Liz Cheney: ‘America Needs a Commander in Chief’

Updated to include Liz Cheney’s full remarks…

Last weekend in Atlanta, RedState.com held its first gathering of online conservative activists. Liz Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, gave the keynote address to the crowd. A transcript of her remarks is below.

Joining Liz Cheney were Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, Virginia State Senator Ken Cuccinelli, Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, and South Carolina State Representative Nikki Haley. Friday night at the RedState Gathering, the attendees heard from Congressman Roy Blunt, former Congressman Pat Toomey, Senator Jim DeMint, and Governor Rick Perry.

Liz Cheney took the stage at 11:30 a.m and spoke mostly on foreign policy:

“It is such a pleasure to be here in Atlanta to join you at the first Redstate annual gathering. I wanted to come to thank you personally for everything you do. First, to Erick Erickson, a true trailblazer, who has been making this all possible for many years. And to all of you who make the conservative blogosphere such a vital tool in 21st century politics and policy, it’s an honor to be with you. You all do hugely important work educating the American people, and holding our elected leaders and the mainstream media accountable. We are living at a critical moment in the history of the nation. We need you now more than ever, so I am here to say thank you and to urge you on.

It has become somewhat fashionable today to talk about conservatives and conservatism as a movement in peril. In some quarters, we’re said to be near death. I am here today to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. All across the country, Americans are standing up to be heard at meetings like this, at tea parties, on blogs, at town hall meetings, and we see it in the polls — the message to the Obama Administration is clear — we have grave concerns about the path they’ve put us on.

As we meet today, six months into President Obama’s Administration, we have learned much. We have learned that President Obama will not govern from the center, that he does not believe in American exceptionalism, that he thinks there is a moral equivalence between America and our adversaries, that he wants to expand the federal government until it permeates every corner of this land, and every aspect of your life, that he will raise everyone’s taxes, and that he thinks bureaucrats should choose our doctors, prescribe our medical care, and ration it if need be. At his last press conference, we also learned that he doesn’t have much faith in policemen or pediatricians. This is not change we can believe in. It’s not the change the American people voted for.

As your congressmen and senators come home this month, I hope you’ll take the time to let them know how you feel about ideas like “Cap and Trade” and the Democrats’ health care reform plans. I hope you’ll also take the time to register your concern about what this Administration is doing to dismantle policies that have kept us safe from terrorist attack since 9/11. Speak up about President Obama’s decision to cut defense spending in crucial areas like missile defense, and register your concern about his efforts to appease America’s enemies by rewriting history and perpetuating lies about us.

We remain, as we meet here today, a nation at war, and we need intelligence to win this war. President Obama’s actions in the time he has occupied the Oval Office have diminished our ability to gather that intelligence. Two months ago, President Obama decided, over the objection of his current and four former CIA directors, to release memos detailing the techniques we used to obtain valuable intelligence that prevented terrorist attacks and saved American lives. Next, he suggested he was open to the prosecution of Bush administration officials who were involved in the program that obtained this intelligence. Finally, he refused to release any information about the attacks that were prevented and the lives that were saved because of our interrogation program. When his own Director of National Intelligence referenced the effectiveness of the program in an internal memo, President Obama’s staff edited the reference out before releasing the document publicly.

Today, several months later, the President still will not let the American people judge for themselves whether the enhanced interrogation program worked. The Administration continues to refuse to release the documents Vice President Cheney requested. And, according to press reports yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted in its budget report that the Obama Administration redacted all references to the interrogation program’s effectiveness from the legal memos they did release. Why don’t they want you to know the truth? Why won’t they release this information?

It is because they know the American people believe that enhanced interrogation is justified to save American lives. And because if the American people get to see the evidence that this program saved lives and prevented attacks, they will want to know how the President could have so cavalierly released the methods and techniques in this program publicly. How could he justify putting this information in the hands of the terrorists?

President Obama said he didn’t harm national security by releasing this information because he will never use these techniques again. Really? Never? He ought to be asked directly: Mr. President, in a ticking time bomb scenario, with American lives at stake, are you really unwilling to subject a terrorist to enhanced interrogation to get information to prevent the attack? Is it really your position that you would sacrifice American lives rather than use legal methods that we know work to get information that could save those lives? The American people deserve an answer. And the brave men and women at the CIA who carried out this program deserve our gratitude and our deep appreciation. They do not deserve to be the targets of a political prosecution carried out by the Obama Justice Department.

