March 23rd, 2005
Remarks by Ralph Reed, Southeast Regional Chairman, Bush-Cheney ‘04
Florida Federation of Republican Women
St. Petersburg, FL DATE
[Remarks as prepared for delivery]
Thank you all very much. First of all, let me just say how great it is to be back in Florida, and to be with the Republican women of this great state. You are the volunteer base of our Party, and you represent one of the most important groups of voters and civic activists in the Sunshine State.
I come before you today to offer congratulations and a challenge. I congratulate all of you because it is due to your hard work, and the hard work of the thousands of women that you represent, who helped us carry Florida and put in the White House a man that I believe is becoming the greatest President of our lifetimes, George W. Bush.
And I might add, even though Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe promised otherwise, you helped re-elect in 2002 a man who I believe is one of the greatest governors in America, Governor Jeb Bush. Thank you for returning him to office---a man who makes us all proud.
Now the challenge. Just as we could take nothing for granted in 2002 in the reelection of Governor Bush, and our hard work paid off, as we go into 2004 we can take nothing for granted in the reelection of President Bush. This campaign will be close, it will be competitive, it will be hard fought, and every vote will count. Once again, the eyes of America will be on Florida. Once again, what happens here could well determine the outcome for the nation.
We must work harder, work longer, give more, and do more in the next year than we have ever done in our lives. Because never have the stakes been higher, and never in our lifetimes has the political environment been so evenly divided between the two parties.
And make no mistake about it: the radical left, and various shadow organizations funded with soft money who are liberal in nature will spend an unprecedented sum of money---we estimate between $350 to $500 million---to defeat George W. Bush. The billionaire George Soros, who former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano has called “the Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization,” has already pledged $15 million to these efforts and has compared President Bush’s policies to those of Nazi Germany. This is the level of personal hatred and animosity that we are seeing from the left against our great President.
Part of countering that angry effort will be getting out the message about the compassionate and conservative agenda of our President. What I want to talk about today are the tremendous progress we are making in the policies of the President in the areas of the war against terrorism, strengthening the economy, and modernizing and improving health care.
The Democrats and many of the pundits in the dominant media have a two-fold criticism of President Bush’s conduct of the war against terrorism. First, that he is a cowboy who goes it alone and acts unilaterally. Second, that he and administration spokespersons misled the American people about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the military action in Iraq. I’m sure you have never heard any of these criticisms on television or in the newspaper. (Laughter)
Both of these charges are completely false. And I want to set the record straight and encourage you to go out there in the next year and spread the facts.
First, we are winning the war against terrorism. We will have good days and bad days, there will be positive headlines as well as negative, and, yes, there will be casualties in this war. As the President has said, we mourn every life, we pray for every family who loses a loved one, and our heart goes out to all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation. But the war is being won.
We have captured or killed roughly 42 of the 53 most wanted terrorist and leaders of the Baathist remnants remaining from the brutal and tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein that are contained in the so-called deck of cards. That includes the two sons of Saddam and many other crucial leaders. We have captured and killed two-thirds of the known leaders of Al Queda on every continent, from Indonesia to the Phillipines, from Afghanistan to Iraq.
There are now 43 colleges and technical institutes open and operating with students, including young women who were forbidden to attend many such institutions under Hussein. Hospitals are open, hundreds of health clinics, oil production is already at 2 million barrels a day and is ahead of schedule, and a new currency has been introduced after only six months. It took three years to do so in postwar Germany after World War II; in Iraq, it was accomplished after only 6 months. This is a critical predicate to the emergence of a market-based economy in the country after three-and-a-half decades of dictatorship and oppression.
Already there are 70,000 Iraqis assisting with reconstruction and security. And a recent Gallup organization survey in Iraq found that approximately 70 percent of the Iraqi people want the United States to remain there until the terrorists are defeated and we restore civil order.
As for the unfair criticisms of the President, let us remember that the military action in Iraq took place after the unanimous passage of U.N. Resolution 1441, which found Saddam Hussein’s regime in material breach of previous resolutions governing his weapons programs, and made it clear that continued violation would result in serious consequences, which all the U.N. delegates interpreted to mean military action. We have now had another U.N. resolution pass---again unanimously---urging member nations to contribute financially and materially to the reconstruction of Iraq and calling for a gradual transfer of responsibility to the Iraqi people.
