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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 6, 2004
Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting in Minnesota
Cabela's Sporting Goods Store
East Grand Forks, Minnesota
12:21 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Please be seated, sit down, at ease. (Laughter.)
Well, I want to thank you very much for letting me come by this morning. And of course, it's not hard to get me into a Cabela's. (Laughter.) My wife, Lynne, will vouch for that. I've got a lot of stuff that I just had to have from Cabela's. But it's a great organization, and it's nice to be here in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. (Applause.)
And I see you're kind to the folks from North Dakota since you allowed the Governor to come over today. (Applause.) And I brought my wife, Lynne with me -- is traveling with me here, as well, too. (Applause.)
Now, we -- of course, we're from Casper, Wyoming. That's where we grew up. (Applause.) Oh, there a couple of Wyoming types in the crowd. But I like to tell the story that Lynne and I got married because of the great election victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. And some people may not think there are far-reaching consequences to presidential elections. But I'm here to tell you there are. (Laughter.)
In 1952, I was living with my folks in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, he reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got shipped to Casper, Wyoming. And that's where I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together. And we'll soon celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) And I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Dwight Eisenhower's election victory Lynne would have married somebody else, and she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) No doubt in my mind.
But delighted to be here today -- I thought what we'd do -- we call these things sort of town hall meetings, take an opportunity to spend a few minutes talking about a couple of subjects, and then throw it open to questions. We've got some people who will be out in the audience with microphones and have an opportunity for you to ask me questions, and a chance for me to respond to concerns that you may have, or to respond to questions, or take advice. I can take it right straight to the top. I'm going to have breakfast with the President on Monday. So if you want to be thinking about questions you might like to ask, we'll do that in just a minute.
Sort of, two general topics that are -- sort of have been foremost in our minds over the course of the last three-and-a-half years. When the President and I took the oath of office on the west front of the Capitol there on January 20th, of 2001, from the standpoint of the economic situation, the economy was already sliding into recession. And then, of course, a few months later, the terrorists struck us on 9/11 and shook the economy once again. So we've spent a lot of our time while we're back there working specifically to make sure we can get the economy back on track.
And the President had to make a basic fundamental decision up-front. And that was a choice between whether we would collect more of what people earned in the form of taxes for the federal government, or whether we'd work hard to allow people to keep more of what they earned. And I think that's one of the basic, fundamental differences you'll find between the two parties this year going forward is we believe very deeply that the strongest possible approach to the economy is to allow the American people to keep as much as you possibly can in terms of your hard-earned dollars. (Applause.)
Now, there's a great temptation sometimes for folks in Washington to sit there inside the Beltway and assume that nothing happens unless somebody in Washington orders that it happen, or that the greatness of America resides inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C. And we don't agree with that perspective.
First of all, we don't believe that the federal government creates wealth. It can create circumstances in which small businesses and employees, farmers and ranchers can go out for themselves, work hard, save their money, make investments, hire -- create new jobs -- but that the economy is driven primarily by what happens in the private sector all across America, whether it's here in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, or in Casper, Wyoming; or Tucson, Arizona, or wherever it may be, that the greatness of America resides out there in the communities all across America -- not inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
So the President made a decision that the best way we could move the economy forward was to cut taxes. We did it -- not once, not twice but three times. We reduced the marriage penalty. We doubled the child tax credit. We created the 10 percent bracket. We cut rates across the board. We increased the expensing deduction for small businesses from $25,000 to $100,000 -- did everything we could think of that would allow people to productively invest what they had earned. And we thought that was the best way to get the economy moving again, and I think it has worked.
If you look at the numbers, we've added over 1.5 million jobs since last August -- 1.2 million since the first part of the year. We got interest rates and inflation and mortgage rates at historic lows. Home ownership is at an all-time record high. Economic growth over the course of the last year has been nearly 5 percent -- one of the highest rates in nearly 20 years. So basically, I would have to conclude -- and I think it's a fair judgment -- that the economy is back on track, is headed in the right direction. We've come a long way in the last three-and-a-half when you consider the really extraordinary circumstances under which the American people have had to operate over that period of time.
