FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
September 8, 2004 • Cincinnati, OH
Yesterday in Iraq, we marked the most
incalculable loss of all. Yesterday, we reached a tragic
milestone. More than 1,000 of America’s sons and
daughters gave their lives in service to our country. More
than 1,000 sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers
and sisters who will never come home to live the lives
they dreamed of. We honor them, we pray for them and for
their families, and we owe it to their memory and all our
troops to do what’s right in Iraq.
I also want to speak directly to the more than 150,000
troops currently risking their lives as far away as Iraq
and Afghanistan. Your country is proud of you. You are
the most dedicated, capable military we’ve ever had.
We are united as a nation in our support for you. We pledge
to stand with your families as you stand on the front lines
for ours. You are the best of America. And you perform
magnificently every day. We thank you for your service
and your sacrifice.
Twenty-three months ago, President Bush came here to ask
the American people for our support. And he promised then
to make the right choices when it came to sending young
Americans to Iraq.
Here in Cincinnati, he said that if Congress approved
the resolution giving him the authority to use force, it
did not mean that military action would be “unavoidable”.
But he chose not to give the weapons inspectors the time
they needed to get the job done and give meaning to the
words, going to war as a last resort.
Here in Cincinnati, he promised “to lead a coalition.” But
he failed to build a broad, strong coalition of allies
and he rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.
Here in Cincinnati, from this hall, on that night, he
spoke to the nation, and promised: “If we have to
act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We
will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of
the United States military. We will act with allies at
our side and we will prevail.”
But then, George W. Bush made the wrong choices. He himself
now admits he miscalculated in Iraq. In truth, his miscalculation
was ignoring the advice that was given to him, including
the best advice of America’s own military. When he
didn’t like what he was hearing, he even fired the
Army Chief of Staff. His miscalculation was going to war
without taking every precaution and without giving the
inspectors time. His miscalculation was going to war without
planning carefully and without the allies we should have
had. As a result, America has paid nearly 90% of the bill
in Iraq. Contrast that with the Gulf War, where our allies
paid 95% of the costs.
George W. Bush’s wrong choices have led America
in the wrong direction in Iraq and left America without
the resources we need here at home. The cost of the President’s
go-it-alone policy in Iraq is now $200 billion and counting.
$200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can’t
afford after-school programs for our children. $200 billion
for Iraq, but they tell us we can’t afford health
care for our veterans. $200 billion for Iraq, but they
tell us we can’t afford to keep the 100,000 new police
we put on the streets during the 1990s.
Well we’re here today to tell them: they’re
wrong. And it’s time to lead America in a new direction.
When it comes to Iraq, it’s not that I would have
done one thing differently from the President, I would’ve
done almost everything differently. I would have given
the inspectors the time they needed before rushing to war.
I would have built a genuine coalition of our allies around
the world. I would’ve made sure that every soldier
put in harm’s way had the equipment and body armor
they needed. I would’ve listened to the senior military
leaders of this country and the bipartisan advice of Congress.
And, if there’s one thing I learned from my own service,
I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the
I would not have made the wrong choices that are forcing
us to pay nearly the entire cost of this war – $200
billion that we’re not investing in education, health
care, and job creation here at home.
$200 billion for going-it-alone in Iraq. That’s
the wrong choice; that’s the wrong direction; and
that’s the wrong leadership for America.
While we’re spending that $200 billion in Iraq,
8 million Americans are looking for work – 2 million
more than when George W. Bush took office – and we’re
told that we can’t afford to invest in job training
and job creation here at home.
But for the Bush administration, helping Americans find
a good job has never been the priority. The first time
we’ve heard much about it at all was during this
campaign. And at that convention in New York last week,
they actually told us that outsourcing jobs was good for
America. That shouldn’t be a surprise because that’s
what they’ve been doing for four years – and
if they get another chance, that’s exactly what they
will do for four more years. That’s the wrong choice;
that’s the wrong direction; and that’s the
wrong leadership for America.
As president, I will set a new direction. I will close
the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs
overseas. Instead, we’re going to reward companies
that create and keep good jobs here in the United States
Because of this President’s wrong choices, we’re
spending $200 billion in Iraq while the costs of health
care have gone through the roof and we’re told we
don’t have the resources to make health care affordable
and available for all Americans. Today, 45 million Americans
have no health insurance at all – 5 million more
than the day George W. Bush took office.
