|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
July 19, 2004
Vice President Participates in a Q&A at the Boone County Lumber Company in Columbia, Missouri
The Boone County Millwork Showroom & Production Facility
1:04 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. Sit down, please.
And, Brad, I want to thank you for that introduction. And let me thank the Eisserts for hosting us here today. They've got a great story to tell about the business. And Howard, who founded the company, I guess, in 1965. And the story I was told was your former employer, International Paper, suggested maybe you wouldn't be successful. (Laughter.) And the facility that's just down the way here as part of this complex is one he bought from International Paper some years later. So -- (Laughter and applause.)
I've got my wife, Lynne, with me today. Lynne, you want to stand up and take a bow? (Applause.) One of the reasons she's with me is because on this trip, on Saturday night, we visited our hometown of Casper, Wyoming, where we attended our 45th high school reunion. She looks just as good today as she did then. (Laughter and applause.)
I often joke that the reason we got married was because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President in 1952. Because in 1952, I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. And Eisenhower came in, reorganized the Department of Agriculture. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming. And that's how I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together, and we'll mark our 40th wedding anniversary next month. And I explained to a group that if it hadn't been for that Eisenhower victory in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) She said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.)
But we're here today because we wanted to have an opportunity to talk about some of the major issues in ths year's election. I think this is going to be one of the most important elections of my lifetime. I say that not just because my name is going to be on the ballot, right alongside the President's, but because I really think the issues we've got to deal with this year, the very significant issues with respect to national security and foreign policy, as well as our economy are going to shape the course of history, really, for the next 30, 40, 50 years, that this is one of those elections with big issues at stake. And it's very important that we get it right. And I wanted to spend a few minutes today talking about those concerns, and then I'll open it up to questions and have the opportunity to respond to whatever your comments and concerns might be, as well, too.
Being here at Boone County Millwork is a great place to illustrate exactly the kind of thing we're talking about. When the President and I got elected, we were headed into a recession. The 401k plans and retirement plans of a lot of folks were going downhill because the stock market was in a slide. Then we had the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and that shook the economy once again. The bottom line result was we needed some fairly fast and aggressive action to get the economy back on track. And I think that's exactly what the President delivered. He delivered significant tax relief for the America people -- not once, not twice, but three times. (Applause.)
More than 2 million taxpayers here in Missouri are paying lower federal taxes today because of the cuts that we passed over the last three years. Things like doubling the child tax credit; reducing the marriage penalty; cutting rates across the board -- all those things are very important. When we look at a business like this one, in the final analysis what's most important I think to everybody is to have a good job at a decent wage. That's key to having a healthy economy, and that means businesses -- especially small businesses that create 70 percent of the new jobs in this country -- it's absolutely essential they be allowed to succeed. And it's important they be allowed to invest in new plant and equipment. Some of the changes that the President put in place, such as making it possible -- we, in effect, quadrupled the amount of new equipment that could be expensed by a small business -- up to a $100,000 a year; provided for accelerated appreciation so companies were able to go out and make investments that created opportunities that made it possible for them to hire more people to work in those businesses. That's happened all across the board.
But one of the key things we did that I think is important long-term is to deal with the death tax. Now, the death tax that's been out there for a long time affects not just the wealthy, it affects ranchers and farmers who have got businesses, in effect, small businesses like this -- want to be able to pass on to the next generation what they've built over a lifetime of work. And the fact of the matter is, the way the old estate laws work, we, in effect, tax those properties twice. People earn the money and build those businesses -- they pay tax on it. And then when you die, Uncle Sam comes back and taxes it once again. It makes it almost impossible to pass on that business to the next generation. You have to sell it off to pay the taxes. Well, we put an end to that by doing away with the death tax, phasing it out over time -- basic fundamental fairness -- (Applause.)
But we do have the economy back on the right track. Our economic growth over the last year nationwide is nearly 5 percent. We've added over 1.5 million new jobs since last August. Inflation is down. Productivity is up. Real disposable income is up. We've got everything headed in the right direction. Basic bottom line conclusion, the President's policy works. Those tax cuts are working. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
On the national security front, we have been through a truly remarkable time in American history. Think back to what has transpired in the three-and-a-half years that George Bush has been President. It's a set of developments and events that nobody could have anticipated. When he and I were sworn in, we expected to have to deal with the economy. We had a plan for that to deal with education. We had a plan for that. The President wanted to aggressively move to create standards in accountability in our public schools. And we've done that.
