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 Home > News & Policies > March 2008

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 10, 2008

Vice President's Remarks at the Georgia State Republican Party's President's Day Dinner
Hilton Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia

5:56 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Well, thank you, Governor. A welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for office again. (Laughter.) Almost, I said. (Laughter.) But I'm delighted to have the opportunity to join all of you today.

There was a time when Republican Party dinners in Georgia needed only a small room. But things have changed, obviously, for the better. And the Republican Party of Georgia is stronger than ever; it's because the people of Georgia trust Republican leadership.

It's an honor to be with so many distinguished guests -- it's all right, don't hold back -- (laughter) -- starting, of course, especially with a good friend of mine and one of the best governors in the United States, Sonny Perdue. (Applause.) But I also want to recognize Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle -- (applause); former Congressman Max Burns -- (applause); Chairman Sue Everhart -- (applause); and the state and local officials who have joined us today. Your senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, could not be here tonight -- but they're doing a fantastic job. I know Saxby is going to win another term this November. (Applause.) Saxby, of course, is a very courageous man. I know that because he's one of my hunting buddies. (Laughter.)

Because I'm president of the Senate, I get to see your senators on a regular basis up on Capitol Hill. As Vice President the only real duties you have under the Constitution is to preside over the Senate and to cast tie-breaking votes. In fact, before the Constitution was written, some believed the vice presidency was entirely unnecessary. Benjamin 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 this country in a position first occupied by John Adams. You know, Vice President Adams not only presided and had the right to cast tie-breaking votes, but he had one other privilege, too -- he had floor privileges. He could actually go down to the well of the Senate and participate in debates. And then he did a couple of times -- and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored. (Laughter.) But it's a great privilege for me to be here today and to bring to you the best wishes of the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

The President and I are deeply grateful for the support we've received in Georgia in both of our campaigns and throughout our time in office. We were so strong here that we even had a Georgia Democrat deliver the keynote address at the convention in New York. (Applause.) And Zell Miller gave one heck of a speech. (Laughter.) We carried the state twice, and in 2004, we received more votes in Georgia than any other presidential ticket in history. We're proud to hold that record. But we won't mind at all if you set another record this November -- when you help John McCain become the next President of the United States. (Applause.)

President Bush and I look forward to helping our candidates, up and down the ticket, throughout this very important election year. At the same time, we're focused on the jobs we have -- and we're going to keep at it and not waste a moment. 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 leaving them for 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 a recession. So we acted quickly to turn it around, with much needed tax relief for the American people. As a result of the pro-growth tax policy passed in those years, the recession of '01 turned out to be short and shallow. When the country began -- when the recovery began, we experienced a record 52 months of continuous job growth, and the economy added more than 8 million new jobs. That's an impressive record, but it shouldn't surprise anyone. Ronald Reagan proved years ago, and we proved again, that 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 in the hands of those who earned it.

We moved promptly, on a bipartisan basis, to pass a sensible, effective growth package. And once again, millions of workers will get tax relief, and businesses will have additional incentives to hire new workers. Best of all, the growth package is simple and straightforward -- without new spending, new regulations, or excessive meddling by the federal government. The package is based on tax relief -- and not a single person in the country will experience a tax increase.

But there's still more important work to do on taxes. Without action by Congress, most of the tax relief that we've delivered in recent years will be taken away. If that happens, the death tax, which is being phased out right now, would suddenly reappear, at rates as high as 55 percent. Taxes would go up on capital gains and dividends. The tax rate for every single income tax bracket would be increased. For income taxpayers in the lowest bracket, the rate would increase by 50 percent. And the child tax credit would drop from $1000 to $500. The effect would be average increases of $1,800 a year in the tax bills of 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. When you hear politicians saying they want to get rid of the Bush tax cuts, what they're promising is a major tax hike for working families. And they wouldn't have to move a muscle to do it, because under the law the tax cuts simply expire. So we need to make sure that we elect a Republican Congress to renew the cuts -- and a Republican President to sign them into law. (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 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 Bush is a man of principle and a man of his word. (Applause.) The President has stood firm for tax cuts, fought for entitlement reform, strengthened private pensions to ensure workers get their promised benefits, signed trade agreements that support high paying jobs. He has 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 to 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 our President. Only a few Presidents in history have been called upon to make so many urgent and serious decisions. He has 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. (Applause.)

