For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
September 7, 2004
Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting
Embassy Suites Hotel
Des Moines, Iowa
Final Transcript -- As Delivered
10:36 A.M. CDT
MRS. CHENEY: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. CHENEY: Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Welcome to Iowa.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's good to be back. (Laughter.) And we accept. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: We couldn't have picked a more beautiful day. I got to tell you this is a day that makes you appreciate being an Iowan, and a day that makes you appreciate being an American. (Applause.)
Well, I got to introduce Dick at that convention. And I've been assigned this job, this task because I have known him for so long. I have known him since he was 14 years old. Uh-huh, a mighty good, 14-year-old-looking boy. I'll tell you that, too. And his summer job that -- don't be embarrassed now. (Laughter.) His summer job when I first met him was sweeping out the local Ben Franklin store. And I've known him through many jobs. I've known him since he was digging ditches at our local fair and rodeo grounds, the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo, just outside Casper. And I've known him since he was loading hundred-pound bags of bentonite onto railroad cars. And I've known him since he was a union member. This is true. We want union members, Democrats, everybody. Dick had a ticket in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and he was building power line all across the West for six years while he was -- it took him a long time to get through college, but while he was getting through college. (Laughter.) Well, I like to tell -- I like to tell those stories because I think when you grow up working hard, you learn some really important lessons. And one of those lessons is how important it is for hard working men and women in this country to keep as much of their paychecks as possible. (Applause.)
And another lesson you learn is how competent and strong this country is. And how what the people of this country need is not a government to run their lives, but a government that provides them opportunities so they can make the most of their lives. And I think that's a basic philosophy. And I love the way Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about that at our convention, didn't you? He was terrific. (Applause.)
Well, with no further ado, please meet my husband, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Thank you very much. And let me thank Stan Thompson this morning for taking care of us and getting us introduced. And I know he's going to be the new congressman from this part of Iowa. (Applause.)
It's great to see my old friends Bob Ray and Terry Branstad here, this morning -- great governors from the state of Iowa. (Applause.) And Lynne has known me since I was 14, but she wouldn't go out with me until I was 17 years old. (Laughter.)
But I often tell people that we have a marriage that was the direct result of Dwight Eisenhower's election victory in 1952. In 1952, I living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks -- just a youngster. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, he came in and reorganized the Agriculture Department, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming. And that's where I met Lynne, and we grew up together, and went to high school together, and just last Sunday -- a week ago Sunday, celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Dwight Eisenhower's tremendous victory in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. She said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) They always laugh. (Laughter.) They know it's true.
But we're delighted to be here this morning, to be back in Iowa. We were out in Clear Lake yesterday. Before that, we were up in Minnesota yesterday morning at the Minnesota State Fair. Later on today, we'll be in New Hampshire. We've now got about eight weeks -- I guess, eight weeks from today will be the election where we're going to make a very, very important decision for the nation, for the future of our country, and, indeed, for the kind of world that our children and grandchildren are going to inherit.
And as long as I've been involved in politics, and this was my eighth Republican Convention I attended this year. But I don't think -- I can't recall a time when I ever felt that the decisions we're going are as momentous as they are this time around, that there are periods in our history when things go along swimmingly. Our basic policies are in place, and elections basically are sort of an affirmation of continuity in a sense. And there are other times when circumstances have changed enough in the world that we really need to sit down and make some fundamental decisions about the direction the country is headed in, where we're faced with fundamental choices. And I think this is one of those latter kinds of periods.
What I'd like to do this morning is talk about a couple of basic areas, policy areas that I think are important. And they're reflected by the changes that we've all seen over the last few years, and then throw it open to questions so we have an opportunity to respond to your concerns and hear from you what you'd like to talk about, try to answer as many of your questions as we can during the time allotted.
It's hard -- when I think back to last four years, I signed on with the President just about four years ago at our Republican Convention in Philadelphia. He asked me to be his running mate about 10 days before the convention. And then we announced it then, so that was I guess, mid August of last year.
There wasn't any way then we could have anticipated what was about to happen, of course, on 9/11. And 9/11, in effect, has changed a lot of what we do as a nation, both in terms of how we think about defending ourselves, what the threat is, and how we deal with national security issues, but it has had a big impact here domestically, as well, too, because I think it has been at the heart of what we've had to deal with economically.
