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 Home > News & Policies > February 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 27, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at a Breakfast for Congressman Roscoe Bartlett
Four Points Sheraton
Hagerstown, Maryland

9:25 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, it's great to be in Hagerstown this morning. It's a great way to start the day, hope the fire marshal doesn't find out about this event. (Laughter.)

But I want to thank Roscoe for his kind words, for the fine work he does every day on behalf of his district, the state of Maryland, and, indeed, the entire country. I wanted to make the trip over this morning from Washington. After all, I know Roscoe makes that commute every day, so that he can live here in the sixth district. And I bring good wishes to Hagerstown from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I always enjoy the opportunity to come out and speak on behalf of a good member of the House of Representatives. As Roscoe mentioned, I served in the House for 10 years back in the 1980s, spent a little more than a decade as the congressman from Wyoming. And as he pointed out, we had a small delegation. There was only one seat in the House from Wyoming. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.)

Now, my only aspiration as a politician was to get some day to be Speaker of the House. But I never got to serve in the majority. The best I could do, I got elected to the number two spot as the Republican whip before I left to become Secretary of Defense. And I've had to settle for second best now, and that's to serve as President of the Senate. (Laughter.) I don't tell my Senate colleagues that. But I do maintain an office on the House side of the Capitol because I really consider myself a man of the House.

In all those years I spent there I think I gained a working knowledge of what makes a really effective member of Congress. You need people who will work hard and stay in close touch with the folks back home in the district, who are prepared to stand up and speak out on those issues that matter most to the folks back home and to the nation. And that's exactly what Roscoe Bartlett has done every day in the 12 years he's represented this district and Maryland.

For the past 12 years, he's been a respected voice on issues involving science and agriculture, armed services, small business. His fellow members listen to him for a reason, because he has experience in all those areas -- as a scientist, as a farmer, and as a small business owner. As one of the senior members now of the Armed Services Committee, he's been a steady advocate for our nation's military and our homeland security personnel. He's worked tirelessly for firefighters, police officers, and first responders here in Maryland. And all across Capitol Hill, your congressman is regarded as a smart, independent, and effective public servant.

He works with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in a spirit of bipartisanship, and that's a quality we need a bit more of in the nation's capital. Roscoe Bartlett has been a faithful representative of Western Maryland, the perfect fit for the sixth district. By electing Roscoe, you put a good man in a big job, and he has earned another term in the United States Congress. (Applause.)

The President and I just began the fourth year of our term as President and Vice President. We live in a time of serious challenges, hard choices, and the need for decisive action. And in this time of testing, the President and I have been grateful to have Congressman Bartlett at our side because he understands that our first responsibility is the defense of the American people. He knows well that even though it's been more than two years now since 9/11, we must have no illusions that somehow the danger has passed.

Terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world, and we must see them for what they are: killers who will not be stopped by treaties, or negotiations, by appeals to reason, or by the least hint of conscience. In the war on terror, we have only one option, and that's to carry the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)

We took the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan, where we removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the al Qaeda training camps. Now the nation of Afghanistan has adopted a new constitution and is moving towards free elections later this year. The Afghan people are building a decent, just and democratic society, and the United States of America is proud to be their friend.

In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our future peace and security. A year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of nearly 25 million people, today he's in jail. (Applause.) He will never again brutalize his people, never again support dangerous terrorists that pursue weapons of mass destruction, and never again threaten the United States of America. There is no question that America did absolutely the right thing in Iraq. (Applause.)

As the President has said, we had a choice, either take the word of Saddam Hussein, who had used weapons of mass destruction and murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, or take action to defend the American people. Faced with that choice, George W. Bush will defend America every time. (Applause.)

From the beginning, America has sought and received international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our armed forces in Afghanistan today are part of an international security force that now includes forces from almost 40 nations, including NATO. On the ground in Iraq, a coalition of over 30 countries is working hard to help make the transition to Iraqi self-government. In the war on terror, we will always seek cooperation from our allies around the world. But as the President has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. And the United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country. (Applause.)

