|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 29, 2004
Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks in Sioux City, Iowa
Sioux City Convention Center
Sioux City, Iowa
October 28, 2004
5:18 P.M. CDT
MRS. CHENEY: Well, thank you all so much. Please have a seat. Thank you for that warm welcome. It is such a pleasure to be here in Iowa. I'm sorry --
MRS. CHENEY: Now try it. It is a pleasure to be here, just have to smack this mike every once in a while. What a beautiful day -- is it always 71 degrees in Sioux City at this time of year? (Laughter and applause.)
Well, as Dick and I travel across the country and we see beautiful places, like the place where you live, you're all so lucky to live here, beautiful blue skies and great schools. I've been interested in education for so long I know how good your schools are and how proud you are.
I think as Americans, we have so much to be proud of. And sometimes I think I should make a list of everything we need to be proud of. If I were doing it today, right at the top of my list would go our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
He has been a magnificent leader for us these past four years, and if you don't mind my saying so, the Vice President is no slouch either. (Applause.)
Well, I get to introduce Dick. And I've had the pleasure of doing this all across the country, I've been given this assignment because I have known him for so long. (Laughter.) I have known him since he was 14 years old, and his job that summer was sweeping out the Ben Franklin store in our home town, Casper, Wyoming. And I've known him through many a job 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 about those jobs because when you grow up working hard, you learn some really important lessons. And one of them is how important it is for the hard working people of this country to get to keep as much of their paychecks as possible. (Applause.)
Well, I'm a mom and I'm a grandma. I don't see too many grandmas here today, actually. Oh, oh, good -- there is grandma power here. I'm glad to know that. But I think there are so many issues in this election that are important to me, and I suspect it's true for you, too, but when I think about it, the first thing I think about are my kids and my grandkids, and having them be safe, and having them be secure. And you all know as well as I do, as well as anybody does, that the terrorists will try to come after us again. They will try. So the question I ask myself is, who do I want standing in the doorway, who do I want protecting us when that happens. And I'll tell you it is not John Kerry. And It is not John Edwards. It is George Bush. (Applause.) And it George Bush, and it is my husband, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all very much. And, Lynne, thank you very much for that introduction. Let me also thank Chuck Grassley. Chuck's superb job. (Applause.) Chuck and I have known each other a long time because before he ran for the Senate, he was a member of the House, like I was. And we worked very closely together. And I know I can say on behalf of the President a lot of what we've been able to do in this administration in Congress, whether we're talking about fundamental changes in tax policy, or the kinds of incentives we've been able to build in to resume economic growth and get the economy moving again, after the recession, or what we've done with respect to Medicare and Medicare reform, a lot of what goes on in agriculture, Chuck Grassley, absolutely is the key man, partly because of the role he played -- (Applause.)
He's got a unique blend that you don't often see in Washington, and that is he's risen to a position of supreme importance as chairman of the finance committee, and he's never forgotten where he came from. (Applause.)
When I think of all the campaigning that Lynne and I have done this year, and we've been in 48 states and we've covered, obviously, a lot of Iowa, and a lot of other states, as well, too, but I don't know of a single individual in the United States Congress who has made as many appearances with us as Chuck has. He's there every time we come to Iowa. (Applause.)
But we're delighted to be here today and to have an opportunity to spend some time with all of you. I feel a little bit -- we'll get close to where I came from. I was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, just across the river a ways. So we're close to Iowa. We didn't never -- we always were proud of what did in football, frankly. (Laughter.)
But I often tell people that Lynne and I got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States, and that in those years in the early '50s, I lived in Lincoln with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected; he reorganized the government; Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming. That's where I met Lynne; we grew up together, went to high school together and recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained that to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And then she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) They know exactly what I mean. (Laughter.)
But what we try to do at these town halls is have an opportunity for me to share some thoughts with you about one of the major issues of this campaign that is going to get decided next Tuesday and then open it up to questions. We'll have an opportunity to hear from you, respond to your questions or listen to your comments. And there will be some folks around with microphones and we'll get to that business in just a minute.
But from my perspective, in terms of what I think is absolutely vital about this election is that we're going to be picking our Commander-in-Chief for the next four years, and that's just one of the roles the President has to fulfill under the Article II of the Constitution. There are a lot of important issues we've been talking about, from the economy, to health care, to education. But I think the whole national security area is front and center, partly because of the times in which we live.