When the President and I took the oath of office, we were sliding into recession. The stock market had peaked in March of 2000, before we got there. And by the beginning of January of 2001, we were into a recession. And of course, a few months later then we got hit with 9/11, and that was a major additional blow to the economy. We lost a million jobs within a few weeks after the 9/11 attack because of the damage that that did to our tourism and travel industry, and airline industry and so forth.
So we've have to deal with that set of domestic circumstances at the same time that we've been forced to respond from a national security standpoint to the military requirements. There are operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, what we've had to do to harden the target here at home, money we've had to spend on homeland security. It's been an interesting period of problems that we did not anticipate -- nobody could have anticipated -- when we were sworn in.
But on the economic front, I think what has been absolutely crucial was the fundamental decision that the President made, and that was the call that Lynne touched upon that he made with respect that the key to our economic recovery was allowing the American taxpayers to keep more of their own money, rather than siphoning it off to Washington. (Applause.)
The tax cuts that were implemented in 2001, 2002, 2003 have been absolutely vital in terms of what we did with respect to income taxes, in particular. Everybody in America who pays income taxes got some relief on the income tax front. We cut rates across the board. We created the new 10 percent brackets that helped folks at the lower end of the spectrum. We doubled the child credit which had a huge impact on families. We reduced the marriage penalty. We quadrupled the amount that a small business could expense in terms of investing in new equipment, or trucks to be able to expand their business, a whole series of steps that were embodied in those tax changes that we put on the books that have been vital, we believe, in terms of getting the economy up and running again.
We've added over the course of the last year now about 1.7 million new jobs. We've still got a long way to go out there, but our unemployment rate now is down to 5.4 percent nationally. It's about 4.4 percent here in Iowa. We've still got areas of softness out there in the economy. We recognize that. We're committed to the proposition that we want to make certain that everybody in America who wants to work can find a job, and that's at the heart of the overall thrust of our policies.
But having taken those steps that we believe got the economy back on the right track and have seen us through the recession, we've begun to see the resumption now of economic growth in fairly significant ways. And it's beginning to help reduce the deficit. But the keys to reducing the deficit really is twofold -- on the one hand, spending restraint, which we need to pursue with respect to the federal budget; but also stimulating enough economic growth so that we generate enough revenue so we begin to close the deficit. Some may have noticed just within the last day here, the Congressional Budget Office has now announced new estimates for the federal deficit going forward. And they have reduced their estimate for the deficit by -- I believe about $56 billion for the year we're now in. That's a direct result of economic growth that came about as a result of the tax changes that the President put through, and the Congress supported.
I might add Chuck Grassley had a great deal to do with that in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He's been our key ally on Capitol Hill in terms of getting those positions, those policies in place. And he deserves a lot of credit for what we did in the Congress. (Applause.)
Going forward now, if we're going to achieve the full potential of the American economy, we've got to make certain that the United States is the best place in the world to do business, because after all, that's what it is all about --whether you're in agriculture, or manufacturing, or business. (Applause) And there shouldn't be a divide here between business and labor. This is not a zero-sum game. We all benefit. The entrepreneur, as well as the worker; the small businessman and the people he hires all benefit when our economy prospers, and when the system works the way it's supposed to work, to its maximum potential.
And the agenda for the future very much involves a series of policies that we need to aggressively address if we're going to be successful, and that the President talked about the other night at the convention in New York. It includes taking those tax changes that we made and making them permanent. Because they aren't permanent now. The way the law works, we need to go back and do that. (Applause.)
We also need to address some other issues. We need to make absolutely certain the regulatory burden is minimal so that we don't load unnecessary regulations -- whether it's on small business or farmers and ranchers, it's a lot easier if people have the opportunity to focus on doing what they set out to do economically, rather than having to spend time filling out useless paperwork that goes back to Washington, gets filed in a bureaucracy, and nobody ever reads.
