Defending the ‘Ancient Dream of Freedom’

Pentagon City, VA, Monday, November 18, 2002.

[Begin Speech]

Hearing some of the comments about me tonight, reminds me of the story that’s told about Lyndon Johnson on a similar occasion. When it was his turn to speak, he said, “You know, I just wish that my late parents could be with us tonight. My father would’ve been so proud, and my mother would’ve believed it.” [Laughter].

Pentagon City, VA, Monday, November 18, 2002.

[Begin Speech]

Hearing some of the comments about me tonight, reminds me of the story that’s told about Lyndon Johnson on a similar occasion. When it was his turn to speak, he said, “You know, I just wish that my late parents could be with us tonight. My father would’ve been so proud, and my mother would’ve believed it.” [Laughter].

I think about the only thing I miss about the late, lamented Soviet Union is that it was the source of some of the greatest political humor of the 20th Century. [Laughter] And as Tom Neumann pointed out, the Iraqis are doing their best to fill the gap. [Laughter]. Tom, I have one to trade with you. It’s about Saddam Hussein’s barber. It seems that Saddam kept coming back to the same barber, and the barber kept asking him, what do you think of Ceausescu, and finally the Iraqi dictator exploded and said, “Every time I come here, you ask me what I think of Ceausescu, and every time I answer you. Are you an idiot, or something?” And the barber said, “Well, no sir. It’s just that every time I ask you, the hair goes up on the back of your neck-[laughter]-and it’s much easier to cut it. [Laughter and applause.]

It really is a great pleasure to get this extraordinary honor and to be here with all of you tonight. And, I guess it may have something to do with some of the legends we’ve been hearing. But, I think the truest thing that has been said this evening is that this award is also a tribute to the wonderful men and women who serve our country so well. And I am proud to accept it on their behalf. [Applause]

Indeed, it is humbling to receive an award named for the great Senator Henry M. Jackson, and it is even more humbling to be in the company of some truly great Americans who have received this award before me: men like Dick Cheney and Dan Inouye, Ted Stevens and Jack Murtha, John Warner and Max Cleland, and many distinguished others.

So, I feel honored and humbled. In preparing my remarks this evening, I was reminded of the marvelous description of the role of the “dear departed” at a traditional Irish wake. The party can’t go on without you, but no one expects you to say very much. [Laughter] But, I decided to ignore that advice[laughter], and take this opportunity to say something, in the same optimistic vein of a remarkable optimist named Scoop Jackson, who even named his dog, “Happy.” [Laughter]

In fact, Scoop Jackson was the first United States senator I ever met. It was during the ABM debate in 1969. The late Senator Stuart Symington had produced one of those so-called “secret” Pentagon charts-we didn’t do a lot better back then, either, you notice. And Symington claimed that this chart proved that the ABM system being proposed by the administration wouldn’t work. They scheduled an almost unprecedented secret session of the United States Senate for Senator Symington to present his arguments.

And I, at the time, was a graduate student of Albert Wohlsetter at the University of Chicago, who was advising Senator Jackson in preparation for his debate with Symington. We devised some new charts, using overlays on top of Symington’s chart, to demonstrate that the chart actually showed the opposite of what Symington was trying to argue.

And on the morning of the debate, lucky for me, Albert was in California, so I had the good fortune to be the one to take our charts to Senator Jackson all by myself and brief him. I had never personally met a Senator in my life and I probably would’ve been awestruck at that time by even the most insignificant member of that great body. And there I was, face to face with one of the titans.

Scoop Jackson literally rolled up his sleeves and sat cross-legged on the floor because our charts were so big, asking question after question to make sure that he understood the logic by which the charts were constructed. When he was sure he understood it, he then summoned his two close colleagues, the late Senators John Tower and Pete Dominick, who were going to be his assistants in the debate, and explained the charts to them.

You can imagine how impressed I was by this literally “down to earth” performance. I was told later that Scoop literally “mopped the floor” with Senator Symington’s chart.

Some people attributed that to the fact that Scoop had the bigger charts. [Laughter] Some said it was because he had the better arguments. I imagine that both points were true. But the most important point is that Scoop Jackson spoke with such authority when he really believed something on a defense issue, that few people, inside or outside of the United States’ Senate, were comfortable challenging him.

As I learned first-hand, Henry Jackson did his homework. He came by all of his other beliefs through similar diligence and hard work-and one other very important ingredient: moral conviction.

