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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
November 10, 2003

Remarks by the Vice President at a Dinner for Bush-Cheney '04
St. Regis Hotel
Houston, Texas
November 7, 2003

6:21 P.M. CST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good evening. And thank you very much, Rich and Nancy. Let me thank you for helping organize all this and putting it together. We really appreciate your support. It's great to be back in Houston, the hometown of George and Barbara Bush. (Applause.)

I've spent a little time here myself over the years, so I'm delighted to be back, as well. We really do appreciate your support tonight, your willingness to sign on and be part of this campaign. It was just three years ago tonight that we had the election night that went on and on and on for 37 days. (Laughter.)

And I was -- earlier today, I was over in Austin. We did an event like this at the Four Seasons Hotel there, which is where we checked in three years ago to have the election night festivities. (Laughter.) And for a while there, it looked like we might never leave. But it was -- I tell that story partly as a reminder to everybody that when you hear someone say what I do doesn't matter, that I can afford not to get involved in campaigns, or the business of selecting the President because my own individual efforts won't affect the outcome, remind them of that election of 2000, where an election that close -- probably the closest in our history -- a few hundred votes in the state of Florida ultimately determined the outcome. And every dollar that was contributed, all of the volunteer time that went into it, all of the effort that went into putting together that campaign all across the country was absolutely essential to the outcome in terms of deciding who would be President of the United States. And I think the nation made a great decision on that night, because they selected George W. Bush to be President of the United States. (Applause.)

We're all here -- delighted to be here tonight, as well. Of course, Texas gave us 32 electoral votes in that election of 2000. And I don't want to take any state for granted in 2004, but I think it looks pretty good down here in Texas, next time around. (Laughter.) I don't believe we'll need a recount in Texas. (Applause.)

And, of course, the President, when he asked me to be Vice President said it wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) He got 69 percent in Wyoming. But I remind him frequently that those three electoral votes came in pretty darned handy. (Laughter.)

As we look forward to 2004, we've got a busy year ahead of us. And this week, of course, we got some early indications of how the voters feel about Republican leadership. Last Tuesday, in Mississippi, the sitting Democratic Governor was unseated by the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour. In Kentucky -- (applause) -- in Kentucky, the voters chose Dr. Ernie Fletcher, Air Force veteran, a congressmen. And he became the first elected Republican Governor in Kentucky in 36 years. (Applause.) And let's not forget another new Republican governor. He was in my office last week, the new Republican Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Applause.) I'd call that a trend. (Laughter.) And we are hoping that trend continues right here in Houston in the race for mayor in a few weeks. And the President and I are absolutely behind Orlando Sanchez 100 percent. He'll make a great mayor. (Applause.)_

Now, I know all Texans are proud of our President and our First Lady, Laura Bush. (Applause.) And Texans can also take pride in a great congressional delegation. My only real job as Vice President is to serve as President of the Senate. I can tell you that one of the most effective teams in Washington is the team of Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. They do a superb job not only for Texas, but for the nation. (Applause.)

And I appreciate very much the work of the Senate because, as I say, the only real assignment I have in any, sort of, formal constitutional sense is as the President of the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the job of Vice President, then they went all the way through the Constitutional Convention, got down to the end, they suddenly discovered they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So somebody said, well, we'll make him the President of the Senate, and let him preside over the Senate and let him cast the tie-breaking vote whenever the Senate is evenly balanced. So I obviously have an interest in how many senators we're able to elect of the proper faith. (Laughter.)

But my predecessor John Adams, our first Vice President, had floor privileges, as well. He was able to go down into the well of the Senate and engage in the debate of the day, and participate in the great and momentous debates as we began our history as a new republic. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) So I'm not allowed to do that, but I do get to cast that tie-breaking vote.

But with the responsibilities that the President and I have, it matters a great deal that we can count on capable partners in the United States Congress. The President came to Washington determined to solve problems, not simply pass them on to future generations. We were determined to seize new opportunities for reform, to get beyond the old debates that had stood in the way of progress. And today, as we look ahead to the election of 2004, I think we've got a significant record of accomplishment to show for our troubles. The American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of this new era, because of the character and leadership of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

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

Not long after September 11th, one high-ranking al Qaeda official said, "This is the beginning of the end of America." It's pretty clear that terrorist did not know us. It's pretty clear that the terrorists who attacked us that day did not understand the enormous strength and resilience of this country. And they, clearly, did not understand the determination of our President.