Nobody knows when they become President exactly what kind of problems they're going to have to deal with. You run -- we ran four years ago, and we had a certain agenda we wanted to work. And then, of course, along came 9/11 and all of the sudden we had a whole new set of problems on our plates that we had to deal with.
The fact is, you never know what a President is going to confront once he gets into office. If you just think about the events of that day and the way in which it has forced us to think anew about national security strategy, about what the threat is to the nation, about how we defend the country against further attacks and guarantee the safety and security of our country and our kids and our grandkids. Pretty big issue.
Lots of times, there have been periods in our history when, as a nation, we've been confronted with a new threat, we had to develop a new strategy or new institutions to deal with that threat, and I think one of those, of course, was right after World War II, after we won tremendous victories in Europe and the Pacific, and then all of the sudden, in the late '40s, we're faced with the challenge of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union that acquired nuclear weapons, occupied half of Europe, supported communist insurgencies in various places around the globe, and we had to respond and did respond. We created the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, put in place a set of policies and a strategy that was then supported and pursued by Republican and Democrat alike over the next 40 years until we finally reached the point where the Soviet Union collapsed. The Cold War ended in our favor, obviously, in the early '90s.
I think we're, again, at one of those points where we're faced now with a new challenge, a new threat, the worldwide global conflict with terror, if you will, and where we have to, in fact, put in place a new strategy that's going to see us forward into the future for a good many years to come.
And the choice for me on November 2nd is who do I want to have leading that effort, and we've got two choices, obviously. We've got George Bush, and the other is John Kerry. And I thought what I'd do today is take a few minutes and talk about that choice and talk about those records. John Kerry doesn't like to talk about his record for the last 20 years very much, so we're going to do it for him. (Laughter and applause.)
What we learned on 9/11 was that a handful of individuals could come into the country -- we're an open society; it's one of our great strengths. We believe in freedom and the movement of people back and forth across international borders, and our economy depends on having a wide open system, and that's one of the great benefits of being Americans, but it also means we're vulnerable. And we found out we were vulnerable on 9/11, when all of the sudden, we ended up with a group of individuals, 19 individuals among us with boarding passes and box cutters, and that day, of course, they killed approximately 3,000 Americans, worst attack ever on U.S. soil. We lost more people than we lost at Pearl Harbor.
And it's forced us to think about that threat, and of course, the biggest threat that we face today now is the possibility of a similar group of individuals coming into the United States into the middle of one of our cities, but this time, having deadlier weapons to use against us than they used on 9/11. And we know from people we've captured and interrogated, from documents we found when we went into Afghanistan, we know they're trying to get their hands on a chemical or a biological weapon or even a nuclear weapon if they can. And if they were to do that and succeed in getting into the United States with that kind of capability, obviously, they would threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, far more than we lost on 9/11.
And that's the threat we have to contemplate when we think about what kind of strategy we need to put in place in order to defeat it, in order to guarantee they can never get that kind of an attack off against the United States.
So what we've been doing since 9/11, obviously, is focused on several things. We've moved aggressively to improve our defenses here at home. We created the Department of Homeland Security. We passed the Patriot Act to give law enforcement more tools to use against terrorists. We set up Project BioShield. It gives the federal government the authority and the money to develop defenses against attacks with biological weapons. A series of steps to improve airline security, the containers coming through our ports, to tighten our border security and so forth.
But a good defense isn't enough. Given the nature of the threat, terrorists armed with a weapon of mass destruction, if we're successful 999 times out of 1,000, that one time out of 1,000 they get through can be devastating. We can't accept that.
So the President made the decision early on that a good defense wasn't good enough, that we also had to go on offense, and that's what we've done since 9/11. We've used the full might of the United States, including law enforcement and intelligence and so forth, but also our military capability to go after terrorists wherever they plot and plan and organize against us, and also -- and this was a new departure -- was to go after those who support terror, those who sponsor terror, those who provide a sanctuary or safe harbor for terror. That had not been part of our traditional operation in the past. We decided that we would hold states that sponsor terror to account for the acts of the terrorists they sponsored, in effect.
And of course, that's what we've done now in Afghanistan, where we went in and took down the Taliban regime, captured and killed hundreds of al Qaeda, closed the training camps where some 20,000 terrorists had trained, including some of those who struck us on 9/11.
