Speech at the DNC Fall Meeting in Chicago
August 19, 2006
... [joined in progress]
Well, that was 100 days before the election, and now we have 80. We have a record turnout in the Democratic primaries, we've got a lot of new voters, and we've got great momentum. But the election is not today. If it were, we would have a majority in the House of Representatives, and very close to a majority in the United States Senate. We'd pick up five or six governor's races. But it is not today.
For the next 80 days, we're gonna do more of this. We're gonna knock on doors, we're going to talk to our neighbors, we're going to go speak to folks at picnics and talk about what's at stake in this election. We have terrific candidates, and our candidates are not running away from the Democratic party.
We're gonna hear from two of these candidates in a bit. Darcy Burner, a candidate in Washington State, and Jennifer Bruner for Secretary of State in Ohio.
But America has gotten off track, and we need a new direction in America. And Democrats will lead with a new direction. The first new direction that we will insist on is honest leadership and open government in America. [Applause] Honesty is a moral value, and Democrats practice honesty.
The second new direction that we will lead America in, is American jobs that will stay in America using energy independence as a new industry to create millions and millions of jobs all over America. We will lead America in a new direction in terms of economic prosperity and educational excellence. And we have a great role model. The greatest ten years in the past century in terms of economic prosperity was under the leadership of a Democratic President, William Jefferson Clinton. [Applause] We can do that again, put the Democrats back in charge, give us a new direction for America.
And in the last 40 years, only one President has balanced the budget in this country. His name was William Jefferson Clinton. You can't trust the Republicans with your money. You need a Democrat to set us in a new direction, so we can have fiscal responsibility and accountability back in America again. We will balance the budgets, they can't.
According to the latest reports by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, extending the President's tax cuts, as the Republicans would like to do, will add $1.75 trillion over the next ten years, and increase the amount that we take from our children, every day, by $250 billion a year, every year. And I might add, that is also money we are borrowing from the Chinese government, from the Saudi government, from the Japanese government. This nation is a debtor nation. You can't trust the Republicans to manage your money. We need Democrats back in charge, just like Bill Clinton, so we can balance the budget again, and make sure our children can live better lives than we can.
We need a health care system that works for everyone. Now, we are not perfect. The Democrats have tried-- Harry Truman tried, Jimmy Carter tried, Bill Clinton tried-- we have tried to have a universal health care system in this country, and we will try again. But every year that the Republicans are in this Presidency, one million additional people become uninsured. Every year that the Republicans are in this Presidency and control the Congress, millions of American jobs do not get created in America, they get created elsewhere, because the price of health care is higher than the price of steel that goes into an American automobile. We can do better, and the Democrats will lead us in a new direction, to have a health care system that works for everybody, so we can have jobs in America that will stay in America.
We want a new direction for retirement security. Keep your hands off our Social Security, Republican Party! And allow us, the working people of America, to keep their pensions. Those pensions don't belong to the CEO and the shareholders, they belong to the working people that earned them. We want retirement security, a new direction for America.
And we want a new direction in defense for America. We want real security. Our agenda includes a new direction in foreign policy, that's tough and smart. A defense policy that restores the moral authority of America. A defense policy that protects America from the threats abroad and here at home and keeps American communities safe.
The truth is, the President's foreign and defense policies have failed. Iraq is in the middle of a civil war. Iran is about to obtain nuclear weapons. North Korea has 4 times as many nuclear weapons today, as they did when President Bush took office. The Taliban is coming back in Afghanistan, partly because we don't have enough troops there, because our troops are in Iraq. And five years, five years after 9/11, Osama Bin Ladin has simply relocated to a better location in Northwest Pakistan. The truth is, you can't trust the Republicans to defend America. They talk tough, but they are weak, because they don't think before they act.
A majority of Americans now believe that occupying Iraq is a mistake, and the majority of Americans now agree that the Democratic position is the new direction that we should begin-- phased redeployment by the end of the year. And we believe that the American people are far wiser than the leaders that govern us today. We want a new direction, where the Democratic Party will listen, not just to the American people, but unlike the Republicans, we will listen to the advice we get from the United States military before we send troops abroad.
