Vilsack says he couldn’t compete in money game

I drove down to Winterset this past Monday afternoon to catch Tom Vilsack in campaign mode.  A group of about 65 people gathered in a conference room at the Winterset Public Library to hear Vilsack.  What struck me as odd about the event was the Vilsack entourage.  In addition to the regular campaign staffers who set up the chairs, get people to sign in, and takes notes of the questions asked, there were a number of Vilsack "insiders" there.  Not only was Vilsack’s wife, Christie, there — she delivered the introduction — but so was his oldest son, Jess.  Dusky Terry, a top campaign staffer, was there, too — with his wife and kids.  In retrospect, it looks like they were all there to support the candidate at the center of a soon-to-fold campaign.

I had started hearing the "rumor" that Vilsack was to going to drop out of the race last weekend, but of course got no official confirmation.  On last weekend’s Iowa Press program on Iowa Public Television, the consensus fromt he reporters around the table (DM Register’s David Yepsen, Todd Dorman of the Lee Newspapers in Iowa, Jeneane Beck of Iowa Public Radio and me) was that Vilsack would drop out soon — we just didn’t’predict it would be this soon.

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Vilsack’s turn at the DNC

Ex-Governor Tom Vilsack was the last presidential candidate to speak at the DNC winter meeting in Washington, D.C. this morning. (I transcribed the speech below and the Radio Iowa story includes an MP3 file of the speech.)

Vilsack came after Delaware Senator Joe Biden declared: "what a week" (a reference to his less than "clean" announcement this week) and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson joked about the DNC request that each of the candidates keep their speeches to seven minutes.  (Yesterday it was reported that the shortest speech was 12 minutes, the longest in the 20-minute range — three times as long as requested.)   

"I don’t need seven minutes," Richardson joked at the beginning of his speech. "I can do it in four words:. elect a Democratic president."

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel also spoke before Vilsack.  DNC vice chair Lottie Shackelford introduced Vilsack, reading an introduction written by the Vilsack campaign.   

Vilsack began speaking at 9:56 a.m., thanking Shackelford for the introduction.

"First of all, let me say how privileged I am to be here this morning among so many Democrats who care so deeply about our party and about our nation and I want to take this opportunity specifically to acknowledge the chair of our party and DNC members for the support and confidence that you had in all 50 states of the United States.  (applause)

"I think our chair recognized that our Democratic values are welcome in all parts of our great country. Mr. Chair, thank you for your service, and good morning to all of you.  I’m Tom Vilsack.  That’s a name that my adopted parents gave to me.  I didn’t know my birth mother and I didn’t know my birth father.  The fact is I know very little about the circumstances of my birth other than that I was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. (applause from the PA delegation) Shortly after I was born my birth mother handed me over nuns in a Catholic orphanage where I stayed until I was adopted. You know, in this city they talk a lot about No Child Left Behind.  Well, the fact is I was a child left behind.  I was born an outsider.  I’ve always understood the importance of being an outsider and I’ve always understood what it feels like not to belong. 

"You know, I’ve decidated my life to those who work hard, those on the outside looking in, those who struggle every day to make sure that their llives and their children’s lives are better.  For me, those are the people that I respect and admire the most in this great country (applause). 

"My adopted mom was one of the great and most amazing people in my life. Along with my wife Christie who is here with me today, she was an inspiration for me.  She was an alcoholic and she was addicted to prescription drugs but she overcame those addictions and she taught me a great, valuable life-lesson and she also allowed our lesson that had been separated by that addiction to be reunited again. The lesson she taught me was simple and that is that each of us has great capacity to overcome fear.  That indeed before hope there is courage — the courage to create change and that’s why I am here today as a candidate for president and as a Democrat asking for your support because I believe our country, now more than ever, needs that courage to create change in Iraq and across this great country (applause). 

"We long to be the United States of America, united in common purpose and shared purpose.  Sadly, today in this city, our nation’s capitol, so much of what takes place is motivated by fear.  The Iraq policy, our foreign policy, our energy policy, even our health care policy — all motiviated and arising out of fear. 

