First Posted: 9/25/2008
The is reporting live from Delaware Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden‘s (D) community gathering at Nesbitt Park in Wilkes-Barre today.
Biden, a native of Scranton, PA, visited the area on Labor Day. This is his first visit since accepting the Democratic Party nomination for Vice President alongside Barack Obama.
Biden’s speech comes in the midst of economic turmoil for the country. President George W. Bush is bringing presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain into negotiations on a $700 billion rescue of Wall Street as Democrats and Republicans near agreement on a bailout plan with more protections for taxpayers and new help for distressed homeowners, according to the Associated Press.
Following the event in Wilkes-Barre, Biden is expected to continue his campaign commitments for the day, according to a campaign volunteer. After Wilkes-Barre, he will attend already scheduled events in Rhode Island before ending Thursday in Wisconsin.
Entrance to the open event begins at 1 p.m. and Biden is expected to begin speaking at 2:30 p.m. The most recent updates are at the top.
4:04 p.m. EDT | Smith reaches Biden: Dorothy Smith, the 81-year-old who had a photograph with Joe Biden from 1983, was among the first to shake hands with the Senator. Her first move was to pass the photo to him.
Biden is expected to autograph the photo and return it. "I hope he does," Smith said.
3:57 p.m. EDT | End of war: "Barack Obama and I will end this war in Iraq," Biden said. The war is costing America $10 billion a month, he said. "It’s about time we get this straight."
"Imagine, once again, living in a country that commands the respect of the whole world. We have squandered that respect," Biden said. "I would not have joined this ticket if I did not believe that Barack Obama" was the link between hope and reality.
"Our greatest Presidents… all challenged us to embrace change. Now it’s our responsiblity to embrace that same change. It’s time for Americans together to get back up. Our people are too good… our obligation to our children is too sacred."
"None of you have ever participated in an election as consequential as this one. These are extraordinary times," Biden said. "This is America’s time, so let’s get back up."
Biden concluded speaking at 4:01 p.m. with a speech that lasted just under one half hour.
3:52 p.m. EDT | Middle class: Audience members laughed as Biden recalled McCain’s classification of the middle class as anyone making under $5 million.
"Imagine a country where we can generate… 20 percent of our own energy from renewable energy. Imagine a country where we invest in new technologies and automobiles that don’t continue to pollute the environment," he said. "We can do all this and, at the same time, create five million new jobs that can’t be exported."
"Imagine graduating from one of the two universities across the river… and not being (up to) $50,000 in debt," he said.
3:47 p.m. EDT | ‘Malpractice’: "John McCain wants to do with your health care policies what he’s done with banking," Biden said. "We call that malpractice."
"Change begins with a government… that reflects the people of this valley," he said.
"Instead of excessive tax breaks" for the wealthy, the Obama plan calls for significant tax breaks for the working class and 95 percent of America. "Tax cuts to help you pay for gas and groceries, to help you pay for your kid to go to college."
Money will also be spent, under the Obama plan, on keeping jobs at home, especially jobs in new energy. "Why do (oil companies) need another $70 billion in tax cuts that should be going to you?"
3:42 p.m. EDT | Obama to meet with Bush: Biden said that in 15 minutes, Obama is expected to meet with President Bush. He said Obama will require more oversight "to watch how money is being spent." Taxpayers must be able to meet with investors, and average citizens will recieve help and "be part of this deal. Not one dime to the CEOs who put us all at risk," Biden said of Obama’s alleged plan.
John McCain’s plan, according to Biden, includes a "deafening silence" for middle class families in America. He said, "If John keeps changing his rhetoric and not his policies," how can he be seen as an agent of change?
McCain is "a good and honorable man," Biden said, but "we need more than a good soldier. We need a wise leader to take us through the times we have to go through."
3:33 p.m. EDT | Recalling Bush’s 2000 campaign: Biden is referencing Bush’s campaign promises from 2000. "Nearly 46 million Americans are without health insurance," he said. "We found foreclosures skyrocketing – 6,000 to 8,000 homes being foreclosed on a day."
He said the nation is more polarized after the last eight years of Bush policies than he has ever seen. "Eight years later, we’re hearing the same song from a different Republican nominee," he said. "Folks, we’ve seen that movie before… the sequel is always worse than the original."
3:28 p.m. EDT | Biden arrives: Sen. Joe Biden has arrived at the community gathering at Nesbitt Park in Wilkes-Barre, nearly an hour after he was originally expected. He was introduced by JoAnn McDade, a mother of two from the area and grassroots volunteer for the Obama campaign.
"Our neighbors are starting to disappear, and we miss them," McDade said, alluding to the mortgage crisis and an influx of "For Sale" signs on area homes. "Thank you, George Bush and John McCain, for taking away my neighbors," she added, sarcastically.
"Thanks for letting a boy who grew up along the Lackawanna (River) hang out by the Susquehanna," he joked, referencing his upbringing in Scranton.
He recalls working with Dan Flood, a former Pennsylvania state representative from the 11th Congressional District, in the past.
"Make sure Paul Kanjorski goes back to the United States Congress," he told those assembled."
