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Speech to the 25th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
Alan Keyes
January 31, 1998
Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Virginia

Thank you very much.

Before I get into the substance of what I have to say, I want to congratulate all of you, because I think you have been having one of the best CPAC meetings that I have seen in many years. And given the current state and condition of our country, we sure need it.

But it is that state or condition that I want to speak to for a few minutes. And having gotten out of the way the reasons why I am feeling good about being here, I'll have to explore some of the reasons why I am not feeling at all good, at the moment, about where things stand in America.

Now, I know, we are told that the country is in good shape. And by some material measures, it is looking good. Of course we have to--as Alexander Haig used to say--"caveat that," don't we? Because, all things said and done, I'm not quite sure why I should believe the numbers coming out of the Clinton Administration any more than I believe anything else.

But let us assume, for the nonce, that they are somewhat true, and that indeed we are in the midst of a nice, sustained economic growth; we're in the midst of international peace--we're supposed to be in good shape. And yet, my friends, in the course of recent days I've actually found myself on the verge of feeling something that I have never felt before in my life.

And we've been through a lot, in the course of the last several decades. We've had our ups and downs as a people. There have been times when things didn't go so well, and I can remember being over there, in the late seventies, when I was posted with the Foreign Service over in India, and the fiasco with Iran was taking place, and so forth and so on. And things didn't look good.

And you could wish that things were being handled better, and sometimes it felt badly to know that people were maybe thinking the United States had lost its way, and lost its punch. But in the midst of all of that, I sometimes had reason to wish that the leadership was wiser and better, and the decisions were better, and the country were more directed. But never in my life--and I say it advisedly--never in my life before have I been tempted to be ashamed that I am an American. But I am tempted now.

And I think it is time, as a people, we begin to recognize . . . I know there are folks--including, as I will discuss in a minute, people in the Republican leadership, and so forth--who open up the newspapers and look at polls as if they are gospel. And the overnight polls tell us that this President who sits in office is "riding high with popularity." I frankly don't believe the polls, but wouldn't care if they were accurate. Because in point of fact, if the American people is, right now, handing approval to a President who has brought us as low as this President has, then they do not pass a judgment on the President; they pass a judgment on themselves.

We are faced today, I believe, with the greatest crisis--and I say it advisedly--the greatest crisis that this republic has ever faced. I believe it is a greater crisis than the Revolution; a greater crisis than the Civil War; a greater crisis than the World Wars. Because I believe, with Lincoln, that none of those threats, none of those things that involve war and peace and externalities, could ever bring this country down.

But there is something that can. We can lose battles; we can lose wars; and we will still remain a free people. But if we lose the character, if we lose the decent judgment that is required to sustain that freedom, then it will be lost.

And Bill Clinton and the crisis of the Clinton Presidency--it epitomizes the crisis of character, the moral crisis, that has been building to a decisive stage in this country for lo these past few years.

Now, I've said this for a long time. I'm glad to see that people are finally picking up on it. But you know, some folks are saying it because they've been taking polls recently, and they see it at the top of the list of American concerns. I think it's all well and good. I applaud any voice that is finally willing to speak the truth.

But I'll tell you something: long before polls were taken indicating that seventy and eighty percent of the American people put this at the top of their list, it belonged there anyway.

But what do we see now in the Clinton Presidency? Two things that I think epitomize the deep crisis of this country. First, we see the crisis of personal character and personal responsibility. I know that there are some people--including folks in the media recently--who actually expressed some grudging admiration for the way in which President Clinton went up there just recently to Capitol Hill and gave his State of the Union Address. I think that admiration came from the fact that in the midst of times like these, most people would have been loathe to show their face in public. Mr. Clinton brazened it out real well.

But you know why, don't you? I think we all know why. It's not hard to brazen out one's misdeeds when one has no conscience about them. I don't know myself, though, whether that lack of conscience is, in fact, a recommendation as to one's character. I doubt it.

