Sen. Jim DeMint

Change must begin with us. That simple slogan best epitomizes the message and leadership former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is offering the Republican Party. America will never believe that Republicans represent "change" until we ourselves make some dramatic changes.

In the past, instead of changing a corrupt system, too often GOP leaders have been corrupted by the trappings of their office. Instead of using that power to make needed change, they have been blinded by that power and end up promoting the status quo. We have allowed "compassionate conservatism" to morph into nothing more than "Democrat-lite." Just to show how far we have fallen: in 1987, Ronald Reagan vetoed a bill that had 121 earmarks, saying "I haven't seen this much lard since I handed out blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair." Compare that to 2005, when we stuffed a transportation bill full of more than 6,300 earmarks, many of which were completely unrelated to the core purpose of shoring up our aging infrastructure system. Reagan conservatives should be — and I believe, are — appalled by this reckless behavior from their leaders.

Voters sent us a strong message in the 2006 elections that they were tired of Republicans acting like Democrats and conducting Washington business as usual. You see, the American people understand what some politicians evidently cannot: that trying to bribe voters with their own money by bringing home earmarks, while ignoring the looming funding crisis of programs like Social Security and Medicare that are looking over the cliff of complete fiscal disaster, makes absolutely no sense.

Mr. Romney and I believe that now is the time for us to tell those same American people, "Message received, loud and clear, and we are going to take back our party." Mr. Romney understands what it takes to make tough decisions. His record in private business and public service is clear: he knows how to turn things around.

Recently, Mr. Romney wrote an open letter to the Republican Party detailing his plan. He said, "If we're going to change Washington, Republicans have to put our own house in order. We can't be like Democrats — a party of big spending. We can't pretend our borders are secure from illegal immigration. We can't have ethical standards that are a punch-line for Jay Leno. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It's time for Republicans to start acting like Republicans."

As a conservative Republican fighting for changes in the United States Senate, I could not agree more. Our federal government has gotten too big and we need to do something about it ... now. Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they could see how corrupt the "favor factory" also known as the United States Congress has become.

Too often, I have seen career politicians who have spent their lives in government turn to government to fix the very problems that government has created. This makes no sense. Mr. Romney has spent most of his life outside of government. His background is in business, where he helped to start and manage national and international companies.

Mr. Romney has proven time and again that he can get the job done. When the nation needed Mr. Romney to save the failing and bankrupt 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, he stepped in and took over. Mr. Romney served for over three years with no salary and his leadership resulted in one of the most successful Olympics in history.

Now more than ever, we need a President who will welcome new ideas and know when to take charge — someone who will call on America's strengths and provide leadership for the new generation of challenges we face.

I believe that the 2008 presidential election represents a time of great decision for America. Will we fall for Sen. Hillary Clinton's slick socialism sales pitch and watch our country follow the same path of decline we have seen in Europe? Or will we choose to reaffirm the commonsense values of freedom and enterprise that have made America unique in the world? Mr. Romney will call on America's strength and character to solve problems and secure our future. He will restore America's leadership at home and around the world.

Mr. Romney believes, as I do, that there is not a single challenge America faces that we can't overcome. But to get there, Republicans must first make changes in "our own house," because change must begin with us.




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