print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
In Focus
News by Date
Federal Facts
West Wing

 Home > News & Policies > March 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 15, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressman Rick Renzi
The Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa
Phoenix, Arizona

12:25 P.M. MST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Well, thank you very much. And, Lynne, that's a great story. I often explain to people that Lynne and I got married as the result of the 1952 election victory by Dwight Eisenhower, when he ran for President. In 1952, I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks, just a youngster. Dad worked for the Department of Agriculture. And Lynne was living in Casper, Wyoming.

But Eisenhower got elected, he reorganized the Agriculture Department, Dad was given the choice of moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Casper, Wyoming. He picked Casper. So we moved to Casper, Wyoming, and I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together, and we'll celebrate our 40th anniversary, come August. (Applause.)

But I explained to a group the other night if it hadn't been for that great victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. She said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) There's no doubt in my mind.

We're delighted to be back in Arizona once again. And I want to thank my friend Rick Renzi for the tremendous work he does every day on behalf of his district, on behalf of his state, and on behalf of the nation. In just one term in the House, Rick has shown himself to be a skilled legislator and a superb representative for the people of Arizona. Now he's running for a second term. And come to think of it, so am I. (Laughter.)

I want to thank all the statewide legislators, the statewide officials and party leaders with us today. I also want to say a word about Arizona's fine congressional delegation. We've got Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Trent Franks with us today. John Shadegg and Jeff Flake are obviously two great additions to that.

As a former member of the House, let me say that Rick and all of his colleagues are some of the finest members in Congress that we have in Washington, D.C. And as President of the Senate, I can say there's no finer Senate delegation than John McCain and Jon Kyl. Your senators are strong leaders of national stature on the most important issues facing the country. John McCain and Jon Kyl are doing an outstanding job in Washington, D.C. And I look forward to swearing in Senator McCain for his fourth term next January.

I was proud to campaign with Rick in October of 2002, just a few weeks before the election. I knew Rick would be a fine choice to represent Arizona's first district. And he's done an impressive job in the House of Representatives. He's fought hard for the ranchers, miners, small business owners in Arizona. And he's been a strong supporter of healthy forest legislation, the vital action that helps thin the undergrowth and reduces the risk of catastrophic fire. He understands the priorities of his district from Medicare, to Social Security, to education and the economy.

He's a perfect fit for his constituents, a great representative in Washington. And I think he has earned another term in the United States House of Representatives. (Applause.)

President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration, a period defined by serious challenges, hard choices, and the need for decisive action. In this time of testing, the President and I have been grateful to have strong leaders like Rick Renzi at our side.

There are many tasks that those of us in public service must take on, but none is more important than working to ensure that the citizens of this great country are safe and secure. The attacks of September 11, 2001, signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We suffered massive casualties on our own soil. We awakened to dangers even more lethal -- the possibility that terrorists had gained chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons from outlaw regimes and turned those weapons against the United States or our friends.

Remembering what we saw the morning of 9/11, and knowing the nature of these enemies, we have as clear a responsibility as should ever fall to government, we must do everything in our power to protect our people from terrorist attacks, and to keep terrorists from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)

This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in our national security strategy. For many years prior to 9/11, we treated terror attacks against Americans as isolated incidents and answered, if at all, on an ad hoc basis -- never in a systematic way. Even after an attack inside our own country, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, in New York, there was a tendency to treat terrorist incidents as individual criminal acts to be handled primarily through law enforcement.

The man who perpetrated that attack in New York was tracked down, arrested, convicted and sent off to serve a 240-year sentence. Yet behind that one man was a growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States waging war against our country.

For us that war started on 9/11, for them it started many years before. In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the mastermind of 9/11, first proposed to Osama bin Laden that they use hijacked airliners to attack targets in the United States. During this period, thousands of terrorists were trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. And we've seen the work of terrorists in many attacks since 9/11, in Riyadh, Casablanca, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, and most recently -- possibly -- Madrid.

The attack in Spain once again reveals the brutality of our enemy and once again shows that the fight against terrorism is the responsibility of all free nations. The terrorists are testing the unity and the resolve of the civilized world, and we must rise to that task. (Applause.)

Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, we are pursuing a clear strategy, not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to conduct a global campaign against the terror network.

Our strategy has several key elements. We've strengthened our defenses here at home, organizing the government to better protect the homeland. But a good defense is not enough. A terrorist enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with -- it can only be destroyed. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the business at hand. (Applause.)

