Al Gore
Florida Democratic Party State Conference
Orlando, FL
April 13, 2002
Prepared Remarks>>>
Comments & Observations: This 31-minute speech marked Gore's first detailed critique of the Bush administration.  Appearing with wife Tipper, Gore received an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd, which included hundreds of people waving "Still Gore Country" signs provided by an unknown source. Gore focused his remarks on three areas: the environment, the economy, and the broader notion of values. "The time has come for to speak out boldly -- not only when we believe the Administration is right -- but to offer constructive alternatives when we believe what they’re doing is wrong for America, and a lot of what they're doing, I believe, is wrong for America," he stated.  Gore was not afraid to mention Bill Clinton.  "I don't care what anybody says, you know I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job on America's economy," he said.  He showed his humorous side a number of times during the speech, at one point stating that "...if anyone is in the market for a “never-been-used” lockbox –  see me afterwards and I'll show you where you can get one."   -EMA


Tipper Gore: Well hello everybody.  Hello.  It's great to be back in the Sunshine State with all of you.  We love you, and you know what?  Every single one of you are winners in our book.  You are fabulous.  We love you.  Thank you so much.  And I want to thank all of you who we worked with so very hard, and as we continue to work with you toward a very bright future, it's very exciting to be here and best wishes for this gathering and for everything that brings us all together.  And I am very proud to present to you a man who has spent 24 years in public service, a man who has integrity and dignity and a great deal of honor, and who by the way won the popular vote.  My husband Al Gore.

Al Gore: Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much. [Audience chants "Gore in 4"]

Thank you Florida, thank Florida Democrats and thank you Bill Nelson, Bill and Grace Nelson, thank you so much, and [Florida Democratic Party chairman] Bob Poe and [Florida Democratic Party executive director] Anna Cruz and all the folks who work so hard here at the Florida Democratic Party, to Senator Bob Graham and Adele, to Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Marta, my friends in the congressional delegation here, Harold Ford Jr. from my home state of Tennessee, to all of the distinguished guests it's great to be back in Florida.  Thank you for that warm welcome.  It is great to feel your friendship; it's great to be with you.

Let me tell you something.  I want to tell you something right off the bat.  What you did here in Florida in the year 2000 was absolutely incredible; it was absolutely incredible.  And everybody said that we were so far behind and that we might as well just forget about Florida, but they forgot to tell you.  You beat the odds.  You came from behind.  It was incredible.

Nobody fought harder – or longer – for Joe Lieberman and for me in 2000 than you did.  And incidentally I'd like to say this.  I think the single best decision I made in that campaign was when Tipper and I asked Joe and Hadassah Lieberman to join us on the Gore-Lieberman ticket.

You welcomed us into this state, into your hearts, into your homes.  It was a wonderful, wonderful experience, and I will never, ever forget it.

But this is not about what might have been.  This is about what we can accomplish together for America in the future.  That's why we're gathered here; what we can do for Florida in the future.  The energy and electricity that I feel in this room today -- don't you feel it, don't you feel it -- that energy is what enabled you to beat all the odds two years ago.  And the togetherness in this room that reflects the unity you have as Democrats from one end of Florida to the other, that is what has enabled you to grow so strong and to be so effective.

Now I just want you to think for just a moment about what, where our campaign was in Florida on April 13th in the year 2000.  We were way, way behind.  Everybody said there's just no point.  Now think about where we were on Election Day and focus next on where you are in the governor's race here in Florida on April 13th 2002.  Once again feel the energy in this room.  Reflect on the fact that Democrats in Florida and lots of others besides are unified in support of change, and then make up your minds to use that energy and to use that spirit so that regardless of who our nominee is we're going to elect a Democratic governor in Florida in November of this year.  And it's going to be a great day.  But even then our work will not be done.  At that point it'll be one down and one to go.  And with the energy in this room, regardless of who our nominee is, we're going to elect a Democratic president in 2004 with Florida making the difference.

After the last election, I made you a promise that I would continue to speak out for the American people, especially for those who need burdens lifted and barriers removed, especially for those who feel like their voices have not been heard.  And I intend to keep that pledge—today, tomorrow, and for all the days to come.  That's who we are, and that's what we stand for as Democrats.

Those of us here gathered in Orlando today after all have a vision of America's future in which we pull together to build a stronger and safer America. We have a vision of a country that is open and fair to all of our citizens.

And let's be candid about this, that vision that we share is very much at odds with what the other party wants to do to our country.

I came here today to talk about some of those challenges: the environment, the economy, our American values.

