Remarks as Delivered
“Laurie thank you so much. I’d like to thank all the elected officials who made time to be here, particularly the Governor who really is doing a great job. I’m a big fan. We stand for a lot of the same things, and you’re actually accomplishing something.
“I ran for mayor because as much as anything I was frustrated with people always talking about, ‘You can’t do this, and you don’t do that,’ and I thought we face similar things in the business world, commercial world, and you just approach them as problems and find some solutions. And I couldn’t figure out why you couldn’t do it in government, education, health care, crime, all the things we care about. And in 12 years we left the city better than we found it. We didn’t fix everything, we left some problems as we inherited some problems.
“One of the smartest things I ever did, Governor, is advice for everybody here in elected office. When I left I made a commitment that I would not talk about my predecessor or my successor publicly or privately, and that has saved me so much aggravation. And when they’re nasty to me I just smile and keep saying, ‘Do it more, do it more,’ everybody loves me more the more you knock me.
“I also wanted to thank Jim Moran and Mayor Meyer and a bunch of others for coming and being here. And I also want to thank all of you for letting a New Yorker crash your meeting.
“I grew up in Boston – Medford, Massachusetts, Medford High School, the Medford Mustangs – go Mustangs. I was talking to a couple of senators and congressmen from New Hampshire yesterday because I’m going to be in New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday – I go to New Hampshire all the time.
“I grew up in Medford and the rich family in the neighborhood, the Connellys, they had six kids – nobody else had more than two – but they could afford it. I forget what business Mr. Connelly was in, but they had far and away the biggest house. They had a summer house on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, and I didn’t know anybody that had a summer house. We were lucky enough to have one house. I don’t know whatever happened to them, they all went to BC or Holy Cross, the ultimate Irish-Catholic family.
“It’s been a good year for Northern Virginia: The Capitals won the Stanley Cup – I grew up in Boston, I was a Bruins fan. The Washington Wizards made the playoffs again last year. Not having a great season this year, but could be worse – you could be Knick fans. I have Knicks tickets and I can’t get my daughters to go with me – if your customers could use them. But I still stay loyal. I could never figure out how you cancel them.
“Unfortunately, we talk about sports and some things doing well and some things doing poorly, but the year has not started out well for the whole country. The federal government shut down, five weeks later it’s still shut down. It’s the longest shutdown in our nation’s history, by far.
“We all have friends or family who have gone a month without a paycheck. And then Wilbur Ross said, ‘Oh, let them eat cake,’ or whatever, I don’t know where they’re coming from. Not everybody’s in this situation, but for an awful lot of people there’s a lot more paycheck to paycheck than you realize. And when they don’t get the paycheck saying, ‘Well you’re going to get the money eventually,’ because the federal government always comes back and gives them the money, that doesn’t really solve their problem.
“Some of your companies have lost business because you’ve had trouble getting federal financing to expand and to grow.
“All over America, people are getting hurt because of this shutdown. And to me it’s very simple: this is just a complete failure of presidential leadership. It really is. It’s an extreme example of totally incompetent management.
“I was honored to give a speech at the DNC back in 2016 and I described Donald Trump – who I know casually, we cut ribbons together in New York City, we took the subway together. He took the subway all the time, but I did note he didn’t know which end of the MetroCard to put in – but I said then that he was just not suited, he did not have the skills or the temperament, the work ethic to be President of the United States.
“And Hillary was very happy with the speech, but it obviously wasn’t enough. In case you hadn’t noticed, she lost, he won, and you’ve got exactly what I described. This is a person who should not be President of the United States and I think we have to get serious.
“He’s in way over his head. He is a real estate promoter who’s never run a large organization before, just a small family office. He inherited his money. He lost big on a bunch of bad bets, which his father bailed him out of again and again.
“Almost every deal he ever made he left his customers and contractors holding the bag. And his private university, his for-profit university, left students holding worthless diplomas and big piles of debts. It even appears that he cheated his own charity out of money.
