“Retreat, hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction.”
Major General Oliver P. Smith, USMC
After being surrounded by the Chinese army during the Chosin Reservoir Battle in Korea, 1950
In the two months since I announced my decision not to seek re-election to the United States Senate, I have recalled these words often as I have talked to friends, political supporters and colleagues in the Congress.
When reciting General Smith’s quote, I am invariably responding to questions about my own future – what will I do at the end of my term? Will I continue to write? Will I remain in public service? Will I travel extensively in Asia, just as I did before my service in Washington?
There will be plenty of time to sort through these and other issues about my professional future.
Our beloved country is in crisis, politically, economically, and with respect to our foreign policy. I will not be retreating from my obligation to provide leadership and strategic direction when it comes to these crises. And I know that I will benefit, as I always have, from an incredibly supportive family and network of friends.
The one thing that I have been absolutely clear about is my unwavering commitment to the issues that inspired my campaign for the Senate in 2006: restoring economic fairness to our country; reorienting our national security policy – not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but throughout the world; and bringing accountability back to our government.
With the help of thousands volunteers from throughout Virginia, we campaigned relentlessly on these three themes five years ago. I ignored vicious negative attacks and the long odds against me and spoke clearly about how my experience as a combat Marine, best-selling author, Congressional counsel, Emmy-award winning journalist, film maker, Assistant Secretary of Defense, and former Secretary of the Navy could be brought to bear on the problems facing our country.
Our campaign was a first step in bringing the Democratic Party back to its Jacksonian roots — a philosophy founded on the notion that we measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Many of you will recall that I placed this belief squarely in front of the American people when I gave the rebuttal to President Bush’s State of the Union speech in 2007.
With almost two years left in my Senate term, I am deeply proud of what we have accomplished thus far. We have adhered to our beliefs, and at the same time offered a leadership model that embraces cooperation, rejects strident partisanship, and calls on those who have been elected to high office to reject false rhetoric in favor of working seriously to govern this vastly diverse and deeply troubled nation.
Consider just a portion of the record:
- Within sixteen months of taking office I had written and secured passage of the most far-reaching veterans legislation since World War Two – a GI Bill that allows our Post- 9/11 veterans a truly first-class chance at the future. This GI Bill has already helped more than 500,000 veterans and their families attend college;
- Together with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, I wrote the law creating Wartime Contracting Commission modeled on then-Senator Harry Truman’s World War Two legislation, which has now helped to identify and root out billions of dollars in waste and fraud in our foreign and military operations;
- Against all odds, we have changed the face of the debate on one of the most important yet ignored problems facing America – our broken criminal justice system and excessive rate of incarceration. Five years ago, merely talking about this broken system was considered to be political suicide. Today, even conservative Republicans are working with us to try to find solutions. Support continues to grow for my bill to establish a national blue-ribbon commission for reform on this vital issue;
- In the summer of 2007, I offered amendments to change the Bush administration’s troop rotation policies to give our men and women in uniform more time at home to train, rest and reconnect with their families. My amendment was twice defeated by Republican filibusters despite gaining 56 votes in the Senate, but we succeeded in raising the national consciousness on the wrong-headed emotional damage that these policies were inflicting on our troops. Four years ago, few people knew what “dwell time” even meant. Today, it is a main topic of discussion when it comes to military policy;
- As the Chairman of the Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, I have focused renewed attention on this vital region of the world and its strategic and economic importance to the United States. For too long, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have diverted our attention from critical American interests in Southeast Asia.
As fulfilling as these and our other activities have been, there is plainly more that must be done – particularly as we work to restore economic fairness to working men and women, and return the Democratic Party to its Jacksonian roots.
As I write this message today, the richest 1 percent of our people now account for 24 percent of the nation’s income. Thirty five years ago that figure stood at 9 percent. Millions of our people remain unemployed or underemployed, and despite these sobering statistics, American companies are sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash and other liquid assets, the largest share since 1959.
Other challenges abound. American companies possess too many incentives to ship jobs abroad. The tax code is riddled with loopholes, unexplainable subsidies, and tax breaks for the wealthy at a time when millions still face foreclosure. And our educational system is too often closed or unattainable for poor and middle class youngsters – especially in rural areas. I will always work hard on these pressing problems.
So once again, to paraphrase General Smith, I will not retreat on these core issues, not during the remaining 20 months of my term, and certainly not after I leave the Senate. I will simply be attacking them from a different direction.
When I formed Born Fighting PAC with your help more than four years ago, our goal was to support candidates who embraced the same values that inspired me to run in 2006. I am pleased that since it was formed, Born Fighting has made it possible for me to travel, and to financially support good candidates from all across America. We have also supported promising candidates from right here in Virginia, for offices ranging from the General Assembly to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Those of you who know me also know that I have always been reluctant to ask my supporters for contributions. But there is no way around the reality that in today’s political environment little can be done without financial support.
With your continuing support, I will be able to maintain the Born Fighting PAC in order to continue to fight for economic fairness, social justice, government accountability, and a responsible foreigh policy. With the right resources we will also be able to make a difference by highlighting candidates who share our values.
We will use the newly-updated website (www.bornfighting.com) and regular emails to showcase candidates who stand for economic fairness and Jacksonian values. I intend to campaign actively in this year’s legislative elections in Virginia and in next year’s crucial federal elections. I certainly hope you can join me in this effort.
In closing, let me thank you once again for all you have done to support me since we launched our long-shot campaign back in 2006. We have made – and we will continue to make – significant progress on the issues we campaigned on in 2006.