The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 17, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at Bush-Cheney '04 Event
Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North
Albuquerque, New Mexico
February 16, 2004

12:30 P.M. MST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) I appreciate the warm welcome. Lynne, the introduction. I'm never quite sure what she's going to say when she gets up to introduce me. (Laughter.)

But I often tell people that two of us have a Republican marriage, that if it hadn't been for the victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, our lives would have turned out very differently. Because in 1952, I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and when Eisenhower came in, he reorganized the Agriculture Department, and Dad had a choice -- he was given the option of moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Casper, Wyoming. And he picked Casper, Wyoming. So we moved there when I was a youngster. And there I met Lynne, and we grew up together, went to high school together, we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, come August. (Applause.)

I explained to a group the other night, that if it hadn't been for that Eisenhower victory in 1952, I would never have moved to Wyoming and Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) No doubt in my mind but that's absolutely the case.

But we're always delighted to get a chance to come spend some time in New Mexico. I want to thank all the party leaders with us today, as well as the folks who signed on to support the Bush-Cheney campaign effort. Senator Pete Domenici -- I've watched Pete operate in the Senate now for a great many years. We go back some 30 years together.

My only job, of course, as Vice President is the President of the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President, then they got down to the end of the convention, decided they hadn't given him anything to do. And so at the last minute, they said, well, we'll make him the President of the Senate. We'll let him preside over the Senate, give him the authority to cast tie-breaking votes.

My predecessor John Adams, our first Vice President, actually had floor privileges. He could go down into the well of the Senate and actually engage in the debate, participate in the arguments of the day. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored.

But nonetheless, I get to work with the Senate fairly closely. I'm actually paid by the Senate. That's where my paycheck comes from. But I've worked with Pete over the years, from my time -- as he mentioned when I worked for President Ford, or as Secretary of Defense. He's always been a great advocate for New Mexico, and for the people of the United States. And I've watched him just do outstanding work in the Senate. And I'm delighted to call him one of my closest friends.

I also want to recognize the great work that you get from Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson. They do a superb job for Congress and for the people of New Mexico, and for the United States. And I've already been privileged to help Heather's campaign this time around. And I'm ready and eager to do everything I can to make certain that the two of them serve again in the next Congress of the United States. (Applause.)

I want to bring everybody good wishes this morning from NASCAR, and from President George W. Bush. (Laughter.) The President was really looking forward to that this weekend, and he had a great time.

We're grateful for the strong support we got from New Mexico in 2000. We came within 400 votes of victory here in New Mexico. And this year, with your help, we're going to carry New Mexico for the Bush-Cheney ticket. (Applause.)

We appreciate your being here today, because of the commitment that you've made to what we think is an extraordinarily important cause. The President and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration. This has been a period that has been characterized by some very serious challenges and hard choices. When we were sworn in some three years ago, no one could have predicted what lay just ahead for America. But we came to office with a clear understanding of our responsibilities. The President was determined to solve problems, not simply pass them on to future generations. And he was determined to seize the opportunities for reform, try to get beyond the old debates that had so often stood in the way of progress in the past.

I think today, as we look forward to next November's election, we've got a record of accomplishment to show for our efforts. The American people, I believe, can be confident of a better future, of a stronger economy, and of greater security against the dangers of a new era because of the character and the leadership of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

In this time of testing, our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. (Applause.) Even though it has been more than two years now since 9/11, we must have no illusion that somehow the danger has passed.

Terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world. We see them for what they are: killers who will not be stopped by negotiations, or peace treaties, by appeals to reason, or by the least hint of conscience. In the war on terror, we have only one option, and that's to take the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)

Today, members of our armed forces are deployed around the world, fighting the war on terror. And in the 29 months since 9/11, we, together with our friends and allies from many countries, have inflicted heavy losses on al Qaeda's leadership and on their foot soldiers -- tracking them down, 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're also working with governments to take down the financial networks that support terror, the hidden bank accounts, the front groups, and the phony charities that have helped them to function. Our government is working closely with intelligence services all over the globe, and our own intelligence 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 disrupt, and to stop in their tracks. Americans can be grateful every day for the skill and the 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 the terrorists and those who support them. This principle that's come to be known as 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 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 over 13,000 members of our armed forces in Afghanistan as part of an international security force now that includes nearly 40 nations and has a major role for NATO. This force is on the hunt for the remaining Taliban and al Qaeda members. We're helping train a new Afghan army, and we are helping to provide security as the new government takes shape in Afghanistan.

