|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 24, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President and Mrs. Cheney Followed by Question and Answer at a Town Hall Meeting
Radisson Quad City Plaza
11:45 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. (Applause.) Good morning. (Applause.)
MRS. CHENEY: Well, thank you all very much. We decided to be in charge of our own logistics.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Lynne has a little --
MRS. CHENEY: A helper, a helper -- we call it a helper. So, Dick, the last time I saw you was? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't think we ought to get that intimate this morning. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: If this is Tuesday, I think it was Sunday.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, that sounds right.
MRS. CHENEY: So I think if they're going to set up these stools, they can at least get them so we're within shouting distance, don't you think? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. I think so.
MRS. CHENEY: I just introduce Dick. And the reason I have that job is because I've known him for such a long time. I have known Dick since he was 14 years old. (Applause.) And when I first knew him, his after-school job was sweeping out the Ben Franklin store. And I've known him through many a summer job and an after-school job. I knew when he was digging ditches out at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Grounds. And I knew him when he was loading bentonite, hundred pound bags of bentonite onto railroad cars. And I knew him when he was building power line across the West to help pay his way through school. And I like to tell those stories because I think when you grow up working hard, that you learn some things that are really important to know. And one of the things you learn is how important it is for hard working people to get to keep as much of their paychecks as they can. (Applause.)
And there are so many reasons I know that Dick is proud to have worked for this President, and I certainly am, too. But one of the things I think that you found most gratifying -- I'll just speak for you since I've been doing that for a while --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's quite all right. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: -- is working on the tax cut packages. This President has provided more tax relief than any President since Ronald Reagan, and that is a great achievement. (Applause.)
Let me tell just one more story, and you don't get to choose. Dick knows my repertoire, but he's never sure which story I'm going to tell. But I had a grandma, whom I loved very much, growing up in Casper, Wyoming. And her job, her official job was as the alternations lady at the H&G Dry Cleaners. I think it was probably the town's only dry cleaners when I was growing up. And she was the person in charge of sewing back on the buttons and fixing up the tears and the patches.
But she was also a really talented seamstress. And one day I saw a dress, a red dress, and I knew she could make me one like it. And I asked her to, and, indeed, she did. It was the most amazing dress. It was made out of red crinoline -- that stuff that is really stiff. And it had about a million yards of ruffles on it, so when you tried to put your hands down to your sides, you really couldn't. It was sort of like that. And it was strapless. This was the 1950s, remember. It was strapless and it was quite a dress. And I wore that dress the very first time I went out with Dick Cheney. And I credit that dress for my second date. (Laughter and applause.)
It gave me such a thrill -- it was such a privilege, such an honor the first time I got to introduce Dick to people as the next Vice President of the United States. Can you imagine how honored I am now to introduce him to you as my husband, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) All right, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. That was a very impressive red dress. (Laughter.)
She claims to have known me since I was 14, the fact is she didn't pay any attention to me until I was about 17. (Laughter.) I often explain to people that Dwight Eisenhower when he won that election victory in 1952 and got elected President had an enormous impact, really was responsible for Lynne and I getting married. Think about how the ripple effect of presidential elections -- they have lasting consequences. But in 1952, I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. And Eisenhower got elected, he reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne; and so we went to high school together, and grew up together, basically in Casper. And we'll next weekend -- this coming weekend, about three days, four days -- celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.)
I explained to a group the other night that 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 and applause.) Absolutely true. No doubt in my mind.
But we're delighted to be here this morning, and have an opportunity to spend some time with all of you back here in Iowa, in Davenport, and Quad Cities area. And this is obviously a presidential campaign year. We've got our convention coming up shortly. Of course, the Democrats had their convention here a couple of weeks ago up in Boston. Some of you may have noticed. I now have an opponent. It's official. And a lot of people say John Edwards got the job because he's charming, sexy, good looking, has great hair. (Laughter.) I said, "How do you think I got the job?" (Laughter and applause.)
