|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 19, 2004
Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting in Carroll, Ohio
Fairfield County Airport
Historical Aircraft Squadron Hangar
9:16 A.M. EDT
MRS. CHENEY: Well, thank you so much. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sit down, please.
MRS. CHENEY: That's terrific. What a warm welcome. Do you suppose that this is Bush-Cheney country? (Applause.)
Well, I have the honor of introducing Dick today because I have known him for so long. (Laughter.) I have known him since he was 14 years old. This is true. And his job that summer when I first knew him was sweeping out the Ben Franklin store in our hometown, in Casper, Wyoming. (Laughter.) And I've known him through many jobs since. I have 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 help pay his way through school. And I like to tell those stories because when you grow up working hard, you learn some important lessons. And one of those lessons is how important it is for the hardworking men and women of this country to get to keep as much of their paychecks as possible. (Applause.)
And I've been so honored this past three-and-a-half, four years to really have a front row seat on history and to watch as our whole nation rose up to comfort those whose lives were changed forever by 9/11, and to watch our President lead this country, not only to protect us here at home, but to go on the offense after the terrorists, go on the offense, which is what we all know we should be doing. (Applause.)
And there are so many issues in this campaign. And I know that you all feel that way, too. But I'm a mother and I'm a grandmother, and when I think about this campaign, I think about keeping my children and my grandchildren safe. And when I think about that, and I ask myself, are the terrorists going to try to get us again, I say, yes, I know they will. They'll try. Who do I want standing in the doorway when that happens? It's not John Kerry and it's not John Edwards. (Applause.) I'll tell you who it is, it's George Bush and Dick Cheney. (Applause.)
Yesterday, 200 and some 9/11 family members put out a letter. And I know this hasn't gotten much attention. So I just wanted to read part of it to you today. They all wrote -- they wrote this letter and then two -- or the letter, they all signed this letter, and it says:
We speak to you from the heart as citizens from all across the country and every political stripe. We are Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, young and old, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends. And we speak from a profound sense of obligation to those we have lost -- guided by core principles, President Bush has steadfastly told us who he is, what he believes, and what he will fight for.
As Americans who have keenly felt the scourge of terrorism, we are inspired and energized to follow the President's lead, to rise to the occasion and get the job done. Three years ago, George Bush stood with us and vowed that he would never forget. We stand with him now. (Applause.)
Well, our President has been a magnificent leader. And if you don't mind my saying so, the Vice President is no slouch either. (Applause.)
So, ladies and gentlemen, my husband, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, it's a fact she's known me since I was 14, but she wouldn't go out with me until I was 17. (Laughter.) But I often tell folks we got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States. It was in 1952. I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska, with my folks. And Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the government. Dad got shipped to Casper, Wyoming which is where I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together, and recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained to a group of folks the other night that if it hadn't been for Dwight Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.)
We are delighted to be here today with some great members of Congress from Ohio -- my old friend Mike DeWine. Mike and I served together in the House. (Applause.) And of course, Bob Ney and Dave Hobson do a superb job for everybody here in Ohio. (Applause.) And I always feel a certain bond to Ohio. I haven't talked about it all that much, but my family actually originated and came through Ohio in the middle of the 19th century. My great grandfather emigrated here as a young man and settled in Defiance, Ohio, and then enlisted with a -- in the Civil War with an Ohio regiment, the 21st Ohio, and fought throughout the Civil War. And my grandfather was born here, and then after the war, in the 1880s, he picked up and moved everybody West. That's how we got to Nebraska and so forth. But we do claim Ohio roots. And so we're proud to be back in Ohio today, campaigning across Ohio. And of course, Ohio is an extraordinarily important state in this election because we're going to make a very, very important decision on November 2nd.
What I'd like to do this morning, the way we ordinarily handle these town halls is I make a few remarks up-front, and I don't want to totally dominate the time, or limit the discussion in any way, but I do want to talk about a particular issue in terms of the national security policy and strategy, and then we open it up to questions, and you'll have an opportunity to ask us questions. Think about questions for Lynne, too. She's good at it. And I'm always happy to throw a few her way and -- or make comments so we can focus on the issues you may be concerned about, as well as those things that we're interested in.
But let me spend a few minutes this morning talking specifically about what I think is maybe the most important issue with respect to this campaign. There are a lot of important ones out there -- no question about it. But for me, it boils down as much as anything to who is going to be our Commander-in-Chief for the next four years.
