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 Home > News & Policies > October 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 17, 2002

Remarks by the President at 2002 Unity Luncheon
Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel
Atlanta, Georgia

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I'm glad you all are here. Thanks for coming, and thanks for such a generous Georgia welcome.

You know, coming down on the airplane today, we were visiting about the politics here in Georgia and a couple of the citizens from this great state told me my picture seems to be on the TV screen a lot. (Laughter.) That a lot of people are using my image during the campaign. Well, I'm here to clarify a few things. (Applause.) The voters shouldn't be confused. For the sake of Georgia, for the sake of the United States, Saxby Chambliss needs to be the next United States senator. (Applause.)

No, the voters shouldn't be confused. For the sake of Georgia, and for the sake of a great public school system, Sonny Perdue needs to be the next governor of Georgia. (Applause.)

I appreciate you all coming. I want to thank you for what you're going to do. First, I want to thank you for what you have done, which is come today. (Laughter.) And what you need to do is go to your coffee shops, your places of worship, the community centers, and let good people of Georgia understand that when you find two good ones, two good candidates like these two, they've got to work and vote on their behalf. Grassroots politics is going to win this election. (Applause.)

And there's another secret weapon in the case of these two men's campaign. That's their wives. (Applause.) They both married well. Like me, they married above themselves. (Laughter.) I'm so proud that Julianne Chambliss is with -- standing by Saxby's side. She's a great mom. She's going to be a fabulous Senate wife. And I've got to tell you, I'm real proud of Mary, as well. Mom and grandmom -- she's going to be a great first lady for Georgia. (Applause.)

You drew the short straw; Laura's in Mobile, Alabama. (Laughter.) But she sends her very best. She's doing great, by the way. You know, I like to remind people that when I married her, she was a public school librarian in Texas. She didn't like politics, she didn't care for politicians. (Laughter.) Now she's the First Lady of the United States, and doing a magnificent job. (Applause.)

I appreciate members of the congressional delegation. All but one decided they wanted to fly on Air Force One, so I had coffee with them this morning. (Laughter.) But it's a fine group of individuals representing Georgia in the United States Congress: Congressman Jack Kingston, Matt Collins, Johnny Isakson, Bob Barr, Nathan Deal, Charlie Norwood and John Linder. I'm proud of that -- (Applause.)

I'm proud of that delegation, and I hope -- and I feel -- like the good folks around Georgia will be wise to add to the delegation, starting with Phil Gingrey from the 11th congressional district. (Applause.) Clay Cox is running for Congress. We need to get Clay in there. (Applause.) I'm real proud of the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, my longtime friend, Ralph Reed. I want to thank Ralph for his leadership. (Applause.) Alec Poitevint is the national committeeman. He also is a longtime friend. My friend Fred Cooper, and Eric Tanenblatt all work hard to make sure our party is vibrant and alive and well; make sure our party not only is organized at the grassroots level, but make sure our party sends out a message that all are welcomed, all who believe in the philosophy of personal responsibility, local control of your schools, limited government, compassionate government are welcome into our party. All are welcome to vote for these good candidates who are running. We don't care what party you have. We don't care whether you're a Republican, Democrat, or independent. What we care is you support these good candidates because they're the right people at the right time for the state of Georgia. (Applause.)

Sonny knows what I'm talking about. Sonny knows what I'm talking about. After all, he used to call himself a Democrat. (Laughter.) And that's okay. I'm used to Texas politics. We had a lot of folks who called themselves one party label, but they -- we all felt the same about things. Sonny represents Georgian values. He is a down-to-earth fellow; he's a plain speaker. When he says something, he means it. (Applause.) He might not be the prettiest fellow to look at -- (laughter) -- but he can get the job done for all the people in Georgia. (Applause.)

And that means having a school system that leaves no children behind. (Applause.) Sonny's got a good education plan. It's one that makes sense. It's one that's going to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. It's going to set high standards. Sonny is going to support the teachers of Georgia. (Applause.) Sonny isn't going to try to micromanage the process from centralized government. He believes in local control of schools. (Applause.)

And Sonny is the kind of no-nonsense fellow who will hold people to account. You see, he'll be willing to -- he'll be willing to measure to determine whether or not each child is learning in Georgia. And when he finds children trapped in schools which won't teach and won't change, he won't be bound by special interests. The only interest he cares about is the children of the state of Georgia. (Applause.)

