Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI)
Republican Party of Iowa
Abraham Lincoln Unity Dinner
Des Moines, Iowa
April 14, 2007
Thank you very much David.  You do an outstanding job as auditor of this wonderful state.  Ladies and gentlemen-- [applause], ladies and gentlemen, I first want to thank Gov. Ray, his lovely wife Billie, Gov. Branstad, his lovely wife Chris, your two great congressmen, Tom Latham and Steve King, and all of you for being here this evening.

I don't know about you, but I was there listening to all the speakers and you know something?  I was proud to be a Republican.  [applause].  You know that; I was proud to be a Republican.  [applause].  I was proud because we have talent in this party, and I am so sick of those pessimists in Congress, those liberal Democrats who get up in the morning and eat grapefruit and suck lemons all day.  [laughter].  I want a party with people with power and humor and ideas and ideals, and that's the Republican Party.  When I speak in Wisconsin to [?in] a Republican audience like this I always start out by saying, isn't it great to be a Republican?  And be proud of it ladies and gentlemen.  [applause].  Don't shy away from it.

We got beat last election.  We went to Washington to change Washington, and I think Washington changed us.  We tried to spend money as foolishly and as fast and as ridiculously as the Democrats.  And I tell my audiences that if the voters are going to vote for a spender they will always vote for the professional spender, the Democrats [laughter], not the amateur, the Republicans.

And what really bothers me, ladies and gentlemen, is that we have to become once again the party of Lincoln and Reagan, the party of ideas.  And that's why I'm running for president.

I was--I've been blessed.  I grew up in Elroy, Wisconsin, a city so small, ladies and gentlemen, that you can call somebody, get a wrong number and still talk for a half an hour.  [laughter].  That's my home town.

We have a farm, my wife and I, I bought, it was homesteaded by my Irish great grandparents--came over after the potato famine.  And I have been blessed to be elected governor four times, been blessed to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Now Secretary of Health and Human Services--I tried to do innovative, nifty things 'cause I'm a person that believes in ideas.  One thing I did, you know I get a little embarrassed, sometimes upset, when I get up in the morning and listen to FOX News and some scientific report gets up and says, you know, this food is good for you and this beverage is good to drink and then about six months later another scientific report comes up and says that that food is bad for you.  You know what I mean?  Coffee's gone through three iterations.  It used to be bad for you, then it was good for you and then it was bad for you and now it's good for you again, especially for you drinkers.  It coats your liver.  [laughter].

So what I did is I impaneled the world-reknowned group of scientists from all over the world to come into Washington to study it.  And I says I'm going to be out and I'm going to speak to the American public about health care because that's my specialty, transforming health care, and I want to be able to tell them.  And I want to give you some really good [inaud. ?tidbits?], some information, ladies and gentlemen, you can go back use it in your family, your schools, your churches, wherever it is.

This group of scientists found out that the Japanese eat a lot of rice, drink a lot of sake, and they suffer fewer heart attacks than the British and the Americans.  They found that the Mexicans eat a lot of corn, a lot of tamales, they drink a lot of tequila, and they suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.  They found that the Africans drink very little red wine and eat a lot of wild meat, and they suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.  Our friends the French and the Italians drink large amounts of red wine, eat lots of white bread, and they suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.  They found that our friends the Germans eat lots of sausages, lots of fats, drink lots of beer, and they suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.  Their conclusion was eat and drink whatever you like; speaking English is apparently what kills you.  [laughter, applause].

I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that the Republican Party and why I'm running, needs to get back to big ideas about improving the quality of life, the quality of health, and making things happen in America.  Republicans you know sometimes get a little fear, a little afraid of doing things.  Democrats always run as Republicans.  You notice that?  Every Democrat in the election year runs like a conservative, and then they go back and tax and spend.  And Republicans are the true conservatives.

And when I came in as governor of the state of Wisconsin, I had a state that had been--you know Wisconsin's a Democrat state.  I won the governorship, ladies and gentlemen, in a Democrat year in a Democrat state against a Democrat incumbent.  Unheard of.  I've always been the underdog, and I always outwork and out organize.  And that's why I am in Iowa, ladies and gentlemen, every single week.  Ever since the first of December.  And someone says, you're here so often Tommy you're going to have to start paying taxes.  [laughter].  And I said not with this governor I'm not going to.  [laughter, applause].  I'm not going to, no sir, but I'm here every week to see you, to look you straight in the eye and tell you that I am for real.

I'm a reliable conservative.  I vetoed, ladies and gentlemen, 1,900 items.  Other speakers said they cut taxes by a billion dollars.  I cut taxes by $16.5 billion.  1,900 vetoes.  And I started welfare [reform].  People said all over America you can't touch welfare; that's a way of life.

