The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 27, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressman Tim Murphy
Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
Latrobe, Pennsylvania

12:10 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. It's true, I did used to be a congressman. And I was the congressman from Wyoming for a little over 10 years. Wyoming has a small delegation. There's only one seat in the House of Representatives. And while it was a small delegation, it was quality. (Laughter.)

But I loved my time in the House, it was a special privilege to go out and earn the right to cast that vote for the people of your district -- in my case, the entire state of Wyoming. And it's a very special relationship, and I know Tim feels the same way about the people he represents. And the House is a very special institution.

I always remember campaign time was always a time when you could be humbled if you weren't careful. And I always remember my last campaign for Congress. It was the sixth time I ran. Shortly after this, I left to become Secretary of Defense. But in that last campaign -- we always had a tradition, we began the fall campaign with a rally and a barbecue down in the little farming community of Torrington, down along the Wyoming-Nebraska border. The farm groups would have all the candidates, Republican and Democrat alike, come out and talk to the folks, tell them what you were going to do for them if you get elected. And after I'd run five times previously, you assume everybody knows who you are. Your picture has been on television, name has been in the newspaper. You've done the door-to-door work and the rallies, and the barbecues, been toiling away for 10 years representing them in the U.S. Congress.

Before it was my turn to get up and speak at that last rally, though, I went out and wanted to make sure I'd greeted every voter there. So I walked up to one old cowboy with his back up against the tree, and cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes, reached out and grabbed him by the hand and said, hi, I'm Dick Cheney. I'm running for Congress, and I'd like your vote.

He said, you got it. That fool we got in there now is no damn good. (Laughter.)

So it was -- you got to be -- I'm sure that's never happened to Tim. (Laughter.) But it was always -- always reminded you who you were and where you came from. That was an important part of the campaign.

But I'm here today specifically to see to it that Tim Murphy gets reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives come next November. (Applause.) He's done great work for all the folks here in Pennsylvania, and really all across the country. I was proud to touch down here today in Air Force Two at Arnold Palmer Airport, and to bring good wishes to all of you here in Latrobe, in this part of Western Pennsylvania, from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

The President and I are grateful for the many fine leaders Pennsylvania has sent to Washington to help us, including your former governor, Tom Ridge, who is doing a great job at Homeland Security. We're all here today on behalf of an excellent member of Congress, and that's Tim Murphy. Tim is in his first term on Capitol Hill, but he's already made a name for himself as a steady voice on health care and on education issues. He holds a PhD in psychology. I went for a PhD but never finished mine. He has dedicated both his professional training and his public service to improving the lives of children. And as a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, he's a principled advocate for all of those who've served our nation in uniform.

Tim is doing an outstanding job for the people of Pennsylvania, and I believe he's earned another term as your congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Applause.)

We live in a time of hard choices, and serious challenges, and the need for decisive action. The President and I just began our fourth year in office. In this time of testing for the nation, the President and I have been grateful to have Tim by our side. He understands that our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. He knows well that even though it has been more than two years now since 9/11, that we must have no illusions that somehow the danger has passed.

Terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world, and we must see them for what they are: killers who will not be stopped by negotiations, by treaty, 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. (Applause.)

We took the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan -- (Applause.) We took the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan, where we removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the al Qaeda training camps. Now the nation of Afghanistan has adopted a new democratic constitution and is moving towards free elections later this year. The Afghan people are building a decent, a just and a democratic society, and the United States is proud to be their friend. (Applause.)

In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our future peace and security. A year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives of nearly 25 million people, and his pursuit of deadly weapons of mass destruction threatened millions more. Today, he's in jail -- never again to brutalize his people -- (applause) -- never again to support dangerous terrorists who pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again will he threaten the United States of America. (Applause.) There is no question that America did absolutely the right thing in Iraq. (Applause.)

As the President has said, we had a choice, either take the word of Saddam Hussein, who had used weapons of mass destruction and killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, or take action to defend America. Faced with that choice, George W. Bush will defend America every time. (Applause.)

From the beginning, America has sought and received international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our armed forces in Afghanistan are part of an international security force that now includes almost 40 nations, and a major role for NATO. On the ground in Iraq, a coalition of over 30 countries is working hard to help Iraq transition to self-government.

In the war on terror, we will always seek cooperation from our allies around the world. But as the President has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our nation. (Applause.)

