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 Home > News & Policies > May 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 17, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Congressman Richard Burr
Salem Academy and College
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

6:25 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much, Richard, and Brooke, and thank you for that warm welcome. It's great to be back in North Carolina. Lynne and I actually spent a summer in this state, many years ago. The last time I campaigned with Richard in Raleigh, I made the mistake of telling people the name of the college town where Lynne and I lived that summer. (Laughter.) It's home to another ACC school -- and it's not the one where Richard played football. (Laughter.) But today I'll just tell you that it's always a delight to come to this part of the country, and to come to North Carolina. And I'm proud to stand with the next senator from North Carolina, Congressman Richard Burr. (Applause.)

You are part of the strong, energetic organization that Richard has built all across this state, from here in the Piedmont, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the Carolina Coast. And today I'm honored to bring greetings to all of you from a man with a friend in every corner of this great state, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

The President and I are tremendously grateful for all of our supporters here in North Carolina, including your excellent United States senator, Elizabeth Dole. (Applause.) She is doing a superb job for the people of North Carolina. I might add it was a pleasure tonight, as well, to have a few minutes to say hello to my old friend Jim Broyhill, former senator and congressman. (Applause.) Jim and I worked together many years -- a few years ago when we were both important. (Laughter.) And I'm glad to see him doing so well.

But we're all here tonight to make certain that Elizabeth Dole has a smart, principled, hardworking partner in the United States Senate, and there is no doubt that Richard Burr is the man for the job. Some people ask, why do you come down to North Carolina, and campaign for a Senate candidate?

Well, it's important for you to realize that my only real job is as President of the United States Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President. And then they got all the way through the Constitutional Convention and decided suddenly that they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they said, well, we'll make him the presiding officer in the Senate.

So that's my job. I actually get paid by the United States Senate, about half my staff is paid there. And my only official duty is to preside and also to cast a tie-breaking vote -- 50-50, I get to go in and cast the tie-breaking vote. So I care a lot about the make-up of the Senate. And I had the opportunity this last year to cast three tie-breaking votes: The first was on the budget resolution; the second was on the tax measure that reduced the tax on capital gains and reduced the double-taxation of dividends; and the third was on the final tax bill we passed last fall. (Applause.)

I don't deserve any special credit for the way I voted. (Laughter.) George Bush gave me some very explicit instructions when I went to the Hill that day. (Laughter.) The point is that the Senate is that evenly balanced. But if it hadn't been, if we'd had one less senator a year ago, we wouldn't have the economic recovery we have today. So it's absolutely essential that we win this seat and that Richard Burr be the next Senator from North Carolina. (Applause.)

It's been my privilege over the years to hold a number of different jobs in government. As White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense, congressman, I've gotten to know a lot of fine public servants and candidates for high office. And in this important election year, I consider Richard Burr one of the absolute, finest prepared Senate candidates anywhere in the country. He'll do an outstanding job for the people of his state. He's got the right priorities -- from low taxes, to creating more jobs, to a strong education, strong national defense, and he has the enthusiastic support of President Bush and myself. And next January, I look forward -- as President of the Senate -- to swearing in Richard Burton as the next -- Richard Burr as the next senator from North Carolina. (Applause.) Sorry about that, Richard. I'm not going to go there. (Laughter.)

These are challenging times for North Carolina, and this is a great country of ours. Those of us in public office have serious responsibilities. President Bush and I have been fortunate to count on Richard as an influential ally on Capitol Hill for these last few years. And today, as we look forward to the election of 2004, we've got a record, I believe, to show for our efforts. The American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of our new era because of the character and leadership of George W. Bush.

This is a period in history defined by serious challenges, and the need for decisive action. And the greatest responsibility of our government is absolutely clear: We must protect the safety and security of the American people.

The attacks of 9/11 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era in our history. We suffered massive civilian casualties right here at home 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.

More than two-and-a-half years have passed since 9/11, yet it would be a grave mistake to assume that the threat to our country and, indeed, to the world has somehow faded away. As we have seen in many attacks since 9/11 all over the world -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbala, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Madrid, terrorists are determined to intimidate free countries, and even to try to influence elections. We have to assume they'll make further attempts inside the United States. And every American can be certain of this, that this government is doing everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack on our nation. (Applause.)

