Senator Webb’s Remarks Worth Repeating Across Our Commonwealth and Our Nation

Note: When Senator Jim Webb introduced President Obama Thursday in Virginia Beach I was reminded why his election in 2006 was so important.  His remarks should be read by every Democrat and at every Democratic Committee meeting across the Commonwealth of Virginia and our great Nation.   They are as follows:

We are now in the final weeks of one of the nastiest campaigns in American history, accentuated by the clear divisions that exist among our people and the flooding of our political process with tens of millions of dollars of often anonymous ads.  People are worried.  They want to know that America will retain its place as the guarantor of global stability but they’re fed up with unnecessary military adventures.  With schools in need of construction and highways needing repairs here at home they’re no longer interested in spending trillions of their own tax dollars building schools and roads and military bases as we occupy countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.  With a busted economy they want to know that their education will lead to a decent job, that their retirement years will be protected, and that their children and grandchildren will still be living in the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.  And most of all, they want to live in a country that is founded on fairness and opportunity.

We all want the American dream – unending opportunity at the top if you put things together and you make it, fairness along the way, and a safety net underneath you if you fall on hard times or suffer disability or as you reach your retirement years.  That’s the American Trifecta — opportunity, fairness, and security.  It’s why people from all over the world do whatever they can to come here. 

This, pure and simple, is what we’re voting on in November.   And if you want those guarantees my advice to you is that you’d better be voting for Barack Obama.

I know Barack Obama.  I served with him in the Senate.  I campaigned with him and for him four years ago.  I’ve worked with him since he became President.  I’m here to support him.  And everybody here who knows me and has supported me will not be surprised that I’ve disagreed with him many times.  Probably once a week.  That’s my job.  That’s why you sent me to the United States Senate – to exercise my independent judgment, to form opinions on issues based on my view of the good of the country, and to do my best to rebalance the relationship between the Presidency and the Congress.

Family arguments are one thing.  Fundamental disagreements about the principles on which we govern are quite another.  We are in complete agreement about the fundamental challenges that affect our country, particularly the need to restore economic fairness and social justice – issues on which Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan are either silent or in opposition to our views.   

We all know we have big problems to solve.  This is not the time to turn over the helm of the ship of state to someone whose views on foreign policy seem awkward and uninformed, whose economic policies favor those who are already advantaged, and who does not seem to understand that many of those who need government assistance today want to live the American dream just as much as those who have already made it.  That they don’t think of themselves as part of a culture of dependency, but maybe need a little help here and there so that they might say they are living in a land of opportunity. 

It’s six weeks before the election and we still don’t really know what Governor Romney wants to do as President.  That should make you worried.  On the other hand we’ve heard a lot about what Congressman Ryan wants to do.  And that should make you scared. 

We hear arguments that Democrats and Barack Obama in particular are European-style socialists, intent on destroying the creation and accumulation of wealth in America.  That’s kind of hard to figure out.  The stock market has doubled since this great recession bottomed out.  That doesn’t sound like socialism to me.  As our working people have struggled following the collapse of the economy in the final months of the Bush administration, the people at the very top have continued to separate themselves from the rest of our society.  I’ll say it again.  The stock market has doubled, from 6443 in March of 2009 to 13,430 as of yesterday.  Investors pay a capital gains tax rate of only 15 percent on those profits, and no payroll tax.  Many people here today are still struggling to pay for an education, to find permanent full-time employment, adequate health care, predictable retirement plans.  I doubt your income has doubled. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I want the stock market to double again.  I want investments to grow.  But I want this to happen in an economy where jobs and employment security grow along with it, and where those who have done their fair share can be guaranteed that their retirement years can be spent in a measure of comfort and dignity. 

It’s hard to figure out where Governor Romney really is on this.  We’re all familiar by now with his comments about the culture of dependency in our society, in which he

claims nearly half of our people don’t pay taxes.  Included in that number, as far as I can tell, are people who paid payroll taxes, plus people who receive social security that they paid into for years, Medicare and veterans benefits.  They’re calling these people takers rather than givers.

