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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 18, 2004
Vice President's Remarks at a Fortenberry Fundraiser
Embassy Suites Hotel
8:35 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much for the warm welcome back to Lincoln. It's always a pleasure to visit the first place I ever called home. And I have a lot of great memories from my early days here in Nebraska.
And Lynne mentioned, of course, that my two kindergarten teachers are here this morning -- Mrs. Margaret Van Ness (ph), who taught at the Randolph (ph) School; and Mrs. Sylvia Harney (ph) -- I used to think of her as Miss Korbel (ph) -- that was her maiden name. A lot of people want to know why I had to kindergarten teachers, and then they -- (laughter) -- they assume it's because I got kicked out of the first kindergarten. (Laughter.) Not true.
But the true story is that during World War II, Dad was in the Navy. And my mother and I and my younger brother packed up and moved back to Sumner, Nebraska, about 30 miles down the road from Kearney, where Dad had been born and where my grandparents lived, and we moved in with my grandparents for the duration.
And when the war was over with, Dad got out of the Navy and came back to Lincoln, got his old job back with the Soil Conservation Service. But there wasn't any housing available. And for months, while he was working here, we lived still out in Sumner with my grandparents. And then finally he was able to find friends who would allow us to live in their basement. So we came back -- and housing was very tight in those days -- so we moved into the basement. And that's where I started school in Randolph, kindergarten. About midway through the year, we finally got our hands on a new house out in College View, and we moved and I transferred school. And that's why I ended up eventually in College View. But it wasn't because I was kicked out of the first kindergarten. (Laughter.) I had a little problem later in my academic career. (Laughter.) But it wasn't -- it wasn't in kindergarten.
But it was a pleasure to get a chance to talk with them this morning. They've been very kind to me over the years, and just a reminder of how enormously fortunate so many of us are -- the outstanding teachers, and educational grounding and base we got not only here in Nebraska, but later on in Wyoming growing up. In the public schools, teachers do a superb job. And all of us, I'm sure, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the teachers we met along the way. (Applause.)
Now, coming back to Nebraska I must admit to having some mixed emotions about it. I used to joke with Doug Bereuter -- he's a great friend. Doug and I were classmates. We got elected together at the same time in Congress. And I used to joke with Doug that if I hadn't moved when I was 13 years old, this would be my congressional district. (Laughter.) He never bought that. (Laughter.) He never agreed to that. But he did a superb job for everybody here in Nebraska.
But the reason we moved, of course, was Eisenhower got elected in 1952 and reorganized the Department of Agriculture. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming -- which is where I met Lynne. And we moved out there at age 13, and I must admit I don't regret the move. We grew up together; went to high school together; come August, we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for that Eisenhower election victory in 1952 Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) There's no doubt in my mind.
But anyway, we're delighted to be here this morning. And I'm proud especially to have the opportunity to come help and stand next to your next congressman from the first district, Jeff Fortenberry. Jeff will do a superb job, and I'm honored to bring greetings to Jeff and to all of you from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
And I want to thank all of you for coming today to support Jeff in what is an extraordinarily important race, especially your fine lieutenant governor, Dave Heineman. As Vice President, my only real job is to serve as the President of the United States Senate.
You may recall when they wrote the Constitution they created the post of Vice President, then they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention, and decided they hadn't given him anything to do. So they made him the presiding officer in the Senate. You get to cast tie-breaking votes and so forth.
My predecessor John Adams also had floor privileges. He could go down into the well of the Senate and participate in the debate of the day. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) But the point is, I get the chance to observe senators in action because I do spend a fair amount of time up there. I've gotten to know and watch Chuck Hagel very closely over the last few years. He does a superb job for everybody here in Nebraska, and I wanted to recognize him this morning for the outstanding job he does -- (Applause.)
I also want to mention your outstanding governor, Mike Johanns, who could not be here with us today. But his wife did come. Stephanie, thanks very much for your presence, for your willingness to be here today and to support the effort, as well, too. (Applause.)
President Bush and I are tremendously grateful to all of our supporters in Nebraska. We were proud to carry the state in 2000. We didn't need a recount here in Nebraska. (Laughter.) And we're going to count on you again this time around. We're going to work hard here in the Cornhusker State, and with your help, I'm confident that Nebraska will be part of a nationwide victory come November 2nd. (Applause.)