I think back in history, there have been times in our history when we've come up to what I would call watershed events, or major break points where we suddenly were faced with a new threat, and we had to develop a whole new national security strategy to deal with it.
We had one of those periods right after World War II -- after our guys came from the victory in the Pacific and in Europe, and within a matter of years we were all of a sudden faced with the Cold War, with the Soviet Union that occupied half of Europe, was nuclear armed, and became a major threat to the United States. And to deal with that threat, we developed a new strategy, a policy of deterrence, of holding the Soviet Union at risk so they were never tempted to launch a strike against us, a policy of containment. We created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, we created the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency -- all of those things in the late '40s and early '50s, and then had a structure in place, a strategy, if you will, and all the various elements of that strategy in place that was then supported by Republican and Democratic administrations alike for the next 40 years, until we won the Cold War, and the Soviet Union collapsed.
I think, in the aftermath of 9/11, we're in a similar period, where we're once again faced with a new threat -- a threat that we had not previously had to deal with, at least not as extensive as the one we're now face with, where we need to develop a new strategy, new concepts, new institutions to deal with that threat to defend the country and to guarantee the safety and security of our people and of our kids and grandkids.
Now, all of that obviously turns around the events of 9/11 that sort of crystalize the nature of the threat we face. And on that day, we suffered the worst attack ever on American soil, lost more people than we lost at Pearl Harbor, some 3,000 mostly innocent civilians killed on the morning of 9/11 in less than two hours.
And we've since come to understand that the biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever been used against us, with a biological agent, or a nuclear weapon, or a chemical weapon of some kind, able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, not just 3,000. And that's the ultimate threat, and for us to have a strategy that's capable of dealing with that threat and defeating it, you've got to get your mind around that concept, that that, in fact, is the possibility that we're faced with that we have to defeat and overcome and guard against.
And it's not just a matter of a handful of individuals. What we saw on 9/11, of course, was that relatively few people could come into the country armed with knives and boarding passes and do enormous damage in New York, and Washington, and obviously in western Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 went down.
What we've done since then in the policies and strategy the President has put in place I think has been absolutely crucial to our success. And I think we have had major successes in the war on terror. First and foremost, of course, we moved to improve our defenses here at home. We want to do everything we can to harden the target, to make it tougher for the terrorists to get at us. And we've done that in a number of ways, creating the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government since the Department of Defense was created 50 years ago; to passing the Patriot Act to give law enforcement the tools they need to be able to prosecute terrorists, the same tools that are available already for going against organized crime and drug traffickers; or Project BioShield that was established to make it easier for us to develop the resources and the technologies needed to defend against an attack with biological weapons; a series of steps that we've taken. And defense is very important.
But the President also correctly made the decision, keeping in mind the nature of that ultimate threat now, the possibility of a group of terrorists in the middle of one of our cities with a weapon of mass destruction of some kind, that a good defense isn't enough, that you can be successful 999 times out of a thousand, and that one time out of a thousand they get through can kill you. So you also have to go on offense -- a crucial decision that he made in the early days of what has come to be known as the war on terror. (Applause.)
Now, going on offense means a couple of things, first of all, using the full might and power of the United States to go after the terrorists, wherever they plot and plan and train and organize, and we've been doing that. Obviously, you use your intelligence, resources, you work with other governments as well to do that, but you're also prepared to use the United States military to go after the terrorists wherever you find them.
Secondly, and really, this is really the third element after defense and then going after terrorists, the third element is to go after those that sponsor terror, after state sponsors of terror, and that's a new departure. In the past, there had been a tendency to give the states where terrorists plotted and trained and organized or were supported, to give them a pass, not hold them to account. The President said no more. We're never going to do that again. And a key element of our strategy will be to hold state sponsors of terror to account. Those who provide sanctuary for terrorists, those who provide them with financing or training or weapons will be deemed just as guilty as the terrorists themselves of the acts the terrorists commit.
