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Breaking with Convention (Part I): Highlights from the DNC, from the Suites to the Streets to the Convention Floor

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Democracy Now! is back at home in New York after two weeks on the road. We traveled to Denver, then to St. Paul, to bring you our special coverage: Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency. We grilled politicians with tough questions and exposed the backroom corporate suites. We deployed our reporters into the protest-filled streets to broadcast voices of the silenced majority. Today, Part I, with a recap of our coverage of the Democratic convention in Denver, from the suites to the streets to the convention floor. [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! is back at home in New York after two weeks on the road. We traveled to Denver, then to St. Paul, to bring you our special coverage, “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency.” We grilled politicians, exposed the backroom corporate suites. We deployed our reporters into the protest-filled streets to broadcast voices of the silenced majority.

We wanted to go back to bring you some of the highlights of our convention coverage. Tomorrow we’ll look at the Republican convention, but today we start with a recap of our coverage of the Democratic convention in Denver, from the suites to the streets to the convention floor.

    MICHELLE OBAMA: Millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams, millions of Americans who know that Barack will fight for people like them and that Barack will bring, finally, the change that we need.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: One of the enduring problems of our political system, whether it’s about Democrats or Republicans, is the role of corporations in the political process. We have a real problem in America, where corporations have infiltrated our political process so seriously that they’re putting labels on all of us. There’s not one on me, but I can say that when I go to my own Ohio delegation, and I see “Dominion” on everything — and that’s a natural gas company that’s jacking up everybody’s rates, and they need the support of a state administration to do it —- don’t think that I don’t understand what that’s about. We’re in the Pepsi Arena. Obama is going to give his acceptance in Invesco Stadium. What’s this about? It’s like we’re forgetting the public sphere.

    BILL CLINTON: Barack Obama is ready to honor the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.

    STIC.MAN: It’s lack of understanding, the lack of political clarity, you know what I mean? And it’s marketing, you know what I mean? It’s like Barack is hot. He’s, you know—he’s the [blank] right now, so throw him on your jacket, you know what I mean? And, you know, it ain’t really deep. It’s just people riding the wave.

    GLENN GREENWALD: It’s extraordinary that the same Blue Dogs that just gave this extremely corrupt gift to AT&T are now attending a party underwritten by AT&T, the purpose of which is to thank the Blue Dogs for the corrupt legislative gift that they got. So AT&T gives money to Blue Dogs, the Blue Dogs turn around and immunize AT&T from lawbreaking, and then AT&T throws a party at the Democratic convention thanking them.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can I just ask a question? If this is open to the delegates, why isn’t it -—

    UNIDENTIFIED: Other side of the property, please. The other side of the property, where the public can stand.

    AMY GOODMAN: But isn’t this open to the delegates?

    UNIDENTIFIED: No, it’s not. You could talk to the police right now.

    AMY GOODMAN: This is not for the Democratic National Convention?

    UNIDENTIFIED: Go ahead. Go to the other side of the property, where the rest of the public can stand, please.

    UNIDENTIFIED: Here comes an officer to talk to you.

    AMY GOODMAN: OK. You know, but we’re confused. We’re press for the DNC to cover the Democratic National Convention, and I’m just wondering —

    UNIDENTIFIED: Unfortunately, I’m just telling you what I’ve been told.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what have you been told?

    UNIDENTIFIED: I need you guys over there or over there.

    AMY GOODMAN: So are you saying there’s no press allowed in?

    UNIDENTIFIED: Correct. I’m saying that it’s a private party, is what I’m saying.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, Medea Benjamin, why are you all out here?

    MEDEA BENJAMIN: Code Pink is — has always been dogging the Blue Dogs, because the Blue Dogs are supposed to be fiscally conservative, yet they are the ones that keep cheerleading for this war and keep funding the war. But we also see that the Blue Dogs are big into the corporate sponsorship, and we’re here to say that, as the convention starts to begin tomorrow, the Blue Dogs should be ashamed of themselves for taking corporate money and then turning around and giving immunity to the telecoms industry for illegally spying on us.

