For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 21, 2004
Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks and Q&A at a Roundtable Discussion in Cincinnati, Ohio
Price Hill Chili
4:10 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What we usually do at these events is I say a few
things at the outset, and then we open it up to questions, have an
opportunity to hear from you and answer questions, things you're
concerned about or comments that you want to make.
And let me take a few minutes, if I can. I really do want to talk
about the national security situation, because I think it goes to the
heart of the decision we've got to make this year, because we're not
only obviously wrestling with all the domestic issues that are very
important to us as a nation, but we're also picking a
Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. And one of those events
that's come to dominate our time is the global war on terror and how we
respond in the aftermath of 9/11 and the impact it would have on so
many of us --
The -- I think of it that periodically we come to a point in our
history where we are suddenly faced with a new threat and we have to
reconsider our national security strategy, what the threat is, how
we're organized to deal with it, what kinds of institutions we've got
in place to cope with a threat to the United States. Go back to the
period right after World War II when we had a similar set of
circumstances, where suddenly, after great victory in World War II, we
were faced with the development of the Cold war, a nuclear-armed Soviet
Union that occupied half of Europe. And that forced us to make some
fundamental changes in our strategy. We developed the Department of
Defense then, the Central Intelligence Agency. We created NATO, the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We set up alliances and rebuilt our
military, and I think that obviously was a major historic period for
us, and we put in place a strategy that was then supported and executed
by Republican and Democratic administrations alike for the next 40
years until the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union went out of
And I think we're in a similar period now, in a sense that the global
war on terror and the events of 9/11 and the aftermath have put us in a
place where we need to sort of reconfigure and, if you will, our
national security strategy -- and several elements run into it.
We now have to get our heads around the proposition that the biggest
threat we face is the possibility of terrorists coming into the United
States and smuggling in a deadlier weapon than has before been used
against us, maybe a biological agent or even a nuclear weapon, and that
having something like that transpire in the midst of one our cities,
obviously, could threaten lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
And we've got to, I think, come to grips with that threat if we're
going to devise a strategy that's robust enough to allow us to defeat
it and guarantee that they're never able to get off that kind of an
attack against the United States.
Now, obviously, 9/11 brought home to everybody the vulnerabilities
that we have, and part of that, of course, is based on our great
strength as an open society, an open civilization, and those are
strengths we want to protect and preserve, but we've also got to take
the steps necessary to defend the country, to make us a tougher target.
We've done a lot of that in creating the Department of Homeland
Security, passed the Patriot Act that gives more tools to law
enforcement, passed Project BioShield, for example, that allows us to
do a better job of defending ourselves against a possible biological
The President also made a decision that it wasn't enough to talk about
good defenses, that we also had to be prepared to go on offense. And
given the nature of the threat we faced, that possibility of terrorists
armed with a weapon of mass destruction, that it's not enough to be
successful 99 percent of the time against that kind of threat, and
there's no such thing as a perfect defense. If they're only successful
one time out of a thousand, that's not good enough, from our
perspective, because that kind of an attack can be devastating.
So we decided that we also had to go on offense and we've done that.
And there, it's a matter of using the full power of the United States
to aggressively go after the terrorists wherever they operate and train
and organize, but also to go after those who support terror, and this
is a new departure for the United States, that the President insisted
upon, that, in effect, we had to use the full might of the United
States to confront those states that have, in the past, sponsored
terror, that have provided safe harbor and sanctuary for terrorists, or
financial support, or training or weapons, and that going after those
sponsors of terror was just as important as going after the terrorists
themselves, that we had to hold those states accountable, as we do the
terrorists, for whatever acts they may commit.
