Remarks to Service Employees International Union

The Washington Hilton, Washington, DC, September 8, 2003

MR. DEAN: Thank you, SEIU! (Cheers, applause.) Now, we have to have some semblance of order, so I'm actually going to ask all the people with their cameras to sit down so everybody else can see, if that's all right. That's the governor in me coming out.

Let me thank you all very, very much for the opportunity to be here. We're going to talk about a lot of different things, and health care and labor rights are part of the agenda. But I want to talk a little bit about something that affects all of us as well.

Last night, the president announced that he was going to spend another $80 billion in Iraq. (Boos from audience.) A billion dollars in Afghanistan, $4 billion every month in Iraq, now more, every—we can do better than this. What about the schools and the hospitals and the health care and the roads and the jobs in the United States of America? (Cheers, applause.)

You know, people say, “Oh, that Dean, you know, he's so liberal. He didn't support the war, so he can't win the presidency.”

You know, I supported the first Gulf War because one of our allies had been attacked, and I thought we owed it to them to defend them. I supported the Afghan war because we had 3,000 of our people killed, and I think we have a right to defend the United States of America.

But the president told us that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were making a deal, and that Saddam was responsible for the World Trade Centers. That turned out not to be true. And then, the president told us that Iraq was buying uranium from Africa. That turned out not to be true. And then the vice president told us that they were about to get the atomic weapon, and that turned out not to be true. And the president—the secretary of Defense told us that he knew just where the weapons of mass destruction were, and that not—turned out not to be true.

As president of the United States and commander in chief of the United States military forces, I will send American troops anywhere in the world to defend the United States of America. But as the president of the United States and commander in chief of United States military forces, I will never send our brothers and sisters and our sons and daughters to a foreign land without telling the people the truth about why it is they're going. (Cheers, applause.)

We -- $160 billion in Iraq. Our budget deficit is going to be more than a half a trillion dollars. And we could insure, easily, every man, woman and child in the United States of America for that amount of money. Where are your priorities, Mr. President? Are they here with our people, or are they somewhere else, Mr. President? (Cheers, applause.)

You know, in my state, everybody under 18 has health insurance; 99 percent eligible, 96 percent have it. (Applause.)

Working poor people under 150 percent of poverty all have health insurance. Seniors under 225 percent of poverty get help with their prescription drugs.

If we can do that in a small rural state which is 26th in income in the United States of America, surely the most powerful and wealthy society on the face of the Earth can join with the Japanese, and the Germans, and the French and the British, the Italians, the Irish, the Canadians, the Israelis, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Swedes! (Applause.) I don't like being a second-class citizen in the industrialized world, and I want health insurance for every man, woman and child in the United States of America! (Cheers, applause.) We can do this. We can do this! (Continuing applause.)

I want to talk to you about another issue that affects a lot of us that's not a labor issue, and that's prisons. We have over 2 million Americans in prison. Now, prisons are an essential part of American life. You can't have violent people running around on the street. But the truth is that prisons are the most effective and least expensive (sic) social service investment that we make in this country. And the truth is that any competent, qualified kindergarten teacher can tell you who the five kids are in his or her class that are going to end up in prison 15 or 20 years later. (Cheers, scattered applause.) So my question to America is if we have some idea who's going to use the most expensive and the least effective social service intervention that we do 15 or 20 years from now, why is it that we're not investing in small children and their families now to stop that from happening? (Cheers, applause.)

But we do. In my state, every mother, whether she's the richest or the poorest woman in the state, gets a hospital visit when she gives birth. Ninety-one percent of them say, yes, they'd like a home visit. So we visit 91 percent of all our kids within two or three weeks of their birth. Most of those families don't need help. They're happy to see a friendly face from the community. But the ones that do need help get child care, health care, job training skills, parenting skills and parenting classes, programs to keep the dads interested in the kids if it's a single mom. (Applause.) And the result is over the last 10 years, our child abuse rate is down 43 percent and child sexual abuse is down 70 percent. (Cheers, applause.)

