[Congressional Record: June 24, 2002 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Kerns). Under the Speaker's announced
policy of January 3, 2001, the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tancredo)
is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
Mr. TANCREDO. Mr. Speaker, as I sat here and listened to the
gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Osborne), I am made even more proud of the
folks who represent our side in this great deliberative body that we
call the Congress of the United States; and the heartfelt plea that he
makes to the Nation I think is, and the rhetoric, the chosen selective
rhetoric that he used should certainly be an example for all of us to
follow in terms of how to explain an issue and a position that stems
solely out of true moral courage, and really no politics are involved
I guess I would just like to say to I am proud that I know him, and I
am proud to serve in the same assembly that he serves in today.
Also, I must add that waiting to address this body and to discuss the
issues that I have on my agenda today, I have, of course, listened to
my friends from the other side talk about another issue; and they did
so at great length, talked about the upcoming debate on a proposal for
Medicare, specifically for drug benefits, and how we will provide these
drug benefits to senior citizens in this country. In a way, I think it
was a great example. It was almost like a class discussion of cynical
That is all I could think of while I listened to it. Because, as my
colleagues know, Mr. Speaker, I have on several occasions sat here
waiting for my turn to address the body and listened to my friends on
the other side of the aisle talk about a variety of issues, but in the
last several weeks, I have noticed that every single time I have been
here, and to the best of my recollection almost every time that Members
of the other side have taken the floor, they have done so to attack
what they call the Republican raid on Social Security and suggests that
the profligate spending of this Congress for a variety of programs and
specifically the war on terror will cost us a lot of money, money that
we do not have and money that we will, therefore, have to borrow from
the American public. And that is absolutely true.
They have gone on and on and on and on. If anybody has observed the
debate in this House over the last several weeks, they have turned
every single issue that we are debating into a debate on this raid of
the Social Security trust fund in the hope that they could scare the
bulk of the voters in this country, especially the elderly voters, into
siding with them come November.
Presenting a point of view, a reasoned, logical, truthful point of
view is one thing, but this attack on the majority party for what is
perceived to be our predilection to profligate spending, this is what I
call I guess the cynical politics 101 that everyone should pay close
attention to this evening and, as a matter of fact, on into the
For weeks, we have talked about and the folks on the other side have
condemned this Congress for spending money in the areas I have
described. Specifically, of course, it is the war on terror, combined
with the downturn in the economy, that have caused us to go into
deficit spending; and they have
condemned this. Forget about the fact that for the 40 years prior to
this Congress or at least this House being in control of the Republican
party that we were never ever, ever able to achieve a balanced budget.
Forget that. While the other side had control, we were in deficit
spending every single year, and nobody even thought about the
possibility that might not be good for America. Forget about that.
Let us now turn to today's discussion.
We heard for the hour prior to the gentleman from Nebraska's (Mr.
Osborne) taking the floor that the Democrats have a better plan for
Medicare and specifically for the drug benefits for American seniors
and that our plan is too stingy, our plan is complicated by issues of
choice, the fact that we would give seniors the opportunity to choose
among a variety of different alternatives for their drug benefit. They
characterize that as immoral and something that we should avoid at all
And they suggest that their alternative plan, one that is essentially
socialized medicine for all Americans, is better. But I just ask, Mr.
Speaker, that we all think about this: How can we spend weeks and weeks
and weeks on this floor talking about the fear of raiding the Social
Security fund to pay for other programs while completely ignoring the
fact that the plan being presented by my Democrat colleagues will cost
about $1 trillion over 10 years, $1 trillion over 10 years, and yet
that is not, of course, raiding the Social Security trust fund? That
somehow is figured into a budget, which of course we do not have; a
budget that they refuse to propose.
It is a course in politics, as I say politics 101, maybe cynical
politics 101, that we should be observing tonight, that we should be
referencing, because it is easy for someone out of power to suggest
that the majority should do something quite irresponsible. It is easy
to do that. It is very difficult to govern. The fearful thing I have in
my heart is that some day they may be in power and do exactly what they
are suggesting, and that we may turn this entire Nation, the entire
Nation's health care system over to the Federal Government.