Now we're in the business of standing up a replacement government, if you will, in Afghanistan, and it's very important that we do so. You don't want to just walk away before you finish that last step or you'll have another failed state on your hands and they'll revert back to form and once again become a breeding ground for terror. It's important we stand up a democratically-elected government on the ground in Afghanistan capable of governing the country, and also stand up security forces so that they can take over responsibility for their own security. That's what we're doing now.
Afghanistan, they registered 10 million people to vote, over 40 percent of them women, and had elections two weeks ago last Saturday for the first time in the 5,000-year history of that country. It's a remarkable event. (Applause.)
By the end of the year, that new government will be in place in Afghanistan, and they're making significant progress. In spite of a lot of people who said you can't do it, it will never work, John Edwards was running around two-and-a-half years ago, just six months after we went into Afghanistan, saying, oh, it's chaos, the Taliban are coming back. They'll never be able to set up a democracy in Afghanistan. He was wrong. He was dead wrong.
What we know is that the best antidote to terror is freedom. And we set up a free society, it will not become once again what it was in the past, a breeding ground for terror and the kinds of folks who set up a base there and then attacked us and killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
Iraq, a somewhat different set of circumstances. In Saddam Hussein, we had one of the world's worst, obviously. He had started two wars. He had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction. He'd used chemical weapons against the Iranians and against the Kurds. He also had a biological weapons program back in the early '90s, as well as had a track record of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
He was also a state sponsor of terror. He'd been carried on the State Department's list of states that sponsor terror for over 15 years. He provided a home for the Abu Nidal organization, for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers. And he had a relationship with the al Qaeda. For all of those reasons, we were concerned that Iraq represented the place where you were most likely to see a nexus between terrorism on the one hand and deadly technologies on the other, remembering again back to that basic problem that the biggest threat we face are terrorists armed with those deadly technologies.
So we made the decision, the President made the decision, absolutely right, that it was important for us to go in and address that issue in Iraq, too. And we did, and the world is much better off tonight because Saddam Hussein is in jail. (Applause.)
Now, we're also setting up a new government there. There's an interim government in place that took over in June, all composed of Iraqis. They have held their first national assembly now. They're going to have elections in January. They're putting together the voter registration lists and so forth. They're now getting started for that whole effort. And that group that they elect in January will write a new constitution for Iraq, and by the end of next year, they'll have elections under that new constitution and have a democratically elected government there, as well, too.
Now, this is hard work -- this is very hard to do. Nobody should assume that this is clear sailing, or that there's a touchdown pass here that's going to solve everything. It's three yards and a cloud of dust. And there are some evil, evil people obviously doing everything they can to disrupt that process -- some remnants of the old regime who have got a lot to lose if in fact we're able to establish a democracy in Iraq. They want to go back to the old days of Saddam Hussein, as well as people like this guy Zarqawi, who is Jordanian by birth, was running one of the training camps in Afghanistan before 9/11, when we went into Afghanistan, he fled Afghanistan and went to Baghdad. He's operated in and out of Iraq now pretty much for the last three years. He is behind most of the major attacks that you read about in Iraq today, in terms of the major car bombs and so forth. And periodically, you'll see him on the evening news when they take hostages and have obviously subsequently beheaded some of those hostages. That's Mr. Zarqawi, a close affiliate now -- he's just reaffirmed his affiliation, if you will, with Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization. Up until now he's been called an affiliate. He just announced recently he wants to merge his operation with the al Qaeda.
They will do everything they can to disrupt the process up to those elections in January because they know that once you've got a democratically elected government in place that has legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Iraq, they're out of business. That will be the end of the insurgency. We intercepted a message from Zarqawi sent to some of the senior folks at the al Qaeda organization saying precisely that. So it's important we get this job done, that we stay the course and complete the task in Iraq and Afghanistan, standing up governments but also training them to take over their own security. And we're doing that in Iraq at the same time. Once we've done that, then obviously, we can depart. We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we do have to stay long enough to complete the mission and get the job done and get it done right. (Applause.)
