print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
In Focus
News by Date
Federal Facts
West Wing

 Home > News & Policies > September 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2002

Remarks by the President at John Cornyn for Senate Reception
The Hyatt Regency
Houston, Texas

5:36 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. I am here because there's no doubt in my mind that John Cornyn needs to be the next United States senator from Texas. (Applause.) And I want to thank you all for -- thank you all for coming to help him get there. It's important for Texas that he be elected. It's important for America that he be elected. He's the best man with whom I can work. He's a man who can help us get some things done to make America a safer and stronger and better place for all of us.

It's an honor to be back home.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Welcome home.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) I might have changed addresses, but I haven't changed homes. (Laughter.) And I'm so grateful you all came out. Actually, as we get closer to the election I'm not only working on ways to strengthen the economy, also working on ways to keep our country peaceful, I'm getting on the road. And it's nice to be in a state where I can actually vote for the candidate I'm campaigning for. (Applause.)

I appreciate John a lot. I appreciate his willingness to run for federal office. I appreciate his willingness to serve in Washington, D.C., to take his great family -- to take Sandy and his two daughters to live in our Nation's Capital. It's a sacrifice to leave Texas. (Laughter.) But it's important that he win. And I'm so proud of John. I'm proud of his character, proud of his dignity.

I really appreciate Sandy. She's a fabulous wife and a great -- will be a great senator's wife. As she stands strong by John's side, I'd like to remind people that both he and I married above ourselves. (Laughter.) Speaking about the First Lady, she is -- she's in Mexico today, representing our country. (Applause.) We will meet in Crawford tomorrow night -- Crawford, Texas, that is. (Laughter.) She is a remarkable person. She's -- I know there's some Midlanders here -- she was born and raised in Midland. She was a public school librarian when I met her. The truth of the matter was -- is that she wasn't that interested in politics. (Laughter.) Or politicians. (Laughter.) And now she's stuck with the President of the United States. And she's doing a fabulous job as the First Lady. (Applause.)

I want to appreciate all the grassroot activists who are here. Of course, I know many of you because I asked for your help in '94 and '98. And another guy named Bush has been asking for your help a lot longer before that, and many of you provided it. And I want to thank you all for what you're going to do on behalf of John, and Rick Perry and the rest of the candidates running, and that is to turn out the vote.

It's essential that you continue to man the phones and put up the signs and energize the precincts like I know you can do here in Harris County and in other counties. I know we've got some folks from Jefferson County here and Midland County. I know there's some folks from Travis County.

I really urge you to continue to energize the people. This is an important election, and so when you go to your churches or your synagogues or your community centers, talk it up. Remind people they have a duty to go to the polls. And as you get them going to the polls, remind them that the best man running for the United States Senate is John Cornyn. (Applause.)

We will face some challenges together in Washington. Of course, one of the biggest challenges is to make sure that our people can find work. My attitude is, any time somebody who wants to work can't find a job, is we've got a problem in America. And so we've got to always think about how to grow our economy. What can we do to create -- to encourage the private sector to create more jobs?

See, John and I understand the role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, or the small business can grow to be a big business. Seventy percent of new jobs in America are created by small business owners. And we've got to always encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.

I started doing that when I first got up to Washington by cutting the taxes on the people that work. We took a page out of this textbook; it says that if you've got an economic slowdown, and you let people keep more of their own money, they're going to demand a good or a service. With more money in their pocket, they're more likely to demand something additional. And when they do, somebody is going to produce the good and service. And when somebody produces the good or service, somebody is more likely to find work. (Applause.)

The tax cuts came at exactly the right time. They were important. But the problem is that because of Senate rules, they go away. Now, that's a tough one to explain when you get outside of Washington, I readily concede. On the one hand, we giveth; on the other hand, we taketh away. (Laughter.) That's Washington.

I need somebody in the Senate who understands the importance of tax cuts. I need somebody in the Senate who understands we need to repeal the death tax for the sake of our farmers and ranchers and small business owners. (Applause.) And that somebody is John Cornyn. Make no mistake about it, the candidate in this race who will support making the tax cuts permanent is John Cornyn. And that's important for economic vitality and economic growth.