But it's an extraordinarily important election this year, and I say that not just because I'm on the ballot with the President, but because I think the decisions we're going to make as a nation this year in terms of the kinds of policies we pursue aren't just about the next four years, they may be about the next 40 or 50 years. They have that kind of potential. I think back to the period after World War II, after we'd won a great victory in World War II. I see some veterans in the audience here today I'm sure served in that conflict. We then ended up in a situation where in the late 1940s, early '50s, we had to craft a whole new strategy to deal with a brand new world. We built the Department of Defense for the first time, and created the CIA, and created NATO -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- and put together a strategy that let us prevail in the Cold War over the course of the next 40 years, that was supported by Republican and Democrat administrations alike.
I think we may be in a similar period now where the decisions we make as a nation about national security and about our strategy going forward take on that kind of significance, will have that kind of impact, will, in fact, determine the safety and security of the United States, of our kids and grandkids maybe for the next 40 or 50 years. So it's a very important election.
And I want to talk for a few minutes, if I can this morning, about some of those issues that I think are involved in that. And then we'll throw it open to questions and have an opportunity to hear from all of you and to have a dialogue and focus on what you'd like to talk about, as well, too.
I think it's important -- at least from my perspective, as I think back to the period of time since the President and I were sworn in on January 20th, of 2001, about three-and-a-half -- a little over three-and-a-half years ago now -- think about what was working at the time, some of which was known, some of which was unknown. But as we were sworn in that day, the planning for the attack of 9/11, obviously, was already well underway. The terrorists had been working on that since 1996. They had recruited terrorists. They had trained them. A lot of them had been through the training camps in Afghanistan. They had raised the money for the event. Some of them were already in the United States.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban were in power. They had created a safe haven for the al Qaeda organization. They had created an environment in which the training camps operating there had trained some 20,000 terrorists -- by one estimate -- between 1996 and 2001.
In Iraq, of course, Saddam Hussein was in power; he'd started two wars; he'd previously produced and used chemical weapons against his own people, as well as the Iranians; was a safe haven, a sanctuary, if you will, for terrorists of various kinds.
We also at the time, although this wasn't known publicly, were faced with a situation in which a man named A.Q. Khan who had created Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs had then diverted that suppliers' network that he'd built to own purposes and was selling uranium, and centrifuges, and centrifuge designs, and the design for a nuclear weapon to some of the world's most dangerous regimes, specifically selling nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, to Iran, and to Libya. That was operating at the same time, as well.
What we found, obviously, as of 9/11, when we were struck that morning and lost some 3,000 Americans, the deadliest attack that ever occurred on American soil, we obviously discovered that we were in a situation that was dramatically different from what had gone before. It forced us to think in new ways about national security strategy. We had gone through the period of the Cold War, for example, based on a strategy of deterrence that we could persuade the Soviets never to attack the United States by holding at risk those things that the Soviets valued, in terms of their basic real estate and their national security. Those concepts have no meaning when you talk about al Qaeda. There's nothing you can hold at risk to keep al Qaeda from launching attacks against the United States. We were faced with a whole new set of concerns, and that strategy that had worked so well during the Cold War simply didn't have much bearing when it came time to protect the United States against the new threat.
What we've done since then, obviously, is we've spent a lot of time and effort at strengthening our defenses here at home, and creating the Department of Homeland Security, at passing the Patriot Act that gave our law enforcement people more tools to use in prosecuting terrorists, recently set up Project BioShield. This will give us better defenses against a potential attack with biological weapons, a number of steps to strengthen our defenses, but what the President recognized, which was an absolutely crucial decision, was that there's no such thing as a perfect defense, that we can have a defense that is successful 99.9 percent of the time, but that the terrorists potentially armed with deadlier weapons than any we've ever had used on us before, potentially armed with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons -- because we know they're trying to acquire that kind of capability -- those terrorists could, in fact, do devastating harm to the United States if they're successful only one-tenth of 1 percent of the time. If we succeed 99 percent of the time, they only have to get through once to do devastating damage to one of our cities and potentially kill hundreds of thousands of our people. That's the nature of the threat that we're faced with today. And the President concluded, I think, properly so that it wasn't enough to have a good defense. We also had to be prepared to go on offense. We had to be prepared to use U.S. military force not only to go after the terrorists, wherever they planned or trained or organized, but we also had to be prepared to go after those who supported terrorism, to go after states, governments that had provided safe harbor and sanctuary for terrorists in the past, or had provided them with weapons, or had provided them with financial support, or potentially might provide them with these newer, deadlier technologies that have never before been used against the United States.