But what nobody could expect what was happened to us on 9/11. We ended up in a situation, obviously, on that day when we were struck by terrorists who had been planning the attack since 1996, and that morning they killed some 3,000 of our fellow citizens without provocation. Some people suggest that the use of strength is what provokes terrorists. I don't think so. It's the perception of weakness that provokes terrorists. (Applause.)
Now, the terrorists had learned some unfortunate lessons in the period before George Bush became President. We had been struck repeatedly over the years -- 1993, the first attack on the World Trade Center; 1996, Khobar Towers, in Saudi Arabia; 1998, they struck simultaneously two of our embassies in East Africa and killed hundreds of people; in 2000, they attacked the USS Cole, killed 17 of our sailors and came close to sinking in a major warship; and then, of course, 2001, we were struck -- the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, once again. If you look back on that period of time, they'd learned two unfortunate lessons. One was they could strike us with relative impunity, because they had repeatedly. We'd been able to go after and arrest individuals who were involved in those attacks, but we never sort of reached beyond that to take down the organization, or to attack the organization that was responsible for planning and carrying out those attacks. And secondly, they'd learned if they hit us hard enough, we'd change our policies. Because we did in 1983, when we were hit in Beirut, we lost 241 Marines there on a Sunday morning, and we withdrew from Lebanon. In 1993, they hit us in Mogadishu, Somalia, within two weeks, we were out of Somalia.
That was the set of going-in assumptions if you will when we were struck on the morning of 9/11, a little over -- almost three years ago now. The President responded I think in ways that the terrorists never anticipated. He got very aggressive. That included not only did we have to harden our defenses here at home and make it tougher for the terrorists to strike us here, but also he made a couple of other basic decisions.
One of those was that we would go after any state that sponsored terror, or that provided support for terror -- (applause) -- and that we would use military force, if need be, to defend the United States by going after the terrorists wherever they might plot and plan their attacks against us. (Applause.)
Now, the result of all of that, of course, was we launched into Afghanistan, took down the Taliban, closed the training camps that had trained some 20,000 terrorists in the last part of the '90s; killed and captured hundreds of al Qaeda; and put bin Laden on the run.
Since then, we've stood up a new government in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai runs it. They've got a Constitution. They'll hold free elections in October of this year for the first time ever and be on the path toward establishing a democracy in Afghanistan -- very, very important piece of work. (Applause.)
In Iraq, of course, we went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein was probably one of the worst dictators of the 20th century. He had previously started two wars. He had produced and used weapons of mass destruction. You can go today, stand on a hill up at a place called Halabja, in northern Iraq and look out on a field where thousands of Kurds are buried who were gassed with weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein in 1988. He had a long history of hosting terrorists. The Abu Nidal organization killed hundreds of people at one point: It operated out of Baghdad -- Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. And he had a relationship with al Qaeda. One of the worst offenders in the modern world, and he represented more than anything else -- from our perspective -- that possibility that terrorists operating out of Iraq would be able to get their hands on some of those deadly substances, or the technology that Saddam Hussein had developed in the past.
So we went into Iraq, took down the regime. Saddam Hussein is in jail. His sons are dead, and the government is gone. (Applause.)
Today, of course, the situation in Iraq is that we've got a new interim government that's been stood up since the end of June. We've transferred sovereign authority to that government. We're working very aggressively to train Iraqi security forces so they can take over the responsibility from our guys for providing for the security for the Iraqi people. They've got a plan to write to a constitution. They'll hold their first free elections next January. And they're well on their way to getting established in Iraq the kind of government that will never again be a safe haven for terror; never again threaten their neighbors; never again pursue weapons of mass destruction; never again be a threat to the United States. (Applause.)
Finally, of course, Moammar Ghadafi, in Libya, watched all of this. He'd been spending millions and millions of dollars over the years to develop nuclear weapons. He had everything he needed to achieve that purpose. He had the technology. He had the uranium. He had the enrichment capability to enrich the uranium to weapons-grade level. He had a weapons design. And he was actively and aggressively trying to acquire nuclear weapons. He watched what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he decided maybe he might want to reconsider what he was all about. Five days after we arrested Saddam Hussein, Colonel Ghadafi went public and said, I give it up, come get it, it's all yours. (Applause.) All of that material and equipment now resides down at Oak Ridge in Tennessee. The President was down there a week ago today to personally inspect it himself.