That is a very alluring thing to a lot of people. They just do not
want to think about health care costs. This is something so close to
one's own emotional hot button that it is very difficult to discuss
this logically, and that is something that we on this side of the
aisle, I think, try to do often. We try to address these issues from a
logical standpoint, not an emotional standpoint. But we are always at a
disadvantage in that debate. It is easier to make the case that no one
should worry about health care and that the government essentially
should be relied upon to keep everybody alive forever, to do everything
possible to keep everybody alive forever no matter how much that costs.
There are a lot of people out there tonight, I think, Mr. Speaker,
who would say, yes, I do not care about future generations, and I do
not care about the war on terror, and I do not care about all the other
things this Nation spends money on. I care about getting my
prescription drugs at a lower cost. And if that means passing it on to
someone else, a younger person, a healthier person, so be it; that is
the way it should be done. I do not care, because of course I will be
dead before too long and who knows and who cares what happens after
That is a way a lot of people look at this issue, and we hear from
them all the time. I do. I am sure the Speaker does, and I know all of
our colleagues do. People tell us, I really do not care about the cost.
I do not caring about the dollars. We are told that over and over again
by people who take polls, people who provide some sort of political
consultation to us. They always say, look, the Republicans get too much
into detail. Nobody cares about dollars; nobody cares about the detail.
Well, I guess that may be true; but I cannot avoid that discussion. I
cannot help but talk about the problems this Nation faces from a fiscal
standpoint and the degree to which irresponsible spending is a threat
to the Nation, is a threat to our own security.
Now, I cannot tell my colleagues that I have all the confidence in
the world in the Republican plan for Medicare and prescription drug
benefits, because, in fact, I may be a ``no'' vote on that bill, but it
is not because I think the Democratic plan is better. I think our plan
costs $350 billion over 10 years, the Democratic plan $1 trillion. I do
not think that our plan is that much better; it is just that their plan
is so much worse.
I would like to see, frankly, a couple of things. I would like to see
the government actually get out of the business of determining what is
the appropriate service that any individual in Medicare can have and
how much we should pay for that. That is really not my business. I do
not know what is the best service, and I do not think any bureaucrat
has the slightest idea how much we should pay for it. But that is the
Medicare plan that we created in the 1960s. It has grown. It has grown
so fast that in the first year of its existence it actually surpassed
what Lyndon Johnson said it would cost us in 20 years.
It could consume the entire national budget. It easily could do that.
Health care costs are astronomical. There is no real market. That is
one problem. The other problem is that everything is exacerbated by
government bureaucracies. But I am here to say that we need to do a
couple of things in that area; and regardless of what we do, it should
not cost us a lot more money.
It is not something that the Federal Government should actually even
be too involved in except to say that if there are people who are in
dire straits, people that cannot afford health care costs because they
have reached that point in life when they are on fixed incomes and the
cost of medication and the cost of health care in general has gone
beyond their ability to pay, okay. Okay. If we just do that, if we just
focus on that, then we should come up with a true Medicare reform
proposal that is something like the following:
The Federal Government should say to everybody eligible for Medicare
that we will accept a certain amount dollar-wise, in terms of our
responsibility for their health care costs, and we will give it to them
in the form of a voucher. They can then use that voucher for the
purchase of insurance from any of the wide variety of vendors. But our
job, the Federal Government's job, is not to determine which provider
gives them the service and how much and how many benefits they should
derive from their insurance company. That is not our business.
If we have a responsibility, if this body determines that we have a
responsibility to older Americans for health care costs, it should be
in the manner I have described: to say to them, here it is, here is
what we have determined. Somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000 a year we
are spending per recipient on Medicare, is what I am told, so simply
give a Medicare recipient a voucher and have them go out and buy the
insurance that will cover their medical costs, which includes, by the
way, the cost of prescription drugs.
