|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 12, 2004
Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting with Mrs. Cheney
John Q. Hammons Convention Center
August 11, 2004
12:30 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Well, thank you very much, Lynne. We're delighted to be here this morning, and have an opportunity to spend some time with all of you in southwestern Missouri. Roy Blunt is a great friend of mine. We work very closely together. He does a superb job, I know, for all of you as your congressman, and a great job as Majority Leader in the House. (Applause.) Might I add that Kit Bond is no slouch either as United States senator. (Applause.)
The fact is that was a very impressive red dress. (Laughter.) But I often explain to people that Lynne and I got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States in 1952. It's a stretch to think that presidential elections have those kinds of consequences. But in 1952, I lived with my folks in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the Agriculture Department, and Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming -- which is where I met Lynne, and that's the famous red dress. And we grew up together and went to high school together, and we'll mark our 40th wedding anniversary in about two weeks. (Applause.) But I explained to a group the other night if it hadn't been for Dwight Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.)
But I don't know how many of you watched program out of Boston here a couple weeks ago. They had a political do up there that some of us watched. And it's official now -- I have an opponent. (Laughter.) I really do have an opponent. I heard my daughter's smart remark as she introduced me. And people keep telling me, they say, John Edwards got selected to be Vice President because he's sexy, charming, has great hair. And I said, "How do you think I got the job?" (Laughter and applause.)
What we'd like to do this morning -- I've got a few remarks I'd like to share with all of you. And then we'd like to open it up to questions, have a chance to respond to your concerns. Lynne is here with me to respond to questions, as well, too. As I say, this is a somewhat experimental format. We've done several town hall meetings, but this is the first time that we've tried to do one together. So we are experimenting, so we think it might be interesting.
MS. CHENEY: It's a test of our marriage. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It is a test. (Laughter.) But what I'd like to do is just take a minute and talk about the enormous stakes in terms of the decision we're going to make on November 2nd. Because the -- I've been involved in politics, I guess, off and on now for over 30 years. And I can't think of a more important election during my lifetime in terms of the decision we're going to make about where we go as a nation, especially with respect to our national security policy.
We're in a situation now where if you think about it -- and I find it useful to go back and reflect on where we were on January 20th, of 2001, the day the President and I were sworn in, and what the world was like then, and what has transpired since. It helps put in perspective, and I think poses for us some of the issues that we will be deciding when we go to the polls and decide who is going to be President for the next four years -- and even bigger than that, I think who is going to set the course for the nation maybe for the next half century -- very, very important decision we're about to make.
If you reflect back on January 20th, of 2001, when we were sworn in that day, the planning for the attack of 9/11 was already well underway. Most of the terrorists had already been recruited. Many of them had been through the training camps in Afghanistan, where they trained to kill Americans. Some of them were already in the United States. They'd raised the money. They'd been planning that attack since 1996, five years before. It took them that long to get all the pieces put together. But they're very patient. They're absolutely lethal, and once they put their mind on a target like that, they operated according to their timetable, not ours or anybody else's. But all the planning for 9/11 was well underway.
We also had a situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban had taken over, and had turned Afghanistan into a training camp for terrorists, into a safe haven for terrorists -- specifically for the al Qaeda organization. So there were thousands of them there, including Osama bin Laden, the leader. And they had turned out sometime in the late '90s, between 1997 and about 2000, they'd trained -- 20,000 terrorists had gone through those camps, and then spread back out around the world to some 60 different countries, including here in the United States, where they set up terror cells.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was in power. He'd started two wars. He had provided safe haven and sanctuary for terrorists for many, many years. He was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. He provided a home for al Qaeda, and for Abu Nidal. He had generally been -- he'd also obviously developed and used weapons of mass destruction in the past, both against the Iraqis and the Iranians.
And we had a couple of other developments in that part of the world that were not public at the time that were very important. The A.Q. Khan network was in business. Mr. Khan was a Pakistani, a man who had acquired and then developed the technology to develop nuclear weapons. He knew how to acquire the uranium feedstock, to design the centrifuges to enrich the uranium, and he had a weapons design. And he had, in fact, been the father of the Pakistan nuclear program. And once he completed that task, he had diverted this whole network to his own purposes. And he was selling nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, to Iran, and to Libya.
Moammar Ghadafi in Libya was spending millions of dollars to acquire this capability and was well on his way. Once that whole process had been completed, he would have been in possession then of nuclear weapons. He wasn't there yet, but he was working on it.
