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 Home > News & Policies > May 2008

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 2, 2008

Vice President's Remarks at a Reception for Oklahoma Victory 2008
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Tulsa, Oklahoma

5:46 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. I don't care what you say, I'm not running again. (Laughter.) No, thank you, that was a great welcome, and I really appreciate it, and it's a special privilege to be introduced by Jim here in Oklahoma with all the folks that he knows so well. He's been a great friend of mine over the years, and I wouldn't want an election path without coming down and spending a little time campaigning with Jim Inhofe.

Jim didn't mention that Senator Clinton has taken to calling me Darth Vader. (Laughter.) Actually, I asked my -- it was a little disturbing when that first happened. I asked my wife, Lynne, the other day, "But doesn't that bother you?" And she said, "No, it humanizes you." (Laughter.)

I'm sorry Lynne couldn't be with us today. Some of you heard me tell the story before, but it's one of my favorites, that, you know, we got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States. And back in the early '50s, I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service and Lynne was living in Casper, Wyoming. And after Eisenhower won that election in '52, then he reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got transferred to Casper, to Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne and we grew up together, went to high school together. We'll celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary come August. (Applause.) But I explained to a group of folks the other night, if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have had to marry somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President. (Laughter.) No doubt in my mind.

But it's good to be here with all of you today. And as I mentioned also, of course, to Jim, when I -- one of the things I get to do as Vice President is to swear in new senators. And one of my last acts as Vice President will be to swear in the new Senate next January, and I look forward to swearing in Jim Inhofe for another term as a United States Senator. (Applause.)

Oklahoma has a great delegation now in the Senate, and Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, they do a superb job. It's an honor to serve with them, and with an equally superb group of Oklahomans in the House -- Frank Lucas, Mary Fallin, Tom Cole, who's here with us today, and your own Congressman, of course, from Tulsa, John Sullivan. They do a superb job for all of us. (Applause.)

I want to thank the state party officials who are here. And I want to thank everyone who helped put this fine event together. Oklahoma, of course, leans Republican, but we don't want to take any votes for granted. So that's why we're here today. And with your support, we'll build a strong foundation for Republican victories come November. So I want to thank all of you for pitching in -- and I bring thanks and gratitude to you as well from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

Speaking of the President, I'm proud to note that four years ago, he and I received more votes than any other presidential ticket in American history. We, for now, hold the record. But we won't mind at all if you set a new record in November, when you help elect John McCain as the United States President. (Applause.)

The President and I look forward to helping our candidates, up and down the ticket, throughout this very important year. And the stakes are very high. Whether the issue is the economy, or energy, or national security, the right answers are coming not from Democrats, but clearly from the Republican side of the aisle.

Right now, with the economy going through a rough patch, some in Washington view it as an excuse to expand the size and scope of the federal government. Republicans believe that when Americans are facing tough times, the first thing we should do is let them keep more of their own money. (Applause.)

We moved promptly, on a bipartisan basis, to pass a sensible, effective stimulus package. It's not a new spending program or set of regulations, or an expansion of federal government, it's tax relief -- and it's on the way.

The stimulus will give the economy a needed boost. But looking down the road, there's still more important work to do on the subject of taxes. Without action by the Congress, most of the tax relief that we've delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. If that happens, the death tax, which is presently being phased out, would suddenly reappear, at rates that exceed 50 percent. Taxes would go back up on capital gains and dividends. The rates for all taxpayers would be increased. For taxpayers in the lowest bracket, the rate would increase by some 50 percent. And the child tax credit would drop from $1,000 to $500 per child. The overall effect would be average increases of $1,800 a year in the tax bill of the average family of some 116 million Americans.

Aside from the huge risk this tax increase would pose for our 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 most of our families. And they wouldn't have to move a muscle to do it, because under the law, the tax cuts simply expire, and those old rates will automatically kick back in, unless we have a Republican Congress to make those cuts permanent -- and a Republican President to sign them into law. (Applause.)

Americans, obviously, are concerned about energy these days. Everyone's concerned about paying higher prices at the pump. Something that is absolutely critical is for us to produce more oil and gas right here in the United States. (Applause.)

The problem in Washington is that a lot of our Democratic friends, year after year, have tried to stand in the way of increased energy production.

When the President spoke earlier this week about the need to increase energy production from places like ANWR and the outer continental shelf, some of the critics said, it's not worth it -- that ANWR wouldn't produce for a decade.

They overlook the fact that ANWR has been an issue for well over a decade. President Clinton vetoed it in the 1990s after it twice passed the Congress. Our National Energy Policy recommended it in 2001 in that infamous energy task force I chaired. Jim Inhofe has tried his best to help us get over it, but the obstructionists obviously have prevailed. So today we're no closer to ANWR production than we were ten or 20 years ago. The American people are paying the price of that inaction every time they fill up their gas tanks. And if the Democrats had done the right thing years ago, or if they had just stayed out of the way -- (laughter) -- good men like Jim Inhofe would have produced the answer we need. (Applause.)

It's obvious to everyone that bringing new supplies to market takes time. That doesn't mean we should sit and do nothing. It means we should get into gear -- and the sooner we do it, the better off the country will be over the long term.

The plain truth is we can produce a lot more energy here in America, and we can do it in an environmentally sound and friendly way. It's not just crude oil or natural gas production that's being held up. It's hard to believe, but we haven't built a new refinery in nearly 30 years -- so now we have to import increasing amounts of refined product. President Bush and I believe more of that refining ought to be done right here in the United States, at American refineries, by American workers. (Applause.)

Our number one obligation continues to be to protect and defend the people of the United States. We've now gone six and a half years since 9/11 without another major attack like 9/11. (Applause.) No one can guarantee that we won't be hit again, because the danger remains very real -- and we know the terrorists are still out there, still determined to strike again.

Since 9/11, we've had to make a lot of tough decisions on national security. As a result, the enemies of our country have been kept off balance and have been defeated in all of their efforts to launch another attack against the United States. I don't believe the terrorists put their feet up after 9/11 and said, "Well, let's not hit the United States again." Obviously they wanted to hit us. They planned on it. They've tried to. And going more than six years without another 9/11 is not an accident. It's an achievement. (Applause.) The credit goes to some very dedicated Americans in intelligence, in law enforcement, in the Armed Forces, and also it goes to some good laws that have been written by our friends and supported in the Congress, and to the strong leadership of the President of the United States.

One important lesson of 9/11 was that we had to stop treating terrorist attacks merely as another law enforcement problem -- where you find out what happened, arrest the bad guy, put him in jail, and move on. The world changed when a coordinated attack ended the lives of 3,000 innocent Americans at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on a field in Pennsylvania. As President Bush has made clear many times, we are dealing with a strategic threat to the United States. And we must act systematically and decisively until the enemy is destroyed.

To wage this fight we have to marshal all our resources to go after the terrorists, to shut down their training camps, to take down their networks, to 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 those killers with more deadly weapons. And because some of the early battlefields of the war have been right here in the United States, we've taken vital actions to defend the homeland against future attacks.

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 Act, but those revisions have now expired. And so we've lost an important means for protecting the American people. For Congress to let that happen has been simply irresponsible, and it makes the nation more vulnerable to attack. Oklahoma Republicans are on the right side of this issue. The whole Congress needs to follow their lead and to give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to protect the American people. (Applause.)

As we proceed on many fronts, we also recognize that the war on terror is more than a contest of arms, 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 climb onto airplanes and come try to kill us on 9/11. So President Bush made the decision that we would not 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, and 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.

The enterprise has not been easy, nor has it been cheap. And it has not been predictable always in its course. Some who professed enthusiasm for sending troops into Iraq have, over time, lost the desire to support those troops on to victory. But the fact remains that our soldiers and diplomats are serving fundamental American ideals. They are doing good things for the right reason. We admire them, we respect their families, who also make many sacrifices during long and difficult deployments. We will never be able to thank them enough. (Applause.)

