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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 31, 2003

Remarks by the Vice President at a Dinner for the Southwest Florida GOP




Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa

Bonita Springs, Florida

October 31, 2003

6:28 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thanks, Al -- I think. (Laughter.) Al has known me so long there's a lot of -- there are a lot of things he could have said tonight and thankfully he didn't. (Laughter.)

But there's one other story I like to tell about Al Abrams (ph). And Al and I do go back over 30 years. And when I first met him he was a respected political professional, if I can use those terms in the most positive way -- a man with a great deal of experience in Washington and on Capitol Hill. And I was pretty green, and he took me under his wings and taught me an awful about this business.

But among other things, one thing I've never forgotten is that when I ran for Congress the first time in 1978, as Al pointed out, I wasn't flush. I didn't have a lot of money. And I'd been working in government for a period of time, and I'd been a student. But I was not what you call a self-financed candidate. But Al at that time was the head of the realtors in Washington, the man who represented the Real Estate Association, from all over the country. And he did something that I thought was very courageous -- he gave me my first political action committee check for $5,000, which really set me on my way. (Applause.)_

I like to think it was a good investment. (Laughter.) I'm not sure he does, but he -- it was -- it's one of those things you never forget when somebody steps up and gives you that first contribution when you decide finally you're going to run for Congress and put in a year-long effort as the candidate for Congress all across Wyoming. And that was a long, tough, hard fought campaign, but in the end, successful. And it obviously set me on an interesting career path from that day to this.

But Al had a great deal to do with getting me, first of all, sort of educated in whetting my appetite for the political life, and then secondly, when it was very important, stepping up and putting his money where his mouth was, so to speak. And it was deeply appreciated.

I loved my time in Congress. I was the only congressman from Wyoming. Wyoming only has one congressional seat. It's a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter and applause.)

And I've got a lot of friends here tonight that I've served with in the Congress over the years. I see Porter Goss down here, who does superb work for us as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and does great work for all of you here in Florida.

I see my old friend Bill McCullom (ph) that I served with in the House for many years. Bill, it's good to see you this evening. And you've got many other distinguished members. Mark Foley flew down with me today from Washington. Mark is back here. And of course, I've worked over the years with Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. We've got Florida Senator Daniel Webster (ph) here this evening, I see, and Representative Carol Jean Jordan (ph). So it's a distinguished gathering tonight, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to come back to Southern Florida and spend some time with all of you.

I appreciate the turn-out, and I bring good wishes from the man you helped put in the White House, President George W. Bush. (Applause.) And although the Governor couldn't be with us tonight, obviously, I wouldn't want to come to Florida without praising the President's brother. (Laughter and applause.)

But he's done a superb job for the people of Florida and I'm proud to call him friend. He's been principled, effective, honest leadership for everybody across the state.

The presidential election is now just one year and two days away, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. There are several other elections early next week on Tuesday, and we're watching them very closely. And I believe this is already shaping up to be a good year for Republican candidates.

On Monday, I was in Columbus, Mississippi with Haley Barbour, our candidate for governor in Mississippi. The President will be in Mississippi tomorrow and Kentucky, as well. It looks like Haley is well on his way to becoming the next governor of Mississippi. (Applause.)

We also have excellent prospects in Kentucky and Louisiana on Tuesday night. I believe our candidates are running ahead in both those races. And just yesterday, in Washington, I had the chance to welcome to my office in the West Wing another star in our party, the new Governor of the State of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Applause.)

I'm just tremendously impressed with the way Arnold runs campaigns. (Laughter.) It's short, it's fast, and there's never any doubt about the outcome. (Laughter.)

But elections always require tremendous commitment, not only from those of us who are candidates, but also from all the volunteers and contributors who go into making those races possible. When I speak to political gatherings around the country these days, I always like to point out that every hour of volunteer time, every dollar contributed can make a decisive difference in an election. And this is not a tough case to make here in the state of Florida, obviously. We all remember -- certainly, I do -- and will never forget October, November, December of 2000. Every ounce of effort helped make the difference in that race. And many of you who are here tonight were absolutely tireless in that campaign. The Republicans in this part of Florida had a significant impact on the outcome. We'll never forget it, and I know we can count on all of you next year to do exactly the same thing. (Applause.)

