|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
September 17, 2004
Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting in Oregon City, Oregon
Oregon City, Oregon
10:12 A.M. PDT
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Be seated, please. Thank you very much. Thank you for singing to my granddaughter. That's never happened to me before. (Laughter.) Maybe when the election is over with we can go out.
But we're delighted to be here today, to be back in Oregon. We've been here a good deal in the last few months. And I'm delighted to come back. Oregon is an extraordinarily important location for us this year. We came close last time, and this time we're absolutely determined that we want to carry Oregon for the Bush-Cheney ticket. (Applause.)
And I'm delighted to have Liz traveling with me this morning, filling in. Her mother usually does the introduction chores. And Daughter Mary also is traveling with us. She works -- she manages the vice presidential part of the campaign. And Liz is, among other things, helping with debate prep and making certain I don't make any mistakes. (Laughter.) And Lynne is not with us today because she had a major speech back in Washington today. I think it's Constitution Day, and she had to go down and participate in special ceremonies in Washington today, otherwise she'd be here.
But I often tell people that we have a marriage that came about as a result of Dwight Eisenhower's election as President of the United States in 1952, that in 1952, I was a youngster living with my folks in Lincoln, Nebraska. 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. We grew up together, went to high school, and a couple weeks ago marked our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) She said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) And every woman here knows exactly what I mean, right? (Laughter.)
But we're embarked, obviously, on the final weeks of the campaign now. We had a great convention, I thought, in New York. It was a really tremendous event. (Applause.) You think about it, I've done -- I guess, that was my eighth Republican National Convention now. And I've been to some pretty dull ones. (Laughter.) And some that were too exciting. But when you think about that line-up of speakers we had -- from John McCain and Rudy Guiliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Zell Miller, it really was -- (Applause.) It was a remarkable week. And of course, I made it clear that I understand now that I do have an opponent. (Laughter.) That -- of course, everybody says John Kerry got elected because he's got great hair, he's good looking, charming, sexy. I said, how do you think I got the job. (Laughter.) Why do they always laugh at that, Liz? (Laughter.)
But anyway, it's -- this is one of those elections that I think -- well, obviously, I think it's important because my name is on the ballot. But more than that, as I look back throughout our history, I think this is a moment in time when as a nation we're making some basic fundamental decisions that we will live with, and that will be, in fact, sort of the foundation of how we do business for maybe 30 or 40 years into the future. I think back to the time right after World War II when we were faced suddenly with the prospect of the Cold War, the threat of the Soviet Union that had moved all the way into Central Europe after World War II. We had to put together a brand new strategy for dealing with that threat, and the whole concept of deterrence -- holding at risk the Soviet Society so they would not be tempted to launch an attack against us. We created NATO. We created the Central Intelligence Agency. We created the Department of Defense. All those things that happened in the late '40s, completely redesigned and rebuilt our military forces. And then we lived with that basic, fundamental national security strategy for the next 40 years, until ultimately we succeeded and prevailed in the Cold War. (Applause.)
But I think the events of 9/11 and all that we've learned since indicate that we are in another similar sort of turning point, if you will, or watershed period in American history when once again we're having to develop and execute a new national security strategy to deal with the new threats -- because the old strategy doesn't work any more, and because the new threats are radically different from the ones we faced throughout the period of the Cold War.
I think back to 9/11, and what I'd like to do is talk a little bit about some of those basic issues here this morning, and then throw it open to questions. We can talk about this subject or anything else you might want to get into, as well, too. I think back to 9/11 and all that has transpired since, obviously, we learned on that day the vulnerability of the United States to a handful of terrorists coming into the country, taking advantage of the openness of our system, and arming themselves with knives and boarding passes and doing enormous damage -- mounting the worst attack ever by a foreign power on U.S. soil, when we lost 3,000 Americans that morning in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.
