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An Old Time, Unrepentant, Unreconstructed, Tax and Wisely Spend…: Bleeding Heart, Diehard Liberal Democrat Speaks His Mind

Ed. Note: This is the text of an address that Warren Beatty gave at the California Nurses Association 2005 Convention on September 22. We’re running it because it’s wise, on the mark, and timely. P.C.

Thank you Rose Ann. When we met years ago it was immediately clear to me that there could be no more ferociously good organizer in America than you. Let’s put it this way: I’m glad I’m on your side.

Thank you Deborah Burger and the California Nurses Association. That you would invite me here tonight is an unmistakable honor.

I’ve been a member of the A. F. of L. since I joined Local 802 of the musicians union in Manhattan as a kid.

That was sometime during the Millard Fillmore administration.

That was before I joined the Screen Actors Guild which my late friend Ronald Reagan was the president of before he was governor. And when I heard Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger say on television that he hadn’t needed the Guild because he was strong enough on his own, I couldn’t help but wonder: How would Ronald Reagan have handled that?

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, thank you for your work. My mother and father were teachers.

If you can find somebody who doesn’t believe teachers should be paid more money, tell them I said try sharing the one bathroom in an eighty-five hundred dollar house with your mother and your father and Shirley MacLaine.

And that was before the feminist revolution gave the kind of brilliant women who were my teachers the economic alternatives to teaching that they have today.

I’m proud to stand on the same platform for the seven hundred and sixty two thousandth time with Jerry Brown. We’ve been through a lot of campaigns. The only thing neither of us have ever been accused of is rushing into marriage.

Lou Paulsen, thank you for your work with the firefighters. Show me a governor who’s misguided enough to attack the people who risk their lives fighting fires and call them a special interest and I will show you a candidate that I will help….I will help him to get into a psycho-pharmacutical drug trial at Pfizer.

Jamie Court of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. Thank-you. You and Harvey and Doug are the personification of public service outside of public office.

I won’t even try to thank Robert Greenwald for his wonderful work and the many others here that I’ve worked with for years—not even the great John Burton who goes without saying. He goes without saying very very rarely.

This does give me a shot at trying to impress the woman who is in my opinion the finest actress, wife and mother, Annette Bening.

Because it allows me, yet again, to acknowledge what I continue to be, which is an old time, unrepentant, unreconstructed, tax and wisely spend, bleeding heart, die hard Liberal Democrat who grew up a southern Baptist from Virginia and believes in the golden rule, social programs, a safety net, regulation, and an active government.

Who thinks, I might add, that after the decline of the past four and a half years we may have come to the tipping point that brings these beliefs back in style.

Being here allows me to make the case that not all aging, narcissistic movie actors whose children could be mistaken for their grand children necessarily act with the same motivation. or write what they write, Or direct what they direct, or produce what they produce with the same aspirations for the same reasons.

I‘ve always preferred not to run for public office and I still do. I have a day job. I can make movies when I want to. I’m not bad at it, so I’ve been lucky. Since the early 1960s I’ve had the time and the fame and the need to do things like I’m doing tonight.

I believe if a private citizen is able to affect public opinion in a constructive way he doesn’t have to be an elected public servant to perform a public service.

In the next six and a half weeks you and I have a public service to perform.

The Governor has called for a 50 to 80 million dollar extra election on Republican initiatives notwithstanding the fact that we will be having another election soon afterward in June.

He is doing this now because he can use it to raise unlimited money this year for his re-election as Governor next year and avoid the legal restrictions he faces during the year his own election actually occurs in.

To try to justify this unnecessary spending of the taxpayers money he’s refused to settle these initiatives in the legislature, which he could have done, or to submit them for the regular election in June because more Democratic voters are bound to show up for the June Democratic primary.

So now we have to respond to this odious tactic, a cosmetic exercise to build up his image while he exhibits himself as a supposed reformer while raising lots of right wing corporate cash all across the country after having accomplished little or nothing in office except to revise workers comp to the benefit of the insurance industry and the detriment of the workers and to intentionally insult, alienate, and scapegoat the democratically elected legislature to try to capitalize on and exploit the public’s growing mistrust of government.

A mistrust that can only increase when those who are entrusted to govern promote the belief that government doesn’t solve problems, government is the problem.

So if you and I are passive during this charade of an added extra election, this attempt to con the public with a hugely funded right wing television campaign that convinces an inattentive or disgusted voter to not bother to vote or to vote against their own best interests we will have to answer not only to ourselves but to the rest of the country because, as we’ve seen in the past, change in California tends to ripple back throughout the nation.

