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Statement of John McCain of the Republican Party

Nov 4, 2008, 6:51 AM

Today we are seeing how, in so many ways, Washington is on the wrong track. We need change and I know how to deliver it. The status quo is not on the ballot. Change is coming. The question is: in what direction will we go?

As president, I will help to create jobs for Americans in the most effective way a president can: cutting taxes, giving small business owners the tools to create new jobs and protecting your life savings. I will lead reforms to help families keep their homes, help every citizen afford health care and lead America to reclaim its energy independence.

My plan to cut capital gains taxes on investments will make sure that those families forced to sell assets during this downturn aren't penalized. We will also suspend the rules to prevent our seniors from being forced to sell off their IRAs during a weak market. These initiatives will have a real effect on working men and women of Missouri who look to pension and retirement plans in the future.

In tough economic times, higher taxes are the last thing we need as a nation. Sen. Obama's plan will raise taxes on business that generate more than half of the income of all small businesses in America . They are the backbone of our economy, and will lead us to recovery. While Sen. Obama wants to control wealth and spread it around, I want to create wealth and spread opportunity.

Having visited Missouri often, both Gov. Sarah Palin and I know how important mainstream values and enjoyment of the outdoors are to you. When she visited Springfield and saw the Ozarks, Gov. Palin felt at home with the area and the people who share our values.

Gov. Palin and I know that there is no greater nobility than to sacrifice for a great cause and no cause greater than protection of human dignity.

Decency, human compassion, self-sacrifice and the defense of innocent life will be the guiding principles of a McCain-Palin administration. It's about changing the culture of America . I am pro-life. We need to tell young American women who are faced with this terrible decision that we will help them have the courage to bring a baby into this world and we'll have the compassion and help them in every way that they can address it.

Gov. Palin and I both know what sportsmen mean to conservation efforts. Everyone who spends time in a stand or a blind or in waders knows how much the environment means to us. We enjoy the natural blessings God has given our country, and we know how important it is to share it with our children.

Sen. Obama tells us that the "tradition" of gun ownership is one which must "be respected." It is obvious to Gov. Palin and I that he just doesn't get it. A tradition is one thing; a constitutional right is another. Sen. Obama has a record of not supporting the Second Amendment, including support of the D.C. gun ban, which was ruled unconstitutional.

A president doesn't get to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution he gets to enforce, and I view the right to own a gun as sacred as our right to free speech.

I have been upholding my oath to support and defend the Constitution, putting my country first, since I was 17 years old about to enter the United StatesNavalAcademy . I have had the great fortune of defending her liberty in uniform and defending the rights of her citizens in the Congress.

I believe my experience will inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their own self-interests.

We cannot afford to spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight: waiting for our luck to change. We have to act immediately. We have to stand together and fight. I ask that you stand together with me on Nov. 4, so that we can truly change to a new direction - one that puts our country first.

Strategy for Victory in Iraq
The Importance of Succeeding

John McCain believes it is strategically and morally essential for the United States to support the Government of Iraq to become capable of governing itself and safeguarding its people. He strongly disagrees with those who advocate withdrawing American troops before that has occurred.

It would be a grave mistake to leave before Al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated and before a competent, trained, and capable Iraqi security force is in place and operating effectively. We must help the Government of Iraq battle those who provoke sectarian tensions and promote a civil war that could destabilize the Middle East . Iraq must not become a failed state, a haven for terrorists, or a pawn of Iran . These likely consequences of America 's failure in Iraq almost certainly would either require us to return or draw us into a wider and far costlier war.

The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home.

Support the Successful Counterinsurgency Strategy

John McCain has been a leading advocate of the "surge" and the counterinsurgency strategy carried out by General David Petraeus. At the end of 2006, four years of a badly conceived military strategy that concentrated American troops on large bases brought us near to the point of no return. Sectarian violence in Iraq was spiraling out of control. Al Qaeda in Iraq was on the offensive. Entire provinces were under extremists' control and were deemed all but lost. At that critical moment, John McCain supported sending reinforcements to Iraq to implement a classic counterinsurgency strategy of securing the population.

That strategy has paid off. From June 2007 through March 2008, sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq was reduced by 90 percent. Civilian deaths and deaths of coalition forces fell by 70 percent. This has opened the way for a return to something that approaches normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi. Political reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local and provincial grassroots level. Sunni and Shi'a chased from their homes by terrorist and sectarian violence are returning. The "Sons of Iraq" and Awakening movements, where former Sunni insurgents have now joined in the fight against Al Qaeda, continue to grow.