"You know, I was in Seattle not too long ago and I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young women and one of the young women brought her five-year-old son to the event and after I was finished speaking this little fellow came up to me and he asked me very seriously: ‘Would 100 more troops in Iraq make a difference?’  This fellow’s five years old, and I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.’   He said, ‘Would 1000 more troops make a difference?’ and  I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.’  Then he looked at me and he said — and I quote — ‘I’m frightened every day.’ 

"I’m frightened every day. You know, my fellow Democrats, I’m tired of being in a country where five year old children are frightened.  It’s time for a change.  (applause) 

"I am tired of a government that reminds me every day to be afraid and I am tired of a government that focused only on preventing evil and never talking about promoting goodness.  (applause) 

"We’ve been motivated by fear. Our policies have been directed by fear –..fear of special interests, fear of foreign government, fear of the unknown.  Well, let me say this very clearly:  no family can live in fear; no government can be run in fear and the American dream can never be revived by fear.  (applause) 

"This party has many great legacies but the greatest legacy of all is its ability to inspire people to overcome their fears and to embrace change and the time has come in this country for us to replace fear with courage, the courage to create change.  We are at our best as Democrats when we stand up and are inspired by those values that move us and never stand down to those who wish to scare us. We are at our best and do our best when we’re motivated by a desire to effect real, positive change, not change that results simply from political pressure.

"Let me be clear: I’m not talking about small change.  I’m not talking about incremental change.  I’m talking about bold and courageous change.  Let me give you a few examples: adding a few dollars and tweaking a reauthorized No Child Behind is not real change.  Ending No Child Left Behind as we know it is real change and replacing it with a real, true commitment to the children of this country.  (C-SPAN just showed Christie, who led appaluse.) In this competitive world we live in we cannot be afford to be a nation of great, standardized test-takers. We must be a nation of creative and innovative thinkers and that’s what our education policy should be. (applause) 

"Identifying earmarks.  Excuse me, I see the time, Mr. Chairman," Vilsack said, acknowledging he had exceeded the seven-minute limit.

"You’d be the first to adopt the limit, Tom, so you might as well keep going," DNC chairman Howard Dean replied, referring to all the other candidates who had gone before Vilsack and who all talked more than seven minutes.  The crowd laughed during this exchange.

"Take it off the next speech I give," Vilsack continued, as the crowd laughed and a few clapped.. 

"Identifying earmarks and passing budget resolutions is not real change.  Balancing budgets, making real choices and eliminating what I call the birth tax is real change.  Think about it.  That’s what the deficit is. That’s what the deficit is.  It’s a tax on our children and we need to eliminate that tax.  (applause)  As a governor, I know something about that.  I balanced eight budgets. I left my successor with a surplus and I can tell you we that had to make tough choices, but I’m proud of that record as a governor.

"Giving lip-service to renewable fuel production and climate control and climate change is not real change…That’s real change.  Building a renewable fuels industry, creating opportunities for us to be the best country in the world in terms of conservation — that’s real change. That’s what we did in Iowa. We built a renewable fuel industry.  We expanded access to renewable fuel and to wind energy and we created new jobs and better paying jobs and I’m proud of that record and that’s real change. (applause)

"Proming access to health care coverage is not real change.  Doing the tough work of actually reducing the number of uninsured, making sure that coverage is universally available and lowering the cost of health care — that’s real change and that’s what we did in Iowa.  We were only one of two states last year to reduce the number of uninsured.  It can be done but it requires the courage to create real change in this country. (applause)

"And let me speak about Iraq.  The reality of capping troops or reducing the number of troops at some point in time in the future — that’s not real change.  Real change is saying we want our troops out of harm’s way now.  (applause) Real change is saying to the Iraqis it is your responsibility, you must assume responsibilty now for your country, you must put yourself at risk — not our young men and women.  That’s real change. (applause) 

"We cannot wait for (the) president or congress to make a political calculation as to when and how this is happening. Look around here today. I’m not sure how many people are in this hall, but let us assume for the sake of conversation that there are roughly 500 or 600 people. Look to your right and to your left.  Understand that delay will mean that the person to your right and to left — representing one soldier who will likely die — will occur over the next year.  A thousand soldiers will die; 5000 more will be hurt.  It is time for us to clearly say the war must end and our troops must be brought home now. (applause)

