Q: You recently settled with the John McCain campaign after suing them for using your song "Running on Empty" without your permission. Were you upset when you first heard about it?
A: Yeah. I was surprised. You'd think that they would know that they would have to get permission. It was really surprising to me that they would make that kind of mistake—but I think the Republican Party is very much a culture of impunity. All anyone really needed to say was "That was a mistake," but they were a bit surly about it, like, "He should be glad we're giving him this kind of coverage"—completely ignorant of the life that song has, and the people who have taken it to heart.
Q: What do you mean when you say the GOP is a "culture of impunity"?
A: They almost measure their success in terms of what they're able to get away with and make people swallow. It's really the enactment of the principle of might makes right—we're going to do this, and you're going to accept it because you'll have no choice. What happened in the end was what should happen, which was McCain said, "I didn't mean to."
Q: You supported John Edwards during the last presidential primaries. Do you regret that now?
A: Supporting him? No. Because I was supporting his ideas, and his ideas were good. The fact that he was flawed as a candidate—I don't think it reflects badly on the people who supported him. I certainly would've voted for whoever came out of the primary process victorious. I would've voted for Hillary Clinton. I did vote for Barack Obama.
Q: But you give money to a candidate like Edwards, and campaign for him, and then it turns out you weren't aware of everything that was going on in his life.
A: That's true. See, that's the thing. I saw him as being very good on his feet and very willing to engage the audience. I thought the fact that he was a successful litigator would stand him in good stead when it came to fighting corporations, and I still believe that. He had the background and the tenacity to take on the fight that we need to take on. He was willing to say what he believed in, whereas Obama chooses his battles—about nuclear power, for instance. Obama would say, "I'm for nuclear if we solve the waste problem." Well, there's no solving the waste problem! They haven't been able to solve it in 60 years. That is the problem! It causes cancer and it's around for 280,000 years.
Q: But if Edwards had won, wouldn't his presidency have unraveled at this point because of the scandal?
A: It most certainly would have. Knowing what sort of lies in wait for any candidate in terms of the scrutiny, sure, sure. His being elected would've been disastrous. But on the other hand, he influenced what everybody talked about. His ideas are alive.