|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 23, 2002
President Bush Calls on Congress to Act on Nation's Priorities
Army National Guard Aviation Support Facility
Trenton, New Jersey
10:15 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks a lot for coming out this morning. It is my honor to be -- it is my honor to be back in New Jersey. I want to thank you all for coming out. I want to thank the people of the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard for your hospitality. (Applause.) I'm here to talk about how best to make America a stronger country, a safer country, and a better country for all of us. (Applause.)
There is an old bridge over the Delaware River that says: Trenton makes, the world takes. (Applause.) It talks about the work ethic of the people of this part of our country, it talks about the creativity, it talks about the true strength of America. The true strength of America are our fellow citizens. The strength of our country is the people of America. And I'm honored to be with such hardworking people. (Applause.)
Congress can help. Congress needs to work hard before they go home. Congress needs to get some things done, which means a homeland security department, a budget that reflects our priorities. They've got to make sure they don't overspend your money. They've got to remember, everything they do must go to make sure America is a stronger and safer and better place. (Applause.)
I want to thank Brigadier General Glenn Rieth for opening up this hangar and for inviting me to this base. I want to thank all the Guard personnel who serve the United States of America. I want to thank you for your service, I want to thank you for your sacrifice. (Applause.) I want to thank your governor for being here today. I appreciate Governor McGreevey being at the steps of Air Force One. I'm thankful for his hospitality. I appreciate him coming to say, hello, and I'm honored he's here today to hear this speech. Governor, thank you for coming.
I appreciate members of the congressional delegation. Congressmen Ferguson, Saxton and Smith from New Jersey, thank you all for being here. (Applause.) I want to thank Bob Prunetti who is the Mercer County Executive, for greeting me here, as well. And I want to thank you all for coming.
Here's what's on my mind: I want our people to work here in America. Any time somebody who wants to work can't find a job, it means we've got a problem in this country. And we will not rest until people can find work. A stronger America means a strong economy. A stronger country means that our good, hardworking Americans are able to put food on the table for their families.
Now, we're making progress. Listen, interest rates are low, inflation is low, we've got the best workers in the world. We've got the best, hardest workers and smartest workers in the world. We've got the ingredients for growth. But what has taken place so far is not good enough for me. And I hope it's not good enough for the Congress. What's happening in the economy is not good enough for a stronger America. And Congress can help.
Listen, I come from the school of thought that says, if you've got an economic problem -- and remember, for the first three quarters of my administration we were in negative growth; the stock market started to decline in March of 2000; economic growth started to slow down in the summer of 2000; we were in recession in the first three quarters of 2001.
In order to make sure the country was stronger, I pulled this page out of the economic textbook, the page that says, if you let people keep more of their own money, they're going to spend it on a good or a service. If they spend it on a good or a service, somebody will produce the good and service. And if somebody produces a good or service, some American is more likely to find work. The tax relief came right at the right time for economic growth and jobs. (Applause.)
And if Congress wants to help in job creation, they need to make the tax relief permanent. They need to make the tax relief permanent so our New Jersey small businesses and entrepreneurs can plan for the future. After all, most growth of new jobs comes from small businesses all across America.
Congress also must understand they've got to pass an energy bill. You see, an energy bill will be good for jobs. An energy bill will be good for national security. We need an energy bill that encourages consumption [sic], encourages new technologies so our cars are cleaner, encourages new renewable energy sources, but at the same time encourages increase of supply here at home, so we're less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. (Applause.)
Congress needs to get some work done before they go home. And one of the most important things they can do is to pass an anti-terrorism insurance bill. See, we need an insurance bill to cover potential terrorist acts, so that hard hats in America can get back to work. And I want a bill on my desk that says we care more about the working people and less about the trial lawyers. We want a bill that puts the hard hats back to work, not enriches the trial lawyers here in America. (Applause.)
In order to make sure our country is stronger and our economy grows, Congress must be wise with your money. Notice I said "your money." When it comes time to budgeting and appropriations, which means spending, sometimes in Washington they forget whose money they're talking about. You hear them talking about the government's money. No, the money in Washington is not the government's money, the money in Washington is your money. And we better be careful about how we spend your money. And if Congress overspends, it's going to a problem for making America's economy continue to grow. And so my message to Congress is: remember whose money you're spending.