He knows what I know; the role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the entrepreneur or small business owner can flourish. (Applause.) Seventy percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses. And it seems like if you're worried about your job base, that you want to have somebody who's been a small business person running your government, somebody who's actually done what a lot of others talk about. I think the fact that Sonny started his own business in the field of agriculture is one of the strongest reasons why the folks of Georgia ought to send him up to the capital. (Applause.)

He also understands how important it is to have good roads and an efficient infrastructure. He's a practical man; he's a down-to-earth fellow who has asked the questions, how do you get the job done. He doesn't wait for a focus group. (Laughter.) That's not his style. That's not how they raised them in south Georgia. (Applause.) If you're worried about your infrastructure, it seems like to me you want somebody who's licensed to fly a plane, who can drive a bus, or knows how to operate a truck. And that man is Sonny Perdue. (Applause.)

And I'm proud to be here. I'm proud to say as loud and clear as I can, I'm for Sonny Perdue because he'll make a great governor. (Applause.)

And there's no doubt in my mind you've got to make sure that Saxby Chambliss is your United States senator. (Applause.) Saxby is a leader. He's a leader, he can make things happen. I've watched him -- I've watched him closely. I worked with him on the education bill, a fine piece of education reform. He brings a deep compassion for education. He and I understand the role of the federal government is limited, but the role of the federal government must be active. It says this: When we spend federal money we expect there to be good results. If you believe every child can learn like we do, if you want to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations, that finally we've begun to ask the question, what's happening -- with all that money we're spending, what's happening? Why don't you show us whether or not our children can read and write and add and subtract? Why don't you show us whether or not our children have got a bright future? And if so, I promise you, we'll praise the teachers. But if not, we expect a return on behalf of the taxpayers' dollars.

This piece of reform was substantial reform. And Saxby Chambliss was one of the leaders in the House of Representatives to make sure this bill got passed. (Applause.)

He understands what I know; medicine has changed, but Medicare hadn't. Medicine is modern; Medicare is old and needs to be reformed. Saxby Chambliss is one of the leaders in the United States Congress to make sure that Medicare changes with medicine, and that seniors have got prescription drug benefits. (Applause.)

I'm for Saxby because he will help me make sure that the judges I nominate get a fair hearing and get confirmed. (Applause.) My job is to -- my job is to put good, honorable, hardworking, intelligent, capable people on the federal bench; people who will not use the bench to serve as a legislator, but people who will sit on the bench to strictly interpret the United States Constitution.

And the record of this Senate is a lousy record. (Applause.) If you look -- if you look at the record, the percentage of my nominees who have been approved and look at the reason why they haven't, you'll find that they're playing too much politics in Washington, D.C. (Applause.) They're slow playing the process. And when some of my really good nominees got a hearing, they distorted their records. They listened to the small groups of special interests in Washington, D.C. For the sake of a good, sound federal judiciary, I need a United States senator who will stand strong for my nominees, and that is Saxby Chambliss. (Applause.)

We've got some challenges ahead of us. No question one of the challenges is to make sure people can find work in America, that we can build on the foundation of economic growth. I'm optimistic about our economy's future because I know when interest rates are low and inflation is low and the productivity of our great work force is high, we can grow our economy. I believe strongly that the future is a bright future. But we've got a lot of work to do -- together, we've got a lot of work to do.

And there are some clear-cut things that the Congress can do. And one of them is to understand the significance of tax relief when it comes to economic vitality. Saxby and I read the page out of this economic textbook, that says if you let a person keep more of their own money, they're likely to demand a good or a service. And when somebody demands a good or a service in the marketplace, somebody is likely to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces that good or a service, somebody is more likely to be able to find work.

And so we passed tax relief. Some people were enthusiastic about it, some weren't quite so sure. And we got it passed. But the reason the issue is still alive is because there's a quirk in the Senate rules. This is a tough one for me to explain to you. It's like the Senate giveth and the Senate taketh away. (Laughter.) You see, after 10 years, the tax relief plan reverts back to where it was when we started relieving the taxes. So that creates uncertainty. It's hard if you're a small business person to plan, with uncertainty. It's hard for an economy to be steady if there's an uncertain tax code.

