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 Home > News & Policies > October 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 14, 2002

Remarks by the President in Michigan Welcome
Oakland County International Airport
Waterford, Michigan

3:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. thanks for coming today. I want to thank you all for --

THE AUDIENCE: We love you! We love you! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Glad I came. I want to thank you all for coming. I particularly want to thank you all for bringing, if you have children, thanks for bringing them. (Applause.) I appreciate the chance to remind our youngsters what a great country we have. (Applause.) I appreciate the chance -- I appreciate the chance to remind them that although we've got some issues, and we've got some challenges, there's no doubt in my mind this great nation you call home can accomplish anything -- I mean anything -- we set our mind to. (Applause.)

So thanks for coming. I appreciate -- I appreciate your interest in your state and in the political process of your state. I've come back to Michigan because I know that Dick Posthumus will make a great governor of Michigan. (Applause.) And I'm here to ask you to help him get elected. I'm here to ask you to go to your coffee shops or your houses of worship or your neighborhood community centers and talk it up about this good man; to tell the people in your community -- whether they be Republican, Democrat, independent -- don't care -- that when it comes to running the state of Michigan, he's got what it takes. He's got the character, he's got the leadership capacity. (Applause.)

And just like me, he married well. (Applause.) I know that Pam Posthumus will be a fine first lady. (Applause.) Speaking about fine First Ladies -- yes, she's doing fine. (Applause.) She sends her best to the good folks of Michigan. I saw her waving from the balcony when I choppered out of the White House grounds. She's doing just great. I can't tell you how proud I am of Laura.

You might remember the story -- when I asked her to marry me, she was a public school librarian. Truth of the matter is, she didn't particularly care for politics. (Laughter.) Didn't like politicians. (Laughter.) Now, here she is. (Laughter.) The First Lady -- what a fabulous job she's done; she's brought great dignity and calm and class to the White House. (Applause.)

I lover her a lot. I love her a lot, and she's doing just great. People now understand why I asked her to marry me. A lot of her friends are wondering why in the heck she said "yes." (Laughter.) But we're doing great.

I want to thank many of you for your prayers. I appreciate that a lot. (Applause.) It's a huge honor to be the President of a country that prays for the President and the First Lady. We feel the prayers and we appreciate them.

I also want to urge you all to make sure that the United States Congress stays in friendly hands; that Denny Hastert is the Speaker; a Congress with which I can work. And that means sending Thaddeus McCotter to the United States Congress. (Applause.) It means sending Candice Miller to the United States Congress. (Applause.) It means making sure a fine sitting congressman, Joe Knollenberg gets sent back to the United States Congress. (Applause.)

I appreciate Joe's leadership, and I know that Thaddeus and Candice will do a fine job on behalf of all the people of Michigan -- not just a few, but everybody. And that's what's important. When you're looking at these people running for office, you've got to -- you've got to understand that our jobs are not to represent a small segment of society. We're to lay out our principles and our values and represent everybody. And that's what I like about these candidates.

I'm also proud to be traveling with a former United States Senator, now a member of my Cabinet, and that would be Spence Abraham. Spence, thank you for coming. (Applause.) You know, it's a sad day when he lost for the Senate. It hurt Michigan -- it gave me a chance to put somebody good in the Cabinet. (Laughter.) And he's doing a fine job working on an incredibly important issue, about which I'll speak in a second, and that's energy.

But let me tell you one thing. If we had him in the Senate, if we had people like Spence in the Senate, there would be no question today about my judges getting confirmed. (Applause.)

The Senate is doing a lousy job on my judge nominations. They're treating this like it's politics, not what's good for the country. You see, we need judges who will serve not to write legislation -- we've got plenty of legislators -- we need judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States sitting on our benches. (Applause.)

No, I heard a lot of reasons why we need to change the Senate, but one of them is to make sure that the federal bench represents the way you want them to serve their jobs. We need a Senate change, and that's why you've got to put Rocky in the United States Senate. (Applause.) Hey, Rocky, good luck to you. You should never count out a guy named Rocky. (Applause.)

