The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
February 8, 2008

Vice President's Remarks at the Pennsylvania State Victory Committee
Hilton Harrisburg
Harrisburg, PA

11:59 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. With a welcome like that, it's almost enough to make me want to run for office. (Laughter.) Almost, almost. (Laughter.) I want to thank Rob Gleason for the kind words, and for the invitation to join all of you today. And I also want to thank Vice Chair Joyce Haas and National Committeeman Bob Asher and I bring good wishes to all of you from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I'm pleased to be joined by my colleague and good friend, your senior U.S. senator, Arlen Specter. (Applause.) In Washington we know Arlen as one of the most respected members of the Senate. Here at home you know him as an incredibly hardworking, energetic voice for the people of Pennsylvania. Arlen came to Washington with Ronald Reagan in 1981. He's been in steady service to the commonwealth every day since. President Bush and I enjoy working with him, and we thank Pennsylvania for sending this good man to Washington.

I knew Arlen when I was a congressman; I was the congressman from Wyoming for 10 years. Wyoming only had one congressman. It was a small delegation, but -- (laughter) -- it was quality. (Laughter.) And I also got a chance to work with Arlen when I was Secretary of Defense. But I get to see a lot more of him now that I'm Vice President, of course. One of my jobs is to preside over the Senate, under the Constitution, and to cast tie-breaking votes. In fact, before the Constitution was written, some thought the vice presidency was entirely unnecessary. These included the oldest delegate to the Constitutional convention, a great Pennsylvanian, of course, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin said that if the office were to be created, anyone who served as Vice President should be addressed as "Your Superfluous Excellency." (Laughter.) That's a lot better than some of the things I've been called. (Laughter.)

It's a great privilege to serve the people of the country in a position first occupied by John Adams. President Bush and I have now begun our final year in office, and we're not going to waste a moment of it. (Applause.) We're going to take wise and careful steps to revitalize America's economy in a moment of challenge. And we'll press on in the fight against enemies who are determined to inflict great harm on this country.

President Bush and I went to Washington determined to face challenges squarely, instead of ignoring them or passing them on to future generations. This has required a lot of big decisions -- none of them easy, none of them taken lightly.

Seven years ago, we inherited an economy on its way to recession. So we acted quickly to turn it around, with direct tax rebates to the American people. As a result of that program, and other pro-growth tax policies passed that year, the recession of '01 turned out to be short and shallow. And even after the shocks of 9/11, we haven't gone through another recession since. That's an impressive record, but it shouldn't surprise anyone. Ronald Reagan proved years ago, and we've proved it again: lower taxes are always good for the economy. (Applause.)

Today we've got new economic challenges -- and once again the times call for decisive action. The best way to promote economic growth is to put more tax money back into the hands that earned it.

We've put together a solid, effective stimulus package with the leaders of the House and the Senate. Under the plan, millions of workers will get tax relief, and businesses will get new incentives to buy equipment, to expand their operations, and to hire new workers.

Our stimulus package is simple and it's temporary. There won't be any new regulations, or economic meddling by the federal government. And now we're going to get the checks out to taxpayers as quickly as possible.

After we address the vital economic concerns of the moment, we'll still have even more important work to do on taxes. Without action by Congress, most of the tax relief we've delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. That's all the Bush tax cuts -- the income tax reductions; the reduction in capital gains and dividends; the thousand-dollar child credit; and the phase-out of the death tax. Owing to fine print in the law, all of these tax cuts will expire over the next few years. The effect would be average tax increases of $1,800 a year on some 116 million Americans. Aside from the huge risk this tax increase would pose to the economy, there's the larger question of fundamental fairness to the American taxpayer. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be one of the largest money-grabs in American history, and we must not allow it to happen. (Applause.)

As we limit Washington's claim on people's paychecks, Congress will have to make some tough choices -- and maybe wind up with less money to spend on needless programs or pet projects. The President's budget holds non-security discretionary spending to an increase of less than 1 percent. He's also asking for major reductions, or the termination, of 151 wasteful or bloated programs totaling more than $18 billion. Working Americans have to set priorities and make tradeoffs in their budgets every day. It's time for the federal government to do the same. (Applause.)

