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 Home > News & Policies > October 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 16, 2004

Remarks by the President at Sunrise, Florida Victory 2004 Rally
Office Depot Center
Sunrise, Florida

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Nothing like spending a Saturday morning in Florida, thank you. (Applause.) I'm proud you all are here, thanks for coming. I'm really proud of my brother, Jeb. (Applause.) Your state has been tested recently -- not one hurricane, but four hurricanes. Jeb was a strong leader during these times. I had the honor of visiting Florida's families with him, those who hurt with him; and an honor of traveling your state and seeing the great compassion of Florida arise as people hurt and suffered. You know, when times are tough is when you see where strong leaders emerge. Strong leadership emerged not only in your governor, but strong leadership emerged all throughout your great state. We'll continue to help Florida rebuild. But one thing about this state you never have to worry about is the spirit of the people. (Applause.)

Listen, Laura and I are here to ask for the vote. We're traveling in Florida. (Applause.) And we're here to ask for your help. Make sure you get people to the polls. (Applause.) Starting Monday, people can vote. (Applause.) Listen, don't overlook discerning Democrats when you get them headed to the polls, people like Zell Miller. (Applause.) Remind people that if they want a safer America, a stronger America and a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney back in office. (Applause.)

And one reason you need to put me back in office is so that Laura will have four more years as the First Lady. (Applause.) When I asked her to marry me she said, fine, I'll marry you, just so long as I never have to give a political speech. (Laughter.) I said, okay, you've got a deal. Fortunately, she didn't hold me to that deal. When people see her speak, they see a compassionate, strong, warm First Lady. (Applause.)

I am really proud of her and I am really proud of my running mate, Dick Cheney. (Applause.) Now, look, I admit he doesn't have the waviest hair in the race. (Laughter.) I didn't pick him because of his hair -- I picked him because of his judgment, his experience and his ability to get the job done. (Applause.)

I appreciate so very much Wendell Hays joining me, Laura and Jeb up here. Wendell, thank you for your service, thank you for your courage, and thank you for your understanding the vision of peace that we're spreading. (Applause.) I appreciate Congressman Clay Shaw joining us today. (Applause.) I want to thank Congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen for joining us today. (Applause.) My friend, Mel Martinez is not here, but you need to put him in the United States Senate. (Applause.) I want to thank Attorney General Charlie Christ joining us today. Mr. General, I appreciate you being here. (Applause.) Listen, the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale is with us today. Mr. Mayor -- (applause.) I thank all the grassroots activists -- you never get thanked enough for putting up the signs or making the phone calls. I'm here to thank you for what you're going to do over the next two weeks: turn out the vote. We'll win Florida again and win a great victory in November. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT: In the last few years, the American people have gotten to know me. They know my blunt way of speaking. (Applause.) I get that from my mom. (Applause.) They know that I sometimes mangle the English language. (Laughter.) I get that from my dad. (Laughter.) Americans also know that I tell you exactly what I'm going to do and I keep my word (Applause.)

Those debates were interesting experiences, I enjoyed them. They highlighted the stark differences between my opponent and me. We have very different records and very different plans for the future. My record is one of reforming education, of lowering taxes, of providing prescription drug coverage for our seniors, for improving homeland security, and for waging an aggressive war against the ideologues of hate. (Applause.)

The Senator's record is 20 years of out-of-the-mainstream votes, without many significant reforms or results.


THE PRESIDENT: When I came into office, the stock market had been in serious decline for six months. And then the country was headed into a recession. To help families and to get this economy growing again, I pledged to reduce taxes. I kept my word. (Applause.)

Because we acted, the recession was one of the shallowest in American history. (Applause.) Over the last three years, our economy has grown at the fastest rate of any major industrialized nation. (Applause.) Today, the home ownership rate in America is at an all-time high. (Applause.) More minorities own a home than ever before in our nation's history. (Applause.) Farm income is up. Our ranchers are doing well. In the past 13 months we've added more than 1.9 million new jobs. (Applause.) The unemployment rate in America is at 5.4 percent. That is lower than the average rate of the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. (Applause.) The unemployment rate in your state is at 4.5 percent. (Applause.) This economy is moving forward and we're not going to go back to the days of tax and spend. (Applause.)

