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 Home > Vice President > Speeches

July 19, 2002

The Vice President Delivers Remarks at a Lunch for Texas Attorney General John Cornyn


Thank you, John, and thank you all very much. It’s good to see so many friends this afternoon. I appreciate the warm welcome to the home state of George and Laura Bush … and the hometown of George and Barbara Bush. And it’s a special honor to share the platform with the next United States Senator from the state of Texas.

I'’ve been looking forward to this trip, and I thank the people of this great city for your hospitality. Lynne and I spent some very good years living and working in this state. And even though we’ve moved to Washington, we still see a lot of Texas license plates, and work with some very fine people known to all of you – people like Karl Rove, Don Evans, Joe Allbaugh, Al Gonzales, Albert Hawkins, Margaret Spellings, Clay Johnson, Harriet Miers, and of course Karen Hughes. Karen’s back in Austin now, but we’ve got her on speed dial. Each of these Texans is serving the President and the nation with honor, and you can be proud of them all.

This state is also well served on Capitol Hill – and we’re here today to make sure things stay that way. No state in the country has a stronger team in the United States Senate than Texas – you’ve got first-class representation with Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison. For the good of the state and the nation, we need to keep that team strong – and the way to do that is to elect John Cornyn.

Texans know John and his fine record – from Bexar [BEAR] County to the Supreme Court to the Attorney General’s office. He works hard, and always speaks with conviction and clarity. Whether the issue is taxes, trade, energy, or national security, John Cornyn is completely in tune with the people of this state. He is a public servant in his prime, and I look forward to swearing him in as the new Senator from Texas.

The President and I need John Cornyn working with us every day on our priorities for the country – winning the war on terror, protecting the homeland, and extending the reach of prosperity into as many lives as possible.

On the economy, there’s a great deal of work yet to do – but we are proceeding from a position of tremendous strength. In spite of all that happened last year – from terrorist attack to a serious economic slowdown – worker productivity has grown by more than four percent. In the first quarter of this year, the economy grew at an annual rate exceeding six percent. Clearly, we’re on the path to a strong and sustained recovery.

To stay on that path, our responsibilities are clear, and they begin with pro-growth reforms proposed by President Bush – an energy policy to make America less dependent on foreign oil … trade promotion authority to open new markets for American products … and terrorism insurance to give companies the ability to expand and build.

For their part, leaders of the private sector also have responsibilities – to be honest and above board in all dealings, and truthful when they report profits and losses. The foundation of any economy is confidence – and President Bush is proposing reform to strengthen the people’s confidence in the basic integrity of the system. These proposals will help ensure better information for investors and more accountability for corporate officials, and deliver a stronger, more independent auditing system. When there are reports of corporate fraud, the American people can be certain that the government will fully investigate, and pursue the wrongdoers.

This nation has brought forth the most productive, creative, and promising economic system the world has ever seen. The President’s reforms will bring out the best in that system, answering abusive practices with stricter enforcement and higher ethical standards. Most people who do business in America are trustworthy and honest. Their word is good. They keep faith with shareholders and employees. We must not and will not allow the bad deeds of a few to tarnish the free enterprise system.

Americans can also count on President Bush to continue reducing taxes on the hardworking people of this country. The Bush tax cut now in effect is the largest taxpayer relief package in a generation. Now that tax relief is in place, Congress should not take it away. Under current law, the tax cuts are set to expire in 2011. That last thing American workers need is a return to higher taxes. It’s far better, in our view, to make the Bush tax cut permanent, and enforce fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C.

Overspending by Congress poses a real risk to our economic vitality. The President has submitted a budget that fits the times – with major investments in homeland security and defense, while other domestic spending is held to an increase of two percent. The House has adopted a budget that is consistent with the President’s request. Now we’re in the appropriations process, and it’s critical that we stay within those limits on spending. The President will insist on fiscal discipline – and the Constitution gives him a good tool for the job. If necessary, he will use the veto to protect the American taxpayer.

We need John Cornyn in the Senate because he knows what it means to be a careful steward of taxpayer dollars. And we need him there to help us put qualified, sensible judges on the federal bench. Staffing the judiciary is a basic constitutional responsibility of the President and the Senate. President Bush is meeting his responsibility, but the Senate is failing to do so. The President has sent up well over a hundred nominees for the courts, yet only 58 have been confirmed. Nationwide more than 90 judgeships sit empty, and many of these have been classified as judicial emergencies. Yet 11 nominees for the courts of appeals have had to wait more than a year for the Senate Judiciary Committee to even hold a hearing.

In nominating judges President Bush chooses men and women of experience, judicial temperament, and good judgment … people who respect the Constitution, and understand the limits of the judicial power. That is the only legitimate standard for selecting judges, and it is the only way to prevent outrages like the California ruling that banned the Pledge of Allegiance.

That decision was handed down by the court of appeals for the ninth circuit. President Bush has submitted three well qualified nominees for that court. And it’s become obvious to all Americans that we need some new judges on the ninth circuit.

For the fifth circuit, the President has nominated one of John’s former colleagues on the Supreme Court, Priscilla Owen. Fourteen months after her nomination was announced, Justice Owen will finally receive a hearing next Tuesday. At that hearing senators will meet a judge who was twice elected by the voters of this state … a woman with a superb legal mind, who enjoys strong bipartisan support and the unqualified endorsement of no fewer than 15 former presidents of the State Bar of Texas.

Just this week Ron Kirk said that if he were elected to the US Senate, quote "there will be many times, probably more times than not, that I'll be supportive of the president." Yet, the first opportunity he had to forecast how he would work WITH the President, he came out AGAINST the president's first-rate nominee. All Texans should be proud of Priscilla Owen’s fine career and years of service to this state. The Senate should move to confirm her, and all of the President’s judicial nominees, without wasting another day.

As our administration pursues a full agenda in Washington, never for a moment do we lose sight of the most important responsibility we have: to protect this nation against further attacks … and to win the war that began on September 11, 2001.

The first thing the President and I do every day is to receive an intelligence briefing, and learn the current assessment of the dangers forming against the United States. There is little doubting that our enemies are determined to do further and significant harm to the American people. And there is no doubting that we will take every step necessary to defend our country – and we will prevail.

The dangers to America require action on many fronts all at once. We are reorganizing the federal government to protect the nation against attack. At present, more than a hundred different federal agencies have some connection to homeland security. That means – despite the best of intentions and the hard work of a lot of good people – that authority is dispersed too widely … accountability is lacking … and there is too much duplication of administration. The time has arrived for a new Department of Homeland Security, gathering under one roof the capability to identify threats, check them against our vulnerabilities, and move swiftly to protect the American people. This new department will increase the focus and effectiveness of homeland security, and set clear lines of accountability. We intend to spend less money on bureaucracy and duplication and overhead – and more money on protecting the American people.

At the same time, we realize that wars are not won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy – and, where necessary, preempt serious threats to our country before they materialize. The only path to safety is the path of action. The United States of America will act, and we will defeat the enemies of freedom.

This lesson has already been learned in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces destroyed the terror camps and liberated an entire nation from the Taliban regime. Yet Afghanistan is only the beginning of a long and unrelenting effort. Were we to stop now, any sense of security we might have would be false and temporary. There is a terrorist underworld spread out among 60 or more countries. The job we have will require every tool of diplomacy, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and military power. But we will, over time, shut down terrorist camps wherever they are … and disrupt terrorist plans … and find the terrorists one by one, and bring them to justice. In the case of bin Laden – as President Bush said the other day – “If he’s alive, we’ll get him. If he’s not alive – we got him.”

But this war involves more than just a person or a single grouping of people. We also face the threat of weapons of mass destruction. And here the old doctrines of security do not apply. In the days of the Cold War, we were able to manage the threat with summit meetings, arms control treaties, and strategies of deterrence and containment. But there is no way to deter enemies who have no country to defend. And containment is not possible when dictators obtain weapons of mass destruction and have missiles to deliver them, or provide them in secret to a shadowy terror network.

We have already found confirmation that the al-Qaeda terrorists are seriously interested in nuclear and radiological weapons, and in biological and chemical agents. At the same time, there is a danger of terror groups joining together with regimes that have or are seeking to build weapons of mass destruction. In the case of Saddam Hussein, we have a dictator who is clearly pursuing these capabilities – and has used them, both in his war against Iran and against his own people.

The government of the United States will not look the other way as threats accumulate against us. Every significant danger to our country requires the most careful, deliberate, and decisive response by America and our allies. A regime that has gassed thousands of its own citizens … a regime that hates America and our friends … must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction.

The most visible successes in the war have been achieved by our military. More than 60,000 troops are deployed around the world in this effort, and I visited some of them last spring, during my journey to the Middle East. Many of you here today have family members serving in the military. Wherever they are posted, the nation is depending on them. As a former secretary of defense, I have never been more proud of the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America.

In this challenge to our freedom we will be expecting a lot from our military – and those who serve are entitled to expect a lot from us. If we’re going to ask young men and women to defend our country, our allies, and our freedom ... if we’re going to send them in harm’s way on dangerous missions to fight determined enemies – they deserve the best tools, training, and support we can give them. For that reason, President Bush has asked for the most significant increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan lived in the White House. And for the good of all our military families, the President’s budget gives every man and woman in uniform a raise in pay – and they have earned it.

The conduct of our military does more than bring credit to the country; it reflects the basic character of the American people. This is a good, decent, generous country. We fight not for revenge against our enemies, but for the freedom and security of our own people … and for the peace of the world. At times in our history the price of freedom has been high, but Americans have always been willing to pay that price – even when the odds weighed heavily against us.

I was reminded of this as I read David McCullough’s biography of our first vice president, John Adams. When Adams and his fellow delegates voted to approve the Declaration of Independence, they knew precisely what kind of trouble they were bringing on themselves. To sign the Declaration, one of the founders said, was like signing your own death warrant. As of July 4, 1776, they would be considered traitors to a king, at war with the army of an empire. Large numbers of enemy soldiers were already positioned on American soil, intent on crushing the rebellion in short order. In mid-August thirty-two thousand British troops landed at Staten Island – an army greater in size than the entire population of our largest city at the time, Philadelphia. The American force was far smaller … had very little in the way of equipment and supplies … and was comprised almost entirely of poorly-trained volunteers. All they had was the courage of human beings determined to live in freedom.

Before they prevailed the Americans endured not weeks, or months, but years of hardship and struggle. The American victory at Yorktown didn’t come until the fall of 1781. The Treaty of Paris, which John Adams helped negotiate and which ended the Revolution, was finally concluded in September of 1783 – more than seven difficult years after the Declaration was signed.

From that day to this, the people of the United States have understood that the freedom we enjoy did not come easily – and we have no intention of letting it slip away. History has called generations of Americans to defend our country and defeat some of the gravest threats humanity has known. We have accepted that duty once again, because we know the cause is just … we understand that the hopes of the civilized world depend on us … and we are certain of the victory to come.

In this time of testing I am very proud to stand beside a President who has united our nation behind great goals. For all the challenges we face, the United States of America has never been stronger than we are today – and even better days are ahead of us. The President and I are very grateful for the opportunity to serve this country. We thank you for your support – not just for our efforts, but for solid citizens like John Cornyn, who will be our partner in the important work ahead.

Thank you very much.