“We’ve got to do something to make sure we get somebody different in the White House two years from now and I’m committed to do that.
“To Donald, the ‘Art of the Deal’ is simply cheating people, and not caring about how badly they get hurt. Now he’s doing it to the American people.
“And we just can’t, once again, say it’s only the little guy that gets stiffed, who cares. People work hard in this country, they play by the rules, and they should not be taken advantage of and unfortunately that’s what’s been happening.
“Two years ago, a lot of us did see this coming. Trump promised to run our nation like he ran his businesses, to which I famously said: God help us. Unfortunately, it’s about the only promise he’s kept.
“Now I’ve never been a partisan guy. I’ve been a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent, and a Democrat again. So if anyone is an expert on party politics, call me.
“But this isn’t about party to me. This is about competence – or the lack of it.
“The presidency is not an entry level job. There is just too much at stake.
“And the longer we have a pretend-CEO who is recklessly running this country, the worse it’s going to be for our economy and for our security. This is really dangerous.
“I’ve spent most of my career creating jobs in the public and private sectors. So this is painful for me to watch, and I’m sure it is for many of you.
“It’s like the government version of a bad horror movie, but instead of Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare on Elm Street, we’ve got Donald Trump and the Nightmare at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I know most of you work in the private sector and so you know that the way the executive branch is being run is not something that any board of directors would tolerate in the private world.
“Who here would hire Donald Trump to run their company? We’re his boss though, and we’re the board of directors and we should do what any board of directors does in the private sector. If the person doing the job doesn’t do the job well you try to help him or her, and if you can’t help them you move them out – you fire them. And so that’s what we’ve got to do.
“For two years, a number of honorable people have tried to help the president only to leave in frustration, people like General Mattis and General Kelly. My sympathies are to them because they risked their career, their reputation, in going to work for the White House. Particularly Mattis who I know reasonably well. He said, ‘Look, the country needs me, the President has asked, I can’t say no.’ and in all fairness to the President he left Mattis alone for most of the time until one day Mattis woke up and he couldn’t continue in an administration where the president was making decisions the way he did.
“I think it’s clear that this president at this point cannot be helped, and the training wheels that the staff has tried to put on in the Oval Office just have not worked.
“Last week, one of your Senators, Mark Warner, wrote an op-ed that I really liked, I thought it was very well put. Mark spent much of his career, as you know, in the private sector, and he pointed out some basic management lessons that have escaped our president, like: Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ people, empower the people on your team, don’t burn bridges, respect your workforce.
“This is management 101. And the president, I think, is just flunking every single test and it just goes on every day.
“There’s another lesson that Senator Warner mentioned that I’ve always believed in as well: the best deals are ones where both sides come out ahead.
“The president sees negotiations as a zero-sum game, but it’s not. And as long as he thinks that’s the way the country should be run, the country will suffer. And the stories of people getting hurt by the shutdown are so sad because they’re so unnecessary.
“The other day, I read about a man from Alexandria named Brian, who works as an attorney with the Justice Department. He left private practice to join the DOJ a couple years back because he wanted to serve his country, even though he was taking a pay cut.
“He never anticipated a government shutdown like this. And now, he’s struggling to afford medication for his newborn daughter, Winnie, because everyone in his HR department is furloughed which means he has no way of adding Winnie to his health insurance plan. He said next month he’s not sure he’ll be able to afford his mortgage payment, let alone provide for basic family services. In the end it sounds like he’ll be okay, but in the meantime there really is a lot of suffering.
“Brian is far from the only person suffering from the government shutdown. Northern Virginia food banks are seeing a record number of visitors – federal employees are going to food banks now, that’s the world we live in. There’s no other country in the world that would do this, and all across the country people are wondering how they’re going to feed their kids. And I talk to friends all around the world and they say no government ever shuts down the country over a political argument. You can have your political arguments, but to shut down a country is just so inconceivable. And this is not the first time we’ve done this, we’ve just really got to get different people in Washington.
