Interview with Senator Sherrod Brown

By Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow Show - December 6, 2011

Guests: Sherrod Brown, Jay Chambers

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. That was remarkable. Thank you for doing that interview, man. That was amazing.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us.

In 2004, a man named Barack Obama was nowhere near running for president of the United States. He was a state senator from Illinois who was just running for a U.S. Senate seat. But way back then, in July 2004, people across the country started talking about Barack Obama as a potential future presidential candidate. And it was because of this speech.


BARACK OBAMA, THEN-ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America. There`s the United States of America.

The pundits -- the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states. Red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats.

But I`ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states and we don`t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states, and, yes, we`ve got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who oppose the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people. All of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes. All of us defending the United States of America.


MADDOW: Barack Obama speaking at the 2004 Democratic National Convention which nominated John Kerry, who lost to George W. Bush. Now, more than seven years later, with the Republican Party locked in its own alternately hilarious and intense race for a presidential candidate to run against him, today, I think for the first time, now-President Obama spoke in a way that brought back that 2004 speech, that United States of America speech that made the Democratic political world sit up and take his measure, when he was still just a state senator from Illinois.

To go back to 2004 today, President Obama went back even further. He went 101 years back to 1910 when Republican Teddy Roosevelt gave his famously progressive New Nationalism speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. Osawatomie, Kansas, is the same city where President Obama spoke today, giving, frankly, what was a barn burner of a populist speech that if this is going to be the template for his re-election effort, this is once again going to make the Democratic political world sit up and take notice.


OBAMA: This is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and for all of those who are fighting to get into the middle class, because what`s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.

Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that`s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle class Americans for way too many years.

And their philosophy is simple. We are better off when everybody`s left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

I am here to say they are wrong.


OBAMA: And in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here to Osawatomie, and he laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. "Our country," he said, "means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy, of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him."


OBAMA: Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical. He was called a socialist, even a communist. But today we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign. An eight-hour workday and a minimum wage for women, insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities, political reform and a progressive income tax.

I`m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we`re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren`t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren`t 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They`re American values. And we have to reclaim them.



MADDOW: The president today harking back to that 2004 awesome God in the blue states, one United States of America speech which put him on the national map for the first time in that summer convention speech when John Kerry was being nominated.

President Obama in giving the speech today and probably providing a preview of what his campaign is going to be like is sort of calling a Republican bluff in some ways. The guy he is giving a shout-out to here is Teddy Roosevelt, of course, a Republican. Newt Gingrich, the current Republican front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination likes to call himself a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. And as President Obama pointed out today, Teddy Roosevelt`s agenda would be derided as communist in the current political climate, even if no one would be demanding to see his birth certificate.

When Teddy Roosevelt went to Kansas in 1910, he went there to say that just as the special interests of cotton and slavery have threatened the nation`s integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. He said we must drive the special interests out of politics.

Roosevelt said in that speech that day that the Constitution does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being. He said laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes. Corporate expenditures, he said, corporate expenditures for political purposes have supplied one of the principle sources of corruption in our political affairs.

In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt was making essentially an anti-Citizens United speech. I mean, this is a speech, he called for an income tax, he called for an estate tax, an inheritance tax, he called for an investigation into the financial system to stop financial panics. And Teddy Roosevelt was actually called a socialist for saying all of that.

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