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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 23, 2006
Vice President's Remarks at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Brian Bilbray
The Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina
San Diego, California
12:31 P.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Brian. I appreciate the kind words and very warm welcome. It's almost enough to make me want to run for office again. (Laughter.) Almost.
And as Brian mentioned, I was the Congressman from Wyoming for 10 years. And back in the '80s, I taught Duncan Hunter everything he knows about the business. (Laughter.) Duncan used to point out that he was from California where they had a big delegation. I was from Wyoming where we had a small delegation. We only had one congressman. But I pointed out it was quality. (Laughter.)
And it is a pleasure to be here today to campaign, obviously, on behalf of Brian Bilbray and the opportunity to serve and spend time on the stage, as well, with Congressmen Issa, and with Duncan, as well. And I know my old friend Pete Wilson is here. I saw him come through earlier. Pete? (Applause.)
But this is a very, very important election we've got coming up here in the 50th district, and I've been looking forward to coming to spend some time with the next congressman from the 50th district, Brian Bilbray. (Applause.) In a sense the election here in the 50th is the first of the campaigns that we're going to see from now through November 7th, and it is extraordinarily important. The President wanted me to bring good wishes to all of you, and I'm happy to do that, as well, too.
Just two weeks from today we're going to see the elections here in San Diego, and the winner of this race will be the first member of Congress elected in the year 2006. There's no doubt in my mind that Brian has the experience and the qualifications to be a superb member for the 50th district here in California. And I look forward to welcoming him in Washington after a solid victory on the 6th of June. (Applause.)
I think all of you know, of course, that Brian has deep roots here in San Diego. He is an experienced public servant. He's been an active citizen for years. He's a person that clearly speaks with conviction. When he was first elected to Congress, he went right to work to encourage economic growth and the creation of jobs and insist on fiscal responsibility.
As many of you know, I consider the House of Representatives to be my political home. The colleagues I respected most were the ones who took the job seriously, who did their homework, who made a positive contribution to the debate, and kept in touch with the folks back home. That's how Brian operated as a member of Congress. He worked with members of both parties for the good of the country, and he made a difference. And that's why he belongs in the United States Congress once again. (Applause.)
It's important that we elect public servants like Brian because these are times of incredible consequence for the nation. The last five years have been marked by a series of unprecedented challenges. We've experienced war, national emergency, economic recession, historic natural disasters. Yet we've faced up to those challenges, and in the process we've shown our many strengths as a people. Today, with George Bush as our leader, the U.S. is moving forward with confidence and with hope. Americans have no fear of the future -- because we intend to shape it.
Because we acted, the nation's economy today is healthy and vigorous, and in 2005 grew faster than any other major industrialized nation in the world. Since August of '03, America has created more than 5.2 million new jobs -- more than Japan and the 25 nations of the European Community combined. The national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent -- lower than the average rate for the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. Productivity is strong. Household net worth is at an all-time record high. Real after-tax income is up more than 8 percent per person since the beginning of '01. President Bush's tax relief plan was right for America -- and it is working. (Applause.)
To remain competitive, we need to keep the economy growing -- and growth is more likely when Americans have more of their own money to spend, to save, and to invest. In the last five years, we've cut taxes on individuals, on families with children, on small businesses, on dividends, on capital gains, and we've put the death tax on the path to elimination. The Bush tax relief has left $880 billion in the hands of workers, investors, small businesses, and families. And Americans have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth.
Last week we got even more good news, when the President signed a bill that renewed the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends for another several years. Those tax cuts have resulted in high levels of investment in new plants and equipment, software, and R&D -- the very kind of investment that generates new jobs down the road. And the expansion is also translating into higher than projected federal revenues, as we knew would happen. There is no mystery to this. Over the last several generations, there have been three major tax cuts in this country -- in the 1960s under President Kennedy, in the 1980s under President Reagan, and now under President Bush. All three resulted in sustained growth, in new jobs, and in the creation of new wealth across the country. The evidence is in -- and the best tax policy for America is found in the wisdom of Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush.
Yet even as revenue grows, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayer's dollar. Wise stewardship means taking a second look at the way business has often been done in Washington. As the congressional leadership has stated, we need reforms in the way projects are earmarked for funding. And we look forward to working with responsible members on the Hill on earmark reform. Government has a duty to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, or not spend them at all. Brian understands this very well. He's been a strong voice for spending discipline during years in Congress. We need him back. (Applause.)
We have a full agenda for 2006 and beyond, and President Bush understands that every decision he makes will affect the lives of millions of Americans far into the future. He's going to lead the effort on comprehensive immigration reform, to make the system rational and to get control of our border. (Applause.) And he will continue appointing solid judges like John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the federal bench. (Applause.)
Above all else, President Bush never loses sight of his most fundamental duty -- to defend the nation and to protect the American people.
