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Thursday, January 29, 2009
SPEAKER: GOV. ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, D-ILL.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, thank you very much. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here today and present my closing argument, my chance to be able to talk to you, talk to the people of Illinois, and talk to anybody else who is listening. I had the last couple of days — I’ve had a chance to be able to go out and talk to as many people as I possibly could about my desire to be able to appear here before the Senate, the Senate trial, and have a chance to be able to tell the whole story, have every single witness I could possibly bring be able to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, present as much evidence that’s available to be able to have the whole story told, and have a chance to be able to show you, here in the Senate, show the people of Illinois, and show anybody else who’s listening that I have done absolutely nothing wrong. That I followed every law, that I never, ever intended to violate any law, and that when the whole truth is heard, and the whole story is told, that’s ultimately is what will be shown.
I was hopeful that I’d have a chance to be able to do that in a Senate hearing in this trial, a chance to be able to bring witnesses in, a whole list of witnesses. Every single witness in the criminal complaint. It would have been nice to have them here so they could tell the truth and tell you, under oath, what they know.
I wanted to be able to bring in witnesses from Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, to Senator Dick Durbin, to Senator Harry Reid and Bob Menendez, to every single person connected with any conversation I may have had in relation to picking the United States senator. Unfortunately, these rules have prevented me from being able to do that.
And in spite of efforts to try to get you to give me that chance to do it, it didn’t work. So I went to the people, talked to as many people as I possibly could. And I was over and over repeating to them, “Just give me a chance to be able to let the truth come out, so sooner, rather than later, I can show you I’ve done nothing wrong, so sooner, rather than later, I can clear my name, and we can put this behind us and get on with working to do things for people.” Get on with the business of the people.
Now, when I did that, and met a lot of different people, and made that case to them, they were mostly sympathetic. They understood my position. They said, of course you’re entitled to a fair trial. Every American citizen is. Of course you’re entitled to bring witnesses in so you can disprove things that are being said about you and show that they’re not true. Of course you’re entitled to confront your accusers.
This is the United States of America. It’s guaranteed by the Constitution. It’s a fundamental civil liberty that every American enjoys. And imagine what it would be like to live in a country like this if you weren’t allowed to be able to defend yourself.
And of course an impeachment trial is not a court of law. It’s different. But whether it’s a court of law, or an administrative hearing, whether it’s schoolyard justice when one kid hits another, but the kid that hit him wasn’t the one who did it and he’s got other boys he’d like to have tell the teacher he didn’t do it, whether it’s that or it’s an impeachment process where you are seeking to remove a governor who was twice elected by the people, I think fundamental fairness, fundamental justice, natural law and constitutional rights suggest I should be able to bring witnesses in to say I didn’t do the things they said I did.
Now, when I made that case to people, they listened to me and were supportive. But they also said to me, “If you feel so strongly about it, Governor, then why don’t you go to the Senate and tell them yourself? Why don’t you go there and tell them instead of you just telling us?”
And so that’s why I’m here. I’m here to talk to you and appeal to you, to your sense of fairness, your sense of responsibility, your commitment to the Constitution, your commitment to basic fairness. And I’m asking you, as I speak to you today, to imagine yourself walking in my shoes.
Think about you if someone said the things they said about me and you know you didn’t do it, but there’s been a rush to judgment and an evisceration of the presumption of innocence. Imagine how you would approach this and what you would do.
Think about if you knew you were right and you were innocent, and you didn’t do anything wrong, whether you should be rushed out of office, disgrace your family, disgrace your children, and imply that you might have actually done the things they said you did. Think about your responsibilities when the people choose you and you know you’ve kept your faith with them, but everybody else is saying you didn’t, but if you quit and give up and leave without having a chance to prove your innocence, how you’ve abandoned them and you’ve quit on them and you’ve violated your commitment to them.
I’m here to give every possible explanation to every one of these allegations, and I’m grateful that you’ve at least given me that. But I would hope that maybe when you consider what I have to say, who knows? Maybe you’ll reconsider and give me a chance to call those witnesses I’d like to call.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll reconsider and give me a chance to see if there’s some possible way where every one of those conversations that were taped can be right here before you so you can hear all of them, words and all, the truth, unadulterated truth. Maybe not flattering in some cases, but it’s the truth, and there was never a conversation where I intended to break any law.
So I’m here to do what I can to explain to you my side of the story.
Now, the articles of impeachment, as they’re configured, are broken up basically in two portions. One is a portion that alleges that I abused the executive discretion that the governor’s given. And then the other is the allegations in the criminal complaint.
Articles 1 through 8 in the — deal with the allegations in the criminal complaint. But here at this trial, only Article 3 — only Article 3 — was there any evidence presented to suggest that something may have been done. In all the other articles, no evidence was presented to prove up criminal allegations. And let’s look at the one article where they actually brought evidence.
The evidence is the four tapes. You heard those four tapes. I don’t have to tell you what they say. You guys are in politics, you know what we have to do to go out and run and run elections.
There was no criminal activity on those four tapes. You can express things in a free country, but those four tapes speak for themselves. Take those four tapes as they are and you will, I believe, in fairness, recognize and acknowledge, those are conversations relating to the things all of us in politics do in order to run campaigns and try to win elections.
Now, I understand that the federal prosecutor and the U.S. attorney has made it clear, and I respect and understand his position, that he doesn’t want witnesses called and that he doesn’t want evidence called, and that’s why on all the other seven articles, with the exception of those four tapes that you heard, there hasn’t been any evidence to show or prove any criminal conduct. I understand that. That’s why I am appealing to you that unless they allow us to bring that evidence in, then that case ought to be heard in the appropriate place, in a court of law, and respect the U.S. attorney and his needs to be able to bring those witnesses.
But how can you throw a governor out of office on a criminal complaint, and you haven’t been able to show or prove any criminal activity? How can you throw a governor, elected twice by the people, out of office when the rules don’t even require that you prove up elements of criminal allegations?
And more than that, how can you throw a governor out of office who is clamoring and begging and pleading with you to give him a chance to bring witnesses in to prove his innocence, to do more than just ask for a presumption of innocence? Don’t even give me that. Let me make my case, let me bring my witnesses in, let me show you that I’m innocent and I didn’t do anything wrong.
So Articles 1 to 8 do not show or prove any criminal case. And if that’s the case, how can you throw me out of office without proving something like that and set a dangerous precedent that could have an impact on people and governors in Illinois and governors in other states?
Now, the four tapes that you heard speak for themselves. You also had a chance to listen to the FBI agent who was here. But what did he do? He just read allegations.
He didn’t allow you to challenge the allegations. He didn’t allow you to cross-examine any of the people involved in those allegations. He simply read a criminal complaint.
That’s not proving criminal allegations. And again, I would respectfully suggest to you, how can you throw somebody out of office, whether it’s me, or maybe one day it happens to you, without even expecting someone to try to prove something that they’re saying that you did?
So I’m appealing to you and your sense of fairness. And because Articles 1 through 8 don’t allow — don’t allow — for having proven any criminal activity, I can’t imagine how you can possibly throw me out of office for something that wasn’t shown that I did.
As for the other — as for the other allegations, the allegations that I allegedly abused the executive discretion, I’d like to take each one of those one by one. Let’s begin with the first one. The first one I’d like to talk about, and I want to talk about each one of these and what I did in each one of those cases. And I’m glad for having finally been given a chance to explain each of these issues, because I’ve been dying to do this for years.
The first issue is the issue of my giving health care — my giving health care to parents in low-income families, to parents who have children who are getting health care through the All Kids Program, to parents who come from low-income families who used to have health care, but then in late 2007, President Bush and the Bush administration changed its policies and those 35,000 people who used to have health care didn’t have it.
