January 20, 2006
The GOP Remains the Party of Ideas

Karl Rove addressed members of the RNC Friday at the winter meeting. The following is a transcript of his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Victory in politics is the work of many hands and hearts - including those of you in this audience. You provide much of the energy and hard work that has made the GOP the majority Party in America.

Think how much has been achieved by our Republican Party in the last 40 years. It has gone from a minority party with little influence to one that is broad and inclusive, self-assured and optimistic, forward-leaning and dominant.

Four decades ago, the Republican Party was relegated to the wilderness - and today Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and the House; a majority of governorships; and in the last several elections, more state legislative seats than in 80 years.

More importantly, we have seen the rise of a great cause. Three Republican Presidents and Republican Congressional majorities have achieved a tremendous amount in two-and-a-half decades. The Cold War was won - and today we are winning the war against Islamic fascism. Millions of people who lived in tyranny have been liberated - and freedom is spreading across the globe. Republicans rebuilt our national defenses; cut taxes and spurred economic growth; ended "stagflation;" limited government's growth; reformed welfare and insisted on accountability and high standards in education; took important steps to protect and strengthen marriage and the family; and stood up against judicial activism and for constitutionalism.

But there is much more to be done. Today I will devote my remarks to ideas that should occupy our minds and energy in the months ahead.

Our success springs from our ideas. A quarter-century ago, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, wrote, "of a sudden, the GOP has become a party of ideas." It was true then - and remains true today. We are the party of ideas - and "ideas have consequences."

Ideas - a party's governing philosophy, should be at the heart of our political debates - because they are a deciding factor in elections. That was certainly the case in 2002 and 2004 - and it will be true in 2006. The Republican Party has an agenda to run and win on.

Let me stipulate a few important things. Our opponents are our fellow citizens, not our enemies. Honorable people can have honest political differences. And we should strive for civility and intellectual integrity in our debates.

At the same time, Democrats and Republicans have deep differences about our nation, where it is going, and what needs to be done to make it stronger, better, and safer. Those differences should be debated this year - openly, publicly, passionately.

If they are, our ideas will prevail in the hearts and minds of Americans. And so today I want to talk about three issues: national security, the economy, and the courts. There are many other topics we need to address - but these should be at the center of our attention.

America is at war - and so our national security is at the forefront of the minds of Americans. President Bush has established a remarkable record. He is winning the war against terrorism, promoting liberty in regions of the world that have never known it, and protecting America against attacks.

The United States faces a ruthless enemy - and we need a commander-in-chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of this moment.

President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats. This past year, we have seen three successful elections in Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces are increasing in size and capability. Iraq's economy is growing. And the terrorists in Iraq are now increasingly divided and turning on each other. In the words of the Commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq: "2005 has been a historic year in Iraq, and it marks the rebirth of an ancient nation."

Yet we now hear a loud chorus of Democrats who want us to cut- and-run in Iraq - with one radical position being an immediate stand down of U.S. troops in Iraq and withdrawal by the end of April.

It is important to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done and victory is won. Abandoning our Iraqi friends would signal the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We would undermine the morale of our military by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed. The tyrants in the Middle East would laugh at our failed resolve, and tighten their repressive grip. We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us again and again as they did on 9/11. And the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever. To retreat before victory has been won would be a reckless act - and this President will not allow it.

This is an issue worthy of a public debate.

Another is the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act tore down the wall that prohibited law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing information about terrorist threats. And the Patriot Act allowed federal investigators to pursue terrorists with tools they already used against other criminals. If a tool is good enough to use to track down drug dealers, or organized crime, or Medicare fraud, then it is good enough to bring terrorists to justice.

In 2001 Congress passed this law with a large, bipartisan majority - including a vote of 98-1 in the Senate. The Patriot Act has protected the United States from attack and saved American lives - and yet the Democrat leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, recently boasted that Democrats had "killed the Patriot Act."

Republicans want to renew the Patriot Act - and Democrat leaders take special delight in trying to kill it. This is an issue worthy of a public debate.

Because of a New York Times story, our enemies now know that in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to intercept communications where one of the parties is outside the United States and there is a reasonable basis to conclude the conversation involves a member of, or someone affiliated with, al Qaeda.

The purpose of the NSA surveillance is to protect American lives - and the President's actions are both legal and fully consistent with the Fourth Amendment and the protection of civil liberties.

Congressional leaders from both parties have been briefed more than a dozen times regarding this program. Every 45 days or so, it undergoes a thorough review, after which the President decides whether to reauthorize it. Courts have consistently recognized an American President's constitutional authority under Article II of the Constitution to order warrantless searches. And the power to order warrantless searches rests on years of bipartisan legal consensus. In the words of President Clinton's Associate Attorney General John Schmidt, "President Bush's post-Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and emails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents ... Every president since FISA's passage (in 1978) has asserted that he retained inherent power to go beyond the act's terms."

