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Special Event

Bush Address Veterans at VFW Post 3323 in Westland, Michigan

Aired September 7, 2000 - 8:38 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we want to bring you George W. Bush speaking with veterans in Westland, Michigan.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... public service -- if all goes well.

Yesterday, I spoke to the American Legion. I said loud and clear, a promise made to our veterans will be a promise kept, should I become the president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

We will not have our veterans standing in line waiting for benefits that they've been promised. We'll have a VA run by somebody who is a veteran, who understands.

(APPLAUSE)

The general talked about the state of readiness today. This campaign will let the facts speak for themselves. There is no question in my mind that today's military is the best in the world. But the function of a leader is to think down the road. It's not to accept the status quo, particularly for political purposes. The function of a leader is to say how do we stand today, but how will we look tomorrow? Will we be a military of high standing and high moral, not only this moment, but moments coming?

There's some troubling signs, as the general pointed out. We can't meet recruiting goals; our troops aren't ready.

Incredibly enough, we're short on equipment. USS Decatur moved out to sea and had to come back because of a lack of fuel.

There are troubling signs and leadership does not ignore troubling signs. A leader is somebody who acts and acts decisively with purpose in mind, and purpose is to keep the peace.

(APPLAUSE)

So, should I be fortunate enough to become the commander in chief, the first order of the day will be to restore moral and make sure those who wear our uniform are well-treated, well-housed and well-paid, well-equipped with a clear mission.

But there's another moment that we must seize, and that is to plan for the military of the future.

This great country has the opportunity to redefine how war is fought and won in the future. And therefore, we have the opportunity to redefine how the peace is kept.

We can use our vast technologies. If properly focused, we can use technologies to make our military harder to find, easier to move, more lethal in its capacities.

No, our great country has got an opportunity, a great opportunity to say loud and clear to the world, "We're a peaceful nation, but we'll be ready to keep the peace."

One of the first things I will do, should I become the president, is to say to the secretary of defense, "I expect you to call together a task force of military planners and report as quickly as possible with a strategic plan as to what the military ought to look like in the years coming."

(APPLAUSE)

How should the military be configured? What's needed is a strategic plan with a strategic vision as to how to keep the long-term peace. There's a lot of concern, and I share the concern of the haphazard nature of defense spending. The general knows what I'm talking about. Oftentimes, projects are spent because it happens to enhance the standing of a particular congressman or elected official.

What we need is a strategic plan that says that spending will be dovetailed into what's best for the military and best for America, not best for short-term political gain for elected officials.

(APPLAUSE)

What we need is additional long-term research and development spending targeted towards a strategic plan. There is no telling what the military of the future will look like. We know it's not going to look like the great American moment of Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The military of the future is not going to be that heavy. It's not going to be that hard to move. It's not going to be that cumbersome, relatively speaking.

The militaries of the future more resemble what may have -- what happened in Kosovo, where an airplane took off out of Missouri unloading its ordnances, and the pilot was home for dinner. It's going to be a harder-to-find military, lethal when it strikes. No, we have a great opportunity. And it's the same opportunity I'll seize when it comes to protecting ourselves and our allies from the new threats in the world: the accidental launches of a nuclear weapon, or the blackmail of a leader of a rogue nation that's trying to hold America or our friends hostage.

I intend to use the vast capacities of America, our research and development capabilities, to develop an effective anti- ballistic missile system that will help us keep the peace.

(APPLAUSE)

Proper planning, a proper vision, requires leadership, and I'm ready to lead the country.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm ready to lead the country. I'm ready to lead with a noble goal of keeping the peace. And the cornerstone of that goal will be a proud and strong and ready United States military.

(APPLAUSE)

One of the things a leader does...

(APPLAUSE)

Not only does the leader have a strategic vision and a focus and a discipline, but a leader must call upon the best, must call upon the best of our nation to serve. Our military has got some of the best men and women of our country in uniform. I will call upon them to serve. And at the same time, I might call upon some other fine Americans to serve as well.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you all very much. God bless.

LIN: George W. Bush, speaking to veterans at the VFW Post 3323 in Westland, Michigan. Mr. Bush will be speaking to another group of veterans today, shortly after noon Eastern at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

And at that time, CNN's Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre will be here to offer some analysis from the Clinton administration's response to Gore's claims the U.S. military, though still the best in the world, is not ready, cannot meet recruiting goals, and does not have enough equipment, and certainly should not be sent on peacekeeping missions around the world. This is what Governor Bush is telling these veteran groups today. Jamie McIntyre will join us with his analysis after his next speech.

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