But before I turn to those three areas of domestic policy, there is one issue I touched on in a foreign policy speech earlier this year that I'd like to mention again today.  And it's a matter that of course all of us – as Democrats and Republicans - are united on, and that's the war on terrorism.

The brutal attacks against our country on September 11th shattered soaring structures that were symbols of strength and security.

While we may have lost our innocence, from the shadow of those fallen towers and from the field in Pennsylvania and from the rubble around the Pentagon a new spirit of American patriotism, a new pride in community, and an understanding that we are all in this together soared up.

So let there be no doubt as we talk here today about what we're going to do in the election and our differences on these issues, we do stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the President and with our brave service men and women in defending America from terrorism.  We do it as Democrats. We do it as Americans.  And we do it as patriots.

Now, here in America, patriotism does not mean keeping quiet.  It means speaking up; it means speaking out. It means exercising our freedom of speech; it means drawing the line where we have strong differences with the administration, it means debating what we believe is right and what we believe is wrong.

It is in this spirit of patriotism that I appear before you here today, to engage in the debate we so vitally need to build a brighter future for our country.  The time has come for to speak out boldly -- not only when we believe the Administration is right -- but to offer constructive alternatives when we believe what they’re doing is wrong for America, and a lot of what they're doing, I believe, is wrong for America.

To begin with, to begin with they are wrong to vilify honorable men and women who oppose their right-wing domestic agenda and opposed their blatantly dishonest budget. They are wrong to imply that those who stand up to them are somehow unpatriotic. It doesn’t have to be that way.

You know in October of 1943 -- how many World War II veterans are here; could I see a show of hands?  God Bless you and thank you for saving our country.  And thank you to the other veterans, Vietnam and Korea and the Persian Gulf.  Welcome home.  In October of 1943 during the terrible days of World War II, Winston Churchill faced a controversy in England, an ideological controversy that had the potential to divide the coalition that was so important to victory there in World War II. And this is what he said.  He said:

“What holds us together is the prosecution of the war. No…man has been asked to give up his convictions. That would be indecent and improper. We are held together by something outside, which rivets our attention. The principle [that] we work on is, ‘Everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide for the war.’ That is our position. We must also be careful -- he continued -- that a pretext is not made of war needs to introduce far-reaching social or political changes by a side-wind.”

You get the meaning.  I’m tired of this right-wing side-wind.  I’ve had it.  America’s economy is suffering unnecessarily.  Important American values are being trampled.  Special interests are calling the shots.  And it sometimes seems as if, in the words of the poet, “The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

If you agree with me, then stand up with conviction for what we believe in, and fight for it!  The time has come!

All right.  Let me talk about, let me focus in on three issues that I believe are critical to a brighter future for our country  -- and they're three issues where we strongly disagree with what the Administration is doing: the environment, the economy, and America‘s values.

In each of these areas, this Administration is following the same pattern: Selling out America’s future in return for short-term political gains.

They've returned us to the days of deficits and debt -  the days of irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy; the days of loosening environmental safeguards to satisfy the polluters. And they've turned their back on America’s covenant with our greatest generation, raiding the Social Security and Medicare trust funds without pause, without remorse and seemingly without even a thought as to the long term consequences what they're doing.

I believe that America deserves much better.  And we're going to fight to do what is right for all our citizens and all our tomorrows yet to come because we believe in honoring our mothers and fathers, not using their retirement savings to pay for special interest spending sprees.

We believe in investing in people and building for the future.

We believe in celebrating the diversity of race and ethnicity and religion that makes us a strong and tolerant nation that others look up to.

We also believe that America's policies should be decided in the open, and not in secret back-room meetings where the lobbyists come in and write the laws that have an impact on you and your family.  Let's have a little Florida sunshine in this administration.  Let's open it up.

Now on the environment, we believe in protecting the environment; our children's future depends upon it; future generations depend upon us making this a bedrock principle of our party.

Now this Administration rhetorically also claims to support the environment, but let’s look at the record.  Behind those closed doors, they have allowed the lobbyists for the polluters to write the environmental proposals.  And here’s what they came up with, and you've seen some of it here in Florida:

Endangering the Everglades, allowing sewage to flow into fresh water, and now - they are brazenly breaking solemn promises given repeatedly to the people of Florida - and moving to allow drilling off of Florida’s coast, thus endangering your environment and your tourist industry.  I believe you heard them make those promises, didn't you?

They're also walking away from the Kyoto Treaty and from real action on climate change.  And why is it that they can't hear what the scientific community around the world is saying and what average citizens on Main Street are saying: we've got to take action against global warming and climate change, and create jobs in the process.