Let me talk about what I did here.
What did I do in this case but provide health care for low-income families? Now, I understand the importance of the JCAR Committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. I understand that six of you here in the Senate are members of that. The fact that you’d be picked to be on JCAR means you’re in good standing with your legislative leaders.
I remember when I was a legislator. I remember when I was a freshman in Congress and I got a chance to be on a conference committee, when you get to sit with the leaders of the different committees in the House and in the Senate, and what a thrill it was for me to be able to, as a freshman congressman, be in a room with legendary U.S. senators like John Glenn and Ted Kennedy and John McCain and John Warner, the senator from Virginia who, incidentally, had once been married to Elizabeth Taylor. That’s all I could think about when I saw him in that room.
And then he asked me for a cup of coffee because he thought I was a staffer. And I didn’t tell him I was a congressman. Instead, I went and asked him, “How do you take it?” And he said, “Black.” And I went and got him the coffee.
I saw him the following week and he asked me for another cup of coffee. He obviously forgot I was a congressman.
I remember what it was like to be in that committee, and I know how important it is for those of you who are appointed to a committee like that. But let me respectfully suggest a couple of things.
The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is a committee that other states have, too. And in nine other states, there have been challenges. When the executive branch seeks to do something, and then that committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, has another idea.
Now, ever since I’ve been governor for the entire six years I’ve been governor, I’ve respected that committee. And as far as I know, our agencies have always approached the JCAR committee and sought requests for the rules so you guys can decide on that committee whether those rules should be issued or not.
But I’ve been given legal advice by lawyers and I believe they’re right, and other courts have agreed that those lawyers were right, that JCAR is an advisory committee, that it cannot dictate to the executive branch. That if the executive branch seeks to do something, that committee can advise you and suggest whether it’s right or wrong, or they agree with you or not, but they can’t stop you.
If you want to stop the executive branch under our Constitution and the ideas of separation of powers, then you all know how it works. The House passes a bill, you in the Senate pass a bill. I may not like it. You send it to me, I veto that bill, it goes back to you, and then you override my veto.
That’s how you stop the executive branch and a governor. But 12 lawmakers, however — however intelligent and honest and impressive and schooled as you may be, 12 lawmakers picked by a — by legislative leaders cannot constitutionally thwart the executive branch. Nine states have challenged this case, and in all nine states the right of the executive branch to do what it sought to do without the consent of JCAR was upheld.
There’s a current court case pending now about this health care issue as we speak. And the issue is this: when those 35,000 families, those low-income parents lost their health care because President Bush changed the rules in Washington, I felt it a moral obligates to try to help those families keep their health care and still be able to go to the doctor.
I worked with the Senate Democratic leadership on this issue. Every decision I made was done in conjunction with your previous leader, and presumably with your leadership team. And then we made a tactical decision to try to get the House to see if they could pass legislation, chose not to do it. And then I chose a way, through legal advice and agency directors, to protect those families and keep them from losing their health care.
Now, how is it an impeachable offense to protect low-income parents from losing their health care? How is it an impeachable offense to keep those families in a position to be able to see their doctors?
In addition, just the other day, the Illinois State Supreme Court took this case up and approved the payment to those families. So how can you possibly impeach a governor when a case is pending and taken by the Illinois Supreme Court which may rule in my favor? And even if it doesn’t, how can you impeach a governor when what we did was about helping families and kids and not anything that wasn’t done in consultation with lawyers and others and is now being tested in a court of law? And then again, what I did on that particular case was one I did with the Senate Democratic leadership at that time, in conjunction with the Democratic leadership at that time, and in partnership with the Democratic leadership at that time.
Now, the next article are the flu vaccines, the issue of the flu vaccines. What did I do here?
Now, in 2005 — and my recollection it was somewhere around the early fall of 2005 — there were warnings were coming from the Centers for Disease Control in Washington saying that we were about to see one of the worst flu seasons in recent American history. They warned that you ought to get your flu shot, and then they warned, especially to seniors and mothers with small children, infants, that you better make sure your kids, your babies and your elderly parents get flu shots because the flu that’s coming could actually take people’s lives.
We then sought to get the necessary flu vaccines for the people of Illinois. The supplier of those flu vaccines, unfortunately, a portion of their supply was contaminated, and so there was a shortage. Because we had a creative program — which apparently another article of impeachment has been filed — to go to Canada and get cheaper and safer and affordable prescription medicines for our senior citizens, we had relationships with some of the manufacturers of prescription drugs and flu vaccines.
And so we found a way through our agency to go to companies like Aventis Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline, legitimate FDA-approved companies that manufacture medicines and flu vaccines, and understanding that there was going to be some risk that I might be criticized because we had this chance to be able to get those flu vaccines, and because I was foreseeing the possibility that our elderly and infants might be vulnerable to flus that could conceivably take their lives, to me it was a no-brainer. Get the flu vaccines, bring them in.
And by the way, if I get criticized for it, that ain’t the first time. That just goes along with the territory.
Not only did we successfully get the flu vaccines we sought, but there was a desire and a demand from other states for those flu vaccines. And Governor Bill Richardson from New Mexico called, and we were able to get him some. And my recollection is the governor of Tennessee was interested, Governor Bredesen, to see whether or not we could share some of those flu vaccines with him.
Now, the FDA ultimately got involved and prevented us from getting those flu vaccines, but let me point out to you, this case is still pending. The state of Illinois hasn’t lost $2.5 million. It’s before the Illinois Court of Claims, and the attorney general has made the argument before the Illinois Court of Claims that the taxpayers shouldn’t pay the bill because the FDA didn’t approve what those drug companies decided to do. But here again, my question to you is, how can you throw a governor out of office who was acting to protect the lives of senior citizens and infants and trying to find ways to be able to help families?
Now, I understand the House prosecutor mentioned, well, the means don’t justify the ends. These were legal means. These are legal means to be able to get those medicines. There was nothing against the law. The question was whether or not the FDA would allow us to bring them in.
Sure, there was a bit of a risk involved, but the risk was that we spend some money, and the upside was, we protection seniors an children from dying. And if it doesn’t happen, then at the worst, I’ll be criticized because we didn’t have the — we weren’t able to be able to get the flu vaccines for the money that we’d have to pay.
But the money hasn’t been paid yet, so therefore that complaint hasn’t happened. And more importantly, we and I pursued what I believed was the moral and right thing to do with legal means to do them, helping families make sure they have the flu vaccines that are necessary to keep them alive, and make sure that children and our seniors don’t get sick when we could find a way to try to help and protect them.
Now let me point out about this particular article. This was not something that just happened yesterday. This was something I did in the first term.
It was — if it was an impeachable offense, then you should have impeached me before I got re-elected. I did this, and then the people of Illinois knew I did it, and then they hired me again.
How can you impeach me on a charge like this that happened in the first term? You didn’t impeach me then. And then the people chose me again because they evidently approved of what I did because they understand that they’d like to have a leader who’s going to go out and try to get results for them.
The third point, the other article, prescription drugs from Canada. I can’t wait to talk about this one.
What did I do here? What did I do? How many of us on this side of the aisle — and I got to think some of you on that side of the aisle — went all over the campaign trail and talked to senior citizens at bingos and senior homes, and in kitchens and homes around the state, and understood how difficult it was for them to be able to afford their medicines and pay for their groceries and afford their electric bills?
How many of us talked about those things in speeches? How many of us who were familiar with how the Congress operates actually had talking points that were given by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and they had that line, food or medicine? Food or medicine?
