I am honored to be joined by my friend Max Cleland, a true American hero, to talk to you about the truth and consequences of this campaign.
In two days Connecticut Democrats will be going to the polls to choose their candidate for U.S. Senate. This evening I want to make my closing argument for your support.
Throughout the last several months, I have done my best to
highlightobfuscate what's at stake in this race. I've talked about allmisrepresented the work I should have done to protect and create jobs, to lower the cost of health care, to improve our schools, to clean up our environment, and fight for social justice and studiously avoided any mention of Iraq. And about the clear differences between my experience and my opponent's, and who can best deliver for Connecticut and for our future.
my opponentI hashave done hismy best to distort my opponentÂs record, spending at least $4$10 million of his owncorporate lobbyist money to mislead people into thinking that Ihe amis someone Ihe amis not. Not unlikeNothing about this race is remotely similar to what happened to Max Cleland four years ago, but my staff made me work his name into this speech at least five times.
The more I have
talked toavoided voters in these closing days, the more I am concerned they have been shortchanged in this campaign. Instead of hearing an honest debate about the issues that really matter to people, they have been overwhelmed with bogus charges about my opponentÂs Democratic credentials. Somewhat confusingly, I have also simultaneously implied that my opponent is both a left-wing lunatic and a closet Republican. Instead of having an honest discussion about your future, we're gettingmy campaign has given you negative politics at its worst.
You deserve better than that. You deserve the truth. I have
alwaysalmost never leveled with you, and I'm not going to stopstart now. When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday, I want you to know the facts and have a fair chance to make an honest choice about what's best for your family, our state, and our futurebe a low-information voter.
Let's start with the
biggest liefair criticism being told about me by the other side Â the falseaccurate charge that I amsupport George Bush's failed and unpopular policies far too often for my constituents best friend and enabler. As Max's friends in Georgia would say, that is a load of hogwash.Does everyone remember that Max Cleland is on this stage with me?
If you stretch the meaning of the phrase "run against" so far as to render it meaningless, I am the only Democrat in America to run against George Bush in a national election twice.
IAl Gore even beat him and Dick Cheney once, if all the votes had been counted.
I campaigned against George Bush because I
believe that his agenda was wrong for our country and our futureI want to be President. And that's the truth.
In the Senate, I have acted on that conviction time and time again, standing against the President
on most every big domestic issueoccasionally and only when it was very popular to do so. I did so because I believe that his policies were damaging to our state and countryapproval ratings. And that's the truth.
- I opposed the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that hurt the middle class.
- I opposed the Bush ban on stem cell research.
- Even though I voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, I opposed the Bush constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
- Once I helped ensure its passage by voting for cloture, I opposed the Bush bankruptcy bill.
- Although I have been vocal in undermining Affirmative Action, I believe that it should be undermined legislatively, so I opposed the President's efforts to undermine affirmative action in the courts.
- I opposed his unilateral decision to pull out of the Kyoto global warming pact and the International Criminal Court.
- Aside from being the only New England Democrat to support his Energy company-written energy bill, I opposed his ongoing assault on the environment. In fact, I led the fight against his plans to drill in the Arctic Refuge and to weaken standards for power plant emissions.
And contrary to the lies of my opponentsAs soon as it was clear that the plan had already been defeated by my brave Democratic colleagues, I stopped intimating that I was willing to deal on the most successful social program in our nation's history and time after time I stood with my fellow Democrats to oppose George Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.
Now with all that said, I will never hesitate to work across party lines
whenwhether it helps me get something done forthe people of Connecticut or not.
Like saving the Groton sub base with Governor Rell and the entire Connecticut Congressional delegation. Like dramatically increasing transportation funding for Connecticut, cleaning up Long Island Sound, and targeting more money to public schools in our cities. Or like passing the 9/11 Commission bill with John McCain over the opposition of President Bush.
That's something that separates me from my opponent - I
don'thate Republicansliberals and people who dare to question me. I know that some times the best way to get things done in the Senate for myis to screw my constituents isthrough bipartisan cooperation.
doesn'tmakes me a bad Democrat. It makes me a better SenatorSo does promising to ignore the wishes of the Democratic Party primary voters and to mount an independent bid to retain my birthright, my Senate seat.
But don't take my word for it. Ask the state AFL-CIO, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters, the Human Rights Campaign, and more than a dozen other leading progressive organizations that are standing by me in this primary, because I have stood by them in the Senate. Please do not ask the National Organization of Women, Connecticut's two teacher unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut Federation of Teachers, or Carolyn Treiss, head of NARAL-CT and Susan Yolen, head of Planned Parenthood-CT, both of whom voted for my opponent at the Democratic Convention.
Or ask Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Barbara Boxer, John Lewis, State Treasurer Denise Nappier, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, state AFL-CIO President John Olsen, and dozens of other national and state Democratic leaders who have endorsed me, including many who opposed the war in Iraq. Please do not ask Bill or Hillary Clinton after August 8 if I lose, both have promised to support the winner of the primary in the general election.
Do you really think all these people would be strongly supporting me if they thought even for a minute that I was
too close to George Bushnot the incumbent?