That brings me to the second basic point that I wanted to spend time on this morning, and that's the whole proposition of the war on terror. The other thing that was going on, on January 20th of '01, when we took the oath of office, is that there were several developments underway in the world, some of which were public, some of which weren't, that all came to a head in the period on and immediately after 9/11. And of course, that morning when we lost 3,000 of our fellow citizens in a couple of hours to terrorist attacks, changed everything for us in terms of how we think about national security, and how we defend ourselves against those kinds of attacks.
But if you go back to that day we were sworn in on January 20th, several things were working at that point. We had -- the planning for 9/11 was already well in hand. The terrorists had been recruited. A lot of them had already begun training. Some of them were in the U.S. The funds had been raised. They had been planning that attack since 1996 -- was the first time Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, who was the mastermind of it, had suggested it to Osama bin Laden. So it had been in the works by then for almost five years.
In addition to the planning going forward on the 9/11 attacks, in Afghanistan, you had a home base for the al Qaeda organization. The Taliban were in control. They had taken over the country, but there were thousands of al Qaeda present there -- there was -- including Osama bin Laden. Training camps had been established throughout Afghanistan where some 20,000 terrorists were trained in the latter part of the '90s between 1997 and about 2000. It had become a safe haven, a sanctuary, if you will, for terrorists. And nobody had been able to do very much about it.
In Iraq, we had a situation which Saddam Hussein was in power -- he had been for some considerable period of time. He'd started two wars. He had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction against the Iranians and against his own people in wars in the past. He'd violated U.N. sanctions for 12 years, one of the bloodiest regimes in the late 20th century, altogether a very bad guy. He also had provided sanctuary and safe haven for terrorists, that is to say the Abu Nidal organization had worked out of Baghdad for years -- Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Saddam was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers who would go out and blow themselves up and kill as many other people with them as they could -- a long, well established reputation as sponsor, if you will, of terror.
We had a couple of other problems working at the time that weren't public, that we knew about through intelligence sources. One was that a man named A.Q. Khan, a Pakistani who had developed the Pakistan nuclear weapons program, had after he'd finished that work for Pakistan, had then gone into business for himself. And he was producing the uranium feedstock, the centrifuges you need to enrich uranium to make it weapons grade. He had the design for weapons himself, and he was selling nuclear weapons technology to some of the worst regimes in the world -- the North Koreans, the Iranians, and the Libyans, in particular. Moammar Ghadafi, in Libya, was one of his best customers. He'd spent millions over the years acquiring that capability.
And finally, the terrorists themselves had learned a couple of unfortunate lessons over the prior period of years. They had come to believe that they could strike the U.S. with impunity, because they had repeatedly, and that they could also -- if they hit us hard enough, they could change our policies, which they had.
Think back to that period of time in 1983, when they bombed our barracks in Beirut and killed 241 Marines; or 1993, when they attacked the World Trade Center in New York and killed half a dozen people and wounded hundreds more; 1996, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; 1998, simultaneously attacked our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa; or 2000, when they hit the USS Cole -- think back and ask yourself, what was the U.S. response to each of those attacks? How did we react to those events?
And basically what we did was we treated each as a law enforcement problem. We'd go out and try to run down the bad guys who had actually been the ones that had perpetrated the act. And we were successful sometimes. We got Ramzi Yousef, the man who led the effort at the World Trade Center in '93; he's doing a 240-year sentence up in Colorado. But we never reached beyond that. We rarely got into the organization itself, or the organizations that carried out these various attacks.
In other words, they had concluded based on their ability to hit us and we had never responded very forcefully -- about the most we ever did was fire off a few cruise missiles at a training camp in Afghanistan -- but they could strike us with impunity, that there was no cost to them to speak of.
And secondly, they believed based on experience, that when they hit us, hit us hard enough we would change our policy, and we did. In Beirut in 1983, after the Marine barracks were struck, within a matter of months, we were totally out of Lebanon. In 1993, after they ambushed some of our troops in Mogadishu, we lost 19 soldiers, within a matter of weeks, we were out Somalia altogether. So the lesson they had learned was you could strike the U.S. and it's virtually cost-free. And secondly, if you hit them hard enough, they'll change their policy. Exactly the wrong lessons you want terrorists to learn about.