We also need to deal with some other issues like health care, for example, and a key cost of doing business in this country and one of the major problems that everybody is faced with is the rising cost of health care. The President has put forward a series of proposals, and we'll be pursuing those, as well, in our second term to deal with that. Some of it, we've already done. We've established health savings accounts, for example, that allow people to set aside money tax-exempt for their own health costs. He's got a proposal now for a refundable tax credit that will allow folks at the lower of the scale to be able to use that system in order to pay for catastrophic insurance premiums. We've got a package of proposals with respect to Medicare that were enacted. Again, Senator Grassley had a major role to play in all of that, as we reformed the Medicare system, the most significant reforms that will provide prescription drug benefits in the years ahead for senior citizens, a series of those steps that have been taken that are crucial.
And one of the areas that badly needs work is this whole question of medical liability. And what has happened in so many places around the country -- I know it's true in my home state of Wyoming, it has been true in a great many other states, as well, too, is the medical liability system is broken. And it has resulted in rapid increases in the cost of malpractice insurance to the point now where many physicians simply cannot afford the malpractice insurance to be able to stay in business. It has been especially true in the OB/GYN specialties. My home state of Wyoming, our hometown of Casper, the cost of premiums for a GP -- a general practitioner has more than doubled in the last three years. They now pay $100,000 a year for an insurance policy just to be able to do business. A new doc fresh out of medical school has to come up with about $80,000 up front to be able to go into practice in my home state of Wyoming.
Now, that's true -- this is problem that's hit, I know, in Ohio. It's hit in Pennsylvania. It has been a problem across the country, and we have to find ways to deal with that. And there are ways to do it. Some states have done it successfully -- been able to cap non-economic damages in the medical liability area. You need a system that will, in fact, respond to legitimate concerns, where people need to be able to go to court and redress those grievances, and get compensation when there have been serious problems and malpractice. But there has to be limits. Or if we don't have limits, we end up in the kind of situation where we drive up the cost of health care, and we find ourselves with a significant number of people unable to acquire health care.
And it turns out that about 60 percent of all the uninsured in America are either owners of, or employees of small businesses. So part of what we have to do here is find ways to make it possible for small businesses to acquire health insurance at reasonable cost. And one of the President's proposals that we'll pursue again in the future is this notion of association health plans, of allowing small businesses to come together and pool their interest, and be able to negotiate the same kind of discounts that a big corporation can. We think that's a major idea that needs to be adopted, that would help significantly in this area. (Applause.)
But there are a lot of areas we can talk about -- the whole education field. I know Iowa has been one of the leaders in education nationally. That's a vital area of interest. The President, I think, deserves a lot of credit for what he did when he first came to office. His first priority was the No Child Left Behind Act. And we can talk about that some more if you would like, as well.
But let me take just a few minutes, before we open it up to questions, and talk a little bit about the national security situation -- what has come to be called the war on terror, and the set of circumstances that we're faced with today and what we've tried to do over the course of the last three-and-a-half years now.
Again, 9/11 changed everything in the sense that it forced us to deal with, and face the brand new threat of the terrorists -- in this case the al Qaeda organization -- that had struck the United States several times before, going back probably to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993; but certainly, when they hit our embassies in East Africa in '98; or the USS Cole, in Yemen in 1990 -- excuse me, in 2000.
And the attack that they launched on us on 9/11 was one that had been in the works for about five years. They first started talking about it in 1996. And of course, that morning we lost 3,000 Americans -- more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And subsequent to that, it became necessary for us to figure out how we could best respond to this dramatic new threat that had never before faced the United States, at least not in that form.
Added to that was that we learned shortly after 9/11, as a result of people that we captured and interrogated, or documents we found when we went into Afghanistan, that the organization, the terrorists were trying to acquire deadlier weapons than anything they had ever had before, that they were trying to get their hands on chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons to use against us.
And they know no restraint. There's no reason in the world why they would hold back and not use something like that if they could get their hands on it. So the biggest threat we face today is the possibility of a terrorist cell setting up shop inside one of our own cities, with one of those truly deadly weapons -- a biological agent of some kind, say, or even a nuclear weapon that cost perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives, not just 3,000, if they were to launch such an attack.