Let me say something about veterans’ benefits.  I grew up in the military.  My dad was a pilot who served in World War II and the Berlin Airlift, among other assignments.  I was a Marine.  My brother was a Marine.  My son was a Marine.  And I’ve worked on veterans issues my entire adult lifetime.

Governor Romney and I are about the same age.  Like millions of others in our generation we came to adulthood facing the harsh realities of the Vietnam War.  2.7 million in our age group went to Vietnam, a war which eventually took the lives of 58,000 young Americans and cost another 300,000 wounded.  The Marine Corps lost 100,000 killed or wounded in that war.  During the year I was in Vietnam, 1969, our country lost twice as many dead as we have lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the past ten years of war.  1968 was worse.  1967 was about the same.  Not a day goes by when I do not think about the young Marines I was privileged to lead. 

This was a time of conscription, where every American male was eligible to be drafted.  People made choices about how to deal with the draft, and about military service.  I have never envied or resented any of the choices that were made as long as they were done within the law.  But those among us who stepped forward to face the harsh unknowns and the lifelong changes that can come from combat did so with the belief that their service would be honored, and that our leaders would, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, care for those who had borne the battle, and for their widows and their children.

Those young Marines that I led have grown older now.  They’ve lived lives of courage, both in combat and after their return, where many of them were derided by their own peers for having served.  That was a long time ago.  They are not bitter.  They know what they did.  But in receiving veterans’ benefits, they are not takers.  They were givers, in the ultimate sense of that word.  There is a saying among war veterans:  “All gave some, some gave all.”  This is not a culture of dependency.  It is a part of a long tradition that gave this country its freedom and independence.  They paid, some with their lives, some through wounds and disabilities, some through their emotional scars, some through the lost opportunities and delayed entry into civilian careers which had already begun for many of their peers who did not serve. 

And not only did they pay.  They will not say this, so I will say it for them.  They are owed, if nothing else, at least a mention, some word of thanks and respect, when a Presidential candidate who is their generational peer makes a speech accepting his party’s nomination to be Commander in Chief.  And they are owed much more than that – a guarantee that we will never betray the commitment that we made to them and to their loved ones. 

This is true for our younger veterans as well, so many of whom are the sons and daughters of those who served in other eras, as with my son, who left college to enlist as an infantry private in the Marine Corps and fought in Ramadi during some of the darkest days of the Iraq War.  It is the reason that I worked so hard from my first day in office to write and pass the Post-9/11 GI Bill, giving those who’ve served a chance for a first-class future.  As of today more than 800,000 Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans have been able to use this new GI Bill. 

Finally, I want to tell you why I believe this election is so important, and why it is my honor to introduce our President.  Our very system is being challenged by a handful of economic monarchists who are throwing tens of millions of dollars into this race.  This is America; they are welcome to their views.  But their flood of money is perverting our democratic process.  This is exactly what our campaign finance laws were designed to prevent.  It is not healthy.  We are being challenged, as Americans.  We must either meet this challenge or accept that the United States of America has descended into a financially based aristocracy. 

Let us remember another era.  The principles that founded today’s Democratic Party were first enunciated by Andrew Jackson, a self-made leader who was both a combat veteran and an orphan at the age of thirteen.  Andrew Jackson believed in the American dream and lived it.  But he also hated aristocracy and never forgot the roots from whence he came.  He was the first President to argue that we measure the health of this society not at its apex but at its base, and that the role of our government leaders should be to provide a voice for those who otherwise would not be heard in the corridors of power.  He built the foundation of the modern Democratic Party

on a base that he labeled the farmers, the mechanics and the laborers.  He once said that “the rich and the powerful can take care of themselves.  But the poor and the humble require the arm and the shield of the law.” 

More clearly today than at any time in recent history, that arm, and that shield, can only be found in the Democratic Party.  And those who truly care about recapturing the spirit of balance, and erasing the false notions of aristocracy that have grown ever deeper year by year over the past two decades should join together and help us re-elect Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.

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