The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Saturday, September 06, 2003

BUSH UNDER 50% -- A new Zogby poll puts George W Bush's popularity rating at a new low during his administration.
President George W. Bush’s job performance ratings have reached the lowest point since his pre-Inauguration days, continuing a steady decline since a post-9/11 peak, according to a new Zogby America poll of 1,013 likely voters conducted September 3-5.
Less than half [45%] rated Mr Bush's performance good or excellent, while 54% rated it as fair or poor. Even more importantly, 52% of those polled said it is time for someone new in the White House, with only 40% supporting Mr Bush for re-election right now. Mr Bush's personal unfavorable rating is also rising near 50 percent. A nameless Democrat now leads Mr Bush 47-40% if election were held today.

How freaking great is this? Let Mr Bush's brutal descent continue. Let's just hope he doesn't take the rest of us with him.

Friday, September 05, 2003

KRUGMAN GETS NASTY -- But accurate. My favorite line:
Just four months after Operation Flight Suit, the superpower has become a supplicant to nations it used to insult. Mission accomplished!
Ouch! I love that man. Read it all.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

EARTH NOT DOOMED. YET. -- Whew, that is a relief.

S. CAROLINA POLL IS A DEAD HEAT -- A new Zogby poll of Democrats in South Carolina has Senator John Edwards [D-NC], former Vermont Governor Howard Dean [D-VT], Senator John Kerry [D-MA] and Senator Joe Lieberman [D-CT] bunched together at the top of the field. The poll is good news for Senator Edwards, who doubled his support, and Governor Dean, who did the same. Senator Kerry increased his support appreciably, but Senator Lieberman is dropping like a stone. Almost half of all South Carolina Democrats polled have no preferences at this time. It's still early, but this is good news for Senator Edwards because he must win a primary somewhere and it isn't going to be Iowa or New Hampshire.


BUY, DON'T STEAL -- The recording industry is scared witless by online file-sharing, the sort found at places like Kazaa. Well, some in the recording industry have apparently recovered their wits a bit and are trying a new line of attack against music piracy: lowering prices. Cutting prices is a tried-and-true method of increasing sales, something the music industry is desperate to do. However, only Universal is doing something proactive about it. We'll see if this prompts other companies to follow suit instead of filing suits.

IT'S ALL DAN RATHER'S FAULT! -- In case you've missed it [and I wouldn't blame you if you had], Instapundit is wasting even more words as usual complaining about alleged liberal bias in Iraq occupation coverage. That's a good sign. There is no liberal bias, of course, but a blood bias, just as there is in every local television newscast you've ever seen. [We had a saying in journalism school: If it bleeds, it leads.] What's good about this is not the suffering of our soldiers in Iraq, who were cruelly and ignorantly placed in this position by a regime of arrogant know-nothings. What's good is that the right wing is reduced to bleating about the media coverage. That's always a sign of weakness, no matter who is doing the bleating. Iraq is going badly and they know. Rather than making substantive arguments to support their position--which is difficult to do, I'll grant you--people like Glenn Reynolds are reduced to telling their readers that they must not trust the news they read and hear.


I THOUGHT THEY WERE IRRELEVANT -- Last year in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Bush warned the U.N. to authorize the use of force against Iraq or risk becoming irrelevant. As we know, the United Nations did not authorize the use of force against Iraq and Mr Bush orderd the United States to invade anyway. Now, it seems, the Bush regime is shabbily scurrying back to the United Nations, begging for money and troops to prop up the teetering occupation.

So much for moral clarity.

THE BUSH DEBACLE -- Liberal economist and editor Bob Kuttner has more than a few thoughts and words about the staggering Bush presidency, which is reeling from a series of self-inflicted blows. Chronic lying. Arrogant foreign policy. Ignorant occupation plans. Unscrupulous and unpopular domestic agendas. It all adds up to trouble for our beloved Commander-in-Thief:
First, the issues. Bush's foreign policy is a shambles. The architects of the Iraq war have been proven wrong on every contention they made -- the imminent weapons of mass destruction, the alleged Saddam-Al Qaeda connection, the supposed ease of occupation and reconstruction. Thumbing America's nose at "old Europe" proved a major blunder. Bush now needs the United Nations to clean up his mess, but he is insisting on US control. France and Germany, not to mention Russia and China, aren't exactly lining up to donate money and troops to bail Bush out. The administration line -- that the Iraq mess proves that the place is a magnet for terrorism -- just isn't selling. This is a hornets' nest that Bush's policy stirred up. GIs are still getting killed for a war that the American public is turning against.

