|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 20, 2003
VP's Remarks to the Independent Petroleum Association of America
The Mizner Center Grand Ballroom, Boca Raton Resort and Club
Boca Raton, Florida
12:09 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Diemer. I think -- I had forgotten half of what you just laid on the folks. (Laughter.) But, no, it's true when the President asked me to be his running mate the first time, I said, no, I don't think I want to get back into politics. I think I'm happy right where I'm at here at Halliburton -- nice steady employment in the oil business. (Laughter.)
And then he came back and he said, well, then, will you help me with the search? And I said, certainly, I'd be happy to do that. And we got down to the end of the search, he said he wanted my name on the list. And I can remember going home to my wife, Lynne, saying -- after he'd talked me into taking the job, saying, honey, sell the house, I quit my job, we're going back into politics. (Laughter.) But she took it well, and Diemer is right. The President said he wasn't worried about carrying Wyoming. He got 70 percent there. But those three electoral votes, along with 500 votes here in Florida, turned out to be pretty important.
So I'm delighted to be here today, to stand before you as your Vice President and see the industry is doing well, see a lot of old friends and customers in the audience here today, as well, too. And I want to thank all of you for your continued contribution to the nation's energy security. And I bring you all greetings from our president, President George W. Bush today. He knows I'm here. He asked me to be sure and remind you -- especially the Texans in the crowd that he's -- you're very much in his mind these days as he wrestles with the energy problems that we face.
I thought what I would do today is spend a little bit of time sort of reviewing the last two and a half years. I don't mean to get political or partisan today. I don't want to do that. I have noticed that the competition is out there fairly aggressively already this year. And the election campaign is going to be a long one, I guess, since the election is some 16 months away. But all what I'd do is take a little bit of time and talk about it, try to put some perspective on what the last two and a half years have been like because it has been a remarkable time.
In part, many of our biggest challenges were absolutely unpredictable or unknowable at the time that we were sworn in. When the President came into office, of course, with just this 500-vote margin here in Florida being the difference between victory and defeat, a lot of the pundits predicted that because of that very small margin, that the President would have to trim his sails, that he'd have to pull back. He obviously couldn't be aggressive in terms of having a really robust agenda, and he'd have to lower his sights, so to speak, in terms of the issues he was going to pursue.
The people who made that prediction clearly didn't know George Bush. After two and a half years in office, I think he's compiled a truly remarkable record -- one that exceeds that of some of our Presidents after eight years in office. And I wanted to talk a little bit about that today and go over a few of those items.
Let me begin, first of all, with foreign policy. You know under the leadership of the President we've been challenged as never before with respect to the war on terror. It's been 21 months now since the devastating events of 9/11. We've waged two of the most successful campaigns in the nation's history in terms of military operations -- freed two nations and liberated some 50 million people from the yoke of oppression.
In Afghanistan, we removed the repressive Taliban regime from power, liberated the Afghan people from al Qaeda's murderous grip. In Iraq, a regime that supported terror, that brutalized its own people, threatened its neighbors and the peace of the world no longer exists. And our forces have just in the last few days captured Saddam's closest advisor, his top aide and personal private secretary. This man was number four on our most wanted list of Iraqi leaders, right behind Saddam Hussein and his two sons.
Around the world, nearly half of the al Qaeda leadership has been captured or killed during that period of time. And those that are still at large are being hunted down methodically and relentlessly. You saw in the press this morning that yesterday we got a guilty plea from a man who was here in the United States functioning as a scout for al Qaeda, if you will -- plead guilty and will be sentenced probably to an estimated 15 or 20 years, shortly. So the fact that this is a worldwide organization I think goes without saying. But we've also been very successful in wrapping up many elements of it.
One of the things we know is that the enemy is determined to kill as many Americans as possible, and that they are still seeking to acquire ever deadlier weapons, including chemical, biological, and, if possible, nuclear weapons, to use against us. With an enemy like that, no peace treaty is possible. There's no negotiation that can put an end to the threat, no policy of containment or deterrence that will prove effective. The only way to deal with that kind of threat is to destroy it -- completely and utterly. And the President is determined to do just that.
