Des Moines, IA | October 12, 2007
Let me start by congratulating a great American, Al Gore, for being named this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Vice President Gore has been an extraordinary leader for this country. Through his many years of public service; his early and vocal opposition to the war in Iraq; and -- above all -- his singular leadership in drawing attention to the global climate crisis, Al Gore has advanced the cause of peace at home and around the world. This award is richly deserved.
You know, it was five years ago yesterday that the United States Senate voted to give President Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq. At the time, I was a candidate for the U.S. Senate and I spoke out strongly in opposition to going to war. Nearly all of my opponents for the Democratic nomination for President made a different choice, and voted to authorize the war.
Now, some have asked me, "Why are you always reminding us that you opposed the war? Isn't that yesterday's news? Is that experience really relevant?"
And what I always say is this -- this isn't just about the past, it's about the future. I don't talk about my opposition to the war to say "I told you so." I wish the war had gone differently. But the reason I talk about it is because I truly believe that the judgment, and the conviction, and the accountability that each of us showed on the most important foreign policy decision of our lives is the best indicator you have of how each of us will make those decisions going forward.
How we made that decision, and how we talk about it, is critical to understanding what we would do as President. Will we carefully evaluate the evidence and the consequences of action, or will we skip over the intelligence and scare people with the consequences of inaction? Will we make these decisions based on polls, or based on our principles? Will we have the courage to make the tough choice, or will we just choose the course that makes us look tough?
These decisions aren't just Washington parlor games about who's up and who's down. These are life and death decisions. They impact your safety and security. Above all, they impact the soldier from Iowa, or the airman from Illinois, and every single one of our brave young men and women who are in harm's way, and all of their families and friends back home.
Now, it's easy to oppose a war after it has gone wrong. It's easy to say -- years later -- that the war shouldn't have happened, given what we know now about how badly it has turned out. But every single one of us running for President only had one chance to make a judgment about whether or not to go to war.
As I travel around the country, so many Americans ask me: how did we go so wrong in Iraq? And they're not just asking because they want to understand the past -- they're asking because they don't want their leaders to make the same mistakes again in the future. They don't want leaders who will bog us down in unnecessary wars; they don't want leaders who allow America to lose its standing; and they don't want leaders who tell the American people anything less than the full truth about where they stand and what they'll do.
That is a big part of what this campaign is about. Because we need to learn the painful lessons of the Iraq War if we're going to secure this country and renew America's leadership.
The first thing we have to understand is what happened in Iraq. Because there are two ways to look at this. The first way is to say that Iraq is a disaster because of George Bush's mismanagement. Or because of the arrogance and incompetence of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld in prosecuting the war. Or because Iraq's Prime Minister just hasn't been up to the job.
But I take a different view. I think the problem isn't just how we've fought the war -- it's that we fought the war in the first place. Because the truth is, the war in Iraq should never have been authorized, and it should never have been waged. The Iraq War had nothing to do with al Qaeda or 9/11. It was based on exaggerated fears and unconvincing intelligence. And it has left America less safe, and less respected around the world.
Five years ago, my friends warned me not to speak up against the war. Going to war was popular. So was President Bush. You'll be putting your political career on the line, they said. But I just didn't see how Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat. I was convinced that a war would distract us from Afghanistan and al Qaeda, and fan the flames of extremism and terrorism. And I didn't get into politics to stay silent on the tough issues, or to tailor my positions to the polls. I didn't want to look back, after an unnecessary war had been waged, and regret that I didn't speak out against going to war just because going to war was popular. So I spoke out against what I called a "rash war" -- a "war based not on reason but on politics."
But the conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. The President and his advisors told us that the only way to stop Saddam Hussein from getting a nuclear weapon was to go to war, that we couldn't let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud. Leading Democrats -- including Senator Clinton -- echoed the erroneous line that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We were counseled by some of the most experienced voices in Washington that the only way for Democrats to look tough was to talk, act, and vote like Republicans.
There is no doubt that President Bush failed us in the run-up to war. But the American people weren't just failed by the President -- they were failed by the Congress. Too many members of Congress failed to ask hard questions. Too many members of Congress, including some of my opponents in this race, failed to read the National Intelligence Estimate for themselves -- an intelligence report that was so unconvincing, and so filled with qualifications, that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee decided to vote against the war when he read it for himself. Too many Democrats fell in line with George Bush, and voted to give him the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. So let's be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.
Senator Edwards voted for the war in 2002. He has renounced that vote, instead of pretending that it was a vote for anything but war. But Senator Clinton makes a different argument. She says that she wasn't really voting for war back in 2002, she was voting for more inspections, or she was voting for more diplomacy. But all of us know what was being debated in the Congress in the fall of 2002. We didn't need to authorize a war in order to have United Nations weapons inspections. No one thought Congress was debating whether or not to conduct diplomacy. The headlines on October 12, 2002 did not read: "Congress authorizes diplomacy with Iraq" -- the headlines on October 12, 2002 read "Congress backs war."
In the course of this campaign, we haven't just seen different candidates talk about their vote in different ways -- we've seen how different candidates have drawn different lessons from their experience of the Iraq War.
Five years later, we should all have learned the lessons of that vote -- we should all have learned that you can't give this Administration an excuse to wage war. But just last month, the Senate voted for an amendment that raises the risk that we could repeat the mistake of Iraq.