What I did is I brought welfare mothers into the mansion in Madison, sat 'em down at the dinner table, and we talked.  Just welfare mothers and myself.  And I said, why don't you work?  They said, well if I work, I lose my health insurance.  I said, I'll give you health insurance.  Well if I go to work, who's going to take care of my children?  I'll provide you day care.  They said, I dropped out of school when I was 13.  And I said, I'll provide you job training and I'll provide you transportation.  And I said, will you go to work?  And they said, yes.  And it started welfare reform in America.  A hand up, ladies and gentlemen, not a hand out.

And before I got done as governor welfare reform spread all across the country, and now is spreading around the world.  And I reduced welfare caseload in Wisconsin, ladies and gentlemen, by 93 percent, the largest decrease of any state in America.  [applause].  And I did it, I did it the Republican way, by reaching out and finding ways to help people, and build the principle that this party is famous for.

Then I saw a problem in Wisconsin with poor minority children.  In Milwaukee 15 percent of African-Americans were dropping out of school.  And I went out and talked to the parents and talked to the students, and they said, you lock us into poor schools, governor.  Give me a choice, give me a choice to pick my school for my children.  And I did it and I started the first private school choice program in this country.

And last week when I announced my bid for the presidency of this wonderful great country, I went down to one of those choice schools in Milwaukee called Messmer, a high school with 2,000 students; 80 percent are African-American, 10 percent are Latino.  Eighty percent are on subsidized school lunch programs.  And last year 98 percent of those children graduated from high school, and what is really impressive is that 90 percent went on to college.  Don't tell me a child cannot learn.  Give them the opportunity, [applause] give them a chance, give them the Republican way, and they will show that they can excel just like every child.  That's the Republican way.

Then I look at Iraq.  There's a bond, ladies and gentlemen, a bond in this country between our government and our country that every armed forces person that is in harm's way deserves the backing, the resources, the equipment and the ammunition to defend themselves when they are in harms way.  And what the Democrats are doing, playing politics with money and equipment for those armed forces people is just plain wrong, ladies and gentlemen, and we're not going to let it happen.  [applause].

But I look beyond, I look beyond whether or not the surge is right or wrong.  I look around and I say nobody is talking about how to build the peace or how to build Iraq.  So I have developed a very commonsense, a plan that will work.

First off, ladies and gentlemen, I would require the Al-Maliki government, which is duly elected and which we brag about, that we helped elect in Iraq, to stand up and vote as to whether or not they want the United States country in their country.  I think they will vote yes.  And that would immediately give us a legitimacy for being there.  But if they vote no, we should get the heck out of Iraq.

And secondly, there are 18 territories in Iraq, ladies and gentlemen, just like we have 50 states in America.  And I would require those 18 territories to elect governments just like we elect in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Wisconsin.  And what would happen?  The Shi'ites would elect Shi-ite governments.  The Sunnis would elect Sunni governments.  And the Kurds would elect Kurd governments.  And you would get away from this internecine civil war that's going on because Shi'ites will gravitate to those territories run by Shi'ite theocracies, Sunnis will gravitate to territories run by Sunni theocracies and Kurds the same.  They have been fighting each other for 1,400 years.  Goes back to the war of 871 when the Sunnis assassinated the two grandsons of Mohammed.  And you're not going to force them to live together.  But if you give them separate territories you can get away from this civil war and start developing peace.

And the third thing, just like we do in Alaska.  Just like we do in Alaska, let's share the oil royalties and revenues.  One third to the federal government, one third to the state territories, and one third to every man, woman and child.  We do that in Alaska, and here's what would happen.  Every man, woman and child would be watching their government leaders to make sure they're being honest because it's their money at stake.  They would make sure that those oil wells don't get blown up because it's money in their pocket.  And they would be working to expand the production of those oil wells because it's more money in their pocket.

And then they would take that steady stream of income and start building businesses.  And I've been in Baghdad and I see the entrepreneurial spirit.  And those individuals that start building businesses and bringing in customers, and if you start building a business and having customers, you will not go down the street and blow them up.  And that's a plan, ladies and gentlemen, a commonsense Republican plan that will build the peace in Iraq and help to stabilize the Middle East.  [applause].  And then--  Thank you.

...trouble, ladies and gentlemen, when countries all over this world are demeaning and tearing down our great country, because we're a generous country.  And I went to Afghanistan every year that I was secretary.  And I saw what terrorism and what the Taliban had done to destroy that country, and I saw what it was doing to women and children.  They treated women and children just like chattel.  And I talked to the women in Afghanistan and they told me, Mr. Secretary, our lot in life is to grow up, get married, have children until we hemorrhage and then we die.

