Biden — in Des Moines, Iowa — says McCain health care ideas a “bridge to nowhere”

"Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get serious.  As Barack said, ‘What do they think we are, completely stupid?’  Completely stupid that they’re going to change the way things are when in fact they say nothing, nothing," Joe Biden said of the messages delivered by John McCain and Sarah Palin at the RNC in St. Paul last week.  "…John has this great idea.  He’s going to give every American a $5000 tax credit which is going to encourage every employer to say, ‘Well, now I can drop health insurance,’ but the average cost of every plan is $12,000 and that’s what I call a bridge to nowhere, an absolute bridge to nowhere. That is a bridge too far."

Listen to Biden’s 35 minute speech (mp3 at bottom of page).

What follows is a live blog of Biden’s appearance in DSM, IA:

Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden is due in Des Moines at an event on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in about an hour.  It’s his first trip back to Iowa since he was revealed as Obama’s pick for a running mate.  It’s also his first stop back in Iowa since the January 3rd Caucuses.

The venue is a large, barn-like structure in which baby animals are housed during the 11-day run of the State Fair.  An American flag has been suspended along the northern third of the western wall.  About 300 chairs have been set out; all but a few have been occupied an hour before the event is to start.  A long line of folks waited along the outside of the building, in the rain, until they were allowed entry shortly before two o’clock.

The campaign soundtrack includes some of the familiar songs, including the song "Move Along" by the All-American Rejects. "…Move along, move along like I know you do; And even when your hope is gone; Move along, move along just to make it through; Move along; (Go on, go on, go on, go on)’ When everything is wrong we move along; (Go on, go on, go on, go on); When everything is wrong, we move along; Along, along, along."

At 2:30 p.m., the crowd is asked to rise for prayer.  A woman who I don’t think identified herself Reverend Angie Witmer of Plymouth Congregational Church in Des Moines is at the microphone  "…Be with all those who work, day after day, to change the world, one person, one moment at a time…Remind us that changing the world isn’t something that other people do.  It’s up to all of us…May we all feel your presence…May what we see and hear and experience here today set our hearts on fire…Together, with one another and with you, we can change the world.  May it be so.  Amen."

Next, the crowd rose to recite the Pledge.  A brief interlude of audience kibitzing fills the air with chatter from the crowd, then it’s back to the campaign soundtrack.  "Ain’t no stoppin’ us now," a 1970ss disco hit from McFadden & Whitehead, is next up on the play list.

Marti Anderson, a big-time backer of Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Caucuses and head of the state’s crime victim assistance program, is introducing Biden.  "I’m a native Des Moinesian…I am so excited to be here today…We know him as a compassionate and a good person who works hard to improve the lives of others.  We know him as a good man who grew up in a working class neighborhood….who faced his own challenges in life and had his own…..a man who understands and cares and we are thrilled that Barack Obama has chosen him to be the next vice president."

The crowd lets out a roar.  "I’ve worked with victims of crime….for the past 34 years and I’m especially pleased with the choice of Senator Joe Biden…a hero of mine for a number of years….(he’s) the author of the Violence Against Women Act."

Another round of applause.

"Joe Biden is a hero.  He’s a champion working to end violence….I have to tell you, these are the hardest times for people.  Every day I talk with women and men whose families struggle because they don’t have health insurance….working two jobs or three jobs that don’t pay a living wage….they struggle to pay their bills…they’ve been left behind by the Bush/McCain economy."

Boos and applause.

"Now, more than ever before, Iowa’s poor working and middle class families need heroes like Barack Obama and Joe Biden."

Crowd roars.  "I am very, very proud and very happy to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States of America, Joe Biden."

Biden begins.  "It’s good to be back in my second political home," Biden says, adding that Anderson is doing "God’s work."

Biden recognizes First Lady Mari Culver, who backed Edwards, and former First Lady Christie Vilsack, a supporter of HRC, in the crowd.

"It’s been the single proudest achievement of my life," Biden says of passage of the battered women’s legislation.  A fly has just settled on my laptop screen.  Now it has flown away.  Oops, now it’s back.

Biden launches into a promise of flood aid, vowing quick Senate action "When we go back there, we are passing serious legislation," Biden said, to applause. "…You really took it on the chin."

"I promise you in a Obama/Biden administration, we will never forget you," Biden says, to applause.

"…What amazes me is how out of touch so many of our friends are," Biden says of Republicans like McCain.  "…Ladies and gentleman, it’s stunning how out of touch this administration & John McCain are….people are still losing their jobs.  I’ve never seen a time when so many Americans, so many energizing Americans, are losing their jobs."

A woman in the crowd yelled something we cannot hear.  "That would happen in no other state in America."  Loud applause.  We don’t know what happened here in the cheap, er, press.

"You all watched the Republican, I hope, the Republican convention," Biden says.

"No…." people in the crowd say.

Biden launches into a bit about the Republcian ticket, mentioning GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin by name just once in a three minute riff.

"Here’s the deal.  I find that to be fascinating, that John McCain and the Republican Party are claiming the mantle of change.  Really…after 8 years of abject failure," Biden said.

"And that’s what I call a bridge to nowhere," Biden said as the punch line of another few paragraphs.  The crowd erupted.

Biden then accused McCain/Palin of making "absolute misstatements about Barack Obama."

(I’ll post the speech in its entirety later tonight.)

"I guarantee we will end this war," Biden said, to the loudest burst of applause yet.

He closes by telling a story about his grandchildren and Barack Obama’s children.  He is screaming.  The crowd is screaming.  It’s over.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. FYI – The lady in the audience hollered to Joe to move his microphone a bit farther away because it was causing too much reverb and folks couldn’t understand what was being said.
    When Joe mentioned watching the RNC convention, another woman shouted out that Dems were watching to observe the competition and THAT was the only reason the viewing numbers were so high. Joe smiled at that.
    Joe was his usual self with off-the-cuff (and sometimes a bit off-message) asides that provide a personal and conversational tone to his delivery. But he has a fire in his belly. His disgust with the lack of attention paid to what matters to middle America at the RNC convention was palpable.
    Joe is warmly received in Iowa despite what his poor numbers in the caucuses indicate. People like the “realness” of the guy. His knowledge and credibility appealed to a lot to folks last January, but they doubted his abiility to shine brightly enough in the star-studded field of candidates. And Democrats are determined to have a winner this time.
    Hopefully, America will recognize how Joe has added immeasurable depth to an already impressive Obama campaign that is rich with ideas and plans to rebuild our strength economically and regain our moral authority in the world.