And based on those basic propositions, obviously, we then launched into Afghanistan, took down the regime in Afghanistan, got rid of the Taliban, captured and killed hundreds of al Qaeda, closed the training camps where some 20,000 terrorists were trained in the late '90s, including some of those who struck us on 9/11. And having done all of that, we then moved to stand up a democratically-elected government in Afghanistan. Why did we do that? Well, it's absolutely essential to complete the task, to make certain we've got something in place when we depart that is never again going to be a threat to its neighbors or a threat to the United States, and never again is going to allow that area to become a failed state, again a breeding ground for terror, for the development of weapons of mass destruction. And what we want to put in place is a democracy. (Applause.)
This is a hard thing to do. We're operating in a part of the world where democratic practices and principles are relatively unknown, certainly in Afghanistan. But we set up an interim government. A good man, Hamid Karzai is the interim President. They then wrote a constitution and registered 10 million people to vote. And they've just had, a week ago Saturday, the first free election in the 5,000-year history of Afghanistan. (Applause.)
By the end of the year, there will be a democratically-elected government in place in Afghanistan. Does that mean it's over now, we can walk away? No, it doesn't. This is three yards and a cloud of dust. There are no touchdown passes in this business. We'll stay as long as we need to help them train their own security forces, which we're actively doing, so they can take over responsibility for their own security, to defeat whatever elements are left of the old terrorist network in Afghanistan. But we're making significant progress.
Two-and-a-half years ago, John Edwards, my opponent in this campaign, was wringing his hands saying, oh, Afghanistan is a mess, it's not going to work, there's going to be chaos there, the Taliban are going to take over again. This was just six months after we took down the old Taliban operation. He was dead wrong. Two-and-a-half years later, we've got an election under their belt now, they're making significant progress, and it is something we can all be very proud of, and also know that Afghanistan, as long as we stay on this course and complete the mission, Afghanistan will never again become a place where there's a breeding ground for terrorists to come kill 3,000 Americans. A very important piece of business. (Applause.)
There is a large Ohio fly hanging around up here, so that's what Lynne's up to. (Laughter.) Got him.
Anyway, on Iraq, different proposition for us, but there we had Saddam Hussein, a man who started two wars, a man who had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction against both the Iranians and against his own people, the Kurds, back in the late '80s and had a robust WMD program, certainly up to the Gulf War in '91, a man who had sponsored terror for 15 years, carried as one of the leading state sponsors of terror, provided a sanctuary and a safe harbor for Abu Nidal, for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, had a relationship with the al Qaeda organization. We were concerned specifically about the possibility -- again, remembering that big threat, the possible linkage, if you will, between terrorists and WMD that Iraq under Saddam Hussein represented a point where that could -- that nexus might most likely occur. So it was absolutely essential to do what we did, and the world is a lot safer and a lot better off today with Saddam Hussein in jail and his government out of business. (Applause.)
Now, same proposition in Iraq. We're -- got an interim government in place. They held their first national assembly. They'll hold their first elections in January, and by the end of next year, they should have a democratically elected government in place in Iraq -- again, hard thing to do. Our adversaries, the remnants of the old regime and terrorists like Mr. Zarqawi, who has just recently announced now that he's pledged fealty and loyalty to Osama bin Laden, they will do everything they can to interrupt the flow of process -- progress towards those elections, because they know that we've intercepted messages from Zarqawi for bin Laden and the al Qaeda types, that once the Iraqis have a democratically-elected government in place that's capable of controlling the sovereign territory of Iraq, they're through. He said in one of his messages he'll have to pack his bags and move on. And we hope we get him before he gets a chance to pack his bags. (Applause.)
And we're working to stand up and train Iraqi forces. We'll have 125,000 trained and equipped Iraqi forces in place by the end of this year, and we'll keep continuing that process until we're well over 200,000 sometime next year, again, so they can take on the responsibility for providing security in Iraq.
Byproduct to all of this, of course, was Moammar Ghadafi in Libya watched as we launched into Iraq and then contacted us. There were nine months of negotiations, and then five days after we dug Saddam Hussein out of his hole in Northern Iraq, Ghadafi went public and announced he was going to give up all of his WMD, specifically his aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons, because he'd been out on the black market and purchased uranium, centrifuges to enrich uranium, a design for a nuclear weapon, and spent millions of dollars on that program. And then he saw what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan and he thought better of it. And when he thought better of it, he did not call the United Nations. He called George Bush and Tony Blair. (Applause.)