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq, terrorists targeting the very success and the freedom we're providing to that country. Recently, we intercepted a letter sent by a senior al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi to one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants. The letter describes the terrorists' strategy, to tear Iraq apart with ethnic violence, to undermine Iraqi security forces, to demoralize the coalition, and to prevent the rise of a sovereign democratic government. This terrorist outlines his efforts to recruit and train suicide bombers, and boasts of 25 attacks on innocent Iraqis and coalition personnel. And he urges al Qaeda members to join him in waging war on our coalition and on the people of Iraq. Zarqawi and men like him have made Iraq the central front in the war on terror. The terrorists know that the emergence of a free Iraq will be a major blow against the worldwide terrorist movement. In this, they are correct. They think they can drive America away with attacks on our coalition and innocent Iraqis. In this, they are wrong. America will finish what we've begun in Iraq, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror. (Applause.)

In this new century the gravest threat to our country and the civilized world is the possibility of cooperation between terrorist groups and outlaw regimes that are developing, or that posses weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

By acting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we demonstrated both our strength and our resolve. We sent an unmistakable message, America will not permit terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's deadliest weapons. That message is getting through.

In December, after nine months of intensive diplomacy, Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of its weapons of mass destruction programs. (Applause.) It's no accident that they decided to begin negotiations about the time we invaded Iraq, or that they announced that they had completed those negotiations and would surrender all of their weapons of mass destruction five days after we found Saddam Hussein in his spider hole outside Baghdad.

Exposing Colonel Ghadafi's secret weapons program has also helped us uncover a global proliferation network, led by a Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan. In addition to aiding Libya, Khan's network sold critical nuclear technologies to Iran and to North Korea. And America is working with others to ensure that those nations, too, will abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons. We will not relent in opposing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For the sake of our own security, and for the peace of the world, we must stop these weapons from being acquired or built and prevent them from ever being used.

Yet overcoming threats is only the beginning of America's responsibilities. In 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. Democracies do not breed the anger and radicalism that drag down whole societies or export violence. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and choose their own leaders. Some doubt the people of the Middle East are capable of self-government, yet the desire for freedom is not just American or Western, it's universal. Whenever ordinary people are driven -- are given the chance to choose, they choose freedom, democracy and the rule of law. And all who strive and sacrifice in the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.

America is a nation that is always ready to work and to sacrifice for peace. The use of force, however, must be our last resort. But when that need arises, all of us are fortunate to be defended by the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines. The men and -- (applause) -- the men and women of our armed forces reflect extraordinary credit on the United States. And as a former Secretary of Defense, I can assure you, the cause of freedom has never been in better hands.

The long-term security of our nation, and of our friends and allies has been a principal concern of the President's, and so has the economic well-being of our citizens. By the time we took office, the economy was sliding into recession. To get it growing again, we have, with the support of Congressman Bartlett, delivered significant tax relief for the people of the United States. We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, gave small businesses strong incentives to invest, phased out the death tax, and cut rates across the board. Now we are seeing the results as people who have more money to spend, save and invest are using it to drive the economy forward.

Economic growth is strong. New home construction last year was the highest in 25 years. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. The growth rate in the last half of last year was over 6 percent, one of the highest in 20 years. Interest rates are low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. Since August, the economy has created 366,000 new jobs. These numbers confirm the American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and Congress was right to let them keep it. (Applause.)

Now, as Roscoe can tell you, some of our friends in Washington want to take away the tax cuts by letting them expire. Sometimes we hear about this on the evening news. (Laughter.) President Bush has a better idea, for the sake of our long-term growth and job creation we need to make those tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

We need to do more to keep the economy growing. We need to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous lawsuits and needless regulations. We need to control the costs of health care by passing medical liability reform. (Applause.) Here in Maryland, and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

And let me add one other thing, it is also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The President has put forward talented, experienced men and women who represent the mainstream of American law and American values, yet Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying some of these nominees up-or-down votes for months or even years. That's unfair to the nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. A small group of senators needs to stop playing politics with American justice. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, from national security, to economic growth, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. And you can be proud that your congressman has been a crucial part of that progress, yet all of us in the administration and in Congress recognize that there's a great deal more to do.

Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, and to turn back the forces of terror, and to spread hope and freedom throughout the world.

Here at home, we'll continue to build prosperity that reaches every corner of the land so that every child who grows up in the United States will have a chance to learn, and to succeed, and to rise in the world.

Once again, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to the cause we all share. President Bush and I are grateful to all our friends in this part of the country, and especially grateful here in the sixth district to all of you for sending Roscoe Bartlett to work with us. He's made a fine name for himself. He reflects tremendous credit on the good people of this district. And we look forward to working with him for a good long time to come.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 9:45 A.M. EST