My Liberal Fantasy: Russ Feingold's 2008 Nomination Acceptance Speech
by Intrepid Liberal Journal, Sun Apr 09, 2006 at 11:48:48 AM EDT
Good evening, I love New York! Applause. Smiles broadly and waits for silence. And I proudly accept your nomination for President of the United States. Crowd erupts with sustained applause and cheers.
My friends, the time has come for an American renaissance of community, values, and justice. Almost seven years ago in this great city Osama Bin Laden unleashed his terror and the Republican Party unleashed a reign of indecency. Tonight we begin anew in the very city where it all went wrong. We bring hope.
My parents also instilled in me the importance of faith. They used to drive one hour each way to Madison for 25 years to attend services and bring me to Hebrew school. Dena, my sister is a pioneer of faith. She is a rabbi at Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha and we're very proud of her.
My Jewish heritage is a source of inspiration and pride. The Jewish experience in America represents a journey of struggle, patriotism, and civic duty. Only a few decades ago Jewish people were excluded from colleges, good jobs, and social clubs. We've come a long way.
I want to thank the trailblazers from both parties who left their mark and made my nomination today possible. The late Jacob Javits of New York - a great Senator, statesman and important leader for civil rights. Arlen Specter (boos), my longtime colleague from Pennsylvania, who ran for President in 1996. The late Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (cheers) - a true champion of the people, a great personal friend who would've made an outstanding President. Paul was a pioneer of decency.
Joe Lieberman (boos). Yes we disagree on a few things but he risked his life as a young man to champion civil rights in the Deep South during the sixties. And as Al Gore's running mate in 2000 he helped carry the Democrat's banner with dignity and broke an important barrier.
I also want to acknowledge another pioneer - Hillary Rodham Clinton (cheers). Senator Clinton and I waged a spirited battle. She fought ably and well. A woman of conviction, Senator Clinton commands my respect and the gratitude of our nation. Her speech last night was gracious and poignant. She and I stand together to renew the promise of the American dream.
My opponent is a man I know well and call friend. Both our names are linked forever in the campaign legislation known as McCain-Feingold. Truthfully, (smiles), I always thought Feingold should come before McCain because of the alphabet.
We all know his personal story of heroism. A Vietnam POW who put his comrades' well being before his own. John could have escaped the horrors of the Vietnamese prison camps sooner but he didn't want to abandon his brothers in arms. No matter what our disagreements he is a man I will always honor and respect. I am proud to call John McCain my friend.
But this election is about the future. Sadly, my good friend John McCain represents the failed ideology of the past. One that has left our nation fiscally insolvent, spiritually corrupted, less free at home and disrespected abroad. We represent change. (cheers)
My good friend John McCain embraces the "agents of intolerance" like Jerry Falwell. Only eight years ago John stood against the apostles of hate in the Republican Party. Today he has been co-opted by theocrats. Incredibly, the Republican theocrats have more in common with the mullahs of Iran then our founding fathers. (cheers)
I am a man of faith. Faith is my personal compass and guide as a father, brother, neighbor and son. It has no place at the policy making table. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Your government must never be allowed to impose a value system favoring any religious sect. That is not America. (cheers)
Thomas Jefferson, the author of our Declaration of Independence put it best:
"But it does me no injury to my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
Anyone who invokes the name of God to promote hate or intolerance is committing a sin. (cheers) For these people the Enlightenment that produced the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution never happened.
One may judge a person by the company they keep. I regret to say that my good friend John McCain is on the wrong side of the divide between respecting faith and imposing a theocracy.
My good friend John McCain earned his party's nomination by becoming an enabler of corporatist values. The tax cuts for the super wealthy he once opposed he now wants to make permanent.
My good friend John McCain supports cutting student loans, cutting funding for education, cutting back on rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and skimping on our seniors. He prefers tax cuts for his new fat cat friends instead of genuine health care reform.
My good friend John McCain talks the talk about deficit reduction but no longer walks the walk. He asks the poor children of Hurricane Katrina to sacrifice at the altar of fiscal discipline but not the captains of industry who outsource jobs overseas.
My good friend John McCain didn't stand up for civil liberties after 9/11. When President Bush broke the law and spied on our fellow Americans without warrants I demanded accountability. He didn't.
