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Sharpton Ignores Bush-Bashing Ban And Slams President For Waging Iraq War

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Delegates at the convention give Rev. Al Sharpton a standing ovation in his attack on Bush’s war policies and attempts to reach out to African-American voters. [includes rush transcript]

John Kerry was officially nominated as the Democratic Party”s presidential candidate late Wednesday night after his running mate John Edwards gave his prime-time address on the floor of the convention.

After Edwards” speech, convention delegates proceeded through the traditional roll call of states. At the end of the night, Kerry had 4,255 votes, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich had 37. The roll call was reportedly scripted to allow Ohio, an important battleground state, to cast the decisive vote. Edwards will officially be nominated as vice presidential candidate later today.

The third night of the Democratic National Convention featured a number of notable speakers including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich and the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Eljiah Cummings.

But it was the Rev. Al Sharpton who stole the show. The former presidential candidate was frequently interrupted with cheers and applause during a rousing address that rocked the FleetCenter. Sharpton repeatedly departed from his prepared text–which had been scrubbed by John Kerry”s staff — slamming the Bush administration on Iraq and domestic issues.

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

REV. AL SHARPTON: I want to address my remarks in two parts. One, I am honored to address the delegates here. Last Friday, I had the experience in Detroit of hearing President George Bush make a speech. And in the speech, he asked certain questions. I hope he’s watching tonight. I would like to answer your questions, Mr. President. [cheering] To our chairman, our delegates and all that are assembled; we are honored and glad to be here tonight. I am glad to be joined by supporters and friends from around the country. I am glad to be joined by my family, Kathy Dominique who will be 18 and Ashley. We are here 282 years after right here in Boston we fought to establish the freedoms of America. The first person to die in the Revolutionary war buried not far from here. A black man from Barbados named Crispus Attucks. 40 years ago, in 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party went to the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City fighting to preserve voting rights for all Americans and all democrats regardless of race or gender. Hamer’s stand inspired Dr. King’s march in Selma which brought about the voting rights act of 1965. 20 years ago, Reverend Jesse Jackson stood at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, again appealing to preserve those freedoms. Tonight, we stand with those freedoms at risk and our security as citizens in question.

I have come here tonight to say the only choice we have to preserve our freedom at this point in history is to elect John Kerry the President of the United States. (applause) I stood with both John Kerry and John Edwards over various occasions in debates during the primary speech. I not only debated them, I watched them. I observed their deeds. I looked into their eyes. I am convinced that they are men who say what they mean and mean what they say. (applause) I am also convinced that at a time when a vicious spirit in the politics of this country that attempts to undermine America’s freedom, our civil rights, our civil liberties, we must leave this city and go forth, organize this nation with victory, for our party and John Kerry and John Edwards in November. (applause) But let me quickly say this is not just about winning an election. It’s about preserving the principles on which this very nation was founded. Look at the current view of our nation worldwide. As a result of our unilateral foreign policy, we went from unprecedented international support and solid solidarity on September 12, 2001, to hostility and hatred as we stand here tonight. We can’t survive in the world by ourselves. (applause) How did we squander this opportunity to unite the world for democracy and to commit to the growth and fight against hunger and disease? We did it with a go-it-alone foreign policy based on flawed intelligence. We were told that we were going to Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction. We lost hundreds of soldiers. We spent $200 billion at a time we had record state deficit. And when it became clear that there were no weapons, they changed the premise of the war. And said no, we went because of other reasons. If I told you tonight to let’s leave the FleetCenter, we are in danger. And when you get outside, you ask me Reverend Al what is the danger? and I said it don’t matter, we just needed some fresh air! I have misled you and we were misled. (applause) We are also faced with the prospect of in the next four years that two or more Supreme Court Justices seats will become available. This year, we celebrated the anniversary of Brown versus Board of Education. (applause) This court has voted five to four on critical issues of women’s rights and civil rights. It is frightening to think that the days of civil and women’s rights and those movements in the last century could be reversed if this administration is in the White House in these next four years. I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in ’54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school! (applause).

This is not about a party. This is about living up to the promise of America. The promise of America says that we will guarantee quality education for all children and not spend more money on metal detectors than computers in our schools. The promise of America guarantees health care for all of its citizens and doesn’t force seniors to travel to Canada to buy a prescription drug they can’t afford here at home. The promise of America is that every citizen vote is counted and protected. And election schemes do not decide the election. It, to me, is a glaring contradiction that we would fight, and rightfully so, to get the right to vote for the people in the capital of Iraq and Baghdad, but still don’t give the federal right to vote for the people in the capital of the United States in Washington DC. (applause).