Now, one of the problems we have is that any time you're worried about spending, you set a budget. That's what you do. The Senate hasn't been able to do so. They don't have a budget, which means it's likely they're going to overspend. See, every idea in Washington is a good idea. Everybody's idea sounds good, except the price tag is generally in the billions. In order to make sure the country is stronger, we need fiscal responsibility in Washington, D.C. We need to make sure that Congress does not overspend. Without a budget, they're likely to overspend.
They set deadlines on you, when it comes to paying your IRS, paying your taxes. There ought to be a deadline on them in order to get a budget passed and to get bills passed. Now, because they haven't been able to move, they're going to send my desk soon what looks like what they call a temporary spending bill. And that temporary spending bill should not be an excuse for excessive federal spending. The temporary spending bill ought to remember whose money they're spending. A temporary spending bill ought to be clean, so that we don't overspend as the economy is trying to continue to grow. What we need in Washington is fiscal responsibility, fiscal sanity. We need to set priorities with your money. And the most important priority I have is to defend the homeland; is to defend the homeland from a bunch of killers who hate America. (Applause.)
It's very important for the school children here to listen to what I'm about to say. You're probably wondering why America is under attack. And you need to know why. We're under attack because we love freedom, is why we're under attack. And our enemy hates freedom. They hate and we love. They hate the thought that this country is a country in which people from all walks of life can worship and almighty God any way he or she fits. They hate the thought that we have honest and open discourse. They hate the thought that we're a beacon of liberty and freedom.
We differ from our enemy because we love. We not only love our freedoms and love our values, we love life, itself. In America, everybody matters, everybody counts, every human life is a life of dignity. And that's not the way our enemy thinks. Our enemy hates innocent life; they're willing to kill in the name of a great religion. (Applause.) And as long as we love freedom and love liberty and value every human life, they're going to try to hurt us. And so our most important job is to defend the freedom, defend the homeland -- is to make sure what happened on September the 11th doesn't happen again, we must do everything we can -- everything in our power -- to keep America safe.
There are a lot of good people working hard to keep you safe. There are people at the federal level and at the state level, a lot of fine folks here at the local level, doing everything we can to run down every lead. If we find any kind of hint, we're moving on it -- all within the confines and all within the structure of the United States Constitution. We're chasing down every possible lead because we understand there's an enemy out there which hates America.
I asked the Congress to work with me to come up with a new Department of Homeland Security, to make sure that not only can this administration function better, but future administrations will be able to deal with the true threats we face as we get into the 21st century. A homeland security department which takes over the hundred different agencies and brings them under one umbrella so that there's a single priority and a new culture, all aimed at dealing with the threats.
I mean, after all, on our border we need to know who's coming into America, what they're bringing into America, are they leaving when they're supposed to be leaving America. (Applause.) Yet, when you look at the border, there are three different federal agencies dealing with the border: there is Customs and INS and Border Patrol. And sometimes they work together and sometimes they don't -- they don't. They've got different work rules. They've got different customs. Sometimes they have different strategies. And that's not right.
So I asked Congress to give me the flexibility necessary to be able to deal with the true threats of the 21st century by being able to move the right people to the right place at the right time, so we can better assure America we're doing everything possible. The House responded, but the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people. I will not accept a Department of Homeland Security that does not allow this President, and future Presidents, to better keep the American people secure. (Applause.)
And people are working hard in Washington to get it right in Washington, both Republicans and Democrats. See, this isn't a partisan issue. This is an American issue. This is an issue which is vital to our future. It'll help us determine how secure we'll be.
Senator Gramm, a Republican, Senator Miller, a Democrat, are working hard to bring people together. And the Senate must listen to them. It's a good bill. It's a bill I can accept. It's a bill that will make America more secure. And anything less than that is a bill which I will not accept, it's a bill which I will not saddle this administration and future administrations with allowing the United States Senate to micro-manage the process. The enemy is too quick for that. We must be flexible, we must be strong, we must be ready to take the enemy on anywhere he decides to hit us, whether it's America or anywhere else in the globe. (Applause.)
But the best way to secure our homeland, the only sure way to make sure our children are free and our children's children are free, is to hunt the killers down, wherever they hide, is to hunt them down, one by one, and bring them to justice. (Applause.)