We also had a situation in the fact that the terrorists had learned two unfortunate lessons, if you will, at our expense in the prior period of time before we were sworn in. They'd learned, first of all, that they could strike at the United States with relative impunity -- because they had, repeatedly. And the best response we usually came up with was to treat each attack as some kind of criminal enterprise. We'd go after the individuals who'd launched the attack. Sometimes we'd catch them, put them in prison. But we never really reached behind the individuals to look at the networks that had undertaken these attacks.
Of course, we'd been hit in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983, when we lost 241 Marines, when they blew up the barracks; 1993, first attack on the World Trade Center; 1996, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; 1998, the East Africa Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya; 2000, the USS Cole -- a whole sequence of attacks, most of which had gone unanswered, or the answer had been a law enforcement response. Once we fired off a few cruise missiles at a training camp in Afghanistan. But from the standpoint of the terrorists, they could strike us, and there was no real penalty to be paid.
And the second lesson they'd learned was that if they hit us hard enough, they could change or policy -- because they had. After we got hit in Lebanon in 1983, in relatively short order we pulled out of Lebanon completely. In 1993, in Mogadishu -- there, they killed 19 of our soldiers, and within a matter of weeks, we'd withdrawn all of our forces from Somalia. And so those two lessons -- if you hit the U.S., and you won't be struck in return; and if you hit the U.S., and you can change U.S. policy if you do it -- and that was sort of the set of circumstances that were out there when we were sworn in.
And then the attack of 9/11 came, and, of course, it changed everything. I think everybody came to realize at that moment that we were, in fact, at war -- that we'd been at war for some time. Our enemies knew it; we didn't. We hadn't really as a nation come to grips with that basic fundamental proposition.
But 9/11 changed everything in the sense that it forced us to think anew about our enemies, about who our enemies were, about the kind of threat we faced as a nation, about what kind of strategy we needed to pursue to be able to safeguard our nation from those attacks. The President made a very basic, fundamental decision that very first night after the attacks. And that was that henceforth, we would hold accountable those -- not only the terrorists, but also those who supported terror. If a state or a government provided safe harbor or sanctuary, or financing, or training or weapons to a terrorist organization, they would be deemed just as guilty of the terrorist act as the terrorists themselves.
And the first place we put that principle to test was in Afghanistan. We went into Afghanistan, and in a matter of weeks, we took down the Taliban government, captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda, put Osama bin Laden on the run. We haven't captured him yet, but we haven't given up. And we will get him eventually, I'm convinced. We closed all the training camps where they've trained, as I say, some 20,000 terrorists to kill Americans and others.
And subsequent to that, we, of course, now -- they've stood up an interim government. They have a President in place. They've got a constitution. They'll hold free elections later this fall. Schools are open. And the economy is beginning to thrive. Young girls can go to school now -- something they weren't able to do before -- a pretty significant transition, a lot of work to be done yet.
In Iraq, we went into Iraq obviously very aggressively, took down the government. Saddam Hussein today is in jail, exactly where he belongs. (Applause.) But his sons are dead. His government is out of business. He's no longer in a position to be able to threaten anybody. And we've still got an awful lot of work to do in Iraq. I don't want to underestimate the difficulty of the task. Nobody should. We're going to be involved there for some considerable period of time.
But we've got a good man in Prime Minister Allawi, who's taken over. The Iraqis now are running all of the government ministries. We're standing up Iraqi security forces and training and equipping them so that they'll soon be able to move in, take over more and more responsibility to provide for their own security. They also have a constitutional process now set up. They'll hold elections next January. They're on their way, as well, to establishing a self-governing administration, if you will, in Iraq that will never again be a threat to its neighbors or to the United States -- a very, very important piece of business.
As we went through this process, Moammar Ghadafi in Libya watched what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, he went public and announced he was going to give up all of his aspirations to have weapons of mass destruction. And he did. (Applause.) And all of that material today, the weapons designs, the uranium feedstock, the enrichment machinery and so forth is all now under lock and key over at Oak Ridge, in Tennessee, where it ought to be -- safe and never again be put to that use.
Mr. Khan, the man who ran the suppliers' network is under house arrest in Pakistan. His suppliers' network is closed down. The worse source of proliferation of nuclear weapons technology that we've ever seen is now out of business. He's not going to sell anything to anybody. (Applause.)
