For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 26, 2004
Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks in Wilmington, Ohio
Roberts Convention Center
October 25, 2004
5:16 P.M. EDT
MRS. CHENEY: Well, thank you so much. What a great crowd, what a great welcome. Please sit down. What a beautiful day. As we drove over here, I couldn't help but think what a gorgeous part of the country you live in, the blue sky, and -- (Applause.) It is wonderful. And we frequently -- it just frequently occurs to me how proud we all ought to be, to be Americans and live in this great country. (Applause.)
Sometimes I think I'll make a list of all the things we have to be proud of. And if I were to do that, right at the top of it, I'd put our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.) He has been a wonderful leader these past four years, and if you'll permit me to say so, the Vice President is no slouch either. (Applause.)
Well, being here in Clinton County is a great thing. I understand it is Bush-Cheney country. (Applause.) And we appreciate how hard you are working to get out every vote. We really do appreciate that. It's looking good. You look at -- it's going to be close, but we're a little bit ahead. That's kind of where you want to be, not a little bit ahead, a little bit ahead, right? But you see all these polls, and I got the most heartening news this morning from my 10-year-old granddaughter. Apparently, the Weekly Reader has conducted a poll every presidential election since 1956. They have never been wrong. And George W. Bush won by a landslide. (Applause.)
Well, I get to introduce Dick because I have known him for so long. I have known him since he was 14 years old. This is true. And that summer when I first knew him, he was sweeping out the Ben Franklin store in Casper, Wyoming. That was his job. And I've known him through many jobs since. I've known him since he was digging ditches at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Grounds. And I've known him since he was loading bentonite -- 100-pound sacks of bentonite onto railroad cars. And I've known him since he was building power line all across the West to pay his way through school. And I like to tell those stories because I think when you grow up working hard, you learn some really important lessons. And one of those lessons is that the hard working people of this country ought to get to keep as much of their paychecks as possible. (Applause.)
Well, I appreciated being introduced as a grandmother. I'm a grandmother -- I'm a mother. I don't see too many grandmothers here today, actually. Oh, okay, grandmother power is here. There are so many important elections -- issues in this election, so many things that I care about and I know you do, too, but when I think of it, I think first of my kids and my grandkids. And I think about keeping them safe, keeping them secure. And we all know -- in our realistic moments, we all know that the terrorists will try to come after us again. They'll try. And I ask myself when that happens, who do I want to have standing in the doorway protecting us. And I'll tell you it is not John Kerry. It is not John Edwards. It is George Bush. And, ladies and gentlemen, it is my husband, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. That was a pretty good introduction.
MRS. CHENEY: Like that? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: She's getting good at this, and we've got eight days to go. But we're delighted to be back in Ohio again. I want to thank Mike Turner. And I understand Rob Portman is here someplace. There he is. Hey, Rob. They do a great job for the folks here in Ohio. They're great friends of mine, and they are obviously some of the leaders in the Congress today. You're going to hear a lot from these two gentlemen in the years ahead, as well. And I'm delighted to be with them here today, and to have them spend some time with all of us.
This is obviously the closing stages of the campaign, and we're out among them, you might say, traveling all across the country. We started in Washington this morning. We've been in Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota since then. And when we leave here, we'll be in Florida. And we'll spend tomorrow in Florida. But we'll be back in Ohio again before the week is out. So we're delighted to be here.
It's true Lynne has known me since I was 14, but she wouldn't go out with me until I was 17. (Laughter.) I tell people that we -- actually, we got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States. In those days, I was a youngster living in Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected; reorganized the government; Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming. And that's where I met Lynne, and we grew up together, and went to high school together and recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) Lynne says -- Lynne says 40 more years. (Laughter.) I wonder why the mike quit right then. (Laughter.) But I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) But it's true. I'm absolutely certain of it.