"And let me say that I think congress has a constitutional responsibility and a moral obligation to do it now.  Not a cap.  An end. Not eventually. Immediately. Those who voted for the war, those who voted to continue to support the war, those who voted to continue funding the war can surely vote to stop the war.  (applause)

"I said I was born an outsider and I am, but I think that’s a good thing if you want to effect change.   As an insider it’s difficult to effect change. Staying the course is a bit easier.  Basically, doing what you’ve always done is the way things most often happen.  As an outsider we can change things and we are a party of outsiders.  We represent outsiders and need I remind you, we win as outsiders.  The last two times we have won an election it has been with an outside — an outsider who was a governor.  That is the message. 

"It is important for us to also reflect on how we turn red states to blue. That’s something I know a little something about — the first Democratic governor in 32 years in my state, the first to be re-elected in 36 years, the first to be succeeded by a Democrat in 72 years.  We gave that Democratic governor (applause)  We gave that Democratic governor a Democratic legislature for the first time in 42 years. (applause) If we have the courage to create change we can change red to blue and this is the American that we can have:  we can have an America that respects rights and choices, we can have an America that understands and appreciates all people regardless of race or creed or color or religion or sexual orientation; we can have an America that can build an economy that works for all; an America that is energy secure; an America that can reclaim moral leadership in the issue of climate change; an American that can lead the world; an America that can be part of an effort to end world hunger, to promote literacy; an America that shows the goodness of our heart and most importantly of all — with the courage to create change we can be an America that is no longer at war and is at peace.  (applause)

"I’m proud to be a Democrat and you are, too.  I’m proud of what we did in 2006 in taking the congress back.  Now our goal, our challenge, is to take the White House back in 2008.  We know what we have to do.  All we need is the courage to get it done.  Thank you and God bless."

Add “professor” to list of Vilsack titles

Drake University officials today announced ex-Governor Tom Vilsack will be a visiting professor in Drake’s Law School.  (Radio Iowa story)

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The State of the Union

Tucked among the email from the folks in Paris who want to make my Valentine’s Day special and the lottery advisories about the big Powerball jackpot were a few "statements" from folks who want to be president.  There were just three.  I had expected a barrage from all the "hopefuls." Notably absent from the list of three was former Governor Tom Vilsack, but he did offer his "prebuttal" on Monday during a conference call with reporters.

Early on Tuesday evening, I found myself in a place where many presidential candidates will find themselves over the coming months:  at a Kiwanis Club meeting in Winterset.  Speeches before service clubs like the Kiwanians, Rotarians, Lions and a staple of campaigns for the courthouse, the statehouse and in this instance when it comes to the Iowa Caucuses, the White House. 

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What election was that?

On November 8, 2006, my friend and reporter colleague Jeneane Beck went to the hair salon and explained to her stylist (my mother would have called the stylist a beautician) that she had been unable to come in earlier because she had been swamped with work because of "The Election." 

"What election was that?"  the stylist asked.

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Culver Inaugural

The Culver crew has chosen an unusal look for the stage in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines where Culver willl appear this morning to take the oath of office and deliver his first speech as governor (Audio of IPTV’s coverage). The reaction most have had: "Oh, Spinal Tap."  Yes, a reference to the movie.  One Culver aide even joked that Culver would be appearing out of one of the huge pillars on the stage.

It’s rather dark in the arena — except for the brilliance of the lights on stage.  I’m told the fellow who was hired to do the lighting for President Ford’s casket in the U.S. Capitol was hired to arrange the lighting for this event.

The dignitaries are now being introduced.  Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd was the first to be named for the crowd, followed by the justices of the Iowa Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.  The justices are wearing their robes.  Dodd appeared to be wearing a dark blue suit. 

The stage set-up is thus:  The stage is on the east side of the arena’s floor, facing west.  There are a number of chairs on the floor and that’s where the legislators and dignitaries like Dodd are being seated.   

