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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 Luncheon for Congressman Max Burns
Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
Pooler, Georgia

12:40 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. Thank you, Max. That was a great introduction, and it's nice to be back in Savannah -- although, actually, I guess, we're in Pooler, Georgia, I'm told. All right. (Laughter.) I never heard of Pooler till I got here today. (Laughter.) But it looks like a great community, and it's nice to be back in Georgia with an outstanding member of Congress, obviously, in Max Burns -- well on his way to a second term, I might add. (Applause.)

Speaking of people headed for a second term, I'm pleased to bring you all greetings from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I want to thank Congressmen Jack Kingston and Joe Wilson for being here, along with Nancy Coverdell, and our fine candidate for Congress in the third district, Calder Clay -- who's going to win this time around. (Applause.) Although your senators couldn't be here today, I want you to know that Saxby Chambliss and Zell Miller are an outstanding team for the people of Georgia. (Applause.) And they are good friends of the President and this administration. We're particularly grateful to Zell for heading up Democrats for Bush. (Applause.)

The reason we're all here today is to make certain that Max Burns gets another term in the United States Congress. I was proud to campaign for Max two years ago. That was a tough race, and it came at a critical time in our country. The people of the twelfth district made a wise decision to send Max to the House, and he has repaid their confidence by serving an exceptional first term.

Max is a family man. He has strong roots in this area. He shares your values, and understands your priorities, from low taxes, to a quality education for every child, to strong national defense. He brings to Washington the perspective and the wisdom of a dedicated teacher, an experienced public servant, and a veteran of the Army Reserve. And he's earned the respect of his colleagues, who made him the president of the freshman class.

Now, I know a little bit about the business of being a congressman because I was one for 10 years. I served as Wyoming's congressman. Wyoming only has one seat in the House of Representatives. It was a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.) And I loved my time in the House. And I think I learned a bit about what it takes to make an effective member of Congress. I think I know Max Burns about as well as any member of the freshmen class. You need to work very hard, stay in close touch with the folks back home, and speak out on those things that matter most to the folks in your district. That's exactly what Max Burns does every day. By electing Max, you've put a good man in a big job. And this November, I'm confident you're going to send him back to the United States Congress.

These are challenging times for Georgia, and for the nation. Those of us in public office have serious responsibilities. President Bush and I have been fortunate to be able to count on Max Burns as an influential ally on Capitol Hill these past two years. And today, as we look forward to the election of 2004, I believe we've got a record of accomplishment to show for the President's efforts. I think the American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of a new era, because of the character and the leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

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

The attacks of September 11th signaled the arrival of an entirely new era in our history. We suffered massive civilian casualties right here on our own soil at home. We awakened to dangers even more lethal -- the possibility that terrorists could gain chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons from outlaw regimes, and use 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 ever fell to government: We must do everything in our power to protect the American people from terrorist attack, and to keep terrorists from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

As we saw on September 11th, our homeland is a battlefield in the war on terror, and we have made improving our defenses here at home a central part of our strategy. We created the Department of Homeland Security, and brought together 180,000 federal employees from 22 agencies with a single purpose -- to protect America. We passed aggressive new funding for cutting-edge defenses against a biological attack. We also passed the Patriot Act, to give law enforcement the tools needed to catch terrorists inside the United States.

There is urgent work, as you know here in Savannah, with one of the largest ports on the East Coast. As a port city, Savannah recognizes the importance of the administration's work to strengthen cargo container security through inspections of cargo before it leaves key foreign ports, to identify and work closely with trusted shippers, to assess the risk of all inbound cargo and carefully examine all identified high-risk shipments. More than two-and-a-half years now have passed since 9/11, yet it would be a grave mistake for us to assume that the threat our country and the world faced has somehow faded away. As we've 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 will make further attempts inside the United States. And every American can be certain this government is doing everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack on America.