I also want to thank my friend, Brooks Patterson. Brooksie is from -- been in politics quite a while. I got to know him in the 1988 campaign. I liked him then, I still like him now. And I appreciate him coming to say hello. I want to thank all the grassroots activists, the people who are manning the phone banks, the people who do the jobs that nobody thanks you for doing. Well, I'm here to thank you. I appreciate your hard work. And I appreciate your love for your country. (Applause.)

I want to thank those who are seeking office, like Loren Bennett and Terri Lynn Land and Mike Cox, all fine candidates, to make sure this Republican ticket -- (applause.) Let me tell you why it's important to have a governor who knows what he's doing. I know something about being a governor. The most important job for a governor is to make sure every single child gets a good education. (Applause.) That's what Dick Posthumus understands.

But it takes a certain kind of attitude to make sure every child gets a good education. It starts with understanding that every child can learn, and to have leadership willing to challenge what I call the soft bigotry of low expectations. You see, if you believe certain kids can't learn, and you have low standards, then you're going to get lousy results. You've got to understand every child can learn. You better make sure your governor understands every child can learn. And then you'd better make sure the governor trusts the local people, all around Michigan, to chart the path for excellence. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to running the Michigan schools. (Applause.)

One of the things that's really important, if you believe every child can learn, then you want to ask the question, is every child learning. If you believe every child can learn to read and write and add and subtract, then you want to know that. And as a state, I hope you'll have a governor who is willing to ask that question, and holding the people account.

You see, the worst thing that can happen is for people to believe every child can't learn, and they just shuffle them through the system. Let's just move them on; certain kids can't learn -- any city -- inner-city kids, they say, might be too tough to educate, we'll just move them along; children whose parents don't speak English as a first language, they're tough to educate, we'll just move them along. We can't accept that in Michigan. We can't accept that anywhere in America. You must measure in this state. (Applause.) You must have strong accountability systems to test whether or not the curriculum is working, to test whether the teachers are teaching. You must understand that you've got to measure to make sure not one child gets left behind.

And when you find children in schools that won't teach and won't change, you better have you a governor who is willing to challenge the status quo, for the sake of the children. And that governor is Dick Posthumus. (Applause.)

Not only -- listen, we're worried about people who can't find work. At least I am, and I know Dick is, as well. Any time we've got anybody in Michigan or anywhere in America looking for work, and can't find work, it's a problem, and we have to deal with it. And that makes sure -- that means you've got to make sure you've got a governor who understands the role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the small business can grow to be a big business, in which the entrepreneurs can find the entrepreneurial spirit. (Applause.)

And that's why it's so important to have a governor who is willing to hold the taxes down in order to make sure businesses can grow, so people can find work. (Applause.)

No, you've got the right man in Dick Posthumus. He knows what he's doing. He's going to make a fine governor for the state of Michigan. I want to share with you some of my concerns about our country. The character of our country doesn't concern me. The ability for our country to solve problems doesn't concern me. But I am concerned about an economy not doing as good as we want it to do. I am concerned about an economy that was in recession, that got affected by the terrorist attack. I am concerned about a society in which some of the members of our society thought it was okay to fudge the numbers; thought it was okay not to tell the troops when it came to profits and losses; thought it was okay to mistreat employee and shareholder alike. Those days are gone from America. (Applause.)

Corporate malfeance has had an effect on our economy and we need to do something about it. That's why I was honored to sign the most comprehensive corporate reform legislation since Franklin Roosevelt was the President. The message is clear now. The message is clear to people who should know better. If you think you're going to find easy money in this country, you're wrong. What you're going to find is hard time if you cheat the people. (Applause.)

But there are some things Congress can do before they go home to help the working people of this country. See, they're fixing to go home. But they need to act. one of the things you'll find about Washington -- or at least I found about it -- there's a lot of good talkers. (Laughter.) And not enough good doers.

They're talking a good game up there. They're worried about the jobs and so am I. So in order to make sure people can find work, there are some practical things Congress can do -- and let me give you a couple of suggestions. One is, is that there's a lot of hard-hats not working because the people can't find terrorism insurance. If you want to build a big project and you can't get insurance because of what the terrorists have done for America, you're going to put the project aside.

