Take Back America Conference-- Comments By Howard Dean
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, D.C., June 3, 2004
(Upon his taking the podium, the audience applauds and cheers at length.)
FORMER GOV. DEAN: Thank you. (smiling)Thank you very much.
First of all, thank you. Let me just say one thing. I appreciate all the kind words, but the truth is that this was our campaign, not my campaign, and it is not over until we win back the White House and send George Bush back to Crawford, Texas with that one-way bus ticket.
And the way…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Send Bush to Mars!
FORMER GOV. DEAN: (laughs softly) You know, one of the things I always liked about campaigning was it is really fun to listen to the audience. There was a lot of stuff that we did in our campaign that other people are now starting to do, and—one of the things-- including the Republicans, which is not so good… One of the things I learned to do was to listen to what the audience said as I was speaking, and somebody over here just touted the president's favorite program. This person over here really likes the president's new initiative in going to Mars, and we agree the president should definitely go to Mars.
That's better than a one-way bus ticket to Crawford, Texas. I think he's going to need some help, so we'll send John Ashcroft along with him.
And I understand, as of today we already did send Gene Tenet there, and that's just one down.
It's about time somebody in this administration resigned over all the misdeeds that have gone on, and let this not be the first one, culminating on November 2nd, when George Bush is the last one to fall. Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, not one of them told the truth. We can do better than that.
How about that e-mail that Dick Cheney sent over to the Army Corps of Engineers about Halliburton. You think that had anything to do with putting a little money in Halliburton's pocket? And did you know that Dick Cheney is getting money from Halliburton directly under his deferred compensation? How about a GAO investigation of that, if you want to worry about corruption in the highest office of the land.
How about all that wealth transfer. The Republicans used to be against wealth transfer, but they don't mind now that it's coming from working people into the pockets of people who run the largest corporations in America. How about what this president has done for the environment? How about that? The Clear Skies initiative, which allows us to put 500 percent more mercury emissions into the air. We can do better than that, and John Kerry will do better than that when he's the President of the United States.
You know what's going to win this election? Two things. The first is that people have to decide that George Bush ought not to be president anymore, and I think they're well on their way to deciding that, because they question whether the president has told the truth, and people will not elect a president who they don't believe is telling the truth. Secondly, it's the economy. Think how many Americans are struggling with increased property taxes, because the president passed No Child Left Behind, which was an unfunded mandate on local school boards.
Think how many Americans are struggling with increased health insurance premiums, driven up even more, because the president cut a million and a half Americans, including a half-a-million children off health insurance. They get their care from somebody, and it ends up-- gets shifted to the insurance companies, and shifted to us. Think about all the Americans that are struggling to try to figure out how in the world their kids are going to pay for a college education.
There was a study in the New York Times not very long ago that showed the percentage of parents with kids in the best schools who make over $200,000 a year is skyrocketing, and the percentage of parents who make less than $50,000 with kids who are able to afford college is going down. Why do you think that is? I think it has something to do with the fact that the president of the United States cut 84,000 kids off their Pell Grants, so that he could make sure that Ken Lay and the boys, who financed his first campaign, had a little more money to put in their pocket. That's our money, and we're going to take that back along with the country.
I'm going to do everything I can to get John Kerry elected president of the United States. And I--
...I understand there are some policy differences between some of you and Senator Kerry, but let me ask you this, if you were worrying about the defense of the United States of America, who would you rather have in the White House, a guy who like so many people who send our children to war, never served a day in his life overseas, or somebody who has been to war with three Purple Hearts, and a Silver Star? I'd rather send a combat veteran to the White House, so they won't send our kids to war without telling us the truth.
Who would you rather trust protecting the environment, a guy with a zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters, or a guy who stood up for renewable energy, even when it wasn't popular in Congress, even when it cut some donations from important Democratic funders? I'd prefer John Kerry, that's who I'm voting for.
