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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 17, 2004
President's Remarks in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
2:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Gosh, it's good to be here. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, thank you all for coming. I am honored to be here. Weldon is right, I'm here to thank the employees of this important plant for giving our troops what is necessary to keep the country safe. (Applause.)
I appreciate the tour I just had. I want to thank Mark Madden. And I appreciate Johnny "D." If you don't know who Johnny "D" is, he's the President of Local 1069 -- (applause.) He kindly came off vacation to say hi to the President. (Laughter.) I was proud he did.
I'm equally as proud of the men and women who work here, working day and night to put out a good product on behalf of our country. This is a great plant, because we've got great workers. (Applause.)
You know, this is my 32nd visit to your state. (Applause.) Since I've been President. A lot of people are wondering why I'm coming so much -- it ought to be obvious to you; I like my cheesesteak "whiz with." (Applause.) I also want to win Pennsylvania. (Applause.) I'm coming to this state and asking people for the vote. I've got more to do to work with our country to keep us safer, stronger, and better.
We've done a lot. We've been through a lot together, but there's more work to do to realize the great promise of this country, and to keep our country as secure as it possibly can be. With your help, we'll carry Pennsylvania. With your help, we're going to win in November of 2004. (Applause.)
Laura sends her best. (Applause.) She's terrific. She's heading out to Colorado. She's campaigning, which is good news for me. (Laughter.) She's a great mom, a wonderful wife. Let's put me back in there so she can have four more years as the First Lady. (Applause.) I love her dearly.
I'm running with a good man in Dick Cheney. I admit he's not the prettiest face in the race. (Laughter.) Yeah! I didn't pick him because of his looks. I picked him because of his judgment, his ability to get the job done. (Applause.)
I appreciate my friend, Curt Weldon. He's right, he wasn't exaggerating. We we're campaigning somewhere in this part of the world, and he said, we need to go over there and thank the workers. I said, fine, set it up. He said, your schedule is harder to get through than mine. But here I am. And I want to thank Curt for setting up this visit. I appreciate his leadership and his friendship. He's doing a fine job for the people of Pennsylvania. (Applause.)
I want to thank the President and the CEO of Boeing Company, Harry Stonecipher, for being here. I'm honored you're here, Harry. I want to thank Bill Hunt. He's a senior manager of the Chinook 47 operations. (Applause.) I want to thank all of the employees and families who are here. Thanks for coming by to say hello. I'm honored to be here. I appreciate you taking interest in the political process.
You know, we all have a duty to do in our democratic system. We all have the obligation to vote. Obviously, when people start heading to the polls, I've got a preference. (Laughter.) But I do want everybody in this country to vote. And for those of you who are involved in grassroots politics, I want to thank you for encouraging your fellow citizens to go to the polls. (Applause.)
I'm on the ticket with Arlen Specter. He's a fine United States Senator. I'm proud to have his support and friendship. (Applause.) I appreciate my friend Jim Greenwood. Jim has served this part of the state with great skill and we're going to miss him the House of Representatives. I appreciate you coming, Jim. I'm honored you're here. I appreciate Mike Castle. He snuck across the border from Delaware. (Applause.) Either others snuck across the border with you, or they know you here. (Laughter.) Castle is a good man, a good, honest fellow. I appreciate working with him. I know the Statehouse Speaker is with us, a lot of local officials. Thank you all for coming.
I first want to thank the veterans who are here. I know a lot of veterans work at this facility and are in this crowd. I'm honored you're here. (Applause.) I want to tell you what I told the VFW yesterday is, thanks for setting such a good example for the folks who wear the uniform today. I appreciate the high standards our veterans have set. (Applause.)
I also reminded them that just like the wars of the past, we have got to stay dedicated, focused, and resolved. We're once again fighting deadly enemies. And we're depending on the people here at Ridley Park. I just came out of a sophisticated Chinook chopper that some brave soldier is going to be flying soon. And I can tell him, and I can tell his loved ones, that chopper has got the best equipment, the best hydraulics, made by the best hands in America. (Applause.)
