Representative Dick Gephardt, D-MO
New York, NY
January 13, 2004
DAVID SANGER: Good morning. I'm David Sanger from The New York Times. I'm very happy to see all of you here at such an early hour. And our speaker today, of course, is Representative Dick Gephardt.
His biography is well known to all of you, but I think you have it around and about, if there are parts you want to go look up. Actually, what it doesn't include is his most recent accomplishment -- we've got a group of researchers working on this -- but we think he may be the first person who ever did Letterman in the evening and the Council the following morning. (Laughter.) And this, of course, is all going to be fed into a new study group about whether or not the Council should be going into the late-night television business.
But I will now without further ado give you Dick Gephardt, and then we'll be asking questions after that.
Congressman Gephardt? (Applause.)
DICK GEPHARDT: Thank you, David, for that kind introduction. I hope I don't have the Letterman lines in my book here, so that we get the right speech for the right occasion.
Thank you so much for letting me be here, though I'll be honest; I love Iowa, but after a few days in the winter in Iowa, pretty much anything feels warm.
As a long-time member of the Council, I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to be back here. Some of you are probably wondering why I'm here at all in New York City, in mid-January of a presidential primary season, about to engage in a sober and substantive discussion not of soybean prices or volume-metric ethanol, but of America's role in a changing world. I figured it's a slow week on the political front -- (laughter) -- I might as well take advantage of it.
The truth is, amid all the hand shaking and door knocking that's going on in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, beneath all the soundbites and sloganeering and political histrionics, it's easy to lose sight of what's really at stake in this election. The presidency is not a popularity contest. We're not choosing the political flavor of the month, though it often seems that way. We're not handing out awards for the best performance in a 60-second infomercial. We're choosing the next leader of the Free World. We're choosing nothing less than the face and name of American liberty for years to come.
And ultimately, we're deciding how and perhaps even whether we model freedom and advance American's values for the whole world. We're deciding whether foreign policy is reduced to bluster and recycled Cold War taunts, or whether we have a real and sustained commitment to break the cycle of poverty and ignorance, to expand the circle of global prosperity, to actually prevent the next wave of tyranny and terror rather than allowing it to fester in the weak or rogue states and then wringing our hands when it shows up at our doors.
For my own sake, I probably should be in Iowa right now tending to next Monday's caucuses and to other, more parochial, concerns, but one of the central reasons I'm running for president in this time of trial and terror is to restore American leadership in the world, to show that foreign policy is more than a John Wayne movie, more than a forum for boasts and bravado and amorphous ad-hoc coalitions. American foreign policy is the way we foster and strengthen our deepest values, the way we guide developed and developing nations alike toward democracy, toward self-determination, toward the free flow of capital and ideas that make up the American dream.
American foreign policy also requires a constant engagement in an active public diplomacy that directly communicates with nations and peoples around the world our common interests in security, prosperity and peaceful coexistence. That's not what's been happening in the current administration. My problem with the Bush foreign policy team and the "cold warriors" they brought out of semi-retirement to run it is their overwhelming arrogance and lack of appreciation for the subtleties of democracy building or alliance strengthening, all those niceties that intrude on their Hobbesian world.
I believe that America deserves better than a foreign policy that's left us isolated in the world and increasingly vulnerable at home. I believe America has to engage in the world and invest in it, that we have to lead it instead of trying to bully it. I believe that advancing America's security requires not the construction of barriers against the world but rather the projection of our values throughout the world. I believe it's the job of the American president to rally public opinion at home and around the world for what is right and what is just in global affairs, for what makes us safer and what makes us stronger, and for what wins real converts to the long-term cause of freedom.
My vision recognizes that our domestic agenda is intertwined with our foreign policy, a diplomatic agenda of reconciliation and renewal built on creating allies, not enemies, an over-arching vision that is clearly focused on defending our freedom while we promote the freedom of others, and leadership that relies on our true power as a nation, the enduring example of the American democratic experiment.
After the tragic events of September 11th, America had a unique opportunity for global unity. There's probably no time in American history that we've had a greater opportunity to build a new world coalition for freedom. Even the headline in the leading French newspaper, Le Monde, read, "Nous sommes tous Americains," -- "We are all Americans."
Yet today, as many of our troops begin a second tour of duty in Iraq and their families worry that they may be the victims of tomorrow's truck bomb, this administration still has not managed to persuade allies to deploy troops in numbers that will ease the burden on our troops there.
There has been a lot of focus in this campaign on my support of President Bush in the days after September 11th. And yes, I supported the congressional resolution that gave President Bush the authority to act in Iraq, even as I urged him to seek multilateral support through the United Nations. I don't apologize for that, and I'm not sorry that Saddam Hussein is gone.