The President and I are looking forward to the campaign. It'll be an opportunity to present our message to voters not only here in Florida, but all across the nation. The President and I came to Washington determined to resolve problems, instead of simply passing them on to the future generations. We were determined to seize new opportunities for reform, and to get beyond the old debates that had all too often stood in the way of progress.

Today, as we look ahead to the election of 2004, I believe we have a record of considerable accomplishment to show for our efforts. I believe the American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of the era we live in because of the character and the leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, people in every part of the country, regardless of party, took comfort and pride in the conduct of our President. (Applause.) From that day to this, he's led a focused, relentless, steady campaign against the enemies who struck America and killed our fellow citizens.

Not long after 9/11, one high-ranking al Qaeda official said, "This is the beginning of the end for America." It's pretty clear that terrorist didn't what he was talking about. It's pretty clear that the terrorists who attacked us did not understand the strength and resilience of our nation. And they did not understand the determination of our President.

We stand here today, with many of al Qaeda's known leaders having been killed or captured. Those still at large are living in fear. And their fears are well founded because we're on their trail.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime brutalized an entire population and harbored al Qaeda, and that regime is no more. In Iraq, a ruthless dictator -- one of the bloodiest dictators of the 20th century -- cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. And he gave support to terrorists, and his regime is no more.

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq. These terrorists are targeting the very success and freedom that we're providing to the Iraqi people. Terror attacks on innocent civilians will not intimidate Americans and they will not intimidate the Iraqi people. Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. We are rolling back the terrorist threat and defeating it at the heart of its power in the Middle East. We will persevere until every enemy who plots against the American people is confronted and defeated.

In these battles, the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States have performed with enormous skill and great courage. (Applause.) As a former Secretary of Defense, and I know you join me in this sentiment, I have never been prouder of the men and women in the United States military. (Applause.)

These fine young men and women deserve our wholehearted support, they deserve to have their bravery in battle recognized, and to have us acknowledge, as well, the progress that they've made in helping the people of Afghanistan and Iraq to emerge into a new era of self-rule and freedom. The men and women of our military are rebuilding schools, repairing medical facilities, and training Afghans and Iraqis to provide security for their fellow citizens. Our men and women in uniform are playing a classic role, one they undertook after World War II, when Americans brought help and hope to the people of Europe and Japan. Now in the Middle East, they're earning the trust of the people we've liberated.

One of the most important commitments that George Bush and I made during the 2000 campaign was that the armed forces would be given every resource they need and the respect they deserve. And we've kept our word. (Applause.)

Marking sure that our nation is secure has been a principal concern of this administration, and so has the economic well-being of our citizens. By the time we took office, the economy was sliding into recession. And to get it growing again, we've delivered tax relief -- significant tax relief. And we've done this because we believe that when families and small businesses are hurting, the best way to help them is to let them keep more of what they earn. After all -- (applause) -- the money we spend in Washington is not the government's money -- it's the people's money. (Applause.)

This administration has delivered the largest tax relief package since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. And we are beginning now to see strong economic growth that results from that. The figures for the third quarter, released just yesterday, show that the economy grew at an annual rate of 7.2 percent. (Applause.) That's the fastest pace since 1984, nearly 20 years ago. Exports are expanding. Business investment is rising. Housing construction is booming. The Bush tax cuts are working. (Applause.)

As you know, occasionally we hear voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. I hear these voices sometimes on the evening news. (Laughter.) I'm fascinated to watch the candidates of the other party try to put a negative spin on 7.2 percent real growth. (Laughter.) But, in fact, the Bush tax cuts helped us bring -- helped bring us out of recession. And they're helping now to promote foster -- to foster and promote long-term economic growth and to stimulate the creation of new jobs. And the President and I will not be satisfied until every person who wants to work can find a job. (Applause.)

