For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 19, 2002
Remarks by the President at Republican Governors Association Fall Reception
National Building Museum
6:53 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all very much. John, thank you very much. I appreciate the invitation to get out of the house. (Laughter.) I'm honored to come to thank you all for supporting our governors.
I love our governors. I know them well. I was one. (Laughter.) And these are fine, fine public servants who bring a lot of class and dignity to the office they hold. They put results ahead of process. These are people who put success ahead of excessive verbiage. They're on the front lines of reform. They care deeply about our country. I'm honored to be in their presence. And I want to thank you for supporting their reelections. (Applause.)
Governors get things done. And governors can make a tremendous difference in people's lives. I knew that when I started forming my Cabinet. I knew that I needed to surround myself with people who not only would bring honor to the office to which I appointed them, but also would work hard to get something done for the country. And that's why I named John Ashcroft, former governor; Christie Todd Whitman, former governor; Tommy Thompson, former governor; and Tom Ridge, former governor, to serve our country. (Applause.)
I want to thank Johnny Rowland for his leadership of the Republican Governors Association, and for his fine leadership for the state of Connecticut. (Applause.) He got one peep. (Laughter.) Bill Owens is the Vice Chairman, from the great state of Colorado, and I appreciate his leadership, as well. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the First Ladies who are here. First Ladies really define the governor -- or First Gentlemen -- define the governor. (Laughter.) Just like our great First Lady has helped me a lot and defined me as a person. You know, people get to know a lot -- (applause) -- you can judge the nature of a man, in my case, by the person he marries. And I married above myself. (Laughter.) People have gotten to know Laura. They now understand why I asked her to marry me. Lot of folks are still wondering why she said yes. (Laughter.) She sends her love to our governors and their wives. She sends her appreciation to you. And I can't tell you how proud I am of the job she's doing for America. (Applause.)
I appreciate these governors being on the front line of making America a stronger place, a safer place, and a better place for all citizens -- regardless of their party affiliation, regardless of where they live. That's the spirit of these can-do people.
And that's a job we all have in America, to make America a safer, stronger, and better place. And to make sure America is a strong place, we need to continue to work to make sure our fellow citizens can find work. A strong America is an America in which people who want to work and can't find a job are able to do so. A strong America is an America that recognizes the vibrancy of the entrepreneur in America. A strong America understands the role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the small business owner can grow his or her business.
A strong America is one that recognizes that in times of recession -- and I want you all to remember that when Dick Cheney and I got sworn in, the country was in a recession -- and a strong economy, a strong America, is one that recognizes that the engine to growth is the American people. And so when we let American people keep more of their own money, we sent a clear, strong signal to economic vitality.
Some up here don't get it, see. They forget whose money we're talking about. They think we're talking about the government's money. One thing we all understand is when it comes to tax money, it's your money. And the tax cuts we passed in Washington came at the right time. (Applause.) And that's just one of the first things we have done here to make sure our economies grow, to make sure people can find work.
I was the first President in a long time to get what they call trade promotion authority. My attitude is, if you're good at something, you ought to promote it. (Laughter.) We're good at growing crops, we're good at raising cattle, we're good at the entrepreneurial spirit, we're good at high-tech. We ought not to fear trade; we ought to welcome trade. And for the sake of jobs, I got the Congress to pass the trade promotion authority, so our people would be more likely to find work. (Applause.)
For the sake of economic vitality, we sent a chilling signal to our fellow Americans who feel like they can fudge the books, who feel like they can get ahead by not telling the truth. Every one of these governors understands the need for corporate responsibility in their states and all across America. I proudly signed the most comprehensive corporate reform since Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President of the United States. And for the sake of a stronger America, we sent this signal: No more easy money, just hard time, if you betray the trust of your employees and your shareholders in America. (Applause.)
Now, we've got a foundation for economic vitality and growth that is strong. Interest rates are low, inflation is low. The productivity of the American worker is the best in the world. But we're not going to rest until people find work. A stronger America requires a strong economy. And there are some things that Congress can do to help us in our desire to make America a stronger place.