My good friend John McCain didn't stand up to President Bush's crusade to stock our federal judiciary with corporate theocrats opposed to a woman's right to choose, environmental protections, the social safety net, and civil liberties.
My good friend John McCain supported South Dakota's anti-abortion law that even denied a victim of rape or incest the right to choose.
My good friend John McCain supported a President who deliberately misled the public into war. Deliberately shed our blood and treasure to pursue delusions of empire at the expense of fighting terrorism.
My good friend John McCain continues to drink from the neocon's Kool-Aid of fantasy and incompetence.
My good friend John McCain and his party had nearly eight years and still can't properly equip our troops. The Halliburtons and Bechtels make money hand over fist but GI Joe and Jane still is not protected from land mines.
My good friend John McCain belongs to a party that regards national security as a photo-op for the evening news. Men and women sacrifice their lives to defend our freedom. It is morally wrong to treat those lives as a cheap resource. Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. (cheers)
My good friend John McCain wants to police Iraq's civil war with our blood and treasure. I want to bring the troops home! (cheers and the convention floor trembles)
Sadly, my good friend John McCain sacrificed his political ambitions for expediency. The "Straight Talk Express" is a one-way ride to empowering religious zealots, corporate plutocrats, and war-mongers.
When America was traumatized with fear after 9/11, I stood on principle and opposed the Patriot Act and was called soft on terrorism.
When political leaders in both parties blindly rubber stamped the Bush Administration's rush to war in Iraq, I stood on principle and opposed it and was called unpatriotic.
When political leaders in my party resisted campaign finance reform, I stood on principle and joined John McCain to change the system and was called naïve.
When political leaders in both parties robotically supported staying the course in Iraq, I stood on principle and demanded a timetable for withdrawl and was ridiculed as stupid.
When political leaders in both parties were too intimidated to demand accountability for President Bush's illegal domestic surveillance program, I stood on principle and demanded censuring the President and was called extreme.
When political leaders in my party opposed the nomination of a qualified Chief Justice for the Supreme Court, I stood on principle to support him and was called disloyal.
I have a record of progressive independence. I am a proud unabashed liberal who doesn't stick his finger in the air to check which way the wind is blowing.
But I'm also a pragmatist and don't lay claim to a monopoly on wisdom. Smart people don't intimidate me. I can be persuaded by facts and arguments that make sense. In a Feingold Administration the "reality based community" will have all the seats at the table. (cheers)
One of those seats belongs to my running mate, former General and NATO Commander Wesley Clark. (cheers and standing applause)
Forgive me for sounding old fashioned, but Wesley Clark is a real man. Unlike our current Vice President, his top priority during Vietnam was service. (cheers). Wes is an international statesman from humble origins in Arkansas. He's a religious man, a smart man, and an honest man who puts country before self and service before profit.
With Wes's help I will build a national security team that's tough, smart, has foresight and earns the trust of the international community.
We're not simply going to scare people about Iran and lob rhetorical insults. We're going to work with our allies and do something about it. And yes that includes diplomacy with Iran. (cheers)
We're not going to hide behind China and Japan when dealing with North Korea. We're going to take the lead and work it out. Under President Clinton, North Korea's nuclear program was contained. This administration let the genie of the bottle. We're going to do something about it and yes that includes diplomacy. (cheers)
We're not going to simply gaze into Russian President Vladimir Putin's eyes and reward bad behavior. We're going to engage Moscow as a partner in world peace and expect reciprocity.
We're not going to pretend that global warming doesn't exist! (cheers). Global warming is a threat to our national security. It's a threat that knows no borders. We need the help of the entire international community.
But first we must lead by example ourselves. I will mobilize our nation's best minds in academia, science, government, and private industry and convene a domestic summit on global warming. I will ask for sacrifice from our citizens and I'm confident Americans will respond when called upon.
It's time to consume less and conserve more. Each of us has to change our habits. We can't shirk that responsibility and pass it on to future generations. Mother Earth's clock is ticking right now and we don't have a moment to lose.
Global warming is also an opportunity to become energy self-sufficient and control our own destiny. We need not be slaves to the price of oil and autocratic regimes in the Mid-East that both feed our cars and plot to kill us. We've been shortsighted for too long and under my leadership we will be shortsighted no longer. (cheers)
I know many people feel let down by my party in recent years. Some are under the impression we don't have values. That is a myth. A sick and pathetic myth engineered by the messengers of intolerance. Under my leadership the Democratic Party will not be tread upon anymore. (cheers)
I am proud of my party's history, its principles, and its legacy.
