Friday, July 13, 2007

Dodge city

FORT DODGE, Ia -- We're about to get out of Dodge.

After breakfast, we'll climb into a small press van and follow John Edwards on a day-long swing through north central Iowa. This is an old meat-packing town in the middle of miles and miles of corn. We'll see more corn today.

Last night Edwards spoke at the Fort Dodge library. People began coming in an hour ahead of time and by 7, there were nearly 400 people sitting in seats and leaning against bookshelves. Edwards arrived 25 minutes late. Standing with rolled up sleeves, he spoke for a few minutes about health care and rural America, but devoted most of his time to answering questions.

Iowans take this stuff seriously. There were questions about terrorism, stem cell research and education. Amanda Feeley, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom with three kids in tow, asked Edwards is he would take what she called the “food stamp diet challenge,” and eat on a dollar a day.

“The $400 haircut would have kept my family in groceries for three weeks,” she said. The audience groaned.

The haircut thing won’t go away. And Amanda said she’s leaning toward supporting Edwards.

After the meeting, we came back to the Best Western Starlite Lounge, out on the edge of the prairie. We had a late dinner at Buford’s, the steakhouse in the hotel. Edwards walked in with a blue t-shirt, past a table with reporters and a couple staffers.

“It’s good to see you guys, but I’m not going to eat with you,” he said, heading off to a corner table.


Anonymous said...

Geez man, what did you do to get sentenced to follow Edwards around? Well, I guess someone has to do it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's interesting to read about how a Southern presidential candidate--indeed a candidate with residential and birth ties to both the Carolinas--is faring out in the Midwestern heartland.

If some folks want The Observer to crawl into a hole and never write about Carolinians venturing beyond Chattanooga and Roanoke, then they could get their own edition of the paper:

"Guaranteed to contain no news outside the Southeast."

I trekked out to Iowa many times in the 1980s and loved every minute of it. I found out that the Hawkeye State is just like some wags in Raleigh would like North Carolina to be--a politically involved state with 99 counties instead of 100--in keeping with some Raleigh Beltway preferences that Mecklenburg County be traded to some other state.

And while they don't have collegiate rivalries such as those between North Carolina, N.C. State and Duke in North Carolina's Triangle area in the ACC, they do have such great schools as Iowa, Iowa State and Drake, and imagine this: each university is in a different conference!

And the county which is the home of the Iowa state capital of Des Moines is named in honor of the U.S. President that everybody agrees was born in Mecklenburg County, N.C.--James Knox Polk. Iowans were honoring President Polk's successful conduct of the Mexican war of the 1840s although this policy received a critical review from Congressman Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. However, twenty 20 years later the state sent more volunteers per capita than any other state for the cause of the Union in the Civil War, yet it has always been keenly interested and quite appreciative of the concerns of people in the Southern states even to this day.

And the Hawkeye State has one of the great newspapers in all the land--the Des Moines Register, which by the way offered an important early editorial endorsement of John Edwards' candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, Will the Register endorse Edwards again in 2008?

So it's quite an adventure to read about a Carolinian competing seriously in the Iowa caucuses in 2008 as he did in 2004, and Observer readers should consider themselves fortunate to have an Illinois native, former Harvard Nieman fellow and veteran Charlotte political reporter in Jim Morrill to make some Midwestern excursions to help us get a better picture of what life on the hustings is really like in Iowa.

So many Midwesterners have moved to Raleigh, Charlotte and other Carolinas cities in the past two decades, and quite naturally they often compare Southern living with the way it was back in Sheboygan and Dubuque. So lifelong Carolinians should be able to expand their horizons every now and then and experience that unique brand of Iowan curiosity, the kind that says: "We're all ears."

Anonymous said...

First off, thanks for the Iowa history lesson, David. More than I really wanted to know, but appreciated. I'm not at all impressed that a carolinian is doing well campaigning in Iowa. I'm more interested in the candidate in question. I consider Edwards the same politician that he was as NC senator. He never, in my opinion, ever truly represented the voters and values of the majority of N.C. people. He started running for higher position in the democratic party as soon as he got to Washington. That's why he was NOT going to be re-elected for a second term.

I'm glad that we have Mr. Morrill following the situation. I just don't want him to be following Mr. Edwards around with stars in his eyes. I wouldn't expect that to be the case. Report the facts and let the reader decide based on that. Don't let the "spin" go un-challenged.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comment, Steve. And especially the point about not being stuck on one candidate. And before I make a response to that, I just want to say that whether some of us are praising The Observer or raising holy heck with the paper (Franklin Graham might be reading this, you see), nobody doubts the professionalism and fair-mindedness of The Observer's reporters, editorial writers and editors.

And I may have "gone long," as the football people say, with my previous comment as well as this one, but the campaign I am waging is for Charlotte people and its newspaper to be every bit as influential as Bostonians and The Boston Globe or Atlantans and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are in the chronicling and evaluating of the emerging public issues of the day.

And Charlotteans have to figure out new ways to beat the "Raleigh Beltway Veto" when it comes to pursuing careers or positions in government and public service.

Hey, if you think Jim Morrill is going to go star-gazing at a political campaign event or press conference, just try running for public office in the Charlotte area and you'll see that Morrill can be about as animated and awe-struck as Joe Torre when he walks out to the mound to talk to a Yankee pitcher. Or in Raleigh, when you see The Observer's bow tie guy Jack Betts dropping in at a news conference, don't think that reportorial flair or elan means that he is going to go playing favorites among the leading characters in state government in the Capital City.

Yes, Charlotte, you have to learn these lessons in political geography and history because, speaking in baseball jargon again as a native Charlottean myself, we are a last-place club when it comes to state and national politics. People in Charlotte just don't grow up to be ambassadors, U.S. senators or foreign bureau chief press correspondents the way they do in Nashville, Minneapolis and Austin.

So regardless of your political leanings, if an Elizabeth Dole or a John Edwards makes a run for the presidency, we should all be concerned enough about the ways of the press to see to it that they get a fair turn at bat.

At the same time, Carolinians North and South ought not to feel constrained against exploring the merits of a John McCain, Mitt Romney, Joe Biden or Barack Obama presidential campaign either.

Let's just not have the national politicos and the national press corps take us for granted in the Carolinians as simply being "down on the farm" as far as politics and journalism are concerned.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply,David. I'm always suspicious of political reporting, no matter the source. It's become the nature of the beast,sadly enough. I'm all for Charlotte becoming more influential in matters, not just politics. I just want it done fairly and professionally. In sports terms, "Act like you've been there before.". Now, this is in no way in reference to Mr. Morrill. I don't cheer for a candidate just because he/she is from our fair state and maybe I got the idea from your first post that it was part of your sentiment. I've seen too many of that type of voter. I apologize for the error of asumption on my behalf.