The American people also deserve to know what President Obama plans to do with the hardened terrorists currently incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Two days after taking office, without any plan, the President announced he was closing the detention center there. He initially suggested that a number of those terrorists would be brought to the United States, some released here. His Director of National Intelligence explained that we would have to use taxpayer money to put some of the detainees on a sort of special welfare — a terrorist re-entry program. Others, the worst of the worst, we are told can be held effectively in super-max prisons in the U.S.

If you want some insight into how those terrorists will be treated at maximum security facilities in the United States, you need look no further than recent developments in the case of Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” who tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami in 2001. Reid has been held at the super-max facility in Florence, Colorado since 2002. He sued the United States Government in 2007 claiming that the Special Administrative Measures applied to him as a terrorist violated his First Amendment rights. These SAMS are extra measures applied to restrict an inmate’s communications or outside contacts when there is concern that those contacts or communications, as in the case of a terrorist, could result in death or severe injury to others. What was the Obama Justice Department’s response to the suit? They decided to let all the Special Access Measures applied to Reid expire. You heard me right — a terrorist complained inside our super-max, so we removed the restrictions that offended him. It’s not a record that should give anyone comfort about incarcerating terrorists in US prisons. I highly recommend a piece that appeared on this case in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. It was written by Debra Burlingame, whose brother Chic was the pilot of American Airlines flight 77 that was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon on 9/11.

And while Richard Reid’s discomfort is relieved, the nation waits for President Obama to tell us what he’s going to do with Reid’s compatriots held at Guantanamo. The two task forces set up by President Obama to come up with a plan missed their deadlines last month. But, plan or no plan, the President says he will close Guantanamo next January, anyway.

During the campaign last year, President Obama told us that although he might not have years of experience, he did have excellent judgment, the kind of judgment and wisdom we’d need in a President facing tough issues. Well, the record is now clear. Wise men do not capitulate to terrorists simply because the terrorists file suit. Wise men do not welcome terrorists who have vowed to slaughter Americans onto the American homeland. Wise men don’t fret over whether a terrorist was read his Miranda rights. And wise men don’t deliver valuable information about how we gather intelligence into the hands of our enemies.

The President has adopted a similarly troubling approach to the conduct of America’s foreign policy. He says we need to “push reset” in our relations with allies and adversaries. His method is the becoming clearer with each foreign trip. He proclaims moral equivalence between the U.S. and our adversaries, he readily accepts a false historical narrative, and he refuses to stand up against anti-American lies.

This approach was evident in his speech in Moscow last month when he described the end of the Cold War for Russian students, without mentioning that the Soviet Union actually lost the Cold War, or that the forces of freedom led by brave men like Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Pope John Paul II, and a brave woman named Margaret Thatcher, won it.

In another foreign speech in Cairo in June he rewrote more recent history by claiming that the fear and anger caused by 9/11 “led us to act contrary to American ideals.” It’s a line that got him applause in Cairo. But it was a betrayal when he said it there, and when he has said it here, of the brave men and women in our armed forces, and in our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, who kept us safe in the aftermath of 9/11. They deserve our gratitude and our thanks. They don’t deserve to be libeled by the President of the United States on foreign soil.

Earlier on a trip to Mexico City, our President listened to an extended anti-American screed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and then let the lies stand by responding only with, “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for the things that occurred when I was 3 months old.”

Americans expect our President to defend us against lies, not embrace or ignore them. We also expect our President to know his history. Some of the most dangerous steps this President has taken make one wonder how much time he’s spent studying the history of the 20th century. In Russia and earlier in France, President Obama declared that American nuclear disarmament will encourage the North Koreans and the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. Another Democratic President, one who led at the beginning of the Cold War, understood the danger of this approach. In April 1950, President Harry Truman, signed a National Security Strategy that pointed out, “No people in history have preserved their freedom who thought that by not being strong enough to protect themselves, they might prove inoffensive to their enemies.”

Avoiding causing offense to our enemies has become a central tenet of President Obama’s foreign policy. It was this attempt to placate, to appease, not to cause offense that prevented President Obama from defending the rights of the Iranian people to free and fair elections. It was this instinct that drove him to note, while the Iranian mullahs were having their people shot in the streets, that “a debate” was underway in Iran. It is this instinct that seems to be driving our incomprehensible policy of support for a thug in Honduras, a close ally of Hugo Chavez, against the wishes and constitutional rights of the Honduran people. It is this desire that drives our President to plead with our enemies to talk to us, no conditions attached, and that puts us in a position of weakness that can never guarantee America’s interests.

