Friday, 7 September 2012
September 6, 2012
President Obama’s dilemma has always been that he has been far more successful a president than his opponents claim, but far less successful than he needs to be at making voters see that. Powerful speeches by former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and others did a lot to fix that impression during the convention. But it was up to Mr. Obama to make the case for another term, with a speech that was every bit as fraught with uncertainty and risk as his 2008 convention address.
Just as he did then, Mr. Obama rose to the occasion.
He could have sold some of his best lines with more passion, but gone was the maddening coyness of recent years in which he has avoided candidly talking about the mess that President George W. Bush dumped into his lap and shied away from the rumble of politics. He didn’t hesitate to go after Mitt Romney. “You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally,” he said.
And he clearly laid out a vision for governing squarely at odds with the one that Mr. Romney has, but was hidden from view at last week’s Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. He promised deficit reduction “without sticking it to the middle class”; to enact a reformed tax code that raises rates on income above $250,000 to where it was under Mr. Clinton; to preserve middle-class deductions; to “never turn Medicare into a voucher.”
Mr. Obama explicitly shifted from his 2008 appeal of hope and change to talk of tough choices and tough paths. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,” he said. “You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
Mr. Obama went into this convention with an actual record at governing — not just the Republican posture of saying “No” to everything. He has far better ideas about how to create jobs, make Americans’ tax burdens more equitable and improve ordinary Americans’ economic prospects than the tired, failed trickle-down fantasies served up by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.
He ended the war in Iraq, tried to rescue the Afghan war that Mr. Bush bungled, stepped up the offensive on terrorists far beyond Mr. Bush’s vision and rallied the world to ratchet up pressure on Iran.
He blunted the extreme message of the Tea Party by offering an alternative vision of government’s obligation to help the neediest, provide everyone with the basic structures of society and the economy and end unconscionable discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. He has protected women’s constitutional rights and liberties, despite his own misgivings about abortion. He ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden — an act that was mentioned repeatedly on the last night of the convention.
But, after he was elected, Mr. Obama allowed himself to believe in his own legend, cheered on by the hundreds of thousands of adoring supporters who thronged his inauguration, by the sheer magnificence of the swearing-in of an African-American president. It was as though he concluded that his election by itself changed the world and had fulfilled his promise of a postpartisan era.
The president and his tight inner circle were oblivious to the Republicans’ explicit warning that he would not get the slightest cooperation from a party and a Congressional caucus driven by an implacable hatred of Mr. Obama that is mostly ideological but also fueled by his race. It took nearly three years for the Obama team to recognize that central fact.
Mr. Obama won passage of an economic recovery bill that not only warded off depression, but actually created jobs, and of a health care reform law that is essential to the long-term economic health of the country. But he ceded the details of lawmaking to Congress, where leaders of his own party did not fully step up to the moment and Republicans stood in stonewall opposition.
And he ceded the national debate on central issues to those same Republicans, mired in his belief that the force of his intellect could melt their obstructionism, that one eloquent speech could change his political fortunes. Mr. Obama allowed his opponents to define the argument and so define him.
Mr. Clinton showed Mr. Obama the antidote. On Wednesday night, Mr. Clinton fought back against the Republicans on Medicaid and Medicare, two areas where the Obama campaign has failed to get real traction. He made the argument for health care reform, financial re-regulation and fair taxation, all while firing up the crowd.
September 6, 2012
By HELENE COOPER and PETER BAKER
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for a second term on Thursday night, making a forceful argument that he had rescued the economy from disaster and ushered in a recovery that would be imperiled by a return to Republican stewardship.
Describing himself as “mindful of my own failings,” Mr. Obama conceded the country’s continuing difficulties while defending his record and pleading for more time to carry out his agenda. He laid out a long-term blueprint for revival in an era obsessed with short-term expectations.
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy; I never have,” Mr. Obama told a packed arena of 20,000 party leaders and activists. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
He added: “But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future.”
The president’s appearance at the Time Warner Cable Arena underscored the tumultuous journey he and the country have been on since his first nomination in Denver. Four years after fireworks consecrated his storybook campaign to become the nation’s first black president, Mr. Obama took the stage on Thursday as a politician who had come down to earth and was locked in the fight of his life against the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
The stirring outsider’s message had become a policy-laden appeal for continuity; the mantra of reform was now a vigorous defense of his current course. The “Change” signs waved in the audience in 2008 had been replaced with placards saying “Forward.” The word “promise,” which he used 32 times in his acceptance speech in 2008, came up just 7 times on Thursday night. Even the traditional balloon drop was missing since a last-minute site change made it impossible.
Mr. Obama issued a string of promises, including one million new manufacturing jobs and $4 trillion in deficit reductions. But he was largely making the case that he had put in place the foundation for a revived country if voters only give it enough time to work. If at times it had the feel of a State of the Union address, that was an intentional effort to jab at Mr. Romney to be more specific about how he would carry out his promises, maximizing the gulf between the parties.
“They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan,” Mr. Obama said. “And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last 30 years.”