And we've learned since that these terrorists, or the al Qaeda organization are trying to do everything they can to get the things on -- their hands on deadlier weapons, on chemical or biological agents, or perhaps, even a nuclear weapon if they could. And there's no doubt in anybody's mind -- there shouldn't be -- that if they ever acquire that kind of capability that they will, in fact, use it because there's nothing to deter them from doing that. They are absolutely committed to jihad, to killing infidels. We're at the top of the list. They're perfectly prepared to sacrifice their lives in doing so. And the old strategies that worked with the Soviet Union during the Cold War don't have much relevance when you're talking about al Qaeda, or a group of terrorists. There's nothing you can put at risk that would deter them from launching an attack against the United States. So we're faced with the necessity to develop a new way to secure the nation.
And 9/11, of course, the President made a series of decisions subsequent to that. We moved very aggressively to enhance our defenses here at home. We created the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization since the Defense Department was created over 50 years ago. We passed the Patriot Act to give law enforcement the tools they needed to prosecute terrorists. We've enacted Project BioShield to fund specialized research that's needed to develop countermeasures against biological attack -- a whole series of steps that we've taken over the course of the last three years.
But we also had to go beyond that. The President made a decision very early on that mounting a good defense wasn't enough, that when you consider the nature of the threat, the possibility of the terrorists acquiring deadlier weapons than anything we've ever seen before to be used against that even if you're successful 99 percent of the time on defense, that's not enough, because if they get through once, we've got a terrible problem, with a possible loss of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of American lives. And so it's absolutely essential that we also go on offense. That's been a vital part of the Bush strategy in terms of dealing with the threat that we're now faced with.
And he annunciated a new doctrine, a so-called Bush doctrine that we've adhered to ever since, and that was that not only would we go after the terrorists, but we would go after the terrorists, but we would also go after those who sponsor terror, and those who support terror, and those who provided sanctuary and safe harbor for terrorists. (Applause.)
Now, the consequences of that, of course, were first visible in Afghanistan. When we went into Afghanistan, we took down the Taliban regime that was there. We've captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda. We closed the training camps that the terrorists have used in training to attack the United States. That's also where they trained some 20,000 terrorists by one estimate in the late '90s, who have subsequently then gone out and gone back, oftentimes, to their home countries and established cells various places around the world.
And having done that, obviously, we then -- are now embarked upon a course of action in Afghanistan, standing up a new government. We've got Hamid Karzai there as interim President. They will have elections here in a few weeks, before our elections. They have in the last few weeks registered 10 million Afghans to vote for the first time in history. (Applause.) And over 40 percent of those registered voters are women for the first ever in Afghanistan. (Applause.)
In Iraq, obviously, somewhat different set of circumstances. There we had Saddam Hussein who for 12 years had defied the international community, who had started two wars previously, who had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction -- specifically chemical weapons against the Kurds and against the Iranians, as well as worked on developing -- trying to develop a nuclear weapon, biological weapon; a government that had sponsored and been a state sponsor of terror, was carried for years on the roster by our State Department as one of the leading sponsors of terror in the world; had a historic relationship with the Abu Nidal organization, which had been headquartered in Baghdad for some time, had previously supported Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who was paying $25,000 to the family of suicide bombers who would go in and kill Israelis; and who had a relationship with al Qaeda. And of course, the results of that are that the government of Saddam Hussein is no more, his military is gone, and Saddam Hussein himself, obviously, today is in jail, which is exactly where he belongs. (Applause.)
But in Iraq, we're also working now to stand up a new government. And it's a very important piece to finishing the task. You can't just simply go in and take down the old regime and then walk away because what you'll have is failed state. You'll have an area that will go the way that Afghanistan did, or that Iraq had in the past. We got to complete the task. And completing the task means going and standing up a democratically elected, representative government in Iraq -- one that will be broadly representative to the Iraqi people and will not again become a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, never again be a safe haven, if you will, for terrorists, or a state that aggressively pursues and uses weapons of mass destruction, as Saddam Hussein had.
