Forum: Defense reality far better than `W’ claims

In times of peace, talk about war. Politicians for centuries have understood that the dialogue of national security is one way to rally voters even if the threats of war are few and far between. Campaign 2000 is no different. The Bush campaign decided a few months ago to adopt the dialogue of national security and make America tremble at the prospect that our military is not the size it used to be. They claim that should World War III erupt at our doorstep, there are not as many soldiers around to protect us.

Unfortunately for the Bush campaign, they are now facing the political aftershock of their decision. Americans know and understand that we live in a different world than our parents. Americans can feel safe because the Democratic administration has faced the new realities of our complex world and has come up with the new answers these complex problems demand.

However, the national security issue is out there, and we should not forget about it. On the one hand, Al Gore has set aside $100 billion over the next ten years to go alongside the $112 billion the Pentagon had already committed to making sure that the men and women in uniform for America are taken care of. As a man of military service and experience, he knows that fighting for working families means making sure there are not three times as many soldiers on food stamps as when Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense in the last Republican administration. Gore released a detailed plan that includes investing in military readiness and reorganization to meet the changing needs of our changing world.

Democrats know that national security priorities now rely on cooperation with other nations. The disappointment heard around our party was echoed with disappointment heard around the nation as Republican leadership denied the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). For those who do not know, in 1996 we were the first nation to sign the treaty; in 1999 Republican lack of leadership made us the first nation not to ratify it. The CTBT seeks to stop the development of nuclear weapons by preventing any underground explosions of nuclear weapons for testing. How outrageous does that sound? The Republican party wants you to believe it is the party to make you secure in your homes, yet it will not commit America to stopping the development of nuclear weapons. Do not let George W. Bush distance himself, either. He issued a statement in support of the Republican leadership’s move to kill the treaty (Agence France Presse, 10/6/99).

Speaking of statements by Bush, you may remember that he made a big point of talking about how America’s military was not prepared for the future. According to The Washington Post, he was promptly corrected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary William Cohen, Colin Powell and his own defense advisor, Richard Armitage. The issue here is not just which candidate is experienced and knows what military service is like. The issue here is which candidate just has a bare-bones understanding of where our military stands. George W. Bush’s missile defense system by all accounts will cost taxpayers between $150-400 billion for a system that has yet to work in tests and risks starting a new arms race with Russia. Do you really think American voters should trust and commit this much support to a man who goes on record as saying, It’s a big world, and I’ve got a lot to learn (The Dallas Morning News, June 24, 1999).

When it comes to national security and foreign policy, Americans cannot bet that Bush will learn his lesson. We’ve learned we cannot trust him around an open microphone much less to be the voice of America. Perhaps my favorite George W. Bush moment was when he said, I appreciate Jean Poutine’s strong statement. He understands our belief in free trade. He understands I want to ensure our relationship with our most important neighbor to the north of us, Canadians, is strong. We will work closely together. The Prime Minister’s name is Jean Chretien, not Poutine. Poutine is a popular Canadian snack treat of french fries covered in cheese curd and gravy (The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2000).

Al Gore has a committed record of public and military service, a plan to prepare out military for future issues and a substantial amount of experience in foreign policy matters. We know he’s the candidate who cares about our issues, as he will be speaking to a group of GW College Democrats this week for the second time now since school started. Get involved now because the election is coming up soon. When it comes to national defense, it’s clear that there is only one secure choice for America.

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