MANCHESTER - Today, Scott Brown delivers the following remarks from The New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester. The following remarks are prepared for delivery and embargoed until speech time:
"Thank you all very much. Dr. DiSalvo, Neil Levesque, and my other friends here: It’s always a privilege to come to Saint Anselm College, and to spend some time at the Institute of Politics. Campuses don’t come much nicer than this one, and I really appreciate the hospitality I’ve always received here.
"Saint A’s is a point of pride for our entire state, and not just because it’s the home of the Hawks. It’s because you’re one of the finest colleges in America. An education here gets you more than a degree; it leaves a mark that’s meant to stay with you, and a love for learning and the pursuit of truth. That’s a credit to generations of teachers here, and to all those who are the stewards of this great college today.
"The enduring values of our country and our culture always need defending, and not just in academic or political debates. Sometimes it involves tougher work. We count on volunteers to do it – by putting on the uniform and promising to give their all in service to our country.
"I completed my ROTC training and spent almost 35 years serving in the Army National Guard – the last four of them at the Pentagon. I retired in May, and what I miss the most is the company I was able to keep in those years – the soldiers who defend this country. If you ask me, there are none finer than the men and women who serve in our military today.
"As a United States senator, involved in debates on national security and defense, I always tried to keep those men and women in mind. I felt that responsibility very personally, as any senator should. When troops are deployed, we’ve got to back them up all theway, whatever the mission. When they join the ranks of veterans, we’ve got to take care of them, honoring our commitments with the respect that every veteran deserves. These are not policy options, they are special obligations – above politics, no matter which party holds the White House or is in control of Congress.
"Whatever else happens in Washington, when it comes to national security the stakes are so high, and there is so little room for error. This has always been true, and these days it’s hard to overstate how much is on the line. We’re at a dangerous moment for our country and our friends. It’s starting to feel like the world is on fire, with so many crises getting worse, so many adversaries gaining ground.
"Look at the Middle East. In Iraq and Syria, we’re talking about an expanse of territory larger than New England that has now been lost to a terrorist army. A year ago, no one in Washington was even talking about ISIS. And yet here they are, exterminating innocent people including mothers and children, murdering Americans on camera, and declaring a caliphate that is drawing even more jihadists to the scene each and every day.
"Our closest ally in that region is Israel. I’ve been there, and seen for myself the traumatic aftermath of rocket attacks in the town of Sderot. This is a place where they had to put a childcare facility in a bunker underground. And this summer, yet again, Israel was hit with thousands of rockets. The attacks were by Hamas, a group whose idea of honorable tactics is to target the innocent and hide rocket launchers near schools and hospitals – using people in their own villages as human shields.
"Then there are the ayatollahs in Iran. Already a constant source of trouble in the region, and anexporter of terror, the regime in Tehran is still intent on building nuclear weapons. And talk about a world on fire – a nuclear-armed Iran would bring the worst of threats to Israel and to the rest of the region and the world.
"Look farther down on the map, and across parts of Africa you find terrorist gangs dominating lawless regions like South Sudan and Somalia. That’s more trouble that’s going to be hard to contain.
"And then there’s a part of the world, full of friendly nations, where we thought our troubles were far behind us. In Ukraine and elsewhere, they’re looking at an autocrat in the Kremlin for whom national boundaries and democratic rights mean absolutely nothing. And another strategic competitor of ours, China, has been trying to intimidate its neighbors, testing limits and international boundaries while also pressing ahead with a massive military buildup.
"So many challenges, so many threats and problems – and all at the same time. It’s not just bad luck for President Obama in this sixth year of his administration. It is more than that. There comes a time when the man in charge has to answer for what happens on his own watch. And you know as well as I do that we are pretty well past that point. We expect our president to stay ahead of threats, and the Congress to help him do so. And if President Obama and his team had met even that minimal standard, then I believe that the global security picture would look a lot better than it does right now.
"They seem only more confused as things unravel. It’s as if the Obama administration is maxed out, worn down, devoid of ideas, and now all the bills are coming due. This is what foreign policy looks like without clarity and conviction. This is what the world looks like without American leadership.
"The American people are getting very worried about all of this, and we should. I hear it so often, all over New Hampshire, from moms and grandparents concerned about the safety of their kids – Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. They ask: Where is the leadership? How has it come to this, with dangers multiplying instead of being prevented and deterred?
"So it’s hardly surprising that national security has become a central issue in the election of 2014. And in our state, voters have a very clear choice between two Senate candidates with very different records, and different ideas and positions. As always in New Hampshire, the test is pretty straightforward. Who has the judgment to make the right calls? The question is, who has shown the real and true independence to put party loyalty aside, and to put our country and our national interests first, each and every time?
"As I have said many times, Senator Shaheen is a nice person, but that is not enough. As you know, she is the senior senator from New Hampshire, and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. She has been in that privileged position for nearly six years. And she has a record that is readily summed up in a single number: 99 percent. That is how often Senator Shaheen votes in support of any policy of the Obama administration, whatever it is.
