Almost exactly one year ago during a Republican presidential debate in Durham, New Hampshire, I said that if I weren't running for President myself, I'd be supporting John McCain. Well, I'm not, and I do.
Every four years, we are told that this Presidential election is the most important election of our lifetime. This year - 2008 - IS the most important.
This has already been historic. It is the longest Presidential campaign in history. And it sometimes felt even longer.
The American people realize this election represents a turning point. In two months they will decide the future direction of our nation. It's a decision to follow one path or another.
'We the people' - the citizens of the United States - get to decide our next president ... not the media, not Hollywood celebrities, not anyone else.
This is a time for choosing - and to those Americans who still feel torn in this election, I'd like to suggest one way to think about the choice you have to make in 2008:
You're hiring someone to do a job - an important job that involves the safety and security of your family. Imagine that you have two job applications in your hand - with the names and party affiliations taken off the top. They're both good and patriotic men - with very different life experiences that have led them to this moment in history.
You've got to make this decision right. Who would you hire?
On the one hand, you've got a man who has dedicated his life to the service of his country. He's been tested time and again by crisis. He's passed every test.
Even his adversaries acknowledge that he is a true American hero. He loves America as we all do - but he's sacrificed for it as few do. As a young man, he joined the military ... and being a "Top Gun" kind of guy, he became a fighter pilot. He was on a mission over Hanoi when his plane was shot down.
He was tortured in a POW camp, but he refused his captors' offers of early release. Because this is a man who believes in serving a cause greater than self-interest. He came home a national hero.
He had earned a life of peace and quiet, but he was called to public service again, running for Congress and then the Senate as a proud foot- soldier in the Reagan Revolution. His principled independence never wavered. He stood up to special interests, fought for fiscal discipline, ethics reform and a strong national defense.
That's one man.
On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer, and immersed himself in Chicago machine politics. Then he ran for the state legislature - where nearly 130 times he was unable to make a decision yes or no. He simply voted "present."
As Mayor of New York City, I never got a chance to vote "present." And you know, when you're President of the United States, you can't just vote "present." You must make decisions.
A few years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He won and has spent most of his time as a "celebrity senator." No leadership or major legislation to speak of. His rise is remarkable in its own right - it's the kind of thing that could happen only in America. But he's never run a city, never run a state, never run a business.
He's never had to lead people in crisis.
This is not a personal attack ... .it's a statement of fact - Barack Obama has never led anything.
The choice in this election comes down to substance over style. John has been tested. Barack Obama has not.
Tough times require strong leadership, and this is no time for on the job training.
It's about who can answer that crisis call - yes, Hillary, at 3:00 in the morning.
Well, no one can look at John McCain and say that he is not ready to be Commander in Chief.
So, our opponents want to reframe the debate. They would have you believe that this election is about 'change versus more of the same.' But that's really a false choice. Because "change" is not a destination ... just as "hope" is not a strategy.
John McCain will bring about the change that will create jobs and prosperity. He will lower taxes so our economy can grow. He will reduce government spending to strengthen our dollar. He will expand free trade so we can be even more competitive. He will lead us toward an America that will be independent of foreign oil by an all-of-the-above approach, including nuclear power and off-shore drilling.
This is the kind of change we need.
And he will keep us on offense against terrorism at home and abroad. For 4 days in Denver and for the past 18 months Democrats have been afraid to use the words "Islamic Terrorism." During their convention, the Democrats rarely mentioned the attacks of September 11.
They are in a state of denial about the threat that faces us now and in the future.
You need to face your enemy in order to defeat them. John McCain will face this threat and lead us on to victory.
Look at just one example in a lifetime of principled stands -- John McCain's support for the troop surge in Iraq. The Democratic Party had given up on Iraq. And I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that when they gave up on Iraq they were giving up on America. The Democratic leader in the Senate said so: "America has lost."
Well, if America lost, who won? Al Qaida? Bin Laden? In the single biggest policy decision of this election, John McCain got it right and Barack Obama got it wrong.
If Barack Obama had been President, there would have been no troop surge and our troops would have been withdrawn in defeat.
Senator McCain was the candidate most associated with the surge. And it was unpopular.
What do you think most other candidates would have done in that situation? They would have acted in their own self-interest by changing their position.
How many times have we seen Barack Obama do that?
Obama was going to take public financing for his campaign, until he didn't.
Obama was against wiretapping before he voted for it.
When speaking to a pro-Israel group, Obama favored an undivided Jerusalem. Until the very next day when he changed his mind.
I hope for his sake, Joe Biden got that VP thing in writing.
John McCain said, 'I'd rather lose an election than a war.' Because that's John McCain.
When Russia rolled over Georgia, John McCain knew exactly how to respond.
Having been to that part of the world many times and having developed a clear worldview over many years, John knew where he stood. Within hours, he established a very strong, informed position that let the world know exactly how he'll respond as President. At exactly the right time, John McCain said, "We're all Georgians."
Obama's first instinct was to create a moral equivalency - that "both sides" should "show restraint." The same moral equivalency that he has displayed in discussing the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel.
Later, after discussing it with his 300 foreign policy advisors, he changed his position and suggested that the "the UN Security Council," could find a solution. Apparently, none of his 300 advisors told him that Russia has a veto on any UN action. Finally Obama put out a statement that looked ... well, it looked a lot like John McCain's.
Here's some free advice: Sen. Obama, next time just call John McCain.
Like Ronald Reagan, John McCain will enlarge our party. He's the candidate with the real record of bi-partisan cooperation. He's the candidate who can credibly reach out for the votes of Independents and Democrats.
In choosing Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has chosen the future. Governor Palin represents a new generation. She's already one of the most successful governors in America - and the most popular. And she already has more executive experience than the entire Democratic ticket. She's led a city and a state. She's reduced taxes and government spending.
And she's actually done something about moving America toward energy independence - taking on the oil companies while encouraging more energy exploration here at home.
Taxpayers have an advocate in Sarah Palin - she even sold the former governor's private plane on E-Bay.
And as a former U.S. Attorney, I am impressed by her success in combating corruption - when she found unethical and illegal behavior among the power- brokers of her own party, she did not hesitate - she acted courageously and independently. That's the kind of reformer we need - she shook up Alaska. She'll shake up Washington.
And we sure need that.
And as we look to the future never let us forget that - when we are at our best - we are the party that expands Freedom. We began as a party dedicated to freeing people from slavery ... And we are still the party that is willing to fight for freedom at home and around the world. We are the party that wants to expand individual freedom and economic freedom ... because we believe that the secret of America's success is not central government, it is self-government. We are the party that believes in giving workers the right to work. The party that believes parents should choose where their children go to school.
And we are the party that believes unapologetically in America's essential greatness - that we are a shining city on the hill, a beacon of freedom that inspires people everywhere to reach for a better world.
So my fellow Republicans and my fellow Americans - over the next 8 weeks, remember that the results of this election are in your hands. You get to determine America's future. You can decide America's direction.
Thank you very much. And God Bless America.
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