For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 8, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Stan Thompson
Embassy Suites on the River
Des Moines, Iowa
12:15 P.M. CST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much. Lynne and I are delighted to be back in Des Moines, to see so many friends here. I was in Iowa just a couple of months ago to campaign with an old friend of mine, Congressman Jim Leach. And I've been looking forward to coming back. There's been a little political noise out here in between, and we didn't want to intrude on the other party's events. But now we're delighted to be back and ready to join the fray.
This place does remind me of home to some extent. I think some of you know I was born just over the border in Lincoln, Nebraska. And we moved to Wyoming when I was a boy, which was a good thing because that's where I met Lynne. If that hadn't happened, I doubt I would have amounted to much. (Laughter.) She would have married somebody else, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.)
But it's an honor to bring good wishes, as well, to our friends all across Iowa from the President of the United States, President George W. Bush. He knew I was coming here this morning. We did our morning SVTC intel brief, but he said to be sure and extend his best wishes to everybody here in Des Moines, and he looks forward to being in Iowa in the not-too-distant future himself.
I want to thank, as well, the state legislators who are here today, and the party leaders who are with us, as well as our friends and allies on Capitol Hill -- Congressman Tom Latham and Steve King, two outstanding members of the Iowa delegation.
I'm also -- as many of you may not realize, my only real job in government today is as the President of the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution of the United States and created the post of Vice President, they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention, they suddenly decided they hadn't given him anything to do. So they made him the President of the Senate, made him the presiding officer. Actually, I'm paid by the Senate. That's where my salary comes from. I have offices up there. My staff -- a good part of my staff is paid by the Senate.
I like to tell people that my predecessor, our first Vice President, John Adams also had floor privileges, says he was allowed to leave the chair and go down into the well of the Senate and engage in the debate of the day. And he did a couple of times, and then they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) And they were never restored. But I get to cast that tie-breaking vote.
But most of all, I get to work with some outstanding members of the United States Senate. And among that list, I count your Senator from Iowa Chuck Grassley, who does a superb job for everybody here in Iowa. (Applause.) As chairman of the finance committee, he handles most of the really important legislation that comes through Congress. He's done a superb job, and he's earned another term in the United States Senate.
We're all here this afternoon, obviously, on behalf of another fine Iowan, Stan Thompson. Stan is a proud resident of Des Moines, and his family has been in Iowa since the 19th century. He knows your priorities. He has solid principles and sound ideas on all of the most important issues of the day, from agriculture to jobs to trade. He believes in low taxes, a strong military, and a better education for every child. And he believes in strengthening and modernizing Medicare for the senior citizens in Iowa. With Stan in the House of Representatives, the people of this district will have the strong and energetic advocate you deserve in Washington, D.C.
I was proud to campaign with Stan two years ago. He ran a great race. The tally was close. He's going to run hard again this year, but the outcome is going to be different because the people of the third district of Iowa are going to send Stan Thompson to Congress, come November. (Applause.)
President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration, a period defined by serious challenges and difficult choices, and the need for decisive action. In this time of testing, the President and I have been grateful to have strong leaders like Tom Latham and Steve King, Chuck Grassley at our side, and we're looking forward to soon having Stan Thompson there, as well. He knows that our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. There are many tasks that those of us in public service must take on, but none is more important than working to ensure that the citizens of this great country are safe and secure.
We are now entering into a great national debate about how best to deal with the dangers we face. One side argues that we should treat attacks on our nation by terrorists primarily as matters for law enforcement. That's what the Democratic nominee for President has said, among many other things. John Kerry embraced the strategy of the 1990s, which holds that when we are attacked, we ought to round up the guilty parties and put them on trial.
In 1993, for example, the first time the World Trade Center was attacked, the United States government caught, prosecuted and convicted Ramzi Yousef, who was chiefly responsible for the bombing. And he's doing a life sentence in Colorado. But all
too often, attacking America and her interests was still a pretty safe thing to do, and the terrorists kept doing it: Khobar Towers, 1996; East Africa embassy bombings, 1998; USS Cole, 2000. The worldwide terrorist network, of which Ramzi Yousef was a part, continued to plot against us. And on a clear September day in 2001, murderers armed with box cutters and hatred, murderers whose plans were drawn up by Ramzi Yousef's uncle, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, attacked the World Trade Center again. Before the day was over, they'd killed some 3,000 innocent civilians in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
9/11 changed everything for this country. Its awful toll made crystal clear that simple law enforcement was no longer enough to deal with terrorists. The time for serving the terrorists with legal papers was over. With this massive attack on our homeland, the largest in our history, war had been declared upon our country, and war is what the enemy got.
