Dear Fellow Democrat,
Remember this? "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Those are George Bush's famous 16 words from his 2003 State of the Union address, delivered less than two months before he sent troops into war in Iraq.
They were false. Three years later Americans are still demanding answers on the manipulation of intelligence by an administration eager to start a war.
Americans have a lot of questions that went unanswered tonight. When George Bush delivered his State of the Union address, he had a big megaphone and the world's attention. He had the opportunity to regain some degree of credibility with the American people -- more than half of whom disapprove of his performance as president. But he failed to answer the real questions ordinary Americans have about the state of our union:
- When will we have a new strategy in Iraq that protects American lives? Violence is increasing, not decreasing there and the mismanagement of this war has cost the lives of Americans and billions of dollars in fraud. And when will we secure our ports and chemical and nuclear plants, which remain vulnerable?
- When will the Republican Party put its responsibility to the people before its greed and thirst for power? The Republican culture of corruption in the executive and legislative branches has violated the law and cost taxpayers billions.
- When will President Bush and the Republican Congress wake up to the economic crisis tens of millions of Americans face? Good jobs are leaving this country, and many of the jobs that remain exploit working families by denying them adequate benefits. Millionaires and corporations receive tax breaks while Americans can't afford to save, and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen to levels unseen since the 19th century.
- When will we finally do something for the 46 million Americans who lack health insurance? Many have had their lives ruined financially when the worst happened, and many more no longer seek the care they need because they cannot afford it.
- When will we make serious strides towards energy independence? We get a greater percentage of our oil from cartels and dictatorships now than we did in 2000.
- When will he take steps to further ensure retirement security for every American? Growing old with dignity is a right, not a privilege, and dismantling Social Security in favor of private accounts is the wrong direction for our society.
If Bush and the Republicans would bother to answer these questions, the answers would be simple. But they won't answer.
That's because the answer to each and every one is "Never." Never as long as they control our government, never as long as they can execute the same incompetent, dishonest and destructive government without paying a price at the ballot box. The answer will be "never" until we grow the operation and build the infrastructure to beat them.
Part of that means telling people clearly and unambiguously what we stand for -- and I'll tell you right now:
- Real security -- we will protect Americans at home by getting serious about homeland security, and address the real threats abroad by capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and focusing on actual (not imagined) nuclear proliferation. We will be prepared for the threats of tomorrow, and we will always tell the truth to our troops and the American people.
- Honest leadership and open government -- we will end the criminal Republican culture of corruption and restore a sense of responsibility to elected office, and we will pass fundamental reforms that make government more honest, open, and accountable to the American people than ever before.
- Economic prosperity and educational excellence -- we will keep good jobs from leaving and ensure that every job in America is a fair deal. We will balance the budget, ensure that the tax code is simple and fair, and invest in education to ensure that every American has an equal opportunity to succeed.
- A health care system that works for everyone -- we will join every other industrialized country by making sure everyone has access to affordable health care. We will change a corrupt, inefficient system into one that makes sure the world's wealthiest country is also the healthiest.
- Energy independence -- we will reduce our reliance on foreign oil by investing in cleaner and more efficient technology. We will treat energy independence as what it is -- not only a conservation issue, but an economic and national security issue.
- Retirement security -- we will strengthen Social Security and make sure that a retirement with dignity is the right and expectation of every single American.
Tonight and tomorrow, Republicans will be out in full force, spinning, distracting, distorting and dividing. But don't be fooled. You know what you heard in Bush's speech -- and you know the reality.
When Republicans hurl insults and lies, we must be ready to stand up and speak the truth in response -- and to make sure our friends and neighbors are not afraid to do the same.
Please take the time to write a letter to the editor about what's wrong with the Republican priorities -- and what we'll do to put America on the right track:
We cannot sit back and let them attack us. And we cannot sit back and let them attack the values and ideals we hold dear.
That's why we are investing millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours to build the Democratic Party everywhere. We're building a year-round, 50-state party capable of winning elections for every level of office.
Building our party everywhere isn't only about electing more Democrats. It's about bringing people back into the political process and ensuring that we have at least one political party representative of, and responsible to, the people.
These are not short-term investments, and we are not there yet. But we will only create lasting change if every single one of us takes responsibility for speaking out and organizing in our local community.
Over the next ten months, that's exactly what we're going to do.
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.