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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.