It's a whole different scale of threat, a different kind of problem than we've had to deal with in the past. The President did a number of things by way of starting us on the course that I think has been absolutely essential in safeguarding the nation. We've been successful now for about three years at avoiding any attacks, but they're still out there. They're doing everything they can to try to find another way to launch further attacks against the United States. And we must not let our guard down.
What the President did, among other things, obviously, we moved aggressively here at home to strengthen our defenses. We've created the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government in 50 years. We passed the Patriot Act, that gives law enforcement the tools they need to be able to prosecute and put terrorists in jail. We passed a thing called Project BioShield that spends a lot of money investing in new technologies to be able to defend ourselves against attack with biological weapons in the future. We've strengthened our intelligence capabilities. We're in the business now of reorganizing the intelligence community to improve our capabilities there -- a whole series of things that are defensive, that are sound policies that need to be done.
But a good defense is not enough. And the lesson the President has driven home to all of us is to remind us that it's absolutely that if we, in fact, are going to succeed in this conflict with these terrorists, we have to go on offense, as well. (Applause.)
If you think about it, if we're successful 99.9 percent of the time on defense, if they get through one-tenth of 1 percent of the time, that's enough to do enormous damage -- given the scale of the threat that we're forced to deal with here. So going on offense has meant using U.S. military force to go after the terrorists wherever they plan and train and organize. It also has meant going after those who support terror. This is a new departure. For a long time, the civilized world had sort of ignored those who were sponsoring terror out there. We'd go after terrorists, but states that sponsored terror were able to get away with sort of turning the other cheek and acting like they hadn't had any involvement in these enterprises. The President said no more. He said, henceforth, what we're going to have a key component of our policy is that we will go after those who sponsor terror or support terror or provide sanctuary and safe harbor for terrorists.
And the first place we went, of course, was Afghanistan. And we told the Taliban, either give up the al Qaeda or else. They said, no, they wouldn't give up the al Qaeda. So the Taliban is out of business. The al Qaeda is shut down. (Applause.) The al Qaeda camps that they had operated in the last half of the '90s have been closed. We've got a new government stood up in Afghanistan. President Karzai in charge now. They'll hold free elections next month in October -- the first elections in Afghanistan, I guess, probably in history. And they're on their way to getting a new Afghan national army stood up so they can take over responsibility for their own national security, which is a key part of the strategy. And we're moving forward in Afghanistan.
In Iraq, we were faced with a situation where we had in Saddam Hussein a man who had started two wars, a man who had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction. He used chemical weapons on his own people, and on the Iranians -- a man who had been a sponsor of terror. He was paying $25,000 a pop to the families of suicide bombers. He had previously provided sanctuary in Iraq for the Abu Nidal organization, other terrorists organizations, had a relationship with al Qaeda. And we went into Iraq, obviously, and Saddam Hussein today is in jail, which is in fact where he belongs. (Applause.)
We've got a new government stood up in Iraq, an interim government with Mr. Allawi in charge as the Prime Minister. The Iraqis now control all of their ministries. They're involved in making a lot of the key decisions with respect to their government. We're working very aggressively, as well, to train Iraqi forces, and to stand up their own security forces so they can take on the responsibility that our guys are having to bear now. And that's going to be vital in the future. We can only take the process like this so far, and then ultimately they've got to be willing to take on responsibility for their own governance, their own political system, and for their own security system. And that's the direction we're headed in there, as well, too.
I don't want to underestimate for anybody how difficult these tasks are. These are tough, challenging places to operate. We're up against some very tough and murderous types, if you will, when we see what is happening in various places in terms of the conflict that's going there. But it is absolutely essential we get it right -- because what we have to do here, the ultimate solution isn't just to kill terrorists. You can do that all day long. The ultimate solution here is to make certain that we change the circumstances on the ground in places like Iraq and Afghanistan so they never again become breeding grounds for the terrorists that launched those deadly attacks not only against the United States, but obviously, for the kinds of terrorist attacks that we've seen around the world.
