For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 7, 2002
Remarks by the President at Pickering for Congress Luncheon
Hilton Jackson and Convention Center
12:35 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank you all, thanks. Thank you. Well, Chip, thank you very much. It's nice to be back here to Mississippi. I did bring Laura her coffee this morning. (Laughter.) I don't want to put any pressure on Trent. (Laughter.) But the good news, it was in Crawford, Texas. (Laughter.)
I want to thank you for having me. I'm not going to stay for lunch, I'm going to head on home. I've changed addresses for a brief moment. I took my office from Washington to Crawford. I look forward to spending some time outside of out nation's capital. And I'm honored that the first place that I've come to since I've moved my office was the great state of Mississippi. It's wonderful to be back here again. (Applause.)
Laura and I have got a lot of friends here, and we appreciate our friends. I want to thank you all for coming to help Chip. I'm here today because I want to make it as clear as I possibly can: you need to send Chip Pickering back to the United States House of Representatives. (Applause.)
I want to thank you all for helping. I want to thank you for contributing not only your money, but your time. I know many of you are involved with grass-roots politics and that's good, that's how you win, is to invigorate the grass-roots, like this man is doing. So I want to thank you not only for what you have done, but what you're going to do -- which is to man the phones and put up the signs and turn out the vote. I like to put it this way: when you find a good one, you've got to keep him. And you've got a good one in Chip Pickering. (Applause.)
And he's got a fine family. I want to thank Leisha for her dedication to the Pickering family. I don't know where all the ones in the red shirts are, but they were at the last place I was. (Laughter.) Those Pickering boys kept coming, one after another. (Laughter.) But I love a man who loves his family, and Chip loves his family.
I also want to thank Margaret Ann Pickering for being here, Chip's mom. And I want to say something as clearly as I can about why we need to control the United States Senate. I put a good man up named Judge Pickering for a higher court -- (applause) -- and the people who control the Senate maligned this good man's character. They didn't treat him right. It's not good for America to have this kind of politics -- take a good person and not treat him well, not give him the benefit of the doubt. We need to change the United States Senate, so that we end this kind of politics on the judiciary and allow good people, good, honorable judges to serve our nation. The Senate did wrong by Judge Pickering. I did right by naming him to the bench. (Applause.)
And he has no better friends in the Senate than Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, and I appreciate their leadership. I want to thank Thad and Trent for their friendship. When it comes to Mississippi, those men are pretty good about making the Mississippi case. You just need to know that. (Laughter.)
One of my favorite things to do -- I'm an early morning guy, I get to the White House early. And I love to take Barney out on the South Lawn. He's a Scottish Terrier. The Lotts, Tricia and Trent, they love Scottish Terriers. And I bring Spot there to the Oval Office. Spot was born at the White House, so she's quite used to being in the Oval Office, and respects the new rug. (Laughter.)
And I get there early in the morning. One of my favorite things to do is to call up Trent -- he's not an early morning guy -- (laughter) -- and share with him my Barney stories. (Laughter.) But you're well represented by these two fine men. They're doing a great job for Mississippi and they're doing a great job for America, too. (Applause.)
And it's great to see Tricia, great to see Tricia. Laura and Tricia are fast friends and I look forward to telling Laura today when I get back home that I got to see her buddy, Tricia, Tricia Lott.
I also want to thank Congressman Roger Wicker. He, too, has done a fine job. He and Chip make a pretty darn good pair for the people of Mississippi. (Applause.)
I want to thank Clinton LeSueur for running for the United States Congress. Where are you, Clinton? Go get them; I wish you all the best. (Applause.) I appreciate so very much my friend, GV Sonny Montgomery, for being here. Sonny Montgomery. (Applause.) Sonny is a long-time friend of my family's. We're really proud to call him "friend." He was a fabulous congressman for the state of Mississippi. When I'm town there in Washington, I go to church right across the street -- Sonny always reserves me a spot in the pew there. But I forgot to say in the earlier rally, he also puts a couple of dollars in the plate on my behalf. (Laughter.) I'm running up quite a debt to Sonny. (Laughter.) Keep giving, Sonny, and one of these days I'm going to pay you back. (Laughter.) Oh, we're even now? Okay, good. (Laughter.) But, anyway, it's great to see Sonny.
It's great to see Haley Barbour here, the former RNC Chairman, a man who loves Mississippi and has never left. (Applause.) I want to thank Phil Bryant, who is the Mississippi State Auditor. Phil, thank you for being here; appreciate you being here, sir. (Applause.) And Dick Hall, the Mississippi Transportation Commissioner is here with us, as well. Thank you, Dick. (Applause.)
