The four-time chief executive had more on his mind during his talk than the quips and anecdotes he is noted for.
“When I took office in 1972 I arranged it so the state would get 25 cents per barrel of oil that we exported and predicted that one day oil would exceed 100 dollars a barrel,” he said. “People thought I was crazy. Now the price of oil is over 100 dollars a barrel and we’re getting 12 dollars a barrel. “
“In addition to that in 1986 I got a $640 million dollar settlement that didn’t go into my pocket or to my friends as some newsmen suggested at the time,” he said. “$140 million of that money went to pay raises for state workers and the other $500 million went to education. That fund has grown to $1.2 billion.”
“No other governor has ever left a legacy like I did...I left this state much better off than when I took office.”
“I bit the bullet and made hard decisions I never left the state and traveled to places like Michigan, Kansas or Illinois. I stayed right here and that’s what a governor ought to do,” he said in an obvious reference to Governor Bobby Jindal’s frequent out-of-state fundraising trips.
“Back in 1984 Louisiana was in trouble,” said the former Governor remembering the oil glut of the mid-80s. “I predicted that states would turn to gambling as a way to make money. People thought I was wrong and morally incorrect for even suggesting that. Today, the only two states in the country that don’t have gambling in some form are Utah and Hawaii.”
“When people today ask who brought gambling to Louisiana everybody says ‘Edwin Edwards’,” he said. “But in truth I only brought one casino to New Orleans. When I ran against Buddy Roemer he was against gambling and nearly every newspaper in the state endorsed him. However, during his tenure gambling actually increased drastically with all the other casinos and video poker machines that were put up during his term. I called him a hypocrite.”
“Anyone who has ever run for office here has said ‘control gambling’,” he said. “Now it is an $800 million a year enterprise for our state.”
He then turned his attention to Washington D.C.
“I am a life-long Democrat, have always been proud to be and I was happy when Obama was elected but I’m very upset with what’s happened ever since,” said Edwards. “For example the Keystone Pipeline that he shot down because he was concerned about the environment...I think that if he let me take five or six Louisiana contractors and a bunch of Cajuns up there that pipeline would stretch down from Canada. The pipeline business is safe. Why is he so concerned with the mating habits of the caribou?”
Edwards also mentioned the BP oil spill.
“We’ve been drilling in the Gulf for 60 years and this is the first significant spill we’ve ever had.” he said. “When a plane crashes you don’t shut down the entire airline. We need to redirect our dependence on foreign oil for the sake of our future.”
Edwards then mentioned the international policies of the United States.
“Why are we still in Afghanistan?,” he asked. “Those people have lived the same way for 2,000 years and they aren’t going to change their form of government yet we are sending them billions to build schools when we should be building our schools. These people don’t even like us. Countries like this that hide Bin Laden and the Taliban are getting billions from us....and they don’t even have any oil. Only poppy seeds that make heroin.”
“World War II, which I fought in, has been over for seven decades yet we still have our forces in Japan and Germany,” he said. “We still have our bases in Vietnam and Korea. We aren’t under threat from these countries. Sure there are extremists out there but no country poses any threat to us.”