The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 14, 2004

Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Senator Jim Bunning
Hilton Cincinnati Hotel
Florence, Kentucky
March 12, 2004

6:24 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. I'm always a little nervous when Lynne is introducing me. I often tell people we have a marriage that came about as the result of a great Republican victory in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower got elected President. In those days, I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my family. Dad worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And Lynne lived in Casper, Wyoming.

And after Eisenhower was elected President, he reorganized the Agriculture Department, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming. And that's where I met Lynne. And I guess I was 13 years old. And she finally went out with me when I was 16. We'll celebrate our 40th anniversary come August. (Applause.)

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

But we're delighted to be back in Kentucky and see so many friends here today. And I've had the opportunity to visit the state a great many times in recent years. I was here not too long ago helping elect Ernie Fletcher, the Republican Governor of Kentucky. (Applause.)

But I'm here today, specifically on behalf of my old friend Jim Bunning. Jim and I, of course, served together in the House of Representatives. We now serve together in the United States Senate. Many of you may not realize it, but my only real job is as President of the Senate.

When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President. At the end of the Constitutional Convention, they discovered they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate. And that means I get to preside over the Senate whenever I wish, cast tie-breaking votes. My predecessor John Adams also had floor privileges. He was allowed to actually go down into the well of the Senate and engage in the debate of the day. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored.

But my job, as I say, I am, in fact, the President of Senate. So I get to spend a lot of time with Jim in that capacity, as well, too. Jim does a superb job since his days in the House representing Kentucky in Washington. And this November, I'm confident that the people of Kentucky are going to send him back for a second term in the United States Senate. (Applause.) I might add I'm strongly in favor of second terms. (Laughter and applause.)

I want to thank all the state legislators and party leaders with us today. I also want to say a word about your Senior Senator, Mitch McConnell. Mitch couldn't be with us today, but he, too, is an outstanding member of the United States Senate, and one of the smartest, most principled senators in history. And I would say that Kentucky has one of the finest delegations in the United States Senate in the pair they've got -- Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell.

Now, as I mentioned, Jim and I served together in the House in the late 1980s, when he was representing the fourth district, here in Kentucky, and I served as the congressman from Wyoming. Wyoming only has one congressman, so it was a small delegation. But it was quality. (Laughter.)

As many of you know, it doesn't take long to get a read on Jim Bunning. (Laughter.) He's a man of strong conviction, plain spoken words, honest, easy to work with, and he's someone you always want on your side of the issue. He's been an extraordinary asset for Kentucky, both in the House and Senate. He's a tireless advocate for the state on issues ranging from agriculture, to mining, to Social Security, to Medicare. He stood strongly with our military and with our veterans. And he believes in lower taxes for every family in Kentucky. He's done a great job and deserves another term as your United States senator. (Applause.)

President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration, and it's been a period defined by serious challenges, hard choices, and the need for decisive action. In this time of testing, the President and I have been grateful to have strong leaders like Jim and Mitch at our side. We know 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 on how best to deal with the dangers we face. On one side we have the Democratic Nominee, who is uncomfortable with the idea that we are at war. "I don't want to use that terminology," he said last week.

Senator Kerry has said that we should treat attacks on our nation primarily as matters of law enforcement and intelligence. He's embraced the strategy of the 1990s, which holds that when we are attacked, we ought to round up those directly responsible, put them on trial, and then call it a day.

In 1993, for example, the first time the World Trade Center was attacked, the U.S. caught and convicted Ramzi Yousef, and he's now doing a life sentence up in Colorado. But the trouble with the law enforcement strategy is that it's not enough. It leaves the network behind the attacks virtually untouched. Ramzi Yousef might be out of action, but that -- now we learn -- probably was the first al Qaeda attack on the United States. And since then, of course, we had the attacks on Khobar Towers, in 1996; upon the U.S. embassies in East Africa, in 1998; on the USS Cole, in 2000. And then on a clear September day in 2001, murderers armed with box cutters and hatred, murderers whose plans were charted by Ramzi Yousef's uncle, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, who planned the attack on 9/11, of course, attacked the World Trade Center yet again. And before the day was over, they'd killed some 3,000 innocent Americans in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

The terrorist threat to civilization is real, and it must be confronted. The attack yesterday on America's good ally Spain, is a reminder that there are evil people in the world, capable of any atrocity, and determined to take innocent life.

