Take Back America Conference

June 2, 2005

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Howard Dean, DNC Chair: Well, thank you. I hardly recognized myself in the introduction, thank you very much. I appreciate it very much.

We are bringing Tom DeLay out here to campaign...

[Long pause as he grins. Someone in the audience shouts something]

Dean: [laughing] I'd better not go there.


Dean: This is on C-SPAN, after all.

Lemme thank you all so much. There are a lot of you out here who worked in the campaign. I really just want to thank you for all the energy you put in. It was a disappointing campaign in the end, but as it turned out it was an extraordinary thing, because there were so many people who got into politics for the first time and then stayed in politics. This is how we win elections, is get ordinary people involved in politics.


We are in the process of making some fairly significant changes in the Democratic Party. And it's really, it's-- thank you for your help--


First of all, the first change is, you have seen the last 18-state campaign for the Presidency. We're gonna be in all 50 states.


As we raise money, we are investing that in state parties. The Democratic Party's gonna be the grassroots party, we're gonna have Democrats in every single precinct, including those in Kansas, Western Nebraska, and Mississippi. There is nothing the matter with Kansas * that the Democrats can't fix.


Because the real truth is, there's no such thing as a red state or a blue state, they're all purple. Some are more purple than others and our job is to get them all deep purple and then blue. And we can do that.

We are gonna make some other changes. We need a 4-year campaign, not a 7-month campaign for the Presidency. And--


-- We need, we really need to be everywhere. We need to get out our message. We need to talk to people about why it's important to be Democrats, and we need to have a positive agenda. We can't just talk about all the things that are wrong with George Bush's presidency, although I happen to have a list of them right here in front of me. [grins] We've really gotta talk about what we're going to do differently.

This morning-- we're going to talk about a number of things, but I want to start by talking about pensions. Pensions and Social Security. When the President-- you know, the President rules by polls, he doesn't really care that much about issues, he looks at the polls and drives the agenda based on the polls. And the polls told him that he could get away with privatizing Social Security if he told older people (I'm now in that category, having passed 55)-- if he told older folks that we were gonna be OK, then the 20- and 30-year-olds would sign right up.

They made a fundamental mistake by assuming 20 and 30-year-olds were dumb. They thought the 20 and 30-year-olds wouldn't notice that the bill for this was 4 ½ trillion dollars added onto a deficit, and they were gonna sacrifice their own kids, environmental protection, and ability to attend college, if that's what they did.


And it wasn't enough for the President to try to wreck the public pension system that we had. It wasn't enough for him to try to turn over Social Security to the same people who brought us Enron, his good friends and political contributors. That wasn't enough. Now, we find out that under this President's watch, private pension plans have been grossly underfunded. What does this President want? Don't Americans deserve, after a long life of work, don't they deserve a retirement with security and dignity? I think that they do!


This week the Labor Department estimated that in 2004, underfunding of pension plans grew to $450 billion. 60% of companies take advantage of outdated accounting rules to avoid making annual contributions. The President wants to take away our Social Security and then he's gonna take away the private pension plans too? What does he think ordinary Americans live on after after they get to be 65 years old?? We need a President who understands working people in this country, and we will have one after 2008.


However, I said that we were not simply gonna criticize the President. We are gonna make some positive suggestions as well. Here's what I think Democrats need to stand up for.

We need to have pension portability so that pensions-- as we move from job to job to job, the pensions follow us, they don't stay in the company.


That great Democrat, Jim Jeffords has been introducing this for 15 years. George Bush has had his chance to fix the pension programs in this country, he has failed to do it, we need a new President and a new Congress who will fix the private pension plans.


We ought not to allow people like Ken Lay to loot the pension plans of America while their companies are going down. Pension plans ought not to be controlled by companies, they ought to be controlled by the people who those pensions belong to, that's the working people of America.


Enron began around the time the President took office. 40,000 Americans lost their pensions. Another tens of thousands just last week, when the courts took away the United Airlines workers' pensions. This is a serious problem. The President has had his time, he has done nothing. Let the Democrats try to fix the pension program. We have a positive plan with portability and independent control outside these corporations who abuse the money.

This is stealing, to let pension plans go down. That money does not belong--


That money does not belong to these companies who are bailing themselves out of bankruptcies. It belongs to the people who they promised it to in their contract. It has been set aside. We want these pensions in America to be independently run so that they are not looted in the throes of bankruptcy while CEOs make 30 and 40 million dollars a year. That is wrong.

