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2004-01-26

Democracy Now! Travels Around New Hampshire Speaking To Candidates and Voters

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Democracy Now! traveled to New Hampshire Saturday and spent the weekend criss-crossing the state from Portsmouth to Nashua, Manchester to Concord.

With the nation’s first primary just days away, people from across New Hampshire and the country braved bitter cold weekend temperatures and took to the streets in towns and cities across New Hampshire to lend support to their candidate of choice.

Voters held up signs, gave loud whoops of encouragement to passing cars and dominated speaking events and rallies.

We spoke with some of Gen. Wesley Clark’s supporters awaiting his arrival at a planned rally in Portsmouth and we heard from Howard Dean supporters who crowded the streets outside the event.

The Democracy Now! team then piled into cars and drove to the neighboring New Hampshire town of Nashua where we met with one of the Democratic presidential candidates–Rep. Dennis Kucinich. We sat down to a half-hour long interview with Congressman Kucinich in his hotel room. He spoke about his campaign, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, corporate media, and much more.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, along with all the other Democratic presidential candidates–except the Rev. Al Sharpton–accepted the invitations to speak to the 100 Club dinner in the Sheraton hotel in Nashua. We raced over to the Sheraton where more than a thousand people packed into a ballroom to hear the candidates’ speak. We play excerpts from Howard Dean and Senator Joseph Lieberman.

On Sunday, we drove again to Nashua to hear Senators John Kerry and John Edwards–who came in first and second in the Iowa caucuses–address packed crowds at separate rallies in the town. [includes transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Democracy Now! team loaded up our cars Saturday, went to New Hampshire, starting in Portsmouth, went to Music Hall to General Wesley Clark’s rally. Then we headed to Nashua, where we met with one of the candidates, Congress Member Dennis Kucinich. We sat down for an extended interview with him. He spoke about his campaign, Iraq, the media, much more. We’ll bring you that complete interview later in the week. But today we bring you a short excerpt. This was just before he headed off to a meeting of all of the candidates. I asked him, given that he was the only congressional candidate who had spoken out aggressively against the invasion of Iraq, saying since 1998, no credible intelligence has been brought forward which suggests that Iraq is manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, why he didn’t speak out more forcefully or directly attack the other candidates for their statements. If in fact President Bush was lying, would he call for his impeachment? This was Dennis Kucinich’s response.

DENNIS KUCINICH: In challenging all of the Democrats who have failed to recognize that there was no basis for the United States to attack Iraq, remember, I led the effort in the House of Representatives, in challenging. It was in a presidential debate when I challenged Dick Gephardt directly when he said he had given the president advice. I asked him, it’s too bad you didn’t tell him not to invade. I have met that test of challenging the other candidates. Now, you raised the question — and my presence challenges them. The reason why I’m going to be nominate of this party, because as this Iraq thing continues to deteriorate, my candidacy stands alone as the one with the way out, and as the one with the credibility and the integrity for having taken a stand where it counted inside the House of Representatives.

Let’s talk about impeachment. Impeachment is a sideshow. This is the big event, the election. An impeachment right now would only end up getting President Bush sympathy. It would be the politically dumbest thing, which anyone could or should ever do. He is up for election. Impeachment lets the House or the Senate be the judge of a president. The American people are going to be the judge of this president. He wants to run for re-election based on his position on Iraq. I’m in the perfect position to defeat him over the Iraq issue, specifically because I can challenge him based on the credibility of my positions throughout this whole issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress Member Dennis Kucinich after the interview, along all of the other Democratic presidential candidates, he headed over to the 100 Club dinner at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashua. We went over to the hotel. There were more than 1,000 people packed into the ballroom to hear the candidates speak. Former Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean was one of the first to take the stage.

HOWARD DEAN: I have worked too long and too hard, and the price tag for this country is too great. Both in terms of what we have suffered in Iraq, and in terms of what we have suffered with the moral leadership — the loss of moral leadership of this country, that it has had every year since the end of World War II until George Bush took the presidency. In terms of the jobs we have lost, ordinary Americans can no longer afford the presidency of George W. Bush. Whatever it takes to make sure that a Democrat holds office, starting January 20 of 2005 is what we ought to do and unifying the Democratic party is the first thing on the agenda.