Now, it's not an easy task. But we are, in fact, making significant progress. A lot of people said, well, it will never work, or the other question we get is, well, why haven't you finished the job? Of course, we've been at it for 17 months. And I like to remind people of how long it took us from the time we declared our independence in 1776 until we finally had a Constitution in place and elected George Washington President and got started with the government that we all know and revere and the Constitution that we live under now was 13 years. So this is a tough, difficult thing we're trying to do. But it's absolutely the right thing to do, and we've got Prime Minister Allawi now in power. We were told that you'll never be able to transfer sovereign authority to the Iraqis, well, we did it before June 30th. They said, we could never stand up an interim government that would have any kind of legitimacy. Well, we've done it. Mr. Allawi is the Prime Minister. All of the ministries in Iraq now are manned by Iraqis. And we're actively and aggressively training security forces so that they'll eventually be able to take over their own responsibilities for securing their country and dealing with the bad actors who still remain from the old regime, as well as the other types of terrorists that are operating out of Iraq.
The bottom line is that next week, Mr. Allawi will come to the United States and address a General Assembly session of the United Nations as the new interim head of the government of Iraq. They've got a national assembly that has now met once. They've got elections scheduled for next January. That group will, in turn, write a constitution. And by a year from December, they should have in place a democratically elected government in Iraq for the first time. (Applause.)
Now, these are difficult tasks that are hard to do. And I don't want to underestimate how difficult it is, or mislead anybody into thinking that we can sort of wave a wand over it and everything is going to be fine. We will continue to be engaged both in Afghanistan and Iraq for the foreseeable future until they're on their feet and they're capable of providing for their own security. But it's essential, having gone this far, that we, in fact, complete the task at hand. And our strategy has to be in terms of conducting this global war on terror and ultimately prevailing, has to be that we fundamentally change circumstances on the ground in a place like Afghanistan and Iraq so that we, in effect, drain the swamp so to speak, so that we don't have, or leave behind breeding grounds for dictatorial regimes like Saddam Hussein's, or the Taliban, or states that become safe havens and sanctuaries for terror. And we can kill terrorists all day long, but we need to change the circumstances on the ground out there, and that's what we're about now in both those two nations.
Now, the decision that we're going to make on November 2nd is whether or not we're going to continue to pursue this strategy that the President has laid out, and that we've pursued now for the last three years since 9/11; or whether we're going to change course. And I think there's no doubt in my mind about what the right course of action is. I think George Bush is the real commodity here, and is exactly what we need for the next four years. (Applause.)
Now, the problem I have trying to assess what the alternative is, is it's hard from day to day to tell exactly what John Kerry thinks about the war on terror and how we should go forward in dealing with Iraq. (Laughter and applause.)
If you think back about the various positions he's taken -- the count this week I think was eight -- (Laughter.) But you can clearly go back, you can hear him saying the same things in the late '90s when Bill Clinton was in the White House, you hear him raising the flag of concern about Saddam Hussein and, so forth, and his failure to comply with U.N. resolutions. When we asked authority to use force to remove Saddam Hussein, he supported the effort, voted for it in the Senate.
Then he got involved in the Democratic primaries this year and announced that he was an anti-war candidate. And then we came around to the vote on the $87 billion that we asked for to support the troops once they were committed, and he voted against that. Subsequently, he was asked just a few weeks ago if knowing all that he knows now, would he have voted the way he did when he supported the go-to-war resolution earlier, and he said, yes, he would. He's since then said, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. And yesterday, or the day before -- I guess, the day before, he was on Don Imus -- if you get Imus out here in Portland. But I watch him every once in a while. But the intriguing thing was after a fairly lengthy interview by Mr. Imus, and when he was asked specifically a series of questions about what his policy was on Iraq, it was absolutely incoherent. (Laughter.) You could not tell where he stood on that basic fundamental issue.