But a strong defense is not enough. We also have to go on offense. We have to take decisive action to stop the terrorist threat before it reaches our shores. We are dismantling the financial networks that fund terror. We're going after the terrorists wherever they plot and plan. In Afghanistan, we have 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. Just over a year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of nearly 25 million people. Today he is in jail. He will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support dangerous terrorists or pursue weapons of mass destruction. He will never again threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)

We still face serious challenges on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thugs and assassins in Iraq are desperately trying to shake our will, and to prevent the rise of a democracy, but they are failing. A new transitional law has been signed that enshrines the protection of individual rights, and the path forward is clear. On the 30th of June, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in Iraqi hands.

As Richard understands, Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. The defeat of tyranny and violence in that nation, and the rise of democracy in the heart of the Middle East will be a crucial setback for international terror. We will do what is necessary -- destroying the terrorists, returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people, and helping them to build a stable, self-governing nation. Because we are strong and resolute, Iraq will never go back to the camp of tyranny and terror. And America will never go back to the false comforts of the world before 9/11.

Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. And this nation has made a decision: We will engage the enemy, facing him with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq today, so we do not have to face him with armies of firefighters, police, and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)

Our nation is extremely fortunate during these times of testing to have the dedicated service of our men and women in uniform. The misconduct of a few does not diminish the honor and the decency that our servicemen and women have shown in Iraq. They have seen hard duty, long deployments, and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades. And they are unwavering in their mission, proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation and our interests, we are sending the very best of the United States of America. (Applause.)

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.)

That same standard should be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in this year's election, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter.) People always chuckle when I say that. (Laughter.)

A few months ago, Senator Kerry informed America that he has met with unnamed foreign leaders who support him. (Laughter.) Not long after, 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. American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders.

Senator Kerry has also asserted that our troops in Iraq are not receiving the material support they need. May I remind you that last fall, at the President's request, Congress considered legislation providing funding for the troops -- for body armor and other vital support, such as hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition and spare parts. Senator Kerry was asked whether he would vote against the President's request. He said, and I quote, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops. That's irresponsible." Within weeks, 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 recently said, and again I quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."(Laughter.) Obviously, te Senator is free to vote as he wishes, but he should be held to his own standard -- it is irresponsible to vote against vital support for the United States military. (Applause.)

On the broader picture, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. He said, "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and more of a law enforcement operation. But as we have seen, that approach was tried before, and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people against terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us.

I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain, or explain away, his inconsistent 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 our nation.

The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004 -- 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 our economy was ready to recover, terrorists struck our nation once again and shook our economy. President Bush took strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again. Working with strong allies like Richard, the President signed into law 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. (Applause.)

Since President Bush took office, more than 2.9 million taxpayers in North Carolina have seen their income tax bills reduced. 940,000 married couples in North Carolina are benefiting from marriage penalty relief. And nearly 800,000 families in North Carolina have benefited from the increase in the child tax credit. More than 650,000 business owners in North Carolina have seen their federal tax burden go down, allowing them to invest in new equipment, expand facilities, and hire additional workers.

Across the nation, the results of the President's policies are clear. The economy added 288,000 new jobs last month, 600,000 in the last two months, and more than 1.1 million new jobs since last August. (Applause.) Over the past year, the economy has grown at a rate of 4.9 percent -- the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House, and the fastest rate of any major industrialized nation in the world. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates and inflation are low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Real incomes and wages are growing. Productivity is high. Business investment and factory orders are rising. There's a simple reason for our growing prosperity: The Bush tax relief is working. (Applause.)

Not surprisingly, 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 most of the Bush tax cuts during his first 100 days in office. This isn't surprising when you consider his record on taxes. Over the years, Senator Kerry has voted over 350 times for higher taxes on the American people -- including the biggest tax increase in history. Somebody calculated the other day that since he's been in the Senate, that averages out to one vote for a tax increase every three weeks. (Laughter.) At least the people of Massachusetts know he was on the job. (Laughter and applause.)

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.)

Under the leadership of President Bush -- and with the help of principled legislators like Richard Burr -- this nation is going to continue moving forward with an aggressive, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda. Our nation needs legal reform, 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. (Applause.) Here in North Carolina and across the nation, leaders on health care -- like Richard -- know that good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. (Applause.)

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, or even years. That's unfair to judicial 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 reason why we need to send Richard Burr 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 nation. Richard has been a valuable partner on these issues. And once he's in the Senate, he's going to help us achieve even greater goals.

President Bush has a clear vision for the future of the 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 the chance to learn, and to succeed, and to rise in the world.

Once again, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to the cause we share. It's an honor to help with Richard's energetic, optimistic campaign. He'll be an outstanding senator, and President Bush and I look forward to working with him for a good many years to come.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 6:44 P.M. EDT