    CODE PINK PROTESTERS: Blue Dogs take cash from AT&T and give telecoms immunity. So Code Pink is here to give the dogs a bone, tell AT&T don’t tap my phone!

    LARRY EVEREST: I’m Larry Everest. I’m the author of Oil, Power and Empire: Iraq and the US Global Agenda. It shows that despite the fact many people — “Oh, the economy is the issue. It’s all about the economy.” No, it’s not all about the economy. Objectively, with events in the Middle East, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, now Georgia, with Iran looming all over this, no matter who is in office, the ruling class of this country confronts these huge challenges and these explosive contradictions in trying to maintain and extend their grip on the world. So, in my view, Obama’s selection of Biden points to that, that in order to contend, you have to show — you’re basically auditioning to be commander-in-chief of the US empire.

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, you can’t get more inside the Beltway than Joseph Biden, so it looks like it’s going to be more of the same, and that’s truly unfortunate. But we understood that that’s where the Democratic Party was. It’s where it has been. It’s where it is today. And that’s why we have to have alternative parties and alternative voices. That’s why I’m here in Denver today.

    RALPH NADER: Eugene Debs said something else. He said, “Better to vote for someone you believe in and lose than vote for someone you do not believe in and win, because that someone will surely betray you.”

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: That’s the question, is — it’s not precisely where on some imaginary continuum or other our candidate is. Barack Obama is night and day difference from where McCain is on foreign policy issues. And the main issue is, number one, will there be a timetable in Iraq, or will the open-ended commitment remain? Obama wants some kind of a timetable in Iraq. McCain says open-ended. He will not do anything other than to say it’s going to be condition-based and so forth.

    HILLARY CLINTON: It is time to take back the country we love. And whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose.

    CLINTON SUPPORTER: We’re going to have a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of anger, and it’s going to take awhile for it to, you know, subside. And here we go. They wouldn’t even allow us to put anything in here. You know, we had to sneak these things in here.

    CLINTON SUPPORTER: We thought it was women’s time. And, you know, we just — you know, it was hard to get over it, but we’re putting it behind us, because we want our party to be in the White House this January. So it’s — you know, we’ve got to go forward.

    REP. CHARLES RANGEL: I put my bet on Obama on getting us out of Iraq.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Joe Biden, they’re saying, is going to be the big foreign policy guy in the White House.

    REP. CHARLES RANGEL: You know, I’ve been around for thirty-eight years in the Congress. Vice presidents never counted that much, except Cheney.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: So it doesn’t concern you that some of these people were very belligerent on Iraq?

    REP. CHARLES RANGEL: No, no, no. Biden knows he made a big mistake. He’s said it, and that’s all I need. Let’s get the hell on out.

    SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: Again and again, on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama has been proven right. Folks, remember when the world used to trust us, when they looked to us for leadership? With Barack Obama as our president, they will look at us again, they’ll trust us again, and we’ll be able to lead again.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Senator Kerry, should Blackwater be banned? Senator Kerry, you’ve been aggressive on Blackwater recently. Do you think they should be banned?

    SEN. JOHN KERRY: I’m not having a press conference right now. I’ve got to get to an airport, because I have to go to a funeral.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Just answer the one question. I know you know about this.

    SEN. JOHN KERRY: I need to — I need — I’m not doing this right know. That’s all.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: It’s a simple yes or no. Do you think they should be banned — Blackwater, the mercenary company — from operating in Iraq?

    SEN. JOHN KERRY: No, I don’t think they should be banned. I think they need to operate under rules that apply to the military and everybody else.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: But it’s OK if Senator Obama continues to use them, if he wins the presidency?