And the problem that I have with that -- and admittedly, I've got strong feelings since I've been there and watched the President make, I think, some of the most difficult decisions that anybody ever has to make in the Oval Office -- this is the fourth President I've worked for, and I've watched two others up close from the perspective of Congress, and I have -- I think -- some sense of what is required, especially when we think about the most difficult decisions that we ask the President to make, and that's in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, and dealing with life-or-death propositions, not only for the nation, but especially for our men and women in uniform who he has to send in harm's way to deal with some of these most extraordinary threats that we're faced with from time to time. Not every President has to make those decisions. But many of them do sooner or later, and certainly, George Bush has had his share of those tough decisions to make.
Now, what is -- I think -- essential in a President, in that capacity is somebody who has clear vision, who can identify an objective, analyze a problem, listen to advice from various quarters and then make a decision. But he has to make a decision, and then he has to execute on it. He has to stick with it. He's got to stick with it through thick or thin. He'll be criticized from time to time. The polls may go south on him. He'll get hammered by the political opposition and by the editorial writes and the cartoonists. That's life. That's why we pay him the big bucks and he lives in the White House. (Applause.)
But, frankly, what worries me about John Kerry when I look at his track record over the years, not only most recently with respect to these issue centering on Iraq, but also 20 years of voting in the United States Senate, I don't see that kind of fundamental, core capability to make decisions and then execute on them. I see a guy who seems to blowing with the wind, if you will, from time to time; that the pressures that come to bear lead him, for one reason or another, to shift position frequently on probably what is the most fundamental issue of the day. He's taken more positions on this issue than I can recall any major candidate in all the elections I've participated in and watched over the years doing. Maybe two positions, or three positions, but it's -- as I said, the other day, the count was at least eight. I think that the quality that we want in a Commander-in-Chief, in terms of his capacity to make those basic, fundamental decisions for the country, to recognize what is at stake, but also then to be able to carry out those policies is absolutely essential. And I see a lot of that capability in George Bush. And, frankly, I don't see much of that in John Kerry. (Applause.)
He said when he spoke to the National Guard earlier this week that he'll level with the American people on the good days and the bad days. And I look at his performance, and sort of my conclusion is that when the headlines are good, he's with us; and when his poll ratings decline, he's against the policies we've been pursuing. And it's sort of the on-again, off-again proposition I find deeply disturbing in a man who wants to be Commander-in-Chief.
Now, let me emphasize I have never been critical and will not be critical today and never will be critical of his military service. I think his service in Vietnam was, as it was for anybody who had to go and serve, any of our veterans, they've rendered honorable service to the nation and deserve to be thanked for their service. (Applause.) And John Kerry is in that group.
What I do question is his judgment. And I think there's a 20-year record there to look at in the United States Senate where he opposed most of the things that Ronald Reagan did during the 1980s that were vital to rebuilding our military and making it possible for us to prevail in the Cold War. He voted against Desert Storm when I was Secretary of Defense, back in 1991 and the issue was whether or not we go into Kuwait and eject Saddam Hussein and his forces from Kuwait. John Kerry opposed that.
The list of positions he's taken on those issues over the day -- over the years does not lead one to have confidence that, in fact, he would make the right decisions were he in the number one position as President of the United States.
When we -- the decision on November 2nd that we make with respect to how we're going to proceed down the road and what kind of nation we're going to pass on to our kids, and our ability to maintain the safety and security of our country, especially for our children and grandchildren may be the most important kind of voters ever get to make. And I think that's what is at stake on November 2nd. We have to decide which course we want to follow in the future.
Now, let me -- (Applause.) Let me just finally close by saying that there's on group in particular that has been absolutely essential through this whole effort, and that we could not have done what we've done, I don't think we could have been successful in all that we've been able to accomplish, especially for example, in fending off any further attacks here at home, because we know they're still out there and they're still trying to launch some kind of an attack against us, but also they've done a remarkable job for us all over the globe over the course of the last three years, and that's the men and women of the United States military -- (Applause.)