Yet some leading Democrats have made wild and reckless and false charges against the President, and some even call for his removal from office.

Let me be as clear as I can: President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats clearly disagree. This is an issue worthy of a public debate.

At the core, we are dealing with two parties that have fundamentally different views on national security. Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview - and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong - deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong.

The economy is a perennial election-year issue - and this year will be no different. Americans will also have a choice between two vastly difference approaches - and that's very good news for Republicans. For the American economy is the strongest in the world - and it is growing faster than any other major industrialized country.

Our economy grew more than 4 percent in the third quarter - above the average in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We have added almost four-and-a-half million jobs in just over two years. Employment is near an all-time high. The unemployment rate is below 5 percent - below the average in each of the past 3 decades. Core inflation remains low. The national homeownership rate remains near a record high. Sales of new and existing homes each reached a new record in the third quarter of 2005. Real disposable personal income is up. Since the start of 2003, the Dow is up more than 25 percent and the NASDAQ is up more than 50 percent.

Productivity is also up. From 1973 to 1995, productivity in America grew at 1.4 percent, doubling our standard of living every 50 years. But over the past five years, productivity averaged 3.4 percent, doubling our standard of living twice as fast. And the more productive our workforce is, the faster incomes go up.

In 2005, the American economy turned in a performance that is the envy of the industrialized world - and we're heading into 2006 with a full head of steam.

The economy's record is important - but so are the philosophies that animate the policies of the two parties' policies.

President Bush believes the role of government is to create an environment where the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes and where small businesses can grow - where people can dream about owning their own home and have it become a reality.

The President doesn't believe government creates wealth; he believes that is done by American workers, farmers, and entrepreneurs. And the President believes the American economy grows when the American people are allowed to keep more of their own money, so they save and invest and spend as they see fit.

President Bush, like President Reagan before him, is pursuing pro-growth economic policies. President Bush has been one of history's great tax cutting Presidents. He has cut taxes for every American who pays taxes, and cut taxes every single year he's been in office. He's cut taxes on income, on small businesses, on dividends, and on capital gains. The President doubled the child credit. He reduced the marriage penalty. And he put the death tax on the road to extinction. These tax cuts help explain why the economy is so strong.

The Democrat Party, on the other hand, has an allergy to tax cuts. Sometimes it seems as if they never found a tax cut they were for or a tax increase they were against. Many Democrats seem to view higher taxes as more than an economic policy; they see it as a sign of virtue. They believe taxes should be raised in times of prosperity and times of economic slowdown; during war and during peace; in even years and odd ones; during days of sunshine and days of rain. They believe every day is a good day, and every occasion a good occasion, to raise taxes.

We Republicans strongly dissent - and we will make our tax cutting record an issue in the 2006 campaign.

To those Democrats who want to take the money out of your pocket by opposing making the tax cuts permanent, our response is: No You Don't. To those Democrats who want to raise your taxes in order to increase the size of government, our response is: No You Won't. And to those Democrats who say they can spend your money better than the American people can, our response is: No You Can't.

Let me turn, finally, to the Courts. Recently, the American people have witnessed something like a national seminar on judicial philosophy. On one side of the divide were eight Democrat Senators: Kennedy, Biden, Leahy, Schumer, Durbin, Kohl, Feinstein, and Feingold. On the other side of the divide were two extraordinary judges: John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

The contest wasn't even close. The Democrats talked a whole lot longer - but John Roberts and Samuel Alito spoke a whole lot better.

Judge Roberts and Judge Alito demonstrated they possess brilliant legal minds and outstanding legal temperaments - and showed they belong, without a doubt, on the United States Supreme Court. Right now John Roberts serves as Chief Justice - and in a few days Sam Alito will join him as an Associate Justice.

It's also worth noting the old special interest playbook doesn't work anymore. Every effort to smear the name of these good men blew up in the face of those making the malicious charges. Some Committee members came across as mean-spirited and small-minded - and it left a searing impression.

For example, in Senator Kennedy's opening statement alone, he misrepresented Judge Alito's views in cases regarding claims of race discrimination in employment; Judge Alito's record on executive authority and voting rights; his membership in a Princeton alumni group; his recusal obligations in Vanguard cases; and his judicial record.

Ted Kennedy attempted to smear Samuel Alito, a man of sterling character, as a bigot. It was an ugly display - but one that backfired in the face of Judge Alito's inquisitors. As Peggy Noonan put it in her Wall Street Journal.com column today, "I don't think Democrats understand that the Alito hearings were, for them, not a defeat but an actual disaster."

The debate now moves to the Senate floor. Judge Alito has majority support and will be confirmed. Let us hope the debate the American people witness is something the Judicial Committee hearings were not - decent, fair-minded, and dignified. The American people have seen more than enough smears, attacks, and misrepresentations leveled against Judge Alito - one of the great legal minds of his generation.