Bush's vaunted Israel-Palestine "road map" is a path to nowhere. Colin Powell, the prudent internationalist in the nest of reckless hawks, has been reduced to a pathetic token. Barring some improbable breakthrough, photo ops of Bush in a flak jacket won't divert the spotlight from the real damage.

Then there's the economy. Most economists believe that the recovery will continue to be jobless right through next year. Corporations are in such a profit squeeze that they are cutting jobs faster than they are accumulating orders. Even more seriously, the Bush program of serial tax cuts plus militarism has pushed the deficit into the half-trillion range for the foreseeable future. Not only does that kind of deficit force cuts in public outlays that voters actually value; at some point, it starts pushing up interest rates.
Bad news if you're a blackhearted villain, no doubt. But Mr Kuttner is no fool and he quickly recognizes the Bush regime is no ordinary administration. The peculiar atmosphere of the post-9/11 world and the White House's almost inconceivable capacity for political opportunism and cynicism makes Mr Bush a formidable opponent. Not to mention his spectacular success as a fundraiser and the general supinity of the political media.
For starters, he will have almost limitless amounts of money and will massively outspend his opposition thanks to unprecedented business investment in Republican politics and a half-baked campaign finance "reform" that backfired. He also has an incomparable team of political strategists, speechwriters, and spinners. And the press is still cutting him a lot of slack.

Second, the administration retains the capacity to time another "war of choice," as it did with the Iraq war drums on the eve of the 2002 midterm election. Another terrorist attack on American soil would rally patriotic support that Bush could willingly exploit. (At the same time, terrorist attacks overseas do not stir the same outrage and seem to demonstrate the overextension of Bush's policy.) Third, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will have a strong candidate.
The fact of the matter is, Mr Bush is a vulnerable incumbent. Almost nothing he has done has worked. The economy grows slowly, but produces no jobs. Indeed, Mr Bush will almost certainly finish his first term with the worst employment record of anyone in the White House since Herbert Hoover unsuccessfully grappled with the Great Depression. The war in Iraq has turned into an expensive and bloody sinkhole. The deficit is going to hit $500 billion pretty soon. And since the Republicans control all branches of the federal government, Mr Bush won't be able to plausibly pin the mess on poor Tom Daschle [D-SD].

Which brings us to the Democrats? Can they get their act in gear? Former Governor Howard Dean [D-VT] says all the right things about the Bush administration and offers the troops the one thing they are feeling more than anything right now: visceral rage. But while rage is useful and should help push the faithful to the polls on Election Day, it'll take more than raw anger to motivate slothful independent "voters" to choose the Democrat in November 2004. A positive agenda must be laid out to the American people. Elections are almost always won by optimists. FDR was an optimist. Ike was an optimist. JFK and Reagan were optimists. And Clinton, unlike most modern Democrats, was an optimist. It won't be nearly enough to tell the American people what a rotten job Mr Bush has done in the White House; by the summer of next year that fact will be obvious to even the most blinkered political observers. A successful Democratic candidate must tell the American people why the U.S. is not a basketcase. Why our economy doesn't have to continue down the path towards Banana Republic-dom. Why the mess in Iraq can be sorted out if we work with our allies instead of alienating them. Why Mr Bush's tax cuts [or most of them] will have to go so that the government can do other things people want: like improve the quantity and availability of health care and reducing the budget deficit. There are all popular positions that are consistent with current center-left Democratic ideology. We have a message that will win elections. What we need now is a tribune to take that message to the people, who will be all-too-willing to take another direction next year.

UNEMPLOYMENT INCREASE -- The Bush economy roared onward with the announcement of 413,000 new initial claims for state unemployment insurance in the week ending August 30, 2003. Many of them, I suspect, can't wait until Mr Bush loses his job.