And, of course, the final piece of business was the A.Q. Khan network. This is the man who created the Pakistani nuclear bomb, then he diverted the suppliers' network to his own purposes and has been selling nuclear weapons technology not only to Libya, but also to North Korea and Iran. That network has now been put out of business. Khan is under house arrest inside Pakistan. His supplier network is shut down. (Applause.)
Final point, and then I'll stop -- I'm trying to condense it down. There's a lot to talk about, and I don't want to take up all the time myself. There are, I think, a couple of things to be said about why we've been successful. One is the enormous skill and talent and dedication of the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.) Two is that it's vitally important that we pursue a policy that let's us reach out and address these problems in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wherever they may be in the world with our military forces, so we don't end up having to address them here at home with our police, our firefighters, and our medical personnel on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)
And the third and final point I'd make is there is no substitute for strong, decisive, courageous presidential leadership. (Applause.)
So on that note -- (laughter) -- I'm going to turn it over to you and let all of you ask me some questions --somebody here with the mike.
Q I'm from Columbia. My question is involving energy policy. As you know, one of the great issues that we face today is our continued reliance on foreign nations for petroleum. One of the things we could do to address is to increase our use of biodiesel and ethanol. So could you talk a little bit about your vision for renewables in the context of the energy policy?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. The President put forward a set of recommendations over three years ago in the energy area, designed to increase our domestic production here at home to support renewables, to encourage new technology, to promote conservation, modernize our electricity grid. Unfortunately, that bill is still hung up in the Senate. We'd gotten it through the House. We got it through the Senate once. It went to conference, and they took the conference report back, passed it through the House, but we're still two votes short in the Senate. That bill includes within it significant incentives for biodiesel and ethanol. It's very important, we think, to go down that road because it will help us to diversify our supplies, but it also will reduce the extent to which we're dependent on foreign sources of oil for our basic transportation. It's a very good piece of legislation. We need to get it done. If you know two members of the United States Senate -- and might I say the Missouri delegation in Kit Bond and Jim Talent have been great; they've been very supportive. (Applause.) But as of last week, we were still trying to resolve those House-Senate differences. And with luck, we'll get something out before they end their session.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. Vice President. Thank you for coming to Columbia, Missouri. I am a resident of Columbia. We're beginning to see job creation improve significantly in Missouri and elsewhere in our country. We know there's a relationship between a highly educated work force and economic -- since over 90 percent of our work force is educated through our public school system, what is the administration's plans for a continued federal investment in our public schools?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think one of the most important things we've done -- and this is the President's top priority, this is the first thing he asked Congress for when he became President -- was the No Child Left Behind Act. He had the experience in Texas, where he watched -- looked at the Texas school system and concluded it wasn't working right, that there was a big gap between what supposedly they were trying to achieve and actually achieving. Some of the basic testing showed that Texas was way down the list in terms of the ability of students to read and write and do math. And so he established in Texas, on a bipartisan basis, the equivalent of what later became the notion of No Child Left Behind. And the two basic fundamental principles that are involved are number one, testing. You cannot know how well the schools are working, or not working, how well the schools are meeting the needs of any individual child, or group of children if you don't measure results. Second was accountability. And those are the two principles that are embodied in that basic proposition. And that's what he brought to Washington. He built a bipartisan coalition. Ted Kennedy was there when he signed the bill, and that bill is now in play.
We've also significantly increased funding for that portion of the education act. This is the most sweeping reform since the Elementary/Secondary Education Act was set up in 1965. The funding in that Title I of that program, which is what covers, specifically disadvantaged students, from 2001 to 2004 is up by over 40 percent. So we're committed to continuing to implement that policy. We're just beginning to get some preliminary results from nationwide testing to see how its working. Parents are allowed choices if their kids are in a failing school to take them out of that school and put them into public schools, public choice, in effect; and as well as having funds provided to assist kids who need supplemental help and assistance. We've still got a long way to go to make it more perfect. But we've got those basic principles now that have been established. We will hold our schools accountable for results. And we will measure whether or not we're making progress. Lynne and I went to public school in Casper, Wyoming, where we were enormously blessed to have great teachers, and a school system where the parents were actively engaged and cared a lot about it. Those are the kinds of schools we need all across America in our public school system so every kid in the United States has an opportunity to get a first rate education, and is then able to take advantage of that to participate to the maximum extent possible in our magnificent society. (Applause.)
Q I'm from the Lake of the Ozarks. Mr. Vice President, what do you believe to be the greatest achievement of your administration in four years?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What do I believe to be the greatest achievement of the administration -- there's so many. (Laughter.)