All of that is what we've been able to accomplish over the last three-and-a-half years. But it's very important for people to understand that this is perhaps the end of the beginning, but we have a very long way to go. This is a threat that we're going to have to deal with probably for our lifetime. It's not like any war we've ever been engaged with before. When you think about World War II, and the length of time we were actually engaged from Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, till Germany surrendered in May of '45, or Japan in September of '45, those were relatively brief conflicts. The worst conflicts in our history, but relatively there was a beginning, there was a middle, and there was an end, and then the war was over with. This is a situation in which it's a very different enemy -- when you think about their motives, what they're trying to do. They're obviously trying to impose their very radical extremist ideology on everybody else. They have no tolerance for democracy. They have no tolerance for other views with respect to people who want to pursue a different religious faith, for example. They are perfectly prepared to kill anybody who stands in their way.
They are also prepared to use weapons of mass destruction if they can ever get their hands on them. And the worst proposition we face today by way of a threat is the possibility of an al Qaeda cell in the middle of one of our own cities with a biological agent, like smallpox, maybe, or a nuclear weapon of some kind that they would be prepared to detonate. And there's nothing to restrain them. There's no reason why they wouldn't use that kind of capability once they get their hands on it.
Our old strategies from the Cold War worked great against the Soviets, but the whole concept of deterrence means nothing when you're talking about an al Qaeda terrorist who is prepared to die for Allah, and whose purpose here is to take as many people with him as he possibly can -- primarily Americans. That's the kind of adversary we're faced with here for the foreseeable future. It doesn't take large numbers of them. Nineteen hijackers, we saw what they could do on 9/11 when they killed 3,000 of our people in a couple of hours on a beautiful September morning without any provocation whatsoever.
Part of the debate that we'll be dealing with this years is over this question of when is it appropriate to use U.S. military force, when are we justified in moving aggressively against a sponsor of terror, or a group of terrorists, or of taking military action, if that's what is called for, in order to defend the United States.
There are those who believe we should never be preemptive, that we should never take that first step. But when you consider the threat, when you consider the consequences of failing to deal with the threat might, in fact, be the destruction of one of our own cities, then I think it begins to put things in perspective -- that it's absolutely essential to do exactly what the President has done, which is to say that United States will not wait for the next attack. We're not going to stand by and let somebody take a shot at us before we respond. We've put them on notice now that if you have aspirations to hit the U.S., you will be struck. (Applause.)
Another element of the debate is that John Kerry spends a lot of time running around saying, well -- well, he's said several different things. (Laughter.) But most recently that -- he now decides that the vote that he cast to go to war probably was the right vote after all, but he would have done it differently, that we should have done more to seek allies, to get the approval of the United Nations and so forth. Well, remember what we did do -- we had 30 nations fighting alongside us in Iraq. It's not as though we didn't go with our allies, we did. We also went to the United Nations and said, look, Saddam Hussein has been jerking the U.N. around for 12 years, consistently violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, we need to hold him accountable -- got a unanimous resolution out of the Security Council. But we refused to be blocked when push came to shove and we had to make a decision.
In other words, this President made a basic fundamental decision that he's not going to seek a permission slip from anybody when the question is whether or not you defend the nation. (Applause.) Now, George Bush believes that with every fiber of his being. You do everything you can to organize allies, and we've done that -- and to be actively and aggressively involved, using all the international mechanisms that are out there. But in the final analysis, the President of the United States is the one who has to make those tough calls, who has to make those life-and-death decisions for all the rest of us. That's why he gets paid the big bucks and lives in that fancy house in Washington. (Laughter.) Very, very, very important responsibility -- and we don't want to turn that responsibility over to somebody who doesn't have deeply held convictions about right and wrong. (Applause.)
And I must say I look at the record of our opponents, we can talk about that more if anybody is interested, but there's a lot of hesitation and uncertainty. John Kerry is a man who voted against the resolution to use force back in 1991, when the issue was whether or not we'd kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait. He voted no on that. This time around, of course, he voted for committing the troops, and using the force, and then a few months later, when the question was the $87 billion that they needed once they were in the field, in order to buy a lot of the equipment and ammunition, spare parts and so forth, he voted no. And there were only four members of the United States Senate who voted to commit the force and then voted against supporting the force once they were there -- two of those four members were John Kerry and John Edwards. I don't think that's an acceptable pattern of behavior, in my view, for someone who would be President of the United States. I think that it's fundamentally wrong to vote to commit the force and then not give them the resources they need once they're in combat. (Applause.)
Finally, what we need is somebody who's got absolute steady character, who understands the big picture and is willing to make those tough decisions when they have to be made. We need somebody who will support the troops 100 percent, and that's exactly what we've got in George Bush. (Applause.)
So with that, why don't I stop and say we'd be happy to entertain some questions. We got some people in the audience with microphones. And if you raise your hand, they'll come by and give you a mike so we can respond to your concerns or comments, or advice. I can take it right to the top. (Laughter.) So we have somebody over here?