And after four years of no action, no concern, and hardly
a mention of those struggling to afford health care, the
President finally told us last week that he actually had
a plan. Well, we only had to wait twenty-four hours to
find out what that was. Because the very next day he raised
Medicare premiums 17 percent – the biggest increase
in Medicare premiums in the history of that program. And
here’s the kicker – a lot of that money is
nothing more than a windfall to the insurance companies
and HMOs. They’re charging 17% more for Medicare
while making America pay $200 billion for a go-it-alone
policy in Iraq. That’s the wrong choice; that’s
the wrong direction; and that’s the wrong leadership
As President, I will set a new direction. George W. Bush
believes when it comes to health care, the big drug companies
come first, the insurance companies come second, and you
come last. Well, I’m going to put you first. Our
plan will take on the waste and greed in the health care
system and save the average family up to $1000 a year on
their premiums. Our plan will help small businesses deal
with the most expensive cases. Our plan will cover all
children. When I am president, America will stop being
the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand
that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the
connected, and the elected, it is a right for all Americans.
Because of George W. Bush’s wrong choices, we’re
spending $200 billion in Iraq while we’re running
up deficits that threaten Social Security. In fact, they’re
raiding the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for their
mistakes in Iraq. At that convention in New York last week,
George Bush said that he actually had a new idea. And you
know what it was? The bad, old idea of privatizing social
security -- and cutting your benefits. That’s the
wrong choice; that’s the wrong direction; and that’s
the wrong leadership for America.
As President, I will not privatize Social Security. I
will not cut benefits. I will not raise the retirement
age. Because when you’ve worked for a lifetime, America
owes you what you’ve earned.
And because of this President’s wrong choices, we’re
spending $200 billion in Iraq instead of investing in making
America energy independent. George W. Bush’s energy
policy is to trust the big oil companies and the Saudis.
In fact, a national news magazine just reported that a
senior member of the Saudi Royal family said that as far
as they’re concerned, in the U.S. Presidential election, “It’s
Bush all the way.” I want an America that relies
on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi Royal
We’re going to invest in technology and the vehicles
of the future, so that no young American will ever be held
hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.
That’s the right choice; that’s the right direction;
and that’s the right leadership for America.
Because of this President’s wrong choices, we’re
spending $200 billion in Iraq while we’re told that
we can’t afford to do everything that we should for
homeland security. I believe it’s wrong to be opening
firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United
States of America. It’s wrong to cut money for our
first responders. It’s wrong to let 95% of the cargo
that comes into this country get by without ever being
physically inspected. That’s the wrong choice; that’s
the wrong direction; and that’s the wrong leadership
As President, I will set a new direction. We’re
going to defend this country here at home. We’re
going to do all we possibly can to protect it from another
terrorist attack. And we’re going to make homeland
security a priority, not a political slogan.
My friends, today we are bearing the cost of the war in
Iraq almost alone – $200 billion and counting.
Nearly two years after George W. Bush spoke to the nation
from this very place, we know how wrong his choices were.
He says he “miscalculated.” He calls Iraq a “catastrophic
success.” But a glance at the front pages or a look
at the nightly news shows the hard reality: Rising instability.
Spreading violence. Growing extremism. Havens for terrorists
that weren’t there before. And today, even the Pentagon
admits, Entire regions of Iraq are controlled by insurgents
I call this course a catastrophic choice that has cost
us $200 billion because we went it alone, and we’ve
paid an even more unbearable price in young American lives.
We need a new direction. I know what we need to do in
Iraq. We need to bring our allies to our side, share the
burdens, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce
the risk to American soldiers. We need to train Iraqi military
and police – we need to train them more rapidly,
more effectively, and in greater numbers to take over the
job of protecting their own country. That's what I’ll
do as Commander-in-Chief – because that’s the
right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.
You know, the President said one thing in his convention
speech that’s true. He said we all need to challenge
the soft bigotry of low expectations. But you know, it’s
George W. Bush who has set low expectations -- and met
them. He doesn’t believe that America can be strong
in the world while we also make progress here at home.
He believes we have to choose one or the other. That’s
a false choice – and I reject it. I believe we can
lead in the world and lead America to greater progress
and prosperity than we’ve ever known before.
Half a century ago, from here in Union Terminal, thousands
of soldiers waved one last goodbye to their families before
heading off to the Second World War. In that war, their
bravery, and leaders who made the right choices, brought
victory over tyranny and prosperity here at home.
When I’m president, America will once again stand
up to our enemies without destroying or denying our best
hopes here at home. We will strengthen our military to
meet new threats and we will build and lead strong alliances.
We will build a stronger America, with good jobs, better
wages, health care for all, and energy independence. With
the right choices and the right leadership, we will set
a new direction for America. We will build an America stronger
at home and respected in the world. As Franklin Roosevelt
once said, “The only limit to our realization of
tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” Well, I believe
there are no limits for tomorrow. But we need to make the
right choices today. With your help, we will restore the
true greatness of our nation and set a new direction for
Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless America.