Presidential Hopeful Visits San Francisco
February 14, 2007 12:45 PM
Former Gov. Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said he is unfazed by his better-funded, better-known opponents.
“I’m not a rock star,” Vilsack told an audience in San Francisco Tuesday afternoon. “I’m rock solid.”
Vilsack used most of his speech at the Commonwealth Club to discuss America’s energy policy, the central issue of his campaign for the White House.
He started by asking the audience of about 100 if they believed in global warming, knew anyone who suffered from asthma, or knew anyone who served in Iraq. Nearly everyone raised a hand to at least one of his questions.
“We’ve identified all the people here who are affected by energy security,” Vilsack said. “It affects us every minute of every day. For more than 3,000 American soldiers, it has been a matter of life and death.”
Vilsack introduced a series of proposals designed to reduce America’s dependence on petroleum and to lower carbon emissions. He touted an increase in renewable energy production in Iowa, with more wind power plants and a large production of biodiesel.
“Energy security is more than a burden,” he said. “I see it as a great opportunity.”
Vilsack criticized the Bush Administration for using what he described as a “fear-driven policy.”
“We cannot live our lives, run our government or live the American dream if we are driven by fear,” Vilsack said. “Nor can we achieve energy independence driven by fear.”
Vilsack said that his campaign will monitor its own energy usage. To offset the carbon dioxide production of campaign planes and vehicles, the Vilsack camp will pay a Vermont company that invests in alternative energy.
Following his main remarks, Vilsack participated in a question and answer period moderated by John Diaz, editorial page editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. Audience members submitted questions before the event.
When asked about the Iraq War, Vilsack drew the most applause of the day by calling for a complete pullout of troops from Iraq. He criticized the non-binding resolution pushed by Democrats in Congress opposing President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.
“How many lives are going to be saved with a non-binding resolution?” Vilsack asked.
Vilsack also opposed calls for the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, saying that the time spent by Congress investigating the administration would be better spent focusing on serious issues like education.
He was vague when asked about gay rights, avoiding the issues of same-sex marriage and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military. Vilsack did say that the country needed to recognize “commitment.”
“In this day and age, where a rock star can get married for a short amount of time, and in that short amount of time, they’ve got all of the rights allowed under law,” Vilsack said. “But you’ve got a committed gay couple for five, 10, 20 years, and they don’t have those rights. Tell me how in America we value commitment.”
Vilsack faces some stiff competition for the Democratic nomination. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have garnered the most media attention and funds raised at this point in the campaign.
Following the event, Vilsack told reporters, “I’ve been in nine political races, and I’ve never been ahead in any one of those races when I started, and I’ve never lost.”
Francis Neely, a political science professor at SF State, said that smaller candidates such as Vilsack could gain notice and money with strong performances in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
“It gives people without national recognition a chance to meet face to face with voters in town meetings,” Neely said of the Iowa and New Hampshire races. “It scales the money down so that more candidates can run effectively.”
“In the early primaries,” Neely said, “if someone like Vilsack comes in two points behind Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, even though they didn’t win, the checks will start to swell in.”
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