How many of us said all that? And how many of us kept railing against the FDA because they wouldn’t allow Canada — wouldn’t allow American seniors to go to Canada and get the same prescription drugs, the same medicines made by the exact same companies? Only if you go to Canada, you can get it for 40 or 50 percent less and save money for senior citizens.
And how many of us believe in free trade? Democrats believe in it, and I know you guys on the Republican side of the aisle believe in it. And yet somehow on the issue of prescription drugs, we don’t have free trade. We can’t go to Canada, our number one trading partner, and get the medicines that are necessary to save the lives of our seniors and our families and our children.
So we found a way to go to Canada. And I was the first state. I was the first governor to do it. And the idea came to me not from me, but from then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel.
Senator Cullerton’s congressman, my congressman came to me with a good idea and said why don’t you lead the charge and lead the fight on this and be the first state to go to Canada and test whether or not the FDA will allow you to do it or not” Think about the morality of this, think about how it can help our seniors, and think about what we can do to help families.
And I loved the idea and we did it. And then so did Wisconsin, and so did Kansas, and so did Vermont.
If you’re impeaching me on providing safe and affordable prescription drugs by going to Canada and getting the same medicines made by the exact same companies, then the governor of Wisconsin ought to be impeached, the governor of Kansas ought to be impeached, the governor of Vermont ought to be impeached. And while we’re at it, let’s go reach right into the United States Senate and let’s expel John McCain and Ted Kennedy, because I worked with them on this issue of the re-importation of prescription drugs.
And then let’s not stop there. Let’s demand that President Obama fire Rahm Emanuel, because Rahm Emanuel was the one who gave me this idea. If you’re going to throw me out of office for something like this, then how can those guys stay in the offices that they have?
Here again is an issue that happened in the first term, not the second term. And everybody knew about it, and in spite of the criticism — and I understand all that — the people of Illinois elected me a second time, knowing what I did with regard to prescription drugs for our senior citizens.
The next paragraph — next article is the issue of the auditor general.
Now, what did I do there? The auditor general apparently, it’s my understanding, had an issue with CMS, Central Management Services.
Now, I may be the only one here left who still is proud of all the different things I’ve been able to accomplish as governor, and I want to say most of it couldn’t have happened without you here in the state senate. You all know what the political dynamic has been here over the past six years, and everyone of the big achievements I’ve been able to get as governor couldn’t have been done without you, and sometimes with you.
But I want you to know that one of the best things we did was invest record amounts of money in education, $8.4 billion in new money in education, a 30 percent increase, and we didn’t do it on the backs of the middle class by raising their taxes. We expanded health care to 750,000 families who didn’t have it before, increasing payments within the budget, but we didn’t do it by raising taxes on the middle class.
But we did it in different ways. And one of the ways we did it was by efficiency, consolidating functions, having agencies do a better job making sure they can streamline their activities. And Central Management Services, CMS, was one of those places.
In the first term, they were successful in saving over $500 million for taxpayers because they found creative ways to do it. And in this particular case, on this issue with the auditor general, they found a way to save some money in someplace and then what they wanted to do was allow us to be able to use that money in the general revenue fund to invest in health care and education and in other general revenue items. But then the auditor general got involved and said, stop, don’t do it.
Now, I have a recollection of actually remembering this, because I remember I was in Washington, D.C., when the head of CMS and that Mr. Holland, the auditor general, got into a little bit of a verbal fight. I remember being amused by that, thinking you had a couple of accountants kind of scrapping over the issue of whether or not some money should be spent a certain way or not. When the inspector general, Mr. Holland, told us, you can’t do it, guess what we did? We didn’t do it.
How can you impeach me and throw me out of office? The chief accountant of the state comes in and says, you can’t do that. We hear you. We’re not doing it. And we didn’t do it. How can that be an impeachable offense?
And here, too, like on prescription drugs for seniors and flu vaccines for the elderly and for infants, here, too, this was an issue that took place in the first term, not the second term. This was something, if it was so bad, you should have impeached me on before and not now. And in spite of it, the people of Illinois elected me a second time.
Now the last article is the report from the IG, the inspector general. And just to back up and give you a little bit of history, one of the accomplishments that we were able to have together in the first term in the veto session of 2003, was to create a new ethics law, change the rules in ethics and, for the first time, ever, create an inspector general that was independent of the governor, not the governor’s friend, but independent inspector general who would be brought on to police the system of state government. That he or she would be there to make sure that all of us, all state employees and others who work for the governor in this case, are doing things right.
We hired a former United States attorney as our first inspector general. This report from the inspector general alleges that some people perhaps may have — it’s an allegation, nothing proven, nothing shown yet to be true — but an allegation that some people who worked for me may have violated some of the hiring rules. In that very report by the inspector general, there’s never an allegation that I ever knew anything about it. How can I possibly be thrown out of office on something that the inspector general doesn’t even claim I knew anything about? And, incidentally, something that still has not been resolved.
So I ask you to remember, too, that that issue was one that took place in the first term, not the second term. And if it was so bad then, then perhaps I should have been impeached over that. But, yet again, the inspector general doesn’t say that I knew anything about it. There hasn’t been any finding that anybody did anything wrong. And I’ve got to tell you, the fact that we have an inspector general was something that I pushed very hard for. And, yes, it gets embarrassing sometimes when your own inspector general finds that some people who work for you may not have done something right. But the greater good is served because you’re policing the system and making sure that people don’t do things they shouldn’t do and have a better understanding on some of the things they shouldn’t be in a position to be able to do.
So I believe in all of the evidence that has been presented to you — in fact I know there hasn’t been a single piece of information that proves any wrongdoing. You haven’t proved a crime and you can’t because it hasn’t happened. You haven’t given me a chance to disprove a crime. But so far a crime has not been proven here in this impeachment proceeding.
How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence? You haven’t been able to show that there was anything wrong in my judgment on any of these allegations with regard to things I did in my first term for senior citizens and for children, how we complied with the auditor general when he told us to follow his rules, how we had an inspector general who found some things but didn’t say I was involved in it. How can those things be shown to be anything but what they are, but not wrongdoing. It’s not evidence of any wrongdoing. In fact, there is no evidence before your body here that shows — no evidence, zero — that there was any wrongdoing by me as governor.
And again, if you give me a chance to be able to bring witnesses in, I can show you not only that I didn’t do anything wrong, I can show you that I did a lot of things that were mostly right and that some of the things that are being said about me simply aren’t true. And when I get my day in court, I’ll have a chance to be able to prove it.
Now I know we’ve had some ups and downs. I have mostly had ups with this side of the aisle. I wouldn’t be where I am in terms of the accomplishment I take pride in if it wasn’t for the senate Democratic caucus.
I know that those of you on this side of the aisle haven’t always agreed with my positions. Those have been mostly philosophical differences. The ordinary differences that separate Democrats from Republicans. Honest differences.
But we’ve also had a chance to work together. Had a good opportunity to work with all of you on a public works program. We’ve been working together for a long, long time, in good faith, trying to get a capital bill passed so we can create 500,000 jobs, put people to work, stimulate our economy and do what’s right.
And I know sometimes we’ve had some difficulties and some disagreements. But isn’t that what a democracy is? And isn’t that how this process is supposed to work? And isn’t it really the way our country was founded? Nothing’s smooth but conflict and, out of conflict, hopefully good results occur.
And maybe sometimes you rightfully slowed me down because my instincts are to keep doing things. And maybe sometimes we were able to find ways to get things done for people. But always those ways were lawful. Always those ways were done in consultation with lawyers. And with all due respect to the prosecutor, Mr. Ellis, always the means were legal and, in most cases, the ends were moral.