As a veteran of the State Department, I can tell you that effective diplomacy is not about appeasing your enemy. It is not about unilateral, pre-emptive disarmament. America must negotiate from a position of strength. If we are to defend our interests, our President cannot function as a disinterested international arbitrator. He cannot attempt to stand above America and our enemies. America needs a Commander-in-Chief, not a global community organizer.

The purpose of diplomacy is not to be liked. The purpose of foreign policy is not to get applause in foreign capitals. The purpose of having a Commander-in-Chief and pursuing a national security strategy is to defend America’s interests, aggressively, effectively and unapologetically. If the American President doesn’t do this — who will?

One man who did was Ronald Reagan. And the contrast is enlightening. 22 years ago, President Ronald Reagan went to Berlin and challenged our adversary, the Soviet Union, to take a step that would demonstrate they were serious about peace. He challenged them to do more than just talk. Standing in front of the Berlin Wall that separated the free world from the Communist Bloc, President Reagan said, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Today, faced with an adversary in Tehran, President Obama has challenged them to do nothing, and asked nothing of them, saying instead, “We are ready for direct negotiations with the Iranians on a whole range of issues without preconditions in an atmosphere of mutual respect.” Shortly after the President made this offer, the Iranians began a brutal campaign to deny their own citizens basic democratic freedoms and human rights. When you tell your enemy, as President Obama put it to the Iranian regime, we’re extending our hand, you should unclench your fist, and your enemy responds with force against its own people, it’s probably time to rethink your policy.

Iran will not be disarmed because we talk them out of their weapons, or because we offer “apologies” for America, or because we look the other way as they continue to support terrorism around the world, or because we pretend we have mutual interests. Iran will be disarmed diplomatically only if they know we are serious about using military force if the diplomacy fails. Today, they clearly believe the opposite. The United States seems to have taken the military option “off the table,” and last week President Obama dispatched his Secretary of Defense and other top national security officials to Tel Aviv apparently to encourage the Israelis to do the same. This approach serves only to weaken America’s critically important relationship with the state of Israel, while simultaneously strengthening Tehran’s resolve to acquire nuclear weapons.

The challenges of Iran and the Middle East are only a few that the President and the nation will face in the years to come. When he makes good decisions, we owe President Obama our support. He has, for example, put a tremendously talented General in charge in Afghanistan. General McChrystal, according to press reports, is preparing a new strategy for Afghanistan that may require some additional US troops. President Obama’s response will be an important indicator of his commitment to victory in Afghanistan.

At the same time, when President Obama makes dangerous decisions or when he attempts to rewrite history, we have an obligation to stand up and say so. Saying so — being heard — may seem to pose a challenge, as much of the mainstream media continues to operate free of objectivity. But you have proven that you are up to the challenge, and the good news is that the mainstream media controls a smaller and smaller portion of the information the public consumes. You have increasing opportunities to get your opinions out there into the public discourse.

So let me leave you with this admonition — continue to write, analyze, think, challenge, speak — when you see something that bothers you or something that inspires you  — post about it on Redstate. Submit your pieces as op-eds to your local papers. Fight for what you believe in. Make your voices heard. Challenge your opponents with facts and evidence, truth and clarity. You’ll find, more often than not, that you will prevail. One thing is certain — we can’t win if we don’t fight. We all have an obligation, at this moment, to take a stand in the cause of our nation.

At the end of the day, I am optimistic about how these debates will be resolved, and about what the future holds for America and for conservatives. A meeting like this one is a place for all of us to find hope — and to find our voices to speak out against what this Administration is doing both at home and abroad.

America is fundamentally a conservative nation. We know that our greatness has been founded on a strong national defense, limited government, low taxes, the genius and ingenuity of the private sector, and a strong belief in individual freedoms. We know that government is more often the problem than the solution. We know that freedom isn’t free, that America’s armed forces are the best fighting force the world has ever known. And finally, we know that America is the best nation on earth, the best that has ever existed. We believe in her goodness, her strength, her hope and her example — for all who seek freedom in every corner of the world. Those are conservative values. Those are American values.

You can see the video here.

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