|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 4, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President Followed by a Question and Answer Event to Employees of Billy Goat Industries
Billy Goat Industries
Lee's Summit, Missouri
1:45 P.M. CDT
(Technical difficulties, joined in progress.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And they are doing everything they can to try to launch further attacks against the United States. You've seen a lot of discussion the last few days about the threats in New York City and Washington, D.C. aimed at specific financial institutions. There have been some commentary from some of our critics -- Howard Dean comes immediately to mind -- saying somehow this is being hyped for political reasons, that the data that we collected here, the casing reports that provided the information on these prospective attacks is old data, i.e. four or five years old. That just tells me Howard Dean doesn't know anything about how these groups operate. (Applause.)
A lot of the planning for the attack on the embassies in East Africa, which occurred in 1998, the planning actually took place four or five years before that. The first discussion of the attacks of 9/11 inside the al Qaeda organization occurred when Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the man who oversaw the whole operation, first recommend to Osama bin Laden using airplanes to strike targets in the United States in 1996, five years before the attack went down. These people are deliberate. They are methodical. They're timetable is their own. If you hit them and push them back, they may retreat for a while, but they will be back. And they are absolutely lethal.
The only way for us to deal with people that you can't negotiate with -- there's no arms control treaty here at the end of the day that guarantees our security. There's no way to appease these people and have them go away. The only way to deal with them is to destroy them before they can launch attacks against the United States. (Applause.)
So with that, I think I'll wrap it up. And what I'd be happy to do at this point is we've got some folks out in the audience now with microphones. And if you can just holler at one of the people with microphones. I see we've got -- they've got orange tags hanging on them that say volunteer. And if you want to ask a question, we'll be happy to try and answer it. Somebody right down here.
Q Hello. Thank you, Mr. Vice President, I just wanted to ask -- I'm a mother of two young children, 5 and 3. And as they've approached the age to go to school, I'm concerned about the Missouri public education system. I hear teachers routinely complain about the fact that the No Child Left Behind Act, although it mandates standardized tests, the adequate funds to back it up are not there for the new curriculum. And I wanted to know if the administration had any plans of dealing with that situation and correcting the problem in the educational system?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the No Child Left Behind Act is an attempt to build on something at the federal level that the President undertook when he was governor of Texas. It basically says we need to bring high standards and accountability to the public school system, that for us to accept a situation in which some students are allowed to fail, where we have low expectations -- or as he refers to it, the "soft bigotry of low expectation" -- is just wrong, that our public school systems are perfectly capable. A lot of us, my age, went to public schools and got first rate educations in small towns all across America; that what we've tried to do is to establish standards and accountability through the process of giving tests at certain stages through the process.
Now, not everybody likes the program. There are those who are not enthusiastic about trying to establish accountability for what is going on in our public school system, and the charge is often made somehow we haven't funded it. But if you look at the facts, the funding for the elementary and secondary education, which is where the funds would come out of for supporting these programs during the time that we've been in office, since 2001, is up 49 percent -- a very significant increase. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, first I want to thank you for coming to Missouri and spending some time with us. A brief comment and then a question about national security. I served as part of the rescue effort at Ground Zero. Two days after the attacks, I was in New York City. (Applause.) And until you climbed on that pile, and until you were there, you don't have a real perspective of what took place. I thank you -- and I think I speak for millions of Americans across this country, there's no other team that I would have preferred to have in place to clean up and to deal with the aftermath of September 11th than the Bush-Cheney team.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
Q My question is this, can you explain to us how the creation of the new national director of intelligence gathering is going to benefit the country, and how that will change the complexion of our intelligence agencies here in America and abroad?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Basically, the proposition for a National Intelligence Director comes from the 9/11 Commission that just completed its work assessing what happened prior to 9/11, what worked, what didn't work. One of the problems we had, for example, prior to 9/11 is that there clearly was a lack of effective communication between the FBI on the one hand, and the CIA on the other.
Part of that was built in institutionally, because we've always wanted to keep the CIA out of our domestic business. Spies are to go spy against the enemy overseas, not here in the U.S., has always been our mind set. And the FBI was primarily a law enforcement operation. They'd go in after the terrorist attack, find the guilty party, such as Timothy McVeigh, in Oklahoma City, do a great job of prosecuting the wrongdoer. We needed to change their orientation and get them more in the business of counter-terrorism and preventing the attacks, not just cleaning up afterwards, and do a better job of building those links between the various segments of the intelligence communities. Part of the idea of this National Intelligence Director is that you'll have somebody that sits over the about 15 different intelligence agencies that we have in the federal government. We've got the CIA. The FBI, obviously, has significant intelligence capabilities. State Department has something called INR. We got the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Intelligence Agencies. There is a need for a lot of intelligence various places in the government. And we don't want to inhibit those developments. Efficiency is not necessarily the right answer for intelligence the way it is some other places. If you got a little redundancy there, that's probably a good thing. You'd rather err on that side than the other side.
