Confessions of a Hoosier Democrat

Blogging Indiana Politics and the 2008 Presidential Race.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sen Bayh's address to AIPAC

Thanks to Smithers at All America PAC for getting this out to us...

Check it out... it was a homerun!

Senator Evan Bayh
Address to the AIPAC Annual Policy Conference
Washington, DC
March 6, 2006
As Delivered

Thank you for that warm welcome, ladies and gentlemen. I look around the room this evening and I know that I am with a room full of friends, for that I am most grateful. I am also grateful for Tim’s very kind introduction. I have learned to not to take it for granted during my career.

As Tim mentioned, I was elected Governor of our State at a very young age, at the ripe old age of 33. In 1989 shortly after taking office, we had a reception at the Governor’s residence for a very prominent group of Americans from across the country. And Susan and I, she was 29 at the time she became our first lady, we were standing on the landing of our residence talking to the delegations. And along comes the delegation from Tennessee, and I extend my hand in greeting and I say “good evening sir, welcome to the Governor’s residence.” The head of the delegation looks me up one side and down the other and proceeds to put his coat on my outstretched arm, looks me in the eye and says “Thank you very much, young man, I will pick this up when I leave.” So what else could I say but “yes sir, we will take good care of it.” So Tim, I am grateful to you for no cases of mistaken identity this evening.

I am privileged to be with my colleague and friend, Susan Collins. You know, the United States Senate would be a much better place if we had more Susan Collins’. In a city that is all too often driven by strident partisanship and ideologies, Susan has always been a voice for reason and consensus. I want to recognize someone else who has already been mentioned already in the audience, but first by way of preface. When I ran for the United States Senate in 1998, from time to time, journalists would ask me, they would say, “Evan, of all the members of the United States Senate, that you have had the privilege of seeing, who would you most like to emulate?” I thought that it was a difficult question because there are many prominent members of the Senate, but I would always say, “when it comes to integrity and moral courage, I would be honored to be like Joe Lieberman.” In eight years now, I have seen nothing in Joe to change my mind.

A word or two about my friend, Howard Friedman, you are blessed to have Howard’s leadership. I have been to his home and met his family, we’ve taken our children to Orioles games together. We have been good friends for many years. He is a good dad, a great leader, and AIPAC needs him at this critical hour.

And a word or two about your organization at this important time. I know the topic of lobbying reform is very topical in Washington today, as it should be. Joe Lieberman is helping to lead the charge on what will soon come. Our government has fallen into low regard for too many the Americans. We need to do whatever it takes to rehabilitate their faith and confidence in our government. But at the same time, we need to make sure that the free flow of information continues so that those of us who make public policy can make sure we are making those choices in informed and intelligent ways. And in that regard, I want to say how vitally important and beneficial the role of AIPAC has been. How much is like is, this is to Israel, the role of AIPAC has strengthened America, it has strengthened the US and Israel’s relationship, it has strengthened America’s place in the world, and the educational role of AIPAC must continue.

My own relationship with the State of Israel goes back many, many years and is, in some ways, hereditary. My first visit to Israel was as a college student at Indiana University, with my parents, when my father was privileged to serve in the Senate. I know he would want to give you all his warmest regards tonight. I remember we spent 10 days. We stayed at a kibbutz near the port of Eilat; traveled across the country; saw the gunnery places, the Jordanian gun emplacements on the West Bank, the closest to Israel, where on a clear day you could almost see across the nation to the Mediterranean ocean. That had a profound and lasting effect on me, the physical intimacy of the place, the special national security concerns that are born of that intimacy. I have been privileged to be back on many occasions, flew up the coast with an Israeli Colonel to have lunch with several Israeli generals and looked out across the plane where Syrian tanks invaded in 1973. Then came back down the Jordan River Valley, where you can see hilltop to hilltop and an Arab village or Israeli settlement. You can see the difficult security situation that confronts the State of Israel, right there with my own eyes. Just a year ago January, I was privileged to take Susan with me for the first time. Most people who follow the Israeli economy told me there was a brief spike in retail activity during the time of our visit. I was informed that Susan was always welcome to return, and I hope that we can and take my young twin ten-year-old boys someday. It would be a special visit for our family in many ways.