And that's what we've done, obviously, in Afghanistan, where we went
in and took down the Taliban regime, closed the training camps where
some of the terrorists that hit us on 9/11 had trained, as well as some
20,000 terrorists who were trained in the late '90s; captured or killed
hundreds of al Qaeda. And now we're in the business of standing up a
new government in Afghanistan, which we need to do because it's not
enough simply to go take down what was there. You can't just turn your
back, then, and walk away, or you'll leave a failed state behind, and
you'll get the same kind of developments that we had earlier in
Afghanistan, to again become a breeding ground for terror and -- or
And that effort, of course, involves now putting in place a
democratically elected government. We've got a good start on that. The
Afghans have done a good job standing up an interim government, then
they registered 10 million voters, nearly half of them women. And, of
course, a week ago Saturday, for the first time in the 5,000-year
history of Afghanistan, had a free nationwide election that starts them
on the path of being able to put in place a democratically elected
government, should be there by the end of the year.
It's very important that we do all of those steps, and we'll stay as
long as we have to stay to help them get up and running on their feet,
and we're also spending a lot of time and effort training the Afghans
from a military perspective so they can take over the responsibilities
for their own security. We've got to get them both in the business of
governance, self-governance, and in the business of defending
themselves and that's what we're doing, and the mission will be
complete when we've done that, but we're not there yet.
Iraq, slightly different situation. Saddam Hussein, a man who had
started two wars, who had previously produced and used weapons of mass
destruction, chemical weapons against the Kurds and against the
Iranians and had other types of robust WMD efforts underway in the
past, a man who had provided sanctuary for terrorists, home to the Abu
Nidal organization, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, making $25,000
payments to the families of suicide bombers who had attacked Israelis,
a man who had a relationship with al Qaeda.
And so we went down and took down the government of Saddam Hussein.
We're now in the business of standing up a new government there, as
well. The Iraqis have had control over their sovereign territory now
since the end of June when we transferred sovereignty to them. They are
now in the business of -- they've got a national assembly. That has
been convened once. They'll hold elections in January, and obviously,
we're going to be heavily committed there again, just as we are in
Afghanistan, as long as we need to be. We don't want to stay a day
longer than necessary, but we're going to stay long enough to complete
the mission. And the mission, again, is to get a democratically elected
government in place and get the Iraqis in a position to be able to
provide for their own security. By the end of this year, we'll have
125,000 armed -- trained, equipped and actively participating alongside
our guys in the security operations that are necessary in the country.
We know the terrorists and the remnants of the old regime will do
everything they can to disrupt that progress towards elections. They
know that once we get a democratically elected government in place and
they've got control over the sovereign territory of Iraq, that once
that happens, they're toast, so to speak. They're no longer going to be
in business, which they themselves have said. We found that in an
intercepted message from Zarqawi, who's the head terrorist over there,
just announced again his loyalty to bin Laden, Osama bin Laden just in
the last few days, in a communication he sent to the al Qaeda earlier
this year, that once this happens, we get a government in place and
they've got control over the country, he's going to have to pack his
bags and move on.
So I think that we'll see a high level of effort and continued
violence and threats and intimidation and attacks on civilians, as well
as on coalition forces, especially between now and January when they
get that first election under their belts. Absolutely essential,
though, that we carry through on the position again that we stand up a
democratically elected government in place of what we've taken down in
Iraq. It's a long-term strategy and our success depends on it.
Another fall-out from what we've done there, one of the things, of
course, that happened was that, as we went through this whole exercise
Moammar Ghadafi watched from Libya. He had been spending millions
trying to acquire nuclear weapons. He had the uranium, he had the
centrifuges to enrich the uranium, he had a weapons design he got from
an illegal supplier of nuclear weapons technology. When he saw what we
did in Afghanistan and Iraq, he decided he wanted to give it all up.
Five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, he announced he was going
to turn it all over to Uncle Sam. We've now got it here in the United
States, and he's out of the business of trying to develop weapons of
That also let us, then, take down the network that had provided him
with that technology, the same network that had provided it to the
North Koreans and to the Iranians. So major progress because of what we
did in Iraq and Afghanistan on the nuclear proliferation front.