So we see on the one hand that all these "charges" and "allegations," as they are called, have raised serious questions in the minds of many about Mr. Clinton's personal character. And I've got to tell you, I don't know what took them so long. I remember several years ago, back in 1992, I had heard that Bill Clinton had, as governor, pardoned a convicted cocaine dealer. That's not an allegation, by the way. See, we're being told that everything is an "allegation," "unproven," and so forth and so on. No, that's a fact. And when I first heard about it, I went around and I asked people, "Well, at the time that he did it, what did he say about it? What was the reason he gave? What was the justification for it?" Nobody could find any. I haven't found any to this day.

Somebody who will go out of their way to pardon one who has been convicted of that crime which epitomizes the deep and conscienceless preying upon America's people and America's youth--anybody who would believe that that should be excused has already announced their total lack of character. Why are we just discovering it now?

So I don't know why some people have been treating this as if it is such a big surprise. It only comes as a surprise to those who relied upon the degenerate propaganda media for their information, instead of looking for it themselves.

The other thing that I find amazing about all of this is this. The current spate and frenzied attention that is being paid to the whole Lewinsky business is interesting to me, among other things, because I keep asking myself, "Why now, all of a sudden, are these people willing to look into all of this?" I mean, back in 1992 when it might have done some good, Gennifer Flowers came forward, she had tapes that Ted Koppel spent his time trying to discredit on Nightline. I noticed that they played them again the other day on Nightline, and there was no effort to discredit the truth.

The thing I find is that Bill Clinton is not the only shameless one in America. The media people, who have over the course of the last several years shamelessly covered up the lack of character of this President, now come forward and . . . did Ted Koppel say, "Well, several years ago we acted as if this woman was lying; several years ago we led you to believe that you should give no credence to these charges"? Did he look at the American people and say, "We were wrong; we misled you; we deceived you"? No, he didn't. But he should have.

The sad truth is that the current crisis is more than a little bit to be attributed not just to Bill Clinton's lack of character and veracity, but also to the fact that that evident lack of character was hidden from the American people, by a media that itself seems to lack the character required in a free society.

But in addition to this challenge, I think there is something else that actually poses an even greater threat. People out there seem to be willing--some of them--to treat this as if "it is simply about some private conduct." And, "So he's lying a little bit about it, but, you know . . ." The problem with all of that is that in a society like ours--a society based on representative government and elections--pretty much everything depends on whether or not, in our public life, we insist upon a standard of truth. Force is not the only way in which you can defraud a people of its liberty. Lies also undermine the franchise, and destroy true choice.

And it might be different, I suppose, if you could make me believe that Bill Clinton was tempted to lie just because he was ashamed or embarrassed by his conduct. But I've got to tell you, if you are that ashamed and embarrassed by your conduct, then over a period of years you will cease it. If you are that ashamed and embarrassed by your conduct . . . now, I can remember, back in what now appear to be the "old days," when these sorts of charges were only being raised in the context of the governorship--you remember that? They were raised in the context of his tenure as governor. And in the same fashion that they are doing now, the Clinton folks and their media apologists brazened it out. Hillary Clinton got up in those days, with just the same aplomb that she is doing now, to tell us that this was all just the enemies of her husband, and that the Gennifer Flowers thing was not true.

How can it be that we are so blind that, having been brazenly lied to by these folks when they sought to obtain power, we have some doubts that they will do the same in order to keep it? It doesn't make sense.

The principle of power in the old Soviet Union was the principle that is before us now in this administration. Bill Clinton is not lying because he is ashamed; he is lying out of ambition. He is lying in order to serve his political interests and goals. If we accept these lies, then we accept that which, in principle, establishes the practical foundation for all totalitarian government. It is the principle that kept the Soviet Communists in power as they manipulated every fact, because the truth had no objective meaning, it was just whatever served their political interest today.

If we accept this, as a people, then it will not matter if, for a little while longer, we maintain the facade of our liberty--we will already have accepted to think like slaves. And having accepted the principle that enslaves, true slavery will not be long in following.