Now, there's another school of thought out there, and I describe it as sort of the pre-9/11 mind set. It's harking back, hoping that somehow we can go back to the good old days when everything was peaceful and quiet in the 1990s and not have to undertake these difficult assignments of trying to clean up the mess in first Afghanistan and now Iraq. That's an illusion. Those days weren't like that at all --if you go back and think about it, because what happened in the '90s was that we got hit repeatedly by the terrorists. They had declared war on us. Unfortunately, we treated each one of those incidents as a law enforcement problem -- the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993; or Khobar Towers in 1996 in Saudi Arabia; or 1998, when they took down our embassies in East Africa, two of them simultaneously; or 2000, when they attacked the USS Cole off Yemen and killed 17 of our sailors and nearly sunk the ship. That whole sequence of events, obviously, was going forward during the '90s; then we had at the same time -- Osama bin Laden had moved into Afghanistan in late '96 and set up these training camps, where they began to train terrorists, and they trained some 20,000 terrorists in the late '90s -- went through those camps, learned all of the deadly skills that you need to be an effective terrorist.
Some of those folks then hit us on 9/11, but a lot of them obviously then went back out various places -- by one estimate, set up cells in 60 different countries around the world. And what we've seen since 9/11, obviously, is the fact that we're involved in a global conflict, and not only did we get hit here in the U.S., but there also have been attacks in Madrid, in Casablanca, in Mombassa, in East Africa, in Riyadh, in Jakarta, in Bali, in Istanbul, in Baghdad, again in Jakarta, and then in Beslan in Southern Russia when they went in and attacked the school and killed hundreds of people, most of the school kids. It is a global conflict.
And what the terrorists, unfortunately, learned in the '90s from watching us operate was, one, that they could strike us with impunity, because they did repeatedly. And there was never much of a response from the U.S. Think about it. Think what did we do in '90s, when we got hit, well, we'd go out and we'd try to find the perpetrator and arrest him and put him in jail. Sometimes we were successful. But we never looked behind that. We never got our hands on the organization itself that was spawning these attacks. And of course, the other thing they learned was that if they hit us hard enough they could change our policy because they did on a couple of occasions -- back in 1983, when we got hit in Beirut and pulled out of Lebanon with relatively short order; or in 1993, when we were in Somalia, in Mogadishu, and the shootout in Mogadishu, we lost 19 of our guys and within weeks, we'd withdrawn from Somalia. So what the terrorists believed when they launched that attack of 9/11 was that they could strike us with relative impunity -- there wasn't a big price for them to pay -- and secondly, that they could change our policies if they did. That's the pre-9/11 mind set when the United States didn't do anything, in my estimation, to provoke those attacks. In effect, it's not the exercise of strength that generates these kinds of attacks against us, it's the perception weakness. And it's that perception of weakness that generated or contributed to that environment in -- (Applause.)
Now, I look at John Kerry and I see a man who is trying very hard to convey the impression during the course of this campaign that he would be as tough and aggressive as the President has been at pursuing the war on terror. And then I looked to see well, what does the evidence show? Is there any reason to believe that, in fact, he would be that aggressive? What's the track record of this man who wants to be the Commander-in-Chief?
And the answer is, I don't think he could cut it. I think bottom line that he's got a record of weakness and a strategy of retreat in mind here. That means that we would not see the kind of aggressive pursuit of terrorists and those who support terror that I believe is absolutely essential to keep us safe and secure here at home in the United States. (Applause.)
Now, why do I say that? Well, you can go back to the 1970s when he ran for Congress the first time on a platform that we should never commit U.S. forces without U.N. authorization. The United Nations would have to approve any deployment of the U.S. forces.
1984, when he first ran for the Senate, and he ran on the platform of cutting out or eliminating most of the major weapons programs that President Reagan put in place in the 1980s that were a key to keeping the peace and winning the Cold War, and that we're using today in our efforts around the globe. That was 1984.
1991, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf. John Kerry likes to talk about some kind of global test. He did this the other night in a debate, have to meet some global test before you can use U.S. military force. Well, in that case, we had 34 nations committed forces alongside. We had the U.N. Security Council specifically authorized to use the force the kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. And John Kerry voted "no." There isn't another conceivable condition you'd want to impose, or that anybody has ever suggested. And that still wasn't good enough for John Kerry. He still voted against Operation Desert Storm.
1993, he was on the Senate intelligence committee, the World Trade Center is bombed for the first time, he didn't attend a meeting of the intelligence committee for the full year after the attack on the World Trade Center. And then what he did was offer up an amendment to cut billions of dollars out of our intelligence budget. It was so radical even Ted Kennedy wouldn't support it. (Laughter.)
