Iowa Democrats rally with Rahm, who rails about Romney (audio)

The Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser, the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, featured speeches from Iowa’s three Democratic congressman and Christie Vilsack, a Democratic candidate for congress — plus a keynote speach from former Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago who worked in the Clinton & Obama Administrations.

AUDIO Rahm Emanuel’s speech 23 min

Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo who plans to seek reelection in 2012, urged the party faithful to refocus on the “hope and change” that were the hallmarks of the 2008 election. “It’s time for us to stop complaining. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do,” Braley said. “Let’s get to work.”

Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City who intends to seek reelection in 2012, urged the party faithful to do all they can to elect Democrats up & down the ticket in 2012.  “Let’s keep fighting as hard as we possibly can,” he said.

Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines who intends to seek reelection and will face Republican Congressman Tom Latham in 2012 (because of redistricting), lamented the “escaping” American dream for the next generation.  “We’ve got to assure we hang onto this great country of ours,” Boswell said.

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, a Democrat from Ames who plans to challenge Republican Congressman Steve King in 2012, talked about “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and how she thought when she read it the first time that her dad was Atticus Finch and the second time she read it she thought Atticus Finch was her husband, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who is a lawyer.

“This year when I read it, I realized I’m Atticus Finch. In fact, all of us are Atticus Finch,” she said, to applause.  “And when you hear someone like Steve King say that people who are unemployed shouldn’t be allowed to vote and when you hear him say the people who don’t own property shouldn’t be allowed to vote, then somebody’s got to stand up and I’m going to stand up.”

AUDIO of Vilsack’s speech.

A recorded video from US Senator Tom Harkin was played, then at 8:20 p.m. Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky began the introduction of Emanuel.

“While we meet here tonight, the Republicans are having a debate across town,” Emanuel said. “I’ve watched a couple of those debates and I’ve got to be honest, I never thought I’d say this — I’m beginning to miss the wisdom of Sarah Palin.”

Emanuel called the GOP candidates a “collection of turkeys” and he joked about Romney, Newt, Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

“In truth, the Republicans do have an impressive field…Governor Mitch Daniels, Governor Haley Barbour and former Governor Jeb Bush …The only problem — they’re not on the field.”

Emanuel talked about Obama’s speech at the 2007 Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, when “a young senator from my home state of Illinois…spoke to you in words you’ll never forget. With the promises he made in that speech, he began a journey that would change history — and he did it with your help.”

Emanuel cited Obama Administration actions, starting with ending the war.

“That is the change we believed in. That is the change we worked for and that is the change our president delivered,” Emanuel said, pounding on the lectern.

Taking the fight to al Qa’eda, Osama bin Laden’s death,

“He didn’t hang a banner; he didn’t pretend the mission was accomplished. He got the job done.  That is the change we believed in. That is the change we worked for. That is the change the president delivered,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel spent most of the speech attacking Mitt Romney.

“Once he was pro-choice, now he’s not.

“He was pro gay rights. Now he’s not.

“He supported gun control. Now he doesn’t.

“He supported efforts to deal with greenhouse gases and climate change. Now he doesn’t.

“He supported immigration reform. Now he doesn’t.

“He supported national health care reform with a mandate. Now he doesn’t.

“Mitt Romney says he’s a man of steadiness and consistency and if that’s true, then I’m a linebacker for the Chicago Bears.”

“While I people have talked about all the flip-flops, I actually think there’s a different part to Mitt Romney that people don’t fully appreciate. It’s what he’s been steadfast about — what he has refused…to bend on, where he has never flip-flopped, and never abandoned his position. And that’s his position on the middle class versus the most fortunate: what he’s failed to do for the middle class and what he’s willing to do for the most fortunate in our society.

“He faced the same set of choices that President Obama did when the country faced an auto industry and a financial industry in crisis. When the markets collapsed in 2008 and the government had to step in, Mitt Romney didn’t hesitate for a moment. He welcomed putting taxpayers on the hook to save the financial system.

“But when the automobile industry – and the millions of jobs that are dependent on it, the backbone of America’s manufacturing economy, was on the brink, he said to all the families, all the communities, all the small businesses, and all the workers: you should go bankrupt.

“Nothing reveals more about the character and the values of these two individuals than how they dealt with these two crises.

“President Obama did not think either one should be abandoned, the financial system or the auto industry…Those were the decisions he faced every day in the Oval Office…There were those who said it was throwing good money after bad. There were those who said let Chrysler go so we could save GM. And then there were those, led by Mitt Romney, who advocated bankruptcy…  We know where Mitt Romney stood. The title of his own op-ed, under his signature: ‘Let Detroit go Bankrupt.’

“To Mitt Romney, the high-priced financial engineers who helped create the mess, they were essential to our future, but the engineers, the technicians, and the workers on the shop floor in the auto industry — they were dispensable.

“Three years later, now we know who was right and who was wrong.”

Emanuel accused Romney of “turning a blind eye” to the struggles of the middle class.

“So here’s the deal, Iowa. You know and I know our President is a man of character. He’s a man of principle. He’s a man who has been fighting for the middle class and he will continue to fight for middle class families. I know the President’s values. I’ve seen his persistence.

“You need not ask whether President Obama will continue to fight. The only question is: will we fight for him and for his belief in America?…So Iowa, let’s get to work.  Let’s get in the fight.  Let’s support our President, support the middle class…because America and the middle class are worth fighting for. Thank you, God bless you and God bless America.”

Speech over at 8:46 p.m.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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