Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond's farewell address
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Thank you, Leader McConnell, for your kind words.
Since I announced I would not seek re-election, I have been overwhelmed by the nice things folks are saying about me.
There is nothing like being eulogized while still breathing.
A few words to Leader McConnell: It has been a good many years since you and I sat in the back of the chamber in what you dubbed as the "Not Quite Ready for Prime Time" Club.
While I never made it to prime time -- except of course my appearance one night on Jon Stewart as a less-than-best-selling author -- you certainly have arrived!
You have led us through many difficult and protracted debates. Through it all you have been an agile, disciplined negotiator with a good sense of humor, and you kept us together on many tough votes. At least, as much as it is possible to keep forty-something independent minds together. Or, as I like to say, 40 frogs in a wheelbarrow.
So, thank you, Mitch. While I might have occasionally caused you heartburn, I have always appreciated your intelligence, leadership and friendship.
You and Elaine are good friends of Linda's and mine. We extend you every and all good wishes for your future.
Two years ago I announced my intention to retire from the United States Senate. And now, that time has come.
Today I thank each of my colleagues and my constituents for making this job one of the best a person could ever hold.
There is no greater honor than being given the people's trust, to represent them.
I have done my best to keep faith with my constituents in every vote I have cast and every issue I have worked on.
Through more than two decades of membership in the world's greatest deliberative body, I have participated in my share of debates.
When I first came to the Senate, the Cold War was a conflict some thought we could never win. Yet now, thanks to the courage and resolve of former president Ronald Reagan, millions of people now live in freedom.
And during this last term, especially, it seems that many debates will have history-shaping consequences.
America has faced many challenges in the past six years: the longest recession since the Great Depression, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the continuing battle against terrorism, the fight to be competitive in a global economy and many more.
As I look back, the successes we have achieved during my time here have always come because people were willing to reach across the aisle for the common good.
As I address the floor today I am filled with memories of the many colleagues I have worked with over the years.
The one that stands out in my memory -- the one who was my best friend and mentor in the United States Senate -- is the late Senator Ted Stevens.
He was unflagging in his support of his principles, and everyone clearly knew where he stood and yet he was a very effective appropriator because he knew how to compromise.
I can only hope that my colleagues and constituents know where I stand, and I, too, know that working across the aisle is the only way to get things done in this body.
Right after I had arrived here I had the pleasure of working with the late Senator Robert Byrd to achieve the Acid-Rain Trading Compromise and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
I joined with the former senator Wendell Ford to establish a National Guard Caucus and now it is a pleasure to work with Pat Leahy to insure that our dual-mission National Guard is adequately prepared to serve emergency needs on the home front and participate in our national security missions abroad.
On the Appropriations Committee I have enjoyed the successes I have had working first with Barbara Mikulski and now Patty Murray to insure public housing meets the needs of the people it serves and the communities in which they live, providing supportive assistance for the homeless -- particularly veterans, and stopping lead paint poisoning of children in old public housing buildings across the nation.
Barbara and I also gave a real boost to what I believe will be the job-creating technology of the 21st century -- agricultural biotechnology, with congressionally-directed spending in the National Science Foundation.
With Dianne Feinstein as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we have put the Senate Intelligence Committee back on a path of bipartisanship and achieved passage of the first Intelligence Act Reauthorization in six years.
I especially owe my Republican colleagues my sincerest thanks and appreciation for sticking with me as we negotiated some very difficult legislative compromises. When the Help America Vote Act came to the Senate floor in 2001 -- ostensibly to cure problems with punch card voting in Florida, but which most Republicans thought was simply an effort to discredit the election of former president George W. Bush -- I urged the caucus not to block the bill but to use it -- not only to make it easier to vote, but tougher to cheat.