We ought to get out of the business of determining who pays for the
doctor, what doctor is eligible, what procedure is eligible, and how
much it should cost. That is a plan for disaster. The other side, the
Democratic Party, the Democratic suggestion, of course, is a plan for
an even greater disaster, because not only will it destroy health care
in America and turn us into a Nation similar to those who have already
attempted nationalized health care and whose people now come to the
United States for their own care, but it will also essentially bankrupt
Now, I know there are a lot of people out there, as I say, who tell
us, I do not care, I do not care what it costs; it is of no consequence
to me because someone else will be paying for it. I know there are many
people who feel that way. I certainly hear from a lot of them. But I do
care, because we are not simply talking about just another one of those
Tonight, Mr. Speaker, as I was walking in, a gentleman asked me if I
was going to support the bailout for Amtrak. He thought that I should
do so because, after all, the government, as he says, supports a lot of
dysfunctional programs. I cannot argue that. I cannot argue that we in
fact do support a lot of dysfunctional programs. But I have tried my
best, for as long as I have been here anyway, to vote against every one
of them. Now, sometimes
you get caught up by having to vote for a major piece of legislation
that has a lot of dysfunctional programs under it, but we are trying to
accomplish a greater goal.
That is what we have done, and that is what we have promised people,
and that is what they think government is all about. I suggest that
every single person who believes that the government is responsible for
their health care should go to the Constitution and seek the specific
citation in the Constitution that provides that particular
responsibility to the Federal Government, that gives that
responsibility to the Federal Government. I cannot find it when I look
Of course, we do lots of things that are unconstitutional, that are
not provided for in the Constitution. I realize that. But, again, as I
say, I try my best to vote against them. So unless we do a number of
things in that particular piece of legislation, I plan to vote against
it. Either way, certainly our side and certainly the other side's
I would like to see us create a real market system for the purchase
of drugs, a market system that allows for drugs to be purchased in
every country based upon what the going rate is around the world, not
just in one country. I would like us to be able to have people in
America buy drugs from Canada or Mexico or China or anyplace else if
the drugs were that much cheaper, because that is a worldwide market.
Now, I recognize that people say, well, we cannot guaranty the
wholesomeness of the drug. But right now, as my friend and colleague,
the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Gutknecht), says all the time, we
import literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of
prescription drugs every single year from Canada and Mexico. We do it
kind of illegally, on the sly. People go down and get it because it is
against the law for us to import a drug from these other countries. But
people do it because it is so much cheaper, and so far not one single
person has died as a result of taking an imported drug.
So I must say that, yes, there may be a risk involved; but there is
also the fact that there will be enormous, enormous savings to the
American consumer by implementing a true market system in the area of
drug benefits. The government really has no ability to guaranty
everybody cheap drugs or health care that is the finest that the world
can provide and that everybody else will pay for.
We try our best, and I think our Nation is to be commended for what
we do for senior citizens, certainly what we did for my parents, my
father, who is in a nursing home and on Medicaid and a recipient of
government largess. I understand the incredible value here. I just
suggest to us all that we have to at some point, at some point we have
to think about what we cannot afford any more; and I would certainly
suggest that a plan that costs us $1 trillion today is not something we
can afford, and especially presented after weeks and weeks and weeks of
attacks on our party, on the Republican Party, for what they determined
to be profligate spending and the raiding of the Social Security trust
I assure my colleagues that the Social Security trust fund will be a
footnote, a small tiny footnote in the entire cost of the Democrat plan
for prescription drugs, for socialized medicine. What they say is, we
will pay for everything. Go get your drugs; we will pay for it all.
That is nice to say. It sounds so wonderful. And it will gain them
votes, I have no doubt about that. It will garner them votes. But at
what cost? Well, $1 trillion. But even beyond the actual monetary cost,
there is a cost to the Nation in terms of our own stability, or
Mr. Speaker, I want to go on to another issue tonight, and that is
the fact the State of Colorado is experiencing what I know other States
in the Nation, especially Arizona are experiencing tonight, the ravages
of wildfires. Arizona is in a situation that almost dwarfs our own
situation in Colorado, which is horrendous. Right now, we have the
biggest fire in Colorado essentially under control or contained, I
should say. There are other fires that are ravaging the State that are
not quite as threatening as the Hayman fire, which is the largest fire
in terms of acreage consumed in the State's history. It is, as I say,
As indicated here by this picture that was taken from the Space
Shuttle, there are other fires burning in Colorado. This is the Hayman
fire. There is the fire by Durango and the fire in Glenwood Springs and
several started over the weekend by lightning. The Durango fire is
really progressing quite rapidly.
Tonight I want to simply do one thing when it comes to this
particular issue, and that is to thank the many people around this
country who have come to the rescue of the people who are adjacent to
these fires, helped save their homes; and they have come from 25
different States in the Nation, firefighters from all over the country.