They have had their chance, and speaking about stealing, they talk about "the culture of life"-- what about the culture of corruption in Washington? What about the culture of corruption? We have the leader of the Republican Party, who the President has just endorsed as "doing a fine job." The chairman of the Republican Party has just endorsed by doing a fine job. I actually think that's true. The Republican definition of 'a fine job' is to be reprimanded three successive times in a row for ethics violations, and have a fourth one. The Republican definition of 'a fine job' appears to be that if your leader is under investigation and three of his cronies have just been indicted and found that they took $600,000 of corporate money and illegally put in the Texas campaigns-- that's how the Republicans do business. They think it's fine, Americans don't think it's fine. We need to get rid of the culture of corruption and abuse of power in Washington--


--and we will do that. We need to be the party of reform. Campaign finance and election reform. Real campaign finance reform. I used to say during the campaign, that if you want campaign finance reform, don't wait till politicians do it, just go out and do it yourselves. Send us 25 bucks on the Internet. We need to train Americans to do that.

If middle class and working Americans are worried about loss of control because the Republican party controls everything now-- the courts, Presidency, the House and the Senate-- you can fix that. It costs you 25 bucks once in a while. To contribute to a candidate that you like over the Internet will take back America, will buy back America from the corporate interests 25 dollars at a time, 'cause there are a lot more of us than there are of them.


We need to be the party of election reform. We ought to do everything we can to make it easier for more Americans to vote. The Republicans are all about suppressing votes. Two voting machines if you live in a Black district, 10 voting machines if you live in a White district-- I think every single American ought to be able to vote--


I used to say in the campaign, and I meant this sincerely-- I would rather have you go out and vote, even if you vote Republican, than stay home. I really would. If we're gonna have a democracy-- and Lord knows this Administration is beginning to erode the core of our democracy-- the great genius of American democracy-- there are a lot of democracies in the world-- the great genius of American democracy is, that if 48% of you vote one way, you still have some say about the government. Now they're trying to eliminate that. The protection of the minority is an important principle in America. For those 48% that didn't vote for President Bush, the Constitution says we still have some say.

Well, they don't think so. Dr. Frist of videotape diagnosis fame doesn't seem to think--

[shouts of laughter and applause]

-- Dr. Frist doesn't seem to think that the minority of us have any say. We don't have any say in the House. We certainly don't have any say in the White House. We don't have much left in the courts, although the courts are still too liberal for Tom DeLay, he wants to impeach 'em, 'cause they didn't agree with him 100%. I always thought an independent judiciary was important for a strong democracy, and you know what? When the Democrats take over, it will be important again. It will be important again.


But if you want a democracy that works, you've gotta get people to vote, and that means we need some substantial changes. I think we oughtta have Instant Runoff Voting. I think that inclu-- I think people--


I think that brings people into the polls, if there's a third party, fine, they get a choice, we finally get majorities that win, and it brings more people in. I think frankly we oughtta have voting on a-- either make Tuesday a holiday, or else move it to another day where people don't-- can get out and vote. You--


You know, the idear that you have to wait on line for 8 hours to cast your ballot in Florida, there's something the matter with that. You think people can work all day and and then pick up their kids at child care or wherever, and get home and then still manage to sandwich in an 8-hour vote? Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that, 'cause a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives. But for ordinary working people who have to work 8 hours a day; they have kids, they gotta get home to those kids; that idear of making them stand for 8 hours to cast their ballot for democracy is wrong. We oughtta make voting easier to do.

Mail-- Oregon has got it right. And we ought to have a law like Oregon that says you may not use a voting machine unless it can be recounted by hand.

[Cheers and standing ovation, lasting 20 seconds]

So let me just say just a couple more things, and I'll use up my alloted five minutes. First of all, I want to thank Roger again for his kind introduction. I really do-- hardly noticed myself, and I appreciate it. Though obviously, some people in Congress he didn't ask about whether I should campaign with them or not.

But we need to be the party of change. We need-- this is an extraordinary opportunity for Democrats. We've suffered a couple of serious defeats, but we're energized because we know that our vision for America is much better than the dark, difficult, and dishonest vision that the Republican party offers America.

We're in a war because the people that got us there weren't truthful with the American people. Our children are being poisoned by mercury.

You know, there's an extraordinary evangelical group that now understands the real dangers of mercury poisoning. You know, there are a lot more friends than we think we have in the progressive Democratic community in this country, and we ought to reach out to evangelical Christians, because you know something? I got a call from an evangelical Christian shortly after I took this office, said "I'd like to come talk to you." I said, "well, I'm happy to talk to you. But, you know, there's probably some things we disagree on."

He said, "You know, we're tired of being taken advantage of every four years by the Republicans, who will talk to us about two issues that they think are gonna get us organized. What about the other injunctions, to take care of people who don't have as much as you do? To reach in and bring everybody into the tent? To be good stewards of the Lord's environment?"

The Republicans never talk about that kind of stuff. Those things are important to evangelicals. There are votes to be had for Democrats among the evangelical Christian community, and we ought not to shy away from that.