I think it's absolutely essential going forward that we continue that
kind of robust aggressive policy on behalf of the United States, and
the best way to defend America and prevent further attacks, to disrupt
those kinds of attacks is to stay on offense with respect to our
I think there's a real question whether or not John Kerry has the same
perception, or the same concept of the nature of the threat or the kind
of policy and strategy that's required to defeat it. Several things we
could point at. He's got a 20-year record in the Senate, where he came
down virtually every time on the wrong side of the major national
security issues of the day. He voted against the first Gulf War
operation back in '91; opposed most of the major weapons systems that
Ronald Reagan put forward in the 1980s; while he was serving on the
Senate Intelligence Committee after the first attack on the World Trade
Center, offered up amendments to slash large sums of money out of the
Defense -- out of the intelligence budget, unsuccessfully. He was
defeated in those efforts.
But in my mind, he's never quite gotten it right, and when you come
forward and look at the most recent set of developments, of course,
everybody is familiar with his having voted to use force in Iraq but
then voted against funding for the troops when that was the question
before the House.
The thing I found most disturbing the other day was an interview that
ran in The New York Times just a week ago Sunday, where he was quoted
in the space of the interview being asked by the reporter what his
goals or objectives would be in connection with prosecuting the war on
terror, and basically what he said was he hoped to be able to get
terror back to the point where it could be looked at as a nuisance, and
managed the way we manage illegal gambling or prostitution in our
Now, I thought about that, and what bothered me about it was, it said
to me that he didn't understand the scope and nature of the problem if
he thought he could manage terror in that way, that there was some
acceptable level of terror, where you could just sort of park it over
here and there would be a certain amount of it. But he would look on it
as a nuisance, instead of a major problem.
And I asked myself, I said, well, when was it that terror was ever a
nuisance, that you could look on it in those terms. You go back prior
to 9/11, you go back four years to the attack on the USS Cole, when we
lost 17 of our sailors and nearly lost our ship of Yemen; or six years
ago, when they simultaneously blew up two of our embassies in East
Africa, killed hundreds of people, including a number of Americans; or
the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, when we had about 1,000
people injured that day to try to take down one of the towers --
failed. But go back beyond that even, in 1988, when we lost Pan Am 103,
they blew Iraqi people up in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland. Hard
to look at that as a nuisance. Or 1983, when we lost 241 Marines in
the bombing of the barracks in Beirut.
Now, there's never been a time in my mind when it made sense to think
about attacks on that scale and that loss of life, and those attacks
again, in some cases here in the U.S., obviously overseas as well, to,
were something you could define as a nuisance. And my -- I guess, the
biggest problem I have is I look at somebody who thinks in those terms,
and what that says to me is this is a guy with a pre-9/11 mind set,
somebody who has not adjusted to the reality of what's required to win
the global war on terror. This is a global conflict. This is not
something that affects only the United States, but obviously, we've
seen the attacks since what happened to us three years ago, in Madrid,
in Casablanca, in Mombassa in East Africa, in Riyadh and Istanbul and
Jakarta and Bali and Jakarta again and Beslan in Russia.
This is a global conflict that is being perpetrated by a radical
fringe that's got an extremist ideology based on the far-out fringes of
the Islamic faith, not at all representative of Islam. But -- and they
are prepared to kill anybody who stands in their way, and they've done
it. And they will continue to do it. It isn't a group you can negotiate
with. There's no treaty at the end of the day. There aren't going to
be any Paris Peace Accords that are going to put an end to this. These
are non-state actors. There's not a government to negotiate with here.
These are people who are absolutely committed to jihad and that want to
kill infidels and we're the infidels. And they want to do everything
they can, obviously, against the United States, but also against
friendly governments out there, various places around the world, that
have worked with us in the past, and we have to aggressively pursue
strategies, I think, if we're going to maintain the safety and security
of the United States.
And as I say, my concerns about John Kerry -- I've never questioned
his patriotism but I do question his judgment, and I just think his
judgment is flawed, and if you look at his 20-year record in the
Senate, or when he ran for Congress the first time back in the '70s and
said we should never commit U.S. troops without U.N. authorization.