There's over $15 billion of construction projects which are on hold, which aren't going forward -- which means there's over 300,000 jobs that would be in place, or soon to be in place, that aren't in place. And so in my judgment is what Congress ought to do is they ought to pass legislation to serve as a backdrop for terrorist insurance. They ought to serve as a backstop. If the terrorist don't attack, it hasn't cost anybody anything. If the terrorists attack, it'll help our economy recover quicker.

For the sake of jobs, however, they need to get moving. There's too much talk in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

And one of the stumbling blocks is whether or not they care more about the hard-hat or the trial lawyer. We stand on the side of the hard-hats in America, the hard-working people. And, therefore, get me a terrorism insurance bill that recognizes their hard work and the need to get these people back to work. (Applause.)

We need an energy bill in America. We need an energy bill. Spence has been working on one, a balanced, comprehensive approach that says we need to do a better job of conserving energy, we need to unleash new technologies to make sure that we become less dependent on foreign sources of crude. But we need to explore in an environmentally way here at home. Listen, the less energy we use from countries that may not like us, the more secure we are nationally. (Applause.) An energy bill -- an energy bill will be good for jobs; an energy bill is important for our national security. They've been talking about that energy bill up there now for about a year -- before they go home they need to get the energy bill to my desk. (Applause.)

Let me tell you what else the Congress needs to do. The Congress needs to understand that when a person has more money in their pocket they're likely to demand a good or service. And when they demand a good or a service, in this society, somebody is likely to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces a good or a service, somebody is more likely to find work.

The tax relief plan which we passed through the United States Congress came at the right time in American economic history. (Applause.)

When your economy is slow, you let people keep more of their own money. That's the opposite of what some of them think up there. You see, they have -- when they want to have a summit -- you know what the summit means to me? It means after the elections, they're going to figure out a way to raise your taxes, that's what a summit means to me. And so, therefore, if Congress really wants to make sure the job base continues to expand, what they'll do is make the tax cuts permanent. now, that's already -- you say, well, Mr. President, aren't they already permanent? No, here's what happened.

In the United States Senate, they have a rule that says on the one hand, we giveth, and on the other hand we taketh away. (Laughter.) It's hard to explain. But that's just what happened. Which means that the tax relief plan we passed -- and it's phased in over 10 years -- after 10 years goes back to the way it was. It's hard to plan that way. If you're a small business owner, you need to have certainty in the tax code. If you're somebody who is going to risk capital, you need to have certainty in the tax code. For the sake of economic growth, for the sake of job creation, the United States Congress must make the tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

I made a decision the other day to help Michigan workers and help workers all across the country by invoking Taft-Hartley to open up the ports on our West Coast. They couldn't get together, workers couldn't get together, and the shippers couldn't get together, and their ship -- they were locking down the ports. And that hurt manufacturers here in Michigan, and it hurt Michigan farmers, and it's going to hurt Michigan's consumers if it went on to long. For the sake of jobs, for the sake of job creation, I put the -- I said, get back to work for 80 days, and come together, for the sake of our country, during these tough economic times. We expect you to resolve your differences so people in other parts of the country won't suffer. (Applause.)

Until I'm satisfied that people can find work, I'm going to stay on the economy. I'm going to keep working with Congress, if need be, working with the American people, to do everything we can to keep our economy going. We've got good -- we've got the foundation for growth, by the way. Interest rates are low, inflation is low. We've got the best workers in the world. We've got the highest productivity in the world. The foundation for growth is strong. We've just got to keep working until we're satisfied that people can find work.

And my biggest preoccupation, my biggest worry is that there's still an enemy out there which hates America, an enemy which still wants to take innocent life. Recently we've seen what I'm talking about, in Bali. There was a cold-blooded attack. Innocent people, from all around the world, by the way -- an American, at least we know of one or two Americans, many Australians, English -- innocent people, enjoying themselves at a resort. And a bunch of cold-blooded killers decided to take life, to take innocent life, just like they did on September the 11th, 2001.

