For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
September 22, 2003
Remarks by the Vice President at Bush-Cheney '04 Luncheon
Hartford Hilton Hotel
12:25 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Well, thank you. That's a very nice welcome in Connecticut today. It's good to be back in Hartford. It's good to see so many friends here today, and so many old friends that I've worked with over the years and been involved with politically. But I appreciate very much the willingness of all of you to sign on as early supporters of the Bush-Cheney campaign. It means a great deal to us, and it's important for us to get this done as quickly as possible so that we can focus on the big issues when the debate begins in earnest.
And I also want to thank the Governor. I've had the great pleasure of knowing John Rowland for a long time. He's done a superb job for the country and for the people of Connecticut. And we're honored to have John as our state chairman here, as we go into the campaign this year.
I also want to say how much I have appreciated over the years working with outstanding members of Congress, like Chris Shays and Nancy Johnson.
As John mentioned, I did serve in the House of Representatives. At one point I really thought that's where I was going to finish my career when I got elected to Congress from Wyoming. And Wyoming, you may know, only has one congressman. It was a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.)
But I loved those days in House. And you develop friendships and relationships there and also develop, when you come from a single-member state, the capacity to judge your colleagues, because it's not like being from New York or California where you go out and you've got 30 or 40 colleagues that are there to represent the state. You're there all by yourself, and you've got to go round up supporters on the issues that are vital. So you become a pretty good judge of congressional horseflesh. And you've had some great members from Connecticut over the years. I mentioned John and Chris and Nancy, but also I remember Stu McKinney very well. And I've enjoyed very much my relationship with some great Republicans from Connecticut.
I want to thank you again today, as well, for your commitment to the reelection of a man that I think most certainly deserves reelection, and that's our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
Each and every one of you is absolutely crucial to the 2004 campaign. And if you have any doubts about the importance of individual effort, just think back to October, November, December of 2000, where every single dollar we raised and every hour of volunteer work that was contributed turned out to be absolutely essential in what was one of the closest races in history.
In a very close race with stakes very high -- and I can't tell you, today even, how often people come up to me and say, we're so grateful that George W. Bush is in the White House -- it's been about three years now since the President talked to me about becoming 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 nearly 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming. But from time to time, I like to remind him that those three electoral votes from Wyoming came in pretty handy. (Laughter.)
I think a lot of the pundits expected after that close election that as an administration, we might trim our sails and pursue a timid agenda once we got to Washington. But from the very beginning, the President made it clear that he'd gone to Washington to get something done, and that we were going to do absolutely everything we could to move ahead with our priorities.
That very first year we achieved two of our biggest goals with tax relief and with education reform. On the tax front, we lowered income rates, reduced the marriage penalty and phased out the death tax. The President also moved aggressively and successfully to build a bipartisan coalition to begin reforming our education system. It was a milestone reform, ushering in an era of high standards and accountability -- we believe a turning point in the history of American education.
The defining moment for the President and for all of us in the administration, clearly, was the sudden attack that happened to the United States on 9/11. 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 to launch attacks against us. We saw it was relatively easy for a small number of terrorists to launch an attack, killing some 3,000 of our fellow Americans in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania -- truly a watershed in American history.
We also began to understand, particularly from the evidence that we uncovered in the caves and the tunnels and the training camps in Afghanistan, that our enemies are determined to try to acquire weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological or 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 counter these threats, we've been forced to think anew about national security, about how to defend our country, what kind of strategy we want to pursue. We've come to realize that if we are to protect the American people against determined enemies, we can't rely upon the old Cold War strategies of the past. The kind of strategy that we used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where we held at risk those things they valued in order to deter them from ever launching an attack against the United States, simply will not 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. 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 been implementing.
We've worked aggressively to toughen our defenses here at home. We created the Department of Homeland Security, the largest reorganization of the federal government since the late 1940s, when the Department of Defense was created. 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 still kill you. We need a strategy that takes us on offense, that lets us go after those who pose a threat to the United States, our friends and allies, a strategy that will allow us to destroy the terrorists before they can launch further attacks.
We cannot wait to act until after another day like 9/11, or something far worse. And a good part of our new strategy is based on the President's determination to change the way we think about state sponsors of terror.
