|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 29, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at a Dinner for Congressional Candidate Mike Sodrel
Kye's at Water Tower Square
March 26, 2004
6:09 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Well, thank you all, very much. That's a great welcome to Jeffersonville, and I deeply appreciate that all of you are here today. And I'm proud to stand with the next congressman from the ninth district, Mike Sodrel. (Applause.)
I used to be a congressman. That's when I had real influence -- (laughter) -- before I got to be Vice President. I was the congressman from Wyoming for 10 years, and Wyoming only had one congressman. It was a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.) But I loved my time in the House of Representatives, and I always like to tell the story about running for reelection the last time.
I'd served 10 years and was running a sixth time. And we always started the campaign in Wyoming in the little farming community of Torrington, down along the Wyoming-Nebraska border in the fall, when things would get kicked off there. The farm groups would have all the candidates -- Republican and Democrat alike -- come out, do a big rally and a barbecue and tell the folks what you were going to do if you got elected. And the sixth time out, of course, I'd been the congressman for 10 years. And 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. You assume everybody knows who you are.
And that last campaign before it was my turn to get up and speak, I wanted to make certain I'd greeted everybody in the crowd, so I walked up to one old cowboy with his back up against the tree and the cowboy had pulled [his hat] down over his eyes, I 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 darn good." (Laughter.)
So I'm sure that's never going to happen to Mike. (Laughter.) But I did love my time in the House, and I am delighted to be here today to support Mike in his efforts. I also want to thank all the state leaders who are with us, as well as the other distinguished guests here today. I know Senator Dick Lugar couldn't be with us, but I want you to know that he continues to do an outstanding job for Indiana in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
I also want to mention my friend Mitch Daniels, who served our country so well as budget director, and above all -- (applause) -- it's my honor to bring greetings to the people of Jeffersonville, Indiana, from President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
And I also recently added a new member of my staff, a man who is a native of Madison, Indiana, fifth-generation from southern Indiana, Kevin Kellems, who is now my press secretary. (Applause.) So if you don't like the speech tonight, it's Kevin's fault. (Laughter.)
But we're all here to make absolutely certain that Mike is your next congressman. We need more people in Washington just like him. He served our nation proudly in the Army National Guard, and in Congress he'll be a reliable friend to the U.S. military. He's a successful entrepreneur, who understands how to build a business and create jobs. And in Congress he'll support lower taxes and spending discipline in Washington, D.C. Mike understands the district and will bring common-sense values to the House of Representatives. President Bush and I are behind him all the way, and we're asking -- (applause) -- and we're asking the people of southern Indiana to send Mike Sodrel to the United States Congress. (Applause.)
President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration, a period defined by serious challenges, hard choices, and the need for decisive action. As Mike knows, 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 September 11, 2001, signaled the arrival of an entirely new era. 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 from outlaw regimes and turn those weapons against the United States.
Remembering what we saw on the morning of 9/11, and knowing the nature of these 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. (Applause.)
This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in our national security policy. For many years prior to 9/11, terror attacks against Americans were treated as isolated incidents and 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 at the World Trade Center in New York, there was a tendency to treat terrorist attacks as individual criminal acts to be handled primarily through law enforcement.
The man who perpetrated that 1993 attack in New York, was tracked down, arrested, convicted, and sent off to serve a life sentence. Yet behind that one man was a growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States waging war against our country.
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 United States. In 1996 and again in 1998, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States.
During this period, thousands of terrorists were trained at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. And we've seen their work, the work of terrorists in many attacks since 9/11 -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, Karbalah, and most recently in Madrid.
The recent attack in Spain and ongoing attacks in Iraq once again reveal the brutality of our enemy, and once again showed 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. (Applause.)
Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, America requires an aggressive strategy, not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network.
Our strategy has several key elements. We have strengthened our defenses here at home, organizing the government to better 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've 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, 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.)
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 a historic achievement, and a landmark document in that part of the world.
From the beginning, America has sought and received international support for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the war on terror, we will always seek cooperation from our allies around the world. But as President Bush has made 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, I have 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 serving in our armed forces 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. (Applause.) And that same standard must be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of 2004, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.
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.) 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 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 were not receiving the material support they need. May I remind the Senator that last November, at the President's request, Congress passed legislation providing funding for vital supplies -- for body armor and other important equipment, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel and spare parts for our military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted no.
As a way to clarify the matter and explain his vote, Senator Kerry said, and I 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. (Applause.) In fact, because Senator Kerry voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein would almost certainly still be in control, as well.
On national security, the Senator has shown at least one measure of consistency, over the years he has repeatedly voted against weapons systems for our military. He voted against the Apache Helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even M-1 Abrams Tank. 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 global 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 an intelligence and law enforcement operation.
But 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 are 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 nation.
The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004, both on national security, as well as 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 tax rates across the board, and we have 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 of nearly 6.2 percent, its fastest pace in some 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 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 anyone tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
The American people are using their money far better than the government would have. (Applause.) As you know, there are voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. If elected, Senator Kerry has promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts within his first hundred days in office.
This isn't surprising when you consider his record. Over the years, Senator Kerry has voted over 350 times for higher taxes on the American people, including the biggest tax increase in American history. He also supported a 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline. For the sake of long-term growth and job-creation, we ought to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposes: 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 regulation. (Applause.) We need to control the cost of health care by passing medical liability reform. Here in Indiana -- (applause) -- here in Indiana, 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.)
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. Yet Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying up-or-down votes for months, and even years. That's unfair to the judicial nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. A small group of senators needs to stop playing politics with American justice. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And that's another reason we need more Republicans like Dick Lugar in 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. Mike has made his voice heard on these issues, as well. And once he's in Congress he's going to be a valuable partner for us in achieving even greater goals. (Applause.)
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 will continue building prosperity that reaches every corner of this 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.
Once again, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to the cause we share. It's an honor to help with Mike's energetic, optimistic campaign. I've seen a lot of House candidates over the years, and I like to think I've become a pretty good judge of congressional horse flesh. Mike has the right background, and the right ideas, and the right values for the ninth district of Indiana. He's going to make a great congressman, and we look forward to working with him for many years to come. (Applause.)
END 6:30 P.M. EST