I want somebody up there with whom I can work to get an energy bill. We need an energy plan for America. We need a plan that not only gets people back to work, but a plan that lessens our dependence upon foreign sources of crude oil. (Applause.) We import easily over half of our energy, of our crude oil. And unfortunately, sometimes we get it from places that don't care for us. (Laughter.) And so, for the sake of national security, and for the sake of job security, we need an energy bill. And I want a senator with whom I can work to get a good energy bill, on behalf of Texas and on behalf of America. And that man is John Cornyn. (Applause.)

A stronger America is an America that constantly works to increase the job base. We need a terrorism insurance bill in Washington, D.C. There's a lot of hard-hats, good, hardworking people who aren't working because big projects can't get going because they can't get insurance.

The enemy hurt us when they hit us. They hurt our economy. And one of the ways they hurt us is we can't insure big projects. And the Congress ought to step in; it's a useful role for the Congress. But we need an insurance bill, a terrorism insurance bill that rewards the hard-hats, and not the trial lawyers. We need a good terrorism insurance bill. (Applause.)

And I can assure you -- I can assure you, I know this man's record, I can assure you John Cornyn cares more about hardworking people, he cares more about the hard-hats than the trial lawyers in America. (Applause.)

We need people up there who understand that if Congress over-spends it will serve as an anchor to economic vitality and growth. It's dangerous up in Washington when it comes to your money. Every idea is a good idea. Every idea they float up there sounds like a good idea. The problem is, in Washington the price tags run into the billions. They don't have a budget out of the United States Senate. You can imagine what will happen without a budget if there's no fiscal discipline, if I don't enforce the fiscal discipline and if others in the Senate aren't willing to stand up and enforce fiscal discipline.

They can't get a budget. The House has got a budget, but the Senate was unable to get a budget in the expenditure of your money, which creates a problem. I need to have United States senators who are willing to work with us to fund priorities, but to not over-spend. Senators who understand the money we spend up there is not the government's money, the money we spend in Washington is the people's money. And that senator is John Cornyn. (Applause.)

A stronger America is one which constantly works to expand the job base so people can find work. And I will continue to do that. A stronger America is also one that's got a good bench, a good federal bench. There was an interesting moment in this campaign. I nominated a fabulous woman, first-rate woman named Pricilla Owen. (Applause.) Top law student out of Baylor, been elected statewide in Texas a couple of times, overwhelmingly once. Had the highest ranking of the ABA, the best rating you could possibly get. I knew she'd be a great judge. Good, solid Texas woman, somebody -- it would be good to have that attitude and her point of view on the bench.

So I sent her nomination up there. It became political. They distorted her record. They didn't give her a fair chance. Shamefully, the Senate turned down her nomination. In so doing, that was not only bad for Texas, it was bad for America, as far as I'm concerned.

It's important for the voters of this state to listen to what was said by the two candidates running for the United States Senate about Pricilla Owen. There's only one candidate in this race that stood up strongly with me and strongly supported the ratification of her nomination, and that candidate was John Cornyn. (Applause.)

We also have got to work to make America a safer place. I say that because there is an enemy which still hates America, lurking. It is an enemy which is different from other kinds of enemies we have taken on. This enemy -- you can't measure the enemy's strength based upon the number of tanks he has or the number of aircraft or the number of ship. This is an enemy that hides in dark corners of cities around the world; this is an enemy which hides in caves and sends youngsters to their suicidal death. That's the kind of people we fight.

They hate us because we love things. We love freedom, for starters. We love the fact that we can worship freely in America. We love that, and we're never going to relinquish that freedom. (Applause.) We love the fact that we can have honest political discourse, there can be debate, that people can choose who they want to be the United States senator. We love a free press in America. We love freedom. They hate freedom. So long as we love freedom, they hate us, and they want to hurt us. That's just the facts of life, as we head into the 21st century.

The other thing that distinguishes -- there's a lot of things that distinguishes, but one of the things clearly that distinguishes us, in America we value each life; life matters; everybody counts, everybody has got worth. That's not the way they think. They have hijacked a great religion and they murder innocent lives in the name of a great religion.

And so we've got to be aware of the facts and reality. I certainly am. My number one job, and the number one job of future senators and future Congresses is to protect the American people, to guard the homeland, to do everything we can to make sure that you're safe.

