This is the speech Al Gore gave in support of Al Franken at the DFL Founders Day event on October 4, 2008.
Transcript:( video starts a few minutes into this speech)
Al Gore: I appreciate the warm welcome and you know why I’m here. We’ve got to elect Al Franken to the United States Senate. I really appreciate my friendship with Al and I’m going to talk about why I feel so strongly that we should elect him.
Before I do that, I want to acknowledge his wife Franni and his daughter Thomasin, all of their hard work in this incredibly hard campaign. And I want to acknowledge that a hero of mine, and I don’t throw the word around lightly, former vice-president Fritz Mondale and Joan Mondale right here. Thank you. Great to see you
He made more of a difference to me when after I was elected Vice President, long before the inauguration, the first thing I did was spending some time talking in depth with Fritz Mondale. I can’t even begin to tell you how important that was. He is really the one who redefined the job of the vice president in the American system. And that worked out pretty well until this last Vice-President (laughs). But that’s another story.
I want to acknowledge with respect to Amy Klobuchar who has done such a tremendous job and her husband John and her daughter Abigail . And I’m particularly proud and grateful that Senator Klobuchar immediately established herself as a very effective and eloquent and powerful voice on behalf of solving the climate crisis. So few of them down there have been doing that. Amy Klobuchar has been doing a fantastic job. I’m very grateful to her. I thank you for sending her.
To Congressman Tim Walz and Congressman Keith Ellison, thank you both for doing a terrific job. And to three outstanding candidates, in the third district Ashwin Madia and another Iraq war veteran Steve Sarvi in the second district and El Tinklenberg in the sixth district, let’s elect these candidates for Congress.
And I want you to remember how important it is to pay attention to these state legislative races. I want to acknowledge speaker of the house Margaret Anderson Kelliher. You need a veto proof majority in the House of Representatives here in Minnesota. So remember that.
To Mark Ritchie and Rebecca Otto and Laurie Swanson and others and Chairman Brian Melendez of the DFL and to all distinguished guests. OK
–video starts here–
I’ve had a chance to come here quite a few times to talk about elections and you’ll often hear “this election is the most important election”. Sometimes it’s a stretch. This is one of those times that it is dead on true. This election is really fateful for our country. I was thinking about how often I come here Fritz when I was at a restaurant recently and a woman came walking by in front of my table, just staring at me as she walked past. And I didn’t think anything of it until a few moments later from the corner of my eye I saw her coming from the opposite direction. And she was just staring at me. And so I said “how do you do”. And she took two steps forward and said “ you know if you died your hair black, you would look just like Al Gore. “
So I said “thank you Ma’am .” She said, “You sound like him too”.
I’ve known Al Franken for a long time. And I said early I always thought he was in the wrong line of business for two reasons. One he’s not really funny. That was a joke Al. But secondly and of course the point I’m making is that for as long as I’ve known him, he has been passionately involved in debating and thinking about in very creative ways the public policy issues of our day. And he really cares deeply. He really has been deeply involved in trying to come up with the right solutions. And let me tell you, Washington, DC needs a breath of fresh air and an eloquent advocate for the middle class Americans who’s interests are at stake in this race. And Al Franken is the person to do that. He’s got the heart and the mind, the passion and the depth and the experience for it and I feel so strongly about it.
Back in 2000, there was nobody who did more for me and I know his capacity for hard work and I really respect him a lot. But now let’s look at the big picture here. Part of what American democracy is all about is the opportunity elections provide to hold elected officials and political parties and groups that have been given responsibility for guiding our country, accountable for what they have done or what they have failed to do.
And over the last several years, roughly eight years, (laughter) If you look back and decide whether or not this is a good time to reward members of the United States Senate who have been virtually in lockstep of the policies that have produced the results that we now have so vividly on display in our country. And because our country is a global power around the world, do you think it’s time to reward those who are the architects and cheerleaders and supporters of these policies. This election provides you an opportunity to do that.
But if you think it is time to bring about a change in the course our nation is following, it’s time to elect Al Franken to the United States Senate.
And just look at the record. Eight years ago there were the biggest surpluses in the history of our nation. And our economy was strong with strong job growth. And there was hope and there was optimism. And with all of the problems that we’re always facing, there was a sense that we had the ability to solve those problems and we would continue in our efforts to form a more perfect union and to try to realize the destiny of our country. To make a better way of life for our people.
And now look eight years later. Instead of surpluses, the largest deficits in the history of our country. Deficits so large they would have been completely unimaginable in prior generations. The national debt increase by so much you… it’s hard to even use the numbers to count, the numbers they are so big now. And the economy is suffering and nine straight months of job losses and it’s getting worse. And all around the world other countries are looking at the United States and instead of feeling what we want them to feel, pride in the fact that the Unites States is living up to what we’re supposed to be, and hopefulness that the United States is going to make it possible for others around the world to dream of the kind of experience that America has always given to its citizens. Instead, the people in the rest of the world are looking at the United State’s economy and are thinking oh this is so bad it’s going to bring down the economies in other countries.
And when you turn on the news and you hear the commentators using phrases such as “worse than anything since the Great Depression of 1929” “Worse than any conditions since the 1930s” I saw the head of one of the largest banks in on the floor of the stock exchange interviewed last week saying “this would be a good time to find a financial bomb shelter.” When you hear things like that, one of the things that tells you ….let me just translate it for you: The people who have been in charge in the White House and their supporters in the United State Senate have made a complete mess of this economy and it’s time to kick them out of there and have a change and. start putting our country on the right track again.