But the burden of proof for a failed foreign policy -- the presumption of guilt for a deadly quagmire in the sands of Iraq with no exit strategy and scant international support -- does not rest with those who supported it on good faith and with America's security at heart. No, it is the Bush administration itself that bungled the debate at the United Nations, fumbled the U.N.-supervised weapons inspections, failed to build a coalition to help our soldiers, and now has no apparent plan to bring safety and democracy to the Iraqi people.
So we can agree or disagree about the war in Iraq, but as the council knows so well, foreign policy is as much about means as it is about ends. At a time when threats appear not as troops along a border, but as intercepted e-mails and satellite photos. at a time when even our sometime adversaries hold intelligence that can help us capture the deadliest terrorists, we have to engage and embrace our allies and partners more than ever before.
And if American foreign policy is not a clear reflection of American values, if we don't honor and embrace the principles of democracy and humanity and self-determination as we battle tyranny and dictatorship, then America will increasingly be seen as a global vigilante, cracking heads but unwilling to address the real causes of terror, of instability, of autocracy in the world.
We don't need a president who says, "bring 'em on" to those who would do us harm. We need a president who will do the hard work of diplomacy and says, "bring 'em in" to those who share our aspirations for freedom, peace and security.
We don't need a president who's virtually AWOL from the Middle East peace process, as the violence and the animosities escalate. We need a president who will push and prod and put America's leverage on the line to heal critical war-torn regions in the world.
We don't need a president who jeopardizes years of delicate talks with North Korea with hyperbolic, cheap rhetoric and fails to follow through with a coherent strategy to deal with the most significant threat in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We don't need a president who jawbones foreign governments about their economic policies, while he plunges the United States into the highest level of debt and deficit in our history.
And so I'm here to advocate a broader vision, a more interconnected vision, of U.S. foreign policy, one that makes the hard and unglamorous choices in the present so we might not have to put our men and women in harm's way in the future.
Over the past several months, I've spoken often about my vision of how we can advance America's national security. I have discussed the threat posed by terrorists and the proliferation of dangerous weapons, and how we must secure our nation against them. I have spoken about our immediate need for effective homeland security measures in order to secure our borders and our citizens.
In order to succeed in the war on terrorism, America must have a strong and comprehensive strategy. This involves maintaining the best military forces in the world. It also means developing important nonmilitary capabilities and collaborating with allies, because the terrorists can often be deterred or caught just as well through joint law enforcement activities, border patrols, and financial stings as they can with military force.
America must also strive to prevent threats from emerging, especially those that are most dangerous to our national security. Rather than simply seek to preempt threats before they are inflicted on our nation, we must work to prevent them from emerging in the first place. This is particularly important in the case of weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation.
But there's another dimension of security that is essential for our nation to prosper and retain a global leadership role. It's not the security that comes from stronger defenses alone; it's the security that comes from broadening the scope of our vision to other nations and peoples.
It's about projecting American optimism and our hopes for the future, not our fears. It's about projecting American values, the universal values embodied in the four freedoms -- freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear -- that underpin life in a democratic society.
My vision is one in which America takes the lead in building, strengthening and expanding a community of like-minded nations that, through common aspirations and efforts, push to the periphery and eventually eliminate the destructive forces that thrive on instability.
Through strong U.S. leadership, this initiative would isolate the world's extremists and terrorists, rather than allow our own nation to become isolated, which George Bush has done.
It begins with a stronger, more vibrant United States economy -- one that lifts people out of poverty, indigence and fear -- here at home, and internationally as well.
There's no question that the growth and strength of the global economy has brought more and more nations into the circle of freedom and democracy, and has strengthened and deepened our political alliances as well.
But America is in grave danger of weakening the world economy, instead of strengthening it. In three short years, President Bush has turned a $5 trillion surplus into a $5 trillion debt. And remember that our historic budget surpluses were completely gone before September 11th.
According to an IMF study released just last week, calling in -- calling into the question the wisdom of the Bush tax cuts, America's rising debts could reach 40 percent of our total economy in a few years, which could jeopardize the value of the dollar, raise global interest rates, and slow global investment and growth to a crawl.
As Paul Krugman noted in The New York Times last week, it's enough to make former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin, a calm man without an exclamation point in his vocabulary, sound positively shrill. Secretary Rubin has long recognized the risks to our domestic and international economies associated with our ballooning deficit and trade deficits. As he recently said, "If you cut taxes enough, raise the deficit, you'll undermine the economy and put the government in a position where it can't do what it wants to do." We certainly can't lead the world if we're an economic drag on it. Nor can we afford the resources we're going to need, both military and nonmilitary, to reassert a constructive U.S. leadership in an unstable and uncertain world.