You'll see a long record there that does not generate confidence that
this is the kind of man we want to be Commander-in-Chief for the next
And given that set of circumstances, I think the decision we're going
to make on November 2nd is extraordinarily important. I think George
Bush has done a superb job under very difficult circumstances. He's had
to make some of the toughest decisions that have ever come to the
occupant of the Oval Office, and that includes committing U.S. forces
and sending young men and women in harm's way. It's a very hard thing,
obviously, for any President to do, but I'm absolutely convinced that
long-term we'll be better off if we address this problem now than if we
wait, or if we try to retreat behind our oceans and keep our fingers
crossed and hope they don't hit us again. I just think down that road
lies disaster, and that the ultimate cost of addressing this problem of
defending the nation will only go up if we delay or defer or act like
we don't have to pursue a tough, aggressive strategy overseas and carry
the fight to the enemy.
And that's what I think is at the heart of the decision that needs to
be made on November 2nd, and so I hope that people will perceive that
same set of issues the same way I do, because I think it's vital and I
think we've got a great Commander-in-Chief. The President's done a
superb job, and he needs, in fact, to have four more years to be able
to complete the task that we've embarked upon.
With that, let me stop and I'd be happy to respond to questions or
Q May I just --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q My wife and I lost our first son in the World Trace Center attack.
How can we help, both locally and nationally on the war on terror?
It's our number one priority.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think at the outset, there are several
things that come immediately the mind. One is, obviously, I think it's
very important that George Bush be reelected on November 2nd and that's
going to set the tone for the entire enterprise. (Applause.)
One of the things that I'm struck by, that I run into as I get around
the country now, the extent to which when you think about the kind of
attack that we suffered on 9/11, that sort of our front-line troops
aren't just those who are committed overseas. Obviously, they're doing
a lot of heavy lifting right now for us in Afghanistan and Iraq, and
we've got enormous respect and we appreciate everything they are doing
for us, but also our first responders here at home.
To the a greater extent than ever before, you've sort of got a need to
link together police and firefighters here at home, together with what
we're doing in terms of our international presence because, of course,
in New York, on 9/11, our police and firefighters in New York City were
some of the first ones into the buildings, and the ones who took
significant casualties, as well, too.
Another thing I like to remind people of, we owe an enormous debt of
gratitude to our men and women in uniform. There's no way we could do
what we've been -- (Applause.) We've got a lot of National Guard and
Reserve personnel that have been called up and deployed. They've all
got families, most of them, and they need -- they need to know here at
home that we support them, that we're here to do everything we can to
help ease the burden on the families for those folks who get called up
and have to leave whatever they're doing and deploy and go carry out
the mission because that's what they committed to do. But I think
there's an obligation on all of us to make certain that they know that
we'll look after their families here at home and do everything we can
to help while they're deployed overseas on our behalf. Those are just
some of the things that come to mind as a way that we can express our
gratitude and also help pick up some of the burden in terms of dealing
with issues. But -- you know firsthand, Bob, the price that is involved
in the conflict that we're now involved in.
Q Mr. Vice President, I just want to say, we -- the Price Hill
community are so proud to have you here, that it's just exciting and
thrilling. And we thank you for coming. I will say, if you're carrying
out, don't just stick with the Coneys, but you might try something
called a "Gotta and Cheese Omelet." (Laughter.) It is really
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sounds like good advice.
Q My question is a little closer to home. I am a small businessman
here in Price Hill. And over the last five plus years, we've really
seen an increase in crime. And I was wondering what you and the
President had to offer in the way of initiatives that help local police
take on gangs and drug activities here at the local levels because it
is a problem that we feel not as residents alone, but as business
owners alike. It really affects the community as a whole. It drives out
families. What do you have to offer that will help in this battle right
here on our streets?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously, law enforcement -- in terms of
the kinds of problems you're talking about focuses especially on state
and local responsibilities in the way our Constitution is. But clearly,
there's a role for the federal government in terms of backing up and
supporting -- working at addressing the narcotics trafficking problems,
for example, in the nation. It's an international issue.
One of the things the President has done is gotten very aggressive --
had the Justice Department get very aggressive in prosecuting gun
crimes, people who commit crimes with guns and violate our gun laws.