Those gains would be lost if we were to follow the policy advocated by Senator Barack Obama to withdraw most of our troops and leave behind only a small "strike force" to battle terrorists. That is, in essence, the same strategy of withdrawing from Iraq 's streets that failed in 2006. John McCain advocates continuing the successful counterinsurgency strategy that began in 2007.

Push for Political Reconciliation and Good Government

Thanks to the success of the surge, Iraq 's political order is evolving in positive and hopeful ways. Four out of the six laws cited as benchmarks by the U.S. have been passed by the Iraqi legislature. A law on amnesty and a law rolling back some of the harsher restrictions against former employees of the Iraqi government have made it possible for Iraqis to move toward genuine reconciliation. The legislature has devolved greater power to local and provincial authorities, where much of the real work of rebuilding Iraq is taking place.

More progress is necessary. The government must improve its ability to serve all Iraqis. A key test for the Iraqi government will be finding jobs in the security services and the civilian sector for the "Sons of Iraq" who have risked so much to battle terrorists.

Iraq will conduct two landmark elections in the near future - one for provincial governments in late 2008 and the other for the national government in 2009. John McCain believes we should welcome a larger United Nations role in supporting the elections. The key condition for successful elections is for American troops to continue to work with brave Iraqis to allow the voting to take place in relative freedom and security. Iraqis need to know that the U.S. will not abandon them, but will continue to press their politicians to show the necessary leadership to help develop their country.

Get Iraq 's Economy Back on its Feet

John McCain believes that economic progress is essential to sustaining security gains in Iraq . Markets that were once silent and deserted have come back to life in many areas, but high unemployment rates continue to fuel criminal and insurgent violence. To move young men away from the attractions of well-funded extremists, we need a vibrant, growing Iraqi economy. The Iraqi government can jump-start this process by using a portion of its budget surplus to employ Iraqis in infrastructure projects and in restoring basic services.

The international community should bolster proven microfinance programs to spur local-level entrepreneurship throughout the country. Iraq 's Arab neighbors, in particular, should promote regional stability by directly investing the fruits of their oil exports in Iraq . As these efforts begin to take hold in Iraq , the private sector, as always, will create the jobs and propel the growth that will end reliance on outside aid. Iraq 's government needs support to better deliver basic services-clean water, garbage collection, abundant electricity, and, above all, a basic level of security-that create a climate where the Iraqi economy creation can flourish.

Call for International Pressure on Syria and Iran

Syria and Iran have aided and abetted the violence in Iraq for too long. Syria has refused to crack down on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating within its territory. Iran has been providing the most extreme and violent Shia militias with training, weapons, and technology that kill American and Iraqi troops. American military spokesmen have also said there is evidence that Iran has provided aid to Sunni insurgents.

The answer is not unconditional dialogues with these two dictatorships from a position of weakness. The answer is for the international community to apply real pressure to Syria and Iran to change their behavior. The United States must also bolster its regional military posture to make clear to Iran our determination to protect our forces and deter Iranian intervention.

Level with the American People

John McCain believes it is essential to be honest with the American people about the opportunities and risks that lie ahead. The American people deserve the truth from their leaders. They deserve a candid assessment of the progress made in the last year, of the serious difficulties that remain, and of the grave consequences of a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal.

Many Americans have given their lives so that America does not suffer the worst consequences of failure in Iraq . Doing the right thing in the heat of a political campaign is not always easy. But it is necessary.

John McCain on the Road Ahead

"I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq , regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East , is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership. "

"I know the pain war causes. I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. And I regret sincerely the additional sacrifices imposed on the brave Americans who defend us. But I also know the toll a lost war takes on an army and on our country's security. By giving General Petraeus and the men and women he has the honor to command the time and support necessary to succeed in Iraq we have before us a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just. Those who disregard the unmistakable progress we have made in the last year and the terrible consequences that would ensue were we to abandon our responsibilities in Iraq have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election." -John McCain

National Security
A Strong Military in a Dangerous World

In a dangerous world, protecting
America's national security requires a strong military. Today, America has the most capable, best-trained and best-led military force in the world. But much needs to be done to maintain our military leadership, retain our technological advantage, and ensure that America has a modern, agile military force able to meet the diverse security challenges of the 21st century.