Former Governor Robert Ray and his wife, Billie, were just introduced.  Culver will specifically mention Ray during his Inaugural Address (but the advance copy shows no direct mention of Tom Vilsack — hmmm).  Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson and her husband, Jim Autry, were just introduced.  Governor Tom Vilsack is walking in now, holding his wife’s hand with applause and some hoots from the crowd.  Teresa Villmain, a consultant to Vilsack’s presidential campaign, is walking alongside, whispering something in his ear.  Now the whole crowd wants to know what she said. 

As folks file in, the Iowa National Guard’s Band is playing softly as background music.  Their march is precise — bandmaster Karl King would be proud.  Legislators are now filing in.  At this point in 1999, this is when everyone in Veterans Auditorium for Governor Vilsack’s first inaugural noticed Ed Fallon wearing a sweatshirt.  It had a picture of the Iowa stamp on the front. 

The "stinger" note on the end of the march was just played and the crowd applauded.  A hush has fallen over the assembly.  Senator Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg who is Senate President, has just pounded the gavel on the lectern to convene the legislature — this is part of the pomp and circumstance/parliamentary stuff that is required with such an occasion. 

The band has begun playing again.  There appears to be a lull of some kind as the "committee" of legislators appointed to escort Governor-elect Culver into the hall is no where to be seen.  Kibbie has pounded the gavel again.  People are standing up for some reason.  The video screens in the hall are now showing the logo for the Culver/Judge Inaugural.  Another pound of the gavel.  Chief Justice Marcia Ternus is being escorted into the hall.  She will be on the person administering the oath of office to Culver. 

Lieutenant Governor-elect Patty Judge and her husband, former state Senator John Judge, are being escorted into the hall.  John Judge is carrying a Bible — which I’m guessing will be used when Judge takes the oath.

Now, the main focus of today’s event.  Governor-elect Chet Culver, his wife Mari and their twon children are walking into the arena. Culver’s wearing a red tie, light blue shirt and navy suit.  The politician’s uniform.  His young son, John, is wearing a suit and tie, too.  Mrs. Culver just grabbed the son’s hand; Culver is holding daughter Claire’s hand as they climb the stairs to the stage.

Once the Culvers reached the stage, the flags were presented and Culver reached down to son John to place his hand over his heart.  The pledge was led by an Iraq war veteran and his wife.  The National Anthem was sung by two sisters — Carolyn and Emily Nicholas — who made Miss America pageant history by both being crowned Miss Iowa.  Emily is Miss Iowa 2006. Carolyn was Miss Iowa 2004. 

A group of school kids just read a poem, getting great response from the crowd. 

Now, Justice Ternus is administering the oath of office to Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge.   

Now, Patty Judge is behind the microphone.  Now, my on the fly notes from her speech: 

"Thank you.  It’s very humbling to be here…It is such an honor to be here with you this morning and to be sworn in as your lt gov.  I want to extend a special thank you to my friend and partner Chet Culver.  Governor-elect I want to thank you for believing in me…it’s going to be a real pleasure to serve with you….(She acknowledges Vilsack and Pederson)

"I’m an Iowan.  I was born here.  I went to school here.  I married a guy from my home town.  I raised three sons here and they are all raising their families right here in Iowa.  I’ve worked on an Iowa farm.  I’ve been a nurse.  I’ve owned a smalltown business and served as an elected representative.  As your SOA for the last eight years I’ve also traveled thousands of miles…I’ve met the most incredible people.  Iowans who share the pride I feel in our state…As Iowans we share common ideals no matter where we live.  We believe in taking care of our families and educating our children.  We believe hard work leads to success and aren’t afraid to roll-up our sleeves…(reference to the One Iowa theme Culver has chosen) the future is unlimited. 

"I ran for poltiical office for the first time when our state was reeling from a farm crisis…in truth, I made that run because I was really mad and I decided one day that I should go to DM and tell all those peopel just what I thought.  But even in those dark days Iowans saw the future’s light on the horizon…there has never been a time in the history of our state that the future has been so exciting.

"Biobased industry is just beginning.  Who would have dreamed…that we could power our cars and trucks with corn and soybeans…For this Iowa farmer, that is exciting stuff…Iowa is a leader today because a lot of hard-working people believed you could run an engine on corn and soybeans and others said it couldn’t be done. 