CLARK: ONE OF US -- "As I looked at where the country is now domestically and look at our policies abroad, I have to say that I'm aligned with the Democratic Party. I like the message the party has. I like what it stands for." That's what retired General Wesley Clark said yesterday afternoon on CNN's "Inside Politics" show. This is a pretty big non-story to me, though I give General Clark credit for wringing free attention and publicity out of it. Everyone has known for some time that General Clark is a Democrat, regardless of his previous coy evasions. The question was--and is--what does he plan to do about it? My guess is that he will seek the Democratic nomination for President and announce his intention to do so about two weeks from now. I don't have any inside information about this, it is just a hunch.

Right now, I'm supporting Senator John Kerry [D-MA], as you have probably noticed by now. Nevertheless, I'm very impressed by General Clark's biography and what I've read of his book and policy positions. I'll give him a long look and won't hesitate to jump ship to the good general if he seems the stronger candidate.

GERMANY SAYS "NEIN" -- To the surprise of absolutely no one outside the Bush regime, the German government has issued a very wise "thanks, but no thanks" on the issue of sending troops to support the Iraq occupation. Correctly noticing that the Bush regime intends to yield no operational control in Iraq and wants nothing more than U.N. legitimacy and to provide the Iraqi resistance with non-American targets, the Germans are staying out of that mess. Who can blame them? Look for other countries to do the same. Poland, which is sending about 8000 troops to support the occupation, insisted on having the U.S. taxpayers pay for their mission. The Bush regime agreed. This should bury all those dumb Polish jokes forever: They're a lot more clever than our guys.

THOMAS WHITE INDICTS -- Former Bush regime Army Secretary Thomas White [of Enron fame] was fired by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in April 2003. He isn't happy about it and he isn't impressed with how the Bush regime has been waging war and occupation in Iraq. He's co-written a book called "Reconstructing Eden," on the topic. One juicy tidbit I've learned from Mr White himself is that the Bush regime planned to withdraw 50,000 soldiers per month from Iraq after the end of hostilities. That's right: These clowns actually believed they'd be able to pull out 50,000 U.S. troops per month.

Hmmm. How's that going?

DARING NEW CAMPAIGN SLOGAN -- As Mickey Kaus notes, Arnold Schwarzenegger's new campaign slogan should be: "Vote for me, I'm a liar!"

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

HOWARD DEAN MUST BE STOPPED -- Dr Dean's supporters, the Deaniacs, swear up and down that they and their candidate will support the eventual Democratic nominee--whomever that turns out to be. However, as The New Republic has noticed, Dr Dean himself recently contradicted that notion in an interview with L.A. Weekly.
"It's going to be very hard to start late," he says, "and think you're going to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire. It's going to be incredibly hard. I mean, we've already got 39,000 people working for us all around the country ... I really do believe--and I think about this--I want to get this nomination, and if I don't ... these kids are not transferrable. I can't just go out and say, 'Okay, so I didn't win the nomination, so go ahead and vote for the Democrats.' They're not going to suddenly just go away. That's not gonna happen."
As The New Republic notes, Dr Dean is saying that his supporters might not back the Democratic nominee if it isn't himself and he is saying he won't even encourage them to stay loyal to the party.

This makes me even more determined than ever to support Senator John Kerry [D-MA], who announced his candidacy yesterday, or General Wesley Clark, who may announce later this month.

EDIT: Dr Dean's partisans at DailyKos have suggested none too gently that this post is too accusatory. They're partially correct. If the quote is accurate and means what it seems to mean, I'm exactly right and Dr Dean must be stopped. If Dr Dean was misquoted or misspoke then there is no harm and no foul and the matter should be dropped. This specific quote needs to be addressed by the Dean campaign, though. I've e-mailed the campaign about this subject and am awaiting a reply.

TRY TO STAY HEALTHY -- Things are tough for people in America who have no health insurance. The Bush regime is about to make them tougher.
The Bush administration is relaxing rules that say hospitals have to examine and treat people who require emergency medical care, regardless of their ability to pay.

Under the new rule, which takes effect on Nov. 10, patients might find it more difficult to obtain certain types of emergency care at some hospitals or clinics that hospitals own and operate.