Here is why this amendment is so reckless. It opens with seventeen findings that highlight Iran's influence inside of Iraq. Then it says we have to structure our military presence inside Iraq to counter Iran. It goes on to say that it is "a critical national interest of the United States" to prevent the Iranian government from exerting influence inside Iraq. Why is this amendment so dangerous? Because George Bush and Dick Cheney could use this language to justify keeping our troops in Iraq as long as they can point to a threat from Iran. And because they could use this language to justify an attack on Iran as a part of the ongoing war in Iraq.
I don't want to give this President any excuse, or any opening for war. Because as we learned with the authorization of the Iraq War -- when you give this President a blank check, you can't be surprised when he cashes it.
Senator Clinton is the only Democratic candidate for president who supports this amendment. She said, like she did five years ago, that it is a way to support diplomacy. I disagree. We all know that Iran poses a threat. We do need to mount international pressure to stop Iran's nuclear program. We do need to tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime -- particularly on Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which supports terrorism. But this must be done separately from any saber-rattling about checking Iranian influence with our military presence in Iraq.
We should not be arguing that our troops have to stay in Iraq to counter Iran. Now is the time to end the war in Iraq. Now is the time to start bringing our troops out of Iraq -- immediately. That's why I have a plan to remove one or two combat brigades a month so that we get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months -- that's as quickly and responsibly as we can do this. The only troops I will keep in Iraq for a limited time will protect our diplomats and carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda -- not sustained combat. And I will launch the diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that are so badly needed. So let there be no doubt: I will end this war.
Now is not the time to give George Bush and Dick Cheney any excuse to escalate this war. Now is not the time for the Congress to send mixed messages. That's why my position today is the same as it was when I stood up in Iowa on September 12 and said: "George Bush and Dick Cheney must hear -- loud and clear -- from the American people and the Congress: you don't have our support, and you don't have our authorization for another war."
Five years after that vote for war, we should all have learned the lesson that the cowboy diplomacy of not talking to people we don't like doesn't work. We do need tougher diplomacy with Iran. But the way to support tough diplomacy is not to vote for reckless amendments -- the way to support diplomacy is to actually pursue it. That's what I've called for throughout this campaign -- direct diplomacy, without preconditions. And that's what I'll do as President. Not the Bush-Cheney diplomacy of talking to our friends and ignoring our enemies. Real, direct, and sustained diplomacy.
A couple of months ago, Senator Clinton called me "naïve and irresponsible" for taking this position, and said that we could lose propaganda battles if we met with leaders we didn't like. Just yesterday, though, she called for diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. So I'm not sure if any of us knows exactly where she stands on this. But I can tell you this: when I am President of the United States, the American people and the world will always know where I stand.
I don't see how we can rally the world unless we have a President who is willing to lead. I'm not afraid that America will lose a propaganda battle with a petty tyrant -- we need to go before the world and win those battles. And as President, I will.
You know, the cautious, conventional thinking in Washington says that Democrats can't take these positions. Or that we need to say one thing in a caucus and primary campaign, but another in a general election. This is the conventional thinking that said that Democrats had to vote for war in 2002 because there was an election coming up -- an election that we lost. The conventional thinking that says that Democrats can't win elections, unless they talk, act and vote like Republicans when it comes to foreign policy and national security.
Well, I'm not running to conform to Washington's conventional thinking -- I'm running to challenge it. That's what I did in 2002. That's what I did in 2004. And that's what I will do as President of the United States.
Because I think the pundits have it wrong. I think the American people have had enough of politicians who go out of their way to look tough, who say one thing in a caucus and another in a general election. When I am the nominee of our party, the choice will be clear. My Republican opponent won't be able to say that we both supported this war in Iraq. He won't be able to say that we really agree about using the war in Iraq to justify military action against Iran, or about the diplomacy of not talking and saber-rattling. He won't be able to say that I haven't been open and straight with the American people, or that I've changed my positions. And you know what? The American people want that choice. Because I believe that's what we need in our next President.
We've had enough of a misguided war in Iraq that never should have been fought -- a war that needs to end.
We've had enough of Presidents who put tough talk ahead of real diplomacy.
And we've had enough of politicians who put power over principle, of a government in Washington that shuts you out, and of presidents who don't hold themselves accountable.
This is about what we stand for as Democrats. But much more than that -- it's about what we stand for as Americans. Because there are plenty of Democrats and plenty of Independents and, yes, plenty of Republicans out there who are ready to turn the page on the broken politics and blustering foreign policy coming from Washington. That's how we're going to bring this country together. That's how we're going to restore our security and renew our standing in the world. Not by shifting with the political winds, but by standing strong in any storm, and standing up for what we believe.
I would not be on this stage today if the promise of America had not brought my father across an ocean. I would not be on this stage if generations of Americans had not fought before me so that the American dream could be extended to a man named Barack Obama. That's why I have spent my own life fighting for that dream, no matter how difficult it's been, no matter how tough it was to take a stand. That's why I will always tell you where I stand and what I believe. And when I am President, that is how we will meet the hard challenges, and reclaim that dream, and make the United States of America a light to the world once more.
Portsmouth, NH | October 08, 2007
Two weeks ago, representatives from some of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases were invited to Washington by the President for a global conference on climate change.
For a brief moment, there was a hope that maybe this conference would be different - that maybe America would finally commit to the steps that nearly every scientist and expert believes we must take; that maybe the planet's only superpower would finally lead the world - or at the very least, follow it - in taking on the planet's greatest threat.