When you go out and try to find a way with legal advice to save 35,000 poor people and keep their health care, you’ve done it through legal means and you’ve done a moral thing. When you’re trying to help senior citizens afford their medicines, instead of just giving them a bunch of political baloney in speeches and say you care but then you don’t do anything about it but you found a way that you can actually do something and help them be able to have a better quality of life, not ration their medicine, maybe extend their lives, the means are legal because, if they’re not, then the governor of Wisconsin, the governor of Kansas and Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel and John McCain and others ought to be co-conspirators with me. But how can you impeach me for legal means with moral ends? Those are a lot of the things that I’ve done as governor.
Now I know my style sometimes — I know. I know sometimes I probably push too much and prod too much. I know you guys have this impression that sometimes, you know, I go outside of you and say certain things. I know. I know.
But I want you to know where I come from. I have been blessed to live the American dream. My background’s humbe, like most of yours. My dad was an immigrant who came here from a communist country, a Republican, co-warrior (ph). Spent four years in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. And then instead of going back to his home after the war, he waited for three years in a refugee camp so that one day maybe he might have a chance to go to the United States. This place he heard so many great things about. And in 1948, the congress that one day his youngest son would one day become a member of, passed a law called the Displaced Persons Act and permitted him and millions of others like him with these long and hard to pronounce last names the chance to come to America, the land of freedom and the land of opportunity.
My dad, his whole world changed. He saw himself as a rising officer in the Yugoslavian army, and then everything changed. But then he came to this place and he wasn’t the guy he thought he might be, the career he thought he might have. He was a factory worker. A steel worker. And worked all the time — 50, 60, 70 hours a week. Got a second job. Did everything he could to scratch and claw and sacrifice, because he got to a point in his life — and you know this probably from your parents — when you realize it ain’t there for you, so I’m going to do everything I can to create opportunities for my kids.
My mother was a working person. CTA ticket agent. Passing out transfers at the subway stations. Everything they did was to work and sacrifice for their kids and give us a chance at a better life that wasn’t there for them.
And then one day their youngest son grows up and he becomes governor of the fifth largest state and he became governor because he had a lot of people helping him. He became governor because he went out and gave a lot of speeches about all the things he wanted to do for people just like his parents. And then you wake up and suddenly, holy cow, it happened. Hard to believe. I’m the governor of Illinois. And when that happens to you one day — and surely some of you here might have that experience — I wonder if you’ll have the same appreciation I had.
I suspect Senator Cullerton felt that when he became senate president. You’ve hit a pinnacle. You’ve hit something that maybe you never thought you’d have and people entrusted you with this special place. So what are you going to do with it?
Me, in spite of what a lot of my critics have said, it wasn’t about promoting me for higher office. I didn’t go to all those Washington, D.C. functions. I didn’t try to sell myself to the national media. I didn’t go to governors conferences. I’ve been criticized for not doing that. I just stayed right here in Illinois to try to do the best I can to get real results for people and to push and prod, maybe too hard sometimes, but to get real results for people.
And who are those people? People like my parents. My own life experience. I didn’t go to Harvard. Applied on a Monday, got my letter of rejection back on a Tuesday. I went to more modest type schools. But I’ve been blessed to have a chance and now suddenly I’m the governor. What will I do with that? Squander it? Or will I try to get things done for people like my parents and will I try to take my life experience, a life experience that so many of you understand and have experienced.
Willie Delgado (ph), from a neighborhood like mine, very close. Jimmy Delio (ph), from the same kind of life experience like mine. The same kind of life experience, and then try to take policies and set priorities that before we got together to be able to do these things, those priorities were not the priorities of the state.
I tried to expand opportunities for families who otherwise wouldn’t have it. Opportunities for health care. Opportunities for education. Opportunities for preschool. Try to level the playing field. But do it in ways that doesn’t burden the middle class. A different approach, ruffling feathers here. That’s the kind of thing that everybody agreed with but an approach that I thought would help families and not burden them and give them a lift up a little bit and not have them just run in place, hearing a lot of stuff that the governor said he did, but not really feeling like their lives have improved. I think about my parents a lot. I think about ordinary people I’ve met along the way a lot. I met a woman not long ago who told me her story and she’s the kind of person that I believe my policies have been for. And I want to tell the story, not because it’s that unique, but I want to tell it because I want you to know how sometimes maybe I get too frustrated, maybe I get too impatient with the process, maybe I forget that I used to be a lawmakers and I just don’t understand why you guys — not you guys, but some of you, your colleagues, mostly in the other place, are holding things up, when we’re about helping people and we’ve said we want to do these things for families.
But I met a woman who told me the story of her day-to-day life. She’s a mom with an immigrant mother from Mexico. She was born here. A mom in her late 20s, two boys, six and four. She works out by the airport. Does some clerical work, I think at an accounting firm. They live near south side, I think back in the yards, maybe Pilson (ph), maybe Bridgeport (ph). She gets up every morning at 5:00 because she has to start work at 7:00 or 8:00, depending upon when her boss wants her in. And she also gets up because she’s been able to have some flexibility in her schedule.
She live a in a two-flat. Her mother owns the building where her late father used to live. Dad left the kids and left her all by herself. She lives in a two-flat and pays rent to her mother where her mother gives her a break an gives her a hand. She’s up before dawn. Her kids are still in bed. She sits down, mom comes up, her mom, has a cup of coffee with her. They talk about the things of the day. And then she’s ready to go to work.
It’s still dark outside if it’s winter. She tippy-toes into the bedroom and kisses her boys good-bye and leaves them to their grandmother. And then she walks out, a couple of blocks, goes to a bus stop and waits in the darkness before dawn in the cold of winter to catch a bus. And then that bus takes her to a subway train. And that subway train takes her to her job out by O’Hare.
And then she goes to work. And she works hard. And she’s been there a long time. And she started when she was getting paid less than $30,000 a year, but she did a good job for her boss and she’s getting paid now more than $40,000 a year. She gets benefits, gets health care through the All Kids program, which is something we’ve provided.
She puts in eight or nine hours a day. And then it’s time to leave. She gets back on that subway train, gets back to that bus, then comes home and, if she’s lucky, she’s home maybe by 6:00 or 6:30 and she can spend a little bit of time with her boys because grandma has just made them dinner. And then maybe she’ll eat her dinner and eat some of that fast.
And then she’ll do what moms do, taking care of her kids, get them ready for bed. And then maybe, if she’s lucky, she might have an hour or two, at best, where she might be able to actually relax and watch her favorite television program an get away from it all. But she knows she’s got to get up early because this whole thing starts again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. My policies have been all about helping families like those. Give her a chance to afford health care through the All Kids Program. Give her a chance to send those boys to preschool. Give her a chance to be able to make a living and hopefully have upward (ph) mobility and protect from those who might want to raise her taxes and make it harder for her.
My policies have been about trying to help families like those. And then, when I run into gridlock and legislative gridlock, I’m too impatient and I get frustrated. And I confess, maybe I push too hard. I confess, maybe I fight maybe too much. But I ask you to remember, it ain’t about me. My kids have — it ain’t about me.
Charge it to my heart, charge it to a desire to help families I came from and life stories I’ve heard along the way in my life and as governor. And when you get the experience to be governor and you have a chance to help families like that, and you can do it, it’s gratifying. It’s gratifying.