So there's a long record here of his activities in the United States Senate and before of coming down consistently on the wrong side of these national security issues. And I guess, the one that capped it for me the other day was when he was asked about what his long-term objectives would be in the war on terror -- this is an interview that ran in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago. And he said, well, he'd like to get terror back to where it used to be where it was just a nuisance. (Laughter.) That's word he used, and he compared to illegal gambling, for example, as something that you could manage to an acceptable level.
But then I asked myself when I heard that, well, when was terrorism ever just a nuisance? When ever was there a time in our history when we could look at a terrorist act and consider it as just a nuisance? And clearly, that didn't apply in my mind to the attack on the USS Cole four years ago, or the first World Trade Center in '93 or when they took Pan Am Flight 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, or that attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut where we lost 241 men on a Sunday in October 21 years ago. Terrorism has never been something you can think of as just a nuisance. And if that's your mind set, if that's the way you think about it, if you say, as John Kerry has, well, I don't really think about it, a war, I think it's primarily a law enforcement action, that's not the right mind set to do what needs to be done to win this war against terror. We're not interested in getting terror down to some acceptable level where we can live with it, we're interested in defeating it. And that's what George Bush will do. (Applause.)
And John Kerry is perfectly prepared to say virtually anything to try to get elected this time around. We've seen it now, and as we get closer and closer to the election, we get more and more outrageous charges being made that can't be substantiated. The most recent one, of course, he's claiming now that somehow the troops on their way to Baghdad overlooked an arms depot where a lot of munitions were stashed and our guys should have wrapped them up. And he's been critical of the commanders and the President and the troops for not having done that, claiming there's several hundred tons of explosives missing. But as the evidence accumulates over the last couple of days, it looks as though those materials were moved long before our guys ever got there, and that, in fact, Saddam Hussein moved his stuff out before the war started.
And so it's another fallacious charge that's not supported by the facts. I think it's a cheap shot. I think it's criticism of the troops and the commanders that absolutely is not warranted. I just think John Kerry, as I say again, has reached that point where he will say literally anything in order to try to advance his political interests.
The best example, we saw that during the campaign earlier, of course, was after he voted to commit troops to Iraq and supported using military force to get Saddam Hussein out of Iraq, then when it came time to vote for funding, to provide the weapons and the ammunition and the spare parts and so forth that the troops needed, he voted against it. And I think the reason he did that was because he was running behind in the primaries. Howard Dean was beating him in the polls and running as an anti-war candidate. Kerry suddenly decided he needed to be an anti-war candidate, so he turned his back on the troops that he'd voted to support and to commit and to send in harm's way, voted against them when the question was whether or not we provided the funding to give them the weapons they needed to win the conflict. He couldn't stand up to the pressure of Howard Dean.
Now, if he couldn't stand up to the pressure of Howard Dean, how can we expect him to stand up to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization? (Applause.)
So I've rambled on long enough. I'd just remember it's absolutely important on November 2nd that we keep in mind the choice we're making here. The President's got, I think, a superb record for the last three-and-a-half years on this set of issues. He's done a great job. He's provided outstanding leadership for us as we've gone forward and addressed a very tough set of problems.
And the other debt of gratitude that is owed by all of us are to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. They perform magnificently. (Applause.)
But with that, I'll stop, and an opportunity for you to ask questions. We've got some folks around here in the attractive red jerseys, and they've got microphones. If you want to make a comment or ask a question, just attract their attention, and then I'll rotate around and call them.
Number two, have you got somebody over there?
Q First of all, I think we are really blessed to have you as our Vice President.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
Q And, Lynne, you've done a really good job preparing him.
MRS. CHENEY: It was tough work. (Applause.)
Q But Vice President, I want to go back to over four years ago, because we just about did not get you. You were put in charge to spearhead the vice presidential search?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Can you tell us what was the tipping point for George W. Bush to pick you, and for you to say, yes, I'll do this job?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Fascinating question. (Laughter.) Well, the fact is, if you go back -- I went to Washington originally in 1968, I guess, when we went back there, and I was working on a PhD. I was going to be a professor and I got caught up in the political wars and we stayed, then, through the Nixon administration, Ford administration, went home and ran for Congress, served in Congress for 10 years with Chuck, and then served as Secretary of Defense.
