|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 3, 2004
Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Bush-Cheney '04 Town Hall Meeting
Hot Springs Convention Center
Hot Springs, Arkansas
10:12 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for that warm welcome. Sit down, please. My wife, Lynne, and I are delighted to be here today. I brought Lynne with me. Lynne, you want to stand up? (Applause.) And by the way, that's daughter Mary, next to her, who's working within our campaign operation. (Applause.)
You know, I often tell people that Lynne and I got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President in 1952. Where is he going with that story? The fact is, in 1952, I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska, with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, he reorganized the Agriculture Department, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne. We grew up together and went to high school together and next month we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) And I explained that to a group the other day, that if it hadn't been for Dwight Eisenhower's 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.)
Of course, we've got Janet Huckabee with us this morning, the wife of the governor. (Applause.) And I want to thank Win Rockefeller, he does a great job for all of us. (Applause.)
Well, I was -- what I'd like to today, if I can, is, I've got some thoughts I'd like to share with you, wanting to begin with, and then we'll open it up to questions, have an opportunity to respond to your comments and concerns, as well, as we go forward here.
Let me begin by pointing out -- some of you may have watched the events up in Boston last week, the other party's convention. I watched a little bit. But the thing to note now, of course, is I have an opponent, I've got a real, live, honest-to-goodness opponent now in the race for Vice President. Somebody said the other day that John Edwards got picked for Vice President because he was sexy, charming, good looking, had great hair -- (laughter) -- I said, how do you think I got the job? (Laughter and applause.)
But all kidding aside, this is going to be a very important election. I say that not just because my name is on the ballot, but because of the enormous significance of the choice we're going to make with respect to the future of America; the kind of policies we pursue, both in terms of defending our nation against the threats that we're now under as well as the basic fundamental decisions we make here at home, in terms of the economy, and how we protect and defend those basic rights and values that are so important to all Americans.
What I'd like to do this morning is take a few minutes and talk about, specifically about what has come to be known as the war on terror or the national security challenges that we now face since last September 11th of 2001.
That really was a morning that changed everything. I think it helps sometimes to gain perspective on that, if you reach back to what the world looked like on January 20th of that year, when the President and I were sworn-in on the Capitol steps in Washington. The fact was that on that morning, the planning for the attack of 9/11 was already well underway. The hijackers had already been chosen, the training had gone forward, money had been raised, some of them were already in the United States, the targets had been selected, and they were well down the road toward planning and then, ultimately, executing the attack on 9/11 that killed some 3,000 of our fellow citizens that morning.
Separate and apart from that, of course, in Afghanistan the al Qaeda had found a home base from which they could operate. Osama bin Laden had established bases there, there were hundreds of al Qaeda in the country, the Taliban were in power. The al Qaeda were operating a series of training camps through which had passed some 20,000 terrorists since 1996, when those camps first opened, through the decade -- or by the year 2000, terrorists subsequently dispersed around the world and set up cells in some 60 countries, including right here in the United States.
We had a situation, obviously, in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein was in power -- a man who had started two wars, a man who had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against the Iranians, a man who had provided safe harbor and sanctuary for terrorists, who had specifically provided a base of operations for Abu Nidal, one of the worst terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers; and who, as well, had a relationship with al Qaeda.
We also had at the same time a couple of other concerns, in terms of that part of the world. We had the difficult problem with the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. At the time, it was known to us through intelligence sources -- but it was not yet public -- that there was an organization headed up by a man named A.Q. Khan. Khan was the father of the Pakistan nuclear program, he had developed nuclear weapons for Pakistan. Once he completed that process, he then diverted that suppliers' network that he put together and began to supply nuclear weapons technology to some of the world's less attractive regimes: North Korea, Iran and Libya. By nuclear weapons technology, I mean specifically the uranium feedstock you needed to build a bomb, the centrifuge technology that allowed you to enrich uranium to weapons grade, the weapons design, itself, for how you would actually build a weapon.
Mr. Khan was in business for himself and, as I say, spreading the world's deadliest technology to some of the world's most questionable regimes.