We're equipping our troops, as we should. Boeing company is not only making good choppers, they're working on unmanned vehicles, advanced satellites, modern communication systems, the Army's future combat systems, all of which will help defend our country. In other words, this administration is thinking about today; we're also thinking about tomorrow. We're going to secure this country today, and we're going to prepare this country to be able to secure us down the road. (Applause.)
Another thing that's interesting that's happening at Boeing that probably you aren't aware of, but you should be, is that Boeing engineers lowered the first ballistic missile interceptor into its silo at Fort Greely, Alaska. It's the beginning of a missile defense system that was envisioned by Ronald Reagan, a system necessary to protect us against the threats of the 21st century. (Applause.) We want to continue to perfect this system, so we say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmail America and the free world: you fire, we're going to shoot it down. (Applause.)
I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system really don't understand the threats of the 21st century. They're living in the past. We're living in the future. We're going to do what's necessary to protect this country. (Applause.)
Boeing is not only important for the defenses of America, Boeing is important because we've got great workers, and the great workers of America helped us overcome some economic obstacles that were pretty significant. You might remember, during the last three-and-a-half years we've been through a recession, we went through some corporate scandals, we went through a terrorist attack, all of which affected our economy. Yet we've overcome it. Our economy is strong and getting stronger. The reason we've overcome it is because we've got great workers in America. (Applause.) We've overcome it because we've got great small business owners in America. We've got great farmers and ranchers in America. We've got a great spirit in America. (Applause.)
I'll argue vehemently, we've overcome it because of well-timed tax cuts. (Applause.) It helped when we put more money in the people's pockets. It helped when we said, you know, we hear your cries and you need more money if you've got a child in your family. It helped the families of America to raise the child credit. It helped to lessen the marriage penalty. I don't know what kind of tax -- I know what kind of tax code it is that penalizes marriage. It's a code that needs to change. We ought to be rewarding marriage in America, not penalizing it. (Applause.)
We helped our small businesses today. The national unemployment rate is 5.5 percent, well below the national averages of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. I understand there's still people looking for work here in America. So long as anybody wants to work and can't find a job, I know we've got more work to do in Washington, D.C. It starts with making sure your taxes are low. Be careful of these folks who travel around the country making all these big promises, and say, oh, don't worry, we'll pay for it by taxing the rich. You know how that goes. The rich hires accountants and lawyers and you get stuck with the bill. But we're not going to let him raise your taxes. For the sake of economic growth, for the sake of job creation, we will keep America's taxes low. (Applause.)
We've got more work to do to keep jobs here in America. We've got to make sure this is the best place for people to expand the job base in the world. And therefore, we're going to make sure trade is free and fair. I was out at the Boeing plant in Seattle. I said a clear statement about fair trade to the folks out in that part of the world. I said we're going to work to get rid of the subsidies of Airbus that makes it difficult for Boeing to compete on a fair and level playing field in the world. (Applause.) We want there to be trade, we want there to be fair trade, because American workers can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere, so long as the rules are fair.
We're going to make sure the health care system of America is accessible and affordable. You know, there's been a lot of talk about Medicare. For those of you with elderly parents, you've heard all this talk about Medicare reform. We got the job done. There's been a lot of politics with Medicare, but finally, an administration came along that could work with the Congress and strengthen Medicare so the seniors of America now have got prescription drug coverage in Medicare. (Applause.)
We need health savings accounts for American families. We need association health care plans for small businesses. You know what else we need in Pennsylvania and around the country? We need medical liability reform. (Applause.) These lawsuits are running up the cost of your health care, and they're running good docs out of practice right here in your states and in other states around the country. See, I don't think you can be pro-patient and pro-doctor and pro-plaintiff attorney at the same time. I think you have to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. I made my choice. I'm for medical liability reform now. (Applause.)
We've got to make sure we have an energy policy in this country that makes us less dependent on foreign sources of energy. You can't build these choppers without good energy supplies at affordable costs. I've submitted a plan to the United States Congress that encourages conservation, renewable sources of energy, ways to use coal in a clean way, ways to explore in environmentally friendly ways. The Congress needs to get an energy policy to my desk now in order to keep jobs here in America. (Applause.)