They're putting in less investment in energy innovation so that we continue to be held hostage to oil imports and tinhorn tyrants like Saddam Hussein.

They give more corporate subsidies for coal and oil and nuclear power plants; polluters get richer.

Now they're proposing to drill in one of the most beautiful environmental treasures in our nation, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in return for six months oil supply maybe ten years from now. We won’t see -- it's just a bad trade off.

And, another promise that they made in another state that affects all of us has been broken.  They want to allow trucks carrying nuclear waste to roll through neighborhoods in 45 states on the very highways and streets that American use to drive their children to school and get to work.  Some domestic security that is.  To have trucks all over the country with nuclear waste. And they'll just have to pick it up all over again probabley when they have a permanent repository for it.

And of course who can forget when they tried to convince us that our water was too clean and didn’t have enough arsenic in it.

You got to wonder where they get this stuff some times, but then you think well there's probably an arsenic lobby.  There is.

Now what they're doing, what they're doing to the economy is kind of the same thing.  They're selling out the future in return for satisfying some short term political demands from special interests.  And incidentally the way any administration handles the economy and the budget says a whole lot about their priorities.

Under Democratic leadership we focused on the future.  You know the story.  We put America’s financial house back in order and created millions of jobs and balanced the budget and then ran a surplus.  We made major investments in what people need.  I don't care what anybody says, you know I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job on America's economy.  What do you think?

When we left office, when we left office we were looking at trillions of dollars of surpluses projected into the future.  It's hard to remember now, but some people were actually expressing concern we might pay down the national debt too fast.  Well that don't have to worry about that any longer.  In just 15 months under President Bush, that surplus has all but evaporated, and under this administration, the surplus has evaporated in one year, in just a little over a year; we're back in deficits again.

And incidentally where did all that surplus go to?  Where did it--did it--what is the reason for this?  You earned those, you earned that money.  Now, did they use it to build a brighter future for our children?  [Audience: "No"]  Did they use it to care for our parents in their retirement? ["No."]  Did they use it to increase our national defense spending when we needed it more?  ["No."]  No, no you're right.

The largest single factor of course was that they wanted to shovel it out to the wealthiest tax brackets in the form of tax relief for those who need it least and the rest of the country got peanuts and the American people got stuck with the bill.  Those are the wrong priorities, and we're going to reverse them by going to the polls and setting it right.

And you know the old saying: By their fruits ye shall know them.  Well I talked about some of the results of what the Clinton-Gore administration did.  What are the results so far of what they have done?

Well, unemployment is going up.  You know I'm concerned because I was the first one laid off a year ago January 20.

Secondly, education has gotten short shrift.  We made real investments in improving education – they were satisfied with making headlines on education. They bragged about their education reform, but when it came time to put up or shut up, they have decided not to continue funding education reform 'cause it conflicted with higher priorities, like those tax cuts for the wealthy and the money for the special interests.

Their budget actually cuts their own so-called “Leave No Child Behind Act” by $90 million. Ninety million. That sounds like an awful lot of children left behind to me.

Now third, the Administration has no real health care plan, no plan to provide coverage to those who need it, no plan to make health care more affordable.  Once again, as on education, they talk a good game but have done absolutely nothing to help seniors who are being forced to choose between their medicines and their mortgages. They promised prescription drug coverage for all needy seniors. Did you all hear that promise?  I sure did too, but now, according to estimates from this White House, their plan will leave behind two thirds of all seniors, two thirds. Well the difference between all and one third, they must have Andersen do the accounting on that.

Now at a time, at a time when this nation is relying on police officers and fire fighters and other such heroes this Administration -- let's hear it for the fire fighters and the police officers.  God Bless you.  God Bless you.  When all of us feel that way, all across America, about police and fire, this Administration is slashing 1.4 billion dollars of funding for state, local and community law enforcement.  Now, how does that make our homeland more secure?  Why should we be cutting support for law enforcement.

The bottom line is the Republicans want to cut funds for new police, cut funds to stem high school dropout rates, cut back protections for seniors and the environment.  You know I may have been using my razor lately, but they've been using a meat cleaver on the priorities that are important for the American people.  [To sign language interpreter:] Let me see that sign language for meat cleaver again.  That's what they've been doing.

Now the final subject I wanted to talk about is the subject of what our values are, because you can talk about issues like the environment and education; you can talk about what the budget does to 'em, but ultimately it comes down to what you believe is important.  What values do you have.  And I just have to ask this question.