Mr. Obama’s speech punctuated back-to-back political conventions in which the two parties, if nothing else, delivered radically different visions for how to end the economic malaise that has afflicted the country since 2008, and framed the two-month spring to Election Day.
A week after Mr. Romney sought to appeal to American disappointment with Mr. Obama, the president pressed his case that the Republican candidate is so disconnected from the struggles of the middle class that he has no idea how to address them. In sharp language, he linked Mr. Romney and his running mate, Paul D. Ryan, to what he long described as failed trickle-down economic policies that favor the wealthy, reflecting what has become a central theme.
“On every issue, the choice you face won’t just be between two candidates or two parties,” Mr. Obama said. “When all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.”
The Romney campaign released a reaction to the president’s speech before it was even delivered, assailing Mr. Obama as having failed to create enough jobs, cut the deficit in half or increase incomes. “This is a time not for him to start restating new promises, but to report on the promises he made,” Mr. Romney said in the taped statement. “I think he wants a promises reset. We want a report on the promises he made.”
Introducing Mr. Obama on Thursday night was Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who offered testimony to the president’s leadership on everything from the economy to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. “Bravery resides in the heart of Barack Obama,” he said. “This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and steel in his spine.”
Mr. Biden was left to take the tougher shots at Mr. Romney, the former head of the private equity firm Bain Capital and former governor of Massachusetts. Noting that Mr. Romney had promised to take a jobs tour, Mr. Biden said, “Well, with his support for outsourcing, it’s going to have to be a foreign trip.”
He went on to note that Mr. Romney opposed the federal bailout of the auto industry. “I think he saw it the Bain way,” Mr. Biden said, adding: “The Bain way may bring your firm the highest profits. But it’s not the way to lead our country from the highest office.”
Mr. Biden’s nomination for a second term as vice president was approved by the convention by acclamation after his son Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, put his name up for consideration in a speech that left the vice president teary-eyed for the second consecutive night.
The emotion in the packed hall crested early, when former Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, her step faltering, walked tentatively onto the stage in a surprise appearance to lead the pledge of allegiance. Mrs. Giffords, who was shot in the head by a would-be assassin in Tucson, is still recovering, and she stumbled over the word “indivisible.” But she got through the pledge in her first real public speaking since the shooting, and blew kisses to the crowd, which surged to its feet in ovation, chanting “Gabby! Gabby!”
Given that Mr. Romney spent little time on foreign policy during his acceptance speech, it was a foregone conclusion that Mr. Obama would devote time to national security, an area where Democrats believe they have carved out a surprising advantage. They paraded a host of war veterans across the stage, some of whom chided the Republicans as taking little notice of them in Tampa last week.
“Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago,” Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said, turning a Republican line critical of the president into an argument for his re-election.
Mr. Obama said Republicans “want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly,” and Mr. Biden appeared to choke up reciting the numbers of war dead and wounded.
Still, the heart of the argument between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney is about the role of government. “This is what the election comes down to,” Mr. Obama said. “Over and over, we’ve been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way, that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing.”
Highlighting Medicare, which Mr. Ryan has proposed overhauling, the president said, “No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.”
The president’s speech culminated a three-day convention that included a retinue of Hollywood celebrities and even a former Republican governor, Charlie Crist of Florida, plus a strong focus on social issues like same-sex marriage.
But like its Republican equivalent last week, it did not always go according to script, including an embarrassing floor fight over Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a late decision to move the president’s speech to the Time Warner Cable Arena from the Bank of America Stadium because of inclement weather.
With thunder, lightning and rain forecast — convention goers huddled under plastic sheets as they darted between sites — organizers were left with some 65,000 supporters — many of them traveling from all over the country — without the chance to see the president in person.
The president’s aides understood they could never re-create the power of the past but hoped to convince voters that more has been done than commonly recognized. The “promises kept” theme was intended to address the same swing voters Mr. Romney sought last week to win over.
Mr. Obama directly acknowledged the disappointments. “While I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings,” he said. But he added, “I have never been more hopeful about America, not because I think I have all the answers, not because I’m naïve about the magnitude of our challenges. I’m hopeful because of you.”
The president appeared to become emotional toward the end of his speech as he spoke of wounded veterans who somehow managed to walk and run and bike on prosthetic legs. He said he did not know if they would vote for him, but added that they nonetheless gave him hope that difficulties could be overcome.
September 6, 2012
The following is the full text of President Obama’s speech Thursday from the Democratic National Convention.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. (Sustained cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you.
Michelle, I love you so much. (Cheers, applause.)
A few nights ago, everybody was reminded just what a lucky man I am. (Cheers, applause.)
Malia and Sasha, we are so proud of you. (Cheers, applause.) And yes, you do have to go to school in the morning. (Chuckles.) (Laughter, applause.)
And Joe Biden, thank you for being the very best vice president I could have ever hoped for — (cheers, applause) — and being a strong and loyal friend.
Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Now, the first time I addressed this convention, in 2004, I was a younger man — (laughter) — a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope, not blind optimism, not wishful thinking but hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, that dogged faith in the future which has pushed this nation forward even when the odds are great, even when the road is long.
Eight years later that hope has been tested by the cost of war, by one of the worst economic crises in history and by political gridlock that’s left us wondering whether it’s still even possible to tackle the challenges of our time. I know campaigns can seem small, even silly sometimes.
Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. The truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. And if you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)
But when all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. (Cheers.) Over the next few years big decisions will be made in Washington on jobs, the economy, taxes and deficits, energy, education, war and peace — decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and on our children’s lives for decades to come.
And on every issue, the choice you face won’t just be between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future. Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known — (cheers, applause) — the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton’s army, the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone. They knew they were part of something larger — a nation that triumphed over fascism and depression, a nation where the most innovative businesses turn out the world’s best products, and everyone shared in that pride and success from the corner office to the factory floor.
My grandparents were given the chance to go to college and buy their home — their own home and fulfill the basic bargain at the heart of America’s story, the promise that hard work will pay off, that responsibility will be rewarded, that everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, D.C. (Cheers, applause.)
And I ran for president because I saw that basic bargain slipping away. I began my career helping people in the shadow of a shuttered steel mill at a time when too many good jobs were starting to move overseas. And by 2008 we had seen nearly a decade in which families struggled with costs that kept rising but paychecks that didn’t, folks racking up more and more debt just to make the mortgage or pay tuition, put gas in the car or food on the table. And when the house of cards collapsed in the Great Recession, millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, a tragedy from which we’re still fighting to recover.
Now, our friends down in Tampa at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America. But they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. (Cheers, applause.) They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescriptions they’ve had for the last 30 years. Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high — try another.
Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it — (cheers, applause) — middle-class families, small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy — (cheers, applause) — or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small-businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home.
We have been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We are moving forward, America. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. (Cheers, applause.)
And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It’ll require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. (Cheers, applause.)
And by the way, those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.
But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. (Cheers, applause.) Our challenges can be met. (Applause.) The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place, and I’m asking you to choose that future. (Applause.)
I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country, goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security and the deficit, real, achievable plans that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that is why I am running for a second term as president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)
We can choose a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs. After a decade that was defined by what we bought and borrowed, we’re getting back to basics and doing what America’s always done best. We are making things again. (Applause.) I’ve met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared — (cheers, applause) — they’d never build another American car. And today they can’t build them fast enough because we reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on the top of the world. (Cheers, applause.) I worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products — (cheers) — because we work harder and smarter than anyone else.
(Cheers, applause.) I’ve signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers, goods that are stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.” (Cheers, applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And after a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last 2 1/2 years. (Cheers.) And now you have a choice. We can give more tax breaks to corporations that shift jobs overseas —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: — or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here in the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.) We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports. And if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. (Cheers, applause.) You can choose that future.
You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. (Cheers, applause.) We have doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. (Cheers, applause.) In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1 million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. (Cheers, applause.) And today the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades. (Cheers, applause.)
So now you have a choice between a strategy that reverses this progress or one that builds on it.
We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan or endanger our coastlines or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers. (Cheers, applause.) We’re offering a better path.
We’re offering a better path where we — a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal, where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks, where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy, where — where we develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone. (Cheers, applause.
And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. (Cheers, applause.) They are a threat to our children’s future.
And in this election, you can do something about it. (Cheers, applause.) You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have.
Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. (Cheers.) It was the gateway for Michelle. It was — it was the gateway for most of you. And now more than ever it is the gateway to a middle-class life.
For the first time in a generation, nearly every state has answered our call to raise their standards for teaching and learning. (Cheers, applause.) Some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading. Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on banks and lenders. (Cheers, applause.)
And now you have a choice. We can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. (Cheers, applause.) No company should have to look for workers overseas because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home. (Cheers, applause.) That’s not our future. That is not our future. (Cheers, applause.)
A government has a role in this. But teachers must inspire. Principals must lead. Parents must instill a thirst for learning. And students, you’ve got to do the work. (Cheers, applause.) And together, I promise you we can outeducate and outcompete any nation on earth. (Cheers, applause.)
So help me. Help me recruit a hundred thousand math and science teachers within 10 years and improve early childhood education. (Cheers, applause.) Help give 2 million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next 10 years.
We can meet that goal together. (Cheers, applause.) You can choose that future for America. (Cheers, applause.) That’s our future.
You know, in a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. (Cheers, applause.) I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have. (Cheers, applause.) We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan and in 2014, our longest war will be over. (Cheers, applause.) A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al- Qaida is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead. (Cheers, applause.)
And tonight we pay tribute to the Americans who still serve in harm’s way. We are forever in debt to a generation whose sacrifice has made this country safer and more respected. We will never forget you, and so long as I’m commander in chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known. (Cheers, applause.) When you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us, because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their head or the care that they need when they come home.