The President's also ushered in a new era in foreign policy by rejecting the artificial distinctions that used to exist before 9/11 between terrorist groups and those states that support terror organizations. The Bush doctrine makes clear that states that support terrorists, that provide sanctuary to terrorists will be deemed just as guilty as the terrorists themselves of the acts they commit. If there is anyone in the world today that doubts the seriousness of the Bush doctrine, I'd urge that person to consider the fate of the Taliban in Afghanistan, or Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
The President has also made clear that in a post-Cold War we need to operate in a way that allows the nation to adapt new strategies to meet threats from other quarters, as well. The administration recognized that instead of adding to our security, that the old 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty hindered our ability to develop and deploy defenses against missile strikes from rogue states.
That's why in December of 2001, the President gave formal notice to Russia that we were going to withdraw from that treaty. Many of the pundits confidently predicted that with that decision, we would trigger a Russian-American arms race. But once again, they were proven wrong. Far from embarking on an arms race, in May of 2002, President Bush and Russia's President Putin signed the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions. Under that treaty, the U.S. and Russia will slash our current levels of strategic arms by two-thirds by 2012. Both the U.S. and Russia have declared their intention to cooperate on joint projects in the area of missile defense.
The President has also acted boldly to transform NATO. The 2003 NATO Summit in Prague just last fall made the most significant changes in reforms in NATO since its founding, half a century ago. The U.S. and our allies have agreed to extend NATO eastward and southward, and to follow the confirmation of -- by following confirmation by the current members to add seven former communist countries to NATO: Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, as well as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, former republics of the old Soviet Union. They'll all join NATO next May. In addition to increasing NATO's military strength, these new NATO members will bring greater clarity to NATO's purposes and help our most important alliance deal with the unprecedented dangers posed by rogue states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist networks of global reach.
The President has also asked for and received the largest increase in defense spending since the Reagan years, an increase combined with one of the most significant transformations of our military forces in decades. To defend our country from terrorists and terrorist states, our armed forces will continue to gain in speed, agility, precision, and every advantage that we need in order to continue to dominate on the field of battle.
The fundamental interests of this nation require that we confront and defeat aggressive threats. Yet as President Bush has said, we find our greatest security in the advance of human freedom. We stand for the values that defeat violence and the hope that overcomes hatred.
In the Middle East, the President has been the first to endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state, and our Mideast policy rests on a vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and prosperity, can provide security for the region. Today, Secretary of State Powell is in the region meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as part of a long-term effort to turn that vision into reality.
The President is acting with equal boldness and vision on the domestic front. Since the attacks of 9/11, every level of our government has taken important steps to protect America against terrorism. We've put more marshals on airplanes, stepped up security at ports and border crossings, begun to aggressively address the dangerous threat of biological warfare, including smallpox, anthrax, and plague, increased funding for research to develop and procure ever more effective medical treatment. And we've deployed environmental detectors to identify weapons of mass destruction, and increased our public health response capabilities.
We've also carried out the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s when President Truman united our military forces under the single Department of Defense. Today, the Department of Homeland Security has the overriding mission of protecting our fellow Americans against terrorist threats.
The government's first obligation must always be to protect the security of the nation. But we also have a responsibility to ensure the economic security of our nation. And we are moving forward to meet that responsibility, as well. Shortly after we came into office, the President won passage of one of the largest tax cuts in American history. To address the economic fallout from 9/11, he signed his second tax cut in early 2002. And last month, I had the privilege of casting the tie-breaking vote to pass the third tax cut in three years, something that not even Ronald Reagan could achieve.
The Jobs and Growth Act we passed and signed into law last month will deliver substantial tax relief to 136 million American taxpayers. It increases the child credit by up to $400 per child -- from $600 to $1,000; it reduces the marriage penalty; lowers the tax rate for stockholders with corporate dividends and capital gains to 15 percent; it accelerates to this year the income tax reductions that had been scheduled to occur later in the decade; increases the amount of equipment investment that small businesses can write off, from $25,000 to $100,000. And if they invest more than $100,000, they receive a 50-percent bonus depreciation, further reducing the cost of investment.
The jobs and growth plan, we believe, is working. I think we're starting to see the signs of increased investor confidence by leaving families and entrepreneurs with more to spend, more to save, and more to invest. We believe we will restore investor confidence, increase economic growth, and create new jobs for millions of Americans.
