The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
January 22, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President
At the 31st Annual Conservative Political Action Conference
Crystal Gateway Marriott
Arlington, Virginia

2:04 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, thank you very much. Maybe I ought to close on that high note. (Laughter.) David, thank you.

As always, it's great to be at CPAC once again. I've been here many times over the years. I've got a good many friends in the audience and supporters in this room. And, of course, the hard work of many of you here today, and your strong convictions were heavily involved in 2000, in making possible that tremendous, very narrow victory that meant so much -- well, to the President and myself. And I think, also, to the country. And from the sound of things, I think you're fired up and ready for victory in 2004, as well. (Applause.)

In addition to thanking, Dave, I want to also thank the members of the board of directors for CPAC for their tremendous work and the dedication they give to this conference year after year. And to everyone here today, who has traveled all across America to come to Washington, I'm going to thank you for your commitment to the great cause in this very important year for our nation. It's my honor to join all of you today, and to convey to you the very best regards of our President, George W. Bush.

It was just three years this week that the President and I were sworn in. And I still reflect sometimes on how unlikely it was that I was chosen Vice President. The odds, I suppose, were roughly similar to that of a movie action star becoming Governor of California. (Laughter.) I was in California last week and spend some time with the Governor. I think Arnold is going to be a worthy successor to another actor turned governor -- Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)

As Vice President, I have certain official duties -- most of which involve sitting and saying nothing. (Laughter.) You may have noticed that was my job two nights ago, during the State of the Union Address. (Laughter.) You may have noticed me back there, over the President's shoulder. I tried not to draw attention to myself, but it's not easy: when you put Dick Cheney next to Denny Hastert, it's hard to contain all that charisma. (Laughter and applause.)

After hearing that speech, I think we can all agree that the state of our union is strong -- and that the man who leads the nation is doing a superb job for the American people. (Applause.)

President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration -- a period defined by serious challenges, and hard choices. When we were sworn in three years ago, no one could have predicted all that lay just ahead for America. But we came to office with a clear understanding of our responsibilities. We were determined to solve problems, instead of simply passing them on to future generations. The President wanted to seize new opportunities for reform -- and to get beyond old debates that stood in the way of progress. And today, as we look ahead to the election of 2004, we have a record of accomplishment to show for our efforts. The American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of our new era, because of the character and leadership of our President, George W. Bush.

In this time of testing, our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Even though we have gone more than two years without an attack on American soil, we must have no illusions that somehow the danger has passed. Terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world. We see them for what they are -- men who will not be stopped by negotiations, by appeals to reason, or by the least hint of conscience. In the war on terror, we have only one option: we must take the fight to the enemy.

Inside our country, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us. And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which authorizes federal law enforcement to share more intelligence information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and to seize their assets. We use these very same tools to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers and organized crime, and we need them to hunt terrorists, as well. As the President said the other night, parts of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year, but the terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our law enforcement needs the Patriot Act, and Congress needs to renew it. (Applause.)

Today, over 140,000 members of our armed forces are deployed around the world in the war on terror. In the 28 months since 9/11, we -- and our friends and allies in many countries -- have inflicted heavy losses on al Qaeda's leadership and foot soldiers -- tracking them and finding them in hiding places from Pakistan to Indonesia. Those not yet captured or killed live in fear, and their fears are well founded. We are also working with governments on every continent to take down financial networks that support terror -- the hidden bank accounts, the front groups, and the phony charities that have help them to function. And our government is working closely with intelligence services all over the globe, and our own officers continue to be engaged in some of the most perilous and sensitive intelligence work ever carried out. This work has brought many successes -- including the discovery of terror plots that we were able to stop in their tracks. Americans can be grateful every day for the skill and daring of our nation's intelligence professionals.

On the night of September 11th, President Bush declared that the United States would make no distinction between terrorists and those who support them. This principle, the Bush doctrine, is now understood by all: Any person or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account. (Applause.)

The first to see its application were the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan by violence while turning that country into a giant training camp for terrorists. With fine allies at our side, we took down the regime and destroyed the al Qaeda camps. Our work there continues. We have 13,000 soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan, as part of an international security force that now includes 38 nations and a major role for NATO. This force is on the hunt for the remaining Taliban and al Qaeda members. We are helping to train a new Afghan army, and we are helping to provide security as that new government takes shape. Under President Karzai's leadership, and with the help of our coalition, the Afghan people are building a decent and a just and a democratic society -- and a nation fully joined in the war against terror.

In Iraq, the United States and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our future peace and security. (Applause.) A year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of almost 25 million people. Today, he's in jail. (Applause.) He will never again brutalize his people, never again support dangerous terrorists, and never again threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq -- terrorists who are targeting the very success and freedom that we are providing to that country. But terror attacks on innocent civilians will not intimidate Americans, and will not intimidate the Iraqi people. With determined allies at our side, we are helping Iraqis build a free country, which will make us all the more secure. We are standing with the Iraqi people as they assume more responsibility for their own security and move toward self government. These are not easy tasks -- yet they are absolutely essential. As the President has said many times -- and no one should doubt, "We will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror." (Applause.)

