John F. Kerry photo

Remarks at North High School in Sioux City, Iowa

October 27, 2004

Thank you Sioux City. It's great to be here at North High School with all you Stars!

On Tuesday, the American people face a fundamental choice – the choice of a lifetime – a choice about the future of our country.

When I am President, I will fight a tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror. We will hunt down, capture, and kill the terrorists wherever they are.

I will never give any other nation or organization a veto over our national security. But I will never forget what Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan all knew – that America is stronger, our troops are safer, and success is more certain when we build and lead strong alliances, not when we go it alone.

George Bush has failed to learn this lesson. And he has failed in his fundamental obligation as Commander-in-Chief to make America as safe and secure as we should be.

This morning, we learned more disturbing news about the disappearance of 380 tons of powerful explosives in Iraq. We already know these weapons could produce bombs that can demolish entire buildings... blow up airplanes... destroy tanks... and kill our troops. Terrorists used explosives like this to take down Pan Am 103 and al Qaeda used it to attack the USS Cole. The missing explosives could very likely be in the hands of terrorists and insurgents – who are attacking our forces nearly 90 times a day in Iraq.

But now we've learned even more. We're seeing this White House dodge and bob and weave in their usual effort to avoid responsibility -- just as they've done each step of the way in our involvement in Iraq.

Instead of coming clean with the American people, the administration blamed the bad news on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.S. military -- and even the media. And all the while, took no responsibility for creating the situation where these weapons could go missing in the first place.

The Bush Administration first tried to convince the American people that this was not a big deal -- not a big deal that 380 tons of high grade explosives were now likely in the hands of terrorists and insurgents. Then, White House officials said guarding explosive dumps was not a high priority -- but guarding the Iraqi Oil Ministry apparently was. As more information was revealed in the press, the White House switched to their most comfortable position – the situation was bad but it was not their responsibility. Vice President Cheney, who is becoming the Chief Minister of Disinformation, echoed that it's not the administration's fault and even criticized those who raised the subject. This is a growing scandal and the American people deserve a full and honest explanation of how it happened and what this president is going to do about it.

As more facts have emerged, we've learned just how disingenuous the White House has become. Here are the facts. The IAEA warned the Bush Administration and the UN Security Council before the war that this weapons site was critical and needed urgent protection. The US Commander who reached the sight was never told to stop, inspect and protect it. He was never even told what it was.

Colonel Joseph Anderson, commander of the Army's 101st Airborne Division said: "I didn't know what the place was supposed to be. It was not our mission. It was not our focus. We were just stopping there on our way to Baghdad." The troops did their job. The commander in chief failed to do his. The troops did their job -- but the Bush Administration failed to tell them what they already knew and international agencies already knew: this site contained some of the largest quantities of the most dangerous explosives in Iraq. And the reason they failed is because they didn't plan and they rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.

And what do we now hear from this President on this important matter of national security? Silence...not a word...not a single explanation of how this could have happened and or what the U.S. government is doing to address it. That's not leadership. It's not how the commander in chief is supposed to lead. It's not what our troops on the ground deserve.

This President says he can't think of a single mistake he's made and he would do everything again in Iraq exactly the same all over again.

Three hundred and eighty tons of explosives that could be in the hands of terrorists and he would do everything exactly the same? On Iraq, the President doesn't see it, he doesn't get it, and he can't fix it. Exactly the same?

Borders porous with terrorists pouring in -- and he would do everything exactly the same? Sending our troops to war without body armor -- and he would do everything exactly the same? He says he's doing "whatever it takes." In fact, he consistently takes us in the wrong direction. And he's doomed to repeat the same mistakes all over again.

This is an urgent issue and I believe we need a fresh start in Iraq. But I also believe that a president has to be able to do more than one thing at a time. We need a president who will defend America and fight for the middle class.

President Bush doesn't seem to think this is possible. I do.

After four years in office, this President has failed middle-class families with almost every choice he's made. He's given more to those with the most at the expense of middle-class working families who are struggling to get ahead. Now he's asking you to give him four more years so that he can keep up the bad work.

The good news is, when you cast your ballot on Tuesday, you don't have to give him that chance.

You can choose a fresh start for America. You can choose a President who will fight for the great middle-class and those struggling to join it. And if you give me the opportunity, I will be that President.

We need a fresh start. Because the truth is, middle-class families can't afford four years of a Bush economy.

Too many jobs are being shipped overseas, and the ones that replace them often don't pay enough to make ends meet. Our economy is losing high-paying, middle-class jobs and creating more temporary and part-time jobs without benefits. The middle-class is carrying a larger share of the tax burden, but family income is down, and the cost of everything is through the roof. Health care up 64 percent. College tuition up more than 35 percent. Medicare premiums up 56 percent. 1.6 million lost jobs, 5 million more Americans without health care, and 220,000 students who can't afford college.

These aren't just statistics; they're the stories of families I've met all across America. The single mother who lies awake worrying that a child might get sick, and the health care will cost more than she makes in a month. Moms and dads who save and save and still come up short when they get a bill for tuition or child care that's higher than they thought. The factory worker whose job was sent overseas and now has to take two jobs just to earn what he used to make.

You know, the President likes to run around the country telling you how his job's been hard work. How he's had to put up with corporate scandals and a tough economy and a weak stock market over the last four years. He likes to tell us how hard it's been for him. Well you know what? We need a President who understands how hard it is on you, not him.

