|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 17, 2002
Remarks by the President at Lamar Alexander for Senate Luncheon
Nashville Convention Center
11:55 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Thanks a lot. Thank you, Senator. (Laughter and applause. There's no doubt in my mind Lamar Alexander will make a great -- a lot of great contributions to our nation, but one of the lasting contributions he will make is a contribution he made before when he held office, and that is he brought honor and dignity to the office to which he had been elected. (Applause.)
I'm proud to be back in Tennessee. I want to thank you all for having me here. I'm proud to come back and say as clearly as I can to the citizens of Tennessee, Lamar Alexander should become the next United States senator. (Applause.) And there's a lot of reasons why, and one of them is because he married well. (Applause.) Like me, he married a Texan. And like me, he married above himself. We appreciate Honey, and she's a class act like Lamar is, and I'm proud to know them both.
I wish my wife were here with me. You may remember, or maybe you don't know, but when I married Laura she was a public school librarian. She didn't care for politics, she didn't like politicians. Now here she is, the First Lady of the United States. Thank goodness. What a fabulous job she is doing. (Applause.) I bring her greetings to Lamar and Honey and all of you all. She is doing great, by the way. She's settled in. Public housing is all right there in Washington. (Laughter.)
I do want to thank the members of the mighty Tennessee delegation who are here, starting with Fred Thompson. There's only one man in this state who can fill the shoes of Fred Thompson, and that's Lamar Alexander. And, Fred, thank you for your service. (Applause.) I appreciate his service to Tennessee and to America. Fortunately, he isn't quitting early. He's still got some -- he's got a task ahead there on the floor of the Senate, and that's to make sure I get a homeland security department that is unfettered from government rules and bureaucracies, a homeland security department that will allow this President and future Presidents to move people to the right place at the right time, in order to protect the homeland from an enemy which still hates us. And Fred Thompson is leading that charge. And as he succeeds, and when he succeeds, he will leave behind a fabulous legacy for future administrations and senators. Fred, thank you. You've been a great senator. (Applause.)
I appreciate Senator Bill Frist. He, too, is a fine senator. You sent two good ones up there, and you're about to send another good one in Lamar. But thank you for being here, Senator Frist. I appreciate the next governor of the state of Tennessee, Van Hilleary, for joining us today. (Applause.) I want to thank Ed Bryant and I want to thank Zach Wamp, as well, for being here. I hope these Congressmen are here to hear my speeches. I hope it's not just to get a free ride on Air Force One heading back to Washington. Either way, you'll find the speeches are probably too long and the accommodations on Air Force One is just fine.
But these are fine members of the Congress. I'm proud to work with them. I'm also traveling today, since we're going to a school here in Nashville, I'm traveling with our Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who's doing such a fantastic job on behalf of the children of America. And, Rod, thank you for coming.
I want to thank all those who helped put on this event. I want to thank Ted Welch. I want to thank Beth Harwell and Stephanie Chivers. I want to thank my friend, David Kustoff. I want to thank all of you all who are involved in grassroots politics.
One thing people like Lamar and I understand is that we can't win without the folks who are willing to dial the telephones and put the signs in the yards, and make sure the mailers go out on time, make sure the voters go up to vote. I want to thank you for what you have done, and I want to thank you for what you're going to do. It is really important that you go back to your coffee shops, your houses of worship, your community centers, and remind the good people of Tennessee what a fine leader Lamar Alexander has been, is, and will be on behalf of the people of Tennessee. (Applause.)
He should win this race just on what he has done. He was one of the great governors of this state. He's one of the most imaginative and reform-oriented Secretaries of Education. He'd been in higher education. He loves his family, he loves his country, he's got fabulous values. The thing I appreciate about him is that he does not rest on his laurels, he's a forward-thinking man. He knows that we've got to continue to work together to challenge the status quo when we find our children trapped in mediocre schools. He understands that mediocrity must be challenged. He challenged -- liked to challenge what I call the soft bigotry of low expectations. It's going to be good to have a man in the United States Senate who will stand by my side to insist upon strong accountability, to make sure that no child in America -- not one single child -- gets left behind in our public education system. (Applause.)
As Lamar mentioned, we're going over to a school here in Nashville to talk about the importance of teaching history and civics to our nation's youth; that we want to make sure that when we talk about how -- why we defend liberty, they understand the history of liberty, they understand the great ideals of our country and the values that make America the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.
