Two weeks ago, Karl Rove - the President's deputy chief of staff and the architect of recent Republican election victories - told the Republican National Committee that the 2006 elections should be a referendum on who can best secure the country in the post 9-11 world.
Some in my party are afraid of this fight. They urge that we change the subject to domestic issues that work better for Democrats. Others argue that it is wrong to inject "politics" into something as important as National Security.
I strongly disagree.
Educating our children, providing quality health care and securing retirement are all critical challenges - but the American people will not trust us on any of those issues if they don't first trust us with their lives.
So today, I say to Mr. Rove and his fellow partisan strategists: You have thrown down the gauntlet, and we will pick it up.
As a lifelong Democrat I welcome this debate, because it is one we can win. George W. Bush's saying he wants the 2006 election to be about national security is like Herbert Hoover proudly claiming that the 1930 election should be a referendum on the economy. And if the Democratic Party can get its national security act together, the result should be the same.
Karl Rove has claimed that Democrats are too weak to defend the nation, that President Bush is simply tougher. Tough is good, but six years into the Bush Presidency it is clear that tough is not enough.
We need a foreign policy that is both tough... and smart. The good news? That is the historic legacy of the Democratic Party.
As Democrats, we have a patriotic duty and political imperative to lay out our ideas for protecting America. Frankly, our fellow citizens have doubts about us. We have work to do.
To my party, I urge that we do not change the subject or attempt to avoid this fight. It is our chance, and responsibility, to show the American people that we are tough enough and smart enough to protect this great country in perilous and uncertain times.
And to Mr. Rove, I say we are ready. Ready to have this debate any time, any place, you'd like to have it. Ready to expose the severe failings of this Administration's stewardship of America's security. Ready to show the nation that there is a better way, that we can be tough AND smart.
That is why I pledge that in the coming year, I will take this debate across the country, starting in the coming months. I will take up this debate on the stump with candidates, in union halls and lecture halls, on the floor of the Senate and over the internet - everywhere we can. For this is the right debate for the country and the right debate for the Democratic Party. And for the sake of our nation's security, it's a debate we must win.