TRANSCRIPT: Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Remarks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Reuters
Reuters

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Remarks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

While we meet here tonight, the Republicans are having a debate across town.

I’ve watched a number of them, and I’ve got to be honest, I never thought I’d say this, (pause) I’m beginning to miss Sarah Palin’s insights.

Their debate was called the Thanksgiving Family Forum — which is fitting because I have never seen such a collection of turkeys.

Look at their top candidates:

Take Mitt Romney. He said he would be in Iowa tonight. (pause) We should have known he would change his mind.

Newt was at the debate. I heard he had to leave early to spend the holiday with his loved ones … the salespeople at Tiffanys.

And Herman Cain? I was actually hoping Herman would stop by today and see me before the debate, but he was at his tutorial on Libya. The scary part, his tutor was Rick Perry.

In truth, the Republicans do have an impressive field…

Governor Mitch Daniels, Governor Haley Barbour and former Governor Jeb Bush …

The only problem, they’re not on the field.

I just want you to think about this for a second. Think of our field in 2008. At our debates in Iowa, we had Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Senator Chris Dodd, and President Obama.

Now think about their field: Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum …

I’m beginning to feel sorry for Republican primary voters.

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Four years ago, at this very dinner — and many of you were in attendance — a young senator from Illinois, who was 23 points down in the polls, spoke to you in words you will never forget. With the promises he made in that speech, he began a journey that would change history — and he did it with your help.

Now all of us may be a little older and a little grayer – or as my youngest daughter likes to say, “Dad they can say it’s salt and pepper, but for you, it’s all salt.” But we can remember what he said and what he believed was worth fighting for.

He stood on this platform, and promised to end “a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged.”

Republicans didn’t want to let it happen, and Democrats didn’t believe it could. Yet, tonight, the last of 170,000 of America’s finest are on their way home. The war is over.

That is the change we believed in. That is the change we worked for. That is the change our president delivered.

Four years ago, at this very dinner, President Obama promised he would take the fight to Al Qa’eda, those who were actually responsible for 9/11. He said he would bring justice to Al Qa’eda’s leaders.

Tonight, Osama bin Laden is history. Al Qa’eda has been decimated. Thanks to the bold, determined leadership of our President, justice has been done. And America is safer for it.

Typical of the person I know, President Obama did not brag. He thanked our troops and intelligence services for their excellent work, and he moved on to the next terrorist who was threatening America and brought him to justice.

He didn’t hang a banner and he didn’t pretend the mission was accomplished. He got the job done.

That is the change we believed in. That is the change we worked for. That is the change our president delivered.

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Four years ago, Senator Obama stood before you and said he wanted to “stop talking about the outrage of 47 million Americans without health care and start actually doing something about it.”

He promised then: “I will make certain that every single American in this country has health care they can count on and I won’t do it 20 years from now, I won’t do it 10 years from now, I will do it by the end of my first term as President.”

Now folks, you know this, politicians have been making that promise for over 60 years. President Obama delivered.

Because of President Obama’s leadership, an insurance company cannot turn you down because you have a pre-existing condition. Because of President Obama, they cannot discriminate against you because you’re a woman, or have grown older. Because of President Obama, kids can stay on their parents’ policy until they enter the workforce.

Because of your support, Iowa, and his courage, no American will ever again receive a letter that says: “Sorry, you’ve reached the limit. We won’t pay for your cancer treatment any more.” Republicans opposed every one of those reforms, but now we have those life-saving protections, that peace of mind, because of President Obama’s leadership.

That is the change we believed in. That is the change we worked for. That is the change our President delivered.

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President Obama stood here at this dinner four years ago and promised, “to make sure that every American child has the best education that we have to offer – from the day they are born to the day they graduate from college.”

As President, he has doubled college scholarships. He’s brought down the cost of college loans. He invested in schools and innovation with the Race to the Top. He expanded access to community colleges, the most undervalued asset in our education system.

You gave him that chance. Republicans fought him every step of the way, but because of his leadership, millions of young Americans have been given a better chance.

That is the change we believed in. That is the change we worked for. That is the change our President delivered.

You heard him say it, right here in Iowa, four years ago. He made the pledge, not just to you, but to the American people. And now you’ve seen him deliver on the promises he made.

That’s how we measure character in a leader: doing what you say you will do. Now, I had the privilege of seeing that character close up, working by his side during two of the most harrowing years any President has faced in our lifetime … And, no, despite what you’re thinking right now, they were not harrowing days because I was at his side.