But after '93, I thought seriously about running myself. And so in 1994, I spent a lot of time looking at whether or not I wanted to run for President. I did 160 campaigns around the country and did all those things you would do if you were exploring that. And at the end of the year, then sat down with the family out home in Wyoming and thought about it and concluded I really don't want to do that, that I don't want to do all those things I would have to do, that I'd had a great 25 years, at that point, public life, but private life was attractive and I decided that's what I would do.
So I went off in the private sector, ended up in Texas. The President became Governor of Texas shortly after -- I guess shortly before we arrived down there, and I didn't know him that well from the time I'd worked for his dad, but we got to know each other. He'd have me down every once in a while to Austin for a quiet dinner and we just talked about what was going on in the world.
Then in the campaign in 2000, fairly early on, he sent a feeler, I guess would be the way I would describe it, to see if I'd have any interest in serving as his running mate. And I said, initially I said, I don't think so. I really -- I like private life. There are a lot of good reasons why you shouldn't pick me. For one thing, I'm in Texas now, you're in Texas, you don't want a President and Vice President from the same state, under the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. That state can't cast
a vote for President and Vice President from the state that you're in.
So then he came back and he said, will you help me find somebody? And I said sure. So I set up and basically ran the process for him for about three months while we looked at candidates. We did a thorough search, and there are some great folks out there, and went through and worked with it. But it gave me an opportunity to spend a lot of time with the President, then Governor, and heard him talk about the presidency and about what he was looking for in a running mate and about his approach to what he wanted to do once he became President. And I was tremendously impressed with all of that.
We ended up down on his ranch at Crawford, just before the Fourth of July of 2000, and this was sort of the last meeting going after the finalists, list of finalists. When we got all through, we were sitting out on the back porch that day, and he looked at me, he said, you know, he said, you're the solution to my problem. (Laughter.) I knew right away I was in trouble. (Laughter.)
And what I agreed to do, I said, look, what I'll do is I'll sit down and figure out all the steps I would have to take in order to get to a point where I could give up everything I'm doing now and sign on as your running mate. This is not -- one, you haven't asked me; and two, I haven't said yet I'll serve, but let's take a look at it.
And so we went through that process, and then it was I guess about a week or so later we were up in Minnesota at a board meeting, and I got a phone call and it was the Governor and he said, you're my guy, I want you to do it. And so I saluted smartly and signed on. (Laughter and applause.)
MRS. CHENEY: Actually -- actually, he came home and he said to me, Lynne, I've quit my job, we're going to sell the house. I'm going to run for Vice President. (Laughter.) And I've now recovered. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was a bit of a start there, initially.
But I -- what's been so great about it, he's a superb man to work with. He's -- I've worked for four Presidents now and I've watched two others up close from the perspective of the Congress, and I've seen them go through some very, very difficult days. Gerry Ford in the aftermath of Watergate, when we -- to sort of restored the credibility of the White House; or the first President Bush, when we went through the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf crisis, or watching Ronald Reagan and the superb job he did for eight years.
But I have enormous regard and respect for this man and for the way he makes decisions, for the depth of his conviction, for his willingness to take the heat once he's made a decision and to steer a steady course. And he's got all those attributes that I like to see in the man who wants to be President of the United States, and who has, I think, demonstrated over the last three-and-a-half years why he was the right choice for us.
I agree with something that Rudy Giuliani said on the morning of 9/11, New York, in the midst of those attacks. He turned to Bernie Kerik, his police commissioner, and he said, thank God George Bush is our Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)
Number four, have you got anybody over there?
Q Mr. Vice President, first of all, as a Korean veteran, I think I speak for all veterans, I thank you for your dedication to this country. (Applause.)
I understand that the last couple of months we've had numerous young people who have had a deep desire to join our armed forces and to serve our -- I understand that if you are not reelected, many of these young people will take another turn and do something else. Have you heard about this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have not. Nobody's mentioned it to me that directly. The story I have heard, the thing that concerns me, has been this rumor that this is another Kerryism, I guess, maybe that's the way to describe him, this notion of trying to restore the draft. He's made the charge that if you elect Republicans, they're going to bring back the draft. And that's sort of -- may have been out there on the internet and peddled at colleges and universities. It's just absolutely fundamentally untrue. The only people who support bringing back the draft are two Democrats, Charlie Rangel from New York, and Fritz Hollings from South Carolina.
