11 of the candidates, both Republican and Democratic spoke before a forum sponsored by the International Association of Fire Fighters, IAFF on Wednesday. Notably absent was Rudy Giuliani who has some problems with the IAFF right now. Also absent was Mitt Romney. Hillary Clinton drew the most applause at the 7 hour meeting, but there was excitement for Barack Obama as well. Hillary did better because she focused on the needs of union members where Obama instead spent to much time on the Iraq war. The rank and file membership is evenly divided between the parties with 42% calling themselves Republican, and 40% calling themselves Democrat. Normally Union membership mean Democratic support, but with such an even divide Republicans have a good chance with the IAFF. In the last election the IAFF supported George Bush.
Here follows are the main themes and issues presented by each attending candidate with video clips of each of their speeches.
John Edwards spoke about his union support, “I think you guys are heroes and you deserve people who will stand with you and walk the lines with you.” He also spoke about health care, “We should have health care for every single man, woman and child in America.” To see John Edwards speech at the IAFF, click here.
Jim Gilmore spoke about watching 9/11 on TV, and that his father was a member of amalgamated meat cutters union for a long time. For the firefighters he said, “When I’m president, the radios are going to work.” He spoke about his support for Bush’s policies on the Iraq war. To see Jim Gilmore’s speech at the IAFF click here.
Barack Obama spoke about his support for veterans and first responders, “Sometimes Washington forgets,” he said. “They praise your work. They cheer you on when you race up the stairs. But when it’s time for you to get health care or buy the radios and equipment you need, those supporters disappear like a puff of smoke.” He called for a pull out of the troops by March 2008 which drew strong applause. He saved some criticism for those who, “give long speeches about valor and sacrifice. … But when it comes time to send our troops into battle with the proper equipment and ensure that veterans have what they need when they get home, they don’t do anything except slap a yellow ribbon the back of their SUV.” To see Bacack Obama’s speech at the IAFF click here.
Duncan Hunter spoke about his support for the troops, “We’re trying to expand freedom in a tough part of the world.” And his policies with firefighters would be hands off, “Our motto is that when it comes to supporting firefighters, the best politics is no politics.” To see Duncan Hunter’s speech at IAFF click here.
Hillary Clinton was the hit of the party and joked with the firefighters about a cocktail party held the night before, “Thanks so much and thanks for last night, too,” she said, bringing laughs and “whoas!” from the firefighters. She supports the firefighters rights to organize, “When you plunge headfirst into burning buildings for a living, you have more than earned the right to organize for better conditions on the job.” Hillary focused on the needs of the firefighters instead of the war which seemed to be the theme of most the other speeches. She attacked Bush policies concerning unions, “The days of George Bush thinking the union bug is something he needs to squash are over.” To see Hillary Clinton speech at IAFF click here.
John McCain spoke about his support for Bush’s policies in Iraq and the failure of the government to equip first responders, “This is intolerable,” he said. “All you ask is for the means to do your job successfully, so that the sacrifices you make on our behalf are not in vain. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” McCain spoke about Iraq but drew little positive response from the crowd then. To see John McCain’s speech at IAFF, click here.
Chuck Hagel said that 9/11, “did remind us of who really serves this country.” Other than that he really had no specifics. To see Chuck Hagel at IAFF click here.
Chris Dodd talked about his support for unions, “Working people in this country are feeling the pressure like never, ever before.” He also supports our troops. Dodd spoke in the third person like Bob Dole does. To see Chris Dodd speech at IAFF click here.
Sam Brownback talked about the tax code and brought a 3 foot stack of books to prove his point, and said the tax code “deserves to be taken behind a barn and killed with a dull ax.” To see Sam Brownback at IAFF click here.
Bill Richardson talked about his support of the unions and his support of gun owners rights, he said he was “pro-gun, pro-owners rights, pro-Second Amendment.” He also carried the pro fireman theme like everyone else. To see Bill Richardson’s speech at IAFF
And finally the last speaker was Joe Biden who spoke about his longtime support of unions. He also had personal stories about how firefighters had saved the lives of his own two sons. To see Joe Biden speech at IAFF click here.