And prosecutions there are up about 64 percent over the course of the
last three-and-a-half, four years -- since we came into office.
It's very important to enforce the gun laws that are on the books.
It's a good way to limit the degree of violence that happens in this
society when people are involved in the commission of a crime using
weapons and so forth. It's very important that we go forward with
We've also continued to support funding for first responders -- a lot
that now coming through the Department of Homeland Security, but a lot
of it provides basic equipment and training to help bolster the
capabilities of local law enforcement. We've tried to free up some of
the federal funds that are there to give local communities more
flexibility in terms of how they spend the money that they do receive
from the federal government on the theory that you guys can better make
decisions here in Cincinnati what you need in Cincinnati than can a
bureaucracy in Washington, with respect to how we spend funds, in terms
of not trying to be quite so directive, in terms of saying we have to
spend it for X. We try to give those people flexibility whether they
want to make it -- they want to hire more cops, or maybe they want it
for training, or maybe they need some equipment of various kinds. But
those kinds of decisions will be made at the local level, so we try to
be supportive obviously, of those efforts. I know Steve has talked to
me about it -- Steve Chabot -- about some of your problems here in
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm a registered nurse. And right now there's a
health care crisis, mainly in the hospitals. My question to you is we
do have enough nurses to staff the hospital, however the nurses are no
longer in the hospital. Now, what is your remedy -- the President's
remedy to retain those nurses that they do stay in the hospitals, and
that we do have more men and women going into nursing school?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You mean you've got people who -- what, are
leaving the profession?
Q Yes, sir. They are leaving the profession. They are going into other
professions, as well as getting advanced degrees and going into other
areas of nursing besides staff nursing.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I know there has been a problem various
places around the country. In Wyoming, my home state, we've been having
real problems. There the focal point has been on problems of certain
medical specialties -- OB/GYNs, for example. We've lost about a fourth
of those in Wyoming.
Now, there the primary problem is because of the medical liability and
the consequences of rising malpractice insurance. And people -- docs
getting out of the business because they cannot afford to stay in the
business, or having to, in some cases, restrict their practice, screen
certain kinds of patients who are high-risk patients. We've got
communities now where people have lost access to physicians with the
right kind of specialties. And so they have to drive maybe a hundred
miles to find somebody who can provide the care they need.
We're also -- I think nursing, and the whole health care area is one
of the real growth industries from the standpoint of the future of our
economy. If you look at specialties that are going to be very much in
demand going forward, the especially as we see the baby boom generation
approach retirement age, there clearly is going to be an increased
demand for medical care and treatment of all kinds. And it strikes me
that that's one of the areas where young people who want a career just
starting out, in fact, ought to be encouraged to look.
Some of things we think need to be done there, you start with our
basic education system. And the other day, I looked at -- some
statistics showed that something like 83 percent of the expected
high-growth sectors, in terms of professions, employment in the future
will require some training beyond high school. So you got to make sure
kids come out of high school with the right kind of training, math and
reading skills. One of the things we're doing is taking the No Child
Left Behind Act that we got approved at the elementary level is now in
place and working, and apply that now to secondary schools, high
schools so that kids coming out of high school, whatever their
aspirations with respect to professions have got the requisite skills
to be able to take advantage of that.
We also want to make certain then that we provide the help and support
and assistance they need to be able to go to their local community
colleges, or through Pell grants to pursue a higher education and
further professional training that they need in order to be able to
take advantage of the options that are out there.
I know there have been some problems with respect to nursing in terms
of a shortage of being able to attract people into the profession. But
we need to continue to do whatever is necessary to do it.
