The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 20, 2004

President's Remarks in Mason City, Iowa
North Iowa Fairgrounds
Mason City, Iowa

10:00 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) Thank you all for coming out to say hello. It is great to be in Mason City, Iowa. (Applause.) I appreciate the warm welcome. It's the home of fine corn, fine people, and fine music. (Applause.)

I'm here to ask for your help. We're less than two weeks away from voting time. And I'd like for you to get your friends and neighbors and remind them we have a duty in democracy to vote. (Applause.) And get them headed to the polls, and remind them, if they want a safer America and a stronger America and a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney back in office. (Applause.)

My only regret is that Laura is not traveling with me today.


THE PRESIDENT: That is generally the reaction. (Laughter.) Why didn't you send her and you stay at home. (Laughter.) She was a public school librarian when I met her for the second time. See, we were in the 7th grade together in San Jacinto Junior High in Midland, Texas. She became a public school librarian, and I met her again. I said, will you marry me. She said, fine, just so long as I never have to give a speech. (Laughter.) 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 warm, compassionate, great First Lady. (Applause.) I am traveling in Iowa today to give you reasons why I think you ought to put me back into office, but perhaps the most important one of all is so that Laura is the First Lady for four more years. (Applause.)

This morning in the Oval Office I met with our fine Vice President, Dick Cheney. I was there, of course, to discuss national security matters before we hit the campaign trail today. I'm proud of my Vice President. I admit to you, he does not have the waviest hair in the race. (Laughter.) You'll be happy I didn't pick him because of his hairdo. (Laughter.) I picked him because of his judgment, his experience, and his ability to get the job done. (Applause.)

I am proud of your United States Congressman, Tom Latham. He is doing an excellent job. (Applause.) You're proud to call him Congressman; I'm proud to call him friend. (Applause.) And I appreciate his wife, Kathy, as well. She's a fine, fine lady. I'm also proud to be working with your United States Senator, Charles Grassley. I told him when I saw him -- (applause.) I saw him the other day in Cedar Rapids. I took him aside and I said, listen, the South Lawn at the White House has got a lot of grass. (Laughter.) I'm proud to work with him, and with your help, I'll continue to work with him for four more years. (Applause.)

I want to thank the House Majority Leader, Chuck Gipp, who's with us. I want to thank all those who serve in state and local government. I appreciate the Mayor being here. I'm honored that the Mayor is taking time out to be here. My only advice to the Mayor is to pave the potholes. (Laughter and applause.) I appreciate your service, Mayor.

I want to thank all the grassroots activists. I thank you for what you have done and what you're going to do -- put up the signs, get on the phone, turn people out to vote, talk to your friends and neighbors, go to your community centers, go to your coffee shops, go to your houses of worship, remind people we have a duty. With your help, we will carry Iowa and win a great victory in November. (Applause.)

Listen, in the last few years the American people have come to know me. They know my blunt way of speaking. I got that from my mother. (Laughter.) They know that sometimes I mangle the English language. I got that from my dad. (Laughter.) Americans also know I tell you exactly what I'm going to do, and I keep my word. (Applause.) When I came into office, the stock market had been in serious decline for six months. That had been an indication that our economy was sliding into a recession. To help families and to get this economy growing again, I pledged to reduce taxes. I kept my word. (Applause.)

The results are clear. The recession was one of the shallowest in American history. Over the last three years our economy has grown at rates as fast as any in nearly 20 years. Today, the home ownership rate is at an all-time high in America. (Applause.) In the past 13 months, we've added more than 1.9 million new jobs. The unemployment rate in America is 5.4 percent, lower than the average rate of the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s. (Applause.) Farm income is up. The unemployment rate in Iowa is 4.5 percent. This economy is moving forward and we're not going to go back to the days of tax and spend. (Applause.)

To keep this economy strong we'll continue to stand with our farmers. I understand a good national economy depends on a good farm economy. (Applause.) I signed a good farm bill that's helping our farmers. We're phasing out the death tax to help our farmers keep their farms from generation to generation. (Applause.) We have extended contracts in the conservation reserve program, to help protect our wildlife, to help improve land and to help our farm families. We're expanding broad-band technology to make high-speed Internet access available to all Americans by 2007. We're opening up markets for Iowa farmers all across the world. (Applause.)