And it was that basic, fundamental decision -- some people have come to refer to as the Bush doctrine -- that was vital, I believe, in terms of having a successful strategy. I don't think we can defend the United States going forward from this point on if we're prepared only to use military force after we're attacked. We've already been attacked. (Applause.)
And I think this is where there's a fundamental difference between the approach that John Kerry has advocated and the approach that George Bush has actually implemented as President. I think there are fundamental differences here. Senator Kerry has talked about using U.S. military force in the traditional sense, where we operate to use force only once we're attacked. He's made it clear he has a different perception of how to defend the nation with respect to the current kind of threat we're faced with than does the President -- would have been fundamental differences, for example, over the situation with respect to Iraq. Senator Kerry voted for deploying forces to Iraq, for using force to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, when the President asked for that authority. But then a year later, when it came time to come up with funding to support the troops, and to give them the resources they needed to do the job we were asking them to do for us in Iraq, four members of the United States Senate who'd voted to commit troops, then voted against providing the funding for the troops once they got into combat. Two of those four members were Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards.
Now, Senator Kerry said, well, it was a complicated question. I don't think so. I don't think it's ever a complicated question when the question is one of supplying resources for the troops that we've sent into action, faced with dangerous combat. (Applause.)
There's been a difference of debate, obviously, over this question of allies. Senator Kerry has alleged that somehow we went alone into Iraq, or into Afghanistan. That's simply not true. The fact of the matter is, we've had some 30 countries alongside us in Iraq, and more than that in Afghanistan. NATO has been part of the operation in Afghanistan. Even the French and the Germans have sent troops to operate alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
And in Iraq, we've had not only the Brits, but the Poles, the Italians, the Australians, a great many other nations participated as well, too. So we have tried hard and successfully to get other nations to commit forces to join in this international effort. Those are the facts. But the President has made it abundantly clear, contrary to the way Senator Kerry has implied that he, in fact, would seek the approval of the United Nations always, President Bush has basically said that he will not seek a permission slip to defend the United States of America. (Applause.)
So we're willing to work with allies, others who want to work with us. And as I say, we've done that extensively. The President went to the United Nations. He got a unanimous vote out of the Security Council with respect to the original resolution on Iraq. The basic, fundamental bottom line is the President of the United States cannot delegate to anybody else that basic fundamental responsibility to make decisions about when to commit U.S. forces in order to defend this nation. It's just absolutely that that be clear, and that we have a clear understanding about how a potential President, somebody who wants to be Commander-in-Chief would, in fact, use the authority that Constitution, in fact, assigns to the President under those circumstances.
Now, the debate we're going to have this year is going to be hot and heavy. It already is. These are important issues. And I can't think of a more important setting for us in which to have this debate than the presidential campaign. That's as it should be. Sometimes there's a lot of noise in the system out there, and it's kind of hard to sort through the fog of the debate, if you will, and the political rhetoric to get to the heart of the issue. But we are going to make a basic, fundamental decision about how the United States proceeds with respect to guaranteeing the safety and security of our kids and grandkids. So that's why I think this election is as important as it is.
There are a lot of major issues on the domestic side that we need to address, as well, too. But I think we have, in fact, achieved a basic fundamental result -- if you look at all that we've done since 9/11, not only did we adopt that new strategy obviously, but the President applied it first in Afghanistan where we've closed the training camps, took down the Taliban. We've now stood up an interim Iraqi (sic) government. They have a constitution. They'll have free elections in October. We're well on our way to getting a democratically elected government established in Afghanistan.
In Iraq, of course, not only is Saddam Hussein no longer in power today, he's in jail, which is where he ought to be. (Applause.) I don't want to underestimate the difficulty of the task in Iraq and Afghanistan. We've got a lot of tough days ahead of us. There will be good days and bad days. But we're making significant progress. We're moving in the right direction. And if we can establish free governments, democratically elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can begin to fundamentally change the dynamics in that part of the world that have generated the dynamic, or the forces, if you will, that have produced the terrorists that have launched attacks not only against New York and Washington, but also Casablanca, and Madrid, and Mombassa, and Bali, and Jakarta, and Istanbul, and Riyadh, and so many other cities around the world since 9/11. That's what we're all about.