Who do you think’s gonna do the most for working people in this country? A guy who never has, or a guy who has? I'm voting for John Kerry.
This election will not be over on November 2nd, no matter what happens. I saw an extraordinary presentation this morning, which some of you have seen, by a fellow by the name of Rob Stein, who has tracked what the Republicans have done since 1964 in order to get power in this country, in order to control all three branches of government, the Supreme Court, Congress, and the White House, and with Fox News maybe even the fourth branch of government, who knows.
We know what the right wing has done, and we're gonna have to do it. Will Rogers once said, “I don't belong to any organized party, I'm a Democrat.” Well, we used to laugh about that; it's not very funny when we now see what the consequences are.
As you know, we've started a new group called Democracy for America, and since--
--And since I have a captive audience of 2,000 of the most vigorous activists in the entire country on the progressive side, go to our Web site, DemocracyForAmerica.com. We have a… what our intention is to do is not just to support John Kerry, which of course we're doing, or as Jon Corzine was talking about, to support candidates for the House and Senate. We're going to do some other things that aren't being done, and we need to coordinate this and figure out how to do it over the next 10 years, not over the next five months. And that is, we need to build our grassroots.
You know, I'm always fond of saying that it's George Bush’s… a long litany of things that are wrong with this country, and I think most Americans agree. But, there are two other parties that have something to do with this. One is the Democratic Party, for not standing up to George Bush and his right-wing extremists when they needed to do it.
And now they are. And now they are. And the other, the other is us. 50 percent of us don't vote, 50 percent of us thought somebody else was going to do the job.
You know, all of us who have been in public office, and I know there are some out here that are, have been fond of saying, going to high schools and going to colleges, and telling young people how important it is to vote. Well, one of the things I learned in this campaign is, voting is the bare minimum, voting is not enough, you've got to give 10 bucks to your favorite candidate. And we-- Lord knows we showed that you can sure raise a hell of a lot of money by getting 10 bucks from a half-a-million people…
… And you've got to run for office yourself. You have to run yourself. Democracy is not a spectator sport, and we won't have one if we don't fight for it.
So over the next few months we're going to partner with 21st Century Democrats, with the Progressive Majority, with SEIU, with AFSCME, with other groups, where we can come together not just to make sure John Kerry is the next president of the United States, but to make sure that if he is, that this is not just simply a way station in between right-wing presidents. That we are going to take this country back this time, and never again are we gonna permit the extreme right wing of the Republican Party to tell us what to do. I am tired of listening to the fundamentalist preachers, and we're not going to do it anymore.
(Applause, which continues throughout the next paragraph:)
I'm tired of listening to Ralph Reed, and Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh, and we're not gonna do it anymore, because we build this country, and we're going to take it back for ordinary working Americans. We're going to take this country back, and it's going to take election, after election, after election, work after work, after work, and win, after win, after win. Take back America, we want our country back, and it's our country, we built it, and now in November we're going to take it back.
Thank you very much.
(Applause. The microphone does indeed filter out most of the crowd noise; when I was in the room with this speech the crowd was so deafening that I could not hear the last two sentences at all even though the loudspeakers were 15 feet away -- Crocuta)
MODERATOR: On behalf of the Campaign for America's Future, to present to you our first ever Tom Paine Commonsense Award. Thomas Paine, the patriot, the pamphleteer, the man who spoke truth to the powerful is an inspiring figure for all of us. Paine had an enormous and devoted following. It grew to huge proportions when he learned to make use of a powerful technology, in his case it was a printing press. He used that power to foment a revolutionary movement. Could anyone more aptly be called on as we honor Governor Dean?
Listen to Tom Paine. He said, these are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country, but he who stands now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Governor Dean is no sunshine patriot. He got us all to believe that we, as Tom Paine said, have it in our power to begin the world all over again. For this, we are forever in his debt. Thank you, Governor Dean, for reenergizing us to take back America.
(Applause and end of segment.)
Federal News Service
with refinements and notes by Crocuta