And I'll give you one example. There are over 300,000 jobs that don't exist because many developers and project managers cannot find terrorism insurance. The Congress ought to pass a law that provides a backstop for terrorism insurance, to get our hard-hats working again. And by the way, it needs to be a law that does not reward trial lawyers, but rewards the hard-hats of America. (Applause.)
We need an energy bill in America -- an energy bill that fosters more conservation, an energy bill that enhances renewables like ethanol, but an energy bill that makes us less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. An energy bill is needed. There's too much talk in Washington, and not enough action. (Applause.)
And finally, to make this economy strong, to make sure people can find work, we've got to make sure Congress holds the line on spending. There's an enormous appetite for spending your money up here. Every project sounds wonderful in Washington, D.C. Problem is, is that the price tags run in the billions. It is important for Congress to set priorities.
It's hard to set priorities, however, when the Senate can't even pass a budget. The House passed a budget. The Senate can't pass a budget. My message to Congress, and I hope you help send the message, is we expect the appropriators to be wise with the people's money. We expect them to stay focused on national priorities. We expect them not to overspend. We expect them to be reasonable and sound. Because if we overspend, it will make it harder for people to find work.
No, the grounds for economic growth are strong. After all, this is America. There's a lot of problems that we can overcome. But I just want to assure you, and I want to assure my friends who are the governors, this administration will not rest, we will stay focused on economic vitality, because we understand a strong America is an America in which people can find work. (Applause.)
And we're working hard here in Washington, and we're working hard with our governors to make sure we have a safer America. We need to work hard because there's still an enemy out there which hates our country. They hate America. They hate us because we love. We love freedom. We love the idea of our fellow citizens being able to worship and almighty Gad any way he or she sees fit. We love the idea of welcoming people to our country and letting them rise to their own level that talents will take them. We love the idea of being able to speak our minds, to have political discourse. We love a free press. We love freedom.
But the enemy hates freedom. We also value each life in America. Everybody counts. Everybody has got worth. Everybody matters. But that's not the way our enemy thinks. They don't value life. They don't care about innocent life. And so long as we hold these values dear, which we will do, there will be an enemy trying to hurt America.
And so, therefore, my most important job is to protect the American people from further harm, is to guard our homeland. You need to know a lot of good folks are working hard to just that. I can testify for those here in the federal government that are spending hours upon hours chasing down every lead, running down every hint. We get a whiff of anything that might be happening or going to happen to America, we're moving on it -- and at the same time, I can proudly report, safeguarding the United States Constitution. (Applause.)
And so are these governors. They're working hard to protect their fellow citizens. They're working hard at the state level, and working in coordination at the local level, to prepare, to be ready, to be on alert. And I want to thank them for their service to our country.
I asked Congress to work with me to make a -- to make the government work better. I readily concede my slogan wasn't, don't -- vote for me, I'm going to make government bigger. But I do want to make it work better. And that's why I called upon our Congress to set up a department of homeland defense, so we can better coordinate amongst agencies; so we can have the protection of our homeland as our number one priority; so, if need be, we can change cultures so that this President and administration, and future Presidents and administrations, can say to the American people, we're doing everything in our power to protect you.
And we're making some progress. Republicans and Democrats came together in the House of Representatives to pass a good homeland security bill. We're kind of bogged down in the Senate, however. You see, the Senate wants to take away some of the powers of the administrative branch. The Senate wants to micromanage the process. And I'm not going to let them do it.
For the sake of homeland security, the Senate -- (applause.) For the sake of the security of our homeland, the Senate needs to be more worried about the American people, and less worried about special interest here in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
But the best way to secure our homeland is to chase the killers down, one person at a time, and bring them to justice, which is exactly what the United States is going to do. (Applause.) It's a different kind of war. It's a war that is not measured by the destruction of tanks, or ships, or aircraft, because we're fighting a different kind of enemy. This is a war that is measured in terms of killers caught.
We're making progress, thanks to a coalition we have put together. And we're making progress thanks to one of the finest militaries our nation has ever seen. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thanks to our Commander-in-Chief! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: This is an enemy which hides in caves, or in the dark corners of cities, and then sends youngsters to their suicidal death. It's a different kind of enemy and a different kind of war. But our resolve is just as fierce today as it has been in the past. And we're making progress, we're making progress. I don't have an exact count, but the number of those who the United States and our coalition partners have arrested, detained, whatever you want to call it, is over a couple thousand. And about a like number weren't as lucky; they're just not around anymore.