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 that is fully joined in the war on 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 -- never again to brutalize his people, never again to support dangerous terrorists, never again to threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)

America has shown that we are serious about removing the threat of weapons of mass destruction. In Iraq, our survey group is still collecting data. The President has created a special commission to compare what the intelligence indicated before the war with what we've learned since. Already our inspectors have discovered a lot about what he was up to. And it confirms much of what we thought before the war.

We now know that Saddam had the capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the scientists and the technology needed. We know that he had the necessary infrastructure because we found the labs and the dual-use facilities that could be used to produce chemical and biological agents. We know that he was developing the delivery systems, ballistic missiles that had been prohibited by the United Nations. And Saddam Hussein had something else -- he had a record of using weapons of mass destruction against his enemies and against his own people. There is no question that America did the right thing in Iraq. (Applause.)

The gravest threat to America is the possibility of cooperation between terrorist groups and outlaw regimes possessing weapons of mass destruction. As the President has said, we faced a choice: either take the word of a madman, or take action to defend the American people. Faced with that choice, George W. Bush will defend America every time. (Applause.)

By acting in Iraq, we demonstrated our strength, but also our resolve. America will not permit terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons. That message is beginning to get through. In December, after nine months of intensive diplomacy, Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of its weapons of mass destruction.

Exposing Colonel Ghadafi's secret weapons program has also helped us uncover a global proliferation network, led by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. In addition to aiding Libya, Khan's network sold critical technology to producing nuclear weapons to Iran and to North Korea. Together with others, we are working now to ensure that those nations, too, will abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

It's no accident that the negotiations with Libya began shortly after we launched military operations in Iraq, and that they were concluded five days after Saddam Hussein was dug out of his spider hole outside Baghdad. (Applause.)

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq, terrorists who are targeting the very success and freedom we are providing for 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 all of us 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, but they are absolutely essential. America will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror. (Applause.)

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

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 of 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've liberated. They reflect extraordinary credit on the United States of America. And our entire nation is proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)

The long-term security of our nation, and of our friends and allies has been a principle concern for President Bush. 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've delivered significant tax relief for the American people. We're 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're seeing the results of the hard work of the American people, and the sound policies of this administration.

Americans took those dollars, and put them to work, driving the economy forward. The pace of economic growth in the second half of 2003 was 6.1 percent, the fastest in almost 20 years. New home construction last year was the highest in 25 years. The home ownership rate today is the highest ever. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high. Since August the economy has created 366,000 new jobs, and unemployment is at a two-year low. These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and Congress was right to return it. (Applause.)

As you know, there are voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Sometimes I hear these voices on the evening news. But in fact, the Bush tax cuts were exactly what this country needed, and they have now set us on the path towards 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 has led the way in making progress for the American people. All of us in this administration, and Republicans in the House and Senate, recognize that our job is not to rest on a strong record, but to keep adding to that record.

Abroad, the fundamental interest of the 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 in the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.

Here at home, we have a full agenda and, I believe, a good record of achievement. We will continue our pro-growth economic agenda, so that we can continue to create jobs. We must 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 from trial lawyers. (Applause.)

We also need a national energy policy and, with the leadership of Pete Domenici, we'll get it, because consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy. (Applause.)

It's also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) President Bush has a responsibility to make certain that the judicial system runs well, and he has met that duty. He's 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 or even years. Even though these nominees may have a majority of senators supporting them, because of the filibusters, they cannot get confirmed unless they get a super majority of 60 votes. That's unfair to the nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, and that's another reason we need to elect more Republicans, like Pete Domenici, to the United States Senate. (Applause.)

The campaign season is underway. President Bush and I will be proud to present our vision to voters in every part of this great 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 that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the White House today. (Applause.)

I count it as a privilege to serve with George W. Bush, a President who has united our nation behind great goals and who has brought honor and integrity to the White House. Once again, I want to thank all of you for the commitment to the cause we all share. The President and I are deeply grateful to our friends in Albuquerque, and all across New Mexico. And now, together, we're going to see our cause forward to victory on November 2, 2004. Thank you all, very much. (Applause.)

END 12:52 P.M. MST

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