Not only did we succeed there, of course, but when Colonel Ghadafi in Libya saw us succeed against Saddam Hussein, five days after we arrested Saddam, Colonel Ghadafi went public and said he was going to give up his aspirations to have nuclear weapons. And all of that material now, the weapons design, the uranium feedstocks, the centrifuges to enrich the uranium, it's all under lock and key down at Oak Ridge, in Tennessee. (Applause.)
And, of course, the network that Mr. A.Q. Khan had established is now out of business. Mr. Khan is under house arrest in Pakistan. And his suppliers are no longer in the business of supplying nuclear weapons technology to outlaw regimes around the world -- a very significant set of accomplishments. And we've now managed for nearly three years to avoid another attack. But we should not underestimate the dedication and determination of our enemy. They're still out there. They're doing they can to find ways to launch attacks against the United States. There's reason to believe they'd like to try to do here what they've done so many other places around the world, and try to influence, if you will, the outcome of the political process. So we've got to be concerned about that. We know there's a threat level out there that all Americans have to be aware of, and that we have to be focused on, and we need to continue to exercise vigilance.
But I think we're on the right course. I think we've made major progress thanks to the leadership of the President, and thanks to the magnificent performance of our men and women in uniform. They've done a superb job. (Applause.)
So let me, with that, end my opening remarks. And as I say, at this point, we'd be prepared to take questions. I'll try to make sure we get around to as many people as possible. I think we've got proctors in the audience with microphones and tags hanging around their necks. So if you can have a question, if you can just get the attention of one of the proctors, we'll be happy to respond to some of your questions or concerns about those subjects, or any others.
Yes, right over here.
Q Vice President Cheney, it is a real honor to have you and your wife here with us today. As a little quick aside, my husband was at the University of Wyoming with you. But you didn't know each other. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He looks much younger than I do. (Laughter.)
Q On a more important note, our son is a captain in the U.S. Army. And he has been in Iraq and safely returned home in May, for which we are very grateful. We have a concern that we make sure that all of the ballots of our military people around the world are counted in a timely fashion. Has this been looked after and made sure of and all that kind of thing? We had so much discussion about it in 2000?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let me -- on behalf of all of us -- thank your son for his service to the nation. (Applause.)
This has been an issue that I discussed, frankly, just last night. I was down in Kansas City with Senator Kit Bond of Missouri. He's been especially focused on it, discussed it with Secretary Rumsfeld over at DOD. And they're doing everything they can to make certain that we can get the absentee ballots out to our military personnel serving all over the world, and get them back in, in a timely fashion to where they have to go in order to be counted. I can't think of a group that has a better claim to the right to vote than those who are serving in uniform at this particular time, and it's vital that we get that right. And I know they're working on it. (Applause.)
Yes, other questions. Back here.
Q Mr. Vice President, we managed to pass laws in this country for truth in lending, truth in advertising, truth in sales, what can we do to get truth in politics? (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's a tough question. (Laughter.) I think you got to elect the right people. (Applause.) And furthermore, I sayeth not. (Laughter.)
No, it is -- I've been involved in the political world now -- I started out to be a school teacher. I didn't plan to get into politics. And I went to Washington to stay 12 months, and that was in 1968. And so I got waylaid along the way. I think it's important -- I know it's frustrating lots of times because of the noise in the system out there, and unfortunately politics has gotten pretty negative at times in recent years, that has sometimes been true historically, too. You can go back and look at some of the campaigns a hundred years ago, they got pretty rough at times, as well, too. But it's important for us not to lose sight of the fantastic privilege we have as Americans of having the right to vote, of getting to get out there and participate, work for the candidate of our choice -- whether we contribute money or time, or whatever it might be to the enterprise -- when you think about what that represents, and how rare that is in the history of mankind, that to some extent so many Americans take it for granted they don't even bother to go to the polls or get involved, that's a source of frustration and concern, as well, too.