Those kids have a much better chance of going to college than they do of going to prison, and we need to do that for every state in this country. And we can do that for every community and every state in this country. We have to invest in American families again in this country, and that has to be a priority.

This president has declared war on working- and middle-class people in this country.

Let's see about this tax cut the president says—right? Three trillion dollars, $600 billion because he had to borrow the money to give money out of the Social Security trust fund to Ken Lay and his friends, who were writing him all those checks, so he can run his campaign.

Let's see what happened to your tax cut. Maybe some of you got a $600 check, or maybe you got even a $400 or an $800 check. Let's find out what happened to your kids' college tuition over the last two and a half years. Let's find out what happened to your property taxes over the last two and a half years. Has your fire and police protection been cut?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Yeah, it was cut ?).

MR. DEAN: Somebody said once, “Oh, you know, the governor, he thinks we shouldn't have a tax cut. He can't win, you know. He's going to raise taxes.” I'm not going to raise taxes. We're just going to go back to the same taxes that Bill Clinton had, because I think most people in America would be glad to pay the taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was the president of the United States -- (cheers, applause) -- if they could only have the economy they had when Bill Clinton was president of the United States. (Applause continues.)

There are a lot of—lot of trouble these days getting decent jobs; lot of trouble, when you get the job, making ends meet. I was talking earlier with a group of SEIU members. One of them said she had two jobs. She worked in a home health agency, got $7.50 an hour, with no benefits. That's why we need card check in this country, so Wal-Mart and those places can be organized. (Cheers, applause.)

And that's why we need a National Labor Relations Board that will decide cases quickly, and we need new members on the National Labor Relations Board. (Applause.) And we need to outlaw captive meetings by the employer. And we need nursing staffing legislation, so we don't have ridiculous -- (cheers, shouts, applause) -- maybe we ought to have it for corrections officers and teachers, too, right? (Laughs.)

I want to tell you a little bit about our campaign and how we're going to win. We are not going to beat George Bush by trying to being “Bush Light.” (Laughter, applause.) You know, so many Democrats in the last few years have said, “Well, you know, we'll go to the middle. We'll go to the right. We'll make sure the swing voters are happy, and then all those other interest groups would come along.”

I think we ought to start with the trade union movement, with African-Americans, with Latinos, with women. They've been with us all along. That's how you build the Democratic Party. (Applause.) To respect our own people with us, that brought us here. (Applause continues.)

The way -- (applause continues) -- the way to beat George Bush is not to try to be like him, it's to stand up for what we believe.

Harry Truman put health insurance for all Americans in the 1948 Democratic Party platform. Fifty-five years later, we want health insurance for all Americans. That is not some liberal, crazy idea. Every other industrialized country in the world has it, Mr. President. You have made us a second-class citizen in the industrial world. And we can do better, and we will do better, because Mr. President, when you say “no child left behind,” we say what about the 230,000 kids your folks cut off Medicare (sic) in Texas to balance the budget? (Cheers, applause.)

Here's how we're going to beat the president. We're going to give the 50 percent of Americans who have given up on the system and given up voting a reason to vote again by being proud of who we are as Democrats. And when we do -- (cheers, applause). And when we do, they're going to come and vote.

And we've done this already. We have 100,000 volunteers around the country in over 400 cities. We raise more money than any other Democratic candidate. That's a big deal. You know what the real big deal is? We have 150,000 Americans that have given us money; the next-biggest campaign has 20,000. And the average gift is $86.00. The way you beat the president of the United States, who gets all those $2,000 checks, is to get hundreds of thousands and millions of Americans to give you $86.00. And he can have all those checks from Ken Lay and the boys. I'll take our checks, from working people and middle-class people; no special-interest money here. (Cheers, applause.)

We're going to get Americans to vote. And I need your help. We can bring out a lot of people, but you can bring out a lot of people, too. The deep roots of the trade union movement and the minority communities in this country and the working communities, we need your help on election day, and we're going to give you our help, too. This is going to be a partnership.