Q Can you hear me?
MRS. CHENEY: Yes.
Q Welcome back to Joplin. Hope you come back again before November and bring W with you. (Applause.)
Everyone is concerned about the war in Iraq, and Afghanistan, et cetera, so I'm going to kind of ask you a different question concerning education, which is also an issue with the President and you. About the voucher program, why are so many people apparently against this idea?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to throw this to Lynne in a second here because she's the education expert in our family. She's spent a lot of time on the subject. I think a lot of people are concerned about it because it does represent fundamental change. And with respect to how we proceed in terms of trying to reform our educational system, the President believed very deeply when he arrived in Washington that he wanted to push education as his number one priority. And he did. That was the first legislation that we introduced. It became the No Child Left Behind Act. The idea that we would establish standards and measure results and accountability in our school systems so that we could hold, in effect, our public school systems accountable for their performance, and the people in them.
The debate over vouchers has been going on for a long time. I can remember being involved back in the Nixon administration with experimental programs that were set up in Kansas City, I believe, and some other place in the Midwest where we actually tested that. What I find is the people that object to that, oftentimes are concerned about the degree of change that that might, in fact, entail for the powers that be, if you will, in our school systems. And, frankly, I think change is needed.
Now, we haven't taken a position on the voucher issue, per se, yet. What we've done is push very hard on this whole nation of establishing a basis upon which we can measure results.
Let me ask Lynne to respond further.
MRS. CHENEY: No, I think your analysis is exactly right. The argument I would pose to those people, though, who are threatened by the idea of change -- the question I would pose is, should any child be forced to stay in a failing school? And the answer is no. No child should have to stay in a failing school.
And one of the things that No Child Left Behind does is if a school doesn't improve, the school can't improve, then kids have an opportunity -- parents have an opportunity to send their children to a higher achieving public school.
Dick and I supported private choice for a long time. Because we haven't been able to make public policy out of it, a number of people support programs that do provide kids who don't have a lot of resources the opportunity to attend a private school. I also -- just one other idea, the people you talk to who are opposing the idea of choice, I would suggest this scenario, really, that it doesn't threaten the public schools when a child leaves to go to another school, it provides that school an impetus to improve, a reason to improve. What we know about life is that businesses get better when there's competition. We know about life that all sorts of projects get better if there's some competition -- and that when there's only the status quo, there's not that little engine of improvement. So I would argue that choice really gives our public schools the kind of motive to improve that's really valuable. So it's a terrific idea. The President has gone some way forward in No Child Left Behind by making public school choice possible.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Somebody -- where are the proctors? Here, you got somebody right down here with a mike?
Q Mr. Vice President, to change the subject a bit, my husband and I are farmers. And we are not rich farmers, but we own an old family farm that's been around since 1919. We'd like to pass it on to our grandchildren, but we don't want them to have to sell part of that farm in order to pay the estate taxes. What's going to be around to help us when the current law sunsets in 2010?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we made progress in the first tax bill. We've changed the tax code, or made changes in the tax code three different times, in '01, '02, and '03, while the President has been there. And one of the big things we went after was the death tax. We just think it's fundamentally unfair, somebody works all their lives, pays tax on what they earn all their lives, puts it into a farm, or a small business, or a ranch, and then at death, the whole thing gets taxed all over again before somebody passes it on to the next generation. We just think that's wrong, fundamentally unfair. (Applause.)
So what we did in that first tax bill, we made a number of changes -- this was one of them -- was to phase out the so-called, we call it the death tax. Technically, it's inheritance tax. I think of it as the death tax -- to phase it out over time. But the way the Senate rules are written, when you do that, the provisions are sunset. That is the provisions you adopt as part of an annual budget resolution and tax that goes with that, 10 years down the road then you revert to whatever law was there. So there's a problem, with respect, for example, to the increase in the child tax credit, which we doubled; with relief, marriage penalty relief; with the 10 percent bracket that we set up this time around. A lot of the changes we made in the tax code are scheduled to phase out and revert to those earlier levels over the course of the next few years. And the Death Tax is one of those that's affected like that. The key to solving that problem is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. That's the right answer. (Applause.)
And we can do that, but our opponents won't. In effect, what they've said is they want to repeal immediately some of those tax cuts that we've already put through. John Kerry said he wants to change a lot of that within the first hundred days he's in office. And as I say, we think that's wrong. I've got great sympathy for you in terms of what happens to a family farm or a small business as a result of getting to that point where the heirs end up having to sell it off in order to pay the taxes on it. It's a lousy deal, and we've got a fix in. But we've got to drive through now to the finish line and make it permanent, not just temporary. Thank you. (Applause.)