Around the world, we’ve strengthened old alliances and forged new coalitions to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We’ve reasserted our power across the Pacific and stood up to China on behalf of our workers. From Burma to Libya to South Sudan, we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings — (cheers) — men and women; Christians and Muslims and Jews. (Cheers, applause.)
But for all the progress that we’ve made, challenges remain. Terrorist plots must be disrupted. Europe’s crisis must be contained. Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace. (Cheers, applause.) The Iranian government must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions. The historic change sweeping across the Arab world must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate here today. (Cheers, applause.)
So now we have a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy. (Laughter, applause.)
But from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.
After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy — not al- Qaida, Russia — (laughter) — unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War mind warp. (Cheers, applause.)
You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.
(Laughter, cheers, applause.)
My opponent — my opponent said that it was tragic to end the war in Iraq. And he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. Well, I have, and I will. (Cheers, applause.) And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I will use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work — (extended cheers, applause) — rebuilding roads and bridges and schools and runways, because after two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation building right here at home. (Cheers, applause.)
You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class. (Cheers, applause.) Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion. (Cheers.) And last summer I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut a billion dollars in spending, because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it so that it’s leaner and more efficient and more responsive to the American people. (Cheers, applause.)
I want to reform the tax code so that it’s simple, fair and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 — (cheers, applause) — the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president, the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest surplus in history and a whole lot of millionaires to boot.
Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. I want to get this done, and we can get it done.
But when Governor Romney and his friends in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficits by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy, well — (boos) — what’d Bill Clinton call it? You do the arithmetic. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) You do the math.
I refuse to go along with that, and as long as I’m president, I never will. (Cheers, applause.) I refuse to ask middle-class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. (Cheers, applause.) I refuse to ask students to pay more for college or kick children out of Head Start programs to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor and elderly or disabled all so those with the most can pay less. I’m not going along with that. (Continued cheers, applause.)
And I will never — I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. (Cheers, applause.) No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity that they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.
(Cheers, applause.) And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it, not by turning it over to Wall Street. (Cheers, applause.)
This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we’ve been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way, that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. (Murmurs of disapproval.) If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and borrow money from your parents. (Laughter, mixed cheers and boos, applause.)
You know what, that’s not who we are. That’s not what this country is about. As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility, and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk- takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity that the world’s ever known.
But we also believe in something called citizenship — (cheers, applause) — citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.
We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better. (Cheers, applause.)
We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family’s protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes — (cheers, applause) — and so is the entire economy. (Applause.)
We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs or the scientist who cures cancer or the president of the United States — (cheers, applause) — and it is in our power to give her that chance. (Cheers, applause.)
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we certainly don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. (Cheers, applause.)
We don’t think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don’t think the government is the source of all of our problems — (cheers, applause) — any more than our welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles — (cheers, applause) — because — because America, we understand that this democracy is ours.
We, the people — (cheers) — recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only, what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense. (Cheers, applause.)
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together — (cheers, applause) — through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.
So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. (Cheers, applause.) My fellow citizens — you were the change. (Cheers, applause.)
You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that. (Cheers, applause.)
You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible. (Cheers, applause.)
You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home — (cheers, applause) — why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love, why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely, welcome home. (Cheers, applause.) Welcome home. You did that. You did that. (Cheers, applause.) You did that.
If you turn away now — if you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void, the lobbyists and special interests, the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are trying to make it harder for you to vote, Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry or control health care choices that women should be making for themselves. (Cheers, applause.) Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.
You know, I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. Times have changed, and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the president. (Cheers, applause.)
And — (applause) — and that’s —
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Four more years! Four more years!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And that — and that means I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I’ve held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return.
I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. (Laughter.)
And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together — (cheers) — I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.” , for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return. I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.” (Cheers, applause.)
But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. (Cheers, applause.) Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naive about the magnitude of our challenges.
I’m hopeful because of you.
The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter — she gives me hope. (Cheers, applause.)
The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife — he gives me hope.
The family business in Warroad, Minnesota, that didn’t lay off a single one of their 4,000 employees when the recession hit — (cheers, applause) — even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owner gave up some perks and some pay because they understood that their biggest asset was the community and the workers who had helped build that business — they give me hope. (Cheers, applause.)
I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed Hospital still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. And six months ago we would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iran (sic; Iraq) — tall and 20 pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face, sturdy on his new leg. And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled. He gives me hope. (Cheers, applause.) He gives me hope.
I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a future filled with hope. (Cheers.) And if you share that faith with me, if you share that hope with me, I ask you tonight for your vote.
If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. (Cheers, applause.)
If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election. (Cheers, applause.)
If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape, that new energy can power our future, that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers, if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November. (Cheers, applause.)
America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. (Cheers.) Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. (Cheers.)
We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. (Cheers.) We pull each other up. (Cheers, applause.) We draw strength from our victories. (Cheers, applause.) And we learn from our mistakes. But we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon knowing that providence is with us and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth.
Thank you, God bless you and God bless these United States.