I want to thank Jim Herring, who is the Chairman of the mighty Republican Party of the Mississippi. (Applause.) And Cindy Phillips, National Committeewoman, I want to thank her for coming, too. Thank you, Cindy; good to see you. (Applause.)
I appreciate so very much you all coming to help Chip. It's important Denny Hastert remain the Speaker of the House. Equally important, it's important that you're represented by this good man. He is what we call and up-and-comer. He's a star today; he's going to be a bigger star tomorrow, because he's a man of principle. See, he doesn't get up there and kind of try to wag his finger to figure out which way the wind is blowing. He stands on principle. And he stands strong on those principles. He believes in faith and family and Mississippi, in that order. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, he was for a strong military, just like a lot of folks in Mississippi believe in a strong military. That was good, because after September the 11th, we needed a strong military. He's going to work with me to make sure that our military budgets are sound.
He's a fellow who believes in educating every child -- every child. We passed a good piece of legislation. Interestingly enough, it's called the no child left behind legislation. I mean that by the way, and so does Chip -- no child left behind. (Applause.) The principles behind that bill are pretty simple and easy to understand.
First, you've got to set high standards. See, if you believe certain children can't learn, certain children won't learn. So you've got to insist upon high standards. There's a federal role for insisting upon high standards because we spend a lot of money helping people, helping states. So we expect the best. We believe every child can learn. And if you believe every child can learn, then you ought to insist that we measure, to see whether every child is learning. If you believe every child can learn, therefore we ought to know whether that's the case. If you believe certain children can't learn, then don't bother to measure.
But if you believe every child can learn, and if you're taking federal money, the bill we passed says, show us. It's not a federal government test, you in Mississippi show us whether or not children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. And if they are, they'll be praise for the teachers. See, we believe in local control of schools. There will be praise for those who have insisted upon excellence for every child. But if you can't show us, then you need to change.
The reason why we insist upon accountability is not to punish, but to save lives. It is not to say, these people are bad, it's to say, what you're doing isn't working. We insist that every child in America learn. And nobody should be left behind. (Applause.)
I appreciate Chip's support and vision about economic security. The role of government is not to create wealth. The role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which small businesses can grow to be big businesses, in which people feel confident about expanding the job base, so people can find work.
The foundations for economic growth are strong in America. Inflation is low, monetary policy is good, productivity is up, there is growth in our economy. But so long as somebody who wants to find work can't find work, I think we have a problem, and need to continue to work on policies that will encourage economic growth. And Chip understands that.
You know, when I came into office, we were beginning a recession. I remember the Vice President saying that clearly. And immediately the world in Washington start wagging their finger at him, and it turns out he was right. The numbers, the statistics have shown that for the first three quarters of my Presidency, we were in recession.
It was during that period that I argued for a tax cut for the American people. See, in times of recession it's important to let people keep their own money. And when they keep their own money, they're going to demand some good or service. And by demanding a good or a service, somebody will produce the good and service, which means jobs. That's what that means.
I want to appreciate Chip's support of the tax relief plan. Those tax cuts were well-timed. And, by the way, inherent in the tax relief is not just a reduction of rates on income taxes -- it's a small business vitality program, because most small businesses are sole proprietors or most small businesses are limited partnerships and they pay taxes at the individual rate and thereby dropping individual rates, you've stimulated small business growth.
We've also slashed the marriage penalty and have done a -- gone a long way toward repealing the death tax, which is punitive on Mississippi farmers and ranchers and small business owners. (Applause.) I say going a long way because of a quirk in the Senate law, after 10 years those tax relief packages revert back to where they were. And so one way to continue to set the foundation for economic growth is to have certainty in the tax code.
Therefore, it's important for Mississippi to send somebody to Washington who understands that, who is willing to join me in making sure the tax relief package we pass in the midst of a recession are permanent. I call upon Congress to make the tax cuts permanent so the American people can plan and grow. (Applause.)
I understand full well what has happened here in Mississippi and in other communities when they have been deceived by corporate wrongdoing. Today, I met with two ladies who worked for WorldCom here in Mississippi. They had their savings invested in the company; they no longer for the company; they're disillusioned. And they should be. They should be disillusioned. Anybody -- any time anybody abuses their positions of authority, by hedging numbers, that's not right. By not being open and honest, particularly when a shareholder or employee is relying upon you.
Chip understands that, the Congress understood that. They passed good laws and this administration is going to investigate, we will arrest and we will prosecute those who betray the trust of the American people and their shareholders and employees of American companies. (Applause.)
Today, I came to Mississippi to talk about liability reform. I'm worried about what the frivolous lawsuits have done to the health care systems across America. There is a federal responsibility when it comes to health care. After all, we write checks for Medicare. Chip talked about prescription drugs for Medicare. We need a prescription drug program for the seniors. We need a modern Medicare system. But we also spend a lot of money. And these frivolous lawsuits run up the cost of Medicare and they run up the cost of Medicaid and they run up the cost of veterans programs. It's a federal responsibility. And so for the sake of controlling health care costs, we need medical liability reform at the federal level. (Applause.)