The Jobs and Growth Act is a major step forward on the economic agenda, but further steps clearly are required. In order to bring down the budget deficit that has resulted from the war, from recession, and from terrorist attacks, we need to hold federal spending to responsible levels. So spending discipline is crucial, as well. Our budget for this year calls for an increase in the discretionary spending that does not exceed 4 percent, roughly the amount that the average American household income will increase this year.
We also need to work to prepare our citizens for the new jobs that the economy will create. The President came to town determined to bring fundamental reforms to education, and we think we've succeeded. With a solid bipartisan majority, we passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which ends the period of low expectations for American education. It sets high standards for our public schools, it demands stronger accountability for results. It increases flexibility and local control and gives parents more options. It gives schools the resources they need to meet these challenges. And today we're spending more money on our schools than at any other time in American history. But we're also requiring results in return. In short, the President is keeping his promise: We will leave no child behind.
We're also honoring America's obligation to our senior citizens. The President has proposed a framework to strengthen and improve Medicare so that it offers more choices and better benefits for seniors. Seniors who want to stay in the current Medicare system should have that option, plus a prescription drug benefit. Seniors who want enhanced benefits, such as more coverage for preventive care and other services, should have that choice, as well. And no so-called reforms must ever be allowed to undermine our system of private medicine in this nation.
The Senate and the House are moving forward on their Medicare legislation. The President is confident the houses will complete action on their respective bills by the Fourth of July recess. The President looks forward to having a bill on his desk that provides our seniors with the prescription drug benefits and choices they need and that they deserve as soon as possible.
The President also wants to fix America's broken medical liability system, so that no doctors are ever forced to leave their communities, as happens all too often, simply because the high cost of medical liability forces them to do so.
He wants to extend the welfare reform law, build on its successes, so that more Americans can find the independence that comes with a steady job. He wants to restore dignity and civility to the judicial confirmation process, by making certain that every person nominated to the federal bench gets a timely up-or-down vote.
And two years ago, President Bush unveiled his national energy policy, the first comprehensive and balanced energy plan in a generation. The President realizes that a reliable and affordable supply of energy is a fundamental condition for our nation's long-term economic growth. If we're to avoid regular price spikes and chronic shortages, we must continue our progress in energy efficiency and conservation and increase energy production right here at home.
Recent concerns about the supply of natural gas highlight the need for a balanced approach. The National Energy Policy contained more than 100 specific recommendations to increase domestic energy, to diversify energy sources, to modernize our conservation efforts and to upgrade our national energy infrastructure. Since issuing the National Energy Policy, we've begun developing and implementing a second wave of policy initiatives, built upon the original recommendations.
We're also supporting the International ITER Partnership to look at long-ranging research in the area, for example, of magnetic fusion, designed to designate the practicality of fusion power by the middle of this century. And right now, we're making major efforts to get Congress to pass an energy bill that will enact the legislative promises of the National Energy Policy.
The House has passed a good bill, one that increases America's energy independence by diversifying our sources of renewable energy, expanding new technology and increasing environmentally sound exploration. The Senate is currently considering energy legislation. And the President hopes that an energy bill that strengthens our economy and reduces our dependence on foreign sources of energy will be on his desk just as quickly as possible.
America faces critical energy needs. And your support for comprehensive energy legislation is much appreciated. We couldn't get it done without you. The President recognizes that independent producers play a crucial role in America's energy security.
Winning the war on terror, overthrowing two of the most brutal regimes on the planet and liberating 50 million people, withdrawing from the ABM treaty to better defend the American people against missile attacks, negotiating massive reductions in Russian and American strategic nuclear weapons, adding new members to NATO, transforming our military, taking unprecedented measures to defend our homeland, cutting taxes across the board, inaugurating a new era in educational reform, strengthening Medicare so that it offers more choices and benefits, including prescription drug coverage for every senior, promoting greater corporate responsibility, developing a comprehensive energy policy for America -- the list of President Bush's achievements is pretty impressive. And don't forget, this President has only been in office two-and-a-half years.
In light of the record, I don't think I'm exaggerating in the least when I say that at this point, this could, indeed, be one of the most consequential presidencies in American history. And I know I'm not exaggerating when I say that in this critical time, I'm deeply honored to stand behind a President who is decisive, who is determined and who has united our nation behind great goals.
For all the challenges we face, the United States of America has never been stronger than we are today. And even better days are ahead of us. Thank you very much.
END 12:29 P.M. EDT