To make sure quality jobs are created right here in America, we got to make sure America is the best place in the world to do business. We need to reduce the burden of regulations on our job creators. We must end the junk lawsuits that are threatening our small businesses, which create most new jobs. (Applause.) To create jobs here, Congress must pass my energy plan. The plan encourages conservation. It encourages the use of renewables, like ethanol and biodiesel. It encourages new technologies. It encourages clean coal technology, and increased domestic production in environmentally friendly ways. To keep jobs here, we must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)

To keep jobs here we've got to reject economic isolationism and open up markets for U.S. products. We've opened up our market for products from overseas, and that's good for you as a consumer. If you've got more products to choose from, you're likely to get that which you want at a better price and higher quality. That's how the marketplace works. That's why I'm saying to China, you treat us the way we treat you. See, we can compete with anybody, any time, anywhere if the markets are open and the rules are fair. (Applause.)

To create jobs we got to be wise about how we spend your money, and we've got to keep your taxes low. (Applause.) My opponent has his own history on the economy. (Laughter.) In 20 years as Senator from Massachusetts, he's built a record of -- a Senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter.) He's voted to raise taxes 98 times in the Senate.


THE PRESIDENT: Now, he's been there 20 years -- that means, on average, he's voted nearly five times a year to raise taxes. I'd call that a pattern. (Laughter.) He can't run -- he can run from his record, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

Now the Senator is promising not to raise taxes for anyone who earns less than $200,000 a year. The problem is, to keep that promise he would have to break almost all of his other ones. (Laughter.) See, he's proposed $2.2 trillion in new spending -- that's with a "T." Yet, his plan to tax the rich only raises about $600 billion or $800 billion. See, there's a gap -- there's a gap between the difference of what he's promising and what he can raise. And guess who usually gets to fill that gap?


THE PRESIDENT: Let me say one other thing about taxing the rich. You've heard that language all the time, but the rich hire lawyers and accountants for a reason -- to slip the bill and pass it to you. We're not going to let him tax you. We're going to carry Florida and win a great victory. (Applause.)

When I came into office, our public schools had been waiting decades for hopeful reform. Too many of our children were shuffled through school, year after year, grade after grade, without learning the basics. I pledged to restore accountability to the schools and end the soft bigotry of low expectations. I kept my word. (Applause.) We're seeing results. Our children are making sustained gains in reading and math. We're closing an achievement gap all across this country. We're making progress for our families. We will leave no child behind in America. (Applause.)

To build a more hopeful America, we must have the best prepared, most highly skilled work force in the world. See, most new jobs are filled by people with at least two years of college education, yet only one in four of our students gets there. That's why we'll fund early intervention programs in our high schools to help at-risk students. We'll emphasize math and science. Over time, we'll require a rigorous exam before graduation. By raising performance in our high schools and expanding Pell grants for low- and middle-income families, more of our students will start their career with a college diploma. (Applause.)

My opponent has a history on education issues -- a history of doing almost nothing. (Laughter.) The Senator has pledged to weaken the No Child Left Behind Act.


THE PRESIDENT: See, he's proposed diluting the accountability standards, and looking at measures like teacher attendance to judge whether or not our students are learning. His proposals would undermine high standards and accountability. We've moved beyond the old days of failure and mediocrity and low standards, and we're not going back. (Applause.)

When I came into office, we had a problem in Medicare. See, medicine was modernizing and medicine was changing, but Medicare was not. Let me give you this example. Medicare would pay tens of thousands of dollars for heart surgery, but wouldn't pay a dime for the prescription drugs that could prevent the heart surgery from being needed in the first place. That was not fair to our seniors, it wasn't fair to the taxpayers. I pledged to bring Republicans and Democrats together to strengthen and modernize Medicare for our seniors, and I kept my word. (Applause.) The results are clear: Seniors are already getting discount on their medicines, rural hospitals are being treated more fairly, and, beginning in 2006, all seniors will be able to get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. (Applause.)

We're moving forward on health care, and there's more to do. We need to make sure health care is available and affordable to all our people. I believe in a safety net for those with the greatest needs. I believe in community health centers, places where the poor and the indigent can get primary and preventative care. I believe every poor county in America ought to have a community health center. (Applause.)

