Bill Richardson photo

Address to the DNC Winter Meeting

February 03, 2007

When we were first invited to speak here today, we were told that each of us would only have seven minutes. seven minutes to tell you how we'd better create jobs, expand health care, save the environment, improve our schools, balance the budget, fight terrorism, get out of Iraq, and bring peace to the Middle East.

I don't need seven minutes. I can do it in four words. Elect a Democratic president.

Now, you're in your second day of hearing political speeches and you've heard from some of our best. You know our country would be a lot better off with any of them serving in the White House -- as my vice president.

But the truth, is we will only win the White House if we, as fellow Democrats, who share fundamental core beliefs, don't tear each other down.

And we're a party built on a platform of ideas and ideals. We share a fundamental belief in the notion that equality is not achieved by knocking someone else out of the way and kicking them when they're down.

Instead, we believe in offering them a hand and lifting them up. It is why, today -- it is why today I am calling on other Democratic candidates to agree to run only positive campaigns in this Democratic nominating process.

And, further, I call on the Democratic National Committee to pass a resolution demanding that all the candidates run clean campaigns and not attack each other.

You know, I don't buy this nonsense -- that negative campaigns toughen up a nominee. Save it for the Republicans.

Now, I could tell you, also, in a positive way, that we need a Democratic nominee who's brokered international agreements, understands the Middle East, has fought global warming, a nominee who has served as a governor, balanced budgets, created jobs, covered health care, and turned an economy around.

In fact, you know, I think that sounds pretty good. But, the truth is, most of America doesn't want to hear another political speech right now and, honestly, I don't blame them.

They see enough politics in the nightly news, in the grim statistics of a war gone horribly wrong, a war that is mostly about politics and posturing and saving face. And that's the worst sort of politics imaginable.

Our challenge, as Democrats, is not to just break through the voters' cynicism, but also to convince them that we're up to the job that they've entrusted us with.

We've won the Congress, but we still have a lot to prove. We need a Democratic nominee who's able to stand up for our principles, our values, make the case to the American people, show them we can get things done, and create a lasting Democratic majority.

But I'm tired of hearing the Democrats don't stand for anything. We do. The American people need to know what we're standing up for them and they need to know that we can get the job done.

I'm proud to be a Democrat and I'm proud, also, with what we've accomplished in my home state of New Mexico.

How many of you have visited New Mexico? Well, the rest of you, get over there.

We have created 80,000 new jobs, many of them in high tech industries. We have the lowest unemployment rate since 1978, up to sixth in the nation for job growth, seventh in the nation for personal income growth. And we didn't abandon union families along the way.

And one of the first things I did as governor was reinstate collective bargaining for public employees and we secured the first public works labor agreement in New Mexico history, and we made our prevailing wage a union wage.

And when it came up to standing for the rights of working people, we didn't compromise our ideals. We acted on them.

And to create all those jobs, we first passed a specific tax credit for creating good paying jobs. You pay over the prevailing wage, company, you get a tax credit.

We made the rural tax credit permanent. We enacted a three-year tax holiday for high tech startups and we invested state money in local companies that showed great promise for success and job creation.

Rather than use tax cuts to reward the wealthy, I used them to reward putting people to work.

We balanced the budget. But we also increased school funding by $600 million and we made sure it all went into the classroom and not the bureaucracy. In fact, the first thing we did was give teachers a raise and we've given them a raise every four years.

And when I came into office, when I came into office, and I'm really proud of this, we were 46th in teacher pay. With this year's raise, we'll be 27th and we're aiming even higher.

You know, our teachers deserve it. Our kids are better off. Our schools are improving. Our parents believe in us again.

If we can do that in New Mexico, we can do that across the country.

We expanded state health insurance. We offer every child five and under in New Mexico health insurance. We lowered the cost of health care for working families.

We're helping small businesses create purchasing pools so they can get the same lower insurance rate as large employers.

Two of the bedrock principles of the Democratic Party are equal access to an excellent education and equal access to health care.

For too long in this country we've had neither, but we're making great strides in New Mexico and we can do that across the country if we have a Democratic Congress, a Democratic presidential, Democratic governors in a majority of states, and a Democratic mandate to finally lift this country up.

And I want to tell you, too, in New Mexico, our fight for equality extends to sexual orientation. For the first time in state history, we have a hate crimes law and we've extended civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and we're providing state health insurance for domestic partnerships.

Some call New Mexico the land of enchantment. I now like to think that we live in a state of enlightenment.

Finally, Mark Twain said, "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it." Is that pretty funny?

