|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 22, 2002
Remarks by the President at Gordon Smith for Senate Reception
Hilton Portland and Executive Tower Hotel
6:15 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. It's great to be back in this beautiful state. I am honored to end my day here in Oregon by urging the people of this state, the good people of this state, to send this good man, Gordon Smith, back to the United States Senate. (Applause.)
And I want to thank you all for helping him. I want to thank you for what you've done, and I want to thank you for what you're fixing to do. (Applause.) Which is to turn out the vote; which is to go to your coffee shops -- if you live in rural Oregon -- go to your places of worship, go to your community centers, and remind the people of this state that you've got a good, honorable, decent man in Gordon Smith. (Applause.)
Not only do you have an honorable, decent man, you've got an independent thinker who always has Oregon on his mind. I know because I talk to him all the time. He's reminding me about the good people of this state, and the need to have common-sense policy.
I also appreciate the fact that he loves his family. He's got his priorities straight -- his faith and his family. And I am so honored that Sharon Smith is with us today. And I want to thank Sharon for coming, and I want to thank Sharon for -- (applause.) There she is. Gordon and I, we both married above ourselves. (Laughter.) I talked to Laura today. She sent her very best to the Smiths. And she's not here; she's in Crawford. But she had just come from Leander, Texas, where they paid her the high honor of naming an elementary school the Laura Welch Bush Elementary School. (Applause.)
You know, when I married her, she was a public school librarian. And the truth of the matter, she didn't particularly care for politics, nor politicians. (Laughter.) Then she got stuck with one. (Laughter.) She's doing a great job. In the face of crisis, she was calm. In the -- when there needed to be love, she provided love. And I'm really, really proud of the job she is doing as the First Lady of the country. (Applause.)
Traveling with me today to emphasize that my words on the -- up on the Hill were more than just words, that I intend to get something done, were two members of my Cabinet, Gale Norton, who is the head of the Department of the Interior, and Ann Veneman, who is the Secretary of Agriculture. (Applause.) And I want to thank them for coming. These are two fine, fine ladies who are doing a fantastic job. I've given them big responsibilities. (Applause.)
And it might be noted that I wasn't speaking a foreign language today, as far as they're concerned -- they're both from the West. (Laughter.) They both have a Western attitude about things.
I appreciate Congressman Greg Walden being here, as well. I don't know if -- (applause.) All I can see is a hand and an shining head. (Laughter.) But Walden is a good man; he's doing a fabulous job as a congressman. He represents the Klamath Basin well; he represents the rural parts of your state. He understands resource management. He's a good fellow, and I just hope and feel good about the fact that his district will send him back to Washington, as they send Senator Smith back to Washington. (Applause.)
I'm very much honored to be here with the next governor of the state of Oregon, Kevin Mannix, and his wife Susanna. (Applause.) Finally, I'm so grateful that Senator Mark Hatfield and Antoinette are here. They're great friends of my mother and dad. They brought a lot of class -- (applause.) They're really classy people, and he set a fine example for future senators -- an example which Gordon Smith is following very closely. I like Gordon's attitude a lot. See, he went to Washington to try to get things done, as opposed to pick fights. There's an attitude there in that town that zero-sum politics is the best for the country. That's not the way Gordon thinks, nor do I think, for that matter.
I think it's important for the people of Portland to know that he goes there with not a political party in mind, but with the people of Oregon in mind. That's what he goes to do. He goes to solve problems. (Applause.) He sees problems, and he tries to come up with common sense solutions to solve those problems. And he's willing to work with his counterpart, who happens to be a Democrat. I saw them working together today. I saw their conversation and how their discussion. It wasn't about how we can one-up each other, it was how best to work together to help Oregon. And that impresses me a lot. I hope it impresses the voters of this state. That's the kind of tone and attitude we need in our nation's capital.
Today I was with a man who I believe is a true champion of the environment, and that's Gordon Smith. He understands that we can be stewards of the land, that we can put policies in place that will benefit the environment, and at the same time, benefit people. And that's really important.
I went up on the mountain today, in the midst of a burn, to talk about how best to prevent those burns from happening in the first place, how to put in place common sense policy that says, if you let the forests develop kindling, nature may just cause them to burst into massive flames. So instead of allowing the kindling to build up, why don't we thin the forests? Why don't we manage the forests? (Applause.) Why don't we use our God given talents and our technology to manage the forests, so that the forests are healthy for generations to come? That's common sense. (Applause.)
