Video: Mika interviews Elizabeth Edwards

updated 11/20/2007 1:45:05 PM ET 2007-11-20T18:45:05

In an interview that aired Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Mika Brzezinksi sat down with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.).

Below is a transcript of the interview. "Morning Joe" telecasts each weekday morning from 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. ET.

Mika Brzezinski, Co-Host: Michelle Obama is counting on Iowa, she says, to invigorate and propel Barack Obama toward victory. How would you characterize the value of Iowa to the future of the Edwards campaign?

Elizabeth Edwards: I think that Iowa is important, but I want to make clear, it's important to every campaign. Who can afford to lose Iowa, honestly?

You know, I think that everybody, every candidate has an obligation to do well in Iowa and that includes the front-runners as well. I mean, Senator Clinton may be leading in the national polls, but if she stumbles in Iowa, you know, part of the sense of her success is this sense that she is the inevitable candidate, that she is strong as proven by the polls. And she doesn't win, maybe she's not so strong and maybe that bubble is burst. You know, in some respects, I think it's perhaps more dangerous for her than it is for other candidates.

Brzezinski: Senator Clinton accused your husband of throwing mud and saying it was detracting from what was really important. Was he throwing mud?

Edwards: I don't think there's any way to describe what John was doing as throwing mud.

Important distinctions need to be made in this race. It is the obligation of the candidates to make the distinctions. If you allow just gauzy answers to flow one into the other and you don't make those distinctions, what's the American public supposed to do in terms of deciding whom they should support?

Brzezinski: How would you describe the implications of a Clinton presidency?

Edwards: Well, I don't think that we can expect the kind of change, you know, when polls indicated that change is what American people are looking for. I don't think you needed a poll to know that. I think all you do is need to have your ears open, pay attention to what's happening in the country and you would have known that.

Senator Clinton then had a -- in front of a podium at which she spoke, a little placard about change -- being the change candidate. You can't put up a placard and become the change candidate. You actually have to have policies and a perspective which indicates you're going to change things, you're going to shake things up, you're going to make certain that the voices that have not been heard in this country finally get heard, that the policies reflect what America wants and needs. That's not what's happening now.

Brzezinski: I have this quote here from a politics professor from the Boston Globe. "Last time, John Edwards was charming and articulate. Now he's harder and has an angrier edge."

Edwards: You know, I do not think that, I think that this is completely wrong description.

You've heard, you know, every once in a while, you'll hear a new description of John. (inaudible) heard "flagging campaign," but he didn't go away. So "flagging campaign" wasn't working. So now you have the angrier edge, you know, the angry man.

Brzezinski: Even Senator Dodd he's -- "I can't" -- "I'm surprised at how angry John is."

Edwards: I don't know whether Chris is reading the Boston Globe apparently too much.

But the truth is that there are conditions that make most Americans angry.

Brzezinski: So he's responding to the conditions?

Edwards: I think what he's doing is something slightly different than that. He sees the problem and the problem frustrates or disappoints him.

Brzezinski: I read the book today.

Edwards: Thank you for doing that.

Brzezinski: It was really quite a book. And I mean, there were some moments there it was hard not to lose it.

Edwards: It's not a good book for reading on a plane.


Brzezinski: (inaudible) in tears.

But much of this challenge that you face you've taken on together, you and John, and in public. And I'm just wondering where at this point does your cancer fit into how John has evolved in this campaign?

Edwards: We're hearing different things now.

Of course, with my cancer, we're hearing a lot more people say, "I have this" -- you know, "I have cancer. I can't get treatment." You hear about it all the time.

A woman with $200,000 worth of bills, what's she supposed to do; not get cancer treatment? Or is she just supposed to incur this debt?

I think that that makes you, hearing that over and over and over again, that same story over and over again, makes you feel really passionate about the forces that have stopped us from getting health insurance, universal health coverage in this country.

Brzezinski: There have been so many questions and even criticism about the decision to go on with the campaign. You now have a good bit of campaigning with cancer under your belt and we are a year away from the election. Is there any question in your mind that you two are doing the right thing?

Edwards: It's really important for me to not just give up. It's important for me to make whatever remaining days I have, and there's no reason to believe that I don't have a very long time to live. My treatment has gone very well, I'm, we're seeing progress. I'm extraordinarily optimistic.

The bigger question, the harder question for me is whether this is the right decision for our children. And it's hard.

Brzezinski: That's hard.

Edwards: Because, you know, however many days I have left is probably less than I had before this, you know, less than I knew I had before this diagnosis. So, you know, how can I choose to spend any of them away from my children?

You never know what important life lessons you're going to teach the children. I mean, you teach them manners. You teach them algebra. You, you know, try to teach them to read good books. But maybe the most important lesson I'll ever teach them is, when a stiff wind comes, you have to stand up.

Brzezinski: It must be such a strange dichotomy of emotions because you're dealing with the issue of cancer and the question of death, yet living in such a huge way, campaigning for your husband, traveling the country, meeting thousands of people each week.

Edwards: Less and less people ask me, at least on the trail, I mean, not journalists, are the exception, but less and less people, no offense, of course...

Brzezinski: Sorry.


Edwards: But on the trail less and less people ask me.

I think it's because they see me, they see that I look well, that I seem energetic; that, you know, I hope that I'm putting a different face on living with cancer than what they had thought.

Brzezinski: And I can't think of a better therapy than talking to people and getting out there.

Edwards: Honestly, it's great therapy.

Brzezinski: Mental health.

Edwards: Yes, that's right.

And worrying about somebody else's health instead of your own, you know, that's -- focusing on that. You know, being able to think about things in a bigger way.

Brzezinski: You're such a mom.


You are such a mom.

Edwards: Maybe that's it. I can't help myself.

Brzezinski: Sorry.

So let me ask you about the journey. For those who say Hillary Clinton has a lock on the nomination and for John Edwards it's over at this point, what does Elizabeth Edwards say?

Edwards: The reason that we're doing this is because people whisper in our ears, and we feel responsibility, not to just to nod in sympathy, but to actually do something to solve their problem. And because John so vividly represents that, I have enormous confidence in the process.


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