2:57 p.m. EDT | Playing the field: Several field organizers from the Obama-Biden campaign are encouraging residents of northeastern Pennsylvania to not only vote for the Democratic ticket but also to help with door-to-door campaigns and voter registration drives.
House parties across the region are being organized to watch the debate originally scheduled for Friday, Sept. 26. McCain called for a halt to the campaign and a postponement of the debate yesterday, which Obama argued against.
2:45 p.m. EDT | No sign of Joe: Biden is approximately 15 minutes late from his predetermined time to speak. There is no word from campaign volunteers concerning his arrival.
Campaign volunteers also have no official count on those gathered for the speech at Nesbitt Park, and it is unclear whether or not he will speak from prepared remarks. However, teleprompters are on each side of the stage.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton is the first to speak at the community gathering. He informed those in attendance that Biden’s motorcade in en route and recognized elected officials in attendance.
Leighton discussed positive momentum in the area and highlighted the riverfront project that serves as the backdrop for today’s event. "Sen. Biden will work hard…to continue to worry about city’s like Wilkes-Barre," he said. "We need leadership that will not forget… that will help us grow and continue to grow."
2:19 p.m. EDT | Washo says Biden has support in Scranton: Lackawanna County Commissioner Mike Washo (D) said he’s excited to hear Joe Biden speak. "I think that it’s great that he’s in Wilkes-Barre. We know him in Scranton and support him," he said. "Seeing Sen. Obama or Sen. Biden lets us knwo of the need for the right leadership during tumultuous times."
Washo criticized recent attacks on Obama’s plans for tax cuts and the economy. "The other side loves to say your taxes will go up (under Obama), but they don’t say what they’re going to do."
He also said that the Presidential debates set for Friday should go on as planned. "I’m with the Obama position. You can do more than one thing at a time."
1:52 p.m. EDT | Union members show their support: Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Service Employees International Union and the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which represents nearly 15.3 million workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, according to statistics pulled from each of the groups’ Web sites, are also included in the crowd.
According to a previous press release available at the SEIU Web site:
"…SEIU members are waging an aggressive effort to help Barack Obama make a strong showing in the Keystone State. With more than 70,000 members in Pennsylvania, SEIU has put in place an extensive campaign to turn out members and other Democratic voters for Obama and the change our country needs…
Of the 800,000 union members in the state, 255,518 are in Change to Win unions
Change to Win members represent 32% percent of the state’s total union members…"
1:01 p.m. EDT | Doors open: Doors to the Biden speech at Nesbitt Park have opened. Among the first groups of people let in are members of the Meyers High School marching band. The band is expected to perform the national anthem as Biden enters.
12:44 p.m. EDT | PA to be a ‘huge fight’: An estimated 50 to 75 people have gathered at Nesbitt Park. Event organizers and campaign volunteers said earlier today that they expect to have space for anyone interested in attending, whether or not they have a ticket to the event.
Wilmington, Del., resident Mike Annone, who owns a vacation home in Gouldsboro, is volunteering for the Obama-Biden campaign in northeastern Pennsylvania. Annone said he called in to a local interactive television station’s newscast in June of this year to predict Biden’s selection as Vice President.
"It’s going to be a huge fight," Annone said of Pennsylvania’s role as a battleground state in the November general election. "But the Senator has been an excellent choice for Vice President. Let’s forget about Hillary (as a VP choice). It’s not primary season, it’s election season."
Annone said the area needs to unite behind the Democratic ticket. "If this area doesn’t… it’s a possibility that the state will turn red," he said. "With Obama’s intellect and abilities coupled with Sen. Biden’s experience, it shouldn’t even be a question."
In Delaware, Annone said Biden has a history of standing up for difficult issues, including desegregation in the 1970s. He has also greatly supported local law enforcement, labor and unions, and women’s rights, according to Annone.
12:14 p.m. EDT | McCain is ‘worthless’: With his bicycle parked at the top of the stairs leading to Nesbitt Park, 44-year-old Andrew Ellard, of Pittston, called McCain "worthless" and said that President Bush is "the guy who got us into this (financial) crisis."
"If Biden brings up some good points, I’ll go right to the Democrats," he said. "If he doesn’t talk about the issues, I’m not even going to vote."
Ellard said he’s tired of mudslinging in the national campaign as so many issues face the country. He expressed concerns over employment, minimum wage, health care, education and the mortage crisis, among others.
11:52 a.m. EDT | ‘I had an idea’: Plymouth resident Dorothy Smith, 81, carries a picture of Sen. Biden from an event in Washington, D.C., in 1983, just a few years before his 1988 campaign for the office of President. "I was always proud of the photo, and I’m even prouder now," she said.
Smith is accompanied by her husband, Durwood, age 85, who said that he ‘had an idea they would pick (Biden for vice president). He’s got the experience and he knows his stuff.
"He’s a good boy. At least he’s a step away from being President," Durwood Smith continued. "In my book, I’ll vote for him. Whether white, black or yellow, it’s time for a change and these guys deserve a chance."
11:43 a.m. EDT | Security sweep: Teams for the Obama-Biden campaign have started security sweeps at Nesbitt Park in preparation for Sen. Biden’s speech as team volunteers carry bottled water and merchandise into the park.
On Market Street Bridge, campaign voluteers hold signs advertising the event as some passers-by honk their car horns.