One of the things we did, for example, in the Medicare legislation
this year with a lot of states -- I think this probably affected Ohio,
as well as my home state of Wyoming and others, where you've got rural
hospitals, and the way the old Medicare regulations worked, they did
not get reimbursed at rates adequate to the cost of the care they were
providing. And we made an adjustment in that basic formula now so that
significant additional funding is available to rural hospitals to be
able to pay the cost of maintaining a staff and various technologies,
and the cost of providing the care and treatment that they have to
provide and try to correct a significant inequity there. And I think
we've come to --
MRS. CHENEY: I just want to thank you for being a nurse. Whenever I
meet nurses or teachers, I just think thank you for what you do.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Other advice, counsel? I can take it right to the
Q Mr. Vice President?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q My question is -- has to do with Social Security. And it is in
response -- my question is in response to Senator Kerry's outrageous
complaining -- comments this weekend in which he announced that there
was going to be a January surprise.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q And it had to that there will be privatization of Social Security.
And also when he said that, he was in a large group, obviously. And he
said this privatization of Social Security is going to affect all of
your -- all of you medical -- or middle class people. All of you middle
class people. Here's my question, I am recently widowed and I am
recently retired. My husband died about a year after he retired, so as
a result of his death and our retirement, I had to reckon with our
Social Security and our retirement plans. And it became painfully aware
to me that had we been able to just manage -- privately manage a small
percentage of our Social Security contributions, I would have something
of his Social Security now. As it is, I, of course, get my Social
Security, plus I get a widow's benefit. But his Social Security is
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q And I just -- in comparison to what we were able to accumulate in
our IRAs and in our 401k, my question to you is, how could optional,
partial privatization of our security -- our Social Security
contribution, how does that affect negatively all that middle class?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, the comments that Senator Kerry made
this weekend were, I thought, outrageous.
Q Oh, good. (Laughter.) We are in agreement.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the amazing thing about it is -- I've been
involved in politics for a good part of the last -- nearly 40 years.
The first campaign I ever worked in as a young man was 1966. And since
then I've been a candidate for Congress six times, and now this is my
second run for Vice President. I've been in winning elections and
losing elections. But the thing that has happened frequently during
the course of that career is when we get down to the end of an
election, and our opponents are running behind, they start to peddle
this notion of, oh, my gosh, the Republicans are going to destroy
Social Security. I've heard it year after year after year. It's
absolutely not true. It is just as false as can be. For him to make
that suggestion is obviously geared strictly to trying to frighten
people into voting for him on the theory that somehow something will
happen to Social Security otherwise. This is dead wrong. It's not true.
He knows it's not true. That's the most -- the most appalling thing of
all is that he would consciously peddle something like that and scare
the heck out of, frankly, a lot of our senior citizens when he knows
it's not true.
Having said all of that, where we are with respect to Social Security
is that the trust fund is in good shape for those that are currently
retired, drawing benefits, and for those who will draw benefits any
time in the foreseeable future. The problem we're going to run into in
terms of the basic financial well being of the system is going to be a
bigger problem for those now in their 20s and 30s, people like my kids,
for example. And there are legitimate concerns there. They're worried
that by the time they reach retirement age 30 or 40 years from now,
there won't be anything there in the system. And there is going to be a
problem down the road. We know how many people are going to reach
retirement age. We know when they're going to reach that age. We know
how much money is flowing into the system, and there will be a problem
30 or 40 years down the road that we need to address. And the sooner we
begin to address it, the better.
What the President has talked about is doing something that you would
find, given the story that you told about your own circumstances,
attractive, and that is we allow that younger generation, on a
voluntary basis. It will be up to them, but to take a portion of their
payroll tax and invest it in something like a 401k. It would be an
approved plan that would earn a higher rate of return than what they'll
get out Social Security, and as you point out, it would be their
personal account. And in a circumstance down the road, such as you say
-- as you say when your husband passed away, that was it. You'd get the
widow's benefit but none of his retirement. And this would be a
situation where that would be a personal account of the person who is
retired, and they could pass it on to the next generation, if there are
funds left in it.
So it provides greater flexibility down the road. It's nothing that's
going to affect anybody who is currently retired today. This is the
kind of thing that is obviously going to be future-oriented for future
generations. But we also think it's important because it helps to the
extent you generate a higher rate of return, you begin to close the
funding gap that is going to exist out there 30 or 40 years down the
road. So we think it makes sense. We think it's something that needs to
be looked at and to be explored. We've talked about it. But the notion
that Senator Kerry has peddled that somehow there's a January surprise,
that the system is going to be quote "privatized" is just not true.