Finally, first Moammar Ghadafi in Libya -- Mr. Khan's best customer -- he was spending millions to require that capability, that technology. That was the set of circumstances on January 20th.
There's one other important consideration, too, during that period of time. The terrorists unfortunately had learned a couple of lessons that we wish they had not learned, that they learned two things from the prior history, in terms of their relationship with the United States. The first lesson was that they could strike us with relative impunity, because they had done it repeatedly and there had never been a very effective response from the United States. When I said they did it repeatedly, as I say, you can go back to 1983, when they bombed the Marine barracks in Lebanon, in Beirut, and killed 241 of our people one morning; in 1993, when the first attacked occurred on the World Trade Center in New York; in 1996, when they hit Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia, and killed some 17 or 18 of our airmen that morning; in 1998, when they simultaneously bombed our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in east Africa; in 2000, when they hit the USSS Cole and killed 17 of our sailors in the port off Yemen.
That was the pattern over time, and the response from the U.S. in nearly every instance was to go out and treat these matters as criminal acts. And the appropriate response, supposedly law enforcement -- you'll run to ground a few times the individual perpetrators of these acts -- Ramzi Yousef, for example, who ran the operation at the World Trade Center in '93 -- arrest him, try him and he's now doing 240 years in a federal pen in Colorado. Good.
The problem was we didn't reach behind Ramzi Yousef to understand that he was part of a larger problem. Once, after the East Africa embassy bombings we fired off a few cruise missiles at training camps in Afghanistan, but didn't hit much, didn't do much damage. So from the perspective of the terrorists, they've learned, they believe, that they could strike us with impunity.
The second lesson they learned was if they hit us hard enough, they could change our policy -- and they had. After the bombing in Beirut in the barracks, in 1983, we withdrew all our forces from Lebanon. In 1993, when we were hit in Mogadishu and lost 18 or 19 of our soldiers in the battle of Mogadishu that fall, in a matter of weeks we had all our forces out of Somalia.
So that combination of events, that sequence of events -- from their perspective -- they could strike the U.S. virtually cost-free, do it, change U.S. policy was the lesson that had been learned by the al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations as they watched our operations prior to January 20th of 2001.
Then, of course, 9/11 happened, and things changed pretty dramatically. Partly because the nation rallied around the President's leadership, because the President took very aggressive action and said that henceforth, anybody -- anybody -- who supported terrorists or provided safe harbor or sanctuary for terrorists would be deemed as guilty of their acts as the terrorists, themselves. (Applause.) That came to be known as the Bush doctrine. What it basically meant was that the United States was going to go on offense; no longer would we wait to be attacked, but we would go on offense and go after the terrorists wherever we found them, wherever they were planning, wherever they were training, getting ready to carry out further operations against the United States; and, as the President indicated, we would also hold accountable those states that sponsored terror. (Applause.)
Of course, the first phase of the operation was what we did in Afghanistan. We moved into Afghanistan a few weeks after 9/11 with our special forces and special ops capabilities, married them up with the local Afghan fighters who were opposed to the Taliban and our sophisticated air assets. In a matter of weeks we had taken down the Taliban, destroyed the regime, killed or captured hundreds of al Qaeda, closed the training camps where those folks who executed 9/11 had been trained, and moved a long way towards destroying Afghanistan as a base of operations for al Qaeda. (Applause.)
In Iraq, of course, we moved into Iraq because of Saddam's past history of support for terror and his past history of having produced and used weapons of mass destruction. And, again, in relatively short order with, I think, one of the more remarkable military campaigns in history, we took down the government. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, he's in jail. (Applause.) His government is gone, it's been replaced now by an new interim government that I'll talk about in just a minute.
Mr. Ghadafi in Libya watched all of this unfold, saw our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, he went public and announced he was going to give up all of his weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.) So all of those materials and plans that he spent millions on for developing nuclear weapons now reside down at Oak Ridge, in Tennessee. The President visited them the other day. We've got it all, he turned it all over to us and decided he no longer would pursue weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)
Mr. A.Q. Khan, of course, who was the source at the time -- I think the worst source of nuclear proliferation in the world, is now under house arrest in Pakistan. His network has been shut down and he no longer is in business pedaling nuclear weapons technology to anybody. (Applause.)