Somebody over here.
Q Mr. Vice President, could you please comment on what the administration might do in the next term to reduce our dependence on foreign oil?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I would be happy to talk about energy policy. (Laughter.) It's a source of great frustration for us. The fact is the United States is a growing economy. We've got steadily increasing demand for more energy in order to fuel our economy. We're more efficient about how we use it now than we were 20 years ago. We're about -- we produce twice as much output for, say, a gallon of gas as we did previously. But the fact of the matter is, we're still subject to the international marketplace because we import over half of the oil that we use in this country. And we badly need, as well, to develop more resources. We need to invest in new technologies. We need to look for ways to take advantage of the research, a lot of the research that's been done, more that can be done to take advantage of our basic sources that we've got here at home.
We've got an energy bill that we did, in fact -- we passed through the House about three times now. We got it through the Senate in the last session of Congress, then we went to conference, we got a conference report approved -- that is the compromise between the versions that went through the House and the Senate, took it back, passed the conference report through the House. We took it to the Senate and we failed by two votes because the Democrats filibustered it. So instead of needing 51 votes to get it through, we needed 60 votes, and we only had 58. We needed two more votes -- John Kerry and John Edwards, guess where they were? They weren't even there. (Laughter.) And they were opposed to it. So we've got to find a way -- if we had two more votes, we could do it.
Among other things, for example, it provides significant opportunity for us to get heavily involved in ethanol and biodiesel, use some of our renewable fuels. We've got fantastic ability to produce that stuff in the United States. It's another way to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. And so there are a lot of good ideas out there, but we need to keep pushing hard to get energy legislation approved. And it will be one of our top priorities in the next session.
Yes, back here.
Q Senator Kerry seems to like to talk about his war record and his things that he would change, although he won't tell what he will change. But I would like to know when and how we will hear more detail about his Senate record so we can get to better know the real Kerry.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you've come to the right place. (Laughter and applause.)
If you look at the convention that they ran in Boston -- I think somebody the other day called it the "Re-invention Convention," there was a heavy focus on Kerry's early years. And anybody who served -- any Vietnam vet deserves our respect. Anybody who has ever been a veteran and served in the military, we have the highest regard for that service. I don't want anybody to think to the contrary. But they left out the next 20 years during his time in the United States Senate.
And I'll give you one example. He has taken to spending a lot of time talking about, and pushing very aggressively on reform of the intelligence community. Now, if he's President, by golly, he's going to fix the intelligence community. He's going to aggressively get after it. He went out and grabbed the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and full speed ahead, this is what I'm going to as President.
But if you look at his record, when he served on the intelligence committee, back in the '90s, a couple of things stand out. First of all, he missed 39 out of 48 of the meetings -- had 48 major public hearings during that period of time of with the Senate intel committee, he didn't even show up for 39. He did introduce legislation that in 1993 would have dramatically cut the intelligence budget by over $7 billion -- this is after the first attack on the World Trade Center. It was so far out that even Ted Kennedy voted against it. (Laughter.) So the fact of the matter is, if you look at John Kerry's record in the Senate -- he's certainly entitled to his view. He can vote any way he wanted. But he's trying very hard now to make sure nobody looks very close at how he spent those 20 years because there were 350 occasions when voted either against tax reduction, or for tax increases. I think he voted for the upper option always, when it came time on the question of taxation. Three hundred and fifty times -- that's one vote for higher taxes every three weeks for 20 years. That's the record. And as somebody said the other day, at least the folks back home knew he was on the job. (Laughter.)
That might have been a perfectly legitimate way to represent his constituents in Massachusetts. They reelected him a couple of times. But now you cannot expect -- I don't think -- that having laid out that kind of record, having opposed, for example, most of the measures that Ronald Reagan recommended and put in place that led us to the military build-up that made it possible for us to win the Cold War -- a guy who supported the nuclear freeze, a guy who voted against most of the major weapons systems back in the 1980s -- cannot now portray himself as some sort of tough, aggressive, pro-defense, strong on intelligence, this is the guy we want to have lead us in the war on terror. It just doesn't add up.
And what the convention, I thought, in Boston was all about was trying to take his service in Vietnam, together with his comments, his public comments since he became a candidate and use all of that to portray himself as somebody who is capable of being Commander-in-Chief at a very difficult time, when we're engaged with a very shrewd and a very deadly enemy, and ignore those 20 years he spent in the Senate when nearly every time an issue came up that might have some bearing on that capability, he went the wrong way.