Prior to 9/11, too many nations tended to draw a distinction between terrorist groups and the states that provided them with support, safe harbor or sanctuary -- those states that Americans and other nations were often unwilling to hold those terror-sponsoring nations accountable for their actions.
After 9/11, President Bush decided the distinction between the terrorists and the terror-sponsoring states could no longer stand. The Bush doctrine makes clear that those states that support terrorists or provide sanctuary for terrorists are just as guilty as the terrorist themselves of the acts that are committed. So in addition to going after the terrorists, in addition to dismantling their financial networks and their logistical support, we've also taken on states that sponsor terror.
I'll never forget that Friday after the attack when President Bush 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 working nearby said they couldn't hear him, he responded, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked down these buildings 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.
Obviously, questions are sometimes raised about our strategy. It's been suggested that it's wrong for the United States to strike before an 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 had been able with preemptive military action to defeat that attack before it ever occurred, would we? And the answer is, you bet we would have.
Make no mistake, the President is acting to protect us against further attacks, even when it moves -- even when it means moving aggressively against would-be attackers. So the war on terror continues. It's being fought all over the globe. Just look at the attacks that have already occurred, not only in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, but in Bali, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca, Jakarta, Bombay, Baghdad, Najaf. 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 where and when they need to be -- especially today, in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will stay in Afghanistan and Iraq to make absolutely certain that the job is done before we move on. We'll stay until we've wrapped up all the weapons of mass destruction and eliminated all of those who are enemies of the United States. Our military is confronting the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan so that our people will not have to confront terrorist violence in Washington or Los Angeles or New York.
The war on terror is not without sacrifice. Almost 400 of our troops have already given their lives during this war. And there are sure to be more casualties. But remember, we lost some 3,000 Americans here at home on 9/11. We'll be much more secure if we are aggressively going after the terrorists and after the nations and mechanisms that support them, than if we lay back and wait for them to strike us again, here at home.
In the battles of Iraq and 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 remote and dangerous parts of the world. And they've done all of this with the bravery and the honor that 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.
But waging and winning the war on terror is only part of our responsibility toward other nations. There's 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, both to our fundamental interest 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'll continue to work on an active and an 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 years we've been in office. In the bill we passed this year, not only did we cut income tax rates, but we also significantly cut taxes on dividends and capital gains -- fundamental reforms in the tax system that will generate long-term economic growth. We've delivered the largest tax relief since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
Some in Congress want to repeal the tax relief and raise taxes at this time. But we believe that's exactly the wrong medicine for this economy. Raising taxes would hurt the recovery and encourage more wasteful spending.
The President also signed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act in November of 2002, to provide coverage for catastrophic losses after potential terrorist attacks. By helping to ensure that terrorism insurance is affordable and available, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act will permit major construction projects to move forward, and that, too, will help the economy grow. Billions of dollars in investments will be more secure. And should terrorists strike America again, we have a system in place to address financial losses and to get our economy back on its feet as quickly as possible.
We've also had action, both in the House and the Senate, on an energy bill. As people in New York, Ohio, Michigan, and parts of Connecticut 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 bill through the conference committee and to produce a plan that will improve our nation's energy infrastructure, promote energy efficiency and 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 national security.
After many years of 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 them better choices under the existing Medicare program. 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 the rising cost of prescription drugs. We're also looking forward to working with Congress to help small businesses provide affordable health care to their employees.
We also need to fix the judicial confirmation process. Right now, far too many nominations to the federal bench are being held up with the threat of filibuster. Our friends on the other side of the aisle refuse to allow nominees of great merit even to have a vote on the Senate floor. Well qualified nominees have been attacked by Senate Democrats who've blocked an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Earlier this month, an outstanding nominee, Miguel Estrada, withdrew his name from consideration after waiting more than two years for a vote. The treatment of this fine man was truly disgraceful. It's time to restore dignity and civility to the judicial confirmation process by making sure that every person nominated to the federal bench gets a timely up-or-down vote.
We've also achieved a great deal in these last 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 possible threat of biological warfare. 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 will not rest until everyone who wants a job can find a job.
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 that 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 that we have the honor of serving the American people.
Long before I took this job I had the privilege of working 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, 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, and 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 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. (Applause.)
END 12:40 P.M. EDT