Instead, the world traveled thousands of miles to Washington only to find that Washington is still miles away from the world in its willingness to address one of the most urgent challenges of our generation. Some of the attendees said they were amazed at how isolated the White House view had become. Others dismissed the President's credibility entirely. And another headline noted that when it comes to the global debate on climate change, our country is struggling just to stay relevant.
Struggling just to stay relevant.
That is not the America we know. It is not the America we believe in. We are a nation that has led the world ever since the moment a lowly band of colonists proved that freedom could triumph over tyranny. We are the country that summoned the courage of its people to build an arsenal of democracy that freed a continent and brought peace to a world at war. We are a land of moon shots and miracles of science and technology that have touched the lives of millions across the planet. And when that planet is challenged or when it is threatened, the eyes of the world have always turned to this nation as the "last, best hope of Earth."
That is the America I want to lead as President. I believe that when it comes to the issue that will determine the very future of life on this Earth, we are still Earth's best hope. And when the world arrives at the doorstep of the White House to hear what America has to say about climate change, I will let them know that America is up to the challenge. That America is ready to lead again.
We have not fallen behind on energy due to a lack of ingenuity or initiative from the American people. I have seen too much innovation and possibility in this country to believe that. Right here in New Hampshire, I've filled up at a biodiesel pump at UNH, where this year students and faculty will remove over 200 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. New Hampshire is already reducing its greenhouse gas pollution as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and thanks to the leadership of Senator Martha Fuller Clark and Governor Lynch, you'll get 25% of your energy from renewable sources by 2025. Keene is one of America's greenest cities, and I understand that 164 towns have now passed a resolution demanding that Washington take action on climate change
But Washington hasn't acted; and that is the real reason why America hasn't led.
Washington's failure to lead on energy is the failure of a President who spent most of his time in office denying the very existence of global warming - a President who put more faith in the spin of a science fiction writer than the science facts of real experts. It's the failure of an Administration that developed America's energy policy with a secret task force that opened the door to oil lobbyists and then shut it to every other viewpoint. It's a failure of leadership that has never called on the American people to do anything more than go shopping.
And it's also a failure of our politics that pre-dates the presidency of George W. Bush. We have heard promises about energy independence from every single U.S. President since Richard Nixon - Republicans and Democrats. We've heard proposals to curb our use of fossil fuels in nearly every State of the Union address since the oil embargo of 1973. Back then we imported about a third of our oil. Now we import over half. Back then global warming was just the theory of a few scientists. Now it is a fact that threatens our very existence.
The truth is, our energy problem has become an energy crisis because no matter how well-intentioned the promise - no matter how bold the proposal - they all fall victim to the same Washington politics that has only become more divided and dishonest; more timid and calculating; more beholden to the powerful interests that have the biggest stake in the status quo.
There are some in this race who actually make the argument that the more time you spend immersed in the broken politics of Washington, the more likely you are to change it. I always find this a little amusing. I know that change makes for good campaign rhetoric, but when these same people had the chance to actually make change happen, they didn't lead. When they had the chance to stand up and require automakers to raise their fuel standards, they refused. When they had multiple chances to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by investing in renewable fuels that we can literally grow right here in America, they said no.
Now, I know that some of these policies are difficult politically. They aren't easy. But being President of the United States isn't about doing what's easy. It's about doing what's hard. It's about doing what's right. Leadership isn't about telling people what they want to hear - it's about telling them what they need to hear.
When I arrived in the U.S. Senate, I wanted to do whatever I could to make real progress toward energy independence. I reached across the aisle to pass a law that will give more Americans the chance to fill up their cars with clean biofuels. I passed a law that will fuel the research needed to develop a car that will get 500 miles to the gallon. I even voted for an energy bill that was far from perfect because I was able to ensure that it contained some real investments in renewable sources of energy. And I've fought to eliminate the tax giveaways to oil companies that were slipped into that bill - oil companies that have spent half a billion dollars lobbying Congress in the last ten years while their profits have risen to record highs.
And I did something else. I knew that America hadn't raised the fuel standards for our cars in twenty years. Even though we had the technology on the shelf. Even though Japanese car companies that make more fuel-efficient cars are running circles around our own car companies. Even though we send hundreds of millions of dollars a day to some of the world's most dangerous regimes for their oil.
So I decided to try something new. I reached across the aisle to come up with a plan to raise our fuel standards that won support of lawmakers who had never supported raising fuel standards before. And I didn't just give a speech about it in front of some environmental audience in California. I went to Detroit, I stood in front of a group of automakers, and I told them that when I am President, there will be no more excuses - we will help them retool their factories, but they will have to make cars that use less oil.
Now I have to admit - the room was pretty quiet after that. But I said what I did because I believe America has had enough of politicians who just tell everyone what they want to hear. We have to tell people the truth. And the truth is that we can't afford to let the same old politics stand in the way of our future anymore.
We can't afford the same kind of caution when the future of our security is at stake. We know that the money that America spends on foreign oil is funding both sides of the war on terror; that it pays for everything from the madrassas that plant the seeds of terror in young minds to the Sunni insurgents that attack our troops in Iraq. We know this money corrupts budding democracies and allows dictators from hostile regimes to threaten the international community. It even presents a target for Osama bin Laden, who has told al Qaeda to, "focus your operations on oil, since this will cause [the Americans] to die off on their own."
