Feb 09 2012
Speech at CPAC 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
“Thank you, Al. Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you so much.
“What kind of discounts do you get with this? Well, thank you guys for having me. A discount on your taxes, really? Thank you, I appreciate that very much.
“So, I wrote a little speech here. I brought it. I apologize. You know, it is hard to get a teleprompter in this town. There is a guy that uses a lot of them. So, I brought it.
“Thank you guys for having me. I’m so glad to be with you. The last time I was here, it felt like it was two years ago. It was two years ago. It was a joke. But a few things have changed since then. I’m now a member of the United States Senate. Yeah, but don’t clap yet. Let me tell you, it’s an interesting place.
“When I first got there, and I won’t tell you who it was, nice guy, said to me, ‘You know, the greatest thing about it is, you could be here thirty years and you’ll still be the youngest guy.’ When I first got there I would look around the room and I was a little star struck. I mean, there were people there that I had been watching for years on Meet the Press. And you’d look around and you’d look across the room and see so-and-so and say, ‘Man, that’s so-and-so.’ You’d look on the other side of the room and see someone else who was famous and well-known, maybe he had run for President or something, and you would ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’ Well, six months later you look around the same room and start wondering, ‘How did they get here?’
“So, I think we’re going to vote tonight on something else. It’ll be I think like our fifth vote of the year. Everyone’s exhausted in the Senate, people passing out from all of the hard votes. But, believe me, on some of these issues, maybe it is better that way, if you knew what they believe in.
“Anyway, here’s what I want to talk about today with you for a few minutes. You have a great line-up of really solid people coming to speak before this organization, so what I wanted to focus on for a moment is this fundamental choice that our country has, because at the end it is what elections are about. They’re about choices. They’re not just popularity contests, they’re choices. The reason why I ran two years ago was because I thought our nation was at a real crossroads. And I think we’re even more into that place than we were two years ago at this moment. It’s a very clear choice.
“Now, let’s outline, first of all, where we are and what has happened since I last spoke to you two years ago because it is pretty dramatic. And I think all we need to look at is the State of the Union, the speech that the President gave just a couple of weeks ago. If you noticed, the President talked about a lot of the things. The one thing he didn’t talk about was his record. He didn’t talk a lot about his record. And there is a good reason for that. Because it is not very good. Let me explain.
“When the President took over as President of the United States, we had high unemployment. When the President took over as President of the United States, we had an economy that was going through some real struggles. He became President. He had a Democrat-controlled Congress. He got everything he wanted from the Congress. And guess what? Everything got worse.
“The unemployment went up, the debt went up, the economy slowed down. Everything got worse. So, he cannot run on his record. And so if he can’t run on his record, what is he going to try to do instead? And what we have seen is unprecedented. Unlike any leader in modern American history, we are led today by a President that has decided to pit Americans against each other.
“The basic argument that he’s making to our nation is the reason why some of us are worse off than we used to be is because other people are doing too well. That the only way for some of us to do better is for other people to do worse. That the only way for some people to climb the political ladder is for other people to be pulled down. This is the argument that this President, unlike perhaps any figure in modern American politics, is making. And he’s doing it because it is a calculated effort to win the election.
“Here’s the problem. The words do matter, especially when it comes from the highest office in the land. And that idea, that the only way for some people to do better is for other people to do worse, that’s what other countries believe. That’s the kind of thought process that people come here to get away from.
“And it’s never worked anywhere it has been tried. And so the biggest challenge we have as a movement, as conservatives, or what I like to call the majority of Americans. You know why I know that? You know, somebody asked me: ‘How do you know that? How do you know Americans are majority conservative?’ Here’s why: how come liberals never admit that they are liberals? They never admit it. They’ve now come up with a new word called progressive, which I thought was an insurance company, but apparently it’s a label. They’ll never admit it.
“Look, I love the presidential primaries. We have four really good candidates. They are going across the country. You support different people. Don’t let the media convince you that these primaries are going to somehow, at the end of the day, we are all going to come together and we know that, right? But, what are Republican primaries about? They’re usually at the core, a fight about who’s more like Ronald Reagan. The Democrats never fight about who is more like Jimmy Carter.
