|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 20, 2004
Remarks by the President at St. Charles, Missouri Rally
St. Charles, Missouri
5:31 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. I am proud to be back in Missouri, in this great city of St. Charles. (Applause.) John Ashcroft told me this morning that St. Charles was the first capital of Missouri. (Applause.) Today, the way things look, St. Charles is the capital of Bush-Cheney country. (Applause.) I always enjoy coming to the St. Louis area. You might remember the last time I was here, I brought my 30-mile-an-hour fastball. (Applause.) Now look at the Cardinals. (Applause.)
I'm here to ask for your vote. (Applause.) I'm here to let you know I've got more to do for this country and I want your help. I want you to go to your community centers and your places of worship and your -- all around this important part of the country and tell folks they have an obligation to vote. (Applause.) And you might remind them if they want optimistic, hopeful, determined leadership, vote for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. (Applause.)
With your help, we carried Missouri in 2000; with your help, we'll carry Missouri in 2004 as a part of a great nationwide victory. (Applause.) So thanks for coming. (Applause.) My only regret is that Laura is not traveling with me.
THE PRESIDENT: That's generally the reaction. (Laughter.) And the reason why is because the people understand she is a great First Lady. (Applause.) And I understand I'm a lucky man to have such a fine person as my wife. (Applause.) Tonight I'll give you some reasons why you need to put me back in office, but perhaps the most important reason is so that Laura will have four more years. (Applause.)
I want to thank Madam Speaker for her kind introduction. Catherine, thank you for your leadership and your service. I want to thank my friend, Matt Blunt. Good to see you, Governor. (Applause.) Peter Kinder is here, and I'm proud Peter is here. I want to thank him for his friendship. Mike Gibbons, all those who serve at the state and local level, thank you for serving our communities and our country.
I particularly want to say thanks to the grassroots activists who are here -- (applause.) The unsung heroes who make all the phone calls and put up the signs, and get people to register to vote, and remind people that if they're interested in helping, they can get on the Internet at the georgewbush.com site. (Applause.) I'm counting on your help. I'm counting on your support. I'll lay out the vision, you get the people to the polls, and we'll have four more years. (Applause.)
And when you're convincing people to do their duty, remind them that the last three-and-a-half years have brought serious challenges, and we have given serious answers. (Applause.) We came to office with the stock market in decline, and an economy headed into recession. But we acted. We delivered historic tax relief, and over the past three years America has had the fastest growing economy of any major industrialized nation. (Applause.)
We saw war and grief arrive on a quiet September morning. So we pursued the terrorist enemy across the world. We have captured or killed many leaders of the al Qaeda network. We will stay on the hunt until justice is done and America is secure. (Applause.)
We confronted the dangers of state-sponsored terror, the spread of weapons of mass destruction. So we acted against two of the most violent and dangerous regimes on earth. We liberated over 50 million people. Once again, America is proud to lead the armies of liberation. (Applause.)
When our great Vice President, Dick Cheney, and I -- (applause) -- when we came to Washington, the military was under funded and underappreciated. (Applause.) So we gave our armed forces the resources and respect they deserve, and today, nobody can question the skill and the strength and the spirit of the United States military. (Applause.)
These accomplishments are important to the security and the prosperity of America. You see, it is the President's job to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations. (Applause.) A President must make the hard decisions and keep his commitments. And with your help, that is how I will continue to lead our great nation for four more years. (Applause.)
THE AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: I'm looking forward to the contest. (Applause.) And it's going to be a hard race -- that's why I'm here to ask for your help. I'm running against -- I'm running against an experienced United States senator.
THE AUDIENCE: Booo!
THE PRESIDENT: He's been in Washington a long time -- long time. He's been there long enough to take both sides of just about every issue. (Laughter and applause.) He voted for the Patriot Act, NAFTA, the No Child Left Behind Act, and for the force -- use of force in Iraq. Now, he opposes the Patriot Act, NAFTA, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the liberation of Iraq. (Laughter.) If you disagree with the senator on most any issue, you may just have caught him on the wrong day. (Laughter and applause.)
And as you know, he's picked a running mate. Senator Kerry is rated as the most liberal member of the United States Senate. And he chose a fellow lawyer, who is the fourth most liberal member of the United States Senate.
THE AUDIENCE: Booo!
THE PRESIDENT: Now, in Massachusetts, that's what they call balancing the ticket. (Laughter and applause.)