One of the defining issues of my campaign has been a return to economic sanity, to the Clinton economic policies I shepherded through Congress as House majority leader a decade ago, as well as a health care plan that increases the strength and stability of our workforce, provides stimulus across our economy, and puts an end to the market- distorting economic giveaways that have caused the Bush deficits these past three years.
We also need coherent international economic policies; and we sure haven't had them from this administration. Try to figure out what their policy on the dollar is. As far as I can tell, it's that we should have a dollar, and everything after that is up for grabs. The confusion hurts our credibility, both with financial markets and with other nations.
This administration has flip-flopped over the management of international financial crises. First they told the world they wouldn't help countries that couldn't service their own debt. A few months later, they supported exactly this sort of help through the IMF. Then they decided to let Argentina default on its debt, rather than pitch in at all.
Global economic leadership is not an improv act; America has to provide stability, predictability and consistency for the world, not a new kind of global guessing game. Along with this comes the need for a sound trade policy -- where, for the past three years, this administration has flipped and flopped, even while trade deficits have reached appalling new highs.
I know I've stirred up some controversy on this issue in the past, so let me say at the outset that I'm for free trade, and I've always been for free trade. But when we're forced to trade with nations that use slave and prison labor, when our trading partners don't even follow the meager labor and environmental laws on their own books, when trade is really just a way of averaging out the world's wages and shedding jobs for the sake of cheap consumer goods, when other countries respond to our trade liberalization by limiting access to their markets, then I don't see how that trade is especially "free," and it's certainly not fair.
Our goal in trade negotiations can't simply be shipping more cheap sweaters back and forth, regardless of the terms or the human consequences. Truly free and fair trade has to be a way to lift living standards and expand economic freedom both at home and abroad.
That's why we have to fight for trade policies that raise wages and standards, so everyone does better. If we don't, it's a race to the bottom, where wages plummet, living standards fall through the floor, and poverty flourishes. The Bush administration seems fine with that, but I'm not.
As president, I'll press the World Trade Organization, which I have supported from its inception, to establish an international minimum wage -- different for each country, but always high enough so we don't compete with slave, sweatshop and child labor around the world. I believe this would create millions of new global consumers for our products and help build an expanding middle class in countries across the globe.
Now the right economic and trade policies are the foundation for what we must do internationally, but they're only a part of how we'll succeed in reasserting U.S. international leadership.
We must also help those in the developing world who are struggling to join our community of like-minded nations succeed through broadly conceived and effective development-assistance policies. We must restore the U.S. to its leading role among industrialized nations in addressing the root causes of extremism and terrorism.
Our definition of foreign assistance must be broadly conceived to provide assistance in the promotion of democratic institutions in developing countries, as well as provide support for emerging economies. And our foreign assistance resources must be effectively directed to make the right investments in the poorest countries that are potentially the most fertile ground for the seeds of extremism and terrorism to grow.
Not only will a Gephardt administration expand America's capacity to provide development assistance by increasing the available resources, my administration will be committed to rebuilding the institutional capacity needed to successfully carry out effective development assistance policies. I will change the attitude in Washington that has starved USAID and other such institutions.
While the Bush administration has talked a great deal about the need to expand development assistance, the rhetoric usually comes up empty. They've already cut the first deposit into their much-touted Millennium Challenge Account by 25 percent, and cut one-third out of their own Global AIDS Initiative, as commendable as that initiative is.
As president, I'll fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. And I'll fulfill the presidential pledge to action on Global AIDS to prevent HIV and AIDS, and to bring us toward an AIDS vaccine, so this dreaded disease no longer saps the lifeblood of people and economies across the globe.
I've seen firsthand many of the developing world's problems -- from the tragedy of those suffering from HIV/AIDS in Africa to the crushing poverty of Mexican workers in the maquiladora plants on the U.S.-Mexican border. That's why I'm deeply committed to achieving the international community's Millennium Development Goals. Such a commitment will require that we not only put up funding, but that we liberalize trade rules and assist countries to restructure their debt. And in some cases, it will require substantial debt relief, which I have been a strong advocate for. We've got to make enormous strides toward alleviating poverty and hunger, securing universal primary education, banishing sickness and disease whenever possible.
A focus of my foreign policy agenda as president will be the active promotion of democratic institutions worldwide. We need to engage our allies in a concerted effort to accelerate the process of democratic reform throughout the world. With focused strategies that use our collective political and economic muscle, we must actively assist countries through the transition to more free and participatory societies.
We should take the lead in supporting efforts to build a multi- nation Democracy Caucus to promote sound governance, the rule of law, and progressive economic policies throughout the world.
