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Public Statements

Remarks by Senator John Kerry at the Campaign for America's Future

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

I'm here today with a simple message for George W. Bush: pretty pictures of you landing on an aircraft carrier doesn't make up for a failed economic policy and for union-busting, it doesn't make up for degrading our environment, doesn't make up for standing in the way of civil rights, and it won't convince America to let you privatize our Social Security.

I'm running for President to turn America around.

Americans deserve a government that has as much faith in the ideals of America as they do.  They deserve leaders for whom citizenship and responsibility and service are principles, not punch lines.

Yet for this Administration, those words too often become little more than commonplace backdrops for political events - background music for their march to replace shared sacrifice with selfishness.

With George Bush in the White House, we have seen a "get mine and get out" ethic that glories a creed of greed. Polluters are given a free pass.  Powerful corporations enjoy sweetheart deals at the expense of everyday Americans.  Lobbyists come in from the cold to write laws favoring the companies that pay their lavish bills.  Insiders ride a revolving door between the White House and major industries.  Failed CEOs get golden parachutes while their employees get pink slips. 

And, for the first time in this nation's history, the most privileged among us get enormous tax breaks during a time of war.
I'm running for President to bring leadership to the White House that puts country before campaign contributions.
And when I'm President, we'll have an Administration that puts our values into action, not just into words; that shows compassion in our achievements not just in our rhetoric.

At every turn, this Administration sides with the insiders, the influential and those who parade their power behind closed doors.  I'm running for President because I have a very different vision for America.

There have always been two views in this country.  On one side there's the idea that if you give those at the top enough, they'll be kind and compassionate enough to share their riches with everyone else.

That's Calvin Coolidge economics - and under George Bush, it's brought us a Herbert Hoover economy.
Then there's the Democratic view. We believe America is built by everyday men and women who do their part and do what's right.  They raise their kids, help their neighbors, and love their country.  They don't ask for special favors; all they want is a fair break and a chance to get ahead.

But they're not getting that under George W. Bush.  They're getting the short end of the stick.  They're getting left behind.  They're getting ignored.

It is time we had a President who is on the side of the many, not the few - a President with a real economic strategy to get this nation moving again. That means investing in people; it means restoring fiscal discipline, and it means that when an Enron bilks the retirement savings of ordinary investors and shatters consumer confidence, those greedy few at the top are going to go to jail.

Never before in our country has there been an economic reversal this dramatic and this fast.  In this Bush bust, we have gone in record time from record surpluses to record deficits; from high growth to no growth and low growth; from creating jobs to destroying jobs

Since George Bush took office, we have lost nearly 3 million jobs. No President since World War II has lost jobs during their tenure, but George Bush is ready to make history. I think everyone in this room knows that the one person in this country who needs to be laid off is George Bush.

You see, for this Administration, "jobs" is a four letter word.  But we know how to spell relief; it's called taking back the White House in 2004.

I'm running for President to put jobs back at the top of our national agenda.

I'm running for President because the right to organize is a basic right for American workers and it should never be weakened, never be curtailed, never be taken away.
 
I'm running for President to make our public schools a focus for excellence not a photo-op for tomorrow's front pages -- and I am going to criss-cross this country and hold George Bush accountable for making a mockery of the words 'Leave No Child Behind.'

I'm running for President because instead of spending $50,000 a year for a young person's jail cell, we should be investing $10,000 a year for a young person's future with early childhood education, child care, Head Start, Smart Start, Healthy Start, a real start on the road to full citizenship.

I'm running for President because it is long since overdue that the United States of America stops being the only industrialized nation on this planet that doesn't have health care available for all of its citizens. I'm running to make health care in America a right and not a privilege - to bring costs under control and to cover the uninsured.

I am running for President because we have to stand up to Republican attempts to strip the very security out of our Social Security. 

I'm running for President to make America energy independent - to secure our nation, protect our environment, and create jobs.

I am running for President because polluters shouldn't be calling the shots in this White House.  We need make sure our families have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. And arsenic in drinking water is not an environmental policy; it is an environmental obscenity.

And I am running for President because after September 11th, we need a President who has the experience and the vision to make this country safer, stronger and more secure.

Throughout this last century, Democrats have been the party that provided Americans with security at home.  We're the party of economic security - of the minimum wage, of workplace safety, of the right to organize.  And we're the party of retirement security - of Medicare and Social Security. 

But we have also been the party of national security - of the tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by Wilson and Roosevelt in two world wars and championed by Truman and Kennedy in the Cold War.

They spoke out for an America strong because of its ideals as well as its arms. They recognized that America's safety depends on energetic leadership to rally the forces of freedom.  And they understood that to make the world safe for democracy and individual liberty, we needed to build international institutions dedicated to establishing the rule of law over the law of the jungle.

For us today, the past truly is prologue. The same principles and strength of purpose must guide our way. Our task now is to update that tradition, to forge a bold progressive internationalism for the global age.