It's a stark reminder that there's an enemy which hates freedom-loving countries, an enemy which does not value human life like we value human life here in America. See, in this country, every life is precious, everybody has got meaning, everybody has got worth. (Applause.)

No, the attack on the French boat -- which was, I believe, a terrorist attack, the attack at the resort, the attack on our Marines in Kuwait shows that there's still an enemy which is active out there. And, therefore, my biggest worry is to make sure we do everything we can to continue to protect America, to save innocent life.

And so therefore I've asked Congress to join me in developing a Department of Homeland security, a department which will take the agencies involved with protecting the homeland security, putting them under one umbrella so that the focus will be your protection, so that the number one priority will be the protection of the American people. We made progress in the House, but we're stuck in the Senate. We're stuck in the Senate because some Senators want there to be a big, thick book of bureaucratic regulations, to tell this administration and future administrations how to run the department.

I'll give you an example. On the border, we need to know who is coming in, and what they're bringing when they come in, and whether or not they're leaving when they say they're going to leave. (Applause.) And yet we've got three different agencies on the border, full of fine people, by the way. You've got your Customs and INS and the Border Patrol. Yet in some sectors, they've got different strategies. They wear different uniforms. They've got different tasks. For the sake of homeland security, any administration ought to have the flexibility to put the agencies together or to put the right people at the right place at the right time to protect the American people. The Senate version doesn't let me do that. (Applause.)

People ought to be able to organize if they want to organize. There ought to be collective bargaining, and that's fine with me. But for the sake of national security, I ought to have the capacity, on a limited basis, to say our national security is more important than some collective bargaining rights. (Applause.)

And I'll give you an example. Let me give you an example. Our Customs, they ought to be wearing radiation detection devices, to determine whether somebody is trying to sneak a weapon of mass destruction into America. The leadership of that particular group of people said, no way, we need to have a collective bargaining session over whether or not our people should be made to wear these devices. And that could take a long period of time. We don't have time, when it comes to an enemy. We need to have the flexibility to run this department so I can assure you. (Applause.)

But the best way to protect the homeland is to hunt these killers down, one at a time, and bring them to justice. (Applause.) And that's what we're going to do. That's exactly what we're going to do. You know, they -- I don't know what went through their minds when they hit us. They probably thought after September the 11th, 2001, we'd take a step back and file a lawsuit or two. See, they didn't understand about America. They don't understand that we love freedom. (Applause.) We don't embrace freedom, we love freedom, and nobody is going to take our freedoms away from us. (Applause.)

They probably thought that we were so selfish and self-absorbed and materialistic that after they hit us, we would try to understand them -- (laughter) -- take a step back, and maybe get them some therapy. (Laughter.) As we've seen this weekend, as we see in the past, there's only one therapy, and that's to bring them to justice, which is exactly what the United States is going to do. (Applause.)

This is a different kind of war, it's a different kind of war. In the old days, you could measure progress based upon thought number of tanks destroyed or aircraft shot out of the sky, or ships that were sunk. This is a different kind of war. We face a shadowy enemy. They're real, they're tough, they are determined. But their leaders will hide in caves and send their young warriors to their suicidal death. It's a different kind of enemy we face.

And sometimes you'll see progress on your TV screens, and sometimes you're just not going to see what's happening. A different kind of battle we face. But you've got to know we're making progress. We're making steady progress. I bet you we have hauled in -- I say "we," by the way, the doctrine that says, either you're with them or you're with us, still stands. Either you're with the United States of America, or you're with the enemy. (Applause.)

And we're making progress. A couple of thousand have been hauled in. Slowly but surely, we're dismantling this terrorist network. Sure, they're still out there, but they're not nearly as strong as they were a year ago. Slowly but surely, we're hauling them in. And like number weren't as lucky as those who were captured. Like number met their justice a different way. And we're still on them. (Applause.) We will continue to deny them training bases. We will continue to try to deny them sanctuary anywhere. We're going to keep getting them on the run. Slowly but surely -- no matter how long it takes, my fellow Americans -- we will do what it takes to make the homeland secure and to free the American people from terror. (Applause.)