In Afghanistan, we've removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the al Qaeda training camps. In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our peace and stability. A year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of almost 25 million people. Today he's in jail -- never again to brutalize the Iraqi people. (Applause.) He will never again pursue weapons of mass destruction, or support dangerous terrorists, never again threaten the United States of America.

From the beginning, America has sought and received international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the war on terror, we will always seek cooperation from our allies around the world. But as the President has made 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 our country. (Applause.)

I noticed recently that Senator Kerry has been making some observations about foreign policy. (Laughter.) He's been telling people that his ideas have gained strong support, at least among unnamed foreigners he's been spending time with. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry said, and I quote, "I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but, boy, they look at you and say, you've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that." End quote.

Yesterday, in Pennsylvania, a voter asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, "that's none of your business." But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy. (Applause.)

Our country is enormously fortunate during these times of testing to have George W. Bush as our Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.) He's been strong, he's been steady, and he's been consistent.

In January, I visited an American military base at Vicenza, Italy, and had a chance to talk with some of the fine men and women of our armed forces who had recently returned from Iraq. One young soldier, part of the 173rd Airborne that jumped into Iraq at the beginning of the war, wanted me to know how much he appreciated the President's decisive leadership. "Indecision kills, sir," this young soldier said to me, "indecision kills."

These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the next. We need a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and steady determination. And that's just what we have in President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

We've been enormously fortunate during these times of testing for our nation to have the dedicated service of the men and women who wear America's uniform. Many of them have seen hard duty, long deployments, and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades. They've done all of these things with great courage, and we are enormously proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)

We still face challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq, but our progress has been enormous. In Afghanistan, there is a new constitution; free elections will be held later this year. In Iraq, a new interim constitution has been signed. This is an historic achievement, a landmark for our time and for future generations. The United States can be very proud of the role we're playing in extending liberty's frontiers. And when we help people to be free, we make our friends and allies more secure. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where people have the right to guide their own destinies and choose their own leaders.

The long-term security of our nation has been a principal concern of President Bush, and so has been the economic well-being of our citizens. By the time we took office, the economy was sliding into recession. Then, just as we were beginning to recover, terrorists struck our nation and shook our economy. Working with Rick Renzi and others in Congress, President Bush has taken strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again. The President signed into law three separate tax relief measures, resulting in significant tax relief for millions of American families and businesses. (Applause.)

We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, and cut rates across the board. We raised the expensing deduction for small businesses to give them strong incentives to invest, and we put the death tax on the way to extinction. (Applause.)

Now we're beginning to see the results of the President's policies. In the second half of last year, our economy grew at an annual rate of 6.1 percent, its fastest pace in nearly two decades, and the highest rate of any major industrialized nation. New home construction last year was the highest in 25 years. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates are low. Inflation is low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. Business investment is growing. And unemployment, at 5.6 percent, is almost exactly where it was when Senator Kerry was campaigning for Bill Clinton in 1996.

Real disposable personal income is growing strongly, meaning that American workers have more money to spend, to save and invest. America's economy is moving in the right direction. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. (Applause.)

The American people are using their money better than the government would have, and Congress was right to let them keep it. As you know, there are voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Sometimes I hear these voices at night on the evening news. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry has said he would repeal the Bush tax cuts within his first 100 days in office. This isn't surprising when you consider that he has voted 350 times in the United States Senate for higher taxes. But for the sake of long-term growth and job-creation, we ought to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposed: We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

Tax cuts started the economic recovery, to strengthen it even more, 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. Here in Arizona, and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting lawyers. (Applause.)

We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and to make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.) And we should limit the burden of government on this economy by acting as good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars. The President has proposed a budget that limits the growth in discretionary spending. With spending discipline and pro-growth economic policies, we can cut the deficit in half in the five years.

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 up-or-down votes for months and even years. That is unfair to the judicial nominees and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. This small group of senators needs to stop playing politics with American justice. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And that's another reason you need to send John McCain back to the United States Senate. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, from national security, to economic growth, to improving our schools, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. Rick has stood with us on vital issues, and he shares our optimism about the years ahead.

President Bush has a clear vision for the future of this country: Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, to turn back the forces of terror, and to spread hope and freedom throughout the world.

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

Once again, thank you all for your commitment to the cause we share. It's an honor to stand with you in supporting Rick Renzi. You are united behind a strong leader and a congressman with the right priorities for his state. Rick is showing his talent, and dedication, and reflecting great credit on the people of the first district of Arizona. President Bush and I look forward to working with him for a long time to come.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:42 P.M. MST