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They say you learn the most about someone’s character in a crisis … then I think we all know our President pretty well. During our greatest economic crises in decades, the strength of our President’s character was on display every day.

The President inherited an economy that was spiraling towards depression. He inherited a financial system that had frozen up and an auto industry that was near collapse.

The problems President Obama faced were not caused by accident. They were caused by policies – Republican policies.

The first time I worked in the White House, for President Clinton, we had a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate with a Democratic President. We passed an economic plan without a single Republican vote. And that plan put America back to work and back to economic growth.

It created millions of private sector jobs. It lifted seven million Americans out of poverty. It reformed welfare as we know it. And it put 100,000 cops on America’s streets.

We balanced the budget. We put America on a path to zero debt by the year 2009 … It seemed so far away then.

We left President Bush a record surplus and he left President Obama a record national debt.

You know how that happened: the Republicans happened. They held the White House, the House and the Senate for six long years. And they did something no one had ever tried in 200 years of history: they tried to fund two wars by cutting taxes three times. That’s how you go from zero to nine trillion dollars in debt. It’s that simple.

They took everything they inherited: the jobs, the surplus, the stature of our country around the world — and they squandered it.

It’s ironic … I figured the one thing Republicans were really good at, was inheriting things.

But that’s what the Republicans handed President Obama and America on day one, January 20th, 2009 — the worst economic mess for a president since FDR took over from Herbert Hoover.

But President Obama didn’t complain, and he didn’t blame. He knew the burdens of everyday Americans were a hell of a lot more searing than his own. So he rolled up his sleeves and he went to work on behalf of the hard-working families of this country.

Every day I worked by his side, I saw a leader who didn’t ask what was the easy thing to do, what was the politically convenient thing to do, but what was the right thing to do, what was the essential thing to do, for America and America’s future.

The President did not make choices based on politics. He made them because of his principles. He did not make choices for the next election, he made them for the next generation.

Trust me, I know this first hand, he didn’t make decisions based on whether they were quick, or politically convenient, because I was often recommending the quick or politically convenient thing to do. And I didn’t win any of those fights. President Obama never tailored what he believed to the moment.

Now, compare that to Mitt Romney:

Once he was pro-choice, now he’s not.

He was pro gay rights. Now he’s not.

He supported gun control. Now he doesn’t.

He supported efforts to deal with greenhouse gases and climate change. Now he doesn’t.

He supported immigration reform. Now he doesn’t.

He supported national health care reform with a mandate. Now he doesn’t.

Mitt Romney says he’s a man of steadiness and consistency …

And if that’s true, then I’m a linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

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While I people have talked about all his flip-flops, I actually think there’s a different part to Mitt Romney that people don’t fully appreciate. It’s what he’s been steadfast about — what he has refused to bend on, where he has never flip-flopped, and never abandoned his position. And that’s his position on the middle class versus the most fortunate: what he’s failed to do for the middle class and what he’s willing to do for the most fortunate.

He faced the same set of choices that President Obama did when the country faced an auto industry and a financial industry in crisis.

When the markets collapsed in 2008 and the government had to step in, Mitt Romney didn’t hesitate for a moment. He welcomed putting taxpayers on the hook to save the financial system.

But when the automobile industry – and the millions of jobs that are dependent on it, the backbone of America’s manufacturing base, was on the brink, he said to all the families, all the communities, all the small businesses, and all the workers: you should go bankrupt.

Nothing reveals more about the character and values of these two individuals than how they dealt with these two crises.

President Obama did not think either one should be abandoned, the financial system or the auto industry. Both were essential to the economic future and leadership of this country.

Those were the decisions he faced every day in the Oval Office. The choices he faced were between bad or worse and none of them were easy.

For the financial system, it was a choice between more tax-payer money to support our banks, or to nationalize them. For the auto companies, it was a choice between helping them out or letting them go bankrupt.

There were those who said it was throwing good money after bad. There were those who said let Chrysler go so we could save GM. And then there were those, led by Mitt Romney, who advocated bankruptcy… We know where Mitt Romney stood. The title of his own op-ed, under his signature: “Let Detroit go Bankrupt.”

To Mitt Romney, the high-priced financial engineers who helped create the mess, they were essential to our future… But the engineers, the technicians, and the workers on the shop floor in the auto industry — they were dispensable.

