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 Home > News & Policies > July 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
July 12, 2004

Vice President's Remarks at Dent Breakfast
The Holiday Inn
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

9:20 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. That was a new introduction Lynne used this morning. I'm never sure what she's going to say when she's out here on the road with me. (Laughter.)

But I love to tell the story about the fact that we owe our marriage to an election victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. It just goes to show you the far-reaching consequences of political campaigns. In 1952, I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected and we got -- Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, which is where I met Lynne. And she didn't notice me till I was about 16. She says she didn't before -- but we grew up together, went to high school together. And we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary here in a couple weeks. And I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for that 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 and applause.)

But it's great to be back in the Lehigh Valley and sharing the podium today with the next congressman from the fifth district, Charlie Dent. (Applause.) I also want to thank Congressman Pat Toomey for being here today. He's done a superb job for this district and for the nation for the last six years in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Applause.)

I've been looking forward to being here today, and I know the President was here just last week, but I promised him I'd bring greetings from him to all of you this morning. He's off to Tennessee today, where he'll make a major speech later on.

Pennsylvania, obviously, is a critical state in the upcoming election, and the President and I are going to work very hard, spend a lot of time here. I was here over the Fourth of July, as a matter of fact. This has always been a very competitive state, and we came very close to winning here in 2000. And this time, with your help, Pennsylvania is going to be part of a great nationwide victory on November 2nd. (Applause.)

The elections in November will decide critical questions about the nation's future. Every race on the ballot is important, and the President and I are proud to have a good slate of candidates on the ticket with us.

Here in the 15th district, you need to have a strong voice in the House of Representatives, and you've found that voice in Charlie Dent. Charlie has deep roots in the Lehigh Valley. He knows the people of this district, and he shares your values. He's an experienced public servant, earned a reputation for hard work and common sense as a state legislator. And he's been a friend to the families and schools and small businesses of Pennsylvania. He fought hard for lower taxes, for legal reforms, and for conditions to promote enterprise and job creation. I'm confident he'll have the same kind of record in the Congress.

Charlie is not just a candidate for Republicans in this district. In his time in Harrisburg, he's proven that he can work across the aisle, and he's earned bipartisan support in this race, as well. He's just the kind of decent, principled, optimistic leader the people of this district deserve. And come November, I'm confident that you'll make him your next United States congressman. (Applause.)

Charlie understands that these are challenging times for our country -- and we are meeting every challenge with strength and resolve. Today, the American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and a nation that is more secure, because of the character and leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on America, people in every part of the country, regardless of party, took great comfort and pride in the conduct of our President. Since 9/11, he has led a steady, focused, and relentless campaign against the enemies who struck America and killed some 3,000 of our fellow citizens. With the President's leadership, we are fighting the war on terror, and we will win the war on terror. (Applause.) Many of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed. Those still at large are on the run, and we are going to hunt them down, one by one.

In Afghanistan, we removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the camps where terrorists 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 almost 25 million people. Today he is in jail. (Applause.) Because we acted, Afghanistan and Iraq have gone from terrorist states to free, sovereign nations, and emerging democracies.

The defeat of tyranny and violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the rise of democracy in a troubled region, will be a crucial setback for international terror. Because we are strong and resolute, these nations will never go back to the camp of tyranny and terror. And America will never go back to the false comforts of the world before 9/11. Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. (Applause.)

This nation has made a decision: We will engage the enemy -- facing him with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq today, so we do not have to face him with armies of firefighters, police, and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities. (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 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.)

This 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 our country, we are sending the very best of the United States of America. One of the most important commitments the President made during the 2000 campaign was that the armed forces would be given every resource they need and all the respect they deserve, and we have kept our word to the United States military.

These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another, the next. And that brings to mind our opponents in this campaign. (Applause.)

Sometimes their position on a big issue depends on when you ask them. When Congress voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards both voted yes. Now it seems they've both developed a convenient case of campaign amnesia. Let's review the facts. Senator Kerry is a former member the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Edwards sits on that committee today. They saw detailed intelligence on Saddam Hussein. On the Senate floor, Senator Kerry said Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and that those weapons were an unacceptable threat. Many times prior to the war in Iraq, Senator Kerry described Saddam Hussein as a threat to the United States, and said that this was, "always his position on Iraq." And Senator Edwards, in an interview on TV, called Iraq, "the most serious and imminent threat to our country."

For those reasons, John Kerry and John Edwards voted to authorize force. Now they're trying to have it both ways. Now they're trying to suggest that they didn't look at the intelligence, or that they didn't conclude for themselves that Saddam Hussein represented a danger. Every American needs to know that there was widespread agreement on the nature of the threat from Iraq's former dictator. Our administration, the Congress, members of the U.N. Security Council, members of the previous administration -- all reviewed the intelligence and all concluded Saddam Hussein was a threat. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards are criticizing the President for looking at the same information they did and coming to the same conclusion they did. If the President was right, and he was, then they are simply trying to rewrite history for their own political purposes.

In 2002, after years of defiance by Saddam Hussein, the U.N. Security Council, yet again, demanded a full accounting of his weapons programs. Saddam said no. So the United States had a choice to make: Either rely on the good faith of a man who had started two wars, who had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and provided safe haven to terrorists -- either rely on the good faith of such a man, or take action to defend America. Given that choice, President Bush made the only responsible decision a leader of the United States could have made, our President chose to confront the dictator and defend the American people. And he was absolutely correct to do so. (Applause.)