It's a logical approach, it's a logical approach to preserving an incredibly important treasure. And at the same time, when we do it right, it will mean people are going to be able to find work, it will mean people are going to be able to put food on the table, which is a vital concern of Gordon's and it's a vital concern of mine. Listen, any time somebody who wants to work can't find work, we've got a problem, and we've got to deal with it in a way.
This is a problem, and our job is to come up with solutions to solve the problems. You know, part of the reason why we can't get some common sense forest management policies done is because there's too much red tape, there just is. There's too many rules and regulations -- (applause) -- all bound up to make sure nothing positive happens, it seems like to me.
So I talked to our Cabinet secretaries, and we're going to do everything we can, administratively, to cut through the red tape. And there's some things we can do. We can set priorities, we can declare emergencies, we can get moving on a policy that makes sense for Oregon and for America. We've got a process now that allows people to tie up good policy in appeal after appeal after appeal. Listen, let me make this clear to everybody, we want people to be able to express their opinion. That's important, that's a great thing about America. People ought to be allowed to give their opinions on a subject. But they not -- ought not to use that privilege to tie up good, common sense practice forever, so nothing gets done except the forests are burning. (Applause.)
And Gordon's an easy man to work with on this topic, because he understands. And I appreciate his efforts, and I appreciate him constantly educating, not only me, but others in Congress, about how best to make sure that the Oregon forests are healthy, and people can find work at the same time.
No, he's got a good approach to government. He also cares deeply about education, and so do I. We had a fantastic discussion today, by the way, with people from all around your state, people who came in -- the mayor of Salem, and this business lady, and this educator. And one of the things that became clear, is that the people who have got responsibility in your state understand the importance of education.
We passed a good bill out of the Senate and the House that Gordon supported. It's a bill that says that we believe in high standards for every child. See, if you believe that certain kids can't learn, in other words if you have low standards, that's the kind of results you're going to get. You're going to get results in which children don't learn. In other words, if you think in your mind that there are certain children who can't learn, the system will make sure they don't. In other words, low standards yields low results.
Gordon and I understand we've got to set high standards, and we did. We also trust the local people to chart the path for excellence for every child in the state. (Applause.) We worked together to make sure we passed power out of Washington. One size does not fit all when it comes to public education.
But there's one other thing in part of the bill that I'm just insistent upon, which makes eminent sense. See, if you believe every child can learn, therefore you've got to measure whether every child is learning. So in return for federal dollars, we just said, show us, please show us whether or not children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. That's all you've got to do. You accept a lot of federal money for Title I students, just show us they're learning. See, we believe they can. All you've got to do is show us.
And if they're not, then change. We cannot allow our children to be stuck in schools that will not teach, and will not change. (Applause.)
I want to thank Gordon for his work on Medicare. He's a leader on Medicare. He knows what I know. The Medicare system is an important system, but it's antiquated, it's old. Medicine has advanced, Medicare hasn't. As a matter of fact, in order to get prescription drugs available for seniors, it requires an act of Congress. (Laughter.) It is so old, it requires Congress to pass a law. That's an old system. We need a system that adjusts the needs of each senior. And our Medicare ought to include prescription drugs for our seniors. It's modern medicine. We want to modernize the system. And Gordon Smith is one of the leaders in the United States Senate on making sure Medicare is modernized. And I want to thank him for his leadership. (Applause.)
Gordon mentioned we've got some challenges, and we do. One of the challenges was the fact that there was a recession. It turns out when you look at the facts and the history, when I got sworn in and Dick Cheney got sworn in, the country was in a recession. We had three quarters of negative growth. And he and I agree, and thankfully, he was in the Senate at this point in time, that the best way to help a country recover from a recession is to let people keep more of their own money. (Applause.) I admit that's a philosophy that frightens some in Washington because they seem to forget whose money it is we spend. Some of them think it's the government's money. It's not the government's money that we spend, it's the people's money.