We can't be afraid to stand up to the oil and auto industry when the future of our economy is at stake. When we let these companies off the hook; when we tell them they don't have to build fuel-efficient cars or transition to renewable fuels, it may boost their short-term profits, but it is killing their long-term chances for survival and threatening too many American jobs. The global market is already moving away from fossil fuels. The question is not if a renewable energy economy will thrive in the future, it's where. And if we want that place to be the United States of America, we can't afford to wait any longer.
Most of all, we cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake. Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now. In a state like New Hampshire, the ski industry is facing shorter seasons and losing jobs. We are already breaking records with the intensity of our storms, the number of forest fires, the periods of drought. By 2050 famine could force more than 250 million from their homes - famine that will increase the chances of war and strife in many of the world's weakest states. The polar ice caps are now melting faster than science had ever predicted. And if we do nothing, sea levels will rise high enough to swallow large portions of every coastal city and town.
This is not the future I want for my daughters. It's not the future any of us want for our children. And if we act now and we act boldly, it doesn't have to be. But if we wait; if we let campaign promises and State of the Union pledges go unanswered for yet another year; if we let the same broken politics that's held us back for decades win one more time, we will lose another chance to save our planet. And we might not get many more.
I reject that future. I would not be running for President if I didn't believe that this time could be different. Not because I have some perfect solution that every other expert and candidate has somehow missed. Not because I think I can lock myself in the White House with a secret task force and get this done on my own. But because I believe the American people are ready for a President who can unite us around a common purpose again. I believe that we are ready to lead again.
Make no mistake - developing the next generation of energy will be one of the greatest challenges that this generation of Americans will ever face. It will not be easy. It will not come without cost or without sacrifice. And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they are either fooling themselves or trying to fool you.
I will set big goals for this country as President - some so large that the technology to reach them does not yet exist. But that has not stopped us before. When President Roosevelt's advisors informed him that his goals for wartime production were impossible to meet, he waved them off and said "believe me, the production people can do it if they really try." And they did. When the scientists and engineers told John F. Kennedy that they had no idea how to put a man on the moon, he told them they would find a way. And we found one.
I believe we will again.
In the speech I gave in Detroit, I laid out the first part of my comprehensive energy plan - a proposal that will require our cars to use less oil and our fuels to use less carbon. It's a proposal that alone removes 50 million cars' worth of pollution from the road and reduces our oil consumption 2.5 million barrels a day by 2020 - the equivalent of all the oil we import from the Persian Gulf today.
Today I want to lay out the second part of my plan - a set of proposals that will allow America to lead the world in combating global climate change. From the moment I take office as President, I will call together scientists and entrepreneurs; heads of industry and labor; Democrats, Republicans and Americans from all walks of life to help develop and deploy the next generation of energy that will allow us to build the next generation's economy.
After all, in meeting the challenges of earlier generations, we didn't just end a costly war or beat the Soviets to the moon - we also unleashed opportunities we had never dreamed of. The GI Bill sent an entire generation of Americans - including my grandfather - to college and then on to the middle-class. Legions of scientists and engineers emerged from our race to space whose discoveries and innovations have forever changed the world.
This same opportunity exists today. That's why my plan isn't just about making dirty energy expensive, it's about making clean energy affordable - a project that will create millions of new jobs and entire new industries right here in America.
The first step in doing this is to phase out a carbon-based economy that's causing our changing climate. As President, I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming - an 80% reduction by 2050. To ensure this isn't just talk, I will also commit to interim targets toward this goal in 2020, 2030, and 2040. These reductions will start immediately, and we'll continue to follow the recommendations of top scientists to ensure that our targets are strong enough to meet the challenge we face.
In addition to this cap, all polluters will have to pay based on the amount of pollution they release into the sky. The market will set the price, but unlike the other cap-and-trade proposals that have been offered in this race, no business will be allowed to emit any greenhouses gases for free. Businesses don't own the sky, the public does, and if we want them to stop polluting it, we have to put a price on all pollution. It's time to make the cleaner way of doing business the more profitable way of doing business.
There is no doubt that this transition will be costly in the short-term. To make it easier, we will provide assistance to Americans who need help with their energy bills. We'll help families make their homes more energy efficient, and we'll help workers and factories retool their facilities so they can compete and thrive in a clean energy economy. And once we make America more energy efficient and start producing more renewable energy, we will save money and bring energy costs down in the long-run. But we must act now.
Once we make dirty energy expensive, the second step in my plan is to invest $150 billion over the next decade to ensure the development and deployment of clean, affordable energy.
That starts with the next generation of biofuels. We know that corn ethanol has been the most successful alternative fuel we have ever developed. I've been a champion for ethanol. In just two years, the Renewable Fuel Standard I helped pass has sparked an historic expansion of ethanol production. It has helped displace foreign oil and strengthen our rural economy. And we should fight the efforts of big oil and big agri-business to undermine this emerging industry.
But the truth is, corn ethanol is neither the perfect nor the permanent answer to our energy challenge. There are legitimate economic and ecological concerns about an over-reliance on corn-based ethanol. And even if we double or triple its production, it won't replace even a tenth of our demand for gasoline. That's why we must invest in the next generation of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol that can be made from things like switchgrass and woodchips. The struggling paper mills in New Hampsire would be back in business if they could use wood to produce biofuels. We should set a goal to produce the first two billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2013. And we should make sure that more local farms and local refineries have the chance to be a part of this new industry.