Just this January as a part my role as a member of the Intelligence Committee I visited Israel, the day after the Prime Minister was stricken. He remains in our prayers this evening. I met with other intelligence and military individuals and with their own representatives to see what we could do to strengthen our cooperation in the common war against terror. All of these experiences have convinced me that the relationship between the United States and Israel is not based on temporary expediency, but is instead founded on something far more profound and deeper than that. The very values and principles that go to the core of the founding of our two nations: the embrace of democracy and freedom that secures people’s aspirations, their hopes and their dreams. The embrace of free-market capitalism and personal innovation as the best path towards prosperity. The recognition that tolerance and diversity are ports to truly fortunate societies. All of these things make the United States special. All of these things make the State of Israel special. And it is these things that will make our bonds everlasting, strong, and enduring in good times and in bad.

Of course, it also these things that have led both of our nations to be challenged today. These are difficult times. We saw that when 3,000 innocents were slaughtered on 9/11 by suicide bombers enraged because of radical jihad. We have seen it repeatedly in Israel throughout the years where hundreds of innocent men, women, and children have lost their lives.

We’ve seen it in London, in Madrid, in Amman, in Bali. We see it across Iraq each and every day. It is a dangerous world and to stand together and prosper within it, the United States and Israel need policies today to ensure our security that are both tough and smart.

Let me begin with Hamas – and let me be clear, Hamas is a terrorist organization. It has sworn to destroy the State of Israel, it is responsible for the deaths and woundings of thousands of innocent civilians. Until Hamas recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist, until it renounces the use of terror not only in word but in deed, until it recognizes the agreements that have already been struck on behalf of the Palestinian people, it should receive not one penny, not one penny from the United States of America.

Many hope, as we all must, that Hamas will change what it fundamentally is. But mark me down as a skeptic. The embrace of Hamas of the destruction of Israel in its founding doctrine is prefaced upon its radical interpretation of the Koran. People may negotiate about many things, they may compromise on many things, but is highly unlikely that they will negotiate or compromise on their core religious convictions. I simply am unpersuaded that there is such a thing, or can ever be such a thing as a moderate suicide bomber or a pragmatic killer of women and children.

They are who they are, and must be dealt with as they are, not as we all wish they might be. It is tragic what has happened to the Palestinian people. Never has there been a people more in need of responsible leadership, never has there been a more important historic junction and the need for a reconciliation. A reconciliation among the Palestinians that embraces the future and jettisons their illusions. A reconciliation that embraces the difficult but necessary process of building a state with schools and roads and jobs and hospitals, and gives up the illusions and the embrace, as Senator Collins so eloquently put it, of the culture of suicide and death. That is something for which we must hope. But we must not be diluted by our hopes. Nor can we afford to be diluted by the role that Iran is playing today. In my recent travels across the Middle East, I visited Israel, I visited Iraq, I visited Afghanistan, I visited Pakistan, and in each and every one of these countries, the malevolent role of Iran was mentioned. They are not our friend, they are not freedom’s friend, and they must be dealt with in a serious, tough, and smart way.

Iran is the world’s foremost sponsor of terror. They have sworn to destroy the State of Israel. They have slaughtered Americans in Lebanon, in Saudi Arabia, across Iraq today, they enable our enemies. And their President, not too long ago said, to an audience of 5,000 in Tehran, “just imagine a world without the United States of America.” And now these people, led by radical theocrats and an apocalyptic president who envisions the end of time, seek nuclear weapons. Well, to that I say, “Not on our watch.”

