Bredesen speaks in Chattanooga, hours before Trump rally

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen speaks at a fundraiser in Nashville on Aug. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic Senate candidate Phi Bredesen held a rally on Sunday in Chattanooga just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to  come to the city to headline an event for Republican rival Marsha Blackburn.

“If the previous two visits are any guide, he’ll have plenty of derogatory things to say about me,” Bredesen said in his prepared remarks.

“That’s OK — politics today is a blood sport — but I’ve come here to show that there are other ways to campaign and to present your case to the people of Tennessee,” Bredesen said. “We should vote people in and out, not shout them in and out.”

Bredesen praised retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga), who “is understandably not here with us” — but was also not attending the Blackburn rally because of an unspecified prior engagement.

“I want everyone to know that I admire the job he did as Chattanooga’s mayor, and I respect enormously how he has carried himself in his two terms in the United States Senate,” Bredesen said. “As you all know, I’m seeking to follow him in that seat, and it would be a privilege to do so.”

Here is the full speech as prepared for delivery:

Mayor Berke, thank you for your hospitality today, and for all that you are doing for Chattanooga. As a former mayor myself, I admire and respect your work, and the city is fortunate to have someone of your work ethic and good will leading it. I hope to have many opportunities to work with you in the future.

I also want to acknowledge this afternoon another prominent Chattanoogan, Bob Corker. He is understandably not here with us, but I want everyone to know that I admire the job he did as Chattanooga’s Mayor, and I respect enormously how he has carried himself in his two terms in the United States Senate. As you all know, I’m seeking to follow him in that seat, and it would be a privilege to do so.

I enjoy being with each of you any time, but I’m sure you recognize that my presence here today is related to the visit by the President of the United States this evening. He is coming on a campaign stop for my opponent, and if the previous two visits are any guide, he’ll have plenty of derogatory things to say about me. I have to say, I will be glad when the campaign is over this Tuesday and the unending stream of negative ads stops.

My grandkids’ dog Bella watches television, and Bella won’t even look me in the eye anymore.

That’s OK — politics today is a blood sport — but I’ve come here to show that there are other ways to campaign and to present your case to the people of Tennessee. My family taught me their values, and one of them was that you respected everyone. The heat of a political campaign doesn’t change that.

We should vote people in and out, not shout them in and out.

Nevertheless, I want to emphasize this: that whatever is said in the heat of the campaign won’t affect my willingness, eagerness even, to work with the President. When this election is over, it’s over. I’m not running against the President; if he is for something that is good for Tennessee, I need to support him in that. If it’s bad for Tennessee, I need to oppose him.

I’ll feel the same if there is a Democratic President. While I was Governor, there were numerous times that I strongly supported President Bush, especially in national security and border control matters. And there were several times that I opposed President Obama—expressing disagreement with parts of the Affordable Care Act and what I thought was some regulatory overreach in other areas.

I have something I’d like to talk with you about this afternoon: My re-entry into public life this past year has made two things clear to me.

First, I love my country and Tennessee very much. Andrea and I arrived here in the mid-1970s as newlyweds—10 months—in a Volkswagen, not knowing anyone, and got a furnished apartment to start our lives in Tennessee together. We are living proof that America is the land of opportunity.

Second, I love my country very much, and I hate to see it lose its way. It’s not just this campaign season or the past couple of years, it’s been going on for a couple of decades now. Washington is mired in the worst kinds of partisanship, leaders of both parties seem to feel that purposefully setting Americans against each other is somehow acceptable or even desirable. Public discourse has reached new levels of incivility.

Consider a marriage: any marriage has arguments from time to time. But in those arguments, we all know that however strongly we might feel, however angry we might be, there are some things you just don’t say. There’s a line you don’t cross. If you do, you can’t go back, the damage is permanent.

With our political arguments, we’ve stepped over that line. And just as stepping over that line in a marriage corrodes and weakens it, stepping over it in our political discourse corrodes and weakens our nation. Listen to the President when he is here tonight and imagine putting his words into the mouths of Ronald Reagan or John Kennedy. You can’t do it; they both would have stopped well short of what I expect this evening. Or, for that matter, listen to some of the President’s critics on TV tonight; same thing.