I look forward to going with Lamar over to East Literature Magnet School to talk about the promise of America and the hope for a better world, not only here, but around the world. He understands the value of education. He also understands the need to make sure our economy grows.
In Washington, sometimes when you listen to the rhetoric of some of them up there, they believe government creates jobs. See, the role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the entrepreneur and small business can flourish, so people can find work. And that's why it's going to be important to have somebody who understands that when you let a person keep more of their own money, that person is likely to demand a good or a service. And when they demand a good or a service in this country, in this system, somebody is likely to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces the good or a service, somebody is more likely to find work.
And the whole economic package of this administration is based upon jobs. We will do everything in our power to make sure that jobs are available for people who want to work. And that starts with letting people keep more of their own money. The interesting thing is, we have passed this tax relief plan, and yet because of a quirk in the law, a quirk in the Senate rules, the law goes away after 10 years. That's kind of a hard one to explain to the ranchers in Crawford, Texas. We're going to cut your taxes, but we're really not cutting them. What we've got make sure is, you send the United States senator from Tennessee who will make the tax cuts permanent on behalf of the working people of this state. (Applause.)
By the way, one of the things we did in our tax relief package, besides laying the groundwork for economic growth, was we started putting the death tax on its way to extinction. The death tax is bad for Tennessee farmers. The death tax is bad for Tennessee ranchers. The death tax is bad for Tennessee entrepreneurs. The death tax is just plain bad. And you better send you a senator up there who will get rid of the death tax once and for all. (Applause.)
The foundation for economic growth is strong here in America. Inflation is down, interest rates are low, productivity of the American worker is up. But one of the things that you need to be concerned about is Congress overspending, is Congress not understanding the need for fiscal responsibility, so that our economy continues to grow. If Congress overspends, it will serve as a drag on economic vitality. You see, some of them up there don't understand whose money we're spending. We don't spend the government's money in Washington; we're spending your money. And it's important to have United States senators like Thompson and Frist who understand fiscal sanity is important in Washington.
See, every program sounds great up there. Everybody's idea sounds wonderful. The problem, in Washington terms, they've all got billions of dollars worth of price tags attached to them. They can't even get a budget out of the United States Senate. We need a budget. If you don't have a budget, the likelihood that -- the likelihood is the Senate is going to overspend. How can you set priorities without a budget? And my priorities are defending the American people, making sure the homeland is secure. And therefore, we need to have senators in Washington, D.C. who are there to protect the taxpayer's money, to be fiscally sound.
No, I've got a veto, and I intend to use it if they overspend. But it would certainly be helpful to have senators up there that don't cause me -- necessary to use it. (Applause.)
I appreciate the fact that I'll be able to work with Lamar on making sure the good people who I nominate to our federal benches will not only get a fair hearing, but a speedy hearing, and will get approved. (Applause.) The country got to see what happens when the Senate gets so politicized that they won't give people a fair hearing when it comes to judicial nominees.
I named a fabulous woman out of Texas, named Priscilla Owen to the 5th Court. And they distorted her record. She had the highest ranking from the ABA, and yet having listened to the rhetoric coming out of a highly politicized and polarized committee, you never would have realized how qualified she is. She was turned down for purely political purposes. For the sake of a federal judiciary that is strong and solid, we need United States senators like Lamar Alexander who will be fair and reasonable and realistic, and will not play politics with the President's judicial nominees. (Applause.)
And I look forward to having this good man in the United States Senate to stand side by side with me to help fulfill the most important role we have in Washington, and that's to protect the homeland. Our most important job is to protect an enemy which still exists and still hates from taking other lives.
People say, well, you know, are you sure they're still out there? Yes, I'm sure, and I know they still hate. I want you to tell your children who ask the question, why would America be under attack, to look them square in the eye and tell them, it's because we love freedom, is why we're under attack. We hold freedom dear. We love the idea of worshiping freely in America, and we'll never let go of our freedoms. And so long as we hold dear to our freedoms, the enemy will hate us, because they hate freedom. These are people that do not value human life. And here in America, we say, everybody matters, each life is precious, everybody counts. These are people who hijacked a great religion in order to justify their murder.