We've also taken decisive action to stop the terrorist threat before it reaches our own shores. Defense is not good enough. We also must go on offense. We're dismantling the financial networks that fund terror, and 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 almost 25 million people. Today he's in jail. He will never again brutalize the Iraqi people. (Applause.) He will 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.

Max understands Iraq is a 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 to the international terrorist movement. We will do what is necessary -- destroying the terrorists, returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people, helping them to build a stable and 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. (Applause.)

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 shown leadership and skill in carrying out extraordinary tasks, like the Third Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, which led the charge into Baghdad. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades. And they are unwavering in their mission. They are 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.)

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 the 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 nation. (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. And that same standard should be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in this year's election, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.

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

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 support for the troops -- for body armor, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel, spare parts, et cetera. Senator Kerry was asked at the time 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 would be irresponsible." End quote. Within weeks, the legislation passed overwhelmingly, with a vote of 87 to twelve in the Senate. Senator Kerry was one of the 12. He voted "no." As a way to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry recently said, quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) End quote. The Senator is free to vote as he wishes, obviously, but he should be held to his own standard: It is irresponsible to vote against vital support for the United States military.

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. As we have seen, however, that approach was tried before, and it proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us.

I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain 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 our country.

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 and shook our economy once again. President Bush took strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again. Working with strong allies like Max Burns, 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 we have put the death tax on the way to extinction.

Since President Bush took office, more than 2.9 million taxpayers in Georgia have seen their income tax bills reduced. Nearly 900,000 married couples in Georgia are now benefiting from marriage penalty relief. And over 790,000 families in Georgia have benefited from the increase in the child credit. More than 650,000 business owners in Georgia have seen their federal tax burden go down, allowing them to invest in new equipment, expand facilities, and hire new workers.

Across the nation, the results of the President's policies are clear. The economy added 288,000 new jobs last month, and some 600,000 new jobs in the last two months, and more than 1.1 million new jobs since last August. Manufacturing jobs in America have increased now for the last three months. The unemployment rate in Georgia has dropped to 3.6 percent in March -- it has fallen 1.3 percent since its peak last summer. The national unemployment rate is now below the averages of the 1970s, the 1980s or 1990s. In the first quarter of the year, the economy grew at a strong rate of 4.2 percent. And over the last year, it's grown at a rate of 4.9 percent -- the fastest rate since Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House. The home ownership rate is now the highest ever. The inflation rate and interest rates are low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Real incomes and real 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 cut program is working. (Applause.)

Not surprisingly, the American people are using their money far better than 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 within his first 100 days in office. That 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 our history. For the sake of long-term growth and job creation, we ought to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposes. We must make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and pursue spending discipline in Washington, D.C.

Under the leadership of President Bush, and with the help of principled legislators like Max, this nation is going to continue moving forward with an aggressive, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda.

We start with a clear understanding of the role of government. We know that America's $10 trillion economy is sustained by the free enterprise system, and by the hard work of the nation's entrepreneurs and workers. Government spends a lot of money, but it doesn't build factories, or meet company payrolls, or do all the work that makes the economy go. The federal government's job is not to manage or control the economy, but to remove obstacles standing in the way of faster growth. (Applause.) The key to more jobs is not more government, but free enterprise, low taxes, and spending discipline in Washington, D.C.

Our nation needs legal reform, 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 Georgia and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. (Applause.)

And we need to pass sound energy legislation, to modernize our electricity system, and to make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

It's 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 most Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying up-or-down votes for months, and even years. That's unfair to judicial nominees, and an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And that's another reason we need to send more people like Saxby Chambliss and Zell Miller 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. Max has been a valuable partner on these issues. And over the next four years, he's going to help us achieve even greater goals.

President Bush has a clear vision for the future of our 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 opportunity 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 all share. It's an honor to be here to help Max's energetic, optimistic campaign. He's going to win a second term as your congressman this November, and President Bush and I look forward to working with him for a good many years to come.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 1:00 P.M. EDT