It's wrong. It's a distortion. I can think of stronger words to use,
but that's exactly where we're at, at this point.
He's done this now in a number of areas. You've heard this stuff about
the draft -- the draft comes back.
Q That's probably your next question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. (Laughter.) Let me get into it because
I served as Secretary of Defense back during the first Gulf War, back
in '89 to '93, and had the privilege of working with our military. And
one of the good things we've done in the last 30 years is the
all-volunteer force. It is a magnificent force. And in part it's so
good because those serving are ones who signed up to serve, wanted to
serve, want to be there. And the intriguing thing about it is that
going to the all-volunteer force forced the services to get much better
about how they manage themselves and deal with personnel questions.
For a long time when you operate on the draft, in effect, personnel
become a free good for the individual service, for the Army or the
Navy, or wherever it is, in fact, got the draftee coming in. And I
don't mean to take anything away from those who served in the past
under the draft. My dad was drafted in World War II and served in the
Navy and was always very proud of his service. But what the services
had to do when we went to the all-volunteer force was think about,
well, how do I attract and recruit first-rate people? Technology has
gotten tougher. We need a lot more training these days for people who
serve in the military. A lot of them are married. How do we make
certain that this is an attractive service for people with families, or
for young people who want to pursue their education? We provide the
educational benefits that they can take advantage of then after their
service. They've had to get much, much better at how they manage
themselves in order to be able to attract and retain first-rate people.
And they've done it.
And this notion of a draft makes no sense to anybody who is currently
serving, or any of our senior military commanders. There are only two
people I know of who have advocated the draft. They're both Democrats.
And one has been Fritz Hollings from South Carolina and Charlie Rangel
from New York. And this last week, or 10 day, they brought a bill up on
the floor in the House and actually voted on it. They said, okay, any
support out there for the draft? There were votes for it. Charlie
Rangel wasn't one of them, by the way. (Laughter.) And there is
absolutely no interest --
MRS. CHENEY: And they were both Democrats.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: They were both Democrats. There is absolutely no
interest in bringing back the draft. In terms of -- some people say,
well, if we have to expand the service, we'll have to go to the draft.
No. Today we have 1.4 million people on active duty. Another, I'm sure
how many -- close to a million, I guess, Guard and Reserve. When I was
Secretary, what, 12, 13 years ago, we had 2.1 million active duty
military personnel -- 700,000 more than we do today. And we did it all
with the volunteer force. So we can do whatever we have to do with the
programs we've got in place, the policies we've got in place, the all
volunteer force. And I don't know anybody who knows anything about the
subject who would suggest we want to go back to the draft. We do not.
And again, it's a classic example, I think, of John Kerry who will say
virtually anything in the closing days of the campaign to try to
frighten people into voting for him and against the President. It's
just wrong. It's dead wrong. I can't say it any more clearly than
He sat the other night 10 feet away from the President on the stage in
the debate and heard the President say exactly that, and he's out
peddling it when he knows it's not true.
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President, I just got the word that we've got time
for one more question, unfortunately. And I might want to mention here
that Chris Wesseler here, who is a Cincinnati firefighter is also a
veteran of both the first Gulf War --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Desert Storm?
MODERATOR: Yes, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, as well. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Where, if I might ask, where did you serve, who
you were serving with?
Q In Desert Storm I served with -- I'm sorry, 2nd MARDIV. And in Iraqi
Freedom I served with 1st MARDIV. I'm a local reservist here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Marine Reserve.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks for your service. We appreciate it.
Q I do work now with a program at PWST which is Peacetime Wartime
Support Team that I make sure my Marines are ready to go, and then when
they're gone, I take care of their families, which is a wonderful new
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's great.
MRS. CHENEY: Oh, thank you.
Q And I want to say that that's -- it does a lot for the country.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Great, well, thanks again for what you did for all
Q We're all in this together.
MODERATOR: Who has one great last question. Sam?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'll try to give two short answers.