"To all of those who made renewable energy a reality I say thank you but I also say ‘What are we going to do next?’  The world is not standing still…(mentions Emmetsburg bio-refinery, wind turbines).  As your Lt. Gov I intend and look forward to advocating for clean, environmentally-friendly fuel.  (applause, and she sniffles a bit — she seemed a tiny bit choked up at the beginning)

"Our soil and water makes us the bread basket and also the fuel center…of our entire world…We must work to protect the soil and impove our water supplies leaving this place even better for

We have faced problems and sharp divisions have been drawn that have pitted neighbor against neighbor…We must work together…as One Iowa.

As we transform not just Iowa’s economy…to one that is based on renewable crops we cannot forget that Iowans first of all must be safe…Events of 9/11…changed forever the way we think about our security and the way we respond to threats.  For the past 5 years I have been closedly involved in emerenciy planning…Governor C has asked me to take an active role in Homeland Security/Emergency Management…We will make certain we are ready to respond to any emergency or threat to the citizens of the state of Iowa.

"Ensuring safe, healthy and productive lives for all Iowans is a very lofty goal but this administratio will be about big dreams.  Iowans made a choice…in turn, I chose to be standing here today rather than home on the farm because I absolutely believe that together with you CC and I can accomplish great things…Let me say clearly.  CC and I are people who do not believe in the concept of the impossible.  What we do believe is that when good people join together for a common cause, the future is unlimited.

"I’m aware the challenge ahead is the largest I’ve ever faced…At times in my life…I have remembered and thought about the words of a favorite Bible verse…Second Corinthians chapter nine verse eight… (she read the verse).Again, thank you very much."

As an interlude, the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus sings.  I would tell you the name of the song if I could read the tiny print on the program, but I cannot read it.   

Culver now takes the oath.  Wife Mari hold the Bible.  Afterwards, the First Lady gives the "big lug" a kiss, then they hug for a long moment.  Culver is now shaking hands with folks up on the stage and waving at the crowd.  Senator Kibbie introduces Culver to the crowd. 

Cuvler begins by thanking people, including "my good friend Tom Arnold."  Then, he segues into thanks to Judge….Culver wishes the Vilsacks god-speed.  Culver thanks Christie Vilsack for her committment to literacy (Culver pronounced this liht-er-uss-lee).  "I want to take this moment on behalf of the people of Iowa to personally thank you for your eight years of public service.  You have done an incredible job and we are grateful.  Thank you governor."  The crowd rises to applaud.

To Sally Pederson and her husband:  "You and your family have brought grace and class….To my staff and family and friends…I can’t thank you enough for your loyalty and friendship.  To my parents.  Thanks for the guidance.  I love you all very much.  My mother, Ann, my stepmother and of course my father, John."

"I would like to thank my father for the example that he has set for me.  Most importantly, I would like to thank my First Lady, Mari.  Mari, thank you for your unconditional love and your suppport and to my wonderful children John and Claire, words cannot express my love for you.  (John applauds this)  Let me just say — Team Culver, this is going to be a very fun journey for all of us." 

Next, Culver thanks the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard and all the men and women who are on active duty today.  "We thank you for your service to our country and our state."  (Crowd stands and applauds)

"If you haven’t figured it out already, I love Iowa.  (now, Culver turns to his prepared text, which follows — I count 15 exclamation points!)

This "land between two rivers" is blessed with people of strong character; a history that is rich; and as the Native Americans who came before us said, "A Beautiful Land."

My fondest childhood memories are docked along the banks of the Mississippi River near McGregor. As a kid, I remember going out in my fishing boat, “Chet’s Charter,” and enjoying the magnificent surroundings.

Some of my ancestors settled north of there in 1863 and our family lived there for many years.  We had a house on the bluff overlooking the river.  When you look down the valley of the mighty Mississippi you get a real sense of the awesome landscape and vast history of our state.

The constant movement of the river also reminds us that things are changing all the time.  It rises and falls, freezes and thaws, yet emerges strong and powerful, generation after generation!