We will do more to make sure poor children are fully subscribed in our programs for low-income families. We will do more to make sure health care is affordable -- most of the uninsured work for small businesses. Small businesses are having trouble affording health care insurance. We ought to allow small businesses to pool together so they can buy insurance at the same discounts that big businesses can do. (Applause.) We must expand health savings accounts so workers and small businesses are able to pay lower premiums and people can save, tax-free, in a health care account they call their own. (Applause.)

To make sure health care is available and affordable, we must do something about the junk lawsuits that are running up the cost of health care. (Applause.) By forcing doctors to practice defensive medicine, medical lawsuits cost the federal government about $28 billion a year. That means it costs you $28 billion a year. It costs our economy anywhere from $60 to $100 billion a year. They drive up insurance premiums, which drives good doctors out of business. I've met many OB/GYNs and patients of OB/GYNs who understand the harm that lawsuits are doing to our system. I've met women who have had to drive miles to go see an OB/GYN. See, you cannot be pro-patient and pro-doctor and pro-personal injury lawyer at the same time. (Applause.)

You have to choose. My opponent made his choice and he put a personal injury lawyer on the ticket.


THE PRESIDENT: I made my choice: I'm standing with the doctors and I'm standing with the patients; we're for medical liability reform now. (Applause.)

My opponent has a health care proposal of his own, and it's a plan for a bigger and more intrusive role for the federal government. The other day -- the other day he looked in the television camera and he said, the government has nothing to do with his health care plan. I could barely contain myself. ((Laughter and applause.) Of course his plan has got something to do with the federal government. Eight out of 10 people who get health care under Senator Kerry's plan would be placed on a government program.


THE PRESIDENT: Eight million Americans would lose their private insurance at work, and most would have to go on a government plan.


THE PRESIDENT: He claimed his plan would help small businesses -- yet, groups who've studied his plan have called it an over-priced albatross that would saddle small businesses with 225 new mandates. I have a different view: Instead of moving health care to the federal government, I believe health care decisions ought to be made by doctors and patients, not by officials in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

I've set out policies that move America toward a positive and optimistic future. I believe our country can be an ownership society. You know, there's a saying that says, no one ever washes a rental car. (Laughter.) There's some wisdom in that statement. When you own something, you care about it. (Applause.) When you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of the United States of America. (Applause.)

Our policies encourage entrepreneurship, because every time a small business is started, someone is achieving the American Dream. (Applause.) We are encouraging health savings accounts, so people have the security of owning and managing their own health care account. (Applause.) We're continuing to spread ownership. I love the idea when more and more Americans from all walks of life open up the door where they live and say: Welcome to my home; welcome to my piece of property. (Applause.)

In a new term, I'll take the next great step to build an ownership society by strengthening Social Security. Our Social Security system needs fixing. You might remember the 2000 campaign, all those ads that told our seniors if George W. gets elected, he's going to take away your check. I want the seniors to remember they got their checks. No one is going to take away our seniors' checks. (Applause.) The Social Security system is solvent for those who relied upon Social Security. And baby boomers like me are in pretty good shape when it comes to Social Security. We need to worry about our children and our grandchildren. We need to be worried, and many are, about whether Social Security will be around when they need it. For the sake of our children, we must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their payroll taxes in a personal account, an account they can call their own, an account the government cannot take away. (Applause.)

When it comes to Social Security, you heard my opponent the other night -- he wants to maintain the status quo.


THE PRESIDENT: He's against these Social Security reforms I talk about, and he's against just about every other reform that gives more authority and more control to the individual. On issue after issue, from Medicare without choices to schools with less accountability to higher taxes, he takes the side of more centralized control and more government. There's a word for that attitude -- it's called liberalism. (Applause.)

He dismisses that word as a label, but he must have seen it differently when he told a newspaper, "I am a liberal and I am proud of it." The nonpartisan National Journal Magazine did a study and named him the most liberal member of the United States Senate. That takes hard work. (Laughter.) That's an accomplishment, if you're more liberal than Ted Kennedy. (Laughter and applause.) I have a different record and a different philosophy. I do not believe in big government and I do not believe that government should be indifferent. (Applause.)