This is the alleged unilateral policy of the Bush administration: two unanimous U.S. resolutions that were passed with broad support, including the support of nations like China and Syria, the latter of which is on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. So much for going it alone.
But there is more. Beyond United Nations support and involvement, there are 32 nations assisting on the ground in Iraq, including entire divisions commanded by Poland and Great Britain. Japan has pledged up to $5 billion towards reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Turkey, arguably the leading Muslim democracy in the world, has pledged troops to the effort. And the Asian Pacific Economic Conference for the first time expanded its mission beyond trade and economic partnership to supporting the war against terrorism.
The donor conference in Madrid of 70 nations yielded between $10 billion and $15 billion in pledges of support. And yet even as the United Nations and foreign countries in Madrid were stepping up to support this vital effort with their financial donations, all the Democrat presidential candidates except Gephardt and Lieberman said “no” to the $87 billion funding request from the President to support our troops. Imagine that. France, Germany, China and Syria call for financial support. But these Democrat presidential candidates gave a thumbs down to providing our troops with the financial resources they need to finish the job and complete their mission in Iraq.
The President’s policy in Iraq is three-fold. First, expand the coalition, which he has done by reaching out to Japan, Turkey, Poland, Great Britain, Spain, the U.N., and APEC, among others. Second, destroy, dismantle, and defeat the terrorists. Third, give Iraqis the ability to control their own destiny by giving them responsibility and authority as we move forward.
What is the strategy of the Democratic presidential candidates? Timidity, retreat, half-measures, and apparently subordinating U.S. national security to the single veto of a single nation on the U.N. security council. That is not a responsible position and it is not a realistic policy.
As for the weapons of mass destruction, the preliminary report of David Kay demonstrates beyond any doubt that Saddam Hussein was in material breach of the United Nations resolutions. We now know that he had a clandestine network of laboratories throughout the country capable of conducting chemical and biological research. We know that samples of such biological agents were found hidden in the homes of scientists who worked on the program. And we know that two scientists were executed before they could cooperate with the weapons inspectors under Mr. Kay.
Moreover, extensive documentation now reveals that in 1999 and again in early 2002, Saddam Hussein sought advanced missile technology from the North Koreans in clear violation of U.N. resolutions that limited him to missiles that traveled no more than 150 kilometers. Indeed, Hussein paid $10 million to the North Koreans in seeking missile technology that could have delivered war heads a distance of up to 1300 kilometers, seriously destabilizing the entire Middle East and posing a danger to nations throughout the region.
You recall that when President Bush referred to Iraq and North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address in 2002, some pundits dismissed those remarks and suggested there was no evidence of cooperation between these terrorist nations. We now know that even as the President spoke, that Iraq was seeking to work closely with the North Koreans.
The President was exactly correct before the war and he is correct today in asserting the truth that Saddam Hussein was seeking to develop chemical, biological, and other prohibited weapons, and that he posed a threat to the security of the region, to the world, and to the vital interests of the United States.
Now let me say a word about the economy. You know what the President inherited. The stock market bubble, driven by the Internet and dot.com stocks, burst in April, 2000. The recession began in March, 2001, less than 60 days after President Bush took the oath of office. And on September 11, 2001, the terrorists struck our nation, delivering a body blow to our economy that has been estimated at between $300 and $500 billion in lost wealth and productivity. The tourist, airline, and financial services industries were particularly hard hit.
The President answered with tax cuts to strengthen the economy and encourage job creation. Income tax rates were cut 50 percent for millions of middle class workers, a new tax bracket of 10 percent was created for low-income Americans, and the average family of four making $40,000 a year received a tax cut of $1,500 to $2,000. The child tax credit was increased from $500 to $1,000 per child, and the tax on dividends was lowered to 15 percent. These were the deepest and most ambitious tax reductions since the Reagan era.
