What follows is a transcript of an actual interview that took place during John Edwards’ visit to Baruch College on Feb. 27.
He had just wrapped up his prepared remarks about the middle class and his efforts to organize unions and the floor was opened to questions from the press.
Sitting in front of Mr. Edwards with tape recorders, notebooks and laptops at the ready were the political correspondents of the city’s major daily papers; Mark Halperin, the political director of ABC News; and a mix of national bloggers and radio reporters. And Les Trent, senior correspondent of the newsmagazine Inside Edition.
Trent: “Sir, a lot of us were with you during the last campaign. It’s a tough campaign. I’m just wondering, why would you want to do it all over again?”
Edwards: “Well, it’s a personal decision, a very personal decision, to run for President. I’ve committed myself to spend the rest of my life serving my country, and I think this is the best way to do it.”
At this point, the other reporters began clearing their throats and formulating their questions. Mr. Trent pounced with a follow-up.
Trent: “Your possible opponent, Al Gore, just won an Academy Award. Did you see that, first of all?”
Edwards: “I did.”
Trent: “You did?”
Trent: “What did you think?”
Edwards: “I thought it was great.”
Trent: “You thought it was terrific! A lot of people are now saying, ‘Hey, get your foot back in the race.’ He’s saying he is not influenced by what people are saying. You know him. What do you think?”
Edwards: “I think at this moment I take him at his word. If he says he is not planning to run for President, I think that is probably true. I know Al very well, but he’s like any of the rest of us—he can change his mind. And I think it just remains to be seen. If he decides to run, he would be a very formidable candidate.”
Mr. Edwards then answered some questions from other reporters about immigration, Iran’s nuclear program and, in an allusion to Iraq, the importance of admitting one’s mistakes. Mr. Edwards’ aide, John Davis, shouted that there would be no more questions.
Mr. Trent persisted, grabbing his cameraman and rushing out into a hallway, where he intercepted the candidate on his way to the elevators. The political reporters trailed sullenly behind, their tape recorders pointed at the backs of Mr. Trent’s and Mr. Edwards’ heads.
Mr. Trent wanted to know how to make politics more than just a personality contest.
Trent: “To get past that, to get to the issues, are you concerned about that—making them care?”
Edwards: “If you are talking about universal health care in America, a clear plan for leaving Iraq, and reforming the way we use energy in this country, ending poverty America—it becomes pretty clear to people pretty quickly …. ”
Trent: “That the issues are more important.”
Edwards: “That the issues are what should decide the election, along with the personal characteristics of leadership.”
Trent: “And yet, when you get back to the very question I asked you before, again a lot of people are saying to Al Gore, you know, ‘You are so popular now. You won the Academy Award. You are nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Why don’t you run?’ So clearly that has a lot to do with it.”
Edwards: “It does in the short run, but what Vice President Gore and others would bring to the race for the Presidency is experience and judgment and a clear understanding of the issues.”
Davis: “Thank you all very much!”
Trent: “Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.”