As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter how long it takes. See, we're talking about our freedom and our future. There's no cave deep enough, as far as I'm concerned; and there's no cave deep enough, as far as the United States military is concerned, either. I want you all to know, if you wear the uniform of our great country, I'm proud of you. I've got confidence in you. I believe that you can handle any mission. (Applause.)
No, it's a different kind of war than our nation has seen in the past. One thing that's different is oceans no longer keep us safe. The second thing is, in the old days, you could measure progress by looking at how many tanks the enemy had one day, and how many he had the next day, whether or not his airplanes were flying or whether or not his ships were floating on the seas. It's a different kind of war. And America has begun to adjust its thinking about this kind of war.
See, this is the kind of war where the leaders of the enemy hide. They go into big cities -- or as I mentioned, caves -- and they send youngsters to their suicidal death. That's the kind of war we're having. It's not measured in equipment destroyed, it's going to be measured in people brought to justice. And we're making progress. I had made it clear to the world that either you're with us or you're with the enemy, and that doctrine still stands. (Applause.) And as a result of the hard work by our United States military and the militaries and law enforcement officers of other countries, we've arrested or brought to justice a couple thousand or more. Slowly but surely, we're finding them where we think they can hide.
We brought one of them in the other day. He thought he was going to be the 20th hijacker, or at least he was bragging that way. I don't know if he's bragging now. But, see, he thought he was immune, he thought he was invisible, he thought he could hide from the long arm of justice. And like many -- about the like number haven't been so lucky as the 20th hijacker. They met their fate.
We're getting them on the run, and we're keeping them on the run. They're going to be -- as part of our doctrine, we're going to make sure that there's no place for them to alight, no place for them to hide. These are haters, and they're killers. And we owe it to the American people and we owe it to our friends and allies to pursue them, no matter where they try to hide.
And that's why I asked the Congress for the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President. I did so because I firmly believe that any time we commit our troops into harm's way, you deserve the best pay, the best training and the best possible equipment. (Applause.) I also asked for a large increase because I wanted to send a clear signal to the rest of the world that we're in this for the long haul; that there is no calendar on my desk that says, by such and such a day we're going to quit, that by such and such a day we will all have grown weary, we're too tired, and therefore we're coming home.
That's not the way we think in America. See, we understand obligation and responsibility. We have a responsibility to our children to fight for freedom. We have a responsibility to our citizens to defend the homeland. And that only means -- not only means dealing with real, immediate threats, it also means anticipating threats before they occur, before things happen. It means we've got to look out into the future and understand the new world in which we live and deal with threats before it's too late.
And that's why I went into the United Nations the other day. And I said to the United Nations, we have a true threat that faces America; a threat that faces the world; and a threat which diminishes your capacity. And I'm talking about Iraq. That country has got a leader which has attacked two nations in the neighborhood; a leader who has killed thousands of people; a leader who is brutal -- see, remember, we believe every life matters and every life is precious -- s leader, if there is dissent, will kill the dissenter; a leader who told the United Nations and the world he would not develop weapons of mass destruction, and for 11 long years has stiffed the world.
He looked at the United Nations and said this is a paper tiger, their resolutions mean nothing. For 11 years he has deceived and denied. For 11 years he's claimed he has had no weapons and, yet, we know he has.
So I went to the United Nations and said, either you can become the League of Nations, either you can become an organization which is nothing but a debating society -- or you can be an organization which is robust enough and strong enough to help keep the peace; your choice.
But I also told them that if they would not act, if they would not deal with this true threat we face in America, if they would not recognize that America is no longer protected by oceans and that this man is the man who would use weapons of mass destruction at the drop of a hat, a man who would be willing to team up with terrorist organizations with weapons of mass destruction to threaten America and our allies, if they wouldn't act, the United States will -- we will not allow the world's worst leaders to threaten us with the world's worst weapons. (Applause.)
I want to see strong resolutions coming out of that U.N.; a resolution which says the old ways of deceit are gone; a resolution which will hold this man to account; a resolution which will allow freedom-loving countries to disarm Saddam Hussein before he threatens his neighborhood, before he threatens freedom, before he threatens America and before he threatens civilization. We owe it to our children and we owe it to our grandchildren to keep this nation strong and free. (Applause.)