He says the presidency is "hard work, hard work, hard work." Well, Mr. President, I'm ready – and impatient -- to relieve you of that hard work.

Of course, the reason the President doesn't get it is because for the powerful and well-connected friends he's spent four years helping, it really has been the best economy of their lifetime. When he handed Halliburton a $7 billion no-bid contract, they really did have reason to celebrate. When he gave tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and helped big agribusiness at the expense of small family farmers, it really was good for them. And when his Medicare bill gave the prescription drug companies a $139 billion in windfall profits, well, it doesn't get much better than that.

This is who George Bush fights for. And this is George Bush's record.

But it doesn't have to be our future. Because our moment to choose is now.

Do we want four more years of a President who gives more to those with the most and tells a struggling middle-class that everything's just fine? Or do we want a President who will honor middle-class values and fight for middle-class opportunities?

Do we want four more years of a President who fights for the privileged few or do we want a President who fights for a stronger America for every American?

Next Tuesday, this is the choice you will make.

When you wake up next Tuesday morning, your future is on the ballot.

Jobs are on the ballot: George Bush wants to give you four more years of rewarding companies who ship jobs overseas. Four more years of jobs that pay $9000 less than the ones they replaced. Four more years of rising profits for the privileged and falling wages for our families. My fellow Americans, do you want four more years of all that?

Or do you want a fresh start on jobs? As President, I will fight for good jobs with decent benefits that pay you more so you can pay your bills and build a decent life. We'll begin by closing the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. Instead, we'll reward the companies that create and keep good jobs here in the United States of America. And to focus on the special challenges facing family farmers and small town Americans, I will hold a Rural Summit in Ames in my first 100 days.

When you head to your polling places on Tuesday, health care is on the ballot: George Bush wants to give you four more years of windfall profits for the big drug companies and the big HMOs. Four more years of rising health care costs and fewer people with health insurance. Four more years of stopping our own government from negotiating for lower drug prices for seniors. My fellow Americans, do you want four more years of all that?

Or do you want a fresh start on health care? As President, I will finally get the cost of health care under control. We will cover all children in America. We will give families access to the same private health insurance that members of Congress give themselves. We will put medical decisions in the hands of the doctors and patients – not insurance company bureaucrats. And we will finally make health care a right, and not a privilege, for every American.

When you cast your vote this year, taxes are on the ballot: George Bush wants to give you four more years of tax giveaways for millionaires and a higher tax burden for you. Four more years of letting big corporations get away without paying any taxes while you pay more for health care, tuition, and childcare. My fellow Americans, do you want four more years of all that?

Or do you want a fresh start on taxes? As President, I will cut middle-class taxes so that we can raise middle-class incomes. We'll provide tax cuts for to help you pay for college, health care, and child care. We'll roll back the Bush tax cuts for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year. And the rest of America will get the tax cut that middle-class families deserve.

When you walk into that voting booth, Social Security is on the ballot: George Bush wants four more years of raiding your Social Security trust fund to pay for his massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Four more years of trying to sell you on the same old plan to privatize Social Security and cut your benefits. My fellow Americans, do you want four more years of all that?

Or do you want a fresh start on Social Security? I will restore fiscal responsibility as president. 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when you wake up Tuesday morning, your future is on the ballot.

And you will have a choice.

My fellow Americans, are you going to choose four more years of the Bush plan to keep sending jobs overseas, or the Kerry plan to create good jobs right here in America?

Are you going to choose four more years of the Bush plan to keep health care as a privilege for the elected and the connected and the wealthy, or the Kerry plan to make health care affordable and available to all Americans?

Are you going to choose four more years of the Bush plan to give billions in tax breaks to millionaires, or the Kerry plan to give middle-class families a tax cut on child care, health care, and college tuition?

Are you going to choose four more years of the Bush plan to privatize Social Security and cut your benefits, or the Kerry plan to keep America's promise to our seniors, and our children, and our grandchildren?

Are you going to choose four more years of the Bush plan to outsource our energy policy to Exxon and the Saudi Royal Family, or the Kerry plan to make sure that our sons and daughters are never held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East?

My fellow Americans, are you going to choose four more years of the same old Bush plan to keep fighting for those with the most and leaving everyone else behind, or the Kerry plan to lift up our middle-class families and bring back the American Dream?

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the most important election of our lifetime.

When you make your choice about who will lead this country over the next four years, you're not just choosing a President. You're choosing a future for America. And if you give me the privilege of leading us toward that future, I will never stop fighting to bring back hope for the millions of hardworking Americans who believe in their hearts that tomorrow can be better than today.

My opponent wants you to vote your fears. I ask you to vote your hopes.

My opponent is offering four more years of the same failed policies and failed judgments. I'm offering a fresh start for all Americans.

I will be a president who unites our country, Democrats and Republicans and independents, to do what's right: Restore an America with a strong middle-class where everyone has the chance to work and the opportunity to get ahead.

I see a nation of rising opportunity. I believe hope, not fear is our future.

A woman in Ohio said something about a month ago. I didn't get to meet her, but she grabbed one of my people at the end of an event and she said: "You be sure to get a hold of the Senator and give him this message for me." And the message was, "Senator, we've got your back!"

Give me the chance to make you proud. Give me the chance to lift our country up. And every day I'll look you in the eye and be able to say, "I've got your back!" Let's go out and make it happen! Thank you, God Bless, and God bless America.

John F. Kerry, Remarks at North High School in Sioux City, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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