Make no mistake. There are rich Republican contributors all over the country who think if they can get this reactionary stuff started in California they can get it done back in their own states and actually dismantle the New Deal.

And with their lack of fund raising restrictions this year as opposed to next year, they’re salivating.

Arnold has already more than doubled, over the same time period, the fund raising of Gray Davis whom he attacked so bitterly on the subject and he says he’s not in this for the short run.

It’s important to show him neither are we.

When Arnold first ran for governor I was of two minds.

On one hand I felt that flaws in the Recall process made it profoundly undemocratic. No loyal Democrat of great prominence would run against the besieged sitting Democrat. So Arnold never had to get into a one on one debate with a Democrat.

On the other hand, through the years he had never in conversation with me been anything other than amiable and good-natured, but I was unable to decipher what his politics really were. He never seemed to want to talk about that.

To be fair, in the times that I tried to draw him out on political stuff he did say a couple of very smart things and I’d be less than generous if I didn’t impart them to you.

One is that if you’re eating egg whites on a high protein low cholesterol diet, it’s a mistake to throw the yolks away. Always add a little of the yolk because it helps you assimilate the protein of the egg white.

The other is that it’s good to do 15 repetitions rather than ten because you get a much better look that way. A better…cut.

But it was not easy to engage him in political talk.

So I wondered when he became the governor, “Is it possible that he is in fact bipartisan and that his private life might have a salutary effect on his ideology, what ever that might be.

Or was his motivation to go into public service more out of an understandable desire on the part of an actor to matter more importantly in his adopted country and family.

It brought to my mind an admonition from T.S. Eliot that I have often cautioned myself with. Eliot wrote:

“Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them.”

When Arnold came into office as a Republican, having exploited the possibility of being somehow vaguely bipartisan and having almost no political history for the public to examine, he had a golden opportunity to rally the public to face the facts of the cost to California of the energy crisis and the meltdown of the dot com economy and call for at least a temporary tax rise, particularly on the rich, the way Reagan and Pete Wilson and Deukmajian had done. Sadly I now believe he doesn’t have the experience or the political courage to risk his popularity by defying his advisors and raising taxes. Instead he went to Wall Street borrowed the 15 billion and has sent the bill with interest to our kids. That was a mistake.

When I indicated this in a commencement address this year at Berkeley, Arnold had his spokesman call me a crackpot.

That was a mistake.

Now, with these reactionary Republican initiatives, he wants to divert our attention to union busting to redistricting to benefit his party, to giving the governor dictatorial power on the budget, and to getting tough with school teachers.

These initiatives are not what the 38 million people of California most want to hear about.

Until now we have not heard a single critical word from the Chief Executive of the world’s sixth largest economy, about the mistaken gamble of ignoring warnings from both Republican and Democratic experts about terrorist planes flying into buildings before 9/11, or the same mistaken gambles with the same warnings that our preparation was inadequate for the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath or the gamble on protecting our gulf coast before an inevitable major hurricane hit it and these tragic gambles have cost countless lives. They also cost the people of the United States hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.

As the Republican leader of the United States senate Everett Dirksen once said: “A billion here and a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

I ask you: Even if you were a rich right wing conservative Republican with a passionate commitment to starving the horrendous beast of government, and a worshiper of free market fundamentalism with faith in the good of greed, and the continuance of American dominance in the world and the productive dynamics of entrepreneurialism, the profit motive and unregulated free enterprise – would you gamble on running a business this way?

You wouldn’t gamble on running a restaurant in Santa Monica this way.

You wouldn’t run a house in Sun Valley this way.

But a government?

Did this not justify at least two cents worth of critical comment from the chief executive of the sixth largest economy on the planet?

We all feel bad for the good people who made these mistakes and we are all capable of making mistakes.

But avoiding the identification of accountability and responsibility by calling it “the blame game” is a mistake.

A mistake that could lead to more mistakes.

Blame is not a game.

Neither is finding responsibility.

So what about the gamble of sticking with a tax cut in the face of all this? Still no tax rise for the rich and the wealthiest corporations?

Some of my best friends are Republicans. They’re worried. They want to know where the money will come from.

They take pride in balancing the books.

They don’t like to tax and spend but when you spend and don’t tax they get confused.

Why do we not hear from our Republican Governor of 38 million people?.

Is dealing with this too taxing for him?

I’ll tell you why we hear nothing:

Because the definition of a Schwarzenegger Republican is this: A Schwarzenegger Republican is a Bush Republican who says he is a Schwarzenegger Republican.

I said it in March, I said it in May, I’m saying it now and unless this right wing spokesmodel has an epiphany I’ll be saying it in November of 2006.