I know the prayers of millions of Americans have gone out in order to
bring these things under control, bring these fires under control.
Sunday I had the opportunity to once again fly over the Hayman fire,
the scene of so much destruction. Although it was disheartening in many
ways, it was also encouraging because you can see that the fire has, in
fact, been contained. It is due to a variety of reasons. Of course,
weather has something to do with it. We have had a little more
humidity, a little cooler days, but it also has to do with the fact
that literally thousands of people have risked their lives and put
themselves in harm's way to help stop this fire.
I want to simply come to the floor tonight to say thank you to them.
Four of those folks were killed in an automobile accident on the way to
fight the fire; and there have been many memorials in our State and in
the State of Oregon that have been offered up in memory of these
people, of these brave young folks who set out to do something good for
someone else and whose journey ended in such a tragedy. Our thoughts,
our prayers, and our solace go out to the parents and to the relatives
of the people who died in that horrible car crash coming to Colorado to
We have learned several things. I have been in Congress a relatively
short time. This is only my second term; and, unfortunately, I have
experienced several tragedies as a result of what has happened in my
district during that time. Of course, the first was Columbine High
School. I had only been here a few months when that occurred and had to
try to figure out how to deal with that and bring some sort of closure
to the issue and to the horrible, horrible events of that day in April.
One of the things that I realize that happened during that time is
that, no matter how horrible an event is, and the Columbine experience
was far worse than even these fires. These fires have cost lives, it is
true, but nothing can be compared to the loss of lives of the children
who were killed at Columbine, and the adult. But out of every single
tragedy something good can develop and usually does. No matter how
horrible it is, we have to try to concentrate on the fact that
something good can happen. In Columbine, I saw many things happen that
I can describe as positive, even as a result of this horrible tragedy.
First of all, I can tell Members that families, not just in the
Columbine area but all across the Nation, families re-evaluated their
relationships and became I think a little more in touch with the fact
that life is so precious and that their children should be valued above
all. We did have sort of a coming together of families that I think
perhaps we would not have had under other circumstances. Hundreds of
thousands, and I know that is maybe stretching it in some people's
minds, but I believe it is true that hundreds of thousands of people,
especially young people, came to Christ as a result of the kind of
stories that were told about some of the young people that died in
Columbine; and their own commitment to the Lord and the courage that
they showed in this horrible, horrible time was an inspiration for
many, many people, adults and children.
In this fire which is a tragedy, not reaching the proportions of
Columbine but a tragedy nonetheless, and as I say there have been
deaths, four people coming to fight the fire and one individual that
has been identified as a result of the fire, a lady who had a severe
asthma attack as a result of the smoke
from the fire and has perished, but out of it can come something of
value to the Nation, something good. That is that we will have some
idea how not to just prevent but perhaps control these horrendous
For years now the Forest Service of the United States has been in a
quagmire, constructed somewhat as a result of the impositions that we
have placed upon them from this body, the government of the United
States, the Congress of the United States, passing law after law after
law which impeded their ability to actually fight fires. That is on one
On the other side is the environmental community that has taken
advantage of all of those obstacles to in fact file appeal after appeal
after appeal and lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit to stop the Forest
Service from actually managing forests. Those two things have combined
to create a disastrous situation, one that is exemplified by the fires
that we see this year brought on by incredible drought and careless
activity on the part of human beings, but made far worse by the fact
that we have not been able to actually manage the forests. We have not
been able to clean the forests and take out a lot of the fuel loads.
The General Accounting Office reports that one in three forests in
America is dead or dying. This after how many years of environmental
impact statements, literally hundreds of steps that have to be taken by
every agency dealing with the forest, whether it is the Forest Service
themselves, the Division of Wildlife, every single entity, BLM, Bureau
of Land Management, to have to go through the hoops that have been
created by us and by the environmentalists, we now find one in three
forests dead or dying.
The Clinton administration cut back timber harvesting by 80 percent
and used laws and lawsuits to make swathes of land off limits to
commercial use. I am quoting from a Wall Street Journal article of June
21. We now see that millions of acres are choked with dead wood,
infected trees and underbrush. Many areas have more than 400 tons of
dry fuel per acre, 10 times the manageable level. This tinder turns
into small fires which turn into infernos, outrunning fire control and
killing every fuzzy and endangered animal in sight. In 2000 alone,
fires destroyed 8.4 million acres, the worse fire year since the 1950s.