The new rule makes clear that hospitals need not have specialists "on call" around the clock. Some patients might have more difficulty winning damages in court for injuries caused by violations of the federal standards.

"The overall effect of this final rule will be to reduce the compliance burden for hospitals and physicians," the administration says in a preamble to the regulation, to be published next Tuesday in The Federal Register.
Updated score: Conservative leads Compassion 7694 to 0.

BLEEDING TREASURE -- How much will the Iraq occupation cost? Well, anywhere from $8 billion to $29 billion annually, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The lower number could be achieved only if the U.S. drastically reduces its troop committment to Iraq, something that seems very unlikely. Frankly, I think the entire report, though valuable, understates the cost of the Iraq occupation--probably considerably.

FORMER NAVY SEC. BLASTS BUSH'S IRAQ POLICY -- Former Reagan administration Secretary of the Navy James Webb attacked the Bush regime's Iraq War and occupation, saying it was falsely and foolishly sold to the American people.
``I am very troubled by the fact that we went into Iraq and very troubled about how we're going to get out of Iraq,'' Webb said Thursday to about 200 naval officers, veterans and civilians at the Radisson Hotel Norfolk. The lecture was sponsored by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and the Naval War College Foundation.

The United States should quickly get the United Nations involved in administering and patrolling the country, he said.

``We need to get out of there before the mistake we made gets worse,'' said Webb, a Marine Corps veteran.
Webb said the troops in Iraq are facing combat experiences similar to those he saw as a platoon leader and company commander in Vietnam, where he was awarded a Navy Cross, a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and two Purple Hearts for wounds.
I wonder if Mr Webb realizes his patriotic dissent from the Bush regime's madness will soon earn him epithets like "traitor" from the administration's allies in the right-wing media. If he doesn't now, he soon will. Go to it, Faux News and Mr Limbaugh!

DOWD GETS IT RIGHT AGAIN -- Someone check to see if this is the same Maureen Dowd who, like the Republicans she now excoriates, spent the 1990s obsessing not about international terrorism, but what President Clinton was doing with his genitalia.
If we review the Bush war council's motives for conquering Iraq, the scorecard looks grim:

-- We wanted to get rid of Osama and Saddam and the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We didn't. They're replicating and coming at us like cockroaches. According to Newsweek, Osama is in the mountains of Afghanistan, plotting to use biological weapons against America. If all those yuppies can climb Mount Everest, at 29,000 feet, can't we pay some locals to nab Osama at 14,000 feet?

-- Bushies thought freeing Iraq from Saddam would be the first step toward the Middle East road map for peace, as well as a guarantee of greater security for Israel. But the road map blew up, and Israel seems farther away from making peace with the Arabs than ever. The U.S. has now pathetically called on Yasir Arafat to use his power to help after pretending for more than a year that he didn't exist.

-- Rummy wanted to exorcise the stigma of Vietnam and prove you could use a lighter, faster force. But our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan may not banish our fears of being mired in a place halfway around the world where we don't understand the language or culture, and where our stretched-thin soldiers are picked off, guerrilla-style.

-- The neocons wanted to marginalize the wimpy U.N. by barreling past it into Iraq. Now the Bush administration is crawling back to the U.N., but other nations are suspicious of U.S. security and politics in Iraq.
Comeuppance is a bitch and the Bushies won't like what is coming to them one little bit. Expect them to react like spoiled children rather than mature adults.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

TOM TOMORROW -- Finding the shifting explanations for Mr Bush's Iraq War confusing? Me, too. Tom Tomorrow sorts it all out for us. Sort of.

KERRY IS IN AND SWINGING -- It's about time, Senator John Kerry has announced today that he is running for president.
"In challenging times we need leadership that knows how to make America safer, that knows how to put America back to work," Kerry told the crowd. "The president has misled America and he has made our path more difficult as a result."
Amen to that, Senator. Good luck to a good man.

