|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 4, 2003
Vice President's Remarks at Reception
The Grand America Hotel
Salt Lake City, Utah
12:31 P.M. MDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, very much. Thank you. Thank you, Lynne.
I'm delighted to be back in Utah, back in Salt Lake this afternoon, and have an opportunity to spend some time with all of you. It's always a pleasure when I get to travel with Lynne. She can't come with me all the time. She's got other responsibilities, as well, too. But I'm always delighted to have her come along.
And some of you've heard me tell the story before about the fact that we have a Republican marriage, that if it hadn't been for the victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, that our lives would have turned out very differently, that in 1952, I was a youngster living in Nebraska with my parents. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Dwight Eisenhower got elected. And once elected, he reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming. And that's where I met Lynne. And we grew up together, went to high school together, and we'll celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary next week. (Applause.)
But I explained that to a group of people the other night and pointed out that if hadn't been for that great Republican victory in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) And there's no doubt in mind.
But it's always fun to come back to Utah. Utah holds a special place in our hearts, in part because you were so important in terms of the last election in 2000. Of course, every state was pretty important in the last election, when we win by one electoral vote. But Utah stood out. Utah delivered the largest margin for our ticket, 41 percent, of any state in the nation. And we hope you'll do even better next time around, 2004. (Applause.)
It's a pleasure to come to Utah with your outstanding congressional delegation -- men like Chris Cannon and Rob Bishop in the House. And I have the privilege as Vice President, every Tuesday, of joining your senators -- Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch -- for lunch in the Senate.
Many people don't realize that I'm a creature of the Senate, that my only official job is as the President of the Senate, the presiding officer of the United States Senate. When they wrote the Constitution and created the vice presidency, they got down to the end of the convention and realized they hadn't given the Vice President anything to do. So they made him the presiding officer of the Senate and gave him floor privileges, even. At the time he was allowed to get up on the floor and go down into the well and take part in the debate of the day. And my predecessor, the very first Vice President, John Adams, actually did that a few times, and then they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.)
So I've never gotten to speak in the Senate. But I'm allowed to sit in the chair and rap the gavel and preside whenever I want. I'm actually paid by the Senate. So it's -- the senators are great. They've been very tolerant of me. They allow me to come have lunch with the Senate Republicans every Tuesday. But from that position I have the great advantage of watching your senators work. And no state has finer representation in the United States Senate today than you have in Senators Bennett and Hatch. They do a superb job for all of us. (Applause.)
I've gotten to know Mike Leavitt over the years. He's, I believe, the senior governor in the nation today in terms of length of service. He's done a great job for Utah. He's a very close friend of President Bush's from their time together as governors. And it's always good to come back and spend some time with Governor Leavitt, as well, too.
I want to thank everybody who helped organize this event today. I appreciate very much that you're all here, that you've been willing to sign on early this year for the Bush-Cheney campaign. We're all here for the same purpose, although I'm sure you probably paid a little more to get in than I did. But above all, I want to thank you for your commitment to the reelection of a man that most certainly deserves our support, and that's our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
Each and every one of you here today is crucial to the 2004 campaign. If you had any doubts about the importance of individual effort, think back to November and December of the year 2000. Every dollar we raised was important, just as was every hour that every person worked. It was a close race. The stakes were extraordinarily high. And I can't tell you, given the subsequent events, how often people have come up to me and said, we are so grateful that George W. Bush is in the White House.
I think some pundits expected that given the closeness of that election, that the administration, once in office, might trim its sails, that we would move forward only with a very timid agenda, that we would cut back on our hopes and aspirations for what we could accomplish. But from the very beginning, the President made it abundantly clear that he had gone to Washington in order to get something done, and that we were going to do absolutely everything we could to move full speed ahead on all of our priorities. And that's exactly what he did.
That very first year, we achieved two of our biggest goals: tax relief and education reform. On the tax front, we lowered income tax rates, reduced the marriage penalty, and eliminated the death tax.
The President also moved aggressively and successfully to build a bipartisan coalition to reform our educational system. That was a milestone reform, ushering in an era of high standards and accountability. And it was truly a turning point that we hope will set American education on the path towards excellence.
And then came that attack on our country, on September 11th -- that's a day none of us will ever forget. Suddenly, we understood how vulnerable we were as a nation, how it was possible for terrorists to take advantage of our open borders and our open society and to use them against us. On that dreadful day we saw that it was relatively easy for a handful of terrorists to launch an attack upon us and kill some 3,000 of our fellow Americans in a matter of hours in New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.
We also began to understand, particularly after we went through the caves and the tunnels and the training camps in Afghanistan, that our enemies are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. And we have every reason to believe that if they succeed, they will use them against us, launching an attack far more deadly than anything we've ever experienced.
We began to work very aggressively here at home to strengthen our defenses. We created the Department of Homeland Security, the most massive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s, when the Department of Defense was created. We focused our intelligence efforts on terrorism and established a worldwide coalition of countries to help in the fight. We've gone after the financial networks and the logistical support of the terrorists, and we've gone after the terrorists themselves, as well as those who sponsor terrorists and who provide sanctuary and safe harbor for terrorists. They're every bit as guilty as the terrorists for the acts that are committed.