But equally important, having taken down that network of sponsors of terror and sources of proliferation has been the establishment of interim governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. We can't just simply go in and take down a government and then pull out. We have a vested interest in terms of what's left. We have a strategy that says that we're going to be a lot safer over the long haul if we can establish representative democratically-elected governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. So we're actively involved in that now. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, we've got Hamid Karzai as the interim President. They have new constitution. They're going to have free elections this fall and have the first democratically-elected government in Afghanistan, I guess, just about ever -- well on their way to establish exactly the kind of government we want to see, the kind of government that will not again become a safe haven for terrorists or a threat to anybody in the region or a threat to the United States.
In Iraq, we've got a good man now who's functioning as the interim Prime Minister, Mr. Allawi. An interesting man. He's Iraqi by birth, had a falling out with Saddam many years ago, went into exile in London. While he was living in London, back in the late '70s, he became a target of assassination. Three individuals, assassins, put on to the mission by Saddam Hussein, broke into his bedroom late one night with an axe, tried to kill him. They did not succeed, obviously -- nearly severed his leg. His wife was there, as well, and she really never recovered from the events of that night and eventually was institutionalized and died not long ago. A terrible tragedy for a family. But this, needless to say, produced one very tough Prime Minister for Iraq, who's doing a great job now. (Applause.)
And, again, they'll hold elections for a constitutional assembly in January in Iraq. So once again we're going to do everything we can to make certain that they get off on the right foot with a representative government, a government that won't be a threat to anybody in the future. But, more than that, a government that will be a model, bound to have an impact on all those countries in the region, in terms of suggesting that there's another way, a better way compared to the difficult circumstances that so many people in that part of the world now live under.
So that's not a bad piece of work when you think about it, over the course of the last three-and-a-half years.
Now, obviously, a lot of the effort that went into all of that was the result of the President's leadership. But first and foremost -- the President would be the first one to say this -- first and foremost -- the debt we owe is to our men and women in uniform. (Applause.)
Just a couple of additional thoughts, and then I'll stop and we can get into questions. It's been very important, as well, for us to take whatever steps are necessary here at home to make it more difficult to strike the United States, that is to make us safer. So we've taken a number of steps in that regard, some just this week. There, you've got to look at such things as the new Department of Homeland Security, the President established and we got passed -- 180,000 employees gathered together now, all focused on one basic fundamental proposition. And that's making America as safe as possible from terrorist attack. (Applause.)
It also includes things like the Patriot Act, which give us the authority -- some of the same authorities that are already being used by law enforcement to prosecute drug traffickers, for instance, apply those same techniques, and use those same techniques in prosecuting terrorists -- (Applause.)
It includes a complete reorientation of the FBI so they're focused less on cleaning up after a terrorist attack, in terms of prosecuting the individuals responsible for it, with a greater focus now on preventing the attack by working effectively -- (Applause.)
It includes Project BioShield, one of the President's ideas, just signed into law within the last couple of weeks that will allow us to equip NIH and other federal health agencies with the capabilities they need, and to develop the sophisticated medical means by which we can counter, for example, an attack with biological weapons. It also includes -- (applause) -- includes the announcement made just yesterday by the President in terms of moving forward, some of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission with respect to strengthening our intelligence capabilities, in terms of our ability to coordinate across agencies at the federal level, the establishment of a National Counterterrorism Center, the establishment of a National Intelligence Director, who will have broad responsibilities for overseeing all of the activities -- the intelligence community, as well, too. So it doesn't mean that we've -- by any means achieved perfection with respect to defending the country from terrorist attack. I don't want to leave anybody with that impression.
Anybody who has thought about it knows there's no such thing as an absolutely perfect defense. We can be successful 99.9 percent of the time, and they only have to get through once in order to hit us. And if they do, with some of the deadly technologies that are now available out there such as biological weapons, or chemical weapons, or even a nuclear weapon, the results for one of our cities could be catastrophic.