Through this caucus and on our own, we should push for reforms at the United Nations and other international organizations so they become more effective at promoting democracy and prosperity. And right off the bat, I believe we should double our contribution to the National Endowment for Democracy and its constituent organizations, which do so much to strengthen the institution of democracy in other countries.
And we should pursue other ways to directly promote democracy. We must continue to press for an improvement in women's rights, the expansion of human rights and associated freedoms.
We must promote a free and active press, through both technical assistance to independent groups and consistent pressure on governments. And we must reconstitute U.S. libraries and America Houses around the world so more people can learn about the real United States and the principles that make our democracy work.
We must also take steps to give ordinary people a greater economic stake in their societies. I'm a strong supporter of micro- credit for developing nations so small-scale entrepreneurs can start their own business and reap the full bounty of American freedom.
A Gephardt administration will double the United States government's current commitment to micro-fund lending -- micro-loan funding so that peoples in countries like Uganda, where 250,000 families have benefited from international micro-loans, can continue to build economic activity at the grassroots level.
And with the accelerating speed of the modern economies of the world, and the sheer explosion of technology in every facet of our lives, we must close the growing divide between developed economies and poorer economies so all nations can share in the promise of a safe, free, stable world economy.
Political and economic freedom, after all, are sustained by something deeper: the human freedoms and shared prosperity that support a consensus for engagement and reform. Ultimately, people's faith in their own self-government, their belief that they can share in an ever-widening circle of human dignity and self-sufficiency, is one of the most powerful weapons in any nation's arsenal.
Finally, we can do a lot more to enable average Americans to contribute to our national security. For 40 years, the Peace Corps has served an important role. Given the challenges we face today, the scope and reach of the Peace Corps should be dramatically expanded. That's just the start.
In 1995, I co-sponsored a bipartisan effort to bring Russian entrepreneurs to America for intensive business training. Without initiatives such as this one, Russia would have had a much slower transition to market capitalism, which truly underlies and sustains Russian democracy. There are literally hundreds of such efforts across the globe that deserve more attention and support.
Our nation's educational institutions abroad help train young people to be the political and business leaders of tomorrow, while inculcating the universal values that we all hope will take stronger root across the globe. We should increase our support for these institutions and review where we can build more in the developing world.
And while we have to do everything possible to secure our nation against future terrorist attacks, we must strive to maintain the openness of our society for those who see America as a beacon of hope and prosperity. By welcoming those who want to learn about America, who want to partake in our economy and the freedoms we so often take for granted, we can spread the gospel of freedom and self- determination through public diplomacy that doesn't cost us one budgetary dime.
In January of 2002, I traveled to North Africa and the Middle East to take a look at how our post-9/11 foreign policy was being perceived overseas. During that visit, I met with a large group of Moroccan students at Marrakesh University. In the course of 90 minutes, I witnessed what can only be described as an eruption of anger and frustration over the Bush administration's attitude toward the developing world in general, and their region in particular. I was struck by the depth of hostility toward the Bush policies, in what we all know is one of the most moderate and pro-American countries in the Arab world.
Near the end of our meeting, a Moroccan professor stood up and asked the students whether any of them would like to study or live in the United States, despite their fears and anger and concern. Nearly every student in the room raised their hand.
This encounter clarified for me the essence of our challenge today and the urgency of our task. It demonstrated that the Bush administration's arrogance and unilateralism has cost our nation the unequivocal leadership role that we've held in the past. But it also suggested to me that people in the developing world still admire our country, what we stand for and the opportunities we represent.
America stands for something more than the Cold War anachronisms, something more than the reckless unilateral abandon of this administration. We are still the world's capital of freedom, one of the last, best hopes of humankind.
We must reach out to these people, not push them away. We must join forces with nations to build a better global community for all and in so doing isolate the terrorists and the autocrats, not our own beloved nation.
And we must do it now. There are no quick fixes to these problems, but we must act now. Four more years of this administration's approach to the world will only make the problems more difficult to solve and increase our isolation and our inability to lead.
By adopting a broad vision and an integrated strategy to build a community of democratic and prosperous nations, we can restore alliances and build new partnerships around the world. With this approach, we can all be more secure.
I'm not going to come before you, days before the presidential balloting begins, and say what's fashionable in our politics: that I'm a Washington outsider; that I couldn't find the nation's capital on a map; that railing against the system is good enough; that I don't have decades of experience around the world, meeting with leaders and grappling with the complexities of United States policy. I'm proud of my experience. I think we could use more of it, not less of it, in the White House next year. And if you don't think seasoning and experience matters, you should probably vote for someone else.