Saturday, 25 August 2012
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
On the occasion of UK's threat to invade Ecuador's embassy, another sign our once enlightened world is degenerating into another dark age:
Friday, 6 July 2012
Friday, 22 June 2012
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
I am suggesting some actions we can take this summer to (1) voice our disagreement with C-38, (2) build on our past experience to prepare for Harper’s next onslaught on democracy and (3) prepare for the elections required to defeat this government.
My suggestion for action this summer is based on the following assumptions:
(1) Protesting as we have been doing is limited in the pressure it can put on Harper.
(2) Harper’s self-confidence has not been seriously diminished by the C-38 experience so his next initiative will be even more noxious to democracy.
(3) Citizen action (as opposed to partisan activities and legal challenges which remain important) is the only means available to defeat Harper now or later. The Supreme Court of Canada, the Senate and the Governor General have the power to reign in the Harper government but there is no sign of an opening for them to do so. Legal challenges remain a wild card over which we have no control.
(4) Citizen engagement is not yet strong enough to defeat Harper now or at an election in current conditions.
The opposition parties did all they could in the fight over C-38 and could not stop it. This has raised public esteem for the opposition parties and helped fuel opposition among citizens, but it shows the limits of parliamentary opposition in the current system. This encourages Harper to repeat the exercise and go even further in dismantling our institutional foundation, thus keeping opposition off guard, disorganized and ineffective.
Objective 1 - engage Conservative Party (CPC) MPs: Until the next election or some other intervening event, the weakest link in the Harper onslaught is his caucus MPs, especially those that come from the old Progressive Conservative (PC) ridings as opposed to Reform ridings. The hypothesis is that there may be a weak link that could split the CPC. This tactic was tried in the unsuccessful 13 heroes campaign, but there are indications that there are cracks in the party. With more time and organization, we may be able to exploit these cracks and divide the government support.
Objective 2 – citizen engagement: Although citizen opposition to C-38 was vocal and substantial, it was not enough. A large majority of voters seems to remain unaware of the direction and character of the Harper government. The failure of citizen engagement in the democratic system is probably the most significant cause of the crisis we are facing. Since political parties have effectively made a practice of avoiding this key ingredient of a democracy, it now falls to citizens to find ways to re-engage our fellow citizens.
Objective 3 – planning to win the next election: Our main opposition parties – NDP and Liberal – dropped the ball completely in opening the door to a Harper victory in 2011. They must be held accountable in providing a solution to the crisis of democracy they allowed. Their failure to act in concert to provide a single progressive alternative to the united forces of conservatism suggests a preference of ego and self interest over the public interest that should be their primary goal. The nation has been seriously harmed by their excessive partisanship and backroom dealing. Citizens must engage these parties to(a) welcome citizen participation in events moving forward, (b) devise an effective process to resoundingly defeat the Harper government at the polls, (c) revoke the harmful legislation passed by the Harper government, and (d) permanently revise our electoral laws to prevent an illegitimate defacto dictatorship from recurring.
We must become knowledgeable about C-38. This will be a challenge since our parliamentary opposition has indicated there are still parts f the legislation that are not fully understood. We must work with opposition MPs and other groups to understand the legislation. Recently, Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page stated that “effectively, MPs will go back to their ridings for their summer without any idea of how the budget bill affects their constituents, “and that’s just not right.”
We must engage our CPC MPs and ask that they explain C-38 and how it benefits our community and our country. We can do this individually or in groups, but we must insist that our MPs make themselves available in the riding for meetings on this important government initiative.
We must engage our fellow citizens to think about C-38 and its consequences.
With organization and planning, we could be extremely effective in meeting all of our objectives. I am proposing that we hold community “town hall” meetings so that all citizens have an opportunity to become informed by the process and to motivate them to become involved in what our MPs are doing in Ottawa.
I believe many citizens are now curious about the contents of C-38 having heard so much in the news about it. They will also wish to know how it affects the community. We should involve as many stakeholders in the community as possible to organize and carry out effective meetings.
These meetings should be strictly non-partisan and unbiased, but we should ask all political parties to assist in publicizing and organizing. We can also ask local organizations such as Rotary clubs and church groups to spread the word. If we are effective, we will get media coverage.
The meetings should be informational , open and provide for questions and discussion I would suggest inviting local “experts” in various subjects to form a panel and speak to the various topics affected by C-38. In every case, the CPC should be invited to participate on the panel, and it should be the MP if there is one.
In this way, we could begin to establish a new paradigm for democracy that is not dominated by political parties. Citizens are engaged and informed as they need to be. We draw on community experts for information and knowledge, and politicians are relegated to the role of participants, welcome to share their views as equals but present more in the role of apprentices to the will of the people.
Thursday, 24 May 2012
Persecution of Charles Leblanc
The latest attempt by a coalition of Fredericton’s security forces to silence Charles Leblanc marks another milestone in his accidental mission as a crusader for press freedom. This effort will prove to be as ill-fated as the one recently concluded and for the same fundamental reasons: it is ill-motivated, unsupportable in law, and essentially contrary to democratic principles and the public interest.