Yes, wherever the mikes are around here. You got somebody with a microphone here?
MRS. CHENEY: The front row has --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We got people down in the front row with questions.
Q Thank you. During your second administration as Vice President, what are we going to do about judicial appointments on the federal bench? I know we've got a number that are open now, and how can we close that gap and get some people back to work as federal judges?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that's been one of the more frustrating developments. This is the first time in our history where we've had an aggressive posture by one of the parties in the Senate of filibustering judicial nominations. That hasn't been done before. They come up on a different calendar. They have an up-or-down -- sooner or later you get a up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. And a majority vote was always enough to confirm somebody. The Democrats have taken a very different tack these last two years, since we took back the Senate, and it has created major problems for us. We've got some very able, talented judges -- people who would make great judges -- who have not been allowed to even have a vote. Filibuster, in effect, blocks it.
One comes immediately to mind, we had four nominees just in the last couple of weeks come up. One of them is a good friend of mine, a guy named Bill Myers, from Idaho. But he used to work for a member of the Wyoming delegation. He actually married a woman who used to work on my congressional staff, so I know him well. He's got great support. He's got bipartisan support. He's got probably 55, 56 votes in the Senate for him, great experience, solicitor various places and so forth. He was nominated for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That's the Western circuit. That's got all those Western states on it. It is the most frequently reversed circuit in the entire United States. It's the one, by the way, that decided here last year that we shouldn't be allowed to say "under God" when we say the Pledge of Allegiance, okay? That's how far out the court is. They have filibustered Bill to the point so that they won't even allow a vote on him on the floor. And it sounds to me like that circuit could use some new judges. (Applause.) That's one of the best arguments I can think about why it's so important to reelect a guy like Kit Bond who is in there fighting every day for the right -- (Applause.)
Q Yes, I have a question for Mrs. Cheney.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good. (Laughter.)
Q Senator Kerry has made the statement that he would like to fight a more sensitive war on terror. What in the world he be thinking about there? What's your thoughts?
MRS. CHENEY: I just kind of shook my head when I heard that. With all due respect to the Senator, it just sounded so foolish. I can't imagine that al Qaeda is going to be impressed by sensitivity. (Laughter.)
But it did remind me of kind of this -- we've heard for a long time from the extreme left in this country, whenever it comes to a matter of our national interest, that somehow the problem is not with the people who are attacking us, the problem is with us. You've heard that. And it struck me as a kind of expression of that idea -- somehow the problem is not with the people who are attacking us, the problem is with us. If we'll just adjust our attitude seems to be the idea. We just do a little mental adjustment here, things will go well. Well, I think it just fits with what Dick is saying. This is kind of left-wing foolishness that certainly isn't appropriate for someone who would seek to be Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)
Q Welcome to Missouri. I'm curious what legislation and role you feel the government will play as the gap between church and state continues to expand, specifically when it comes to implementing moral and ethical responsibility, specifically in business? How do you feel the government should react?
MRS. CHENEY: I think there has to be always in our country a great separation between church and state. One of the gifts of the founders, Jefferson and Madison, in particular, was that separation. But separation of church and state doesn't mean driving the churches out of the public square. (Applause.) And I think that's one of the reasons it's so important that the President has taken the initiative to be sure that faith-based organizations aren't discriminated against. They ought to have resources made available to them to help with their good works.
As someone who is interested in education, it has always seemed really important to me, too, that we keep the history of religion in our schools. That's not the same as teaching kids what they should believe. But it is the same as teaching kids that the founders of this country really believed that Providence was watching over us, that Providence helped guide us through the Revolutionary War, that Providence brought us to these shores. And our kids should understand that. They should understand the central place that God held in this country in the beginning, and holds in the lives of so many Americans now. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, I have a 2000 Bush-Cheney sticker. I've recycled it today. I want to see our President and Vice President recycled.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you -- I don't want to be recycled. (Laughter.) I want to be reelected. (Laughter.)
Q But my question is, in view of the corruption in the United Nations, in general, in the Oil for Food, in particularly, when are we going to tell the United Nations to clean their house up before they look into ours? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The investigations that are now under way on the Oil for Food program, I think, are going to turn up some pretty remarkable results. What it looks like is the program that was set up supposedly to provide relief, medical help and basic food stuff for the Iraqi people, was, in fact, converted to a corrupt system that generated enormous profits for Saddam Hussein himself, as well as for some people outside who were participating in that program.
