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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Edwards: explain why over 100 times you voted present

Edwards: Can I just ask, though, before I do -- I mean, I hear the back and forth on this one particular vote, but it is -- I do think it's important, and I mentioned this about Senator Clinton earlier, to be fair, about Social Security. I do think it's important whether you are willing to take hard positions.
I mean, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who are sitting in front of me right know they have to go to the floor of the House every day and vote on hard issues. And they have to vote up or down or not show up to vote -- one of those three choices. What I didn't hear was an explanation for why over 100 times you voted present instead of yes or no when you had a choice to vote up or down.

Asked and Answered

OBAMA: I'll be happy to answer it. Because in Illinois -- in Illinois, oftentimes you vote present in order to indicate that you had problems with a bill that otherwise you might be willing to vote for. And oftentimes you would have a strategy that would help move the thing forward. Keep in mind, John, I voted for 4,000 bills. And if you want to know whether or not I worked on tough stuff, I passed the first racial...
EDWARDS: I don't question whether you worked on tough stuff.
OBAMA: No, no, no. Hold on a second.
EDWARDS: I don't question whether you worked on tough stuff.
OBAMA: No, no. But you...
EDWARDS: The question is, why would you over 100 times vote present? I mean, every one of us -- every one -- you've criticized Hillary. You've criticized me for our votes.
OBAMA: Right.
EDWARDS: We've cast hundreds and hundreds of votes. What you're criticizing her for, by the way, you've done to us, which is you pick this vote and that vote out of the hundreds that we've cast.
EDWARDS: And what -- all I'm saying is, what's fair is fair. You have every right to defend any vote. You do.
OBAMA: Right.
EDWARDS: And I respect your right to do that on any -- on any substantive issue. It does not make sense to me -- and what if I had just not shown up...
OBAMA: John -- John, Illinois...
EDWARDS: Wait, wait, wait. Wait, let me finish.
OBAMA: Hold on a second.
EDWARDS: What if I had just not shown up to vote on things that really mattered to this country? It would have been safe for me politically. It would have been the careful and cautious thing to do, but I have a responsibility to take a position...
OBAMA: John, you...
EDWARDS: ... even when it has political consequences for me.
(APPLAUSE) consequences. This -- most of these were technical problems with a piece of legislation that ended up getting modified. But let's talk about taking on tough votes. I mean, I am somebody who led on reforming a death penalty system that was broken in Illinois, that nobody thought was good politics, but was the right thing to do.
OBAMA: I opposed legislation that now is being used against me politically to make sure that juveniles were not put in the criminal justice system as adults, even though it was not the smart thing to do politically. It was not smart for me to oppose the war at the start of this war, but I did so because it was the right thing to do.

OBAMA: So I understand that Illinois has a different system than Congress, and that it is fine to try to use that politically. But don't question, John, the fact that on issue after issue that is important to the American people, I haven't simply followed, I have led.

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