So our most important job is to do everything we can to make sure our homeland is secure. And it starts with an issue that I talked to you about that Fred's working on, and that is to combine the agencies involved with homeland security in such a way that we can properly enforce our borders, for example. We need to know who's coming into America. We need to know what they're bringing into America. We need to know if they're leaving America when they say they're going to leave America.
And yet when you look down at our borders, north and south, there are three different United States agencies involved with the security of our border, Customs, INS and Border Patrol, all of them manned by very fine men and women, all of them staffed by hardworking Americans. But they've got different cultures, different strategies. It makes no sense for the President not to be able to put the right people at the right place at the right time to protect the homeland.
And the problem is, in the United States Senate, they're more interested in Washington's special interests than they are in the interests of protecting the American people. (Applause.) I hope they get a good bill out of the Senate before they go home to campaign. But I'm going to make good on my promise that if the flexibility is not in the bill, the flexibility that Fred is so hard-working on, that I'm going to use my veto power. I will not accept a lousy bill that makes it impossible for the President -- this President or future Presidents -- to do what the American people expect, and that's to protect the homeland. (Applause.)
The best way to secure the homeland, the best way to make sure that we protect our children and our children's future, the best way to defend freedom and civilization itself, is to hunt the killers down, one person at a time, and bring them to justice, which is exactly what the United States of America is going to do. (Applause.)
We're in a different kind of war. But make no mistake about it, it's still war. In the old days, you could count the enemy's tanks or airplanes or ships, and say, well, look how much we demolished, or their industrial capacity can't keep up with the war demands, and therefore, they're diminished as an enemy. This is a different kind of enemy. Remember, these are the kind of enemies that hide in caves. They find the darkest cave they can find. They burrow in there. Then they send some youngster to their suicidal death. These are people that hate. These are people that take innocent life at the drop of a hat. These people are resourceful and they're wily and they're determined. But they are not as determined as the might United States of America. There is no cave deep enough, there's no neighborhood dark enough for them to hide in, as far as I'm concerned.
And thanks to a coalition of countries that love freedom as much as we do, and thanks to a fantastic United States military, we're making good progress on the war against these killers. Just read your newspaper. The other day the fellow that thought he wanted to be 20th hijacker is in custody, he's off the streets. He thought he could hide. He thought he could run. He thought he could escape the justice of the United States of America. No matter how long it takes, this mighty nation will do everything is required to defend our freedom.
I bet we've hauled in over 2,500 of them so far. I say "we" -- it's not just the America military; it's our friends and allies. Remember, the doctrine, either you're with us or you're with the enemy -- and that doctrine still stands. (Applause.) And as a result, over a couple thousand of them have been hauled in, and that number -- about the same number met a different fate. They weren't as lucky.
And another doctrine still stands. It says, if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you house a terrorist, you're just as guilty as those who murdered thousands of innocent American lives. And the Taliban found out what we want. I want you to remind your children, with all -- in the midst of all this war talk, the midst of the -- on the television screens seeing our troops, and all the stuff going on -- remind them that this mighty nation went into a country as we upheld that doctrine. Not to conquer anybody, but to liberate a people from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind. Thanks to the United States and our friends and allies, many young girls, for the first time, go to school.
No, this great, compassionate nation will not only defend our nation, we will believe in freedom for everybody. See, we think everybody matters, every life counts, every person has got worth, whether they be American or anywhere else around the globe.
Speaking about barbaric regimes, we must deal with probably one of the most -- not probably -- one of the most real threats we face, and that is the idea of a barbaric regime teaming up with a terrorist network and providing weapons of mass destruction, to hold the United States and our allies and our friends blackmail.
I gave a speech at the United Nations; I said, for the sake of peace, for the sake of security, after 11 years of not doing what he said he would do, it is time for us to deal with the true threats, it's time with us to deal with Saddam Hussein, it's time for us to secure the peace. (Applause.)
The United Nations must act. It's a time for them to determine whether or not they'll be the United Nations or the League of Nations. It's time to determine whether or not they'll be a force for good and peace, or an ineffective debating society. The United States will remain strong in our conviction that we must not, and will not, allow the world's worst leaders to hold the United States and our friends and allies blackmail, or threaten us with the world's worst weapons.