But I want to lead this country because I know what an active, engaged America can do. I know how we can model freedom and extend its fullest promise. I know how new leadership can rebuild our fractured alliances and pave the road to many new ones.
I love this country, and I want it to remain the strongest force for peace, prosperity and freedom that this world has ever known. With your help and with the wisdom in this room, I believe with all my heart that we can make that happen.
Thank you for listening. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
MR. SANGER: Well, thank you very much. And thank you, Representative Gephardt, for those very comprehensive comments.
I should have said at the opening that the question-and-answer session, like the speech itself, are on the record, unaccustomed as that is in the council's traditions.
And I thought I would start off, Representative Gephardt, by asking you about that portion of your speech where you said that you had voted for the resolution on Iraq but that the president had made poor choices thereafter in how he implemented that. Had you been in the Oval Office starting, say, a year ago now, could you tell us what you would have done differently? And specifically, could you tell us, would you have done Iraq first or would you have addressed North Korea, which you said in your speech was our most urgent nonproliferation threat, or Iran, or some other threat before you dealt with Iraq?
REP. GEPHARDT: Maybe the best way to answer is to recite a little bit of history of being in the Oval Office right after 9/11 with the president and the other leaders in Congress and what I said and did and how I saw it.
I met the president in the Oval Office with the other three leaders and the vice president on 9/12, after the tragedy here in New York. And I said to the president that we have to trust one another and that we have to put politics aside in dealing with these issues, and that we all had to try to do the best we could do to try to keep our people safe because this was about a matter of life and death. And that is what I've tried to do.
Beginning in the early part of 2002, I began to hear that there was interest in the administration -- it wasn't public at that point -- but there was interest in dealing with Iraq because of a worry of the possession of components or weapons of mass destruction. And in one of the early meetings, I said to the president, "Mr. President, in my opinion -- I'm just giving you my best, you know, counsel and thoughts -- if you want to deal with Iraq, I really believe you've got to start the U.N. inspection process again and get inspectors back in for at least enough time so that we can bring our allies with us."
I even explained, as we all know, we've had inspectors there for eight years, we haven't had them there for five years. And I didn't think it would be possible to get the support of all of our major allies who had participated in this with us unless we went back through the process that we had worked on together, to demonstrate, if that were the case, that Saddam Hussein was never going to do what we all thought that he should do through the U.N. resolutions.
The president didn't respond. There was no real dialogue. We didn't -- and I brought it up three or four more times because I felt so strongly that to do this, if we were to do it -- and we hadn't, obviously, decided to do anything -- but if that was something that we thought was important, that we needed to get the U.N. back engaged so that we could have the help of everybody. Even at one time I said, "You're not going to need their help going in, you're going to need their help coming out. This is going to be complicated, difficult and even nasty."
We didn't really talk about it a lot until the fall. And the president came back from the August recess and he said, "I'm going to the U.N. and I'm going to try to get a resolution." And then it went forward from there.
I truly believe that if he had started this process more or less at the time we started to talk about, and had gotten the inspections going, that after some period, we had a better chance of getting the public and the leadership in France and Germany and Russia to come with us to enforce the U.N. resolutions.
I thought the president's speech at the U.N. was fine. I complimented him on it. I said, you said this is an international problem, not just an American problem, and that the U.N. had to enforce its own resolutions. That's perfect. But you need, as I said to him, to stay there and try to get the U.N. to do everything you could.
I think we just -- we ran out of time. I think he put too short of a time frame on it and, in effect, jammed them. And we didn't get the support that we needed.
Put all of that aside, we're now nine or 10 months after the war and he still has not figured out how to get our allies with us. And that, I think, is a major mistake not only for the United States, but for the entire world. We must be the leader of the world alliance that we established after World War II to bring about peace, to bring about an end of security problems in the world. And I am just -- it's incomprehensible to me that he has not done this.
Now, to go to the second part of your question. I didn't just listen to George Bush about what was going on in Iraq. I went to the CIA myself and I met with their top people, and I asked them, point blank, "Are you truly concerned about the Iraqis having weapons or components of weapons that could wind up in the hands of terrorists, that could wind up in the United States?" And just to give you my feeling about this, after 9/11 we cannot allow a weapon of mass destruction to be used in this country. It cannot happen. Andwe have to do -- and I feel this responsibility keenly -- everything in our power to prevent this from happening.
And I got that answer emphatically "yes" from the CIA. I got that answer from former security officials in the Clinton administration that I had worked with. Now, if the intelligence wasn't as good as it should have been, then we need to find that out and we need to fix it for the future, because in a world of terrorism, the one thing you can't lose as the leading country in the world is your credibility on what the intelligence is around the world.
