Tom Harkin - U.S. Seante

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What a great Jefferson Jackson dinner it was this year! I was honored to address the crowd of over 1000 Democratic Leaders and activists alongside special guest Senator Tom Daschle, Governor Tom Vilsack, and Congressman Leonard Boswell. I really enjoyed hearing from the dynamic field of Democratic Gubernatorial candidates. The Iowa Democratic Party really works hard to put on a great event each year and I always look forward to the opportunity to connect with the many dedicated and hardworking leaders and volunteers from across our great state.


Remarks by Senator Tom Harkin (as prepared)
Jefferson-Jackson Dinner
Des Moines, Iowa
November 5, 2005

Thank you, Tom Vilsack. Back in Washington, we’ve got pundits who are eager to elevate you to the White House. But Iowa is blessed to have you as Governor for one more year. And we are grateful for all you have done for our state.

My friends, I’ve got to say this right off the bat: We’ve got some terrific candidates for Governor, don’t we?! After listening to these leaders, tonight, there’s no doubt in my mind that we are going to find a worthy Democratic successor to Tom Vilsack!

And that’s good news, my friends, because we have a responsibility, we have a duty, to defeat Jim Nussle next November. I mean, if you wanted a poster child for all that is wrong in Washington, today, Jim Nussle is your boy. He’s thick as thieves with Tom DeLay. And look what he’s done as chairman of the Budget Committee.

He inherited from President Clinton the biggest budget surpluses in history. And in four years, he has squandered it all. Jim Nussle has helped to run up the biggest budget deficits in history. And now he wants to work that same magic here in Iowa?! I don’t think so! We’re not going to let that happen, are we?!

Just this past week, Nussle led the charge in the House to slash food assistance for the poor, funding for foster children, child support enforcement, and medical assistance for the elderly and people with disabilities. And why did he do this? To make room for another $70 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

My friends, those are not Iowa values. They are not Iowa priorities. And that’s why Jim Nussle will never be Iowa’s governor!

My friends, what a difference a year makes! The gloom is gone. Bush is the incredible shrinking President – at 35 percent approval, and still sinking. Tom DeLay is under indictment. Bill Frist and Karl Rove are under criminal investigation.

I hear morale is so bad at the White House that Dick Cheney has been giving pep talks to the White House staff. You know it’s bad when Dick Cheney is the most cheerful guy in the room!

Meanwhile, make no mistake, the Democrats are back! There’s new kick in the old Democratic donkey. Last Tuesday in the Senate, Harry Reid forced the Senate into a special session and demanded answers on the phony intelligence that took us to war in Iraq. Republican Leader Bill Frist threw a temper tantrum. He whined to CNN, and I quote: “The Democratic leadership has hijacked the Senate.” And I’m thinking: That sounds pretty good to me! That’s a start! And next year we are going to take back the Senate for good!

Meanwhile, we’ve got the indictment of Cheney’s chief of staff. Let’s be clear, this is not just an indictment of an individual. It is an indictment of the entire Bush crowd and its brand of dirty politics.

For three years, they have lied about the war in Iraq: They lied about the reasons for going to war. They’ve lied about progress in the war. And now—like a cat chasing its tail—they’ve been caught lying about their lies.

So, here we are, almost exactly one year after the 2004 election, and the American people have a massive case of buyer’s remorse. We’d love to send Bush back to Crawford, and Cheney back to Halliburton. But we’re stuck with these lemons for the next three years.

So, since we can’t get rid of this President, we darn well better provide Junior with some adult supervision. We darn well better act like an opposition party with grit and guts and gumption.

As Democrats, we need to be a party with a purpose. And a good place to start is with the great words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Listen up, Dubya: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

It’s hard to believe, but before Katrina hit, the Republicans’ No. 1 priority in Congress was to repeal the estate tax, so the Waltons and Murdochs and Paris Hilton can pass on their billions tax free.

I have a different idea. Do you know what I want to pass on to my children? I want to pass on an America where we are something nobler than a nation of 300 million selfish, what’s-in-it-for-me individuals. I want an America were we are connected to each other and care for each other . . . a compassionate, decent America where no senior, no child, no person with a disability, no disaster victim – no member of our family – is left behind. That’s what I want to pass on to my children.

I want to pass on a ladder of opportunity for all . . . a safety net for those who fall . . . hopes and dreams that reach to the sky . . . a more peaceful world after we’ve passed by. That’s what I want to pass on to my children.

Last week, the Democrats took back the U.S. Senate for a couple hours. But we need to do much more. We need to take back Congress and the Iowa legislature. We need to take back our country!

We can do this, my friends! We can win this fight!

So, thank you. Thank you for being active and engaged. Thank you for your generosity and support to me down through the years. And thank you for making the Democratic Party the party of opportunity and hope for all Americans.

Paid for and authorized by Citizens for Harkin