Paul Begala was one of the featured speakers at the annual Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa on Sunday. Paul Begala’s speech:
…And, of course, none of us would be here if it were not for Ruth Harkin. [laughter] Um, it’s true. [applause] As, as, as my wife likes to say, behind every successful man is an astonished wife. [laughter] Ruth has dragged Tom a long way in forty-three years and we’re grateful for it. [laughter] Uh, and of course, mostly, uh, our, our host, uh, I told him this, um, earlier this morning. Uh, my old boss, President Clinton, was, had to do Meet the Press and a bunch of these shows this morning ’cause he’s doing his Clinton Global Initiative. So, just like the old days he kinda got the old band together yesterday and we did a little prep session, you know. And it was just great fun, but, you know, we kinda wrapped up. And he said, you know, you gonna be watchin’? I said, well, I’m gonna try, but I’m gonna be out in Iowa for the Harkin Steak Fry. [voice impression] Oh, God, I love that thing. That’s great. [laughter][cheers] I swear to God, that’s exactly. [voice impression] You know, I, I’ve spoken there three times. I believe I hold a personal record. [laughter] [inaudible] He said, [voice impression] it was raining cats and dogs. Harkin was all worried. I told him it’d be just fine. The good lord just parted the clouds, just… [laughter] So, he loves, loves, loves Tom Harkin. He loves Ruth Harkin. And he loves Iowa and he loves you. And he wanted me to tell you that from the bottom of his heart. [applause] So, thank you for supporting Bill Clinton [applause] [inaudible].
I am from Texas. I, I grew up there. Uh, I’m from a little town called Sugarland, Texas where our congressman was Tom Delay. [voices: “Oh.”] Oh, but he’s committed, so, so committed to public service that I believe soon he’ll be making license plates [voices][inaudible][laughter][applause] So he’s got a heart for service, you gotta admire that from, from old Delay. Um, but you know, I grew up in that town. It is, it is maybe the most right wing little town in my great big right wing state. [laughter] And, uh, I’d go home and I’d go see all the guys I grew up with and, and ’cause I lived in Washington and worked there, my friends would say, well, I would say to them, like how, what do you think about Delay? I thought at some point, you know, that car would run out of gas back home. So, I’d say that to ’em, how’s, how’s Delay doing? And invariably they’d say, well, you know, not bad, for a liberal. [laughter] Those are the people I grew up with, but I love ’em. [laughter] Um, I, I very often felt like the only fireplug at the dog show, but, you know. [laughter] It makes you tough. [laughter] And [laugh], and so what you do, maybe many of you grew up like that, right, what you do if you’re, first of all it is good for the soul. It gave me great respect, honestly, for the other side, and to learn from them, and to be honest, and have these discussions, and to know that I, I not only know, but I love people who are Republican. Some of them are in my family. Deeply misguided, my brother [inaudible]. [laughter] Um, but this teaches us, right, all how to get along. But, they way you kind of, people always ask me, you came out of this really right wing town and you’re big liberal and how does that happen? Well, in part, it happens because you have to seek your leadership. It’s not handed to you. You have to seek it. So, all those years in Texas I was not represented by Tom Delay. I was represented by Tom Harkin. [voices: “Yeah.”] [applause][cheers]
Every, every one of us, show of hands. How many of us, and I’m one of ’em, have a loved one who is disabled and now emancipated because of Tom Harkin’s Americans With Disability Act, the Emancipation Proclamation [applause] for the disabled community? Thank you, Senator Harkin for that law. [cheers] It’s a life changing law [applause] for a whole lot of people. How many of us have a loved one who can benefit from the stem cell research and the medical research and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Act that Senator Harkin wrote and passed and put into law [applause] to try to save lives [cheers] here in America? [applause] How many of us have been, could be, or would be denied health coverage because we committed the sin of having a preexisting condition? Or, as my wife likes to say, hell, life is a preexisting condition. [laughter] That’s no longer [applause] gonna happen because of Tom Harkin and the work he does chairing [cheers] that health committee in Washington. [applause][cheers] I want to thank Senator Harkin [applause] for his fight on behalf of all of us. And, and, by the way, for all of you who are in to agriculture, who’s here into agriculture, if you eat you’re into agriculture. [laughter] Some of you are into it a little more than others. [laughter] I, I have, you know, you’ll all laugh at this, but I have a little bitty sixty-three acre, uh, farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. And every farmer and every farm family in America owes a debt to Tom Harkin for the decades of service he has done for family farmers and small farmers all across this country. [applause] In your state and all the other forty-nine states, too. [applause] So we owe him so much. And I want him to know this in public, that all across America there are places where sometimes we feel like we’re represented, we don’t have a voice, no one is fighting for us, and then, by God, we can go turn on the television and see Tom Harkin and it says D Iowa, but it ought to say D everyone. [voices: “Yeah.”] [applause] ‘Cause that’s who he’s fighting for [inaudible]. [applause] And this is the thing. This is what I love about him. Is that he combines this wonderful big hearted compassion and this, this very broad sense of what winner circle ought to be in America with a willingness and ability to fight. [voices: “Yeah.”] [applause] You know, sometimes I think the definition of a liberal is someone who’s afraid to take his own side in a fight. [laughter] That’s not Harkin, right?