When we moved to the floor I brought to the Senate a picture of a Springer Spaniel, Ritzy Meckler, who had been registered to vote in St. Louis, Missouri, to make the point that if we had positive identification it would have been much more difficult for Ritzy to register or certainly to vote. My friend Chris Dodd, with whom I worked on many children and family issues, told me he never wanted to see the dog picture again, so I autographed it and gave it to him. I trust he still has it.
Ultimately we were able to accomplish both objectives: making it easier to vote but tougher to cheat.
Right now we are engaged on the Senate floor in passing a bill that will stop historic tax increases from hitting most American families and the entire economy next year. I truly hope the House will be able to pass this bill for signature by President Obama so we can begin to work on getting the economy working again and preventing even more job losses.
Assuming we can stop the tax increases and provide unemployment benefits beginning next year, a top priority for the new Congress must be to put our economy back on a sound footing.
We must end the recent trend of the push for government overspending and passing of burdensome mandates on states. Excessive regulations that go beyond reasonable safety and environmental restrictions are costing us jobs in agriculture, energy and many other areas of the economy.
The size of the debt has become an increasing concern for my constituents and others across the nation. We have a debt problem that is caused by spending, not by having taxes too low.
I am encouraged to see that there have been more discussions coming out of the Commission about a flat-tax which would have much lower rates and eliminate a wide range of tax deductions, credits and other tax bill earmarks.
Doing so would at least make it simpler for Americans and eliminate tremendous time and effort spent in figuring out the tax code and filling out the forms. This should, in my view, enable more resources to be put into our top priority -- job creation.
Speaking of job creation there are tremendous opportunities in export trade and I applaud President Obama's call for expanding trade to create the jobs to bring us out of the recession.
I look forward to seeing his continued leadership and in seeing Congress move forward promptly to adopt the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama. For our intermediate-term future it is essential that the United States participate in the trans-Pacific partnership with countries on both sides of the Pacific to take down barriers to trade and increase export job opportunities.
As most of my colleagues know, I have been particularly interested in expanding trade with Southeast Asia, which I still believe is not well understood by too many in America. The entire Asia region, however, provides huge opportunities for better America jobs through trade and investment across the Pacific.
In addition to expanding economic growth and jobs, trade is an important part of Smart Power, the fight against terrorist insurgencies threatening other countries and ultimately those of us here at home. As I mentioned in the book the leader was kind enough to mention, we can and must use trade, investment and education exchanges to build strong economies as we continue to deal with imminent violent threats through decisive military action.
Smart Power was no better demonstrated than in the efforts of the Missouri National Guard Agriculture Development team in Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan.
These militarily-trained guardsmen and women went to Afghanistan with strong private-sector expertise in a wide-range of agriculture activities, and helped re-establish a profitable legitimate agriculture in Nangarhar, while maintaining security.
By the end of the first ten-month growing season the results were profound -- illicit poppy production (which made Nangarhar Province the second-leading producer in the nation) -- dropped to zero, and economic growth and security returned. We must continue to expand that model with more National Guard units deployed and also a better coordination of our civilian assistance with our military forces overseas.
In the Afghanistan/Pakistan region we must continue our efforts if we are to avoid giving al-Qaida and its related terrorist allies an unchallenged place to develop recruiting and training camps, command and control units and basing stations, for their efforts against the United States.
One of the greatest challenges, in my view, to the success of our efforts in Afghanistan is the publicly-announced summer 2011 withdrawal date.
That has signaled our enemies they only need to wait until next summer. It has put our allies in the Karzai government on notice that they may not be able to count on our assistance after the summer of 2011 and just as importantly it signals to local Shura or community leaders that we will not be there next year at this time to protect them from the Taliban, so they are far more reluctant to provide us assistance. There must be a widely disseminated message from the White House that troops will only be withdrawn as conditions on the ground indicate that security has stabilized on the ground.
