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 Home > News & Policies > October 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 19, 2004

President's Remarks in St. Petersburg, Florida
Progress Energy Park AL Lang Field
St. Petersburg, Florida

9:15 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) Nothing like spending a Tuesday morning at the ballpark. (Applause.) I can't thank you enough for coming. It lifts our spirits to see so many people here. (Applause.) It's close to voting time, and I'm here to ask for your vote. (Applause.) We're going to travel your state today, and we'll be back quite often, asking the people of Florida for their vote.

I'm also here to ask for your help. See, you can vote now in Florida. So get your friends and neighbors to do their duty. We have a duty in this country to vote. And remind them when you get them headed to the polls, if they want a safer America, a stronger America, and a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney back in office. (Applause.)

As I travel your state giving people a reason why they ought to put me back in office, perhaps the most important one of all is so that Laura is the First Lady for four more years. (Applause.) I'm really proud of her, I love her a lot. She is a warm, compassionate, great First Lady for this country. (Applause.)

And I'm proud of my running mate, Dick Cheney. (Applause.) He does not have the waviest hair in this race. (Laughter.) I didn't pick him because of his hairdo. (Laughter.) I picked him because of his experience, his judgment, his ability to get the job done for the American people. (Applause.)

And I'm proud of my brother, Jeb. (Applause.) In this time of need, he has risen to the occasion. (Applause.) I have seen him comfort those who have been hurt because of these hurricanes. I've seen him put his arms around those who worry about their future. We're doing everything we can to help this state get back on its feet. The Governor of your state is providing strong and necessary leadership to help. (Applause.)

And I know there are some -- I know there are some here who are worried about the flu season. I want to assure them that our government is doing everything possible to help older Americans and children get their shots, despite the major manufacturing defect that caused this problem. We have millions of vaccine doses on hand for the most vulnerable Americans, and millions more will be shipped in the coming weeks. We're stockpiling more than 4 million doses of flu vaccine for children. We're working closely with state and local officials to make sure we distribute vaccines to the most vulnerable Americans throughout our country.

I am grateful to the healthy Americans who are deciding a flu shot -- who are declining a flu shot this year, so that the most vulnerable of our citizens will get the vaccine here in Florida and across the nation. We will continue to do everything possible to help our citizens. (Applause.)

I want to thank Lance Corporal Taylor Pancake for introducing Jeb and being on the stage. (Applause.) I want to thank him for his service to our country. (Applause.) By the way, our brother, Marvin is with us today. I appreciate you coming, big Marv. There he is, right there. (Applause.) See, we love our family. We've got a great family. (Applause.) There's nothing like being on the campaign trail with a brother you love. (Applause.) I've been looking forward to this day -- not only do I have one brother I love, I've got two brothers I love traveling the great state of Florida. (Applause.)

I'm proud to be able to work with Congressman Bill Young, the great Congressman from Florida. (Applause.) Your Attorney General, Charlie Crist, is with us today. Thanks for coming, General. (Applause.) Our government is working with Charlie to make sure anybody who tries to gouge the seniors of this state when it comes to the flu vaccine is going to be held to account. (Applause.)

I'm honored that the Mayor took time to come by and say hello. Mr. Mayor, Rick Baker, is with us today. Thank you for coming, Mayor, proud you're here. (Applause.) I want to thank all the state and local officials. I'm proud to be on the stage with the next United States Senator from Florida, Mel Martinez. (Applause.) I know him well. He's the right man for the right state at the right time for the United States Senate. (Applause.) Kitty is here, too, Kitty Martinez. She's going to make a great First Senator's wife. (Applause.) Thanks for coming, Kitty, great to see you.

I want to thank my friend, Lee Greenwood, who's here. (Applause.) I want to thank all the grassroots activists for what you're going to do today and for the next two weeks to turn out the vote. (Applause.) There is no doubt in my mind, with your help, we'll carry 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. (Applause.) They know my blunt way of speaking. (Applause.) I get that from Mother. (Applause.) They know I sometimes mangle the English language. (Laughter.) I get that from Dad. (Laughter.) They also know I tell you exactly what I'm going to do, and I keep my word. (Applause.)