The occupation in Iraq comes at an enormous cost to Americans. Despite the administration's denials, last month was the deadliest month in Iraq since the beginning of the war. Sectarian violence claimed the lives of 3400 Iraqis. Our top generals have expressed their fear of being involved in a civil war. But the occupation of Iraq is also costing American lives, and hampering our ability to fight the real war, which is the war on terror, fight Al-Qaeda, and deal with threats in Iran and North Korea. And the occupation of Iraq also prevents from doing what we need to do in another front in the war on terror right here at home.
We're spending $8 billion a year-- excuse me, $8 billion every month in Iraq. $2 billion a week, $267 million a day, $11 million an hour, in Iraq, in the middle of a civil war, where we occupy another nation.
For three weeks in Iraq, we could make the needed improvements to secure our public transportation systems here in Chicago, and every city in America. While Americans are forced to pay $3 a gallon in gas, we could provide public transportation simply for the price of three weeks of occupying Iraq. For 1 ½ weeks, we could provide health insurance for the 9 million children who don't have health insurance because of the policies of the Republican party; insuring every single American child for the price of 1 ½ weeks in Iraq.
For 5 days in Iraq, we could restore the low crime rates that we saw when Bill Clinton was President, by restoring the COPS program, by putting more police on the street, to keep our neighborhoods safe. For 5 days in Iraq, we could put radiation detectors in every single one of our ports. The President is failing to keep us safe abroad, but he has failed to keep us safe at home. 5 days in Iraq-- we could restore the security that we've lost under the Republicans in our own neighborhoods.
For 2 days in Iraq, we could screen every bit of air cargo that comes into the United States of America. 5 years after 9/11, we are not safe at home, because the President refuses, and the Republican majority in the Senate refuses to spend the money that the Democrats have asked to make us safe at home, by screening our ports and our cargo, for the price of 2 days in Iraq. We can do better than this.
[Applause]We will have a new direction in foreign defense policy. And you can trust the Democrats to defend the United States of America here at home, but you can't trust the Republicans to defend America. They talk tough, but we need to be tough and smart in defending America.
These are billions of dollars. For one month in Iraq, the Gulf Coast could have been rebuilt. And here, almost a year after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, very little has been done. For the price of one month in Iraq, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and New Orleans could have been rebuilt. We need a new direction in America-- you can't trust the Republicans.
The reason that the Republican party has failed America is very simple. It's not Iraq, and it's not the enormous deficits. It's the way they win elections. They win elections by dividing us. We need to be one community again. We need to listen to those who disagree with us, as well as those who agree with us, again.
Because what the Republicans have done, is to put the interests of their party ahead of the interests of America. We need a new direction in America, where we have a political party in charge which understands their loyalty is to America, and not even to the Democratic Party.
In the city of Chicago, the people who drive the taxis that you all were taking around yesterday (I hope you were enjoying the sights) those folks are paying three dollars a gallon for gas-- 55 bucks a day. The Republicans' response to that was to give 16 billion dollars worth of tax breaks to Exxon-Mobil and big oil. Slipped into the budget in the middle of the night when nobody knew it was there.
There are thousands upon thousands of seniors here and millions across the country, who are struggling now with the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare Part D, the largest farce ever perpetrated on the American people. Because that "drug benefit" was written for the benefit of the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies, and seniors were left behind. We need a new direction; a party in charge that's going to care about seniors, and write our legislation to benefit seniors, not the drug industry and the insurance companies.
There is another war that the president hasn't told us about. And that's the Republican war on the middle class. The war on the middle class, the war on hard-working people who are under siege from Republican policies that make it harder for working people to make ends meet. The president talked about math and science excellence in the State of the Union Address. A short time later, his party cut 12 billion dollars out of Pell Grants. This country is a great country, because we have the largest middle class in America (sic). In order to be part of the middle class, we need those Pell Grants back again, we need those lower interest rates back again.
How can you be in the middle class if you can't send your kids to college? You want to take out a second and third and fourth mortgage, working three jobs..? We want to give people opportunity again. They are the party that takes opportunity away from ordinary working people, and gives it to their privileged donors. We stand for ordinary working people. They have forgotten who built America-- it was the middle class, it was the labor unions, it was the working people. We want a new direction in America, where ordinary Americans run America again, and not the privileged few Republicans who have put their party above the interests of America.
