Following are excerpts of remarks delivered by House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) after President Bush's speech last night.
Good evening. I have been asked to give the Democratic response to the president's speech. But tonight, in this crisis, we're not Republicans or Democrats. We are only and proudly Americans.
The president has asked for our support. He has it. The effort will not be easy; it involves burdens and bravery, perhaps more of each than any of us can now predict. . . . Here at home, the sense of unity and the absence of widespread opposition to this action in the Persian Gulf testify to our powerful, instinctive feeling that this is a cause worth standing and fighting for.
We are standing -- and if necessary we will fight -- because a vital national interest is at stake. We cannot and will not permit the invading forces of a fanatical regime to control half of all the oil reserves which are the lifeblood of the world economy.
Yet more is involved here than national interest, as important as that is. . . . We are now in the Persian Gulf not simply for oil, or to save emirs and kings, but to defend the most fundamental values of a more stable and decent world. We are defending basic rights -- of families to be safe in their homes, of nations to be secure within their borders, of individuals to travel freely and without fear. . . .
Firmly, clearly and unequivocally, we must say to Saddam Hussein: Let our people go. Let Kuwait go. And if you start a war, know that we will finish it.
We've learned before that the large conflicts which engulf the world begin from small and unanswered aggressions. . . . But this time, other nations have acted in time. . . .
America is still the leader -- the only power capable of summoning a grand and global alliance on the scale we've seen in Operation Desert Shield. But it is not enough for other nations just to share our commitment. They must also share the burden.
When Bangladesh is putting troops in harm's way, so should our powerful and prosperous allies. When Japan, when Germany and other NATO countries depend far more heavily on Mideast oil than we do, they can and should contribute to defend their own vital interests in the Persian Gulf.
When countries like Egypt can stand beside us, when young Americans stand on front lines only miles from the threat of poison gas, the least the Japanese and Germans can do is support us -- and not just with words; they must respond to our potential sacrifice of lives with at least a financial sacrifice of their own.
We are there because it is right. But it is also right to tell our friends that they, too, have to stand up to international immorality and aggression. . . .
But ultimately, for America to lead the world, we must put our own economic house in order. For as another American president reminded us, "We cannot be strong abroad if we are weak at home."
For a decade, America has been left with no real energy policy at all. It is time for energy security -- more production, more conservation, more support for new forms of fuel. But our aim cannot be to make America safe for isolationism. Rather we must secure America's capacity to act overseas without maximum damage from an oil embargo. This nation must not be permanently faced with a choice between standing up against aggression or standing still in gas lines.
Economic strength also demands action on the budget deficit.
To help the president write a budget, we Democrats have offered cuts in domestic programs while trying to protect the most important ones. But we will never abandon the cause of working families. They benefited the least from the decade of the '80s; they should not have to sacrifice the most in the decade of the '90s. . . .
The standard of fairness should also be applied to President Bush's commitment to raise taxes. The working people who got almost nothing from the tax cuts of the past must not be asked to pay most of the tax increases of today. Just as we must ask wealthy nations to pay their fair share to deter aggression, so we must ask wealthy Americans to pay their fair share to prevent recession and reduce our debts.
Beyond this, we must be vigorous in shaping the defense policy that is more relevant and more responsive.
We can and will afford weapons critical to efforts like Operation Desert Shield: tanks, precision missiles and fast sealift.
But Star Wars, the B-2 bomber and the MX missile are costly systems designed for a Cold War that we have already won. We can and must reduce the part of the Pentagon budget that is nothing more than shadowboxing with the past.
But for all of us tonight, our deepest concern is for the most fundamental realities -- the hundreds of American families with a loved one held hostage -- the 100,000 young Americans in uniform who have been so swiftly sent to Saudi Arabia. A few days ago on a trip to that country, I saw them transforming the trackless desert sand into the frontier of international defense. . . .
None of the young men and women I met doubted their mission. . . . They worry most about their families worrying about them.
Their courage commands our support. We will stand behind them as one indivisible nation. . . . We will try to solve this crisis peacefully but without appeasement. And if our soldiers have to fight, we will make sure they win.