We're all here this morning to make certain that Jeff Fortenberry is your next congressman. Now, I mentioned earlier I did have the opportunity to serve in Congress from Wyoming. Wyoming only has one House seat. It's a small delegation. But it was quality. (Laughter.)
And serving in the House is a big job. I have no doubt that Jeff is ready to take it on. In his time as Lincoln city councilman, he showed himself to be a person of great talent and energy, and deep conviction. He's a hard worker. He's been a very active member of his community and somebody you can always count on. He'll come to Washington as an experienced public servant, and he'll be a congressman perfectly in tune with his district. The President and I are behind him all the way, and we look forward to welcoming him to the United States Congress next January.
The elections are going to be critically important at every level of the ballot. As the Vice President I've had a few chances to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate, including on several elements of the President's tax relief program last spring. I don't want you to think I deserve any special credit for the way I voted on those occasions. The President gave me rather firm instructions when I want to Hill that day. (Applause.) The point is that if we'd had one less vote in the United States Senate, we would not have been able to pass those tax measures that we passed a year ago that reduced rates and so forth. And if we hadn't been able to do that, we would not have the economic recovery we're enjoying today. It's absolutely essential that we maintain and expand our numbers in Congress.
There's so much at stake this November, from the direction of our economy to the conduct of the war on terror, and together, we're going to present to the voters a strong record of accomplishment and a clear agenda for the years ahead. I believe the American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of our new era, because of our Republican majorities in the Congress, and because of the character and leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
This is a period in history defined by serious challenges, and by the need for decisive action. And as Jeff understands, the greatest responsibility of our government is clear: We must protect the safety and security of the American people.
The attacks of September 11th, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era in our history. In the space of a few hours that morning, we saw the violence and the grief that 19 murderous men could inflict. And we had a glimpse of the even greater harm that terrorists wished for us.
Since 9/11, we've seen attacks around the world -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbala, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Madrid, and recently again in Saudi Arabia. We know that the terrorists are determined to intimidate free countries, to disrupt the world's economy, and even to try to influence elections. We have to assume that they will make further attempts here in the United States. And every American can be certain that we will do everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack on America.
We created the Department of Homeland Security to bring together key personnel and to improve security at our borders and ports and on commercial aircraft. Congress passed the Patriot Act, to give law enforcement additional tools needed to catch terrorists here inside the United States. We added billions in new funding for cutting edge drugs and technology in order to defend against biological attack. And we changed the mission of the FBI to focus on preventing terrorist attacks before they could be launched.
As Jeff understands, this is urgent work, yet a good defense is not enough. America must never go back to the false comforts of the world before 9/11. Terrorists attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. So this nation has made a decision. We will go on the offense. We will engage the terrorists, face them with our military wherever they plot and plan so we do not have to face them with armies of firefighters, police, and medical personnel here at home on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, we removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the training camps where terrorists had trained to kill Americans. In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator and rid the world of a gathering threat to our peace and security. Saddam Hussein once controlled the lives and the future of nearly 25 million people. Today, he is in jail. (Applause.) Because we acted, he will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support terrorists or pursue weapons of mass destruction, and never again threaten the United States of America.
Watching these developments, the leader of Libya decided the time had come for him to end his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. He turned over to the United States all of his crucial equipment and plans, including the design for a nuclear weapon.
The key supplier of that deadly technology to Libya was a Pakistani named A.Q. Khan, who had developed a network to sell nuclear technology and know-how to some of the world's most dangerous regimes, including North Korea and Iran. Thanks to the skillful work of our intelligence officers and the cooperation of the government of Pakistan, Mr. Khan is now under house arrest in Pakistan. And his network of suppliers is being dismantled. (Applause.)
In the liberated countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, we and our coalition partners still face very serious challenges. But our progress has been steady, and no power the enemy will stop it. In Afghanistan, an interim government has been established, a constitution has been written, later this fall, there will be free elections. And Afghan National Army has been established so that Afghans will be able to contribute to their own security.
On Tuesday of this week, I had the privilege of presiding over a joint session of the Congress with the Speaker of the House so President Karzai of Afghanistan could come to the United States Capitol and thank the American people for helping to free his country and for being a friend to the people of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now a free country, a friend of the United States, and a nation fully joined with us in the war on terror.