What I'd like to do know is throw it open to questions. We've got proctors in the audience. They're the folks with the attractive orange jerseys on. (Laughter.) And they've got -- they've got microphones with them. And if you've got a question or a comment, just flag down one of the proctors, and I'll try to bounce around and call on as many of you as possible in my time available. So we got anybody over here, number six?
Q I just -- in the next four years of your administration, or George's administration, what efforts are in the works for securing and strengthening our borders?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've done a lot with respect to control of our borders. We've got a lot more to do, I guess, is the way I would describe it. Our historical practice -- and it has been an important part of our success as a society is to support and encourage the free flow of goods and people and ideas and service and so forth back and forth across the borders. We've had an open society, and we're the world's number one trading nation. We're also a nation of immigrants. And we, I think, dominate in terms of ideas and that has been just a crucial characteristic, if you will, of American society. And what we've now discovered, obviously, is that the openness of our society also represents a threat, that we've got to make certain that without doing damage to our basic economic infrastructure, for example, and our ability to engage in international commerce, we've still got to find a way to make certain that terrorists, or people conspiring with terrorists aren't able to smuggle deadly weapons into the United States, or to send in a group to launch further attacks against the United States.
And that has forced us to look at several things. We've had to look at our whole visa policy and how we handle people who want to come visit from foreign lands, the whole question of the borders with respect especially to Canada and Mexico. We have -- part of the reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security, we've combined a number of those organizations that used to deal -- Customs and Border Patrol and so forth -- on our borders, and we've beefed up those services. And we've gotten more cooperation out of Canada and Mexico than we had previously. But there's still a lot to do. And we're still such a magnate for illegal immigration that we get a large number of people coming here because they want to work, obviously. And that flow is stead, and we need to do everything we can to make certain that we're open for legal immigration. But that we effectively control our borders so that we are not subjected to illegal immigration, and to having a large influx of people coming in. We don't know what they're doing while they're here. (Applause.)
One of our major concerns, obviously, and it certainly affects Portland, as one of the leading ports in the nation, is the whole question of what we ship in, especially our container cargo. And it's absolutely essential in terms of our overall economic capability, but it also represents a threat if we don't know what is coming in -- somebody would try to use that as an avenue to get deadly substances or capabilities into the United States. So we've spent a lot of time and effort on that, as well, too, trying to improve and tighten up on our procedures, insisting upon having a lot of those containers inspected overseas before they ever embark for the United States; and identifying the most problematic areas where containers might come from that are troublesome, and making certain that we put our resources where they can do the most good in terms of protecting us and defending us.
But we'll have to keep working at it. And there's a balance that you try to strike between tightening up so much in terms of protecting all of us against a further terror attack, and on the other hand, going so far, in effect, that the terrorists win without ever launching another attack because we've absolutely closed down our society and give up, or just sacrifice basic fundamental rights that are just an important part of being an American. So you're always trying to strike that balance out there. And that's one of the toughest jobs we have.
But I think we've made significant progress. I think we are safer today. I would say, though, we're not yet safe -- as the 9/11 Commission said the other day. And we do know that the terrorists are still out there. We know they're plotting to try and launch another attack against the United States. We're doing everything we can to disrupt those kinds of planning efforts. And we've been very successful in a number of areas. But we can't let our guard down. Just because it has been three years since the last attack doesn't mean that we can relax now, everything is fine, we're not going to get hit again. We can't say that.
You have to remember not only did we get hit, but look at all of the attacks that have happened around the globe since 9/11 -- in Casablanca, in Madrid, in Mombassa, in Bali, in Jakarta, Istanbul, Riyadh, and of course, most recently in Russia, in Beslan, where they lost over 300 people, the majority of them school kids just a couple weeks ago. So the task will be with us for some considerable period of time, and I hope -- I just ask everybody to bear with us. I know it's not pleasant sometimes. Of course, I don't fly on commercial airliners. (Laughter.) But I hear from people who do. (Laughter.) And it -- the process can sometimes be burdensome, but a lot of those efforts are necessary in order to make certain that we do everything we can to defeat the next attack before they can launch. (Applause.)