This is not just a U.S. problem. There was a bit of a tendency, I think there, perhaps, at the outset to think, well, they hit the United States, the United States is the bogie man here, and they're going to come after us. Well, they'll probably come after us more than anybody else just because of who we are and what we believe, but just look at what has transpired around the world since 9/11 with the attacks in Madrid, in Casablanca, in Mombassa, in Istanbul, in Riyadh, in Bali, in Jakarta, and most recently, of course, in Baslan, in Russia, this week where they slaughtered hundreds of school children. We don't yet know exactly what the relationship is between the groups that launched that attack and whether or not al Qaeda is involved. That jury is still out on all of that. The Russians seem to think there may be some connections there. But obviously, it's another example of the kind of problem we've got with those who resort to terror to try achieve their political objectives as happened in that case.
It's vitally important that the decision we make going forward this year -- get it right. Because there are fundamental differences between the way the President wants to proceed and the way we've operated now for the last three years, and the way Senator Kerry would approach these problems. I think the record is pretty clear.
I have previously said, and I will say again today, all of us want to thank Senator Kerry for his service in Vietnam. He talked about it a lot at his convention. And it deserves praise. And we want to honor his service. We do that for all of our veterans, regardless of what their political views might be. And certainly, Senator Kerry is entitled to same treatment, judgment. The problem I have with Senator Kerry's record is what happened after he got to the United States Senate, and what he did for 20 years in the Senate.
If I want a judgment made about how an individual who is seeking the post of Commander-in-Chief, who wants to be President of the United States, how he'll conduct himself on the basic fundamental issues that I'm concerned about, and I think most Americans are concerned about these days, I look back at how he has voted when he's been given the opportunity on these kinds of issues about national security, about our military forces, about our intelligence capabilities, about when to use force and under what circumstances as guides for trying to assess how he would function as President of the United States -- and what has he said about Iraq, and how he operated in terms of the war on terror. And when I look at that record, it's pretty clear that Senator Kerry has frequently been at odds with what I think -- and what I think most Americans believe -- has been the proper approach. We can go back to the period of the 1980s when he arrived in the Senate, when he opposed virtually every major weapons system that Ronald Reagan put forward that turned out to be crucial in terms of our success, both in the Cold War, but also in terms of the kinds of capabilities that we have today to deal with the current set of circumstances that we're required to deal with.
Senator Kerry and others have said, well, when he voted against those systems back in the '80s, those were just the systems that Cheney cancelled when he was Secretary of Defense. Huge difference here. It's important to look at the distinction. Because in fact, when he was voting against those systems back in the '80s, I was voting for them. I was a member of the House of Representatives. And by the time I became Secretary of Defense, the Cold War had ended. The Soviet threat had gone away, and we needed new forces and new kinds of capabilities. So don't let anybody tell you that what he did in the 1980s when he -- at one point put out a press release that opposed -- I think this was in connection with his '84 campaign, opposed some 65 separate weapons systems, that that in any way is a parallel to the action that I undertook when I was Secretary of Defense, back in 1989 to 1993 -- very different proposition.
It's also important if you look at the other kinds of issues that he's had to deal with. When we had the first Gulf crisis -- 1990 and '91 -- and we put together the coalition, and we went and liberated Kuwait and sent the Iraqis back into Iraq, John Kerry voted against that. He stood up and argued that we should not have done what we did in Operation Desert Storm, which is one I followed fairly closely since I was Secretary of Defense then. He was on the wrong side of that issue.
When we get down to the situation with respect to Iraq, what we've seen is that initially he voted for the resolution to authorize the President to use force against Saddam Hussein. But then a few months later, when it came time to vote for the funds the President requested to equip the troops with what they needed once they had been committed to combat, he voted no. Now, there were only four members of the United States Senate that voted on one hand to commit the troops, and then came back around later on and voted against giving them the resources they needed to do what we'd asked them to do for us -- only four senators -- one was Senator Kerry and the other was Senator Edwards, two out of the four.
The bottom line in my estimation is, based on the way he's operated as a senator, his view of the world, I don't believe he has demonstrated the kind of commitment and capability and philosophy and world view, frankly, that I think is essential if we're going to have the kind of very tough policy that we need going forward if we're going to successfully defend the United States against the kind of threat we're faced with today. (Applause.)
Now, he's said that he would use military force. He'd like to do it in the fairly traditional way, when the U.S. is attacked. My argument would be, we've already been attacked. We suffered 3,000 casualties. (Applause.) And the success of our efforts, and something that I think every American cares about, our ability to be able to ensure that our children and grandchildren are going to be able to live in a safe and secure world depends upon the basic fundamental decisions we're making now.