I worry about health care systems, not only where the costs are high, but where people have trouble finding health care they need. We heard from stories today about OB -- or pediatricians in the Delta. One fellow came named Kooyer, Dr. Kooyer. He came down to Mississippi because, as he said, his Christian calling asked him to come down, told him to come down to help people in need.
There's a pediatrician in some of the poorest counties in America wanting to provide health care for people in need and he's leaving your state because the lawsuits are driving him out of the state. You need to do something about it here in Mississippi and we need to do something about it in Washington, D.C. And Chip Pickering understands that. (Applause.)
No, I appreciate Chip, I appreciate his attitude. I hope Mississippi rejects the politics of putting people in one class or another and pitting them against each other. That's not how you get ahead in a -- we've got too much of that in Washington. And one of the reasons, one of the objectives I've got is to get rid of that kind of politics, of saying, you know, if you're in this group or that group, you're either no good or we're going to make you fight in order to get ahead. That is not good for the country. Chip is a unifier; he's not a divider. He sets the right tone, as far as I'm concerned. And that's the kind of tone that will make you proud when you send him back to Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
I look forward to working with Congress when we get back, particularly the Senate, to make sure this Department of Homeland Security that I proposed is set up right. I say that because our number one priority now is to make sure that the enemy doesn't hit us again. And they're out there, by the way. These are people that hate America because we love freedom. They hate what we stand for. They hate the fact that we worship freely, that all religions are welcome here in America. They hate that. They hate the fact that we speak our mind; they hate the fact that we have good political discourse. They hate everything we stand for, and so therefore we're going to keep coming.
And my job, and the job of the Congress, is to work together to do everything we can to protect our homeland; it's to make sure that we do everything we can to get our agencies cooperating, make sure that the agencies involved with homeland security, of which there's over 100, have as their number one priority the protection of the American people.
And so I said, why don't we put them all under a single department of homeland security? Look, I recognize I wasn't the guy that ran for office and said, vote for me, I'm for bigger government. I did say I want to make government work better. And I think this will make government work better. And the House of Representatives passed a good piece of legislation which will allow our administration, or the next administration, or the next administration after that to put the right people in the right place at the right time, in order to protect the homeland.
And I will not accept a bill that hamstrings the capacity of an administration to do that. And the Senate just needs to know -- and I appreciate Senator Lott and Senator Chocran's support on this issue -- that we will continue to argue for what's best for the American people, not what's best for either political turf or special interest groups in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
The protection of the people is more important than setting up so many bureaucratic rules that we won't be able to protect the people. And so I look forward to getting a good bill out of the Senate, and a bill on my desk. In the meantime, I hope you realize that there are a lot of people working hard to protect our homeland. We're doing a better job of sharing information. We're running down every lead, every hint. Every time we find out that somebody might be thinking about doing something to America, we're reacting. And there's a lot of good people reacting on our behalf. And I want to thank you for that, and I want to assure you that we take every possible hint seriously. We do.
I also want to tell you that I know the best way to protect the homeland is to find the killers, and bring them to justice. We must hunt them down, one by one, to secure America, and we will. (Applause.) It's a different kind of war, I know you know that. The American people have come to understand that, that the first war of the 21st century is different from the previous wars. In the past, we would follow infantries and formations of aircraft, and fleets of ships across oceans. We would know where they were, and we'd watch whether or not battlefields were taken or not.
Now we're fighting individuals who hide in caves and send youngsters to their death. We're fighting people that move money around surreptitiously, and attack by means of terror, that's who we're fighting. But it's still a war. We fight for freedom. Just like the previous wars we fought for freedom, we fight for freedom now. Which means that we have to think differently about how we fight the war.
The first stage of any war is to make certain doctrines clear. One doctrine we made clear, and we're continuing to make clear, is no matter what the cost, we defend freedom in America. That's why I submitted a significant budget -- a defense budget, the biggest since Ronald Reagan, because I understand the price of freedom is high, but it's not too high, as far as I'm concerned. Any time we put our uniformed folks into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible equipment. (Applause.)
It also is a signal, by the way, the size of the defense bill is a signal that says, we're in this for the long run. I like to remind people, there's not a calendar on my desk. Senator Lott will tell you, or Senator Cochran has been in the office, there's not a calendar in the Oval Office that says, oh, by such and such a date we're through, that we'll all go home. That's not the way it is when it comes to defending freedom and winning the first war of the 21st century. We're relentless, and we're determined.
