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Robert Torricelli Takes His Name Off Re-Election Ballot

Aired September 30, 2002 - 17:13   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's listen in to Senator Torricelli who's going to wait for the applause to die down.
SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D-NJ): Thank you, governor. Thank you, Jim very much, to Jon Corzine, to our state chair, Bonnie Watson Coleman, to Susan Holloway, to my family and friends and all of you, in June of 1972 like many college students of my time, I decided to travel through Europe for a few weeks. While I was away, a Democratic primary was held and my mother and my sister wrote in my name for the County Committee of the 1st District of Franklin Lakes. I won 2-0, and life in the Democratic Party began.

Thirty years have passed. I've loved almost every moment. I fought for everything I believed in with all the fiber in my body. I have witnessed friends build families and businesses, sometimes fortunes and I never had any regret. They lived the life that they wanted. I've had the life that I wanted.

Life's held so much for me. As a young man in college, I worked in this office, live in this place for years. One day Governor Burns said to me, "Bob, why are you here first and why do you leave last?" I said, "governor, I'm going to do good things."

A few years later as a young man, I had an opportunity to work in the White House. I traveled the world with Walter Mondale and one day we visited the president's summer home in Alexandria, Egypt. Everyone else had retired and I walked out to the shores of the Mediterranean and Anwar Sadat was sitting in a chair along the banks of the Mediterranean. He said, "son, who are you?" I said, "I'm Bob Torricelli," and he said to me, "what it is you want to do with you life?" I said, "Mr. President, I'm going to be a member of the United States Congress."

A few years later, I entered the Congress of the United States. I was never prouder in my life than to take that oath and to represent my country. So many years and so many fights and I worked so hard but I was never prouder than the day I stood on the floor of the United States Senate where giants of American history have stood and took an oath of office.

There's a tradition in the Senate that before you leave you carve your name in the 200-year-old structure with the desk in the Senate floor. I lifted mine that day and saw Hubert Humphrey's name and Fulbright and Wayne Morse, and a litany of great men and women over two centuries. I tried in my own way to add a little bit to whatever they left on that floor in the annuls of our country. I look at all those days and each of those places from these halls to the floor of the Senate and I think about the trophies of my life with a great and a quiet satisfaction, things that really I only know about but that's really enough.

In public life, if you actually seek more than satisfaction for yourself in the things you achieve, you will always be frustrated. I've never been frustrated because it's enough for me. Somewhere today in one of several hospitals in New Jersey, some woman's life is going to be changed because of the mammography centers that I created for thousands of women.

Somewhere tonight in Bergen County if a woman is beaten, she fears for her child, she'll spend the night in a center that I created for abused children so they can be safe. Somewhere today because I changed the gun laws, a man who would abuse his wife will never own a weapon and somebody will live. Some child in Bergen County will play in a park that I funded and land that I saved.

Somewhere all over New Jersey, some senior citizen who doesn't even know my name and nothing about what we're doing today will live at a senior center that I helped to build. That's my life. Don't feel badly for me. I changed people's lives. I'm proud of every day of it and I wouldn't change a bit of it.

But now, all those fights were dwarfed by something that I believe in even more fundamentally. Some of you believe that partisan politics has no dignity and is of no particular value. I've been a partisan all my life. I believe in the Democratic Party, and the day that I was elected to the United States Senate, Senator Bob Kerry of Nebraska came and met me at an airport hotel in Newark, and Senator Daschle was on the phone.

He said to me, "Bob, we know this is unusual. You haven't even joined the institution. We'd like you to be part of the effort to regain Democratic control of the United States Senate." I gave four years to establishing a Democratic majority in the United States Senate because partisan politics can not be separated from the things that I value the most in life, like saving the land, the health of our people and air and water, our civil liberties, the defense of the Constitution.

It's not the Democrats or Republicans are separated into good and bad people, but we do see things differently and the things that I value are defended by a Democratic majority. I know there wasn't a member of the Democratic caucus two years ago who believed we could regain a majority. They were wrong. I remind them of that all the time. We did and that has made all the difference for the things that I treasure.

But in a strange irony of life, control of the Democratic majority of the United States Senate is now at issue and I am a part of that issue. It will not only be decided in New Jersey but it most certainly will in part be decided in New Jersey. I could not stand the pain if any failing on my part were to damage the things and the people that I have fought for all of my life.

There are times in life when you rise above self, when we all recognize that there are none of us who are so important in our own eyes, have significance in ourselves that we have a right to stand in the way of the things that we value.

Last night, I met with a group of people who are leaders of the Democratic Party but also my friends to talk about the reelection campaign and changes of strategy in advertising, and when the meeting was over, I asked two people who are very dear to me, Jim McGreevy, who has been my friend these very many years, who some of you have made light of our friendship because of a 12-day disagreement in the midst of 12 years of dear and committed friendship.

I value that friendship as I value Jim McGreevy. We talk almost every day about just about everything. He's the governor of the state and I've had the honor to be its senior Senator, though we talk like kids in college about just about everything and I love him dearly.

