Wadhams In Montana: Name-Dropping, And Not

Last Friday, June 22, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams was the special guest speaker to about 350 GOP faithful who were gathered at the 2007 Montana GOP officer’s convention in Helena.

Wadhams didn’t paint the gloomy picture of the likely outcome of 2008 that he’s been talking up in Colorado. Instead he boasted about how “very excited” he is that the Democrats are coming to Denver for their national convention. He also compared 2006 to 1974, claiming that Democrats didn’t win last year (instead the Republicans lost it).

Wadhams spent much of the speech dropping names – with two notable exceptions. Nowhere, it appears, did the words “George W. Bush” nor “George Allen” cross his lips. Keep reading for the full transcript of the 16-minute long speech, transcribed by John S. Adams in Missoula.This is Dick Wadhams’ speech, delivered at the Red Lion Colonial Hotel in Helena last Friday, June 22.

It is really great to be back in Montana. Two of the greatest years of my professional and, frankly, personal life was working for that man right there, Sen. Conrad Burns. It’s so good to see [Burns’ wife] Phyllis and Conrad tonight.

(applause)

And I’m looking forward to hearing Denny Rehberg tomorrow morning; and I just wanted to say he is the second most qualified man to be a member of congress in the state of Montana. The second most qualified person because the most qualified is Jan Rehberg.

(applause)

My colleague on the Republican National Committee Betty Hill and her former congressman Rick Hill. I really didn’t have anything to drink before I came to this podium… And Governor Tim Babcock. The greatest gentleman in Montana politics in my opinion.

(applause)

I was sitting between two very high-powered folks, your secretary of state and Steve Daines, and I’ll tell you what, I got an earful tonight… Montana’s back on track. We’re going to get this thing back on track. And my friend Mark Baker, who I worked for and with in the Burns office who has done so much for the Montana Republican Party and my friend Gerg Barcus (R-Kalispell) … So many people tonight. Caryn Taylor, thank you for your service to the Montana Republican Party.

(Applause)

And a special word about Karl Ohs, the outgoing chairman who represented Montana in the legislature and as lieutenant governor and as your state party chairman. I think we out to give some recognition to Karl Ohs tonight.

(applause)

Now Erik Iverson, I just want you to know I got elected back in March … and you mention in the introduction, Mr. Majority Leader, that I was elected at the young age of 19 to be a county chairman in Colorado. There’s more to the story. What happened … how many people remember the 1974 Watergate Year? What a great year that was for Republicans.

(laughter)

Well, in my home county… I grew up in Southeastern Colorado, where my family has farmed and ranched for about 120 years. And in my small county in southeastern Colorado, in the aftermath of the 1974 campaign, did not want to be county chairman again. I think he called all 750 registered voters and asked them to be county chairman, and they all said “no” but one stupid 19-year old kid who didn’t know any better. So we all gathered in Bent County-where I grew up-Courthouse on a cold February evening in 1975 to select a new chairman. Five of us showed up. And the outgoing chairman said, “I don’t want the job, Wadhams will take it [inaudible].” So I raised my hand, and the outgoing chairman raised his hand, one other person raised his hand and two other people did not vote.
Now, I want you to know. If I had gotten one less vote none of the above would have won.

(laughter)

Senator, when I interviewed with you to be your press secretary, I didn’t tell you that story because I was afraid you’d throw me out right there.

I just want to say something about Senator Burns a little bit more. I gotta tell you: You talk about somebody who played such a historic role for the Montana Republican Party.  I wasn’t here in 1988. I didn’t know Senator Burns, or Conrad Burns, or Commissioner Burns as he was at the time.  But a lot of us, watching that Montana race and watching with great excitement as the biggest upset of 1988 happened right here in Montana when Conrad Burns upset John Melcher. And it was a great win for [inaudible]…

[loud applause]

And six years later when I found myself working as his press secretary it was lost in translation. You might remember the Democrats thought he was the most vulnerable incumbent in the nation, and they put up a guy by the name of Jack Mudd, a very respected college professor, and I’ll tell you what, we ran just an absolutely wonderful campaign. Had more fun than I’ve ever had doing anything in my professional life and he won a stunning 62 percent victory in 1994. It was a great win.