GAO KNOCKS DOWN MALPRACTICE "CRISIS" -- Ever since he was governor of Texas, George W Bush has been an avid supporter of what he and his fellow travellers call "tort reform." Sticking the word reform after any word is usually a good idea, since it makes it sound as if you want to use government to improve the commonweal, something most people--though not Mr Bush himself--support. What "tort reform" really is, however, is an attempt to prevent people who have been wronged by business to receive fair compensation for that harm. What Mr Bush wants is a strict limit in liability cases so that, for example, if you lose an eye in an industrial accident, you're due only $10,000--no matter how much a company's negligence might have caused the accident. Mr Bush's latest spin on "tort reform" is to argue that people suing doctors for causing them serious medical harm is driving up the cost of health insurance for everyone and making it tougher to obtain for those without it. It's was a debatable assertion when Mr Bush made it [like most everything else he utters], but now the General Accounting Office has provent the claim absolutely false in a new paper. Have a look and see for yourself. This new effort at "tort reform" is just another callous attempt to protect businesses--in this case, doctors and hospitals, from paying fair compensatin for the harm they cause.


SEN. KERRY: (Applause.) Thank you very much, Max Cleland, for your friendship, your inspiration. You are a remarkable, extraordinary American, and everyone here joins me in thanking you for a lifetime of patriotism. (Applause.) We are so honored to be here with you today. Thank you. (Applause.)

Now, we are going to do a little variation on the program here, because we did not -- we missed something that I wanted to share with you, and so I am going to bring him up here and ask him to do this before I speak, if I may. There's a young man who was my gunner right above my head, two twin 50-caliber machine guns. He happens to hail from right here in South Carolina, and he is today a minister. I did not know then that I had a man of God above my head protecting me. I knew I had God there, but I didn't know I had a special messenger. And indeed today I want him to share with us a prayer as we open this moment, and I ask David Alston, my gunner from South Carolina, to come up here and share that with us. David? (Applause.)

REV. DAVID ALSTON: Invocation with prayer. O Lord, who makes the day to begin with the splendor of the sunrise, help us in this morning hour to lift our eyes on high and to derive from the majesty of the pageant there unfolded a renewed sense of dignity of human life, the joy of our daily work. In this hour we pray for men and women of good will, of all racial groups, in all geographical areas of our land. Bless and preserve them to be true and durable fabric of our national life. Give them an inexhaustible courage and patient continuance to support what is true and just. Grant unto them courageous faith and the essential decency of all, even when the conduct of others burdens this faith.

Sustain them, O God, with the taste of power of the world to come, and evanescence of the reality of the kingdom of Earth, in whose name who today we pray, Amen. (Applause.)

SEN. KERRY: Thank you, David Alston. I am as proud to have you on my crew today as I was 35 years ago, and I thank each and every one of my crew members who have been able to come here today. And I ask you to join me on behalf of America in saying thank you to them for what they contributed and what they have done. (Applause.) Thank you.

I thank you, General Cheney, for your leadership and for all you have given to our country, and for getting so many of our young Marines through Parris Island to serve their country with such grace and capacity. We appreciate that.

MR. CLELAND: Here, here. (Applause.)

SEN. KERRY: And I am so grateful to be here with Judge Sanders, Alex Sanders. I thought that he would have made -- and we thought and he thought he would make a great United States senator. But I will tell you this is a man who serves not just his state, his family, but he serves his country with great grace and great distinction, and with passion, and we are grateful for all of those qualities. Judge Sanders, thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

This is a first for me -- not just because of the occasion that it represents, but I have never in my life had a chance to talk to an audience of fluttering fans. (Laughter.) And I kind of felt like I might just turn this into a good old Baptist revival, folks. (Laughter.) This is no ordinary campaign, because this is no ordinary time.

We have lived through the most deadly attack on our people in American history, the greatest job loss since the Great Depression and the greatest loss of wealth and of savings ever recorded. But every time that our country has faced great challenges, we have come through and we have come out stronger, because courageous Americans have done what is right for America. This is a time for the same kind of courage.

I learned something about service from two people that I wish could be here today. My father, who as a member of the greatest generation, enlisted in the Army Air Corps, even before Pearl Harbor, and served in the State Department at the height of the Cold War. And my mother, 50 years a Girl Scout leader, a community activist with a passion for the environment, who took me into the woods as a young man and said simply, "Listen."