I want to tell you about something that happened to me, when I was in my 20s.

I grew up in my grandmother’s house in a small farming town in upstate New York: Shortsville, population 1100, one traffic light. I grew up hunting and fishing, I worked evenings and Saturdays at the local Rexall drugstore, I graduated with 42 others from our public high school—Red Jacket Central

Then, at the age of seventeen, I found myself at Harvard. Surrounded by young men who’d already had amazing opportunities in life, who’d been to the best prep schools, who had plenty of walking around money, who had already seen the world. It was an overwhelming and discouraging experience, and so I looked around and decided that I needed to reinvent myself.

I hate to admit it today, but I was just a little embarrassed by my background. My family weren’t corporate executives, or doctors, or lawyers, or college professors. They were an office clerk, a mail carrier, a seamstress, a bank teller. I spent a lot of my 20s trying to leave Shortsville behind, to reinvent myself to be more like others whose lives I envied.

When Andrea and I started dating, she never believed in that idea of reinvention, and one day before we were married she gave me a gift. It was a piece of driftwood on which she had carved, “Life is discovering yourself.” She was telling me to stop looking outside, stop referencing myself to others, to quiet my mind and look inside for what was important. I did so, it changed my life and gave me a much stronger and more reliable center than anything I could invent.

America seems as confused today about who it is as I was about myself in my 20s. We should turn off the tv and smartphone, look inside ourselves, and seek to rediscover just who we really are.

When we do, I think one of the things we’ll discover is that we are at heart pioneers. We’re the people who came to the New World; and who then came West, to Tennessee among other places.

Those pioneers were resourceful; they found new ways to get what they needed done, and one of those new ways was a barn-raising. We’re pioneers, and with that we’re barn-raisers.

So I want to tell you about barn raising.

Think about the work it took for pioneers to carve a new life out of unsettled land. They were farmers and they had to clear fields, dig wells, plant crops. And before that first crop was in, they had to build a barn. This wasn’t something a pioneer family could do alone. So, when the time came, they asked their neighbors for help.

Imagine that barn-raising with me for a moment. A cleared field surrounded by forest. A log cabin where the family lived off on one side.

The sky is just getting light, it’s still cool, but men and women are coming together, crossing the field, from all directions. Pretty soon you can hear the saws, and the hammers, and voices and shouts. A little later, the sun is on the field, and you can start to see the framework of the barn taking shape.

The men and women working together were human and imperfect; just as human and imperfect as we are today. They held grudges. They had disagreements and arguments. Some were friends, others didn’t want anything to do with each other. But on barn-raising day, they did something special. For a day, they put aside their differences and were just neighbors. They got to work, and the next morning the sun came up on a new barn, one that hadn’t been there yesterday.

That morning might have been a couple of hundred years ago, but the impulse it reflected is just as relevant today: sometimes we have to put our personal grudges, our likes and dislikes aside and work together for a while. We do that sometimes—most people in this room work in some organization, and it’s safe to assume that you don’t agree with or even like everyone you work with. But you set that aside so that the job at hand can be done.

But in our national politics, we’ve lost that touch. The grudges and disagreements have become too great for us to become neighbors for a while and raise a barn.

My mission here today is to ask you to join me in fixing this.

I still have a high school civics class view of my government. I believe that it was brilliantly designed by our Founders—a government of three equal branches, acting as a check and balance on one another, protecting against abuses of power. A Constitution and a Bill of Rights. A government run by elected officials, making thoughtful choices to the best of their ability.

Most important, I was taught to believe in American exceptionalism, and I do. While there are those who regard the concept as old-fashioned, or naïve, or arrogant, I don’t. America is different, it’s special, we’re not just one more nation on the world stage. We have a special destiny.

Many of those who originally settled our land left behind palace intrigues, decay, intolerance. They dreamt of something new, something better, something exceptional. Their descendants have helped keep that dream alive.

I believe in that dream, that destiny, and I will not give up on it.

I’m not here to make an academic speech. I’m in the final days of a political campaign for the United States Senate. If the people of Tennessee choose me next Tuesday to represent them in Washington, I know there are practical, pragmatic things I can do to help. I’m sure, for example, I can lead some progress on health care, especially in dealing with pre-existing conditions and drug costs.