Right now, Iowa is experiencing much the same change and with it comes the opportunity for a new era of greatness.

As some of you may have heard, once or twice, I was once a high school government and history teacher!
But I am also a student of history.  In my classroom, I would remind my students of the ebbs and flows in our history.

As Iowans, I think we could do much worse than to learn from the lessons provided by those who have come before us.      

Our state has always been a state of explorers and pioneers.  Chief Black Hawk and the Native Americans taught us how to live off the land. Marquette and Jolliet were the first Europeans to navigate the Mississippi River in 1673.  (Henderson INSERT:  Culver pronounced Jolliet as JOO-lee-et — Was Marquette & Juliet that Shakespeare play about star-crossed lovers?)

Following the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark made their famous expedition up the Missouri River along our state’s western border.

These explorers were fearless!  They faced many obstacles, but showed great courage in their pursuit.

Today, we should challenge ourselves to emulate their commitment to pushing the limits of discovery.

These visionaries were undaunted by the practical challenges of the day.

They were guided by:  Their faith.  Their hopes.  And their dreams.  Even when no one gave them a map!

One of my heroes, President John F. Kennedy, also believed in the importance of exploration and in the relentless pursuit of a new frontier.

He challenged us to win the race to space, saying, “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills; because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

Well, my fellow Iowans, this is our time!

It’s our time to accept the challenge, to explore and discover Iowa’s unlimited potential. 

It’s our time to win the race to become the energy capital of the world. 
Let us invoke the lessons previous generations of explorers and leaders have taught us.

Let us all come together as one and lead our own “21st Century Iowa Expedition.”

There is an energy frontier open before us, and we must explore it immediately!  America and the world are counting on us.
Simply put, we can’t afford to duck this responsibility!

It’s time for Iowa to become the Silicon Valley of the Midwest.
It’s time to create the jobs of the future that will keep your children and my children here at home, where they belong.
It’s time to make the entire state of Iowa a laboratory so we remain on the cutting edge of all forms of renewable energy. 

We will protect our precious environment: the land, lakes, rivers and streams we all love.  However, with the right balance, we can harvest rewards beyond even our wildest imagination. 

Our value-added opportunities allow us to take from the earth more than once because we are blessed with the best soil and the most productive farmers in the world.

In addition, we have a tradition of great scientists like Henry Wallace and Norman Borlaug, and a world-class education system that nurtures our homegrown talent.

We have already led the nation with ethanol and biodiesel.  Now we must maintain that leadership.  With the eyes of the world upon us, we must prepare for the next generation energy economy.

We will create an Iowa Power Fund to invest in and attract cutting edge research and development.  This will ensure we can lead the way not only in alternative fuels but also in biomass, geothermal, wind and solar energy.

It’s time for Iowa to become the first state in the nation to declare energy independence! 

We are already on our way!

Whether it’s the production of soy lubricant in Waverly, the development of a biorefinery in Emmetsburg, the manufacturing of corn-based plastics in Clinton, the wind storage project in Dallas County, or the new biomass option of burning oat hulls in place of coal in Cedar Falls — Iowa is on the frontier!

Our dreams of an amazing future, one of energy independence, prosperity and a quality of life second to none, are within our reach.  I know we can turn our dreams into reality!
There is another important lesson we must take from those daring souls who have come before us.  They understood the importance of working together to get the job done!
So, to the 150 dedicated Iowans who will serve in the 82nd General Assembly, I say this: may our inevitable disagreements reflect deep conviction but not contempt, honest difference but not divisiveness.

Let us work together in a sincere and inclusive way, to create One Iowa.  After all, we serve the same Iowans, they are counting on us, and this state’s future belongs to all of us.

And, I want every Iowan to know, we need you! 

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent.   Whether you live in rural Iowa or urban Iowa.  Whether you are a native Iowan or a new arrival.  Young or old.  What does matter is that we lock arms for the common good and tap our gold mine of potential.
Together, we will continue to move this great state forward!  However, to achieve this, we who serve must remember to respect the will of Iowans.  They have spoken, and they expect results.

Iowans expect us to achieve our amazing potential in renewable energy.

