For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
September 5, 2003
Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Senator Lisa Murkowski
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you all very much for coming out today. And it's great to be back in Dallas. Lynne and I think of Dallas often. We lived here for five wonderful years and have a lot of fond memories of so many friends here. I'm glad to see a lot of you came out today. I see Earle Nye (ph) and Bobby Allison, Caroline Hunt (ph), Charles Simmons (ph), Sid Bass (ph) and company -- a lot of folks who've been big friends and supporters over the years and who've done yeoman work on behalf of those things that I think all of us believe in and share, whether we're Texans or from Wyoming or Alaska.
I think the most important thing I can say about today, Lisa mentioned that I served in the House of Representatives from Wyoming, which many of you know. And of course, Wyoming had a small delegation. We only had one seat in the House of Representatives. (Laughter.) And it was a small delegation, but it was quality. (Laughter.)
But I appreciate very much being here today and having the opportunity to make certain that Lisa Murkowski gets elected to the United States Senate come next November. She's done a tremendous job in the months that she's been in the Senate now. I've had the opportunity to work with her often. A lot of people don't realize that as Vice President I've got very close ties to the Senate. I'm actually paid by the Senate. That's where my paycheck comes from. About half my staff is funded by the Senate.
When they wrote the Constitution and created the post of Vice President, at the end of the convention, they decided they hadn't given him anything to do, so they made him the presiding officer of the Senate. And that's my only official duty and responsibility. Actually, there's no formal job downtown with the executive branch. That's all sort of by arrangement with the President. My only real job is to preside over the Senate.
And my predecessor, John Adams, who was our first Vice President, he was also given floor privileges. He was allowed to go down into the well of the Senate, participate in the debate, engage in the arguments and discussions of the day. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) And they've never been restored.
But I do get to vote on tie votes. And I've been there now in the Senate when it was 50-50, and my vote made the difference between whether or not we Republicans controlled the majority leadership and therefore controlled the flow of legislation on the floor of the Senate, controlled all of the committees -- the chairmen of all the committees. I was there then for that brief 18-month period of time when it switched and it went 51-49 the other way, and I served in the minority. And that was no fun. And then I've been privileged since last November, when we switched back and we took control, and we're back now 51-49. I think of it as the right way.
But as Lisa said, it has enormous consequences. So all of us, all across the country have a vital interest in what that line-up is like in the Senate. And this race is as important as any of them anyplace in the country next year in terms of ensuring that the President and I have the kind of support we need in the United States Senate so that we can get done the job that I think all of you want us to do for you.
I'm delighted, of course, to be here today with Kay. Kay and I've known each other since Ford administration days. And she and John Cornyn do a superb job for Texas, really, and for all Americans in the Senate. And we've been associated many times over the years and campaigned together and worked together prior administrations and now in the Senate. And I'm delighted to have the chance to share with her, too.
The President and I, as I say, we're absolutely committed to the proposition that it's vital that Lisa be reelected to the United States Senate next year. She embodies all those Alaskan values that Kay mentioned, and Texas values. She's a third-generation Alaskan and the first senator from Alaska who was actually born there. In December of 2002, since her appointment, she's worked closely with the President and with me and all of the others in the administration on behalf of the state she loves, the state of Alaska, as well as the nation.
Before joining the Senate, Lisa served three terms in the Alaska House of Representatives, where she was the majority leader. And as Alaska's junior senator, she's focused on those issues that are most vital to Alaskans. During her tenure in Washington, she's worked to create new jobs in our economy, determined to ensure that America keeps its commitments to our seniors, to our veterans, and to our children. And she understands how important it is to strengthen our energy supplies and our infrastructure and improve our transportation infrastructure, as well. Senator Murkowski knows that we can make sure that America's industries are good environmental stewards without bogging them down with unnecessary government regulations. I look forward to working with her in the Senate for a good many years to come.
It's been about three years now since the President asked me to become his running mate. When he asked me to sign on, he said it wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) He got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming. And I remind him from time to time, though, that those three Wyoming electoral votes turned out to be pretty darned important. (Laughter.)
I think some of the pundits expected that given the closeness of that election, that we would trim our sails, that we'd move forward with a timid agenda. We were told, obviously, with a five-week recount, there's no way you can go forward with as aggressive a program as you've run on. And of course, that's the last thing you wanted to suggest to George Bush. He said we were going to do absolutely everything we could to move ahead on our priorities. And that's exactly what we've done.
That first year, we achieved two of our biggest goals with major tax relief and fundamental reform of the education system. We lowered tax rates, and significantly reduced the marriage penalty, eliminated the death tax, and also moved aggressively to build a bipartisan coalition that supported fundamental reform of our education system.
But I think the defining moment for the President and for the administration, of course, was the sudden attack that occurred on September 11th, just two years ago next week. I think that's a day that none of us will ever forget. Suddenly, we understood how vulnerable we all are as a nation; how it was possible for terrorists to take advantage of our open borders and open society and use them against us. It was, without question, a real watershed in American history.
We discovered that it was relatively easy for a small number of terrorists to launch an attack and kill almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens in a couple of hours in New York, and Washington, and Pennsylvania. We also began to understand -- particularly from the evidence that we subsequently uncovered in the caves and tunnels and 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, launching attacks far more deadly than anything we've ever experienced to date.
To counter these threats we've been forced to think anew about national security strategy, about how to defend the nation. We've come to realize that if we are to protect the American people against determined enemies, we cannot rely on old Cold War strategies.
The kind of strategy that we used vis-a-vis the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where we held at risk the things that they valued in order to deter them from ever launching an attack against the United States, simply doesn't work where terrorists are concerned. There's nothing they value highly enough 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 needed a new strategy, and that's precisely what we've developed. We've begun working aggressively to toughen our defenses here at home. We created the Department of Homeland Security, the most impressive and massive reorganization of the federal government since the Department of Defense was created in the 1940s.
But good defense is not enough. The problem with terrorist organizations is that even if you build defenses that are 99 percent successful, the 1 percent that gets through can kill you. We need a strategy that puts us on offense, that lets us go after those who pose a threat to the United States, or to our friends and allies, a strategy that allows us to destroy the terrorists before they can launch further attacks against the United States. We cannot wait to act until after another day like 9/11 or a day far worse.
And a good part of our new strategy is based upon the President's determination to change the way we think about states that sponsor terror. Prior to 9/11, all too many nations, including our own, oftentimes drew a distinction between terrorist groups and the states that provided these groups with support. They were unwilling to hold terror-sponsoring states accountable for their actions. After 9/11, President Bush declared that the distinction between the terrorists and their sponsors could no longer be permitted to stand. The Bush doctrine makes clear that those states which support terrorists or provide sanctuary or safe harbor for terrorists are just as guilty as the terrorists themselves in the acts they commit. So in addition to going after the terrorists, in addition to dismantling their financial networks, and their logistical support, we are also taking on states that sponsor terror.
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. When the men in the hard hats who were working nearby said they couldn't hear him, he responded, "Well, I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will soon hear from all of us."
He's been a man of his word. In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime harbored al Qaeda and brutalized an entire population. That regime is no more. 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 in history. And that regime is no more.
Some have questioned our strategy. They suggest that perhaps it's wrong for the United States to strike before the enemy strikes us. But I would argue that on 9/11, we were struck. We lost more people that day than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And I ask you, if we'd been able with preemptive military action to defeat that attack before it ever occurred, would we? And the answer has to be, you bet we would have. And make no mistake, this President is acting to protect us against further attacks, even when that means moving aggressively against would-be attackers.
So the war on terror continues. It is a war being fought all around the globe. Just look at the attacks that have already occurred in New York, and Washington, and Pennsylvania, in Bali, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca, Jakarta, Jerusalem, Bombay and Baghdad. And the war will continue, perhaps as long as we're in office, perhaps even longer. In this global war on terror, U.S. forces are heavily engaged when and where they need to be -- especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will stay in Afghanistan and Iraq to make absolutely certain that job is done before we move on. We will stay until we've wrapped up all the weapons of mass destruction and eliminated all of those who are enemies of peace and freedom.