And as we work to make America a stronger place and a safer place, we always must remember that we've got to work to make America a better place, too -- a better place. And that starts with making sure every single child in America gets a great education. (Applause.) Make sure that every child -- make sure that we focus on each child, every child. It says we expect and believe our children can learn to read and write and add and subtract. As a society, we will challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations.
We believe every child can learn, every child matters, and therefore we expect to be told whether or not the children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. And if we find they're not, if we find there are certain children who aren't learning and the systems are just shuffling through as if they don't matter, we must challenge the status quo. Failure is unacceptable in America. Every child matters, and no child should be left behind in this great country. (Applause.)
A better America, a better America is one which makes sure that our health care systems are responsive to the patient and make sure our health care systems, particularly for the elderly, are modern. We need prescription drug benefits for elderly Americans. The Medicare system must be reformed, must be made to work so that we have a better tomorrow for all citizens in this country. (Applause.)
A better America is one that understands as we're helping people go from dependency to freedom, from welfare, we must help them find work. A better America understands that when people work, there is dignity in their lives. A better America is America which understands the power of our faith-based institutions in our country. It's in our churches and synagogues and mosques that we find universal love and universal compassion. (Applause.)
You know what's really interesting about what's taking place in America is this: the enemy hit us, but out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good, because of the nature of our soul, the nature of our being. On the one hand, I believe we can achieve peace. Oh, I know the kids hear all the war rhetoric and tough talk, and that's necessary to send a message to friend and foe alike that we're plenty tough, if you rouse this country, and we're not going to relent.
But we're not going to relent because my desire is to achieve peace. I want there to be a peaceful world. I want children all across our globe to grow up in a peaceful society. Oh, I know the hurdles are going to be high to achieving that peace. There's going to be some tough decisions to make, some tough action for some to take. But it's all aimed at making America safe and secure and peaceful, but other places around the world, too. I believe this -- I believe that if our country -- and it will -- remains strong and tough and we fight terror wherever terror exists, that we can achieve peace. We can achieve peace in the Middle East, we can achieve peace in South Asia. We can achieve peace.
No, out of the evil done to America can come a peaceful world. And at home, out of the evil done to our country can come some incredible good, as well. We've got to understand, in America there are pockets of despair and hopelessness, places where people hurt because they're not sure if America is meant for them, places where people are addicted. And government can help eradicate these pockets by handing out money. But what government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That's done when neighbor loves neighbor. That's done when this country hears the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.
No, out of the evil done to America is coming some incredible good, because we've got citizens all across this land -- whether they be a part of our faith-based institutions or charitable institutions -- citizens all across this land who have heard the call that if you want to fight evil, do some good. If you want to resist the evil done to America, love your neighbor; mentor a child; put your arm around an elderly citizen who is shut-in, and say, I love you; start a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop; go to your Boys and Girls Clubs; help somebody in need.
No, this country, this country has heard the call. This country is a country full of such incredibly decent and warm-hearted and compassionate citizens that there's people all across New Jersey and all across America who without one government act, without government law are in fact trying to make the communities in which they live a more responsive and compassionate and loving place.
Today I met Bob and Chris Morgan, USA Freedom Corps greeters, who coordinate blood drives right here in New Jersey for the American Red Cross. Nobody told them they had to do that. There wasn't a law that said, you will be a part of collecting blood. They decided to do it because they want to make America more able to address emergency and help people in need. Whether it's teaching a child to read, whether it's delivering food to the hungry or helping those who need a -- housing, you can make a huge difference in the lives of our fellow Americans.
See, societies change one heart, one conscience, one soul at a time. Everybody has worth and everybody matters. No, out of the evil done to America is going to come a compassionate society. (Applause.) Now this great country will show the world what we're made out of. This great country, by responding to the challenges we face will leave behind a legacy of sacrifice, a legacy of compassion, a legacy of peace, a legacy of decency for future generations of people fortunate enough to be called an American.
There's no question in my mind -- I hope you can tell, I'm an optimistic fellow about our future. I believe we can overcome any difficulty that's put in our path. I believe we can cross any hurdle, climb any mountain, because this is the greatest nation on the face of the earth, full of the most decent, hardworking, honorable citizens.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America. Thank you, all. (Applause.)
END 10:49 A.M. EDT