(applause)

And then in 2000, wasn’t it fun to beat Brian Schweitzer… [very loud applause and whistling and cheering…]

And guess what: you’re going to do it again in 2008!

[loud cheering]

I reminded Sen. Burns that Winston Churchill, after he did so much to rally the British people in WWII, and he held them together with his great powerful words, and then he was summarily defeated for reelection after World War II. But nobody remembers that. What they remember is what Winston Churchill did for England and for the Allies in winning World War II. I think that’s very comparable, because what Senator Burns will be remembered for is bringing technology to rural Montana and rural America, period. For what he did for people who make their living working off the land [of] which he speaks so eloquently about. People who farm and ranch and mine and timber… And I would tell you that what he will be remembered for for generations, long after we’re all gone. So thank you Sen. Burns.

[applause]

Now I gotta tell you. I am very excited about 2008, and I’ll tell you why: because the Democrat National Convention is coming to Denver Colorado. Now you might think, why would you want that?

And I’ll tell you exactly why: because we’ve been reading a lot lately from Brian Schweitzer and Max Baucus and Dave Freudenthal in Wyoming and Richardson in New Mexico and now Bill Ritter and Ken Salazar in Colorado talking about how they are not liberal Democrats. They are a new breed of Democrats. They are moderate and conservative Democrats. They’ll hold us responsible for those evil people back in Washington D.C. and Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy. Because we’re different out here in the West. We’re Western Democrats.

So what is the Democratic Party going to do? They’re going to bring the national convention front and center in the middle of the Rocky Mountain West in Downtown Denver Colorado the last week of August 2008. And what are they going to do that week in Denver Colorado? They’re going to adopt a very liberal national platform that is out of sync with Western States. And most importantly they are going to nominate one of three people: Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama or John Edwards. You tell me which one of those three is [inaudible] with the people of Montana or Colorado or Wyoming or Utah or New Mexico? None of them are. And I can’t wait.

We’re already having a lot of fun with it in Colorado… and I’ll tell you how much fun we’re having with it. The last time Howard Dean was in Colorado for a news conference, he took a shot at me, and I said, “we’re doing the right thing. We’re going after these guys.”

But I’ll tell you one thing. Any one of our candidates, whether it’s Mitt Romney, who you heard this morning, or Rudy Giuliani, or Fred Thompson or John McCain or whoever, are far superior to anyone they have. And we will [beat] them in the West in 2008.

[Applause]

I get a shiver down my spine every time I drive by the Pepsi Center knowing that in 2008 Hillary Clinton is going to be nominated over there and we’re going to be front and center to help them do that.

And I’ll tell you something else: I can’t wait to see if Brian Schweitzer even shows up in Denver for that Convention and stands with her on that podium. Remember what he did four years ago? He didn’t go to Boston. He didn’t want anything to do with that Democratic National Convention in Boston. He didn’t want to be standing with John Kerry. So let’s just see if these Western Democrats who proclaim themselves to be so different if they will actually show up in Denver and stand on that podium with Hillary Clinton in downtown Denver the last week of August in 2008. Because I betcha they don’t.

I’ll betcha they won’t want to if they do….is what I think.

So I’m very excited about 2008 because the West has been and always will be competitive. You know this notion that somehow the Democrats starting winning elections in the last two or three cycles in the Westin places like Colorado or Montana, is a bunch of bunk. My word, Conrad is only the second Republican in history to be elected in the state of Montana. This has always been a competitive state. Colorado has always been a competitive state. Bill Owens was the first Republican governor in 28 years in Colorado back in 1998.

So we’ve always known the West is competitive. That is not news. But the Democrat would like to make you think that somehow, gee, we’re finally winning elections against the Republican juggernaut that has been there for decades. And that’s not the case.

But one thing we know for sure. We know that the national Democratic Party in 2006 has moved far to the left and it’s going to continue to do so in 2008. We’re seeing it with what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are doing right now in the Congress of the United States. And that record is going to be in stark contrast to what we  are going to put up in 2008.

And I want to commend Congressman Rehberg. I was reading some clips, and he has made no excuses for our loss of Congress of the United states and he has… I gotta tell you: The Democrats didn’t win Congress in 2006, we lost Congress.