My wife Teresa reminds me of the ideals of America. She is a naturalized citizen who came here from a dictatorship, and she loves the freedom of optimism of America and all that it has to offer. She is a caring, strong leader on many causes, and she speaks the truth, and I love her for that too. (Applause.)

Vanessa, Alex and Christopher, I thank you, all of you, for taking the time out of your own lives to come here and be with me and share this moment. And, for Teresa and me, we would say that all of our children, and now our first grandchild, give us joy and pride every single day. And as I look around here and I am surrounded by the love and affection and respect of my crew mates and veterans who are here today, I am reminded that the best lessons that I learned about being an American came in a place far away from America on that gunboat that Max referred to in the Mekong delta, with a small crew of volunteers. Some of us had been to college -- others were just out of high school. But we grew up together on that tiny boat. It was our sanctuary, and a place for bridging differences between California and South Carolina, Iowa and Massachusetts. We were no longer the kid from Arkansas or the kid from Illinois. We were just Americans together, under the same flag, giving ourselves to something bigger than each of us as individuals. We arrived as strangers, and we left as brothers. We didn't think we were special -- we just tried to do what was right. And we came home we had a simple saying: Every day is extra.

I used my extra days to join other veterans to end the war that I believed was wrong. I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest -- not just military service. But you don't have to go halfway around the world or march on Washington to learn about bravery or love of country. Again and again in the causes that define our nation, and in everyday life in America we have seen the uncommon courage that is common to the American people.

Today, with confidence in the courage of our people to change what is wrong and do what is right, I come here to say why I am a candidate for president of the United States of America. (Applause.) I am running so that we can keep America's promise to reward the hard work of middle-class Americans and pull down the barriers that stand in the way of those who are struggling to join them; to restore our true strength in the world, which comes from ideals, not arrogance; to renew the commitment of our generation to pass this planet onto our children better than it was given to us. (Applause.)

I reject George Bush's radical new vision of a government that comforts the comfortable at the expense of ordinary Americans -- (applause, cheers) -- that let's corporations do as they please, that turns its back on the very alliance that we helped create, and the very principles that have made our nation a model to the world for over two centuries. (Applause.) An economic policy of lost opportunity and lost hopes is wrong for America. An international policy where we stand almost alone is wrong for America. (Applause.)

George Bush's vision does not live up to the America I enlisted in the Navy to defend, the America I have fought for in the Senate, and the America I hope to lead as president. And every day of this campaign I will challenge George Bush for fundamentally taking our country in the wrong direction. (Cheers.) I will tell you what I believe, tell you what we must do for our country, and I will show you how together we will defeat George Bush next November. (Applause.)

First -- first, we must restore a foreign policy that is true to our ideals. We will defend our national security and maintain a military that is the strongest armed force on Earth. But, if I am president, I will never forget that even a nation as powerful as the United States of America needs to make some friends in this world, and I will do that. (Applause.)

Overseas, George Bush has led and misled us on a course at odds with 200 years of our history. He has squandered the good will of the world after September 11th, and he has lost the respect and the influence that we need to make our country safe. We are seeing the peril in Iraq every day. I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations. I believe that was right. But it was wrong to rush to war without building a true international coalition, and with no plan to win the peace. (Applause. Cheers.)

So long as Iraq remains an American intervention and not an international undertaking, we will face increasing danger and mounting casualties. Being flown to an aircraft carrier and saying "Mission accomplished" doesn't end the war. (Applause. Cheers.) And the swagger of a president saying "Bring it on" will never bring peace or safety to our troops. (Applause.)

Pride is no substitute for protecting our young men and women in uniform. Half the names on the Vietnam Memorial are there because of pride, because of a president who refused to admit we were on the wrong road, that we might be wrong. Pride is no excuse for making enemies overseas. It is time to return to the United Nations -- not with the arrogance of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, but with genuine respect. (Applause.)

For the Bush administration to reject the participation of allies and the U.N. is a miscalculation of colossal proportions. We need to end the sense of American occupation as fast as possible, and take the targets off of American soldiers. (Applause.)

In Iraq and across the world, we must share the burdens with our international allies and the international community. Then, and only then, can we assemble a worldwide coalition truly sufficient to be able to defeat the terrorists, to keep the most dangerous weapons out of their hands and out of the reach of unstable regimes.