In Iraq, within the space of 15 months, that nation has gone from repression and one of the worst dictatorships of the 20th century to the verge of self-government. And they know the way forward. President Bush has outlined a five-step plan to help Iraq secure democracy and freedom. There's now an interim government in place, and we will hand over sovereignty to this new government at the end of this month. That plan has the support of the new Iraqi government, and the unanimous backing of the U.N. Security Council. Transferring sovereignty on the 30th of June represents a crucial step, yet we will continue to help the Iraqi people even after that day passes. We will maintain our commitment to assisting Iraqis in establishing security and in rebuilding the infrastructure of their country. We will also continue our efforts to encourage more international support for the mission in Iraq, especially from our allies in NATO. All the work of our coalition in Iraq will lead toward national elections, which will bring forward the leaders of a peaceful, democratic Iraq.
The stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan are historic. And the terrorists understand that as well as we do. Iraq will either be a peaceful free country, or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror, and a danger to America and the world. America will help Iraqis persevere in this cause and defeat the enemies of liberty and secure a free, self-governing Iraq. And when we succeed, we will have enhanced the security of our own country.
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 the cooperation of our friends and 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.)
Our nation is extremely fortunate during these times of testing to have the dedicated service of our men and women in uniform. They are proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation, we are sending the very best of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Here at home, we've taken strong decisive steps to get the economy growing again. Working with strong allies on Capitol Hill, the President signed into law 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 put the unfair federal death tax on the path to extinction.
We're seeing the effects of tax relief here in Nebraska. Since President Bush took office, more then 640,000 taxpayers in Nebraska have seen their income tax bills reduced. More than 215,000 married couples in Nebraska are benefiting from marriage penalty relief. And more than 160,000 families in Nebraska have benefitted from the increase in the child tax credit. Nearly 170,000 business owners in Nebraska have also seen their federal tax burden go down, allowing them to invest in new equipment and to grow their business.
We're seeing the same upward trend all across the nation. Our economy added 248,000 jobs in the month of May alone, our ninth consecutive month of job-creating. America employers have now hired more than 1.4 million new workers since August. And the unemployment rate nationally has fallen from its peak of 6.3 percent last summer to 5.6 percent last month.
There is more evidence that this economic expansion is solid and durable. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Productivity is high. Incomes, wages, and factory orders have been rising. Business investment is increasing. And over 80 million investors are benefitting from a growing stock market, and from a reduction from the capital gains tax, and the double-taxation of dividends. Over the past year, America's economy has grown at a rate of 5 percent, the fastest rate of growth since Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House. There's a simple reason for our growing prosperity: The Bush tax relief is working. (Applause.)
We're pleased with the progress we've made, but as Jeff Fortenberry understands, there is considerable work left to do. Under the strong economic leadership of President Bush, the nation is going to continue moving forward with an aggressive, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda. We should continue spending discipline in Washington, D.C. And because tax relief is the basis for our economic recovery and the growth of new jobs, we should make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
Our nation needs lawsuit abuse reform, to protect small businesses from junk lawsuits and needless regulation. And we need medical liability reform -- because in Nebraska, and across the nation, doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
Congress also needs to pass a sound energy program for the nation. It's been three years since President Bush proposed an energy plan to modernize the electricity grid, to increase conservation, to expand the use of alternative fuels, and produce more energy here at home in the United States. If Congress had acted on our energy plan three years ago, today we would be well on our way to increasing our domestic energy supply. The House has passed legislation, yet it's hung up in the Senate. It's time to get the job done so we can make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
It is also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The recent agreement by some Senate Democrats to stop obstructing votes on 25 of the President's nominees is a welcome step. Yet far too many nominees are still being forced to spend months, or even years, waiting for a hearings or an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. A number are still being filibustered. That's unfair to judicial nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
On issue after issue -- from national security, to agriculture, to economic growth -- President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. Jeff has made his voice heard on these important issues, and once he's in Congress, he'll be our partner in achieving even greater goals.
President Bush has a clear vision for the future of the nation. Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes -- to protect our homeland by turning back the forces of terror, and to spread hope and freedom throughout the world. And 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, and 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. I'm pleased to be back in Lincoln. It's an honor to help Jeff's in this campaign. Come November, we know the good people of Nebraska are going to make a great. And we look forward to the day we'll be able to call Jeff Fortenberry a friend and colleague in the United States Congress.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 9:09 A.M. CDT