I'll never forget that Friday after the attack, when the President went to Ground Zero in New York. He stood up on a pile of rubble, with a bullhorn in his hand. And when the men in the hard hats who were working there said they couldn't hear him, he responded, "Well, I can hear you. And the rest of the world hears you. And soon the people who knocked down these buildings will soon hear from all of us."
And he's been a man of his word. This is a new posture for our nation, one that recognizes that defense is not enough. The problem with terrorist organizations is that even if you build defenses that are 99 percent successful, that one 1 percent that gets through can kill you. And the kind of strategy that we used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where we put at risk the things they valued in order to deter them from ever launching an attack against the United States, simply does not work where terrorists are concerned. They have nothing that they put value on of sufficient strength that we can put at risk to keep them from launching an attack against the United States. So no treaty or arms control agreement or strategy of deterrence will end this conflict. We need to have a strategy that takes us on offense, that lets us go after those who pose threats to the United States, to our friends, and our allies.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime brutalized an entire population. They harbored al Qaeda. And that regime is no more. And in Iraq, where a brutal dictator threatened the peace and gave support to terrorists, the United States launched one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted. And that regime is no more.
In the battles of Iraq and of Afghanistan, and in other fronts in the war on terror, we've depended on the skill and the courage of our men and women in uniform. They've faced enemies who have no regard for the rules of warfare or morality. They've carried out urgent and difficult missions in some of the most remote and hostile areas of the world. And they've done all of this with the bravery and the honor we expect of them. As a former Secretary of Defense -- and I know you join me in this sentiment -- I have never been more proud of our men and women in uniform than I am today. (Applause.)
The war on terrorism continues. And it will continue, perhaps as long as we're in office, possibly even longer. We will stay in Afghanistan and in Iraq to make absolutely certain the job is done before we move on. We will stay until we've wrapped up all of the weapons of mass destruction and eliminated all of those who are enemies of the United States. And around the world, the war on terrorism will go on until those who plot against the American people are confronted and defeated.
But that is only part of our responsibility toward other nations. There is great work in this world that only Americans can do. In the Middle East, we are encouraging free markets, democracy, and tolerance -- because these are ideas and aspirations that overcome violence and turn societies to the pursuit of peace.
In Africa, the President's AIDS initiative will bring the healing power of medicine to millions of men, women, and children who now live in desperate need. Under President Bush, America acts in the world according to both our fundamental interests and our founding ideals. We believe in the dignity of life and in the right of all people to live in freedom. And all who strive and sacrifice for the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.
Here at home, we'll continue with an active and aggressive domestic schedule and agenda. After many years of inaction, we are making progress on bringing Medicare into the 21st century. Last January, President Bush submitted a framework for Medicare reform to the Congress that would give seniors access to prescription drug coverage and offer them better choices under Medicare. Both houses have taken historic action. And now Congress must complete its work and send a bill to the President that provides seniors with better health coverage and relief from rising costs for prescription drugs.
We've now also had action both in the House and Senate on an energy bill. And that's in conference. And we hope soon to get an energy bill to the President's desk, that, for the first time in many years, will make it possible for us to make progress in reducing America's dependence on foreign sources of energy.
And we need to get more judges confirmed. We have far too many vacancies that are held up in the federal bench -- in spite of the great leadership of Orrin Hatch and the men on the Judiciary Committee -- with the threat of filibuster, as our friends on the other side of the aisle refuse to allow nominees of great merit to have even a vote on the floor of the Senate because they disagree with their philosophy, not because there's any flaw or any problem with any of these nominees. It's time that each and every nominee by the President were given a fair up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate if they're going to serve on the bench. (Applause.)
We've made major progress on the economy. When we took office America was sliding into recession. Too many people who wanted to work couldn't find a job. To help create jobs and to get the economy moving again, we've cut taxes each of the last three years that we've been in office. We've delivered the largest tax relief since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
We've achieved a great deal in these two-and-a-half years, but there's much left to do in Washington, and around the world, where this nation has so many serious responsibilities and challenges. The campaign season will come in due course. And when it does, we'll run hard and take nothing for granted. President Bush and I know that the key to victory is to do the work that we've been given and do it well. We intend to make good use of every day that we have the honor of serving the American people.
Long before I took this job, I had the good fortune to work with other Presidents that I greatly admire. As a White House staffer in the aftermath of Watergate, I watched Gerald Ford restore confidence in government by the sheer decency and force of his character. As a congressman during the decisive years of the Cold War, I saw the conviction and the moral courage of Ronald Reagan. And as a member of the Cabinet and Secretary of Defense, under former President Bush, I saw the ideal of public service in its purest form and came to know a leader of true honor and integrity.
Along the way I learned a few things about the presidency and the kind of person it takes to do that job well. It takes the finest qualities of character: conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, compassion, courage in times of testing for the nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the White House today. (Applause.)
I'm honored to work with our President, George W. Bush. And he and I are both honored by your confidence in us and by your commitment to this great and good country of ours, the United States of America. Thank you very much.
END 12:48 P.M. MDT