Final point was that the black market network, run by a man named A.Q. Khan that had been responsible for taking this technology and making it available, not only to Libya but also to North Korea and Iran, has been put out of business. He's under house arrest in Pakistan, and his illegal nuclear supplier network has been shut down. That also was a major plus from the standpoint of the President's policy. (Applause.)
Now, the key to this enterprise, obviously, I would say there are two keys. One has been the President's steadfast leadership, his willingness to make some very tough decisions, and to hang tough in there and do the right thing, without regard to what it might mean in terms of the political pressures of the moment or standing in the polls or elections or anything else. He knows what needs to be done and he's prepared to do it.
The other key ingredient, obviously, in our success, has been the magnificent performance of our men and women in uniform. They've done a superb job. (Applause.)
Now, the choice we've got to make, with respect to November 2nd, is to pick a Commander-in-Chief who will, I think, continue that same tough, forward-leaning, aggressive policy that says we're going to go after the terrorists and we're going to go after those who support terror and we're going to go over there and do it on their turf, instead of having to fight them here in the United States. (Applause.)
Now, John Kerry would lead you to believe that he has the same kind of view that President Bush does, that he would be a tough, aggressive individual, leader, Commander-in-Chief, to pursue the global war on terror. I don't believe it. I don't think there's any evidence to support the proposition that he would, in fact, do that. And let me talk for a few minutes, if I can, about Senator Kerry's record, because it's there for anybody who wants to see.
One of the things he's done in this campaign is everything he can to obscure his record, to get us to ignore his 20 years in the United States Senate. And I am not, in what I am about to say, challenging his patriotism. That's always their response. You question his record, and say, well, this is what you voted 20 times -- or several times during 20 years in the United States Senate, and his people stand up and say, how dare you question his patriotism. No, we question his judgment. His judgment is flawed. (Applause.)
And if you look at his record, the first time he ran for Congress, he did so on the basis that we should not commit U.S. forces without U.N. authorization. That was back in the 1970s. In 1984, when he ran for the Senate, he ran on a platform of cutting or eliminating most of the major weapon systems that President Reagan had acquired, or wanted to acquire, that were crucial to winning the Cold War and our military operations then. In 1993, when he was on the intelligence committee in the aftermath of the first bombing of the World Trade Center, it looks like he did not attend a single meeting of the Senate intelligence committee for the year after the terrorist strike on the Trade Center, and did offer an amendment to the intelligence budget that would have cut several billion dollars out of our intelligence operation -- an amendment so radical that even Ted Kennedy wouldn't support it. (Laughter.) And that's saying something, you're right, there. (Laughter.)
Another key element here is he talked -- in the first debate this year he talked about a "global test," the deployment of U.S. forces, or preemptive use of military force required you to meet some kind of "global test." And you can speculate, well, what does he mean by a "global test"? And look back at a time when presumably virtually every conceivable condition that he might possibly contemplate was met, and that was the first Gulf crisis in 1990 and '91, when I was Secretary of Defense. I remember it fairly well. The fact was that we had 34 nations who committed troops alongside the United States. The U.N. Security Council had voted unanimously to authorize the use of force. The issue that came before us in the Congress of the United States was, shall the President be authorized to use military force as leader of this alliance and coalition to expel Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi forces from Kuwait, after they invaded Kuwait, occupied Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf.
And John Kerry voted "no." I can't think of a time, when you go back over that history, when he was ever comfortable with the use of U.S. military force. He doesn't appear to have been. And the one time he voted for it, of course, was this time around, when we asked authorization from the Congress to use force to remove Saddam Hussein and he voted for it. But then he got down the road, the question was whether or not he'd authorize funding the $87 billion, and, of course, we got one of the all-time classic political responses from a candidate, "Well, I actually voted for it, before I voted against it." (Laughter.) Which everybody has seen.
I asked myself, why did he do that, why would he vote to commit the troops to combat and then, when the question was whether or not we'd provide them with the equipment and the weapons and ammunition, spare parts and so forth they needed, why would he vote "no"? There were only four members of the United States Senate who did that -- he was one, John Edwards was one -- two out of the four were Senators Kerry and Edwards. Well, it turns out, if you look at the timetable of what was happening in the Democratic primaries at that point, Howard Dean was running strong -- the anti-war candidate, he was opposed to any U.S. involvement whatsoever in this operation. And I think Senators Kerry and Edwards believed they were falling behind in the contest for the Democratic nomination and they had to adopt an anti-war posture. So when the question came up of supporting the troops, they voted against the troops -- people they'd sent into combat, they'd authorized those folks to be sent into combat, and voted "no" and wouldn't support them. And I think it was because of the fact that they were feeling the political heat from Howard Dean.
