The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 23, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at Bush-Cheney '04 Event
Hilton Hotel
Minneapolis, Minnesota

12:24 P.M. CST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Well, thank you very much, Lynne. I appreciate that warm welcome. And it's great to be back in Minneapolis.

The fact is, I often tell people that Lynne and I have a Republican marriage, that if it hadn't been for that victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, our lives would have turned out very differently. In those years, I was a youngster living with my folks in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dad worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the department, and Dad had the choice of moving to Great Falls, Montana or Casper, Wyoming. And he picked Casper, Wyoming. And that's where I met Lynne; we grew up together; went to high school together; and we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, come August. It was a hell of a red dress. (Laughter and applause.)

But I explained that to a group the other night, that if it hadn't been for that Eisenhower victory that I wouldn't have gone to Wyoming, and Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) So, there's no doubt in my mind. (Laughter.)

But I also want to bring you greetings from your governor. I had dinner last night in Washington with Tim Pawlenty. He's doing a great job under tough circumstances. And I've gotten to know him well now. He came in with a group of other governors to brief the President and me on their recent trip to Iraq. And he's doing a superb job. But we had dinner last night. He's in Washington. He's working with the Governors conference today, and asked to be sure and be remembered to everybody here in Minneapolis.

I also want to thank the congressmen with us today, John Kline and Mark Kennedy. They're doing a superb job for the people of Minnesota -- and Norm Coleman, who I was proud to campaign with last year. And Norm has made a great addition to the United States Senate.

My only real job as Vice President is to preside over the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution and created the position of Vice President, they got down to the end of the convention and they decided they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) They said, well, we'll make him the President of the Senate. We'll let him preside over the Senate. He'll be able to cast tie-breaking votes and so forth.

And my predecessor John Adams, our first Vice President, even had floor privileges. He could go down into the well of the House -- excuse me, the well of the Senate and speak, and address the issues of the day. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored.

But of course, I spent 10 years in the House of Representatives, and I was the congressman from Wyoming. We only had one seat, congressional seat in Wyoming. It was a small delegation. But it was quality. (Laughter.) But I loved the House, myself. And I've come, over the years, to appreciate both in the House and the Senate side the kinds of individuals that make effective members back there. And you've got a great delegation here from Minnesota. So I'm delighted to have the opportunity to serve with all of them.

I also want to bring you good wishes today from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.) We're grateful for the support we received in Minnesota last time around. We ran hard in this state. We made a better showing here than Republicans had for a long time -- strong support from the farms, to the Twin Cities, to the Iron Range. And this year, we intend to do even better, and with your help, we're going to carry Minnesota for the Bush-Cheney ticket. (Applause.)

All of you will be part of the effort, and we genuinely appreciate your commitment to the cause. The President now and I are just beginning our fourth year. This has been a period that's been defined by serious challenges and hard choices. When we were sworn in three years ago, no one could have predicted all that lay just ahead for America. The President came to office with a clear understanding of his responsibilities. He was determined to solve problems, instead of passing them on to future generations. We wanted to seize new opportunities for reform, rather than get reform sidetracked as it had so often in the past by the old debates.

Today, as we look ahead to this year's election, I think we've got a significant record of accomplishment to run on. The American people can be confident of a better future, of a stronger economy, and of greater security against the dangers of our new era because of the character and the leadership of our President, George W. Bush.

In this time of testing, our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Even though it has been more than two years now since 9/11, we must have no illusions that the danger has passed.

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

Today, members of our armed forces are deployed around the world to fight the war on terror. And in the 29 months since 9/11, America and our friends and allies in many countries, have inflicted heavy losses on al Qaeda's leaderships and foot soldiers. We've been tracking them down, finding them in hiding places from Pakistan to Indonesia. Those not yet captured or killed live in fear, and their fears are well founded.

We're also working with governments all over the world to take down the financial networks that support terror, the hidden bank accounts, the front groups, and the phony charities that have helped them function. Our government is working closely with intelligence services all around the globe, and our own intelligence officers continue to be engaged in some of the most perilous and sensitive intelligence work ever carried out.

This work has brought many successes, including the discovery of terror plots that we were able to stop in their tracks. Americans can be grateful every day for the skillful and daring service of our nation's intelligence professionals.

On the night of September 11th, President Bush declared that the United States would make no distinction between terrorists and those who support them. This principle, that's come to be known as the Bush doctrine, is now understood by all. Any person or government that protects, supports or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account. (Applause.)

The first to see its application were the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan by violence, while turning that country into a training camp for terror. With fine allies at our side, we took down the regime and destroyed the al Qaeda camps. Our work there continues. Our armed forces in Afghanistan are part of an international security force that now includes nearly 40 nations, with a major role, as well, for NATO. This force is on the hunt for the remaining Taliban and al Qaeda members. We're helping train a new Afghan army, and we're helping to provide security as the new government takes shape.

Under President Karzai's leadership, and with the help of our coalition, the Afghan people are building a decent, and a just, and a democratic society, and a nation fully joined in the war against terror. They've just adopted a new constitution, and later this year, they'll have nationwide elections.

In Iraq, the United States and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our peace and security. A year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives of almost 25 million people, now he's in jail -- never again to brutalize his people, never again to support dangerous terrorists, never again to threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)

America has shown that we are serious about removing the threat of weapons of mass destruction. In Iraq, our survey group is collecting the facts. The President has created a special commission to compare what the intelligence indicated before the war with what we've learned afterwards. Already, our inspectors have discovered a lot about what the dictator was up to. And it confirms much of what we thought before the war.

We now know that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the scientists, and he had the technology he needed. We know that he had the necessary infrastructure because we found the labs and the dual-use facilities that could be used to produce chemical and biological agents. We know that he was developing delivery systems, ballistic missiles, that the United Nations had prohibited. And Saddam Hussein had something else -- he had a record of using weapons of mass destruction against his enemies and against his own people. There is no question that America did the right thing in Iraq. (Applause.)