We understand the textbook, this part of the economic textbook that said, if you let people keep more of their own money, they will demand a good or a service. And if they demand a good or a service, somebody's going to produce the good and service. And when somebody produces the good or service, somebody is more likely to find work. The tax cuts that Gordon Smith fought for in the Senate came at the right time in American history, and now what we need to do in order to make sure the entrepreneurial spirit is vibrant is to make the tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
You ask, why aren't they permanent, and that's because of a quirk in the laws, in the rules of the Senate. This is one of these deals where we slash the marriage penalty, we put the death tax, thankfully, on the way to extinction. We cut marginal rates, which, by the way, benefit small businesses. Most small businesses are sole proprietorships or limited partnerships, and when you cut individual income tax rates, you provide more capital in the sector of our economy that creates more new jobs, and that's small businesses.
But, unfortunately, the law is such that it all comes back after 10 years. It's kind of hard for me to explain to people in the Crawford Coffee Shop, but that's just the way it is. That's just the way it is. So, imagine the farmer or the rancher who's worried about inheritance tax driving him off the land -- they start planning for this new inheritance, death tax repeal, and all of a sudden, it comes back into being. It means it creates uncertainty. And people need certainty when it comes to job creation, and certainty when it comes to estate planning, and certainty when it comes to their farms and ranches. For the sake of economic vitality, these need to be permanent. And we need to get rid of the death tax forever. (Applause.)
We're taking aggressive steps to create an environment in which businesses grow. That's a difference of philosophy. See, some think government create wealth. We don't think that. We think the role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes. One way to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and to create jobs here in the Northwest is to aggressively seek markets for products manufactured and/or grown in this part of the world.
Thankfully -- and Gordon was a part of this -- I was able to get trade promotion authority. It's an authority that had lapsed for a long period of time, and we fought for it and got it done. And now I want to assure you I'm aggressive -- going to aggressively promote U.S. and Oregon products in markets all around the world, for the good of our workers, for the good of people who work. (Applause.)
And finally, we're making progress on one of the drags in our economy. We had some citizens in our country who decided that they were going to cook the books. We had some citizens who did not uphold their responsibilities as leaders; that they -- that they didn't uphold their calling to employee and shareholder alike. They tried to cut corners. I signed the most comprehensive corporate reform law since Franklin Roosevelt was the President. And you just need to know that I got a corporate fraud task force in place that's going to hunt these cheaters down and bring them to justice, for the good of this economy. (Applause.)
By far, the vast, vast majority of our fellow citizens uphold their responsibilities. They're honest people. Their numbers are honest. But we're going to audit the auditors and we're going to make sure the numbers are real, for the sake of economic vitality. That's what's going to happen here in America.
I've also got a big job besides worrying about people working, and that is to make sure the homeland is secure. As a matter of fact, that is my most important job -- is to make sure an enemy which hates freedom, which hates America because we love freedom, doesn't hit us again. And we're making progress; we are. We've got a lot of people working hard. Anytime we get a hint of -- that somebody might do something to us, we're moving. We've got people working overtime to secure the homeland. It's not only people at the federal level, but it's people at the state and local level, for which I am most grateful, and I know you are, as well.
But as -- last fall and the winter I began to think about how best to enable not only this administration, but future administrations, to do what's going to need to be done, which is to secure America. I realize there were over 100 agencies -- over 100 agencies -- involved in one way or another with homeland security. For those of you who tried to manage something, if there's 100 agencies scattered around, with different bosses, different cultures, different priorities, it's hard to really bring to account, it's hard to set the priorities.
So I said, well, why don't we have a department of homeland security. I proposed a new Cabinet officer that would take the different agencies involved with homeland security and put them under one umbrella, so that we can have as the number one priority of these folks protecting you. It ought to be the number one priority. If it's our number one goal, it ought to be the number one priority of every agency in Washington, D.C. So I've asked Congress to act.
The House passed a pretty good piece of legislation; the Senate is now involved with the bill. I've got great support from Gordon Smith. However, the Senate must know loud and clear, I'm not going to accept a bill which is more concerned about special interests in Washington than people, or more concerned about their own turf than the protection of the American people. We want a bill -- (applause.) I need a bill that allows me to move the right people to the right place at the right time, in order to protect America. Not a bill which tries to micromanage the process for the sake of special interests that are lodged in Washington, D.C.
I'm confident that Gordon understands this. I look forward to working with him to get a good piece homeland security legislation to my desk as soon as they return from their August respites. Now, having said that -- (laughter) -- having said that, you've got to know that the best way to protect the homeland, the best way to secure freedom for the long-term is to hunt the killers down, one person at a time, and bring them to justice. (Applause.)