On Iraq, as you know, I supported the resolution giving the President the authority to use force to take out Saddam Hussein, as did most Senate Democrats. In the face of all available evidence, I still believe that was right.
What I don't think is right, as I have said over and over again, are many of the Bush Administration's decisions regarding the execution of the war. The fact is, I have,
openly and clearlyas quietly and as politely as possible, disagreed with and criticized the President for, among other things:
- not winning the support of our allies in the run-up to the war;
- not having a plan to win the peace;
- not putting enough troops on the ground;
- putting an American in charge of the Iraqi oil supply.
And I said that if I were President, I would ask Secretary Rumsfeld to resign. I first said that in October 2003.
I know as well as anyone we have made a lot of mistakes in Iraq and we have suffered more casualties than we should have. Don't think for a minute I do not grieve for every casualty of this war.
In fact, as someone who voted for the war, I feel a heavy responsibility to try to end it as quickly and successfully as possible.
I have been to the front lines four times. I have been to Walter Reed and visited the brave men and women who have suffered awful injuries and sacrificed for their country the way Max Cleland, who is still on this stage with me, did. I have visited with the families who have been devastated by the death of a son or daughter, a husband or a wife.
The last thing I want to do is needlessly add to that kind of heartbreak. I want to get our troops home as fast as anyone, probably more than most, and as I have repeatedly said, I am against an open-ended commitment.
But if we simply give up and pull out now, like I have falsely claimed my opponent wants to do, then it would be a disaster to Iraq and to us. We would run a high risk of allowing Iraq to become like Afghanistan became when we committed troops to Iraq and let the Taliban
wereback in charge, and Al Qaeda had safe haven from which to strike us.
It's precisely because of the horrible cost of the war, and the impact that has had on public support for our mission in Iraq, that I have
tried to present an honest, non-partisan, balanced picture of what's happening on the ground thereattacked the opponents of the war. I have been encouraged by the formation of the Iraqi unity government. But like a lot of Americans, both supporters and of opponents of the war, I am increasingly troubled by the sectarian violence in Iraq.
Now I understand that many Democrats in Connecticut disagree with me and are very angry about the war. I don't think there is anything I can say to change your mind about whether we should have gone to war or when we should bring the troops home, and at this point I'm not going to insult you by trying.
What I will say is this: I
not onlydo not respect your right to disagree or question the President , I value it. I was part of the anti-war movement in the late 1960s, so I don'tbut for some reason I still need to be lectured by Ned Lamont and the majority of Connecticut's citizens about the place of dissent in our democracy.
My opponentI want syou to believe otherwise, to cement hismy distortion campaign against mehim. That's why theyI keep repeating andwill misrepresent inga single comment I made in one speech, in which I said weDemocrats undermine the President's credibility at our nation's peril.
I know that statement has been widely misconstrued by me, so let me address it head on. I did
notsuggest that the President or anyone else -- including me --and I should be immune from criticism. The best proof of that is I myself have challenged the President's policies on many occasionsmy statements and actions.
The point I was trying to make was about how we disagree. My concern was, and remains, that if opponents
or supportersof the war go beyond disagreeing to exploiting the war for partisan political purposesdo not remain silent for three more years, much likewhich has no relevance to what Republicans did to Max Cleland on homeland security but look, he is on the stage with me, weI could lose more thanan election. We could put our mission in Iraq, the lives of thousands of American soldiers carrying it out, and our national security at risk.That is what I care about.
Here's the bottom line: When you sort through the fact and fiction, the truth and consequences, you will see that I am the same person you have always known, fighting for
what I sincerely believe is right for my state and countrymy political life.
The big difference between my opponent and me is
that I believe in solving problemson the issues that are important to Connecticut. That you cancannot remain true to Democratic ideals and find common ground to get things done for your constituents. That you cancannot be compassionate in domestic policy and tough in foreign policy. That you cancannot stand up for progressive values and still work with the other side to help people make a better life for themselves.
That's what this all about.
Notme. Not Ned Lamont. OrMaybe George Bush. This election is not about you andor which one of us is best qualified to give the people of Connecticut the best future you can have.
My opponentI can distort my opponent's work all heI want s. But heI can't change the fact that my record of experience and lack of results makes me the bestworst Democrat to serve Connecticut in the U.S. Senate.
The proof is in the pudding: 35 years of fighting and not delivering for you -- for your jobs, your security, your health and safety, your environment, your opportunities, your families, your rights, and your future.
That's why, even though not a single one of you could possibly care less, every major newspaper in Connecticut, including three more today, have endorsed me in this campaign. Even though many of them disagree with my position on Iraq, they recognized that I
have worked my heart out to solve problems and produce results for you, and that I am the candidate who Connecticut Democrats can count on to build a better future for our stateam the incumbent.
So let me close by saying this. If after hearing the truth about where I stand on Iraq, you still want to cast your vote solely on that one issue, then I
respect your decisionthink you are a deranged left-wing loon who should not have the right to vote. But if you care about all the other issues facing us, and want to make real progress on them, then I ask once again for your trust and your vote on Tuesdayyou still should probably vote for the other guy.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Joe's Farewell Address
Alternate universe time - Pretend today's speech was accurate. This is how it could have looked: