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 Home > News & Policies > May 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 21, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at a Breakfast for Congressional Candidate Judge Ted Poe
111 North Post Oak Lane
Houston, Texas

8:30 A.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, thank you, Ted for that introduction, and thank all of you for that warm welcome back to Houston. It's great to be back in Texas with so many old friends -- and honored, as well, to spend some time this morning with my old colleague Jack Fields.

When Jack and I served in the Congress, I was the congressman from Wyoming for 10 years. And our service overlapped. I think I got there two years before Jack. Wyoming only has one congressman. (Laughter.) It's a small delegation, but it was quality. (Laughter and applause.) And Jack was a great member of the House, and I'm delighted to see he and Lynn doing so well.

It's a pleasure also to bring good wishes to everybody here in Houston today from your former governor, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

Texas, of course, gave us 32 electoral votes in the last election. We don't take any state for granted, but I do think our chances look pretty good down here this time around. (Laughter.) And I don't think we'll need a recount in Texas. Of course, when the President asked me to run with him as his running mate, now four years ago, he said it wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) We got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming. But I like to remind him from time to time, those three electoral votes came in pretty darn handy. (Laughter.)

But I know all Texans are proud of our President -- and also of our fine First Lady, Laura Bush. (Applause.) Texans can also take pride in a superb congressional delegation.

My only real job in Washington, is as President of the Senate. I'm actually paid by the Senate. And my only job under the Constitution is to preside over the Senate, so I get to watch senators up close. (Laughter.) And -- well, it is a fascinating place. (Laughter.) I'm going to get in a lot of trouble here if I'm not careful. (Laughter.)

But I do this morning want to specifically say how much I enjoy working with Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. They do a great job for all of us. (Applause.) And obviously, I can't come to Houston without saying a word about a predecessor of mine as Vice President, as a former proud resident of Houston, former President George Bush. (Applause.) And I had the honor of serving in President Bush's Cabinet as Secretary of Defense, and today I'm just a few weeks early in wishing him a happy 80th birthday. I take no responsibility for his plan to celebrate by jumping out of an airplane again. (Applause.) For many years, George and Barbara Bush have been a model of service to the Harris County, and Texas, and the entire nation. And I am proud to count them as friends.

We're all here today to make sure that Ted Poe is the next Congressman from the second district of Texas. (Applause.) Ted has strong roots in this area, and a long record of public service on behalf of the people of Texas. He shares the values of all of you -- he understands your priorities, from low taxes to quality education to a strong national defense. He'll fight hard for those priorities in Washington. And as anyone who has seen Ted in the courtroom knows, he'll find a way to make his views heard.

Ted has strong supporters in the second district. He's earned the endorsement of local leaders throughout the area, not to mention Roger Clemens. And he can also count on my full support, and the full support of President Bush. Ted Poe is the right man for the people of Texas, and, come November, they're going to send him to the United States Congress. (Applause.)

These are challenging times for Texas, and for the entire nation. Those of us in public service obviously have serious responsibilities. And today, as we look ahead to the election in November, I also believe we've got a record of accomplishment 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 a new era, because of the character and 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 protect the safety and the security of the American people.

The attacks of September 11th, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era in our history. We suffered massive civilian casualties right here on our own soil. And we awakened to dangers even more lethal, the possibility that terrorists could acquire chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons from rogue regimes, and turn them against the United States.

More than two-and-a-half years have passed now since 9/11, yet it would be a grave mistake for us to assume that the threat to our country, indeed, to the entire world has passed. As we have seen in attacks all over the world since those of 9/11, -- 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: The President and I will do everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack upon America.

We created the Department of Homeland Security, brought together 180,000 federal employees from 22 agencies for a single purpose -- to better protect America. Congress also passed the Patriot Act, to give law enforcement the tools they need to catch and prosecute terrorists inside the United States.

This week the Senate passed the President's Project BioShield Initiative, which will better prepare the nation to defend against a potential biological attack. This is urgent work -- yet a strong defense is not enough. The war on terror must be won on the offense, so we are taking the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)

We are dismantling the financial networks that fund terror -- and we are going after the terrorists wherever they plot and plan. In Afghanistan, we removed the brutal Taliban from power and closed the al Qaeda training camps. In Iraq, America and our allies rid the world of a murderous dictator and a gathering threat to our peace and security. Just over a year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the fortune of nearly 25 million people. Today he is in jail. (Applause.) Because we acted, he will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support terrorists or pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again threaten the United States of America.