Some of the leadership of that community may be obsessed by gay rights and abortion, but most of evangelicals just like every other American, we want to do the right thing for our children, and we oughtta not be ashamed, or reluctant to reach out and get votes everywhere. We stand for all that is right with America. We stand for honest government that is transparent. We will insist that the money that working people have earned be set aside so that they someday will get it and [it] won't be used in a leveraged buyout or a bankruptcy. We will insist that-- we will have a strong defense, but a strong defense is not just a strong military, it is also a balanced budget, and you can trust Democrats with your taxpayer's money; you can't trust the Republicans. Borrow and spend, borrow and spend, the largest deficits in the history of America-- Democrats will do better than that.


We will change election laws so they work for the American people and not the professional politician class.

The only other thing that I wanna briefly say, and then I'm outta here, is 'thank you.' We have a lot of work to do, and not once did anybody I know quit after November 2nd of 2004. It was depressing, it was discouraging, we didn't win, we had four more years of the most ineffective presidency that this country has seen in my lifetime. But not once did the people in this room give up, not once. We're in this for the long haul.

This is not about politics. This is about an extraordinary invention-- it's about America. America is an extraordinary invention, and we haven't always been perfect over our 200-and-some-odd years of history. But we have always believed in the best of human beings. It's an extraordinary invention, because even though we didn't always do the right thing, we knew what the right thing to do was, and we tried to do it. The greatest blow to America that we have suffered in the last 4 ½ years is the descent of cynicism and the belief that propaganda and manipulation will actually succeed in America. I think it will not.


I think it will not. And I think that the values of this country are what we're fighting for. This is not about politics, this is about reclaiming America as the great beacon of optimism and hope. And we will do that not simply by saying what's wrong with the Republicans, although Lordy the list is so long I could speak for an hour and a half. What we will do is offer optimism and hope. Real optimism, real hope, for real problems.

Is there a problem with Social Security? Yes. Their solution is to privatize it, our solution is to leave it the way it is with some minor adjustments.

Is there a problem with the budget? Yes. Their solution is to be disengenuous about it, and to let the next generation pay the bill. Our solution will be to do the tough, difficult things both on the cutting side and the revenue side that we need to do to fix it.

Is there a problem with the defense posture when we pick on dictators who are irrelevant to the United States and then leave nuclear powers like North Korea and Iran alone? Yes. We will look in the long term... we will look in the long term for the defense of the United States of America, and in the tradition of Harry Truman and Jack Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, we will fight the enemies that need to be fought, and we will use diplomacy with those who are not a threat to the United States of America. Is there a--


Is there a problem with the environment? Yes there is, and we will not pretend there is not, we will address it in a way that's both sensitive to jobs and sensitive to the needs of Americans to live without a rising rate of asthma in the inner cities, the needs of Americans to have national park systems that work, and the needs of Americans to cooperate with other nations around the globe to reduce the greenhouse gases which, in fact, are a real scientific phenomenon.


We will offer real solutions to real problems. The Democrats will not hide the problems. We will say what they are, we will say what the tough solutions are, because we believe in the end, that the American people will not believe propaganda. What the American people want is real solutions for real problems, and what they want is honesty in government, and to be told what the situation is, and then [the] suggested remedy.

One of the things that I've discovered, and I'll close with this story, is that organization is important, money is important, motivation is important, but there's one other thing you have to have. And some of you have heard this story, I'm gonna tell it anyway.

When I was running, there was a woman who did a great deal for us, and she did many fundraisers for us. And she was doing yet another fundraiser in New Jersey, and she had a lot of the most erudite people there, who were really, really smart people, they'd come and they were having dinner, and her daughter was there, who is a 30-year-old schoolteacher from Texas. And we were talking about separation of church and state at dinner, and everybody was agreeing that Republicans kind of erred on that and went too far and so forth and so on and we oughtta have separation of church and state in this incredibly diverse country that we have.

And the young lady piped up and said, "Now, Governor, just a second. I'm an evangelical Christian, and we don't think there ought to be separation of church and state, we think this is a Christian nation."

You coulda heard a pin drop, and the former ambassadors in the crowd kinda used all their diplomatic language and we got through it, and shimmied around it, and changed the subject and all that.

And after dinner, I was thanking everybody for coming, and contributing and everything, and I went up to her, and I said, "How is it that you manage to support me as an evangelical Christian? There's some things that you can't possibly agree with me on, such as civil rights for all Americans, and the right of a woman to make up her own mind about what kind of health care she has...


...And she said, she looked at me and she said, "We deeply disagree with you on some of the issues that you believe in. But we support you for two reasons.

