Lieberman's last stand
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN’S FINAL CLOSING ARGUMENT
HARTFORD — Tonight Joe Lieberman will deliver his closing argument of the Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Senate at the East Haven Community Center.
Lieberman’s speech will directly respond to Ned Lamont’s non-stop distortion campaign, setting the record straight and telling the whole story about where Lieberman stands on Iraq and a range of other issues.
Below is the full text of Lieberman’s speech as prepared for delivery, embargoed until 6 p.m.
Remarks of Joe Lieberman
“The Closing Argument”
August 6, 2006
[AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY]
I am honored to be joined by my friend Max Cleland, a true American hero, to talk to you about the truth and consequences of this campaign.
In two days Connecticut Democrats will be going to the polls to choose their candidate for U.S. Senate. This evening I want to make my closing argument for your support.
Throughout the last several months, I have done my best to highlight what’s at stake in this race. I’ve talked about all the work I have done to protect and create jobs, to lower the cost of health care, to improve our schools, to clean up our environment, and fight for social justice. And about the clear differences between my experience and my opponent’s, and who can best deliver for Connecticut and for our future.
Sadly, my opponent has done his best to distort my record, spending at least $4 million of his own money to mislead people into thinking that I am someone I am not. Not unlike what happened to Max Cleland four years ago.
The more I have talked to voters in these closing days, the more I am concerned they have been shortchanged in this campaign. Instead of hearing an honest debate about the issues that really matter to people, they have been overwhelmed with bogus charges about my Democratic credentials. Instead of having an honest discussion about your future, we’re getting negative politics at its worst.
You deserve better than that. You deserve the truth. I have always leveled with you, and I’m not going to stop now. When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday, I want you to know the facts and have a fair chance to make an honest choice about what’s best for your family, our state, and our future.
Let’s start with the biggest lie being told about me by the other side – the false charge that I am George Bush’s best friend and enabler. As Max’s friends in Georgia would say, that is a load of hogwash.
I am the only Democrat in America to run against George Bush in a national election twice. I even beat him and Dick Cheney once, if all the votes had been counted.
I campaigned against George Bush because I believe that his agenda was wrong for our country and our future. And that’s the truth.
In the Senate, I have acted on that conviction time and time again, standing against the President on most every big domestic issue. I did so because I believe that his policies were damaging to our state and country. And that’s the truth.
· I opposed the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that hurt the middle class.
· I opposed the Bush ban on stem cell research.
· I opposed the Bush constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
· I opposed the Bush bankruptcy bill.
· I opposed the President’s efforts to undermine affirmative action in the courts.
· I opposed his unilateral decision to pull out of the Kyoto global warming pact and the International Criminal Court.
· I opposed his ongoing assault on the environment. In fact, I led the fight against his plans to drill in the Arctic Refuge and to weaken standards for power plant emissions.
· And contrary to the lies of my opponents, time after time I stood with my fellow Democrats to oppose George Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security.
Now with all that said, I will never hesitate to work across party lines when it helps me get something done for the people of Connecticut.
Like saving the Groton sub base with Governor Rell and the entire Connecticut Congressional delegation. Like dramatically increasing transportation funding for Connecticut, cleaning up Long Island Sound, and targeting more money to public schools in our cities. Or like passing the 9/11 Commission bill with John McCain over the opposition of President Bush.
That’s something that separates me from my opponent – I don’t hate Republicans. I know that some times the best way to get things done in the Senate for my constituents is through bipartisan cooperation.
That doesn’t make me a bad Democrat. It makes me a better Senator.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask the state AFL-CIO, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters, the Human Rights Campaign, and more than a dozen other leading progressive organizations that are standing by me in this primary, because I have stood by them in the Senate.
Or ask Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Barbara Boxer, John Lewis, State Treasurer Denise Nappier, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, state AFL-CIO President John Olsen, and dozens of other national and state Democratic leaders who have endorsed me – including many who opposed the war in Iraq.
Do you really think all these people would be strongly supporting me if they thought even for a minute that I was too close to George Bush?
On Iraq, as you know, I supported the resolution giving the President the authority to use force to take out Saddam Hussein, as did most Senate Democrats. I still believe that was right.