“Do we really want to live in a country where food safety inspectors and TSA officers and even the Coast Guard officers who keep us safe aren’t getting paid?
“Americans in the Coast Guard are actually the first members of the U.S. Armed Forces in history to go without paychecks because of a government shutdown. It really is a shameful thing. We are better than that as a country.
“Who’s to blame? As I think the best president in my lifetime, always respected him more than anybody else, was Harry Truman. And one of the things Harry Truman said was: the buck stops at the president. Harry never walked away from that. And he endeared himself to me when I remember my father telling me he got in a car and he and his wife drove back to Missouri by themselves. I don’t think we’d do that anymore, a 747 could take you there.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have executive roles in both the public and private sectors. People always ask me what is the difference between government and business, and my standard answer is business is a dog-eat-dog world. And in government, it’s exactly the reverse. And then I wait to see how long before the audience laughs.
“There are differences of course, but the fundamentals I think really are the same.
“In government, if you can’t keep your doors open and the lights on when you’re negotiating, you’re going to make matters a whole lot worse. And that’s what’s happening here.
“Right now, there are thousands of farmers whose land was decimated by hurricanes earlier this year but who will no longer be able to receive disaster relief because the Department of Agriculture has stopped processing checks.
“There are small businesses that can no longer receive the loans they rely on because the Small Business Administration is closed.
“By shutting the government, the president is putting hard-working people across this country on the brink of financial ruin inside the government and outside, because remember a lot of people in the private sector depend on the government for their employees, their customers, and they get money from the government.
“Why are we doing it? Just so that Trump can say he fulfilled his campaign promise to build a wall that won’t work instead of doing what we really need: working across the aisle to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“The whole episode really is a cynical political stunt, and unfortunately we are the ones paying the price.
“I’m not sure what is worse: the President playing politics with jobs and people’s lives, or the willingness of the Republican Party to go along with it. We really do need a good two-party system with two parties that can have different views but they have to be competent and try to do what’s right for the country and think long-term and you don’t have good government without that. And if you have one party, even if it’s your party, that’s not healthy for this country. And so it really disturbs me when the Republicans can’t stand up to the President.
“Republicans in Congress could have stopped the President from shutting down the government but they were just too afraid to stand up to him. I joked the other day that they make the Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion look like a profile in courage.
“That’s one of the reasons why I spent so much money supporting Democrats this fall. On other issues, Republicans in Congress have refused to hold this Administration accountable. The Founding Fathers had this concept that we have three branches of government and there would be checks and balances on the others and we haven’t had that.
“And not only have the Republicans refused to provide the check and balance, they’ve refused to work across the aisle with Democrats to find bipartisan solutions to some of the real challenges facing Americans across the country. And there are big, urgent challenges, make no mistake about it.
“We have a drug overdose crisis, fueled by opioids. In 2017, 72,000 Americans OD-ed on drugs. Think about that. And then in 2018 the numbers look like they’re going to come in a lot worse. We have 28 million Americans who still don’t have health insurance, and many others who are struggling to pay their premiums. This is America. Other countries are better than us all of a sudden? We can’t let this go on.
“Then guns, and the Governor has really been a big hero and deserves an enormous amount of credit. We have gun laws that are so riddled with loopholes that criminals and other dangerous people have no trouble buying them.
“Infrastructure, we have crumbling infrastructure, wages that are stagnating, and schools that are failing to teach our children the skills they need in a world where education is becoming more important every single day.
“Our immigration system is badly broken, and climate change threatens our economy and our health. Climate change could destroy the entire planet. I don’t know if it’s going to happen. Scientists, most say yes if we’re not careful, some say no. But if there is any possibility common sense says you would stop everything and say we’ve got to take some prophylactic actions to make sure things don’t get worse just in case.