And that automatically leads to the question, well, if they can't stand the heat from Howard Dean and the Democratic primary, how the heck can they stand up to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden? (Applause.)
Now, Senator Kerry's on the tube these days -- of course, we're getting down to the closing days of the campaign and we're seeing a couple of things. One is, I think without question, he's come across -- at least, to me and Lynne -- as somebody who will say absolutely anything to get elected. There isn't anything he won't say. (Applause.) And of course, now he's working the old tried and true issue on Social Security. I've been involved -- I guess the first campaign I ever worked in was 1966, so that's almost 40 years, one way or another -- as a candidate and a White House Chief of Staff and a whole different capacity -- six times as a member of Congress. I have trouble remembering elections, when there wasn't an effort down in the closing days for the opposition to try to scare everybody by saying, oh my gosh, if you elect a Republican, something bad is going to happen to Social Security.
It's a myth. It's absolutely wrong. It's, I think, a move of desperation on their part to suggest that. It's the kind of scare tactics we've heard so often in the past. It's simply not true, but we've seen other examples of it. We've seen the last few days he said, well, gee, if you elect George Bush, there's going to be a draft. No. There are two people in the United States Congress who have sponsored legislation to restore the draft: Charlie Rangel, from New York, and Fritz Hollings, from South Carolina, both Democrats. There was a vote in the House the other day, where the leadership brought it up and said, all right, you guys want to have a draft, let's vote on it. And the vote was over 400 to 2. (Laughter.) Charlie Rangel didn't even vote for his own bill. (Applause.)
So for John Kerry to be running around talking about a draft is another one of these urban legends. It's an absolute myth. Anybody who's been involved with the U.S. military and the all-volunteer force knows what a magnificent organization it is. I had the privilege, when I was Secretary of Defense, of working with what I think is the finest military, obviously, in the world -- maybe in the history of the world -- and it's that all-volunteer force out there. If there were a need to increase the size of the military, you've got to remember we had -- when I was Secretary, we had 2.1 million active duty personnel; we've got about 1.4 million today. We did it with an all-volunteer force then; you could easily do it with an all-volunteer force now. But nobody is suggesting that that's the right answer. What we need to do is reconfigure our forces, take advantage of the lessons that we're learning, reposition them around the world -- we don't need the same kind of force now we had back during the Cold War. We need a force now that's capable of prosecuting the war on terror. It's going to look different. And we're working to build all of that.
And for John Kerry to suggest that a draft is something that anybody is seriously considering -- other than Charlie Rangel, who won't even vote for it himself -- is just -- it's another sign of desperation, I think; another sign that here's a man who will say anything to try to get elected.
And we're going to see now, in the final two weeks of this campaign, I think even more evidence of that. I think as they see that the President is running strong, that they're not making any headway, that we'll see perhaps even more desperate claims than those we've already seen today. But I think the key for us here is to remember that, in fact, we have an opportunity with George Bush, with a man who has demonstrated now for three-and-a-half years that he has what it takes to be the kind of wartime leader we need, that with the tremendous ability and capability I think of the U.S. military, with the resilience of the American people, there isn't any reason in the world why we can't surmount this challenge, just like we have all those others in our 200-and-some year history. (Applause.)
I see absolutely no evidence whatsoever, having carefully analyzed the records of our opponents, Senators Kerry and Edwards, no evidence whatsoever to lead me to believe that Senator Kerry would be the kind of effective Commander-in-Chief that we need if we're going to successfully prosecute the war on terror.
One final point, and then I'll stop and respond to questions. He was asked about his view of the war on the terror and his concept of what the strategy ought to be, and so forth, going forward there, a week ago Sunday, in The New York Times -- it ran in The Sunday Times Magazine, by a reporter who has covered him in the campaign. And he said, well, what he hoped to be able to do was to get terrorism back to the place where it used to be, where it was just a nuisance. And then he contrasted that, or compared it, if you will, to the way you would manage illegal gambling or prostitution of local city governments. I read that and I scratched my head and I thought, well, what do they mean, when terrorism was only a nuisance?