I’m not calling him a crackpot. I’m calling him an old fashioned politician who will do what ever he thinks it takes to keep that Republican campaign cash coming in and try to be popular at the same time.

After the Academy Award ceremony when they asked my elderly friend the late Ruth Gordon when she finally won the award what her secret of success was, standing there in a fucia mini skirt at the age of 87, she said:

“It’s very simple. Never face facts.”

That’s a funny answer in show business. In government it’s not funny.

Government’s not show business.

Governing by show, by spin, by cosmetics, and photo ops, fake events, fake issues and fake crowds and backdrops…is a mistake.

Not facing facts is a mistake.

That concept of reality should be saved for action movies and show business.

I’ll tell you another mistake.

Going after the nurses.

Nurses save our lives. They take care of us.

Nurses are the ones who carry the burden in our hospitals.

A registered nurse in the state of California is legally required to advocate the interests of the patients first.

It’s the registered nurse that stands in the way of indecent corporate profit in health care.

And the registered nurse has not only a right but a responsibility to the patient to gain strength through union.

The sanctity of the union movement provides safety not only for the poor but the rich. The union movement lifts the fortunes and possibilities for all working men and women whether or not they belong to a union or are a patient in a hospital.

It was a mistake to go after the firemen. And the cops. And the teachers. And the students. And the elderly. And the blind and disabled. And calling them all special interests.

But the nurses? As my friend John Burton said: How can anybody hate nurses? Nobody hates nurses. The only time you hate a nurse is when they’re giving you an enema.

Well I want to thank you, California Nurses. You and your tireless organizing have stood up to the arrogance of power and money and bullying and insulting disrespect of public servants and representative government and given this administration the massive enema it deserves and shown California just what this Governor, his administration, and his policies are full of.

When he was higher in the polls there is no question the right wing agenda he was given was a national one.

To demonize Democrats and to strengthen his corporate ties running around fund-raising from K Street to Wall Street from Illinois to Texas and all across the rest of the country well on his way to seeking a constitutional amendment to enable a run for the presidency, cozying up to the far right, ready to dismantle social security, or what ever it seemed to take to win their support.

You nurses saw it coming and you stood up to it.

When you saw prop 74 which would put teachers on probation for five years rather than two when it’s hard enough to make the profession attractive with California 43rd in the nation in education spending per capita and a governor trying to cut that back after promising he wouldn’t you called him on it and said vote NO on 74.

You saw him hesitate to announce his endorsement of this union busting prop 75 that would diminish the political power of working men and women. He hesitated because he’s afraid working people understand the political action of the union movement works for them whether they’re in a union or not. And united workers are the most formidable force for any candidate of the corporations to come up against. You exposed his role in getting 75 on the ballot and said vote NO.

You see the fascist element of prop 76, the misnamed ‘living within our means act,’ which makes the governor an ultimate dictator on the budget. In America we have more democratic ways of making the trains run on time and we’ll vote NO on 76.

On redistricting, prop 77, nobody thinks the legislators should pick their voters and everybody thinks the voters should pick their legislators, but if anybody thinks a few retired justices pulled out of a hat would be less political than anyone else in government then they haven’t studied the journeys of these good people to judgeships. It’s a ploy on the part of Republicans to gain legislative seats. We’ll vote NO on 77.

With democracy, American public opinion can be the best and most powerful force for good in the world. It can change American policy. So much of American public opinion germinates in the melting pot of this giant state that the mission is clear:

To persuade the majority of public opinion here in California to choose government that understands that good public policy for the future for our economy our culture and our safety will never fully exist without

First: Creating a single payer universal health care system.

Second: Public financing of elections.

Third: Assuring the separation of church and state.

Fourth: Moderating against the dangers of the muscular utopianism of empire that imposes what some call democracy on places in the world where it cannot yet be sustained and will lead to American decline.

Good public policy in a social democracy declares that might does not make right. Denial of this leads to totalitarianism, communism, or fascism.

And Fifth: Facing the fact of the value to the rich and the rest of a just tax policy.

Real compassion is not weakness.

Concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said at the Republican National Convention that there are not two Americas.

That is a mistake.

If he thinks there are not two Americas I call on him to talk with the 170 nurses you’ve sent to New Orleans and Mississippi and Texas.

Ask them if there’re two Americas.

The country and the state we love are temporarily sick. They can get well.

The people of California can show the people of the United States that in a great country the business of government is not only business. It is also to take care of all of its people. Those in the dawn of life, those in the twilight of life, and those in the shadows of life.

By getting the people to the polls in six and a half weeks we can take a step to nursing our homeland back to health.Thank you again for inviting me.

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