What kind of values would lead this administration to dismantle the medical privacy of American citizens and allow insurance companies greater access to your private files - while at the same time they insist on their right to privacy to have secret meetings on public policy behind closed doors in the White House.  Whose values are they using?

 Whose values are they following when they permit pharmaceutical companies to market new drugs directly to patients based on information that is take from your private, personal medical files while at the same time they defy the General Accounting Office and the courts of this land to keep official files secret from Congress and from the American people?  Those are the wrong values; those are the wrong choices.  They need to start putting you first, not themselves first.

Here's another question on values.  Why is it that they tell us that there’s such a shortage of money in the budget they have to cut funds for maternal and child health block grants, class-size reduction, for emergency medical services for children, for newborn and infant hearing screening, for hospital services for the uninsured, for youth training, for mental health programs, for substance abuse prevention, for youth-opportunity grants --  Okay, they don't have money for those.

But, when the biggest corporate polluters come into the White House and they say, you know this principle that we've been having to live with called the polluter pays is costing us too much money.  All of a sudden there's plenty of taxpayer dollars to take that burden off the polluters and charge you to clean up the polluters' messes.   They're trying to do away with the polluter pays and substitute the you pay principle.  It's wrong.  They're the wrong values.  We need to make some changes.

Now, what all these policies have in common is this--it's not that hard to break the code here-- each and every time there is a dispute between the well-heeled and the well-worn, the little guy loses out with this crowd.  We stand with the little guy and we're going to fight to get the right priorities again in this country.

At least they're consistent.  At least they're consistent. And they think they're are so clever at hiding the ball that they’re not going to get caught at it.  But I believe people are starting to see through this, this whole business here.

Make no mistake, they are out to dismantle every policy that helps the little guy and then paint it as an effort to do him a favor.  Let me give you an illustration there. Instead of Saving Social Security first, this Administration’s policy has been to leave Social Security for last.

A little over a year ago, they said that he would stop politicians dipping into the Social Security trust fund to pay for more spending.  Well, not only have they not stopped the practice, their own budget will raid  the Social Security trust fund by 1.8 trillion over the next ten years.

I won’t say that I told you so, but if anyone is in the market for a “never-been-used” lockbox –  see me afterwards and I'll show you where you can get one.

And they're not just intent on raiding the Social Security trust fund.  Under the guise of "reforming" the system, they want to pass the most radical changes and most harmful changes ever proposed.  The ones from their own "Commission to Protect Social Security" would actually cut Social Security benefit levels and do absolutely nothing to put the system on sounder financial footing without huge additional infusions of money from American taxpayers.

And incidentally do you remember their proposal to invest Social Security funds in the stock market?  How come we don’t hear about that anymore. You know, there are some things they just stop talking about.

Now the differences between our parties have never been sharper. On one key issue after another, the Republicans’ radical agenda is completely at odds with our vision for America's future, and I believe at odds with the will of the American people.

So my fellow Democrats, this year we are going to show America that our party stands for a better, fairer America with a brighter future ahead.  In the coming months, we’re going to take our agenda to the American people.  We’re going to show them the truth about the Republican record.

I think-- And incidentally this is a pretty good place to sort of chart that course.  I think it's appropriate that we're gathered here in Orlando today, because in some ways it clearly demonstrates the differences between  Democrats and Republicans.  We're the party of Tomorrowland; they're the party of Fantasyland.  We're the party of Main Street USA; they're the party of the Pirates of Enron.  But America is not a theme park; we're the greatest nation on earth.  We don't charge admission; our doors are open to all who embrace America's ideals.

Over and over, Republicans have tried to turn the clock back on progress.  And I tell you, it's a good thing they love the past so much, because pretty soon they’re going to be history.

Let's win here in Florida.  Let's get, let's make sure that in these 2002 elections we have checks and balances by making Dick Gephardt the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and increasing Tom Daschle's margin in the United States Senate.

Let's stand up for the values that Bob Graham and Bill Nelson and the entire Florida delegation have been working harder than ever to support.

I hope you’ll work harder than ever for your Democrats in the delegation.

Because every time you stand up for a brighter, stronger, safer, better and fairer America, you’re going to be standing up for yourselves and you families and communities.

We support an America that ensures civil rights and human rights for all.  We're going to stand up for those values.

Stand up for an America where a woman’s right to choose is never taken away and never weakened.

Stand up for an America that honors our fighting men and women by making this nation everything it should be here at home.

Stand up for an America where our people know that their vote counts because they live in a country that is going to count every vote.

Never give up on what you believe in.  Never give up on your vision for the future.

And as Churchill also said: Never, never, never give up.

God bless you, God bless Florida and God bless the United States of America.

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