We made decisions at the end of World War II, at the beginning of the Cold War, when we set up the Department of Defense, and the CIA, and we created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and undertook a bunch of major policy steps that then were in place for the next 40 years, that were key to our ultimate success in the Cold War, that were supported by Democrat and Republican alike -- Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and Gerry Ford and a whole bunch of Presidents, from both parties, supported those policies over a long period of time. We're now at that point where we're making that kind of decision for the next 30 or 40 years, and it's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.
We have to understand it is a war. It's different than anything we've ever fought before. But they mean to do everything they can to destroy our way of life. They don't agree with our view of the world. They've got an extremist view in terms of their religion. They have no concept or tolerance for religious freedom. They don't believe women ought to have any rights. They've got a fundamentally different view of the world, and they will slaughter -- as they demonstrated on 9/11 -- anybody who stands in their way. So we've got to get it right. We've got to succeed here. We've got to prevail. And that's what is at stake in this election. (Applause.)
Now, I at this point would be happy to stop. And we can get into questions. You ought to throw some questions at Lynne, too. She's brighter than I am.
MRS. CHENEY: Yes. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q I'm from Des Moines, Iowa. And first of all, I just want to thank you for your leadership -- both you and Lynne, and the Bushes for your leadership and integrity that we see demonstrated in Washington, D.C.,
that we need so much in our country.
My question is, last week, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that a 144,000 new jobs were created, which to me is a step in the right direction. But at the same time, Senator Kerry has put these ads out saying that we have the worst economy since the Great Depression, basically. And I just wanted to know how you respond to that, and why he is basically trying to come out and mislead the United States on this issue?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I obviously, disagree with him. I think to say this is the worst economy since the Great Depression -- I'm trying to think of how I can appropriately -- (Laughter.) Lynne says he's been too busy windsurfing. (Laughter and applause.)
The fact is the unemployment rate today, 5.4 percent nationally, is exactly what it was when Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996 -- 5.4 percent. (Applause.) The unemployment has come down fairly significantly now over the course of the last year. We've had 12 months of steady growth. We've added 1.7 million new jobs since last August. I think they've got a vested interest in trying to portray things in a very bleak fashion, and that they've got to be able to demonstrate that there's something wrong, or that there's some fundamental problem here I supposed if they're trying to build support for the proposition that he ought to be elected President. But I just don't think the rhetoric fits with the reality. There's no question we got work to do on the economy. We always do. There's always more that we can do to improve the quality of life, to improve opportunities for people, to improve our educational system so that our kids can take advantage of our economy when they finally do get out of school, so we can train people to be able to fill those jobs that are being created. But to suggest that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, I didn't live through the Depression. I was born in 1941. But my parents did. And I've got to tell you, I just -- I think that's rhetoric that's over the top. I don't buy it. I don't think most people do. (Applause.)
Q I'm from West Des Moines, appreciate you being here in Iowa and showing us that Iowa is important. Mrs. Cheney, I've got a question for you. No Child Left Behind certainly is something that helps improve the education of our students, and shows us that the President values education. But there's been a lot of complaints about endorsed testing. Do you think there's an over-reliance on testing to measure kids' progress?
MRS. CHENEY: One of my favorite anecdotes that I think helps make the point about why testing is important is about a doctor. His name is John Canal (ph). He lives in West Virginia, and -- oh, it was 15 years ago, he started noticing that when parents brought their kids in, and he said, well, how are you kids doing in school, the answer he always got was, well, they're above average.
Well, think about that. Pretty soon you figure out that something is not quite right. Everybody has an elevated opinion of how his child or her child is learning. There were also many surveys done that showed that if you ask people how schools were doing, they said, well, they could do better. He said, how is your kids' school doing? People said, great. Now, again, it can't quite be right. What we had was a situation where parents, where teachers didn't really have the kind of information they needed to understand if kids were learning as much as they should -- as much as they need to be able to compete in a global economy.