John McCain is committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military remain the best, most capable fighting force on Earth - and that our nation honors its promises to them for their service.

The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country's vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

John McCain understands national security and the threats facing our nation. He recognizes the dangers posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, violent Islamist extremists and their terrorist tactics, and the ever present threat of regional conflict that can spill into broader wars that endanger allies and destabilize areas of the world vital to American security. He knows that to protect our homeland, our interests, and our values - and to keep the peace -
America must have the best-manned, best-equipped, and best-supported military in the world.

John McCain has been a tireless advocate of our military and ensuring that our forces are properly postured, funded, and ready to meet the nation's obligations both at home and abroad. He has fought to modernize our forces, to ensure that America maintains and expands its technological edge against any potential adversary, and to see that our forces are capable and ready to undertake the variety of missions necessary to meet national security objectives.

As President, John McCain will strengthen the military, shore up our alliances, and ensure that the nation is capable of protecting the homeland, deterring potential military challenges, responding to any crisis that endangers American security, and prevailing in any conflict we are forced to fight.

Fighting Against Violent Islamic Extremists and Terrorist Tactics

The attacks on September 11th represented more than a failure of intelligence. The tragedy highlighted a failure of national policy to respond to the development of a global terror network hostile to the American people and our values. The 1993
WorldTradeCenter bombing, the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 bombing of the USS COLE indicated a growing global terrorist threat before the attacks on New York and Washington. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden's declaration of war against the United States hit home with unmistakable clarity.

America faces a dedicated, focused, and intelligent foe in the war on terrorism. This enemy will probe to find America's weaknesses and strike against them. The United States cannot afford to be complacent about the threat, naive about terrorist intentions, unrealistic about their capabilities, or ignorant to our national vulnerabilities.

In the aftermath of 9/11 John McCain fought for the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to identify how to best address the terrorist threat and decrease our domestic vulnerability. He fought for the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the creation of the U.S. Northern Command with the specific responsibility of protecting the
U.S. homeland.

As President, John McCain will ensure that America has the quality intelligence necessary to uncover plots before they take root, the resources to protect critical infrastructure and our borders against attack, and the capability to respond and recover from a terrorist incident swiftly.

He will ensure that the war against terrorists is fought intelligently, with patience and resolve, using all instruments of national power. Moreover, he will lead this fight with the understanding that to impinge on the rights of our own citizens or restrict the freedoms for which our nation stands would be to give terrorists the victory they seek.

John McCain believes that just as
America must be prepared to meet and prevail against any adversary on the field of battle, we must engage and prevail against them on the battleground of ideas. In so doing, we can and must deprive terrorists of the converts they seek and counter their teaching of the doctrine of hatred and despair.

As President, John McCain will take it as his most sacred responsibility to keep
America free, safe, and strong - an abiding beacon of freedom and hope to the world.

Effective Missile Defense

John McCain strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses. Effective missile defenses are critical to protect America from rogue regimes like North Korea that possess the capability to target America with intercontinental ballistic missiles, from outlaw states like Iran that threaten American forces and American allies with ballistic missiles, and to hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China. Effective missile defenses are also necessary to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred by the threat of missile attack from a regional adversary.

John McCain is committed to deploying effective missile defenses to reduce the possibility of strategic blackmail by rogue regimes and to secure our homeland from the very real prospect of missile attack by present or future adversaries.
America should never again have to live in the shadow of missile and nuclear attack. As President, John McCain will not trust in the "balance of terror" to protect America, but will work to deploy effective missile defenses to safeguard our people and our homeland.

Increasing the Size of the American Military

The most important weapons in the U.S. arsenal are the men and women of American armed forces. John McCain believes we must enlarge the size of our armed forces to meet new challenges to our security. For too long, we have asked too much of too few - with the result that many service personnel are on their second, third and even fourth tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. There can be no higher defense priority than the proper compensation, training, and equipping of our troops.

Our existing force is overstretched by the combination of military operations in the broader
Middle East and the need to maintain our security commitments in Europe and Asia. Recruitment and retention suffer from extended overseas deployments that keep service personnel away from their homes and families for long periods of time.

