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PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: My administration looked at the facts and the history and looked at the intelligence in Iraq, and we saw a threat. Members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence, and they saw a threat. In 2002, the United Nations Security Council yet again demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs. They did so because they saw a threat. And as he had for over a decade, Saddam Hussein refused to comply. He deceived the inspectors. He did everything he can to deny access to the truth.
And so I had a choice to make: Either take the word of a madman or defend the United States of America. And given that choice, I will defend America every time. (Applause) Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq. And America is safer today because we did.
( Cheers and applause )
We removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction, and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after Sept. 11, that was a risk we could not afford to take.
And our men and women in the military are keeping America’s commitment, and they’re taking great risks for our security. That’s why I proposed what they call supplemental funding to support our military mission. I did so last fall. The legislation provided funding for body armor and vital equipment, for hazard pay, for health benefits, for ammunition, for fuel, for spare parts. In the Senate, only a small out- of-the-mainstream minority voted against the legislation. And two of those twelve senators are my opponent and his running mate.
Sen. Kerry tried to explain his vote by saying this: “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” (Laughter) It sure clears things up. ( Laughter) And now, just recently, he offered a different explanation. Yesterday, my opponent said he is proud that he and his running mate voted against funding the troops. (Audience booing)
Now, listen, he’s entitled to his view. He’s entitled to his view. But members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them — (Applause) — and then brag about it. Leaders need to stand up with our military. We need to back them 100 percent. And that is what I will continue to do as the commander-in-chief of a great United States military. ( Applause )
JIM LEHRER: And now to those remarks by John Kerry which the president referred to. Kerry made them yesterday at a rally in Boston.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Here’s another value while these people are so busy dividing America. How about the value that I learned firsthand when I was at the tip of the spear of America’s foreign policy– the value of how you take a nation to war, the value of how you treat the lives of the sons and daughters of our fellow Americans, the value of the responsibility of our commander- in-chief as to how it is that you asked them to go and give their lives.
I happen to believe, I happen to believe that the commander-in- chief has to be able to look into the eyes of a parent, a family, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and you’d better be able to say to them, “I tried to do everything in my power to avoid the loss of your son and daughter, but the threat to our nation was such that we had no choice.” I believe that value, that trust was broken in these past years.
And here is the value, here is the value that John Edwards and I will put in place. I’m proud to say that John joined me in voting against that $87 billion when we knew the policy had to be changed. We had to get it right. We needed other countries involved. We needed to reach out to our allies. We needed to put other boots on the ground.
The job of the president is to have the maximum ability for success and the minimum risk and cost to the American people. And I will do that by putting in place the time-honored value of our country. The United States of America should never go to war because we want to. We only go to war because we have to. That’s the standard of this country, and it deserves to be respected again.
( Applause )
Values are not something you talk about. Values without action are slogans– or as a lot of Latinos know, propaganda. What we need are values that are going to be chosen because the common sense of Americans shares the truth, and we arrive at that choice. The values I just talked about aren’t Democrat values, and they’re not Republican values. They are American values, and we’re going to put them back in place, and we’re going to show those people who love to claim the mantle of patriotism for themselves, well, let’s have that one.
I’ve said many times around this country, you want to talk about the security of our nation and who can make America safer? Bring it on. That’s a debate that we need to have in this country, and I’m not going to let them stand up and pretend that somehow questioning the course of our country, offering a better alternative as to how we make ourselves strong at home and more respected in the world, to offer that alternative is as patriotic as to stand up and support the one we’re on today. And that’s what we’re going to do. The flag of the United States… (Applause ) I welcome that debate with George Bush and Dick Cheney and others.
The flag of the United States of America that I fought under, that streamed out behind my gun turret, that has covered the coffins of friends– that flag doesn’t belong to the president, doesn’t belong to a party. It doesn’t belong to an ideology. It is the symbol of the strength of a nation of diversity and tolerance, of a democracy that has dissent, alternative ideas, and we are going to reclaim that flag for the United States of America.
( Applause )