Vice President's Remarks at the Frontiers of Freedom Institute 2005 Ronald Reagan Gala
Thank you very much and good evening to all of you. And I’m -- when I heard about your gathering, and since I work just down the street from here I thought I’d drop in and say hello.
Let me thank the good people of Frontiers of Freedom, of course, George Landrith, Kerri Houston, Al Lee, for bringing us all together this evening. And I see many good friends in the room, including current and former office holders, as well.
It’s a pleasure to see all of you. I’m sorry we couldn’t be joined by Senators Harry Reid, John Kerry, and Jay Rockefeller. They were unable to attend due to a prior lack of commitment. (Laughter.) I’ll let you think about that one for a minute. (Applause.)
I hope you’ll permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to say a few words that were not part of my remarks that I’d planned originally this evening but which concern a matter of great importance to our entire nation.
Most of you know, I have spent a lot of years in public service, and first came to work in Washington back in the late 1960s. I know what it’s like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city. (Applause.)
Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions that -- made by this Administration and by the previous administration. There was broad-based, bipartisan agreement that Saddam Hussein was a threat, that he had violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and that, in a post-9/11 world, we could not afford to take the word of a dictator who had a history of weapons of mass destruction programs, who had excluded weapons inspectors, who had defied the demands of the international community, whose nation had been designated an official state sponsor of terror, and who had committed mass murder. Those are the facts. (Applause.)
What we’re hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war. The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures –- conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers –- and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.
The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -– but we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. (Applause.)
We’re going to continue throwing their own words back at them. And far more important, we’re going to continue sending a consistent message to the men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other fronts. We can never say enough how much we appreciate them, and how proud they make us. (Applause.)
They and their families can be certain that this cause is right and just, and the performance of our military has been brave and honorable. And this nation will stand behind our fighting forces with pride and without wavering until the day of victory. (Applause.)
Returning to the purpose of this gathering this evening, I want to thank Frontiers of Freedom for asking me to participate. And I want to thank all of you for coming together to support this organization. Frontiers of Freedom is an active, intelligent, and needed presence in the national debate. Washington is a city with many short-term perspectives and narrow interests competing for attention. Frontiers of Freedom offers something different –- a perspective shaped by the broad interests of the nation, and by principles that are relevant in every time. By advocating a strong defense, limited government, and the protection of individual rights -– and doing so in a way that is factual, honest, and well argued -– you are making a tremendous contribution. And I thank you for it.
It’s appropriate that an organization like yours should present an award named for President Ronald Reagan, who set a standard of principled conservative leadership that will stand through the ages. It is even more fitting that the Ronald Reagan Award should go this year to the man who started Frontiers for Freedom, my good friend Senator Malcolm Wallop. (Applause.)
And it is my privilege this evening to make the presentation. Malcolm is someone I’ve known and worked with for a long, long time. He and I, along with Senator Al Simpson, constituted Wyoming’s congressional delegation during the entire Reagan presidency. I remember those years with genuine fondness. Malcolm, Al, and I worked together on home-state and Western issues, and appeared together on many occasions all across the state. We generally saw eye-to-eye on the big questions facing Congress and the country, and we appreciated each other’s company.
Malcolm, of course, has a unique background as a citizen and as a public servant. He comes from Big Horn, Wyoming, was born into a pioneering family that also has a long history of public service. Malcolm’s grandfather, in fact, served in both the Wyoming legislature and the British House of Lords. After finishing college, Malcolm served in the U.S. Army, leaving with the rank of first lieutenant and returned to the ranch in Wyoming. I first knew of him in the ‘60s, when he was elected to the state legislature. And I was tremendously impressed, as all of us were, when he took on a longtime, very popular incumbent U.S. Senator –- and won the race by more than 10 points.
Malcolm was a great candidate, and an outstanding senator. He ran on the issues, spoke clearly to the voters, and connected well with the spirit of a very independent-minded state. And he always spoke his mind. Once during a debate on the floor of the Senator, Barry Goldwater was in a cranky mood and said the Senate was “beginning to look like a bunch of jackasses.” Malcolm stood up and said he couldn’t understand why Barry said beginning –- (laughter) -- because the Senate had been acting that way for a long time. (Laughter.)
Malcolm served in the United States Senate for 18 years, and built a superb record throughout. In the words of President Reagan himself, “Leadership, hard work, experience, loyalty to Wyoming -– that’s what Malcolm Wallop is all about.”
At the time Senator Wallop and I were first elected to statewide office in the late ‘70s, the federal government was showing signs of growing beyond the consent of the governed, and it wasn’t particularly easy to take on the permanent bureaucracy here in Washington. Malcolm never flinched from the task, because he believes deeply that government power must not only be limited in scope, but accountable to those it is supposed to serve. He insisted that regulations address the concerns of average people, and that regulators live in the real world.
To underscore the point, Malcolm ran a creative TV ad in one of his campaigns. I remember it well. It seems someone in Washington had come up with the idea of federally-mandated portable toilet for all ranch workers. People out West took this as a sign that the federal government was swerving way outside its lane. So to underscore how out-of-touch the bureaucrats really were, Malcolm ran a commercial that showed a cowboy on horseback with an outhouse towed behind the saddle. (Laughter.) He got his point across.
Malcolm had a great deal of influence on the Finance Committee and the Energy Committee. He was also one of very few non-lawyers ever to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And whether the question was energy production, tax policy, or the proper role of the federal judiciary, Malcolm Wallop was a reliable voice for common sense, for conservative values, and faithfulness to the Constitution of the United States.
As a leading senator, he was part of so many good things that happened during his time in public life -– from the Reagan economic program that led directly to the creation of millions of jobs, to the confirmation of outstanding jurists like Sandra Day O’Connor, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.
It’s in the field of national security, however, that Malcolm made perhaps his greatest contribution to the well-being of our country. National security is one of those areas where you have to think and act with as much foresight as possible. When I was Secretary of Defense, for example, my colleagues and I spent a lot of time planning and thinking about the needs of our military 10 or more years down the road, even as we looked after the day-to-day requirements of national security. And the best insights on Capitol Hill came from the members who were taking that same approach -– anticipating dangers, thinking through alternative strategies, and pressing for the kinds of technology our country was going to need to defend itself years in the future.
There is always a need for that brand of wisdom, and Malcolm Wallop has always been there to provide it. Here again, we must recall the period of the late 1970s, when the nation’s defenses were being neglected; when, around the world, both allies and adversaries were beginning to have serious doubts about the resolve and character of the United States. Malcolm Wallop came to the Senate and spoke out for a foreign policy that expressed American values with confidence and clarity, and for a national defense second to none.
During the Reagan years, those principles once again became the force behind American policy. Senator Wallop stayed in the lead, and was in fact one of the very first national leaders to advocate a defense of our country against ballistic missile attack.
If Malcolm Wallop had chosen to stay in public office for the rest of his life, I have little doubt the voters of our home state would have been happy to keep him. Yet he is more in the nature of a citizen legislator -– the kind the founding fathers had in mind –- the one who serves a few terms, gives it his best, and returns to private life. That’s what Malcolm Wallop chose to do. But he’s also a man of ideas who is constantly thinking about what’s good for the country. So there was no chance he’d just go off and hum quietly on the outside. As Malcolm said when he announced his retirement from the Senate, “I don’t think the only place to fight for freedom is in the halls of Congress.”
He was, of course, correct. And to this day Malcolm Wallop remains an articulate, discerning, and greatly respected player in the important debates of our time. I am pleased to count him as a colleague and a friend, and I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of an award named for a Westerner and hero of freedom, President Ronald Reagan. Malcolm, my congratulations to you. And, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.