John Kerry slams Bush's "raw deal" for America

"Coddling big oil, serving up tax giveaways for the wealthiest, and opening up doors for the lobbyists and for the polluters: That's the only mission accomplished by George W. Bush."

By Salon Staff
Published December 8, 2003 10:14PM (EST)

Florida Democrats, it's time to get real. George Bush thought he could play dress-up on an aircraft carrier in front of a sign saying "Mission Accomplished" and we wouldn't notice that our troops are dying in Iraq every day. That Americans on the farm and in our factories are hurting and struggling every day. That George Bush has lost two jobs every minute and run up the deficit a billion dollars every day. But we did notice. We reject the cynicism and radically wrong direction of this administration. And we're here to say that tonight marks the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency.

You want to talk about "mission accomplished"? When it comes to coddling big oil, serving up tax giveaways for the wealthiest, and opening up doors for the lobbyists and for the polluters, that's the only mission accomplished by George W. Bush. When it comes to healthcare, to education, to jobs, to the security of our nation, it's not only mission not accomplished, it's mission not even attempted, it's mission abandoned.

On issue after issue, George Bush has given America a raw deal and everyone in this room knows it. George Bush goes to Baghdad to carry around a fake Thanksgiving turkey while he cuts support for our troops and 40,000 veterans are left on a hospital waiting list. That's a raw deal!

George Bush opens fire stations in Iraq and forces fire stations to shut down in America. That's a raw deal!

George Bush cuts taxes for the wealthy while he cuts funding for our schools. And that's a raw deal too!

You know, the real motto for this administration should be "no special interest left behind." I'm running to replace George Bush's raw deal with a Real Deal that stands up to the powerful interests. That's built on people and products, not privileges and perks. That stands on the side of those who are standing up for what's right.

We Democrats can raise our voices about what's happening here at home all we want. But it won't matter if we can't convince Americans we can keep them safe. We won't ever get the chance to make America strong at home if we don't have the vision and experience to make America safe around the world. I'm running for president because George Bush has shown he has no experience to be commander in chief and no plan for peace in Iraq. I know what its like to be serving on the battlefield and looking back toward home at an administration that is failing the troops. And soldiers like Jeffrey Weshow -- whose memory you honored yesterday -- are paying the price. Sgt. Wershow raised the first American flag in Iraq -- and in his honor let's pledge to elect a president who will take the target off our soldiers' backs.

This president hasn't done what it takes to protect them and defend America's ideals. I will -- by sharing the burden and building a real coalition to win the war on terror. George Bush's campaign manager has opened a lobbying shop in Baghdad to get contracts for the same big corporations Republicans are serving back home. His partner says he sees a gold rush in Iraq. We see young Americans dying and we call it a tragedy. The people of Iraq deserve better than swapping the Republican Guard for the Republican Party.

And they deserve a President who tells the truth about the war on terror. This president is still stonewalling the bipartisan 9/11 commission and he won't come clean on his administration's relationship with the Saudi royal family. Yes, they provide us with oil -- but they have also funded terrorists and provided fuel for the hatred of Jews, Christians, and America itself. Right after Sept. 11, when airplanes were still grounded, this White House allowed a Saudi charter flight to round up members of the bin Laden family -- including a stop here in Orlando -- and leave the country without time for an investigation. It's time this president told us the truth.

We need a president with experience and a real plan to win the war on terror. It's not enough to just carp and complain. America's not electing a critic in chief, we're choosing a commander in chief. George Bush has overextended our troops, he can't find Saddam Hussein, he can't find Osama bin Laden, he can't even find the leaker in his own White House. I know something about aircraft carriers for real. And if George Bush wants to make this election about national security, I have three words for him he'll understand: Bring. It. On.

I'm running for president to take on the HMOs and drug companies and make healthcare affordable for all our people. In the last two years, I've seen the healthcare system up close and personal. I've lost both my parents and had an operation myself. I got the care I needed because you pay for great healthcare for senators and congressmen. As president, I'm going to give every family that healthcare because your family's health is just as important as any politician's in Washington.

If you want to see a prime example of Republicans working for powerful interests, just look at this latest Medicare bill. This bill is less about prescription drug benefits and more a prescription to benefit big drug companies. Drug companies and HMOs spent $139 million lobbying Congress and they're going to get $139 billion in return. That's not a bad investment. Say what you want about President Bush, it's clear his powerful campaign contributors get what they pay for. But we're getting left with the tab. The AARP pays actors to play seniors in TV commercials. But real-life seniors are getting left out in the cold. In my first hundred days, I'll propose a real Medicare bill that allows seniors to choose their doctor, instead of forcing them into HMOs. That keeps Medicare strong instead of privatizing it. And that helps seniors afford their prescriptions without greasing the wheels of the drug companies.

I'm running for president to roll back George Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy so that we can invest in education and healthcare. But here's what I won't do. I won't balance the budget on the backs of hard-working families or seniors or veterans or the weakest and poorest people in our country. I know what it's like when the pressure is on. But let me tell you what I'm going to do. People are going to push me to cut Medicare to balance the budget and I'm going to say no. They're going to try to force me to raise taxes on the middle class so that the rich can get a tax cut, and I'm going to say no. They're going to push me to cut veterans benefits and my answer's going to be, "What part of no don't you understand?"

If you're a corporation using loopholes to avoid paying taxes, if you're a big businesses sending jobs overseas, if you're a CEO giving yourself a bonus while your employees get the boot -- with George Bush, you have a friend in the White House. But if I'm president, I'll have a simple message for the influence peddlers and polluters who call the Bush White House home: Don't let the door hit you on your way out. We're coming in.

John McCain and I have teamed up on legislation that will end corporate welfare as we know it. And if I'm president I'll sign this bill into law. Today, mining companies buy up public lands for five bucks an acre. And Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton dodges taxes with offshore havens while it gets billions from no-bid government contracts. No more. If I'm president, as soon as I sit down behind that desk in the Oval Office, those days are coming to an end.

I believe the courage of Americans can change this country. And it starts right here with you. Your courage can break the grip of special interests and win back our economic future. Your courage can stand up to the polluters. Your courage can raise up our schools and finally open up health care to all. Your courage can protect our civil rights, for civil liberties, a woman's right to choose and give us an attorney general whose name isn't John Ashcroft. Your courage can stand up to the NRA to outlaw assault weapons. Your courage can give us energy independence so young people in the Midwest never have to die for Mideast oil.

Your courage can end George Bush's raw deal. Your courage can give America a real deal. I ask for your vote. I ask for your help. Go to On Nov. 2, 2004, we are going to beat George Bush -- and then we can say "Mission Accomplished." Let's make it happen.

Salon Staff

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