But it's a free country. People get to participate or not participate. To some extent, the voters can have a big impact upon the conduct of the candidates, in terms of holding them accountable for their performance. And that's, after all, how the system is supposed to work. So I wouldn't let the occasional negativism that does creep into campaigns discourage you or others from participating. It's a tremendous privilege for us to get to participate as we do. An awful lot of good men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for us to be able to do that, and we should not treat that right lightly -- even though we don't always necessarily like all the noise and the background that go with it.
What I find is that when you get out around the country, and get an opportunity to spend time like this here in Davenport, Iowa, or Kansas City, where I was last night, or back home in Wyoming, or any of so many other communities we've got all across the country, you can sit down and talk to folks, there will be disagreements. There ought to be. There will be strong feelings on both sides. There should be. These are important issues. But there's no reason for us not to jump in. And the best way to improve the overall quality of the process is to get as many folks as possible actively involved in supporting the candidate and the views of their choice.
Q We are honored to have you in our town. And we hope that you and your bride can have some time together. (Laughter.) And we speed God's blessings upon you and your household.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q We have a battle here on this land, as well. And I would like to know, sir, from your heart -- I don't want to know what your advisors say, or even what your top advisor thinks -- but I need to know what do you think about homosexual marriages.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the question has come up obviously in the past with respect to the question of gay marriage. Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with. We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them. They're both fine young women. They do a superb job, frankly, of supporting us. And we are blessed with both our daughters.
With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be able to free -- ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to. The question that comes up with respect to the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction, or approval is going to be granted by government, if you will, to particular relationships. Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that basic fundamental decision in terms of defining what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when I ran and this question came up in the debate I had with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide, that that's how it ought to best be handled.
The President has, as result of the decisions that have been made in Massachusetts this year by judges, felt that he wanted to support the constitutional amendment to define -- at the federal level to define what constitutes marriage, that I think his perception was that the courts, in effect, were beginning to change -- without allowing the people to be involved, without their being part of the political process -- that the courts, in that particular case, the state court in Massachusetts, were making the judgment or the decision for the entire country. And he disagreed with that. So where we're at, at this point is he has come out in support of a federal constitutional amendment. And I don't think -- well, so far it hasn't had the votes to pass. Most states have addressed this. There is on the books the federal statute Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996. And to date it has not been successfully challenged in the courts, and that may be sufficient to resolve the issue. But at this point, say, my own preference is as I've stated. But the President makes basic policy for the administration. And he's made it clear that he does, in fact, support a constitutional amendment on this issue. (Applause.)
More questions, yes.
Q Vice President Cheney, welcome to Davenport. My question is, after 22 years my husband's -- (inaudible) -- and I would like to know in all of eastern Iowa, with all -- what as a nation, we can do to encourage companies to stay here in the United States and give our citizens jobs?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Can I ask what kind of a business it was?
Q He was a manufacturer for Marley Pump Company. They make submersible water pumps and gas pumps --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And did they move the plant, or they just closed down?
Q They closed down totally in Davenport after 125 years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Is that -- I assume -- because they could no longer do it profitably?
Q They were making a profit. Marley Pump in itself, the red pumps were one of the most profitable parts of that corporation. And they moved part of it to Pennsylvania, and the rest is overseas -- three-fourths of it is overseas.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Well, the problem we're faced with, in part, is that we've got to find ways to make it possible for companies to operate in the United States, reduce the burden, if you will, in terms of doing business here, and look for ways to find it -- to make certain that companies can operate here and be competitive in the worldwide marketplace. There are a lot things we can do to help that we have not yet -- for one reason or another haven't been able to get approved.
But I would point to such things, for example, as health cost. The cost of providing health benefits for employees. It's an extremely important cost of doing business for a great many companies. We can do more through medical liability reform, for example. One of the problems we're having in my home state of Wyoming -- I'm not familiar with the situation in Iowa -- is that malpractice insurance rates have doubled. And we're to the point now where it's gotten very expensive for companies to provide health insurance for their employees. So we need medical liability reform at the federal level. We've got it through the House. So far it has been blocked in the Senate.