But more than anything else, I want to roll up my sleeves, I want to go to work to restore that idea that America is something new, something exceptional.

Ancestors came here to escape palace intrigues; we are awash in them today, in both the White House and the halls of Congress. They wanted to escape the decay of the institutions of their government; but does anybody think that the Senate—sometimes called the greatest deliberative body in the world—does anybody still think the Senate actually deliberates about anything? They wanted to escape intolerance; intolerance is the stuff of headlines as we speak. And intolerance is not limited to the right; I’ve experienced plenty from the left as well.

Voters in Tennessee are going to have a real choice in a couple of days. For those who are pleased with what our government is becoming, who believe in hard-edged partisanship, that people with different views from their own are the enemy, no compromise, I’m not their guy. They have another choice, someone who has helped build that world for the past 16 years, is steeped in it, and is good at it.

I want something different. I believe leadership is working to find common ground, not to divide. In independence of thought. In deliberation and compromise and getting things done. And yes, I believe in American exceptionalism.

We shouldn’t put up with intrigue and corruption and intolerance. Our forebears came here to escape all that; leave it behind.

The belief that America is exceptional, that we’ve been given the opportunity and the charge to be the standard of civility, the model of enlightened self-government, is not partisan.

Leaders as diverse as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, as John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan have embraced it.

This is a room of people of faith. Religion is built on faith, but so is America. Today, I challenge you and I challenge myself to devote ourselves to restoring the faith that has sustained America—that it’s our destiny to occupy an exceptional place in the world.”


16 Responses to Bredesen speaks in Chattanooga, hours before Trump rally

  • Avatar
    David Collins says:

    This speech reflects the Phil Bredesen I watched as Mayor and as Governor. He truly feels the values and ideas he speaks of in this speech. He’s the real thing and I think the majority of the voters of this state will feel the same way. That is why I think he can win the election on Tuesday. I think the majority of America is sick and tired of all this bickering and backbiting by members of both political parties. They don’t see the word “compromise” as a curse, rather they view it as a road to getting things accomplished. I just wish more candidates, of both parties, had the same values. They used to….

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    Donna Locke says:

    David, if you really look at some of the “compromises” that have been made at the federal level, you will see how radical they are. Many of these compromises relate to immigration. Your Congress and presidents gave the store away.

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    Stuart I. Anderson says:

    How good it is for Erik to give us a complete transcript of Bredesen’s speech. Absolutely riveting journalism, not anything that could easily be encapsulated in a few words or at least it’s apparently beyond Erik’s ability and/or desire to do so. I wonder if Erik will give us a complete transcript of one of Marsha’s speech’s – I’ll be alright, I’m not holding my breath.

    BTW, a translation from Political English to Real English is in order. When Phil says “I’m not running against the President; if he is for something that is good for Tennessee, I need to support him in that. If it’s bad for Tennessee, I need to oppose him.” That’s Political English, in Real English it translates to “I know I am ideologically out of step with a majority of you here is Tennessee. That’s why I have a long history of contributing to arch liberal candidates that you voted against. But I assure you if Chuck Schumer doesn’t need my vote and it’s really politically expedient for me to do so I will vote with Trump and his Republicans. Liberal Democrats need have no fear, however, as there are only a few votes in every session of congress that really matter and when those votes come up, you can be certain that I will have no trouble whatsoever during my one term in congress in voting with Chuck no matter what those “deplorables” back in Tennessee want me to do.”

    • Avatar
      Robert says:

      Bredesen will work for the people of Tennessee. He listens and wants to do what’s best for Tennessee Blackburn is a Trump puppet bought and paid for. Healthcare pre-existing condition women’s rights civil rights workers rights animal rights these and more are all reasons to vote for Bredesen because Blackburn will do nothing but vote for whatever trump/McConnell tells her to vote for or whoever is the highest bidder.