Ours is the party that saved capitalism during the Great Depression, saved the world from Hitler's fascism, faced down Stalin and Khrushchev in the Cold War, built the middle class, and expanded civil rights.
Ours is the party that won't abandon the people to large corporations that default on their pension plans and outsource jobs. The GOP believes the free market is a hockey game played best without referees. We believe America is a community and that we're all in this together.
If you're a risk-taking entrepreneur trying to build a business - ask yourself why all the breaks go to the big corporations? Why can a large airline declare bankruptcy and avoid their pension obligations? Yet the entrepreneur has no protection against risk to take care of his family?
Why are you penalized for creating jobs for Americans, forced to endure double taxation and assume the cost of health benefits for employees while the oil companies pay hardly any taxes at all and use cheap labor overseas? You know why. We all know why. The Republican Party is for sale. To all the risk-taking entrepreneurs on the front lines of job creation I declare, we're on your side. Come home to the Democratic Party.
Ours is the party that believes leaders are elected to make positive contributions. You expect us to serve you, not feather our own nests. Corruption and crony capitalism breed incompetence and gets in the way of solving problems. If you're fed up with dishonesty and the culture of corruption in Washington, come home to the Democratic Party.
Ours is the party that believes access to universal healthcare is a right of citizenship. Too many companies are forced to outsource their jobs because of the cost of healthcare. I believe that health care reform will also serve as a job stimulus to create employment for American citizens. An entrepreneur that doesn't have to assume the burdens of paying health insurance is a boss ready to hire. If you're fed up with skyrocketing premiums, HMO mandates, and disappearing jobs, come home to the Democratic Party.
Ours is the party that believes human rights are universal. I'm not afraid to say that gay rights are human rights. I believe it a sin to deny any child of God equal protection under the law because of their sexual orientation. I'm sorry but that is not a matter to be left up to the states. Once upon a time we had slave states and free states in this country. That didn't work too well. I don't believe dividing America along the lines of homophobic states and tolerant states works well either. If you believe that we're all one country entitled to equal protection under the law - come home to the Democratic Party! (that brings the house down)
Ours is the party that believes government must live within its means. President Clinton left the Republican Party a surplus. They squandered it with irresponsible tax cuts for the rich and a massive boondoggle to the HMOs and pharmaceutical industry. If you believe in fiscal responsibility - come home to the Democratic Party.
The Republican Party promised to change to change the tone of Washington. They have not delivered. We will.
The Republican Party promised to strengthen Social Security and provide better healthcare for our seniors. They have not delivered. We will.
The Republican Party promised to fix immigration. My good friend John McCain tried to persuade his party to sign onto a comprehensive and compassionate solution. They have not delivered. We will.
The Republican Party promised to control spending. They have not delivered. We will.
The Republican Party promised America would be a humble nation under their leadership. They have not delivered. We will.
The Republican Party promised to strengthen education and not leave any child behind. They have not delivered. We will.
The Republican Party promised to make America safer. They have not delivered. We will! (convention floor rocks with cheers)
My friends, as former President Clinton once said,
"there is nothing wrong with American that can't be fixed by what is right with America."
The past eight years have not been kind to our nation. We were attacked and then we made things worse with self-inflicted wounds. But I retain my faith in America's promise. We're a hard working, compassionate, and resourceful people.
We've overcome tougher times. The Civil War. The Great Depression. Two World Wars. We also have a history of overcoming mistakes and errors in judgment. Vietnam was horrible but we still managed to win the Cold War and enjoy prosperity in the nineties.
Progress sometimes takes a detour. These past eight years were a detour from progress for our nation and the world. But the damage is not irreparable.
Let it be said that our generation met the challenges of our time with resolve and wisdom. We can. And we will.
May God bless the United State of America. Thank you!
Cheers on the floor. Balloons drop. Feingold goes onto win in 2008. Let's make it happen.
Tags: Arlen Specter, Bill Clinton, Democrats, Election: 2008, George Bush, Global Warming, GOP, Healthcare, Hillary Clinton, Intrepid Liberal Journal, Iraq, Jacob Javits, Joe Lieberman, John, liberals, North Korea, Paul Wellstone, Republicans, russia, Vladimir Putin (all tags)