Great events will turn on this election. The person who sits in the Oval Office will set the course of the war on terror. and the direction of our economy. I'm asking for your vote because I have a vision and a strategy to win the war on terror and to extend freedom and peace throughout the world. (Applause.) I'm asking for your vote because I have a plan and strategy to continue to create jobs and opportunity for every single American. I'm asking for your vote because I have a plan to continue to rally the armies of compassion, the compassionate spirit of this country, so every single American has a chance to realize the great promise of our land. I'm asking for your help -- and after four more years, America will be safer, stronger, and a better nation. (Applause.)
THE AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: A big issue for every family is the federal tax burden. By providing the largest --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh, it's killing me! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: By providing the largest federal tax relief since Ronald Reagan was the President -- (applause) -- we've left more money in the hands that earned it. (Applause.) By spending and investing and helping create new jobs, the American people have used their money far better than the federal government would have. (Applause.)
This economy of ours is strong and it's getting stronger. Since last summer, our economy has been growing at its fastest rate in nearly 20 years. (Applause.) In less than a year's time, we've added 1.5 million new jobs. (Applause.) In this great state, in the state of Missouri, 27,600 people went to work at a new job in June. (Applause.) Your unemployment rate is now 5.2 percent -- (applause) -- down from 5.8 percent last July. (Applause.) The homeownership rate is at its all-time high. (Applause.) Business investment is up, consumer confidence is strong. The tax relief we passed is working. (Applause.)
My opponent looks at all this progress and somehow concludes that the sky is falling. (Laughter.) Whether their message is delivered with a frown or a grin, it's the same old pessimism. And to cheer us up, they propose higher taxes, more federal spending, more lawsuits, economic isolationism.
THE AUDIENCE: Booo!
THE PRESIDENT: The surest way to end economic growth and to put Americans out of work is to adopt their vision. This nation is on the path to progress and opportunity, and we're not going back. (Applause.) To sustain economic growth we need to keep taxes low. (Applause.) Higher taxes would undermine growth and destroy jobs just as the economy is gaining more steam. To help grow the economy so people can find work, my message to Congress is: Do not raise taxes on the American people. (Applause.)
In order to make sure Americans can find work today, and work tomorrow, we must be wise about how we spend the people's money. My plan calls for spending discipline. It calls for setting clear priorities. I also understand whose money we spend in Washington, D.C. -- we don't spend the government's money, we spend the people's money. (Applause.)
In order to make sure this economy continues to grow and people can find work, we must stop the frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) You cannot be pro-small business and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. (Applause.) You have to choose. My opponent has made his choice -- and he put him on the ticket.
THE PRESIDENT: I made my choice. I will continue to push the United States Congress to reform the legal system to end the junk and frivolous lawsuits that plague our small businesses. (Applause.)
In order to make sure we continue to expand our job base, I have a plan to help more Americans afford health insurance, by giving people better access to health care through association health plans, giving Americans more control over their health care through tax-free health savings accounts. And to make sure that people have got affordable and available health care, we need medical liability reform into Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
In order to make sure people can find work today and tomorrow, we need to pass sound energy legislation. I have proposed a plan to the United States Congress over two years ago. It is a plan that calls for more conservation. It's a plan that says we will develop renewable sources of energy. It's a plan that says we must modernize our electricity grid. It's also a plan that recognizes we can explore and use resources in the United States in environmentally friendly ways. (Applause.) For the sake -- for the sake of national security, and for the sake of economic security, we must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
I know we've got some farmers here. (Applause.) Thanks for working the land. (Applause.) The best way to make sure you continue -- your prosperity continues, is to sell your products overseas. The best way to make sure we've got jobs today and tomorrow is to make sure countries treat us like we treat them. We open our markets to their products, they open their markets to our product -- American compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere if the playing field is level. (Applause.)
To sustain economic growth we need to make sure you reelect a pro-small business, pro-entrepreneur, pro-farmer administration. And that is the Bush-Cheney administration. (Applause.)
America's future also depends on our willingness to lead in the world. The momentum of freedom in our time is strong. We still face serious dangers. Al Qaeda is wounded, but not broken. Terrorists continue to attack in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Regimes in North Korea and Iran are challenging the peace. If America shows weakness or uncertainty in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch. (Applause.)
THE AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: After the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, this nation, the people of America resolved to fight the terrorists where they dwell. We resolved to hold regimes that hide and sponsor terrorists to account. Afghanistan was a terrorist state, a training camp for al Qaeda killers. Because we acted, Afghanistan is a rising democracy, Afghanistan is an ally in the war on terror. And because we acted, many young girls go to school for the first times in their lives. (Applause.)
