|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
September 19, 2004
Vice President's Remarks at Speaker Hastert's Annual Mega Event An America Rally
September 18, 2004
Northern Illinois University Convocation Center
7:26 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Well, thank you. And thank you for that warm welcome. It's great to be back in Illinois. I've been looking forward to this event. When Denny invited me he said, it will be a fun night, just dinner with a few of our closest friends. (Laughter.) Turns out Denny and Jean Hastert have a lot of great friends, and Lynne and I are proud to be among them tonight. (Applause.)
I just finished the last two days campaigning. I came to Washington this afternoon. But I've been in West Virginia, Arkansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon in recent days. We're now just 45 days from one of the most important elections in our history. And I'm convinced when Americans make their decision on November 2nd, the American people will once again elect a Republican Congress and President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
And I'm honored to join all of you this evening. I've run into some friends of my own this evening, including a former member of my vice presidential staff, Ethan Hastert. Ethan, you can have your old job back any time you want. (Laughter.) Talent and character run in the family, and Ethan was a great member of my team. It's good to see Congressman Don Manzullo tonight. Don. (Applause.) As well as Judy Barr Topinka. Judy. (Applause.) And any time you want to polka, you call me, all right? (Laughter.)
But I also want to thank everybody who worked so hard to make this dinner a success. And most of all, I want to thank the people of the 14th district for sending Denny Hastert to Washington to be our speaker. (Applause.) Now, Denny and I got to know each other back in the '80s when we served together in the House of Representatives. Back in those days, Denny was not planning on becoming Speaker of the House. Truth be told, that was my ambition. I wanted to be Speaker. As it turned out, Denny rose to the great office and I had to settle for second best and preside over the Senate. (Laughter.) Don't tell my Senate friends that.
But I do have certain official duties as the President of the Senate, most of which involve sitting and saying nothing. That's my job every January during the State of the Union address, where I sit up there on the rostrum right next to the Speaker of the House behind the President. We try hard not to draw attention to ourselves, but it's not easy. When you put Dick Cheney and Denny Hastert together, it's hard to contain all that charisma. (Laughter and applause.)
Denny is the sixth Speaker of the House I've been privileged to know. In fact, because of our great interest in history, my wife, Lynne, and I actually wrote a book together about the Speaker's office and some of the men who have held it. The book is called Kings of the Hill. It's still a popular selection at garage sales. (Laughter.) But I came to have a very special admiration for one of the great 19th century Speakers, Henry Clay. Clay had his share of adversaries. But reading about him and his times, I learned a thing or two about getting along and winning over the opposition. Listen to what John C. Calhoun had to say about him. He said, "I don't like Henry Clay. He's a bad man, an imposter, a creator of wicked schemes. I wouldn't speak to him, but, by God, I love him." (Laughter.) A nice thought I guess, but something tells me that neither of those guys managed to change the tone in Washington.
If you spend any time in politics, it doesn't take long to recognize all the different kinds of personality and style, and all the different ways legislators go about their work, and how they try to achieve their goals. Some are convinced that the only way to get things done is to be aggressive, pound on the table, throw elbows, make threats, and play for the evening news, and the morning headlines. And sometimes I suppose that works. But there's another way to go about things, a quieter kind of leadership that gets results, builds respect and goodwill across party lines, and makes the system work a lot better in the long run. And that's the way Speaker Hastert does his job. Today in Washington -- (applause) -- today in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans will tell you it's a better Congress because Denny Hastert is the Speaker of the House. (Applause.)
Here in his home state, you've known Denny as a great teacher, an admired coach, an outstanding representative in Springfield. And you know the character of the man, his faith in God, his complete integrity, and the unfailing courtesy and decency that he shows to others. Out in Washington, we see those qualities in Denny every day. In a town known for grandstanding, Denny doesn't mind working long, hard hours behind the scenes to build a consensus. In a town where trust is sometimes hard to build, everybody knows that Denny Hastert delivers on his commitments and always keeps his word. (Applause.)
I count it an honor to work with him and to be his friend, and there's an awful lot of people in Washington who feel exactly the same way. You won't find a person more widely respected in the Nation's Capital than Speaker Denny Hastert. (Applause.)
President Bush and I came to office four years ago with great goals for the country. And to achieve them, we needed strong effective allies on Capitol Hill. Thanks in large part to the Speaker's leadership, these years of challenge for America have also been years of real accomplishment. Working together, we passed the largest federal tax relief in a generation. Working together -- (Applause.) Working together, we strengthened Medicare, providing a prescription drug benefit for the first time ever for our seniors. Working together, we've reorganized the government to better protect our homeland. And working together, we've given the United States military the tools they need and the respect they deserve. (Applause.)
In this campaign, we're running on more than a good record. President Bush has a clear, forward-looking strategy to build a more hopeful America and a safer world. Our President -- (Applause.) Our President understands the changing times we live in and the need for policies that help Americans find new opportunities and pursue their dreams. Our President also understands the power of liberty to transform nations, and to bring a future of hope and peace. We're looking forward to talking about that vision over the next 45 days. We're looking forward to November 2nd, when we once again elect George W. Bush President for four more years. (Applause.)
A presidential election is always an extremely important event, and this election could not come at a more crucial time in our history. Today we face an enemy every bit as determined to destroy us as the Axis powers were in World War II. This is not an enemy we can reason with, or negotiate with, or appease. This is, to put it simply, an enemy that we must destroy. And that's exactly what we will do with George W. Bush as President. (Applause.)
I'm sure many of you heard Rudy Giuliani's remarks at the Republican convention. Rudy remembered that after the attacks on his city, on 9/11, he turned at one point to his police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, and said, "Thank God George W. Bush is our President." (Applause.)
Under the President's leadership, we have reached around the world to capture and kill hundreds of Al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, the camps where terrorists trained to kill Americans have been shut down, the Taliban driven from power. In Iraq, we dealt with a gathering threat, and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Applause.) Seventeen months ago, he controlled the lives and the fortunes of 25 million people. Tonight, he sits in jail. (Applause.)
President Bush does not deal in empty threats and half-way measures, and his determination has sent a very clear message. Just five days after Saddam Hussein was captured, the government of Libya agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program and turn the materials over to the United States. Tonight, the uranium, the centrifuges, and the design for nuclear weapons that were once hidden in Libya are locked up and stored away, down at Oak Ridge, in Tennessee, never again to threaten anyone. (Applause.)
The biggest danger we face today is having nuclear weapons fall into the hands of terrorists. The President is working with many countries on a global effort to end the trade and transfer of these deadly technologies. The most important result thus far -- and a very important one -- is that the black-market network that supplied nuclear weapons technology to Libya, as well as to Iran and North Korea, has been shut down. And the world's worst source of proliferation is out of business. We're all safer as a result. (Applause.)
We could not have succeeded in these efforts without the help of dozens of countries around the world. We will always seek international support for international efforts, but as President Bush has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. We will never seek a permission slip to defend the United States of America. (Applause.)
America faces a choice on November 2nd between a strong and steadfast President with a proven record and his opponent, who seems to adopt a new position every day. Recently, John Kerry gave us what I think is his eighth position on the war. He said that Iraq was, quote, "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Except it turns out that is really somebody else's position. It's former Democratic Primary Candidate Howard Dean's position. And nine months ago when Howard Dean took that position during the primaries, Senator Kerry jumped on him, and said, and I quote: "Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be President or the credibility to be elected President." (Applause.) In the spirit of bipartisanship, this is one position of Senator Kerry's I agree with. (Laughter and applause.)
But in all the national campaigns I have watched up close, I have never seen a candidate go back and forth so many times on a single issue. All the shifts Senator Kerry has made are troubling, but there is one that really stands out. It starts with Senator Kerry and his running mate, Senator Edwards, voting in favor of using force against Saddam Hussein. But then, when it came time to vote for funds that would provide our fighting men and women with body armor, ammunition, jet fuel, and spare parts, Senators Kerry and Edwards voted no.
Only 12 members of the United States Senate opposed the funding that would provide vital resources for the troops. Only four senators voted for the use of force and against the resources our men and women in uniform needed once they were in combat. Only four. Senators Kerry and Edwards were two of those four.
At first Senator Kerry said that he didn't really oppose the funding. He both supported and opposed it. (Laughter.) He said, and I quote, "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) That certainly clears things up. (Laughter.) But lately he's been saying he's proud that he and John Edwards voted no, and he explains his decision was "complicated."
But funding American troops in combat should never be a complicated question. (Applause.) This week, while speaking to the National Guard Association, John Kerry said that our troops deserve no less than the best. But I am stunned by the audacity of that statement since it was John Kerry who voted to send our troops into combat and then voted to deny them the support they needed once they were at war. We need a President who will back our troops 100 percent, and that's exactly what we've got in George W. Bush. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry said that leadership starts with telling the truth. But the American people know that true leadership also requires the ability to make a decision. True leadership is sticking with a decision in the face of political pressure, and true leadership is standing for your principles regardless of your audience or who've just hired on as a political advisor. (Applause.) Senator Kerry said he would always be straight with the American people on the good days and on the bad days. In his case, that means when the headlines are good, he's for the war. And when his poll numbers are bad, he's against it. This constant back-and-forth may be a good strategy for windsurfing, but it's no way to run for the President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.)
These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another, the next. Our troops, our allies, and our enemies must know where America stands. The President of the United States must be clear and consistent.