We'll also invest in clean energy sources like wind power and solar power, so that by 2025, America can meet a new standard that will require 25% of all our electricity to come from renewable sources.
And we must find a way to stop coal from polluting our atmosphere without pretending that our nation's most abundant energy source will just go away. It won't. It will also require taking steps to ensure that China's coal emissions are curbed as well. Already, some coal pollution from China's dirty plants is making its way to California. That's why we must invest in clean coal technologies that we can use at home and share with the world. Until those technologies are available, I will rely on the carbon cap and whatever tools are necessary to stop new dirty coal plants from being built in America - including a ban on new traditional coal facilities.
We will also explore safer ways to use nuclear power, which right now accounts for more than 70% of our non-carbon generated electricity. We should accelerate research into technologies that will allow for the safe, secure treatment of nuclear waste. As President, I'll continue the work I began in the Senate to ensure that all nuclear material is stored, secured and accounted for - both at home and around the world. There should be no short cuts or regulatory loopholes - period.
Many of these clean energy technologies - from biofuels to solar power to carbon sequestration - are being developed in research labs and facilities all across America at this very moment. The problem is they might never get further than that. U.S. venture capital funding does a great job investing in research and development, but we don't do enough to take the risk out of bringing new discoveries to the wider marketplace. And so we see technologies that are invented here in America - like wind turbines, solar panels, and compact fluorescent bulbs - developed overseas and then sold back to American consumers.
This will change when I am President. I will launch a Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund that will provide $10 billion a year for five years to get the most promising clean energy technologies off the ground. This venture capital fund will get new technologies from the lab to the marketplace so that in the next few years, the American economy can benefit from America's innovations.
The third step in my plan to combat climate change is to call on businesses, government, and the American people to make America 50% more energy efficient by 2030. This is by far the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to curb our emissions and save money at the same time. Since DuPont implemented an energy efficiency program in 1990, the company has significantly reduced its pollution and cut its energy bills by $3 billion, and cities like Keene and Portland, Oregon have led in meeting new efficiency standards. There is no reason the rest of America can't do the same.
We will start by dramatically improving the efficiency of our buildings, which currently account for nearly half of all carbon emissions in America today. When I am President, we'll set a goal of making our new buildings 50% more efficient within several years. The federal government will lead by making all of its buildings carbon neutral by 2025. And I will set a national goal of making all new buildings in America carbon neutral by 2030.
We will also start replacing our outdated power grid with a digital smart grid so that we don't lose precious energy and billions of dollars like we did in the 2003 New York City blackout. We'll follow the lead of states like California and change the way utilities make money so that their profits aren't tied to how much energy we use, but how much energy we save. Finally, we know that if every home in America replaced just five incandescent light bulbs with five compact fluorescent bulbs, it would eliminate the need for twenty-one power plants. We'll do one better. I will immediately sign a law that begins to phase out all incandescent light bulbs - a measure that will save American consumers $6 billion a year on their electric bills.
Now, none of these steps will happen overnight. They will take time, they will take sacrifice, and they will take a sustained commitment from the American people. As President, I will lead this commitment. I will not be outlining these goals in my State of the Union and then walk away when they become too difficult. I will report to the American people every year on the State of our Energy Future, and let you know the progress we've made toward an 80% emissions reduction by 2050, toward replacing over a third of our oil consumption by 2030, and toward improving our energy efficiency 50% by 2030. I will also make America's energy security a fundamental tenet of our national security by preparing our military to deal with threats posed by climate change.
And there is one step I will take as soon as possible.
From the moment I take office, I will invite the world back to Washington and let it be known that the United States of America is ready to lead again. That we are ready to rejoin the community of nations in taking on the greatest challenge of this generation.
I will personally reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations in both the developed and developing world and ask them to join America in creating a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. It will complement - and ultimately merge with - the much larger negotiation process underway at the UN to develop a post-Kyoto framework. I will be in constant contact with these leaders to develop concrete, feasible emissions targets that all of us will meet. We will also work to build an alliance of oil-importing nations and work together to reduce our demand, just like the OPEC nations strategize on supply.
And as we develop new forms of clean energy here at home, we will share our technology and our innovations with all the nations of the world. If we can build a clean coal plant in America, China should be able to as well. If we find a way to harness the next generation of biofuels, India will know how to do it too. And as we tackle under-development in impoverished nations, we will use what we know to help them reduce the negative impacts of climate change and build a clean energy future.
Recently, the director of a nonprofit that helps promote clean energy policies in China said that the most frequent question he gets from the Chinese about every policy initiative he suggests is, "If it is so good, why aren't you doing it?" And it's the hardest question to answer. He said, "We can point to good examples that some American states, or cities, or companies are implementing...but we can't point to America."
I believe it's time the world could point to America again. I want the engineer in New Delhi to point to our green buildings as the kind he'd like to design for his country. I want the automaker in Tokyo to point to our cars as the model for all the world. I want the leaders of Europe and Asia; of Africa and South America to point to our diplomacy and our engagement and our ingenuity as the light that led us toward a new energy future in our time.
And most of all, I want our children and our children's children to point to this generation and this moment as the time when America found its way again. As the time when America overcame the division and the politics and the pettiness of an earlier era so that a new generation could come together and take on the most urgent challenge of this era. I am running for President of the United States to lead us toward this new era, and I ask all of you to join me in taking on the challenge that lies ahead. Thank you.