We are pursuing an energy strategy that encourages conservation, increased domestic production and renewables like ethanol and biodiesel. (Applause.) When I campaigned in your state in 2000, I told the people of Iowa I support ethanol. I kept my word. (Applause.) To make sure jobs remain here, America must be the best place in the world to do business. That means less regulations on our job creators. That means we must do something about the frivolous lawsuits that make it hard for small business owners to expand their companies. (Applause.) We will open up markets around the world. We will make sure that we're wise about how we spend your money. And to make sure this economy continues to grow, we must keep your taxes low. (Applause.)

Now, my opponent has his own history on the economy. (Laughter.) In 20 years as a Senator from Massachusetts, he has built a record of -- a senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter and applause.) He has voted to raise taxes 98 times.


THE PRESIDENT: I want to remind you he voted to tax Social Security benefits.


THE PRESIDENT: He's been there for 20 years, that's about five tax increases -- five tax increases every year. I'd call that a predictable pattern. I'd call that an indicator. (Applause.) He looked in the camera the other night with a straight face and said, he's not going to raise taxes on anyone who earns less than $200,000. The problem with that is to keep that promise he would have to break almost all of his other ones. (Applause.) He has proposed more than $2.2 trillion in new federal spending -- that's trillion with a "The." (Laughter.) And so they asked him, how are you going to pay for it? He said, oh, I'll just tax the rich. Now, we've heard that before, haven't we?


THE PRESIDENT: See, you can't raise enough money by raising the top two brackets to pay for $2.2 trillion of new spending. There is a gap between what he has promised and what he can deliver. And guess who usually has to fill that gap?


THE PRESIDENT: There's also something else wrong with taxing the rich. The rich hire lawyers and accountants for a reason -- (laughter) -- to slip the tab and stick you with the bill. The good news is we're not going to let him tax you, we're going to carry Iowa and win in November. (Applause.)

When I came into public office too many republic [sic] schools were passing children, grade to grade, year after year, without learning the basics. So I pledged to restore accountability to our schools and to end the soft bigotry of low expectations. (Applause.) I kept my word. (Applause.) The No Child Left Behind Act is a solid piece of reform. We're now seeing results. Our children are making sustained gains in reading and math. We're closing achievement gaps all across our country, and we're not going to go back to the days of low expectations and mediocrity in our classrooms. (Applause.)

When I came into office we had a problem in Medicare -- medicine was changing, but Medicare was not. And that was a problem. Let me give you an example. Medicare would pay tens of thousands of dollars for heart surgery, but not one dime for the prescription drug that could prevent the heart surgery from being needed in the first place. That was not fair to our seniors or our taxpayers. In 2002 I remember campaigning around your state saying that we were going to reform Medicare so rural hospitals would be treated more fairly in the state of Iowa. I kept my pledge. (Applause.) I kept my word. Iowa's rural hospitals are being treated fairly. Thanks to the good work of Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Tom Latham, beginning in 2006, all seniors will be able to get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. (Applause.)

There's more to do in health care. We need to make sure health care is available and affordable for all our citizens. We need a safety net for those with the greatest needs. We'll do more to make sure our poor children are fully subscribed in our programs for low-income families so they get the health care they need. I believe in community health centers, places where the poor and the indigent can get health care. Since I took office we have opened or expanded more than 600 community health centers. We've provided care to more than 3 million patients, including many from farm communities. In a new term, we'll open or expand another 600 centers, and we will make sure every poor county in America has a community or rural health center. (Applause.)

Most of the uninsured today work for small businesses. Small businesses are having trouble affording health care. To help workers get the health care they need we must allow small businesses to join together so they can buy insurance at the same discounts that big companies can buy insurance. (Applause.) We will expand health savings accounts so workers and small businesses are able to pay lower premiums, and people can save tax-free in a health care account they call their own.