The President and I hope the Congress will do what's right for the sake of growth and jobs for the American people -- from the stimulus package passed just last night, to permanent tax relief, to budget integrity, to spending discipline. Important issues invite big debates, and we've had our share. But at our best, we've done hard things and done them well -- and in every case, it's been clear to members of both parties that George W. Bush is a man of principle and a man of his word. He's stood firm for the tax cuts, fought for entitlement reform, strengthened private pensions to ensure that workers get promised benefits, signed trade agreements that support high paying jobs. He's spoken with clarity and conviction on the need to respect human life in all its seasons. And he has appointed superb judges to the trial courts, the appellate courts, and the Supreme Court of the United States. (Applause.)

The most solemn duties we carry are those in the field of national security. And here, too, the nation and the world have seen the character and the resolve of George Bush. Only a few Presidents in history have been called upon to make so many urgent and serious decisions during their time in office. He's faced them all with the kind of realism, fair-mindedness, and decency that Americans expect in their President. Guiding this nation through a time of peril is a tough job, and the right man is in it. He will never yield in defending the freedom and the security of the American people.

This country has gone nearly six and a half years now without another catastrophic terrorist attack. Nobody can guarantee that we won't be hit again. The fact is the danger remains very real -- and we know the terrorists are still out there, still determined to hit us. I look at it every day in the intelligence briefs. They are fanatical in their hatred. They have tried many times to cause more violence and death in this country.

And so, in a heightened threat environment, with a "persistent and evolving" terrorist adversary, the absence of another 9/11 is not an accident. It is an achievement. (Applause.) And that achievement is the product of hard work by many Americans in intelligence, in law enforcement, and in the military -- and some wise decisions by our President.

Not long ago, the President said he "knew full well that if we were successful in protecting the country, that the lessons of September 11th would become dimmer and dimmer in some people's minds." Then he said, quote, "I just don't have that luxury, nor do the people that work with me to protect America, because we have not forgotten the lessons of 9/11."

One great lesson of September 11th was that we had to stop treating terrorist attacks merely as law enforcement problems -- where we would find the guilty party, put them in jail, and move on. The world changed when a coordinated attack ended the lives of 3,000 innocent people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and right here in Pennsylvania. As the President has made clear many times, we are dealing with a strategic threat to the United States. We are at war with an enemy that wants to cause mass death inside this country. And we must act systematically and decisively until this enemy is destroyed.

To wage this fight we have to marshal our resources to go after the terrorists, to shut down their training camps, take down their networks, deny them sanctuary, disrupt their funding sources, and bring them to justice. We decided, as well, to go after the sponsors of terror, and to confront those who might provide these killers with more deadly capabilities. And because some of the early battlefields of that war have been right here in the United States, we have taken vital action to defend the homeland against future attack.

To win a war like this you need good intelligence -- information that helps us figure out the movements of the enemy, the extent of their operations, the location of their cells, the plans they're making, the methods they use, and the targets they plan to strike. Information of this kind is the hardest of all to obtain. But it's worth the effort in terms of the plots that are averted and the lives that are saved.

One of the ways we've prevented attacks and saved lives is by monitoring terrorist-related communications. Last year Congress passed major revisions to the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but those revisions are set to expire next week. We're asking Congress to make those revisions permanent -- and to provide liability protection for companies believed to have helped protect America since September 11th, 2001. Those who act in good faith to defend this country should not be harassed by lawsuits. (Applause.)

Just as we've monitored the communications of enemies at large, we've also gotten intelligence out of the ones that we've captured. The military has interrogated terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay. In addition, a small number of terrorists held overseas have gone through an interrogation program run by the CIA. It's a tougher program for a very few tougher customers. These include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who is the mastermind of 9/11. He and others were questioned at a time when another attack on this country was believed to be imminent. It's a good thing we had them in custody, and it is a good thing that we found out what they knew. (Applause.)

The procedures of the CIA program are designed to be safe, and they are in full compliance with the nation's laws and treaty obligations. They've been carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice and are very carefully monitored. The program is run by highly trained professionals who understand their obligations under the law. And the program has uncovered a wealth of information that has foiled attacks against the United States; information that has saved innocent lives.

The United States is a country that takes human rights seriously. We do not torture -- it's against our law and against our values. We're proud of our country and what it stands for, and we expect all who serve America to conduct themselves with honor -- and we enforce those rules.

America is a fair and a decent country. President Bush has made it clear, both publicly and privately, that our duty to uphold the laws and standards of this nation admit no exceptions in wartime. As he put it, "We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them."