If you go back prior to 9/11, presumably, there's some point back there where he would deem terrorism was only a nuisance. And I said, well, what about four years ago? October 2000, when the USS Cole was hit and we lost 17 sailors and nearly lost the ship off Yemen. Or you go back to 1998, six years ago, when the al Qaeda simultaneously blew up two of our embassies in East Africa and killed hundreds of people, including a number of Americans. Or 1993, when they hit the first World Trade Center and tried to bring it down and failed, but injured maybe a thousand people, killed several. Or maybe it was 1988, December, when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland. Or maybe 1983, when in the spring they set off a truck bomb outside our embassy in Beirut; and then that fall, a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with explosives into the bottom of a floor of a building, took down the entire structure and killed 241 Marines.
Now, I can't think of any one of those incidents as being qualified or classified as a "nuisance." We cannot afford ever to look upon international terror as a "nuisance." (Applause.)
Somebody who's got that mind set, that's a pre-9/11 mind set, you know, if we can just get back there, to where we were before 9/11, everything is going to be okay. No, it's not. This is a global war; not only have they hit the United States, but they hit Madrid and Casablanca and Mombassa and East Africa and Istanbul and Riyadh and Jakarta and Bali and Jakarta, again, and Beslan, in Southern Russia. All of those attacks since they struck us on 9/11. Somebody whose mind is around the concept of treating terrorism or getting terrorism back to the point where it's a nuisance like illegal gambling and prostitution strikes me as somebody whose head is in fundamentally the wrong place to be prosecuting the war on terror. (Applause.)
So it's been my enormous privilege to serve alongside George Bush these last four years. I've enjoyed it immensely. I've been proud to serve with him. He's been a great President. And with all of your help and support, on November 2nd we'll make absolutely certain he continues to be our Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. (Applause.)
Now, we've got some people around here with microphones, and they're in the attractive white T-shirts -- they are pretty attractive, actually -- you ought to see what we make them wear most of the time. (Laughter.) They've got microphones and if you've got a question or a comment you'd like to offer up, just get their attention and they'll come over to you and you can have an opportunity to participate in this affair. So we've got somebody here -- can we have somebody with a microphone get down here where -- somebody right over here, number five.
Q Mr. Vice President, we've been hearing a lot on the local news about the Senator has hired a team of lawyers to contest the outcome of the election already. I'm a little concerned about voter fraud and the things that are going on. Are we going to have a repeat of 2000? Or how do you anticipate this is all going to play out the next couple of weeks?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm one of those who believes that our margin is going to bigger this time than 537 votes in Florida. (Applause.)
And I would hope that we don't have a contested election. If there is any kind of fraud out there of any kind by anybody, it obviously needs to be prosecuted. It can't be allowed to happen. We need to protect the sanctity of the electoral process. It's one of the unique and distinguishing features of our civilization. But the -- as I say, I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful that, in fact, we're going to have a good, solid, hard-fought, clean election and that people will all have the opportunity to participate and should, that everybody's vote will be counted and that there won't be anybody in the process who's trying to intimidate folks or to register people who aren't eligible, et cetera.
So I know that everybody is watching it. The best way, I think, to guarantee the safety and sanctity of the process is to have the kind of public focus on it that is clearly there now. And I think that's most likely to guarantee us a fair outcome. And, as I say, I'm fairly optimistic that we're going to get the right answer.
Q Yes, Mr. Vice President, we have seen a reduction in the crime rate in the United States. And the Fraternal Order of Police, which is the organization that represents the vast majority of law enforcement officers across the United States, has recently endorsed the Bush-Cheney team. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
Q And I can tell you in the last 30 years of being in law enforcement, there has never been an administration that has been more supportive of the law enforcement community in this country, and we thank you. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. We're delighted to have the endorsement of the organization. And it's important for all of us to remember given the nature of the conflict we're now engaged in, what happened here on 9/11, and the importance of safety and security of the nation going forward, that people on the front line include our local law enforcement personnel, our fire departments and first responders. It's a different kind of conflict than we've ever had to deal with before. So we're delighted to have the endorsement of the organization, and we'll continue to do everything we can to earn it.
Back here, yes.