In 2007 when our CODEL was in Iraq, we were told that the biggest challenge facing our troops in Iraq was the lack of a revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I worked from that point until the summer of 2008, to develop -- with the strong support of my Republican colleagues -- a workable compromise across the aisle that provided our intelligence agencies the access they needed and at the same time extended the protection of the rights of Americans overseas from unwarranted interception of their messages by telephone or e-mail.
As a result we currently have that ability, but must go to work quickly to make sure that other provisions to ensure collection of vital intelligence do not expire without legislative extensions.
For the United States, our defense against terrorist attacks requires that we prevent release of Gitmo detainees to other countries where they are not prevented from returning to the battlefield.
The fact that one out of four detainees released so far returned to the battlefield is a frightening figure because we know that it takes time for us to find or identify those who have gone back to terrorist plotting. I fear that we will see many more going back to terrorist activities perhaps even with deadly impact in the United States.
As a final thought in the area of Intelligence, the recent WikiLeaks scandal has shown us what damage the internet can do to our diplomat efforts as well as to the safety of those in dangerous places who work with us.
The even greater threat, which we see evident every day, is the increasing number of attacks against our military, intelligence and private-sector critical infrastructure. I hope that the next Congress will move forward on the plan Senator Orrin Hatch and I outlined to set up a cyber-defense alliance to allow private-sector entities to cooperate with government agencies to protect our financial system, our utilities and most of all our communication systems from vicious attack and spying.
That is a battle that is already underway and we will need every effort to stay ahead of the developing attacks as well as providing the private-sector the information they need to remain safe as well.
I have worked in all possible party combinations. I have been in the majority and in the minority. I have been fat and thin, and being thin in the majority is a whole lot better.
In my two terms as Governor with 70 percent Democratic majorities in both Houses of the Missouri General Assembly, they explained to me how bipartisanship works.
I figured it out during the second term, which enabled us to do much better. It was my most successful term in any office and the General Assembly and I both achieved passage of all of our legislative priorities.
So now, if my colleagues will permit a little parting advice from an old bull: work together; play nice.
In a world today where enemies are real -- the kind who seek to destroy others because of their religion -- it is important to remember there is a lot of real estate between a political opponent and a true enemy.
In government there will always be spirited debate and principled debate where the ideas compete and the best ones prevail.
There will be issues where people of good conscience cannot come together. But let us never let what cannot be done interfere with what can be done.
Events in the world and threats will continue to challenge us in significant ways: terrorism, the economy, growing debt.
Nearly 24 years ago, I was sworn in as U.S. senator. Since then I have been honored to work with you and others on all the priorities facing our country.
Public service has been a blessing and a labor of love for me. Little in life could be more fulfilling.
But I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.
I am neither shy nor retiring.
There are many ways to serve; elective office is only one of them.
I do not plan to retire because there are so many interesting and challenging things left to do.
I plan to continue spending my time fighting for Missouri and national priorities, but from a different vantage point.
As a sixth-generation Missourian, I love my home state. Through 40 years in public life I have met many wonderful people. I have visited every county in the state at least once during every term. The people I have met along the way have made the job so rewarding that I stayed to serve as long as I have.
The people of Missouri have been my most trusted and valuable advisers and I thank them for giving me support and helping me to identify not only the challenges, but the solutions to those challenges.
In addition to the many colleagues and friends here in the Senate, there are many others to thank, too many to thank adequately.
* First, my patient family: my wife, Linda, the light and love of my life; my talented, charming daughter-in-law Margaret Bond; and my son Sam, whom I regard as my hero for his service as a Marine ground-intelligence officer in Iraq;
* All who have worked for me in my office, on my committees and those who have helped with political activities (hundreds and thousands over the years);
* Some were not born when I started; others have passed on; many are still here.
I thank my political adversaries for keeping me nimble, and the media for keeping me humble.
Most of all I thank the voters of Missouri, who sent me to Jefferson City three times and to Washington, D.C., four times to represent them. There is no greater honor. I am truly blessed to have been entrusted by them with the responsibility of public office. Thank you.