The vast majority of Americans believe we're going in the wrong direction, and the choice is very clear in this election. You want more of the same, or do you want a new direction for America? A Democratic Congress will not rubber stamp the administration's policies, which put the agenda of the far right ahead of what's good for America. The Republican platform is one-- even yesterday, as the Vice President was saying, their agenda is an agenda of divisiveness, deceit, distortion, and deficits, and we can't afford them any more. We need a new direction for America.
Fearmongering, whining, and complaining, and namecalling is not leadership, Mr. President; Mr. Vice President. We will do better.
We will not turn our back on the people of Louisiana and Mississippi. The president had no plan for the Gulf Coast, as we come up on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and he still has no plan for the Gulf Coast. He had no plan for Iraq, and he still has no plan for Iraq.
Katrina was a terrible tragedy, not just for New Orleans and Mississippi, and not just for the people who died or still have not been able to move home. Katrina was a tragedy for America. Because one thing everybody believed throughout the world, throughout the country but throughout the world, whether they liked us or not, they believed that Americans could fix anything. And we believed that about ourselves. That if something really bad happens, call in the Americans, they're the best organized people and the best managing people-- they can fix anything. If something really bad happens, call the Americans.
And what we experienced a year ago was not just the personal loss and tragedy to all of our lives, because so many of us knew people or had family in New Orleans and Mississippi. What we experienced was a tragedy of seeing, unmasked, the incompetence, and failures, and indifference, of the president and the Republican majority. We need a new direction for America where no one is left behind!
The American people are extraordinary people. What we saw was great acts of generosity, and courage and heroism, of people coming together and opening their hearts, reaching out to help one another. That reminds us that the American people will transcend the incompetence of our leaders. We need a new direction where we are as competent and fair and qualified and caring as the American people showed themselves to be a year ago. We can do better.
We will have a new direction of hope and opportunity in America, based on the idear that we are all in this together. Not just those in the Democratic party, not just those in urban America. We will reach out to those who disagree with us, we will reach out to Evangelical Christians, to rural Americans, we are all in this together. It is time to end the divisiveness and the deceits.
So let me thank you. We have an enormous amount to do in the next 80 days. There is a feeling of optimism here, I've felt it myself over the last few days. In some ways, a little giddy-- we're not used to being in this position in the last twelve years. Don't get giddy, and don't get optimistic. We're going to win this race the same way anybody wins races. Not by hoping for the best, but by working for what's right. One foot in front of the other. Every door you knock on presents the American people with a Democrat who's proud to be a Democrat and explains to people why we need a new direction in America and what our new direction is. Every door you knock on.
We are only going to win this if we do what you have been doing for the last year and a half-- talking to your neighbors. This is the fun part-- come on out here to Chicago, room full of Democrats, we feel good, we've got great candidates. The hard part... the hard part, is going out and doing what we have to do next. And that is, for the next 80 days, talking to all those folks who did not vote with us the last time. Reaching out to them, understanding their resentments and their fears and their angers. Talking to them about what's on their mind. Listening to them before we talk at them.
We can do that. The American people are ready for a change. The American people through the last five years of difficulty and poor leadership, have never lost what makes them wonderful: their sense of caring, their sense of optimism, and their desire for real leadership that will emphasize hope over fear.
We can do this again. We can be great again. We can be the moral authority and the moral leader of the free world again. We can eliminate our deficits again. We can be proud of our armed forces, and listen to them as they guide us, rather than being incompetent civilian leaders and telling them what to do before we're willing to listen to them-- we can honor our military again by never sending them abroad without being adequately equipped again. We will honor our military again, because we will listen to them.
We will have a new direction in defense, we will have a new direction for the economic well-being of our people, we will have a new direction in education, we will have a new direction in retirement security, we will have a new direction in job creation in America, and we will have a new direction to end the divisiveness, to end the hallmark of this administration, which is [to] put their own interests in front of America. We will restore America to its greatness. We need a new direction, and in 80 days, we will have one. Thank you very much.
(Much applause and cheering).
Thank you very much.