Iowa Straw Poll
August 14, 1999
Thank you Kayne Robinson ladies and gentlemen. Before we get down to business I have a couple of acknowledgements and introductions I'd like to make.
The first is my friend of many years the Honorable Fred Thompson, United States Senator from Tennessee, is here and I'd like you to meet him. Fred, would you stand? [cheers].
When I was inaugurated as governor of Tennessee I had a scandal to clean up and I asked Fred Thompson to help me do it, and when I'm inaugurated president of the United States, the first thing I will do is invite someone of Fred Thompson's experience, integrity, courage and strength to take over the United States Department of Justice, clean it out and start enforcing the laws of this country. [cheers].
I also want to acknowledge the presence of Iowa's newest Republican. He's somewhere in the audience tonight; his name is Chuck Offenberger and he's the Iowa Boy. He joined my campaign not long ago and he decided that he would go down to the county courthouse and change his registration from Democrat to Republican. [cheers].
He told the lady, "I'm a FUD. F-U-D, FUD." She said what is a "FUD?" He said, "It is a fed up Democrat. [cheers]. Fed up with Clinton, fed up with Gore, and fed up with Hillary." So thank you Chuck Offenberger, and FUDs in Iowa and all across this country welcome aboard to the Republican party and a new direction for this country.
In Mt. Pleasant the other night I had dinner with Dave Heaton, a legislator. Dave explained to me what he thought was the mood of the Republican party in Iowa and America. He said we've been humilated by Bill Clinton. We've been humiliated first because we let him into office, a person of his values. And we've been humiliated second because every other day he seems to outfox us. We want a winner and we want a leader, is what Dave Heaton said to me.
And I would like to talk with you tonight, now that you've heard every Republican who might be the Republican nominee for president of United States, about how we choose a winner and a leader from a new generation of candidates. But let me start with this story.
Twenty years ago I was sitting in Nashville one afternoon--one morning--writing my inaugural address. In [inaud. ?three/two] days I was to be sworn in as the governor of Tennessee. I was interrupted by a telephone call from the United States Attorney, a Democrat. And this is what he said. "Lamar," he said, "We have evidence from the FBI that the incumbent governor is about to release more than 50 dangerous offenders from the state prison and that they have paid cash for their release, and we want you to take office early today to stop him." And by 5 p.m. that evening I was sworn in early as governor of Tennessee, and the incumbent governor found out he was out about ten minutes before I was in.
Instead of having a chance to go to work to bring out the best in our state--to fix our roads and schools and jobs--my first responsibility was to restore respect to the office of governor. I think about that a lot as I've driven from Rock Valley to Eldridge to Collins to Keokuk.
In Fort Dodge the other day, a middle school principal said to me that he took his 7th and 8th graders to the White House on a Washington tour, and he said the conversation among those children as they passed the Oval Office was not what you would hope it would be.
Just as the governor of our state 20 years ago by his conduct embarrassed our state, the president of the United States by his conduct has embarrassed our country. [cheers]. And just as 20 years ago my first job was to restore respect to the office of governor, my first job as president of the United States will be to restore respect to the office of president of the United States. [cheers].
The real reason, the real reason why my fellow Tennessean Albert Gore ought not to be the next president is not so much that he's too liberal, not so much that he may have invented the Chinese campaign contribution, but that Albert Gore served as the head cheerleader for Bill Clinton's pep rallies, and America is ready for a president who knows that the White House is our house and what goes on there is the people's business. [cheers].
America is also ready for a president who is as committed to military men and women as military men and women are committed to our country.
America is ready for a president who understands the government should take less of what we earn and we should keep more of it.
And America is ready for a president who will work with the Republican Congress to cut federal regulations exactly in half and tack up on every congressional office this new [inaud.] attitude: 'Tis more blessed to repeal than enact. [cheers].
America is ready for a president who understands agriculture well enough to get the farm economy moving again.
And America is ready for a president who will end the war against parents [pause] and who will put the country on the side of parents raising children. [cheers].
I would like to just to mention just a word about those last two issues. Albert Gore was in Iowa the other day. He was talking about schools. His agenda of course adds up to a national school board. Before we get to a national school board I think we've got some other work to do.