That's called compassionate conservatism. (Applause.) I believe in policies that empower people to improve their lives. I reject policies that tell people how to run their lives. (Applause.) We're helping men and women find the skills and tools to prosper in a time of change. We're helping all Americans to have a future of dignity and independence. And that's how I will continue to lead our nation for four more years. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT: In a time of change -- in a time of change, some things do not change, the values we try to live by: courage and compassion, reverence and integrity. In a time of change, we must support the institutions that give our lives direction and purpose: our families, our schools, our religious congregations. (Applause.) We stand -- we stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every being counts. (Applause.) We stand for marriage and family, which are the foundations of our society. (Applause.) We stand for the appointment of federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law. (Applause.)

My opponent's words on these issues are a little muddy, but his record is plenty clear. (Laughter.) He says he supports the institution of marriage, but he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which my predecessor signed.


THE PRESIDENT: He voted against the ban on the brutal practice of partial birth abortion.


THE PRESIDENT: One time in this campaign he claimed he was a candidate of conservative values, but he described the Reagan years as a time of moral darkness.


THE PRESIDENT: There is a mainstream in American politics, and my opponent sits on the far left bank. (Applause.) He can run, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism. I believe the most solemn duty of the American President is to protect the American people. (Applause.) If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch. (Applause.)

Since that terrible morning of September the 11th, 2001, we have fought the terrorists across the Earth -- not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake. (Applause.) Our strategy is clear: We're defending the homeland; we're transforming our military -- we will keep the all-volunteer army an all-volunteer army. (Applause.) We're strengthening our intelligence capacities. We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) We will spread freedom and liberty, and we will prevail. (Applause.)

Our strategy is succeeding. Think about the world as it was about three-and-a-half years ago: Afghanistan was the home base of al Qaeda; Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups; Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fundraising; Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons; Iraq was a dangerous place and a gathering threat; al Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned attacks.

Because we led, Afghanistan is an ally in the war on terror. (Applause.) Afghanistan held elections. (Applause.) Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders; Saudi Arabia is making raids and arrests; Libya is dismantling its weapons programs. (Applause.) The army of a free Iraq is fighting for freedom and more than three-quarters of al Qaeda's key members and associates have been brought to justice. (Applause.)

In defending ourselves, in upholding doctrine, 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq are free. (Applause.) And that's important to our security. Free nations will be peaceful nations. Free nations will help us reject terror. Free nations will no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export. When America gives its word, America must keep its word. And that's why we're standing with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. (Applause.)

I want the youngsters here to recognize what's happened in the world. It wasn't all that long ago in Afghanistan that people lived under the brutal dictatorship of the Taliban. The Taliban had this grim ideology of hate. People lived in darkness. Young girls weren't allowed to go to school. Their mothers were taken into the public square and whipped if they wouldn't toe the ideological line. Because we acted in our own self-interest, millions of Afghan citizens went to vote for a president. The first voter was a 19-year-old woman. Freedom is on the march. (Applause.)

That society has gone from darkness to light because of freedom. And the same thing is happening in Iraq. The terrorists are trying to stop the advance of freedom because they understand a free society in the midst of the Middle East will defeat their ideology of hate. But freedom is on the march. There will be elections in Iraq in January. Think how far that society has come from the days of mass graves and torture chambers. (Applause.)

Our mission is clear. We'll help these countries train armies so their people can do the hard work of defending democracy. We'll help them get on the path to stability and self-government as quickly as possible, and then our troops will come home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.) I'm proud to be the Commander-in-Chief of such a great United States military. (Applause.) And it's a great military because of the character of those who serve. I want to thank the veterans who are here today for having set such a great example for those who wear the uniform. (Applause.) I want to thank the military families who are here today. (Applause.)

And we will make sure that your loved ones have all the resources they need to win the war on terror. (Applause.) And that's why -- and that's why I went to the United States Congress in September of 2003, and requested $87 billion in funding for our troops in harm's way. It was important funding. It was necessary funding -- so necessary that the bipartisan support was overwhelming. As a matter of fact, only 12 United States senators voted against supporting our troops in harm's way -- two of whom are my opponent and his running mate.


THE PRESIDENT: When you're out there getting people to vote, remind people of this startling statistic: There were only four members of the United States Senate who voted to authorize the use of force, and then voted against funding our troops in combat -- only four; two of whom are my opponent and his running mate.


THE PRESIDENT: You might remember, perhaps, the most famous quote of the 2004 campaign -- when asked why he made his vote, my opponent said, I actually did vote for the $87 billion, right before I voted against it.


