General Wesley K. Clark
Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting
Washington, DC
October 3, 2003


Well, thanks Alice.  My name is Wes Clark, and I'm running for President.

And before I say another word, I want to make one thing clear: I'm pro-choice, I'm pro-affirmative action, I'm pro-environment, pro-education, pro-health care, and pro-labor.  And if that ain't a Democrat, then I must be at the wrong meeting.

Looks like I found the right meeting.  Thank you Terry, Lottie, Alice.

I'm in this campaign because I love this country.  I spent thirty-four years in uniform defending it, and for the last three I've watched as everything I fought for, everything I cherish, has been unraveling before our eyes.  I've watched as people have lost their jobs.  I watched as we've lost the respect of the world community.  I watched as we lost our sense of security, our faith in government.  I watched as a shadow of fear descended over the United States of America.

And that's why I'm here today.  That's why I've campaigned for Democrats, given money to Democrats, and voted for Democrats, including Al Gore in 2000.  And I'm proud that his campaign was a winning campaign.

In the United States Armed Forces, we serve our country.  We obey the orders of the Commander in Chief and the officers appointed over us.  But when I left the Army, I looked at both parties, and the differences couldn't have been more clear.

I believed in fiscal discipline and job creation.  They were for irresponsible tax cuts and corporate loopholes.  I believed in engaging and working with our allies.  They believed in putting up walls and calling names across the Atlantic.  I was for education and health care.  They were for starving our states of cash.  I was for affirmative action, and especially proud of what we did in the United States Armed Forces.  I was for a clean environment, and a woman's right to choose.  They were against all three.

In short, I realized there was only one place for me.  And I just want to tell you -- it is great to be home.  Thank you.

I'm proud to be here with you today, and I'm proud to be a member of a party that, like America, was founded on the ideals of inclusion and equal opportunity.  Not only in the way we look, but in the way we think.  And that's why I'm running a campaign where everyone is welcome.  Not just Democrats, but Independents, Republicans, and those who have never before participated.  Because if our party is exclusive -- if we close our doors to a single American who wants to come in, then we're no better than the other guys.  And we're going to have another four long years on the outside.

But that's not who we are.  And that's not why I'm running.  Think about who we are.  We're the party that brought this country out of the Great Depression; we brought it into the New Frontier.  We brought the country out of trickle down economics and into the best economy in history.  We're the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Carter, Kennedy and Clinton.  And that's a legacy I am proud to be part of.

I've traveled back and forth across this country in the three years since I've been retired from the military.  And I've seen a yearning in America for smart, strong, wise, compassionate leadership.

Right now we're facing a crisis in leadership.  Over the past three years, this administration has been sacrificing the respect that generations of Americans have earned around the world.  At a time when we need friends and allies more than ever, resentment of America has never been greater.  That makes every American less safe at home and abroad.  Two years after September 11th, we still live in the shadow of terrorism.  For the first time since the Cold War, many Americans no longer feel safe in their own backyards.

And on top of that, we've got rising poverty, dropping incomes, exploding numbers of uninsured, the worst job losses in 70 years, the worst budget deficits in American history.  Since Mr. Bush took office, the American economy has lost more than 3 million private-sector jobs.  Under Mr. Bush, we've lost two-and-a half million manufacturing jobs, and another half million in telecom and high tech.  Unemployment has jumped from 4 percent to 6 percent.  Last year, 1.7 million Americans sank into poverty; more than 700,000 of them were children.

What's President Bush's answer to all of this?  Well, he doesn't have one.  This White House has no plan.  They say tax cuts for the rich will create jobs.  They say drilling in the Arctic will create jobs.  They say a new energy plan will create jobs.  They say easing environmental regulations will create jobs.  They are flailing.  They are desperate.  They know they have a problem, and they know they don't have a solution.  They came into office with one answer to everything: tax cuts for the rich.  But three years later, tax cuts for the rich have made all America poorer.

Quite simply, this administration betrayed us.  Three years ago, we were told we were getting a compassionate conservative.  What we got instead were massive tax cuts for the rich, staggering deficits for the country, the worst job losses since the Great Depression.  That's not compassionate nor conservative; it's heartless, it's reckless, and it's wrong.

And if you elect me President, I'll make it right.

Now, the American people are moving.  The polls are showing the shift.  I don't put too much stock in polls.  But if you believe the recent poll numbers, George W. Bush will need brothers in 49 other states to take this election.

Well, he's not going to take the election.

Now I've got a plan that's founded on the principles that we as Americans, and we as Democrats, can support and sustain.

It's based on the principles that built a great nation.  We're a nation of immigrants. We're an inclusive nation.  We've succeeded, not by building walls around this country, but by building bridges and reaching outward.

We believe in international institutions.  President Harry Truman built the United Nations, even though after World War II we were the only power still standing, we knew we needed friends and allies in the world to help us bear the burdens of leadership, and right the wrongs.  And we believe in a strong military.  We've got the best-trained, best-prepared, strongest armed forces in the world.  And that's the way they'll stay.  But we know one thing also.  Use force only, only, only, as a last resort.

On these three principles: inclusiveness, multilateral institutions, and the use of force as a last resort, with a strong armed forces we can build a strong foreign policy.  We can strengthen our ties with Europe and with nations around the world.  And we can preserve the peace.

And at home, we have to preserve our environment, our air, water, and land.  We've got to protect our Constitution - our civil rights and civil liberties.  We must fight for education, health care, and retirement security for all Americans.  Perhaps most important, we've got to get our economy back on track right now, creating jobs for our future, and never at the cost of rights for our workers.

It's never a happy sight to see someone lose a job.  Unless one guy losing a job means millions of people can find jobs.

And I know just the guy.  His office is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Let's get him fired so the rest of American can get hired.

It's time for change in this country.  As I travel back and forth across, I see a new spirit in America; it's a new kind of patriotism.  One that's built on love of country.  One that's strengthened by service -- service in the armed forces, service in our communities, volunteer service, paid service, full-time service, part-time service.

This New American Patriotism is not just about waving the flag and guarding our borders.  It's about guarding what makes us distinctive as Americans -- our personal liberties, our right to debate and dissent.  We're not a country that manipulates facts, ignores debate, and stifles dissent.  We're not a country that retaliates against people who criticize the government.  We're not a country that disdains our friends and allies.  We're not a country that sheds blood before every other option has been exhausted.

And we can't have a government that stands for any of these things.

And that's why I'm running for President -- to return America to the core ideals of our democracy: personal liberty; service to country; respect for others; the right to criticize and correct the government -- in time of war, especially.  Debate, dialogue, discussion, disagreement, dissent -- that's not wrong, that's not unpatriotic.  That's one of the highest forms of patriotism and love of country, and we need to say it.

These American ideals have made us great.  They can make us greater.  They can make us safer and more prosperous.  They're the ideals of our party, the Democratic Party.  They're the ideals of our country.  That's why I'm running; that's why I'm asking for your support.  That's why we're going to build a mighty wave across this country, that's going to carry this party and these ideals back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Thank you very much.

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