- In June 2006, Charles was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice by the Saint John Police at a protest against the Atlantica conference where Irving Oil President Kenneth Irving was speaking. CBC footage showed that the arrest was in bad faith as Charles was merely taking pictures with the other journalists as protestors tried to storm the conference. Charles was acquitted after a trial in November 2006.
- A week after the Atlantica conference, Charles was banned from the legislature buildings and grounds and served with an unsigned “Barring Notice”. The exact grounds for the ban have never been publicly disclosed.
- In April, 2009 Charles was arrested for being on the legislature grounds while covering a protest and given a court date to face charges. No charges were ever laid. Before and after the incident, Charles continued his journalistic coverage of events at the Legislature, and has been on the Legislature grounds hundreds s of times since 2006 without incident.
- In April, 2011 Charles testified at the trial of Fredericton Const. Stephen Stafford on a charge of assault. In 2009, Charles had videotaped 3 Fredericton Police officers subduing an intoxicated man outside a bar. Stafford was acquitted after an expert from the Atlantic Police Academy testified that the force used, which broke vertebrae of the victim, was reasonable.
- During the summer of 2011, Charles was repeatedly accosted and ticketed by Fredericton Police for minor by-law offenses which are routinely ignored by police and citizens. The incidents all originated from Daniel Bussières, Sergeant-at-arms for the Legislature, and Const. Fred L’Oiseau of the Fredericton Police Force, both of whom have been frequently vilified in Charles’ blog.
- On January 16, 2012, Charles was persuaded by police officers to plead guilty to a charge of disturbing the peace in relation to his protest against earlier police harassment.
- On January 19, 2012 the Fredericton police arrested Charles and seized his computer on a search warrant based on defamatory libel under section 301 of the Criminal code, an obsolete offence already deemed unconstitutional by Courts in four other provinces as contrary to the right to free speech under the Canadian charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- On May 4, 2012 after almost four months of pondering the matter and just over a week before municipal elections, the Crown indicated no charge would be laid due to the unconstitutionality of section 301. Charles’ has requested a public inquiry into his arrest on criminal libel, which Attorney General Marie Claude Blais has indicated is possible.
- On May 16, 2012 Charles was arrested on the grounds of the legislature by the Fredericton Police on a complaint of assault, while waiting to take a picture of Energy Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney as she left the legislature upon resigning for personal reasons.
Although there has been no official explanation of the event, the arrest appears to be based on the 2006 Barring Notice which banned Charles from the “legislative precinct” indefinitely, on pain of a charge of assault for trespass. According to his blog, Charles received a tip that Blaney was resigning her position and seat, and went to the Legislature early to photograph her. While waiting outside the building, two security guards from the Legislature, accompanied by a non-uniformed Fredericton police officer, grabbed Charles by the shoulder and pushed him against the wall. Daniel Bussières approached and shouted that Charles would be charged with assault.
The current campaign to put Charles behind bars is fraught with constitutional, legal and political difficulties which render its chance of success no greater than past efforts.
The Legislative Ban
The Legislature “Barring Notice” was issued under an ancient constitutional principle by which the Legislative Assembly has the power to control its own processes free from Court oversight even under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This includes the right to exclude “strangers” i.e. non-members from the legislative precinct:
Given that legislatures are representative and deliberative institutions, those privileges ultimately serve to protect the democratic nature of those bodies. (Ref re Remuneration of Judges of the Prov. Court of P.E.I.  3 SCR 3 at para.101)
The legislative body needs this legal protection or immunity to perform its function and to defend and vindicate its authority and dignity. The Members of the legislative body enjoy these rights and immunities because the legislature cannot act or perform without the unimpeded use of the services of its Members. (Maingot, Joseph. Parliamentary Privilege in Canada. 2d ed. (House of Commons and McGill-Queens University Press, 1997) at 12)
In issuing the Barring Notice, the Legislature of New Brunswick has taken an expansive view of its constitutional privilege. However, the exercise of a power as draconian as excluding a voting citizen from the House of Assembly must be carefully crafted to remain consistent with the authority granted by the unwritten principles on which it is based. AS stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in the New Brunswick Broadcasting Co. v. Nova Scotia (Speaker of the House of Assembly),  1 SCR 319):
I conclude that the exercise of their inherent privileges by members of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly is not subject to Charter review....It should be noted here that this does not mean that the members of legislative assemblies can exercise parliamentary privileges with absolute immunity. First, the courts can still review the validity of claims of privilege to the same degree they have always done. That is, they can pronounce upon the existence or extent of a particular privilege. Second, even if the members are not accountable to the judiciary with respect to the exercise of parliamentary privileges, they are, obviously, still accountable to the electorate.
The interpretation and adaptation to modern realities of unwritten constitutional principles is a subtle task with many possible pitfalls. Without attempting to be exhaustive or claiming to be learned in the matter, a few potential problems come to mind.
The power resides in the Legislative Assembly, not in the Government. It is exercised by the Speaker on behalf of the Legislature. It is my understanding that the Speaker does not consult the Assembly, but follows the recommendation of the Legislative Administration Committee. On the surface, this seems to be a reasonable means by which the Legislature can act through a representative, namely, the Speaker.