The biggest loss that we have suffered in the last three years since this president has taken office is not the 3 million jobs and it’s not the loss of moral leadership. The biggest loss that we have suffered is our sense of community, our sense that we’re all in this together. When I was 21 years old, it was towards the end of the Civil Rights Movement. And the country had suffered terribly. Martin Luther King had been killed. Bobby Kennedy was dead. A lot of other people who maybe weren’t quite so famous, including four little girls in a Birmingham church died so that every American would have equal rights under the law. But it was also a time of great hope. Medicare had passed, Headstart, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the first African-American Justice to the United States Supreme Court. We felt like we were all in it together, that if one person was left behind, then the country wasn’t as strong as it could be or as good as it should be. This president ran as a uniter, not a divider. That wasn’t true.

The president used the word quota five or six times on the evening news a little less than a year ago talking about the University of Michigan affirmative action case. Not only did the most conservative Supreme Court since the Dread Scott decision disagree with him, but every politician and pollster in America knows that the word quota is a race coded word but designed to people’s fears that they will lose their jobs to a member of the community of color. The president of the United States played the race card. That alone entitles him to the one-way bus ticket back to Crawford, Texas.

AMY GOODMAN: Howard Dean, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut also took the stage with the 100 Club dinner. This is an excerpt of what he had to say.

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: We have seven candidates to choose from, a remarkable group, diverse, able, each with his own vision and ideas for making America’s future better. And we have differing ideas, some of us. We have had a healthy debate, with you there is one thing we are united on. We must deny George Bush a second term, and give the American people a fresh start. All right.

I want to speak to you for a moment tonight about my own candidacy. I’m running based on 30 years of experience in public life. I’m running based on a record of fighting for social justice and social progress, of knowing how to get the economy working, of keep being the American people safe and secure. I’m running to restore security and prosperity to America and fairness and integrity to the White House. It’s been missing there too much in the last three years. Now, looking around this room, I see that there may be some people supporting other candidates for president. And I respect that diversity. But I want to make an argument to you about why of the seven I’m the one who can actually achieve the goal we all have of defeating George W. Bush. Because my friends, we cannot govern, we cannot lead, we cannot improve the lives of our people unless we can win this election.

And let me tell you this — the Republicans and Karl Rove have a playbook that they always use against Democrats, but it’s not going to work with Joe Lieberman. They always say that we Democrats are weak on defense. Just let them try this with me. I supported the first Gulf War. I led the effort to stop genocide in the Balkans in the 1990’s which President Clinton play a heroic role in carrying out. Yes, he did, historic and strong. I wrote the Homeland Security Department bill and forced George W. Bush to finally come along and agree to it. And I have never yielded, I have never wavered for a moment on how important it was to America’s security to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Joseph Lieberman at the 100 Club. Senators John Kerry and John Edwards came in first and second in the Iowa caucuses. We drove to Nashua on Sunday to see Senator John Edwards address a rally with hundreds of people packed into a junior high school.

JOHN EDWARDS: We can put an end to these two governments that we have in Washington, D.C. I know that you know what goes on there every day, but we’re debating the Medicare Prescription Drug bill. Here come the drug company lobbyists descending on the capital. They come over you to and say, can’t you given us a little help on this bill, and wink, wink, we’ll see you at the fund raiser tonight. Let me tell you what we ought to do with the Washington lobbyist. We ought to cut them off at the knees and ban them from making contributions to members of the congress and political candidates. These people are stealing your democracy. We need to do something about it. [cheers and applause] You know, years ago I made a commitment when I was running for the Senate never to take money from a Washington lobbyist. I haven’t, but that’s not enough. We need to stop them from making contributions. Not only that, we need to stop this revolving door from the government into lobbying firms.

What happens is these people go to work for you. You’re paying them, taxpayer money and then they leave and go to work for some high-priced lobbying firm and guess who they’re lobbying, the same people they worked with. We need to stop this revolving door. Not only that, we need to shine a bright light on what the lobbyists are doing. We need to know who they are lobbying and what they’re lobbying for, what they’re trying to influence and how much money they’re spending to do it.