Now, I’m asking you to look at the evidence that you’ve heard here and to ask yourself, is it the right precedent to set to throw a governor, twice elected by the people, out of office without proving any wrongdoing? Is that the right precedent to set? Think about the dangerous precedent that will be set if you throw me out of office when you haven’t been able, and rightfully you wouldn’t, because it didn’t happen, prove criminal allegations and all those other articles that are not wrongdoing.
Does it set the right precedent, because there are some issues now and I know there’s a certain sense that maybe it would be good if I wasn’t here and you guys can put all this behind you and move on. But to quote Mr. Ellis, the means need to — the ends don’t justify the means. An improper impeachment, not based on evidence, are improper means that don’t justify the ends. And even worse, in a case where a governor’s been elected by the people of his or her state, to remove that governor, like this, sets a dangerous and chilling precedent for the future.
Impeachments are very rare and they’re designed to be that way. They’re supposed to be used only in extreme cases. That’s why there have been so few impeachments in American history. That’s why I stand before you in a very unique and lonely place.
But there’s a reason why these impeachments are rare, because you’re not supposed to just throw the will of the people out unless you have shown wrongdoing. And you haven’t been able to show wrongdoing in this trial. And you’ve denied me the right to be able to bring in a whole bunch of witnesses who will show you I didn’t do anything wrong and have done most things right.
Imagine what future governors in Illinois will face if I’m thrown out of office for this. And imagine other governors in other states. Because there’s only been a couple where this has happened. And you look and see what other states have done. And imagine what will happen if I’m thrown out of office with a dangerous precedent like this. So I’m here to appeal to you, to your sense of fairness, your sense of responsibility and to the truth — and to the truth. I’m asking you to acquit me and give me a chance to show my innocence. And if you’re not comfortable with an acquittal, than extend this process and get more evidence if you can get it to show that I did something wrong or give me a chance to bring my evidence in, bring my witnesses in, to show you I did nothing wrong. But don’t set a dangerous precedent removing the governor who was elected by the people on these grounds.
And then I’ll appeal to you personally. Imagine yourself in my place. Walk a mile in my shoes. Think about if something like this can happen to me, it could happen to you. Imagine going to bed one night thinking everything is fine, excited about decisions that you’re going to make, confident that you’ll be able to get a lot of the things you’ve been trying to do before done, like creating jobs, extending health care and protecting taxpayers and doing some other things. Imagine going to bed comfortably and then the next morning your whole world changes, unexpected, unanticipated, not even aware or knowing what it was about.
And then imagine what it’s like when you realize what it is and you get home and the whole world’s like outside your house and then you, before you can even catch a breath, everybody has convicted you. Imagine how you’d feel when the presumption of innocence that every American citizen has a right to is completely wiped out because of sensationalization of the media and other things and then you don’t even have a chance to be able to come around and figure out what happened. And before long, the rush to judgment has already occurred. Imagine how you’d feel.
Now if I felt I did something wrong, I would have resigned in December. If I felt I violated a law, I would meet my responsibilities, I would have resigned in December. I wouldn’t put my family through this. I wouldn’t put you through this. And, most importantly, I wouldn’t put the people of Illinois through this.
But I didn’t resign then and I’m not resigning now because I have done nothing wrong. And all I ask of you is to give me a chance to show you that I have done nothing wrong. Let me bring those witnesses in. And, sure, there’s political embarrassment to members of my party and faraway Washington, D.C.
Sure there’s some inconvenience. But all the witnesses I’d like to call will testify honestly and they did nothing wrong either. They had political conversations with me about a decision regarding a United States senator. Let them come in here and talk about those conversations. And let me show you that I’ve done nothing wrong.
I cannot possibly admit to something I didn’t do. And it’s not about me, as much as it is about not shaming my daughters so that their dad, they might think, may have done some things that he didn’t do and allowing them to have this feeling that I let them down.
And even more important than my daughters, the people of Illinois. It is painful to be in a position like this. It’s painful to hold your tongue and not be able to say too much because people are telling you, you shouldn’t do anything and they’ve already rushed to judgment and said you did something you didn’t do. It is painful to be in a car and drive and see people sitting, standing at bus stops or walking down the street who voted for you, presumably — more of them did than didn’t — and they hired you and trusted you and you’re dying to tell them, I didn’t do it. I didn’t let you down. Give me a chance to show you. It’s painful. And it’s lonely.
But I want you to know, I want you to know, I never, ever intended to commit a criminal act. I never in any conversation intended to violate any criminal law. All the conversations, warts and all, ought to be heard. This is not Richard Nixon and Watergate trying to keep the tapes from being heard. I want all the evidence heard and I want it sooner rather than later so I can clear my name and we can get on doing the things that matter most.
I want to thank you for giving me a chance to be here. I know these are tough times. I want to apologize to you for what happened, but I can’t, because I don’t think — because I didn’t do anything wrong. These are circumstances that have happened and I’m sorry that we’re all in this. I’ll apologize for that. And I’ll apologize for maybe pushing and prodding too much and the rest in the past.
But I want you also to know that whatever you do here — and I hope you think about the big, broad picture and the big consequences — not me. Think about future governors. Think about the constitutional rights that are involved. Think about the precedents. Think about the civil liberties that we Americans all enjoy. Think about the dangerous precedent of removing me without proving any wrongdoing. If it could happen to a governor, it could happen to any citizen.
And then I would say to all of you, think about the things we’ve been able to do together. Health care for all of our kids, first in the nation. Preschool for three and four year-olds, best in the nation. Record amount of money in education. All of our senior citizens riding public transportation for free. Holding the line on taxes. Think about all the good things we’ve been able to do for people. Give me a chance to stay here so we can roll up our sleeves and continue to do good things for people.
Thank you very much.
I was asked today if I was worried about the dummycrats taking the House or the Senate and thought it was high time I posted a blog about it.
I have faith in our party to ultimately do the right thing and get out there and vote “R”. I think I can speak for many republicans that we are angry at the politics that come into play with certain issues like immigration. Our knee-jerk response is to say “Well, I’ll show him/her and not vote for them”.
There is nothing the Dems would like more. In order to marginalize the politics that come into play, the party must feel secure in thier power. They must know that the base will continue to suport them and keep them in office or else they start to waffle and flip and make us want to vote them out.
Lets vote this November to keep the Republicans in power. We cannot afford to stay home because of a handful of moderates and allow a change of power in either the House or the Senate.
More importantly, a loss of the House would be a tremendous set back to our nation. Not only in terms of our efforts to combat terror abroad, but also domestically in terms of higher taxes, and dangerous liberal immigration policies. I have no doubt, that if in power, the left would attempt to impeach this president thus wasting even more of our tax dollars, but also in the proccess would weaken our international projection of power making us even more vulnerable to terrorism.
The thing we must remember is; if we stay home, we may as well be voting for these idiots. The likes of Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the loony left will work to pull out of Iraq and Afganistan, they will appease Iran and North Korea, roll back the Bush tax cuts, and further damage the moral fiber of this nation by appointing more liberal justices and passing liberal and immoral laws that endanger our children. We will be granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants and giving up more of our hard earned income and jobs to those that least deserve it.
So get out there and vote on Novemeber 7th. And make sure you are getting your friends and neighbors to vote too. We can keep Washington under Republican control, but only if we each do out part and vote the issues not our anger over a few.
I am such a proud father! I know, everyone is proud of their kids for the most part, and I am not an exception. With each good grade they bring home, each life lesson I see them learn, each value I see them practice, I want to shout at the rooftops. THAT’S MY KID!
I am by no means a perfect parent, nor were mine. In fact, I even wonder if there is such a thing. I am however, the best parent that I know how to be and I take the time to teach my progeny the values that I hold dear. I share with them my world views and encourage them to understand that this world is theirs to inherit.