And what testing does, I think, and what the President has shown in Texas, and we're getting some results here already, too, what testing does is show us how kids are doing. You know now how they're doing, instead of having to just have an impression of how they're doing.
You've got have them with high standards. And you in Iowa have set a mighty goal for the whole nation with your schools. You have very fine schools here in Iowa. And your kids always do very well at the top in national comparisons. Those high standards are important. Testing to see if kids have met them worked in Texas to bring everybody, every child up, but also to close the achievement gap between Africa America kids and Anglo kids, and Hispanic kids and Anglo kids -- closed those achievement gaps, began to close them. They're not closed yet. And early results show that that's beginning to happen nationwide, too. So testing is a central part of it. I know -- I didn't always like to have to spend time when I was in school taking tests. It was more fun to do an arts project. But it is really important for us to understand how well our schools are doing so that we can encourage to do ever better for our children. (Applause.)
Q Illegal immigration, border safety and the President's amnesty policy, if the government doesn't come down hard on the people who are employing the illegal immigrants, and what is to prevent them, or what is the disincentive for them coming here?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've tightened up significantly on the borders since 9/11. We've had to. We've significantly beefed up our border security and so forth. But it continues to be a problem. Part of the difficulty that we're faced with, and one of the things that the President talked about with respect to the immigration policy is that we've got so many people coming across illegally -- primarily for economic reasons, that want to come to work in the United States. But we have no idea who is here. We have no idea what they do once they get here. We have no idea how long they're going to stay, and that there was a need to try to regularize this process. And what he has suggested is that we ought to consider the possibility of having what, in effect, would be a guest worker program so we'd know who was coming in, and that once here, then, they'd stay for a specific period of time. And they they'd have to go back home once their period of time was ended. They could not become citizens. But we would have track of who, in fact, was in the country. That's been proposed. Now, it's just an idea, a concept.
It hasn't gone anyplace legislatively at this point. And the problem we're faced with is that we need to find ways going forward to make sure we do, in fact, have knowledge of who is in the country and whether or not they've stayed, and how long they've stayed and what they're doing while they're here. And at present that's a very hard thing to do because of the enormous flow of people we've got back and forth. We've improved our system with respect to those that come in legally by visas and so forth. But we still don't have as good a grip as we need on all of those who come into the United States illegally, stay for a period of time, and then go back home.
And we need to do a better job than we are to make certain we screen out terrorists to the maximum extent possible. So it's an attempt to try to address that problem. It's not clear yet exactly how it ultimately gets sorted out or gets resolved. But that's at the heart of what is being talked about here.
Q I live in Altoona, Iowa. And I got my first paycheck for about $250. And the government took out about $50 from that. According to my math, that's about one-fifth. That means I work two days for the government. What can I do to change that? (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: How would you like to be Secretary of the Treasury? (Laughter.) No, we're -- that's a lesson we all learn when we first go to work. And I think most Americans don't mind paying taxes if they think that the money is well spent, and if they think that it's not excessive -- that is to say that you don't mind working for a certain amount, if you will, to go for the common purpose -- those things we need like schools, and defense and so forth. But you lose confidence, or you become aggravated -- I know I went through the same process starting out -- I had a paper route. It was my first job. That was before Lynne knew me even -- and you get that check and not only were income taxes taken out, but you also -- the payroll tax to pay for Social Security. And now Medicare comes out of it, as well, too. And I think the thing is to support the kind of sound, sane policy and philosophy when you look at public officials to see whether or not they agree with your general view of what right balance is. And I think George Bush is the man.
I believe seriously if you look at tax policy over the years. You look at what the President has done. You look at what his opponents have suggested and recommended. Again, look at Senator Kerry's record in the Senate. He voted -- 20 years in the Senate, he voted 98 times for higher taxes, and about 130 times against various proposals to reduce taxes. He's said -- now, he's campaigning on the basis that he's going to raise taxes for at least a portion of the population. And if you add up all of the numbers, he's recommended two $2 trillion in new spending, and he's going to cut the deficit in half at the same time, the only way he can do that is to raise taxes pretty much across the board on everybody because the folks at the top don't pay enough to be able to make up that huge difference. You're going to have to go out and tax the vast majority of Americans. So I think there's a clear choice there with respect to tax policy. I think you've got in George Bush a man who will do everything he can to make certain that we don't overburden the American taxpayer with taxes because we believe very deeply that the genius of our society resides not inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C., or what government does with your money, it resides primarily with what the American people do for themselves, and the opportunities that we create for ourselves, and businesses that are created. The best anti-poverty program I know is a job. And jobs aren't created by Uncle Sam and the federal government, jobs are created out there in the private sector. And so I think that's the key -- (Applause.)
