|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
September 24, 2003
Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Bush-Cheney '04
Holiday Inn Center of New Hampshire
Manchester, New Hampshire
September 23, 2003
6:19 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you all. It's good to be back in Manchester, and to see so many friends here today. I thought it was important for somebody to come through and remind everybody what a Republican looks like -- (laughter) -- after all the Democratic traffic you've had recently.
But I do appreciate the warm welcome. It's always good to come back to New Hampshire because, of course, with your help in 2000 we carried New Hampshire. And we're going to carry it again in 2004. (Applause.)
My wife Lynne has been doing some work on family history, and I was just reminiscing outside before we came in that my -- we believe my great grandfather -- I know he was born in New Hampshire, but I believe in Boscawen, if that's -- (applause) -- I'm not sure I'm pronouncing it properly. That was in about 1830 or '31, and he's the one then that took the family west, went to Ohio before the Civil War. And then after the war, on to Nebraska. And, of course, I end up coming from Wyoming.
But there are a lot of similarities between Wyoming and New Hampshire. They're small powerful states with strong philosophies and people who believe very deeply in a basic set of values. And it's a pleasure always to come, recognize and spend time with folks of similar outlook.
I enjoy working very much, obviously, with your congressional delegation. You've got an all-Republican congressional delegation now -- Judd Gregg and John Sununu (Applause.). Of course, Charlie Bass and Jeb Bradley do a great job in the House. And when I was the congressman from Wyoming, actually, for 10 years, just elected to six terms. And we had an even smaller delegation -- we only had one congressman. (Laughter.) It was a small delegation, but it was quality. (Laughter.) But I enjoyed very much my days in the House, but I'm especially -- obviously, here today to talk about the 2004 campaign.
Everybody is crucial in this campaign. If we learned anything in the last presidential election, we learned that every dollar contributed, every hour of volunteer work that goes into the effort can make a difference. And we, of course, had one of the closest elections in history. Everybody who participated in that event, really determined the outcome.
And I'm deeply appreciative, as is the President, that all of you have been willing to sign on early this time around and devote your time and energy and resources to the effort. It's been about three years now since the President asked me to sign on as his running mate. When he asked me sign on, he said it wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) He got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming. But I point out to him, from time to time, those three electoral votes came in mighty handy.
I think many of the pundits expected after that close election that we'd have a timid administration, that we'd go down to Washington, and, as many advised, obviously, trim our sails because the election had been so close. But nothing could have been further from the truth for George Bush. He wanted to make absolutely certain we did everything we could to move ahead on our priorities. And that's what we did the first year we were there.
We moved aggressively on the tax front to lower income tax rates, reduce the marriage penalty, phase out the death tax. And of course, the President very successfully built a bipartisan coalition to begin a major education reform effort.
But the defining moment for our administration, certainly in that first year, was the attack that our country suffered on September 11th. I think that's a day none of us will ever forget. Suddenly, we realized how vulnerable we were, how it's possible for terrorists to take advantage of our open borders and our open society and use them against us. They were able with a lot of advance planning, nonetheless, to get into the U.S. and to launch an attack that killed 3,000 of our fellow Americans in two hours in Washington and New York and Pennsylvania that day.
We also began to understand, particularly from the evidence that we rounded up in Afghanistan, in the training camps and the tunnels and the caves, that our enemies were determined to try to acquire weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and that if they were ever able to succeed in acquiring those weapons, they'd launch an attack far more deadly than anything we've ever experienced.
To counter those threats, we've been forced to think anew, about how we defend the nation, about what constitutes a viable national security strategy for the future. And we've come to realize that if we're going to defend the nation 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, for example, where we put at risk things they valued in order to deter them from ever launching an attack against us, 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. So no treaty, no arms control agreement, no strategy of deterrence will end this conflict. We needed a new strategy, and that's precisely what we've been pursuing.
We've worked aggressively to toughen our defenses here at home, creating the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s, when we created the Defense Department. But a good defense is not enough. Even if you're 99 percent successful with your defenses, the 1 percent that can still get through can kill you. So a strategy that's going to be successful under these circumstances has to allow us to take the battle to the terrorists, and to destroy the terrorists before they can launch attacks against the United States.