We got a guy the other day, just as an example, thought he could hide in Pakistan. I don't know if you remember that doctrine I laid out; said, either you're with us or you're with the enemy. President Musharraf in Pakistan is with us when it comes to hunting these killers down. (Applause.) The person who thought he'd be the 20th hijacker, Binalshibh, is no longer a threat to the United States of America and our friends and allies. (Applause.)
Oh, I know for some who are trying to fill the airways with speculation and noise and news and all that stuff, it's not a very glamorous war. But you've just got to know, this nation is steady in our pursuit. We're strong in our resolve. No matter how long it takes, we're going to hunt them down, one person at a time. We're going to get them on the run, and we're going to keep them on the run, until we bring them to justice. (Applause.)
I have submitted the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President. I sent that up to the Congress for two reasons. One, any time this nation sends our troops into harm's way, any time we ask our youngsters to go into the thin air of the mountains of Afghanistan or anywhere else in harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible equipment. We not only owe it to their -- to the soldiers, we owe it to their loved ones, as well. (Applause.)
And a defense bill sends another message. It sends a clear message to our friends and to our foe that the United States is in this for the long pull. There's not an artificial quitting date. There's not a moment that says, you know, well, we've been at it for a period of time, we're getting kind of worn out, and freedom isn't that important. The message is that no matter how long it takes, and no matter what the cost, we will defend the freedoms of the United States of America. (Applause.)
The House passed a defense bill. The Senate passed the defense bill. The way the process works is they're supposed to get together, reconcile their differences, and get me a defense bill. It languishes. It languishes. This Congress must do its duty and get me a defense bill before it goes home. For the sake of our country, for the sake of this war, for the sake of the military, I need a defense appropriations bill. (Applause.)
Now, we've got a big task ahead. See, history has put the spotlight on us. History will determine whether or not this nation was strong and resolved in our defense of freedom. History will determine whether or not we uphold our values, the values that say we not only care for individuals here at home, but everybody matters. So far I think history is going to judge us well.
I want you to remember that when it came time to uphold the doctrine that said, if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you house a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist, we upheld that doctrine. And in so doing -- (applause.) And in so doing, we freed a group of people from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind. I want you to tell your children when they ask about this war that our country went into Afghanistan not to conquer anybody, but to liberate people. And as a result of the United States and our friends and allies, many young girls now go to school for the first time.
No, this might nation -- (applause) -- this mighty nation believes that everybody matters. Each person has worth. Everybody counts, regardless of where they are from. And we're going to have tough times ahead of us, no question about it, as we pursue our goals. There's going to be some rocky paths that we're going to have to climb up. There's going to be some high hurdles we have to cross.
One of the highest hurdles is to recognize that as a nation we're no longer protected by two vast oceans. No longer are we safe. We used to think, well, there's a little conflict going over there, or perhaps a leader over here who is a despicable person couldn't hurt us. We learned a new lesson after September the 11th, that we're vulnerable. For the sake of our security, we must not allow -- for the sake of the future of our country and for the future of other regions in the world, we must never allow the world's worst leaders to develop, to deploy, to blackmail the free world, with the world's worst weapons. (Applause.)
I believe it is important that there be an international organization that is strong and vibrant, and capable of helping freedom-loving countries keep the peace. You see, if the enemy hides in caves, and a different kind of enemy, different kind of war, we need a collection of friends sharing intelligence, cutting off money, routing these people out. So I went to the United Nations. And I made it clear to the United Nations that our nation hopes that the United Nations succeeds. We want there to be a strong United Nations. We want the United Nations to be more than a debating society. We don't want the United Nations to become the League of Nations. We want the United Nations to have backbone and to enforce -- enforce the resolutions and doctrines and mandates. (Applause.)
I also made it clear, for the sake of peace, for the sake of freedom for our country, if the United Nations will not act, the United States and our friends will. We owe it to our children, we owe it to our grandchildren to make sure that the dictator in Iraq never threatens our country, or our children, or our children's children with the world's worst weapons. (Applause.)