You're next. We'll get him over there in a minute.
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm an obstetrician. And I work in a hospital in Oregon. And my question comes with a story first.
(inaudible) I was going to work, minding my own business, delivering babies. I deliver (inaudible) babies. And part of the (inaudible) is agreeing to take care of women, no matter what their background was -- whether poor or rich, whatever -- and we were doing that successfully. We had a serious lawsuit that happened and we were really sure (inaudible) since that time I've had to drop (inaudible) had to eliminate any (inaudible) patients, which many times there are poor people that have (inaudible) situations (inaudible) for them because the next lawsuit could (inaudible) business. So my question to you is what are we going to do protect our unborn babies (inaudible)? Tort reform is very important to Oregonians not to protect doctors, but protect mothers and babies -- our mothers, our parents, our grandparents, the elderly, all of us -- and what are you going to do to protect all of us? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That is -- it's a major problem. We've just had an experience with it in my home state of Wyoming. I run into it various places around the country, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, states that are at a crisis stage. It's that way now. In Wyoming, we just had a special session of the legislature, which we almost never do. We only allow the legislature to meet for 40 days every other year in Wyoming. (Applause.) But this is an extraordinary session, and it was called for one reason and one reason only and that was because of the rising cost of malpractice insurance. And we'd reached the point in Wyoming that the cost of a malpractice insurance policy for a doc in Casper -- a general practitioner in my hometown had gone from something like $40,000 to a $100,000 a year just in two or three years. And we've seen difficulty recruiting new doctors coming in. Somebody just out of medical school probably hasn't got $80,000 up-front to plunk down for an insurance policy. And we had policy leaving the state.
Yesterday, down in Albuquerque, I talked with a guy whose specialty was OB/GYN. He runs a four-physician clinic that specializes in that. And the impact on them has been so significant that they're in danger of having to close their doors in terms of because he can't do business any more. It doesn't all add up. If you do that, you get rid of over 50 percent of the OB/GYN capability in their part of the state. And it has a significant impact on their patients and others.
The answer, I believe, is to do a couple of things. First of all, I think we need to cap non-economic damages in the medical liability area. (Applause.) Now, some states -- California has done this with some degree of success. And in effect, people would be compensated to the extent that they could demonstrate economic loss -- whatever that was. There would be no cap there. But on the other pieces of it, pain and suffering and so forth, there would be a cap of about $250,000 is what has been imposed in a couple of places.
And the second key ingredient is to limit the fees of the trial attorneys, the trial lawyers. (Applause.) And again, there's experience there in California, I think they've got a sliding scale, in effect, the bigger the award, the smaller the percentage that the attorney gets. (Applause.)
Now, there's been a recent study done by the Rand Corporation that went in and evaluated the California plan, which has been in business for some time now. And there are several conclusions that came from it. One, while rates are going up in California, they've gone up significantly less than they have in the nation at large. Secondly, the reduction in awards fell not so much on the plaintiff, the individual who had the problem they were trying to get compensation for. There's been about 15 percent reduction there. But there's been about a 60 percent reduction on attorney fees. (Applause.)
Most of the -- I shouldn't say most -- but the studies I've seen show that upwards of 50 percent of the settlements are taken up in overhead, administrative overhead, and primarily legal fees. So the plaintiff, the person who has been injured and who goes to get the compensation for that
is probably only getting 50 cents on the dollar anyway at that. So the system does need fixing. We passed legislation through the House of Representatives that does deal with tort reform, and also with trying to place a ceiling on non-economic -- I believe on non-economic damages. They've not yet -- I don't believe they've yet acted on the limitation on provision fees. We have not been able to get it through the Senate. (Laughter.) Lost my train of thought there. (Applause.) But John Kerry and John Edwards do not support medical liability reform. They are opposed to it. And they've either voted against it -- there have been a few votes in the Senate in recent years, they've either voted or haven't been there to vote at all. And getting a handle on medical liability reform -- I don't mean to go on so long -- but it's an important part of trying to get a handle on health care costs. And the last estimate I saw, the total cost on this society for the fact that we haven't fixed that problem is about $108 billion a year that gets layered on and gets paid for in other ways by your situation, by higher rates for others, by -- has the impact, as you say. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that we get into people being -- doctors being forced to practice defense medicine in order to avoid being sued.
