Speech Written for Democratic District Conventions

(Shortened version delivered because of time constraints)

April 24, 2004

Thirty-seven years ago, when I was at the University of Iowa, I signed a petition against the Vietnam War.  It was a very modest petition.  But the next day a State Representative stood up in Des Moines and suggested all the signers leave the state.
The State Representative was Charles Grassley.
I didn’t take his advice. And this year he’ll be sorry I stayed.
Because we’re going to redefeat George Bush.
And we’ll have two Democratic Senators from the State of Iowa!

Some people have told me they’re surprised I’m running.
So am I. I thought I’d run my last race.
A while back I was in the Eagle Supermarket pushing my cart up the aisle.  A woman came by pushing her cart.  She looked at me.  Then looked again and said, “Didn’t you used to be somebody?”

I’d hoped someone famous – and richer – would step forward to run this race.  No one did.  So I did.
We can’t give Charles Grassley a free ride.  Not when one or two more Democrats in the U.S. Senate could change the direction of this country.
Not when we have an administration in Washington taking us down the wrong road when it comes to jobs … health care … foreign policy … and Iowa.
I’m not wealthy.  But I have a wealth of experience.
I make no pretense of being a great speaker.  But I will be a voice for those for whom Charles Grassley does not speak.  Working families.  Seniors.  Children.  Those concerned with the environment.
Now – Charles Grassley’s not a bad guy.  But we’re different as night and day.  I stand with those who want an opportunity society.  He just stands with the opposition.
It was that way when we were in the Iowa Legislature.  I won funding for education.  He cut funds for education.
I got money for economic growth.  He cut economic growth.
But let’s face it.  The main reason we need two Iowa Democrats in the United States Senate isn’t what happened in Des Moines, years ago.
It’s what’s happening in Washington right now.
George Bush came to office preaching “compassionate conservatism.”
But his 2005 budget eliminates child care assistance for 365,000.  500,000 more children live in poverty.
That does not show compassion to children.  And as chair of the Finance Committee Charles Grassley didn’t just rubberstamp the Bush policies.  He led the charge.
Drugs.  There’s an American turning sixty every seven seconds in America.  Don’t seniors deserve a break?
But under George Bush, prescription drug prices – up.
Benefits – down.
That’s not compassionate conservatism.
And Charles Grassley led the charge.

The Bush tax cuts made the heirs to Wal-Mart happy.  They got $986 million on April 15.
The top 1% of taxpayers got 50% of the cuts in the Bush plan.  An average of $98,000.
The rest of us?  About $400 bucks.  But Social Security went up.  State taxes went up.  Health care went up.
That is not compassionate conservatism.
And who pushed that plan through the Senate?
You guessed it.
You know, people always worried about the Democrats balancing the budget.
George Bush came in with a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion.
The number today is almost the same.  But now it’s a $5.2 trilliondeficit.  That means less money for health care.  Less money for education.
And leading the charge?  (REACTION)
Every President since Truman has averaged about 135,000 more jobs every month.
Under Bush?  Minus 71,000.  And who led the charge for policies that cost three million jobs in four years?  38,000 in Iowa?
Right again!
George Bush tried to mask that by reclassifying working in McDonald’s as a manufacturing job.  Reminded me of the time Ronald Reagan tried to call ketchup a vegetable.
Making Big Macs can be the first step to the American dream – but it’s not the sign that we’ve arrived!
I’ve given you a lot of numbers.
But numbers don’t tell you everything.  Numbers don’t show you what it’s like to be a senior citizen, cutting pills in half — against doctor’s orders — to make them last longer.  They don’t show you the workers at a small factory, listening to the owner tell them they’re closing up – because it’s cheaper to make things in Korea.  They don’t show you a student forced to leave school because his folks can’t help with the sharp rise in tuition.
That’s the America of George Bush.
Why not have the America of Tom Harkin?  Hasn’t he been a leader?
My wife and I will be forever grateful to him for passing the Americans for Disability Act.  She is handicapped.  We know what the ADA means and how difficult it was to pass.
Charles Grassley could be a leader, too.  But he’s just been … a cheerleader.
Now … I don’t want to give you the impression he does nothing.
Last year, Charles Grassley had the chance to bring $50 million home to Iowa.
We could use it.  For schools.  Roads.  Job training.
Instead, Charles Grassley got $50 million to build a tropical rainforest in Coralville.