What I don’t think is right, as I have said over and over again, are many of the Bush Administration’s decisions regarding the execution of the war. The fact is, I have openly and clearly disagreed with and criticized the President for, among other things:
· not winning the support of our allies in the run-up to the war;
· not having a plan to win the peace;
· not putting enough troops on the ground;
· putting an American in charge of the Iraqi oil supply.
And I said that if I were President, I would ask Secretary Rumsfeld to resign. I first said that in October 2003.
I know as well as anyone we have made a lot of mistakes in Iraq and we have suffered more casualties than we should have. Don’t think for a minute I do not grieve for every casualty of this war.
In fact, as someone who voted for the war, I feel a heavy responsibility to try to end it as quickly and successfully as possible.
I have been to the front lines four times. I have been to Walter Reed and visited the brave men and women who have suffered awful injuries and sacrificed for their country the way Max Cleland did. I have visited with the families who have been devastated by the death of a son or daughter, a husband or a wife.
The last thing I want to do is needlessly add to that kind of heartbreak. I want to get our troops home as fast as anyone, probably more than most, and as I have repeatedly said, I am against an open-ended commitment.
But if we simply give up and pull out now, like my opponent wants to do, then it would be a disaster to Iraq and to us. We would run a high risk of allowing Iraq to become like Afghanistan when the Taliban were in charge, and Al Qaeda had safe haven from which to strike us.
It’s precisely because of the horrible cost of the war, and the impact that has had on public support for our mission in Iraq, that I have tried to present an honest, non-partisan, balanced picture of what’s happening on the ground there. I have been encouraged by the formation of the Iraqi unity government. But like a lot of Americans, both supporters and of opponents of the war, I am increasingly troubled by the sectarian violence in Iraq.
Now I understand that many Democrats in Connecticut disagree with me and are very angry about the war. I don’t think there is anything I can say to change your mind about whether we should have gone to war or when we should bring the troops home, and at this point I’m not going to insult you by trying.
What I will say is this: I not only respect your right to disagree or question the President, I value it. I was part of the anti-war movement in the late 1960s, so I don’t need to be lectured by Ned Lamont about the place of dissent in our democracy.
My opponent wants you to believe otherwise, to cement his distortion campaign against me. That’s why they keep repeating and misrepresenting a single comment I made in one speech, in which I said we undermine the President’s credibility at our peril.
I know that statement has been widely misconstrued, so let me address it head on. I did not suggest that the President or anyone else -- including me -- should be immune from criticism. The best proof of that is I myself have challenged the President’s policies on many occasions.
The point I was trying to make was about how we disagree. My concern was, and remains, that if opponents or supporters of the war go beyond disagreeing to exploiting the war for partisan political purposes, much like Republicans did to Max Cleland on homeland security, we could lose more than an election. We could put our mission in Iraq, the lives of thousands of American soldiers carrying it out, and our national security at risk. That is what I care about.
Here’s the bottom line: When you sort through the fact and fiction, the truth and consequences, you will see that I am the same person you have always known, fighting for what I sincerely believe is right for my state and country.
The big difference between my opponent and me is that I believe in solving problems. That you can remain true to Democratic ideals and find common ground to get things done for your constituents. That you can be compassionate in domestic policy and tough in foreign policy. That you can stand up for progressive values and still work with the other side to help people make a better life for themselves.
That’s what this all about. Not me. Not Ned Lamont. Or George Bush. This election is about you and which one of us is best qualified to give the people of Connecticut the best future you can have.
My opponent can distort my work all he wants. But he can’t change the fact that my record of experience and results makes me the best Democrat to serve Connecticut in the U.S. Senate.
The proof is in the pudding: 35 years of fighting and delivering for you -- for your jobs, your security, your health and safety, your environment, your opportunities, your families, your rights, and your future.
That’s why every major newspaper in Connecticut, including three more today, have endorsed me in this campaign. Even though many of them disagree with my position on Iraq, they recognized that I have worked my heart out to solve problems and produce results for you, and that I am the candidate who Connecticut Democrats can count on to build a better future for our state.
So let me close by saying this. If after hearing the truth about where I stand on Iraq, you still want to cast your vote solely on that one issue, then I respect your decision. But if you care about all the other issues facing us, and want to make real progress on them, then I ask once again for your trust and your vote on Tuesday. ***
posted by Steve @ 5:18:00 PM