What happened on -- 9/11,-of course, was a morning that few of us will ever forget, but it really did fundamentally change the way we have to look at the world and think about national security policy, and about how we defend ourselves, about who the enemy is, and about how to best guarantee the safety and security of our kids and grandkids and future generations. And right at the front, in terms of what the President did that day was to say that henceforth, there will no longer be a distinction made between the terrorists on the one hand, and those who support terror, or provide a safe haven or sanctuary for terrorists on the other. There won't be any more of this stuff where Afghanistan, for example, can maintain a state, a sovereign state and provide training camps for al Qaeda, and we won't hit Afghanistan. That day is gone. It's over with.
And we followed up with that basic fundamental decision, of course. We went into Afghanistan. We took down the Taliban. We closed the training camps where the terrorists had trained to kill Americans. We put Osama bin Laden on the run. We captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda. Now we've gone beyond that to stand up a new interim government in Afghanistan. We've got an interim President named Hamid Karzai. He came and addressed a joint session of the Congress a few weeks ago and thanked the American people for what we'd done in Afghanistan. They've got a Constitution now. They'll hold free elections later this fall. And for the first time, you're going to have a democratically governed Afghanistan in relatively short order. We've still got a lot of work to do. (Applause.)
We've still got a lot of work to do. You don't want to underestimate the difficulty of it, but we're making progress.
In Iraq, of course, we went into Iraq -- the net result of what we were able to achieve there is that the government is gone; Saddam's sons are dead; Saddam himself is in jail today -- exactly where he belongs. (Applause.) Again, we have an interim government stood up there. We've got an interim Prime Minister. The Iraqis have taken over all the government ministries. They're now running their own affairs on a day-to-day basis.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, we're spending a lot of time and effort now training their forces so they can take over the responsibility to provide for their own security here in the months ahead. It's very important to get them into the fight because in the final analysis, we can't do it for them. We can take it so far, but then they've got to be willing to step, take on the responsibility -- both for politically, leading the country; as well as, for dealing with any military or security threat they may face. We've got a process in place now in Iraq where they'll hold free elections come January. And after that, they'll write a Constitution. And by the end of next year, they should have a freely elected government in place in Iraq.
But again, it's going to be tough. It's going to require us to continue to work, to have forces there for some considerable period of time. We don't want to leave too soon and have one of those countries revert back to what it was before. That's a loser for everybody. We don't want to stay a day longer than we have to. We want to come home just as quickly as we can. But we got to get it right. Having made that commitment, it's absolutely essential that we establish these democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq because that will send a signal throughout that part of the world, and I think in a sense help drain the swamp so that that part of the world that has been the basis for generating terror now for so many years, we offer an alternative -- a different opportunity, a different way to proceed.
The intriguing thing is -- (Applause.) The intriguing thing is, of course, that Moammar Ghadafi, in Libya, watched what we did in Afghanistan, watched what we did in Iraq, and five days after we dug Saddam out of his hole, north of Baghdad, Ghadafi went public and announced he wanted to give up all of his WMD -- all of his weapons of mass destruction, get out of the nuclear business. (Applause.) And all of that material now, the uranium feedstock, the centrifuge equipment, the weapons design and so forth, is all now under lock and key down at Oak Ridge in Tennessee. We've gathered it all up and brought it all home. And it's now -- (Applause.) The worst proliferator of nuclear weapons technology in modern times has been put out of business.