Now that is what is at stake in this present crisis. There are many things that I could have done with the little time I had before you here today, but I wanted to make that one point crystal clear. And I wanted to say it because I think, quite sadly, that by and large the Republican leaders in this country are failing to make it. And in failing to make it they are once again demonstrating, as they sadly have over the course of the last couple of years all too often, that though they now have the power, they do not yet have the conviction, and the principles, and the vision necessary truly to lead this country.

The challenge that is presented to us today in the Clinton White House is not the challenge of the President's personal character. It is a challenge to our regime and way of life. And they have a responsibility not to stand on the sidelines out of political calculation, but to stand before the American people to help them to understand the true significance of this crisis.

But I have to tell you that their not doing so doesn't surprise me, because sadly I see too many now who seem to have decided that they can govern by polls, and govern by consultants, and govern by focus groups. I think they need to look back at the heritage of the Republican Party, and understand that it was founded as a party that recognized the simple truth that the basis of America's identity, the only sure foundation of our liberty, is our commitment to those basic and simple principles of justice and right on which this nation was founded; is our commitment to maintain the decent character and discipline without which a free people cannot survive.

They need to stop calculating what will get them re-elected, and start doing what is necessary to preserve the liberty and serve the better interests of this people.

Now, there are a lot of other things that I might wish to say today. I want to stop here, though, and take some questions. But there is one final thought I want to leave with you. At some point or other we are, as a people, going to have to stand back from this whole array of leaders we have at the moment and ask ourselves some simple questions.

I was thinking about this the other day, because when I am thinking about this whole crisis with Bill Clinton, and all this mess that we have been dealing with, do you know what really bothers me the most is not just all the things I've just been talking about, and all the great issues and so forth that are implied in the deceptions that are being worked upon us. No. It's just the simple fact that, thanks to this President, I don't know what to say to my eight-year-old son about the nature of his country. I don't know how to talk to him about it anymore. And I don't know for sure whether he is going to understand that, as this is a good place to live, it is also a place worth fighting and dying for, if need be.

In the days when we were committed as a people to the difference between right and wrong and standing up for the right; in the days when, regardless of our weaknesses as individuals, we understood that we should strive, at least, to achieve what is best and to maintain a decent discipline in our lives--I think it was probably pretty easy for people to stand up and look at our young men and women and say, "When the threat arises, this nation is worth dying for. This nation is worth risking all, in order to preserve."

What I think a lot of people are missing in this present situation is that a crisis like this destroys the moral capital we need to make those appeals with truth. Because I am not quite sure that it will be right to ask men and women to risk their lives, so that we can fund the satisfaction of presidential and other lusts with our taxpayer dollars--so that we can stand before the world not just as a joke, but as a dirty joke.

And I am disappointed, because that grieves me. It breaks my heart.

I hear no grief from these leaders. I hear no heartbreak. I hear no cry on behalf of this nation's decency that is louder than calculation, and more important than political victory.

I can have nothing but contempt for leaders who do not feel, in their heart, this nation's travail, and who are willing to "wait on the sidelines to see what will happen."

Now, I have to breathe a sigh of relief--I got through that. This speech was very difficult for me; I can't tell you how difficult. Because sometimes you want to say clearly what you've got to say, and that means that you have got to put aside at least part of the passion you feel about it.

But, my friends, we have got to get this right. And we have got to get it right now. Because if we don't, this republic is finished. If this President is able to maintain himself in office by lies and a pattern of deception, then we will have crossed the point of no return as a people.

With that said, I'd be glad to take your questions on any subject.

Question & Answer Session

Question: Yes, Mr. Keyes. Thank you very much for coming. As a former Democrat, in New York, I saw you recently on the Black forum--"The Tony Brown Journal." I happen to love Tony Brown. Tony Brown had a gentleman on, a military strategist named Thomas Chittham. In his book Civil War II, he says that if we do not resolve the social ills of this country, the massive illegal immigration, that it is a possibility--and I quote you--"this republic could be finished; we could possibly break up."

