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State of the Union, 2007. Democratic response.


Freshman Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), a former Secretary of the Navy whose son is serving in Iraq, was chosen by the Democratic leaders to deliver the party's response to President Bush's State of the Union address.

Democratic Response of Senator Jim Webb
To the President’s State of the Union Address

Good evening.

I’m Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown – an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President’s message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy – how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy – how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy – that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We’ve established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We’re working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm’s way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed.

The war’s costs to our nation have been staggering.
The damage to our reputation around the world.
The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.
And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves “as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other.” And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. “When comes the end?” asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.



In regards to Iraq, this is the type of strong leadership that is needed from the Democrats. No disrespect to Cindy Sheehan, but she shouldn't be the one that the people see when they think "war in Iraq" and "Democratic Party." For the all the good she has done, she has turned off a lot of people. Senator Webb's voice needs to be heard and listened to.

Thank you Mr. Webb. It's about time-for the first time in a long time I am optimistic about our country!

Darn good speech. Time to play hardball.

Holy Cow Senator Webb where have you been? I truly hope that your party can take your ringing response, stand behind it and make it count. There are too many of us in this country who feel the same way that YOU do.

Webb blew it. President Eisenhower ended the Korean war by ending the stailmate. He did that by sending MORE TROOPS to take Pork Chop Hill! So are you Mr. Webb agreeing with the president by sending more troops? Also, they allowed for diplomacy to end the war. THAT IS WHY WE ARE STILL THERE 50 YEARS LATER! That is why we are still in Bosnia. Isreal used diplomacy to allow the palestinians their own land. They went out and elected HAMAS to lead them. In the 90's we used diplomacy and we got attacked again and again. The enemy only thinks we are weak when we won't back up our words. We are in Iraq because we allowed Sadam to push us arround all during the 90's with the nuclear inspectors. Wake up people, if we back out there will be mass murder like there was in viet nam and cambodia when we walked out on them. Only difference is, these radicals want to come here to kill us.

Thank you Jim Webb for on of the most memorable and right on speeches in a long time. The presidential candidates need to pay heed and speak as fluently and straight forward as you do. It made me want to stand up and cheer.

Senator Webb's speech was right on the money. He showed the nation the face and heart of a patriotic democrat. His remards were thoughtful and largely non-political. Politics will not save us from ourselves. Adherence to our highest principles will.

Whatever mass hysterias and/or delusions our nation has suffered from in the past (on the full political spectrum), let us now face the music and find a way to live peaceably with the rest of the world. There are non-political solutions to our problems.

Thanks heaven that the democrats are now getting some back bone about this Iraq mess. Bringing democracy - civil war to the middle east is not worth one american life.

Better speech than Bush ever gave. Certainly better than last night's State of the Union address. I've been watching Webb during the Senate hearings about the escalating surge, and he is impressive. He has a future in this revitalized party. The Republicans? They trusted
their future on someone who could very well go down as one of the worst presidents in American History -- who thrived on fear and bigotry for his power; who was so ignorant and incompetent that he had to rely on exploiting an attack against our country to retain his office, and smirked through it the whole time. These Republicans deserve to see the destruction of their party -- they don't realize yet that the 2006 election will look like the junior prom when they really hit the wall in a few months.

Fantastic speech! Webb was exactly right on both accounts -- encomic imbalance and Iraq war. Thank you Senator Webb!

Webb is a fraud who wears a wig or something, what was that on his head a mop?

Senator Webb's speech was so great that I WAS cheering, and saying damn right, to most of what he said. The Democrats should push for impeachment of Bush and all his cronies. Their lies have cost this country MORE deaths than what we lost on 9/11, and tons of injured, not to mention all the dead and injured Iraquis. The U.S. MUST get out of Iraq IMMEDIATELY, not next year, as so many people are dying every day!!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 23, 2007 8:35 PM.

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