As we stand here today, many of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed. Those still at large are living in fear -- and their fears are well founded, because we are 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 cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. He gave support to terrorists, and had an established relationship with al Qaeda -- and his regime is no more.

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq. These terrorists are targeting the very success and the freedom that we're providing to the Iraqi people. But we will persevere until every one of them is confronted and defeated. This is no easy task. But the men and women of America's Armed Forces are undertaking it with enormous skill and courage. As a former Secretary of Defense, I have never been prouder of the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.)

These 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 tremendous progress they have made in helping the people of Afghanistan and Iraq 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 that they undertook after World War II when they brought help and hope to the people of Europe and Japan. Now, in the Middle East, they are supporting the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan as they create countries that can be part of the world community, instead of a threat to it. This is a mission that must succeed, and under this President, it will succeed. (Applause.)

Making 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. 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, the money we spend in Washington is not the government's money -- it's the people's money.

Our administration has delivered the largest tax relief package since Ronald Reagan lived in the White House, and we are beginning to see strong economic growth that is the result. The figures for the third quarter show that the economy grew at an annual rate of 7.2 percent -- the fastest pace in nearly 20 years. Exports are expanding, business investment is rising, housing construction is booming. The President and I will not rest until every American who wants a job can find a job. (Applause.)

And jobs are now beginning to be created. In the data that was released today, of course, the unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent. And over the last three months, as a result of the revised data released today, some 286,000 jobs have been created here in the United States.

Now, as you know, there are a few voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. You see some of this at times on the evening news. (Laughter.) They are having great difficulty trying to put a negative spin on 7.2 percent real economic growth. But, of course, now they're arguing for tax increases, and against the very tax cuts that we put in place. It's those cuts that, in fact, have brought us out of recession that are helping to foster long-term economic growth. Instead of rolling the tax cuts back, we ought to do what the President has asked, and that's to make those Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

President Bush has also made education reform a matter of the highest priority. He reached across the aisle and enacted 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 at the federal level, where for years, there had been a lot of talk, but under this President's leadership, talk has been 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, the President has led the way in making progress for the American people. And one of the sure signs of his leadership can be seen every day in the people that he's brought into government. As many of you know, I've had the privilege of holding a number of positions in public service over the years -- as White House Chief of Staff, member of Congress, 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 the President of the United States.

All of us in this administration -- and the Republicans 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. And it requires that we free markets, democracy, and tolerance -- because these are the ideas and aspirations that overcome violence, and turn societies to the pursuit of peace. In the Middle East 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, as well. After so many years of inaction, we are nearing major reform in Medicare -- reform that strengthens the system, and provides America's seniors with prescription drug coverage. We also must improve our health care system through liability reform. In Texas, and all 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, the Congress is nearing passage of a comprehensive energy plan. The President has proposed a strategy based on greater energy efficiency and 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 we must make this nation less dependent on foreign oil. (Applause.)

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 to serve on the federal bench -- talented, experienced men and women who represent the mainstream of American law and American values. Yet some of these nominees, including Justice Priscilla Owen of Texas, have been denied up-or-down votes in the Senate for months, and even years. Last week, and again yesterday, the Senate Democrats waged filibusters against nominees, who would have been confirmed with a majority of Senate votes -- that is they had more than 50, had they simply been permitted to vote -- but were blocked by the filibuster. 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 prompt up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. (Applause.)

We've achieved a great deal over the last few years. But there's a great deal left to do in Washington. The campaign season will come in due course, and when it does, President Bush 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 -- 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 true honor and integrity.

Along the way, I learned a few things about the presidency, and the kind of person it takes to do that job well. It takes the finest qualities of character: conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, 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 all share. Your support now in November of 2003 will help assure victory in November of 2004. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 6:38 P.M. CST

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