One of Scoop Jackson’s overriding beliefs was that policy decisions must derive from moral convictions. His own personal experiences-growing up with his mother’s abhorrence of anti-Semitism; seeing his parents’ native Norway fall to Hitler and the fascists; witnessing the truth of Buchenwald with his own eyes, where evil, as he put it, was “written on the sky”-all of those made him support the cause of Jews throughout the world and, of course, the cause of a secure Israel.

In the Middle East, Scoop Jackson saw the evils of terrorism written in blood on streets. Indeed, he could say with justification that he recognized the problem of terrorism long before others. In July 1979 in Jerusalem, Scoop said: “I believe that international terrorism is a modern form of warfare against liberal democracies. I believe that the ultimate but seldom stated goal of these terrorists is to destroy the very fabric of democracy. I believe,” Senator Jackson went on, “that it is both wrong and foolhardy for any democratic state to consider international terrorism to be ‘someone else’s’ problem…. Liberal democracies must acknowledge that international terrorism is a ‘collective problem.'”

Twenty-five years ago this week, this Wednesday to be exact, Anwar Sadat made his historic journey to Jerusalem and opened the way to an historic peace agreement that has lasted now for nearly a quarter of a century. In his address to the Israeli Knesset, the President of Egypt made an observation about leadership that transcends even that historic moment. “There are moments,” Sadat said, “in the life of nations and peoples when it is incumbent on those known for their wisdom and clarity of vision to overlook the past, with all its complexities and burdensome memories in a bold drive toward new horizons.” Ladies and gentlemen, Scoop Jackson was such a leader.

In the middle of the last century, the world faced the choice of whether to confront or to appease the spreading menace of communism. There was no one more committed to facing and defeating that ideology than Scoop Jackson-and no one who recognized the danger more clearly. America’s triumph over Soviet communism is part of Scoop’s legacy. In his unwavering support for a strong defense, he helped to shift the balance. And, he took real political risks in doing so. But, as Scoop himself used to say, “In matters of national security, the best politics is no politics.”

Indeed, when our national security was at stake, Scoop Jackson was above partisan politics. There are many of us, many I think in this room, who are proud to say, as I am, I am a “Scoop Jackson Republican.” [Applause] And we are proud to work with Republicans and Democrats and Independents and Americans of all political persuasions, because when it comes to national security, we are all Americans. [Applause]

Scoop rejected the labels that people tried to attach to him. I think I know how he feels. [Laughter] “I’m not a hawk or a dove,” he once said. “I just don’t want my country to be a pigeon.” [Laughter]

Over the course of nearly three decades of service on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Scoop Jackson worked day in and day out to make sure that the brave men and women who wear our country’s uniform had the support they needed to do their job. Scoop Jackson understood that the freedom we enjoy in this country has been preserved by the dedication and self-sacrifice of brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. And we all owe them our thanks. [Applause]

Scoop’s insistence on matching and surpassing the Soviet Union across the board, a policy to which President Reagan later gave his wholehearted support, was a decisive factor in hastening the demise of the Soviet empire.

Another factor was Scoop’s support for human rights in the Soviet Union, including the right of Soviet Jews and others to emigrate. Scoop listened to the entreaties of dissidents who said that assistance to the Soviet Union should be linked to progress on human rights and democracy.

Doing so, they said, was not only in their interests, but also in the basic interests of the West. Scoop Jackson heard them.

I think that Scoop Jackson’s greatest influence on those of us who knew him and had the privilege to work with him, was his unassailable hope and his unwavering faith in this country. He was fond of another unbounded optimist named Teddy Roosevelt. Scoop would quote these words of that Rough Rider: “We see across the dangers the great future,” Roosevelt said, “and we rejoice as a giant refreshed… The great victories are yet to be won, the greatest deeds yet to be done.”

Indeed, one of the things that characterized Scoop was a willingness to confront the truth squarely, including some of the world’s worst evils, but at the same time, to think in hard practical terms about how to overcome them.

As George Will said in a moving eulogy, Scoop may have missed “the ultimate prize of our politics,” perhaps because, as George put it, “he lacked the cracking temperament that marks persons who burn on the surface with a hard, gemlike flame. If [Scoop’s] political metabolism seemed uncommonly calm, that is because,” Will wrote, “he had the patience of a mature politician, a gift for planning, a thirst for detail, and a sense of ripeness in issues. He had a flame, but he had a depth in which he kept it.”

It’s tragic that Scoop didn’t live to see the great peaceful conclusion of the Cold War to which his efforts contributed so much. He would be thrilled were he with us today to see what freedom for the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has brought about.