In Roberts and Alito, the people saw the type of individuals President Bush wants on the court - and they liked what they saw. Most Americans want judges who will strictly apply the Constitution and laws, not legislate from the bench. They want judges who believe in self-government instead of those who are determined to undermine it. They want judges who will stand against Judicial Activism and for constitutionalism.

This important debate will decide whether we treat the Constitution as the governing charter of our nation - or whether we will treat it as if it is made of hot wax: pliable, inconstant, and easily changed. It will determine whether issues of enormous public importance will be decided by the American people and their elected representatives - or by nine lawyers in robes.

The will of the people cannot be subverted in case after case, on issue after issue, year after year. The public will eventually insist on reclaiming their rights as a sovereign people - and they will insist government return to its founding principles with judges who do not pursue political agendas, but instead strictly interpret and apply the Constitution.

We welcome a fair-minded and high-minded debate about the purpose and meaning of the courts in our lives. Our arguments will carry the day because the force and logic and wisdom of the Founders are on our side.

These are challenging days for the country - but challenging days can also be hopeful ones. These are proud and memorable days in the history of America - and it is an extraordinary privilege to help shape the events of our time. That is what those of you in this room are doing.

And so let me end where I began. Forty-two years ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat and proud liberal, won the Presidency in a landslide. Democrats held 68 Senate seats; 295 House seats; and 33 governorships.

In 2000, George W. Bush ran against an incumbent Vice President who had loads of national experience, a reputation as a great debater, and with a very strong economy on his side - and yet the then-Governor of Texas won a very close race.

In the 2002 mid-terms, President Bush and Republicans ran against history - and prevailed. President Bush became the first President in more than a half-century - and only the second President ever - to have mid-term gains in both houses of Congress - and for the first time, the party of the President captured control of the Senate in a mid-term.

In 2004 George W. Bush, a Republican and proud conservative, won the Presidency for a second time, receiving the most votes in history. He is the first President since FDR to be re-elected while his party gained seats in the House and Senate - and the first Republican President since 1924 to get re-elected while re- electing Republican House and Senate majorities.

Republicans have now won seven of the last 10 Presidential elections. They hold 55 Senate seats; 231 House seats; and 28 governorships.

The President and the Vice President have played indispensable roles in our success. They have appeared at countless events on behalf of candidates, working hard to avoid a lonely victory. They have done everything that can reasonably be asked of them - and they will be there again when it counts.

The GOP's progress during the last four decades is a stunning political achievement. But it is also a cautionary tale of what happens to a dominant party - in this case, the Democrat Party - when its thinking becomes ossified; when its energy begins to drain; when an entitlement mentality takes over; and when political power becomes an end in itself rather than a means to achieve the common good.

We need to learn from our successes - and from the failures of others. As the governing party in America, Republicans cannot grow tired or timid. We have been given the opportunity to govern; we have to continue to show we deserve the trust of our fellow Americans.

For decades, Democrats were setting the agenda, the pace of change, and the visionary goals. Republicans were simply reacting to them. But times change - and this President and today's Republican Party are shaping history, not trying to stop it. Together we are articulating a compelling vision of a better world.

In late January 2001, America's new President said, "We are here to make progress, we are not here to mark time." George W. Bush has been true to his word. He is one of history's Consequential Presidents. He has fundamentally recast America's national security strategy. And he has put forward a bold domestic agenda.

In foreign policy President Bush has earned the title as one of history's Great Liberators - and in domestic policy he will be seen as one of its Great Reformers. Much has been achieved - and much more remains to be done.

Whether that vital work gets done depends in large measure on all of you. Our ideas will prevail only if you continue to strengthen our grassroots efforts that can make all the difference between victory and defeat.

In 1840 Abraham Lincoln - America's greatest President and the first Republican President - said this: "Organize the whole state, so that every Whig can be brought to the polls ... divide (the) county into small districts, and ... appoint in each a sub-committee, ... make a perfect list of all the voters and ... ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote, ...keep a constant watch on the doubtful voters, and ... have them talked to by those in whom they have the most confidence, ... and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls."

The world has changed dramatically since Lincoln made this statement. We now have sophisticated polls, complicated computers, detailed voting databases, the internet, and more. But the basics of winning remain what they were. We have to "make a perfect list of all the voters" and see to it our supporters are brought to the polls by someone they hold in confidence. That depends on what you do, and the passion and energy you bring to our great cause.

Nothing in politics is foreordained. Our ideas will prevail only through the effort and dedication and hard work of men and women like you. The President is enormously grateful for all your efforts.

Thank you all very much for your attention, for your support of President Bush and the Republican Party, and above all, for your devotion to this country.

Karl Rove

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