The gravest threat to America is the possibility of cooperation between terrorist groups and outlaw regimes developing or possessing weapons of mass destruction. As the President has said, we had a choice: either take the word of Saddam Hussein, or take action to defend the American people. Faced with that choice, George W. Bush will defend America every time. (Applause.)

Since taking action in Iraq, we've also had one other important development. Colonel Moammar Ghadafi, in Libya, who had a robust program to develop nuclear weapons, watched our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and contacted us last spring, and indicated he wanted to begin negotiations to give up all of his weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)

Five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, he publicly announced his agreement that he would, in fact, surrender all of that capability. But we also knew, in advance, it's simply become public since the Ghadafi operation, of a network run by a man named A.Q. Khan, the man who built the nuclear bomb for Pakistan, who had created an illicit global network to supply centrifuges needed to enrich uranium, the feed stock for the process, as well as, weapons design to Libya. And he's also provided support and assistance to the programs in Iran and North Korea, as well.

One of the by-products of the aggressive action that we took in Iraq, has been the end to the Libyan program, the taking-down of the A.Q. Khan network, the most serious threat to nuclear proliferation in the world today. And obviously, now we're aggressively working on the Iranian and North Korean programs, as well.

From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we have gained a great deal of support. 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. The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of this country. (Applause.)

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq, terrorists who are targeting the very success and freedom that we're providing for 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 in Iraq. This terrorist outlines his efforts to recruit and train suicide bombers and boasts of 25 attacks on innocent Iraqis and coalition personnel. And he urged 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 our 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. But we've seen this enemy before, and we know how to deal with him. Fighting alongside the people of Afghanistan, we are defeating the terrorists in that country. And fighting alongside the people of Iraq, we will defeat the terrorists there, as well.

With determined allies at our side, we are helping Iraqis build a free country, which will make all of us more secure. We are standing with the Iraqi people as they assume more responsibility for their own security and move toward self-government. And these are not easy tasks, but they are absolutely essential. America will finish what we've begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror. And Iraq, like Afghanistan, will be free. (Applause.)

America is a nation that is always ready to work and to sacrifice for peace. The use of force should always be our last resort. And when that need arises, all of us are fortunate to be defended by the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines. In all they have done and continue to do, the men and women who wear this nation's uniform have performed with incredible skill and courage. (Applause.)

In Iraq, as in Afghanistan, American forces have struck hard against the forces of murder and chaos -- conducting raids, countering attacks, seizing weapons, capturing killers. Members of the active duty armed forces, of the National Guard, and of our reserves have faced hard duty, long deployments away from home, and the loss of comrades. They are confronting danger every day to protect all of us, and they are earning the trust of the people they've liberated. They reflect extraordinary credit on the United States of America. And our entire nation is proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)

The long-term security of our nation, and of our friends and allies, has been a principal concern of President Bush. 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've delivered significant tax relief for the American people. We're leaving more money in the hands that earned it, because when Americans have more take-home pay, they have more to spend, more to save, and more to invest. We increased the child credit to help parents raise children. We helped our senior citizens and encouraged investment by reducing taxes on dividends and capital gains. And we've given small businesses incentives to expand and to hire new people.

Now we're seeing the results of the hard work of the American people, and the sound policies of the administration. Americans took those dollars, and they put them to work, driving the economy forward. The pace of economic growth in the second half of last year was over 6 percent, the fastest in almost 20 years. New home construction last year was the highest in 25 years. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high. Since August the economy has created 366,000 new jobs; unemployment is at a two-year low. These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and Congress was right to return it. (Applause.)

As you no doubt are aware, there are voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Sometimes I hear these voices on the evening news. (Laughter.) But in fact, the Bush tax cuts were exactly what the economy needed, and they've now set us on a path to long-term growth and job creation. And to keep us on that path, Congress needs to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, from national security to economic growth and trade, to improving our public schools, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. All of us in this administration, and our allies on Capitol Hill, recognize that our job is not to rest on a strong record, but to keep adding to that record.

Abroad, the fundamental interest of the nation requires that we oppose threats to our freedom and security wherever they 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 aspirations that overcome violence and turn societies to the pursuits 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 a record of achievement. We will continue our pro-growth economic agenda, so that we can continue to create jobs. We must improve our health care system through medical liability reform. Doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, instead of fighting off frivolous lawsuits from trial lawyers. (Applause.)

Congress should also pass the President's energy policy, because we need to promote conservation, protect the environment, and make the nation less dependent on foreign energy. (Applause.)

And it is time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The President has a responsibility to make sure the judicial system runs well, and he's met that duty. He's 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 Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying some of these nominees up-or-down votes for months or even years. Even though these nominees may have a majority of senators supporting them, they cannot get confirmed, because of the filibuster, unless they get a super majority of 60 votes. That's unfair to the nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, and that's another good reason why we need to send more Republicans, like Norm Coleman, to the United States Senate. (Applause.)

The campaign season has begun. President Bush and I will be proud to present our vision to voters all across the country. We'll run hard, and take nothing for granted, and we will continue to make good use of every day we have the honor of serving the American people.

Long before I took my current job, I had the good fortune to work for other Presidents I greatly admire. 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 judgement, compassion, courage in times of testing for the nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the Oval Office today. (Applause.)

I count it a privilege to serve with a President who has united our nation behind great goals and brought honor and integrity to the White House. Once again, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to the cause we share. The President and I are deeply grateful to our friends in the Twin Cities, and all across the state of Minnesota. And now, together, we'll go forward to see our cause to victory on November 2nd, of 2004.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:45 P.M. CST

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