    SEN. JOHN KERRY: You guys, I’m not — this is not the moment.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: The Blackwater company is in trouble, because they try to treat their employees as if they’re independent contractors. They have done a job that’s been considered very poor, and they’re under criminal investigation for some of the work that their troops have done. And so, they’re going to be investigated much further by the Congress and people in the administration and good people like you on the outside.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Last question: should Senator Obama win, do you think he should cancel that contract with the WPPS?

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Yes. Yes, I don’t see any reason to have a contract with Blackwater. They haven’t lived up to their contract, and we shouldn’t be having these private military contracts. We should use our own military.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: So, you know, a lot of us aren’t going to be particularly satisfied, but so what? You know, the voters made their choice in the primaries. You’ve got to respect that choice. And what I’m going to be doing here, tomorrow, at the convention, is to talk about the economy and look at those issues around which we can be united.

    Be certain that under a Democratic administration, if that administration is showing aggressive tendencies or is putting us on the edge of a war again or not taking us into a direction of peace, I am not going to be quiet. I mean, I’m going to continue to talk about the direction America should go in. But we can’t let those differences that we have right now cause us to fracture at a time that we really have to bring a change to the White House.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight, because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s about you.

    PROTESTERS: Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine! Rise up with the people of the world! Rise up with the people of the world!

    UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: We’re in Denver, Colorado. We march to protest the Democratic National Convention, because they don’t represent the interests of the people. The Democratic Party represents the interests of the ruling class.

    UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: We’re here to protest against two-party politics and politics itself.

    UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: The time has come for direct action. Take to the streets. Stop sitting back and watching your TV. Politics is in the streets, and it’s every day before your eyes. This affects all of us. This is a common struggle of all people throughout the world.

    PROTESTERS: Tell me what a police state looks like! This is what a police state looks like!

    JACOB: An officer has to be identified by a badge or a nameplate. If you look behind me at all these sheriffs, there is not one of them identifiable. As you can see, these guys could hurt us at any given time, and we would not know how to hold them accountable.

    UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: The whole idea is to document what the police are doing, hopefully prevent police brutality, prevent excessive use of force. I have seen a lot of automatic weapons, held by the police over there, quite a few non-lethal devices also, pepper spray, shooters and a whole bunch of different things. So they’re ready for whatever they imagine is going to happen, and we’re ready to document what they do.

    IVAW PROTESTERS: It’s all right. It’s all right.

    It’s all right. It’s all right.

    It’s all right. It’s OK.

    UNIDENTIFIED: In front of me is about sixty Iraq Veterans Against the War from different branches of military, in Dress A uniforms and combat camo uniforms, marching in tight formation.

    Behind me is the entire Rage Against the Machine show that just took place for free in Denver. And they’re marching behind us. We’re going to go as far as we can to the convention center. The vets are willing to go to jail, and a lot of the crowd is, too, so we’re going to fill the jails, fill the streets and get our message across.

    IVAW PROTESTERS: It’s all right. It’s OK.

    It’s all right. It’s OK.

    GARRETT REPPENHAGEN: Barack Obama has the courage to go overseas to go to Iraq into a war zone and see what’s going on there, but he doesn’t seem to have the courage to face our returning antiwar veterans and protesters here out on the street.

    MAGGIE MARTIN: My name’s Maggie Martin. I am the chapter president of the new Savannah, Georgia chapter of IVAW. We’re marching to show the Democrats and to show America the veterans who are over there who served are against the war and that we’re not going to — we’re not going to let the Democrats get off scot-free on running on an antiwar platform and getting elected and not following through. So we’re here to hold them accountable.

    GARRETT REPPENHAGEN: You know, we voted them in in 2006 on the idea that they’d give us these false promises, these hopes that they were going to bring us out of Iraq, and they’ve only funded it time and time again, and they’ve only stalled veteran legislation that would help us get healthcare.

    So, you know, I’m not — I’m not going to —- I’m not going to vote on hope. You know, I’m going to vote on solutions. And, you know, both parties –— it’s both parties’ fault we got into this war. It’s both parties’ fault that we’re still there. So we need to hold them both accountable. And we’re going to march there, and we’re going to demand they hear what we have to say. And if they’re really the antiwar party, as some might think, then they should have no problem endorsing what we have to say.

