Ernst Takes Center Stage at Republican National Convention

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Iowa senator Joni Ernst represented the state Monday night with a pointed speech at the Republican National Convention.

“As I travel across Iowa and around our great country, I hear from folks who are worried America is no longer leading, but rather following from behind,” said Ernst.

Ernst was the last in a line of speakers in Cleveland for day one of the convention -- with the headliner being Donald Trump's wife Melania. Ernst had been scheduled to speak during prime time but because the lineup of speakers fell behind she didn't speak until much later -- and to a much smaller crowd than anticipated.

The focus of Monday night's convention was on national security. It’s something Ernst says we've been failing at for eight years thanks to President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“Just take a look folks at the pathetic track record she and Obama have in the war on ISIS. This administration has called them junior varsity adversaries, ignoring some of the best advice they were given,” Ernst told the crowd.

Following the speech, Iowa's Democratic Party chair Dr. Andy McGuire sent out this statement, "Tonight, Joni Ernst urged Iowans to support Donald Trump, a man who is temperamentally unfit to be Commander-In-Chief of the United States of America and whose foreign policy ideas are reckless, erratic, and contradict our fundamental values."

Ernst's full speech is below:

"Distinguished delegates, Republicans, and millions of my fellow Americans watching around the country, especially those in Iowa: it’s an honor to be with you from Cleveland, and to be on this stage with fellow veterans. Among them are Special Operations Master Sargent Jason Beardsley, and my colleague, Congressman and Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke, who you’ll hear from shortly. 

I never would have imagined a small town girl like me, from Red Oak would have the opportunity to serve as the first woman elected to federal office from Iowa: however, my parents always said to my brother, sister, and me that if we worked hard, anything was possible. 

Growing up, we didn’t have much, but what we didn’t have in money, my parents, particularly my mom, made up for with tenacity.    

She really encouraged us: you’d never hear her say “no you can’t do this.” Instead, if something was challenging, she’d say “Joni, we’ll figure out a way. If this is what you want, let’s make it happen: we’ll figure it out together.” 

That’s a trait I carry with me today, and it’s something I teach my own daughter. In our household, and in the homes of many of those in the military, including those up here tonight, giving up, quitting or accepting failure are not options.  

That resilience is not unique to our house: that “can do” attitude has served as the foundation of our country for 240 years. It continues tonight here in Ohio, in Iowa, and all around our great nation. 

In between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I went on an agricultural exchange to the Soviet Union. At night, the Ukrainians didn’t talk about farming: rather, they wanted to know what it was like to live in a country where they could experience freedom. They wanted to know about our country, a place where anything was possible. 

When I came home, I realized it wasn’t enough to simply enjoy freedom and liberty: I had to do my part to protect and preserve it. So I joined the military which as those of us up here with me know is a tremendously important institution that defends the freedoms that we Americans cherish.  

I’ve had the great privilege of serving my state and our country while working alongside some of our nation’s finest soldiers. For 14 months I served as a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom where my unit was tasked with running convoys through Kuwait and southern Iraq. Last November, after more than 23 years of service, I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. 

As I travel across Iowa and around our great country, I hear from folks who are worried America is no longer leading, but rather following from behind.  

Those concerns are echoed by our allies around the world, and rightfully so.   

The question I hear time and again is “where is America’s leadership?” There's a void in the world: a deficit that cannot be filled by others. Our country and the world of which we are a part simply cannot afford four more years of this lack of leadership under Hillary Clinton.  

Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’  

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted. Her judgment and character are not suited to be sitting in the most powerful office in the world.  

She has already failed us too many times before. 

Hillary Clinton has failed to stop the expansion of terrorism—her policies in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have created more safe havens for terrorism. Shockingly, she continues to support a policy that brings captured terrorists into our back yards. All of us up here believe that’s unacceptable.   

Hillary Clinton has failed to support our allies—her decision to back the Iran nuclear deal puts in peril our longtime friends and allies in the region, especially Israel. They have continued to threaten to destroy Israel, both directly and indirectly through its terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah. They remain the top sponsor of terrorism, which endangers not just Israel, but Europe and the United States.   

And look at the pathetic track record she and Obama have in the war on ISIS. This administration has called them junior varsity adversaries, ignoring some of the best advice they were given. They represent a threat that is not limited to the Middle East, and which is spreading rapidly. In fact, according to the FBI, ISIS is present in all 50 states. Think about that for a moment. Terrorists from ISIS are in every one of our 50 states.  They will use whatever weapons they have: guns, trucks, knives, poisons, and bombs to kill innocent people.  

Under this current administration’s wayward policies, ISIS continues to spread, while the President fails to put forward a comprehensive strategy to defeat and destroy them.  

Yet Hillary Clinton has failed to protect our national security in other ways. She jeopardized our safety by deciding our laws don’t apply to her, setting up her own private e-mail server, and then lying about how it was used. 

Our men and women of the armed services do not fail us: they cannot. The veterans beside me did not fail us: they too are individuals of the highest integrity. Our presidents cannot fail us either: how can we accept Hillary Clinton when she has failed them, failed us, and cannot be trusted? She has proven time and again that she is entirely unfit to serve our nation as Commander-in-Chief. 

For too long Americans have felt abandoned, and their warnings unheard. Donald Trump has heard these voices loud and clear. We cannot afford four more years of the same failed policies. 

If that is not enough, the Veteran’s Administration has been failing those who have served alongside those of us here on stage with me tonight, with scandal after scandal at the highest levels. Inferior care, long wait times, extraordinary inefficiency, and a bureaucracy that has gone wild still continues.   

We need a commander-in-chief who will stand up to our enemies and stand up for our veterans. We need a leader who will ensure America remains a strong, stabilizing force around the globe, and who will keep us safe here at home.  

Our country cannot take another four years just like the eight we’ve just had. It is time to stand up and fight for the security of our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves. 

With Hillary Clinton it’s always about her, when it should be about you. Donald Trump is focused on you. He gave voice to a movement of millions of Americans who are tired of politics as usual, and I know as president he will work tirelessly to keep our nation safe. 

Now is the time to make America safe again. 

Thank you, and may God bless all of you, the wonderful state of Iowa, our brave men and women in uniform, and these great United States of America."