Q Good morning, Mr. Vice President. It's a great honor. I appreciate the opportunity. John Kerry has stated on several occasions that the United States had Osama bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, and then in his characterization that we diverted our resources and troops to Iraq and outsourced that particular mission or job to the warlords of Afghanistan. I personally doubt the veracity of his statement and I would just like you to respond to that, please.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I happen to agree with you. (Laughter.) No, the facts are -- and this issue was addressed just yesterday or the day before by General Tommy Franks. General Franks was the CENTCOM commander; he was the four-star in charge of or operations for that whole part of the globe, including both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was the man in charge of those operations. He was the one who developed and executed the plans that worked in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and he came just within the last 24 or 48 hours and said, it's absolute garbage. It's just not true.
The fact of the matter is that we get speculation about where Osama bin Laden might have been, but we went down and went in and took down a great many bad guys, and killed a lot of other members of al Qaeda. There is no evidence that there was any diminution of the effort in Afghanistan because of what we did in Iraq. We clearly are capable of doing both operations. We did both operations. The man in charge of both operations, who is a highly decorated, distinguished veteran of over 30 years service in the United States military says basically it's hogwash. And he was there; he ought to know. (Applause.)
Q Good morning, Mr. Vice President. Thanks for coming to Lancaster, Ohio, and Fairfield County. As we listen to these debates and we hear the debatable issues of health care and Social Security and all those such things, I see such little difference in the parties, I don't expect that to be a difference in the election. However, I have a fear that in the year 2004, we're going to find out whether we have a moral majority in this country. And I implore you and the President to continue the next two weeks to show us the difference.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. (Applause.) Thank you, sir.
Somebody over here, number four.
Q Mrs. Cheney, my dad was a New York City fireman, and it would be great politically if that letter you read could be on a full-page ad in USA Today between now and the election. (Applause.) And the other question I have is, where is Arnold rallying the young people of America? We need him. It's close. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the letter is a remarkable letter. Lynne read only a small portion of it. But it is available I guess, on the Internet.
MRS. CHENEY: I'll just say that the campaign released it to the press. So maybe you could call your local newspaper and see if it can't get some coverage, because it is really so eloquent, so remarkable. Or call a national newspaper. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But that is a good idea to make certain that it is seen because it's one of the most eloquent testimonials I've ever seen from the families who lost people on 9/11 and why they're supporting the President.
With respect to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor has been great. He, of course, went to New York and gave, I thought, a great speech at the convention in New York City. I thought it was superb. (Applause.) There's nothing like having an immigrant, a naturalized American citizen who could tell the story about what it was like to come to the United States, his dream of being able to come here someday and what he'd been able to accomplish since he got here. It's a testimonial, I think, to the greatness of the nation. And we've been delighted with the Governor's support. He has been superb. He also has his hands full in California, not in a political sense, but in a gubernatorial sense, governing out there. And we've been very pleased with the help that he has provided us.
Q Mr. Vice President, it's obviously that Kerry had less than honorable discharge from the service. Isn't there a way to find his military records, and find out what kind of discharge he got, and if he attended the two years active duty drills he was supposed to take? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure I want to go there. (Laughter.) We have refrained in the Bush campaign from in any way criticizing Senator Kerry's military service. We just haven't done it. There are a lot of people out there who are debating his service. That's their prerogative. They've all earned the right to speak and express their views. But as -- we think just from the standpoint of wisdom, we've stayed away from any comment with respect to his military record. And that's where I'm going to leave it today. I don't know any of the details other than what I've seen in the press. And I wouldn't comment further.
Q Mr. Vice President, in the last week or two, we've seen evidence of a released prisoner from Guantanamo showing up again in Pakistan. In light of that kind of situation, how are we ever going to deal with the situation of those folks who we've got incarcerated in Guantanamo?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the way to think about what we've got in Guantanamo is there are a number of people incarcerated down there. They are defined under the Geneva Convention and so forth as illegal combatants. That is to say they were picked up -- they're terrorists. They were involved in terrorist activities. They weren't in compliance with the laws of warfare, in terms of wearing uniforms and functioning the way military organizations are supposed to function. A lot of them were captured in places like Afghanistan and elsewhere. And they are being held, in effect, and treated as prisoners of war even though the Geneva Convention doesn't specifically apply to their situation.