To make sure health care is available and affordable, we must do something about the junk lawsuits that are running up the cost of medicine and running good doctors out of practice. (Applause.) By forcing doctors to practice defensive medicine, these medical lawsuits cost the federal government $28 billion a year. That means they cost you $28 billion a year. Lawsuits drive up insurance premiums, which drives good doctors out of practice. I've talked to too many OB/GYNs, for example, who are having to leave their practice because of lawsuits. And I've met too many women who are worried about the quality of the health care they receive because of lawsuits. You cannot be pro-doctor and pro-patient and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. (Applause.) I think you have to choose. My opponent made his choice and he put a personal injury trail lawyer on the ticket.


THE PRESIDENT: I made my choice. I'm standing with the docs and the patients. I'm for medical liability reform now. (Applause.)

We have big differences in this campaign when it comes to health care. My opponent has laid out one that calls for a bigger and more intrusive government. Now, the other day, in the debate, he looked right in the camera again, and he said this, he said, "The government has nothing to do with it." I could barely contain myself. (Laughter.) The facts are that eight out of ten people who get health care under Senator Kerry's plan would be placed on a government program. Those are the facts.


THE PRESIDENT: He said his plan would help small businesses, yet upon analysis, small business groups have concluded that it is an overpriced albatross that would saddle small businesses with 225 new mandates. I want to help our small businesses, and will through association health plans, but we're not going to saddle them with a bunch of new government regulations. (Applause.) My opponent wants to move in the direction of government health care. Health decisions, in my plan, will be made by doctors and patients, not by officials in Washington, D.C. He can run from his plan, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

We'll continue to promote an ownership society in America. You know, there's a saying that says no one ever washes a rental car. (Laughter.) There's a lot of wisdom in that statement. See, when you own something, you care about it. And when you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of our country. That's why we will continue to promote entrepreneurship. Every time a small business is started, someone is achieving the American Dream. (Applause.)

That's why we're encouraging health savings accounts, so people can have the security of managing and owning their own health care account. That's why we'll continue to promote home ownership in America. I love it when more and more people open up the door where they live and say, welcome to my home, welcome to my piece of property. (Applause.)

In a new term we'll take the next step to build an ownership society by strengthening Social Security. Now, I want to take you back to the 2002 campaign, if I might, when they ran all those ads that said, if George W. gets elected, you will not get your check. You remember those? I want you to remind your friends and neighbors that they got their Social Security checks. (Applause.) No one is going to take the Social Security check away from our seniors. (Applause.) And as far as the baby boomers like me go, we're in pretty good shape when it comes to Social Security. But we need to worry about our children and our grandchildren when it comes to the Social Security system. We need to worry about whether or not Social Security will be around when they need it. I believe we need to think differently about Social Security for our youngsters. For their sake, we must strengthen the system by allowing younger workers to save some of their own payroll accounts -- payroll taxes, in a personal savings account that they can call their own, that the government cannot take away. (Applause.)

The other night my opponent said he's going to maintain the status quo when it comes to Social Security. That is unacceptable. The job of a President is to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations. (Applause.) We have a different philosophy of government. On just about every issue my opponent is for more authority to the United States government. I'm for more authority to the people. (Applause.) On issue after issue, from Medicare without choices to schools with less accountability to higher taxes, he takes the side of bigger government. And there's a word for that attitude. It is called liberalism. Now, he just dismisses that word as a label. He must have seen it differently when he told a newspaper, I am liberal and proud of it. (Laughter.) There have been people who have judged people's records in politics -- the nonpartisan National Journal Magazine did a study and named him the most liberal member of the United States Senate. That takes hard work. (Laughter.) See, he can run, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

I have a different record and a different philosophy. I do not believe in big government and I do not believe government should be indifferent. I'm a compassionate conservative. I believe in policies that empower people to improve their lives, not try to run their lives. So we're helping men and women find the skills and tools to prosper in a time of change. We're helping people realize their dreams so they can find dignity and independence in America, and that is how I will continue to lead our country for four more years. (Applause.)

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

THE PRESIDENT: In a time of change -- in this time of change, some things do not change -- the values we try to live by: courage and compassion, reverence and integrity. In a time of change, we must support the institutions that give our lives direction and purpose: our families, our schools, our houses of worship. We stand for a culture of live in which every person matters and every being counts. (Applause.) We stand for marriage and family, which are the foundations of our society. (Applause.) We stand for the Second Amendment, which protects every American's individual right to bear arms. (Applause.) We stand for the appointment of federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law. (Applause.)