And so the first doctrine is, no matter what the cost to defend our freedoms, we'll pay it. The second doctrine is, if you harbor a terrorist, or if you feed a terrorists, you're just as guilty as the terrorists. And the Taliban learned now what we meant. The Taliban found out what we meant. And I want you all to remind your youngsters who are here, or remind your youngsters if they're not here, that their government sent our military into Afghanistan not to conquer a people, but to free a people, to free people from the clutches of a barbaric regime which would not even educate young girls. And so for the first time in Afghanistan, many young girls get to go to school, thanks to the United States and our coalition. (Applause.)
The other doctrine is, is that either you're with us and those of us who love freedom, or you're with the enemy. And that doctrine still holds, too. We've put together a vast coalition of people that understand the stakes. And the coalition still is strong. I mean, we're trying to disrupt money, we're sharing intelligence, we've hauled in over 2,000 people -- 2,000 of these killers. Another 2,000 or more haven't been as lucky.
The other day, the government of Gloria Arroyo in the Philippines went after the Abu Zubaydah group. It looks like the head of that group met his demise. That's the group, by the way, that had captured American missionaries, the husband of a wonderful lady named Gracia Burnham was killed. Either you're with us or you're with the enemy. The Philippines and other countries around the world are denying sanctuary to these killers. We've got them on the run. We're going to keep them on the run.
As well, either you're with us or you're with the enemy also applies to nations which harbor weapons of mass destruction; nations which have got abysmal human rights record at home, at their own homes, nations which have not been able to live at peace with their neighbors, nations which would use those weapons of mass destruction to either destroy and/or blackmail the United States and our friends and allies.
I'm a patient person. I've got a -- we've got a lot of tools at our disposal. I believe in consultation with Congress. I believe in consultation with our friends and allies. But those who have talked to me know that history has called us to this moment. For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we can't let the world's worst leaders blackmail and threaten the United States with the world's worst weapons. (Applause.)
(gap in feed) -- is going to come some good. I love to speculate about what was going through the enemy's mind -- -- what were they thinking when they hit America. They must have thought that we were so materialistic, or self-absorbed, or shallow, or so worried about our own prosperity, our own individual wealth that we were unwilling to serve something greater than ourself in life; that when the enemy hit we would just kind of make noise and do nothing about it. They didn't understand the character of the American people. I do. (Applause.)
That's why I can predict with confidence that out of the evil done to America will come some good. I know this nation. I know our heart, I know our determination, I know our resolve. I firmly believe that by remaining strong in the face of terror, and by remaining committed to the human values that we hold dear, that we can achieve peace in parts of the world that may have given up on peace. I believe we can lead others to realize that peace is possible and peace can happen, and peace will happen in the Middle East, or in South Asia. And I believe we can achieve the peace we dream for for our children and our children's children.
I also know at home that out of the evil done to America can come some incredible good, because I've seen the spirit of America. I saw it when I saw the coal miners that were rescued in Pennsylvania. I see if firsthand everywhere I go. I saw it today with a child who came out -- 18-year-old girl who came out to the airport to greet me, who, upon her own initiative, signed up her classmates to mentor children in need, and fed the homeless, fed the hungry. I saw her in action. I saw her love and I saw her compassion. It didn't require an act of government to get her to love a neighbor like she'd like to be loved herself. She felt the spirit, and she felt the call. And that's happening all across America. That's what this nation is made out of. There are thousands of people all across this country who reach out to a child, and say, what can I do to make sure you understand that America is meant for you? You see, our society can change and will change, one heart, one soul, one person at a time.
And people say, well I can't do everything. But you can do something. You can do something to make the community in which you live a better place. (Applause.) And that's why I'm such a believer in the faith-based initiative. Governments shouldn't discriminate against faith, government should welcome faith, the power -- the power of faith, whether it comes through the Christian church, through Judaism, or through Islam, can change people's lives for the better. And we must welcome that faith in our society. (Applause.)
I started running for office in Texas because I was hopeful to be a part of a cultural change in America, a change from a culture which had said, if it feels good, just go ahead and do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else. I believe the culture is shifting in America. People are beginning to understand that serving something other than yourself is an important part of being an American.
And perhaps the most vivid example of that came on Flight 93. Average citizens were flying across the country that faithful day. They heard their airplane was going to be used as a weapon, perhaps against the Capitol or against the White House, certainly against innocent Americans. They said a prayer, they told their loved ones goodbye. One guy said, "let's roll," and they drove the plane in the ground. It is a signal, a symbol of what it means to be an American, of serving something greater than yourself in life.
No, out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good, because we're the greatest nation, full of the finest people on the face of the Earth. Thank you all for coming. God bless. (Applause.)
END 1:07 P.M EDT