“So the majority of Americans are conservative. They believe in things like the Constitution. I know that is weird to some people, but they believe in it. Of course, if you listen to one of our Supreme Court justices recently, she believes that, yeah. So let me just say that if you’re an appellate lawyer you need to brush up on your South African law because that’s how some cases are apparently going to be decided here, going forward.
“Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, America. So this thing, what is the conservative movement? It is pretty straight forward. We believe that the way that prosperity is created is when people have the freedom and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Now what that means at the real level is this. That you can open up a business in the spare bedroom of your home. That you can ask your mom, ‘Hey, can I take a piece of this garage and use it to start up this business, where I am going to take my life savings and invest it in this idea that I have?’ Now yes, it is probably in violation of the zoning code, but it happens. And it has happened so many times in America that you literally cannot walk one block. I will tell you this, you literally cannot walk five steps in this very room, without running into someone that at some point had an idea and the opportunity to pursue it and today families are being fed and people will cash a paycheck. Tomorrow is Friday? Tomorrow they will cash a paycheck, because you had an idea and the freedom to pursue it.
“What is government’s role in this? What does government do to make that possible? Well, here is what government does. The first thing is that is has a normal tax code that is easy to understand and easy to comply with. So the conservative movement, as much as anything else, is about tax reform. About a simplistic tax code that people can comply with. Some of you are flat taxers, others are fair taxers. The point is that we stand for simplicity and normalcy in the tax code. We understand you have to have taxes. You have to pay for the national defense. But the tax code should not be an impediment to the creation of jobs and economic opportunity.
“We are the party of regulatory reform. You have to have regulations, but these regulations have to make sense. They can’t exist just to justify the existence of an agency. They can’t put you at a competitive disadvantage against the rest of the world. And so conservatism is about regulatory reform, where yes, we have clean air and we have clean water, but we also have some sanity.
“By the way if you want to start a business, it usually, in the twenty-first century anyway, it takes electricity. And it takes the ability to get there and back. And that means the cost of fuel and energy. America doesn’t have an energy policy. It has energy politics. Now, here is the deal. We are an energy rich nation. Look, we are all for that stuff, energy efficiency. You have a new technology that makes your car more gas efficient or fuel efficient, that’s fantastic. You have invented a way to turn roses into gasoline, that is fantastic. And that’s all good, we should be a leader in all those things. But in the meantime, why would we tie our own hands behind our back?
“If we are competing with other economies, you know the Chinese will drill a hole anywhere they can get their hands on. Now, I’m not saying we have to be like them, but I am saying that we are an energy rich country and conservatism, which is grounded in common sense, says that if you are an energy rich country, you need to use the energy that God has blessed your nation with.
“One more thing that stands in the way of economic job creation is this debt that hangs over our head. A government that spends more money than it takes in. That’s not sustainable. People are afraid of it. They recognize that if we don’t deal with it, it can lead to all sorts of calamity. Look at what is happening in Europe. That’s our future. And we don’t know how far away it is, six months or six years, but it is coming. We know that.
“And the drivers of our debt, we know what they are. For example, Medicare, an important program in my state. My mom is on Medicare. Medicare is going bankrupt. Anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare the way it is right now is in favor of bankrupting Medicare.
“So, where is the President’s plan to save Medicare? Let me show it to you. Here it is. He doesn’t have one. It is a blank piece of paper. This is his plan when it comes to Medicare. His plan is wait for a Republican like Paul Ryan to offer a plan and then attack him.
“He hasn’t been in office three or four weeks. He’s been in office a little bit over three years. Two of those years, his party controlled both houses of Congress. And he’s dealt with none of these issues I’ve just outlined.
“And so, the strength of our nation and of conservatism begins with the notion that we have to be strong economically. But you cannot be strong economically unless you’re strong from a national defense perspective either.
“And that is why investing in our military and in our national defense is so critical moving forward and into the future. And so you have to be strong economically, you have to be strong militarily.
“There’s one other thing you have to have to be strong, and that is your people have to be strong.
“At the end of the day, what makes our nation distinctive is our people. Our greatness does not derive from our government or from our laws or from our President. And it certainly doesn’t come from our Congress. The strength of our nation is from our people. From folks from all walks of life who in other nations would have no chance to pursue their dreams, but here have the freedom and the opportunity to do so.