What we like do at these town hall meetings is have an opportunity -- I've got some thoughts I'd like to share with you on one of the major issues in the campaign this year. But then we'll open it up and have an opportunity for you to ask questions, or make comments. I try not to use up all the time with talk. But there are some very important issues out there this year. This is -- I just figured out the other day -- the 15th campaign I've been involved in, starting back the first time when I worked for a gubernatorial candidate in 1966. About half that time I've had my own name on the ballot, half the time I was working for somebody else. But in all those years, I've never seen an election that I think has the significance that this one does, in terms of the choice we're going to make about who our President is going to be for the next four years. And let me spend a little bit of time on that this morning -- this afternoon, I guess. Who's keeping track?
But I'm especially concerned and focused on this question of national security and the war on terror and how we defend the nation and guarantee the safety and security of our kids and grandkids and those future generations. And I think this is one of those special times in our history that comes along every once in a while, maybe every 50 years, when something happens, a new threat emerges and we have to organize ourselves and develop a new strategy, sometimes create new organizations, new alliances in order to deal with that threat.
I think back to the period right after World War II, after we'd won the tremendous victories in Europe and the Pacific, and then all of a sudden in the late 1940s, we were faced with a new threat, the Soviet Union, armed with nuclear weapons, all of a sudden occupied half of Europe and was clearly an emerging threat to the United States.
That forced us to create new institutions. That's when we created the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and reconfigure our military forces. And we put in place a strategy that was then sort of the foundation of American security from then until 1989, 1990, really for about 40 years, supported by Republican and Democratic administrations alike.
I think we're at again one of those sort of basic, fundamental turning points in American history where we have a new threat, the global terrorist threat, Islamic extremists, a perverted view of Islam, that have launched terrorist attacks not only here in the United States, but since 9/11 around the globe. A different kind of threat than we've ever had to deal with before. It calls on us to develop a new strategy for how we're going to deal with it and defeat. And that's what I want to focus on a bit today because I think that feeds directly into the question of who do you want to select then as the Commander-in-Chief for the next four years, and obviously, to help lay that groundwork, that foundation to guide us as we put in a place a strategy that I think will have significance far beyond that.
9/11 was unique for several reasons. Obviously, it was the worst attack ever on American soil. We lost more people that morning than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And we learned that the terrorists could easily gain access to our country, that with the price of a boarding pass and box cutters and a little bit of training, they were able to take over aircraft and do grievous damage in New York City, Washington, D.C., and, obviously in rural Pennsylvania, where United 93 went in.
We've also learned that the threat ultimately was bigger than that because we've found since 9/11 in interrogating people that have been captured, part of the al Qaeda organization, looking at their activities, the training manuals and so forth, that they also are trying very hard to get their hands on deadlier weapons. That their objective here isn't just to be satisfied with the devastating damage they wrought on 9/11, but rather to try to make the pain and problem far more significant -- that is to say, they're trying to acquire chemical or biological agent, or even a nuclear weapon. And the threat we have to defeat is the possibility of a group of terrorists in the middle of one of our own cities with a weapon of mass destruction. And of course, that would threaten the lives of potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans. And that's what we have to overcome. So when you think about a threat of that scale, then you've obviously got to put together a strategy. And ours has several parts -- things we've done since 9/11. We've obviously spent a lot of time hardening our defenses, that is improving our ability to defend the nation here at home -- created the Department of Homeland Security, biggest reorganization of the federal government since the Defense Department was created back in the late '40s; the Patriot Act that gives new tools to law enforcement to prosecute terrorists, the same tools that are now available for drug traffickers, and for organized crime -- now, we're able to apply them in the case of terrorism; Project BioShield, which provides money and authority for the federal government to develop defenses against attack with biological weapons. All those kinds of steps -- toughening up the airline situation, improving our border defenses, and surveillance, doing a better job with respect to inspecting cargo coming into our ports. All of those are basically defensive steps, a very important part of the overall strategy.
