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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 16, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressman Steve Pearce
Artesia, New Mexico
March 15, 2004

6:20 P.M. MST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. And Lynne and I are delighted to be back here in New Mexico and see so many old friends. I often tell people that -- Lynne sort of gave me the introduction -- that if it hadn't been for a great Republican victory in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower got elected President, our lives would have turned out very differently, because in those years I was a youngster, living with my folks in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, where we met, and grew up together, and went to high school together, and we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary come August. (Applause.)

I told a group of folks that story the other night, that if it hadn't been for that great victory by Dwight Eisenhower that I would have never gone to Wyoming, and Lynne would have married somebody else. She said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) And there's no doubt in my mind.

We were in Albuquerque about a month, and we've been looking forward to coming back. President Bush once said he likes a place where a cowboy hat is part of the working uniform. And we feel right here at home in Southern New Mexico.

And I want to thank Steve Pearce for the tremendous work that he does every day on behalf of his district, his state, and the nation. (Applause.)

Steve has been a superb representative of the second district, now in his first two years in Congress. And this November, I know you're going to send him back for a second term. And I have to say I'm strongly in favor of second terms. (Laughter and applause.)

And I want to thank all the state legislators and local officials with us today. And I want to say a word about your Senior Senator, Pete Domenici. Pete and I have known each other for some 30 years now. When he was just starting out in the Senate, I was President Ford's chief of staff. Pete is now in his sixth term, representing the people of New Mexico. And as the President of the Senate, I can report that he's doing an outstanding job.

I was proud to campaign with Steve Pearce in October of 2002, just a few weeks before the election. We knew it was going to be a tight race, but I had a feeling that the people of the second district would make a good decision. And on Election Day, you chose Steve by a margin wider than anyone predicted. And he has repaid your confidence with an exceptional first term in the Congress.

On issues from transportation, to energy, to mining, Steve has been a tireless advocate for the people of Southern New Mexico. He fought hard for the healthy forest legislation, a vital action that helps thin the undergrowth and reduce the risk of catastrophic fire. He firmly supports tax relief because he believes New Mexico's families should keep more of what they earn.

In just one term, Steve has emerged as a strong leader in the House. He's earned the confidence of Speaker Denny Hastert who asked Steve to serve on a special task force on prescription drugs. He's one of the few freshman representatives to be named assistant majority whip. And he's been an effective policy chairman for the Western Caucus. Steve is a perfect fit for the second district, and a great representative in Washington, D.C. And he has earned another term in the United States Congress. (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 Steve Pearce 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 11th signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We suffered massive civilian casualties on our own soil. We awakened to dangers even more lethal -- the possibility that terrorists could gain chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons from outlaw regimes and turn those weapons against the United States.

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

This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in national security policy. 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 -- and 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 years earlier. In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the mastermind of 9/11, first proposed to bin Laden that they use hijacked airliners to attack targets in the U.S. During this period, thousands of terrorists were trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. And we have seen the work of terrorists in many attacks since 9/11, in Riyadh, Casablanca, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, and most recently Madrid.

The attacks in Spain once again reveal the brutality of our enemy, once again show that the fight against terrorism is the responsibility of all free nations. The terrorists are testing the unity and resolve of the civilized world -- we must rise to that test.

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 have strengthened our defenses here at home, organizing the government to protect the homeland. But a good defense is not enough. The 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 security. A year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of almost 25 million people, tonight he's in jail. (Applause.) He will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again provide sanctuary to dangerous terrorists, or pursue weapons of mass destruction, and 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 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.)

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. (Laughter.)

Yesterday, in Pennsylvania, a voter asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, "That's none of your business." (Laughter.)

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.

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, 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 -- 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 enormous courage, and we are extraordinarily proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)

The long-term security of our nation 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. Then, just as we were beginning to recover, terrorists struck the nation and shook our economy once again. Working with Steve Pearce 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 tax 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, the fastest pace in nearly two decades, and the highest rate of any major industrialized nation. (Applause.) 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. 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 we hear these voices at night on the evening news. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry has said he would repeal the Bush tax cuts within the first 100 days in office. This isn't surprising when you consider that he has voted 350 times in the U.S. 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 proposes: We should 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. We need to control the costs of health care by passing medical liability reform. Here in New Mexico, 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 make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.) And 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. 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, or even years. That is unfair to judicial nominees and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. The 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 why we need more Republicans like Pete Domenici 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. Steve has stood with us on all these vital issues, and he shares our optimism about the next four years.

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 to build 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, and to succeed, and to rise in the world.

Once again, thank all of you for your commitment to the cause we all share. It's an honor to stand with you in supporting Steve Pearce. You are united behind a strong leader and a dedicated representative. Steve has the right priorities for this state. And he's showing he's willing to work hard to get results. He's a great representative for the people of New Mexico. (Applause.) Come November, the people of the second district are going to send him back to Washington for another term in the U.S. Congress, and the President and I look forward to working with him for many years to come.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 6:40 P.M. MST

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