- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Excerpts of the Democratic Party’s response to the State of the Union address, as prepared for delivery by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat:

Mr. Reid: I was born and raised in the high desert of Nevada in a tiny town called Searchlight. My dad was a hard rock miner. My mom took in wash. I grew up around people of strong values — even if they rarely talked about them. They loved their country, worshiped God, never shunned hard work, and never asked for special favors.

A few weeks ago, I joined some friends of mine for a bite to eat at the Nugget — Searchlight’s only restaurant. We were sitting down in a booth, when a young boy, about 10 years old, named Devon, walked up to us. Carrying a skateboard under his arm, he said, “Senator Reid, when I grow up I want to be just like you.”

Well, the truth is Devon could probably do a lot better. But the point still holds and it is this: No one ever had to tell young Devon to dream big dreams, no one ever had to teach him that America is a place of possibility. …

In the coming year, I believe we can make sure America lives up to its legacy as a land of opportunity if the president is willing to join hands and build from the center. …

It’s time that America’s government lived by the same values as America’s families. It’s time we invested in America’s future and made sure our people have the skills to compete and thrive in a 21st-century economy. That’s what Democrats believe. That’s where we stand. That’s what we’ll fight for.

Too many of the president’s economic policies have left Americans and American companies struggling. And after we worked so hard to eliminate the deficit, his policies have added trillions to the debt — in effect, a “birth tax” of $36,000 on every child that is born.

‘A different vision’

We Democrats have a different vision: spurring research and development in new technologies to help create the jobs of the future. Rolling up our sleeves and fighting for today’s jobs by ending the special tax breaks that encourage big corporations to ship jobs overseas. …

This 21st-century economy holds great promise for our people. But unless we give all Americans the skills they need to succeed, countries like India and China will take good-paying jobs that should be ours. From early childhood education to better elementary and high schools to making college more affordable to training workers so they can get better jobs, Democrats believe every American should have a world-class education and the skills they need in a worldwide economy. …

Good, new jobs. World-class education. Affordable health care. These things matter. Unfortunately, much of what the president offered weren’t real answers. You know, today is Groundhog Day. And what we saw and heard tonight was a little like that movie, “Groundhog Day.” The same old ideology that we’ve heard before — over and over again. We can do better.

I want you to know that when we believe the president is on the right track, we won’t let partisan interests get in the way of what’s good for the country. We will be first in line to work with him. But when he gets off track, we will be there to hold him accountable.

‘Dangerous’ plan

And that’s why we so strongly disagree with the president’s plan to privatize Social Security. Let me share with you why I believe the president’s plan is so dangerous. There’s a lot we can do to improve Americans’ retirement security, but it’s wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of 40 percent or more. Make no mistake, that’s exactly what President Bush is proposing.

The Bush plan would take our already record-high $4.3 trillion national debt and put us another $2 trillion in the red. That’s an immoral burden to place on the backs of the next generation.

But maybe most of all, the Bush plan isn’t really Social Security reform. It’s more like Social Security roulette.

Democrats are all for giving Americans more of a say and more choices when it comes to their retirement savings. But that doesn’t mean taking Social Security’s guarantee and gambling with it. And that’s coming from a Senator who represents Las Vegas.

Sometimes important questions like Social Security or the economy or education get reduced to dollars and cents or competing policies and political parties. But really, these are questions that are about old-fashioned moral values that don’t get talked about much in Washington, but matter so much to our country. Are we willing to do right by our parents and care for our children? Do we believe that big corporations with powerful lobbyists should get special favors and that the wealthiest should get special tax breaks? Or do we believe we are all God’s children and that each of us should get a fair shot and each of us deserves a say in our future? …

Mrs. Pelosi: Any discussion of our national security must begin with recognition and respect for our men and women in uniform. Whether they are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, or delivering humanitarian aid to the victims of the tsunami in Asia, our troops have the gratitude of every American for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifice they are willing to make for our country.

I have seen that sacrifice up close. I’ve met with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve visited our wounded in military hospitals here and overseas. Our troops not only defend us, they inspire us. They remind us of our responsibility to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

‘Our future in Iraq’

Because of the courage of our servicemen and women and the determination of the Iraqi people, Iraq’s election on Sunday was a significant step toward Iraqis’ taking their future into their own hands. Now we must consider our future in Iraq.

We all know that the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force. Neither should we slip out the back door, falsely declaring victory but leaving chaos.

Despite the best efforts of our troops and their Iraqi counterparts, Iraq still faces a violent and persistent insurgency, and … Iraq is now a magnet for international terrorists.

We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq. And we did not hear one tonight. Democrats believe a credible plan to bring our troops home and stabilize Iraq must include three key elements.

First, responsibility for Iraqi security must be transferred to the Iraqis as soon as possible. … We must not be lulled into a false sense of confidence by the administration’s claim that a large number of security personnel have been trained. It simply hasn’t happened, but it must.

Second, Iraq’s economic development must be accelerated. Congress has provided billions of dollars for reconstruction, but little of that money has been spent to put Iraqis to work rebuilding their country. …

Third, regional diplomacy must be intensified. Diplomacy can lessen the political problems in Iraq, take pressure off of our troops, and deprive the insurgency of the fuel of anti-Americanism on which it thrives.

If these three steps are taken, the next elections in Iraq, scheduled for December, can be held in a more secure atmosphere, with broader participation, and a much smaller American presence. …

‘President has failed’

It’s been over three years since the attacks of September 11. …

For three years, the president has failed to put together a comprehensive plan to protect America from terrorism, and we did not hear one tonight. …

Democrats are committed to a strong national security that keeps America safe, that wins the war on terror, and that never again sends our troops into harm’s way without the equipment they need. …

A strong and secure America was our parents’ gift to us. We owe our children and our grandchildren nothing less.


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