As I said last summer in New York, for Democrats to win America's confidence we must first convince Americans we will keep them safe. You can't do that by avoiding the subjects of national security, foreign policy and military preparedness. Nor can we let our national security agenda be defined by those who reflexively oppose any U.S. military intervention anywhere...who see U.S. power as mostly a malignant force in world politics...who place a higher value on achieving multilateral consensus than necessarily protecting our vital interests.

Americans deserve better than a false choice given by this Administration between force without diplomacy and diplomacy without force. I believe they deserve a principled diplomacy...backed by undoubted military might...based on enlightened self-interest, not the zero-sum logic of power politics...a diplomacy that commits America to lead the world toward liberty and prosperity.

A bold, progressive internationalism that focuses not just on the immediate and the imminent but insidious dangers that can mount over the next years and decades, dangers that span the spectrum from the denial of democracy, to destructive weapons, endemic poverty and epidemic disease. These are, in the truest sense, not just issues of international order and security, but vital issues of our own national security.

If Democrats do not stand for making America safer, stronger, and more secure, we won't win back the White House - and we won't deserve to.

Because this Administration is timid when it should be bold, bumbling when it should be smart - and to borrow a phrase, when it comes to homeland defense, this Administration has left those on the front-lines high and dry. 

A bold President would have sent American forces, not Afghan warlords, into Tora Bora to attack and capture Osama bin Laden and the leaders of Al Quaeda.

A truly strong President would recognize that the war against terrorism will span time and continents - that you can't be flown to an aircraft carrier and proclaim victory as if that will make it so. Today even in Iraq the challenge goes on - and it reaches across the Middle East - to Europe, to Asia, and to our own shores. Today we have 200,000 troops in and near Iraq.  We face other threats in many other places.  We need allies to share intelligence, to share the burdens, to win this war which is why I and others thought it was so important for the President to build a broader coalition because it takes the targets off the backs of US soldiers.  And we need a President who sees the issues of war and peace not just from the perspective of the Situation Room, but from the perspective of the frontlines. 

Terrorism is the new Fascism, the new Communism, the new totalitarianism - a grave and global threat to our values and our way of life.  We can defeat it; we must defeat it; and we will defeat it - not just with hard words, but with the intelligence, the experience and the strength to make the right long term decisions.

Nowhere is that more urgent than in homeland security. Firefighters, police officers, first defenders are also soldiers on the frontlines of this conflict - and they deserve to be equipped and supported and treated like the brave Americans they are. 
George Bush can talk all he wants about the heroes of September 11th, but he never quite gets around to mentioning that the firefighters, police officers and other workers who went up those stairs were not only heroes, they were card-carrying members of organized labor.

And one other thing: If this nation stands for democracy in Iraq, as we say we do, then we ought to honor and safeguard democracy at home.  And that means we have to elect a new President and remove John Ashcroft as Attorney General - and stop turning the Department of Justice into the Department of Injustice. It's the terrorists who win if we undermine, deny, and destroy the basic rights of Americans.

So America needs stronger leadership abroad and at home. From jobs to health care to education, America needs strong leadership that's on your side, not in the pockets of powerful interests.  America needs strong leadership that appeals to what is best in us, to our hopes and not our fears.  America needs a new Democratic President - and I ask your help in that cause, not just for the sake of party, but for our country.

So I ask for your help - and in return, I give you this pledge: As President, I will lead - and we will make a strong America even stronger.

We will make a weak economy strong again.

We will make education a priority and health care available and affordable for every family in this nation.
We will advance the cause of an America that is fully free and truly equal for all Americans - including women and minorities and gays and lesbians - and we will never let the far right take away the fundamental, inalienable rights all of us deserve.

We will take the "For Sale" sign off the government of America and crackdown on the insiders, not coddle them.
And we will ask all our people to serve, to contribute, to give something back - because now more than ever, the real question we face is not what America can offer to us, but what each of us owe to America.

All these things are worth fighting for.  They go to the heart of our ideals as Democrats and our idea of America; they define in the truest sense our commitment to progress and to patriotism. For if we love America, we cannot let America be less than it can. 

My friends, we can do these things - but it isn't going to happen without people getting out of their seats, getting out in the streets and carrying our message, confident that we as Democrats have a vision of the future worth fighting for.
We're going to remind this president that the American flag and patriotism doesn't belong to any political party - it belongs to all of us as Americans.

We're going to remember that GOTV doesn't stand for "go on TV," it means talking to Americans one-on-one and reminding them what's at stake.

And we're going to embrace our best traditions. 

America doesn't need a Democratic Party that says "yes but less" or "yes but slower" to Republican policies that take us backward. It doesn't need a Democratic Party that is satisfied with defending our past achievements from Republican attack without also pursuing high ambitions for the future. I say to you: America doesn't need two Republican parties.
America needs a Democratic party to stand up for America.  And you need to lead the way.

Stand up for jobs.  Stand up for our rights.  Stand up for the environment.  Stand up for a secure America.  Stand up for Social Security.  Stand up for health care for all.  Stand up for social justice and fundamental fairness. 

Stand up for all these things, but in 2004 we're not going to just stand there - we're going out to build a better America.
 
It is time for America to hear us.  And it is time for us to lead America again.

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