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You could say it was
the cost of that war that causes most present day liberal politicians
to identify themselves as progressives. But my faith in the basic
aspirations of the domestic programs of Lyndon Johnson, and before
him Kennedy, Stevenson, Truman and Roosevelt, just won't permit
me to accept your Eleanor Roosevelt Award as anything other than
an old time, unrepentant, unreconstructed, tax-and-spend, bleeding
heart, die-hard liberal Democrat.
I believe in the value
of social programs, a safety net, regulation, and an active government.
I have no problem professing
this because I love my day job -- making movies. I want to keep
making them. I have the great luxury of not having a career as a
politician and I can still say what I want to say.
As an old friend of mine
once said to me, "The greatest gift God can give a man is to
enjoy the sound of his own voice. And the second greatest gift is
to get somebody to listen to it." And for that tonight I humbly
So my happily calling
myself a liberal and dissenting from the centrist approach of the
current candidates for the Democratic nomination for President requires
no particular bravery. I have so much less to lose.
I have no campaign consultant.
No pollsters. I have no reason to placate the DLC (sometimes called
the Democratic Leisure Class, sometimes the Defense Lobby Corporation)
or the DNC or any source of campaign money that so dominates the
lives of career public servants today. I happen to be married to
the most breathtaking woman on the planet, have three kids and a
fourth on the way, and I can continue what one right wing columnist
suggested: "The improbable pursuit of acting in movies with
leading ladies half my age."
Speaking of improbability,
six weeks ago, several of the grand mentioners of the media began
to mention me as what most people of sound mind would call a "highly
improbable candidate for the Democratic nomination for President."
I responded only that "that seemed extremely unlikely. It's
not that I don't have things to say, but there must be somebody
better than me." Having said nothing publicly since (I've been
on a listening tour of my house for those six weeks), tonight seems
not a moment too soon to speak up.
The present Administration
deserves a lot of sympathy for having to cope with ruthless Republican
Congresses. But in what Paul Wellstone calls the Democratic Wing
of the Democratic Party, when we hear the record of the political
bargains of the past 7 years cosmeticized and spun back to the public
as "progress", we have to object.
After Theodore Roosevelt,
progress in this century has always been made by Democrats -- but
by Democrats who were fighting to the end for what they believed
in, not settling for what they could get. By changing public opinion
polls, not following them. By spending popularity, not hoarding
The big advances -- Social
Security, the welfare safety net, the minimum wage, the Marshall
Plan, Civil Rights, voting rights, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps,
federal aid to education, the war on poverty, Head Start, job training
-- have all been made by Democrats who wouldn't give up the fight.
Surely, the admirable,
honest, centrist Vice President knows that if the objective in the
present Administration has been to honor the historic mission of
his party, it hasn't been really fought for let alone achieved.
But he is a loyal friend. Clearly, there are very few people of
such high character or loyalty as the Vice President. Having a Gore
Administration would give him the opportunity to show that loyalty
to the more than 100 million Americans left behind in the economic
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