You know, our debates highlighted the stark differences between Senator Kerry's views and mine. We have different records, we have 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 protections, and for waging an aggressive war against the ideologues of hate. (Applause.)

My opponent's record is 20 years of out-of-the-mainstream votes.


THE PRESIDENT: Instead of articulating a vision or positive agenda for the future, the Senator is relying on a litany of complaints and old-style scare tactics.


THE PRESIDENT: As proven by his record and a series of contradictions in this campaign, my opponent will say anything he thinks that will benefit him politically at the time. I will do what I've said I will do. We will keep the promise of Social Security for all our seniors. (Applause.) We will not have a draft; we'll keep the all-volunteer army. (Applause.) With your help on November 2nd, the people of America will reject the politics of fear, and vote for an agenda of hope and opportunity and security for all Americans. (Applause.)

When I came into office, the stock market had been in serious decline for six months, and the American economy was sliding into a recession. To help families and to get this economy growing again, I pledged to reduce taxes, and I kept my word. (Applause.) And we have gotten results for the American people. The recession was one of the shallowest in American history. Over the last three years, our economy has grown at the fastest rate of any major industrialized nation. (Applause.) The home ownership rate in America is at an all-time high. (Applause.) Farm and ranch income is up. In the past 13 months we've added more than 1.9 million new jobs. (Applause.) The unemployment rate in America is 5.4 percent, lower than the average rate of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. (Applause.) The unemployment rate in Florida is 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 jobs are here in America, to make sure we continue to be a place where people can realize their dreams, America must be the best place in the world to do business. (Applause.) We need to reduce the burden of regulations on our job creators. We need to do something about the junk lawsuits that are threatening the small business job creators. (Applause.)

To create jobs here in America, Congress needs to pass my energy plan. It's a plan that encourages the use of renewables, like ethanol and biodiesel. It's a plan that encourages conservation. It encourages new technologies, like clean coal technologies. It encourages increased domestic production in environmentally friendly ways. We will not drill off the coast of Florida. (Applause.) To keep jobs here, we must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)

To create jobs here we need to reject economic isolationism. See, we open up our markets for products from overseas, and that's good for you. If you have 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 market works. (Applause.) Rather than shutting down our market, we're working to convince others to open up theirs. I'm saying to China, you treat us the way we treat you. We can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere, so long as the rules are fair. (Applause.)

To make sure this economy grows, we've got to be wise about how we spend your money -- and keep your taxes low. (Applause.) Now, my opponent has his own history on the economy.


THE PRESIDENT: In 20 years as a Senator from Massachusetts, he has built a record of -- a Senator from Massachusetts. (Applause.) He's voted to raise taxes 98 times.


THE PRESIDENT: Think about that. He's been there 20 years; that's a vote for a tax increase about five times every year.


THE PRESIDENT: I would call it a pattern. 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. He said that with a straight face. (Applause.) The problem is, to keep that promise he would have to break almost all of his other ones. (Applause.) See, he has promised more than $2.2 trillion of new federal spending. That's trillion, with a "T." And to pay for it he said, aw, he's just going to tax the rich. You know, we've heard that before. You can't raise enough money by taxing the rich to pay for $2.2 trillion of new spending, so there's a gap -- a gap between the promise and a gap between what he can deliver. And guess who usually has to fill that gap? (Applause.) I'll tell you what else is wrong with taxing the rich. The rich hire lawyers and accountants for reason -- to slip the bill and pass it on to you. We're not going to let him tax you. We're going to carry Florida and win a great victory in November. (Applause.)

When I came into office, our public schools had been waiting decades for hopeful reform. Fortunately, you had a Governor that did not allow the wait. See, he knows what I know: that too many of our children were being shuffled through, grade after grade, year after year, without learning the basics. I pledged to restore accountability to our schools and end the soft bigotry of low expectations, and I kept my word. (Applause.) Our children are making sustained gains in reading and math. We're closing an achievement gap for minority students. We're making progress in our schools, and we're not going to go back to the old days of mediocrity and low standards. (Applause.)