We have waited at our peril and can afford to wait no more. Iran must be presented with the concrete facts of enforceable, comprehensive economic sanctions: cutting off their flow of imported petroleum refined into gasoline for which they require 40% of their petroleum needs, cutting off the import of machinery that makes their economy go, cutting off the other things that provide for their economic progress. They must be confronted with a complete and total travel ban. They must be confronted with a complete freeze of their financial resources and assets around the world. They must be cut off culturally and diplomatically and be turned into a pariah state if they do not to agree to change their ways.

Of course, no discussion of Iran can be complete without a discussion about the critically important need for our country to achieve energy independence. We need to devote urgency and commitment, and sacrifice to this issue. Because until we free ourselves from imported oil from the Middle East, we will be subject to blackmail from places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also unstable places like Venezuela and Russia and we must not allow that to continue.

Until we find alternative fuels for both ourselves and the rest of the world, it will be difficult to convince China, India, and others to do what must be done to isolate the radical Iranian regime. Until we do what it takes to liberate ourselves from petroleum imports, we will find ourselves in a tragic and intolerable position of funding both sides - both sides - of the war against terrorism, and that must stop.

Fortunately, there is a vehicle for accomplishing these objectives. It has a very catchy name. It’s called the Bayh, Lieberman, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera Act. I recommend it to you. I don’t know why, it just kind of has a resonance. Here’s what it will do: the President in his of the State of the Union Address was right in his call to reducing our imports of petroleum from the Middle East by 75% over the next 20 years. Under the approach that Joe Lieberman and I have endorsed along with six Republican colleagues and six Democratic colleagues, we would completely eliminate imports of petroleum from the Middle East in half that amount of time and that is the kind of urgency we need.

Building the next generation of high-mileage vehicles with American workers right here in the United States of America, producing more ethanol and bio-fuels so that America’s farmers can produce America’s fuel, research into things like hydrogen and other fossil fuels that will truly set our country free. I firmly believe this is vitally important because it’s in our economic interests, our financial interests, our energy interests, but above all else, it is what it takes it set our children free. That is the challenge of our generation.

Let me conclude by saying this. I am optimistic that we will ultimately prevail in the great struggle in which we are now engaged. Not because I believe it will be easy, on the contrary, I know it will be difficult. But it’s the work of a generation. I’m optimistic not because I believe it will be without sacrifice. Far from it, too often the days ahead are likely to involve great tragedy and sorrow. But I am optimistic that we will ultimately prevail in our cause because the United States of America and the State of Israel stand on the right side of both human history and human nature. I am reminded of something that Abraham Lincoln once said
during of some of America’s darkest times. He said that “a house divided cannot stand,” and that “America could no longer endure as a country half slave and half free.”

As I look around the world today, and I see the process of global integration where ideas transcend the globe with the click of a computer key. Commerce flows around the planet, weapons of mass destruction and possible pandemics respect no national borders. I know that the time has come where it will no longer be possible for eighty percent of the world’s people to labor under the yoke of tyranny and degradation, while those of us blessed to be right here tonight seek to celebrate our own freedom. It can no longer be us that cause the freedom and liberty throughout the world. It’s not only the right and idealistic thing to do; it is also very much in our self-interest. It is also in the heart of human nature because I believe there are
breakthroughs that we are championing here tonight, friends of America and friends of Israel. I believe that truth is more powerful than deceit, that knowledge will eventually triumph over ignorance, and that love is more noble than hate. I believe, deep in my heart, that the United States and Israel are exceptional nations; and, have been placed upon this earth to achieve humanity’s highest aspirations. And if we do not tire, if we do not cease, if we carry on with our labors through thick and thin, it is my deepest conviction that one day we will know the blessing of a benevolent God, known by many names in many faiths and many traditions. That he will bless both us and our children with joy and tranquility and peace yet again. This is what has brought us here this evening. It is what animates the policy of our great nation and that of Israel. It lies in the heart of AIPAC. It is the cause that we struggle for together. With your help, and God willing, I know that one day we will prevail.

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