|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
April 6, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Senatorial Candidate David Vitter
The Plimsoll Club
New Orleans, Louisiana
April 5, 2004
6:30 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years, four more years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Four more years.
AUDIENCE: Four more years, four more years, four more years, four more years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. We'll take it. (Laughter.)
We're delighted to be here today. And as Lynne said, we always love coming to New Orleans and Louisiana. And I often tell people that if it hadn't been for a great Republican election victory in 1952, our lives would have turned out very differently. Because in 1952, I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, with my folks. I was just a youngster. And when Eisenhower got elected; he came in; he reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, and we moved to Casper. And that's where I met Lynne. And we did grow up together, and went to high school together. In August we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.)
I explained that to a group of folks the other night, that if it hadn't been for that Eisenhower election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.)
But -- true, isn't it, Wendy? You know that. Yes? (Laughter.)
But we are delighted to be here today, and we're here for one specific reason, and that's to see to it that David Vitter is the next United States senator from Louisiana. (Applause.)
I flew in from Cincinnati today. Lynne and I were up there. I had the honor of throwing out the first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds-Chicago Cubs Opening Day game today. And you may not know some of this, but in high school, I logged some solid innings on the mound for the American Legion team in Casper, Wyoming. (Laughter.) I think I've lost a little after the -- off the fastball since then, but my change-up is still pretty good. (Laughter.)
And I want to thank all of the state and party leaders here. I also want to say a word about your senior congressman who I know wishes he could make it here tonight. Billy Tauzin is an old friend of mine. He's given more than two decades of outstanding service to the people of Louisiana in the United States Congress. I was delighted to serve for a decade with him, alongside him in the House of Representatives. We're going to miss Billy's leadership and his personality on Capitol Hill. And we all want to wish him a very speedy recovery. (Applause.)
Now, about David Vitter -- David, of course, has been the congressman. He's shown himself to be a man of great integrity and a tremendous advocate for the people of Louisiana. He shares your values. He knows your priorities -- from low taxes, to better education for our children, to a strong national defense. He's smart. He's energetic. He's been a principled public servant, just the kind of leader that the people of Louisiana deserve to have in the United States Senate.
This is going to be a long, hard-fought campaign. I know a little bit about long, hard-fought campaigns. We all know Louisiana hasn't had a Republican senator in some time. But David has a strong supporter in President Bush, and I know he's got a lot of strong supporters here in Louisiana. Come November, the people of Louisiana are going to make a great choice. And next January, as President of the Senate, which is my job as Vice President, I look forward to swearing in David Vitter as a United States senator. (Applause.)
President Bush and I have now begun the fourth year of our administration. It's been a period defined by serious challenges, by hard choices, and by the need for decisive action. As David 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.
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 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, terror attacks against Americans were treated as isolated incidents and answered, if at all, on an ad hoc basis -- never in a systematic way. Even after an attack inside our own country, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, there was a tendency to treat terrorist attacks as individual criminal acts, as primarily matters for law enforcement.
The main perpetrator of the '93 attack was tracked down, arrested, and is now doing a life sentence in the federal penitentiary. 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 aircraft to strike targets in the United States. In 1996 and again in 1998, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States.
During that period, thousands of terrorists were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. And we've seen the work of terrorists in many attacks since 9/11, all over the world -- Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbalah, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, and Madrid.
The recent attack in Spain and the ongoing attacks in Iraq, including the barbaric acts we've seen this past week in Fallujah, 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. (Applause.)
David understands that 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 to win a global campaign against the terror network.
Our strategy has several key elements. We've 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 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 25 million people, today he's in jail. He will never again brutalize his people. (Applause.) He will never again support dangerous terrorists, or pursue weapons of mass destruction. He will never again threaten the United States of America.
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, an historic achievement, and a landmark document for that region.
From the very beginning, America has sought and received international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the war on terror, we will always seek the cooperation of our allies around the world. But as President Bush 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, I have never been prouder of the United States military. (Applause.)
In January, I visited one of our bases in Vicenza, Italy, and had a chance to talk with some of the fine men and women of 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 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.) That standard of steadiness must be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of this year, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.
In one of Senator Kerry's -- (laughter) -- in one of Senator Kerry's recent observations about foreign policy he informed his listeners he had met with foreign leaders who, and I quote, "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.
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 asserted that our troops in Iraq are not receiving the materiel support they need. May I remind the Senator that last fall, at the President's request, Congress considered legislation, a supplemental appropriations bill, providing funding for body armor, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel and spare parts for our military to support our troops. Senator Kerry was asked whether he would vote against the President's request. He said, and I quote, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops. That's irresponsible." End quote. That legislation passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 87 to 12 in the Senate. But Senator Kerry voted "no."
As a way to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry recently said, and I quote: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) End quote. The Senator, obviously, is free to vote as he wishes, but he should be held to his own standard. It is irresponsible to vote against vital support for the United States military. (Applause.)
On the broader picture, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. Recently he said, "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation, and far more of a law enforcement problem. As we've seen, however, that approach was tried before and proved entirely inadequate at 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 to explain away his votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, and the needs of the American 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, on national security, as well as on policies here at home. When the President and I took office, the economy was sliding into recession. Then, just as our economic was ready to recover, terrorists struck our nation and shook the economy once again. President Bush has taken strong, confident steps to get the economy growing again. Working with David and our other strong allies on Capitol Hill, the President has 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, and have put the death tax on the way to extinction. (Applause.)
Now we're beginning to see the results of the President's policies. Last month, the economy added over 300,000 new jobs. And we've created over 750,000 jobs just since August. In the second half of last year, our economy grew at an annual rate of nearly 6.2 percent, its fastest pace in almost 20 years, and the highest rate in any major industrialized nation in the world. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates and inflation are low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. Business investment is rising. Incomes are growing strongly. America's economy is moving in the right direction, and 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. (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 100 days in office.
This isn't surprising when you consider his record. Over the years, 19 to be precise, 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 increase on gasoline. For the sake of long-term growth and job-creation, we ought to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposes. (Applause.) We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent and practice spending discipline in Washington, D.C.
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 Louisiana, 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 electric system and to make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
It's also time -- 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. That's unfair to the nominees, and it is an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And that's another reason we need to send David Vitter 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. David has been a valuable partner on these issues. And once he's in Senate, he's going to help us achieve even greater goals.
President Bush has a clear vision for the future of our 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 the 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, 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 David's energetic, optimistic campaign. He's going to be a great senator, and President Bush and I look forward to working with him for a good many years to come.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 6:50 P.M. CDT