THE PRESIDENT: He's been giving a lot of explanations since that explanation. One of the most interesting of all is he said the whole thing was a complicated matter. There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat. (Applause.)

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of Senator Kerry's vote against funding our troops. He's had many, and conflicting, positions on the issue, and it's a case study into why his contradictions call into question his credibility and his ability to lead our nation. In September 2003, as the $87 billion funding package was being debated, Senator Kerry said, it would be irresponsible to abandon our troops by voting against the measure. Just one month later, he did exactly that irresponsible thing, and he abandoned our troops in combat by voting against the funding.

AUDIENCE: Booo! Flip-flop! Flip-flop! Flip-flop!

THE PRESIDENT: What happened to change the Senator's mind so abruptly in one short month? His opponent in the Democrat primary, Howard Dean, was gaining ground as an anti-war candidate. Senator Kerry apparently decided supporting the troops, even while they were in harm's way, was not as important as shoring up his own political position.


THE PRESIDENT: In a time of great threat to our country, at a time of great challenge in the world, the Commander-in-Chief must stand on principle, not the shifting sands of political convenience. (Applause.)

We have differences when it comes to defending our country. Take, for example, the proposed global test that the Senator proposed, before we defend ourselves.


THE PRESIDENT: The problem with his global test is that the Senator can never pass it. (Laughter.) In 1990, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution supporting action to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The international community was united. Countries throughout the world joined the coalition. Yet, even after United Nations' approval, in the United States Senate, Senator Kerry voted against the authorization for the use of force.


THE PRESIDENT: If that action didn't pass his global test, nothing will pass his global test. (Applause.)

In this campaign, in one of our debates, you might remember that he said removing Saddam Hussein was a mistake. When he said how he would have done it differently, he said, well, all we needed to do was pass another United Nations Security Council resolution.


THE PRESIDENT: If the Senator had his way, not only would Saddam Hussein be still sitting in a palace in Baghdad, he'd be occupying Kuwait. The world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. (Applause.)

We will continue to build strong alliances. We'll continue to work to strengthen our coalitions. But I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries. (Applause.)

I believe in the transformational power of liberty. I'll tell you what I mean by that. One of our friends -- I say, Laura and my friends -- is Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. That doesn't sound like much, except when you think about it wasn't all that long ago that we were at war with the Japanese. In the march of history, 60 years isn't much. My dad fought against the Japanese; your dads fought against -- and granddads fought against the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy of America.

After World War II, President Harry S. Truman believed in the power of liberty to transform an enemy into an ally. There was a lot of skeptics then, a lot of people doubted that. You can understand why. Why would you want to waste time on an enemy? Many lives had been upset as a result of that war, and people were bitter. Some people just said the Japanese couldn't possibly self-govern. But we worked to help them build a democracy, and today I sit down at the table with Prime Minister Koizumi, talking about how to keep the peace. (Applause.) Some day an American President will be sitting down with a duly-elected leader of Iraq, talking about the peace in the Middle East. And our children and our grandchildren will be better off for it. (Applause.)

See, I believe -- I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their freedom. I believe women want to live in a free society. I believe that moms and dads want to raise their children in freedom and peace. I believe all these things, because freedom is not America's gift to the world, freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world. (Applause.)

Extending freedom also means confronting the evil of anti-Semitism. (Applause.) Today I signed the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004. This law commits a government to keep a record of anti-Semitic acts throughout the world, and also a record of responses to those acts. This nation will keep watch; we will make sure that the ancient impulse of anti-Semitism never finds a home in the modern world. (Applause.)

For all Americans, these years in our history will always stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of its leaders. This isn't one of those times. This is a time that requires firm resolve, clear vision, and a deep faith in the values that make us a great nation. (Applause.)

None of us will ever forget that week when one era ended and another began. On September the 14th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day I will never forget. There were workers in hard hats there, yelling at the top of their lungs: Whatever it takes. I remember trying to do my best to console those coming out of the rubble. A guy grabbed me by the arm and he looked me square in the eye, and he said: Do not let me down. Ever since that day, I wake up thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT: Four years ago -- four years ago when I traveled your great state, I made a pledge that if you gave me a chance to serve, I would uphold the honor and the dignity of the office to which I had been elected. With your help, I will do so for four more years. (Applause.)

Thanks for coming. God bless. Thank you all. (Applause.)

END 11:14 A.M. EDT