I was challenged to do my own version of Sorenson’s hypothetical acceptance speech. Here’s my (quickly drafted) version:
My fellow Democrats: Thank you – I think – for the opportunity to represent our party in the upcoming contest to decide what the next chapter in our shared will look like.
This campaign will be one of the hardest and most expensive ever. It is the political equivalent of putting a man on the moon, and like that effort will rely on everyone from the janitor who sweeps the floor to the generals who set strategy. I’m happy and proud to have been selected here, and congratulate my Democratic opponents, and reach out to them humbly for their guidance, assistance, and work in the coming months.This is a campaign that must reach out to all Americans, because the future we want to lead this country toward is a future for everyone – Democrats, Republicans, liberals, and conservatives, all of us. We may disagree on the small stuff – important stuff to be sure, but small in the overall scheme of things. But we must agree on the need for America – for these United States – to be the city on the hill for those of us who live in it – ALL of us that live in it – as well as a beacon of hope and example for the rest of the world.
The country deserves to understand where my opponent and I hope to lead it.
I want to try and clearly set out where my opponent and his party and this party and I differ and where we agree, because I’m comfortable that when people taste our cooking, they will choose to sit down and eat with us.
To that end, I have arranged to buy six 60-minute blocks of time on Sunday nights on CNN and Fox. I want to propose to my opponent that we use them to debate – one on one, with no moderators, journalists, or people to frame our discussion – on topics each of us chooses. I’ll choose three, and invite my opponent to pick three, and they will be the themes of each discussion.
My three will be:
* Securing the United States – military and diplomatic policy for a dangerous world.
* Securing a Middle-Class Future – responding to the narrowing availability of a traditional middle-class life for the average American.
* Securing Our Health – making decisions on how we will provide healthcare in the coming decade.
And I’m just dying to know what my opponent will pick.
It’s not like I’ve been silent on where I stand on the issues of the day. I wouldn’t be standing here is many of you hadn’t heard what I have to say and if it hadn’t meant something to you.
But let me recap, just so that there are no questions.
In my view of the world, we face three major challenges which the United States must lead the rest of the world in solving.
The first, and most acute, is the rise of transnational movements – the largest of which is based in a form of radical Islam – which intend to weaken and overthrow existing governments in much of the world.
The second, and closest to home here in the US, is the hollowing of the economic future for the middle-class. Globalization, technology, and regulatory change have combined to create a â€˜perfect storm’ in which many families are drowning.
The last is the continued burden economic growth throughout the world places on the natural systems on which we all depend for life.
Pushing solutions forward on all three of those problems will be the strategic center of my Presidency. We may not solve them, but I will commit that we’ll work damn hard on them and that we’ll leave things better than we found them.
Liberals are often accused of being soft on crime or soft on terror because we are concerned about the conditions that cause people to turn to crime or to terrorism. It’s a mistake to believe that, and to dismiss looking at causes.
The issue, in both cases is that we have to stop growing criminals and terrorists just as much as we have to be very good at catching and where necessary killing them. Think of it as a supply-side solution. And one where alliances and cooperation are absolutely vital.
There are a number of things we need to do and this is not a speech on terrorism policy. But let me make two points, clearly and separately, so no one misses them.
I’m very concerned about nuclear attacks – especially one that can’t be readily traced back – on U.S. soil, or on the soil of one of our Western allies.
Let me be very clear. There are two states today who have unregulated nuclear programs, and have engaged in efforts which might lead to a terror group obtaining a nuclear weapon.
North Korea and Iran.
I want to make it clear that any detonation or attempt to detonate a nuclear weapon on the soil of the US or any NATO or SEATO ally which involves a weapon whose origin we cannot readily trace will be considered to have come from North Korea or Iran. This is potentially an existential matter for the leadership of those countries.
We would welcome clear and total cooperation by those countries in understanding their nuclear programs, and understanding who – if anyone – they have shared nuclear weapons technology with. And obviously that cooperation would change our policies.
I intend to send emissaries to sit and talk with the leaders of both countries and see what we can do to stop the slow slide toward confrontation that we seem to be on today.
Many countries have an interest in limiting transnational terrorism. Many countries have seen it as a tool to extend the reach of their power. I would talk to both, and see what we can do to convince them to help solve the problem, rather than be a part of it.
Today, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is the most well-publicized point of friction in the world today. I am unqualifiedly in support of a U.S. guaranty of the survival of Israel and the Israeli people. Period. Full stop. Butâ€¦Israel is going to have to do some things to earn that guaranty.
Settlements in the West Bank made sense when Israel was worried about tank columns from Jordan. That’s not a concern any more, and the bulk of the settlements should be handed over to Palestine. The right of free access to the holy places in Jerusalem must be guaranteed to all faiths.
The misery of the Palestinian people is well-known. But we have spent billions and the EU and Arab nations have spent billions, and the Palestinian people have been robbed, time and again, by thugs with guns who have stolen their money, their hope, and their future. The United States will commit to fair and secure borders for Palestine, and to continued assistance for the Palestinian people. But Palestine is going to have to do some things to earn that commitment and that assistance.
Let’s start with two:
The education system in Palestine will be taken over and supervised by a new agency, supervised by the Quartet. No longer will Palestinian children be raised believing that hate and murder are the only future they can aspire to.