One of the big issues in this campaign is who understands what I've just described, and who's willing to join the President in making sure the tax relief plan is permanent. And that person is Saxby Chambliss. (Applause.)

No, I will continue to work on our economy, helping to make sure our workers can find work. There's a lot of things we can do. We need an energy bill; we need a terrorism insurance bill; we need to make sure Congress doesn't overspend. Listen, every idea sounds like a genius idea in Washington. (Laughter.) The problem is they all cost billions. I've got to make sure I've got members of the House and members of the Senate who understand we need to set priorities and make sure we don't overspend. For the sake of economic vitality, there needs to be fiscal restraint and fiscal sanity, which means you better have a United States senator who understands that when we're spending money in Washington, we're not spending the government's money, we're spending the people's money. (Applause.)

Economic issue is a big issue. There's no bigger issue, however, than protecting the homeland. (Applause.) I say that because there's an enemy that still lurks out there, a enemy which hates America. And they hate us because of what we love. They hate us because we love freedom. They hate us because we hold dear and deeply love the idea that anybody can worship an almighty God any way he or she sees fit. They hate the idea of a free press, free political discourse. That's what they hate. And so long as we love our freedoms, they will try to harm our country.

We've got a new task ahead for America, and that is to do everything we can to protect the American people. It used to be that oceans could protect us. We used to be able to sit back here in America and feel safe and confident, because there's two vast oceans to protect us from potential enemies. But that has changed, after September the 11th, 2001. And that's why it's essential for our country not only to deal with the threats we see today, but to deal with threats we may see in the immediate tomorrow.

That's why I called upon the United Nations and our United States Congress to deal with Iraq before it becomes a -- before we get hurt. Oceans no longer protect us. The threat is real. The threat's alive.

I want to thank Saxby and other members of the United States Congress for joining me in passing a strong resolution so that the United States speaks with one voice. It's not up for Mr. Saddam Hussein to do what he said he would do, to disarm. It's now up for the free nations of the world to show some courage and backbone, and disarm him. (Applause.)

There are real threats that we face, and therefore, my most important job is to do everything we can to protect the homeland. A lot of people are working hard to do just that; they really are. We've got a lot of good agents at the CIA and FBI, and state police and local police, first responders, all of them working hard to do everything we can to protect the American people. When we get a hint, any bit of evidence, we're moving, we're disrupting, we're denying. We're aware of the threat. And so we're on -- we're on full game all the time. That's our job. We take it seriously.

But I need the tools necessary to do the job better. And that's why I went to the United States Congress to work with my to develop a office of homeland security, so that we could better coordinate amongst the many agencies involved with securing the homeland; so we could set clear priorities amongst the agencies involved with protecting the homeland; so if need be, we could change cultures so that some point in time I'm more able to say, and future Presidents are more able to say, we're doing everything in our power at the federal level to protect America. It's our most important and solemn duty.

I laid the initiative out, and thanks to the strong leadership of Saxby -- he understands this issue really well -- thanks to his leadership amongst, with others in the House of Representatives, the House responded quickly and passed a significant piece of legislation, an historic piece of legislation.

The Senate hadn't acted yet, because in order to pass the department of homeland security there's got to be a price for it. And that price will be to roll back important authority that every President since John F. Kennedy has had to act in the interests of national security. For 40 years, Presidents have had the ability to suspend labor rules in every department in the federal government when our national security is at stake. Now the Senate leadership wants to roll back that authority in a time of war for one department, whose job it is, will be to protect the American people during that war.

If the Senate had its way, I would have the authority to suspend the work rules in the Department of Agriculture, but not in the office of homeland security. The Senate Democrat leaders want to tie the hands of this department as we determine who to hire, who to fire, and whether or not people can be moved. Any President must have the capacity to put the right people at the right time at the right place, in order to respond to threats to our homeland. (Applause.)

The Senate debate revolves around whether or not there ought to be a thick book of rules micromanaging the process. I'll give you an example. Right after September the 11th the Customs Service wanted to quickly assign its best, more qualified inspectors to the northern border. The union leaders objected. They said we had to bargain over these assignments. We had to take time to hash it out, rather than moving our best to where we thought we needed to move them, immediately.