    IVAW MEMBER: I’m sure there are a lot of good Americans in there that would be not OK with the idea that they’re about to arrest a bunch of Iraq vets if we don’t go home. This is my home. This is my home.

    IVAW MEMBER: The police of the City of Denver have given the dispersal order to the protesters in the rear of the formation. We’re told that if that order is given three times, they have authorization to shoot teargas into the crowd. And Iraq Veterans Against the War will be standing here in formation awaiting further response from the campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

    Shooting teargas, or a threat of it, or threatening to disperse while we exercise our First Amendment rights to peacefully gather — and I emphasize peacefully — is a disgrace.

    These veterans fought too hard to come back here and be ignored, as we have been for the last seven years by this same administration. To be ignored again by the would-be savior of America, his antiwar rhetoric — to be ignored again is a disgrace.

    IVAW MEMBER: We got through to the campaign staff, and they’ve agreed. Their veterans’ liaison is coming out to set up a meeting to talk about when we can read our letter to the delegates. So we’ve succeeded.

    GEOFF MILLARD: This is a victory. We at least have the ear of a presidential candidate. That’s, I think, the first for the antiwar movement for the Iraq war, to actually have the full ear of one of the presidential candidates.

    As Iraq veterans, I can’t tell you how good that feels. Most of the time, they want us to come home and be war heroes and take our medals and forget about the war. Well, we can’t forget about the war. We won’t forget about the war. And we certainly won’t forget about our brothers and sisters still fighting it and the Iraqi people who are stuck there.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: And today — today, as my call for a timeframe to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learned that Iraq has $79 billion in surplus, while we are wallowing in deficit, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

    REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE: Sheila Jackson-Lee. I represent the 18th congressional district in Houston, Texas, and a member of the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Foreign Affairs Committee.

    I think tonight Senator Obama did just what he needed to do. He gave a serious, deliberative message to the American people. I think what was most important is he opened again the opportunity that American families mean something in this country. He was not afraid to talk about the fact that this war in Iraq must end, something that we have been struggling with now since this president took us to war in 2003 and since the resolution was voted on in 2002. It was good to hear someone who is seeking the presidency talk about ending the war and bringing the troops home.

    STEPHANIE CLEMENTS: My daughter served in the Navy in Guantanamo. And the things that happened down there were horrific, and it wasn’t that it just affects — I’m sorry, the prisoners there. She came back messed up. She came back with an alcohol problem. And, you know, her Navy benefits wouldn’t pay for rehab at all. She wants to go back to school. She’s working two jobs right now, trying to save money, and she wants to go back to school, and her Navy benefits, her GI benefits, aren’t coming through. She doesn’t get to start again in the fall, because they’re not there, and this is happening to our young people. They earned this. They worked for this. They earned this. She has nightmares. Her name’s Brittany, and God bless her. She’s one of the bravest people I know. She worked, and she served this country.

    OBAMA SUPPORTER: I’m almost sixty, OK? So, say like some of us that are in our nineties, like one old lady, she got so excited, almost ninety in here tonight, and fell, just dropping, passed out. These are people, they’re coming from generations of slaves. That we have a baby from a white woman from Kansa — I’m from Kansas, too! And the love she had, and her white mother and father that raised that little black baby to be so sweet — where do you see that, but in America?

    OBAMA SUPPORTER: I thought it was an incredible speech. It was grassroots, all the way up to the level of what needed to be said. He closed out the convention with this speech. And as a kid growing up in Alabama under Jim Crow all the way back, to see this result is fantastic, because it’s not just about Barack, as he said. This is about the American people. And he took it to that level.

AMY GOODMAN: Highlights of the Democratic National Convention. Special thanks to Hany Massoud and the whole Democracy Now! team. Tomorrow, highlights of the Republican convention, our coverage, “Breaking with Convention.”

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