We have a changing world, and most new jobs are filled by people with at least two years of a college education. Yet, only one in four of our students gets there. That's why we will fund early intervention programs at our high schools to help at-risk students. That's why we'll place a new focus on math and science. Over time we'll require a rigorous exam before graduation. By raising performance in our high schools, by increasing and expanding Pell grants for low- and middle-income families, we will help more Americans start their career with a college diploma. (Applause.)

When I came into office, we had a problem with Medicare. Medicine was changing, but Medicare was not. Let me give you an example. Medicare would pay tens of thousands of dollars for heart surgery, but would not pay a dime for the prescription drugs that could prevent the heart surgery from being needed in the first place. That wasn't fair to our seniors, it certainly was not 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.) Seniors and getting discounts on medicine. 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 for our people. We need a safety net for those with the greatest needs. I believe in community health centers, places where the poor and the indigent can get health care. In a new term, we'll make sure every poor county in America has a community health center. We'll do more to make sure poor children are fully subscribed in our programs for low-income families. We'll do more to make sure health care is affordable. Listen, most of the uninsured are employees of small businesses. Small businesses are having trouble affording health care. To help workers get the health care they need, we should allow small businesses to join together so they can buy insurance at the same discount that big businesses get to do. (Applause.)

We will expand health savings accounts so workers and small businesses are able to pay lower premiums and people can save, tax-free, in an account they call their own. To make sure health care is available and affordable, we will do something about the junk lawsuits that are running up the cost of health care and running good docs out of practice. (Applause.) By forcing doctors to practice defensive medicine, medical lawsuits cost the government about $28 billion a year.


THE PRESIDENT: When we say "cost the government," that means they're costing you, the taxpayer.


THE PRESIDENT: These lawsuits drive up insurance premiums, which drive good doctors out of practice. I've met OB/GYNs that are say, I can't practice -- I can't practice medicine anymore. I met the patients of OB/GYNs, anxious women who drive miles to meet a doc. The system is not working. There's a big difference in this campaign. My opponent has voted against medical liability reform. I am for medical liability reform now, and I will work with Senator Mel Martinez to get it done. (Applause.)

My opponent has a health care proposal of his own, a plan for bigger and more intrusive government.


THE PRESIDENT: Now, the other day in the debate he said, when it comes to his health care plan -- and I quote -- "The government has nothing to do with it." I could barely contain myself. (Applause.) The facts are that eight out of 10 people who get health care under Senator Kerry's plan would be placed on a government program.


THE PRESIDENT: He said the plan would help small businesses. Yet a small business group studied the plan and concluded it was an overpriced albatross that would saddle small businesses with 225 new mandates. I want to help small businesses. I don't want to saddle them with government mandates. (Applause.)

Listen, the choice is clear when it comes to health care. My opponent wants to move in the direction of government-run health care. I believe the health decisions ought to be made by patients and doctors, not by officials in Washington, D.C. (Applause.) He can run, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

I've set out policies that move America toward an optimistic vision. I believe our country can, and must, become an ownership society. There's an old saying, no one ever washes a rental car. You see, when you own something you care about it. When you own something you have a vital stake in the future of our country. That's why we're encouraging entrepreneurship. Every time a small business is started, someone is achieving the American Dream. (Applause.)

We're encouraging health savings accounts so people have the security of managing and owning their own health care account. We will continue to encourage home ownership. I love the idea that more and more Americans from all walks of life are opening up the door where they live and saying, welcome to my home, welcome to my piece of property. (Applause.)

In a new term, we'll take the next, great step to build an ownership society by strengthening Social Security. In the 2000 campaign, you might remember the ads that were saying, if George W. gets in, the seniors will not get their checks. The seniors got their checks. (Applause.) And our seniors will continue to get their checks. (Applause.) Baby boomers are in pretty good shape when it comes to Social Security. We're okay. But we need to worry about our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.) People are understandably worried about whether Social Security will be around when our children and grandchildren need it. We must think differently. To strengthen Social Security, we must allow younger workers to save some of their payroll taxes in a personal savings account, a personal savings account they call their own. (Applause.)

I believe it is the President's problem to solve problems -- the President's job to solve problems, not to pass them on to future generations. (Applause.) My opponent has a different point of view. He wants to maintain the status quo when it comes to Social Security.


