The following is adapted from a speech delivered on the Hillsdale College campus on September 20, 2010.
And as the president returns to the consistent application of the principles in the Constitution, he will also ensure fiscal responsibility and prosperity. Who is better suited, with his executive and veto powers, to carry over the duty of self-restraint and discipline to the idea of fiscal solvency? When the president restrains government spending, leaving room for the American people to enjoy the fruits of their labor, growth is inevitable. As Senator Robert Taft wrote: “Liberty has been the key to our progress in the past and is the key to our progress in the future…. If we can preserve liberty in all its essentials, there is no limit to the future of the American people.”
Whereas the president must be cautious, dutiful, and deferential at home, his character must change abroad. Were he to ask for a primer on how to act in relation to other states, which no holder of the office has needed to this point, and were that primer to be written by the American people, whether of 1776 or 2010, you can be confident that it would contain the following instructions:
You do not bow to kings. Outside our shores, the President of the United States of America bows to no man. When in foreign lands, you do not criticize your own country. You do not argue the case against the United States, but the case for it. You do not apologize to the enemies of the United States. Should you be confused, a country, people, or region that harbors, shelters, supports, encourages, or cheers attacks upon our country or the slaughter of our friends and families are enemies of the United States. And, to repeat, you do not apologize to them.
Closely related to this, and perhaps the least ambiguous of the president’s complex responsibilities, is his duty as commander-in-chief of the military. In this regard there is a very simple rule, unknown to some presidents regardless of party: If, after careful determination, intense stress of soul, and the deepest prayer, you go to war, then, having gone to war, you go to war to win. You do not cast away American lives, or those of the innocent noncombatant enemy, upon a theory, a gambit, or a notion. And if the politics of your own election or of your party intrude upon your decisions for even an instant—there are no words for this.
More commonplace, but hardly less important, are other expectations of the president in this regard. He must not stint on the equipment and provisioning of the armed forces, and if he errs it must be not on the side of scarcity but of surplus. And he must be the guardian of his troops, taking every step to avoid the loss of even a single life.
The American soldier is as precious as the closest of your kin—because he is your kin, and for his sake the president must, in effect, say to the Congress and to the people: ÒI am the Commander-in-Chief. It is my sacred duty to defend the United States, and to give our soldiers what they need to complete the mission and come home safe, whatever the cost.Ó
If, in fulfilling this duty, the president wavers, he will have betrayed his office, for this is not a policy, it is probity. It is written on the blood-soaked ground of Saratoga, Yorktown, Antietam, Cold Harbor, the Marne, Guadalcanal, the Pointe du Hoc, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a thousand other places in our history, in lessons repeated over and over again.