Finally, to make sure we keep jobs here, our education system has to be the best in the world. We're making pretty good progress when it comes to our public schools. You remember, when I came into office, we had a system that just moved our kids through grade after grade, year after year, without learning the basics. So we've increased federal funding, but we've also, for the first time, asked the question, can you read and write? It seems like a legitimate question for government to ask on behalf of the taxpayers and families of America. And if you can read and write, we'll thank you; but if you can't, change before it's too late, so that no child gets left behind in this country. (Applause.)
We've done a lot of hard work, but there's more to do to move America forward. And there's more to do to protect this country from the threats of the 21st century. If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This is not going to happen on my watch. (Applause.) Since September the 11th, America has led the world, and the world has changed for the better.
There are some serious lessons that we must remember about September the 11th. I would like to share some of those with you today. First, we're fighting an enemy that is so cold-blooded it's hard for many Americans to fathom. These people will cut off your head -- like that -- trying to shake our will and shake our conscience. That's why I remind our fellow citizens we must be resolute and we must be steadfast in the face of these cold-blooded killers. You cannot negotiate with these people. You cannot hope for the best when it comes to these people. Therapy is not going to work. (Laughter.) The only way to deal with them is to bring them to justice. (Applause.)
And we're making progress. Slowly but surely, we're bringing them to justice. It's a different kind of war. See, this is the kind of war where these killers will hide in a cave and use terror to shake our will. America's will will not be shaken. America will show strength and resolve, for the sake of freedom and peace. We will continue to find these killers and defeat them overseas, so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
In this different kind of war, we had to send a message to the world that we wanted others to join us, and they have. We've got a vast coalition of nations sharing intelligence, cutting off money. There's some 40 nations involved in Afghanistan, some 30 nations involved in Iraq. I appreciate their service. As a matter of fact, this morning I talked to Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Italy. Once again, I thanked them for the sacrifices of their citizens to provide help in places like Afghanistan and Iraq so that the world would be more free and peaceful. I will continue to work with coalitions. But I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries. (Applause.)
Another lesson of September the 11th is that it's just not enough to go after the killers who killed thousands of Americans, but that if there's a country which harbors them or feeds them, they must be held equally to account. And so I said to the Taliban in Afghanistan, cough up al Qaeda or face serious consequences.
Now, let me say something to you. When the American President speaks, it better be clear for everybody to understand and he better mean it. (Applause.) And I meant it. And as a result of some brave Americans and coalition troops, the Taliban no longer exists in Afghanistan. (Applause.) And America and the world are safer for it. And these Chinook choppers helped free Afghanistan from the Taliban. (Applause.)
It's an amazing -- think about this in Afghanistan. You remember when the four women were drug off the bus. They were voter registration people and they got drug off the bus by some remnants of the Taliban, and we're killed because they were trying to register voters. And I remember some people saying, well, gosh, it just goes to show how terrible it is there in Afghanistan and they're not going to have much of an election. Do you realize that there's now about 9.5 million people who have registered to vote in Afghanistan? (Applause.) It's an amazing statistic. Think about the world three and a half years ago. These thugs were running the country and providing training bases for al Qaeda. And the world was dangerous. We didn't realize it at the time, but think about how dangerous the world was then.
And now, because we took action and upheld doctrine, we did what we said we were going to do, Afghanistan is free. The people are registering to vote. I was in Cleveland, Ohio recently, and welcomed children to the International Children's Game, and there right to my right was the Afghan girls soccer team. They would not have been here without the United States of America having freed the people of that country. (Applause.)
And a free Afghanistan is not only an ally in the war on terror, and a free Afghanistan is not only a place where many young girls go to school for the first time, but a free Afghanistan makes America more secure, and the world more peaceful. (Applause.)
Another important lesson of September the 11th that all Americans must realize is we must take threats seriously before they fully materialize; that you cannot hope for the best when you see a threat. In the old days we could because we never thought anybody would attack us here at home. But that all changed on that day. And so when I looked at Saddam Hussein, I saw a threat. And the reason I did is because he had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, and he was a sworn enemy of America. He had provided safe haven for terrorists. He had paid money to the families of suiciders. He was an unstable -- he was a source of instability in a volatile part of the world. He was firing at our pilots who were enforcing the world's sanctions. He was a threat. (Applause.)
