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They'll be talking until next November

By BILL ADAIR Times Washington Bureau Chief
Published March 15, 2007


For more than six hours, the firefighters showed incredible bravery: they sat through speeches from 11 presidential candidates.

The speeches broke out about 9 a.m. Wednesday in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill and they raged (or smoldered) until nearly 4 p.m. The candidates, five Republicans and six Democrats, agreed on one thing - Firefighters are heroes! - but they had a wide range of opinions on everything else, from the Iraq war to universal health care.

Wednesday's talk-a-thon before the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington was unusual because it drew so many candidates from both parties. Most unions only attract Democratic candidates. (Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney did not attend.)

For anyone who could sit through the six hours, either in the hotel chairs or on the union's Webcast, the forum provided a rare opportunity to do some presidential comparison shopping.



Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

Jim Gilmore, R-Va. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. John McCain, R-Ariz.. Joe Biden, D-Del. Hillary Clinton, D-n.Y. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. John Edwards, D-N.C. Barack Obama, D-Ill. Bill Richardson, D-N.M
Dark suit, red tie. Dark suit, red tie. Dark suit, blue tie. Dark suit, blue tie. Dark suit, red tie. Blue dress shirt, blue tie, slacks. Gray flowered suit; no tie. Dark suit, blue tie. Dark suit, blue tie. Dark suit, blue and red tie. Dark suit, red striped tie.
Main theme
Hope, growth and family. I will defend the homeland. No apparent theme. America should stand tough against enemies. We can't cut and run from Iraq. I support unions. I will stand up for the middle class. I support unions. I support unions. I will support veterans and firefighters. I will stand up for the middle class.
Sound bite
The tax code "deserves to be taken behind a barn and killed with a dull ax." "When I'm president, the radios are going to work." "We have great challenges ahead. We should confront those as Americans always have." "We're trying to expand freedom in a tough part of the world." "It's a terrible thing, war - but not the worst thing." "The middle class is more uncertain about their future than any time in the last 50 years." "For six long years, our president has not seen the vast majority of Americans." "Working people in this country are feeling the pressure like never, ever before." "We should have health care for every single man, woman and child in America." "Washington has become a place where politics has become a business instead of a mission." "We cannot forget the middle class."
Why I love firefighters/union members
Praised firefighters who extinguished blaze in his apartment building. "My father was a member of the amalgamated meatcutters for decades and decades." Sept. 11 "did remind us of who really serves this country." "Our motto is that when it comes to supporting firefighters, the best politics is no politics." "I'm in the company of heroes here and I am grateful for the privilege." Firefighters saved his kids after a car crash and responded when lightning struck his house. "We owe you big." "I know that for all of you, courage is a job requirement." "Firefighting isn't just about fighting fires." "I think you are heroes and you deserve people who will stand with you and walk the lines with you." "It is a noble calling to see a building ablaze and want to rush in." "You're all heroes."
Praised plan to divide Iraq into three regions. Supports troop surge, opposes timetable for withdrawal. No specifics discussed. "In Iraq, freedom hangs in the balance." Troop surge looks promising. Praised plan to divide Iraq into three regions. "We should end this escalation now." Troops need better body armor. Only made brief reference. "A war that should have never been authorized." Set deadline for withdrawal, diplomacy with neighbors.
Other issues
U.S. border should be secured; more U.S. biofuels. Experienced with homeland security, supports Bush on war. Sense of community. Need to expand border fence, break down trade barriers. First responders need better gear. Unions have helped America. Need to equip first responders, stay tough against terrorists. Veterans deserve good care, workers should be able to unionize. Universal health care, support for veterans benefits. Veterans deserve better care, the U.S. should leave Iraq. More tax incentives to keep jobs in U.S.; universal health care.
Rhetorical device/props
Held up fabric made in Iowa from wool and corn, to demonstrate U.S. ingenuity. Praised American character; noted that Americans "have thrown the British army off this continent." None Mentioned former employee who helped tsunami victims despite having terminal cancer. Opened with several jokes, including one about drunk Irishmen. None Repeated references to invisibility. Said many people have become invisible to President Bush. None Began several examples with "Somewhere in America, there is a (woman/mother/housekeeper) who is (experiencing hardship/walking picket line/unable to get health care for injured child)." Fire metaphors. Said promises to help firefighters "disappear like a puff of smoke." Self-deprecation. Joked that polls have him at 4 percent.
Surprising element
Wheeled out 3-foot stack of books - the IRS code. Gave details how he watched 9/11 attack on TV. Had no specifics on any issue. Praised Ford Motor Co. for producing bombers during WW II. Focused heavily on Iraq, an issue that may not win votes. Didn't wear jacket. Veiled reference to husband's infidelity." I have a little experience with staying the course and sticking with people who stick with me." Repeatedly referred to "the Dodd Administration." Spoke less than 14 minutes. Brought autographed shirt for union's clothing drive for soldiers. Said he was "pro-gun, pro-owners rights, pro-Second Amendment."
Invokes heartland values for union crowd. Emphasized his take-charge work as governor and chairmanship of homeland security panel. Wish-washy candidate gives wishy-washy speech. Tried to strike chord on patriotism and trade inequity. The maverick Republican stands his ground. Longtime union supporter tries to call in IOUs. Emphasized long friendship with union leaders "Harold and Vinny." Longtime union supporter tries to call in IOUs. Tried to convince the union members that he has special union appeal. Firefighters and veterans are heroes who deserve better. Second-tier candidate tries light-hearted appeal.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 02:07:36]

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