Finally, I think it's important to point out that I believe we've also taught the terrorists the lesson that they can no longer strike us with impunity, that we will actively and aggressively go after them wherever they plot and plan, that the kind of thinking we had pre-9/11, where we wouldn't respond until we'd been struck first, that that day has passed, that you cannot afford to sit back and wait to get hit the next time around before you do anything because the terrorists are out there. They're doing everything they can. There's still a lot of them in business. Remember those 20,000 who went through those training camps in Afghanistan, in the late '90s, they then set up cells in about 60 different countries around the world, including here in the U.S., that they're doing everything they can to find ways to strike us. And they are actively seeking, trying to get their hands on deadlier weapons than anything they've ever used before -- specifically chemical, biological agent, or even a nuclear weapon, if they can. And you can imagine what would happen if we had an al Qaeda cell loose in the middle of one of our own cities with a nuclear weapon. The devastation that that would bring down on hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Americans, obviously is something that you don't want to think about.
So it's vital that we go on offense. We've got to have a good defense. We've worked hard to strengthen our defenses here at home, created a Homeland Security Department, passed the Patriot Act to make it easier to prosecute terrorists and so forth. But in the final analysis, if we're successful 99.9 percent of the time on defense, they only have to get through once in order to deal a devastating blow. And that's one of the main reason the President made it clear that we're going to go on offense. We will aggressively go out and pre-empt when we think that's necessary in order to keep the terrorists from organizing against us, or from acquiring those kinds of deadly capabilities, or being able to mount an attack against the United States. (Applause.)
Final point and then I'll stop, none of this would have been possible without two very important factors: one, of course, is the President of United States, who made some very tough decisions. (Applause.) But he'd be the first to say that the people that really deserve credit for what we've been able to do are our troops. The men and women in uniform have done a fantastic job. (Applause.)
The election we have on November 2nd is going to help decide what kind of strategy we pursue going forward. Now, some days I have concerns that I haven't really heard from John Kerry or John Edwards any clear enunciation of what they plan to do with respect to a strategy for dealing with this fundamental threat to the United States. They seem to have been on all sides of the issue. Well, we won't get into that. Well, maybe we will, but I'll wait for a minute -- (laughter) -- the questions. But it's very important that decision on November 2nd, both on the economy here at home in terms of our basic philosophical approach, but most especially in terms of how we're going to defend the country in the years ahead, what kind of policies we're going to pursue there. And that is exactly what's at stake in this year's election. We got to get it right. And that's why I think it's absolutely essential that George Bush get four more years in the White House. (Applause.)
Okay, now, I believe we've got some people out there with microphones. If you'll identify yourselves. Have you got somebody -- they got the orange cards on them. You got somebody ready to ask a question?
Q Hi, Mr. Vice President, my name is Lynn Stauss, and I approve this message. (Laughter.) I would like to say I'm Mayor of East Grand Forks. We welcome you to East Grand Forks, are so pleased to have you here -- and not just East Grand Forks, the entire region of Minnesota and North Dakota, and of course, the cities of East Grand Forks, and Grand Forks.
And you know 1957 (sic), we had a major flood here. We learned an example, and it was mentioned earlier the water was about this high in this building, or a little higher, and we learned that the help around the nation that we have in this country, what a wonderful country it is, but we also learned how government working -- the federal government, the state government, and the local government -- without three of them working together, this would not have been able to happen, what we call now in our city, the poster child of flood recovery, from everything that was done for us.
So we appreciate that. We do have some things left to do, and we know you're going to be reelected. (Applause.) And for that reason, we would like to see that the final levee of our communities -- the two of them, Grand Forks, East Grand Forks, along with Corps of Engineers, along with the state and federal and local, again, finishing it so that we will protected, and we won't have 50,000 people that have to evacuate their home as they did back in 1997, and also that we have the opportunity -- for one thing is floor insurance, they will not have to pay that thousand dollars a year for that, which they can't afford to add on to their incomes. So I hope that when you are re-elected, you will help us continue. You've been a real asset to what we've done so far.
And I, as a Vietnam veteran, I want people to know, the ones you saw on television, there are those that are Republican, too. (Laughter and applause.) And as a Vietnam veteran, a school teacher for 27 years, a partnership with my brother in construction, and a father of three, all across America, we have people that are common, ordinary people like myself that are supporting the Bush-Cheney ticket. Thank you. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.