Well, I really do believe that it is sort of the fundamental shift in our attitude as a nation from what it was before 9/11 to what it is now. For years we had sort of a "turn the other cheek," law enforcement kind of approach to terror. When we got hit at World Trade Center in 1993, the man who was primarily responsible for that was a guy named Ramzi Yousef. We eventually ran him to ground a couple of years later. He's doing 240 years now at the federal pen in Colorado. That's good. We got him and put him in jail. But we didn't look behind the operation. It turns out that his uncle is a man named Khalid Shaykh Muhammad. Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is the top planner for 9/11. In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is the guy who first went to Osama bin Laden and talked about using airplanes to fly into skyscrapers here in the United States. They planned it for fives years, and executed it on 9/11. Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is now in custody, as well, too.
The point is that we were willing at that point to bring to bear the full might of the United States -- our intelligence capabilities, our law enforcement capabilities, and our military capabilities to go after the terrorists wherever they may reside. We no longer make that distinction that we used to -- that the terrorists and the states that host the terrorists can be separated, that they're split. In effect, the President said, if you are a terror-sponsoring state, or if you provide safe haven, you are as guilty of their acts as the terrorists themselves. It's a whole new departure. And he's taken a lot of flak for it in the international world. The Europeans don't like it -- some of them; some of them have been very supportive. But the fact of the matter is, the United States must lead on this issue. We have to be out front on it. We cannot build perfect defenses here at home. We can be successful 99 percent of the time, and they only have to get through once. If they get through one time with a deadly weapon, a nuclear weapon, or a biological agent of some kind, we'll suffer far more deaths than we did on 9/11.
We have to get into the mind set that we're going after them wherever they are -- wherever they train, wherever they plan, wherever they raise money, wherever they hide -- and take care of them, and eliminate them before they can launch more attacks against the United States. I think that's the biggest achievement. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm from Columbia, Missouri. We thank you for the privilege to ask questions. As a person who had the privilege to wear the uniform of the uniformed services of the United States, I know my fellow veterans have a deep and abiding affection for the flag that we see waving behind us. (Applause.) And I know many of them would support a constitutional amendment banning the degradation of the flag. Is there a difference between the two campaigns with respect to this issue? Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We believe -- the President and I do -- very firmly in protecting the flag. We believe we are "one Nation under God," and that the American people -- (applause) -- and that the American people ought to be able to say "one nation under God" when they pledge allegiance to the flag. Unfortunately, we've got some judges who forget that the Declaration of Independence talks about "one nation under God." And one of the thing we need to do is to get more judges on the bench who support those measures. (Applause.)
I think you touched on a key issue. I'll let the opposition speak for themselves in terms of where they are on those issues. It could change tomorrow. (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Did everybody hear the question? All right, I'll repeat it.
He asked about problems with rising health care costs, and what our administration plans to deal with that. He especially was talking about the problems with medical malpractice insurance. And he mentioned that Senator Kerry was the trial attorney who had been involved -- Edwards. I get them confused. (Laughter and applause.)
Somebody said the other day that John Edwards got the job because he was sexy, charming, and good looking. I said, how do you think I got the job? (Applause.)
Let me -- this is a very important question. Let me talk about the problem of medical malpractice insurance. The fact of the matter is, it's had a devastating impact -- the rising cost of insurance for doctors has had a devastating impact on a number of states. I think Missouri has had a problem. My own state of Wyoming, just last week had a special legislative session, something they almost never do because medical malpractice insurance costs have risen so rapidly that we're losing doctors all over the state. Our number one insurer, the largest insurer in Wyoming pulled out.
Say, a doctor, for example -- just to give you an example of it -- in my hometown of Casper, two years ago, their insurance cost $40,000; today it costs $100,000 a year. There's absolutely -- doesn't appear to be any upper limit on it. I don't know what that does, of course. Obviously, we want to preserve the right of people who have legitimate grievances to be able to go to court and address those grievances. That's as it should be. Nobody is suggesting that somebody who has been harmed by a serious breach of medical ethics, or somebody -- a doctor who has made a serious mistake, that an individual patient shouldn't be compensated for those errors. But what has happened is that the way the system works now, we get an awful lot of frivolous lawsuits filed. Lots of times they file simply in the hope that they'll never go to trial, that they'll be able to hurrah the insurance company into paying them a substantial chunk of money. A big chunk of the money goes to the trial attorneys, not to the patient who has been wronged. And, of course, the maximum impact is now to make it impossible for communities to have the kind of medical services they need because no doctor can afford to practice there because they can't afford to pay the insurance premium.
