I'd like to thank all of you for joining us here today. It means so much to me to officially announce my candidacy in California, the state I was born in and the state whose primary I plan on winning on my way to becoming the next President of the United States.
The United States faces huge challenges, but also huge opportunities. I am running for President because these times call for a leader with a proven track record, and a demonstrated ability to bring people together to tackle our problems at home and abroad.
I am that person, not because I say so, but because of what I have done, and what I can do for the American people. The challenge of the campaign I am launching today is to get that message heard.
Running for this office is the ultimate job interview. It's not just about the positions you've held but the job you've done and your ability to lead on day one at a very critical time in our nation's history.
This Presidential election is unlike any other we've ever seen. From day one, we have to repair the damage done here at home and to our reputation abroad. And that all starts with restoring diplomacy as the primary instrument of our foreign policy ... and basic fairness as the primary means for problem solving in Washington.
There are a lot of candidates in this race with good ideas. But coming up with a good idea is only half the job. The other half is bringing people together to get it done. I'm proud of my record of getting things done. And I'll put that record up against anyone's.
Some of the critical questions to ask every candidate in this race are: how will you solve the crisis in Iraq and bring our troops home? How will you deal with global warming? How will you address the health care crisis in this country? And what will you do about illegal immigration? How will you grow the middle class again?
I cannot address all these in one short statement, and I urge everyone
to check my website, www.Richardsonforpresident.com, for a more complete
explanation, but let us discuss several:
Some will tell you that we only have two options: either stay in Iraq and try to referee a civil war or leave and collapse into chaos. I've spent a lot of time in this part of the world and let me tell this: that is a false choice.
Removing all of our troops and healing Iraq are one and the same. Only when it is clear that the US will leave Iraq can the hard diplomatic work have a chance for success. A negotiated political settlement, involving the warring parties and interested neighbors is how to prevent a regional war.
And we have a strategic interest in organizing a regional conference, with all of Iraq's neighbors including Syria and Iran, to help stabilize Iraq.
But I would leave no troops behind in Iraq. No air bases. No security patrols. No embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces ... because we all know what that means. It means our troops would still be out on the streets with targets on their backs.
We need a president who is not dismissive of diplomacy, but someone who embraces it as the primary instrument of foreign policy because he has practiced it, and knows how to get results.
Being stubborn is not a foreign policy and being President means working with both parties. As Lee Iacocca has said: "Courage in the 21st Century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage means a commitment to sitting down at the negotiating table and talk." I agree.
It was tough, face-to-face talks that helped secure the release of journalist Paul Salopek, and two colleagues from a jail in Darfur. I am so proud that his wife, Linda Lynch, is here today. You know, when I visited Darfur in January and negotiated a cease fire, I saw thousands of widows and fatherless children trying to escape the genocide ... waiting in line in oppressive heat for a month. They wanted to know why it was taking the United States so long to do something. I didn't have a good answer. As President, I will make sure the US leads the world in saying no more- the violence must end.
We also need a President who is not dismissive of energy independence and global warming. This is no longer a choice---it is a moral imperative for our planet and a matter of survival of our country.
I'm proud that I made New Mexico the clean energy state. We're already requiring utility companies to produce energy from renewable sources. We've already invested directly in energy efficiency, we're promoting renewable energy with tax credits for using wind, solar, and biofuels, and we've eliminated taxes on hybrid cars.
I have the most aggressive plan of anyone running for President. Within twelve years, my plan would reduce greenhouse emissions by 20 percent, lower demand for oil by fifty percent, and push fuel economy standards to 50 miles per gallon.
By the year 2040, my plan would require that 50 percent of our electricity be generated from renewable sources and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent.
The League of Conservation Voters rated mine the most aggressive plan with the highest goals of any candidate.
I'm also ambitious on health care.
Every political candidate says that all Americans should have access to affordable health care. But how do we achieve that? .
In New Mexico, we have made a start by expanding our state health insurance to cover every child under five, we have tackled childhood obesity, we've insured more working New Mexicans and we're looking to expand it even more.
But states shouldn't have to struggle to solve this problem on their own.
My plan as President is simple: Every employer must provide health insurance for their employees or pay an equivalent fee to the federal government, and every individual must have health insurance.
Employers and individuals will have their choice of options-- if they like the coverage they have, they can keep it. My plan creates no new federal bureaucracies.
Next, the middle class. They have been under attack for the last 6 years. As President, I am going to reverse that and pursue polices like those we have in New Mexico. We gave tax credits to companies that create jobs paying above the prevailing wage, we helped start up high tech companies and we invested in technical training
And, while Washington DC could not do anything, we passed a $7.50/hour minimum wage
And finally, immigration. As the Governor of a border state, I deal with this issue every day.
The proposal moving forward in the Senate is a step in the right direction toward establishing a path to legalization. But at the same time it's a step in the wrong direction because it separates parents from children and loved ones from their families.
The touchback provision is ill conceived, and any guest worker program mustrequire available jobs to be first posted for American citizens and legal residents.
We can address the illegal immigration problem by taking three realistic steps.
First, we have to recognize that no fence ever built has stopped history. And a border fence wouldn't either. If you build a ten foot fence, someone will use an 11 foot ladder. Instead, use that money to secure the border with more Border Patrol officers. We need to at least double the number of Border Patrol agents. That would secure the border.
Second, we need a path to legalization requiring those living in the United States illegally to pay a realistic fine, pass a background check, and pay any back taxes.
And third, we have to work closely with the Mexican government. Mexico needs to do more to stem the flow. But if we create a reasonable guest worker program and provide a path to legalization for illegal immigrants already here, there is every reason to expect Mexico to do its part with economic reforms and to help us with border security.
You can go to my website, www.Richardsonforpresident.com, to find my complete plans on each of these issues. These will be some of the defining issues of the campaign.
This is a pivotal time in our nation's history. The challenges we face are not acts of God or accidents of fate. They were man-made and deliberate. Whether it was willful ignorance or an ignorant will, we are left with the ravages of an administration that will take years to rectify.
We cannot expect the world to readily trust us as before. But
we can try. We can negotiate with honor, defend with integrity, and
reach out with conciliation. We have many fences to mend ... and
I'm ready to get started.