Chicago, IL | October 02, 2007
Thank you, Ted. Ted Sorensen has been counselor to a President in some of our toughest moments, and he has helped define our national purpose at pivotal turning points. Let me also welcome all of the elected officials from Illinois who are with us. Let me give a special welcome to all of the organizers and speakers who joined me to rally against going to war in Iraq five years ago. And I want to thank DePaul University and DePaul's students for hosting this event.
We come together at a time of renewal for DePaul. A new academic year has begun. Professors are learning the names of new students, and students are reminded that you actually do have to attend class. That cold is beginning to creep into the Chicago air. The season is changing.
DePaul is now filled with students who have not spent a single day on campus without the reality of a war in Iraq. Four classes have matriculated and four classes have graduated since this war began. And we are reminded that America's sons and daughters in uniform, and their families, bear the heavy burden. The wife of one soldier from Illinois wrote to me and said that her husband "feels like he's stationed in Iraq and deploys home." That's a tragic statement. And it could be echoed by families across our country who have seen loved ones deployed to tour after tour of duty.
You are students. And the great responsibility of students is to question the world around you, to question things that don't add up. With Iraq, we must ask the question: how did we go so wrong?
There are those who offer up easy answers. They will assert that Iraq is George Bush's war, it's all his fault. Or that Iraq was botched by the arrogance and incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Or that we would have gotten Iraq right if we went in with more troops, or if we had a different proconsul instead of Paul Bremer, or if only there were a stronger Iraqi Prime Minister.
These are the easy answers. And like most easy answers, they are partially true. But they don't tell the whole truth, because they overlook a harder and more fundamental truth. The hard truth is that the war in Iraq is not about a catalog of many mistakes - it is about one big mistake. The war in Iraq should never have been fought.
Five years ago today, I was asked to speak at a rally against going to war in Iraq. The vote to authorize the war in Congress was less than ten days away and I was a candidate for the United States Senate. Some friends of mine advised me to keep quiet. Going to war in Iraq, they pointed out, was popular. All the other major candidates were supporting the war at the time. If the war goes well, they said, you'll have thrown your political career away.
But I didn't see how Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat. I was convinced that a war would distract us from Afghanistan and the real threat from al Qaeda. I worried that Iraq's history of sectarian rivalry could leave us bogged down in a bloody conflict. And I believed the war would fan the flames of extremism and lead to new terrorism. So I went to the rally. And I argued against a "rash war" - a "war based not on reason, but on politics" - "an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences."
I was not alone. Though not a majority, millions of Americans opposed giving the President the authority to wage war in Iraq. Twenty-three Senators, including the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, shared my concerns and resisted the march to war. For us, the war defied common sense. After all, the people who hit us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq.
But the conventional thinking in Washington has a way of buying into stories that make political sense even if they don't make practical sense. We were told that the only way to prevent Iraq from getting nuclear weapons was with military force. Some leading Democrats echoed the Administration's erroneous line that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We were counseled by some of the most experienced voices in Washington that the only way for Democrats to look tough was to talk, act and vote like a Republican.
As Ted Sorensen's old boss President Kennedy once said - "the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war - and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears." In the fall of 2002, those deaf ears were in Washington. They belonged to a President who didn't tell the whole truth to the American people; who disdained diplomacy and bullied allies; and who squandered our unity and the support of the world after 9/11.
But it doesn't end there. Because the American people weren't just failed by a President - they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war. And most of all by the majority of a Congress - a coequal branch of government - that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Let's be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.
Some seek to rewrite history. They argue that they weren't really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors, or for diplomacy. But the Congress, the Administration, the media, and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002. This was a vote about whether or not to go to war. That's the truth as we all understood it then, and as we need to understand it now. And we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?
With all that we know about what's gone wrong in Iraq, even today's debate is divorced from reality. We've got a surge that is somehow declared a success even though it has failed to enable the political reconciliation that was its stated purpose. The fact that violence today is only as horrific as in 2006 is held up as progress. Washington politicians and pundits trip over each other to debate a newspaper advertisement while our troops fight and die in Iraq.
And the conventional thinking today is just as entrenched as it was in 2002. This is the conventional thinking that measures experience only by the years you've been in Washington, not by your time spent serving in the wider world. This is the conventional thinking that has turned against the war, but not against the habits that got us into the war in the first place - the outdated assumptions and the refusal to talk openly to the American people.
Well I'm not running for President to conform to Washington's conventional thinking - I'm running to challenge it. I'm not running to join the kind of Washington groupthink that led us to war in Iraq - I'm running to change our politics and our policy so we can leave the world a better place than our generation has found it.
So there is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand. They should ask themselves: who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong. This is not just a matter of debating the past. It's about who has the best judgment to make the critical decisions of the future. Because you might think that Washington would learn from Iraq. But we've seen in this campaign just how bent out of shape Washington gets when you challenge its assumptions.
When I said that as President I would lead direct diplomacy with our adversaries, I was called naïve and irresponsible. But how are we going to turn the page on the failed Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to our adversaries if we don't have a President who will lead that diplomacy?
When I said that we should take out high-level terrorists like Osama bin Laden if we have actionable intelligence about their whereabouts, I was lectured by legions of Iraq War supporters. They said we can't take out bin Laden if the country he's hiding in won't. A few weeks later, the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission - Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton - agreed with my position. But few in Washington seemed to notice.