John McCain believes that the answer to these challenges is not to roll back our overseas commitments. The size and composition of our armed forces must be matched to our nation's defense requirements. As requirements expand in the global war on terrorism so must our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard be reconfigured to meet these new challenges. John McCain thinks it is especially important to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to defend against the threats we face today.

John McCain knows that the most difficult and solemn decision a president must make is sending young Americans into harm's way. Having experienced firsthand the brutality of war, as president, John McCain would never make the decision to use force lightly, only when the cause is just, and our nation's values and interests absolutely demand it.

Modernizing the Armed Services

Modernizing American armed forces involves procuring advanced weapons systems that will help rapidly and decisively defeat any adversary and protect American lives. It also requires addressing force protection needs to make sure that
America's combat personnel have the best safety and survivability equipment available.

Modernizing the armed forces also means adapting our doctrine, training, and tactics for the kind of conflicts we are most likely to face. Today, American forces are engaged in dangerous operations throughout the world. From Iraq and Afghanistan to Somalia and the Philippines, American forces are fighting the battles of the 21st century against terrorists and insurgents. These asymmetric conflicts require a very different force structure than the one we used to fight and win the Cold War.

The missions of the 21st century will not center on traditional territorial defense or mass armor engagements. Instead, the men and women of the
U.S. armed forces will be engaged in, among other things, counter insurgency, counter terrorism, missile defense, counter proliferation and information warfare. This calls not just for a larger and more capable military, but for a new mix of military forces, including civil affairs, special operations, and highly mobile forces capable of fighting and prevailing in the conflicts America faces.

Smarter Defense Spending

John McCain has worked aggressively to reform the defense budgeting process to ensure that
America enjoys the best military at the best cost. This includes reforming defense procurement to ensure the faithful and efficient expenditure of taxpayer dollars that are made available for defense acquisition. Too often, parochial interests - rather than the national interest - have guided our spending decisions. John McCain supports significant reform in our defense acquisition process to ensure that dollars spent actually contribute to U.S. security.

John McCain also feels strongly that our nation's military spending, except in time of genuine emergency, must be funded by the regular appropriations process, not by "emergency" supplementals that allow defense to be funded outside the normal budget cycle. This process gives Congressional committees less ability to closely scrutinize defense budget requests to ensure military funding is being budgeted wisely. It makes possible Congressional pork-barrel spending that diverts scarce defense resources to parochial home-state interests. And it allows the administration to add spending above that set by budget caps, bloating the federal deficit. Budgeting annually through emergency supplemental appropriation bills encourages pork barrel spending. The American taxpayer has a right to expect us to get the most out of each and every defense dollar, especially at a time when those dollars are so critical. Throughout his career, John McCain has fought pork-barrel defense spending that diverts scarce defense resources to parochial, home-state projects rather than addressing the needs of service personnel. He believes that unauthorized earmarks drain our precious defense resources and adversely affect our national security. John McCain will continue to fight pork-barrel spending to ensure that military funds are spent where they are needed most - in support of our military personnel and our national defense.

Taking Care of Our Military Personnel and their Families

Our military personnel and their families deserve the nation's unfailing gratitude, respect, and support. As a former naval officer with a distinguished record of military service, John McCain understands the profound sacrifices made by our men and women who serve in the uniform of our country and their families.

He believes one of
America's most solemn obligations is to treat our military personnel with the same sense of devotion and duty as they demonstrate in rendering their service to the nation. John McCain has fought for improved military pay and benefits, and an improved quality of life for military families.

America's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan rely heavily on Reserve and National Guard forces. John McCain has worked hard to ensure that benefits for deployed Reservists and National Guardsmen are brought in line with our active-duty military forces.

As president, he will make sure that just as we are always proud of our military personnel for what they do for the country, the country can be proud of what we do for them.

Honoring our Nation's Commitments to Veterans and Military Retirees

John McCain has worked tirelessly to protect increased benefits for
America's veterans. He understands that our country has a duty to care for veterans who have honorably served. John McCain will continue to look out for the men and women who have answered our nation's call.

America must never leave its military retirees in any doubt that it will keep its commitments to them for their many years of faithful service. John McCain has been a champion of military retirees in the Senate and believes that it is especially important to ensure retired service personnel enjoy full health care and benefits comparable to that received by retired federal employees. John McCain understands that a key to recruiting and retaining a new generation of American military personnel is demonstrating that our government keeps its promises to retired service members. He will remain an unwavering champion for the rights of military retirees and their families.