This war is not without sacrifice. More than 300 of our troops have already given their lives during the war on terror. And there will surely be more casualties. But remember, we lost some 3,000 Americans here at home on 9/11. And we're going to be in much better shape if we're aggressively going after the terrorists overseas, and after the nations and the mechanisms that support them, than if we lay back and wait for them to strike us once again here at home.
In the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan, and in other fronts in 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 remote and hostile areas of the world. And they've done all of this with the bravery and the honor we've come to expect of them. As a former Secretary of Defense, I've never been prouder of our men and women in uniform than I am today. (Applause.)
Waging and winning the war on terror is only part of our responsibility. There is great work in this world that only America can do. In the Middle East, we're encouraging free markets, democracy and tolerance because these are the ideas and the aspirations that overcome violence and turn societies to the pursuit of peace.
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 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.
Here at home, we will continue to pursue an active and aggressive agenda. 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 growing again, we've cut taxes each of the three years that we've been in office. In the bill we passed this year, not only did we cut income tax rates, we also significantly cut taxes on dividends and capital gains, fundamental reforms in the tax system that will help our economy to grow in the long-term. We've delivered the largest tax relief since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
Some in Congress want to repeal the tax relief, raise taxes on the American people. But raising taxes will hurt the recovery and encourage more wasteful spending. The best way to reduce the deficit is to encourage growth and generate more revenues for the federal government. Now is exactly the wrong time to be increasing taxes. (Applause.)
And as the Senators mentioned, we've also had action both in the House and the Senate on an energy bill. And as the people in New York, Ohio and Michigan experienced firsthand during the recent blackouts, our nation's electricity grid needs repair, upgrade, and expansion. We're hopeful Congress will work swiftly to move the bills through the conference committee and produce a plan that will improve our nation's energy infrastructure, conservation, develop cleaner technologies to help us explore for more energy in an environmentally friendly way, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, a must for the sake of our national security.
After many years and inaction, we're making progress on bringing Medicare into the 21st century. Last January, President Bush submitted a framework for Medicare reform to Congress that would give seniors access to prescription drug coverage and offer better choices under Medicare. Both houses have taken historic action, and the President and I appreciate Lisa Murkowski's support for including prescription drug coverage as part of a modernized Medicare system. Now, Congress must complete its work and send a bill to the President that provides seniors with better health coverage and relief from the rising cost of prescription drugs. We're also looking forward to working with Congress to help small businesses provide affordable health care for their employees.
We also need to fix the judicial confirmation process. (Applause.) Right now, far too many nominations to the federal bench are held up by the threat of filibuster. Our friends on the other side of the aisle refuse to allow nominees of great merit to even have a vote on the Senate floor. Well qualified nominees like Priscilla Owen, distinguished justice of the Texas Supreme Court, who received the highest rating from the American Bar Association, have waited nearly two-and-a-half years without ever being allowed to have an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. This is unfair, not only to the nominees and their families, but also to Americans who are forced to deal with courts handling a growing caseload without the judges they need. It's time 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. (Applause.)
I believe 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. We need to enact Project BioShield to help protect the American people against the threat of biological weapons. We need legal reform because the strength of our economy is undermined by frivolous lawsuits. And while there are encouraging signs the economy is picking up steam, the President and I will not rest until everyone who wants a job can find a job. (Applause.)
The campaign season will come in due course. And when it does, we will run hard and take nothing for granted. President Bush and I know the key to victory is to do the work we've been given and to do it well. We intend to make good use of every day 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 I greatly admire. As White House Chief of Staff in the aftermath of Watergate, I saw 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 under former President Bush, I saw the ideal of public service in its purest form and came to know a leader of honor and integrity.
Along the way, I learned a few things about the presidency and the kind of person it takes to do it well. It takes the finest qualities of character, conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, compassion and courage in the 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 George W. Bush as President. And he and I are both honored by your confidence in us and by your support for outstanding leaders like Lisa Murkowski and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who serve Alaska and Texas and America so well, and by your commitment to this great and good country of ours, the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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