But given the nature of the threat, terrorists with WMD, we can't afford to fail. We can be successful 999 times out of 1000, then the one time they get through with that kind of capability, we'd be devastated. So it's not enough to say we're going to have good defense. So the President made a key decision, and that was that we're also going to go on offense. That is to say that we'll use the full might and power of the United States to go after terrorists wherever they are, wherever they plan and organize to come at the United States. And also -- and this is a significant new step -- that we will use the power of the United States to go after and to hold to account those individuals, organizations, states that sponsor terror -- state sponsors of terror become a key target. That's new. We had not operated that way previously.
Of course, the way we implemented the strategy, first, we went into Afghanistan, we took down the Taliban. We captured and killed hundreds of al Qaeda. We closed the training camps where an estimated 20,000 terrorists had trained in the late '90s, including some of those who struck us on 9/11. After that then, the follow-on is to stand up a democratically elected government in Afghanistan. Why do you do that? Well, it doesn't do any good to go in and clean the place out and then walk away and leave a failed state behind. It will simply revert back to form and begin once again to become a breeding ground for terror.
So the Afghans -- we've worked closely with them. We set up an interim government. They've registered 10 million people to vote, over 40 percent of those women. The held elections two weeks ago, the first elections in the 5,000-year history of that country. (Applause.) They've now finished counting the votes. Hamid Karzai is the winner. There'll be a democratically elected government in place in Afghanistan by the end of the year. And that's absolutely crucial.
The other thing that has to happen in Afghanistan is that they've got to have security forces trained and equipped, and stood up capable of taking on the responsibilities for securing their own country. And we're actively and aggressively involved in that effort, as well, too. Once we've done those two things, once they're capable and have a government in place, and once they're capable of taking on and defending themselves and providing for their own security, then the United States is no longer required to be in Afghanistan. We're making significant progress in a little over three years now, just about three years since we launched there.
Iraq -- somewhat different proposition. There we had in Saddam Hussein, a man who has started two wars, had for 12 years violated the requirements of the U.N. Security Council, a man who had historically produced and used weapons of mass destruction previously; had chemical and biological agents that he's produced and used chemical weapons on the Iranians and the Kurds; and had, as well, been a safe harbor, a sanctuary, if you will, for terrorists, had provided a home for Abu Nidal, for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers, and also had a relationship with al Qaeda.
Given that, we felt that that was the place where the potential nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction was most likely to occur -- given his history, his track record, his capability. And obviously, we believe today the world is a whale of a lot better off because Saddam Hussein is in jail instead of in his palace. (Applause.)
And we're also proceeding with the other two steps in Iraq. We've got an interim Iraqi government in place, took over in June. They've held their first national assembly. They'll have elections in January for a constitutional assembly that will write a constitution for Iraq. And by the end of next year, they'll have nationwide elections to put a new government in place, as well. We're also spending a lot of time and effort now standing up and training Iraqi forces to provide for their own security. There should be about 125,000 in place by the end of the year, and we'll continue to add to that right on through next year.
That's the strategy. That's the plan. That's where we're headed. That's what needs to be done. The effort from the standpoint of what has been accomplished to day I think is very impressive when you think about it and back off. Remember, we've liberated 50 million people. We've ended two of the bloodiest regimes in the world. We have also as a result of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan had a salutary development elsewhere. People watched and saw what the President of the United States did in those two countries. And Moammar Ghadafi in Libya who had spent millions of dollars trying to acquire nuclear weapons contacted Tony Blair and George Bush. And five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, he went public and announced he was giving up all of his nuclear materials, the uranium, the centrifuges, the weapons designs. (Applause.) And one of the important things to remember here is that when it was time to do that, he didn't call the United Nations. He got hold of Tony Blair and George Bush. (Applause.) But all of that material is now here under lock and key in the United States. And he's out of the WMD business.
At the same time, that let us go after the network that had supplied him with these materials. It was headed up by a man named A.Q. Khan, a Pakistani who had developed Pakistan's program, but then turned to the dark side, took the network that he had developed and began to peddle that technology, nuclear weapons technology not only to Libya, but he also sold to the Iranians and to North Korea. Very positive developments. Would not have occurred if it hadn't been for what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Given all of that, I think we can look on that and feel very good about what has been accomplished. But we shouldn't underestimate about how difficult it is going forward. This is hard work. This is very tough work. We know we're up against some tough adversaries in Iraq, and a man named Zarqawi, you've heard about. He's an al Qaeda affiliate, just recently pledged -- or re-pledged loyalty, if you will, to Osama bin Laden. He was running a training camp in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. When we went in there, he fled to Baghdad in Iraq. He operated out of there ever since. He's responsible for a lot of the bloodshed in Iraq now. And he's the man who periodically beheads hostages on the evening news, a very, very evil individual.
Those are the kinds of people we're up against here. And their objective is to disrupt this whole process. They don't want us to succeed. They don't want to see Iraq set up a democratically elected government. We get to January and succeed in doing that, they're going to be out of business. But in the weeks and months ahead, we've got to be prepared to deal with a difficult situation -- which our guys are dealing with right now, even as we speak. And they will continue to do that as we get more and more Iraqis into the effort over there, too.
I think it has been a remarkable success story to date, when you look at what has been accomplished overall. I think the President deserves great credit for it. The other credit -- most of the credit, a good part of the credit, needs to go specifically, as well, to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. They've done a superb job. (Applause.)
Now, the question on November 2nd is do we want to continue with the President in the role that he has fulfilled I think very ably for the last three-and-a-half, that we're committed to that strategy. It's a tough, aggressive, go-after-the-bad-guys strategy, go after those who support terror. I think it's absolutely essential. I think it's there best way to defend America -- is to go after them wherever they are, so they can't get further attacks off against the United States. We're far better off taking them over there on their turf, than we are having to fight them in the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)
Now, John Kerry, obviously, would like to have that job. He has every right to run for it. The question is whether or not the American people believe he's qualified based on his record.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You're getting ahead of me here. (Laughter.) Whether or not he's the man to take over that responsibility, and I'm not challenging his patriotism, never have. I am questioning his judgment. I think it's perfectly appropriate for us to look at his record in public service over the last 20 years, and even before that when he first started to run for office back in the '70s, and say, what does that record say about whether or not he would pursue an aggressive strategy, the kind of strategy that I believe has been demonstrated to be effective and that we need to pursue in the years ahead if we're going to win the war on terror and defeat our adversaries.
And when you look at his background, frankly, it's not encouraging -- or reassuring, shall we say? When he first ran for Congress in the early '70s, he ran on the basis that you should never commit U.S. forces without U.N. authorization. I don't think that's a very good idea. I don't think any President wants to cede or delegate to anyone else, or any other organization that authority. The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief under Article II of our Constitution, and that's as it should be. (Applause.)
In 1984, when he ran for the Senate the first time, he ran on a platform of cutting or eliminating a great many of the weapons systems that President Reagan used to keep the peace, to win the Cold War, and that we're using today in the war on terror. In 1991, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, and when all of the tests that anybody could conceivably want with respect other authorizing the U.S. to operate -- in that case, the U.N. Security Council had voted unanimously for the use of force. So we met his 1970s test, if you will, in that regard. The effort that was mounted then, enormously successful, 34 nations alongside us, John Kerry voted "no." He was against Operation Desert Storm. It's hard to think of a set of conditions under which he would be comfortable using U.S. military force.
1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked, he was a member of the Senate intelligence committee -- he missed all of the public meetings of the intelligence committee for the subsequent year after the attack, and offered up an amendment to cut billions dollars out of our intelligence budget. That's his record. It's there for anybody who wants to look at it, to see that this is not a man who has made the right judgments during his time in the Senate. 20 years in the United States Senate, and he nearly always came down on the wrong side of national security issues.
If we come on forward, obviously, to the present time, we've seen the back-and-forth during the course of the campaign over what his views are. He, of course, decided after he voted to commit troops to Iraq, a year later when he was taking some heat in the Democratic primaries from Howard Dean, who was running as the antiwar candidate, then he voted against providing the troops with the funding and the resources they needed, to provide them with the equipment and the ammunition and the spare parts and so forth that were vital to their operations in Iraq -- voted to commit the troops, and then once they were in combat, he voted against them -- and did it basically for political reasons.
Now, if he couldn't stand up to the pressures of Howard Dean, how can you expect him to stand up to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization? (Applause.)
Finally, and most recently, a couple of weeks ago, he gave an interview to The New York Times. It ran in the Sunday newspaper two weeks ago. And in that interview, he was asked sort of what his aspirations or objective would be in connection with the war on terror. And he said, well, he wanted to get terror back to the place where it was just a nuisance, and then he compared it to illegal gambling and prostitution. That was his choice of words.
And I thought about that when I read that, and I said, well, when was terrorism ever just a nuisance? Was it four years ago when they attacked the USS Cole killed 17 of our sailors and nearly sunk the ship off Yemen? Or maybe six years ago when they simultaneously attacked two of our embassies in East Africa and killed hundreds of people including a number of Americans? Or maybe it was back in 1993, 11 years ago, in the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York when they tried to bring down one of the towers then but failed? Or 1988, December, when they blew Pan Am 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland? Or maybe 21 years ago, Beirut, 1983, when a suicide bomber in a truck loaded with explosives drove into the ground floor of a building hosting Marines and killed 241 of our Marines? Was that a nuisance?
I don't think so. I don't think you can find a time when terrorism was ever a nuisance. I don't think our objective can be to manage terror to some appropriate acceptable level. I think our objective has to be to defeat terror, and that's what we'll with George Bush as President. (Applause.)
I was intrigued by -- some material here, I got some notes here that I wanted to bring with me today, some things John Kerry has been working on the last few days. Sometimes he's in the business of obscuring his record. And sometimes he's in the business of burnishing his record, if I can put it in those terms.
He being pressed on the question of terror, and how aggressive he would be in the war on terror. And he said, well, he was an expert because he had written a book about it 10 years ago. And the book was called The New War. Anybody here read John Kerry's book The New War? I guess, it wasn't a best-seller. (Laughter.) In it he praises Yasser Arafat as a statesman and a role model. Yasser Arafat. Now, don't quite look on Arafat that way. It makes it clear in the book that he thinks the answer to terrorism is law enforcement. Now, no question law enforcement is a part of it. That was our answer, though, before 9/11. When terrorists killed Americans by thousands, it's law enforcement we need, it's a military response we need. (Applause.)
The other thing he's done a couple of times recently. He did this in, I guess, it was the second debate, where he talked about -- again trying to demonstrate how experienced he was in the international arena, and how he would be able to work with allies and foreign governments and so forth. He talked about going to the U.N. Security Council back at the time when we had the debate over whether or not we were going to authorize the President to use force in Iraq. He said he went up -- he's done this a couple of times, he went and he talked to all of them, he said, the members of the United Nations Security Council and made the same claim saying that he spent a couple of hours talking with the entire Security Council, those are his words, about how to deal with Saddam Hussein.
Well, this week a reporter from The Washington Times decided to check on that meeting. And he got hold of five of the ambassadors on the U.N. Security Council, and four of them said, they'd never met Senator Kerry. (Laughter.) So he apparently -- when they went to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, an official is quoted in the report as saying, we were as surprised as anyone when Senator Kerry starting talking about meeting with the Security Council.
Now, the problem with all of that is -- I look at all of that and what I see is somebody who is trying very hard to take a record that for 20 years was on the wrong side of national security issues, and suddenly now because we're faced with the war on terror, because of the aftermath of 9/11, because of the need to be tough and aggressive in the strategy we employ to defend the nation, now he's trying to put a new gloss on his record. He doesn't want anybody to talk about what he did for 20 years in the United States Senate. That says to me that this is not a man who is committed to the course of action that he claims to be committed to. You cannot substitute a few minutes of tough talk during the course of a 90-minute debate at election time to cover up 20 years of what I think has been weakness on national security issues in the United States Senate. It won't work. (Applause.)
Or as we say out in our home state of Wyoming, you can put all the lipstick you want on a pig, but it's still a pig. (Laughter.)
So given that, we've got a big choice on November 2nd. The President, I think, has got a demonstrated record there now for three-and-a-half, nearly four years, and doing exactly the right thing. He doesn't worry about the polls or shift his position with the political winds. This is a man who makes a decision and sticks to it, and a man that we can count on, a man our troops can count on, and a man that has got a strategy for a victory in the war on terror, and that's exactly what we need is George Bush for four more years. (Applause.)
Well, with that, I've covered a lot of territory and used up a fair amount of time, but what we'd like to do now is have an opportunity for you to ask questions. You'll see folks in the audience in these attractive orange jerseys. And they've got microphones with them. If you've got a comment or a question, just see if you can flag one of them down, and they'll come over with a mike, and then we'll be happy to try to respond. And don't be bashful. You can ask Lynne questions, as well, too. She knows some of the issues better than I do.
Q Mr. Vice President, Lynne, I can't imagine the time you've spent this past few months. We thank you for what you've done. (Applause.)
And with that, we keep hearing about somebody keeps having a plan, I'd like to know what your plan is for you and your family come November 3rd after a successful election? (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what we're going to do is unpack and get some laundry done. (Laughter.) No, it's been -- the campaign has really been a remarkable experience. You can sit in Washington and be involved in the policy debates and so forth, and that's all important work. And that's why we run for office, just so we can participate in that process. But we've had the privilege -- Lynne and I have now over the last year, we've been in 48 states. We have campaigned from one end of this country to the other. And you meet some unbelievably remarkable people. The nation is full of them, and they're from every walk of life, from every part of the country, from every ethnic background, the enormous diversity and strength and resilience and just fundamental, downright decency of the American people cannot be underestimated. When you get out and do so many events -- (applause) -- it's what makes it all worthwhile. In the political business you need a fairly thick skin. And you build up scar tissue over time, I suppose. But what keeps you going is there are so many Americans out there when you get out and get a chance to spend some time with them, they say, thank you, we're praying for you, God bless you, we're doing the right thing, and that's what keeps you going.
You get to spend time with the United States military. I've visited with Marines at Pendleton, and with the 3rd Ranger Battalion down at Fort Benning, and with the 82nd at Fort Bragg, and had the opportunity over the years in a number of capacities to spend time with the young men and women in the U.S. military. They're just a fantastic group of people. And so when you get through with the day-to-day hustle and bustle and the campaign. And as I say, we're looking forward to a victory on November 2nd, then we'll go to work for the next four years, what makes it all worthwhile is that we're part of a process that's one of the unique and distinguishing features of our civilization, is the American people governing themselves. And we're all privileged to be a part of it. (Applause.)
Somebody back here, number three.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter and applause.) The U.N. is an interesting organization because occasionally it provides a useful forum
for debates. I think they've done some good humanitarian work over the years various places. So I don't -- I'm not here today to trash the United Nations. But they've also got some problems. And one of the biggest problems we've encountered in connection with the whole Iraq operation, of course, is the U.N. oil-for-food program, and the extent to which Saddam Hussein had been able to use the oil-for-food program to corrupt the whole process, to try to buy support from governments who play a prominent role at the United Nations, and undermine the sanctions that were in place, put in place after the Gulf War, and he was successful at it.
If you look at the report -- the Duelfer report that came out just recently, the sanctions were breaking down; the oil-for-food program had really been taken over and was being run by him; and he'd managed to inject a high degree of corruption into that whole process. So instead of the United Nations being this effective force for implementing the U.N. Security Council resolutions, demanding that he disarm, demanding that he come clean on all of his programs, and that he comply with the terms and conditions that he agreed to at the end of the Gulf War, they, in effect, had become implementers -- I'm trying to think what the phrase is.
MRS. CHENEY: Enablers.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Enablers who, in fact, were enabling him to increasingly break down the sanctions and import just about anything you wanted to import. And instead of the funds that they were generating off the oil-for-food program going to feed and provide medical assistance for the Iraqi people, it was being used for these other purposes. So clearly, that's a major problem that needs to be addressed. It is Paul Volcker is running an investigation there now, and I'm convinced he'll do a good job.
The bottom line is the United States needs to, I think, work with the United Nations when it makes sense to do so. But fundamental responsibility of the President of the United States is to defend America, to protect and preserve the Constitution of the United States. And you cannot delegate that to anybody else. (Applause.)
Sometimes there'll be a conflict. And if there's a choice to be made, there's only one way for him to come down and that is on the side of his constitutional duties and responsibilities.
Yes, number four are you loafing? Or have you got somebody over there? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay, well, first of all, thank you for your service. (Applause.) The process that's now underway they're getting ready to organize to hold elections. The target date for the elections is January. At the same time, there is a major effort underway to deal with the insurgency that is still there. That tends to be focused in the Sunni -- what we refer to as the Sunni Triangle, Baghdad and west of Baghdad, and that general area. The Kurdish area in the north and the Shia area in the south are relatively safe and secure. And as I say, there's a major effort underway to train and equip Iraqi security forces. That is being run by a man named General Petraeus, General David Petraeus, who commanded the 101st during the initial operation when we first went into Iraq, a very able and talented officer. And he's in charge of that operation, and that's going quite well.
The various plans for how to put together the government -- and they're actively now negotiating various members of the Iraqi interim authority, as well as others, trying to figure out what kind of tickets to put together to run in the elections, how this process is going to unfold going forward, as well as, as I say, ultimately write a constitution. They've adopted already what is called a transitional administrative law. It was approved last spring. And it lays out sort of the basic procedures and ground rules for how they're going to function -- they want to sit down and write their own constitution, which they will do, as I say, once they've elected -- somewhat analogous, I suppose to our own Constitutional Convention that we held back in Philadelphia in 1780. And that's what is going to happen next year in Iraq as they write a constitution to get ready for nationwide elections.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's difficult. It's hard. But we've talked with a number of Iraqis. They are uniformly thankful for what we've done and enthusiastic about the process, being able to establish a democratically elected, representative government for themselves in Iraq. They've never had that. And we cannot and should not underestimate the enormous power of that idea.
I always recall Central America in the middle '80s, when I was in Congress. We had an insurgency in El Salvador. A lot of -- a third of the country was controlled by insurgents. And there were some 75,000 people killed in that conflict. And finally they got around to the point where they were able to schedule elections, and I went down. I was an observer. A group of members of Congress went down as observers for the election. And I was always struck by the enormous drive these people had to get to the polls on election day. And they'd line up by the thousands waiting to vote. Sometimes the guerrillas would come in and shoot up the polling place. Everybody would flee and duck for cover. But as soon as the guerrillas left, boy, they were right back in line again to vote. And 20 some years later, El Salvador is a viable, functioning -- democracy. It works. But that antidote to terror is freedom. And that's what we're going to do in Iraq. (Applause.)
MRS. CHENEY: I just wanted to add a couple things. One is that the interim constitution in Iraq guarantees women's rights, and women's -- a place in the parliament. That's a very good -- (Applause.)
And Dick -- one other thing. I have another point to make.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, all right. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: The Afghan women who voted were incredibly brave. They went to the polls -- some of them had been pulled off buses and killed, women who registered to vote. I just -- someone just gave me a report that some of the Afghan women were so convinced they'd be killed when they voted, that they underwent the rituals that you undergo if you're about to die. But they voted anyway. That's the power of freedom. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, well, we've got one right over here. Number two.
Q Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Cheney, living in Ohio, I'm sure it's no surprise to you that we get a lot of sound bites, advertisements, phone messages, on and on and on. Some of them, frankly, puts words into your and the President's mouths -- that's probably not a surprise. And one that fizzled out, you may remember, was re-instituting the draft. No one surprised when the only proponent was a Democratic congressman from New York.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right, Charlie Rangel.
Q Now, we're hearing that the President and yourself are going to completely privatize Social Security, take away all the benefits. And I have a couple elderly aunts who requested that I ask you what the administration's position is on this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Tell them to relax. (Laughter.) They're not going to be drafted. (Laughter and applause.)
No, the Social Security program is in good shape for the current generation of recipients, and probably for the next generation of recipients, too. But we got a problem down the road, and for that younger generation, people now in their 20s and 30s, there's going to be a crunch point where Social Security will have made commitments that they don't have funding to fulfill. And everybody knows that at some point we've got to address that issue now. And one of the things that we've talked about, the President has talked about would be a voluntary program, would not apply to anybody who is already retired drawing benefits, probably anybody who will retire in the not-to-distant future. But we go to somebody like my kids, for example, and say to them, you can have an option. You can take a portion of your payroll tax and put it into a personal savings account, as opposed to putting the whole into the Social Security trust fund.
That would give them -- first of all, it gives them control over it. Secondly, it gives them a higher rate of return. It would have to be invested in some approved plans. It would be more like a 401k but it would be theirs. We think that it offers significant potential because once you get a higher rate of return there, you begin to close that revenue gap long-term. It doesn't close complete, but it moves in the right direction. And it also gives people more control over an important part of their lives, their own personal retirement account. That's the idea that's being talked about. We think it has merit. There's obviously a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of questions would have to be answered in connection with that. And you'd also obviously have to put together a bipartisan group to get it approved. But we think it's important to begin to address those kinds of issues.
But this notion that somehow if you elect Republican, you're going to do in Social Security, I've heard that in, well, nearly all of the 15 campaigns I've been involved in. When you get down to the tail end of the campaign, and our opponent is in trouble, they always trot out, oh, watch out Social Security -- the Republicans are going to do it in. Not true. Won't happen. Every public official I know of is committed to making certain that Social Security is there for our senior citizens. They've paid into it through their working career, their entire lifetimes. They earned those benefits. And it's important that that commitment be kept, and it will be kept. (Applause.)
Let's do one more back here. You can sit down there.
Q Is there any time that you know that you guys are going to come out of Iraq and bring our children home? I have four over there -- had them there, got a son going back, and I had one killed. I'd like a little relief.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we appreciate very much, obviously, the sacrifice that has been made. They've done a superb job for us, as I mentioned. I think of it in terms of when we have the capability in place so that we've completed the mission. If you put an artificial date on it, then you end up with the terrorists just waiting until that date arrives, and the Americans withdraw and then they'll reassert themselves. So that's not acceptable. And they've got to know what we'll stay the course and that they're not going to be able to win no matter what they attempt and try.
We've found the Iraqis are eager to get into the fight. We're not having any trouble, in spite of the fact that many of them have been targeted by the terrorists, those who are associated or being recruited into the various security services, that that hasn't slowed them down for a minute. They're eager to sign up. And as I say, we should by the end of this year have 125,000 on board and that continues to build right through next year. We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we do want to stay long enough to make certain that it doesn't revert back to the situation we had before. And the best way I can think of to honor the sacrifice of those who've sacrificed so much is to complete the mission. And that's what we've got to do. (Applause.)
Now, I want to thank all of you for being here today. We're delighted, as I say, to have a chance to spend some time in a beautiful part of Ohio. And with your help in November 2nd, we're going to win this one.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 6:05 P.M. EDT