THE PRESIDENT: He's against the reforms we're talking about when it comes to Social Security, and he's against just about every other reform that gives more authority and 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 government control. There's a label for that, there's a word for that. It's called liberalism. That's what it's called. He doesn't like that label. He dismisses it as just a word. He must have seen it differently when he told a newspaper, I am a liberal and proud of it. See, he's the kind of -- got a voting record that makes Ted Kennedy look like the senior -- the conservative senator from Massachusetts. (Applause.) He can run, but he cannot hide. (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.) I'm a compassionate conservative. (Applause.) I believe in policies that empower people to improve their lives, not try to run their lives. I believe we ought to help men and women find the skills and tools necessary to prosper in a time of change. So we're helping all Americans to have a future of dignity and independence, and that is how I will continue to lead our country for four more years. (Applause.)

In a time of change, some things do not change: the values we try to live by -- courage and compassion, reverence and integrity. In times of change, we must support institutions that give our lives direction and purpose -- our families, our schools, our religious congregations. (Applause.) 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. He says he supports the institution of marriage, but voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.


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


THE PRESIDENT: 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 threat of terrorism. 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 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 reforming and strengthening our intelligence capabilities. We're transforming our military. I repeat, the all-volunteer army will remain an all-volunteer army. (Applause.) We are 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 some 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; and al Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned attacks.

Because we acted, because the United States of America led, Afghanistan is a free nation and an ally in the war against terror. (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 team members and associates have been brought to justice. (Applause.)

We are standing with the peoples of a free Afghanistan and Iraq. (Applause.) It's amazing to say the words "free Afghanistan" and a "free Iraq." I want you to remind your children and grandchildren what has taken place in Afghanistan in the three-and-a-half short years. It wasn't all that long ago that young girls couldn't go to school in Afghanistan, or their mothers were taken into the public square and whipped because they wouldn't toe the line of the ideologues of hate. And yet, because we acted in our self-interest, because we acted to secure our country, the people of Afghanistan are liberated, and by the millions, showed up to vote in a presidential election. (Applause.) The first voter in the presidential election in Afghanistan was a 19-year-old woman. (Applause.)

Freedom is on the march. Freedom is taking hold in a part of the world that no one ever dreamed would be free, and that makes America more secure. There will be elections in Iraq this January. Think how far that country has come from the days of torture chambers and mass graves and the brutal dictates of a brutal tyrant. You see, it's important that we continue to spread freedom, because free societies will help us keep the peace. Free societies will no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export. Free governments in the Middle East will fight the terrorists, instead of harboring them, and that will help us keep the peace and make America more secure. (Applause.)

And so our mission -- our mission is clear: We will help these countries train armies and police, so the people of Afghanistan and Iraq can do the hard work of defending their freedom. (Applause.) We will help them get on the path to stability and democracy as quickly as possible, and then our troops will come home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)

We have a great United States military. (Applause.) It is great because of the dedication and the character of those who wear the uniform. (Applause.) I want to thank the veterans who are here today for having set such a great example to those who wear the uniform. (Applause.) I want to thank the military families who are here today for their sacrifices. (Applause.) You can be certain of this: Your loved ones are answering one of the great calls of American history. They're defending our country against ruthless enemies. They're spreading freedom and hope. They are winning the war on terror. (Applause.)

And our nation is keeping our commitments to those who serve and to their families. We have increased basic pay in the military by 21 percent since I've been the Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.) We've increased health benefits and federal support for schools on bases across the country. We've reduced out-of- pocket expense for off-base housing to zero for our military families. (Applause.) We are supporting our Guard and our Reserve troops and families. We're spending $14 billion for construction and maintenance on Guard and Reserve facilities. We're extending military health benefits to those in the Guard and Reserves. We will increase monthly education benefits for those in the Guard and Reserves. (Applause.)

Our single, most important responsibility is to make sure our military families are well-treated and our military has all the tools necessary to do their missions. (Applause.) And that's why -- that's why in September of 2003, I went to the United States Congress and asked for $87 billion of supplemental funding to support our troops in harm's way. (Applause.) This was -- this was essential funding. Most members of the United States Congress understood how important the funding was. As a matter of fact, only 12 members of the United States Senate voted against the funding for our troops.