President Bush moved us beyond the inadequate strategy of the '90s. To keep America safe, he determined that we would go after the terrorists with all of the means at our disposal. We would use force if necessary, not only against the terrorists, but against those nations that gave them sanctuary and safe harbor.
In Afghanistan, we removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the al Qaeda training camps. In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our peace and security. 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, or to pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again to threaten the United States of America. (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 country. (Applause.)
We've been enormously fortunate during these times of testing for our nation to have the dedicated service of the men and women who wear America's uniform. Many of them have seen hard duty, long deployments, and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades. They've done these things with great courage, and we are proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)
George Bush and I came to Washington determined to give our fine men and women all the tools and training they need to win the war on terror. Stan, we know that this is a stance you support, as well. And it's one of the clearest distinctions that we will be drawing with our opponents this fall. When the time came to vote for funds for our troops in Iraq, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts voted no. We know that we can depend on Stan Thompson to give our fighting men and women the yes vote they deserve. (Applause.)
Our nation is served so well by our military, and we have been enormously fortunate during these times of testing to have President George W. Bush as our Commander-in-Chief. He's been strong. He's been steady, and he's been consistent.
In January, I visited an American military base at Vicenza, in Italy, and I had a chance to talk with some of the fine men and women of our armed forces recently returned from duty in Iraq. One young man, part of the 173rd Airborne that jumped into Iraq at the beginning of the war wanted me to know how much he appreciated the President's decisive leadership. "Indecision kills, sir," this young soldier said to me, "indecision kills."
These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the next. We need a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and steady determination. And we need to give him the kind of support in Congress that Stan Thompson will provide.
We still face challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq, but our progress has been enormous. In Afghanistan, there's a new constitution; free elections will be held later this year; schools are open, attended by girls. In Iraq, on this very day, a new constitution was signed just this morning. The United States with fine allies at our side can be very proud of the role we're playing in extending liberty's frontiers. And when we help people to be free, we make our friends and our allies more secure. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where people have the right to guide their own destinies and choose their own leaders.
The long-term security of our nation 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. Then, just as we were beginning to recover, terrorists struck our nation and shook our economy once again. Working with Congress, President Bush has taken strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again.
The President signed into law three separate tax relief measures, resulting in significant tax relief for millions of American families and businesses. We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, cut tax rates across the board. We raised the expensing deduction for small businesses from $25,000 to $100,000 to give those businesses strong incentives to invest, and we put the death tax on its way to extinction. Now we are beginning to see the results of the President's policies.
In the second half of last year, our economy grew at an annual rate of 6.1 percent, its fastest pace in nearly two decades. 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. Business investment is growing. Incomes are rising. And unemployment is at a two-year low. President Bush and I are not satisfied yet. We will not be happy until every American who wants a job can find one. But the economy is moving in the right direction. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
The American people are using their money better than the government would have, and Congress was right to let them keep it. 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. (Laughter.) But for the sake of long-term growth and job creation, we ought to do exactly the opposite. We need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
To keep the economy growing and generating more jobs, we need to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous lawsuits and needless regulation. We need to control the costs of health care by passing medical liability reform. Here in Iowa, and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and to make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
We should limit the burden of government on this economy by acting as good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars. The President has proposed a tight budget that limits growth and discretionary spending. With spending discipline, and pro-growth economic policies, we can cut the deficit in half in the next five years.
It's also time for the United States 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 Senate Democrats 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. This group of senators needs to stop playing politics with American justice. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
On issue after issue, from national security, to economic growth, to improving our public schools, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. Stan has made his voice heard on these issues. And once he's in Congress, he's going to be a valuable partner in achieving even greater goals.
President Bush has a clear vision for the future of the country: Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, to turn back the forces of terror, and 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, to succeed, and to rise in the world.
I want to thank all of you today for the commitment to the cause we all share. It's an honor to help with Stan's strong, optimistic campaign. I've seen a lot of House candidates over the years, and I think I've become a pretty good judge of congressional timber. Stan has the right background, and the right ideas for the people of the third district of Iowa. He's going to make a great congressman. And we look forward to working with him for many years to come.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:35 P.M. CST