Defending America also means supporting the troops, especially those in combat and under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last fall, at the President's request, Congress considered legislation providing critical funding for our troops -- for body armor and other vital support, such as hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, jet fuel, vehicles and spare parts. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12, and that small group of senators voting no included Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards. Later Senator Kerry gave one of those explanations we've all come to expect from him. He said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Well that sure clears things up. (Laughter.) And the second time the issue of troop funding came up, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards signaled their own priorities by not even showing up for the vote.

Ladies and gentlemen, the last thing our nation needs is politicians who support a decision to go to war, and then try to rewrite history, and then fail to support the troops they voted to send into battle. This is a time for steady leadership in the White House, for a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and resolve. And that's why our nation needs George W. Bush for four more years. (Applause.)

There is no doubt that great events will turn on this election. The leader who sits in the Oval Office -- and the men and women who represent you on Capitol Hill -- will set the course for the war on terror, and set the direction of the American economy. Strong, consistent leadership is required, both on our actions overseas, as well as our policies here at home.

Our economy has been tested these past three-and-a-half, and we have responded with strong, decisive action. When we took office, the stock market was declining, and the economy was sliding into recession. Then, on 9/11, terrorists struck our nation and shook our economy once again. We faced a basic decision -- to leave more money with families and businesses, or to take more of your tax dollars for the federal government. President Bush made his choice. He proposed and delivered tax relief -- not once, not twice, but three times, resulting in substantial tax savings for the American people. And over the past three years, America has had the fastest growing economy of any major industrialized nation in the world.

Since President Bush took office, more than 4.6 million Pennsylvania taxpayers have seen their federal tax burden reduced; 1.5 million married couples here now pay lower taxes because we reduced the marriage penalty; and more than 1.1 million Pennsylvania families now pay lower taxes because we doubled the child tax credit. For individuals and families, the average savings from the President's across-the-board cuts topped $1,500. You are using that money far better than it would have been used in Washington, and we did the right thing in returning it to you. (Applause.)

As Charlie knows, the Bush tax relief has helped our economy create jobs for 10 consecutive months, and we've added more than one and a half million new jobs since last August. In Pennsylvania, tax relief has helped to send over 44,000 men and women to work in the past three months, and to lower the unemployment rate to 5.1 percent from its peak of 5.9 percent, early last year. The national home ownership rate is at a record high. Productivity is high. Incomes and wages have been rising. And in the last year, our economy has grown at a rate of nearly 5 percent. The American people are proving the pessimists wrong; the Bush tax cuts are working.

We've seen the positive effects of tax relief, and we know how to keep a good thing going. We will work with Congress to make the Bush tax relief permanent. (Applause.)

There are a number of other important issues on the agenda. For the good of this economy, we need to end lawsuit abuse. Junk and frivolous lawsuits can ruin an honest business. They put people out of work. They clog the courts, delaying justice for people with real legal grievances. Charlie has worked hard for legal reform in Pennsylvania, and we need it on the national level as well. It's a lot easier for America's entrepreneurs to hire new workers if they don't have to keep hiring lawyers. (Applause.)

We need medical liability reform to control the costs of health care. Here in Pennsylvania and across the nation, doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

Our country also needs a comprehensive energy policy. It's time for Congress to pass the common-sense plan President Bush submitted three years ago, a plan that would promote domestic energy production, modernize our electricity grid, promote conservation, and make the United States less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Our opponents have a different vision for our economy. They talk a lot about jobs, yet they never explain how they would put a single American back to work. They oppose effective reform of our legal system. They're against medical liability reform. They helped block the energy plan in the Senate. Their big idea for the economy: To raise your taxes.

In fact, they would repeal many of the Bush tax cuts within their first 100 days in office. This isn't surprising when you consider their 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. That's an average of a vote for higher taxes every three weeks for the last 20 years. At least the folks back in Massachusetts knew he was on the job.

Listen to the other side's proposals between now and November, and you'll see a clear pattern: Their plans would increase the power of the Washington bureaucracy, increase the clout of trial lawyers, and increase the size of government's claim on your paycheck. And they would not create jobs or drive economic growth. What we're hearing from the other side is the failed thinking of the past, and we're not going back. Under the strong economic leadership of President Bush -- and with Charlie Dent in Congress -- this nation is going to continue moving forward with an aggressive, optimistic, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda.

Charlie also understands the importance of having sensible, well qualified men and women serving on the federal courts -- judges who interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench. That is the kind of judges President Bush has nominated. Yet far too many of his nominees are being forced to spend months, or even years, waiting for the hearings and up-or-down votes. A number are still being filibustered. Some aren't even given a hearing because individual senators -- including the one running for my job -- are standing in the way. That is 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. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, the choice on November 2nd will be clear at every level on the ballot. It's a choice between our hope and optimism and our opponents' pessimism. On national security, it's a choice between our confidence and their confusion. On the economy, it's a choice between those who took action and have led America to days of progress and opportunity and those who would take us backward. That's a contest we welcome, and -- working together -- that's a contest we will win. (Applause.)

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. 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 will have a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world.

In all these efforts, Charlie will be a valuable ally on Capitol Hill. I served over a decade in the House of Representatives as the Congressman from Wyoming, and I like to think I'm a pretty good judge of congressional horse flesh. I'm proud to say Charlie has exactly the right experience and character for the job. And come November 2nd, I have no doubt that voters in this district will agree. It's an honor to help with Charlie's campaign, and the President and I look forward to working with him for a good many years to come.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 9:40 A.M. EDT