Here again, George Bush is taking us and the world in the wrong direction. He is poised to set off a new nuclear arms race by building bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons -- smaller, more usable nuclear weapons. I don't want a world with more usable nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

I don't want America to turn its back on half a century of effort by every president to reduce the nuclear threat. I'm running to put America where we rightfully belong: Leading the way to a new international accord on nuclear proliferation and make the world itself safer for human survival. (Applause.)

At times in the term of the next president, we may well have to use force to fight terrorism yet again. I will not hesitate to do so. But if I am president of the United States, our beloved country will never go to war because we want to. We will go to war because we have to. That's the standard of the United States of America. (Applause.)

And in the war against terrorism, let me state clearly what we all know to be true in our hearts. Two years after the tragic events of 9/11, we have not made our nation safe enough.

Overseas, our commander-in-chief turned to Afghan warlords for the assault on Tora Bora. Osama bin Laden got away, and today the Taliban and al Qaeda are regrouping. And here on the home front, every investigation, every commission, every piece of evidence tells us that this president has failed to make us as safe as we should be. (Applause.)

We are not making progress when we are laying off police and the jobs of sky marshals are in jeopardy. And if we can open fire houses in Baghdad, then we can keep them open in New York City and elsewhere in America. (Applause.)

But the threats today don't just come from gun barrels. They come also from oil barrels. The dollars we spend at the pump can too easily fund the terrorists who seek to destroy us. America will only be stronger if we never have to send our sons and daughters into battle for oil half a world away. (Applause.)

We have to disarm that danger by making America independent of Mideast oil within the next 10 years. I know that the auto industry has political muscle, but we're in a time of war, and everyone should contribute to the cause. In World War II, Detroit was the arsenal of democracy. Today they need to raise their gas mileage and build the vehicles of the future that use clean, renewable energy like ethanol. They need to help move America to energy independence. (Applause.)

I know that there are some in our party who resist this because they fear it will cost jobs. But it's right for America, and energy independence will create 500,000 new high-paying jobs right here in this country.

On energy and the environment, George Bush seeks to undo the progress of 30 years under presidents of both parties. His Clear Skies initiative actually means dirtier air. His Healthy Forests proposal actually means cutting down trees. He proposed to let the oil industry friends of his drill in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. I led the fight to stop him, and we won that fight. (Applause.)

In a Kerry administration, we will recommit America to one of the greatest unfinished challenges of our time and of all time: To save our environment, to protect our oceans and to reverse the tide of global warming. We will not let polluters rewrite our laws in return for campaign contributions. (Applause.) We will make them and not the taxpayers pay the bill to clean up toxic waste that they make.

And we will disprove the lie that protecting the environment can only come at the expense of jobs. The truth is that prosperity doesn't come from pollution. The most powerful economic engine in this nation has always been opportunity, the ability for anyone from any start in life to get a good education, to go to work, to start a business, to take an idea and to change the world.

But George Bush's only economic plan is lavish tax breaks for those at the top. He has taken (us) down the road of diminished opportunity, not greater opportunity. Under the Bush administration, in less than three years, 3 million jobs have been lost. This is an astonishing failure and it is an outrage. (Applause.)

As a senator, I was proud to work with President Bill Clinton to turn around the last Bush downturn. And I know that the people of this country have the courage to do what's right for our economy. If I am president, I will roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy so we can invest in education, health care and the skills of our workers. (Applause.)

Some in my own party want to get rid of all the tax cuts, including those for working families. That would mean that a family of four with two parents working hard on a job and at home would have to pay $2,000 more a year in taxes. That's wrong. The last time I looked, the problem in America was not that the middle class has too much money. (Applause.)

We need to be on the side of America's middle class, and I've proposed a tax cut for them because it is the right way to strengthen our economy. Let me put it plainly: If Americans aren't working, America's not working. (Applause.)

So my economic plan sets this goal: To get back George Bush's 3 million jobs in my first 500 days as president, and we can do it. (Applause.) And I will cut the budget deficit in half in the first four years of our administration. (Applause.)