Some people made a different argument on this issue. They said we can take out bin Laden, we just can't say that we will. I reject this. I am a candidate for President of the United States, and I believe that the American people have a right to know where I stand.
And when I said that we can rule out the use of nuclear weapons to take out a terrorist training camp, it was immediately branded a "gaffe" because I did not recite the conventional Washington-speak. But is there any military planner in the world who believes that we need to drop a nuclear bomb on a terrorist training camp?
We need to question the world around us. When we have a debate about experience, we can't just debate who has the most experience scoring political points. When we have a debate about experience, we can't just talk about who fought yesterday's battles - we have to focus on who can face the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow. Because no matter what we think about George Bush, he's going to be gone in January 2009. He's not on the ballot. This election is about ending the Iraq War, but even more it's about moving beyond it. And we're not going be safe in a world of unconventional threats with the same old conventional thinking that got us into Iraq. We're not going to unify a divided America to confront these threats with the same old conventional politics of just trying to beat the other side.
In 2009, we will have a window of opportunity to renew our global leadership and bring our nation together. If we don't seize that moment, we may not get another. This election is a turning point. The American people get to decide: are we going to turn back the clock, or turn the page?
I want to be straight with you. If you want conventional Washington thinking, I'm not your man. If you want rigid ideology, I'm not your man. If you think that fundamental change can wait, I'm definitely not your man. But if you want to bring this country together, if you want experience that's broader than just learning the ways of Washington, if you think that the global challenges we face are too urgent to wait, and if you think that America must offer the world a new and hopeful face, then I offer a different choice in this race and a different vision for our future.
The first thing we have to do is end this war. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning. There is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. I will begin to remove our troops from Iraq immediately. I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda. And I will launch the diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that are so badly needed. Let there be no doubt: I will end this war.
But it's also time to learn the lessons of Iraq. We're not going to defeat the threats of the 21st century on a conventional battlefield. We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors. We're not going to win a battle of ideas with bullets alone.
Make no mistake: we must always be prepared to use force to protect America. But the best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons - it's to keep nuclear weapons and nuclear materials away from terrorists. That's why I've worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law accelerating our pursuit of loose nuclear materials. And that's why I'll lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials during my first term in office.
But we need to do much more. We need to change our nuclear policy and our posture, which is still focused on deterring the Soviet Union - a country that doesn't exist. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan and North Korea have joined the club of nuclear-armed nations, and Iran is knocking on the door. More nuclear weapons and more nuclear-armed nations mean more danger to us all.
Here's what I'll say as President: America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons.
We will not pursue unilateral disarmament. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we'll retain a strong nuclear deterrent. But we'll keep our commitment under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty on the long road towards eliminating nuclear weapons. We'll work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert, and to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material. We'll start by seeking a global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons. And we'll set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global.
As we do this, we'll be in a better position to lead the world in enforcing the rules of the road if we firmly abide by those rules. It's time to stop giving countries like Iran and North Korea an excuse. It's time for America to lead. When I'm President, we'll strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that nations that don't comply will automatically face strong international sanctions.
This will require a new era of American diplomacy. To signal the dawn of that era, we need a President who is willing to talk to all nations, friend and foe. I'm not afraid that America will lose a propaganda battle with a petty tyrant - we need to go before the world and win those battles. If we take the attitude that the President just parachutes in for a photo-op after an agreement has already been reached, then we're only going to reach agreements with our friends. That's not the way to protect the American people. That's not the way to advance our interests.
Just look at our history. Kennedy had a direct line to Khrushchev. Nixon met with Mao. Carter did the hard work of negotiating the Camp David Accords. Reagan was negotiating arms agreements with Gorbachev even as he called on him to "tear down this wall."
It's time to make diplomacy a top priority. Instead of shuttering consulates, we need to open them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world. Instead of having more Americans serving in military bands than the diplomatic corps, we need to grow our foreign service. Instead of retreating from the world, I will personally lead a new chapter of American engagement.
It is time to offer the world a message of hope to counter the prophets of hate. My experience has brought me to the hopeless places. As a boy, I lived in Indonesia and played barefoot with children who could not dream the same dreams that I did. As an adult, I've returned to be with my family in their small village in Kenya, where the promise of America is still an inspiration. As a community organizer, I worked in South Side neighborhoods that had been left behind by global change. As a Senator, I've been to refugee camps in Chad where proud and dignified people can't hope for anything beyond the next handout.
In the 21st century, progress must mean more than a vote at the ballot box - it must mean freedom from fear and freedom from want. We cannot stand for the freedom of anarchy. Nor can we support the globalization of the empty stomach. We need new approaches to help people to help themselves. The United Nations has embraced the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. When I'm President, they will be America's goals. The Bush Administration tried to keep the UN from proclaiming these goals; the Obama Administration will double foreign assistance to $50 billion to lead the world to achieve them.
In the 21st century, we cannot stand up before the world and say that there's one set of rules for America and another for everyone else. To lead the world, we must lead by example. We must be willing to acknowledge our failings, not just trumpet our victories. And when I'm President, we'll reject torture - without exception or equivocation; we'll close Guantanamo; we'll be the country that credibly tells the dissidents in the prison camps around the world that America is your voice, America is your dream, America is your light of justice.