My opponent's words on these issues are a little muddy, but his record is plenty clear. (Laughter.) He says he supports the institution of marriage, but he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. He says he's -- he called himself the candidate with conservative values, but he voted against the ban on the brutal practice of partial birth abortion.


THE PRESIDENT: He described the Reagan years as a time of moral darkness.


THE PRESIDENT: There is a mainstream in American politics, and my opponent sits on the far left bank. (Applause.) In this campaign, he can try to run from his record and his philosophy, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism. The most solemn duty of the American President is to protect the American people. If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch. (Applause.)

Since that terrible morning of September the 11th, 2001, we've fought the terrorists across the Earth -- not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake. Our strategy is clear. We're reforming and strengthening our intelligence gathering capabilities. We're defending the homeland. We're transforming our military. The all-volunteer army will remain an all-volunteer army. (Applause.) We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. We will spread freedom and liberty and we will prevail. (Applause.)

Our strategy is succeeding. Think about the world the way it was some three-and-a-half years ago. Afghanistan was the home base of al Qaeda. It's where terrorists were training to inflict great harm on America and the free world. Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fundraising. Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iraq was a dangerous place and a gathering threat, and al Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned horrific attacks.

But because we acted, because the United States of America was steadfast and resolved, Afghanistan is now a free nation and an ally in the war on terror. (Applause.) Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders. Saudi Arabia is making raids and arrests. The army of a free Iraq is fighting for freedom, and more than three-quarters of al Qaeda's key members and associates have been brought to justice. (Applause.) Now we're standing with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. When America gives its word, America must keep its word. (Applause.)

But I want the youngsters here to hear what is happening in the world in which you live. Think about Afghanistan three-and-a-half years ago. There were young girls there who couldn't go to schools, and their mothers were pulled in the public square and whipped if they didn't toe the line of these ideologues of hate who ran the country. They were called the Taliban. These were barbaric, brutal people. Because we acted in our own self-interest, because we upheld the doctrine that said, if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist, today Afghanistan is free. Millions of people voted in a presidential election. The first voter in the Afghan presidential election was a 19-year-old woman. Freedom is on the march. (Applause.)

People want to be free. That's what you've got to know. People desire to be free. In Iraq, there will be elections in January. Think how far that society has come from the days of torture chambers, the days of a brutal dictator who was willing to cut the hands off people arbitrarily. Think about the difference that is from the days of the mass graves. See, free societies help us keep the peace. Free societies will be hopeful societies which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for exports. Free countries will join us in fighting these ideologues of hate, instead of supporting them. And that helps us keep the peace we all long for. (Applause.)

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

It is such an honor to be the Commander-in-Chief of such a great military. And it is a great military because of the character of the people who wear our nation's uniform. And I want to thank the veterans who are here today for having set such a great example. (Applause.)

And I want to thank the military families who are here. And I want you to know that we will keep our commitment to those who wear the uniform and their families by making sure that our troops have all they need to complete their missions. That's why I went to the United States Congress in September of 2003 and asked for $87 billion in supplemental funding to support our troops in harm's way, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I was very pleased with the overwhelming bipartisan support for that important funding request. As a matter of fact, the support was so strong that only 12 members of the United States Senate voted against the funding to support our troops in combat, two of whom were my opponent and his running mate.


THE PRESIDENT: Now, let me remind you of a startling statistic, and I want you to remind your friends and neighbors of this startling statistic. There were only four members of the United States Senate, four out of a hundred, who voted to authorize the use of force, and then voted against the funding to support our troops in combat. Two of those four were my opponent and his running mate.


THE PRESIDENT: So I asked him why. I asked him about that vote. And that's when he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Now, I don't know if a lot of folks around the coffee shops in this part of the world talk like that. (Laughter.) I doubt they do. They continued to press them. He was giving them a bunch of answers as to why he made that vote. One of the most interesting ones of all is he finally just said it was a complicated matter. (Laughter.) There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat. (Applause.)