"A record of near-complete conformity with the president covers just about every issue of national security and defense. So if we’ve seen some bad calls at the White House, it’s a very safe bet that our senior senator has been right in line with that failed program. It’s been nearly six years of confusion, uncertainty, and withdrawal in American foreign policy. For Senator Shaheen, it’s been nearly six years of just going along, with no questions for the president about his decisions – at least none that anybody remembers … no expressions of disagreement … not a single sign of independent thinking.
"Seeing where we are today, how many Americans can say that they are in 99-percent agreement with the administration policies that got us here? I believe that it is only one, and she is running for reelection as our senator. But if Jeanne Shaheen doesn’t know how to ask tough questions, when tough questions need asking, there’s plenty of people in New Hampshire who do.
"Here’s one that comes up a lot, especially among our veterans. It’s about Iraq and what’s going on there right now. The Iraq veterans I speak with usually tense up, maybe get angry, or maybe shed some tears. And they want to know how it all fell apart, after all that our military sacrificed for that country – in the lives, limbs, and futures given up in that cause?
"American troops served long deployments, suffered wounds, lost comrades; they gave all that their country asked, and more. And hard as it was, by 2011, the surge had succeeded and finally the end was in sight. Yet it all slipped away. And now entire towns and regions that good men died to liberate are held and ruled by terrorist fanatics. They’re even using some of the vehicles and weapons that America left behind. In every way they can, they’re thumbing their noses at us, mocking America and all that we stand for. Our vets who fought in Iraq are hurt and disgusted, and quite frankly who can blame them?
"Three years ago, in October of 2011, I joined with colleagues on the Armed Services Committee in a letter challenging the administration to reconsider the complete abandonment of the Iraqi people. We needed to leave a transition force there to help guide and assist the newly elected government. It was obvious to us, and to the commanders we had spoken to over there, that a residual force was essential to preserve America’s hard-won gains. Leave all at once, and right away, and that pullout would be seen as a victory by our enemies all across the Middle East. And all kinds of bad actors would move in – exactly as ISIS has now done.
"That bipartisan letter was signed by Senators Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and others of us on that committee. One member who didn’t join us was Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Then as now, she wasn’t in the habit of questioning the administration. If Barack Obama had decided something – anything – of course she was for it. Automatically, and most often silently as well, she just goes right along with administration policy, and this case was no different.
"I’m not sure she realizes – even now – the disastrous consequences of the complete military withdrawal that she supported. For most of 2014, the jihadists of ISIS have been storming across two countries, going from one conquest and atrocity to the next. So far as I can tell, she never even mentioned ISIS in public until last month. This is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee we’re talking about, and it’s been nothing but silence on the most urgent national-security threats that we are facing. In fact, when the Committee was hearing testimony on the emerging threat of ISIS a year and a half ago, guess what? She missed the meeting. Who knows where she was, but I hope it was important because that was a critical hearing on a growing danger.
"Even when Senator Shaheen does have something to say on security matters, you’ve got to wonder sometimes about those statements. She has insisted that the group, Boko Haram, operating in and around Nigeria, is not really an Islamic terrorist group. But let’s not be confused on this: These are the jihadist killers who kidnapped over 200 girls last spring. They’ve been at it awhile, and back in 2012 I introduced a bill instructing then Secretary of State Clinton to designate Boko Haram as the terrorist organization that it is.
"The bill went to Senator Shaheen’s committee, the Foreign Relations Committee – where, once again, they did exactly nothing. Finally, last fall, the state department acknowledged the obvious by declaring that Boko Haram is a terrorist organization. Around that same time, as you might guess, Senator Shaheen also changed her position on the matter.
"It’s bad enough when any senator from New Hampshire has the reputation of a partisan follower. But when our senator, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, just goes along like another naïve follower of Barack Obama, missing obvious realities and opportunities to lead in the current security environment – that’s when you’ve really got to worry.
"I view the job of a senator very differently, and party politics has got nothing to do with it. When any president is clear and resolute in defense of America’s interests, it won’t matter to me if we’re of the same party or not – I’ll be there, with my support and my vote. But where there is confusion, indecision, and incoherence in foreign policy, I will challenge, question, and never just fall in line with anyone. One hundred percent of the time, I’m going to do my own thinking, and speak for the independent spirit of our state.
"A senator has an affirmative duty to show some initiative now and then. And here’s an example. Several years ago, I introduced a bill that would measurably improve our security as we and our allies deal with ISIS. That bill, which I will propose again if I have the chance, was called the Terrorist Expatriation Act.
"It goes straight at the problem of jihadists with Western passports. They include a few hundred Americans, by the estimate of the secretary of defense. My proposal has some news for them. If any citizen joins a foreign terrorist organization and has made a declaration to kill us, they lose the right to be called an American. I want every one of these guys to know: If your loyalty is gone, then your citizenship is gone, your passport is cancelled, and lots of luck with your new friends because you’re out of here for good.