And that's why I sent to Congress -- and that's why I sent to Congress a significant increase in our defense spending, and I want to explain why. Any time we put one of our youngsters into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training and the best possible equipment. (Applause.)

We owe that to our soldiers, we owe that to the loved ones of our soldiers. And if there are any loved ones out there, I can't tell you how proud I am of our military, how confident I am of my military, and how good our military is. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)

I also asked for a big increase in defense spending because I wanted to send a message to our friend and to our foe: that we ain't quitting; we're just not going to quit when it comes to defending America. (Applause.) It doesn't matter how long it takes -- we don't have a calendar on my desk, there's not a calendar on my desk in the great Oval Office that flips to, you know, flip it one day and it says, oh, it's time to quit. That's just not the way we think in America. We understand the task. We understand it's a different kind of war. We understand it requires patience and to be steadfast in purpose, and that's exactly the way this nation is going to remain. We will pursue the enemy no matter where he tries to hide, no matter what cave he's in, no matter what city he hides in, until justice is done. (Applause.)

And the war on terror is just not al Qaeda. There are other terrorists around. There are other threats to our country with which we must deal. And that means -- and one place is Iraq. I want to -- let me share with you some thoughts, a serious, serious, subject. It's one that's got a lot of folks debating in the coffee shops or in the homes about Iraq. I want to remind you of a couple of things.

First of all, 11 years ago this leader of Iraq, the dictator of Iraq, made a pledge that he would not have weapons of mass destruction, he promised the world after he got whipped that he wouldn't have weapons of mass destruction. And the Security Council of the United Nations passed a resolution which said, you wont have weapons of mass destruction. Since that time, he has lied, he has deceived, he has not listened to the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Since that time we now recognize as a country that oceans no longer protect us like they used to. A new reality set in, in America. It used to be we could kind of sit back and look at a threat from afar and say, well, that may affect somebody else, but it doesn't affect us.

Prior to September the 11th, we had the comfort of realizing or looking back in history and saying that we're pretty safe here in America. Others may be threatened -- after all, he attacked two in his neighborhood, he gassed his own people -- but not us. September the 11th changed the equation, changed our thinking. It also changed our thinking when we began to realize that one of the most dangerous things that can happen in the modern era is for a deceiving dictator who has gassed his own people, who has weapons of mass destruction to team up with an organization like al Qaeda.

As I said -- I was a little more diplomatic in my speech, but we need to -- we need to think about Saddam Hussein using al Qaeda to do his dirty work, to not leave fingerprints behind. I went to the United Nations. I did so because I wanted to challenge that body. Sixteen resolutions, sixteen defiances. They passed resolution after resolution after resolution, and 16 times Saddam Hussein has defied those resolutions. For the sake of keeping peace, it's important that there be an international body that has backbone, that can work to keep the peace in this new era we're in. And now is the time for choice. The United Nations can decide whether it's the League of Nations or whether or not it is a United Nations capable of keeping the peace. (Applause.)

There is universal agreement that Saddam Hussein poses a serious threat. He's a threat to the neighborhood, he's a threat to our allies. There is universal understanding that right after the Gulf War he was close to having a nuclear weapon. He still wants to have a nuclear weapon. For the sake of peace, for the sake of our security, now is the time to make sure that Saddam says what he said he would do. He must disarm. It's his choice to make. He said he would disarm. He must disarm. The U.N. said he must disarm. They can disarm him.

But for the sake of security of our country, their choice to make. I hope it's done peacefully. I hope we never use a military -- one military troop in Iraq. But for the sake of the peace and security of the United States, Saddam Hussein must disarm, or the United States, with friends and allies, will disarm him. (Applause.)

I say that because I want there to be peace. I speak as a man who has a goal for the world, and that's peace. I believe out of the evil done to America can come a peaceful world. There'll be some tough times, no question about it. But if we remain strong and resolved, if we hold dear to the principles -- the God-given principles and values that we hold dear to our hearts -- (applause) -- the principle of freedom, that every life counts, that people should be free -- if we hold that dear, and remain strong, we can achieve peace, and I hope we do. That's my goal. The enemy thinks that they can cause America to retreat from our obligations. We're not. They believe we'll cower in the face of their cold-blooded murder. We won't.