This country has gone six and a half years now without another catastrophic attack like 9/11. (Applause.) 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 and see it in our 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's an achievement. (Applause.) And that achievement is the product of some very hard work by Americans in intelligence, law enforcement, and the military -- and some wise decisions by the President of the United States.

Not long ago, President Bush said that he "knew full well that if we were successful 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 September 11th."

One great lesson of 9/11 was that we had to stop treating terrorist attacks merely as law enforcement problems -- where you find out what happened, arrest the bad guys, 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 on that field 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. (Applause.)

To wage this fight we have to marshal our resources to go after the terrorists, 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 the war have been right here in the United States, we have taken vital actions to defend the homeland against future attack.

To win a war like this you need good intelligence -- the information that helps us figure out the movements of the enemy, the extent of their operation, the location of their cells, the plans they're making, the methods they use, and the targets they intend to strike. Information of this kind is the hardest to obtain. But it's worth the effort in terms of the plots that are averted and the lives that have been 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 foreign intelligence surveillance law, but those revisions expired last month. For Congress to let that happen was simply irresponsible, and it makes this nation more vulnerable to attack. (Applause.) Georgia Republicans are on the right side of this issue. Congress needs to follow their lead and to give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to protect the American people.

As we proceed on many fronts, we also recognize that the war on terror is more than a contest of arms and more than a test of will. It's also a battle of ideas. To prevail in the long run, we have to remove the conditions that inspire the hatred that drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us. And so President Bush made the decision: we wouldn't just remove the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and let other dictators rise in their place. Instead, we would stand with the Iraqi and the Afghan people -- as America did with other young democracies in earlier times -- to help them chart their own destiny. If we keep our commitments, the free and democratic nations of Afghanistan and Iraq will become 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 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.) This state can be especially proud, because it's home to many thousands of service members and some of our most important military bases. The good people of Georgia are always there with support and encouragement for the United States military. (Applause.)

Our lead commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, recently said 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." 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. And 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 in troops. On behalf of the President, I can assure you that the decision will be based on what is right for our security and what is best for the troops -- without regard to polls, elite opinion, or flip-flops by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

From the very morning that 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 the American people. 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've helped to keep this country safe. (Applause.)

The important thing to remember, six and a half years after 9/11, is that the war on terror is still very real, that it won't 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 the mountains of Afghanistan, or the public servants who work day and night, with little margin for error, to detect a secret enemy before it's too late. In a time of war, we're only more sharply aware that the freedoms we enjoy and the rights we exercise can never be taken for granted. We have them because there have always been Americans who stand up for them, defend them, and when necessary fight for them. (Applause.) And all of us have a duty to pass along to the next generation the free, strong, secure nation that was passed along to us.

My good friend George Shultz often tells the story from his years as Secretary of State under President Reagan. Every time a new American ambassador was confirmed for the position, Secretary Shultz would invite him or her to the State Department for a farewell visit. During these meetings George would tell the ambassadors that there was one more test they had to take. "Before you can leave," he said, "I want you to go over to that globe and show me that you can identify your country." (Laughter.) It's important. Every time, the ambassador would turn the globe and point out where he was going to serve.

One day George had a visit from Mike Mansfield, the former senator from Montana. Mike had been serving for some years as our ambassador to Japan, and he was on his way back to Tokyo. Secretary Shultz told him about the test and said, "Mr. Ambassador, it's your turn. Show me your country." Mike Mansfield went over to the globe, put his hand on the United States and said, "This is my country." (Applause.)

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, messy, and dangerous. But for millions who suffer under tyranny, and 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. Our purposes in this world are good and right. And in those decisive years, we are serving those purposes with confidence.

So today, with much yet to do at home and abroad, President Bush and I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve this country. We're grateful to all of you, and to people all across Georgia, for the fine support you've given us and the Republican Party. In the months ahead, with an economy to strengthen and a war to fight, we'll stay focused on the business at hand. 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. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 6:17 P.M. EST