In the case of Wyoming, we can't get anybody to come in. We had a recent situation where a guy was telling a story about trying to recruit young docs, and he said, look, the first thing you have to do when you come in, is you're going to have to put up front $80,000 cash to cover your insurance. And he said, they just laugh at me. Nobody is going to come with that kind of proposition, especially some guy just out of medical school who has probably got large debts anyway from financing his education.
So we badly need to deal with it. The solution, I believe, is medical liability reform. We've worked that very aggressively. The President has been a big supporter of it. We've gotten it through the House; it's been blocked in the Senate. Both Senators Edwards and Kerry have consistently voted against medical liability reform. They don't want to see reform of that system. I think it's because, frankly, they are too close to the plaintiff's attorneys that benefit from the system and the way it operates today.
I saw some numbers the other day that showed -- I believe these were numbers out of the Rand Corporation -- that if you take the dollar that goes for one of these settlements, about 46 percent actually goes to the client who has been injured; more than 50 percent, 54 percent goes for attorneys' fees, trial costs and the share of the trial attorney who basically brought the case -- and that's 30, 40, 50 percent. And that's not right.
There are states out there that have put caps on non-economic suffering. That's the solution that we think ought to be adopted. We'll continue to push it as aggressively as we can. And as I say, we're hopeful that we'll be successful.
The other final point I'd make is, when you've got a profession, a medical profession out there that's as worried as they are about being sued, about having these suits brought against them, about their insurance rates going up, what they do is they practice defensive medicine. They'll do everything they can in terms of ordering up tests, whether you need them or not, because they're thinking not necessarily about treating the patient, they're thinking about the pending lawsuit. And that, in and of itself, serves to drive up the total cost of what people -- everybody has to pay, not just those who are involved in a particular case, but everybody pays a much higher cost for medical care than would otherwise be the case because of defensive medicine. And the defensive medicine is a direct result of the way the current medical malpractice system works. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm from Jefferson City, Missouri. And I'm a small business owner with a little over a hundred employees. And one of the things we talk about is the economy. And I appreciate your comments on the economy earlier. But what I was wondering is what do you think happened four years that got us in the little bit of trouble that we had, and where do you think under your administration it can go?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In terms of the economic cycle, you mean? Well, I think several things happened. We came at the end of a pretty good run-up in terms of economic performance through the '90s. We ended up with something of a stock market bubble. That obviously seemed to contribute to the overall drop in equity values. We saw -- what I noticed at the tail end of 2000, this was right after the election, I can remember being interviewed on Meet The Press, I said we were -- I thought we might be at the front end of a recession. And I took some flak for it at the time. It turned out to be true.
What I was looking at was the number of car-loadings that were going in terms how railroads, and a lot of our -- trucking industries, which were sort of of lead indicators of how much economic activity was out there. And we'd, I think, overbuilt capacity significantly. We had a lot of excess capacity built into the economy. And we ran out of steam, if you will, in terms of that economic cycle. And there's a normal business cycle out there that took hold, and the economy began to slow down; and then when you added to that the decline in the market, as well as the attacks of 9/11, which were, frankly, were devastating, in terms of what it did to the travel and tourism industries. That combination of things is what really drove us into the tank.
We're fortunate that we were able to enact the tax program that we did -- both in '01, '02, and '03 -- because I think that was crucial at putting a floor under it. We never got a really severe recession. The bottom didn't drop out. Unemployment went up a little above 6 percent. That was the max. We're back down now -- I guess, we're about 5.1 percent, here in Missouri; about 5.6 percent nationwide on unemployment. So one of the things, I guess, I've learned from Alan Greenspan is that our economy is an amazingly resilient creature. We don't oftentimes appreciate the enormous strength and dynamism of what free people do in a free society where people are free to make choices, where businessmen and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to invest and take risk, and create businesses, where workers can get a job, and get a education, improve their circumstance; if things are bad in one community, pick up and go to another community. And it's that dynamism of our society overall that I think -- that we're the great beneficiaries of that.
The main thing that, I guess, I keep coming back to is it's important to keep government out of the way. (Applause.) There's a great temptation, sometimes, in Washington to say nothing happens in the economy unless Washington orders that it happen. And usually, that's not the case. When we provide for tax relief, for example, in effect, what we're saying to the American worker and businessman out there is, you keep it, you'll make a better decision about how to spend it if we take it back there. (Applause.)