A man named Paul Volcker, who some of you may remember used to be chairman of the Federal Reserve, at one point. I can remember him when he was, I believe, deputy Treasury secretary -- a very able and talented man is now in charge of the investigation to dig into the bottom of that. And I know him well enough to have great confidence that I think he will, in fact, do exactly that. It's something we need to watch very carefully and make certain that there is a full and complete airing there because it was -- I think it has been a shameful episode in the history of the United Nations. And it's important to clean it up if they're going to continue to want to play a central with respect to the United States, or any other nation that it plays in the world. So it's one to watch, and to continue to push very aggressively on.
Back here. I feel like we've short-changed the folks on this side.
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your service to our country. The economic recovery has generally been very strong. We seem to have hit a little bit of a soft patch with the last jobs report, gas prices remain kind of high. I kind of like to know what you all's impression is for the economy, not just between now and the election, but what you're looking to do in your second term to keep things going.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, in terms of looking at the economy and where we are with respect to the overall performance, we feel pretty good about things. When we were sworn in, we were already headed towards the recession, then of course the attack of 9/11 really shook the economy once again. And a couple of things happened, the President pushed very aggressively on the tax program, aimed specifically at changing that. We concluded that the best way that we could respond to the recession was to leave more money in the hands of the people that earned it, that American people could spend it better and more wisely than government will. (Applause.)
And I think that's worked. I think we've seen in terms of real growth now, we've been growing at about 4.5 percent, a little less than 5 percent over the last year in terms of real GDP, real gross domestic product. That's one of the best rates of growth in the last 20 years. We've added about 1.5 million new jobs on the payroll survey since last August.
One of the things to watch here -- it has been a technical complexity that's added to it. There are really two ways to measure unemployment. And we collect two sets of data. The number you referred to, the so-called payroll system, we go out to companies, and we ask them how many people they've got employed. And they tell us, and then we add that up, and that gives you your monthly unemployment. That's what usually gets pegged. And that's the one that in the last month was 32,000 in July.
There's another survey where we don't go to the businesses, we go to households. And we ask in households how many people are employed. It's a different approach. And the latter survey captures a lot more than does the former, and always leads it. And for example, that month of July when the payroll surveys showed 32,000 jobs added, the household survey showed over 600,000 because it picks up the extent to which people are self-employed. Lynne, for example, does very well in terms of her own professional career and line of work, but she doesn't work for anybody. And there's no way out there to measure her employment, except through the household survey. If you're in business for yourself, if you've got your own small business and so forth, you don't get picked up by those other numbers. And there's a lag there. And right now, there's a big gap between the household survey, which shows very significant improvements, and the payroll survey which has slowed down a big.
But all of the forecasts we see show that we can plan on sustained growth going forward, that we've made major progress over the course of the last year or so, and that there's every reason to believe it will continue, that the rate of growth will be on the order of 3 to 4 percent next year, and that we'll continue to do everything we can, especially focusing on tax policy. We think the heart of what we've been able to do is tax policy. We want to make those tax cuts permanent. That will be right at the top of our agenda going forward, as well as deal with a number of other issues out there. Medical liability reform is a big issue. We can find ways to make more health care available to more people at lower cost, and to deal with lawsuit abuse. We think there are significant problems in the litigation area. We need a good energy policy in place because energy is a very important component part of our economy, and we cannot have economic success if we can't have adequate supplies of energy at reasonable prices that people can afford to pay. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, I had a question back on terrorism. How can America be expected to defeat terrorism when we have to fight based on a set of rules and the terrorists don't?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, a set of rules -- maybe you can clarify that.
Q From hiding in mosques -- we can't really attacks mosques, to even from door-to-door, things we do over here with the ACLU and that kind of thing on civil rights?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that's an interesting question because we do want to take whatever steps are necessary to be able to defeat the terrorists. We've done such things, for example, as enact the Patriot Act, which allows us to do a more effective job of going after, investigating, and prosecuting terrorists. But basically, what we did there wasn't to invent new legal tools, so much as take ones that were already being used, for example, against drug traffickers, and apply those over in the terrorism field. And we need to take extraordinary steps to do everything we can to defend the country. I think we've done that to a large extent in creating the Department of Homeland Security. So we've done a lot of that.
The cautionary note is there's a line out there someplace that it's hard to define, but it is a line you don't want to cross over that would, in effect, where the government would become so onerous, so heavy handed, would intrude so deeply in the lives of all of us, that the terrorists would win without ever firing a shot. You don't want that to happen either. So it calls for real judgment and balance. I think it's important for us as we fight terror also to do as the oath of office the President and I took when we were sworn in, support and defend the Constitution of the United States. So you got to find your way forward here to marshal the resources and defend the nation to take those steps necessary to defeat the terrorists, but at the same time not sort of lock down the country so tight that we fundamentally change our way of life, which is, after all, one of the objectives of the terrorists. We don't want that to happen either. And I think we can do it. I'm an optimist about it. That doesn't mean that there won't be tough days ahead. I think there will be. That doesn't mean there won't be more attacks on the United States. We know they're out there trying to get at us. It doesn't mean we won't have to be committed with troops overseas, or that we won't take casualties.