And when you're in the midst of conflict like this, it's when you have enemy personnel that come into your possession, and it has historically been the case that you hold them for the duration of the conflict. You don't want to put them out so they can go back to the battlefield again. And we have had a couple of instances where people that were released, that were believed not to be dangerous have, in fact, found their way back onto the battlefield in the Middle East. And it's a judgment call. Many of them are citizens of other countries. Some of those countries have asked for them to be returned. In some cases, they've made commitments that they would be either held incarcerated, or brought to trial in those countries. In some cases, that hasn't happened obviously. So it's a tough call to make, but we continue to do everything we can to hold those that we need -- believe to be held, that they ought to stay prisoners as long as this conflict is under way. A number of them will be prosecuted under the military tribunals that have been authorized by the President. And again, that's all in manner that's consistent with the traditional practice going back prior to World War II. So I think we're handling it about right. And we do have to make some difficult judgments there. And obviously, in a couple of cases people were let go that probably should have been held.
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President, we have time for just one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks, Dave. Somebody back here.
Q Okay, I'd like to first thank you. In 2003, I got my Eagle Scout, and I thank you for sending me a congratulations letter.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good. (Laughter and applause.)
Q And it's not uncommon today for people to graduate from college with loans of $50,000 to $100,000. How do you and President Bush plan on controlling the price of college tuition that has risen much faster than inflation over the past 10 years?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've tried to do a number of things. We've significantly increased Pell grants to make it possible to cover more students than we have in past. It has actually gone -- used to be about 4 million people we could cover under the program, now it's up 5 million plus. We've increased the upper ceiling on Pell grants by $300 a year to cover the extra added costs of tuition. We've provided a special $1,000 grant to students at a certain level who take tough courses in high school to prepare themselves for college, a series of steps like that. We also have supported the concept of lifetime savings accounts, which would allow people to set aside money tax-free that could be used for education or other purposes at any point along the line. These are all concepts and programs that are either in place, or that are being actively supported by the administration. We believe very strongly in the importance of education. I read a statistic the other day that something like 83 percent of the fastest growing professions in the United States require training now beyond high school.
The other thing we want to do -- and this is an important activity for the federal government, as well, too, is when the President came to town, to Washington, and his top legislative priority was No Child Left Behind. That was HR 1. He learned based on his service as Governor of Texas that the public school system wasn't working the way it should be. We were just passing a lot of students through from grade to grade without them acquiring the skills they needed. And Lynne and I both went to public schools. We're beneficiaries of a great public school education. That ought to be available for everybody. What the President did was get No Child Left Behind passed. It was supported on a bipartisan basis. It established standards and testing and accountability so we know how individual schools are doing. I think, as I recall here in Ohio, 83 percent of your schools this last year met the test of significant -- substantial improvement, which is very good for the state of Ohio. And it makes us -- what we want to do now is take that same concept that we've applied at the elementary level and move it to secondary, so that we made certain our high schools are functioning, that people coming out of high school have all the requisite talent and skill that you would expect them to have after having had that kind of good public education, that they acquire the necessary experience in math and reading so they can take the jobs that will be developed in the 21st century, and that we lay the groundwork wherever possible for them to go on and acquire whatever additional technical or professional education they need in order to be able to take maximum advantage of the opportunities that do exist in the United States.
And I know education is expensive. It is for everybody. Of course, when I went to school at the University of Wyoming, tuition was 96 bucks a semester. (Laughter.) On the other hand, I was only making a buck and a quarter an hour, so it evened out. But it is a top priority for us. Education has been at the forefront of the President's concerns. It's key in terms of jobs, in terms of our economy, in terms of the basic fundamental well-being of the American people. So it will continue to be a top priority for us.
And let me go back here for one last question. I love your shirt -- Buckeyes For Bush.
Q Thank you. (Applause.) Mr. Vice President, and, Lynne, I really don't have a question. I have a comment. You've been a personal hero of mine from 1991, when I heard you speak on national defense. And what you said that day came true under Bill Clinton. And I love President Bush. He makes such great decisions, and the first great one he made was asking you to be Vice President. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Lynne said I better quit while I'm ahead. (Laughter.) But thank you very much. We appreciate this.
Well, again, let us -- we want to thank all of you for being here today. This is an extraordinarily important election. We're all enormously privileged as Americans to be able to participate in this process. And come November 2nd, I know Ohio is going to be in the winning column for Bush-Cheney.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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