We can do a lot more with respect, I think, to the tax code by making the tax changes that we put forward -- permanent -- over the course of the last three years; things that provide for accelerated depreciation and reduced rates across the board, make it possible for companies to invest in expanding their capabilities in plant and equipment; to watch the regulatory burden and the red tape that we impose on companies so that they can compete with others around the world; to recognize we're part of an international marketplace, and that we've got to be able to create an environment that allows people to set up businesses here and compete with Japan or Mexico or Canada, wherever it might be.
From time to time, there are bound to be changes in the economy. That it's not a fixed entity. It's a dynamic situation if you will. I know, for example, we've got some 47,000 Iowans that are employed by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies. So you've got -- it, in effect, comes both ways. But where it, of course, obviously, presents a significant burden is when a particular company gets hit and is no longer able to operate in that particular locale, or in the United States.
The President has also supported trade adjustment assistance, for example -- payments to make it easier to make the transition when a company does, in fact, get hit and shut down, it's affected by international trade adversely, so that they can -- people can get retrained, take advantage of the programs that are out there in order to be able to get new jobs and pursue those opportunities elsewhere. But basically, we have to make it possible for companies to operate in the United States and not be driven out by an unwise tax burden, or unnecessary regulations, or a regulatory scheme, for example, in the health area that makes it impossible for them to business here.
MRS. CHENEY: I just want to say because I've followed you and the
President around so much, too, and I have heard them say time and again how committed they are to solving the kind of problem you bring up. And what the President says, and I've heard Dick echo it, is, we will not rest, we will not be content until every America who wants a job can get a job. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Do we have a microphone back here? Go ahead, and I'll repeat the question.
Q Yes, sir. (Laughter.) I'm one of the old guys from World War II.
MRS. CHENEY: Oh, thank you -- thank you for your service. (Applause.) We have amongst us people who are waiting to see if (inaudible) I wanted to give my hope and the hope of those who followed me in Korea and Vietnam, we will not wait for politicians to tell us whether (inaudible) we have troops in harm's way. We are in (inaudible) we are doing what we should be doing. We are making a better land. And there will always be (inaudible) thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) I might add thank you for your service, as well, too. And to the Korean War vets and the Vietnam vets, and Desert Storm vets -- all of those who have served over the course of the last 50 or 60 years -- we're grateful for your service to the nation.
MRS. CHENEY: And I just want to say, I always think of it in historic perspective, the sacrifice that you made has helped us to live the lives of freedom that we enjoy. And that's why I'm so touched when I meet someone who has a son serving now, because what your son is doing is going to make sure that his children and our children and grandchildren for many generations will enjoy the freedoms that we've known, and even more. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let's do one more from back here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the President has made it clear that we want to do everything we can to reduce the incidence of abortion. He clearly is opposed to that. He and I have traditionally always supported the pro-life position. I think one of the things -- (Applause.) One of the things that he's proudest of is that we were able to get a ban on partial birth abortion through the Congress, and he was able to sign it into law. It's now a law of the land. (Applause.)
So we'll continue to do everything we can to work in the direction of reducing the incidence of abortion. We don't at this stage, obviously, have an overwhelming majority opinion to abolish abortion at this stage. But we've looked for those areas when we can improve it in terms of questions, for example, of parental consent for minors, the Laci Peterson law, for example, and other steps that we've taken and will continue to believe very deeply in a culture of life. And that will be a cornerstone of our administration. (Applause.)
Somebody back here. Would you wait for the microphone a second so we make sure we --
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President and Madam. We have a son who is presently deployed in the Air Force right now, so we join together in the effort.
But as we look around in this very large body, there's an obvious lack of color. The question is, according to the reports, there are many persons of color who are not really impressed with Senator Kerry at this particular point. What efforts are being made, what strategy is being made on the part of the administration in terms of seeking to recapture this disaffected and in some cases right now undecided black vote, number one? And number two, those of us in the black community and other communities who are concerned that our community no longer be co-opted by the Democratic Party -- what ways can we help, or are we being enlisted to help in that effort to recover that group of people?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you helped by being here this morning, for starters. We appreciate your presence. (Applause.)