But when I think about the obstacles and the challenges we've overcome through our history, I think back to World War II, and what we did as a nation. There's some people in the audience here today who probably served, and certainly remember it, when we could marshal the resources as a nation, and motivate the country and take on the challenges of defeating the Nazis and the Japanese, and do it as effectively as we did, there's every reason to be optimistic here, as well, too. I think the fundamental strength of this nation, our basic values, the principles we live by, the strength of our institutions, the tremendous capabilities of the United States military, the fact that we've got so many folks out there who are willing to step up and take on major responsibilities both here at home and overseas, all of those things give me cause for hope and optimism that this is a battle we can win. (Applause.)
Q Welcome to Missouri. And I thank you for your time. My question is, come November 3rd, and I'm going to be an optimist right along with you, come November 3rd and for the next four years, what is your plan on stem cell research and for the sanctity of life?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we will continue -- I think the President has got a policy on stem cell research that he devoted an enormous amount of time to. This is a subject he really grappled with, consulted with experts on all sides of the issue to arrive at the policy that's now in place. We think it is a sound one, both from the standpoint of medical science, as well as from the standpoint of moral values. The President believes very deeply that we stand for a culture of life. He was very proud to sign, for example, the ban on partial birth abortion -- thought that was a very important piece of legislation. (Applause.) So I don't think there should be any doubt in anybody's mind about where he's headed with respect to those kinds of issues. He's been rock solid on it.
Okay, we got somebody. Go ahead.
Q Mr. Vice President, I just want to let you know that fellow Missourians are praying for the election. And we know who is in control. And just let Brother Ashcroft know that his fellow Missourians are praying with you guys.
And my question is, we're owner-operators. And this is a heavily trucking industry area, and the fuel obviously is going to be -- is a stretch for us. Is there any hope? What can we look forward to as far as the prices coming down on that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the things we need to try to do -- in addition to try to produce more here at home. We've got problems with our refinery capacity. We're running flat out on our refineries. One of the things we recommended when the President got me involved early on in terms of putting together an energy policy was to modify our new source review regulations over at the Environmental Protection Agency so that it would be easier to expand existing refineries.
We're in a situation today where you look at basic fuels, we've got some 51 different blends that are required various places around the country because of our local air quality requirements. So what you do for St. Louis is different than what you do for Kansas City, is different than Chicago, different than Denver. And as I say, we got some 51 different blends that have to be manufactured. We haven't built a new refinery in this country in many, many a year because it's so hard to get it permitted. And so again, we're right up against the limits there in terms of the amount of refined product that's available especially for our transportation sector.
We will continue to push on the new source review idea. We got the change made in the regulations now. It's tied up in court. Some groups who didn't want us to make the change we wanted to make have taken it to court. And that should get resolved within the next -- hopefully within the next few months. And that may help some. But it's going to be a continuing problem for us until we find ways to get more product into the U.S. economy to meet those requirements at a reasonable price. And I know when you start to pay -- I can't imagine what it is to fill up one of those big rigs, but it's got to be a lot. And it's affecting everybody.
MRS. CHENEY: Dick, I just got a signal, we can only have one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, you get to answer it. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: I like this lady in the cute, colored sweater. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: Do I still have the red dress? (Laughter.) Oh, my, no, but do I wish I did. (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We want to thank all of you for being here this morning. We really appreciate your turning out and taking the time to come spend a few moments with us. Again, as I say, this is an extraordinarily important election. We're going to make some decisions here that our kids and grandkids are going to live with, and very important that we get it right. I think it takes on the kind of significance, if you will, the kinds of decisions we had to make after World War II, as we got into the Cold War, and we had to create a Defense Department, and NATO, and when we first created the CIA -- a whole series of fundamental decisions that were made and then were pursued by successive administrations because it was a vital part of our security, and it worked. In the final analysis, we prevailed in the Cold War, and the Soviet Union is no more. As I say, and I'm an optimist, there's no reason in the world why with the right kind of leadership and the right kind of commitment and dedication from the American people we cannot, indeed, prevail in this conflict just as we have in every other.
So thank you very much for being here. (Applause.)
END 1:25 P.M. CDT