I live in Johnson County.  I agree with Citizens Against Government Waste.  They gave Charles Grassley the “Soaking the Taxpayer” Award.
In the United States Senate I’ll be a rain maker – not a rainforest maker.
And I’ll be a voice for a sane foreign policy.
I want to fight terror.
But we do not fight terror by making up evidence.
We do not fight terror by ignoring Al Queda.
We don’t fight terror by going to war with those who had nothing to do with it.
The Administration had no idea this was coming.  They had the wrong idea about how to fight it.
And now it is clear they have no idea how to get out!
As Senator I will put the tools to fight terror in the right hands – not play into the hands of Osama bin Laden.
I’ll tell you something else.
It should be a source of pride to us that the issue of Iraq became clear to Americans because of something that went on in Iowa.
It was only during our precinct caucuses, as candidates debated the issues that Americans began to see what was going on.
And it was in Iowa that people saw that John Kerry deserved another look.  Look at the difference he’ll make!
With John Kerry we’ll roll back those tax cuts for millionaires.  They don’t need it.  We do!
With John Kerry we’ll cut the deficit in half in four years.
With John Kerry we’ll stop corporations from moving jobs overseas – and begin creating jobs in Iowa again!
With John Kerry health care costs will go down — but the numbers of people with health insurance will go up!
With John Kerry we’ll see not the economics of the radical right but economic development that is right for Iowa.
With John Kerry, America will share the burden of bringing peace to the world – and have more resources to create prosperity at home.

So that’s what I will help do as Senator.
Why?  Why would I take on this race with little money at a time when I should be playing with my grandchildren?
Well, I want to see America move forward, not lag behind.
I want my grandchildren to have the kind of opportunity I had when I came to Iowa after serving in the Army.
But there’s one other reason.  A big one.
I wasn’t born in Iowa.  If I tried to fake it my accent would give it away.
I’ve lived here for almost half a century, though.  Educated here.  Taught here.  Mary      Jo and I raised a family here.  Served in the legislature here.  Ran a business here.
I love the state.  And I love watching my children and grandchildren create opportunity with the education Iowa has given them.
But as some of you know, a few years ago it didn’t look like I’d see that happen.  My liver was failing – I thought that only happened to big drinkers.  But I needed an organ transplant.
It’s a strange feeling as you wait for a donor.  You get sicker and sicker as the months go by.  Meanwhile you move higher on the list of eligible recipients.  The trick is to get sick enough to get to the top of the list, but not too sick to treat.
One day, it looked like there was one for me.  False alarm.
Then my daughter volunteered to give me part of hers.  I said no – but that she would do that is something I will always cherish.
Finally one came.  Somebody who gets an organ never forgets that our chance for life is the result of some other family’s tragedy.  I am so grateful to that anonymous donor.
Life is fragile.  None of us knows how much time we have.  And when we think we’re at the end of the road we don’t forget how precious it is to have the gift of time.
I want to use the time they gave me.  I want to help this state.
I want those who have no jobs to know that if they stay in Iowa our factories, and farms, and businesses will have work for them.
I want those who worry about getting the drugs they need to know that if there is a drug they need – they can afford it.
I want those who love clean air and water to know that in Iowa we will continue to have an environment for those who hunt or fish, or camp – or just take a walk.
I’m not interested in the kind of class warfare that gives more money to the more powerful.  But I am interested in giving the powerless an even break.
I’m not interested in the illusion of health care for those entering old age.  But I am interested in giving our seniors the same chance for life that a family I don’t know gave to me.
I want to fight terror.  But I want to fight it by telling Americans the truth.  That’s why I run.  But I can’t do it without you.
And so, I ask your help.
Over the next six months, lets go door to door, put up yard signs, hold coffees in your living room – just call me; I’ll be there.  Let’s win voters over one by one.
Charles Grassley will be tough.  With the millions he has in his campaign war chest, he’ll be on the air.  But we can win on the ground.
And when we do …we’ll put Iowa and America on the move again.
We’ll restore sanity, and justice and prosperity to this state.
To help, I’ll have to do what Charles Grassley asked me to do decades ago: leave the state.  I’ll go to Washington.
It’ll be worth it.  For by leaving for Washington …I’ll be able to help Tom Harkin, and Tom Vilsack, and John Kerry lead America.