And one last related subject, we need to stop this war profiteering that’s going on in Iraq every day. It is wrong. [cheers and applause] You know, everyone thinks about Halliburton, but it’s not just Halliburton. If you made a list on a piece of paper of the companies that have gotten contracts, reconstruction contracts in Iraq, and then beside it listed who their political contributions are to. Take a wild guess who the biggest recipient is — George W. Bush. The American people think there is something wrong with this, because there is something wrong with it. We should stop these companies making contributions when they’re bidding on government contracts in Iraq. And not only that, when I’m your president, we’re going to go through every single one of these contracts with a magnifying glass to see what these people are charging, what their profit is and stop them from fleecing the American people. We should change this together, you and I.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Senator John Kerry spoke about an hour later at a neighboring high school in Nashua. He was joined by his fellow Massachusetts Senator, Ted Kennedy. Kennedy, who has endorsed Kerry’s candidacy, took the stage and introduced Kerry to the packed crowd. He joked about he is now uncle to Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger through his marriage to his niece, Maria Shriver. Before Kerry launched into his address, Kerry introduced his own stepson, Andre Heinz, boasting of his impersonating skills of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold — Andre Heinz took the stage.

ANDRE HEINZ: I’m a little jet-lagged from my flight from California but I just wanted to say, as a father and honorary Kennedy, I have a lot of feeling for you now. And I’m going to take some cues from you in my policies in California. But I want to say one simple thing. I may have married a Kennedy, but I love a Kerry. Don’t you also? That’s great! Yeah!

AMY GOODMAN: That was Andre Heinz impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger. We now go to Senator John Kerry, who was at the rally of hundreds of people before a very large American flag, the Senator of Massachusetts now running for president of the United States, John Kerry.

JOHN KERRY: I’m running for president — I’m running for president because we deserve a president who understands that our economy ought to be an economy that’s based on people and products, not on perks and privileges. Tyco is a company that left New Hampshire. It buys a $27,000 mailbox in Bermuda and takes $400 million off the tax roles of America and sticks you with the bill. My friends, when I’m president, one of the first things we will do is put that tax code in front of the congress. All of us as Americans, a tax code that’s gone from 14 pages to 17,000 pages, and I promise you, we will strip out any benefit, any reward, any incentive that goes to any benedict arnold company or C.E.O. that take the jobs overseas, and take the money overseas, and stick you with the bill.

I’m running for president because I believe we deserve a president who asks for the best of Americans. I believe we deserve a president who doesn’t look for the lowest common denominator of politics and try to drive a wedge between the American people. We deserve a president who really wants to unite and solve real problems.

I’m running for president and one of the first things I will do in my first 100 days, I will issue an executive order that bans anyone from government going into lobbying for five years, so we end this cycle of pick pocketing of the American people. I will issue an executive order that requires every single meeting of a lobbyist and public official to be a matter of official public record so it’s open to the sunlight of the American people, and the democracy, and we have accountability.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator John Kerry, speaking at a large rally in Nashua. Outside, there were supporters of Dean, as there were in many places in New Hampshire. They were giving out doughnuts for America, they said, to the Kerry supporters. But that was the case in many cities. Clearly, the most people on the streets were young people from outside of New Hampshire who were there advocating for Howard Dean in the bitter cold. This is one of those supporters.

GABRIEL: Hi. My name is Gabriel. I’m from Africa where I’m from the Ivory Coast in west Africa. I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you doing on the corner in Portsmouth, New Hampshire?

GABRIEL: I’m here for Dean. You can see the big sign for Dean. He’s the right man we need in America to lead the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

GABRIEL: America leads the world, and we understand that a good leader should be coming from here and that affects the rest of the world. And therefore, being an African, I believe Dean can have good policies.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think that? Why not Clark or Kerry or Kucinich, why not Sharpton?

GABRIEL: Dean has been simple from the beginning and he has a simple stance. He hasn’t changed his mind. The other candidates, actually, and in Africa, we don’t like war and the way that Bush went to war, the way — we see the other candidates supporting the war in Iraq turns me off a great deal. So, Dean is the simple gentleman who actually chose to say that going to war was wrong. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to protect ourselves.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices from New Hampshire this weekend. We’ll continue there over the next two days. Reverend Al Sharpton was not in New Hampshire this weekend. He was in South Carolina, the next primary. That does it for the show.

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