Listen to the following snippet [MP3]

I gotta tell you, we are getting back to our core principals of fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, just like we did in the aftermath of 1974 when I became a county chairman in that small county in Colorado.

Because I gotta tell you: there’s a lot of comparability between 1974 and 2006. We took a drubbing in those elections. Across the nation. And we lost huge numbers of legislative seats and members of congress and governors …

But you know what? At the end of the long run, what that drubbing in 1974 gave us? It gave us a stronger party. Because just a few years later we elected Ronald Reagan President of the United States, who would continue to…

[inaudible as applause drowns him out]

Now that’s what I sense in America right now. I sense that people are already having buyer’s remorse with this crowd running Washington, D.C. And if we continue to focus on our principles and we get this party back on track and do the things we know we can do politically and restore our core principles, we will win next year.

We will win here in Montana, we will win in Colorado with the only Senate seat in the nation and we will win the presidency of the United States with a principled campaign. That’s what we’re here for.

[Applause]

I gotta tell you, I was on a T.V. show down in Denver recently with my counterpart (Pat Waak), and she… we were talking about all kinds of issues, and finally it came to Iraq, and of course she went after the president and Iraq and how bad it was and he didn’t do this and he didn’t do that, and I said, `well, Pat, let me just ask you something. I know what the Republicans position is in Iraq as defined by our president and as defined by most Republicans, but could you please tell me what the Democratic policy is in Iraq?’

`We have several policies.”

I said, `precisely. Because of that you have no policy. And that is precisely the problem with this new Democratic majority. They have no idea what to do. They’re like the proverbial dog that caught the car. They don’t know what to do with it now that they got it.

[laughter]

And that’s why we’re going to win this thing back. It might not be in one election cycle. But we are going to win the Congress back. We are going to win the governorship of Montana back. We’re going to win that Senate seat in Colorado and alter the Rocky Mountain West and it will start in August of 08 and I just can’t wait for it to come to town.

I just wanted to close the night… You mentioned the John Thune race in South Dakota. And it was a wonderful experience to work with John Thune who is now a great Senator from South Dakota. But what made that Senate Victory in South Dakota impressive was not that fact that it was the first time in 52 years that a Senate Minority Leader had been defeated for reelection.

It wasn’t the fact that [inaudible (I think he was talking about how Daschle won 70 percent of the vote] before John Thune took him on in 2004, what made it impressive is [inaudible (the tape is shitting out) and this is why it is relevant to Montana and Colorado Republicans: Two years earlier John Thune was a rising up and coming congressman from South Dakota, and wanted to run for Governor of South Dakota.

But the President of the United States called him and said, in the aftermath of 9/11, `I need you in the Senate. I need more like minded folks in Washington in the post 9/11 world.’

And so John Thune set his gubernatorial ambitions aside, and so he decided to run for senate against the other Senator from South Dakota, Tim Johnson. He lost that election by 522 votes. And there were a lot of charges of irregularities in the election and a lot of people wanted him to challenge the election and go to court and demand recounts, but he said, “no, the people of South Dakota have spoken, I’m not going to put my state through that.”

Now he could have gone back to Sioux Falls, and said, `Politics ain’t fair, life ain’t fair, I’m done with this…” He could have done that. He even could have gone back to his old house seat, because the guy who won it had to resign because of a horrible traffic accident.

And many of you probably remember, knew about that that he was charged criminally for that… and he had to resign… so John Thune could have very easily slid right back into his old House seat.

But you know what he did? As I met with him in December of 2003, as he was deciding what he was going to do with his future in politics, I said, `John, what do you want to do?” and he said, “Dick, I don’t know if we can beat Tom Daschle, but being in public office isn’t what this is all about. But the fact is Tom Daschle has obstructed every piece of Republican legislation that has come through the Congress. He has obstructed every conservative judicial nomination that the president has put. And to let him go unchallenged in 2004 is wrong. And challenging him, whether we can win or not, is the right thing to do.”

Well the rest is history. He did make… he had the greatest history in senate election history in 50 years by upsetting and defeating Tom Daschle and changing the culture of the Senate for the next two years. That [is what] Montana Republicans and Colorado Republicans for that matter need to do. We have to get up off the mat, we have to get back in this game and we have to start winning elections again.

Thank you for having me here tonight.

[Applause, standing ovation]

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Cara Degette

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