Some 800 structures were destroyed. Control and recovery cost nearly $3
Maybe the good thing to come out of all of this is that we have
learned something about how to minimize the effects of wildfires in the
forests of our Nation. And maybe, just maybe, we will be able to do
something in the Congress of the United States to reduce the number of
obstacles in the path of those folks trying to do their best, Forest
Service personnel especially, to keep our forests in a way that they
can be enjoyed by all people in this country.
I do not know if we will accomplish it. The obstacles are great
internally within the Forest Service itself and externally in the
environmental community. They believe that no people should be in the
forest, that no activity should be allowed because any activity is
``unnatural,'' close quote.
The fires that I saw in my State, I wish I could have taken every
single environmentalist who had filed an appeal stopping the Forest
Service from doing any work in the 5,000 acres of what we call part of
the national forest that was identified as roadless area. A year and a
half ago we could have been in there beginning the work, beginning to
thin that area so as not to be so susceptible to these incredible
forest fires. Appeal after appeal was filed. We were never able to go
in and do the work, and now there is no use in filing any appeals
because that part of the forest is long gone. It is nothing but
Maybe that is what environmentalists think is natural. Maybe they
look at that same scene and think, that is just nature's way. Of
course, fires are nature's way. Fires can be healthy things in a
forest, but not the kind of forest fires that we are looking at today,
not the Hayman fire, not the Glenwood Springs fire, not the Durango
fire, not the fire in Arizona now 300,000 acres and growing.
In Colorado, we have, as long as we have kept records, we have the
most severe fire, the fire that has been the most destructive prior to
the Hayman fire, which has consumed 140,000 acres so far; but prior to
that in 1876, I believe, we had the other most destructive fire that
the State of Colorado has ever experienced in record-keeping time. That
was 26,000 acres. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, between 1876 and today, we
have had many, many droughts.
We have had many, many times when the forests were tinder dry, as
they say, and susceptible to horrendous damage if a fire started. But
in fact when fire started naturally or even in those days caused by
man, they did not consume 100,000 acres. The reason is because there
was not a fuel load in the forest to allow that to occur. Today there
is. Why? Because 100 years of fire suppression has created this
incredible amount of fuel on the forest floor. This fuel burns hotter
and faster and more destructibly than a normal or a, quote, natural
fire, so destructively that it will actually burn the ground, burn the
soil, it gets so hot; and for several inches down, everything is
Nature puts down a barrier below that called a hydrophobic barrier
that actually, when this occurs, when it does that, it is actually
impermeable. What nature is trying to do is hold the rest of the
mountain together. But that means that everything above that barrier
will go the minute we have rain. And where does it go? It will go into,
in this case, the Denver water supply and will have to be filtered,
will cost us hundreds of millions of dollars perhaps to do that because
this particular fire is incredibly damaging in that respect.
Thank God and thank the firefighters that have come into Colorado. We
lost around 117 homes in the Hayman fire. But if this fire happens
again, because it certainly could, all the conditions are exactly the
same and right on target for another disastrous fire at any time in any
other part of the forest, if it happens just a few miles north of where
this one occurred, we will see thousands of homes go up in smoke and
thousands of lives shattered, another 100,000 or more acres destroyed,
habitat for many, many endangered species.
Here is one little interesting tidbit that we have to deal with, Mr.
Speaker, when we talk about the idiotic environmental problems we face
with trying to manage forests. Today in Colorado we have had the
opportunity to do a controlled burn. This is part of forest management,
where you go into a particular area and you will have create a fire,
you will burn the underbrush but you keep it under control so that you
burn away a lot of those fuels and do not ignite the whole forest on
There is an area called the Polhemus Burn in Colorado. It took ages
for them to agree to get the EPA to allow this burn to occur, because
the EPA said that a controlled burn of 5,000 to 8,000 acres would
actually cause a problem. The smoke would cause a problem with the
system designed to keep the air pure and that sort of thing and the
plan for Colorado, the air quality plan in Colorado. So it took forever
for them to agree to it. They are always putting up obstacles to a
controlled burn because of the smoke that they say that the EPA said
would pollute the atmosphere if you burned 5,000 acres.