And we're making progress. I mean, we're talking better now in Washington, D.C., the FBI and the CIA share information. Any time we get a lead, a hint, we're moving on it. We're awake to the realities of the 21st century. No longer are we protected by two vast oceans. And there's a lot of good people at the state level and the local level, great firefighters and policemen and EMS teams all prepared, and wonderful people at the federal government -- at the level of the federal government that are working hard to fulfill our number one priority, which is to protect you.

So I went to Congress, and I asked them -- I said, look, if the number one priority is the defense of our homeland, let's have an organization so that the number one priority becomes reality to the different -- hundreds of agencies involved with the protection of America. Let's organize in a way -- listen, I didn't run for office, I concede, and say, vote for George, I'm going to make the government bigger. (Laughter.) That's not my intention. I wanted to work on your behalf.

And so I sent up a bill, or an idea. And the House passed a good bill. The Senate is struggling over it right now. The Senate is struggling over it because they want to try to micromanage the process. They want to tell the administrative -- the executive branch, this President and future Presidents, who can hire, who can fire, where to move them. See, that's what they want. They want there to be a lot of rules and regulations. And I'm not going to accept that.

Let me give you some examples. To get an emergency phone number from Customs employees -- in other words, it makes sense, if you've got a problem, you want an emergency phone number -- union leaders call that an invasion of privacy. See, that's not right. That's a work rule that doesn't make any sense in the new era. It might have made sense before we became subject to enemy attack, but it doesn't make any sense.

Port inspectors refuse to carry radiation detectors. If you're worried about trying to find a potential weapon of mass destruction, you ought to strap on one of those radiation detectors to figure out whether they've got one. This is not a harmful device. The leaders of that group say they've got to be voluntary, you can't make a person carry a -- one of those detectors. That doesn't make any sense. This is true, what I'm telling you. (Laughter.)

Customs inspectors cannot be assigned to sensitive jobs unless they're most senior -- in other words, that you can only assign people based upon seniority, not based upon talent. That doesn't make any sense. You see, the enemy doesn't care about these rules. The Senate does, and it bothers me. (Laughter and applause.)

Don't get me wrong, there's fine senators from both parties who care deeply about our country. Senators from both parties are struggling with this issue. But it is essential for the sake of protecting America that we not allow special interests to drive the process. It is essential to give this President and future Presidents the ability to move people to the right place at the right time to protect America. (Applause.)

I don't think I'd have any problem convincing John of the need to give the President flexibility. As a matter of fact, I know he'd be a strong ally. The best way to protect our homeland, however, is to hunt the killers down, one person at a time, and bring them to justice. That's the best way to protect the homeland. (Applause.)

It's important for you to know the doctrine I laid out still stands: you're either with us, or you're with the enemy. That's clear. I will continue to make that clear. (Applause.) Our coalition is strong. We're still getting a lot of cooperation. Remember, this is a different kind of war. It requires sharing of intelligence and cutting off money and communicating closely and hunting these people down. I mean, they hide in Karachi. We got the other guy the other day who thought he was going to be -- wanted to be the 20th hijacker. He popped his head up, and now he's in detention. (Laughter.) He's no longer a threat to America and our friends and allies. He's no longer around. (Applause.)

It's not a very glamorous war from the sense that the cables and all the air time can cover, but it's happening. We've detained over a couple of thousand people -- I want to say over 2,500 are no -- are off the streets, thanks to the United States and our friends and allies. I mean, we are hunting them down. And about equal that number weren't as lucky. They're not around at all. Because we've got a fabulous military, by the way. We've got some brave soldiers who are -- (applause.)

I submitted a significant increase in defense spending, the largest since Ronald Reagan was the President, because I wanted to send two messages -- one, any time this nation sends our troops into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible equipment. We owe it to the troops and we owe it to their loved ones, as well. (Applause.)

I also wanted to send a clear message to friend and foe alike that the United States of America is in this deal for the long haul. That when it comes to the defense of our freedom, when it comes to making sure our children can live in a free and civilized society, when it comes to defending that which we hold true, we're not quitting. We're not quitting. It doesn't matter how long it takes. It doesn't matter how long it takes to find the enemy, the United States will stay with it. We're a determined nation; we're a strong nation; we're a nation that loves freedom.