You mentioned you began to have to make choices about which patients you'll serve, and which ones you won't simply because if you take a high risk patient and end up with a lawsuit of some kind, it could shut down your whole operation. So I think it's a big issue, I find, as I get out and talk about it around the country that there's more concern about that than just about anything out there. It often gets the kind of reaction I got here today. And it is a top priority for us. We'll continue to push it hard in the future, and if we can pick up a couple more Senate votes -- we're also working on that -- we may be able to get something done in the next session of Congress. (Applause.)
Q Vice President Cheney, this is a very important election. And I'm part of the ballot integrity team. And Oregon has vote by mail. And the problem isn't how we cast our votes, but what happens later. This year, our ballots will be removed from secrecy envelopes seven days prior to the election -- seven days prior. And those ballots will be scrutinized. These are the instructions that have been given to country elections offices. They will be scrutinized, A, for flaws that might prevent them from going through the computer tally machines, and, B, to help interpret the votes of people who may have made some kind of mistake, and enhance those votes. (Laughter.) I'm seriously worried. And I don't think it's enough to have a provost there because what happens after hours. For seven nights, those exposed ballots are there. And anything can happen. Now, we've been told that if President Bush and you should win, it's probably needs one or two extra votes per precinct. And for you to lose, it's probably takes the same number of votes. That means an under-vote can be turned into a vote within enhancement, and a vote can also be discounted by another vote being an over-vote. I ask you what can we do? Can we have any help to change this? Can we have some federal marshals sent to watch over? (Applause.) Can we have a federal -- can we have a federal injunction to stop this process? (Applause.) We're the only state that does this? Help us. Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well. (Laughter.) That doesn't somehow fit with my image of Oregon. I see. Well, all right, great. This is going to get a lot of attention back in -- (Applause.) So I appreciate you're bringing it to my attention, and I'll go back and sit down with our lawyers and see what the story is. I know we've got -- been working generally a ballot security program nationwide. And after the last go-round, obviously, it could be pretty important.
So we've got a young man over here with a question. Maybe we can get a proctor to him. They always ask the toughest questions. (Laughter.)
Q I was wondering what your favorite part about being the Vice President is? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well. That is a great question. I feel enormous sense of gratitude, if you will, and privilege for having the opportunity to serve as Vice President. It's hard sometimes to feel that way when you're reading the newspapers every day, or looking at the latest attack. But all of that stuff is not of any great consequence. What I find remarkable -- I started out in life, I thought I wanted to be a teacher, and then I got side-tracked. I got off to Washington, and it's been -- I was going to stay 12 months, and that was 1968. (Laughter.) And I've spent most of my career in public life, and I had the privilege of serving as President Ford's Chief of Staff, as a congressman for 10 years in Wyoming, as a Secretary of Defense for four years. And I thought I had finished my time in government when I left there in '93 and went off to the private sector. And then President Bush persuaded me to sign on as his running mate four years ago. (Applause.) And it has been a remarkable experience. We could not have anticipated all that we've encountered as a nation during that period of time. But the thing that keeps you going are the people you get to work with, the issues you get to address, to be at sort of the heart of what I think is one of the most remarkable features of our civilization, our political system -- the way we select our leadership and hold them accountable, the way we all get to participate in that process, to cast that vote, to run for office if you want. It's just a very, very special privilege that we all have as Americans that all too many people take it for granted. But it's to get out around the country, to spend time with so many Americans, to travel -- I've been in 48 states now in this election cycle. I've only missed Vermont and Hawaii and the campaign is not over yet. (Laughter.) But you get outside of Washington, and you meet with just a remarkable cross-section of America, of American people. It's folks that -- I got off the airplane the other day and waiting at the foot of the stairs for me, was a young man who was just back from 14 months in Iraq. And he wanted to thank me for supporting them while they were there, and say he was ready go to again if we needed it. (Applause.) Spending time with a farmer or a rancher who is maybe working a farm or ranch, maybe fourth or fifth generation, and all that they represent. It's coming to places like Oregon City, or Albuquerque, where I was yesterday, or Key West, Florida, or Atlanta, Georgia, just the whole broad sweep of the nation -- it's so varied, but so fantastic in of its physical attributes, but most especially in terms of the people -- 270 million Americans. And so many of them say thank you and God bless you and we're praying for you and are deeply and fervently committed to the success of this nation and all that it represents. And to get to be the Vice President and serve alongside a man like George Bush is -- it's just a very special privilege. (Applause.)
