|JANUARY 31, 2006 - WASHINGTON
Good afternoon. I want to thank CODEPINK for organizing today's event and to Cindy Sheehan for sharing her grief for a child lost in a war that our country should have never started. Her crusade as a mother demanding answers of her President has helped embolden us on Capitol Hill to continue to demand an end to Bush's war in Iraq.
And today, we are here to offer our alternative to the State of the Union.
We are here to challenge the President, to insist that he offer an agenda of fairness and inclusion...to demand that he address the problems a majority of Americans want their government to solve.
And I want to assure you that their our Members in Congress fighting for real American priorities - NOT special interests, lobbyist interests and big oil interests.
As co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, I want you to know that we have been fighting the Bush agenda all along.
We have taken on the White House and the Republican majority on issue after issue - Iraq, taxes, the budget, the PATRIOT Act, Katrina, corruption and more.
Where others have been cautious, we have been bold and outspoken.
Where others have been afraid to say the emperor has no clothes, we have been honest enough to shout that if the hopes of Americans rather than their fears are the clothes of a Presidency - then this President is truly naked!
I'll give you just one example. Four and a half years ago, the PATRIOT Act was rammed through Congress with barely any deliberation and only 67 dissenting votes.
Today, in part because of the objections we've raised and the pressure we've applied, there's an open, balanced debate about whether it makes sense to undermine freedom in the name of freedom.
Because we've been unapologetic and faithful to our conscience, our agenda is squarely in the American mainstream. If the President wants to regain public support, he could do no better than to emulate the 4 pillars of our Progressive Promise.
A majority of Americans now believe the Iraq war wasn't worth fighting...and that the President deliberately misled us into this war.
Mr. President, by announcing tonight that you'll bring the troops home... you could join us on the right side of history and the right side of public opinion.
The President and his Party have failed every test of competent, compassionate, honest government.
They have sent more than 2,200 Americans to their deaths on a mission that has done nothing to make the United States and its people safer.
They dithered and delayed while a major American city drowned.
They believe in fiscal restraint only for the powerless and for the vulnerable...while the privileged and the powerful help themselves to lavish tax breaks.
They have made a mockery of the principle of checks and balances, by insisting that the President can unilaterally choose to ignore the laws he finds inconvenient...the ones that say you need probable cause to tap the phones of American citizens.
They have put our government up for sale to the highest bidder. They have turned government of, by and for the people into government of by and for Jack Abramoff.
We, the men and women of the Progressive Caucus, have an altogether different vision, one that reflects the values of the American people.
And we'll be listening tonight, to see if the President is truly ready to make the changes Americans are clamoring for.
Enough of the special interest agenda that caters to the wealthy and the comfortable. Enough of the secretive attempts to build an imperial presidency that's accountable to no one.
Work with us Mr. President.
Join us in the pursuit of economic justice -- universal health coverage, fair trade, a higher minimum wage and guaranteed Social Security benefits.
Join us, Mr. President, in preserving the civil rights and civil liberties that define America.
Join us in promoting global peace and security. Not by preemptively invading other nations ...but by working with allies and multilateral organizations to intercept terrorists, stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and combat HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases.
And join us in a renewed commitment to protecting our environment.
Most urgently, we need bold steps that reduce our dependence on imported oil, promoting conservation and renewables and allowing us to achieve energy independence. No weapon system or military campaign could do more for our national security.
We believe Americans deserve a government at least as fair and as honest as they are. Over the last several years, they have received anything but.
The President has a chance tonight to begin regaining public trust, to put his stumbling presidency on firmer ground.
We're willing to give him a chance. But if he is committed to more of the same, we will hold him to account. We will continue in our role as watchdogs that don't hesitate to bark. And we will continue to offer an alternative vision, one that is consistent with our most cherished American values.