We're going to get 3 (million) or 4 million people out to vote. And they're not going to vote for George Bush and they're not going to vote for Tom DeLay. He's going back to Houston to exterminate cockroaches. (Cheers, applause.) And I talked to a bunch of people from St. Louis, and they won't take John Ashcroft back; he's going to Crawford, Texas, with the president. (Cheers, applause.)

But this time, this time when we get those people out to vote—because we're going to work like crazy and knock on doors everywhere and reach out to those people who have given up—this time, the Democrats are going to have the most votes, and this time, the person with the most votes is going to become the president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, the biggest loss that we've had in this country in the last two and a half years is not the 3 million jobs we've lost and it's not the respect that we've lost around the rest of the world. The biggest loss that we've had is our sense of community. I remember when I was 21 years old, the civil rights movement was coming to an end, and the country had suffered terribly. Martin Luther King had been killed, and Bobby Kennedy had been killed, and there were a lot of unsung heroes who were killed in places like Alabama and Mississippi trying to make sure that everybody had equal rights for all Americans. But there was an enormous sense of hope in the country that we were all in it together; that we finally realized that as an American citizen, it wasn't just enough for me to want good schools in Vermont or you to want good schools in your hometown; that you had a responsibility as an American citizen, so did I, to make sure there were good schools in Vermont and good schools where you lived and good schools in Mississippi and Alabama and in Oakland, California, too.

That was all of us together, because we knew that if one person was left behind, that the nation would not achieve the greatness that we were destined for.

This president has given that away. This president used the word “quota” five or six times on the evening news when he was talking about the University of Michigan affirmative action program. The University of Michigan has never had a quota system. Even the most conservative Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision didn't agree with him on that one. But every politician in America knows and every pollster knows that the word “quota” is a race-loaded word that is designed to frighten people into thinking that they may lose their job or their place in universities to a member of a minority community. (Applause.) This president played the race card, and for that alone, he deserves to go back to Crawford, Texas! (Cheers, sustained applause.)

Thank you. Thank you, brothers and sisters! (Continuing applause.)

I am tired of being divided by race in this country. I am tired of being divided by gender when the president thinks he knows better than a woman what kind of reproductive health care she can have. (Cheers, applause.) I am tired of being divided by sexual orientation when the president says what a fine senator Rick Santorum is, and that Antonin Scalia ought to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court. We can do better than that. I want a president that's going to appeal to the best of us, not the worst in us. (Applause.) I want a president who believes in hope again. And I believe that a campaign based on hope will beat a campaign based on fear every single time. (Applause.)

The biggest lie that people like me tell people like you -- (laughter) -- at election time is that if you vote for me, I'm going to solve all your problems. The truth is that the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine. (Cheers, applause.) You—you have the power to take this party back and make it stand up for what we believe in: for health insurance for all Americans, for jobs in this country again, for helping small businesses instead of big corporations, for investing in schools and roads and bridges and renewable energy so we can create jobs for working people in America! You have the power to take this country back and make it stand for inclusiveness, and where we are all together in one big community again.

We cannot wait. Your president has said that the endorsement of the SEIU is up to you. I need your help! I need your help now! We cannot wait to start to take on George Bush. We need to build our network. You need to build your network. We need to come together so we can start from this time on to send George Bush and the right wing of Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft and Richard Perle back to where they came from. This country does not belong to Rush Limbaugh and the fundamentalist preachers, it belongs to us! (Cheers, applause.)

Abraham—Abraham Lincoln once said that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth. This president has forgotten ordinary people. You have the power to take this country back and rebuild into what it was always supposed to be for all of us, and we have the power to take the White House back in 2004, and that is exactly what we're going to do!

Thank you very, very much! (Cheers, applause.) Thank you very much, and God bless all of you. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you very much! You have the power! You have the power! You have the power! Thank you very, very much. Thank you! Thank you very much.


Copyright 2003 Federal News Service, Inc. Federal News Service

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