For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 9, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for John Thune
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
6:14 P.M. CST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you for that warm welcome for a Wyoming boy, although I do spend a little time over here chasing your pheasants. (Laughter.) But it's great to be back in South Dakota, and so close to home. I was born, of course, south of here, down in Lincoln, Nebraska. We moved to Wyoming when I was a youngster. That turned out to be a good thing because that's how I met Lynne. And if that hadn't happened, I doubt that I would have amounted to much. (Laughter.) She would have married somebody else and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.)
But I bring good wishes to all of you from a great American with many friends across South Dakota, our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.) I want to thank the state legislators and party leaders who are with us, as well as your Governor Mike Rounds, and your former Senator Larry Pressler. And I also want to say a word about the upcoming special election for Congress here in South Dakota.
We're fortunate to have an outstanding candidate in Larry Diedrich. Larry is a lifelong farmer. He understands the needs of the state. He has experience in the legislature, and a record of accomplishment as a national advocate for agriculture. He's ready to be your representative in Washington. And President Bush and I look forward to welcoming him to the House majority. (Applause.)
But the reason we're here this afternoon is to be -- to do everything we can do to make absolutely certain that your next senator from South Dakota is John Thune. (Applause.)
You might say, why does a Wyoming boy care about who South Dakota selects to represent them in the United States Senate. Let me just mention that as the Vice President, I only have one job, and that's to serve as the President of the Senate.
The fact is when they wrote the Constitution, created the post of Vice President, they got down to the end of the Constitution Convention and discovered they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate, which means I get to preside over the Senate.
And my predecessor John Adams had floor privileges. He could actually go down into the well of the Senate and participate in debate, and then he did a couple of times and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) But I'm allowed to cast tie-breaking votes. And I cast three tie-breaking votes in the last Congress. The first was to get the budget resolution passed. The second was to pass the amendment that allowed us to cut the tax on capital gains and reduce the double-taxation of dividends, key for anybody who's been saving and investing. And the third was to pass the tax cut we passed last spring, which has put the economy back on the right track. (Applause.)
But what that means is the Senate is very, very evenly balanced. And if there -- we were one vote short, we wouldn't have been able to do what we did last spring that's been so absolutely crucial to millions of Americans all across this country.
John has dedicated his career to serving the people of South Dakota, from his days as a railroad director, to his three terms in the House of Representatives. He's been a superb congressman, respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, tireless in his commitment to the people of South Dakota. He knows the people of the state. He shares your values, and he understands your priorities: low taxes, a strong military, and a quality education for every child. These are John's core principles. He's going to campaign hard on them every day, until November 2nd, and one thing is for sure, you'll never hear John Thune say one thing in South Dakota and do something else in Washington, D.C.
You deserve a United States senator dedicated to serving the people of South Dakota, and that's exactly what you'll get when you elect John Thune to the United States Senate. (Applause.) He'll get results for people all across South Dakota on issues from jobs to agriculture, to transportation. He has the right experience, the right philosophy to serve as your senator. And as President of the United States Senate, I look forward to swearing him in next January. (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. 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. (Applause.)
We are now entering into a great national debate about how best to deal with the dangers we face. One side argues that we should treat attacks on our nation by terrorists primarily as matters for law enforcement and intelligence. That's what the Democratic nominee for President has said, among many other things. (Laughter.) In fact, several days ago, Senator Kerry said he wasn't even comfortable calling this a war. He said, "I don't want to use that terminology." John Kerry has embraced the strategy of the 1990s, which holds that when we are attacked, we ought to round up the guilty parties and put them on trial.
In 1993, for example, the first time the World Trade Center was attacked, the U.S. government caught and convicted Ramzi Yousef, who was chiefly responsible for the bombing, and he's now doing a life sentence. But all too often, attacking America and her interests was still a pretty safe thing to do, and the terrorists kept doing it: Khobar Towers, 1996; East Africa embassy bombings, 1998; U.S. Cole, 2000. The worldwide terrorist network, of which Ramzi Yousef was part, continued to plot against us. On a clear September day in 2001, murderers armed with box cutters and hatred, murderers whose plans were drawn up by Ramzi Yousef's uncle, the man named Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, attacked the World Trade Center again. Before the day was over, they'd killed some 3,000 of our fellow citizens in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
9/11 changed everything. Its awful toll made crystal clear that law enforcement was no longer enough. The time for serving the terrorists with legal papers was over. With this massive attack on our homeland, the largest in our history, war had been declared upon our country, and war is what the enemy got.