So it's very important that not only we do everything we can here at home to toughen the target, but we have to go on offense. We have to go after the terrorists wherever they reside. It's the only way we can guarantee our safety. (Applause.)
Now, this campaign, in part, is going to turn upon the decision the American people make about what kind of strategy they want to pursue going forward. Do they think the President and the rest of us who serve him are on the right track? (Applause.) If that's the case, then I think there's only one choice in this election. (Applause.) All right. (Applause.)
My impression is that sometimes the other team is stuck in the pre-9/11 mentality. They haven't made the transition to what the world is like post-9/11. (Applause.) But having said that, again, I want to thank all of you for being here this morning. I thank you for your willingness to help this enterprise, and I'd be happy to take a few questions. We've got people with microphones out here in the audience, if they would come. Here's a questioner right down front. Why don't you wait for the mike so we can hear?
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm a retired brigadier general, U.S. Army. And first I want to -- (applause) -- first, I want to thank you for coming to Arkansas. (Applause.) And we also want to thank our President, George Bush, and you, and the rest of the Cabinet for waging this war -- this successful war on terrorism, which will make our country much, much safer.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q We've seen quite a lot in the media in the last few days, and you touched on the results of the 9/11 Commission and what the administration's plans are for implementing some of those recommendations. Would you please go into a little more detail on that, on maybe the possibility -- I know the Democrats are pushing for doing all of this in a hurry-up mode, which I guess meets their ends better, but I think the Republicans want to wait just a little bit and let's be sure we do it right the first time? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let me thank you for your service. (Applause.)
And this is an important set of questions in terms of how we implement going forward. If you look at the recommendations of the commission, some of them aren't fully fleshed out. We've got ideas and concepts, but the devil is in the details. So you really got to focus upon exactly how that works. One of the key requirements going forward will be the relationship of this new National Intelligence Director with the existing arrangement in terms of the CIA, the FBI, Defense, and so forth. And the President is very much aware of all that.
The key here will be to put it together in such a way so that you strengthen overall the President's capabilities as Commander-in-Chief. He's the one, after all, who has to have this intelligence brought to him. You can have the best intelligence community in the world doing great collection and analysis, but if it doesn't get to the policymaker, it's meaningless. And you cannot have -- (applause) -- you cannot have a President who is getting flawed information, or isn't getting a balanced view in terms of what's out there. So there are a lot of key questions that will have to be answered as we go forward. We'll want to debate and discuss with the Congress. Congress is going to hold hearings. They should.
One of the areas that I think badly needs work is the whole question of how Congress relates to executive branch in this area. We've got a tendency to fragment authority on Capitol Hill. Take Tom Ridge, for example, who is Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He has to report to 88 separate committees and sub-committees of the Congress. Now, that's an impossibility. There are not enough hours in the day for him to do all the testimony they'd like to have him do. They really need to reorganize themselves on Capitol Hill and get one or two major places in each house that have got jurisdiction over homeland security and everybody else get out of their hair, so you've got clear lines -- (Applause.)
Congress also has developed a great facility over the years for writing detailed instruction into the authorization legislation. When I was Secretary of Defense, back from '89 to '93, during the first Gulf War, and the period at the end of the Cold War, I had to deal every year with a defense authorization bill that was about 80 to 90 pages long. That 80 to 90 pages included very explicit instructions on "you will buy" X number of MREs, for example -- or you'll by this system, and not that system -- spend this much, and so forth. It was a very detailed management instruction. Imagine trying to run an organization or a company with that much detailed direction. But the defense authorization bill now isn't 90 pages, it's 700 pages long. What Congress has done is layered on a whole bunch of additional requirements with the result that the Secretary of Defense has great difficulty meeting all those requirements, and so basically -- running his job. So there's a lot Congress needs to do. And you can -- just as you've got to look at what has happened in the executive branch over the years in terms of trying to improve the performance of the intelligence community, it's also very important to look at what happened on intelligence committees in the House and Senate. Were they doing their job? Were they actively involved in the right kind of oversight? Did you have members who were actively and aggressively engaged in carrying out their responsibilities? So there's enough, I think, blame here to apportion going around, in terms of looking for ways to improve our performance. Those are some of the key questions that should be and I think will be asked.
