Former WH press secretary takes aim at domestic, foreign policies

In an address before a packed banquet hall at the Dakota Dunes Country Club Sunday, Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, took aim at the current policies of President Barack Obama and the Democrats in the United States Congress.

"We are witnessing in Washington, today, a gigantic clash involving two competing ideologies. One, lead by President Obama, believes the government can rearrange America's private brand of capitalism," he told a gathering of the Great Plains Chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition. "It's a belief that capitalism has largely failed, and that massive amounts of government intervention, spending, taxes and debt are needed to make America better."

This belief, he said, is in conflict with the feelings of other political leaders who believe that "no matter how bad our economic problems are, that no government of either party is wise enough to rearrange America's private capitalist system," Fleischer said, "to have the government dictate massive redistributions of wealth and unprecedented amounts of government spending.

"Coming out of Washington today is change – change of the most troubling kind," he said. "President Obama's policies represent a fundamental undoing of Reaganomics and free markets which focus on free enterprise, with a belief in the corrective capacity of that mechanism. Instead, those who now run Washington seek to spread a government-imposed, publicly-funded heavy hand that meddles unwisely, unnecessarily, and without any ability in what should be private affairs."

As former White House press secretary, Fleischer was the primary spokesman for President Bush and delivered the daily White House briefings from 2001 to 2003.  In his almost four years working for President Bush, he served as spokesman during the historic presidential recount, the attacks of Sept. 11, two wars and the anthrax attack. His best-selling book, Taking Heat, details his years in the White House and reached No. 7 on the New York Times best-seller list.

Sunday's event attracted Jewish and non-Jewish people of from southeastern South Dakota, including Clay and Union counties.

A host of Republican candidates for major state political offices were also present, including gubernatioral candidates Dennis Daugaard, Scott Munsterman and Ken Knuppe; Secretary of State Chris Nelson, who has announced he will be a candidate for the U.S. House, and Blake Curd, who also is seeking election to the U.S. House.

Also in attendance was SD Commissioner of School and Public Lands Jarrod Johnson, SD GOP Executive Director Lucas Lentsch, and David Bernstein, a local political consultant.

Political leaders who believe additional government intervention is needed to restore the nation's economy "are mixing oil and water, breaking down our engines of growth, clogging our economy with unparalleled debt," Fleischer said.

America's youth and middle income workers will struggle under this policy, he said.

"They wonder why no one is creating jobs for them anymore, they wonder why they aren't getting pay raises the way our parents used to get pay raises as they were moving up the economic ladder of life," Fleischer said. "They wonder about their pensions, and if they'll even have them, or will they have to watch as they are taken away."

Fleischer said under President Obama's policies, the national debt will total approximately 82 percent of the United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) "It was 50 percent when he took office," he said. "We are now reaching a point where we have debts that no honest man can pay."

Washington must stop its spending spree, Fleischer said, especially before the nation's baby boomers retire.

"Balancing budgets and reducing spending is not just about helping the taxpayers," he said. "It's a moral statement about how we live our lives and what we expect from the government. If the government can't get spending under control, the government itself is out of control."

Fleischer's talk also touched on American foreign-policy, particularly in the Middle East. He prefaced those remarks by sharing insights of the how the White House dealt with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"These are the moments that test us as Americans, and these are the events that I saw when I was at the White House," Fleischer said. "This represents the weakness of our country when we are attacked, which is always surely followed by the strength of our country as we rally.

"These are the moments of time that tell us who we are as a people and what it means to be an American in a world that increasingly expects American to carry all of the burdens and do all of the work," he said.

Fleischer said he is a Republican because he believes in peace through strength, and in defending America with a powerful military and a civilian leadership that is courageous enough to stand up to terror.

He said he is thankful Saddam Hussein was removed from power thanks to the military action ordered by President Bush.

"As Iran is working to acquire nuclear weapons, there is not a moment that I think that Saddam Hussein would have sat by and watched Iran enter into this buildup without himself figuring out a way to get those weapons," Fleischer said.

He talked about the strong relationship between Israel and the United States, during Bush's years in the White House, particularly after the start of the war in Iraq.

"There is no other nation on earth that faces extermination other than Israel," Fleischer said. "Israel is small. It is strong, but it is a target. And this is why I worry most about what President Obama is going to do with his foreign policy, particularly with Iran.

"I hope – we should all hope – that when President Obama says he wants to engage in diplomacy and speak with Iran, that is successful. If he extends the hand of diplomacy and Iran does not reciprocate, perhaps it will indeed strengthen Barack Obama's ability to go to China and go to Russia and say, 'You see? I'm not George Bush. I went the extra distance, I went the extra mile.' … Perhaps that Obama strategy will turn out well. All we can do is hope that it does, and pray that it does."

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