Well, thank you very much. Thank you for your service, and I'll check on the levee. (Laughter.) We have a similar problem actually up in Jackson, Wyoming, where Lynne and I live now because the Snake River just moves back and forth all the time. And they've had real difficulty -- the Corps of Engineers built levees in there. We're constantly in a battle over who is going to pay to maintain the levees and so forth. So I know these are important issues for local communities, but we'll be happy to take a look at it.
Q Mr. Vice President, thank you for being here. I just want to let you know how proud we are to have you and President Bush in the White House leading our country in some very difficult times.
What I would like you to clarify is we have heard through the media that the current terror level alert that was increased might have been based on old information, old intelligence. But then we've also heard that there is more recent intelligence that justified that increased alert. Could you comment on that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Don't believe everything you see in the press. (Laughter and applause.) The fact is that we have released a lot of detailed information this time around. Periodically, we will intercept information, collect intelligence that leads us to believe that somebody is planning a particular type of an operation. And you're always walking a fine line of when you go public with that and alert people to the possibility, and when you not go public. And if you do it too often, people become kind of blase about the whole thing and don't pay attention. And there are only so many times you can go back to the well, if you will, with that sort of thing. So when we do it, we're very sensitive to the obligation we have to give as much information out as we can without destroying sources and methods. You've got protect sources and methods so you can't reveal absolutely everything.
But this latest alert comes from some very detailed information, some of it was collected several years ago. But that is not surprising with the way these people work. And what I've found, I guess, objectionable about some of the reporting I saw on it was the assumption that because data might have been collected four or five years ago, it shouldn't -- it was irrelevant, or we shouldn't rely on it.
Remember how this organization functions: they operate based on their own timetable. They are meticulous planners. They are very, very disciplined, and they're lethal. And think back to the World Trade Center bombing 1993, the first one, they tried to take down the tower by running a truckload of explosives into the basements in the hopes they'd be able to shatter the columns and drop the whole thing -- somewhat similar to the way they hit the different group, because that was Hezbollah, hit the Marine barracks in Lebanon in '83. You may remember there, they drove a truck into the lobby of this hotel and brought down the whole thing. It didn't work in '93. Lo and behold, eight years later, they're back with a whole different plan to hit the World Trade Center. And that attack in 2001, as I say, was first planned five years before, in 1996, when Khalid Shaykh Muhammad first started talking about it. If you go look at the East Africa embassy bombings that occurred in 1998, a lot of the basic casing information, where somebody would go and case the site, and look at the security, and look at all the approach routes, and do a very, very detailed work-up on the vulnerabilities of those facilities, that work was done about five years before the attack.
So for the press, or anybody else to say, well, this is old data. It was collected three, four years ago, hogwash. Don't believe it for a minute, it's not true that that's not relevant. It shows you also -- it is so detailed, it shows the extent to which these people plan carefully and meticulously every single move they make. And they're not working on our timetable. They don't think in terms of weeks or months. If it takes years, they're prepared to wait for years to do it. So for us to operate on any other basis than that this is not a serious threat would be a real mistake.
Plus, there is additional information that we didn't give to The New York Times or anybody else -- it's sensitive, you got to protect sources and methods -- and there's a real live, honest-to-goodness threat out there, or we wouldn't have made it public as we have.
Yes, over here.
Q Mr. Vice President, welcome to Minnesota. I'm a family farmer that raises sugar beets in northwest Minnesota. In the 2002 (ph) election, northwest Minnesota overwhelmingly supported and elected President Bush, we also continue to support the administration in the war on terror. Can you assure our family farmers and the 30,000 related jobs of the sugar industry that the administration will seek a level playing field in the WTO and future trade agreements?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's our intention, certainly. We're trying to work through the WTO on the sugar agreements, rather than on a bilateral basis. I've got a few sugar growers in Wyoming, too -- not as many as you've got up here in Minnesota. But the effort there is being made to guarantee a level playing field, as I say, and to do it through the WTO. We think that's the most effective way to proceed. And it's my understanding that's the preference of the industry, as well.
Other questions. You got somebody back here? Here you go, right here.