However, the Speaker did not himself issue the Barring Notice. That was apparently done by Sergeant-at-Arms Dan Bussières. This apparently minor act of delegation or sub-delegation of authority may be excusable as merely administrative in nature, although it would be far preferable from the point of view of a concerned observer that the authority of the Speaker himself appeared on an official act of the Legislature, particularly where an arcane and exceptional parliamentary privilege is being exercised.
A real problem presents itself where the Barring Notice goes beyond a mere ban and invests wide discretion in the Sergeant-at-Arms in the invocation and enforcement of the ban. Such delegation of a constitutional power may itself invalidate the Barring Notice and will certainly bring into question the particular events that led up to the arrest of Charles on May 16.
The issue of delegation of such important discretion is coloured by the many contextual aspects of the Barring Notice that have been questioned. The Legislature claims the privilege of secrecy in the issuance of the Barring Notice, yet has from time to time issued various explanations none of which amounts to support for a clear principle which would justify the permanent exclusion of a citizen from the Legislature and the widest possible geographic territory.
The most commonly cited reason is that Charles is noisy and harasses employees, absent any specific allegations to which Charles could respond. Is the Barring Notice merely a roundabout means to control an alleged harasser by selectively invoking the criminal law of trespass and assault? Unfortunately, the Sergeant-at-arms himself has become personally and emotionally involved in the allegations of harassment against Charles bringing into question his impartiality in enforcing the Barring Notice on oddly timed and very infrequent occasions.
Trespass and Assault Charges
The enforcement of the Legislative ban is contained in the closing words of the document as follows:
If you choose to disregard the directives and authority of House officials, I will have no alternative but to but to seek your removal by the police authorities from Parliament Square grounds. Your refusal to comply forthwith may be deemed to be an assault, contrary to and in violation of Subsection 41 (2) of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Section 41 of the Criminal Code reads as follows:
41.(1) Every one who is in peaceable possession of a dwelling-house or real property, and every one lawfully assisting him or acting under his authority, is justified in using force to prevent any person from trespassing on the dwelling-house or real property, or to remove a trespasser therefrom, if he uses no more force than is necessary.
(2) A trespasser who resists an attempt by a person who is in peaceable possession of a dwelling-house or real property, or a person lawfully assisting him or acting under his authority to prevent his entry or to remove him, shall be deemed to commit an assault without justification or provocation.
The validity of the Barring Notice is a necessary element of establishing that Charles is a trespasser at on the legislative precinct. Assuming that to be the case, the evidence known to date is unlikely to support a conviction against Charles.
Dan Bussières and his staff would have been well-advised to follow scrupulously the procedure set out in the Barring Notice. Instead of giving Charles an opportunity to leave, he was grabbed and manhandled and had to visit the hospital. That action cannot support a charge against Charles of assault, nor could it be said that the security corps used no more force than is necessary to remove Charles so there is a possibility that a charge of assault could lie against them.
No evidence has or is likely to be disclosed of the Legislature version of events. Of course, Dan Bussières will likely have a different version of facts which will accord with what is found to be captured on the Legislature’s video surveillance tapes. For his part, Charles’ camera was taken from him along with any evidence it contained, a repeat of police misconduct in the 2006 Saint John arrest that was specifically disapproved by in the judicial decision acquitting Charles:
...from a personal standpoint I can understand Sergeant Parks’ actions in deleting the picture. From a legal standpoint however it is unacceptable. The camera was never seized as evidence...legal access to the contents of the camera would be permitted only through a search warrant. No warrant was ever obtained by Sergeant Parks, so he had no legal right to erase a picture from Mr. LeBlanc’s camera. R. v. LeBlanc, 2006 NBPC 37 (CanLII)
Having violated Charles’ civil rights in taking his camera, assaulting him without provocation, and arresting him without justification, it is unlikely a Court would convict Charles for his actions at the Legislature on May 16.
Conflicts of Interest ad Bad Faith
A troubling aspect of the latest action against Charles Leblanc arises from questions about the ability of all key figures to act impartially in executing their constitutional responsibilities. Perceptions of conflict of interest and bad faith are greatly exacerbated by circumstances: the timing of this action immediately after the Attorney General concluded the ill-conceived Fredericton Police action against Charles; the close relationship between the Legislature security corps and the Fredericton Police together with evident coordination of roles in accosting and arresting Charles; and the well-known personal antagonism between Charles and Dan Bussières.
The actions of Dan Bussières in this matter place the Attorney General and the Premier in an untenable position. They have already issued lukewarm affirmations that the Fredericton Police’s criminal libel actions require close, impartial scrutiny by a provincially appointed inquiry. Can members of the Legislature honestly pretend that this current action is distinguishable in its malevolent intent?