"The first is that our child has polycystic kidney disease, and in Texas that means that not only can we get no health insurance for our child, but we can't get any health insurance for anybody in our family. And we think everybody in America oughtta have health insurance."


"But the real reason that we support you, is because evangelicals are people of deep conviction. And you're a person of deep conviction. And what we want to know, like most Americans, is if something happens to our family, or something happens to our community, or something happens to our country, that the people who are going to be making the decisions, to keep us strong, and to support us in these difficult times... we want somebody who's going to be making those decisions not from polls or out of politics, or out of propaganda, we want somebody making those decisions out of deep conviction."

The one thing that we have to do as the Democratic Party, is not be afraid to be different from the Republicans. Stand up for what we believe! Stand up for what we believe!

[Standing ovation]

...And if you stand up for what you believe, vote by vote, precinct by precinct, election by election, year by year, we will take this country back for the people who built it. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.


--- End ---


Dean Defends Comments About Republicans

By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer
Sat Jun 4, 8:39 AM ET

WASHINGTON - National Democratic Chairman Howard Dean was defending another of his comments Friday after telling liberal activists a lot of Republicans "have never made an honest living in their lives."

Republicans called his Thursday comment "mudslinging." Some fellow Democrats expressed reservations over his choice of words, too, before Dean amplified his comments.

"The point I was making is clear: Republican policies have declared war on hardworking Americans," Dean said Friday. "I will continue to criticize Republican leaders and their policies, and the Democratic Party will continue to offer constructive alternatives."

The Democratic chairman made the initial comments about Republicans doing "an honest day's work" Thursday during a speech to a Washington conference sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future.

While discussing the hardship of working all day and then standing in line for eight hours to vote, Dean had said, "Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."

Republican spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said Dean's comment shows his priority "is to generate mudslinging headlines."

Dean has made comments that stirred controversy before. A recent example occurred in May, when Dean said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay "ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence."

The House ethics committee is investigating whether DeLay violated congressional rules by taking foreign trips paid for by lobbyists. The Texas Republican has not been charged with a crime, but Dean said later he would not apologize.


Democratic Party efforts to recruit anti-abortion candidates and take a more moderate position on abortion drew fire Friday from Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women.

She told activists at the Campaign for America's Future meeting that leading Democrats are trying too hard to redefine the party's stance on key issues.

Leading Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads Democratic efforts to win seats in the Senate, and party chairman Dean have been overly eager to recruit supporters and candidates who don't support abortion choice, she said.

In Pennsylvania, anti-abortion candidate Bob Casey Jr. is the front-runner among Democrats to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record).

Gandy said she was concerned about Democrats trying to build support "if it means throwing women's rights overboard like so much ballast, ... if it means abandoning the core principles of the Democratic Party."

Efforts by Democrats and others to blend religion and politics also drew Gandy's criticism.

"So many political leaders are trying to be Republican lite and they're being encouraged by the Democratic Party," she said. "Please, somebody tell them we don't need two Republican parties."

From: http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/06/04/dean.gop/index.html

Dean sticks to his guns, still aimed at GOP

Saturday, June 4, 2005 Posted: 12:14 PM EDT (1614 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean is defending remarks he made that enraged Republican leaders this week.

"I don't hate Republicans," he said, in an interview Friday with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "But I sure hate what this Republican Party is doing to America."

In a speech Thursday before a Washington conference sponsored by the "Campaign for America's Future," Dean told the audience that many Republicans "had never made an honest living in their lives."

His comments irked Republican leaders and sparked a quick response by Republican National Committee press secretary, Tracey Schmitt. In her statement, issued Thursday, she said, "Dean's priority is to generate mudslinging headlines rather than engage in substantive debate."

His speech, she added, "illustrates that the Democrat Party not only lacks leadership but is overflowing with anger."

In Friday's interview, Dean said that he did not intend his remarks to refer to the more than 50 million American people who voted for President Bush's re-election, but rather to Republican leaders whom he said do not understand the difficulties of waiting in line for eight hours to vote, as some did in Florida during the last election.

"We don't go after voters," he said. "But we do go after bad leadership," and cited the national deficit and the war in Iraq as evidence of the Republican administration's incompetence.

Thursday's comments were not the first of Dean's to generate controversy. In April, he called Republicans "mean. They are not nice people." And in May, in his first televised interview after being elected to DNC chairman, he said that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay should go to jail.

Dean's comments spring from scandals involving alleged illict campaign contributions and corruption revolving around DeLay. Last fall, three political fund-raisers with ties to him were indicted in his home state of Texas. Then the House ethics committee admonished DeLay three times. Since then, questions have been raised about whether he knew about the dubious sources of money behind trips he took to Britain and South Korea.

Dean said Friday of his characteristically strong words, "I guess my job is to outrage the Republicans these days."

See Take Back America Conference website.

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