“And you cannot have a strong people unless they have a strong character and strong moral values. And that means there are critical institutions in society that help families to raise strong people, like churches and synagogues and community groups. Government shouldn’t be telling these institutions what to do, and they certainly shouldn’t be oppressing them.
“We have a President that just a few weeks ago, or just a few days ago, basically issued a mandate ordering religious institutions to follow his ideas. Telling religious based organizations that they must, by mandate of the federal government, pay for things that that religion teaches is wrong.
“Now you may not agree with what the religion believes. That’s not the point. The point is the First Amendment still applies. Religious freedom still exists.
“And so, don’t let the media commentators say, ‘This is about contraception, this isn’t about religion.’ This isn’t even a social issue. This is a constitutional issue. Now, I don’t know what the South African constitution says about these things, but I know what the U.S. Constitution says about it. And what it is says is that federal government does not have the power to force religious organizations to pay for things that that organization thinks is wrong.
“They told me there was a clock here that said how long I have, but they must not have started it. You guys will let me know when I run out of time.
“So, what does this all mean? Why does this all matter at the end of the day? It matters because this is about what country we’re going to leave our children. But I want to make an argument to you that it is about more than just that.
“The world is what it is today because of the American Century. With all of the problems we have around the world, let’s not forget how different this world has been since America has been the most powerful country on the planet.
“In the early part of the twentieth century the world fought not one, but two world wars where millions of people died. And a hateful system of thought, Nazism, almost conquered Europe. It is hard to believe that there are still people alive who lived through that. There was a nation that almost conquered Europe and used the power of its government to try to kill – that killed – six million Jewish people, not to mention others they didn’t like either.
“It was just a moment ago.
“Nazism would have won. Imperial Japan would have won had it not been for the power and resolve of the American people. And since that time, since the end of World War II, there haven’t been any other world wars. There have been conflicts, sure.
“Has world peace come? Have all our problems gone away? Of course not. But the world is a lot better than it was in the early part of the twentieth century because America is the strongest country in the world.
“Today, millions of people around the world are part of the middle class because of the rise of democracy and free enterprise. Did that happen on its own? Is that the natural state of man? History says it’s not. If you study history, almost throughout history, almost without exception, the vast majority of the people that have ever lived, lived under repressive governments who told them what God they had to pray to, who told them what they were going to be before they were even born. Sometimes they couldn’t even pick who to marry. That has been the rule rather than the exception throughout human history. So what changed? How come all of a sudden, all around the world, people whose families have lived in poverty generation after generation, have now emerged from that?
“The answer is the spread of not just democracy but the free enterprise system. And why did it spread? It spread because the most powerful country in the world believed in these things, fought for these things, spoke out for these things and, more importantly, was an example about these things.
“Our military is the most powerful fighting force in human history, and from time to time we’ve had to use it. But that hasn’t not been our greatest contribution. Our political system, as messy as it looks, has protected freedoms and liberties more than any other political system in the history of the world, but that’s not the best thing about America.
“You know what the most powerful thing about our nation is? It’s the American example. The fact that anywhere you go in the world, people know that there is someone just like them living here who is doing things that they cannot. There is someone born, just like they were born, into the same type of circumstances, maybe with a similar name or background, that is able to do all sorts of things that they, in their own country, cannot do. And they realize that it doesn’t have to be the way it is for them. Whether they agree with us on a bunch of issues or not, do you know why people sacrifice their lives and struggle to access democracy and free enterprise around the world? Because they’ve seen what it’s done here. They’ve seen, in the American example, what can happen when anyone from anywhere can accomplish things, anything they want. They’ve seen what it means, and they want that for themselves.
“So what happens if we diminish? What happens if we diminish because we can no longer afford to be the greatest country in the world? What happens if we diminish because our leaders decide we don’t want to be the greatest country in the history of the world? What happens if we retreat? What happens is we’ll leave a space. And that space will be filled by someone else. And who is that someone else? Well, the only people right now, the only nations right now that can even try to do it are nations that don’t believe in the things we believe in. Totalitarian nations like China and Russia, who stand by and cross their arms and vote against condemnation of Syria. You know why? Do you want to know why they cannot vote to condemn Syria? Because they reserve the right to do to their own people the same thing if their governments are one day threatened.