      • Avatar
        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        ” . . .and Honduran rights, and male rights to invade woman’s rest-rooms, lockers, and athletic events, then there’s the abolition of ICE so we can have open borders, the bankrupting of Medicare even sooner than presently scheduled by opening the program to all. . . .” Come on Robert, Tuesday is election day so there’s no reason to play small-ball now, PUT A SHOULDER INTO IT!

        • Avatar
          MarLE says:

          The time for Trump to have been Uber-tough on the immigration issues you describe, Stuart, would have been on day one. 20K illegals have enter each month of his administration. Hitting daily on the costs of low-skill, language-challenged Illegal immigrants, most of whom will Never earn enough to pay Federal income taxes would have been instructional. Voters seen unaware if the $10K cost of educating 1 child/per year. They don’t understand that half of tax filers pay $0. They don”t know the total annual give away per person for those eligible for food stamps/housing/Medicaid (incl $25K per yr for nursing home care). Trump could have helped inform about the cost of low-skill, language-challenged ILLEGAL immigrants in the age of Welfare; but instead he constantly talked about the “criminals”. THEY are not biggest problem.

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            You think that you are disgusted with Trump over his big bluster little effective action regarding immigration have you listened to Ann Coulter lately? She was one of Trump’s earliest most zealous supporters the minute he said he was going to build a wall and I understand they recently got into a very heated argument because he has made her look like a fool with his big talk/little action on immigration and getting us out of the pointless endless war in Afghanistan. As an old Cruz guy I don’t fundamentally trust Trump, he’s simply not my cup of tea to me he will always be “Professor” Harold Hill of “The Music Man.” I’m pleasantly surprised when he actually behaves in a conservative manner and I love the way he makes the liberal’s heads explode but that’s about it.

            OLD BUSINESS: As promised I got in touch with my contact at The House Freedom Caucus (“HFC”) yesterday about the mechanics of membership in that organization and I learned that you have to be invited to join after a favorable vote of the membership of that organization. That explains why Marsha was not a member. She simply was never conservative enough and despite her giving the impression rhetorically that she was a conservative zealot, and until very recently she simply was too anxious to please the Republican leadership as compared to the other members of the HFC. This is in contrast to, for example, Scott DesJarlais who is a member of the HFC even though he began his political career as a most tepid conservative but he became much more conservative as time passed and he was always on the outside looking in regarding the Republcan leadership.

          • Avatar
            MarLE says:

            Re: Freedom Caucus membership. As I thought you have to be invited and Marsha was not. Said that long ago, over and over.

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            MarLE says:

            Re:Ann Coulter…..she has books to sell, and paid speaking gigs to book and so, since her audience for these are Trump supporters she MUST curb her comments. She depends on appearances on Fox and other outlets to hawk her wares and they will not host those not on the Trump train. She is a sell out to conservative beliefs just as Rush Limbaugh, local radio, etc are because they want, above all, to be accepted by Trumpians in order to sell products. Tune into Rush, Fox, WTN to see that Trump has kept all of his promises and has misrepresented nothing. Perfect, in fact.

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            Donna Locke says:

            I waited for Marsha to say the magic words, and she never did. So, I’ve stopped voting for her. No good choices there.

            Any time I mention the costs of illegal aliens and also of legal immigrants, I hear “But they pay more than that in taxes.” No, they don’t. What they pay in taxes doesn’t even cover the school English language programs to which astronomical amounts of our tax dollars now go.

            I’m not even adding here the other subsidies, “tax credits,” and various other forms of welfare that illegal aliens and legal immigrants get at percentages higher than native-born households. We subsidize most of these folks in every way, and many, particularly refugees, have been steadily plugged in to welfare for as many years as the studies go back, with direct welfare cash payments not even being counted in the glowing reports of “self-sufficiency.”

            Really, folks, we have been had.

            Our laws say immigrant applicants should be screened out if they would be a burden on the American people. As it turns out, we are simply to set our table and allow the world to rush in and grab everything on it.