They expect us to renew our commitment to educational excellence by expanding early childhood education; getting teacher pay to the national average; and making college more affordable.
They expect us to find a way to insure that every child has health care; to save lives by increasing the tobacco tax; and to give hope to the sick by lifting the ban on stem cell research. 

They expect us to pay tribute to our seniors and veterans by showing them the dignity and respect they have earned. 

Iowans expect us to find a way to honor and reward hard work by raising the minimum wage.

They expect us to find ways to support and encourage entrepreneurs and small business owners, the dreamers who create jobs across our state. 
Iowans also deserve a government that reflects their values! They are right to expect us to be smart with a buck, and to balance our checkbook the same way they do. 

And they are right to demand ethical, accountable and open government.

Iowans expect us to encourage, not shy away from, the diversity that has made us a better state.  Governor Ray taught us that.

We should never tolerate hate, especially in the form of bullying and threats in the workplace or in our schools.

We have an obligation to make the most of this important moment in Iowa history to explore and harness every bit of potential we have.      

But a Governor can’t do it alone.  That’s why today, I am asking for your help.  Especially, the next generation of Iowans.  Everyone has a role to play in our “21st Century Expedition.”

On Monday, we will honor a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, who led Americans into action when he said, "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love."

Well, Dr. King was right!  Every single one of us can play an important role in this new expedition.

I care deeply about the challenges we face, but I have an even greater faith in Iowa’s promise. 
So, as we go from here, let us always remember:

This is our time!

Much is expected of us,

And, our future is unlimited.

Let us work together to build One Iowa and in doing so, we will achieve the greatness we all know is possible.

(Speech over)

Vilsack not exactly a household name

I met a friend for dinner recently in one of the restaurants in the "East Village" of Des Moines and table talk turned to Tom Vilsack.  My friend has lived in Iowa for three years, is keenly interested in politics, attended the Caucuses in 2004, but revealed "I wouldn’t recognize his voice if I heard it."  Vilsack is a blank slate to her.   

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Vilsack uses last speech as governor to campaign for president

Governor Tom Vilsack delivered his last "Condition of the State" message this morning at 10 o’clock at the Iowa Statehouse.  It was 40 minutes long, but the handfull of minutes he spent talking about Iraq were the center of the speech as Vilsack used the event to talk presdiential politics.  (Vilsack, you may recall, officially told us November 30th that he’s running fro president.)

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It was a dark and stormy night

I’m on the ground in Mount Pleasant for the official launch of Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign.  After checking into the fabulous AmeriHost right across from the Wal-Mart in Mount Pleasant shortly after three o’clock, Lee Enterprises newsman Todd Dorman and I set off for the main drag.  We drove down two major thoroughfares in town, around the town square and right by Vilsack’s house.  There are no Vilsack for president signs anywhere that we could see. 

The closest thing to a TV08 sign were the 8X11 fliers tacked up in some of the stores and restaurants in town which invited townfolk to the community potluck tonight that was thrown as a prelude to tomorrow’s big announcement speech.  "Don’t miss this historic event" was the flier’s message about tomorrow’s, well, event.  It also declared that Tom Vislack has the "courage to create change."  While the header on the piece asked people to join Tom & Christie, the only picture on the thing was the governor-glamor-shot of Vilsack. 

There were no rumors being discussed at Rumors, one of the bars in Mount Pleasant.  A handfull of patrons sat either watching "Ellen" or playing the machines in the bar (NO, they were not TouchPlay machines).  At Hawkeye Pizza & Steak, the waitress recommended the mama mia pizza (very tasty and quickly delivered) and a couple of men sat talking about the day the mayor got shot in 1987.  "I almost went to that meeting," one man said to the other.  There was no discussion of Vilsack, however.

We stopped at the Wal-Mart to buy a mouse so I wouldn’t have to use the touchpad on this laptop to edit my sound.  There were no protestors from the Wake-Up Wal-Mart movement Vilsack has joined in other rallies in other places.  There was a brave soul standing by a red kettle ringing a bell, soliciting Salvation Army donations from shoppers dashing into the store to escape the steady stream of cold rain that was later to turn to sleety stuff.