No, I'm not going to accept a bill which will tie the hands of this President and future Presidents to be able to carry out one of our most solemn duties, which is to protect the homeland. (Applause.) There's no question in my mind, if Saxby Chambliss were in the Senate, I would not have to worry about his leadership or his vote on this important matter. (Applause.)

The best way to secure the homeland, however, is to hunt the killers down, one person at a time, which is exactly what the United States of America is going to do. (Applause.) The war on terror is a different kind of war. The old World War II vets who are here -- and I want to thank you for your service -- will remember the days when we could measure progress based upon tanks destroyed or battleships sunk, or aircraft shot down. This is a different kind of war. We're fighting cold-blooded killers who hide in caves and send youngsters to their suicidal deaths. And they're willing to kill innocent people anywhere.

See, there's a huge difference between us and them. We value life, we say everybody counts, everybody is precious. They've hijacked a great religion and are willing to murder in the name of that religion. That's the way they are. And there's only one way to deal with it. Therapy isn't going to work. (Applause.) And that's to find them, that's to find them. That's why this coalition of freedom-loving nations is incredibly important. That's why it's absolutely essential that we continue to remind people, either you're with us or you're with the enemy. That's why it's essential that we continue to make sure that when we say something, we mean it and the world knows we mean it. (Applause.)

Next week, I'm going to be signing a defense appropriations bill. I want to thank the members of Congress, I want to thank Saxby and others for getting this bill to my desk before they go home. It's important for us to send a message that we're going to make sure our troops have got the best pay, the best equipment, the best possible training. Any time we put somebody in harm's way, we owe it to them and we owe it to their loved ones to support them. And that's exactly what this defense bill does. (Applause.)

And the second message we're going to send when I sign that bill is to friend and foe alike, it doesn't matter how long it takes, we're staying the course. When it comes to the defense of our freedom, there is no timetable, there is no calendar. When it comes to making sure our children can grow up in a free society, in a free country, this great land will do whatever it takes to secure our freedoms. (Applause.)

No, we're making progress. We're hauling them in one at a time. We've got over a couple thousand of them, and maybe that like number wasn't quite so lucky. Sometimes you'll see us making progress and sometimes you won't. Sometimes those people who chatter on the cables will be talking about it, sometimes you're just not going to hear. It's a manhunt, one at a time. And at the same time, we're going to deny them sanctuary. If we find them lighting somewhere, we're going to ask the host country to move them on. Either you're with us, or you're with them. (Applause.)

We're making good progress. I'm working hard to make sure America is a stronger place and a safer place, but we've all got to work together to make sure America is a better place, too. And there's some things government can do: Make sure every child is educated; make sure our health care systems work; make sure people are treated with respect and dignity; to make sure we change the tone in our National Capital and our state capital, get rid of all this needless politics, bring people together, achieve big objectives.

But a lot of what is going to make America continue to be the greatest country in the world depends upon you. If you want to fight evil, love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. If you're interested in doing some good, if you're interested in joining me and Sonny and Saxby in making sure that those pockets of despair and loneliness and hopelessness get eradicated, the surest way to do so is to put your arm around somebody in need, and say, I love you, I love you.

Government can hand out money, but government cannot put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. (Applause.) That's why I'm such a strong believer in the faith-based initiative, an initiative which will empower people of all faiths in America to do what they've been called to do, to help a neighbor in need, to love somebody.

See, it doesn't take much to help change America, it really doesn't. Helping somebody who's hungry, mentoring a child, going to a shut-in's house and saying, what can I do to help, running a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, it all adds up. It's those millions of acts of kindness and generosity that take place on a daily basis in America which truly defines the hopefulness of our country.

See, the enemy hit us. They didn't know who they were hitting. Oh, they probably thought we'd file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) But, instead, they hit a country which is strong and tough; a country, by remaining strong and tough and always remembers what we love, and that is freedom, that we can achieve peace.

I believe America will lead the world to peace. (Applause.) And at the same time, here at home -- same time here at home, we can make sure, by following our hearts, by being the compassionate country we are, to make sure this American experience shines brightly for every single citizen who lives in our country.

No, they hit us. But out of the evil is going to come some incredible good, because this is the greatest nation, full of the finest people on the face of the Earth. May God bless you and may God bless America. (Applause.)

END 12:41 P.M. EDT