We cannot - we must not - let the promotion of our values be a casualty of the Iraq War. But we cannot secure America and show our best face to the world unless we change how we do business in Washington.
We all know what Iraq has cost us abroad. But these last few years we've seen an unacceptable abuse of power at home. We face real threats. Any President needs the latitude to confront them swiftly and surely. But we've paid a heavy price for having a President whose priority is expanding his own power. The Constitution is treated like a nuisance. Matters of war and peace are used as political tools to bludgeon the other side. We get subjected to endless spin to keep our troops at war, but we don't get to see the flag-draped coffins of our heroes coming home. We get secret task forces, secret budgeting, slanted intelligence, and the shameful smearing of people who speak out against the President's policies.
All of this has left us where we are today: more divided, more distrusted, more in debt, and mired in an endless war. A war to disarm a dictator has become an open-ended occupation of a foreign country. This is not America. This is not who we are. It's time for us to stand up and tell George Bush that the government in this country is not based on the whims of one person, the government is of the people, by the people and for the people.
We thought we learned this lesson. After Vietnam, Congress swore it would never again be duped into war, and even wrote a new law -- the War Powers Act -- to ensure it would not repeat its mistakes. But no law can force a Congress to stand up to the President. No law can make Senators read the intelligence that showed the President was overstating the case for war. No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as the co-equal branch the Constitution made it.
That is why it is not enough to change parties. It is time to change our politics. We don't need another President who puts politics and loyalty over candor. We don't need another President who thinks big but doesn't feel the need to tell the American people what they think. We don't need another President who shuts the door on the American people when they make policy. The American people are not the problem in this country - they are the answer. And it's time we had a President who acted like that.
I will always tell the American people the truth. I will always tell you where I stand. It's what I'm doing in this campaign. It's what I'll do as President. I'll lead a new era of openness. I'll give an annual "State of the World" address to the American people in which I lay out our national security policy. I'll draw on the legacy of one our greatest Presidents - Franklin Roosevelt - and give regular "fireside webcasts," and I'll have members of my national security team do the same.
I'll turn the page on a growing empire of classified information, and restore the balance we've lost between the necessarily secret and the necessity of openness in a democratic society by creating a new National Declassification Center. We'll protect sources and methods, but we won't use sources and methods as pretexts to hide the truth. Our history doesn't belong to Washington, it belongs to America.
I'll use the intelligence that I do receive to make good policy - I won't manipulate it to sell a bad policy. We don't need any more officials who tell the President what they want to hear. I will make the Director of National Intelligence an official with a fixed term, like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve - not someone who can be fired by the President. We need consistency and integrity at the top of our intelligence agencies. We don't need politics. My test won't be loyalty - it will be the truth.
And I'll turn the page on the imperial presidency that treats national security as a partisan issue - not an American issue. I will call for a standing, bipartisan Consultative Group of congressional leaders on national security. I will meet with this Consultative Group every month, and consult with them before taking major military action. The buck will stop with me. But these discussions have to take place on a bipartisan basis, and support for these decisions will be stronger if they draw on bipartisan counsel. We're not going to secure this country unless we turn the page on the conventional thinking that says politics is just about beating the other side.
It's time to unite America, because we are at an urgent and pivotal moment.
There are those who suggest that there are easy answers to the challenges we face. We can look, they say, to Washington experience - the same experience that got us into this war. Or we can turn the page to something new, to unite this country and to seize this moment.
I am not a perfect man and I won't be a perfect President. But my own American story tells me that this country moves forward when we cast off our doubts and seek new beginnings.
It's what brought my father across an ocean in search of a dream. It's what I saw in the eyes of men and women and children in Indonesia who heard the word " America" and thought of the possibility beyond the horizon. It's what I saw in the streets of the South Side, when people who had every reason to give in decided to pick themselves up. It's what I've seen in the United States Senate when Republicans and Democrats of good will do come together to take on tough issues. And it's what I've seen in this campaign, when over half a million Americans have come together to seek the change this country needs.
Now I know that some will shake their heads. It's easy to be cynical. When it comes to our foreign policy, you get it from all sides. Some folks on the right will tell you that you don't love your country if you don't support the war in Iraq. Some folks on the left will tell you that America can do no right in the world. Some shrug their shoulders because Washington says, "trust us, we'll take care of it." And we know happened the last time they said that.
Yes, it's easy to be cynical. But right now, somewhere in Iraq, there's someone about your age. He's maybe on his second or third tour. It's hot. He would rather be at home. But he's in his uniform, got his combat gear on. He's getting in a Humvee. He's going out on patrol. He's lost a buddy in this war, maybe more. He risked his life yesterday, he's risking his life today, and he's going to risk it tomorrow.
So why do we reject the cynicism? We reject it because of men and women like him. We reject it because the legacy of their sacrifice must be a better America. We reject it because they embody the spirit of those who fought to free the slaves and free a continent from a madman; who rebuilt Europe and sent Peace Corps volunteers around the globe; because they are fighting for a better America and a better world.
And I reject it because I wouldn't be on this stage if, throughout our history, America had not made the right choice over the easy choice, the ambitious choice over the cautious choice. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we were ready to move past the fights of the 1960s and the 1990s. I wouldn't be here if, time and again, the torch had not been passed to a new generation - to unite this country at home, to show a new face of this country to the world. I'm running for the presidency of the United States of America so that together we can do the hard work to seek a new dawn of peace and prosperity for our children, and for the children of the world.