So we have burned 140,000 acres in one fire alone in Colorado and
guess what? That does not count against the air quality standards. We
could burn down the entire forest if it is done by an illegal campfire
or by a lightning strike. We could burn a million acres, 5 million
acres, 10 million acres, and it would not count.
Let me tell you what that means right now. Right now, with 140,000
acres in the Hayman fire, every morning when I got up this weekend when
I was home, I would look out and you could not see the mountains
really. There was a haze over the mountains. And I live not too far
from the mountains. This is a peculiar site in Colorado which has
prided itself for many years of having this pristine scene, the
mountains, the clear blue sky. You cannot even see the mountains. One
lady has died already because of the pollution in the air. The ashes
will accumulate all over.
I went out. I was blowing out my garage and driveway. I am a little
anal about this. I want to keep it clean. I was blowing it all out.
This huge cloud
of smoke comes up from my driveway because of all the ashes that had
accumulated there. I live 25 or 30 miles from the fire. But that does
not count. That does not count against our air pollution control, air
pollution cleanliness thing set by the EPA. That does not count. We can
do that. But we cannot do a controlled burn.
Let me tell you about the Polhemus Burn. It happens to be on the
periphery of the Hayman fire. I flew over it. Mr. Speaker, it was
incredibly interesting. Because, as you fly over the fire, you see that
where we did the burn just a little more than a year ago, the fire
actually stopped. The Polhemus Burn was a buffer against that fire
moving farther east and into homes along the front range. You can see
where what we have done has worked, but we have to fight every single
step of the way with the EPA to do a controlled burn of 8,000 acres.
But 100,000, 200,000 acres, no problem as long as it was started by a
campfire or a lightning strike. That is okay. That pollutes the air for
weeks and weeks and months to come. But, no problem.
This is the idiocy of trying to actually have a Federal control of
this process that really and truly does not allow for the kind of thing
I have just described here. It does not allow us to actually manage the
forest. These are idiotic laws, idiotic regulations that have cost us
severely. We have to change it; and maybe, maybe, the outcome of these
horrendous fires will move this Congress in that direction. Maybe we
will do something to try and reduce the possibility of the lawsuits,
the frivolous lawsuits, the frivolous appeals and the internal inertia
in the Forest Service. Those two things have combined to create this
event, captured by the space shuttle.
You can blame that on the things I have just described, bureaucratic
inertia and environmentalists, extreme environmentalists, obstacles
they have placed in the way of trying to manage a forest. I am not
saying the fire happened because of those things. I am saying that the
seriousness of the fire, the severity of the fire is directly a result
of poor management; and the poor management is a result of the things
that I have described.
So maybe we can overcome this. I do not know. I certainly hope so,
because something good has to come out of this, that at least we can
eventually, several years from today can say, well, we learned a lesson
from this. Yes, it was a terrible price to pay, hundreds upon hundreds
of thousands of acres gone, the watershed destroyed, wildlife habitat
destroyed. It will take 100 years for what has been burned to be
replaced by something that looks like a forest again, 100 years. I will
not see it. I do not even think my kids will see it.
What worries me is that this is June 23 or June 24. We are at the
beginning of the season. How much more will it be on fire this year? I
do not know, and next year. Because, believe me, even if we
implemented, even if tomorrow we started to do everything we needed to
do in terms of forest management, it will take us years to clean the
forests and get them back to a position that they can sustain these
kinds of fires in a natural setting.
But it is an example of good ideas gone awry. It is an example of so
many things we see here in government, where everybody thinks they are
doing the right thing. Law upon law upon law upon law is passed every
year; and each one, if studied individually, yeah, that seems right,
absolutely, we should do that. But when you put them all together, they
combine to create this kind of problem.
Once again, I want to thank all those people across the Nation for
their prayers and for their help in fighting these fires. Many men and
women are on the line tonight in Colorado and in Arizona and in other
western States. We owe them a debt of gratitude that I want to express
as best I can here on the floor of the House tonight.
Mr. Speaker, in the time I have available, I am going to move to
another issue, not one that is completely unfamiliar to the people who
may be observing us tonight or listening. In a way this has got to do
with immigration reform, but in a bigger picture. Something happened in
the last week that I feel compelled to bring to the attention of my
colleagues here on the floor and those who may be observing it.
