Washington, D.C. – With a record attendance of 175 Young Agents taking part in the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers’ 2004 National Legislative Conference, a man who has more than a slight interest in this year’s presidential election, Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign manager Ken Mehlman, addressed the crowd Wednesday afternoon at the Capital Hilton, site of the 28th annual event.
Mehlman, 37, who doesn’t hide his passion for the job, told the insurance professionals that while he certainly hopes they back the President this fall, it is important either way to take part in the political process. “It (participating) is a good thing no matter who you support,” Mehlman commented.
Mehlman talked about the election and the differing views being brought forth between the President and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (D).
“There is a very big debate on the two issues that are of the most importance – peace and prosperity,” Mehlman noted. “The President believes that 9/11 is not unlike December 7th, 1941,” referring to the day the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor.
Mehlman said that many ask the question, “Why can’t we just contain the enemy?” He talked about the difference between the country’s actions during the Cold War and the arms race with the Soviet Union and today’s battle with terrorists.
“During the Cold War, the Soviets had major cities that they were worried about, knowing that we could attack them. Today, we’re dealing with people who are willing to die for what they believe in and they live in caves. People like that can’t be contained or deterred.”
Mehlman highlighted a number of areas of progress on the war on terrorism, including Libya’s cooperation in backing away from a program of weapons of mass destruction and the cooperation the U.S. has received from Pakistan in its efforts to rout the Taliban and Al-Qaida.
On the economy, Mehlman noted that since we are living in a true global economy, the President wants the “best trained, best educated workforce in the world. He wants to streamline how the government trains workers.”
Mehlman asserted that if elected, Kerry would raise taxes on not only those individuals making above $200,000, but much of the middle class. “A lot of these people are in the room here,” Mehlman said, noting that many individuals should grab an umbrella because Kerry would soak them. Mehlman also said that of much interest to the insurance industry is that Kerry has voted in the Senate to oppose tort reform legislation.
Saying the Bush Campaign would permanently stay on the offensive, Mehlman said that grassroots is important and that getting the message out was key, noting the Party has recently registered two million new voters.
As he wrapped up his speech, Mehlman was asked by one industry professional in the crowd how he thought the President would do in Florida, a state that has led the nation in job growth for the last four years.
“We feel pretty good about it (Florida), but it will be close,” Mehlman commented.
It is just one of a number of states that Mehlman and Republicans will be paying extra attention to between now and Election Day.
The National Legislative Conference continues through Friday, with several guest political speakers slated for the next two days and agents visiting Capitol Hill to talk with their elected representatives.
Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) and Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) will speak to independent agents and brokers at breakfast on Thursday.
Rep. Baker will speak at 8 a.m., followed by Sen. Allen at approximately 8:35 a.m. They are expected to address current national policy concerns as well as tax, small-business and insurance-related issues pending before Congress .
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