THE PRESIDENT: Two of whom are my opponent and his running mate.


THE PRESIDENT: When you're out rounding up the vote, remind people of this startling statistic: Only four members of the Senate -- four out of 100 -- voted to authorize the use of force, and then voted against providing funding for our troops.


THE PRESIDENT: And two of those four were my opponent and his running mate.


THE PRESIDENT: You might remember my opponents famous quote. When they asked him about his vote he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, right before I voted against it."


THE PRESIDENT: He's given a lot of explanations for that vote since. One of the most interesting ones of all, he said, well, the whole thing was a complicated matter. There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in harm's way. (Applause.)

Last Sunday was the one-year anniversary of Senator Kerry's vote against funding for our troops. My opponents many and conflicting positions on this issue are a case study into why his contradictions call into question his credibility and ability to lead our nation.

In September, 2003, as the $87 billion funding package was being debated, Senator Kerry said this on national TV: "It would be irresponsible to abandon our troops by voting against it." That is, against the $87 billion. And then, of course, just one month later, he did exactly the opposite. You know, it's important for our fellow citizens to wonder what changed his mind in one short month. Well, his opponent in the Democrat primary, Howard Dean, was gaining ground as an anti-war candidate, just about the time he changed his mind. See, apparently, my opponent decided supporting the troops, even while in harm's way, was not as important as shoring up his political position.


THE PRESIDENT: At 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 on the shifting sands of political convenience. (Applause.)

Senator Kerry's vote against supporting our troops in combat is part of a pattern. He has consistently opposed the weapons our troops are using to win the war on terror. He opposed the B-1 bomber. He opposed the B-2 stealth bomber. He opposed the modernized F-14D. He opposed the Apache helicopter. He opposed the anti-missile launchers that we've been using, the Patriot missile system. He has a 20-year history of weakness. He can run from his record, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

Let me just give you one more piece of evidence about why my opponent is not prepared and equipped to be the Commander-in-Chief. He believes that America should pass a global test before we defend ourselves.


THE PRESIDENT: That's what he said. See, the problem with a global test is the Senator can never pass it. 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 our coalition. Yet, even after United Nations' approval, Senator Kerry voted against the authorization for the use of force.

AUDIENCE: Booo! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: You might remember during the debates in the campaign he said it was a mistake to remove Saddam Hussein. He would have done it differently. He would have passed another United Nations Security Council resolution.


THE PRESIDENT: As if the first 16 or 17, you know, had an effect. (Laughter.) See, we'll continue to build strong alliances. We'll work with friends. But I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries. (Applause.)

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

THE PRESIDENT: In this time of uncertainty and challenge, the Commander-in-Chief must be steadied and principled and must use every asset at our disposal to protect the American people. (Applause.)

I believe in the transformational power of liberty. I'll tell you what I mean by that. One of our friends, Laura and my friends in the international community is Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. That probably doesn't seem like much of a big deal to you, except for the fact that 60 years ago, Japan was a sworn enemy of the United States of America. We were at war with the Japanese. My dad, our dad, fought against the Japanese. Your dads and granddads did, as well. It was a brutal war. And after the war was over, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, believed that liberty could transform an enemy into an ally.

There were a lot of skeptics during that time, and you can imagine why. Japan was the enemy. Many families had been turned upside down because of death in World War II. But there was this belief in the country that if we helped Japan become a democracy, the world would be better off for it. Today, because people held that belief, I sit at the table with the Prime Minister of a former enemy, talking about how to keep the peace we all want. (Applause.) Some day, some day an American President will be sitting down with the duly-elected from Iraq, talking about the peace, and our children and our grandchildren will be better of for it. (Applause.)

I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their freedom. I believe women in the Middle East want to live in a free society. I believe mothers and dads want to raise their children in a free

world. 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.)

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 makes 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 yelling at me at the top of their lungs, "Whatever it takes." I remember the fellow who grabbed me by the arm, he looked me straight in the eye and he said, "Do not let me down." (Applause.) Ever since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect America. I will never relent in defending our country, whatever it takes. (Applause.)

Four years ago when I traveled your great state I made a pledge that if you gave me the 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. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) God bless. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.)

END 10:00 A.M. EDT