Yes, another question. Down here.
Q Mr. Vice President, my question is that John Kerry -- in other words, keeps saying that we entered Iraq without an exit strategy. I'm interested in how the Bush administration plans to publicize their strategy?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the heart of the strategy is what we're doing both in Afghanistan and Iraq, is to stand up governments that are basically will be created by the people of Iraq. They're the ones ultimately who have to get into the fight, so to speak -- both from a political standpoint, in terms of establishing a government that has legitimacy, that is composed of Iraqis, that's put together in accordance with a constitution that they write that is consistent with their laws, and their values, their culture and history, and that also the Iraqis themselves are able to take over responsibility for their own security.
The way you get there is on the one hand, as we've done, standing up an interim Iraqi government the 30th of June, with Mr. Allawi in charge as Prime Minister. There now are Iraqis in charge of every single ministry of the government. There's a President, as well as a deputy prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister. All of these posts now are being held by -- specifically by Iraqis. That is, they've taken over the day-to-day responsibility for running their government. And there will be a constitution written by the group elected next January, when they have their constitutional assembly and election, and then after that by the end of '05, they should have in place a newly elected -- duly constituted government composed of Iraqis that will, in fact, reflect the will of the Iraqi people and be able to go forward.
At the same time, we're spending a lot of time and effort now training and equipping Iraqi personnel to take over from our forces in terms of basic, fundamental security responsibility for the country, building up an Iraqi national army, a police force, a security force that can deal with the threats that are still out there. It doesn't mean we can pull our troops out any time soon. We don't want to leave too soon and leave a mess behind. We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary. But our success there will depend directly upon getting the Iraqis themselves into the fight, and we're making significant progress, as well, there too.
General Dave Petraeus, who was the commander of the 101st Airborne in our original operation in Iraq, he's back in there now running the training program to stand up the Iraqi forces. He now runs, oh, sometimes a couple hundred patrols a day in Iraq that are joint patrols -- Americans and Iraqis side-by-side. There may be an additional couple hundred patrols a day that are purely Iraqis doing their own patrols. But there's still a significant role for U.S. forces, as well, too. But bottom line is getting the Iraqis to take over the political and security responsibilities for their own country and leave behind the kind of government that will never again be a safe-haven for terrorists, won't produce somebody who is devoted to weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)
Yes, somebody over here. Somebody got a mike? Back here, okay.
Q (Inaudible.) (Applause.) (Inaudible.) (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I agree. (Laughter and applause.) One of the points I try to make as I travel around and often talk about is that the vast majority of Americans believe that this is "one nation under God." (Applause.) And we believe we ought to be able to say that when we pledge allegiance to the flag. (Applause.)
Now, the problem we have -- of course, the Supreme Court fortunately shot down the decision. The original decision on that came out of the Ninth Circuit, out on the West Coast. And it was the Ninth Circuit that decided there was merit to this guy's claim that he brought that you should not be allowed to say "under God" when you said the pledge. The Ninth Circuit is the most often-reversed appellate court in the country. We recently nominated a fine man named Bill Myers to serve on the Ninth Circuit. I know Bill well because he married a woman who was a staffer for me when I was in Congress. And he used to work for another Wyoming member of Congress, Al Simpson, from Wyoming. He's a good man. He has broad bipartisan support, and he had the votes for confirmation. But they wouldn't allow it to come to a vote on the floor of the Senate. They used the filibuster to keep from bringing it up, so unless you could get 60 votes, then you couldn't get him to the floor for a vote. So Bill has not been confirmed.
Bill would be an addition -- what I'd consider a mainstream addition to the appellate court, the Ninth Circuit, bring some balance back into it. And based on their decision on the Pledge of Allegiance, it sounds to me like the Ninth Circuit could use some new judges. (Applause.)