And that defense budget sent that signal. The problem is it hadn't made it to my desk yet. (Laughter.) See, the House passed it, and the Senate passed it. And it hadn't gotten resolved in the conference committee. It's very important, before the Senate and the House go home, that they give me a defense bill. It's a defense bill that is necessary. It sends a important signal; it shows that we're resolved and serious. They ought to stop playing politics with the defense appropriations bill, and get it to my desk. (Applause.)

No, we'll stay with it. I also want to remind you that that doctrine that says, if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed one of them, you're just as guilty as the killers. And I want you also to remind your youngsters about what this nation did in Afghanistan. Not only did we do what we said we were going to do, which is, I think, important in life, but we sent our troops in not to conquer anybody, but to liberate people. We freed a country from the clutches -- (applause) -- we freed the country from the clutches of barbaric tyrants. It's unbelievable how backward and brutal these were, particularly to women.

I had the honor of hosting in the Roosevelt Room, I believe it was 16 Afghan women who had flown over. And one of the things we promised the government we would do is we would host training sessions for women to give them a chance to get -- be a part of the government. That's what we want. That's how we -- that's what we think is important in life. We believe everybody matters, everybody has got worth in America. And it was a touching moment to listen to the women and talk to the women, and to realize that -- and it was a proud moment to realize that our country had a part of freeing them, of giving them a chance to realize their worth and their potential.

You see, we love peace and we love freedom. We don't say to people in Afghanistan, you must have our form of government, you know, the way America does it you've got to do it. But what we do say is, we want to free you. We want to give you a chance. And so we're going to stay in Afghanistan. We're going to stay in Afghanistan to hunt down the killers -- they still lurk around. They occasionally come in, and we'll find them. They kind of bunch up somewhere and they're just -- they think they're allusive and they think they're clever, but they've got the mighty United States on them. And we're going to stay on them.

And we've also got some other tasks ahead of us, as well. I went to the United Nations the other day to make a case about -- (applause) -- to make a case about a true threat to freedom. A true threat to the United States. A threat to Israel; a threat to peace in the region. And that is Iraq. I made the decision to go to the United Nations because I want the United Nations to be effective. You see, in order to fight the new wars of the 21st century, we need to be able to have collaborative efforts to share intelligence, to share information, to arrest, to haul people in. And an effective United Nations will make it easier to keep the peace in my judgment.

But the United Nations, in the face of Saddam Hussein, has not been effective. For 11 long years he's defied them. He's wheedled out of agreement. He's deceived. He's lied. The question before the United Nations is, will you be the League of Nations, or will you be an effective body to keep the peace. That's my challenge to them. (Applause.)

I also challenged -- I also have made it clear that Saddam Hussein must disarm. There's no negotiations. Those ended a long time ago. There's no need for us to try to sit down at a table, there's no discussion to be had. He's got chemical weapons; he needs to get rid of them, all of them. He's got biological weapons; he needs to destroy all of them. There's no doubt in my mind he wants to have a nuclear weapon, and he's got some capacity. I'm not saying he's got one yet, but he's developing the capacity, as we learned right after Desert Storm. He needs to get rid of it. No discussion, no debate, no negotiation. The burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)

And so now it's up to the United Nations, and it's up to Saddam Hussein to determine whether or not there will be peace, to determine whether or not the world's worst leader -- and remember, this is a guy who continues to torture his people if they dissent. This is a man who's gassed his own people. This is a man who attacked two countries in the neighborhood. This is a man who used gas on a neighbor. This is a man who continually lies. This is a man who does not know the truth. This is a man who is a threat to peace. It's up to the United Nations, and it's up to him to decide their fate. If the United Nations won't act, if he doesn't disarm, the United States will lead a coalition to make sure he does. (Applause.)

I want to thank members of both parties, Republicans and Democrats, for joining to work with us to develop a strong statement of resolve. Today in the Rose Garden, right before I got on Air Force One, I had a public event with Democrats and Republicans, members of the Congress who have joined with us to send a clear message to the world about America, our strength of purpose, our desire for peace, our unwillingness to accept 11 years of deceit.

This is not a partisan issue, folks. This is an issue that is important for America. This is an American issue, a uniquely American issue. And it's -- as I reminded the members, that -- I say uniquely American issue because I truly believe that now that the war has changed, now that we're a battlefield, this man poses a much graver threat than anybody could have possibly imagined. Other countries, of course, bear the same risk. But there's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us. There's no doubt he can't stand us. After all, this is a guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.