The Bill Bennett organization, Bill Bennett was the Secretary of
Education in the Reagan administration, was my boss for several years.
I was the regional director for the U.S. Department of Education. His
organization did a poll recently, asking college students a variety of
questions. Some of the answers that they gave to these questions,
although surprising to some, were not surprising to me, although they
were certainly disheartening.
What I want to do tonight in the minutes I have remaining to me is to
explain one of the things that motivates, perhaps the most important
issue I feel compelled to actually try to advance or discuss when it
comes to the issue of immigration, immigration reform and some of the
major ramifications of massive immigration into the United States. It
is hard sometimes to get the big picture out there, but in a way this
poll that was taken of American college students helps me try to do
Mr. Speaker, let me say this. I believe that we are in this Nation
and as a member of western civilization as perhaps the leading Nation
in what can be described as western civilization, we are in a conflict.
It is a conflict that is really quite old in origin. It has been going
on for hundreds and hundreds of years. It flares up at certain points
of time and subsides at others, but it is nonetheless an ongoing
conflict. There are those certainly who would suggest that the threat
to the United States is posed by an organization often referred to as
al Qaeda and that it is a relatively small group of people around the
world who have the intent to do America great harm.
I would suggest that a thorough study of world history would bring
one to a different perspective, and that is this, and I am condensing
an awful lot of information into a relatively small period of time
here, I recognize. I would suggest that our foes, that is, the foes of
western civilization and all that it represents, republican form of
government, reliance on individual responsibility, individual freedom
being a sort of mainstay of western civilization, the rule of law and
not of men being the mainstay of western civilization, these are the
philosophies, these are the ideas that we have brought the world, and
these ideas are in conflict with other civilizations.
I suggest that it is not just al Qaeda that we are fighting. It is
not just a small group of individuals out there, the tentacles here and
there in several countries. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, by the way, I
should say I am in total support of the President's attempts to try and
stamp them out, to try to go wherever they are and eradicate them. I
absolutely agree with it. But I think it is foolhardy for us to assume
that, even if we were actually able to either kill or arrest every
single member of the al Qaeda organization, that America would be safe.
Because I think our battle is with something bigger. It is with
fundamentalist Islam in this case. That is part of the clash of
civilizations. That is the one we are now dealing with most directly.
As I say, over the course of history, world history, you will find
that it has happened often, that these flash points have occurred, that
there have been times when we can see a much more direct, a much more
identifiable conflict, when armies met, Crusaders against the Saracens.
But we can see that, as times change, we no longer will be fighting
wars with major armies facing each other in some remote corner of the
world, the winner and the outcome of the battle determining the winners
and losers of the war.
That is not the kind of war we are fighting today; it is not the
world in which we live. The world in which we live is a war fought by
people blowing themselves up on buses in Jerusalem or in the West Bank.
It is a war being fought by people who take airplanes and crash them
into buildings in the hopes of destroying a different civilization. It
is American civilization; it is Western civilization that our opponents
hate. It is not just an issue of Israel versus Palestine. That is only
one front where fighting is actually going on in this clash of
civilizations. At least that is my belief. If one looks at this I think
from a bigger perspective, that is the conclusion to which one must
Now, how does this fit with what I started off talking about in terms
of Bill Bennett's organization and the poll they took? Well, for us to
be successful in this clash of civilization, for us to actually hope to
be able to win this war, we have to recognize that we are, number one,
fighting that kind of a war. It is not just simply a small sort of
tactical attack that we are focusing on here and dealing with, on one
subgroup of fundamentalist Islam. It is a much bigger problem, and it
will go on for a long, long time. In order to be successful, we as
Americans have to know who we are, what we stand for, and believe in
Western civilization, because that is what we are actually fighting
for. It is not just to stop people from crashing into a building in New
York. It is our very survival. I assure my colleagues that the folks
who want to do us ill want to do so as a result of the fact of who we
are, what we believe in, what we exemplify. That is what they hate, and
they will not stop ever until that particular goal is accomplished, and
that is the eradication of Western civilization. It is, I think, that
big an issue with which we deal.