Iraq only last year was controlled by a dictator who threatened the civilized world and had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. For decades he tormented and tortured the people of Iraq. Because we acted, Iraq is free and a sovereign nation. Because we acted, its dictator now sits in a prison cell and will receive the justice he denied so many for so long. (Applause.)
September the 11th, 2001, taught a lesson I will never forget. And it is a lesson this country must never forget: America must confront threats before they fully materialize. (Applause.) With this lesson in mind, my administration looked at the intelligence and we saw a threat. Members of the United States Congress, from both political parties, looked at the same intelligence and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence and it saw a threat. The previous administration and the United States Congress looked at the intelligence and made regime change in Iraq the policy of our government. In 2002, the United Nations Security Council yet again demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. And as he had for decades -- for over a decade, he deceived the world. As he had for over a decade, he refused to comply.
So I had a choice to make: Either trust the word of a madman, or take action to defend our country. (Applause.) And given that choice, I will defend America every time. (Applause.)
Although we have not found the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that we thought were there, we were right to go into Iraq. (Applause.) America is safer because we did. (Applause.) We removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction, and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In a world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take. (Applause.)
We still have important and difficult work to do. Our immediate task in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere is to capture or kill the terrorists. You can't talk sense to the terrorists. You cannot negotiate with these terrorists. You cannot sit back and hope for the best. We will engage these enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world, so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
In this big, sweet country of ours, there's no such thing as perfect security. And the threats to this homeland are real. We know that the terrorists want to strike the United States again, they want to disrupt our way of life, or cause panic or great fear. We reorganized this government of ours to better protect the people. There's much better communication now between the federal, state and local governments. The FBI has changed its mission to make sure -- changed its priorities to make sure that counterterrorism is the most important thing they do.
I want you to know there are a lot of really good people working on your behalf -- good, decent, honorable people. I know you'll join me in thanking the police and firefighters and emergency teams of St. Louis, Missouri. (Applause.)
Over these next four years we will defend our homeland. Over the next four years we'll be relentless in the pursuit of the enemy abroad. Yet, in the long run, our safety requires something more. We must work to change the conditions that give rise to terror in the Middle East -- the poverty, the hopelessness, and the resentments that terrorists can exploit.
See, life in that region will be far more hopeful and peaceful when men and women can choose their own leaders, when the people can decide their own future. You see, by serving the ideal of liberty, we're bringing hope to others. And that makes America more secure. By serving the ideal of liberty, we serve the deepest ideals of our country. Freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world. (Applause.)
America is leading the world, and the world is changing because of our leadership. Three years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of al Qaeda. Now the camps are closed, democracy is rising and the American people are safer. (Applause.) Three years ago -- three years ago, Pakistan was a safe transit point for terrorists on missions of murder. Now Pakistan forces are rounding up the terrorists, Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror and the American people are safer. (Applause.)
Three years ago, in Saudi Arabia, terrorists were moving with little opposition. Now the Saudi government has taken the fight to al Qaeda, and Americans are safer for it. Three years ago, Libya was spending millions to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Now, thousands of Libya's chemical munitions have been destroyed. Libya has given up nuclear processing equipment and the American people are safer for it. (Applause.)
Three years ago there was a network run by a Pakistan nuclear scientist named A.Q. Khan that was selling secrets, nuclear secrets to countries like Iran and North Korea and Libya. Thanks to the hard work of CIA agents, thanks to cooperation between the British and United States government, that network has been dismantled, it is no longer a problem and America is safer for it. (Applause.)
In the last three years the world is changing, for the better. Just like Iraq is changing for the better. We will finish our work of spreading democracy and helping the Iraqis achieve democracy. We'll finish our work to help the Afghan citizens achieve democracy. Democratic states, free states are peaceful states. It's in our long-term interest that these countries survive, and we've got good allies there. (Applause.) President Karzai believes in the future of the people of Afghanistan. Prime Minister Allawi believes in the future of the people of Iraq. He wants there to be a free country, just like the fathers and mothers of Iraqi children want their children to grow up in a free and peaceful country. (Applause.)
People in Iraq are stepping up. They understand the stakes. They're fighting the foreign fighters and the terrorists. They're bringing them to justice so they can live in a free society. And the people of those countries can count on the United States of America -- when we give our word, when we'll stay with people striving to become a free society -- we will keep our word. (Applause.)