President Bush has also made education reform a matter of the highest priority. He's reached across the aisle to enact a program that encourages high aspirations and accountability, and gives parents the information they need to know about their children's schools. Education has been one of those issues where there's been a lot of talk over the years, but under this President's leadership, talk has turned to action.

Similarly after many failed attempts in the 1990s, we now have trade promotion authority to open new markets for America's farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers. On issue after issue, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. One of the sure signs of his leadership can be seen every day in the people that he brought into government. As many of you know, I've had the privilege of holding a number of positions in public service, including Chief of Staff in the White House, member of Congress, and Secretary of Defense. Looking at the group now serving under President Bush, I can tell you, this is one of the finest teams ever assembled by a President of the United States. (Applause.)

All of us in this administration and our Republican allies in the House and Senate recognize that our job is not to rest on a strong record, but to keep adding to that record. Abroad, the fundamental interest of this nation requires that we oppose threats to our freedom and security wherever they may gather. Yet overcoming threats is only the beginning of America's responsibilities.

In the Middle East, we are encouraging free markets, democracy and tolerance because these are the ideas and the aspirations that overcome violence and turn societies to the pursuit of peace. In that region and beyond, all who strive and sacrifice for the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.

Here at home, we have a full agenda and some pressing business to complete. After many years of inaction, we're finally nearing reform in Medicare, reform that strengthens the system and provides America's seniors with prescription drug coverage. We must also improve our health care system through liability reform. In Florida and across America, doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, instead of fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

Thanks to the President's leadership, Congress is also nearing passage of a comprehensive energy plan. The President has proposed the strategy based on greater energy efficiency, conservation, cleaner technology, and more energy production right here at home. For the sake of our economic security and our national security, we must modernize our energy infrastructure and make this nation less dependent on foreign oil.

Also on Capitol Hill, it's time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The President has put forward superb nominees, men and women qualified to serve on the federal bench, talented experienced, who represent the mainstream of American law and American values. Yet some of these nominations have been denied an up-or-down vote for months or even years.

Just yesterday, the Senate Democrats waged a filibuster to prevent a vote on the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering, even though a solid majority of senators -- 54 to be precise -- were on record in support of his nomination. It is time for the Senate to end this unfair practice and to end all the needless delays in the confirmation process. Every nominee deserves a up-or-down vote in a timely fashion on the floor of the United States Senate. (Applause.)

We've achieved a great deal over the last few years, but there's still a great deal left to do in Washington and around the world, where we have many serious responsibilities and challenges. The campaign season will come in due course. And when it does, the President and I will run hard and take nothing for granted. We understand the key to victory is to do the work we've been given, and to do it well. We intend to make good use of every day we have the honor of serving the American people.

Long before I took this job, I had the good fortune to work with other Presidents I greatly admire. As a White House staffer in the aftermath of Watergate, I saw Gerald Ford restore confidence in government by the sheer decency and force of his character. As a congressman during the decisive years of the Cold War, I saw the conviction and the moral courage of Ronald Reagan. And as a member of the Cabinet under former President Bush, I saw the ideal of public service in its purest form and came to know a leader of honor and integrity.

Along the way I think I learned a few things about the presidency and the kind of person that it takes to do that job well. It takes the finest qualities of character, conviction, personal integrity, good judgement, compassion, and courage in times of testing for the nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the White House today. (Applause.)

President Bush and I are both honored by your confidence in us and by your commitment to the cause we serve. It's a privilege to spend this evening with so many people who've had such a direct impact on an historic election. This state was important long before the autumn of 2000, and it will be every bit as important well into the future. We all hope the next race won't be quite as suspenseful as the last one. (Laughter.) But we can be absolutely sure that the results will be just as crucial for Florida and for the nation. You were there when we needed you. You're with us today, and the President and I are enormously grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you very much.

END 6:47 P.M. EST

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