So I don't have a real clear answer to what I would have done first. I'm not sure I would have addressed Iraq first. I do think that if you had intelligence that we had, that you had to pay attention to it. We were very worried then, and still are worried about weapons of mass destruction winding up in the United States.
So it seems to me that, you know, the first thing you have to do if you're worried about terrorism is attack the symptoms of terrorism. You've got -- and this is where I agreed with the president -- you've got to go after the people that are coming to get you -- it's self- defense. You can't just sit here and wait for the next attack.
You know, I gave a speech on the floor of the House after 9/11. People were saying, "Was it the CIA's fault? Was it the FBI's fault?" I said, "Wait a minute. We'll figure all that out."
The truth is, it was all of our fault.
We all failed, and I said this on the House floor. The president failed. The Congress failed. The country failed.
The people that are dead -- their families have been ruined. This was not a good day.
We had warnings. We had Khobar Towers, USS Cole, the embassies in Africa, the '93 World Trade Center, and none of us believed it would happen here. It did. This is the ultimate wake-up call. So you've got to deal with the symptoms.
But the greatest failing of this administration, which I talked about in the speech, is that they are doing little to deal with the root causes of this problem. This is a serious, long-term, multilayered problem, and we need a president who can lead the American people and the entire world to deal with both the symptoms and the root causes of this problem. And that's not happening today.
MR. SANGER: There are microphones around and available. I will ask you that you state your name and a succinct question. And we'll try to get as many answers in as we can.
The lady who's sitting right here. Ma'am. Mm-hmm.
Audience: I'm Robin Duke, Guttmacher Institute. Mr. Gephardt, could you tell us how you feel about foreign assistance in terms of the influences of religion? Is religion going to play a major role in decisions that you'll make about foreign assistance? Because right now that's the cutting edge. That's what cut out the 18 million (dollars) for the U.N. Fund for Population, and that is what's cut out a lot of the aid policies. We now have to deal with personal religious convictions. Can we move that off the table?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, I have strong religious convictions, but I don't try to force them onto others, and I don't try to directly force them onto important policies.
I have always voted to continue the funding for family planning throughout the world. I think it's a vast mistake for us to cut this funding off because of a worry about some of it being used for abortion. We have a specific prohibition against it being used directly for abortion. And so I think this is a vast mistake.
I've been to many of these family planning centers in the world. I've been to them in Africa, I've been to them in Asia, and I've been to them in South America. And I think they do a very, very important work. And to have the money cut off is really damaging the effort to educate women, the effort to bring people out of their economic problems and to give them the help that they need in having a decent and wholesome life. And I would change that policy immediately.
MR. SANGER: Sir?
Audience: Thank you. John Brademas.
REP. GEPHARDT: John, how are you?
Audience: Fine. New York University -- (inaudible) 3rd District, Indiana. (Laughter.)
REP. GEPHARDT: Just as a note, John was my whip when I came to the Congress in the late '70s. And he took me on my first foreign trip as a congressperson, to Russia, and I will never forget that. He's one of the finest people I've ever met in my life.
Audience: Thank you very much. We were the first American politicians to meet Shevardnadze, in 1979, you may remember.
REP. GEPHARDT: Remember it well.
Audience: That was a splendid speech, Dick. I congratulate you on it.
I was in Marrakesh myself last month, as a matter of fact. And I was -- I'm a former chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, as you know. So my question is, what suggestions have you for encouraging greater freedom and democratic institutions in the Arab world, particularly in difficult countries like Saudi Arabia?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, I think all the things I talked about can be of help. I think public diplomacy is a very, very important feature of this situation. I think opening -- reopening or expanding libraries and information offices around the globe and certainly in the Middle East, certainly in places like Saudi Arabia, if they've been cut back, is a very, very important effort.
I also believe that when I talk about an expanded Peace Corps, I talk about an expanded National Endowment for Democracy, I think we've got to tap into this emerging resource we have in America, which is this large group of either retirees or about-to-be-retirees who are looking for a third or fourth occupation, maybe as a volunteer, to get out in the world and spread our values.
When I go to these developing countries, I'm always struck by the fact that we assume so much that we forget that people in other countries simply don't have the information and the training and the education that they need to do just basic things.
We're all aware of the efforts that have gone on, I think, in Peru, by a talented individual who has set up a property registration system to begin to get the seeds of democracy and capitalism to take place in that country. And they've had great luck. And their first task was to get a recorder of deeds -- something that the people there had no idea of how to do.
So you know, we've got a lot of recorder of deeds around the United States, who could volunteer in their retirement years to go to places and teach kind of basic education.
I was in Russia a few years ago, and after -- I don't think I met him on our trip, but on one of my other trips I met a man by the name of Grigory Yavlinsky, known to many of you. And I had a talk with him about five years ago, and I said, "Grigory, what's your biggest problem in Russia right now?" I thought he'd say money or the economy or so on.
