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President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 23, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Bush-Cheney '04
Lakewood, New Jersey
6:31 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. We're delighted to be back in New Jersey and to see so many friends here today. And --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We got to go for you this year, though, Dick.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And we're going to carry New Jersey. (Applause.) Who is that guy? I want to take him with me on these trips. (Laughter.)
But I -- Lynne talks about that story, the fact is that we owe our marriage to a great Republican victory in 1952 when Dwight Eisenhower got elected President. Because in those days I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my family. Dad worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He got transferred. Eisenhower came in, he reorganized the Agriculture Department, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, where I met Lynne, and we grew up together, went to high school together. She finally went out with me when I was 17, and we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary come August. (Applause.)
But I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for that great victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) It's true.
But I want to thank all of our state legislators and party leaders who are here today, and especially our Bush-Cheney state chairman, and Christie Whitman, and Lou Eisenberg. They've done a superb job for us. I know you've got -- (Applause.) You've got three outstanding members of your New Jersey congressional delegation in Frank LoBiondo, Jim Saxton, and Chris Smith are all here with us today. (Applause.) And as a former member of the House of Representatives, I watch it very close, and I can tell you they're doing an outstanding job for everybody here in New Jersey.
The President and I are very grateful for the tremendous support we've receive here in New Jersey. We ran hard here in 2000. We're going to run hard again here this year. And come November, we're going to make New Jersey part of a nationwide victory for President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration. It's been a period defined by serious challenges, hard choices, and the need for decisive action. 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. (Applause.)
The attacks of 9/11 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era for the United States. We suffered massive civilian casualties on our own soil. We awakened to dangers even more lethal -- the possibility that terrorists could gain chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons in outlaw regimes and turn these weapons against the United States.
Remembering what we saw on the morning of 9/11, and knowing the nature of our enemies, we have as clear a responsibility as could ever fall to government, we must do everything in our power to protect our people from terrorist attack, and to keep terrorists from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in our national security policy. For many years prior to 9/11, we treated terror attacks against Americans as isolated incidents, answered, if at all, on an ad hoc basis -- and rarely in a systematic way. Even after the attack inside our own country, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, there was a tendency to treat terrorist attacks as individual criminal acts to be handled primarily through law enforcement.
The man who perpetrated that attack in New York, was tracked down, arrested, convicted, and sent off to serve a 240-year sentence. Yet behind that one man was a growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States waging war against our country.
For us, that war started on 9/11, for them it started years before. In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the mastermind of 9/11, first proposed to Osama bin Laden that they use hijacked airliners to attack targets in the U.S. During this period, thousands of terrorists were trained at those al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. And we've seen the work of terrorists in many attacks since 9/11, in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, and most recently, in Madrid.
The recent attacks in Spain and Iraq once again reveal the brutality of our enemy, and once again show that the fight against terrorism is the responsibility of all free nations. The terrorists are testing the unity and the resolve of the civilized world, and we must rise to that test.
Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, America requires a new strategy, not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network. (Applause.)
Our strategy has several elements. We've strengthened our defenses here at home, organizing the government to protect the homeland. But a good defense is not enough. The terrorist enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with -- it can only be destroyed. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the business at hand. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, we have removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the al Qaeda training camps. In Iraq, America and her allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our peace and security. Just over a year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of almost 25 million people, now he's in jail. He will never again -- (applause) -- he will never brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support dangerous terrorists, or pursue weapons of mass destruction, and he will never again threaten the United States of America. (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, a new basic law has been signed. This is an historic achievement, a landmark document in that region.
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 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.)
America has been extremely fortunate during these times of testing 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. As a former Secretary of Defense, and I know you join me in this sentiment, I've never been prouder of the United States military. (Applause.)
In January, I visited an American military base at Vicenza, in Italy, and had a chance to talk with some of the fine men and women of our 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. (Applause.) We need a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and steady determination. And that's just what we have in President George W. Bush. And that measure must be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of 2004.
In one of Senator Kerry's recent observations about foreign policy he informed his listeners that his ideas have gained strong support, at least among unnamed foreigners he's been spending time with. (Laughter and boos.) Senator Kerry said he's met with foreign leaders, and I quote, "who can't go out and say this publicly, but, boy, they look at you and say, you've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that." End quote.
Recently a voter in Pennsylvania asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, "That's none of your business." (Laughter.)
But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry has also had a few things to say about our support for our troops now on the ground in Iraq. Among other criticisms, he asserted that those troops are not receiving the materiel support they need. May I remind the Senator that last November, at the President's request, Congress passed legislation providing extensive funding for the troops, funding for body armor and other vital equipment, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel, spare parts for our military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted no. (Boos.)
Last week -- last week, trying to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry said, quote: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) End quote. When it comes to Iraq, at least this much is clear, had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today in Iraq. In fact, because Senator Kerry voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Saddam would almost certainly still be in control of Kuwait. (Laughter.)
On national security, the Senator has shown at least one measure of consistency, over the years he's repeatedly voted against weapons systems for our military. He voted against the Apache Helicopter, against Tomahawk cruise missiles, against even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He's also been a reliable vote against military pay raises, opposing them no fewer than 12 times.
Many of these very weapons systems have been used by our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and are proving to be valuable assets in the war on terror. In his defense, of course, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. Recently he said, quote: "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering or law enforcement operation.
As we've seen, however, that approach was tried before and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from terrorists who are quite certain they're at war with us.
I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain, or explain away his votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, and the needs of our military. Whatever the explanation, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become Commander-in-Chief in this time of testing for our country.
The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004, both on national security and on policies here at home. When 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. President Bush has taken strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again. The President has signed into law three separate tax relief measures, resulting in significant tax relief for millions of American families and businesses. (Applause.)
We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, cut rates across the board, and put the death tax on its way to extinction.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Thank you. Thank you. (Laughter.) Thank you, President Bush.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: 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, in the highest rate in nearly two decades, and the highest rate of any major industrialized nation in the world. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates are low. Inflation is low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. Business investment is growing. Real disposable personal income is growing strongly, meaning that American workers have more money to spend, to save and to invest. America's economy is moving in the right direction. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
The American people are using their money far 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.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No way. Boo. No. No way.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: If elected, Senator Kerry has promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts within his first hundred days in office.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It's not going to happen.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: This isn't surprising --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It's not going to happen.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- when you consider -- I may not take you with me after all, (laughter and applause) -- 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 proposes: We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
Tax cuts started the economic recovery. To strengthen it even more, we need to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous lawsuits and needless regulation. We need to control the cost of health care by passing medical liability reform. (Applause.) Here in New Jersey, and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
And 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 Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying up-or-down votes for months, or even years. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. (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. 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 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 share. The President and I are deeply grateful for your support. And now, together, we're going to see our cause forward to victory on November 2nd.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 6:49 P.M. EST