But the problem has been, frankly, that the Senate Democrats including Senators Kerry and Edwards -- have consistently supported that filibuster that kept Bill Myers off the 9th Circuit; kept Priscilla Owens, of Texas, from getting to the floor for a vote; it kept Charles Pickering, from Mississippi, from getting to the floor for a vote. Anybody that might disagree with their liberal philosophy isn't allowed to come up to a vote on the floor of the Senate, and that's wrong. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm a retired Army major -- and I still have all my medals, by the way. (Applause.) Mr. Vice President, all around Garland County we see the effects of the President's economic policies, we see growth in this country, we see expansion in this country, we see optimism in this country. But there is a hesitancy when I have to pay $25 to $30 to fill up the tank of my car. To help the President, to help our party, is there any way that we could possibly reduce gas prices between now and the election? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well. (Laughter.) The problem we've got on gasoline prices -- and I know it's tough these days because the price has gotten up close to $2 a gallon most places around the country, and that's more than we're used to paying. But what we've fallen into the habit of doing is we continue to increase our consumption of energy, specifically oil and gas, but we aren't producing here at home. In fact, our production is declining. In part, that's because we made a decision as a country -- you and I might not have agreed with it -- but, basically, we've taken large chunks of the country and put it off limits to any kind of exploration or development. We don't drill off the East Coast, we don't drill off the West Coast, we don't drill in Alaska. Large parts of the Rocky Mountain West are off limits.
The technology has gotten so good that, frankly, we can develop those kinds of resources without doing any environmental damage -- and that includes the ANWR in Alaska, where we could go in and just with surface disturbance of an area about half the size of Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., and that only in the wintertime, you could produce upwards of a million barrels a day. The pipeline is already built to deliver it to the Lower 48. But we haven't been able to get that through the Senate. We got it through the House a couple of times; haven't been able to get it through the Senate.
So we are at the mercy of those international oil prices. Today, the world consumes about 80 million barrels a day of petroleum products, about 20 million of that is consumed right here in the United States. And so we're prepared to take steps to increase our own production here at home, and, by the way increase our refinery capacity. One of the problems we had is the refineries we have in this country are running flat-out, 99-100 percent capacity. It used to be when that happened we could import refined products from Europe, bring it in to make up for shortfalls here at home. But that's hard to do now because we have 51 different blends of gasoline required here in the United States to meet local air quality standards. Chicago has a different standard than Little Rock, has a different standard than Dallas, has a different standard than San Francisco.
So the foreign companies aren't producing the blends we need to meet those requirements, and you can't get permits to build a new refinery here in the states or to expand existing ones. We tried to get authorization for that through as part of our energy plan, but that's all tied up in the courts now.
So we have put ourselves into a box. And the only thing I can think of to do is to keep pushing hard to enact a comprehensive energy plan on a national basis. We need it. We came close this time around. We got it
through the House, we got it through the Senate, it went to conference, then the House approved the conference report and it went back to the Senate, and we fell two votes short -- again, because of a filibuster. We needed 60 votes to get it out of the Senate, and we only had 58. Kerry and Edwards voted "no," they weren't with us in trying to come up with a national energy policy.
So it's another area where I think there is a significant difference, it's a major agenda item for us. In the President's second term we need sound, comprehensive energy policy that encourages conservation and new technologies and all of that, but also allows us to have a sane policy here at home with respect to producing our own resources. (Applause.)
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROCKEFELLER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President is on a bit of a tight schedule, so we've got time for perhaps one or two more questions. We haven't really gotten to this side yet.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Somebody -- here we go over here. Somebody got a mike?
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm a retired businessman. (Laughter.) I still got all my medals. (Laughter and applause.) I want to tell you I praise God that we got you and President Bush. (Applause.) But I have one real concern. What are we going to do about our open borders? They're just flowing through here, north and south. How you going to handle that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We've significantly beefed up our manpower. And our border control agencies, of course, have been moved out of the -- I guess, it was Treasury. I can't remember where it used to be. It's all now part of the Department of Homeland Security. We're rapidly reorganizing our abilities to operate at the border, partly because we had about three different agencies there doing different things. You had the Customs people, you have the Border Patrol people, you had the Immigration people -- and we're putting all of that into a much better organized and more efficient system than we had before. We're developing the capability -- working both the Canadians and the Mexican authorities to improve the extent to which they're willing to work with us to help try to control it. It's still a problem. I cannot deny that by any means. We've got long open borders. We've got a history of wide open commerce with our friends to the north and south. That's one of those things we want to preserve. Canada is our leading trading partner in the world. And free movement of goods and ideas and people back and forth across those borders is very important.