The war on terror is, after all, more than a contest of arms, more than a test of will. It is also a battle of ideas. To prevail in the long run, we have to remove the conditions that inspire such blind, prideful hatred that drove 19 men to get on airplanes and come kill us. And so President Bush made the decision that we would not just remove the Taliban and Saddam Hussein from power, and let other dictators rise in their place. Instead, we're standing with the Iraqi and the Afghan peoples -- as America did with other young democracies in earlier times -- to help them chart their own destiny. The free and democratic nations of Afghanistan and Iraq will be strategic partners, helping us to fight and win the war on terror.

There's much more work to be done. The ideological struggle that's playing out in the broader Middle East -- the struggle against radical extremists who have declared war on us -- will concern America certainly for the remainder of our administration, and well into the future. And the men and women who have fought and sacrificed in this cause can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives. (Applause.)

Our lead commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, recently said that the mission is "very, very hard. It's going to remain very hard, and it's going to take determination, persistence, additional resources, additional time and, occasionally, the sheer force of will." End quote. Fortunately, we've got the best people in the fight -- including General Petraeus himself. It's been a year since the President sent him to carry out a new counterinsurgency strategy, backed up by a surge in American forces, to secure that country and to set the conditions for political reconciliation. Now we can see the effects: The new strategy is succeeding. The surge is working. The forces of freedom are winning in Iraq. (Applause.)

Our new strategy in Iraq has succeeded by careful planning, and by close attention to changing conditions on the battlefield. The same will be true of any drawdown of troops. On behalf of the President, I can assure you that the decision will be based on what is right for our security, what is best for the troops -- without regard to polls, elite opinion, or flip-flops by politicians in Washington. (Applause.)

From the very morning our nation was attacked on 9/11, the President of the United States has had to make immense decisions. Every day he faces responsibilities that others would pale before. I've been there with him. I've seen him make the tough calls -- and then weather the criticism and take the hits. President Bush has been tough and courageous. He's made the right decisions for the right reasons -- and he always reflects the best values of our nation. I've been proud to stand by him and by the decisions he's made. And I would support those same decisions again today, because they have helped to keep this country safe. (Applause.)

The important thing for all of us to remember is that six and a half years after 9/11, the war on terror is still very real, that it will not be won on the defensive, and that we have to proceed on many fronts at the same time. For those of us who work in offices and sit at desks in Washington, D.C., the sacrifices required are pretty small compared to those of Americans serving in the Iraqi desert, or in the mountains of Afghanistan, or the public servants who work night and day, sometimes at risk of their own lives, with little margin for error, to detect a secret enemy and defeat them before it's too late.

We'll never lack for inspiration in this fight -- because for that, we need only look to America's heroes in uniform. In the heroism of battle, in the courage of our fallen and wounded soldiers, and in the perseverance of all who wear the uniform, we're reminded of how much this nation owes to the members of our armed forces. (Applause.) The freedoms we enjoy, the rights we exercise, all the privileges of living in this country -- none of these can ever be taken for granted. We have them because there have always been Americans who stand up for them, who defend them, and when necessary, fight for them. And all of us have a duty to pass along to the next generation the free, strong, and secure nation that was passed along to us.

As Americans we have every right to be proud, and to be thankful, that this is our country. The world we live in can be complicated, and messy, and dangerous. But for millions who suffer under tyranny, or those who live a daily struggle against hunger and disease, or who fight to maintain newly won freedom -- there would be little hope without the active involvement and leadership of the United States of America. (Applause.)

More than a nation of influence, we're a nation of character. That sets us apart from so many of the great powers of history -- from ancient empires to the expansionist regimes of the last century. We're a superpower that has moral commitments and ideals that we not only proclaim, but that we act upon. Our purposes in this world are good and right. And in these decisive years, we are serving those purposes with confidence.

So today, with much yet to do, President Bush and I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve this country. We're grateful to all of you, and to the people across Pennsylvania, for the fine support you've given to us and the party. In the months ahead, with an economy to strengthen and a war to fight, we'll stay focused on the business of the people. We'll come to a strong finish -- and I'm confident that our jobs will be left in good hands. And when the last chapter is written, it'll be said that our nation became more prosperous and more secure because George W. Bush was President of these United States. (Applause.)

END 12:18 P.M. EST

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