And out of the evil done to this great country, and now out of the evil being done elsewhere, we can achieve peace. We've been given an opportunity to lead the world to peace. And at home, we can have a better America, too. We can have a better America. There are people who hurt in America. There are pockets of despair, people who are addicted, people who wonder whether or not the American Dream is meant for them. So long as some of us hurt, we all hurt in this country. But I'm absolutely convinced that as a nation we can rise up, not only to keep the peace and make it secure, but rise up to make America a better place, a more hopeful place, a place of love and compassion. (Applause.) If you want to help, if you want to help in the war against terror, if you want to fight evil, love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. (Applause.)

There are things government can do to help people, to empower people. Government needs to trust citizens. It starts with making sure everybody has a good education. We need to also make sure our medical systems are modern. Listen, Medicare is an incredibly important program. Medicine has changed, Medicare hasn't. Medicine is modern, Medicare isn't. For the sake of our seniors, for the sake of a better life in America, our seniors need to have a Medicare program that gives them choices and gives them prescription drug benefits. (Applause.)

We need to make sure we authorize welfare to understand the whole -- the reason welfare works, the reason welfare reform works is because we help people find work. Work is the backbone of the welfare system, it ought to remain the backbone of a good welfare system. (Applause.) People get dignity when they find work. They're less dependent on a government that can sap their soul and drain their spirit.

There are things government can do to make America a better place, but not nearly as importantly as what our fellow Americans can do to make America a better place. Government can hand out money, but what government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That's up to our fellow Americans.

Today we've got with us Lenny Compton. Lenny is in his second year -- right here, Lenny -- he's in his second year as AmeriCorps. (Applause.) Let me tell you about him. (Applause.) You know what he does? He mentors a child. He mentors kids in the first, second and third grade. He understands one person can't do everything to change America, but one person can do something. One person can help change America, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. I want to thank you, Lenny. (Applause.)

And that's what we need to do to show the enemy the true nature of America. Each of us can be that one person, helping somebody in need. It doesn't require a lot. Listen, walking across the street to a shut-in, saying "I love you" on a regular basis, is what I'm talking about. Running a Boy Scout troop is what I'm talking about. Being involved with a Girl -- Girls Clubs and Boys Clubs, going to your church or your synagogue or your mosque, and helping feed the hungry and find shelter for the homeless. It's all a part of the great fabric of America. In order to fight evil, do some good, do some good.

One of the things that's happening in America as a result of the attack by or the enemy, is that people are taking a good hard look at what's important in life. We're beginning to have a cultural shift, it seems like to me. I want to be a part of that shift. It's a shift away from a culture that has said, if it feels good, just go ahead and do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else -- to a new era that says, each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life. (Applause.)

If you are a mom or a dad, if you're lucky enough to be a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving that child with all your heart and all your soul. If you're living in Oakland County, you're responsible for the quality of education. If you're dissatisfied with the quality of education, do something about it. If you're satisfied, go hug a teacher and thank him or her for doing such an important job. (Applause.)

No, I think it's happening, I think people are beginning to understand that being a patriot is more than just putting your hand over your heart. Being a patriot is working to make America a more compassionate and decent and hopeful place.

No, I think it's happening. I remember and will never forget what took place on Flight 93. We had average citizens flying across the country. All of a sudden they became aware of the new reality, that America was understand attack. They were on the phones to their loved ones. The word "love" was used a lot. They said goodbye. They said a prayer. They asked for blessing from an almighty. A guy said, let's roll. They took the plane into the ground to save life. These Americans understood that being a patriot was to serve something greater than yourself in life. (Applause.)

No, the American spirit -- the American spirit is strong and alive. There's no doubt in my mind, my fiends and fellow Americans, no doubt in my mind that we can achieve peace. No doubt in my mind that we can secure our homeland. There is no doubt in my mind that we can educate our children and provide a hopeful future for everybody who is living here in America. And the reason I say that is because I say with the utmost of confidence that this is the finest nation, full of the finest people, on the face of the earth.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

END 4:31 P.M. EDT