Q Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Cheney, welcome to Iowa. And as a former Democrat, I would first like to honor your 40 years of marriage. Congratulations. (Applause.) I did vote for Bush, and I am now Republican. My question is, I am a volunteer voter registration coordinator at my church. And I would like to know what I can do to ensure, encourage more Christians to get out to vote to -- I think which will win Iowa. I would like to know what I could do, or we could do to ensure that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you've done a lot already by signing up the voter registration effort. What I like to remind people -- I still run into a lot of people. And of course, I've been involved in public life and politics and ran for Congress six times in Wyoming. And I've spent most of my career in it, and I suppose I've got a special affection for the political process and the political system. I just think it's important to remind people that it is a unique privilege. Very, very few civilizations in the history of the world have ever had the privilege we have of deciding who our leaders are going to be, and then hold them accountable for their performance. To live in the finest democracy the world has ever known is such a privilege. And for so many people to take that for granted, always offends me a bit. I like to remind people that what each individual does in fact matter. And all you have to do is look at the last election. It got decided by 537 votes in Florida. And when somebody comes to me and says, well, it's a big country, there are millions of Americans out there. It doesn't really matter what I do. I say, wait a minute, all you got to do is look at the election of 2000 and think about how close that election was; think about how momentous the events have been since then; and how important it is to have the right leadership, make the right decisions, and then tell everybody, look every vote matters. Every phone call matters. Every hour of volunteer time, every dollar that's contributed -- all of that goes to the success of this process, and that as Americans we ought to want a strong, vigorous election. We ought to want the candidates out there competing as aggressively as possible with respect to what they believe in, and what they stand for and what their platforms are. That's how we can educate ourselves, and also how we can ultimately hold them accountable.
If you can get a few minutes with a small group of people to try to convey that to them. And all we're asking them to do is to register to vote and then show up at the polls on Election Day, or in those states that have early voting, participate through that process. And it's such a privilege for us to be able to do that. You travel the world, and if you know anything about history, of you've spent any time looking at how people live in so many parts of the world, under dictatorships, oppressive regimes, no rights, no protections against the sovereign power of the state, to get to function and live your life as an American and participate in that process is just such a special privilege that nobody should take it for granted. (Applause.)
Q Yes, as a proud uncle of a niece and nephew who graduated from Annapolis; they're serving right now, I'd like to ask the question: the advent of the Cold War and the end of SALT II, will we continue with weapons systems by leading the world -- as the Switch Blade and the F-22 Raptor -- the Raptor, itself, to be able to offer three versions of it to our allies, rather than have them shop around?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Do I think we will do that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think the Raptor is the next generation aircraft for the Air Force. I supported it strongly when I was Secretary of Defense. It is now, I guess, getting into production now. And it has been in development for a long time. And it will be the state of the art aircraft for the United States Air Force, probably for the next 30, 40 years anyway. The F-15 has been the backbone of the Air Force. I saw it first rolled out about 1974-75 down at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, when I worked for President Ford. And it has been in the Force now for 30 some years. It will continue to be part of the Force. But the Raptor is the next generation, if you will, after that. And we have in this administration protected it. It has been an important part of the defense budget each year. I have no reason to believe that's going to change.
Q I have more of a comment than I do a question. My son is a lance corporal in the Marine Corps. He's being deployed today. And I just want thank you and President Bush for everything that you've done for our troops. And I pray to God that you will be in there the next four years to finish.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. (Applause.) I hope you'll thank him on behalf of all of us for what he's doing for the nation. (Applause.)
And again, I want to thank all of you for being here today, for giving us some of your time. This last comment is, I think, a reminder to all of us that -- how important this election is this year. And we appreciate you being here this morning.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 11:20 A.M. CDT