and your tuition and books are paid for. It was not just students applauding this proposal, I might add.
I’m not going to walk through all the questions, but I’ll tell you the best, most honest answer I heard all day. When asked about RFID chips and their effect on privacy, Edwards, in an especially bold move, looked the questioner dead in the eye, and answered: “I don’t know.”
The questions answered, he did the crowd, and seemed (forgive me Hillary) to have a “Bill Clinton” crowd presence-the “acknowledge you to the exclusion of all others” kind of perceived genuine interest that seemed to serve him well in this crowd today.
Afterwards, Edwards came out back for a quick media huddle, and then once more he was off to shake hands-this time with the supporters who had been in the Riff-Raff room.
Then into the van, and off to another night on the rubber chicken circuit-the Law Day dinner being the fundraising stop for the evening.
So there you have it: the visiting player comes to town, makes a few pitches, fields a few questions-and looked like he might have knocked one out of the park.
Not a bad day at the old ballyard, if you ask me.