As we work to make our country stronger and safer, we also must never forget to work to make it better. That's why I'm so strong for these governors -- they understand that. I signed one of the most comprehensive education reform bills in our nation's history. It says, we expect there to be high standards in American schools. We want to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. I believe -- and these fine governors believe -- that every child in America can learn. Everybody can learn. And therefore, we expect everybody to learn. (Applause.)
If you believe everybody can learn, then you should expect everybody to learn. Inherent in that bill is my great trust for the governors of the United States and for local folks. I strongly believe in local control of schools. But I also believe in this -- that if you take federal money, if you receive a dime of federal money, you owe it to the taxpayers to show us whether or not the children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. And if they are, there will be plenty of praise for our nation's teachers. But if not, we must not allow our children to be trapped in schools which will not teach and will not change. (Applause.)
A better tomorrow recognizes that when it comes to reforming welfare we must insist upon work. People find dignity in a job. I look forward to working with our governors to make sure we continue the great progress of welfare reform by helping people help themselves, by helping people find job training so that instead of being dependent upon government, they can find a job and be dependent upon their skills and their talents to provide for their families.
A better tomorrow recognizes the great power of our faith-based institutions in America. A better tomorrow recognizes that in our churches, in synagogues and mosques, we find great compassion and love. We understand that government can hand out money, but what government cannot do -- and by the way, we do a pretty good job of it up here -- but what government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That's found in -- all across America. It's found particularly in places that exist because of the universal dictum that people should love their neighbors just like they should be loved themselves. (Applause.)
You know, the enemy hit us, the enemy hit us, and they didn't know who they were hitting. Oh, they probably thought that after September the 11th, 2001, we'd kind of regroup and file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) They didn't realize that this bold country is a great country, full of decent and compassionate people. I want you to know that out of the evil done to America is going to come great good. Around the world, if we remain tough and strong, we can achieve peace. If we're willing to speak clearly about good and evil, if we continue to denounce terror, if we understand the plight of the human condition, which we do in America -- that people must have hope, that everybody matters, that freedom counts -- we can achieve peace in this world.
Oh, you'll hear a lot of war rhetoric. But I want you to know, my goal is peace. I long for peace. And I believe out of the evil done to America can come peace in places around the world that have quit on peace, including the Middle East and South Asia. (Applause.) I also want you to know -- I want you to know that we will be a better America, too. Because the strength of the country lies in the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens.
People say, how can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil? You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you; by running a Boy Scout troop or a Girl Scout troop; by being involved in your Boys and Girls Clubs; by joining the USA Freedom Corps. If you're interested in helping America fight evil, love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.
An educated America, a working America, an America that understands the power of our faith-based and charitable organizations is an America that is going to be a better America. There is no question in my mind that out of the evil done to this country, that we will be able to help eradicate those pockets of despair and hopelessness which exist. In our land of plenty, there are people who hurt, people who cry, people who wonder whether or not the American Dream is meant for them. And this society of ours, this society of ours is going to change, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time, because thousands of our fellow citizens are loving a neighbor just like they'd like to be loved themselves. (Applause.)
People understand in America now that a patriot is somebody who not only puts his hand over his heart and says, "I pledge allegiance" to one nation under God, but somebody who serves something greater than themselves.
See, that was the example of Flight 93, an example which is vivid in my mind, and I'm sure vivid in yours. It's an historic moment in many ways, a sad, tragic moment. On the other hand, it's a moment that I hope people remember for a long time. After all, it was a flight full of our fellow citizens. They learned that the plane they were on was going to be used as a weapon. They told their loved ones good-bye, or, I love you. They said a prayer. One guy said, "Let's roll." They drove the plane into the ground to serve something greater than themselves in life.
No, the spirit of America was alive on that airplane. The spirit of America is alive today. No, out of the evil done to this great country is going to come a more compassionate, a more decent, a more hopeful country. There's no doubt in my mind that we can achieve the big goals before us, because this is the finest country on the face of the Earth, full of the finest people.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.)
END 7:22 P.M. EDT