Monday, February 16, 2004

Why I Support John Kerry

It's been awhile since I've written a political speech. It took some time to get back into the rhythm but eventually I had a good time doing it---and delivering it. The last line is adapted from a Kerry line that I first heard him use to end his Iowa acceptance speech. (I was interested to see that it wasn't in the prepared text.) He used it again in Virginia last Tuesday. The fact that "giving America back its future, and its soul" happens to echo the title of my long awaited project, Soul of the Future (well, I'm certainly awaiting it) has absolutely no bearing on my support for John Kerry. Almost absolutely.

Why I Support John Kerry

Delivered to Humboldt County Democrats
February 15, 2004

I am pleased to speak to you today about why I support John Kerry.

From Arizona to Maine, from New Mexico to North Dakota to Tennessee, from Michigan to Missouri, Democrats in record numbers have spoken in one clear voice.

They listened to the candidates, and they liked what they heard, but from the Iowa caucuses to the Virginia primary last Tuesday and the Nevada caucuses yesterday, they made their choice, and their choice is John Kerry. Over and over they said, we like these new ideas and all this passion, but we're choosing a candidate who has the ideas, who has the passion, but he also has the experience and the knowledge and the character to do what needs to be done. We choose John Kerry.

They said we want a candidate with a proven record of making hard choices, of fiscal responsibility, with practical ideas for growing a sustainable forward-looking economy that benefits all Americans. We want a candidate who has a record in the U.S. Senate of supporting small business, of fighting for American jobs, for social justice, international cooperation, the environment, equal rights and a woman's right to choose. We choose John Kerry.

They said we want a candidate who understands fairness and understands strength. So we choose John Kerry, who as a mill town county prosecutor put the #2 Mob Boss in New England behind bars, and as a defense attorney worked hard to prove the innocence of a man convicted for a crime he didn't commit.

They said the war in Iraq was a tragic mistake but we know we live in a dangerous world, so we choose John Kerry the war hero with the Silver Star and the Bronze Star who risked his life under fire to save others, and we choose John Kerry the anti-war hero who as spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans against the war was so feared by the Republican administration that he made it onto Nixon's enemies list, and whose leadership in the Senate against the shameful war in Nicaragua exposed Oliver North.

Voters looked at John Kerry and saw this combination of sanity and savvy and strength, and they chose him because they know it's all needed for a President to protect us and lead our foreign policy, to fight effectively against powerful corporations for jobs and health care and the environment. But they also saw that strength would be needed in the coming battle to defeat George W. Bush. For we all know what kind of campaigners these Republicans are. We know they're going to spends hundreds of millions on scurrilous attack ads, they're going to distort every Senate vote and policy conversation, they will be try to convince the American people there's a Willie Horton under every bed, and a Saddam Hussein in every closet. We all know the shameless lies and easy slander that pours out of the sewers of talk radio. This year the Democrats need a fighter, somebody who knows who he is and knows what he's doing, and won't back down.

But the voters in the primaries suggest the possibility that this year, all Americans will no longer be willing victims of the same old weapons of mass distraction. That they too will focus on the issues that really matter. We want a President we can trust, who will right this ship of state before it takes us all down.

In 1841 Emerson said humanity is divided between the party of hope and the party of memory. In the 2004 election, America must decide between the party of hope and the party of fear. And make no mistake-we will be hearing a lot from the other side in the coming months about what we must fear. But it is as true now as it was when Franklin Roosevelt said it---the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We cannot allow fear to triumph, or hope will be a memory.

What has this administration of fear given us? Loss of constitutional freedoms that we've always fought to defend. A war born of arrogance, over the urgent threat of weapons that the UN and other international agencies warned did not exist, and a war begun with lies, when the president broke his promises to the U.S. Senate to let inspectors finish their work, and not to use force without the international community. Without a realistic plan, the Bush administration committed the United States to a horribly costly occupation of Iraq, which so far has only led to more violence, terrorism and death. America believed its president, and America was betrayed.

What else has the administration of fear given us? We saw a five trillion dollar federal surplus left to the nation by those free-spending Democrats turn into a five trillion dollar federal deficit in the blink of an eye, and what did we get for it? A health care system that covers all Americans? New infrastructure in our states and cities? New schools, better teacher pay, decent wages for the people we depend on most-nurses, childcare and eldercare workers, emergency medical personnel? New investments in creating jobs and helping families? Did we even get adequate funding for firefighters and police to carry out their new responsibilities for homeland security?

We got none of that. Instead we got a tax cut for the already obscenely wealthy, pork barrel for pharmaceutical industries, schools in Iraq but not in Ukiah, new jobs in Jakarta but not in Eureka, comfort for senior partners but not senior citizens, everything that Wall Street wants and nothing that Main Street needs.

In 2000, too many of us sat on the sidelines, or demanded purity and perfection, or succumbed to a folksy smile because it didn't really matter who won. Well, it did matter. Instead of joining the world to confront the climate crisis, we're back fighting to keep oil rigs out of the Alaskan wilderness. Instead of building the digital economy, America is bleeding jobs. Instead of securing Social Security and Medicare, and dealing with the health care crisis, this administration has pillaged the future, not just of those who will soon reach retirement age, but of those who have not yet reached pre-school age. Instead of getting at the roots of terrorism, we're off securing oil fields for Halliburton at the cost of American and Iraqi blood, and our future and our sacred honor.

Yes, the election of 2000 mattered. And that's why the election of 2004 matters even more.

And that's why the voters in the Democratic primaries -and 40% of them in New Hampshire were Independents---have spoken with that one strong voice. They've listened to good men and women with good ideas, candidates of great heart and great vision, including some who will be the future of the Democratic party. Perhaps they've also listened to the ideas and candidates of other progressive parties, who may also contribute to the future. But this year their voices were united in a great cry, that to save the future we must change the present, we can't afford to wait.

Back when Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, he gathered his advisors to figure out how to fight the Great Depression. Some of them called only for long-term measures to bolster the economy. But then FDR's chief advisor, Harry Hopkins spoke up. He said, "Mr. President, people don't eat in the long term. They eat every day."

And in 2004, 44 million Americans are without health insurance, 18,000 die every year because they have no health insurance-we don't need health care in the long term, we need health care as a right not a privilege for the wealthy few---we need it every day, we need it now. Eight million Americans who want to work can't find a job-we need jobs now. The richest nation in the history of the world has 35 million people in poverty---we need to deal with that now. Our cities and counties and our states are in crisis, we don't need to keep our schools open and our police on the street in the long term-we need to do it now.

And above all we can't wait to get rid of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld in four more years, we need to get rid of them this November. It's time to send this trigger-happy, photo-op-governing, double-talking, supreme court-appointed bush league president back to the ranch.

To defeat George W. Bush now, to begin a new era for America now, voters in the west, the east, the north and the south have chosen John Kerry, voters in Wisconsin will choose John Kerry on Tuesday, voters on March 2 will choose John Kerry in New York, Ohio, Minnesota, Maryland, Rhode Island and in California… This is our time, to join our voices to the one strong voice of these primaries that is already echoing around the world---it's our turn to join John Kerry's campaign to give America back its future, to give America back its soul.

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