What the Republican candidate might say Tuesday in New York.
By Bret Stephens – The Wall Street Journal – Editor’s note: Mitt Romney delivers an address Tuesday to the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Here’s an advance copy—as interpreted by your columnist:
Thank you, President Clinton. Thank you for being a true believer in American exceptionalism. Thank you for being a president who worked with a Republican Congress to balance our budgets and end welfare as we knew it. Thank you for building on the work of your Republican predecessor to expand free trade and bring millions of jobs to America. Thank you for using American power to rescue the people of the Balkans against a butcher in Belgrade—even when the U.N. and Russia tried to get in your way.
And, by the way, thanks for that line about my “sterling business career.”
Ladies and gentlemen, you all know the choice we make on election day will count not just for the next four years, but for the next 40.
You know how much the choice will count here in America. It will decide whether we have socialized medicine or a marketplace of medical solutions. It will decide whether our economy creates companies like Staples or like Solyndra. It will decide whether we take advantage of our untapped domestic energy resources, or continue to outsource our energy future to OPEC while we tilt at windmills here at home. It will decide whether we’ll be a low-tax country that makes investments for the future, or a high-tax country paying interest on the ever-growing debts of our past.
But the choice Americans make in November will count far beyond America’s shores.
It’s no secret that we’re in a world of crises. Europe’s economic woes seem to have no end in sight—even if they are a lesson in plain sight of what happens to countries that favor entitlements over entrepreneurs. In the Middle East, Islamist governments are trafficking in illiberal ideas that, as we saw two weeks ago, can have tragic consequences for Americans. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we have squandered the sacrifices of our troops with withdrawals and timetables intended to suit political convenience, not strategic necessity. In the Far East, we see a bullying regime in Beijing trying to lay claim to entire seas at the expense of democratic allies like Japan and the Philippines.
And in Russia, Vladimir Putin thinks being a manly man means throwing three young punk rockers into prison. But I say Mr. Putin has the courage of a pussy cat next to these gallant ladies.
Above all else is the challenge of Iran. President Clinton, when you were in the White House you said a nuclear Iran was unacceptable. President Bush said it was unacceptable. And President Obama calls it unacceptable as well. But Iran doesn’t think we mean it. They think they can tiptoe across the nuclear finish line while we squabble publicly with Israel over how and when to stop them.
So the questions we face with Iran are these: Will we allow Tehran to flout the will of three U.S. presidents and get away with it? Should a regime that can take a stone in its right hand to execute a defenseless woman be given a nuclear weapon in its left hand to use likewise against Israel or, someday, us?
The right response begins by communicating our purposes with unmistakable clarity. Let the leaders of Iran know that on the day I become president their choices will narrow to two: Either they abandon their nuclear program, immediately and completely, or we will make them abandon it. Nobody wants a third Middle Eastern war. But much less do we want the Third World War we would risk if Iran gained nuclear weapons.
The right response also requires standing for our principles. I deplore slanders against any religious faith—believe me, I know whereof I speak. But as president of the United States I will stand above all for American principles, beginning with the right of free speech. And I will not apologize for that right under the foolish and dishonorable assumption that we can pacify our enemies by joining in their denunciations of acts of free speech.
And speaking of principles, one of mine is that friends come first. So we will not try to appease the Russians at the expense of the Poles, or the Egyptians at the expense of Israelis, or the Chinese at the expense of anybody.
So clarity, principle—and then there’s credibility. As my running mate Paul Ryan has said, our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course. “To provide for the common defence” is a constitutional duty of government. And yet with each passing year, entitlements take up a larger share, and defense a smaller one, of our federal budget.
In Europe, they had a solution to this problem—and it was called the United States. But who has our back? The U.N.?
Make no mistake: As we debate our budgets, our adversaries in Tehran and Moscow and Beijing are looking for every gap in our defenses, every strain in our alliances and every sign of weakness in our will. And they are awaiting opportunities to exploit all three.
When I’m president, they won’t find those opportunities. I know it is a heavy burden for America to be the world’s policeman. But far heavier would be our burden if we were to forsake that role. Because we are not a disinterested party when it comes to securing democracy against despotism, civilization against barbarism, and order and fair play against the rule of the jungle.
Ladies and gentlemen, when President Kennedy said we would pay any price and bear any burden to assure the survival and success of liberty, he was telling us not to expect to have it easy. Greatness never is. But neither is America a country that has ever chosen the easy road. We’re not about to begin now.
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