John Edwards visits campus

On Tuesday, Carnegie Mellon University became a stop on the presidential campaign trail as Senator and Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards spoke in Wiegand Gymnasium. Edwards held a town hall-style meeting, which focused primarily on antiterrorism efforts and healthcare.
?When John Kerry is President of the United States we will find these terrorists where they are, and we will crush them before they can harm the American people,? Edwards said.
According to Edwards, American focus should shift back to the perpetrators of September 11, referring to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Additionally, Edwards said that America has not taken the steps necessary to confront threats from the other countries in President Bush?s ?Axis of Evil,? Iran and North Korea.

Blaming President Bush for the ?mess? in Iraq, Edwards commented, ?I?m convinced that the only two people in America who still believe no mistakes have been made in Iraq are George Bush and Dick Cheney.?
Changes in domestic security are also necessary, said Edwards. ?If you ask [most Americans] ?What would you have done differently than what you had done on September 11 that would prepare you for a terrorist attack today?? ? most people have no idea what they would do differently. That?s a failure in presidential leadership.?
Joining Edwards was Kristen Breitweiser, a Middletown, N.J., resident whose husband died in the World Trade Center. Breitweiser, a driving force behind the creation of the 9/11 commission, said that early appeals to create the commission were ineffectual. ?What we received back [from the Bush administration] was nothing but a battle,? she said.

Breitweiser, who has been part of Edwards? traveling campaign, called for more effective leadership in response to the September 11 attacks. ?I have a five-year-old little girl who lost her dad to al Qaeda. I don?t want to lose her one day if she?s working in the city or on mass transportation, and she gets blown up as payback for Iraq.?
Following the speeches, Edwards held a question and answer session in which he described health care as a ?huge? issue in the campaign. ?The same healthcare that is available to your United States Senator [should] be made available to every single American,? he said. Edwards argued that drug company ads on television are ?completely out of control,? and he called for drug companies to spend their money on research and development instead of on advertisements. Furthermore, he contended that the healthcare situation in general has gotten worse under President Bush. ?We?ve not had a serious health care plan ? that alone should disqualify him from being President of the United States.?
Energy independence was another key issue Edwards mentioned. ?We have a Vice President who left Halliburton to become Vice President, and we have a President with strong, deep economic ties to big oil companies.... What are the odds that George Bush and Dick Cheney are ever going to do anything to move this country toward energy independence? It will never happen.?
In addressing the economy, Edwards focused on tax cuts and the recent outsourcing of jobs. ?George Bush is the first President in 75 years to not create jobs.... Without jobs available, [the] American dream is being crushed for so many people every day,? he said.
Edwards closed the meeting by appealing to the women in the audience. ?I think it is absolutely morally wrong that we live in a country where women are still being paid 75, 76 cents to [a man?s dollar].?
Student government and the College Democrats sponsored the event, which was attended by approximately 750 people, including numerous students.
?I?m a disabled student, and [healthcare] is one of my chief concerns once I leave school. What?s going to happen to my healthcare? I run up huge costs. For me personally ... he really spoke to that today,? said Janet Jay, a sophomore with a triple major in professional writing, creative writing, and social and cultural history.
To oppose the event, a CMU conservative group Right On organized a protest outside the rally, while some members attended the speech. ?We had no intention of disrupting the event, but we wanted to make it clear that not all college students are liberal clones,? said Sean Conroy, a sophomore physics major and Right On member.
?I was surprised at how few students attended the event. I walked out afterwards and saw typical CMU students oblivious to the fact the next potential Vice President of the United States had been giving a speech not 200 feet away,? Conroy said.