For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 21, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Arlene Wohlgemuth
Waco Convention Center
12:30 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Well, thank you, Arlene, for that introduction, and let me thank all of you for the warm welcome to Waco. I just flew in from Houston on Air Force Two. For some reason, the airport crew here seems to be pretty well accustomed to high-profile arrivals. (Laughter.)
It's a pleasure to be with so many friends. And of course, it's a pleasure to bring you good wishes from a proud resident of the district, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
And the President wanted to make sure I didn't leave out the 17th district's most popular resident -- so today it's an honor also to bring the greetings of our First Lady, Laura Bush. (Applause.)
I know you're proud of the President and First Lady here, in Waco. And we're all very grateful for your support. Texas gave us 32 electoral votes in 2000. We don't take any state for granted, but I think we look pretty good down here in 2004, this year's race. And we don't expect to need a recount in Texas. (Laughter and applause.)
When the President asked me four years ago to be his running mate, he said that he didn't pick me because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) We did get 70 percent of the vote there. But I remind him from time to time, those three electoral votes came in pretty darn handy. (Laughter.)
But you can also take pride in a superb congressional delegation. And as President of the Senate, I can tell you that one of the finest teams in Washington is the team of Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. They do a superb job for the people of Texas. (Applause.)
We're all here today to make certain that Arlene Wohlgemuth is the next congresswoman from the 17th district. (Applause.) Ten years ago you sent Arlene to the State Capitol in Austin, along with a new governor named George W. Bush. Over the past decade, Arlene has worked with Governors Bush and Perry, and she's built an impressive record of accomplishment for the people of Texas. Arlene led the way to better health care, lower taxes, and a responsible state budget. She's been a steady advocate for veterans, and a reliable friend of our armed forces. Arlene is a strong defender of Texas values. And she knows the priorities of people here in the 17th district, from job creation, to quality education, to national defense.
I served just over a decade in the House of Representatives, and I spent a good part of my career working with the Congress. I was the congressman from Wyoming for 10 years. Wyoming only has one member of Congress. It's a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter and applause.)
But I think I know a few things about what it takes to do the job well. And I can say with confidence I believe Arlene has exactly what it takes. She's a strong, reliable, energetic leader. She has my full support, and she has even more from the President -- she's got his vote. (Laughter and applause.) Come November, Arlene's going to earn many more votes here in the 17th, and we look forward to the day when she's your representative in the United States House of Representatives. (Applause.)
These are challenging times for Texas, indeed, for our entire nation. Those of us in public office have serious responsibilities. And today, as we look ahead to the election this November, I believe we also have a record of accomplishment to show for the President's efforts. The American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of this new era, because of the character and the leadership of President 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 clear: We must protect the safety and security of the American people. (Applause.)
The attacks on September 11th, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era in our history. We suffered massive civilian casualties on our own soil that day. 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 those weapons against the United States.
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 to our country and, indeed, to the world has passed. As we have seen in attacks 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 that the President is doing everything he can to protect the United States and to prevent another attack on America.
We created the Department of Homeland Security, and brought together 180,000 federal employees from 22 different federal agencies with a single purpose -- to strengthen our defenses. Congress also passed the Patriot Act, to give law enforcement the tools needed to catch and prosecute terrorists inside the United States. And this week the Senate passed the President's Project BioShield Initiative, which will better prepare the nation to defend against a biological attack. This is urgent work, yet good defenses are not enough. The war on terror must be won on offense, so we are taking the fight to enemy, as well.
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 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 gathering threat to its peace and security. Just over a year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives 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, and never again threaten the United States of America.
We still face serious challenges in Afghanistan and in Iraq. 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 there, 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 on 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.
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 -- (Applause.) We've 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, and police, and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)
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 the cooperation of our friends and 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 decency that our servicemen and women have shown in Afghanistan and 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. 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. (Applause.) 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.) The 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. Not long after that happened and the Senator made that statement, 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 unnamed foreign leaders -- it will be decided by the voters of America. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry has also asserted that our troops in Iraq are not receiving the material support they need. I'd like to remind the Senator that last fall, at the President's request, Congress considered legislation providing additional funding for our troops needs, including body armor -- vital support for the military, such as hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel and spare parts. Senator Kerry was asked at the time whether or not 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 12 in the Senate. Senator Kerry voted "no." As a way to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry later said, quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) End quote. The Senator is obviously free to vote as he wishes, but he should be held to his own standard. It out 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 like to use that terminology. In his view, opposing terrorism is less of a military operation and more of 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 inconsistent votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, or 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. (Applause.)
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, to expand facilities, and to hire additional workers.
Across the nation, the results of the President's policies are clear. The economy added 288,000 new jobs last month, more than 600,000 jobs in the last two months, and more than 1.1 million new jobs since August. Manufacturing jobs have increased for three straight months. And as we learned just this morning, the Texas unemployment rate declined from its peak of 6.9 percent a year ago to 6 percent last month. (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 of any major industrialized nation in the world. (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 cuts are working. (Applause.)
Not surprising, the American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and as Arlene has said, 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 one at random, there is the Junior Senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter.)
If elected, Senator Kerry has promised to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts within his first 100 days in office. This isn't surprising when you consider his record. Over the years, Senator Kerry has voted more than 350 times for higher taxes on the American people -- including the biggest tax increase in 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, Arlene knows that we should do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposes. We should continue spending discipline in Washington, D.C., and make the tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
Under the leadership of the President, 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.
And as Arlene understands better than anyone, 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 their time healing patients, not fighting frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit.
As you understand here in Texas, as well, 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 and production in America. If Congress had acted on our energy plan three years ago, today we'd 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 we can make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
It is also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) We reached agreement this week to have up-or-down votes on 25 of our nominees over the course of the next six weeks. Yet far too many nominees are still being forced to spend months, or even years, waiting for hearings and up-or-down votes. The filibuster the Democrats have mounted in the Senate has been fundamentally 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 a reason we need to send more Republicans like Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn 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. Arlene shares the President's views on these issues. She's going to be a valuable ally on Capitol Hill as soon as you send her to the United States Congress.
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 to build 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 kickoff Arlene's general election campaign. I know you look forward to calling her your congresswoman, and President Bush and I look forward to working with her for a good many years to come.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:50 P.M. CDT