I am fortunate that, so far, they all excel in school, they all have a musical interest and are engaged in athletics. Save for the youngest two of my four who are in elementary school, but they have no lack of energy, thats for sure. I have 3 caring boys and a beautiful daughter which make me more prideful each day. The eldest of which being my stepson.
Raising my kids RIGHT, is one of my most serious challenges as a parent. With the public school systems and educators filling their heads with leftist think not to mention the influence of their peers and television, I know that I must clearly articulate to them why I believe what I do. Hopefully, and with a little luck, they will be able to disseminate the right from the wrong and come to make good decisions, now and in their adult life.
I want to share a story with you about each from my pride, and the political and patriotic lessons my kids have learned and have in turn made me proud to be raising my kids RIGHT.
For a five year old, my youngest is so in touch with the world around him. It never ceases to amaze me the questions he asks about the president, the war, and things military. He is also an avid little astronomer, which is also dear to my heart. He never fails to point out every house that flies their American flag and where each one is in town, or on cars. He loves the Stars and Stripes!
A while back I had set my profile song to “Don’t Tread on Me” by Metallica. He apparently liked the song and I started to hear him sing along. He likes to sing. After hearing it a few more times he stated asking me about what the words mean and about specific verses. In my “fatherly way” I told him that it is a song about when our country rose up against Britain and fought for our right to be free. I told him that it was about our Independence. Now he can’t get enough of the song. Whenever he can, he asks me to play the “American Independence song”. As he sings the lines in the verses, I know that he has (at least a small) understanding, that the fighting that the song portrays is about what it means to be a proud strong American that will never back down from our enemies.
The US Army will be proud to have my next “Army of One”. He is 9 years old now and already I think that he will be in the Special Forces. He crawls around on his belly in his camos, chasing imaginary enemies, and saving America from “the bad guys”. I’m not really sure he understands just yet who exactly the “bad guys” are, but there is no doubt that as he becomes of age he will grasp the idea why sometimes our nation needs to be at war.
The other day upon arriving home from work I was told that the babysitter upset him. They were teasing him about his “political” affiliations. Obviously, my sitters don’t share the same views of our president as we do in our home. Anybody know any good conservative babysitters? He was upset over the fact that they were saying that Bush is not a good president and that we should not be in Iraq. He defended his position adamantly in the face of getting a certain timeout. Just kidding there, but he made me proud once again, to hear that he was yelling at the babysitters “Bush is our president! You should not be talking about our president like that!” and following up with, “I’m telling my dad you guys are liberals!” Of course, he was talked to about the show of disrespect, but I secretly rewarded him with a late night cartoon for his support of our president.
The apple of my eye, my daughter is. She is 13 years old going on 17. Sheesh! A father’s work is never done. It may sound sexist, but of all my kids I want to make sure understands conservative values the most. She is the one I am worried about coming home one day with a pierced tongue or that new “stripper tattoo” when she is 16. She hasn’t given me any indication as of yet, that she would. I guess it’s just one of this father’s deepest fears.
Yet, for all her naiveté, she is the best student and by far, and has the smarts to know right from wrong. She asked me a few weeks ago, “Dad, what is your position on immigration?” “Uh, oh” I thought, “What are they teaching her now?” So I asked why she was asking. She informed me that it was a discussion in school and that they were discussing both sides of the issue. Of course, I thought that this may be a subject that is not appropriate for middle schoolers her age, but now that the subject was brought up we need to discuss it.
She listened attentively, albeit bored I’m sure, to why I believe that we should not grant amnesty and our need for more strict immigration laws and protections. I told her that about how the leaders we elect, including Bush, are just trying to get more votes by pandering to these illegal immigrants. I helped her understand the impact that illegals have on our society in terms of taxes, healthcare, education, and employment. I think I may have put my poor baby girl asleep that evening with what I am sure sounded like a lecture, but I had to make sure that she understood that it has nothing to do with racism, as there is a fairly high population of Latinos in her school, but rather that illegal immigration is just that, illegal. “She doesn’t get it!” I thought, as after our conversation she said, “Dad, I think immigration is a good thing, all different people living together has to be good”. I was soon proved wrong when she said, “But, I don’t think its fair that people come to our country when it’s against the law. They take our jobs and our tax money and make it worse for the ones who come here the right way. Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it. I thought for sure, she just blocked it all out. Then she says this. I felt so good about this lesson learned. I felt confident that she would be able to intelligently share her position with others, without being called the typical “racist”, as the left so often likes to label anti-illegal immigration supporters.
Finally let me tell you about my step-son. He is nearly 16 years old and has his driving permit. Talk about nerve-racking. He isa far better and more responsible young man than I ever was at his age. I am blessed to have him as part of my family and even more blessed that his father and I agree on most things involving his upbringing. It’s too bad the mother of my own children is not in the picture, and never would have been nearly as amicable if she were. His mother is also the mother of my youngest and I am convinced that the intelligence gene is passed through the female. Don’t get me wrong, my children all have their strengths and weaknesses and they all are very well rounded. For what my eldest and youngest have in brains and common sense, mine from my first wife have her love and talent for the arts and philosophy not to mention her good looks. Well, maybe those are my good looks, lol.
My oldest informs me, the other day, that he will be old enough to vote in the next presidential election. He said he will most likely be voting for a republican president because he thinks they run the country best. He then asks me who I will be voting for in the election in November. I was a bit taken aback. Now, we have talked about politics and the war on terror and so forth before, but I had no idea he was interested in the actual candidates. Well, as it turns out he is just like any typical high school boy. When I asked him about his sudden interest in elections, he tells me that he has been discussing the issues and candidates with a girl he sits with at lunch. A “Republican Girl”! HA, that’s my boy! He has ulterior motives, I know it. He gets that silly bashful smile on his face and I see that he is smitten. I decided to question his understanding about what issues are important this election, just to make sure he’s just not saying things to impress some girl he likes. It was no surprise that he was well informed. He told me he would vote for politicians that won’t raise taxes, are tough on terrorists, will finish this war, protect our country, and tough on illegal immigration. He said that he is in support social security reform and says that he thinks the government needs to stay out of peoples pockets with their stupid welfare and is against affirmative action programs. I was impressed to say the least. Here it is, nearly 10 years since I first met my stepson. He used to be the kid of whose mom I was dating. Now he has become a fine young man, maturing, and making good life decisions that I can say that I was partly responsible for. He is becoming the type of person I pray all my children become and I am proud to be his “other” dad.
Each and every one of my kids makes me proud. I am Proud to be a father and proud to be American. I am raising my kids RIGHT because it is the RIGHT way to raise my kids.
I have had enough of the left abusing victims to forward their agenda. They know they cannot persuade Americans with facts and logic, but resort to tugging on the heart strings of the sympathetic.
This blog is not intended to debate embryonic stem cell research. It is also not about whether Rush Limbaugh was right to question if Michael J. Fox was medicated or not or if he was acting. This blog is not about if Fox has a right to talk about his affliction. What this blog is about; is how democrats use victims to stifle open and honest debate. It is deplorable and it’s about time they are called to the carpet when they use this disgusting strategy.
Everyone wants Michael J. Fox to get well. Who doesn’t love Marty McFly or my favorite young Republican Alex P. Keaton? Who didn’t wish Superman would fly again, as Christopher Reeve sat incapacitated in his wheelchair on parade for his cause? What American does not sympathize with Cindy Sheehan’s loss of her brave son and the family members who lost their loved ones on 9-11? We all do! The left does not have a monopoly on sympathy. They do however; have a monopoly on using these victims to affect national policy and even elections. But what needs to be seen here is the pattern. The pattern is of the left to use victims to stifle open debate.