But what we face today and what we must change is not just a failure of policy. Today, at the center of power, we have a radical ethic that ratifies and glorifies a creed of greed. Once a great Republican president named Theodore Roosevelt took on those who abused their wealth and power. Today's Republican president invites them in for secret meetings, sells out our environment, tolerates their abuses and lets them evade their taxes by moving their headquarters to an offshore shelter that is nothing more than a post office box or a mail drop. That must stop. (Applause.)

Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, it has 58 offshore tax havens. And the Bush administration's response is to hand Halliburton a $7 billion no-bid contract. My response as president will be no more lavish government-funded life support for favored corporations. (Applause.) No more tax allowances for bonuses of over a million dollars for CEOs who've done nothing to earn them. No more tax breaks that help companies to move the jobs overseas. (Applause.)

My fellow Americans, a tax code that once ran 14 pages now takes up 17,000 pages, filled with twists and turns and customized loopholes. Everyone in America knows it's not fair. And if I am president, we're going to scour that tax code and we're going to make it simple and fair, once and for all. (Applause.)

And instead of tax breaks for the wealthiest and subsidies for special interests, and instead of photo opportunities with children as backdrops, let's give real meaning to the words "Leave no child behind." (Applause.) It is time to give our schools the resources and our teachers the respect that they deserve and give every child in America the best possible start in life. (Applause.)

And let's recognize that for all of our wealth, we will be a lesser nation if we continue to be advanced or the only advanced society that does not secure access to health care for all of our people. (Applause.)

This is not an abstract issue to me. Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was cured because, as a United States senator, I was lucky to have some of the best medical care in the world. Millions of our fellow citizens are not so lucky. And I am determined to change that.

I propose to give every American access to the same health coverage that the senators and Congress give themselves. (Applause.) And I say to you today, as clearly as I can, your family's health is just as important as any politician's in Washington. And we must make it so as the policy of this country. (Applause.)

The courage to do what's right means standing up for civil rights, for equal rights, and ending discrimination for all Americans, ending discrimination against African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and gays and lesbians.

All Americans deserve to be free from this discrimination and to enjoy the full measure of America's rights. (Cheers, applause.)

And it means understanding that our civil liberties are not an obstacle to defending this nation. They are one of the things that we seek to defend. George Bush has sought to undo guarantees enshrined in the constitution, not by amending it, but by subverting it with his judicial nominees. As president, I will only appoint Supreme Court justices who will uphold a woman's right to choose and the right to privacy in America. (Cheers, applause.) A just America demands a Supreme Court that honors our constitution, and it demands an attorney general whose name is not John Ashcroft. (Cheers, applause.)

And some may not like to hear it, but courage means standing up for gun safety, not retreating from the issue out of political fear or trying to have it both ways. I am a hunter and I believe in the second amendment, but I have never gone hunting with an AK-47. (Laughter, applause.) Our party will never be the choice of the NRA, and I'm not looking to be the candidate of the NRA. (Cheers, applause.)

Today, I ask all of you to enlist in a mission that is bigger than any of us, for each of us has extra days, not just for ourselves, but to share. And I hope to be the president who asks all of us to serve. Because in the end, the ideals of this nation will not be realized by presidential decree, but by national service that can only be measured in the countless individual acts and of a commitment to do what's right for America, every day, in every community, in many different ways, from helping a child to learn to read to giving senior citizens the chance to give more of their talents and strength. And the force of all of those extra days joined together can open a new era of concern for others and not just for ourselves; of community and not division; of opportunity for the many and not just the few.

I believe that the courage of Americans can change this country. I believe that the idealism of Americans can match our power to our principles so that this nation will advance the best hopes of the world. (Applause.) I believe that the genius of Americans can make us energy independent. I believe that the resolve of Americans can break the grip of special interests and bring back jobs and economic justice. I believe the vision of Americans can save our environment, raise up our schools and finally open up health care to all. The conscience of Americans can guard our fundamental liberties and preserve them for generations to come.

Your courage, your courage, can make sure that we do what's right for our country. Your courage can give America back its future, its strength and its soul.

I am honored to join you in this endeavor as a candidate for president of the United States! Thank you, and God bless you all! (Cheers, applause.) Thank you.