For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 26, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Bush-Cheney '04
Crowne Plaza Dayton
12:15 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. Well, thank you, Mike. It's a pleasure to be back in Dayton, and I want to thank Mike for his kind introduction. I'd also like to thank Congressman Portman for being with us, as well as your state leaders who made time to be here.
I also want to thank Governor Bob Taft for all the work he's done to head up our Bush-Cheney efforts here in Ohio. He's a superb governor, one of the finest in the nation, and we're grateful to have him on our team.
Ohio is also fortunate to have two outstanding senators serving in Washington. As President of the Senate, I can tell you that George Voinovich and Mike DeWine are doing a tremendous job for Ohio and all the people of nation.
My only real job is as the President of the Senate. I don't know how many people are aware that when they wrote the Constitution, they created the position of Vice President, they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention and they decided they hadn't given him anything to do. So they decided they'd make him the President of the Senate, let him preside over the Senate, cast tie-breaking votes whenever the Senate was deadlocked, and that's how I spend my time now.
But they also -- my predecessor John Adams, our first Vice President, also had floor privileges. He was allowed to go down into the well of the Senate 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. (Laughter.)
But I get to spend a lot of time with the Ohio delegation. They do a great job. And of course, Mike has done a superb job here in Dayton as the former mayor. I was happy to campaign for him when he ran the first time. And Rob Portman was my debating opponent as I prepared for the Joe Lieberman debates in the last election. And I like to point out to people that Rob was a heck of a lot tougher than Joe Lieberman was. (Laughter.)
But I'm looking forward to coming back to Ohio for the Vice Presidential Debate this year, which is going to be in Cleveland this fall. I'm still waiting to find out who my opponent will be, but I'm ready. It's going to be hard to match the excitement of the Cheney-Lieberman with all that charisma and electricity that was in the air. (Laughter.) But we'll try. We'll try.
And I want to thank all of you for coming today, and for your continuing commitment to our cause. The President and I are tremendously grateful for all of our friends and supporters here in Ohio. You worked hard for us in 2000, and we were extremely proud to carry Ohio. We're going to be coming to the state a lot this year because it's very important for us to be here and to earn your vote. And thanks to your dedication, and thanks to the strong leadership of our President, Ohio is going to be part of another nationwide victory for President George W. Bush come November. (Applause.)
President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration. It's 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.
The attacks of September 11th, 2001, signaled the arrival of an entirely new 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 the morning of 9/11 and knowing the nature of our enemies, 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.
This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in our national security policy. For many years prior to 9/11, terror attacks against Americans were treated as isolated incidents and answered, if at all, on an ad hoc basis, never in a systematic way. Even after the attack inside our own country, the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, there was a tendency to treat terrorist attacks as individual criminal acts to be handled primarily through law enforcement.
The man who perpetrated the 1993 attack in New York was tracked down and arrested, convicted, and sent off to serve a 240-year sentence. Yet behind him was a growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States waging war against our country.
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. In 1996 and again in 1998, Osama bin Laden declared war on 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 all over the world -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, Karbalah, and Madrid, most recently.
The recent attack in Spain and ongoing attacks in Iraq once again reveal the brutality of our enemy, and once again showed 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 test.
Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, America requires an aggressive strategy, not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win 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. The terrorist enemy holds no territory, defends no population, and 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.
In Afghanistan, we have removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the al Qaeda training camps. In Iraq, America and her allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our peace and security. Just over a year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of almost 25 million people. Today,he's in jail. He will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support dangerous terrorists or pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again threaten the United States of America.
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 basic law has been signed, an historic achievement, and a landmark document in that region.
From the very 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 President Bush 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.)
America has been extremely fortunate during these times of testing 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. As a former Secretary of Defense, I have never been prouder of the United States military.
In January, I visited an American military base in 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've got in President George W. Bush. (Applause.) And that measure must be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of 2004, the junior Senator from Massachusetts.
In one of Senator Kerry's recent observations about foreign policy, he informed his listeners that his ideas have gained strong support, at least among unnamed foreigners he's been spending time with. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry said that he's met with foreign leaders, and I quote, "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.
Recently a voter in Pennsylvania 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. American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry has also had a few things to say about support for our troops now on the ground in Iraq. Among other criticisms, he has asserted that the troops are not receiving the material support they need. May I remind the Senator that last November, at the President's request, Congress passed legislation providing funding for body armor and other vital pieces of equipment, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel, spare parts for the military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted no.
As a way to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry said, quote: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) End quote. That explains a lot. When it comes to Iraq, at least, this much is clear: had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today in Iraq. In fact, because Senator Kerry voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein would almost certainly be in control of Kuwait as well.
On national security, the Senator has shown at least one measure of consistency. Over the years, he has repeatedly voted against weapons for our military. He voted against the Apache Helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the M-1 tank. He has also been a reliable vote against military pay increases, opposing them no fewer than 12 times.
Many of these very weapons systems have been used by our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and are proving to be valuable assets in the worldwide war on terror. In his defense, of course, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. Recently he said: "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation.
As we've seen, however, that approach was tried before and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from the terrorists who are quite certain they're at war with us.
I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain, or explain away his votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, and the needs of the American military. Whatever the explanation, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become Commander-in-Chief in this time of testing for the country.
The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004, both on national security as well as on policies here at home. When the President and I 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. 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.
We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, cut tax rates across the board, and have put the death tax on the way to extinction.
Now we are 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 nearly 6.2 percent, its fastest pace in nearly two decades, and the highest rate of any major industrialized nation in the world. The homeownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates are low. Inflation is low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. Business investment is growing. Here in Ohio, you had almost 24,000 new jobs created in January, the best performance of any state in the country. America's economy is moving in the right direction. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The American people are using their money far 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. If elected, Senator Kerry has promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts within his first hundred days in office.
This isn't surprising when you consider his record. Over the years, Senator Kerry has voted over 350 times for higher taxes on the American people, including the biggest tax increase in American history. He also supported a fifty cent a gallon tax increase on gasoline. 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 cost of health care by passing medical liability reform. Here in Ohio and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and to make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
And 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's unfair to 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 floor of the Senate. And that's another reason why we need more Republicans like George Voinovich and Mike DeWine in the United States Senate.
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 nation. 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 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 the commitment to the cause we all share. The President and I are deeply grateful for your support. And together, we're going to see our cause forward to victory on November 2nd.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 12:35 P.M. EST