The problem is, is that we basically don't have the kind of control we'd like to have so that we know who's here, what they're doing while they're here, how long they're here, and when they leave. And we have captured -- arrested, in effect -- some people coming across that come from the Middle East, or who are involved, or may be involved, for example, in actively plotting against the United States because of those open borders. So I think we're doing better, but we've still got a long way to go to finally achieve our objective. It's going to continue to be a major objective of ours, certainly for a second term. Tom Ridge works on it very aggressively I know. As I say, I think both Mexico and Canada are doing a better job on their side now in terms of cooperating with us. Okay?
She's got a microphone here.
Q It's good to see you here again. I saw you in 2000. But before I ask you this question, I want to thank Mrs. Cheney for that lovely book she wrote for children. I bought for of them, and my grandchildren love them -- very educational. (Applause.) After all, she needs some allocations there.
What I want to know is, are we ever going to pump oil out of the northwest part of the Alaska and I know the environmentalists say, no, we can't do it there. It's new techniques of how to extract oil from the ground -- one oil well with offshoots, so you don't have it looking like California in the 1920s -- everywhere you look there was an oil derrick. But nowadays, with the modern -- you should know with your Halliburton company that you worked for, that you can put in one oil well, and you can pump out from all different directions. Am I right?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You're correct. We can go in now and on a pad probably the side of this room set up shop, and with directional drilling, go down very deep and reach out several miles.
Q So why are the environmentalists against that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's become an emotional issue. It's the kind of thing -- I've been to Prudhoe Bay, for example, on a number of occasions. That's where we've developed the original field up there. And that's where the Alaska pipeline originates from. Just to the east of there is ANWR, the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, it's called. I was a member of the House when we set up ANWR. It was set up specifically as Alaska National Wildlife Reserve with the proviso that it would, at some point, be available when we needed it for extraction of the petroleum resources underneath it. We estimate we could get as much as a million barrels a day out of there.
The other technique that's been developed, in addition to directional drilling, where you can go start in one spot and reach out and cover thousands of square miles is you operate only in the winter time. And you build ice roads out to the pad where you'd actually do the work and the drilling work. And then after the melt in the spring, you don't use -- you don't have any roads. So there's no -- in effect, once the ice road melts, there's no trace left of the path out to the pad. (Applause.) You'd have to lay a gathering system, short pipeline to move whatever you produced from ANWR, which is right up on the coast, as I say, just east of Prudhoe Bay, to get it over to the pipeline that dead ends at Prudhoe Bay. But then you're in the TAPs line -- the Trans Alaska Pipeline -- that we built back in the '60s, that runs from there all the way down to Valdez. And it's already there. It's running at about half capacity. You wouldn't have to build the pipeline. It's a no-brainer from the standpoint of most people. If you've ever seen the countryside up there, the wildlife are not threatened by this development. The last time I flew into Prudhoe Bay, I had to circle for about 20 minutes while they got the grizzly bears off the air strip. So anyway, we should do it.
Yes, last question.
Q Yes, sir. Mr. Vice President, I'm sure everyone here will agree with me when I say, here, in Arkansas, we think you're very sexy. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Q Mr. Vice President --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm going to quit right there. (Laughter.)
Q As a minority who is sick and tired of the Democratic paradigm of middle wage jobs or welfare for African Americans -- (applause) -- I just want to say on behalf of my community, thanks to you and the President for everything you've done to provide economic development and expansion for everyone -- minorities included. I know several people who have used their Bush tax rebates to start businesses. We thank you and we applaud you both.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. (Applause.)
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROCKEFELLER: Ladies and gentlemen, now you know who truly reflects the views and values of everyday Arkansans, George Bush and Dick Cheney -- the heart and soul of America. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
END 11:00 A.M. CDT