President Bush moved us beyond the inadequate strategy of the '90s. To keep America safe, he determined that we would go after the terrorists with all of the means at our disposal. We would use force if necessary, not only against the terrorists, but against those nations that gave them safe harbor and sanctuary.
In Afghanistan, we 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 security. A year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of nearly 25 million people, tonight he's in jail. (Applause.) He will never again brutalize his people, never again support dangerous terrorists, or pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)
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 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 our country. (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. (Applause.) 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 tremendously proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)
George Bush and I came to Washington determined to give these fine men and women all the tools and training they need to win the war on terror. John, we know that this is a stance you've supported, as well. And it's one of the clearest distinctions that we will be drawing with our opponents in the fall. (Applause.) When the time came to vote for funds for our troops in Iraq, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts, Senator Kerry, voted no. We know that we can depend on John Thune to give our fighting men and women the yes vote they deserve. (Applause.)
Our country is enormously fortunate during these times of testing to have President George W. Bush as our Commander-in-Chief. He's been strong; he's been steady; and he's been consistent. (Applause.)
In January, I visited one of our American military bases at Vicenza, in 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 Brigade 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. (Applause.) We need a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and steady determination. And we need to give him the kind of support in the United States Senate that John Thune will provide.
We still face challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq, but our progress has been enormous. In Afghanistan, there's a new constitution; free elections will be held later this year. In Iraq, on this very day, a new constitution was signed. (Applause.) The United States with fine allies by our side can be very proud of the role we're playing in extending liberty's frontiers. And when we help to make people free, we make ourselves, our friends, and our 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, but so has 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 once again. Working with Congress, President Bush has taken strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again -- signing into law three separate tax relief measures, resulting in significant tax relief for millions of American families and businesses.
We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, cut rates across the board. We raised the expensing deduction for small businesses from $25,000 to $100,000 to give those businesses the strong incentives they need to invest, and we put the death tax on its way to extinction. (Applause.)
We are now seeing the results of the President's policies. In the second half of last year, our economy grew at an annual rate of over 6 percent, its fastest pace in nearly two decades, and the highest rate of any major industrialized country in the world. New home construction last year was the highest in 25 years. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates are low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. Business investment is growing. Incomes are rising. And unemployment is at 5.6 percent, almost exactly what it was when Senator Kerry was campaigning for Bill Clinton in 1996. (Laughter.) America's economy is moving in the right direction, and 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. (Applause.) As you know, there are voices in the land who want to roll back the tax cuts. Sometimes we hear these voices on the nightly news. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry is one of those voices. (Laughter.) He voted 350 times in the United States Senate for higher taxes, and has said he would repeal the Bush tax cuts the first hundred days he was in office. (Boos.) That's right, boo. (Laughter.)
But for the sake of long-term growth and job creation, we ought to do exactly the opposite: We need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
Tax cuts started this economic recovery, to strengthen it even more, we need to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous lawsuits and needless regulation. (Applause.) We need to control the costs of health care by passing medical liability reform. Here in South Dakota, and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off lawsuits. (Applause.) We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and make us more reliant on renewable fuels and less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
We should limit the burden of government on the economy by acting as good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars. The President has proposed a budget that limits the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent, about the same rate as an average family's income. With spending discipline and pro-growth economic policies, we can cut the deficit in half in the next five years. (Applause.)
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. Even though they may have a majority of the Senate supporting them, the filibuster requirement forces them to get 60 votes. That's unfair to the nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. This 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 is another reason we need John Thune in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
On issue after issue, from national security, to economic growth, to improving our public schools, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. John has proven his leadership on these issues. And once he's in Senate, he's going to be a valuable partner in achieving even greater goals. (Applause.)
President Bush has a clear vision for the future of our country: Abroad, he 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 the land so that every child who grows up in the United States of America will have a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world. (Applause.)
Once again, I want to thank you for the commitment you've shown to the cause we all share. It's an honor to stand with you in supporting John Thune. This is going to be a tough race, but the people of South Dakota are going to make a good choice. John has the right background and the right ideas for South Dakota. He'll be a great United States senator, and President Bush and I look forward to working with him for many years to come.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 6:35 P.M. CST