“And so in this twenty-first century, who will win? Whose ideas will continue to spread across the globe? Will it be our ideas of freedom, democracy and free enterprise? Or will it be their ideas of state-owned enterprises and totalitarianism? This is not just a military conflict, or a political one. It’s one of example. The greatest thing we can do for the world is be America.
“And that, that’s what’s at stake here. That’s what Americans will have to choose. That’s what November will be about.
“The President of the United States looks like he is a really good father, looks like he is a really good husband, but he is a terrible President. And at the core of this whole issue is what kind of nation we will leave behind, and what kind of world.
“Let me close by saying we Americans are uncomfortable, too often by our nature, with the idea that we are who we are. We don’t like to tell other people what to do. We don’t want to have to be solving other people’s problems and, quite frankly, often we can’t and shouldn’t. We don’t like that. We would prefer for everyone to just reach the same conclusions we have on their own. And oftentimes, they do, by following our example.
“But I think it is important to take a deep breath and realize that our greatness is not just because we have a good political system and really good people. America’s greatness is also derived from our blessings.
“We are a blessed nation.
“Think of what God has given us. A nation rich with everything you can imagine – resources, natural and otherwise.
“Think of the people God has allowed to come here over two-hundred and some odd years. The best and brightest the world has to offer. Go-getters.
“He’s blessed us with prosperity in our own continent and freedom. And peace.
“Think of your own lives. Maybe you came here from somewhere else or your parents or your grandparents. But think about where your lineage once came from and how they lived their lives. And how you live yours. I do.
“My parents, my father, my grandfather, I think they were better men than I was. And yet they never got to accomplish their dreams. Why? What was the difference between them and me?
“The difference is that I was born with the privilege and the honor of being a citizen of the single greatest nation in all of human history.
“And so, being an American, is a blessing. And it is also a responsibility. A responsibility not just to protect America here at home, but to ensure that by doing the right things here that we are an example for the world.
“My favorite President, someone I think you probably like too, is named Ronald Reagan. I told you! What did you think, Jimmy Carter? He used to talk about a ‘shining city on a hill’. But really, that comes from a biblical reference, where Jesus said that a lamp can’t be hidden, but you show your light to the world so that you can honor and glorify God.
“America is a light. Our light. Your light. What you have done in your lives every single day, the light of everyday Americans who without the government telling them what to do, today will give a ride to their neighbor to the doctor. They don’t wait for the government bus to come do it. They take it upon themselves. The light of everyday people who have a good idea and will take their life savings in pursuit of that idea and it works.
“The light of everyday people whose names you will never know, whose stories will never be told, whose face will never be on the cover of a magazine, but make a real difference in the real lives of real people. That light.
“The light of a nation who, when it engages around the globe militarily whether you agree with it or not, never does it because we want their land. We don’t want Afghanistan to be another state. We’re not looking to annex Iraq. Whether you agree with it or not, when Americans send their sons, and increasingly their daughters, to die overseas, they do it for other people’s liberty. For other people’s freedoms. And what nation in the world has ever done that?
“This is who we’ve been. This is who we are.
“Being America has changed the world and made it better.
“And now we must decide if we are prepared to continue that or to recede and become just like everybody else. And that is the choice in November.
“That is the choice. It is not a choice between a person we like and a person we don’t. It is not even a choice between a Republican and a Democrat. It is a choice between someone who has failed over the last three years and is asking for four more and a change in direction.
“One that embraces the source of our greatness so that the twenty-first century will be an American Century as well. And the stakes, I can’t imagine them being any higher. For ultimately what we discuss is what the kind of nation and world we leave our children and their children.
“We have a historic opportunity. We should be grateful and thank God every night that he has placed us here in this nation at this time in our history. Because he has given us the chance to do what few people in human history have ever had the chance to do, and that is through our example and the way we lead our lives and run our nation, change the world for the better, forever.
“Thank you very much, may God bless all of you.”