I have asked Congress to support me in this war, and I must say the bipartisan support has been strong, and I appreciate that. But Congress has been lacking in one area. I requested the most -- the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President, for two reasons. One, any time we send our troops into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible equipment. (Applause.) And secondly, I wanted to send a message to friend and foe alike that the United States is not going to relent in our quest for freedom, that we're in this deal for the long haul; that there's not a calendar on my desk that says by such and such a date, we quit. That's not what you do when you face an enemy which hates. That's not what you do when you know that history has called us to defend our freedoms.
I say the Congress failed, because the House passed a defense bill and the Senate passed a defense bill, but they haven't gotten together to get me a defense bill yet. They need to act. The leadership in Washington needs to move a defense bill to my desk as quickly as possible. They not ought -- they ought not to play politics with the defense appropriations bill in the midst of a war, a war that will define civilization itself. (Applause.)
I don't know what got into the enemy when they hit us. They must have thought the nation was so materialistic and so self-absorbed and so selfish and so shallow that after September the 11th, 2001, all we would do is file a lawsuit or two. They didn't understand America. They don't know that when they struck us, they struck a mighty nation that loves freedom. They didn't realize that out of the evil done to this country can come incredible good. And I believe that. I believe that by remaining tough and strong on terror, by working with nations around the world and reminding them the stakes -- about the stakes, by always adhering to the ideals that make our nation strong, that we can achieve peace.
I want you to tell your kids, my dream is peace. I want the world to be a peaceful world, not only for our children, but children everywhere. I want there to be peace in the Middle East, and I believe by remaining tough and strong, we can achieve peace in the Middle East. I believe we can achieve peace in South Asia. I understand that the hurdles are going to be great and there's going to be rough moments. But the enemy has given us a chance to achieve some good out of the evil, by realizing peace. And here at home, we have a chance to foster a more compassionate society.
In the midst of our plenty, there are people who hurt in America, there are people who are addicted, who are lonely. There are people who wonder whether or not the so-called American Dream is meant for them. I understand that government can hand out money, and we do a pretty darn good job of it. But what government cannot do is put hope into people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That is done when a fellow American puts their arm around somebody who hurts, and says, I love you, what can I do to help you.
There's a new spirit in America, thanks to what happened on September the 11th. We still mourn for the loss of life, but there are thousands of our fellow citizens who have asked the question, how can I help? And they've heard the call, you can help fight evil by doing good. You can fight evil by loving your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.
No, in this country, there's a new sense of responsibility. People are learning that being a patriot is more than just putting your hand over your heart and saying the pledge allegiance. Being a patriot is serving a cause greater than yourself.
The enemy hit us, but they didn't know who they were hitting. They've -- they hit a country with a strong spirit, a strong sense of purpose, a strong drive to make sure that every single citizen has a chance. And so I remind my fellow Americans, it doesn't take much to be a part of a change, to be a part of the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness that will define the true face of our country -- mentor a child, go to a shut-in's house and say, can I help you. Be a part of the Boys and Girls Clubs.
I met a young man who -- today, who wants to run a -- is going to run an after-school program in the Boys and Girls Club. He's a junior in high school. He heard the call. Join the Peace Corps, if you're a youngster. Be a member of the USA Freedom Corps. Serve a country by serving a neighbor in need.
And that's what's taking place. You know, I first got into politics because I believed our culture ought to change from one that said, if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else -- to a culture which says, each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life. And if you're a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your children with all your heart and all your soul. If you're living in Nashville, Tennessee, you're responsible for the quality of education in the neighborhoods, you're responsible for the quality of life. If you're running a corporation in America, you're responsible to your shareholders and your employees to tell the truth and not lie about your books. If you're a responsible America, it means you love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. And that's what's happening.
There's no question in my mind this great country is going to rise to the challenges we face. There's no doubt in my mind that by remaining strong and steadfast, we can win the war on terror and help the world become more peaceful. And there's no doubt in my mind that we can find those dark corners of hopelessness and help bring light, by loving them -- by loving a neighbor in need.
You know why I say, no doubt in my mind? Because this is the finest country on the face of the Earth, full of the most decent, honorable people. I'm proud you came today. I'm proud to support Lamar Alexander. May God bless you all, and may God bless America.
END 12:33 P.M. CDT