He said, "We don't have citizens yet." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Our people just don't know how to be citizens." I said, "Well, what does that mean?"
He said, "They don't know how to be citizens. They don't know how to vote. They don't know how to have political parties. They don't know how to have agendas. They don't know how to organize voters." He said, "In short, they've never been taught. They've never had the experience of being a citizen in an open society. And until we get that done, we're not gong to have real democracy and we're not going to have real capitalism."
And I said, "Well, what can we do to help?" He said, "Send people that can get into our schools and help educate our teachers so they can teach our kids how to be citizens." So I think that's important, as well.
Let me finally say that I have grave concerns about our friends in Saudi Arabia. I believe that by indirection, we have, you know, allowed us ourselves to be dependent on them and other countries, but primarily them, for the lifeline of our economy, which is oil, and we have not made enough effort to try to have an independent energy program of our own with alternatives we can produce in the United States so we're not sending that amount of capital to that part of the world, kind of forcing billions of dollars into societies that are really in some ways dysfunctional, and then not following up, at least, with some greater efforts to try to help their leadership bring freedom and democracy to their country.
I've been there three or four times, and I continue to be alarmed at the lack of progress in opening up their society, as hard as that is and as difficult as that will be But I think until that happens, we're going to face an increasing danger from disaffected citizens of that country and other countries who feel desperate and angry and frustrated at the situation in which they find themselves. And it presents a real danger not only to the Saudi government and country, but to the entire region and the entire world. And it has to be a high priority.
MR. SANGER: Right down here.
Audience: Lucy Komisar. I'd like to ask you the same question I asked Senator Kerry when he was here. What would you do -- you talked about terrorists and the need to deal with them. What would you do about the off-shore bank and corporate secrecy, which has been shown to be the financial lifeline for terrorists; it's also used by drug traffickers, organized criminals, by tax-cheaters in this country who strip our coffers of the money we need and make the middle class pay more. What would you do about this system?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, I think it's one of the things that we need to have serious discussions about at the international level through the appropriate international institutions so we can bring it to an end.
I talked in my speech about an international minimum wage. That's a radical proposal, I guess. But we are in a global economy. That's never going to change; it's only going to become more so as we go forward. And I think the task here -- and I know it's hard -- is to have leadership in our country that begins to try to lead the whole world to certain norms and standards and policies that are necessary for the whole world to operate in peace and prosperity. And getting rid of secrecy opportunities in the financial system is going to have to be a part of that. I know it will be hard.
Getting an international minimum wage, even though it's different in different countries, will be enormously difficult. But we need leadership here who can begin to advocate these positions and get a following in the world. I've talked to many leaders of developing countries about my ideas, and their initial reaction is, you know, the normal one; it's to think that we're trying to pull one over on them, we're trying to hurt them at our own -- for our own benefit. But then, when you talk to them quietly and you try to bring them to see some facts that maybe they haven't seen before, you can begin to get some understanding. You know, getting cooperation on tough things is hard work. It takes communication, it takes collaboration, it takes listening to them, as well as talking yourself, and then being able to get it done.
I think I'm equipped to do this. I did it in the House for 27 years. I certainly did it as leader for 13 years. I dealt with the whole Democratic Party, and that's a pretty diverse group and they have many different viewpoints. I've also been married to Jane Gephardt for 37 years, and we haven't gotten along every day. There are days when we had disputes. We love one another and respect one another through those disputes. Then we talk it through, and then I say "Yes," and we do what she wants to do. (Laughter.) So I know how to do this. (Laughter.)
MR. SANGER: We have time for just a couple more. Every additional minute he spends here is a minute he's not in Iowa. (Laughter.)
So, the gentleman right down here.
Audience: Tim Stewart from Morgan Stanley. You're critical of the administration's dollar policy, or lack thereof. Can you tell us particularly what your dollar policy would be, as president? And do you see a role for the dollar policy in your trade policies?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, I think the problem we've got is that I don't think that you can deal with the dollar through just rhetoric or through verbal exclamations. I think you've got to deal with the underlying facts. And this administration, as far as I can tell, has just stuck its head in the sand when it comes to the underlying situation.
I mean, I got to tell you: I am astounded at what's happening to the budget in Washington. And it's particularly frustrating to me because, you know, in 1993 with Bill Clinton, I led the Congress to do some tough things. I also participated in the budget summit with George Bush the First when we started to deal with the deficit. So I know what this is like. I've done it. It's hard. We lost lots of seats in the Congress because of the 1993 budget vote, because the Republicans could then run ads on all my candidates saying we had raised taxes. So I know what this is about.