In his years in Washington, John Kerry has been one of a hundred votes in the United States Senate, and fortunately on matters of national security, his views rarely prevailed. But the presidency is an entirely different proposition. A senator can be wrong for 20 years, without consequence for the nation. But a President -- a President -- always casts the deciding vote. (Applause.) And in this time of challenge, America needs -- and America has -- a President we can count on to get it right. (Applause.)
President Bush knows that our dedicated servicemen and women represent the very best of the United States of America. (Applause.) And I want to thank them and all the veterans with us here tonight for what they've done for all of us. (Applause.)
On Iraq, Senator Kerry has disagreed with many of his fellow Democrats. But Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself. (Laughter.) His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision, and sends a message of confusion. And it is all part of a pattern. He has, in the last several years, been for the No Child Left Behind Act -- and against it. He has spoken in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement -- and against it. He is for the Patriot Act -- and against it. Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual -- America sees two John Kerrys. (Laughter and applause.)
Our country requires strong and consistent leadership for our actions overseas, and the same is true for our policies here at home. When President Bush and I stood on the inaugural platform on the west side of the Capitol and took the oath of office, our economy was sliding into recession. Then, on 9/11, terrorists struck our nation and shook the economy once again. We faced a basic decision -- to leave more money with families and businesses, or to take more of the American people's hard-earned money for the federal government. President Bush made his choice. And working with Denny Hastert, we proposed and delivered tax savings to the American people -- not once, not twice, but three times. (Applause.)
Every American who pays federal income taxes benefited from the Bush tax cuts, and so has our economy. We've created jobs for the last 12 consecutive months -- a total of about 1.7 million new jobs in the last year; 144,000 new jobs in the last month alone. (Applause.) Mortgage rates, and interest rates, and inflation are all low. Consumers are confident, businesses are investing, and families are taking home more of what they earn.
We know there are still challenges. The President and I will not be satisfied until every American who wants to work can find a job. (Applause.) But this is a strong economy, it's getting stronger. And the Bush tax cuts are working. (Applause.)
Our accomplishments these last four years have made America safer, stronger, and better. And in our second term with the Speaker's help, we will keep moving forward with a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda. We will work to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. And to help families and small businesses, we will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code. (Applause.)
We will work to end lawsuit abuse. (Applause.) We know it's a lot easier for America's businesses to hire new workers if they don't have to keep hiring lawyers. (Applause.) It's not too late to pick another profession, Ethan. (Laughter.)
We will work for medical liability reform because we know the cost of malpractice insurance is creating a crisis. (Applause.) America's doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
President Bush and I will also continue to defend our society's fundamental rights and values. We stand for a culture of life, and we reject the brutal practice of partial birth abortion. (Applause.) We stand strongly for the Second Amendment, and we will defend the individual right of every American to bear arms. (Applause.) We believe that our nation is "one nation under God." (Applause.) And we believe Americans ought to be able to say so when we pledge allegiance to the flag. (Applause.)
There shouldn't be any question about this -- and there wouldn't be if we had more reasonable judges on the federal bench. (Applause.) In his second term, President Bush will continue nominating sensible, mainstream judges committed to interpreting the law -- not legislating from the bench. (Applause.)
On issue after issue, President Bush has a clear vision for the future of our nation. America has come to know him, and I have come to admire him very much. I watch him at work every day. He's a person of loyalty and kindness, a man who speaks plainly and means what he says. I have seen him face some of the hardest decisions that can come to the man in the Oval Office, and make those decisions with the wisdom and the humility that Americans expect in their President. (Applause.)
Abroad, under President Bush's leadership, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, to protect our homeland by turning back and defeating the forces of terror, and to spread hope and freedom around the world. Here at home, we will work with the Speaker to continue building prosperity that reaches every corner of the land so that every child in America has a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world. (Applause.)
The President and I are honored by your confidence in us, in our Speaker, and by your commitment to the cause we all share. We will wage this effort with complete confidence in the judgment of the American people. The signs are good -- here in Illinois, and even in Massachusetts. (Applause.) According to a news account, people leaving the Democratic National Convention in July asked a Boston policeman for directions. He replied, "Leave here -- and go vote Republican." (Laughter and applause.)
We are honored to have the support of that police officer and of all Americans from every calling in life -- Republican, Democrat, and independent alike. The President and I are grateful to our many friends across the great state of Illinois for your hard work and support in making Illinois part of a nationwide effort. We're honored to work at the side of fine leaders like Denny Hastert, and we're glad you've sent him to Washington for these many years. I want to thank you for the tremendous welcome this evening. With your help, there's no doubt in mind that come November 2nd, we'll see a great victory all across the nation.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 7:52 P.M. CDT