It’s not that complicated. This is not that complicated. They have made a mess of things. What about foreign policy? They invaded the wrong country, hello? (Wild applause). It’s not that complicated. And given every chance after chance to change course and try to recognize the mistake and take off in a different direction, this White House and their supporters in the Unites States Senate have just kept on going the same course. And they will still not acknowledge the mistake.
It shouldn’t be necessary to repeat the basic facts. The people who attacked us where Al-kada from Afghanistan and on the border with Pakistan. They invaded Iraq, which has absolutely to do with it. Now we know that here, but they spent considerable time and effort and expense trying to convince people of something completely different. And I know you’ve heard this but now is the time of reckoning. 31 days and a few hours from now we have to have a reckoning. We have to hold them accountable.
What about America’s reputation in the world? Torture? Torture? You know 230 years ago General George Washington at Valley Forge was approached by two lieutenants who wanted him to settle a dispute. The colonial soldiers had captured some Hessians. And the Hessians, allied with the British in the Revolutionary war, had a custom that was all too common the 19th century had tortured the American soldiers. Some of our troops wanted to return the favor. And one of the Lieutenants said “ no it doesn’t feel right, let’s take it to General Washington”.
And General Washington said “absolutely not” because the United States of America is going to stand for something new on the surface of this planet. We’re going to respect the dignity of individuals. We’re going to respect men and women because they have God-given rights. And he said that if we were to torture captives it would bring in his words “shame disgrace and ruin” to the United States.
Now in wars throughout our history that principle has sometimes been observed and of course in the breech in every war there have been excesses and atrocities but never until now has there been a policy of torture devised and compelled and directed in the White House of the United States in the name of the American People. It’s time to hold them accountable. We’re better than that. We need to stand for what this country is based on. (Wild applause).
These are not minor matters. I tell you they’ve done some many things that, well you know I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the climate crisis because I’ve talked here on quite a few occasions and you know how strongly I feel about it. But that issue as stake in this election also because the oil companies and the carbon polluters are on one side of this race and the people are on the other side of this race.
And during the hour that we are spending here, the world will put another three-million-tons of global warming pollution into the thin fragile shell of atmosphere around this planet. Three percent increase world wide just in one year. The figures released yesterday, er ah two days ago show the north polar ice cap normally the size of the lower 48 states, been there for three-million years, an important feature defining the planet, with a 75 percent chance that it will be completely and totally gone during the summertime in less than five years.
And we continue to put that pollution up there and the current group that’s in there refuses to do anything about it. And when the scientists coming out with warnings to the people, this group has allowed the censorship – the White House has censored their words if the warnings were ones that would upset the oil companies. And they have actually inserted in their place words written by Exxon /Mobile and some of the other largest polluters. You would think that you’d have to make up something like that. But that has actually been happening. And they have done absolutely nothing about it. And by the way, they have also stood by when Halliburton and other contractors have been ripping off the taxpayers and undermining the welfare and safety of our troops over there. I gotten to the point when a new outrage comes along, I’ve got to download some existing outrage to make room for the new outrage in order to react to it. (Applause)
And Al Franken’s opponent… one of the positions he held was chairing the permanent subcommittee on investigations. And as Fritz Mondale can tell you that is one of the most coveted positions in either the House or the Senate because through out the history of the Congress, that’s been place where the tough investigations have been carried out.
Think of what Senator Harry Truman did when he covered the fraud and abuse during the early years of World War Two. You can go back through history. And with all of these outrages and abuses the chairman of that investigative committee does absolutely nothing except applaud and cheerlead. It is time to hold him accountable. It is time for a change. It is time for an advocate of the people. (Applause)
There are as I say 31 days, one month from today, 31 days and a few hours. Early voting has already started. You have a very clear choice. One of the problems in our modern political system is that the effort to hold people in political parties accountable sometimes runs up against the outpouring of special interest money from the powerful groups that want to twist perceptions and distract people and put out things that will try to cause people to vote on something other than the issues. Other than their own self interest. Other than what democracy is supposed to be about at election time, and that is making clear choices and holding incumbents accountable and making a choice as to what the direction is for the future.
But this time, if this record on the war, on torture on mass wire-tapping without warrants, on financial mismanagement of a scale that’s unprecedented in the whole history of our country, of wrecking the economy, of ignoring the environment, of actively choosing the interest of these special interests over the interests of the people, if this record were to be rewarded rather than used as a basis for a clear and decisive choice to go in new direction, what would it say about the vitality of our democracy?
I don’t believe that’s going to happen this time. I believe that this record on the part of the White House and the part of those who have been cheerleading and supporting lock step forward this White House. I believe this record is going to be examined closely by the people and I hope right here in Minnesota and based on what I what I’m hearing I believe the people of Minnesota are going to make a clear choice because the alternative is a breath of fresh air, a new perspective, a fresh energy, passion commitment and values that are in line with the middle class voters and people and families of Minnesota.
Ladies and Gentlemen, now is the time for change if we’ve ever had a time for change. Now is the time and let’s do it by electing Al Franken to the United States Senate. Thank you.