"And how about showing some initiative on the vital matter of border security? Being a follower of the party line these past five and a half years, Senator Shaheen has had nothing at all helpful to say on this issue. Never mind that these ISIS thugs have been saying for months that they’re going to send people here to kill Americans on as big a scale as they can. And never mind that a porous border is the most obvious pathway for terrorists to enter our country.
"From the Obama administration, all we’re hearing on illegal immigration now is more talk of amnesty, by executive decree and right after this fall’s election. And let’s not kid ourselves: When the enemies of our country are planning attacks and our leaders in Washington are planning amnesty, something is wrong. We have got to get serious about securing our borders – and we'd better do it yesterday.
"The Obama-Shaheen agenda of amnesty and no border enforcement is only inviting more chaos and danger. Illegal immigration is above all a national-security challenge. And should I have the honor of representing New Hampshire in the Senate, I will vote each and every time to provide every resource we need to guard this nation’s borders and enforce this nation’s laws.
"Think for a moment how it looks to our terrorist enemies that so many in Washington lack even the will to protect America’s sovereignty … to know who’s coming into this country, and to guard against the threat of attack. It conveys such a passive, pathetic attitude. It sends a message of such weakness at a time when the world needs to see the strength and resolve of the United States.
"And the same is true when so many in Washington can’t even find the will to invest all that is needed in the United States military. Our enemies pay a lot less attention to what we say than to what we do. And nothing communicates our intentions and capacities more clearly than devastating budget decisions concerning defense and national security.
"Here’s the reality. Presidents and senators can talk all day about the peaceful, orderly world we’d all like to see, free of threats and spared from wars. But in the end, it’s not talk that gets you there. It is the deterring, stabilizing influence of American military power – and real leadership. The stronger we are, the safer we are. And the clearer we are about protecting our interests and our friends, the more peaceful this world will be. Our allies need to trust us once again, and our foes need to fear and respect us.
"I’ll keep my word to veterans, too, as I did before when Iwas on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Every president bears prime responsibility for the administration of the VA – which in the Obama years has been an outrageous failure. Even as the federal government tries taking over our whole health care system, it can’t even deliver on the most basic promise to take care of veterans. A few months ago the president was saying he was going to get to the bottom of it and fix all the problems. He was saying the same thing as a candidate in 2008. It was talk, and it took a national scandal with our veterans dying at the VA to finally get their attention.
"I lost confidence in the former head of the VA a long time ago, and I was one of the first people in the country to demand that he either resign or be fired. You know when Senator Shaheen got around to calling for his resignation? Just 48 hours before the man actually resigned. She was one of the last senators to call for new leadership at the VA. Everybody knew it was about to happen, so without upsetting anyone in the Obama White House she could safely issue a press release. Our veterans deserve better.
"I guess it was for the record, but it sure didn’t do much good. Veterans are entitled to expect better than that from our senator, and frankly so are all the people of New Hampshire. We’ve got drift and confusion in national security policy, a complete follower in Senator Shaheen, and it’s just not working out very well for our state or for our country. I served with Senator Shaheen and we’ve always gotten along. We just have some very different ideas about the Obama agenda … about our country’s challenges and opportunities … and about how a senator can help to move things in a better, safer, less confusing direction for America.
"Even in this dangerous time, we Americans do not have to live our lives in fear. And the conduct of national security policy does not have to involve a constant series of crises abroad that we could have avoided … battles refought over ground we have lost … and endless worries about what terrorists might have slipped into our country, and what they might have brought with them. That’s what it has come to after nearly six years under this president, and we are asked to believe this is the best America can do.
"I do not accept that defeatist attitude for one moment, and neither should you. We live in the greatest country in the world, and this nation can lead again. We can deal with problems before they become crises … deter threats before they are upon us … and shake off the whole cynical attitude that has kept us from doing obvious and necessary things for the defense of America.
"We can secure our own border, blocking the path of anyone who would do us harm – and we have to do it. We can maintain a military superiority that no rival will dare to question – and it’s critical that we get on it right now. We can restore this great country’s leadership in the world, and everything rides on our success.
"This better, safer direction for our country adds up to a lot of important choices, and the first one belongs to the voters. All I can do in these next six weeks is to make my case, as a believer in my country and in our special calling to defend freedom, uphold justice, and be a force for good in this world. Never forget that in afflicted places across the earth, people still look to us for help and for strength, and we can’t let them down.
"Sometimes, that may feel like an unwelcome burden. In fact, it is the greatest of responsibilities, and we are better off in every way when we live up to our duty. Our security, our freedom, and the peaceful lives we wish for our children all depend on a strong America. Now, in a troubled time, this cause needs and deserves all the conviction and effort that we can give it. And I pledge nothing less, should I have the honor of serving as your United States senator.
"Thank you very much."