Q I promise to be very brief. Mr. Vice President, I'd like to thank
you for giving us this opportunity to share our hearts with you. One of
the things that is very important for me as a former war veteran of the
United States Navy is when I was in the Navy I thought -- I saw what
(inaudible) was all about, then I come home and see it in a different
light (inaudible). But bearing that fact in mind, Cincinnati has a
unique problem of I think being a city with a -- smaller cities, which
is home ownership. A lot of home ownership in a lot of the cities in
the state of Ohio is (inaudible). Cincinnati (inaudible) about 39
percent. And I was just curious of what programs -- I know under
Alphonso Jackson, who has done a fantastic job of getting the numbers
up. But is there anything that could help out Cincinnati improve home
ownership because I think the communities are really feeling the
effects of the lack of home ownership.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we think home ownership is an important
concept. For the nation at large overall, home ownership is close to an
all-time record high, 64 percent, 65 percent. And it has improved in
the minority communities in recent years. But as you point out, there's
still -- there's a gap if you will. And we think it's important to try
to close that gap as much as possible. Alphonso Jackson who is the
Secretary of HUD has done a superb job of continuing to push those
programs. I know Steve has worked on it -- as well as Mike DeWine and
Rob Portman have been very supportive of efforts in these areas. A key
is making credit available at affordable rates and making certain that
basic fundamental programs are in place so that people can get the
financing they need and be able to acquire and build up, if you will,
the equity that goes with home ownership, provides for stable
communities. People have got a stake in the community to a greater
extent than if they're not living in a home that they own themselves.
And that's a lesson we've learned not only here in the United States,
but around the world. It does change the character of the nature of the
society, people's ties to their local community. And it's a very
important effort that we need to kind of continue to promote and
Q Mr. Vice President, I want to thank you and your lovely wife. And I
want to tell you that you're doing a marvelous job in Washington, D.C.
I am originally from Charlotte, North Carolina. I grew up during the
time of segregation, and it was also during that time that men and
women black and white stood up and took a righteous stand for life and
for those that were being neglected.
We now have a moral issue facing us also, and that's one of life. And
I'm wanting to know what I might to do -- what we might do to get
people to vote for you and your stance for life?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we think this is a very important issue, as
well, too. The President has spoken about it. He addressed it the other
night in the debate. It came up. We believe very deeply in the culture
of life, that we need to welcome every child into the world protected
in law, that clearly the issues with respect that surround abortion,
for example -- deep divisions within the country in terms of how people
feel about that. And the thing that we think makes -- best makes sense
is to look for areas where we can come together and build a majority of
support for ways to reduce the incidence of abortion. And that one of
the ways to do that has been, for example, the ban on partial birth
abortion. We think it's a very significant development. Congress passed
it twice during the Clinton administration. The President vetoed it
both times. We got it passed again now, and the President signed it
into law. It's now the law of the land. It's being challenged in court.
And there will be -- that's got to be worked out in the courts. But
it's overwhelmingly supported by the American people. It's one of those
areas where we've been able to come together and support a sensible
proposition that will, in fact, the effect long-term of reducing the
incidence of abortion. There are other examples. Parental notification
strikes me as another area where the potential is for that -- looking
for ways to encourage, promote adoption as an alternative, a number of
things like that where we can get I think support across the broad base
that people within the community who will, in fact, step and support
those kinds of efforts. A lot of things we can do through faith-based
organizations, as well -- working with young people. Again, with the
objective in mind here, as I say, let's find those areas where we can
make a positive contribution and move in the direction of making
abortion -- reducing the incidence of it every chance we get. It's
something the President believes in very deeply. He's supportive. And
we think it's the right way to go.
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President -- (applause) -- again, thank you and
your bride for coming here today. I know there are a lot of other folks
here in Price Hill Chili. If we could make a quick round and meet some
folks, we'd love to do that. But we really appreciate you and President
Bush being here for us. So thank you very much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Let me thank the Beltsoses
for hosting this and thank everybody for coming by today, good to see
END 4:50 P.M. EDT