It's now been more than a year since the President sent in General Dave Petraeus to carry out a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, backed up by a surge in American forces, to secure that nation and to set the conditions for political reconciliation. The General has done a superb job in Iraq, as had the troops, and we look forward to his prompt confirmation by the Senate as the new commander of CENTCOM. And we can be confident that President Bush's choice to lead our troops in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, will also do an excellent job when he returns to the theater. These are superb officers who've made a tremendous contribution to this nation, especially over the last year. There is still tough and dangerous work ahead, and there will be more sacrifices made in the cause of freedom. But events in Iraq have taken a new turn. The strategy is succeeding. The surge is working. The forces of freedom are winning. (Applause.)

Our new strategy 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 and what is best for the troops -- without regard to polls, elite opinion, or flip-flops by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

Our mission in Iraq is still being debated intensely on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trial. And there's nothing wrong with a vigorous discussion about an issue that is so important to the future of the country. But from those who demand a hasty exit from Iraq -- whether by a sudden, precipitous withdrawal, or an arbitrary timeline, or by a date randomly chosen on the calendar -- we've heard very little concern about what might come afterward. Those who insist that we leave Iraq have an obligation to give some thought to what we would leave behind. And thinking the matter through, I hope they'll remember the case of Afghanistan over the past generation.

Back in the 1980s, we were engaged in that country, lending support to the Mujahadeen against Soviet forces. It was a successful policy. Afterwards everybody walked away and forgot about Afghanistan. What followed was a civil war, and then the emergence of the Taliban. In 1996, Osama bin Laden was invited to Afghanistan, made his way into the country, set up training camps, and trained thousands of terrorists, some of whom were part of the attacks here in the United States on 9/11.

Those who now say we can afford to turn our backs on Iraq are inviting the same kind of outcome that we saw in Afghanistan: a period of chaos and recrimination, a violent power struggle won by a brutal minority, and a safe haven for the world's worst terrorists. The difference is that now we're in the midst of a global war on terror -- so failure in Iraq would have even more serious, more far-reaching consequences.

Failure in Iraq would tell America's friends that we cannot be counted on -- even when people put their lives on the line for freedom because America originally promised to help. Failure in Iraq would embolden al Qaeda and other like-minded groups by persuading them that they're right in their strategy by handing them a staging area for further attacks, with America as the target. And it would validate America's long-held belief -- would validate the enemy's long-held belief that America doesn't have the stomach for a fight -- that if they hit us hard enough, or hold out long enough, we'll change our policy and run away. (Applause.) Now, if we were to withdraw from Iraq, friends would hear that message, and so would our potential adversaries. The regime in Tehran in Iran, for one, would conclude that we don't have the will to follow through on a matter of principle -- whether that principle is the defense of democracy today, or the prevention of nuclear proliferation tomorrow.

And just as failure would have consequences, so does success. A free, democratic Iraq will be a strategic partner in the heart of the Middle East, helping us to fight and win the war on terror. And that outcome will send a message to moderates throughout the region. From Syria to Lebanon to Iran, advocates for democracy and human rights would take heart, and will be reassured that the free world is not indifferent to their future. As hopes rise in the Middle East, a vital and troubled region can move in the direction of peace and stability. And the day will come when terrorists and terror states no longer pose a danger to the United States or to our friends.

Our strategy is the right strategy. In fact, the only way we can lose this fight is to quit -- and that's not going to happen on our watch. (Applause.) If there is one indispensable element in this battle, it is the skill and character of the men and women fighting it. Recently I spoke to several thousand of our troops at Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad. And I remember the strong response they gave on one particular point -- when I said we're going to get this job done right, so that another generation of Americans doesn't have to go back to Iraq and do it again. (Applause.)

John F. Kennedy once said, "There is no way to maintain the frontiers of freedom without cost and commitment and risk." We are learning this lesson once again, in these decisive early years of a new century. And when the history is written, it'll be said that we lived in a safer country, and a more hopeful world, because George Bush was President of these United States. (Applause.)

Today, ladies and gentlemen, with much yet to do at home and abroad, President Bush and I remain grateful for the opportunity we've had to serve this nation. We're grateful to all of you, and to people all across Oklahoma, for the fine support you've given us, and to the Republican 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, and we'll come to a strong finish. With your help, we'll leave our jobs in good hands. And with your help, the state of Oklahoma will have strong, principled, dedicated Republican leadership far into the future.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 6:07 P.M. CDT