For America, 9/11 changed everything. Its awful toll made crystal clear that law enforcement was no longer enough. 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 against 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 the means at our disposal. We would use force if necessary, not only against the terrorists, but against those nations that support terrorists, or provide sanctuary or safe harbor for terrorists, that they would be deemed just as guilty of the acts as the terrorists themselves.

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 nearly 25 million people, tonight he's in jail. (Applause.) He will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support dangerous terrorists, or pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)

From the beginning, America has sought and received international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 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 of America's Armed Forces. Many of them have seen hard duty, long deployments, and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades. They've done all of these things with tremendous courage, and we are very proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)

We are also enormously fortunate as a nation to have George W. Bush as our Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.) He has been strong. He's been steady. He's been consistent and decisive.

In January, I visited one of our American military facilities overseas, at Vicenza, in Italy, and had a chance to talk with some of the fine young men and women of the armed forces who had recently returned from Iraq. One young soldier, 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 that's just exactly what we have in President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

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. In Iraq, just this week, a new constitution has been signed. This is an historic achievement of landmark proportions, for our time and for future generations. The United States can be very proud of the role we're playing in extending liberty's frontiers. And when we help people to be free, we are making ourselves and our friends and 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 been 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, the terrorists struck our nation and shook our economy once again. Working with Jim Bunning and others in 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 small businesses.

We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, and cut rates across the board. We raised the expensing deduction for small businesses from $25,000 to $100,000 to give small businesses, who create most of the jobs in this country, the incentives they need to save and invest, and we put the death tax on the way to extinction. (Applause.)

Now we're beginning to see the results of the President's policies. In the second half of last year, our economy grew at an annual rate better than 6 percent, its fastest pace in nearly 20 years, and the highest rate of any major industrialized nation. New home construction last year was the highest in 25 years. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates are low. Inflation is low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. And business investment is growing. Unemployment is now 5.6 percent, almost exactly where it was when Senator Kerry was campaigning for Bill Clinton in 1996.

Real disposable personal income is growing strongly, meaning that American workers have more money to spend, to save and invest. America's economy is moving in the right direction. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. (Applause.)

The American people are using their money better than the government would have, and Congress was correct to let them keep it. (Applause.) As you know, there are voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Sometimes we hear these voices on the nightly news. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry has said he would repeal the Bush tax cuts within the first 100 days he was in office. This isn't surprising when you consider that he's voted 350 times in the United States Senate for higher taxes. But for the sake of long-term growth and job creation, we need to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposed: We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

Tax cuts started this economic recovery, to strengthen it even more, we need to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous lawsuits and needless litigation. We need to control the costs of health care by passing medical liability reform.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hear, hear. (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's a doctor. (Laughter.) I know because he came through the receiving line earlier. (Laughter.) Here in Kentucky, and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting lawyers. (Applause.)

We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. We should limit the burden of government on the economy by acting as good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars. The President has proposed a budget that limits the growth in 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 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. One of these fine appointees was David Bunning, now a U.S. district judge here in Kentucky. (Applause.) Other nominees still await confirmation, yet Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying up-or-down votes for months and even years. This is unfair to the judicial nominees and an abuse of the constitutional process. This small group of senators needs to stop playing politics with American justice. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. And that is another good reason to send Jim Bunning back to the United States Senate. (Applause.)

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. Jim has stood with us on all of these vital issue, and he shares our optimism about the future.

President Bush has a clear vision for the future of this 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'll continue to build prosperity that reaches every corner of this land so that every child who grows up in the United States of America will have a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world. (Applause.)

Once again, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to the cause we all share. It's an honor to be standing with you and supporting Jim Bunning. You're united behind a great leader and a senator with the right priorities for his state and for America. And come November, I know the people of Kentucky are going to send him back to Washington for six more years. (Applause.) President Bush and I are grateful to all of you for your hard work, and we look forward to working with Jim for a good many years to come.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 6:42 P.M. EST

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