Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We are currently debating the Defense Authorization bill, which ensures America’s national military capabilities are strong and focused on the major threats to our great nation.
“We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. It is a world where North Korea’s leader falling ill could put a nuclear-armed regime at risk of implosion. A world where Latin American regimes throw U.S. Ambassadors out of their countries without notice. Where an unchecked Russia could undermine young democracies from West to East.
“Our dangerous world calls for leaders with sound judgment; not those with a temperament prone to recklessness. As we debate the defense bill this week, we must consider the most important national security question facing this nation today: Will we stick with the same failed, out of touch foreign policy of George Bush and Dick Cheney, which military experts, historians and countless authors call the worst foreign policy in our nation’s history? Or will we change course to a tougher, more responsible foreign policy that will make us more secure?
“The choice could not be more important, and the answer could not be clearer. Senator Obama and Senate Democrats stand for responsible change.
“We believe we must end the war in Iraq and bring the war on terror to where the terrorists actually live and plot. We know our focus must return to Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“This approach stands on the right side of the American people and the right side of history. And according to recent press reports, even the Bush Administration has begun to align its actions with this policy. Take Pakistan for example. For years, Senator Obama and Senate Democrats have been calling on the Bush Administration to hunt down Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda wherever they may be located. As it became clear that al Qaeda had made Pakistan the central focus of its operation, Democrats called on the President to make Pakistan a central focus of our efforts to defeat al Qaeda.
“Here’s what Senator Obama said last year, in August 2007: ‘Let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. … If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [the Pakistani leadership] won’t act, we will. I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America.’
“While Senator Obama sounded the alarm about the Al Qaeda threat in Pakistan and called for a more forceful and comprehensive strategy to fight that threat, George Bush and John McCain, chose, stunningly, to ignore it. The President kept the bulk of our ground troops – and our special operations forces and our intelligence assets – tied down in an Iraqi war that had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who attacked us.
“Republicans led by John McCain attacked Obama’s approach to forcefully go after Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Senator McCain even had the bad judgment on the campaign trail this past February to call the Obama approach ‘naïve.’
“Here we stand a year later. The Al Qaeda threat in Pakistan has grown far more dangerous. The need for the tough action Senator Obama called for last year is even more urgent.
“Barack Obama was right. George Bush, Dick Cheney and John McCain were wrong.
“And then yesterday, the newspapers reported that senior Bush Administration officials have begun doing what Obama called for long ago: go after Al Qaeda safehavens in Pakistan, reportedly including military operations against terrorist camps. That’s precisely the Obama approach that John McCain called naïve. But news reports indicate that we are already starting to see results.
Given the known history of Bush-McCain foreign policy mistakes that we have all suffered through for the past eight years, I have my concerns and questions about the Bush Administration’s actions.
“It’s one thing to take Obama’s playbook, but it’s another thing to call the right plays. I will ask tough questions and demand that the White House explain their Pakistan strategy in greater detail to give us confidence that they will get the job done right.
“The Bush Administration’s adoption of the Obama plan came months too late – but nevertheless, better late than never. And the shift is not just limited to Pakistan. Across the globe, the Bush Administration is quietly acknowledging that Senator Obama’s vision has been right all along.
“On Afghanistan, where for years, Senator Obama and Senate Democrats have been demanding more resources and a new strategy. Senator McCain, on the other hand, said that ‘Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq.’ After years of resisting, Republicans in recent weeks have begun inching toward the Obama plan for reinforcing Afghanistan.
“On Iran, where Bush and McCain criticized the Obama vision for tough and effective face-to-face diplomacy, even as they quietly agreed to face-to-face diplomacy and started sending State Department officials to negotiations with the Iranians.
“And on Iraq, where Bush has finally begun to slowly inch toward the Obama plan for holding the Iraqis more accountable by putting in place a timeline for a change in the military mission and the redeployment of our troops.
“But our country deserves more than token shifts and lip service to change. It will take decisive leadership to reverse eight long years of tragic foreign policy mistakes. That’s exactly what Senator Obama and Senate Democrats offer: real, responsible change.
“Senator McCain and his supporters are dead set against changing the Bush Administration’s failed policies. They have no plan for ending conflict, no plan for securing our country, no plan for bringing our troops home. Republicans talk a lot about experience. But when you are the author, architect and enabler of years of devastating foreign policy mistakes, that’s not experience – it’s bad judgment.
“In the coming days, as we wrap up debate on the Defense Authorization bill, Senators on both sides of the aisle will have ample opportunity to make their positions know on these critical national security issues that will chart our course in the world for the years to come. It will also give the American people the opportunity to see who stands with the failed policies of the past and who is ready to lead us to the change we need.”