But the purpose of the NID is to do some things that were built into the statute from the standpoint of the Director of Central Intelligence years ago that have never really been fully carried out. The President has embraced the idea. There's still a lot of work to be done to flesh out the details, and that work will be done with the Congress in the weeks ahead.
We also have signed up -- we already have something called the Terrorism Threat Integration Center. We're going to expand that significantly into what the 9/11 Commission called the National Counter-terrorism Center, where you pull together the streams of intelligence from all over the government, and fuse it together into one piece of analysis that then is available to the President and other senior policymakers to help us stay on top of the situation and be able to make those kinds of decisions. So it's an effort to improve coordination, a better, wiser allocation of resources to make sure the President and the top policymakers get the best advice possible with respect to the terrorist threat that's out there.
I think it's an important initiative. The President is prepared, as I say, to go forward with it, endorsed it just this week. Now the key is to write the legislation that actually implements the concept. (Applause.)
Q You've spoken about the tax cuts that the Bush-Cheney pushed through the Congress in the current administration, and the fact that -- which few people realize -- that those will all go away without action by the Congress. But in a second Bush-Cheney administration, what further would you do to simplify the tax code and lift the burden of taxation that exists on small businesses such as this one?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've already tried in the first term to cut back on the amount of paperwork that's required on the part of small businesses with respect to the tax code. One estimate is we've saved as much as 50 million man hours from an economy-wide basis on changes that have already been made. But we need to look for other ways that we can simplify the code, that we can make life easier, if you will, for those people who have to comply with it.
I know I couldn't possibly fill out my own income tax form. I need help. And unfortunately, that's true for all too many of us. And so we need to look for ways to do a better job than we have in the past.
What happens -- the reasons we have the tax cuts expiring is because the way the Senate rules work. You can't adopt legislation that goes beyond 10 years, then it automatically reverts back to the past. It's because the specialized Senate rules with respect to consideration of the budget. So a lot of those tax cuts that are on there will expire a year, two, three years down the road. And that's why we have to move to make them permanent. And that will be a major source of debate. But going through that process is as good time as any to look for ways in which we can make the process simpler and easier for people to comply with. We spend an awful lot of time, and money, and resources, as an economy, trying to comply with an increasingly complex system. And we think we can do better. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, again, welcome to Lee's Summit. It's great to have you here, and God bless you and President Bush.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
Q My wife and I are the parents of two teenagers, and we've talked often about this election and what it means for them and their future. But like all teenagers, they sometimes need to hear it from somebody other than their parents to actually have it sink in. And I'm wondering how you might put it to my 13- and my 17-year-old, and all the other young people out there about what the choices that we're going to be making in November mean to them and their future.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's a tough assignment. (Laughter.) Lynne and I have two daughters, and they've moved beyond that stage, and they still don't pay any attention to us. (Laughter.)
Well, I think there are important lessons in history that I kind of look to for guidance. And I always like to encourage young people to read about U.S. history. I think it's one of the best subjects you can spend time on when you're going to school. And I think about the period we're now in and I look back for a historic antecedent that would be a period of time when decisions are being made that have the same significance or weight or heft for the future as do those that we're wrestling with now. And I look back at the period right after World War II. When you think about it, what happened after World War II, the United States stood astride the world absolutely unmatched in terms of our military and economic power, and our political influence. We'd won both in the Pacific and in Europe tremendous victories. We then moved aggressively to establish democracies in Japan and Germany. It wasn't easy. It took many years -- seven years, I believe, in the case of Germany before we got to the point where we had a functioning, viable democracy that was able to take over, and of course, has been one of our best allies and friends ever since -- same thing in Japan.
I think of the decisions that were made then during the Truman administration, especially in the late '40s, when we set up NATO -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that was one of the most successful alliances in history; when we passed the Marshall Plan that provided a lot of the basic economic foundation to begin to rebuild -- in that case, to rebuilt Europe; when we reorganized the federal government and created the Department of Defense, 1947-1948. We created the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, the National Security Act in 1947 -- a whole series of basic, fundamental decisions that we made as a nation in the '40s to deal with our success in World War II, but then also to organize to win the Cold War. And that ultimately paid off handsomely, of course, in 1989 after nearly 40 years, when we did, in fact, prevail in the Cold War. We'd built the military forces we needed to make certain the Soviets were never able to attack. We worked those alliances very successfully. We had generations of Americans who signed to serve in the United States military, to do their part to be part of the effort. And sort of at the end of the road, it would have been difficult to see in 1947 or '48, but 40 years down the road came that point where, in fact, the Soviet Union collapsed. The Cold War ended. We freed millions of people in Eastern Europe without a shot being fired, a great success story.
And I guess, if I wanted to convey to children, teenagers, what's at stake and the kinds of decisions we're making now about the future of our nation, I think these decisions take on that kind of significance. A different kind of threat --- the biggest threat we face today isn't the Soviet Union coming across the inner German border to invade Western Europe, it's the possibility of an al Qaeda cell in the midst of one of our own cities with a biological agent, or a nuclear weapon. That's the threat we face today. Obviously, they'd wreck havoc if they could smuggle that kind of capability into the U.S. And we have to do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen.