And I recognized that I needed to go to the United States Congress to get support. I wanted the Congress involved, and I took it to the Congress. They looked at the same intelligence I looked at, and they remembered the history of Saddam Hussein that I remembered. And so members of both political parties, including my opponent, supported our position in Iraq. (Applause.) They saw a threat.
The United Nations Security Council saw a threat. Remember, I went to the U.N. I believe diplomacy must be tried and we must exhaust all options in the diplomatic front. See, war is the last resort for a President. It's the toughest decision a President will make. It's the hardest call a Commander-in-Chief can possibly decide. So I went to the U.N. I said, look, why don't we, as the world, finally get together, when we say something, mean it, and let's disarm this guy. Take a look, and you decide if he needs to be disarmed. Remember, they had had resolution after resolution after resolution after resolution. And they passed another one, 15-0, in the United Nations Security Council. It said, disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. That's what the free world said, in a 15-0 vote.
Saddam Hussein defied the free world, just as he had for year after year after year. He didn't give a hoot about what they said. He wasn't interested in complying to the demands of the free world. As a matter of fact, when we sent the inspectors in, he systematically deceived them. So I had a choice to make. And the choice was, do I trust a madman? Do I forget the lessons of September the 11th and hope for the best in this new era, or do I take action necessary to defend our country? Given that choice, I will defend America every time. (Applause.)
I realize we didn't find the stockpiles we thought we would find. But I want you to remember, Saddam had the capability of making weapons, and he could have shared that capability with our enemies. And in the post-9/11 environment, that's a risk America could not afford to take. Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision. (Applause.) And America and the world are better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. (Applause.)
We have a mission in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that is to help them achieve freedom. They've got leaders there now who believe in the future of their countries and want their countries to be free. As I told you, Afghanistan is headed toward elections; Iraq will be, too. That's what we believe in. We believe in systems empowering the people. So we'll help them. We'll be there to help train their troops so they can stand up and take responsibility for their own societies. And we will complete the mission. It's in our national interest that these countries be free. They're going to be such powerful examples in neighborhoods that are desperate for freedom. You see, the way you defeat terror in the long run is to defeat hopelessness and poverty. And the best way to do that is to spread freedom. Free societies are peaceful societies. (Applause.)
By adhering to a -- our beliefs in liberty, we're helping others, and at the same time, helping ourself. By standing strong for liberty, we're remembering lessons of the past. You know, I was talking to Prime Minister Koizumi -- I do quite a bit -- and my last dinner with him -- I think my last dinner, one of my last dinners with him -- it dawned on me how amazing it was that here I was talking to the leader of a country that my dad had fought against in World War II, and your dads had fought against. And you know what we were talking about? We were talking about the peace. We were talking about how to make the world a more peaceful place. And I was having that conversation in part because our country understood that liberty could transform the habits of former enemies. And as Japan was rebuilt after World War II, we stood strong to our belief in freedom for all people. See, we believe that freedom is not America's gift to the world, freedom is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world. (Applause.)
These are historic times. These are historic times. We've done a lot of hard work, I know that. But we're headed toward a freer world and a more peaceful world. My dream for this country is that when your kids grow up, the world is more -- America is more secure, and they look out and see a peaceful horizon, not only for ourselves, but for people all around the world. It's important we complete our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was disappointed the other day when my opponent said after he gets elected that he believes he'll substantially reduce the troops in Iraq in six months. See, I think that sets a terrible signal. I mean, after all, the enemy has got to wait for six months and one day. It sends a bad signal to our troops over there, who every day are doing their best to help that country rebuild and bring peace. (Applause.) It sends a bad signal to the Iraqis, doesn't it? They're wondering whether or not America is going to cut and run. They're wondering whether or not -- you see, before they take risks for freedom, they're wondering or not whether we'll be there to help stabilize the country. So long as I'm the President of the United States, America will keep its word to the people around the world. (Applause.)
I'll tell you another commitment I have made and one I'll keep. Our troops are going to have the best training, the best pay, the best possible equipment. (Applause.) When we put these folks in harm's way, the federal government must stand squarely by their side. I've increased the defense budgets -- strongly increased the defense budgets -- because I want these folks to have the best, and I know you do, too. As a matter of fact, the defense budgets have increased as great as they ever had since Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States. (Applause.)