“Now with every one of these problems there’s no easy answers, if there were we probably wouldn’t have a problem. And there are no non-controversial answers. But there are solutions, and we can go a long way reasonably quickly if we just band together, look at the science, say talking isn’t enough, and come up with real things.
“And I was joking with the Governor before. Ed Rendell, who used to be Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of Pennsylvania, always said that the Mayor’s job is better. I was a mayor, and you’ve got the mayor here of the local town – mayors have to deliver services, and people can walk up to you on the street when you’re mayor and say, ‘Hey, you’re not picking up the trash. There’s a car blocking the bicycle lane,’ all of that kind of stuff. Delivering services that people can see the results of, that’s what people want.
“And governors can really do it. They have much more of a broad stroke. Governor, how many people in Virginia total today? There’s a lot of people. Have you shaken hands with every one of them? You’re going to have to do that for that second term, remember.
“Seriously, we need a president who has four million people working for him – although technically I think they really work for us and he forgets that. And a whole country, and much more serious issues to worry about and we’re not getting the kind of leadership we need.
“We need a president who can break the gridlock and get big things done.
“It is so important for the President to open the government, let’s not kid ourselves. And even when that happens, the dysfunction unfortunately probably will continue as long as we have a reckless president who doesn’t know the first thing about management or leadership.
“As Democrats, we can’t just stand here and point out his shortcomings. We have to offer a better solution, something that is concrete, that people can understand. That was the mistake two years ago, that was the mistake other times in the past.
“Criticizing is easy when you’re the out-party, and now the Democrats are partially the in-party. And I’ve said to Nancy Pelosi, you have to reach out to the other side of the aisle, to people who abandoned the party back in 2016.
“Many of them voted for Trump an understandable reason: they were just tired of politics-as-usual.
“Trump presented himself as an outsider who would bring a business-like approach to government, and to create jobs and to solve big problems. He clearly is incapable of doing that. But number one, it can be done. And voters were right to want it, and they said enough is enough, let’s try something different.
“Now, I told them they shouldn’t be going in that direction, but I can understand their frustration and we’ve got to make sure we offer real alternatives for 2020. Candidates that can do the work, that have training, have experience in delivering services rather than just going rallies and giving speeches. The people that know how to manage.
“These jobs, whether it’s president or governor or mayor, those are executive jobs. It’s running the railroad that’s really important, and we’ve got to make sure that we put up candidates to do that.
“There are three things I think that we should do.
“One is to offer big ideas and bold challenges to meet the problems that we face.
“Two is to win over independent candidates at the center who abandoned the party.
“And three, once in office, to have the ability to work across the aisle and get things done.
“And it’s just so easy when you’re working there and you say across the aisle. ‘Yeah, well, they screwed us the last time so turnaround is fair play.’ That’s not what this country needs, it’s not what this country deserves.
“And I’ve said to Pelosi, who I think has just done a spectacular job in pulling Congress together. The criticisms of her I never quite understood because herding cats is not easy. And she really has done a great job. But I said to her, ‘Don’t get trapped into it’s one side or the other.’ She’s got to reach across the aisle in a way the other side didn’t. And if she does, then maybe the next time Republicans are in office, and they still are in the Senate – and I don’t know what’s going to happen two years from now – you want them to reach across the aisle, as well.
“I don’t think we have to choose between energizing the base and winning the center. I don’t think we have to choose between bold ideas and pragmatic leadership. We can do it all. The sooner we start, the sooner we can start getting our country back together.
“So I just want to thank all of you for coming out here. I’m envious of the meals that you were eating. My waistline said, ‘Don’t do it today,’ so I’m back on my diet as of this morning. And I did want to thank you all for having me here and all you do to create jobs and to give back to your communities.
“I know it’s very popular among lots of people to say, ‘Oh, I don’t like capitalism. I don’t like business,’ but we all need jobs, we all need an economic base. And I keep trying to remind people, which I did for all the years I was in office, if we really want to help those in need, we need money that is generated by commerce. So we really are in this together.