Ann Coulter certainly made some waves when she called out the 9-11 widows for using their victim status for political motivation. Even I had a tendency to question if Ms. Coulter was being a little harsh on these women claiming they were “enjoying” from their husbands deaths. These victims have been working to investigate government failures before 9-11 and publicly endorsed John Kerry during the presidential election of 2004. I don’t need to know who they support, in order to sympathize with their loss. But why, other than to influence politics, would they publicly support a specific candidate? Now, if you question one of these women about why they do what they do, you are labeled “heartless” and “vicious” and there you have it…end of debate.
We all love to hate the victim who made the most out of her 15 minutes of fame. Cindy Sheehan’s involvement on the political scene is well known. From supporting Kerry to shaking hands with the likes of Chavez to political marches, she has used her victim standing like no other. In fact, if I did have any sympathy for her loss it has been far overshadowed by my contempt for her by using her brave son’s sacrifice to stave off debate. Ask her anything about her political views and all you would hear is “because my son died in a war”. Oops, there it is again. Who wants to debate a grieving widow? Yet she gets a “stage” to spew her leftist and social garbage with no rebuttals.
Howard Dean has to take the cake when he blatantly used the death of both Dana and Christopher Reeve when he said “We owe it to Dana Reeve to recommit ourselves to the cause she so eloquently championed. The best way to honor her life is to continue fighting to ensure that we do everything possible to realize the full promise of full scientific and medical research.” Is anyone starting to see the pattern here?
And last but not least, our dear Mr. Fox and his political attack against Jim Talent and Michael Steel bought and paid for by the Democratic group Majority Action (another wonderful 529). It could not be clearer, whether Fox was medicated or acting or otherwise, that this is another deliberate attempt by democrats to suppress debate. I’m not going to tell poor Marty McFly that he is wrong about his hopes in this research. And if I do, as Mr. Limbaugh found out, you are labeled heartless, callus and cold. Even as I am reading news articles regarding this story I find the following comment:
My heart really goes out for you. Just keep your faith. I hope that one day a cure for PD can be found. I really enjoy watching you in the Back to the Future Trilogy. I feel so bad that Rush Limbaugh and some of the others feel the need to take shots at you. You are such a sweet man, and you do exude peace and harmony. You definitely have my support.
The democrats have sunk to the lowest of the low, once again proving that they cannot debate on equal footing. They will stop at nothing, and will use the most reprehensible and dishonest methods necessary to gain power.
As Hugo Chavez still speaks at a Harlem church in in New York, Americans are becoming outraged at his recent comments insulting President Bush. While addressing the UN Chavez, Venezuela’s elected president, called Bush a “world Dictator”, “The Devil” (more than 8 times), and claimed that the podium “still smelled of sulfur” from when Bush made his address. He has also stated that “The U.S. empire planned and conducted” the 9/11 terror attacks “against its own people” as an excuse to go to war.
Both side of the aisle are speaking out against Chavez’s remarks. Politicians on the left and the right including House Democratic Leader, Nancy Polozzi, Amd. John Bolton and Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice.
Even Charles Rangle (D-NY) spoke words of wisdom when he said, “‘You do not come into my country, my congressional district, and you do not condemn my president. If there is any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not. I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president, but do not come to the United States and think because we have problems with our president that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our Chief of State…”
What would the reaction be in Venezuela if Bush said those things about him. Regardless of whether you agree with our president’s policies or not, Rangel has it right. You offend all Americans when you insult the leader of our nation. Despite our political polarization sometimes, Americans stand together when we are attacked. Chavez has attacked the US.
He and the people of his country do not deserve one red American cent! Refuse to purchase anything from Citgo and tell everyone you know to boycott Citgo. Citgo is a subsidiary of the the Venezuelan state owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela. It has only one shareholder and that is Hugo Chavez. Citgo profits go directly into the coffers of the “Pig” himself. Show your patriotism and boycott citgo!
I came across this article and I just had to post it here. I think it gives a most thorough comparison of the significant ideology that will continue to cause our cultures to clash.
In these modern times, there is no room in the world for societies whose fundamental belief is rooted in intolerance and for those who spread their faith by “the sword”.
Islam must lay down their weapons and denounce violence. A clash of civilizations is inevitable, if those who profess that Islam is a “religion of peace” do nothing to prove it.
Jihad, the Lord’s Supper, and Eternal life
Jihad injures reason, for it honors a god who suffers no constraints on his caprice, unlike the Judeo-Christian god, who is limited by love. That is the nub of Pope Benedict XVI’s September 12 address in Regensburg, Germany. It promises to be the Vatican’s most controversial utterance in living memory.
When a German-language volume appeared in 2003 quoting the same analysis by a long-dead Jewish theologian, I wrote of “oil on the flames of civilizational war”.  Now the same ban has been preached from St Peter’s chair, and it is a defining moment comparable to Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri, in 1946. Earlier this year, Benedict’s elliptical remarks to former students at a private seminar in 2005, mentioned in passing by an American Jesuit and reported in this space, created a scandal.  I wrote at the time that even the pope must whisper when it comes to Islam. We have entered a different stage of civilizational war.
The Islamic world now views the pontiff as an existential threat, and with reason. Jihad is not merely the whim of a despotic divinity, as the pope implied. It is much more: jihad is the fundamental sacrament of Islam, the Muslim cognate of the Lord’s Supper in Christianity, that is, the unique form of sacrifice by which the individual believer communes with the Transcendent. To denounce jihad on theological grounds is a blow at the foundations of Islam, in effect a papal call for the conversion of the Muslims.
Just before then-cardinal Ratzinger’s election as pope last year, I wrote, “Now that everyone is talking about Europe’s demographic death, it is time to point out that there exists a way out: convert European Muslims to Christianity. The reported front-runner at the Vatican conclave … Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is one of the few Church leaders unafraid to raise the subject.”  The Regensburg address oversteps the bounds of dialogue and verges upon the missionary. A great deal has changed since John Paul II kissed the Koran before news cameras in 1999. The boys and girls of the Catholic youth organization Communione e Liberazione that Ratzinger nurtured for a generation will have a great deal to talk to their Muslim school-fellows about.
No more can one assume now that Europe will slide meekly into dhimmitude.
In that respect [I wrote during the conclave] John Paul II recalled the sad position of Pius XII, afraid to denounce publicly the murder of Polish priests by Nazi occupiers – let alone the murder of Polish Jews – for fear that the Nazis would react by killing even more. It is hard to second-guess the actions of Pius XII given his terrible predicament, but at some point one must ask when the Gates of Hell can be said to have prevailed over St Peter.
Specifically, Benedict stated that jihad, the propagation of Islam by force, is irrational, because it is against the Reason of God. Citing a 14th-century Byzantine emperor to the effect that Mohammed’s “decree that the faith he preached should be spread with the sword” as “evil and inhumane” provoked headlines. But of greater weight is the pope’s observation that Allah is a god whose “absolute transcendence” allows no constraint, to the point that Allah is free if he chooses to promote evil. The great German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig explained the matter more colorfully than did the pope, as I reported three years ago in the cited review:
The god of Mohammed is a creator who well might not have bothered to create. He displays his power like an Oriental potentate who rules by violence, not by acting according to necessity, not by authorizing the enactment of the law, but rather in his freedom to act arbitrarily … Providence thus is shattered into infinitely many individual acts of creation, with no connection to each other, each of which has the importance of the entire creation. That has been the doctrine of the ruling orthodox philosophy in Islam. Every individual thing is created from scratch at every moment. Islam cannot be salvaged from this frightful providence of Allah … despite its vehement, haughty insistence upon the idea of the god’s unity, Islam slips back into a kind of monistic paganism, if you will permit the expression. God competes with God at every moment, as if it were the colorfully contending heavenful of gods of polytheism.