          • Avatar
            MarLE says:

            Donna…not only do they currently not pay enough to cover costs, their education level and language barrier suggests that most never will reach an income level where they will contribute at the Federal level~ EVER. So it is a waiting game as they remain here which Marsha has said she wants them to do. They will have children with birthright citizenship or DACA citizenship and over time, just as they reach the most expensive years of their life, they will be given citizenship as well via their offspring’s voting block. SS, Medicare, and of course supplemental healthcare in the form of MediCaid to pick up those pesky bills that aren’t covered by Medicare (like the hospital copays, the uncovered drugs, the Medicare premiums and my personal favorite….the 25K per poor person/per year in nursing care). The only thing Congress will do to pay for so many poor is to Means Test Medicare for anyone who actually has been prudent in their financial life. Sold us down the river? Absolutely!

          • Avatar
            Donna Locke says:

            And chain migration has meant that elderly relatives have been hauled in from foreign countries and plugged in to Medicare and Medicaid without ever having paid a dime into the pot. Meanwhile, our middle class, hard-working kids, with no government subsidies whatsoever, struggle to pay medical bills for their kids.

            And the “liberal” elite wonder what Americans see in Trump.

            Trump is smoke-and-mirrors, however, and the economy and the jobs/wages are not nearly as great as claimed. See kids above.

  • Avatar
    Diana Page says:

    Bredesen will be a thoughtful voice in the Senate vs. a sycophant.

    Bredesen recently spoke to an interfaith group in Chattanooga. Unfortunately, there is a group of extremists who are attacking interfaith groups. The Trump political constituency and operatives will stop at nothing, apparently, to move its agenda.

    Below is an excerpt from Faithful America, an interfaith group which is under attack by Trump operatives:

    “President Trump’s religious right supporters have just launched a new antisemitic conspiracy-theory video attacking Faithful America and other Christian social-justice organizations.

    The so-called “American Association of Evangelicals,” which first emerged on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, alleges that we’re part of “Soros’s formula for killing America.”

    Many of the religious-right leaders behind this video are among President Trump’s official advisers and endorsers. Their strategy is clear: Delegitimizing those who dare to challenge the administration as “fake” Christians acting at the behest of a shadowy Jewish billionaire.

    The specifics of their charges are absurd – among other things, they claim that our activism has contributed to “a growth industry trafficking in human baby organs.”

    The truth is that right now, and for the last several years, Faithful America is funded 100% by the generous support of its grassroots members. Our campaigns challenging the Trump administration and the religious right are possible because we answer only to you.

    We won’t link to the video here, because we don’t want to generate any more views for what they are already billing as “the world’s most widely seen video on the Soros agenda.”

    We must stand tall for truth and reason. Bredesen will do this. Blackburn will fall in line with every lie.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Diana, I hope you don’t think that “interfaith . . .social-justice organizations” are some holy entities above criticism. On the contrary, they are leftists who advocate policies that conservatives regard as leading to disastrous consequences so conservatives feel the need to tirelessly point this out lest religious Christians be bamboozled into supporting left-wing policies in the guise of bible based religion. On the other hand George Soros is a far left billionaire who uses his money to support many left wing causes around the world to the extent that if an organization is far left it’s surprising when it turns out that it has not received money from Soros.

      I do wish that conservatives would get off this habit of identifying Soros as “Jewish” or a “Nazi collaborator.” While his family has Jewish roots it simply stopped being Jewish a generation before Soros was born and to associate him with Jews is irrelevant even if it was true, it just makes conservatives needlessly look like anti-Semites.

      Finally I certainly understand why you are an enthusiastic supporter of Phil Bredesen. Sadly I am ready to concede the left-wing Christian demographic to Phil just so long as all the right-wing Christians be sure and get out and vote.

  • Avatar
    Silence Dogood says:

    That series of comments by all my friends above was worth the reading. The article on Bredesen was milquetoast, IMHO, but the content and gravitas of those comments was impressive. Thank you, folks. This group could be on Fox News as a show. Ugh… that was a complement.

    • Avatar
      MarLE says:

      Thanks also to this blog site which, regardless of the host’s opinion, has allowed open discussion. Same cannot be said for the radio or online, so-called “news outlets”. They are purposeful echo chambers whose highest calling is “selling soap”, thus making money. Honest airing of ideas are not the point. Ratings and ratings alone are the point and open discussion turns off The Zealots. So, again, as Silence Dogood said…thanks to the contributors and thanks to the blog for being a welcome haven for differing points of view.

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