Q Hi, welcome to Minnesota. I'm from Bemidji, Minnesota, which is about a hundred miles to the east. And I'd just like to say that after you beat Kerry and Edwards in November, you're invited to our deer camp, which we have. (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I accept.
Q Okay. It should be about the right time in November, that second week.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's going to come right after my pheasant trip down to South Dakota. (Laughter.)
Q Okay, all right. I'm involved in health care, and I serve a lot of little rural hospitals. I'm a nurse anesthetist to provide anesthesia services. We're based in Bemidji. And one of the biggest things we see in these rural hospitals is Medicare reimbursement. They are not reimbursed the same for a patient coming in to have a gall bladder surgery or whatever. The hospital doesn't get the same DRG, or payment that they would if had it in Minneapolis. In fact, Minnesota isn't even reimbursed the same as New York or California. And we're talking about a level playing field, we really like to see that reimbursement for Medicare -- I don't understand why an elderly person having their operation in their hometown by a qualified surgeon, that wouldn't get the same payment as someone having it in Washington?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The discrepancy goes back several years. But I believe we addressed some of it in the new Medicare legislation that was passed last year. Chuck Grassley, from Iowa, who is chairman of finance committee in the Senate, had exactly the same problem. All over Iowa, they've got a similar problem that you've got here in Minnesota, or we have in a state like Wyoming, where there was -- I don't want to say discrimination, but clearly a lower rate of reimbursement in rural areas, partly, I suppose on the theory that costs were less. But I think it is in that Medicare bill that kicks in fully in 2006, and we can get you the details on it if you want. I'm not sure that it solves your problem completely, but I know it was an absolute requirement for Chuck Grassley. And he carried a big stick because he was chairman of the finance committee that had to pass the whole bill. And I think he got it in there.
Yes, back here.
Q Good morning, Mr. Vice President. It's an honor to speak with you. Your opponent talks about two Americas. And I was just kind of wondering what your vision of America was.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: My opponent talks about -- oh, you're talking about John Edwards?
Q Yes. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, I've always had a problem with this notion that you should try to build a political career or an election victory trying to peddle the notion of class warfare, or that there were two different Americas. I fundamentally don't believe it. (Applause.)
You can -- you go look at history, or at least the history I learned about the United States, and I think it's true, I think it's the way it's worked for a lot of us. Some of us are more fortunate than others, obviously. But the fact is that we all start, I believe, in the United States, at least to a greater extent than any other society on the face of the Earth with the opportunity to achieve whatever you're capable of achieving, that is; for the most part, a meritocracy; that if you're willing to work hard, and put in the long hours, you can start a business, build a small business successfully, or go pursue whatever profession you want to pursue. There are an awful lot of places in the world where that's simply not possible.
And here, the thing that I'm struck by, this thing that nearly everybody I deal with on a regular basis is that basic, fundamental belief is that people want is an opportunity. They want good schools for their kids. And we've got an obligation. Obviously, government plays a role in
all of that. They want an opportunity to be able to work hard and keep a good part of what they earn, that they're not discriminated against based on what their last name is, or the color of their skin, or whether they're good looking or not good looking. John Edwards supposedly got the job of Vice President because he's charming, sexy and good looking, has great hair -- (Laughter.) I said, how do you think I got the job? (Applause.)