It is amusing to see liberal Jewish commentators in the United States, eg, the editorial page of the September 16 New York Times, deplore the pope’s remarks, considering that Rosenzweig said it all the more sharply in 1920.
Benedict’s comments regarding Islam served as a preamble to a longer discourse on the unity of faith and reason. “Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?” Benedict asked, and answered his own question: “I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God.” It is not, however, the reasoned side of Benedict’s remarks to which Muslims responded, but rather the existential.
Rather than rail at the pope’s characterization of Islam, Muslims might have responded as follows: “Excuse me, Your Holiness, but did we hear you say that you represent a religion of reason, whereas Allah is a god of unreason? Do you not personally eat the body and blood of your god – at least things that you insist really are his flesh and blood – every day at Mass? And you accuse us of unreason!” That is a fair rebuttal, but it opens up Islam’s can of worms.
True, we are not pottering about in this pilgrim existence to be rational. Today’s Germans are irrational, and know that their time has past, and therefore desist from bearing children. What mankind – Christian, Muslim and Jew, and all – demand of God is irrational. We want eternal life! Christians do not want what the Greeks wanted – Socrates’ transmigration of souls, nor the shadow existence of Homer’s dead heroes in Hades. That is an unreasonable demand if ever there was one.
Before the Bible was written, the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh learned that his quest for immortality was futile. The demigods of Greece, mortals favored by Olympians, suffered a tedious sort of immortal life as stars, trees or rivers. The gods of the heathens are not in any case eternal, only immortal. They were born and they will die, like the Norse gods at the Ragnorak, and their vulnerability projects the people’s presentiment of its own death. To whom, precisely, have the gods offered eternal life prior to the appearance of revealed religion? Eternal life and a deathless mortality are quite different things.
But what is it that God demands of us in response to our demand for eternal life? We know the answer ourselves. To partake of life in another world we first must detach ourselves from this world in order to desire the next. In plain language, we must sacrifice ourselves. There is no concept of immortality without some concept of sacrifice, not in any culture or in any religion. That is a demand shared by the Catholic bishops and the Kalahari Bushmen.
God’s covenant with Abraham is unique and singular in world history. A single universal and eternal god makes an eternal pact with a mortal that can be fulfilled only if Abraham’s tribe becomes an eternal people. But the price of this pact is self-sacrifice. That is an existential mortal act beyond all ethics, as Soren Kierkegaard tells us in Fear and Trembling. The sacraments of revealed religion are sublimated human sacrifice, for the revealed god in his love for humankind spares the victim, just as God provided a ram in place of the bound Isaac on Mount Moriah. Among Jews the covenant must be renewed in each male child through a substitute form of human sacrifice, namely circumcision.  Christians believe that a single human sacrifice spared the rest of humankind.
Jihad also is a form of human sacrifice. He who serves Allah so faithfully as to die in the violent propagation of Islam goes straight to paradise, there to enjoy virgins or raisins, depending on the translation. But Allah is not the revealed god of loving kindness, or agape, but – pace Benedict – a god of reason, that is, of cold calculation. Islam admits no expiatory sacrifice. Everyone must carry his own spear.
We are too comfortable, too clean, too squeamish, too modern to descend into the terrible space where birth, death and immortality are decided. We forget that we cannot have eternal life unless we are ready to give up this one – and this the Muslim knows only through what we should call the sacrament of jihad. Through jihad, the Muslim does almost precisely what the Christian does at the Lord’s Supper. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that grants immortal life to all Christians, that is, those who become one with Jesus by eating his flesh and drinking his blood so that the sacrifice also is theirs, at least in Catholic terms. Protestants substitute empathy identification with the crucified Christ for the trans-substantiated blood and flesh of Jesus.
Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to give all men eternal life, on condition that they take part in his sacrifice, either through the physical communion of the Catholic Church or the empathetic Communion of Protestantism. From a Muslim vantage point, the extreme of divine humility embodied in Jesus’ sacrifice is beyond reason. Allah, by contrast, deals with those who submit to him after the calculation of an earthly despot. He demands that all Muslims sacrifice themselves by becoming warriors and, if necessary, laying their lives down in the perpetual war against the enemies of Islam.
These are parallel acts, in which different peoples do different things, in the service of different deities, but for the same reason: for eternal life.
Why is self-sacrifice always and everywhere the cost of eternal life? It is not because a vengeful and sanguineous God demands his due before issuing us a visa to heaven. Quite the contrary: we must sacrifice our earthly self, our attachment to the pleasures and petty victories of our short mortal life if we really are to gain the eternal life that we desire. The animal led to the altar, indeed Jesus on the cross, is ourselves: we die along with the sacrifice and yet live, by the grace of God. YHWH did not want Isaac to die, but without taking Abraham to Mount Moriah, Abraham himself could not have been transformed into the man desirous and deserving of immortal life. Jesus died and took upon him the sins of the world, in Christian terms, precisely so that a vicarious sacrifice would redeem those who come to him.
What distinguishes Allah from YHWH and (in Christian belief) his son Jesus is love. God gives Jews and Christians a path that their foot can tread, one that is not too hard for mortals, to secure the unobtainable, namely immortal life, as if by miracle. Out of love God gives the Torah to the Jews, not because God is a stickler for the execution of 613 commandments, but because it is a path upon which the Jew may sacrifice and yet live, and receive his portion of the World to Come. The most important sacrifice in Judaism is the Sabbath – “our offering of rest”, says the congregation in the Sabbath prayers – a day of inactivity that acknowledges that the Earth is the Lord’s. It is a sacrifice, as it were, of ego. In this framework, incidentally, it is pointless to distinguish Judaism as a “religion of works” as opposed to Christianity as a “religion of faith”.
To Christians, God offers the vicarious participation in his sacrifice of himself through his only son.
That is Grace: a free gift by God to men such that they may obtain eternal life. By a miracle, the human soul responds to the offer of Grace with a leap, a leap away from the attachments that hold us to this world, and a foretaste of the World to Come.
There is no Grace in Islam, no miracle, no expiatory sacrifice, no expression of love for mankind such that each Muslim need not be a sacrifice. On the contrary, the concept of jihad, in which the congregation of Islam is also the army, states that every single Muslim must sacrifice himself personally. Jihad is the precise equivalent of the Lord’s Supper in Christianity and the Jewish Sabbath, the defining expression of sacrifice that opens the prospect of eternity to the mortal believer. To ask Islam to become moderate, to reform, to become a peaceful religion of personal conscience is the precise equivalent of asking Catholics to abolish Mass.
Islam, I have argued for years, faces an existential crisis in the modern world, which has ripped its adherents out of their traditional existence and thrust them into deadly conflicts. What was always latent in Islam has now come to the surface: the practice of Islam now expresses itself uniquely in jihad. Benedict XVI has had the courage to call things by their true names. Everything else is hypocrisy and self-delusion.
Regarding Benedict XVI’s statement that the characterization of the Prophet Mohammed did not reflect his “personal opinion”: In 1938, at the peak of Stalin’s terror, a Muscovite called the KGB to report that his parrot had escaped. The KGB officer said, “Why are you calling us?” The Muscovite averred, “I want to state for the record that I do not share the parrot’s political opinions.”
(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved)