print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
In Focus
News by Date
Federal Facts
West Wing

 Home > News & Policies > October 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 28, 2004

President's Remarks in Saginaw, Michigan
Dow Event Center
Saginaw, Michigan

9:16 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Thanks for coming out to say hello. I got to tell me, you have lifted my spirits, for which I am grateful. (Applause.) It's good to be back in Saginaw. I'm grateful so many of you came out to say hello. Listen, I'm traveling your state asking for the vote and asking for your help. (Applause.) It is close to voting day. We have a duty in our country to vote. (Applause.) In our free land, free citizens must vote. And so I'm asking you to get your friends and neighbors to go to the polls, turn out our fellow Republicans, find independents who understand we have a better tomorrow ahead of us, and don't overlook discerning Democrats. (Applause.) Tell your fellow citizens that if they want a safer country, a stronger country, and a better country, to put me and Dick Cheney back in office. (Applause.)

My only regret is that Laura is not here to see this fantastic crowd. (Applause.) She headed off to campaign today in Florida. (Applause.) You know, when I asked her to marry me, she said, I'll marry you, but make me a promise. I said, what is it? She said, promise me I will never have to give a political speech. (Laughter.) I'm sure some of you can relate to that. I said, okay, you got a deal. Fortunately, she didn't hold me to that deal. She is giving a lot of speeches, and when she does the American people see a strong, compassionate, great First Lady. (Applause.) Perhaps the most important reason why people ought to put me back in office is so that Laura will be the First Lady for four more years. (Applause.)

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

THE PRESIDENT: I am -- I am proud of my running mate, Dick Cheney. (Applause.) He is doing a great job. Although, I admit, he does not have the waviest hair in the race. (Laughter.) You will be pleased, I didn't pick him because of his hairdo. I picked him because of his experience; I picked him because of his judgment; I picked him because he can get the job done for the American people. (Applause.)

I'm proud to call Dave Camp my friend, and I know you're proud to call him, Congressman. (Applause.) And I want to thank Terri Lynn Lann for joining us, the Secretary of State for the great state of Michigan. (Applause.) And I wish Myrah Kirkwood all the best in her run for the United States Congress. (Applause.) I want to thank Betsy DeVos and all the grassroots activists who are here. I want to thank the Saline Fiddlers. I want to thank the Saginaw Area Band. (Applause.) I want to thank the Wil Gravatt Band for joining us. Thank you for entertaining this good crowd.

Most of all, I want to thank you all. I want to thank you for what you have done on behalf of my candidacy and what you're going to do. (Applause.) By working the phones, by getting people to -- by reminding people of their duty to vote, by putting up the signs, by turning out that vote, there is no doubt in my mind, we will carry Michigan and win a great victory in November. (Applause.)

Five days -- five days from now the people go to the polls. We are choosing the leader of our country at a time of great consequence to our nation. We're at war against a terrorist enemy unlike any we have ever seen. We have much more to do to win a decisive victory against the terrorists. (Applause.) The most important duty of the American President is to protect the American people. (Applause.) If America shows uncertainty or weakness in these troubling times, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch. (Applause.)

Our economy is in the midst of change and challenge. It can be a great time of opportunity if we have the right policies that strengthen, rather than stall our economic growth. We have much more to do to create jobs, to improve our children's education, to make health care available and affordable, and to strengthen Social Security for our seniors and for generations to come. And I am ready for the job. (Applause.)

My years as your President -- my years as your President have confirmed some lessons and have taught me some new ones. A President must have a vision; a President must set goals and bring people together to achieve those goals. A President must surround himself with strong, capable people. And I have done so. (Applause.) A President must make America's priorities crystal-clear in this uncertain world. I've learned to expect the unexpected, because history can deliver sudden horror from a soft autumn sky. I found you better know what you believe, or risk being tossed to and fro by the flattery of friends, or the chorus of the critics. (Applause.)

I've been grateful for the lessons I have learned from my parents: respect every person, do your best, and live every day to its fullest. (Applause.) I have been strengthened by my faith and humbled by its reminder that my life is part of a much bigger story. (Applause.) I've learned firsthand how hard it is to send young men and women into battle, even when the cause is right. I've been reminded that the world looks to America for leadership, and that it is crucial for an American President to be consistent. (Applause.)

Perhaps most of all, I've learned the American President must make decisions on principle, core convictions from which you must not waver. The issues vary, the challenges are different every day. Tactics and strategy must be flexible. But a President's convictions must be steady and true. (Applause.) As Presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan so clearly demonstrated, a President cannot blow in the wind. A President has to make tough decisions and stand by them. (Applause.)

A President must follow the -- must not follow the path of the latest polls. (Applause.) A President must lead based on conviction and conscience. (Applause.) Especially in a time of war, mixed signals only confuse our friends, embolden our enemies. Mixed signals are the wrong signals for the American President to send. (Applause.)

When America chooses a President, you choose not just a set of positions on issues or a philosophy or record, you choose a human being who comes with strengths and weaknesses. One of the things I've learned about the presidency is, whatever your strengths are, you're going to need them; and whatever your shortcomings are, people are going to notice them. Sometimes I'm a little too blunt. I get that from my mother. (Applause.) Sometimes I mangle the English language. (Laughter.) I get that from my dad. (Laughter.) But Americans have learned that when you disagree with me, at least you know what I believe and where I stand. (Applause.)

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

THE PRESIDENT: You cannot say that about my opponent. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry has taken a lot of different positions, but he rarely takes a stand. (Applause.) He's run a campaign of contradictions. I think it's fair to say, consistency is not the Senator's strong suit. (Laughter.) He was for the Patriot Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, until he was against key provisions of both of them. He voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, and then said I was wrong to use that force.


THE PRESIDENT: When I sent troops into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power, he said it was the right decision. Now he says it was the wrong war.


THE PRESIDENT: During one of our debates, he said Saddam Hussein was a threat, and then a couple of answers later, he said there was no threat in Iraq.


THE PRESIDENT: Just last year -- just last year, American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq needed $87 billion for body armor, hazard pay, vehicles, weapons, and bullets, necessary funding, funding that would keep a commitment we have made to our soldiers and their loved ones they will have what is necessary to complete their mission. (Applause.) Something the veterans in this crowd understand, the government must support those in harm's way. (Applause.) And I say thanks to our veterans from the bottom of a grateful heart. (Applause.)

Back to the $87 billion. First Senator Kerry said it would be irresponsible to vote against the troops. That's what he said on TV, national TV. Then he did the irresponsible thing and voted against the funding for our troops.


THE PRESIDENT: Now, they asked him -- they asked him about that vote, and you might remember perhaps the most famous quote of the 2004 campaign when he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Pressed further to explain his vote, he's given several explanations. One of the most interesting was this: "The whole thing was a complicated matter." (Laughter.) There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat. (Applause.)

You have to wonder why my opponent has taken such different positions at different places and different times in this campaign. I think you'll find two reasons -- (laughter) -- I think you'll find two reasons why. Senator Kerry changes positions because he's willing to say anything he thinks will help him politically at the time. (Applause.) And he does so to try to obscure a 20-year record, 20 years of out-of-the-mainstream votes. That leads to an inescapable conclusion. Senator Kerry has been wrong -- on the wrong side of the defining national security and domestic policy debates for the last two decades. He can run from his record, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

Several times during the course of this campaign, the Senator has changed his positions for political convenience. The Senator recognized Saddam Hussein was a threat and authorized force to remove him, until his Democratic opponent Howard Dean began gaining ground as an anti-war candidate. And then he decided he had to appeal to that wing of his party, so he voted against the troops, after voting to put them at risk in the first place. See, he looked at the polls, and changed positions. The Senator -- the Senator was all for removing Saddam Hussein when we went into Baghdad. He was very supportive when we captured him. After all, the polls showed that that was very popular at the time. When the going got tough, and when we faced determined opposition and things weren't quite so popular, the Senator suddenly wasn't quite so supportive. In fact, he changed his mind entirely, deciding it was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.


THE PRESIDENT: It's important for the citizens of Michigan to think about this. What does that lack of conviction say to our troops who are risking their lives in a vital cause? (Applause.) What does it say -- what does it say to our allies who have joined us in that cause? What does that lack of conviction signal to our enemies? That if you make things uncomfortable, if you stir up trouble, John Kerry will back off? And that's a very dangerous signal to send during this time. (Applause.)

This week Senator Kerry is again attacking the actions of our military in Iraq, with complete disregard for the facts. Senator Kerry will say anything to get elected. (Applause.) The Senator's willingness to trade principle for political convenience makes it clear that John Kerry is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time. (Applause.)

And there's another reason -- another reason the Senator changes positions. He doesn't want you to know where he really stands. (Laughter.) He doesn't want you to know where he stands on national security, because he has a record of weakness. When Ronald Reagan was confronting the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, Senator Kerry proposed cancellation of critical defense weapons systems, and said that President Reagan's policy of peace through strength was making America less safe.


THE PRESIDENT: History has shown -- history has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong, and President Ronald Reagan was right. (Applause.)

Former President Bush led a coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1991. Senator Kerry voted against using force to liberate Kuwait. If his view had prevailed, Saddam Hussein today would dominate the Middle East, possess the world's most dangerous weapons. History has shown that John Kerry was wrong, and former President Bush was right. (Applause.)

In 1994, just one year after the first bombing of the World Trade Center, Senator Kerry proposed massive cuts in America's intelligence budgets, cuts so extreme that even his Massachusetts colleague, Ted Kennedy opposed them. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and -- we have got to be fair -- Senator Kennedy was right. (Laughter and applause.)

When you are one senator among a hundred, you can be wrong without consequence. But the President's opinion decides the security and the fate of our country. (Applause.) And while the Senator's 20-year record of votes is long, it's also lacking of significant reform or achievement. He talks about bringing new allies to the war against terror if somehow countries that have not yet been involved might want to join what he calls the wrong war. (Laughter.) Yet he has not history of convincing even his colleagues in the United States Senate to join him on signature reforms or achievements.

The next four years, I will work with our friends and allies, we will strengthen our coalition, 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: The security of our country is at stake. Senator Kerry says September the 11th, in his words, "did not change him much at all." That's what he said.


THE PRESIDENT: And his policies make that clear. The Senator says the war on terror is primarily a law enforcement and intelligence-gathering operation. He says his goal is to go back to the days of the 1990s when terrorism was seen as a nuisance --


THE PRESIDENT: -- fought with subpoenas and cruise missiles.

Well, September the 11th changed my outlook for the world. It made it crystal-clear to me the dangers we face. A few days after the attacks, I went to Ground Zero, September the 14th, 2001. I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day I will never forget. The sights and sounds of that day are always in my mind -- workers in hard hats there yelling at the top of their lungs, "Whatever it takes." A man coming out of the rubble grabbed me by the arm, he looked me in the eye, and he said, "Do not let me down." Ever since that day, I wake up every morning thinking how to -- thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes. (Applause.)

There are other things about his views and his ideas the Senator really doesn't want you to know about. You might remember the debate when they asked him about his health care plan. He looked straight in the camera and said, the government doesn't have anything to do with it. I could barely contain myself. (Laughter.) The government has got a lot to do with it. Eighty percent of the people end up, under his idea, on a government plan. When you increase Medicaid eligibility, it means small businesses will likely stop writing insurance because the government will provide the insurance. That moves people from the private sector to the public sector when it comes to health care. And, see, when the government starts paying the money, the government starts writing the rules. And when the government starts writing the rules, when it comes to your health care, the government starts making decisions for you and decisions for your doctors and rationing care. Senator Kerry's plan for health care for America is the wrong prescription. (Applause.)

We will make health care more affordable and available for our citizens. We will expand community health centers to help the poor and the indigent. We'll make sure our program for low-income children is fully subscribed. We'll expand health savings accounts to help our businesses and families with innovative ways to manage -- so you can manage your own health care account. We understand small businesses provide important insurance to the workers, and yet, many small businesses are having trouble affording health care, so we'll allow small businesses to join together so they can buy insurance at the same discounts that big companies are able to do. (Applause.)

And we understand that these frivolous lawsuits are running up the cost of health care for small businesses, for patients, and they're running good doctors out of practice. (Applause.) You cannot be pro-doctor, pro-patient and pro-personal injury trial lawyer at the same time. You have to make a choice. My opponent made his choice and he put a personal injury trial lawyer on the ticket.


THE PRESIDENT: I made my choice. I'm standing with the doctors of Michigan, I'm standing with the patients of Michigan. I am for medical liability reform now. (Applause.)

This campaign, the Senator doesn't want you to know where he really stands on taxes. He's going to raise them. To be fair, raising taxes is one of the few things that he's been consistent about. You might say he's made a habit out of it. See, he's been in the United States Senate 20 years and he's voted to raise taxes 98 times. That's five times for every year he's been in the Senate. I'd call it a predictable pattern, an early warning indicator. (Laughter.)

You know, when we reduced the taxes for our families by raising the child credit and doing something about the marriage penalty, he voted against it. He voted against that tax relief at a vital time. Plus, he's decided to raise $2.2 million [sic] in new federal spending. He's going to spend it. That's what he said. He said, I'm going to spend $2.2 trillion new money, when you add up all his promises. He doesn't really want to clarify that. That's $2.2 trillion with a "T." That's a lot. That is a lot even for a senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter.)

And so they asked him, how are you going to pay for it? They said, how are you going to pay for it? He said, oh, I'm just going to tax the rich. Now, people in Saginaw, Michigan, have heard that before. You see, if you raise the top two brackets, it raises $600 billion to $800 billion. That is short of the $2.2 trillion. That's called a tax gap. (Laughter.) And guess who usually has to fill that tax gap.


THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you do. The good news is, we're not going to let him tax you. We're going to carry Michigan and win a victory. (Applause.)

No, the Senator doesn't really want to talk about his record, and there is a reason why. There is a mainstream in American politics, and he sits on the far left bank. I'm a compassionate conservative, and proudly so. (Applause.) I'm more than happy to travel our country talking about my record, talking about a record that has made America a stronger place, and a safer place, and a better place. (Applause.)

When you're rounding up the vote, remind people what this economy has been through. Six months prior to my arrival in Washington, the stock market was in serious decline, which foretold a recession. And then we had some corporate scandals. Passed -- we passed tough laws, and we have made it abundantly clear that we're not going to tolerate dishonesty in the board rooms of America. (Applause.) And then the attacks came, and they cost us about a million jobs in the three months after September the 11th.

But we acted. I led the Congress to cut the taxes on the American people to encourage consumption and investment, to stimulate the small business sector of our economy, and our policies are paying off. (Applause.) We're growing at rates as fast as any in nearly 20 years. We have added 1.9 million jobs in the last 13 months. The farmers in Michigan are making a living. The small business owners are alive and well. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong. (Applause.) The home ownership rate in America is at an all-time high. More minorities own a home than ever before in our nation's history. (Applause.) The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent. Let me put that in perspective for you. That is lower than the average rate of the 1970s, and the 1980s, and the 1990s. (Applause.)

I understand there are some people hurting in Michigan, but that's not a reason to go back to tax and spend. The best way to make sure people can find work is to continue to promote a pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur, pro-small business economic policy, which is what we have done. Our economy is strong and it is getting stronger. (Applause.)

When I ran -- when I was running for President four years ago, I promised to do something about the public schools. I told the American people I was troubled by a system that would shuffle children through, grade after grade, year after year, without teaching the basics. I call that the soft bigotry of low expectations. So I promised to reform our system. I kept my word. (Applause.) We've increased spending, particularly for minority students and poor students. But in return, we've now said, show us whether or not a child can read and write and add and subtract. See, you can't solve a problem until you diagnose the problem. And as a result of the system in place, the system that says we're going to set high standards for every child, we're diagnosing problems and we're solving them. Math and reading scores are up across this country. We are closing an achievement gap for minority students. And we're not going to go back to the days of mediocrity and excuses for failure in our public schools. (Applause.)

When I ran for President four years ago, I promised to improve Medicare by adding prescription drugs. I kept my word. (Applause.) You might remember the old Medicare debates. They would call it "Mediscare," because politicians wouldn't talk about it. I came to Washington to solve problems. We had a problem in Medicare. Medicare would pay thousands of dollars for the heart surgery. but not one dime for the prescription drugs that could prevent the heart surgery from being needed in the first place. Now we've strengthened Medicare. We've modernized Medicare. Beginning in 2006, all seniors will be able to get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. (Applause.)

My opponent voted against that bill that provided prescription drug coverage for our seniors --


THE PRESIDENT: -- even though AARP and other senior groups supported it. As your President the next four years, I will defend the reforms we put in place for our seniors. We will keep our promise to America's seniors with modern medicine. (Applause.)

When I ran for President, I said we would help those who need help in America. We would help those who could not help themselves. I said government should not discriminate against faith-based and community groups who provide compassionate care for the broken heart. And now our government welcomes those groups as partners in meeting the needs of those who need hope and those who need help. (Applause.)

I said we would help the poor and the indigent with health care, and we've expanded community health centers all across this country, and we will continue to do so. We've doubled funding for medical research into new cures and diseases, just like I said I would do during the campaign. As we pursued threats around the world, as we have used our might to protect ourselves and to protect others, we have also delivered American compassion. We've dramatically increased funding to combat AIDS and to help developing countries who are making good governance decisions and investing in their future.

We're pursuing a forward strategy of freedom around the world. We're promoting democracy. I want you to tell your children about what has taken place in a brief period of time in this world. You know, it wasn't all that long ago that young girls couldn't go to school in Afghanistan because the country was run by ideologues of hate called the Taliban. And if their mothers didn't toe the line, they would be pulled into the public squares and whipped and sometimes shot in a sports stadium. They were backward. The society was grim and dark. Because we acted to defend ourselves, because we upheld the doctrine that said if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist, millions of people in Afghanistan went to the polls to vote for a President, and the first voter was a 19-year-old woman. (Applause.)

There will be election in Iraq in January. Think how far that society has come from the days of torture chambers and mass graves. Freedom is on the march. (Applause.) Liberty will transform societies. I believe everybody yearns to be free. I believe this not because freedom is America's gift to the world; I believe this because freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world. (Applause.)

The role of a President is to confront problems, not to pass them on to future generations and future Presidents. That is how I have led, and that is how I will continue to lead our great nation. (Applause.) We will keep your taxes low so this economy continues to grow. We will work on the education reforms and take them to our high schools. We will expand Pell grants for low- and middle-income families so more of our children can start their career with a college degree. (Applause.) We'll make sure that health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by officials in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

We'll keep the promise of Social Security for our seniors. You might remember the 2000 campaign. Perhaps the same thing is happening in this campaign. It's kind of the old, tired scare tactics. They said if George W. gets elected, our seniors aren't going to get their checks. That's what they said four years ago. Please tell your friends and neighbors, George W. did get elected, and our seniors did get their checks. (Applause.) Our seniors will continue to get their checks.

Baby boomers like me and a couple others out there I see, we're in pretty good shape when it comes to the Social Security trust. But we need to worry about our children and our grandchildren. We need to worry about whether or not a -- Social Security will be available for them when they retire. I believe younger workers ought to be able to take some of their payroll taxes and set up a personal savings account, a personal savings account that earns a better rate of return than the Social Security trust, an account they call their own, an account the government cannot take away. (Applause.)

Over the next four years, I'm going to work with Republicans and Democrats to do something about the tax code. It is a complicated mess. It is a million pages long. We need to make the tax code easier to understand and more fair for the American people. (Applause.)

Over the next four years, I will defend the values that are important for our families and our nation. (Applause.) Marriage and family are the foundations of our society, and we will keep them strong. (Applause.) I believe that this society must promote a culture of life. I was proud to sign the ban on partial birth abortion. (Applause.) I stand -- I stand and will continue to stand for the appointment of federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law. (Applause.)

My opponent and I differ on these issues. Look at his record. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, and voted against the ban on partial birth abortion.


THE PRESIDENT: He said he -- he said there would be a litmus test for his judges. And at one point in this campaign, he said that you can find the heart and soul of America in Hollywood.


THE PRESIDENT: The heart and soul of America is found in caring communities like Saginaw, Michigan. (Applause.)

Now, I'm looking forward to the rest of this campaign. I like talking about what we have done to make it clear to the American people I intend to do what I say I'm going to do during the next four years. (Applause.) I got a hopeful vision for this country. I see a better day coming. That stands in contrast with my opponent, who has offered a long litany of complaints without a significant record.

One of my favorite quotes that I hope helps you understand how I feel about our great country comes from a fellow Texan named Tom Lea. He said, "Sarah and I live on the east side of the mountain. It's the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that is gone." During the course of this campaign, my opponent has spent much time talking about the day that is gone. I'm talking about the day that is coming. (Applause.)

I see a -- I see a prosperous America where people are able to realize their dreams. I see an education system that challenges our children so that no child is left behind. I see a compassionate health care system run by you, where doctors aren't being sued every day. (Applause.) I see a world that is free and, therefore, peaceful. I see the peace that we all long for our children and our grandchildren.

When I traveled your state four years ago, I made you this pledge, that if I was elected, I would uphold the honor and the dignity of the office. (Applause.) With your help -- with your help and with your hard work, I will do so for four more years.

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

END 10:02 A.M. EDT