Q Thank you for talking to us today, Mr. Vice President. This is just awesome. I'm thrilled to be here. I have a question for you about some people think that we're not tough enough against the negative campaigns and all the false information that's coming out now with the mud slinging in the Kerry-Edwards campaign. What do you say to that, that we're not tough enough in proving that a lot of those things are falsehoods?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the thing that disturbs me about this election year, I guess, are the so-called 527s. We had the campaign finance reform. And when I worked for Gerry Ford back in 1976. And we had the first set of campaign finance reforms that came in the aftermath of Watergate. And it laid down a whole set of requirements. And so we operated by those requirements. And then eventually over time, we got to the point where somebody decided those weren't good enough. So we got a new campaign finance reform law. But it's got a big loophole in it called 527s. And in effect what it allows is for groups, as long as they're not affiliated with a candidate, can go out and raise money -- soft dollars, which were banned from being used for state parties and national party organizations -- go out and raise soft dollars, meaning individuals can write million-dollar checks if they want. This guy Soros has given, I don't know $10 million or $15 million, something like that. And they can say anything they want, put commercials on television, which they do endlessly attacking one or the other of the parties. And the fact is, nearly all of them are attacking us. We feel it on a daily basis. The other side is well organized, and I think it's -- well, I'm trying to be a statesman here. (Laughter.) I think it's a bit of a travesty to claim we've got campaign finance reform, and that we've banned soft dollars, and then over here on the side, they've written in this big loophole that allows somebody like George Soros -- I think it's George -- who is spending literally $10 million, $15 million and everybody else is limited to $2,000, or whatever it is. But if you go the through 527, he can dump as much money as he wants into the race, and it's all negative advertising aimed at the President and me.
We either ought to have a campaign finance reform law that is sensible and fair to everybody, or the other option, frankly, would be one where you eliminate all the limits, just have total disclosure and get government out of the business of trying to regulate elections, but have total instantaneous disclosure, say, within 24 hours so the voters get to decide who is getting what, and whether or not they're abusing the process. But right now today, it's not working, and that's a big part of our problem is the 527s, rather than the individual campaigns on both sides.
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MODERATOR: I understand there's time for one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay, somebody back here.
Q Hi, I live here in East Grand Forks. I serve a Lutheran church on the north side, River Heights Lutheran. I have 12 children, seven of whom are 18 and older, and they'll all vote for you. (Laughter and applause.) So you ought to take Minnesota, anyway. (Laughter.)
I have a question specifically about these young folks. I have lots of college kids. And for some strange reason, college students tend to veer toward the left. And I've always thought the Republican Party had a real vision for the future because they believe in freedom and opportunity. Can you tell me if you could talk to every college student in America and tell him or her how the Bush-Cheney ticket differs from the Kerry-Edwards ticket, what single thing would you point to encourage our young people to vote for you and the Republican Party this fall?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I guess, I would focus on a couple of things. I clearly would focus upon the national security situation, the war on terror, and the importance of strong presidential leadership, and the willingness to use the power of the United States, and the military, if necessary, in order to defend us.
I hear a lot of nice talk about if we were nicer to people in the international community, maybe they would have all signed on to help us. Well, the fact is we had 30 allies with us in Iraq anyway. And I'm not all that enthusiastic, nor is the President, for example, at having to go get a permission slip from anybody to defend the country. (Applause.)
In terms of the domestic situation here at home, I think basic fundamental principles that continually remind ourselves the importance of what we're allowed to achieve as individuals -- having the maximum opportunity to be whatever we want to be, and not be constrained by too much government regulation, or a government that's so big it takes from us so much of our income that we're not free to make choices and decisions for others.
You talked about freedom and opportunity, and that I think goes to the heart of it. And I think if I look at the views of George Bush, the way he operated as Governor of Texas, the way he's operated since he became President, I contrast that with John Kerry, I just think there are basic, fundamental differences of opinion about how this society ought to operate. I'm trying to think how to be a statesman in terms of my comments here. I think there are just an awful lot more -- I'm much more comfortable with the values and the ideas and the concepts that I find in the middle of the country than I am in what I find in Massachusetts -- if I can put in those terms. (Applause.)
John Kerry is, by National Journal ratings, the most liberal member of the United States Senate. Ted Kennedy is the more conservative of the two senators from Massachusetts. (Laughter.) It's true. All you got to do is go look at the ratings systems. And that captures a lot, I think, in terms of somebody's philosophy. And it's not based on one vote, or one year, it's based on 20 years of service in the United States Senate. Perfectly legitimate view of the world, if that's the way he wants to view it. It's just that if I were to lay down my voting record, the 10 years I was in the House, versus his, there's not a lot of overlap. (Laughter.)
But let me thank you all again for being here today. (Applause.) It's great to be here in North Dakota and Minnesota. (Applause.) Well, thank you once again, and remember us on November 2nd.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:05 P.M. CDT
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