We simply cannot afford to wait until another day like 9/11, or a day far worse, to take action. A good part of our new strategy is based on the President's determination to change the way we think about states that sponsor terror.
All too often in the past, prior to 9/11, governments all over the globe, including right here in the United States, tried to draw a distinction between the terrorists on the one hand and the states that sponsor them or gave them sanctuary and provided support on the other. They were unwilling to hold terror-sponsoring states accountable for their actions.
After 9/11, President Bush decided the distinction between terrorists and their sponsors could no longer stand. So the Bush doctrine that we've adopted and are pursing makes it clear that those states that support terrorists or provide sanctuary for terrorists will be considered just as guilty as the terrorist themselves of the acts they commit. So in addition to going after the terrorists, in addition to dismantling their financial networks and taking down their logistical support, we also have taken on states that sponsor terror.
You'll remember in Afghanistan, where we had the Taliban regime that 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 and pursued weapons of mass destruction, the United States launched one of the most extraordinary military campaigns in history. And that regime is no more.
Some question this notice of our striking the enemy before they can strike us, but I would argue that on 9/11, we were already struck, that on that day, we lost more people than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And I ask you if we had been able, through preemptive military action, to defeat that attack before it occurred, would we? And the answer is, you bet we would have. We've been fully justified in doing so.
So the President will continue to act to protect us against further attacks, even when that means moving aggressively against would-be attackers. The war on terror continues. It's being fought all over the globe. Just look at the attacks that have happened since New York and Washington were hit, in places like Bali, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca, Jakarta, Jerusalem, Bombay, Baghdad, and Najaf. And the war will continue, as long as we're in office, perhaps longer.
In the global war on terror, U.S. forces has heavily engaged our force when they need to be -- especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we will stay in Afghanistan and Iraq to make absolutely certain that the job is done before we move on, so that they can never again become safe havens or safe harbors for terrorists. We'll stay until we've wrapped up any weapon of mass destruction and eliminated all of those who are enemies of the U.S. Our military is confronting 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 now have given their lives since 9/11. And there will surely be more casualties. But remember, we lost some 3,000 Americans here at home on 9/11. We will be much more secure long-term if we're aggressively going after the terrorists 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 the war on terror, we've depended on the skill and courage of our men and women in uniform. They've faced enemies who have no regard for the rules of warfare or for morality. They've carried out urgent and difficult missions in some of the most dangerous and hostile 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 tonight. (Applause.)
Waging and winning the war on terror is only part of our responsibility. 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 ideas and 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 pursue an aggressive agenda. We believe we're making 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 we've been in office. In the bill we passed this year, not only did we cut income tax rates, we also cut significantly the taxes on dividends and capital gains -- fundamental reforms in the tax system that will ensure long-term economic growth for America. 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 on the American people. But we believe raising taxes now is exactly the wrong medicine, that it will hurt the recovery and long-term encourage more wasteful spending.
We've also had action now, both in the Senate and the House, on an energy bill. As people in New York, Ohio, 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 that bill through the conference committee, 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.
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 drugs and provide them better choices under the Medicare program. Both houses have taken historic action, and now Congress must complete its work and send a bill to the President to provide 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 be better able to provide affordable health care for their employees.
One other major item we need to address, as well, is fixing the judicial confirmation process. (Applause.) Right now, far too many nominations to the federal bench are being 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 have been attacked by Senate Democrats who have blocked an up-or-down vote.
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, who was deemed by everybody to be well qualified for the court, has been truly disgraceful. It's time to restore dignity and civility to the confirmation process by making sure that every person nominated to the federal bench gets a timely up-or-down vote.
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 terrorism. 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, the President and I will not rest until everybody who wants a job can find a job. (Applause.)
This campaign season will come in due course -- obviously, already here in New Hampshire. But when it does, we will run very hard and take nothing for granted. The President and I know that the best way to victory for us is to do the work that 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. And we deeply appreciate your willingness to sign on and be part of this effort.
Long before I took this job I had the good fortune of working for other Presidents that I respect and 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 watched the conviction and 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 honor and integrity.
Along the way, I think 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, by your support, and by your commitment to this great and good country of ours, the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 6:37 P.M. EDT