Then I went into the hospitals.  And I saw that if a poor woman, who could not practice medicine, had to have a cesarean, or had difficulty with a breech birth, they would go into a hospital and they would bring in a male doctor who would not scrub up because there was no running water in the operating room.  And as a result of that 16 percent of the babies died in childbirth.  One out of four children died before age 5.  And it's the worst country in the world for maternal death.

I came back and I talked to the President, Laura Bush, Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, and we raised $3 million, and I went back there and opened up a new hospital for women and children on Easter Sunday 2003.  And I'll always remember this because out in the audience were 750 women who were not invited, but they came there to say thank you to America for what we had done.

And then I see the power of medical and educational diplomacy.  And I thought to myself what could really be done to change people's attitudes about America?  And it came to me that we have these two huge ships, the Mercy and the Comfort, one is berthed in San Diego, one is berthed in Baltimore.  Fifteen hundred beds of the most modern hospital you could ever imagine, and they're just berthed there.  And I thought, what a tremendous opportunity for America, to put out, to put out a contest with every medical school in America.  Give us six or seven of your brightest graduating doctors to serve a year on these ships.  And can you imagine being in Somalia, being in the Middle East or Latin America and seeing one of these giant American ships come sailing in with thousands of idealistic young doctors, getting off and administering to the medical needs of those people.  It would be a public relations power house and we would start changing the attitudes towards America.

And that's what I talk about--the power of ideas.  And that's why I'm a Republican, and that's why I'm running for president.

I look around and I see a tax code and I see a lot of you talking about the Fair Tax.  The Fair Tax is not going to happen overnight, but I will tell you how you get there, and that is under the current law you have to figure your income taxes out and then you have to figure out the alternative minimum tax and you have to pay whichever is the highest.  I've got a better plan.  Ideas are power.  I would put in a plan, ladies and gentlemen, where you would have that computation, but one more computation.  You would have a 15 percent flat tax and you would pay whichever is least.  And you would save and change the tax code overnight, ladies and gentlemen.  [applause].  And you would get to your Fair Tax.

And so I'm running as a candidate from Wisconsin.  A governor from Wisconsin who spends all of his spare time in Iowa.  [laughter].  And I want your vote; I want your help.  Because I don't believe a Republican can be elected next year as president of the United States without carrying Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I believe I'm the strongest candidate to do that.  And I want you to support me.  And I also want you to know something more about me.

I'm happily married to a beautiful wife, Sue Ann, of 38 years.  We have a farm.  We raise Belted Galloways.  And we've had a lot of problems in our family with cancer.  My mother died from ovarian cancer.  Sue Ann's mother died from breast cancer.  And while we were governor Sue Ann came down with breast cancer.  And she was a career teacher, and she gave up teaching so she could start a woman's health foundation to educate women and families in Wisconsin about health care.  And she's grown that to about 20 employees.  It's a non-profit, and she does a wonderful job.  And I can't wait 'til you get to meet her.  She's nifty.  [laughter].

And we have a young daughter, Tommy, who was supposed to have been a boy.  [laughter].  Ended up with my name and still has never forgiven me, and she came down with breast cancer.  It was mother-in-law, wife, child.  And before she went in for her mastectomy, my young daughter Tommy wanted to have a baby.  So she was able to salvage one egg.  Frozen for two and a half years and because she was on Tamoxifen, a cancer drug which lowers the estrogen, she could not carry the embryo, the egg.  So she had to get a surrogate mother.  And that surrogate mother was my other daughter, Kelly.  And the doctor said less than a 5 percent chance.

And on January 5th, this year--we missed the tax break--but on January 5th, a beautiful baby granddaughter, Eiley Kellion Ann Duffey [phon.] was born.  And I went out there that evening on Friday night and I held that baby.  And I looked at that baby and I saw how difficult it was.  Two and a half years being frozen, a speck so small you couldn't see it with the naked eye,and yet here I was holding life.  And I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that that makes a believer about pro-life more than anything else and I will never, never go back on my belief that pro-life is where this party has to be.  [applause].  For the last eight campaigns we have had a pro-life candidate and it is not now the time to change.  We need to continue our principles, our ideas and our ideals, ladies and gentlemen, and don't you ever forget it.

So ladies and gentlemen, my Irish blessing.  May the road always rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back and may the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.  God love you, God love Iowa and God love the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  [applause].

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Time: 22:48