There is still hard work ahead in the war on terror, because we are dealing with enemies who have declared an intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aim. Their prime targets are the United States and the American people; so we have a responsibility to lead in this fight.
The terrorists were at war with our country long before the liberation of Iraq, and long before 9/11. But for many years, they were the ones on the offensive. They became convinced that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 Marines. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers. Thereafter, shortly after that, U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia. Over time, the terrorists concluded that they could strike America without paying a price, because they did, repeatedly: They bombed the World Trade Center in New York in 1993; murders at the Saudi National Guard training facility in Riyadh in 1995; the attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
Believing they could strike us with impunity and that they could change U.S. policy, they attacked us on 9/11 here in the homeland and killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens. Now they are making a stand in Iraq -- testing our resolve, trying to intimidate the United States into abandoning our friends and permitting the overthrow of a new Middle Eastern democracy.
We are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. The work is still difficult, and we can expect further acts of violence and destruction by the enemies of freedom. But progress has been steady -- and there should be no discounting the hopeful signs in that part of the world. In less than two years' time the Iraqi people have regained their sovereignty, voted for a transitional government, drafted a progressive, democratic constitution in the heart of the Arab world, then approved that document in a national referendum, and subsequently elected a new government under the provisions of that new constitution. The most recent election had a voter turnout of more than 70 percent -- better than we do here in the U.S. -- Iraqis defied killers, assassins and the car-bombers and went to the polls in huge numbers. Iraq now has a unity government that is committed to a future of freedom and progress for all Iraqis. They've made a strong stand for their own liberty, and the United States is proud to stand at their side.
Our coalition is also helping to build an Iraqi security force that is well trained and well equipped. As that force grows in strength and the political process continues to advance, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists. Going forward, any decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our military commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
Issues of national security will clearly be at the top of the agenda in this election year. The President and I welcome the discussion, because every voter in America needs to know how the leaders of the Democratic Party view the war on terror. Their leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, has boasted publicly of his efforts to kill the Patriot Act. Their nominee for President in the last election viewed terrorism mainly as a law enforcement issue, and recently said that American troops are "terrorizing" Iraqis. The Chairman of the Democratic Party is Howard Dean, who said the capture of Saddam Hussein didn't make America safer. And those prominent Democrats who advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq are counseling the very kind of retreat that Osama bin Laden has been predicting and counting on. Yet these Democrats will not -- and cannot -- make the case that somehow surrender in Iraq would make our nation safer.
This is also the crowd that objects to the terrorist surveillance program -- even though that program has helped prevent attacks and has protected American lives. We've heard it said many times that our government failed to connect the dots before 9/11. We now know that some of the hijackers were in the United States, here in the San Diego area, and they placed telephone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas before that attack. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. To help prevent another such attack, and based on authority given him by the Constitution and by statute, the President authorized a surveillance program to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. Let me emphasize that because on occasion you will hear the press or our opponents talk about domestic surveillance. This is not domestic surveillance. One end has to be outside the United States, and therefore international, one end has to be affiliated in some fashion with al Qaeda. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States. The program is a wartime measure, it's limited in scope to surveillance associated with terrorists, and it is conducted in a way that safeguards the civil liberties of the American people. Leaders of Congress have been briefed on this program more than a dozen times on the program. I have personally presided over most of those briefings. In addition, the entire program is reconsidered and reauthorized by the President every 45 days. He has reauthorized it more than 30 times since September 11th, because it has helped prevent attacks. It has protected American lives. And that program remains essential to the security of the United States. If there are individuals inside our country talking with al Qaeda, we want to know about it because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again. (Applause.)
This enemy is weakened and fractured, yet still lethal and still determined to kill Americans. We have a duty to act against them as swiftly and as effectively as we possibly can. Either we are serious about fighting this war or we are not. And with George W. Bush leading the nation, we are serious, and we will not let down our guard.
Ladies and gentlemen, in these five years we've been through a great deal as a nation. Yet with each test, the American people have displayed the true character of our country. We have built for ourselves an economy and a standard of living that are the envy of the world. We have faced dangers with resolve. And we have been defended by some of the bravest men and women this nation has ever known. (Applause.) When future generations look back on our time, they will know that we met our moment with courage and clear thinking. And they'll know that America became a better nation -- stronger, more prosperous, and more secure -- under the leadership of our President, George Bush.
We'll continue making progress for the American people -- and it's vital that we have strong partners in that effort like Brian Bilbray in the Congress of the United States. (Applause.) Right now the eyes of the nation are on the 50th district of California, and when you send Brian Bilbray to Washington you'll have a Congressman who speaks for your interests and your values each and every day. I'm proud to join you in supporting Brian's campaign. He'll do a fantastic job, and the President and I look forward to welcoming him to Washington next month.
Thank you very much.
END 12:49 P.M. PDT