Harkin Steak Fry 2006
Remarks by Senator Tom Harkin (as prepared)
Friends, as you have heard from Gov. Vilsack and Chet, we’re blessed with terrific Democratic candidates up and down the ballot this year. But if we care about keeping Iowa moving forward, nothing is more important than electing a governor who will continue the great work that Tom Vilsack has begun. And, no question, Chet Culver has the character and caliber to be that next great governor.
I’m not the least bit surprised that Chet is leading in the polls. Iowans know this man. They respect him.
Chet Culver is a fighter. He’s a born leader. He’s a fifth-generation Iowan with exactly the kind of experience and values we need in our next governor.
Nothing is more important to Iowans than quality public schools. And Chet has been there. After college, he was a high school teacher and coach. He knows the importance of quality teachers, and investing in our schools.
Eight years ago, Chet was elected Secretary of State – the youngest in the nation. He’s been the best Secretary of State in my memory — improving access to polling places, especially for people with disabilities. Chet believes that every vote counts, and every vote should be counted – not just here in Iowa but in Ohio and Florida, too!
And nobody knows agriculture better than Chet’s running mate, Patty Judge. And they are going to be a great team for Iowa over the next four years, aren’t they?!!
My friends, Ruth and I welcome all of you to the 29th Harkin Steak Fry. Let me tell you, nothing lifts my spirits like standing in front of a crowd of fired-up, fed-up, charged-up Democrats!
I smell steaks on the grill. But I also smell something sweeter. I smell victory! This is our year!
The Democrats are up in the polls. The Republicans are down. And that’s the way God meant it to be.
But the Republicans aren’t going quietly. They’re in full fear-mongering mode. Anything to distract voters from Bush’s misbegotten, misguided, mismanaged war in Iraq.
The President just doesn’t get it: There’s no virtue in staying the course, if the course you’re on is heading over a cliff. There’s no virtue in being strong and wrong.
Bush’s policies have radicalized the entire Muslim world. And he’s creating terrorists faster than he can kill them.
So we need a new course in Iraq. Bush has given the Iraqi government a blank check payable in the lives of American soldiers and Marines. It’s time to tear up that blank check. It’s time to tell the Iraqis that we’re not going to babysit their civil war. We’re not going to stay forever. So they’d better get their act together fast!
And it’s not just that the Republicans are wrong on Iraq. They’re wrong, here at home, on the things that matter to American families and working people.
It is wrong to veto stem cell research.
It’s wrong to block any increase in the minimum wage for nine long years.
It’s wrong to privatize Social Security – putting people’s retirement at risk.
It’s wrong to take the Clinton-era surpluses and turn them into the biggest budget deficits in history.
But let’s be clear: Bush isn’t doing this all by himself. The President proposes a budget. But it is Congress that actually writes the budget. And who is the most important person in that process? It’s the budget chairman, our own Congressman Jim Nussle of Iowa.
The Budget chairman makes the choices. And, for six years now, Jim Nussle’s choice has been to rubber-stamp Bush’s budgets. I’m telling you, back in Washington, Bush and Nussle are joined at the hip.
This year in the House, Jim Nussle passed Bush’s budget with almost no changes. The Bush-Nussle budget will drop thousands of children from the Headstart program. It cuts funding for education and veterans. It cuts cancer research for the second year in a row. And on and on and on.
And make no mistake: These budget cuts are not about reducing the budget deficit. They’re all about making room for more tax breaks for the rich. It’s the same old Republican trickle-down economics – you know, the idea that the best way to feed the sparrows is to give an extra big bag of oats to the horse.
So that is Nussle’s track record in Washington. It’s the same as the Bush track record: Tax cuts for the rich . . . budget cuts for the middle class . . . and a mountain of debt for our grandchildren.
My friends, those are not Iowa’s priorities. Those are not Iowa values. And that’s why — if we are going to uphold Iowa’s tradition of moderation and fiscal integrity — Jim Nussle will not become Iowa’s next governor, and Chet Culver will.
You know, no matter where I’ve gone in life – from flying jets in the Navy to serving in Congress – I realize that everything I ever needed to know, I learned growing up in a small town about 18 miles from here. Values like hard work . . . strong family . . . honesty . . . taking responsibility for your actions . . . faith in God . . . being frugal . . . love of country . . . care and concern for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Those are my values. Those are your values. They are Iowa values. And we need to make sure that our next governor shares those values, too.
That’s why I believe that Chet Culver is going to be a great governor – a governor who cares about fiscal integrity, who cares about public education, who cares about continuing to move Iowa in a positive, progressive direction.
Friends, are we going to work as hard as we can to elect Chet Culver governor?!!! You bet we are!
Now, speaking of Iowa values, Midwestern values, no one embodies them more than our keynote speaker, this afternoon.
You know, when I was planning this year’s Steak Fry, I thought: Why not try something different? What about inviting the kid from next door? Sure, he’s a newcomer to the Senate, just getting started. Nobody has heard of him. But being generous of spirit, I thought: Why not give the new guy a chance . . . give him some national exposure . . . introduce him to the C-SPAN audience out there!
Riiiiiight! Who am I kidding?! The truth, friends, is that Bono wasn’t available today. So I got the next biggest rock star in America.
Two years ago, Barack Obama dazzled us with his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. He’s the author of a New York Times best-selling autobiography, "Dreams of My Father." He just won a Grammy Award. He is famous around the world.
And, amazingly, none of this has gone to his head. He’s still one of the most modest, decent, level-headed people you’ll ever meet.
And let me say this. He may be a celebrity and rock star in other circles, but in the United States Senate, he is a workhorse, not a show horse. He’s the same Barack Obama who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School: He does his homework, he burns the midnight oil, he asks the though questions.
My friends, two and a half years ago, when he was thinking about running for the Senate, Barack said, "There is no way that a skinny guy from the South Side of Chicago with a funny name is ever going to win a statewide race." Well, he did win that statewide race, with 70 percent of the vote! And, today, he’s not a rising star of the Democratic Party, he’s the soaring star of the Democratic Party!
Friends, let’s give a big Iowa welcome to Senator Barack Obama!
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