MRS. PERRY: I think we just have time for one more. Just one more.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We'll do a couple. Number four.
MRS. PERRY: You're the boss. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you for coming to Oregon, Vice President Cheney. And that sounds good for another four years. A couple of fellows and I have a small business that cleans radioactive contamination out of soil. It's been tested and proven by the Oregon State University's Radiation Center. Four United States senators have signed on in support of it. This technology can also clean a city in the event of a dirty bomb. And it has been proven effective cleaning -- the Manhattan Project site. What are your plans for streamlining deployment of cost-effective new technologies to rid our country of radioactive waste?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You're talking that's done on a commercial base, or as part of a security measure in terms of dealing with threats? Both. Okay. Well, give me your card and I'll make sure we -- (Laughter and applause.) Okay.
All right, one more question. We got somebody over here? Sure. There you go.
Q Yesterday, a teacher of mine refused to sign an absence slip to come here. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Booo!.
Q And she said do you realize once -- if Bush gets reelected, that he'll make a draft. And I was just wondering what your thoughts were on the draft, and if this teacher what she said was at all necessary. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Did you get your -- did you get your absence slip?
I don't foresee a situation in which we'd want to go back to the draft. We made a decision after Vietnam to go with an all-volunteer force. And when I was Secretary of Defense, we were sort of towards the end of that transition that we started back in the '70s. I was there in the late '80s and early '90s. And it produced -- the all-volunteer force has produced an absolutely remarkable group of men and women in the service. (Applause.)
And I think it works. It works extraordinarily well. And I'm a great believer in it -- from having sat there as Secretary of Defense and watched it operate. The other thing I'd say about it, and the reason it's so important and this oftentimes doesn't get mentioned is the transformation that it has worked on the services themselves. An organization, including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines has to think very differently about how they operate, how they treat they people, what kind of training they provide, and housing and so forth, how to motivate them -- if they have to persuade people to serve rather than if they are in a position they're just sort of -- it's a free good. They get however many bodies they need through the selective service system. And it really has had a remarkable impact, I think, on the quality of our organization, as I say, not just in terms of the people serving but because everybody who is there, has signed up, wants to be there, but also because the services themselves know full well now -- we've got 30 years of experience -- that the key to having a really, first rate military is they really have to look after their people first, last and always. And that has had a quantum effect, as well, I think on the capability of the U.S. military. So I don't foresee a set of circumstances.
Now, we keep the law on the books. It's always conceivable, I suppose, at some point down the road we'd have such a national crisis or emergency, but it would have to be on the scale of World War II before I would think that anybody would seriously contemplate the possibility of going back again to the draft. I think what we have works very well. As I mentioned earlier, one of the great privileges of my career was serving as Secretary of Defense for four years, and serving with the remarkable people today who wear the uniform.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 11:04 A.M. PDT