George Bush believes very deeply, obviously, in the whole concept of equal opportunity and non-discrimination in our society. I think all you have to do is look at his administration and see the extent to which he has supported and made specific decisions aimed directly at taking advantage of the talent and the skill and the expertise of people without regard to race, color, ethnic background. You can look at our Cabinet -- from Rod Paige, who is our Secretary of Education, was a former superintendent of public construction in Houston, African American ; to Colin Powell, Condi Rice, who occupy two out of the top three or four foreign policy positions in this administration; Alfonso Jackson, at HUD. We've got a wide range of folks who have come to join the administration and serve very ably and very well, and I would say this President to a greater extent than any President I ever worked for is absolutely color-blind in terms of how he proceeds. He selects people based on merit and believes very deeply that that needs to be the cornerstone of the foundation, if you will, of his administration.
We've also worked very hard in a number of other areas to support minority-owned businesses, to make it possible for businesses to grow and develop and prosper -- that economic opportunity, obviously, is crucial in terms of guaranteeing equality of opportunity across the board for people all across our society. He's been a staunch advocate and supporter of that, as well, too. And if you look at his record in Texas, or his activities in education, No Child Left Behind -- tried very hard to make certain that the federal government is, in fact, an effective advocate, if you will, for equality of opportunity in our society. I think that's the best testament I can offer in terms of his commitments and his belief. (Applause.)
Q Thank you for coming to Davenport, Mr. Vice President, and you, too, Mrs. Cheney. My question is related to the nation's energy policy. I wonder how you felt about releasing the strategic oil. And if so, when and why or why not? Thank you --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The strategic --
Q Oil supply.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Strategic Petroleum Reserve, right. Well, the reason that was set up was for a dire emergency -- not just a situation in which there are price pressures because of the short supply, obviously. We've got a situation now where prices have gone up because worldwide demand has increased, and worldwide supply hasn't kept pace with that demand. So we got the situation where we're talking about $2 gasoline and $40 oil and so forth. But the reason we set up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve back in the '70s, and maintain it since is to deal with the emergency that would arise if, for example, something were to suddenly happen to one of the major nations supplying petroleum to the United States on an imported basis and they were out of business, or they no longer were exporting to the U.S., so that we were dealing with a situation where we lost 5 or 6 million barrels a day, for example, out of the 20 million barrels a day that we currently consume. That would be the kind of national crisis that would drive prices so high and probably bring large parts of our economy to a halt that we keep the Strategic Petroleum Reserve available to deal with exactly that kind of contingency. So as a general proposition, it's been our belief that we ought to save that for true emergencies, and those kinds of emergencies would arise, as I say, if Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or one of the other major foreign suppliers to the U.S. wasn't able to continue to fulfill their commitments to us with respect to providing those supplies. And I think that's how we'll continue to operate in the future.
There's a temptation always to go out and want to say, well, gee, if we put some out on the market now we can knock 20 or 30 cents off the price of a gallon of gasoline. But in reality, when you consider how much is in the SPRO, you might get a little relief for a short period of time, but then you'd find yourself in a situation down the road where you'd use up part of the SPRO and all of a sudden one of those crises arises for which it was originally designed, you lose a major source of supply, and then you'd be in a real world of hurt. So we think it's important to save it for that true national emergency, that that's key.
Yes, sir. Microphone here.
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Cheney. I just wanted to get back to -- you mentioned economic developments in response to this gentleman's question about engaging more minorities in the party, and to this woman's question about her company closing, and I was privileged of being at the White House when the President announced an increase of 500,000 mortgages, a commitment to do 500,000 mortgages for new, minority home buyers. I also serve on the President's Community Development Financial Institutions Advisory Board. And one of the things that occurred just last week is the announcement from Chairman Don Powell, from the FDIC, that they were going to change the system for how they hold the banks hands to the fire in making loans and mortgages and credit available for economic development for affordable housing, for what have you. What they have proposed to do in Iowa, for example, of the 297 banks that the FDIC regulates, 296 will no longer have the comprehensive CRA -- community reinvestment act evaluation -- and will, instead of being examined every two years on the investments they're doing in businesses and affordable housing and what not, will only have that done every five years. So I understand your regulatory burden discussion, you want to make it easier for people to not have the regulations burden them so it doesn't injure the business. But the need for banks in Iowa and elsewhere to make loans available to small businesses, small farmers for home ownership and that sort of thing has never been more important than it is today. And I wanted to ask you if you might look into this and ask Chairman Powell if he might reconsider taking those banks out from the comprehensive CRAs.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, one, I'm not familiar with the decision he made, but we'll certainly take a look at it. The FDIC is something of an independent regulatory agency, but I do know Mr. Powell, and I'll be happy to pursue it when I go back. I'll look into it and see what the story is.