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq, terrorists who are targeting the very success and freedom we're providing to that country. Recently, we intercepted a letter sent by a senior al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi to one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants. The letter describes the terrorists' strategy, to tear Iraq apart with ethnic violence, to undermine Iraqi security forces, to demoralize our coalition, and to prevent the rise of a sovereign democratic government. This terrorist outlines his efforts to recruit and train suicide bombers, and boasts of 25 attacks on innocent Iraqis and coalition personnel. And he urges al Qaeda members to join him in waging war on our coalition, and on the people of Iraq. Zarqawi and men like him have made Iraq the central front in our war on terror. The terrorists know that the emergence of a free Iraq will be a major blow against the worldwide terrorist movement. In this, they are correct. They think they can drive America away with attacks on our coalition and on innocent Iraqis. In this, they are wrong. America will finish what we've begun in Iraq, and we will win an essential victory in this war on terror. (Applause.)

In this new century the gravest threat to our country and to the civilized world is the possibility of cooperation between terrorist groups and outlaw regimes that are developing, or posses weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

By acting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we demonstrated both our strength and our resolve. We sent an unmistakable message, America will not permit terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's deadliest weapons. That message is getting through.

In December, after nine months of intensive diplomacy, Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of its weapons of mass destruction programs. (Applause.) It's no accident that they we were contacted by Colonel Ghadafi to begin those negotiations for him to give up his weapons of mass destruction about the time that we began military operations in Iraq, and that he announced his willingness to follow through and implement such an agreement a few days after we dug out Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole outside Baghdad. It's a direct result of strong U.S. leadership, backed up by U.S. military force, that's produced that result.

Exposing Ghadafi's secret weapons program has also helped us uncover a global proliferation network, led by a Pakistani scientist named A.Q. Khan. In addition to aiding Libya, Khan's network sold critical nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. And America is working with others to ensure that those nations, too, will abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons. We will not relent in opposing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For the sake of our own security, and for the peace of the world, we must stop these weapons from being acquired or built and prevent them from ever being used. (Applause.)

Overcoming these 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. Democracies do not breed the anger and radicalism that drag down whole societies, or export violence. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and choose their own leaders. Some doubt the people of the Middle East are capable of self-government, yet the desire for freedom is not just American or Western, it is universal. Whenever ordinary people are given the chance to choose, they choose freedom, democracy and the rule of law. And all who strive and sacrifice for the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.

America is a nation that is always ready to work and sacrifice for peace. The use of force is always our last resort. But when that need arises, all of us are fortunate to be defended by the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines. (Applause.) The men and women of our armed forces reflect extraordinary credit on the United States of America. As a former Secretary of Defense, I can tell you, the cause of freedom has never been in better hands. (Applause.)

I believe we have with us today in the audience a young man who has just completed a year-long tour in Baghdad with the 325th Infantry Regiment -- show him respect. (Applause.)

The long-term security of our nation, and of our friends and allies has been a principal concern of 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 have, with the support of Congressman Murphy, delivered significant tax relief not once, but twice. We doubled the child tax credit and decreased the marriage penalty. We gave small businesses strong incentives to invest, phased out the death tax, cut rates across the board, and reduced the tax on capital gains and on dividends. Now we are seeing the results. The American people have more money to spend, to save and invest and they are using it to drive the economy forward.

Economic growth is strong. New home construction last year was the highest in 25 years. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates are low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. The economy in the last half of last year grew at a rate of over 6 percent, one of the highest rates in 20 years. Since August, the economy has created 366,000 new jobs. These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and that Congress was absolutely right to let them keep it. (Applause.)

Now, as Tim can tell you, some of our friends in Washington want to take away the tax cuts by letting them expire. Sometimes we hear about this on the evening news. President Bush has a better idea, for the sake of our long-term growth and job creation we need to make these tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

And we must do more to keep this economy growing. We need to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous lawsuits and needless regulations. (Applause.) We need to control the costs of health care by passing medical liability reform. And we need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. Across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

Tim Murphy understands this issue, and so do small businesses and families all across Pennsylvania. People who have been harmed by a bad doctor deserve their day in court, yet the system should not reward lawyers who are fishing for rich settlements. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. We need medical liability reform now. (Applause.)

Let me say one other thing, it is also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The President has put forward talented, experienced men and women who represent the mainstream of American law and American values, yet our Democratic friends in the Senate have taken to waging filibusters, denying some of these nominees up-or-down votes for months or even years. That's unfair to the nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. A small group of senators needs to stop playing politics with American justice because every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. (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. And you can be proud that your congressman has been crucial to that progress, yet all of us in this administration and our allies on Capitol Hill recognize that there's more work to do.

Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, to turn back the forces of terror, or to spread hope and freedom throughout the world.

Here at home, we will continue building prosperity that reaches every corner of the land so that every child who grows up in the United States will have a chance to learn, and to succeed, and to rise in the world.

Once again, I want to thank all of you for the commitment to the cause we all share. President Bush and I are grateful to all of our friends in this part of the country, and very grateful to the 18th district for sending Tim Murphy to Washington. He's made a great name for himself, and he reflects tremendous credit on the good people of this district. And we look forward to working with him for a long time to come.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 12:30 P.M. EST

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