I take my responsibility seriously as the Commander-in-Chief. I want you to know I understand the -- how serious it is to commit our troops. But I truly believe that history has called us, and we're going to have to act if he doesn't he's expected to do. And when we do, we'll be swift and strong. If we have to, we'll win. And the world is more likely to be at peace after it happens. (Applause.)

I long for peace. Behind the rhetoric is a deep desire for peace, and I believe it's achievable. But we're going to have to remain strong and determined. We must continue to speak clearly about good and evil. We must be resolved in our determination to defend freedom and to free people around the world. And there's no doubt we can achieve the mission, no doubt in my mind.

As we work to make America a stronger and safer place, we have always got to remember to make it a better place, too. And that's really important. I know John shares my passion for education. We passed a good education bill in Washington. I want to share with you right quick what it says. It says, every child can learn.

I don't know if you remember, in the campaign, I said I promise to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. I know that when you lower standards, that people suffer, and generally when you lower standards, they're lowered for inner-city kids or kids whose parents don't speak English as a first language. We believe in high standards, and we raised the bar. We trust local folks to manage the path to excellence.

But for the first time, the federal government says, when you receive federal money, you show us whether or not the children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. If you receive a dime of federal money, we expect you to perform. Every child can learn, and no child will be left behind in America. (Applause.)

A better America is one that has got a health care system that is responsive to the people. John's got a strong record of holding HMOs accountable for bad decisions they make, and I appreciate that record, John. (Applause.) We need a prescription drug plan for seniors. Listen, Medicare is an incredibly important program. It is old. Medicine has changed; Medicare hasn't. And we need to change Medicare with medicine, so seniors get the kind of coverage they need and deserve. And I look forward to working with John on that.

And I'll tell you, one other thing we need to do in Washington, you see, health care needs to be accessible and affordable. Lawsuits are driving docs out of business. Lawsuits are driving up the cost of medicine. We need federal medical liability insurance. (Applause.) There's no doubt in my mind of the two candidates in this race, John will work with us on these issues; no doubt. And as we work on these issues, I believe America will be a better place for it.

You know, the enemy hit us. I can't imagine what was going through their mind. They probably thought America was so selfish and materialistic and self-absorbed that after 9/11/2001, we might file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) They don't understand us, do they? This nation is a strong nation, it's a fabulous nation. Out of the evil done to America is going to come some good. You mark my words. If we remain strong and tough in our war against terror, we can achieve peace. We can achieve peace not only for America, we can achieve peace in the Middle East, we can achieve peace in South Asia. If we remain strong and principled and determined, we can have a peaceful world, and I believe it's going to happen.

And at home, if we unleash the true strength of the country, we'll have a better America. You see, we've got to understand that in America there are pockets of despair and hopelessness and loneliness and addiction. There are people who hurt. There are people that when you say the American Dream, they say, I have no idea what you're talking about. But that can change, because the true strength of America is the people of America. The true strength of America is the fact that our country is full of loving and caring and decent people who have heard a new call.

See, I think there is a new culture evolving -- one from, if -- it says, if it feels good, do it, and, you've got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture that says, each of us are responsible for decisions we make in life. (Applause.) That means if you're a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your children with all your heart. That's your most important responsibility. It means if you're living in a community in Texas, you're responsible for the quality of life and you're responsible for loving your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. It says, if you're running a corporation in America, you're responsible to tell the truth to your shareholders and employees. (Applause.)

As a result of this change of attitude, as a result that people now understand that patriot is more than somebody who just puts his hand over his heart, a patriot is somebody who cares for somebody who hurts. America is changing. The enemy hit us, but out of the evil will come some incredible good -- a more compassionate society.

My call to our fellow Americans is to understand the limitations of government. Listen, government can hand out money -- we can do that, and we do a pretty good job of it sometimes -- but what we can't do is put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. Government is not capable of saying, I love you, to a child who hurts, or, what can I do, to somebody who is shut in. That will happen when our fellow citizens recognize we can change America for the better, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.

No, the enemy hit us, and it's been tough on America. But out of the evil is going to come a peaceful world and a more compassionate society, because this is the greatest nation, full of the finest people, on the face of the Earth.

May God bless you all.

END 6:10 P.M. CDT