Three years later, now we know who was right and who was wrong.

Even after the auto industry has not only survived, but is thriving, is adding jobs, and tax-payers are being paid back, Mitt Romney has stuck to his guns: he is defending his position to let the auto industry go bankrupt.

Now look, I’m the Mayor of Chicago. Ford just added a third shift at their plant on the South Side of Chicago. Chrysler just added another 1,100 jobs in Ohio.

If we followed Mitt Romney’s course, those jobs wouldn’t be there and those communities wouldn’t be thriving.

But Mitt Romney didn’t stop there. He continued to show his true colors and how he values the privileged and affluent over the middle class.

Just this summer, Mitt Romney said that President Obama was “out of touch” for his focus on manufacturing jobs – “out of touch!” – while Mitt valued outsourcing those jobs.

And In Iowa, right here in Iowa, he said that corporations are people, with all the same rights.

In Nevada — the state with the highest foreclosure rate – he said the mortgage crisis should “run its course and hit the bottom.” He had a plan for the speculators to step in, but not for people living in those homes, trying to live the American dream.

So people think he’s a flip-flopper? Well, the only thing scarier than Mitt Romney’s flip-flops are the issues he has refused to bend on, where he’s refused to change: He has been rock-solid in siding with the privileged over the middle class

Whether it’s homeowners versus speculators, the auto-worker versus the financial engineer, or employees versus corporations, he’s been consistent on whose side he is on: if you are the hard-working middle class, you are left for the scrap heap.

In the next four years there will be more challenges and more crises that will determine the economic vitality of the middle class and the economic future of this country. Whose character, whose judgment, do you want in the Oval Office?

Over the next four years, there will be a series of choices. It won’t be clear what the outcome will be – like the auto industry. We will need leadership; we will need values as guideposts.

The past tells you everything you need to know about Mitt Romney and President Obama, how they will make decisions in the future, and who they will make them for.

Middle class Americans cannot afford Mitt Romney’s leadership and values. The middle class of this country, are fighting every day to hang on, every day for their children to have a better life. They cannot have a leader who turns a blind eye to their daily struggles.

So who do you want in that Oval Office? A man who said that the auto industry and auto workers are dispensable? A man who said that corporations are more important than employees? A man who said that speculators in the housing industry are more important than the families living in those homes? A man who said the financial engineer is more important than the factory worker? Can we afford Mitt Romney’s values? Can we afford Mitt Romney’s leadership, his judgment, his character?

That is not the America our parents fought for. Those are not the American values we are trying to give our children.

To create true middle class security, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. We must out-innovate, out-invest, out-educate and out-build the world.

America cannot afford an economy built on outsourcing and risky financial deals. We need an economy that’s built to last ― that creates jobs for the future and makes things the rest of the world wants to buy. We need a President who sees America’s potential in every American, an America where every American plays a role in winning the 21st century.

President Obama believes in an America where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded. He believes in an America where everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street, does their fair share. He believes in an America where we don’t have two rule books, one for those at the top, and another for everyone else. President Obama believes in the idea that our country prospers when we’re all in it together.

That’s the American dream. It’s the dream that President Obama has lived by. The President was raised by a single mom who worked hard and got up before dawn to drill him on reading and math and history; he earned scholarships to the best schools and rose through hard work and intellect.

After he was the President of the Harvard Law Review, he could have made millions. But his values, his values, brought him to the South Side of Chicago to help working people who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

So here’s the deal, Iowa. You know and I know, our President is a man of character. He’s a man of principle. He’s a man who has been fighting for the middle class and he will continue to fight for middle class families. I know the President’s values. I’ve seen his persistence.

You need not ask whether President Obama will continue to fight … The question is: will we fight for him and for his belief in America?

So let me hear you tonight: will you fight for the President who is fighting to save the middle class? (YES!)

Will you fight for the President who is fighting for middle-class values? (Yes!)

Will you fight for the President who is fighting for education and a clean environment?

Will you fight for a President who is fighting for equality for all God’s children? Women and men, black and white, Hispanic, Asian, gay and straight? (Yes!)]

So let’s get to work. Let’s get in the fight. Let’s support our President, support the middle class, and let’s fight for the country we love.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless America.

Related Topics: rahm emanuel, 2012 Elections, News, Republican Party, The Page, White House

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