Tuesday, September 9, 2008

US Rep. Jim Cooper Speaks to TN Delegates in Denver

ElectBlue is pleased to publish the following speech given by Congressman Jim Cooper to the Tennessee delegation at a luncheon during the recent Democratic National Convention in Denver. 

Cooper currently represents Tennessee's 5th Congressional District which includes much of metropolitan Nashville as well as some surrounding suburban areas. He was elected to Congress from the 5th District in 2002, having previously served twelve years (1983-1995) in the Congress from Tennessee's 4th District. 

Cooper was an early backer of Barack Obama, having endorsed the Illinois Senator in May 2007. Congressman Cooper is also a strong supporter of Bob Tuke, Democratic candidate for the US Senate from Tennessee, who is challenging incumbent Republican Senator Lamar Alexander.  

After brief introductory remarks thanking various members of the Tennessee Democratic party and convention delegation, Rep. Cooper addressed the Volunteer State delegates about the 2008 election:

We have two big jobs to do: unify the Party and carry Tennessee in November.

You probably heard on the talk shows this Sunday that Barack Obama would already be 12 points ahead if the Democratic Party were unified but, sadly, we are not, so the race is dead even.  Polls indicate that 28% of Hillary Clinton’s delegates have not come home, which is actually up from 16% this summer.  We should not pressure Hillary delegates, but show them the love and respect that they deserve so that each one, in their own way, and in their own time, fully supports our nominee in November.  We must be sensitive and caring.  I thought last night was just about perfect with Ted Kennedy’s legacy speech and Michelle Obama’s focus on the future, but Pat reminded me that the evening could have been even better if the Kennedy video had also highlighted Hillary’s role as a champion of health care reform.  She made an excellent point.  Hillary is a marvelous Senator from the State of New York and her role in national politics is far from over.

We cannot play into Republican hands by letting them divide us because that is their only weapon.  They have no ideas of their own; they just want to cut us up.  Did you see the Washington Post cartoon today of an elephant sitting behind Hillary as she was preparing her speech tonight.  The elephant whispers, “Hillary… Hillary,” and then says, “Obama would have picked you as his Vice President if he loved you half as much… as I hate you.”

We also need to carry Tennessee.  Let’s be honest: we have slipped considerably from having failed to carry Tennessee for our own Al Gore in 2000 to not even being on the national radar screen today for Obama.  We must not be bullied by the pundits.  A long time ago, they said Harry Truman could not win.  Today they are trying to turn Obama’s strengths into weaknesses.  He is the most exciting candidate in modern times, and they deride his celebrity.  He is one of the greatest speakers ever, and they say he is not specific enough.  It reminds me of the story of Barack boating with the Pope.  They are in the middle of a lake in a small boat and the wind picks up.  The Pope’s hat blows off onto the water and Barack calmly gets up out of the boat, walks across the water, and picks up the hat, returning it to the Pope.  Even the Pope is impressed.  But the photographers with their telephoto lenses look at what happened and the headlines read the next day, “Obama Can’t Swim.”

Many of you have asked about my mother who is 89-years-old and a great Democrat.  But she gets worried about Barack.  She asks me questions like, “What kind of name is Barack Obama?”  Even Michelle Obama asked that question on one of their first dates.  My mother asks, “Who was Obama’s mother?”  “Who were her people?”  These are questions that the older generations asks and they deserve good answers.  Fortunately, there are great answers.  Barack Obama is not risky; he is solid as a rock.   He is the living embodiment of the American Dream.  It would be so sad if the rest of the world understood that, but we did not.

I have a head start in knowing Barack because we went to the same law school.  It is a snake pit with lots of tough, sometimes nasty people.  One student in my class proudly announced on the first day of class that he had already read every book for the year before the first day of class.  I hate people like that.  Other people kept their light on all night so that we would think they were studying, and they usually were working round-the-clock.  But in the snake pit, Barack was a snake charmer.  He is absolutely brilliant; I wish that I had done as well at law school as Barack.  He is smarter than Bill Clinton, and more disciplined.

And when it comes to carrying Tennessee for Barack, remember that McCain came in third in the Tennessee primary, behind Huckabee and Romney.  McCain may have even finished after “None of the Above.”  Tennessee Republicans aren’t really fired up about McCain.  He’s what was left over after everyone else dropped out.

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