This is America's first presidential election since September the 11th, 2001. The security of our country is at risk in ways different from any we have before faced. We are in the midst of a global war against a well-trained, highly motivated enemy, an enemy who hates America for the very freedoms and values we cherish most. The next Commander-in-Chief must lead us to victory in this war, and you cannot lead a war when you don't believe you're fighting one. (Applause.)

Senator Kerry was recently asked how September the 11th had changed him. He replied, "It didn't change me much at all." And this unchanged world view becomes obvious when he calls the war against terror primarily and intelligence and law enforcement operation, rather than what I believe: a war which requires the full use of American power to keep us secure. (Applause.)

Senator Kerry's top foreign policy advisor has questioned whether this is even a war at all. Here's what he said, and I quote, "We're not in a war on terror in the literal sense. It is like saying 'the war on poverty.' It is just a metaphor." End quote. Confusing food programs with terrorist killings reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the war we face, and that is very dangerous thinking. (Applause.)

My opponent also misunderstands our battle against insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, calling Iraq a diversion from the war on terror. The case of one terrorist shows how wrong his thinking is. The terrorist leader we face in Iraq today, the one responsible for planting car bombs and beheading Americans is a man named Zarqawi. Zarqawi ran a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan until our military coalition destroyed that camp. He then fled to Iraq where he got medical treatment and continued his plotting and planning. To confirm where he's coming from, just the other day, Zarqawi publicly announced his sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy fighting American forces in Iraq, does Senator Kerry think he would be leading a productive and peaceful life? Of course not. And that's why Iraq is no diversion, but a central commitment in the war on terror, a place where our military is confronting and defeating terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)

You cannot lead our nation to decisive victory on which the security of every American family depends if you do not see the true dangers of a post-September the 11th world. The war against terror requires all our resources, all our strength. We will stay on the offense. We will improve our homeland protections. And of course, we'll continue to work with our allies and our coalition to keep us safe.

Senator Kerry's view of alliance-building is to call them the coerced and the bribed, is to insult the friends who stands with us and try to placate countries who disagree with us. No, we'll work hard with all our friends and allies, but I will never give a country a veto power over our national security. (Applause.)

I believe in the transformational power of liberty. That's what I believe. You know, I have had many conversations with Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. That may not seem like much to some here. But it wasn't all that long ago, when you think about it, that we were at war with Japan. Japan was the sworn enemy of the United States of America. My dad fought against the Japanese; I'm confident many out here's relatives fought against the Japanese, as well. And after we won that war, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, believed in the power of liberty to transform an enemy into an ally. There was a lot of skepticism about that during that period in our history. You can understand why. Japan couldn't conceivably become a democracy, people would say. Why do we want to help a country that inflicted such harm on the United States of America, others would say. There was pessimism and doubt.

But, fortunately, predecessors of ours believed in the power of liberty to transform, and as a result of that belief, and because we helped Japan become a democracy, I now sit at the table with Prime Minister Koizumi talking about how to keep the peace we all want. Some day an American President will be sitting down the a duly-elected leader of Iraq, talking about keeping the peace in the Middle East. And our children and our grandchildren will be better off for it. (Applause.)

I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their freedom. I believe women in the Middle East want to live in a free society. I believe mothers and dads in the Middle East want to raise their children in a free and peaceful environment. I believe all these things because freedom is not America's gift to the world, freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world. (Applause.)

We have climbed the mountain and we see the valley below. And the valley below is one of peace and hope and optimism. You know, for all Americans, these years in our history will always stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of its leaders. This isn't one of those times. (Laughter.) This is a time that requires firm resolve, clear vision, and a deep faith in the values that makes us a great nation. (Applause.)

None of us will ever forget that week when one era ended and another began. On September the 14th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. I will never forget the day. I will never forget the voices of those in their hard hats yelling at me at the top of their lungs, "Whatever it takes." I will never forget the look in the man's eye who grabbed me by the arm, and he said, "Do not let me down." Ever since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes. (Applause.)

Four years ago when I traveled your great state in the caucuses, and then in the general election, I made a pledge that if you gave me a chance to serve, I would uphold the honor and the dignity of the office to which I had been elected. With your help, with your hard work coming down the stretch, I will do so for four more years. God bless. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) I appreciate you being here. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.)

END 10:45 A.M. CDT

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