And that is what we're doing. And that is what we'll continue to do. And we're making some progress. We put this coalition together, and as you recall, I said, you're either with us or you're with them. A lot of people chose to be with us. And I meant it. I still mean it. I still remind people that that's part of the doctrine of the first war of the 21st century. And we've got a coalition together that is working hard. We're sharing intelligence like never before. We're disrupting finances. This is an incredibly important part of this new type of war we fight. If we can deny the killers money, it makes it harder for them to move and plan and plot.
We're arresting people. I bet you we've hauled in over 2,500 folks so far -- not only just America, but other countries that are -- have heard the call. By the way, about equal number have not been quite so lucky. So we're making progress. (Laughter.) But we've got a lot of work to do. You just need to know, we've got a lot of work to do. They're still out there. They still hate. They don't value life like we value life. Every life precious to America, to our culture. That's not the way they think.
And so, so long as I'm the President, I'm going to commit our resources, the resources necessary to defend our freedom. That's why I've asked for the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President. (Applause.) I want our troops well-paid and well-trained. Anytime we commit somebody into harm's way, they deserve the absolute best from our government. (Applause.)
And I want the message to go to friend and foe alike, we're in this deal for the long haul. See, this is our freedom at stake. History has called this nation into action. History has put the spotlight on the great beacon of freedom. And we're not going to blink. We're going to be a steady, patient, determined nation, doing what it takes to not only secure the future for our own children, but the future for other country's children. We cannot let terrorists get the upper hand, and we won't. (Applause.) And that by being steadfast and resolved, and, by the way, making it clear the difference between good and the difference between evil, by making it clear we will not let the world's worst leaders develop and possibly deploy the world's worst weapons, to try to blackmail America and our friends and allies -- (applause) -- by being steadfast and strong, I believe we're going to achieve peace.
And that's one of the great ironies for the enemy. See, they didn't realize who they were hitting. They thought we were weak and self-absorbed and materialistic and shallow, and that all we'd do maybe is file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) But that's all we would do. That's what they probably thought. Instead, they found out that this is a nation that is strong, and good and decent, and that we're a nation that refuses to be cowed by a few killers. People that hide in caves and send youngsters to their death -- that doesn't impress us at all. All that does is make us want to get into the cave with them, and bring them out. That's what that does.
They didn't understand that when it comes to defending our freedoms, we'll do what it takes, because we love freedom. We love the idea of people being able to worship freely. (Applause.) But, see, what they really didn't understand is that -- they didn't understand that we are determined to achieve peace. That's the goal. I want our children to grow up in a peaceful world. We might have to cross some hurdles before we get there, but that's where we're headed, for a peaceful world. I believe that as we remain strong and dedicated to fighting terror, that we can achieve peace not only for our own people, but peace in parts of the world that might have quit on peace. See, I believe we can achieve peace in the Middle East, or in South Asia.
No, I think there's going to be incredible good that has come out of the evil done to America, not only abroad, but here at home, as well. People say, well, Mr. President, I want to be a part of the war on terror, what can I do? And my answer is, love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. If you want to fight evil, do some good. It is the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and decency which define the true character of America. (Applause.) It's when somebody mentors a child, when somebody says, I love you, to somebody who is wondering love is possible. That's part of being a part of defining America. It's going to a shut-in's house, and saying, what can I do to help you today? It's a simple act of loving your child every day. It's all part of the goodness that will come out of America.
You see, there are pockets of despair in this country. And so long as one of us hurts, all of us hurts. But people in this country are beginning to understand that by serving something greater than yourself, they understand that one of us can't do everything, but one of us can do something to help change America, one conscience, one soul, one person at a time.
No, the enemy hit us, the enemy hit us. But out of the evil done to America is going to come not only a more peaceful world, but a more passionate America, because Americans are understanding that the true definition of patriotism is not only to support a great military, but a definition of patriotism is to serve something greater than yourself, is to love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.
That's what's happening in this great nation. I confidently and boldly predict that America will be a better country as a result of what was done to us, because we're a country full of the most decent, compassionate, strong, honorable people on the face of the earth.
Thank you all for coming. God bless.
END 6:42 P.M. PDT