You know, I , when,
I, my wife and I first started dating, this is now thirty years ago, and, ad I’m a big sports fan and it was fight night at our college. And so I took her to the fights. And, and, you know, they, they begin and she’s real smart and full of questions, she said, well, why does the, the ref in the ring, why does he wear a bow tie? It seems sort of odd for a boxing match. I said, well, that, that symbolizes the civility, that there is some rules here and dignity and civility and that’s what he sort of represents. Then they come to the center of the ring and shake hands. She said, well, well, what is, what does that mean, they shake hands? I said, well, it’s, you know, it’s still a friendly fight. They’re gonna go and beat each other’s brains out, but, but then they’ll [laughter] come back and, and be friends again. And then right before the fight began one of the fighters in the corner did this. My wife, a Lutheran, I’m a Catholic, she looks at this, sign of the cross, and she says, well, what does that mean? And I said, well, honey, it don’t mean a damn thing if he don’t know how to fight. [laughter][applause] Tom Harkin knows how to fight. [applause] By God, he knows how to fight. [applause] And I love that about him. And we need that on our side, ’cause we can see the other side, right?
I don’t know how many of y’all saw the big Republican debate at the Reagan Library. [voice: “No.”][voice: “Yeah.”] Yeah. I, I had the, I had the sense that for some of them it was their first time in a library. [laughter] [inaudible][cheers] [applause] You know, they, they, they held it, I work at CNN, but I watched, it was on Fox News, and I highly recommend it. It’s the, Fox is this comedy channel pretends like it’s news, it’s hilarious. [laughter] But I do two things every day. I do. I read the Holy Bible and I watch Fox News so I know what both sides are thinking. [laughter] [applause] ‘Cause I believe in good and evil in the world. [applause] So I like to hear from both, so I tuned in and I watched that debate. And, oh, my stars, I mean, Senator Harkin is right, these, these, these folks, uh, Eisenhower would not have been welcome on that stage. Ronald Reagan woulda had the bends. I mean. They’ve gone so far right it was really astonishing. There was a point at which they were all arguing over who hates evolution more. [laughter] Right? You remember that? And, and I knew Rick Perry when he was first starting out, he was a Democrat, now he’s a Republican, so he supports evolution of a sort. [voice: “Yeah.”] Right? [laughter] And Mitt Romney? [laughter] [voice: “That’s devolution.”] Devolution. That’s right, that’s moving in the wrong direction. That’s, that’s going in the, uh, from, that’s going the other way in that ascent of man chart, you know, they’re about the third one from the left. [laughter] And, and Romney, he, I remember when he was running against Teddy Kennedy, God rest his soul, back in ninety-four. And he got up in a debate, I swear to you, you go look at this on YouTube, Mitt Romney, uh, still with that very perfect Grecian hair that he’s got. [laughter] Grecian formula, whatever it is. And he turns to Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the great progressive champions we have ever had, and he turns to him and he says, if I’m elected to the Senate I will be more pro gay rights than you will, [laughter] Senator Kennedy. And, I, even at the time I thought, well, Mitt, unless you’re like doing it with a dude you’re not gonna be more. [laughter][applause] And now [applause], now [applause], now he wants to amend our Constitution to discriminate against our brothers and sisters just because of who they happen to be and how God made them? That’s evolution of a sort, but you’re right, it’s going the wrong way. But, oh, no, they can’t say that anymore, right? They, they, now, it’s, it’s a litmus test.
Wolf Blitzer asked them at one of the debates, who here believes in, in the biblical, not the biblical, the biological theory of evolution? And, kind of, nobody raised their hand. And so a few sort of looked like they might have wanted to, but they didn’t dare and. [laughter] Course, they don’t let me out on the stage to do the questions or my follow up would have been, okay, how ’bout gravity or photosynthesis, [laughter], electromagnetism, any of that spooky science [laughter][inaudible]? [applause] My, my oldest, my, I have four boys and my oldest just turned nineteen, he’s starting college. He’s [inaudible] he wants to be a neuroscientist, right, so, he’s studying science. And so he’s studying evolution. By the way, he went to a Catholic school and the priest who taught him evolution explained to him that there’s no, there’s no, uh, uh, uh, conflict there at all. Uh, and so, my, my son was having one of these arguments with on of his right wing friends who said that, well, you know, evolution is just a theory. And my son said, yes, so is gravity. Lay down on the floor and let me hold a rock over your head. [laughter][applause] he’s a smart ass, he really is. He gets that from his mother. [applause]….
The remainder of the transcript will follow in subsequent posts.