Today we face another historic challenge, the challenge of terrorism. Fortunately, we are blessed with a leader who has many of the same qualities that Scoop Jackson was blessed with. In President George W. Bush, America has come to recognize a man who faces challenges without fear. A man who has a vision of the future that guides his response to one of the most urgent immediate tasks our country has faced in more than half a century. A man who is determined to move forward strategically, pragmatic step after pragmatic step, toward a goal that the faint-hearted deride as visionary.

Scoop Jackson would have been proud and pleased to know our President. Those of us who knew Scoop Jackson were struck upon meeting the Governor of Texas at how many of Scoop’s qualities could be recognized in this man who came from such a distinctly different background.

Scoop Jackson would see today in the close connection between states that sponsor terrorism and states that terrorize their own people confirmation of his conviction that America’s self-interest lies in supporting the interest of others to freely determine their own future.

Again, he came by this conviction firsthand when he saw the breakdown of law and even of civilization in Europe in the 1940s. He became convinced then that this country was destined to be a part of preserving peace in the years to come, and wrote to one of his constituents right after the war that “it is to our own self-interest”-I’m quoting-“if nothing else, to do our part in ensuring a just and lasting peace when the war is over.”

A just and lasting peace when the war is over. Those words echo in the eloquent statement of our President in his State of the Union message that, to truly succeed in confronting this challenge of terrorism, we must also build, what President Bush called, “a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror.” In pursuing that objective, the President also said that “America will take the side of brave men and women who advocate [the values of human dignity, the rule of law, equal justice and religious tolerance] around the world, including the Islamic world.”

In that same address, President Bush also said that “we’ve been called to a unique role in human events. Rarely,” he said, “has the world faced a choice more clear or consequential.”

No one-least of all Scoop Jackson-would suggest that when we choose to play our unique role in the events of our time, that the result will be a perfect world. But, to suggest that we must accept a dismal status quo because we cannot achieve perfection is a counsel of despair. It discourages us from those bold and realistic steps that can achieve real progress. The President believes that we can build a better world. And we will.

We may well hope that with the demise of a truly evil and despotic regime in Iraq, we will see the liberation of one of the most talented peoples in the Arab world. Should this happen, it would be a significant step toward progress in other parts of the Muslim world, encouraging others who dream that ancient dream of freedom.

And Scoop Jackson would champion their dream. As Helen Jackson reminded us in accepting Scoop’s posthumous award of the Medal of Freedom, the Senator from Washington often said: “if you believe in the cause of freedom, then proclaim it, live it and protect it, for humanity’s future depends on it.”

But make no mistake, freedom cannot be defended, much less advanced, by the faint hearted or those who shun all risks. It cannot be advanced without the willingness of young American men and women to risk everything to defend their country and the cause of freedom. And it cannot be advanced if we believe that evil dictators can be brought around to peaceful ways without at least the threat of force.

With respect to Iraq, President Bush has made it clear that this is not a game. The national security of the United States is at stake. The President has been extremely clear that this is serious business. He has made his determination and his intentions unmistakable. If Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime underestimate the President of the United States, they will have made a big mistake. [Applause]

In this hour of great testing, as Teddy Roosevelt said, there are great deeds yet to be done, no question about it. And there is no question that America will again do her part to build a just and peaceful world. Because that is what America is all about. Throughout our history, Americans have been there to do the right thing, on fire to do the right thing-precisely because of patriots like Henry Martin Jackson, whose ideology was simply a belief in doing the right thing. As President Reagan said in awarding Jackson the Medal of Freedom, Jackson defended the permanent against the merely prevalent. And he has earned a lasting legacy.

These are indeed challenging times. The prophet Jeremiah expressed our present truth long ago in these words, “We wait for peace to no avail, for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.”

But in these times of terror, men and women who cherish freedom and seek peace may be strengthened by remembering also the words of another prophet, Isaiah: “See upon the palms of my hands I have written your name. Your walls are ever before me. Your builders will outstrip your destroyers.”

Henry Jackson was one was one of freedom’s great builders. And he inspired many, many people to work to build freedom, too.

To those here who help build peace, who help us build the “better world beyond the war on terror” that the President envisions, a great mission lies ahead. But we will not be deterred from the truth. And this truth we know: that the single greatest threat to peace and freedom in our time is terrorism.

So this truth we must also affirm: that the future does not belong to the terrorists. The future belongs to those who dream the oldest and noblest dream of all-the dream of peace and freedom.
Thank you. God bless you. May God bless our men and women in uniform, and may God bless our great country. [Applause]