And Jon Corzine, who could easily today be among the dearest friends I have in the world and one of the people I admire the most. The three of us sat in the governor's study last night and I told them that I was concerned I could no longer assure that the Unites States Senate seat from New Jersey would remain not only Democratic but representing the things that we value.

Jon Corzine dismissed me out of hand. Jim McGreevy listened patiently but concluded otherwise. We talked for hours. This morning I called Governor McGreevy and told him I was convinced that this seat could be in jeopardy. I had said the same to Senator Daschle when he was in New Jersey only days ago. I called him this morning and he told me he disagreed. We spoke several times more. I told him I was convinced.

President Clinton called several times today from Great Britain. We recalled all the fights that we were in together, all the times I went to the White House and told him in the darkest days that what I admired about him is that you never give up. You never compromise. You never stop. You never give up.

The phone connection wasn't the best, but I could hear his voice crack. I admire that man so much. I hope I haven't disappointed any of the three of you more than anyone else whose friendship that I treasure but I will not be responsible for the loss of the Democratic majority in the United States Senate. I will not allow it to happen.

There is just too much at issue. For more than 20 years, from Bill Bradley and Frank Lautenberg, to Jon Corzine to me, we are very different people but we have represented largely the same things, that a woman's right to choose was fundamental in the Constitution of the United States and we would not vote for a Supreme Court Justice that would rule otherwise, that environmental protection was the fundamental issue that should unite all people in New Jersey because of the health of our people, that gun control was essential to secure the safety of our citizens in their homes. Doug Forrester believes in none of that. Simply because I'm making the decision today, do not think that I'd fight any less hard or I can be any less combative. Doug Forrester does not belong in the United States Senate.

America is a different place than it was when I entered public life 20 years ago or even when I joined the county committee in Franklin Lakes in June of 1972, some ways better, and some ways not, but America will soon be at war again. Our economy is terribly troubled. The nation again is returning to serious debt. Environmental progress is too slow. The last of the open lands that I value and love so dearly are being lost and I can't be heard.

I pride myself on a strong voice. My colleagues in the Senate would tell you that it is often heard above all others but it doesn't matter if you can't be heard at all in a campaign. This is a political campaign devoid of all issues. I can not talk about war and peace or economic opportunity or the environment, the sanctity of our Constitution, for the things that have guided my life. I can't be heard.

My voice is not so important that it can not be substituted. If I can not be heard then someone else must be heard. I have asked attorneys to file with the Supreme Court of the United States motions to have my name removed from the General Election ballot for the United States Senate. It is the most painful thing that I've ever done in my life.

And for it, I apologize to everyone who has fought so hard, believed in me and all the causes that I value. I apologize to Bill Clinton that I did not have his strength, to Jim McGreevey, his determination, maybe Jon Corzine for his judgment. I am a human being and while I have not done the things that I have been accused of doing, I most certainly have made mistakes.

There will be those who concluded that those mistakes bring justice this moment because there is a price to be paid. When did we become such an unforgiving people? How did we become a society when a person can build credibility your entire life, to have it questioned by someone whose word is of no value at all. When did we stop believing in and trusting in each other? I remember in America where a person made an error, and they asked forgiveness it was given. That was our faith and our culture. I remember in our culture that a person would spend a lifetime building credibility so it would stand against those who had none if they were ever challenged. I'm not in a debate with my opponent. He's never addressed an issue. He's hardly criticized a vote I ever cast or few positions I've ever held. I'm in a debate with a faceless foe that I cannot find, minds I cannot change.

It's time for me to reclaim my life. I've done my duty for my country. In a foolish moment in my life, when I was no more than five or six, my mother entered my room one day, and I was writing out my will. She said, "Robert, why are you doing this? And whoever are you leaving your things to?" I left the only things I ever owned. I wrote on it -- I wrote on it, "To The United States Marine Corps" because that is where my father had served, and "To My Country."

To the people of New Jersey, you gave me the only life I ever wanted. This is all I ever wanted to do. I gave you 20 years of my life. I am grateful beyond words to have been able to served my country that I love so deeply. I thank you so much for those years. But there's a point at which every man reaches their limit. I have reached mine.

A couple weeks ago Jim McGreevey and I were in one of our -- when was it? On September 11, Jim and I were in one of our endless talks about life and politics. And I said to him, "Jim, I want to live life again. I want to notice the passing of the seasons. I want to remember the days. I even want to notice the aging of my friends and family. My life is a torrent.

I come here today, to reclaim my life, but also to ensure that the Democratic Party can retain the seat in the United States Senate. For the next 90 days, I will do my best, to serve this state and our country with distinction. Our nation is approaching a great combat abroad. It is a fundamental decision, the kind of judgments in which in foreign policy I have led the Congress of the United States all of my adult life. I will give these days to making sure that judgment is made properly, while I aid my party and ensuring that the Democratic Party has a voice in at least one institution of the United States government in the year 2003.

I draw my career to the United States Congress to a close, with a grateful heart, a high spirit, and a great love and ambition of my country. Thank you all.


BLITZER: And there he is, the senator from New Jersey, hugging Jon Corzine, the junior senator from New Jersey. Governor Jim McGreevey, standing in for front of the right of that screen.


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