Hopefully, they will not attempt to emulate Mayor Brad Woodside who disingenuously and inaccurately disclaimed any responsibility for the actions of his Chief of Police. By a similar stratagem, Blais and Alward could invoke the constitutional distinction between the Legislative Assembly and the Government, and disclaim formal authority over The Legislative ban and resulting fiasco on May 16. The catch is that both are leading members of a majority government, and influential members of the Legislative Assembly. The proposition that political leaders who purport to effectively govern the Province are incapable of crafting a more practical, flexible solution other than resort to a criminal process fraught with constitutional difficulties challenges our confidence in the delicate balance that characterizes our system of government.
If they do not, Blais will have a more difficult decision as she is responsible for the administration of justice in the Province while also being a member of the Legislative Assembly. Can Blais in her role as Attorney General of the Province impartially decide whether to lay and prosecute charges which have been brought against Charles by a body of which she is a member? It is difficult to conceive how the Attorney-General can escape this conflict of interest or resort to an available alternative solution.
The practical reality is that constitutional principles which govern the delicate internal balances of our form of government are ill-suited to adjudicate disputes which import wholesale complexities of contested facts, conflicting principles and questions of motive, all of which figure prominently here. Adjudication of such matters in a criminal court proceeding would become an absurdity, giving short shrift to important matters of state in the interstices of adjudicating minute factual issues relating to the liberty of a citizen.
Concerted official actions against individuals who have not actually committed a wrong seldom fuel the public respect for their public officials. The most significant consequence of the Legislature action, as was the case with the previous City action, is the political fallout for New Brunswick politicians and officials.
Charles Leblanc is no saint. He can be self-serving, loud, crude and pushy. However, he has never during the time period in question been credibly accused of any action that would merit legal sanction. This is the weak point in the Legislature’s campaign since 2006. It has taken refuge behind an obscure constitutional immunity to avoid stating a case. Instead of articulating clear, comprehensible grounds for the ban, it has resorted to generalizations, innuendo and rumour, hardly an approach calculated to reassure the public.
On the other side of the equation, Charles is a capable and committed amateur journalist. He has recorded thousands of interviews with public officials, including most members of the legislature over several years. All of his interviews are readily available for public viewing and are widely viewed. Charles’ interviews are typically civil, relevant and revealing, often probing into controversial issues. A great many citizens of Fredericton and elsewhere watch Charles’ blog for breaking news not available anywhere, including the police, politicians and mainstream media.
The persistent and obvious irony in all of Charles’ dealings with enforcement officials is that he can only benefit from the attention. To lose face in the court of public opinion, Charles would have to be seen to commit a wrong that substantially exceeded the official wrongs perpetrated against him, an outcome he has avoided to date.
The big losers in this court are the well-paid staff including Sergeant-at-arms Dan Bussières, Legislature Clerk Loredana Catalli Sonier, Constable Fred L’Oiseau and Police Chief Barry MacKnight. All are at risk of being perceived of one or more of the following: conspiring on a bungled scheme to get rid of a troublesome pest once and for all; acting in furtherance of a private interest rather than the public interest; failing to discharge their duties to act impartially in the public interest; trying to use black letter law for a purpose that was never intended; and consequently being unfit for the important official positions they hold.
Charles’ role in as a vocal critic of successive government agendas leads to an unsettling suspicion. Almost universally MLAs and Ministers appear to embrace encounters with Charles and even to like him, but do they? One may wonder if it was the politicians who secretly wanted Charles permanently silenced all along, accepting the ban in their name while the staff took the heat. The continuation of the ban, and the latest proceedings that have been put in motion, can only further lessen any remaining fragments of public trust in our elected representatives.
An appropriate political response to the legislative ban was articulated by MLA Abel Leblanc who stated:
Specifically barring someone from the legislature is totally, totally wrong as far as I am concerned. I am here. I got elected by the people and you know he’s a person. If he comes here and asks me for anything, I do it for him.
The Government of New Brunswick should realize that it is not in the public interest, nor in keeping with modern reality, to ban from the Legislature citizen journalists who serve a valid public need in reporting and questioning the workings of the house of assembly where very few bother to venture. The Legislature is not so solemn, nor so riveting, that it cannot handle a greater range of normal human behaviour than now seems to be tolerated in the ranks of visitors.
The Attorney General should put an immediate end to this destructive cycle and revert to the plan to investigate the controversial issues surrounding the activities of Charles Leblanc by a public inquiry. Such a body would be a far more appropriate venue to delve into the thicket of issues brought about by modern technology and a pressing need to revitalize our democratic institutions.
This issue has festered for six years. The invocation of the Legislative privilege against a law-abiding citizen, who exercises his constitutional right to participate in the democratic process as fully and enthusiastically as does Charles Leblanc, is repugnant to democracy. The constitution is in place for the protection of the people against arbitrary actions of government. The aggressive use of an obscure constitutional provision to exclude Charles from the legislative precinct taints rather than protects the dignity of the Legislative Assembly, a result directly contrary to the rationale for the privilege.
The message here is politicians have to stop lying, and police have to stop lying and brutalizing the people.
The message here is politicians have to stop lying, and police have to stop lying and brutalizing the people.