The books for the State of Palestine will be absolutely and totally transparent. No longer will we support a state that pays militias with suitcases full of cash, and where duffels of cash somehow wind up in secret banks in the names of rulers and their families.
These are concrete steps that we can and will take on our own. Once these are under way, we believe that the time wil be right for the governments of Israel and Palestine to sit down and start what will be a long and difficult talk. It’s a talk we think – given the right conditions – can and will work.
Talking will work in some cases, but it won’t work everywhere.
For those places, we need a bigger, more capable military.
We don’t need as many air superiority fighters as we do covert operatives; we don’t need as many nuclear warheads as we do civil affairs troops; we don’t need a military as focused to fight China or Russia (although we need to maintain capabilities there and capabilities to ramp aggressively and fast) as we do need a military that can fight guerillas and terrorists, protect local governments while they introduce stability, and do it without wearing the troops into the ground.
I want to remind the world that my objective is peace. I understand that peace may not give us everything we want, and I’m prepared to lead the American people toward accepting that.
I want America to be working alongside other countries, and for our goal to be the best ally that any nation could have.
But I also want to remind the other nations whose interests may not align with that they need to compromise too. And for people worldwide to realize that cheap Anti-Americanism isn’t free.
And to remind those who think they have a free hand to attack us because we are a helpless giant: We are the furthest thing from a helpless giant today, and that we will be even further from there at the end of my Presidency. We are a giant who is hard to make angry, and that is as it should be. Because you won’t like it when we get angry.
Speaking of things that make me personally angry, America has led the way for much of the world in economic and class mobility – until recently.
When I started my campaign, I asked a simple question: “What have we done for the single mom with two kids – the one who works in an office in a big city and makes $40,000 a year? What have we done for the family in a small town that makes $30,000 a year?” How do me make the basics of the American dream – a white picket fence and a better future for our kids – available to people who don’t have advanced degrees or trust funds?
There are a lot of things we should be doing.
We need to make sure that she doesn’t pay as much in childcare as she earns from her job.
We need to make sure that a child’s illness or accident won’t make that mom homeless.
We need to make sure that the school she sends her kids to prepares them to take a real shot at getting into Harvard.
We need to make sure that she has the tools available to her – continuing education, professional development – to compete for her boss’ job if she wants to.
That family needs to know that their retirement fund isn’t going to get closed down if the factory does.
They need to be in communities connected to the Internet so that their kids can have the opportunity to compete for â€˜insourced’ jobs in information work.
Their local schools need to prepare their kids for those kinds of jobs.
They need a farm policy that doesn’t tip the tables in favor of huge industrial agriculture – one that really bypasses the local towns and hollows out farm states.
They all need an economy that makes it easier, rather than harder for small business and entrepreneurs. The cost of regulation can be split in two – the cost of doing what the regulation requires, and the cost of complying with the paperwork. I have no problem with regulation that advances the public good. I have a huge problem with regulation where the paperwork to prove you comply is more complex than doing what is needed to comply, and that is going to change.
Many of the regulations we talk about are aimed at improving the environment, so let me talk about that.
Improving the environment – or better, not destroying it more – is a matter of life and death for many people on this planet. Environmental degradation is killing people in China and in Africa, it is shortening lifespans in the U.S. and Europe, and the risks and burdens it presents are simply unacceptable.
Kyoto was well-intentioned, but deeply flawed.
We need to take steps to reduce our carbon footprint and to do it in a way that lessens our dependence on imported energy.
Much of this can be done with efficiency. Even painless efficiency – if every SUV sold since 200 had been replaced with a minivan, we would have saved 3% of our national energy budget. At what sacrifice? Ask yourself – what would it really cost to have had soccer parents driving their kids in minivans instead of Suburbans or Expeditions?
But not all of it can.
We need to be the world leader in increasing our dollar of GDP per BTU used – in improving the efficiency of our economy. This doesn’t mean we have to all live in sod huts and burn buffalo chips.
It means that we can’t be wasteful. We have to price energy according to its real cost, and move as much efficiency into the system as we can. Yes, gas and diesel are expensive at the pump. But by raising the taxes on them, we can pressure the producers – moving the dollars you spend into new roads, transit, and infrastructure rather than cash to support terrorism.
It means that we need to make sure that what we have, works. I will impose a Federal requirement that all states implement biannual inspections, and that starting in four years, cars – and trucks – that are gross polluters will not be allowed to drive out of the inspection station. Nearly half the pollution comes from 10 percent of the vehicles. Let’s get them off the road and clear the air.
But there’s more to it than that. We have built a massively centralized series of systems that are becoming so complex that they are extraordinarily vulnerable to human error or happenstance as well as deliberate acts of sabotage.
Under my Presidency, we will begin to move as much as we can to the edges of the network; moving generation closer to consumption, reducing the scale of utility plants and taking advantage of the latest technology to leapfrog our existing utility networks. We have to do this, in no small part because the networks are aging and we are facing a huge national investment in infrastructure regardless of what we do.
All politicians say that they are going to “build a 21st century country.” Well, we’re going to spend money building that country in concrete, steel, copper and glass fiber.
A stronger, safer country where opportunity isn’t just something that the majority gets to watch on television and where there will be power for the lights and clean water to drink and air that doesn’t put you in the hospital.
Those have been Democratic accomplishments through the 20th Century, and we can make them Democratic accomplishments for the 21st.