Mr. President, as I close, Mr. President, I heard you say Friday, that you had questions for voters, particularly African American voters. And you asked the question, did the Democratic Party take us for granted? Well, I have raised questions. But let me answer your question. You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule. That’s where the argument to this day of reparation stops. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover and we never got the 40 acres. We didn’t get the mule. So we decided we would ride this donkey as far as it would take us! [cheers] (applause) (applause) (applause)

Mr. President, you said that we have more leverage if both parties got our vote. But we didn’t come this far playing political games. It was those that earned our votes that got our votes. We got the civil rights act under a democrat. We got the voting rights act under democrats. We got the right to organize, under democrats. (applause) Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously. is our right to vote wasn’t gained because of our age. Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of good men. Soaked in the blood four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us. This vote can’t be bargained away. This vote can’t be given away. (applause) (applause)

Mr. President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips. Our vote is not for sale! (applause) There’s a whole generation of young leaders that have come forward across this country that stand on integrity and stand on their traditions. Those that have emerged with John Kerry and John Edwards as partners. Like Greg Meeks, like Obama, Baraka. Like our voter registration director, Margaret Harris. Like those that are in the trenches. And we come with strong family values. Family values are not just those with two-car garages and a retirement plan. Retirement plans are good, but family values are also for those who had to make nothing stretch into something happening, who had to make ends meet. I was raised by a single mother who made a way for me. She used to scrub floors as a domestic worker. Put a cleaning rag and a pocket book and ride the subways in Brooklyn so I would have food on the table. But she’s taught me as I walked into that subway that life is about not where you start, but where you are going. That’s family values! (applause) and I want it— I wanted somebody in my community, I wanted to show that example as I ran for President, I hoped that one child could come up of the ghetto like I did, could look at me walk across the stage with governors and senators and know they didn’t have to be a drug dealer. They didn’t have to be a hoodlum. They didn’t have to be a gangster. They could stand up from a broken home on welfare and they could run for President of the United States. (applause).

As you know, I live in New York. I was there September 11 when that despicable act of terrorism happened. A few days after, I left home, my family had taken in a young man who lost his family. And as they gave comfort to him, I had to do a radio show that morning. When I got there, my friend James Mtume said to me, Reverend, we are going to stop at a certain hour and play a song synchronized with 999 other stations. They said we are dedicating it to the victims of 9/11. I said, what song are you playing? He said, we are playing America the Beautiful. The particular station I was at, they played that rendition sung by Ray Charles. As you know, we lost Ray a few weeks ago, but I sat there that morning and listened to Ray sing through those speakers “Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountains majesty across the fruited plains.” And then it occurred to me as I heard Ray singing that Ray wasn’t singing about what he knew because Ray had been blind since he was a child. He hadn’t seen many purple mountains. He hadn’t seen any fruited plains. He was singing about what he believed to be. Mr. President, we love America. Not because of all of us have seen the beauty all the time. But we believe if we kept on working, if we kept on marching, if we kept on voting, if we kept on believing, we would make America beautiful for everybody! Come November, let’s make America beautiful again. Thank you and God bless you. (applause).

AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Al Sharpton, a former Democratic presidential candidate speaking last night on the floor of the Democratic National convention. After his address, we caught up with him just before he left the FleetCenter.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Sharpton, do you think—do you think Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards should be expressing more dissent against the war, against the USA Patriot Act, where most of the delegates stand here?

REV. AL SHARPTON: I think they have a responsibility to win, but I think they should also deal with the question of Iraq and I think that as the president has to take him on an issue. Not bashing, I’m not bashing the President to take him on an issue. But I think the reaction to my speech shows the delegates want that. I’ve never called him a name. He threw the gauntlet down on Black voters. To confront that something wrong with us on why we are voting Democrat? So I answered him. So, now to answer him is it bashing? Was he bashing us? I think sometimes we can be so caution that we don’t energize or galvanize our own base. And I wanted to do that tonight.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Senator Kerry is making that mistake?

REV. AL SHARPTON: He will have to decide that. I’m not here to critique him. I think all of us need to stand up and state why we are for Kerry and why we are against Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: How does—how do you prevent a repeat of Florida?

REV. AL SHARPTON: I think that you are going to have to really go down and monitor those elections. You’re going to have to support the legislation that is knocking out these schemes that are calling already again for methods that will suppress that vote

AMY GOODMAN: George Bush not going to the NAACP dinner—George Bush not going to the NAACP dinner?

REV. AL SHARPTON: I think it was indicative of his feelings which is why I laid them out today. I think anyone would agree with of me. He intends to appoint a conservative court, he intends to continue in the ways he has. That’s why we need to defeat him.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he was trying to mobilize his base by doing that?

REV. AL SHARPTON: I don’t know. But I was trying to mobilize mine by pointing it out.

AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Al Sharpton inside the FleetCenter just after his address.

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