NBC "Today" - Transcript
MR. GREGORY: Newsweek Magazine calls Senator John Edwards the sleeper candidate. He is campaigning in New Hampshire this morning and joins us now.
Senator, good morning.
MR. EDWARDS: Good morning, David.
MR. GREGORY: All eyes on Iowa, of course. As you well know, you were endorsed by the Des Moines Register back in 2004. The paper endorsed Hillary Clinton this time around, and this is what it said about why it didn't endorse you. Quote: "We too seldom saw the positive, optimistic campaign we found appealing in 2004. His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change."
Harsh and difficulty achieving change. Your reaction?
MR. EDWARDS: Well, first, the Des Moines Register -- congratulations to Senator Clinton. The Des Moines Register is a great newspaper, great editorial board. We just had a fundamental difference about this. You know, they say you work with big corporations, insurance companies, drug companies and oil companies, sit at a table, negotiate with them, and that's the way you get change. And I don't believe it. I think you have to have a tough president who's ready to fight and ready to stand up to these people. I don't think we'll get change until we have that, and that's exactly what I'll do as president.
MR. GREGORY: But can you have a harshness in your message that makes it difficult to work with a Congress that may be of a different party or other forces within Congress that oppose you?
MR. EDWARDS: Well, David, first thing I'd say is I'm not talking about politicians. You know, it is the responsibility of the president to work with members of Congress and the leadership of Congress, and I will do that as president of the United States.
But I'm talking about having a president who will stand up, tell the truth about what's happened with these big corporate interests in Washington that stand between America and what it needs on jobs, on trade, on health care, I mean, on all the big issues that affect the country.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Obama has said that when you were senator, you had a chance to do all those things and you didn't deliver.
MR. EDWARDS: Well, I like Barack. In this case, he's just dead wrong. Unlike Senator Obama, I have never taken a dime from a Washington lobbyist or special-interest PAC in my entire time in public life. And when I was in the United States Senate, I -- and I didn't do it alone; I don't claim to have done it alone -- I, Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, the three of us, led the fight for the patients' bill of rights.
We fought hard against the insurance industry that stood between us -- between America and what America needed. And we were successful. We won. We got the patients' bill of rights passed through the United States Senate. Unfortunately, George Bush was president so it didn't get signed into law. But when I'm president, those kind of bills will get signed into law.
MR. GREGORY: Let's look at the reality in Iowa, where it really is do or die, in the view of many, for you. We look at the latest polling. It shows that Obama has an edge at the moment, though it is still a deadlocked race. A lot of people think he's got plenty of momentum at the moment.
And the issue for you is why you haven't really broken out of the pack, despite how deep your organization is, how long you've been campaigning in the state, really since 2004. And the question is whether -- there's a question of authenticity, whether your own personal wealth, your investment in a hedge fund that had ties to the subprime crisis, belie your populist rhetoric.
MR. EDWARDS: Well, I think what you'll see, David -- and I've seen it in the last few days -- you know, the first lady of Iowa just endorsed me. There's huge momentum in my events in Iowa -- energy, excitement. I've seen this before. And I know how to close in Iowa. I've been through this before. I mean, these people know me.
And when I talk to them about the way I grew up in mill towns and mill villages, the fights that I've been engaged in on their behalf against big corporate interests my entire life, they understand that and they respond to it. And I see it -- nobody has to tell me about it and I don't have to read it in a book. I first lived it my whole life. And I see, in the people of Iowa, the caucus-goers, a real response to that. And we have a huge energy and momentum right now that I haven't seen previously. And it's exciting what's happening.
MR. GREGORY: All right, Senator John Edwards, we'll leave it there for this morning. Thank you very much.
MR. EDWARDS: Thanks for having me, David.