That's a very different philosophy from the one, I think, our opponents believe in, which is, go out and collect all the taxes you can, and fund all the government programs you want to operate, because those programs are what creates wealth in our society. That's not true. It's the American people that create wealth in our society. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for one more question for the Vice President.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Who's got a question? Yes, sir.
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm from Columbia, Missouri. Again, welcome back to Columbia. How is the government in Iraq really doing? How do you think it's really affecting us out here? And then something about
what you think about NASA?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: About NASA? Well, NASA is a great institution. It has achieved some wondrous things. We're still doing it day in and day out. I don't know if you've been following the satellite that we launched, what, seven years ago that's now in orbit around Saturn. When you think of that, it's mind-boggling -- when you think about what we've been able to do there to put that payload up. And it will operate now for a good many years to come. It was the first ever close-up look at the whole Saturn system. And we did it. Americans put together the technology, and designed the system and it's there for all to see.
And we're still -- the President is committed to the program. We'd like to rejuvenate, if you will, our manned space flight program down the road. NASA is going to be around for a good long time to come.
With respect to Iraq, the thing I feel very good about is the caliber of individuals now that have stepped up to take on responsibility to begin governing Iraq. If you look at Ayad Allawi. He's the new Prime Minister He is a man who spent a good part of the recent years of his life working as part of the opposition to Saddam Hussein. He fled the country some years ago and was living in London. It's a remarkable story, really -- at one point, Saddam Hussein sent an assassin after Mr. Allawi -- went into his home, and into his bedroom late at night, in London, and attacked him with an ax. And he woke up just in time to avoid getting hit in an absolutely vital spot. But his leg was nearly severed. He survived the attack, obviously, was hospitalized for many, many months. His wife was with him that night, and it was such a traumatic experience for her, she never really fully recovered from the event.
He's now back in Iraq. He's willing to step up and take on Mr. Zarqawi, who is sort of the lead terrorist over there, who's launched a lot of these attacks that have killed a lot of Iraqis. He is a bold courageous, tough guy. And that's exactly what the Iraqis need at this point. There are a lot of other very good people involved. A man named Kanan Makiya, whom I've gotten to know very well, grew up in Iraq, came to the U.S. to go to school. He's been a professor at Brandeis, and up at Harvard. He's absolutely committed to democracy and freedom. He's written two great books about what it was like living under Saddam Hussein in Iraq -- an eloquent, articulate advocate of democracy and individual liberty, and is a part of the operation there now. So there's a long list of people who I think now that they have the opportunity, now that we've transferred sovereign authority back to them, now that they understand that they're the ones who are going to determine the outcome, both in terms of establishing a political system, that is responsive to the needs and desires of the people of Iraq, that is representative of all the diverse ethnic groups, that is democratically elected -- I think they'll get it done.
The other piece of it, of course, is what I mentioned earlier, is the importance of having Iraqis stand up and take on the responsibility for destroying the terrorists that are trying to disrupt this whole process, eliminating the remnants of the old regime that are doing everything they can to defeat the establishment of democracy in Iraq. And there we're doing well. We've got a man named Dave Petraeus, he's the former commander of the 101st Airborne during the course of our operations in Iraq. He's going back over there now, and is running the training program to stand up Iraqi armed forces. The Iraqis now, obviously, if you watch, are suffering more casualties than we are. And that's as it should be. You don't want anybody to suffer casualties, but they've got to get into the fight for their own country. They've got to be willing to fight for their freedom, and they're doing that.
So I feel pretty good about things. I think when we'll look back on this period of time, it will be a time when there's been a lot of concern, a lot of commentary by the critics, but we're only 15 months into this effort in Iraq, and a little over two years in Afghanistan. And if we can establish viable democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can put a stake in the heart of international terrorism in the Middle East. And that's what we're trying to do. (Applause.)
Let me thank all of you, again, for coming out today. Let me thank the Eisserts for being such gracious hosts. And we appreciate very, very much the fact that you're here. And again, let me mention just how enormously important the decision is we're going to make on November 2nd. There's a lot riding on this one. Missouri is a key state. You were crucial for us last time. And I know that with the kind of effort that all of us are going to make, that on November 2nd, that Missouri will be in the winning column with Bush-Cheney, too.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 1:45 P.M. CDT