We still face serious challenges on the ground in Iraq. Thugs and assassins are desperately trying to shake our will, and they have made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. The terrorists understand the stakes of our mission in Iraq, and so do we. 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 terror everywhere. As President Bush has said from the start, we will do what is necessary to succeed in Iraq -- destroying the terrorists, transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people by the 30th of June, and helping them build a stable, self-governing society. We will finish what we have begun -- Iraq will be a free nation, and its people will be free of tyranny and terror. (Applause.)

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. (Applause.) 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.

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.)

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 Afghanistan and Iraq. (Applause.) 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. They are proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation, 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. That same standard should be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in this year's election, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.

A while back, Senator Kerry informed us 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." But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. This election will not be decided by the voters of America, not by unnamed foreign leaders. (Applause.)

Senator Kerry has also asserted that our troops in Iraq have not bee receiving the material support they need. But I'd like to remind the Senator that last fall, at the President's request, Congress considered legislation providing funding for the troops -- body armor and other vital support, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel and spare parts. Senator Kerry was asked at the time whether he would vote against the President's request. He said, quote, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops That's irresponsible." End quote. 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 said, quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) End quote. The Senator is free, obviously, 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. As we have seen, however, that approach was tried before, and 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 statements and votes about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, 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 our nation and shook the economy once again. President Bush took strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again. Working with strong allies on Capitol Hill, 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 put the death tax on the path to extinction.

Since President Bush took office, more than 7.3 million taxpayers in Texas have seen their income tax bills reduced; 2.3 million married couples in Texas are benefiting from marriage penalty relief; and more than 1.9 million families in Texas have benefited from the increase in the child tax credit. More than 1.6 million business owners in Texas have seen their federal tax burden go down, allowing them to invest in new equipment, expand facilities, and hire more workers.

Across the nation, the results of the President's policies are clear. The economy added 288,000 new jobs last month alone. We have added over 600,000 jobs in the past two months, more than 1.1 million new jobs since August. Manufacturing jobs have increased for three straight months. And over the past year, the economy has grown at a rate of 4.9 percent -- the fastest pace since the first term of Ronald Reagan, and also the fastest rate of growth of any major industrialized nation. (Applause.)

Our economy is growing stronger in other ways as well. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates and inflation are low. 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, as Ted Poe agrees, Congress was right to let them keep it. There are some voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. To choose just one at random, there is the Junior Senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter.)

If elected, Senator Kerry has promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts within the first 100 days in office. This isn't surprising when you consider his record. Over the years, Senator Kerry has been in the Senate, he has voted some 350 times for higher taxes on the American people -- including the biggest tax increase in American history. That's an average of a vote for higher taxes every three weeks for the last 20 years. At least the folks back in Massachusetts knew he was on the job. (Laughter.)

For the sake of long-term growth and job creation, we should do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposes. We should continue spending discipline in Washington, and, as Ted has said, we should make the tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

Under the strong economic leadership of President Bush, the 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.

We need to control the costs of health care by passing medical liability reform. Here in Texas and across the nation, doctors should be able to spend time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

As you understand here in Texas, Congress needs to pass energy legislation. Three years ago, the President sent Congress a sound energy plan to modernize our electricity system, increase conservation, expand use of alternative fuels, and increase domestic exploration in America. (Applause.) If Congress had acted on our energy plan three years ago, today we would be well on our way to increasing our domestic oil supply. The House has passed legislation, yet it's hung up in the Senate. It's time for Congress to pass our energy plan, so that we can 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.) Just this week agreement was reached with the Senate Democrats to stop obstructing votes on 25 nominees, and those nominees will come to the floor for a vote between now and the end of June. Yet far too many nominees are still being forced to spend months, or even years, waiting for hearings and up-or-down votes. A number are still being filibustered. 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 floor of the Senate. And that's a reason we need to send more Republicans like Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to the United States Senate.

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. Ted has made his voice heard on these issues, and once he's in Congress, he's going to be a valuable partner for us in achieving even these goals.

President Bush has a clear vision for the future of the country. Abroad, we will use America's great power 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, 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 Ted's energetic, optimistic campaign. He'll be an outstanding Congressman, and President Bush and I look forward to working with him for a good many years to come.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 8:47 A.M. CDT