But here you have an administration that starts out as its first act, huge tax cuts, most of which went to the wealthiest Americans. They've now done it two more times, and even after 9/11 and a war, they are still not changing much of anything in their fiscal policy and are still trying to figure out how to make all the tax cuts permanent so that the deficit will be even deeper. And in the midst of all of this, he's trying to go to Mars. (Laughter.) It's mind- boggling to me.
Look, I grew up with Jack Kennedy. I love the space program. I've always voted for it. But we have a space station program we haven't yet even begun to complete. We have tremendous obligations with our allies, mainly Russia, and others, in getting the space station to succeed. And we have a $450 billion deficit this year. It will probably be $550 billion next year. The trade deficit is off the charts.
And this administration tries to have a dollar policy that's based on rhetoric, and it's not even very good rhetoric, from what I can figure out; it's kind of all over the lot. So -- don't get me started. I think this administration is failing us on domestic policy, on foreign policy.
And I think their attitude toward our deficit -- look, when Clinton came in, you could have an argument about whether or not getting rid of the deficit or working it down would work. I don't know how you can argue it anymore. We proved it. I don't have to go before audiences and say, "I think I know how to do this; I hope I know how to do it; maybe I can do it; I've got theories." We did it! Bob Rubin, Gene Sperling, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, the leaders in Congress, the members in Congress who walked the plank, did it. And it was the right thing to do. And it produced the best economy we've had in 50 years and, I would say, the best economy the world's seen in 50 years. So we need to get back to that kind of fiscal responsibility, good common sense, get this country moving in the right direction.
Audience: John Washburn, the United Nations Association. Mr. Gephardt, many of us associate your particular courage and your vision on foreign policy with the issue of the International Criminal Court. You've passed votes as far back as 2001 in support of American relations with the court. You've made statements saying that this is not something we can walk away from, it's happening. Now you're a candidate. The court's up and running and it will be dealing with its first cases on Inauguration Day. What should a new president do about the International Criminal Court and America's relations with it?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, as you said, I'm a strong supporter of it. I will be a strong supporter of it as president. I will try to lead America to be a strong supporter of it, accept it, agree with it. I think this administration, in this case and in the case of Kyoto and other cases, is blithely walking away from a lot of important efforts that this country has promoted and supported through the years. And I think it's a grave error.
I was in Germany about -- it was right after -- I think it was the July 4th period after President Bush was elected -- or put in office. And I -- (interrupted by laughter). I met with the foreign minister of Germany. And before we started the meeting, he said, "I want to tell you something" -- this is before 9/11, obviously. And he said, "I want to tell you something about the way we Europeans feel about America." I had three or four members with me. He said, "Europeans so respect America because there's never been a country in the history of the world who's had so much military power, but has always used it so responsibly." That really made a difference to me; that statement affected me. I was impressed by that. And I was impressed by how he articulated the way people outside the United States feel about the United States.
I think you lose that feeling when you say even though we've negotiated a treaty on global warming -- whatever you think of it -- that we're not even willing to talk about it some more. We're just going to walk away because we have a new administration that doesn't accept the underlying assumptions about global warming, when we're the largest users of energy and global warming -- potential global warming gases in the world.
When we set up an international criminal court regime and want it to work, and then walk away from it because we've got some worries about what might happen to some of our citizens under that regime, and won't even talk about it, we are losing our credibility in the world and the trust that we must have in order to lead this world. And that's what worries me the most. So I will change all of that.
MR. SANGER: Thanks very much. I just wanted to follow up with one very quick question to what you just said at the end there, which had to do with our responsible use of military power. I saw a Pew Research result that came out just in the past few days that indicated that about three-quarters of Americans endorse the use of preemption as a concept, as a doctrine. Do you agree with them?
REP. GEPHARDT: Every president always has, and I believe always will, take military action to protect the people of the United States. That's called self-defense. And there isn't a president who wouldn't or shouldn't do that.
Having said that, I do not believe announcing this as an affirmative policy as the backbone of our foreign policy is the right thing to do, because it sends an incorrect message to the world about how we're going to operate. And it sends a message that we want to act unilaterally, that we desire acting unilaterally, and that we're going to not go to the international alliances to try to get cooperation to do the things that we need to do.
By saying that, I'm not saying you have to go to the U.N. or you have to go to NATO before you do anything. Obviously, if something's going to happen and you think it's imminent, you act. But to announce it as an affirmative backbone of your foreign policy, I don't think is a wise idea. It just lends credibility to this idea that we're kind of the "lone ranger" of the world and we're going to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it.
MR. SANGER: Well, I thank you, Congressman Gephardt. I thank you all for joining us.
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