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 Home > News & Policies > June 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 30, 2006

Vice President's Remarks at a Luncheon for Congressman Scott Garrett
Waldorf Astoria New York, New York

12:18 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. I'm delighted to be here with you today. And I appreciate the kind words, Scott. I also wanted to recognize Tom Wilson, the New Jersey Republican Party Chairman, who is with us today. And we also have David Norcross with us, who is an old friend. (Applause.)

And I want to thank all of you for coming, first and foremost, to give our support to a great member of Congress, Scott Garrett. I'm proud to stand with you and I bring good wishes to all of you from the President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

This morning I began -- as we do every morning in the Oval Office at 8:00 a.m. for our morning intelligence brief with the President -- and then I came to New York to have lunch with Scott and all of you, and the President got on the plane and flew to Memphis to go to Graceland with Prime Minister Koizumi. (Laughter.) I must say the Prime Minister was very excited about the prospect. We had lunch with him yesterday. But this line of work takes you in all kinds of interesting directions, and today the President is at Graceland.

But it's always good to be back in New York, where the President and I were nominated for our second terms two years ago. It was a great convention, and we still have very fond memories of those hours -- an extraordinary concentration of talent in this city, and the President and I are very happy that one of New York's great business leaders has agreed to serve now as Secretary of the Treasury -- Hank Paulson of Goldman Sachs. We look forward to Hank's swearing-in, and to his years of service as Secretary of the Treasury.

It's been almost four years now since I first campaigned with Scott Garrett in his race for the House in New Jersey's fifth district. I knew early on that we had a fine, outstanding candidate -- a hard worker, an experienced public servant, and somebody who knew the issues cold. Scott won that election, and for the last three-and-a-half years he has been an outstanding member of Congress. On the Budget Committee, on the Financial Services Committee, and on the House floor, colleagues know Congressman Garrett as a sensible, forward-looking leader who is absolutely solid on all the things that matter to his constituents -- economic growth, job creation, homeland security, and a healthy environment. He speaks with conviction, and he works with colleagues equally well on both sides of the aisle in a bipartisan spirit that reflects well on him and on his district. He's earned the respect of all of us, and he's earned another term in the United States Congress. (Applause.)

It's important that we keep proven leaders like Scott because these are times of incredible consequence for the nation. In the last five-and-a-half years we have seen a series of unprecedented challenges. We've experienced war, national emergency, economic recession, corporate scandals, and historic natural disasters. Yet we've faced up to those challenges. We've shown our strengths as a people. And America is a stronger and a better nation thanks to the leadership of our President.

When the President and I came to office, we inherited an economy that was heading into recession. But we took bold action to turn it around -- and because we acted, the nation's economy today is strong and healthy and vigorous -- and in 2005 grew faster than that of any other major industrialized nation in the world. Since August 2003, America has created over 5.3 million new jobs. The national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent -- lower than the average rate of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. Productivity is strong. Household net worth is at an all-time high.

The current expansion is also translating into higher than projected 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 were followed by periods of sustained growth, new jobs, increased federal tax revenue and 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 is done in the Nation's Capital. Scott understands this very well. He's a strong voice for spending discipline. He supports earmark reform and voted for the line-item veto. He's known as a friend of the taxpayer, and we need more people like him in Washington, D.C.

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 for many years to come. He's going to lead the effort on comprehensive immigration reform, make the system rational and make sure we've got control of our borders. And he will continue to appoint solid judges like John Roberts and Sam Alito to the federal bench.

Above all else, President Bush never loses sight of his most fundamental duty -- to defend the nation and to protect our people. (Applause.)

There's 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 aims. And their prime targets are the United States and the American people.

In the face of such enemies, we have to consider a few basic questions: first, whether to confront them on their terms, or on our terms; second, whether to face them on their territory, or on our territory; and third, whether to wage war on the offense or on defense. America and the civilized world have made our decision: Wherever terrorists operate, we will find them where they dwell, stop them in their planning, bring them to justice, and stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Applause.)

We remain on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. 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. Two years ago this week the Iraqi people regained their sovereignty. Since then they have voted for a transitional government; drafted a progressive, democratic constitution in the heart of the Arab world; and then approved that document in a national referendum and then elected a new government under the provisions of that new constitution. 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 on behalf of their own liberty, and the U.S. is proud to stand with them.

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.

There's a vigorous debate taking place right now about the way forward in Iraq. It's always good to have such a discussion, because it directly involves the security of the nation -- the very issue that's of prime importance for all of us. We've reached the point where a number of well known Democrats, including their most recent presidential nominee, talk about setting a firm deadline for withdrawal in Iraq. You might recall that Senator Kerry was for the war before he was against it.

But seriously, following Senator Kerry's prescription -- giving up and setting a hard deadline -- is a terrible idea, and the Senate did the right thing in rejecting it last week. It got exactly 13 votes. Americans and our Iraqi allies need to know that decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and the judgments of our military commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

Another prominent Democrat, Congressman Jack Murtha, a friend of mine, has been on TV recently with his own plan for withdrawal. Jack said we can deal with the Iraqi situation by redeploying our forces to Okinawa. The Pacific Ocean is a long way from the Persian Gulf. The most troubling aspect of Jack's proposal is this: He cited two previous instances of American military withdrawal and suggested they would be good models for us to follow in Iraq. The first was America's exit from Beirut in 1983, and the second, our withdrawal from Somalia in 1993.