What is your opinion on this massive illegal immigration, with hardly no enforcement?

Keyes: I think it is very clear. I do not understand why some people insist on acting as if a concern over illegal immigration is somehow a rejection of the immigrant traditions of this country. It is not. I am strongly committed to those traditions, as I think we all ought to be. They have been a source of hope and vibrancy for this nation.

On the other hand, I think that in order to maintain our tradition of immigration, we have to be crystal clear that we are not going to tolerate illegal immigration. That is step number one.

But it is easy to say that, and I'm sure folks in the Congress will be coming forward soon, as even President Clinton was saying the other day, with bills to tighten up the border and so forth. But the thing that I find interesting is that if you really are serious about ending illegal immigration, then you ought to be serious about maintaining those controls over access to our welfare system and other things that will keep folks from being attracted into this country because they think they will get a free ride.

And I think also--and this is a challenge I directly put to the folks in the Congress--if you are concerned about illegal immigration, then you ought to be deeply concerned about the possibility that folks who are not even citizens have been exercising the franchise anywhere in this country. And I would call on them, in that context, to prove how serious they are about defending the integrity of our borders--and our citizenship--and stop playing games with problems like those involved in Bob Dornan's district in California.

On matters like this, I want to listen to what this Republican leadership in the Congress is saying. But I can't hear it anymore, because what they are doing deafens me, and keeps me from believing what they say.

Question: Mr. Keyes, thank you very much for coming. You are a tremendous individual. I come from the biggest Republican Club in Manhattan, and there are conservatives in Manhattan, for those of you who don't know about that. I have a question for you.

What is your opinion about why we haven't been told the truth about Ron Brown's death? What is the truth, and why has there been no autopsy?

Keyes: Let me say clearly: I don't know what the truth is about Ron Brown's death. I say that advisedly: I don't know. But based on what I have seen, neither does anybody else. Why do I say this? A lot of people don't understand the nature of the questions being raised. I've been reading editorials and other things that simply are lying to and misleading the American public.

The questions that are being raised about Ron Brown's death do not have to do with conspiracies or any speculation. They have to do with a simple fact. An official report was released by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. An official report that said that he died as a result of blunt force trauma suffered in that airplane crash. That was a report issued by an individual, Colonel Gormley, who had done an external examination, in various ways, of Ron Brown's body. Step number one: no autopsy was performed on Ron Brown.

Does everybody know this? Because a lot of people haven't been clear about reporting this. And I've talked to media people, and others, who say, "Well, what about the autopsy?" And I have to look at them and say, "That's the thing at issue in all of this." Is it an issue because Alan Keyes says so? What would I have to do with this? Is it an issue because some reporter says so? No. The reason the issue has been raised is because now three--three--count them: three--creditable, experienced pathologists at the Armed Forces Institute (the very institute where Colonel Gormley resides and from which he did this examination) have come forward to question his procedures, to question whether or not one can reach a firm judgment.

And what is it about? It is about a fact that is not in dispute. The newspapers lie again, as they have been lying about everything else. It is not in dispute, amongst these pathologists, that there was an apparent gunshot wound in Ron Brown's head. Now, in their terms "an apparent gunshot would" does not mean there was a gunshot wound. It means there was something that appeared to be a gunshot wound, and which therefore warranted careful and close examination to determine the actual nature of the wound.

And the dispute is about whether the procedures that were followed were sufficient to make this determination. Gormley says they were; his colleagues say they were not. Why should we act as if we know, then? Usually, when experts disagree, I'll stand back and say, "We better look at this more carefully."

And I do think it is a serious question, why the media has covered this up, why they are not willing to explain it as I just did--not as some stupid conspiracy, but simply as a matter of fact, arising from an expert disagreement, which needs to be resolved, and can easily be resolved by exhuming the body and performing an autopsy.

In the present environment of possible lies and deception, I think we owe this to the American people. We don't need any more speculation. We don't need any more uncertainty. We're getting quite enough of that out of this stonewalling White House about everything else. So I would say that this is a matter of great concern to me. It has been a matter of great concern in the Black community. I wrote a letter to the Republican leadership about this very issue.