America is safer not only because we've led; America is safer because we've got a great United States military. (Applause.) At bases around our country and around the world, I have had the privilege of meeting with those who defend our country and sacrifice for our freedom. I've seen their great decency, their unselfish courage. And I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, the cause of freedom is in good hands. (Applause.)
And we must make sure those who wear our uniform have the best training, the best pay and the best equipment. (Applause.) That's why last September I proposed supplemental funding to support our military in its mission. This legislation provided funding for body armor and vital equipment, for hazard pay, for health benefits, for ammunition, for fuel, for spare parts. In the Senate, only a small, out of the mainstream minority voted against that legislation. Two of those 12 senators are my opponent and his running mate.
THE PRESIDENT: Senator Kerry tried to explain his vote by saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." (Laughter.) That sure clears things up. (Laughter.) Now he's offering a different explanation. Last week, Senator Kerry said he's proud that he and his running mate voted against funding for the troops. Later he said his vote against funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan was a complicated matter. (Laughter.) There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat. (Applause.)
Over the next four years as the Commander-in-Chief, I will see to it our troops have the best possible pay, equipment and training. (Applause.) America is leading this world with confidence and moral clarity. We've got a lot of fine folks helping us, too. There's over 60 nations involved in the Proliferation Security Initiative. Nearly 40 nations are involved in Afghanistan. Some 30 nations are involved in Iraq. I'll continue to work with allies such as Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi and -- (applause) -- Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan, to work together to protect our peoples and to spread freedom and democracy. But I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other nations. (Applause.)
This nation is prosperous and strong, yet, we need to remember that our greatest strength is in the character of our citizens. Earlier this month, my opponent said that a bunch of entertainers from Hollywood conveyed the heart and soul of America.
THE AUDIENCE: Booo!
THE PRESIDENT: I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places like St. Charles, Missouri. (Applause.)
Our nation is strong because of the values we try to live by: courage and compassion, reverence and integrity. We are strong because of the institutions that help give us direction and purpose -- our families and our schools and our religious congregations. (Applause.) These values and institutions are fundamental to our lives. They deserve the respect of our government. We stand for high standards in our public schools. We stand for local control of schools. We stand for strong accountability in schools, so no child is left behind in America. (Applause.)
We stand for welfare reforms that require work and strengthen marriage, which have helped millions of Americans find independence and dignity. (Applause.) We stand for a culture of life in which every person counts and everybody matters. (Applause.) We stand for institutions like marriage and family. (Applause.) We stand for judges who strictly and faithfully interpret the law, instead of legislating from the bench. (Applause.) We are building a culture of responsibility in America. We're changing the culture of America from one that has said, if it feels good do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else -- to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life. (Applause.)
If you are fortunate enough to be a mother or a father, you're responsible for loving your child with all your heart and all your soul. (Applause.) If you're worried about the quality of the education in the community in which you live, you are responsible for doing something about it. (Applause.) Like supporting your teachers. (Applause.) If you are a CEO in corporate America, you are responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your employees. (Applause.) And in a new responsibility society, each of us is responsible for loving our neighbor just like we'd like to be loved ourselves. (Applause.)
For all Americans, these years in our history will always stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of its leaders. This isn't one of those times. You and I are living in a period where the stakes are high, the challenges are difficult, and a time when firm resolve is needed. (Applause.)
None of us will ever forget that week when one era ended and another began. On September the 14th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It is a day that I will never forget. There were workers in hard-hats who shouted at me, "Whatever it takes." Either a fireman or a policeman grabbed me and said, "Do not let me down." As we all did that day, these men and women searching through the rubble took it personally. I took it personally. I have a responsibility that goes on. I will never relent in bringing justice to our enemies. I will defend our country, whatever it takes. (Applause.)
In these times, I've also been a witness to the character of this nation. I've seen the unselfish courage of our troops; seen the heroism of Americans in the face of danger. I've seen the spirit of service and compassion renewed in our country. We've all seen our nation unite in common purpose when it mattered most. We will need all these qualities for the work ahead. We have a war to win, and the world is counting on us to lead the cause of freedom and peace. We have a duty to spread opportunity to every corner of our country. This is the work that history has set before us. We welcome it. And we know that for our blessed country, the best days lie ahead.
God bless. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) Thank you, sir. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 6:14 P.M. CDT