I've known Jack a long time. When I was Secretary of Defense, he was Chairman on the House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations, and we did a lot of business together. I have great respect for him, but he's dead wrong on his proposal with respect to Iraq. He draws exactly the wrong lessons from those earlier examples in Beirut and Somalia. If you look back at the years before 9/11, you will see case after case of terrorists hitting America -- and America failing to hit back hard enough.

In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 Marines. In Somalia in 1993, we lost 19 Americans in the battle in Mogadishu. In both cases, the United States responded to those attacks by withdrawing our forces. But by doing so, we simply invited more danger. The terrorists concluded that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy -- because they had. And so they continued to wage attacks against America and American interests around the globe.

We had the bombing at the World Trade Center here in New York in 1993; the murders at the Saudi National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995; the attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous bombing of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998; and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Obviously, all of this ultimately led to the attacks here in New York and Washington on 9/11.

If we follow Congressman Murtha's advice and withdraw from Iraq the same way we withdrew from Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1993, we will simply validate the al Qaeda strategy and invite more terrorist attacks in the future.

In the decade prior to 9/11, we spent more than $2 trillion dollars on national security. Yet we lost nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11 at the hands of 19 men armed with box cutters and airline tickets. In the case of al Qaeda we are not dealing with large armies that we can track, or uniforms that we can see, or men with territory of their own to defend. Their preferred tactic, which they boldly proclaim, is to slip into countries, blend in among the innocent, and kill without mercy and without restraint. They have intelligence and counterintelligence operations of their own. They are using the most sophisticated communications technology they can get their hands on.

In pursuit of their objectives, they have carried out a number of attacks since 9/11 -- in Casablanca, Jakarta, Mombassa, Bali, Riyadh, Baghdad, Istanbul, Madrid, London, Sharm al Sheikh, and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., we have not had another 9/11. Obviously, no one can guarantee that we won't be hit again. But the relative safety of these past five years did not come about by accident. We've been protected by sensible policy decisions made by the President, by decisive action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of people in our armed forces, law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security.

Some in the press, in particular The New York Times, have made it harder to defend America against attack by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs.

First they reported the terrorist surveillance program, which monitors international communications when one end is outside the United States and one end is connected with or associated with al Qaeda. Now the Times has disclosed the terrorist financial tracking program. On both occasions, the Times had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials. They went ahead anyway. The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging to our national security. The ability to intercept al Qaeda communications and to track their sources of financing are essential if we're going to successfully prosecute the global war on terror. Our capabilities in these areas help explain why we have been so successful in preventing further attacks like 9/11. And putting this information on the front page makes it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks. Publishing this highly classified information about our sources and methods for collecting intelligence will enable the terrorists to look for ways to defeat our efforts. These kinds of stories also adversely affect our relationships with people who work with us against the terrorists. In the future, they will be less likely to cooperate if they think the United States is incapable of keeping secrets.

Ladies and gentlemen, after this conflict began nearly five years ago, with a merciless attack on this very city, President Bush told Congress and the country that we were in a different kind of struggle. He said we "should not expect one battle, but rather a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we've ever seen." This war may, he said, "include dramatic strikes, visible on television and covert operations, secret even in success."

All this has come to pass. And there is more work to be done, because we face ruthless and determined enemies. We are dealing with small groups of highly motivated extremists, operating in the shadows, determined to carry out missions of murder of increasing size and audacity. They came into our country to murder thousands of our fellow citizens. They continue attempting to evade our strengths, to search for our weaknesses, in order to find ways to strike again.

That's why we are doing everything we can to prevent attacks -- working with other countries to break up terror cells, to track down terrorist operatives, to put heavy pressure on their ability to organize and plan attacks. We're determined to deny safe haven to the terrorists, to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of killers, and to keep the terrorists from gaining control of any nation as a home base or staging ground for attacks on others.

So it's critically important to remember that this nation is fighting a war. And as we make our case to the voters in this election year, it's vital to keep issues of national security at the top of the agenda. The President and I welcome the discussion, because every voter in America needs to know where the President and I stand, as well as where the leaders of the Democratic Party stand, and how they view the global war on terror.

Their leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, boasted publicly of his efforts to kill the Patriot Act. The chairman of the Democratic Party is Howard Dean, who said the capture of Saddam Hussein would not make America safer. And those prominent Democrats who now advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq are counseling the very kind of retreat that has been tried in the past and would only heighten the danger to the United States. For the sake of our security, this nation must reject any strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies.

We have to face the simple truth. The enemies that struck America are weakened and fractured, but they are still lethal, still desperately trying to hit us again. They hate us, they hate our country, and they hate the liberties for which we stand. They have contempt for our values. They doubt our strength. 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 Bush leading this nation, we are serious, and we will not let down our guard. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, in these five-and-a-half 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've built for ourselves an economy and a standard of living that are the envy of the world. We've faced dangers with resolve. And we've been defended by some of the bravest men and women this nation has ever produced. 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 President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

We'll continue making progress for the American people -- and it's vital that we have strong partners like Scott Garrett in the Congress of the United States. He's made a name for himself as a thoughtful, common-sense, conscientious legislator. He's the kind of person who belongs in the House of Representatives, and the President and I are proud to join all of you in supporting his reelection.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:39 P.M. EDT