I don't understand these Republican leaders. They always like to act as if they want to get support from people. They want support from the Black community.

If you want support from the Black community, try every now and again to be concerned about the things that concern people in the Black community. And this is one of them.

I would have to say the same, by the way, about the Hispanic community. I have been reading in the newspapers where Ed Goaz and other consultants have been saying that Republicans need to appeal to Hispanics, and that the way they will do it is by shutting up Bob Dornan and ignoring what went on, possibly, in the Sanchez mis-election. So we will sacrifice the integrity of the franchise in our political system in order to appeal to Hispanics.

Do you know how you could appeal to many, many Hispanics in this country? And many, many Catholics, who generally vote Democrat? And many Bible-believing Black folks? Do you know how you could appeal to them?

You could appeal to them by doing what the feckless, unprincipled Republican leadership refused to do at Indian Wells--by standing and taking a forthright, clear stand on the value of innocent life, and our determination to protect it!

If you want to win all those constituencies, I would suggest that you need to begin projecting the truth about the heart of the Republican Party: the truth that I see at the grass roots; the truth that I see everywhere I go, in the people who actually have built this party at the grass roots. And that is quite simply--and contrarily to what the leadership projects, we are people who care more about principle than we do about money! We care more about right than we do about profit!

I would like to see them project that truth, for a change, to the American people.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, I hail from Minnesota, where a resolution continually comes up at our caucuses that the U.S. needs to pull out of the U.N. if they don't go back to their original objectives. How do you feel about doing so, and what are your current views on the U.N. and their policy of trying to reduce the population by 90%?

Keyes: I have to tell you that my judgment about the whole U.N. situation has been intensified over the course of the last several years, as I have watched what the Clinton Administration has been doing. When I was an official in the Reagan Administration, working on U.N. affairs, we spent all of our time trying to fight the things that the U.N. did to undermine American policy and attack American values and principles in political areas and economic areas. It was really war by other means, what went on at the U.N. And we were there to fight it.

It is still, in a sense, war by other means. Except that the Clinton Administration doesn't fight the war; it rather uses the United Nations in a war against the sovereignty of the American people. And I think it is time--somewhere along the way we are going to have to put them on notice. I am deeply committed to the universal vision of America's destiny--to the fact that, yes, we have drawn people from all over the world, and that we are going to exemplify just what can happen when, under a charter of liberty, folks of all persuasions and backgrounds come together.

But that charter of liberty is not the U.N. Charter. That charter of liberty is the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution that flows from its principles. And I think we make a great mistake politically when we subordinate our interests and our decisions to the United Nations. And we make a great mistake economically when we surrender the economic interests of the United States to trade agreements and World Trade Organizations that undermine--indeed, destroy--the sovereignty of the American people. And we need to reject these policies.

Question: Ambassador Keyes, Bill Bennett, in a memorable speech yesterday, reflected quite distressingly on the apparent disconnection between people who generally tend to believe that Bill Clinton is morally deficient, and yet approve of his presidency in vast numbers. And while you are probably correct in asserting that this is a judgment on them, I'm wondering if you can reflect for us on why this discontinuity has taken place, and what can be done about it.

Keyes: Opinion requires some leadership.

Most Americans have pretty busy lives. They've got families to raise, they've got jobs to do, and so forth. I would ask Mr. Bennett, I would ask Mr. Gingrich, I would ask all of these folks: "Why do you think that Joe Blow American out there is going to care more about a crisis that he is somewhat distant from, because of the nature of things, than you who are close to it do?" So if the Republican leadership is sitting on the sidelines, waiting for something to happen, why are they surprised if the American people is also?

Do you want to see those opinion polls change? Those opinion polls will change--instantly and overnight--on the day the Republican leaders find the guts to put a bill of impeachment on the table, and finally tell the American people to take this crisis seriously!
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