That's why I went to the United States Congress last September and said, we need supplemental funding to support our troops in combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq. That was for body armor and fuel and spare parts, just all the things necessary to help these people complete their mission. And I -- we got great bipartisan support. That means people from both parties realized the funding was important. So strong, that only 12 people voted against it in the United States Senate, two of whom are my opponent and his running mate. I think when you put people into harm's way, you ought to make sure they're well-equipped.
And so they asked him, they started pressing him. You know how it is in politics. And so he said, fine, well, I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it. (Laughter.) I can assure you people don't talk like that on the floor of this factory. They'll tell you what's on their mind. And then he got pressed further, and he went on to say, well, he's proud of it, and then, it's a complicated matter. There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat. (Applause.)
We've done a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work, and there's more work to be done to do our duty, which is to secure our country, to protect our homeland, and to help the world become more free and more peaceful. You know, this is a changing world of ours, and there are some things that won't change, however. The values we try to live by will not change: courage and compassion, and reverence and integrity, hard work and duty. The institutions that give us direction will not change: our families, our schools, are religious congregations. This is important to our country that these values be strong. That's why I stand for institutions like marriage and family, which are the foundations of our society. (Applause.)
We stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every person counts. (Applause.) We stand for judges who faithfully interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench. (Applause.) We stand for a culture of responsibility here in America. You know, the culture is changing from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life.
If you're fortunate enough to be a mother or a father, you're responsible for loving your child with all your heart and all your soul. (Applause.) You know, if you're worried about the quality of the education in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, you're responsible for doing something about it. (Applause.) A responsibility society is one in which every CEO in corporate America understands he or she is responsible for telling the truth to the shareholders and employees. (Applause.) And a responsibility society is one in which each of us understands we're responsible for loving our neighbor just like we'd like to be loved ourself.
I'm running again because I want to continue to rally the armies of compassion all around our country. See, government can hand out money, but government cannot put hope in a person's heart or a sense of purpose in a person's life. That happens when a loving soul puts their arms around somebody, says, I love you, and how can I help you. We must continue to rally those compassionate folks who are willing to volunteer their time so America can change one heart and one soul and one conscience at a time. (Applause.)
Tom Shaffer is a Boeing employee. He's up here. He runs the Race Against Drugs. He volunteers time to help convince kids to get off drugs. He's making a difference. All he's got to do is convince one soul and he's helped that life and helped change America. (Applause.)
Volunteers come -- they do all kinds of things around our country. Paula Zimmerman is with us. She started what's called Touch of Home. Her son, Private First Class, Kevin Zimmerman, is a member of the Army's Crazy Horse Company, 1st Battalion. He's in Sadr City, Iraq. He's doing his duty for his country. And his mom has sent 160 care packages to Crazy Horse Company. She took time out of her life to volunteer, to lift somebody's spirit, to help some soul understand that a lot of people back home appreciate what they're doing. Government didn't make her do it. She decided to do it because she cares about her son and her country. (Applause.)
I realize one person can't do everything, but a person can do something to help change this country for the better. I want to thank our two examples for volunteers. I want to thank you all for loving your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. You're helping your country when you do so. (Applause.)
You know, for all of us, these years in our history will stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of its leaders. This isn't one of those times. This is a time that requires firm resolve, clear vision, a strong belief in the values that make us a great nation.
None of us will ever forget that week when one era ended and another began. September the 14th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day I will never forget. There were hard-hats there, yelling at me, "Whatever it takes, Mr. President." I can remember walking down the line, shaking hands and thanking people. A guy looked me in the eye, he had just come out of the rubble, and he said, "Do not let me down." See, he took that day personally. Everybody on that site took it personally. I know you took it personally, and so did I. I have a duty that goes on. I wake up daily trying to best figure out how to protect our country. I will never relent in bringing justice to our enemies and secure the homeland, whatever it takes. (Applause.)
When I traveled your great state and our country four years ago, I said, if you would give me the honor of holding this office, I would uphold the dignity and the honor of the office to which I had been elected. With your help, I will do so for the next four years.
Thank you for coming. God bless. Thank you all. (Applause.)
END 2:55 P.M. EDT