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CNBC "Kudlow & Company" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. HARWOOD: It's your money, your vote. And to begin our presidential candidate trifecta, I spoke with John Edwards earlier today, began by asking him if his work at the Fortress hedge fund taught him that the business world is really filled with corporate bad guys that everybody else needs to confront. Here's his answer.

(Begin videotaped interview.)

MR. EDWARDS: Well, what my experience for 54 years has taught me is that there's corporate greed and corporate influence in Washington that completely distorts the political process and distorts the democracy, and it has real consequences for people's lives. It's the reason we don't have universal health care. It's the reason we have bad trade policy, bad tax policy. And I think that has to stop. And we need to have the government operate in the interest of all Americans, not just a few.

MR. HARWOOD: But what about the picture that is portrayed of good guys and bad guys? Is that overdrawn at all?

MR. EDWARDS: You mean, portrayed on me? My view is that as president of the United States, I have a responsibility to represent all Americans and to represent all Americans and all American interests equally. Which means that, you know, does big business and big corporate interests, do they have a voice? Of course they have a voice, but their voice is heard loud and clear now. The problem is their voice is drowning out the voices of the vast majority of Americans. So this has nothing to do with punishing anybody. It has to do with creating a balance and a fairness in the government that works for everybody. And I might add, John, you know, if we do what needs to be done to strengthen the middle class, to grow the middle class, to lift people out of poverty, that creates sustainable, long- term economic growth that everybody, including business, will benefit from.

MR. HARWOOD: Now, Senator, we've got a pretty big stylistic difference on display between you, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. She's emphasizing strength and experience. Obama is talking about turning the page, bringing people together. And you're talking about fighting, taking power away from people who have it now. What would you respond to someone who looked at modern-day Washington and said there's plenty of fighting there already?

MR. EDWARDS: They're right about that. The fighting is not in the right way. The fighting that's going on there now is fighting between politicians, between Democrats and Republicans, between the president and members of Congress. I have no more interest in that than the American people do. No one wants to see fighting between politicians. And you don't move anything forward when you do that. What I'm talking about is having a president who's got the guts and backbone to stand up to entrenched interests that are preventing the change that America needs. I mean, just one example that we haven't talked about -- global warming. I mean, we have an enormous responsibility to protect this planet for our children and grandchildren and future generations. And unless we have a president who's willing to take on entrenched oil, gas, power company interests, it will be very difficult to do what needs to be done to aggressively protect the planet.

MR. HARWOOD: Senator Obama's campaign put out some material earlier today that suggested that you had changed your tone on this, that earlier in the campaign you were talking about bringing people to the table, and now you're talking about confronting them. Have you shifted your tone as the caucuses get closer?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I think what he's referring to is my discussion about single-parent health insurance versus building on the system that we have now. And I do believe, as I've proposed, that we should build on the system that we have now, which includes a heavily regulated but private insurers competing with the government. Now, if you're asking me generically has there been some change, I mean, the only change is we're a few days from the caucus and a few days from the New Hampshire primary, and I understand the intensity of what's happening, and I understand how closely voters are watching. And they're going to see a personal passion and strength in me that I think is important for me to convey, because it's real. And is there an intensity? Yeah, there's an intensity. We have an epic struggle in this country to make America work for everybody. And I want people to know that comes from inside me, John, it's personal. This is not a political thing.

MR. HARWOOD: Senator, a lot of people think the economy either is in a recession now or is headed to one. Could you explain how your $25 billion stimulus plan would make a difference and not simply be money down a rat hole?

MR. EDWARDS: Yeah. I mean, basically, the concept is to get the economy moving, to help with aid to states that are struggling and, in many cases, not providing the help they can provide to citizens that will cause them to put more money into the economy. Secondly, unemployment insurance is not working the way it needs to work in this country. It doesn't cover millions of people who ought to be covered -- part-time employees, low-income employees. And again, that would help stimulate the economy by putting cash into the economy. Third is money dealing with the housing crisis which obviously is a force in this downturn in the economy that we're all concerned about. And then finally, putting money into green infrastructure, which is going to be necessary anyway as we start to green the economy. And if I can add just one footnote to this. The $25 billion is a starting point. I think we need to reassess, you know, in three, four months, at the end of the first quarter basically, to see what's happening. And if it's necessary, we should be willing to do more.

MR. HARWOOD: Do you include cash assistance for distressed homeowners who might face foreclosure?

MR. EDWARDS: Yes.

MR. HARWOOD: Senator, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to join us today.

MR. EDWARDS: Thanks for having me, John.


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