What has been the result? Well, third quarter 2003 GDP growth increased at 8.2 percent, the largest in almost 20 years. This followed GDP growth of 3.3 percent in the second quarter. Housing starts are at a 17 year high, retail sales are at a 13 month high, jobless claims have fallen to an eight-month low, and real interest rates (after inflation) are at their lowest point since 1954.
A total of 286,000 jobs have been created in just the last three months. Consumer confidence rose to 81.1 in October from 77 in September. And a majority of Americans now say they expect both the economy and their personal finances to be better a year from now.
The stock market is rising as well. The Dow Jones average is up 30% since the lows of October, 2002, the NASDAQ has risen 70 percent, and an estimated $2 trillion in new wealth has been created as the value of market equities has risen. This is a faster increase in the value of the stock market than during the period from 1995 and 1999.
What is the Democrat answer to strengthening the economy? Two words: raise taxes. In fact, for the first time since Walter Mondale in 1984, every single Democrat running for President has pledged that if they are elected they will raise taxes. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt would repeal all the Bush tax cuts in their entirety, a tax increase of approximately $2 trillion, including the middle class and working families with children. Others say they will raise taxes on the “rich,” and when they way that, grab your wallet, because they are talking about a lot of middle class families and small businesses.
In fact, 79 percent of the income tax reductions flow to the middle class and small businesses that create 80 percent of the new jobs in this country. Small businesses are limited liability corporations or partnerships that pay taxes often at the highest income tax rate, so a tax hike on the so-called rich is really a tax on small business, it is a job-killing tax, it is a blow to the economy at a time when it is getting stronger and the Bush recovery is getting broader and deeper.
Finally, let me say a word about health care reform and Medicare. I am the son of an M.D. who received his medical degree from the University of Miami in 1961, the year I was born. He is an ophthalmologist in rural north Georgia and roughly half his practice is Medicare and Medicaid. So while I am not an expert, I know a little bit about the system.
Medicare was created 38 years ago, before the rise of non-invasive, arthroscopic surgery, laser cataract surgery, advances in preventative care and wellness programs, MRI’s and other new technologies, and most especially, the development of many of the modern prescription drugs. After two generations, Medicare needs to be modernized.
Think about how crazy it is to have a bureaucratic system that will pay $28,000 for surgery for an ulcer, but will not pay $500 for the prescription medication that with early detection will make surgery unnecessary. Or, it will pay $100,000 or more for surgery and post-operative care if a patient suffers a stroke, but it will not pay $1,000 for medication that will prevent the need for critical care and surgery. That just makes no sense at all.
The President’s plan will modernize the system, add a critical prescription drug benefit that millions of seniors need, and include market-based reforms such as Health Savings Accounts and competition between Medicare and private health programs that will improve competition, strengthen the system, and provide more choices for seniors.
And what has been the response of the Democratic presidential candidates and most Democrat members of Congress? As usual, they are playing politics. They are putting partisanship ahead of what is good for seniors and for health care. It is critical that we pass the President’s Medicare modernization plan and strengthen this system so that every single senior in Florida and the nation has the quality health care they need.
Let me close by saying this: we admire and respect our great President for his leadership in the war against terrorism, education reform, tax reduction, strengthening the economy, and health care modernization. But in the end, he has given us something else that we cannot put a price tag on. It is the reason we must go out in 2004 and work as hard as we have ever worked to reelect George W. Bush. More than tax cuts or the military or foreign policy---as important as all those policies are---this President has given us a priceless and precious gift. He has restored honor and dignity to the Oval Office.
After years of partisan politics and cynicism and scandal, President Bush has enabled us once again to point to the occupant of the highest office in the land and say to our children and grandchildren: “Be like him. Be like him.” That, my friends, is too valuable for us to take for granted.
This President is not just marking time. He is providing bold leadership, courage and moral clarity at a time of national testing. So let us not mark time. Let us leave this place, and do whatever we must do, walking door to door, ringing doorbells, licking envelopes, making calls, writing checks, and rearranging our lives to return to a second term one of the greatest leaders our nation has ever had, President George W. Bush.
Thank you, God bless you, and I appreciate all you do for our Party, Governor Bush, and the President.