There's no reason in the world we can't do it. We've been meeting challenges as a nation for over 200 years. We've got the capacity. I think we've got the national will. We've got leadership. We've got men and women who are willing to sign on and take on major responsibilities to see that we succeed and pull together as Americans. We can triumph here just like we have throughout more than 200 years of our history. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President, we'll take one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay, right back. We got --
Q Mr. Vice President, welcome to Missouri. We're very proud to have you with us. I'm with Jackson County Veterans for Bush-Cheney. And I just want to -- (applause) -- tell you how proud and honored I am to say in person, thank you for your service, sir, and how proud I was to serve in the United States military while on active duty, while you were the -- at the Defense Department. And thank you very much for your service, sir.
The Republicans -- excuse me -- the Democrats most recently now have claimed that we are not currently funding the benefits for our servicemen and women. And you've mentioned our great debt to them, and our debt is truly great to them. Can you mention some of the plans for the next four years to better serve the needs of our veterans who have served so willingly and well?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Well, let me thank you for your service. And I enjoyed those days when I was Secretary of Defense. That's when I had real influence. (Laughter.)
Let me give you just two for instances with respect to our veterans. We've got veterans hospitals all across the country, some of which predate World War II, even back to World War I period. And also the population shift has been such that we got a lot more people living in the South and West now than we used to have, and a lot more veterans fall into that category. One of the commitments the President made when he ran four years ago was that we would commit almost $5 billion -- $4.9 billion, I believe -- to upgrading and modernizing those VA hospitals to make sure they were up to snuff to be able to deliver quality care to that veterans population. And of course, it is an aging population. The World War II population now, and eventually Korea and Vietnam.
To date, we've committed -- I believe $2.8 billion has already been spent. We've got an additional about $1.5 billion entrained to keep that commitment.
The other point I'd make with respect to veterans, in the four years since the President took office, since 2001, the spending on the national veterans programs has gone up $22 billion -- that's twice as fast as it went up in the previous eight years before we got elected. So don't let anybody tell you we're not taking care -- (Applause.)
So they're giving me the high sign that I need to get on down the road. I've got to get back -- one more, all right. I've been lobbied by my wife. And I never say no to my wife. (Laughter.) Okay.
Q Well, sir, you've outlined to us today a number of successes that we've had in the war on terror. And I've had the privilege of meeting a bunch of our veterans as they've come back from the war. And they tell a great different story than we read in the papers, and that we hear constantly. And most of these fellows shared with me that they're kind of outraged that it's always a negative slant that we get from the media regarding the war on terror and what's really being done, and what's being accomplished. Can you tell us, first of all, why you think the media tends to slant things to a negative regarding the war on terror, as it pertains to the United States? And secondly, what can we do to get the right word out?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I thought you'd never ask. (Applause.) I've got to travel with these folks. We got reporters traveling with us. (Laughter.)
Part of it is I think the nature of the business these days just in terms of technology. There's so much demand out there for news by way of all -- the all-news channels all the time. And you get -- they've got to fill it up with something, and an exploding car bomb is always more exciting than reopening a hundred schools in Afghanistan so that, once again, girls can go back to school in Afghanistan, which they're now able to do. They couldn't before.
There are tremendous success stories out there. I find that on balance, I think I'm comfortable with my overall assessment of how well we're doing. I think we're doing very well. That doesn't mean that it's cost-free. It's not. Unfortunately, there will be additional sacrifice required, and additional casualties that we'll suffer before we get through all of this. And it may run on for several years in terms of fighting the war on terror globally, because we've still got a lot to do out there.
But I look at it on balance, and I think about what has been achieved, and I think the record is pretty remarkable. I'm not trying to claim that just for a Republican administration. As I say, one of the things I find most encouraging is to get out and talk to the young soldiers and Marines just back from an assignment in Afghanistan, or Iraq.
I had the experience yesterday, I guess, it was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I got off the airplane, and they had four or five people there to great me when I got off -- one young man who was just back from 15 months in Iraq. And his basic message was, sir, I'm ready to go again whenever you need me. And don't let anybody tell you it's not worth doing. It is worth doing. And thank you very much for sending me. (Applause.)
So a great way to say thank you to them is invite them into your homes, or down to the local Lions' Club, the Elks' Club, or whatever it might be -- get a few of them to come on it, and sit down, buy them a cup of coffee, and just talk to them about their experiences. Start by saying, thank you, and then ask them to give you an assessment of how things are going. Because what I find consistently when they come back is they find it hard to believe the portrayal of what's going on over there that they often see when they get home. It doesn't match up with their own personal experiences over there.
Well, let me thank all of you for coming out this morning. Let me thank all the folks here at --
AN AUDIENCE MEMBER: Billy Goat.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Billy Goat. (Laughter.) For some reason I wanted to say Grizzly. (Laughter.) But Billy Goat Industries in Lee's Summit, in Kansas City. It really is a remarkable company. You've got a great story to tell, and again, Lynne and I want to thank you very much for being here today.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 2:10 P.M. CDT