CONGRESSMAN NUSSLE: Mr. Vice President, I'm sorry to have to be the heavy, but we have time for one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, thanks, Jim. Who's got the microphone here?
Q Mr. Vice President --
MRS. CHENEY: I vote for the child. (Laughter and applause.) I'll take one more after this.
Q What's the most important thing you do besides taking care of America? (Laughter and applause.)
MRS. CHENEY: What a nice question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That was a good question. (Applause.) Well, I'm going to take a quick crack at that, and then I'm going to throw it to my wife and see if she can answer -- (Laughter.) She got us into this position.
That's a fascinating question. I consider myself extremely privileged to have the opportunity to serve in public office. I have always been grateful for the opportunity to serve, especially with this President and the other Presidents I've worked for. But I guess, the most important thing I do as an individual is my family -- my daughters, my granddaughters, and we've got a new 8-week-old grandson, our fourth grandchild. And when you think about -- I think all of us do, at least I've reached that stage of my life, maybe, where you work hard, you have a career, or business or whatever it is you do that in the final analysis, what you leave behind is the next generation, your kids and grandkids. And one of the reasons its so important to do what's right for America, to take care of America, as you say, is them -- that we want to make sure that the nation they inherit from us is safer and more secure than the one that we were privileged to live, that the American people are always going to be free and have the opportunity to enjoy the enormous benefits that our parents and grandparents have passed on to us, and we've got an obligation to pass on to them. So I'd say it's my role as a parent, as a father and a grandfather that probably is the most important thing that I do. And, Lynne, I'm going to ask you to --
MRS. CHENEY: Well, I just think that was a wonderful answer. I can't top that. (Applause.) However -- (Laughter.) I have a story that I just think makes that answer -- fills it out in a way. When Dick was born, he was born on Franklin Roosevelt's birthday. And his grandfather wrote to his parents and said that they should let the President know that Dick had been born.
Now, this is such a wonderful story because Dick's grandfather hadn't gone to high school. He hadn't had the opportunity to go to high school. And he was working as a cook on the Union Pacific Railroad. His circumstances were very modest, as were the circumstances of Dick's parents. But this granddad who was living in a railroad car, he said to himself, the President ought to know about my grandson. And I think that's such an American story because every generation has wanted this country to offer even more blessings to children and grandchildren, and every generation has had the confidence to believe it would come true.
Dick and I were talking about this story the other day. It's one of his favorites. And he said, I don't think my grandpa would be surprised that I'm Vice President. (Laughter.) Not because he was such an amazing baby, but just because -- just because grand parents have those hopes for their children, and the burden of every generation and the obligation of every generation is to make sure that our children and grandchildren have that freedom to grow up and the opportunity that we have known on and on into the years ahead. So your answer was wonderful. I just wanted to tell the story. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me again, thank all of you for being here this morning. Let me thank our good friend Jim Nussle. There's Jim over here. (Applause.) Jim does a great job as your congressman. We've worked together over the years in many capacities, but he's a superb representative for Iowa, as is Chuck Grassley, who is one of my best friends in the Senate. So you're very well served by your delegation. (Applause.) And we really do appreciate the fact that you're all here this morning, that you're actively and aggressively involved in that campaign. Remember us on November 2nd, but whatever you do, get out there and jump in with both hands. Remember that last elections got resolved by a handful of votes in one state, and every state is important. Iowa is going to be a vital part of the calculation this time around. And so take advantage of the opportunity you've got to help shape the future of the nation.
So thank you very much for being here. (Applause.)
END 12:37 P.M. CDT