So it is important for us to understand that when we ask American
students what they think of America, what they think of America vis-a-
vis other countries, how they actually kind of rate our system and our
society versus other societies, it is disheartening to hear and see the
following results: American students, according to this poll, intensely
and overwhelmingly disagree with the statement that Western culture is
superior to Arab culture. Only 16 percent believe Western culture is
superior to Arab culture, but 79 percent do not.
Now, that is the result I suggest, Mr. Speaker, of a deliberate, sort
of philosophical point of view that has been expressed in schools, in
classrooms in colleges all over America for at least a decade or more,
longer than that, 20 years at least; and that is what I refer to as
cultural relativism, that it is all the same; that we should never,
ever think of another culture as different or certainly less deserving,
less important than our own.
Well, in fact, Mr. Speaker, the reality of the world is this: that we
do have something unique in the United States, and it is not
chauvinistic to express that point of view. In fact, we must believe in
that if we are to win the war to which I refer in this clash of
civilizations. If we believe that all cultures are the same, that there
is nothing different between the United States, between Western
civilization, between a liberal democracy, between the rule of law,
between the intent or the belief that people have the ultimate
responsibility for their own lives; if we do not believe in that, then
we cannot be successful over the long, long haul in this clash, and it
is going to be a long haul.
And if we think for a moment that we are in a Nation that is less
desirable than any other, or equally desirable as all others, then all
we have to do is to raise the gates all over the world, raise the gates
and allow people to flee from whatever country they live in to the
country they want to go to. Does anybody think for a moment that there
is going to be a mass exodus from the United States to Saudi Arabia or
to Afghanistan? I do not think so. Does anybody think for a moment that
if we actually raise all of the gates that there would not be a huge
influx of people from all over the world, including the Middle Eastern
countries, to the United States where life is better, and it is better
because of Western civilization? I am not ashamed to say that; and I
am, in fact, proud to say it, because I believe it. I believe it is
empirically provable that life is better.
There is a great satirical piece that was done, my son sent it to me,
it came off the Internet, something called ``James: The Screed.'' I do
not know to what that refers, but he is doing a satirical piece on this
poll. And he is suggesting that this is an essay question that is
typical today in a college classroom. Remember, this is satire, okay?
Here is the essay question: ``Two choices: life as a gay atheist in
Fargo, North Dakota, or life as a Christian gay in Riyadh. Write 1,000
words describing how each faces equal hardship. If your essay contains
less than 1,000 words, you will either be docked one grade or have your
left hand removed with an ornately engraved scimitar, depending on
which morally-equal culture the teaching assistant wishes to consult.''
This is great stuff. ``B: Western culture is equal or inferior to
Arab culture because: (check any you believe to apply)'' of the
following: ``Number 1, Our so-called democracies are fronts for
corporate interests. Nadar doesn't win here, Nadar doesn't win in
Syria. What's the difference?
``2, our so-called freedom of scientific inquiry unshackled from
religious strictures is a sham. Galileo was oppressed by the Catholic
Church, wasn't he? Didn't every American moon shot end in failure
because we believed the sun revolved around the earth and we failed to
account for the gravitational pull? Stupid Pope!
``3,'' this is another option that you can check: ``We spend more on
flavored massage oil than we do on foreign aid, which is so, like,
typical. Saudi Arabia spends more on mosques here in the United States
than their citizens spend on ``Hustler,'' which should tell you
``4, they may stone adulterers, but we are equally puritanical about
sex, as evidenced by the recent refusal of the Toledo City Council to
grant medical benefits to the pets of cohabitating transgendered city
It goes on. I mean it is a great, great satire, and I encourage
everyone, Mr. Speaker, here to go on the Web site and look it up. It is
called ``The Screed.'' It is an ``attempt to disassemble the
indefensible.'' It is very, very good. Very interesting.
But what it does is point out that we need to know who we are; we
need to actually defend that point of view and Western civilization as
we know it. And when we talk about how this actually connects to
immigration, I suggest to my colleagues that we do need to actually
have a country that is a country connected by people who can speak to
each other in one language and share a common set of values and ideas.
Massive immigration is a threat to that particular philosophy and idea.
Not immigration itself. Immigration is a fine thing that has helped the
country and has been wonderful in many ways. But the massive
immigration we are witnessing today does not help us create a cohesive
country, a country that does share one language, one set of ideas, one
set of principles. We are becoming Balkanized and, as a result, unable
to effectively fight this war in this clash of civilizations.
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