We need to end that war against parents. For twenty five years we've made it tougher on parents. We've paid them not to marry. We've penalized them when they do. We've made divorce easier and adoption harder. We've made discipline illegal. We've replaced Captain Kangaroo with Jerry Springer and we wonder why we have a problem. It is time to honor the job of father and mother again. [cheers].
We should triple the tax deduction for each child to $8,000, make it be what it used to be, extend that deduction to the care of an elderly relative and give mom and dad a few hundred more dollars in their pockets so they can choose to afford to spend more time teaching their children that some things are right and some things are wrong. [cheers].
As for Albert Gore's national school board, I'd send the federal bureaucrats home and send the money right back to the parents and the local school boards, and let them decide what is best for their children. [cheers].
There is more commonsense in one square inch of Ames, Iowa than in all of Washington, DC about public education.
And then I would lead a crusade to pay good teachers more, to get rid of the union rules and government regulations and court orders that keep teachers from using their commonsense and to support teachers who maintain discipline instead of suing them when there's a problem at the school.
Albert Gore wants a national school board; I want a local school board. Albert Gore is sure he knows what is best for every single child in Iowa; I would like to bring out the best of every single child of Iowa. That is the difference. [cheers].
I bought a pig the other day at the Louisa County Fair. Larry Boyson [phon.] told me I needed to do it. I paid $128 for it. Three hours later I sold it for $117. Lost $11 in three hours. He said, "Now you know what hog farming is like." I also know enough to know it's not a laughing matter. Becky and David Struthers [phon.] in Collins could barely talk to me about their farm and its future without tears in their eyes. And here's what I would do to help them.
I would tell the Europeans if you don't buy our pork and beef, we won't buy your pork and beef.
I would double the market for ethanol and raise the price of corn by 45 cents a bushel by banning the oil-based additive in gasoline called MTBE. That would clean the air and the water and help agriculture. [cheers].
I would double our export credits--that's $2,000 in every farm family's pocket--and I would repeal the inheritance tax so the Struthers could pass along their way of life to their children.
This election should not be about raising money, it should be about raising farm prices, about raising standards and about raising children. It should be about picking a winner; it should be about picking a leader.
You have seen us all tonight. You may have noticed one thing in common. Not one of us is from the World War II generation. There's no Dwight Eisenhower, there's no Richard Nixon; there's no Ronald Reagan; there's no Bob Dole; there's no George Bush. We're all in a new generation. We could walk down the main street of Ames; most people couldn't pick us out of a lineup and no one knows our views.
We need a contest, because this is not a horse race, it's not a football game; this is the biggest job in the world. This is the job that could send your grandson to fight a war, improve your schools, get the farm economy moving again, and we don't dare send an untested person into a debate with Albert Gore [cheers], because the stakes are sixteen years of Gore and Clinton and eight years of Hillary after that.
So here is what I suggest. That you might look back five, ten, twenty years and see how we've prepared ourselves for the biggest job in the world.
Twenty years ago I was being sworn in by the Democrats to restore respect to a governor's office. I'm ready to do it for our country.
Fifteen years ago I was fighting the teachers union to pay teachers more for teaching well. I'm ready to do it state by state.
Eleven years ago I was putting an ethanol tax credit into our state law; I'm ready to double the market for ethanol in our country.
Eleven years ago, I did what every politician ought to be sentenced to do, I started a business under the rules I set while I was in office, and it's successful today and I'm ready to lower taxes and cut regulations to grow jobs in America.
Then I was a land grant university president at a place just like Iowa State and I would double the research here for value-added agriculture.
I was privileged to be President Bush's education secretary; I walked across New Hampshire; I came to Iowa 80 times. I did it because I believed it would make me a better candidate and a better president.
I'm back again. Like every Republican since Eisenhower, I'm running for the second time, because I know our can't be bought, it shouldn't be inherited, it ought to be earned, and I'm in Ames Iowa to earn it. [cheers].
So I invite you to join me in a campaign to bring out the best in our country and I make you a single promise. I will always conduct myself in a way that will make you proud.
Join me in our campaign; and let it start in Ames, Iowa right here, right now. Thank you very much. [cheers].