Upon arrival at the middle school where the Vilsack potluck was planned, reporters were greeted by two Vilsack staffers.  One of them was Dusky Terry, the Sec of Ag candidate who used to be an aide in the governor’s office and who is now working on Vilsack’s campaign staff.  Dusky spied the plastic container I was holding, learned that it was my famous "Scotchies" (hey, a girl who grew up in Lenox, IA knows you take something to share when you’re invited to a potluck), and I opened the container so he could have the first one.

People dumped, er, dropped off their potluck dishes at the entrance and volunteers rushed the food to the other side of the school where potluck coordinator Cindy Jones was in charge.  The food was placed on tables stretched out in a hallway.  The room where the diningtables were set up was dominated by a huge American flag draped on the east wall — directly behind where Vilsack and his wife would later stand to speak to the crowd.

Vilsack and his wife, Christie, arrived at about the same time.  WHO-TV’s Dave Price and the aforementioned newsman Todd Dorman both noticed Vilsack’s new haircut.  Sources close to Vilsack confirmed he had his hair cut earlier today, and it was a lot shorter on the sides.  Some in the media called it the haircut of the 21st century that Vilsack had needed for some time.  Vilsack, when initially questioned, said his haircut was a "state secret" — but later confirmed he had obtained the cut at the well-known Roosevelt Barber Shop in Des Moines. 

The Vilsacks spoke briefly to the crowd.  Governor Vilsack started his remarks by recognizing an Iowa National Guardsman from Mount Pleasant who served in Afghanistan — and giving him a hand-made quilt in an American-flag pattern.  Then, Vilsack presented LA Times reporter Mark Baraback with a birthday cake, as today is Baraback’s birthday.

"Are you going to sing?" Mrs. Vilsack asked her husband.

"No," Vilsack replied as a staffer carefully walked forward with the cake, candles blazing.  Then, someone in the back of the room started singing.  Vilsack joined in the singing.  There was applause, then a slightly louder roar from the crowd as Baraback successfully blew out the candles. "There’s a method to this madness, Mark," Vilsack said.  "We figure if we give you and the media folks this cake, you won’t eat the desserts and we’ll have more for us."   

You can hear the entire speech by clicking on the link at the bottom of the Radio Iowa story

Here’s how Vilsack closed:  "I just simply tonight want to say thank you to each one of you who are here because each one of you are special to us.  Each one of you has had experiences with us that are part of who we are and as we travel across this great country talking about the future of this great country we’re going to be taking with us the values, the stories, the inspiration, the support and the love of all of us and that already makes it a successful campaign as far as I’m concerned, so thank you for being here tonight and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible tomorrow and we are going to win this thing."   

Christie cooks for her man

If Tom Vilsack should become his party’s nominee for president in 2008, he and his wife may avoid the cookie controversy that surrounded the Clintons back in 1992.  As you may recall, Mrs. Clinton got in a bit of hot water for saying she didn’t stay at home making cookies.  This was the quote from HRC:  "I supposed I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life."

While Christie Vilsack was a teacher for years, she cooked, too. Mrs. Vilsack intends to bring her "cheesy corn casserole" to the potluck in Mount Pleasant tomorrow night that’s meant as a sort of kick-off for Vilsack’s presiential campaign.  Jeff Link, communications director for the Vilsack presidential campaign, says Mrs. Vilsack won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair when she entered this recipe in the casserole competition. 

During his annual walk across the state this September I had an opportunity to walk six and a half miles with the governor.  A few miles outside of Clarion, Vilsack declared that his wife was "the second-best political spouse in America."

"Behind Laura Bush?" I asked. 

Vilsack laughed, then qualified his statement:  "Behind Bill Clinton."

Not only does Christie Vilsack cook, as noted above, but she has thrown dozens of Victorian-style teas at the governor’s mansion during Vilsack’s eight years in office.   So, it seems Mrs. Vilsack took a lesson from Mrs. Clinton’s statement back in 1992 about staying home to bake cookies and have teas.   

In the 2008 battle of the spouses, perhaps the ball is now in the Clinton’s court.  Will the former president be able to rustle up something cheesy?  Stay tuned.