Well, when it comes to global warming and climate change, we're doing something about it in New Mexico. I set tough standards to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Maybe the country and President Bush don't follow the Kyoto Treaty, but my state is on track to not only meet Kyoto, but surpass it.

We've invested directly in energy efficiency and no other state has done as much to promote renewable energy with tax credits for wind, solar, bio fuels. We've eliminated taxes on hybrid cars and we're requiring utility companies to start producing energy from renewable sources, 10 percent next year, 15 percent in five years, five years later 20 percent.

My state has become the clean energy state and there's no reason why we can't become the clean energy nation, with a man-on-the-moon effort to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

Every one of these accomplishments can be done at the national level. But it's not just enough to win the Congress. We need someone who can win the White House back and can win in every region of this country.

And I know the usual wrap on governors, but we don't know anything about foreign affairs. Well, maybe you can say that about certain governors from Texas, but not this governor, not this governor.

Last December, I was visited by a delegation of North Koreans. They came to New Mexico seeking my advice before the disarmament talks. They wanted to know how in the world they're supposed to work with an administration that thinks axis of evil is a bargaining position.

When I visited Darfur last month, Darfur is a human tragedy that we must all act on with the Save Darfur Coalition, a group of grassroots activists in this country.

We negotiated a very fragile cease fire, but I saw thousands of widows and fatherless children trying to escape the genocide, waiting in line in 100 degree heat for a month.

And they wanted to know why the international community and the United States was waiting so long to do something. And, you know, the Middle East, they want to know how we can expect to bring peace to the region while shutting out Syria and Iran and not having a Middle East peace envoy.

The war in Iraq is not the disease. Iraq is a symptom. The disease is arrogance.

The next president, must be able to repair the damage that's been done to our country's reputation over the last six years. It's why experience in foreign affairs has never been more important.

But whatever you may think of a preemptive war grounded in the choice reasoning, the clouded reasoning of a vengeful administration and a misled Congress, the reality is we've done in Iraq what we said we would do.

We've rid the world of a brutal dictator. We've brought about free and fair elections three times over.

The Iraqis now have a constitution, over 200,000 armed soldiers. They have huge oil revenue.

It's time for our troops to leave with honor.

When it comes to this president, when it comes to this president, I don't know how someone can be so blind to the hurt and anguish in this country and so deaf to the will of the people.

This is not presidential greatness. This is a great tragedy. America is better than this.

A struggle for human rights is worthy of military intervention. A true threat to our country's security is worthy of war. But a struggle between a country's warring factions where both sides hate the United States is not worthy of one more lost American life.

I just told Governor Dean I'm almost finished. He said, "Yeah, right." No, he didn't say that. He said, "That's fine."

And by the way, Howard Dean was right in rebuilding our parties in 50 states. He did it.

You know, as someone who served in the Congress for 14 years, I know the power they hold, should they choose to wield it. The Congress passed a resolution authorizing war. They need to pass another one that overturns that authorization and brings our troops home by the end of this calendar year.

And you would think -- that when the Congress realized they were lied to, they would have done something about it. Well, they still can.

Once our troops are heading out, America still has a responsibility. We still have a role to play. We have a moral responsibility to bring the Sunni and Shia together in a national reconciliation conference.

And we have a strategic interest in organizing a regional conference with all of Iraq's neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, NATO, but also include Syria and Iran to help stabilize Iraq.

But, more than anything else, America has a moral obligation to those Americans who have laid down their lives. A Native American kid in New Mexico perished 10 days ago, the first Pueblo Native American to die.

Some say we can't let their sacrifices be in vain, but you'll never convince me that those slain patriots would have wanted a single additional life to be lost just to validate their own sacrifice.

Instead, the moral obligation is to honor their service by bringing their mission to a close, by ending the bloodshed and finally letting the Iraqi people to set their own course.

What I've just said to you would be the principles of my presidency. I'm positive about this country. I'm patriotic. I think we can resolve these problems.

My only message here is we talk about energy independence, foreign policy, we talk about creating jobs and making lives better for people.

The American people want a president who will bring us together as a nation that will heal the wounds. And I submit to you, you know, maybe I'm not up there in all these polls, but you are the deciders, not the man in the White House.

And so I say to you today, stay loose, we've got a year to go. Watch us on the trail. The man scrutinized.

I want to come to every one of your states and counties -- well, not counties, all your states.

Thank you so much. God bless the Democratic Party. God bless the United States. God bless New Mexico, and God bless you.

Thank you.

Bill Richardson, Address to the DNC Winter Meeting Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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