From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained a great deal of support. But as the President said on Tuesday night: There is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country. (Applause.)

America is a nation that is always ready to work and to sacrifice for peace. The use of force is always our last resort. And when that need arises, all of us are extraordinarily fortunate to be defended by the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines. (Applause.) In all they have done and continue to do, the men and women who wear this country's uniform have performed with magnificent skill and courage.

In Iraq, as in Afghanistan, American forces have struck hard against the forces of murder and chaos -- conducting raids, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers. Members of the active duty armed forces, of the National Guard, and the Reserves have faced hard duty, long deployments, and the loss of comrades. They are confronting danger every day to protect all of us, and they are earning the trust of the people they have liberated. They reflect extraordinary credit on the United States of America, and our entire nation is proud of each and every one of them.

One of the most important commitments George Bush and I made during the 2000 campaign was that the armed forces would be given every resource they need and the respect they deserve. And we've kept our word to the United States military. (Applause.)

The long-term security of our nation, and of our friends and allies, has been a principal concern of President Bush's administration. And so has the economic well-being of our citizens. By the time we took office, the economy was sliding into recession. To get it growing again, we have delivered significant tax relief for the American people. (Applause.) We are leaving more money in the hands that earned it -- because when Americans have more take-home pay, they have more to spend, more to save, and more to invest. We're reducing taxes on dividends and capital gains, to encourage investment. We've given small businesses incentives to expand and to hire new people.

And now we are seeing the results of the hard work of the American people, and of the sound policies of this administration. (Applause.) Americans took those dollars and put them to work, driving the economy forward. The pace of economic growth in the third quarter of this past year was the fastest in nearly 20 years. New home construction is at the highest level in almost 20 years. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high. The unemployment rate is falling. And jobs are on the rise.

These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and Congress is right to return it. (Applause.)

As you know, there are some voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Sometimes I hear these voices on the nightly news. (Laughter.) But, in fact, the Bush tax cuts were exactly what the economy needed, and they have now set us on a path to long-term growth and job creation. And to keep us on that path, Congress needs to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

On issue after issue -- from national security, to economic growth and trade, to improving our public schools -- President Bush is leading the way in making progress for the American people. He's a man of his word, who works across partisan lines in a spirit of civility and respect. And as he said three years ago, he believes he was elected not to serve one party, but to serve the entire nation. That's exactly the kind of person we need in the Oval Office.

All of us in this administration recognize that our job is not to rest on a strong record, but to keep adding to that record. Abroad, the fundamental interest of this nation requires that we oppose threats to our freedom and security wherever they gather.

Yet overcoming threats is only the beginning of America's responsibilities. In the Middle East, we are 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. In that region and beyond, all who strive and sacrifice for the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.

Here at home, we have a full agenda, and, I think, a record of achievement. This record includes an important measure that reflects the compassion of this country. Some of you here today are participating in today's March for Life. And as you do, you can take heart in the knowledge that the cause of protecting life gained a milestone victory when President George W. Bush signed a law defending children from the violence of partial-birth abortion. (Applause.)

Going forward, we must also improve our health care system through medical liability reform. Doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, instead of fighting off frivolous lawsuits for trial lawyers. (Applause.)

And here in Washington, D.C., it's also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The President has a responsibility to make sure the judicial system runs well, and he has met that duty. He has put forward superb nominees to serve on the federal bench -- talented, experienced men and women who represent the mainstream of American law and American values. Yet Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying some of these nominees up or down votes for months, and even years. Even though these nominees may have a majority of senators supporting them, they cannot get confirmed unless they get a supermajority of 60 votes. That's unfair to the nominees; it's an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor -- and that's why we need more Republicans in the United States Senate. (Applause.)

I might add I'm also very proud of the fact that the President appointed Charles Pickering to a recess appointment in the appellate court. (Applause.)

The campaign season is on its way -- and President Bush and I will be proud to present our record to the voters in every part of the country. We will run hard and take nothing for granted. And we will continue making good use of every day we have the honor of serving the American people.

Long before I took my current job, I had the good fortune to work with other presidents I greatly admire. 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, ladies and gentlemen, we have all of those qualities and more in President George W. Bush. (Applause.) I count it a privilege to serve with a president who has united our nation behind great goals -- and brought honor and integrity to the White House. (Applause.)

Once again, I want to thank you all for the commitment to the cause we all share. The President and I are deeply grateful for our many friends in this room. And now, together, we are going to see this cause forward to victory on November 2nd.

Thank you very much.

END 2:24 P.M. EST

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