And they brought it to a vote on the floor of the House the other day, and said, well, okay, if you want to talk about the draft, put your money where your mouth is. Well, Charlie wouldn't even vote for his own bill. (Laughter.)
The fact is, the all-volunteer force that you referenced is just a remarkable positive development, I think, in the history of the United States. When I was Secretary of Defense, we had a force of 2.1 million active duty military personnel and then the million Guardsmen and Reservists, all volunteers. Everybody who was there volunteered to put on the uniform and to serve. That's what we've got today at the lower levels. We've got about 1.4 million active duty today. And it is just a magnificent force. Anybody who has been associated with it, served in it, I think, had the opportunity to be involved with our military these days, recognizes it's the finest military in the world today, bar none. There isn't anybody else that comes close. (Applause.)
Finally, sir, let me thank you for your service. We owe all our veterans a great debt of gratitude. (Applause.)
Q As long as we're talking about veterans, first, I want to thank God for you. You're great. (Applause.) You and the President have done more for this country, I think, in the last four years than Kerry could do in a hundred. And we sure appreciate you and we thank the good Lord for you.
As far as veterans health care, what are the plans in the next four years, when you -- we know you're going to get reelected. We have no doubt. We got the good Lord on our side. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a vital commitment that the United States needs to keep. The President is absolutely committed to keeping it, in terms of guaranteeing our veterans the benefits that they deserve, that they earned, that they were promised. If you look at the veterans budget, one good way to get a handle on it is in the four year we've been there we've increased veterans' funding more than in the entire eight years of the Clinton administration. So I believe we are meeting our obligations. We're making certain that we've got accessible care for our veterans all across the country, making the judgments and adjustments where we have to with respect to where our facilities are located and how they operate.
We've just been through the exercise of concurrent receipts which I think gives you some idea of the depth of the President's commitment. Basically, the way the law used to operate, a career military man could retire and draw his retirement benefits. But if he'd been disabled, he could get disability benefits. And those came to him tax-free. But he had to give up an equal portion of his retirement benefits. In other words, he wasn't allowed to receive both his retirement and his disabled pay from having been wounded our injured. The President changed that. He's the first President in history to sign a bill that allows veterans with service-connected disabilities to, in fact, not be penalized by having to give up a portion of their military pension when they draw their disabled pay, which is a significant commitment, and we think a very good, positive development. (Applause.)
Somebody back here.
Q I was wondering does the administration have any plans for intelligent reform -- intelligence reform I mean?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We're working with the legislation that's now pending before the House and Senate. This is a set of recommendations that developed out of the 9/11 Commission that reported earlier this year, a lot of those were administrative. Some of those have already been put in place. There's legislation now that has passed the House and Senate is in conference as we speak that, in effect, would create a position called the National Intelligence Director, or the NID, that would be the preeminent advisor to the President and manager, if you will, of the intelligence inside the federal government. And that bill right now, there are differences between the House version and the Senate version. But they're working hard to get it finalized between the two houses. And I don't know that they'll get it done now before next Tuesday, probably not. But I would expect shortly after the election when Congress goes back into session, which they'll have to do in probably mid November because there's still unfinished work done for this fiscal year that one of the principal pieces of legislation that will get final approval at that time will be this new intel reform bill. We've done a lot of other things already. This is the latest. But fundamentally reorganized the FBI so that -- the FBI used to be very, very good at going to the crime scene after the crime. You remember the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995. They were able to go there and ultimately find the serial plate -- the serial number off the axle of the truck, and trace that down and convict McVeigh of that attack.
That's a different approach that operating in a way to prevent the attack in the first place. And so there's been a major reorganization, reorientation of the FBI by Bob Mueller, who I think has done a superb job there, to focus more on preventing terrorism, much greater coordination between the CIA and the FBI than ever before. The President and I meet every morning in the Oval Office, first with the CIA to focus more on preventing terrorism; much greater coordination between the CIA and the FBI than ever before. The President and I meet every morning in the Oval Office, first with the CIA Director, then we bring the FBI Director in, and we sit there and talk about both the foreign and domestic threats. So that's managed in a much tighter fashion than before. We created the Terrorism Threat Integration Center, where we fuse all the intelligence from all over the government that's focused on terrorism and terror attacks.
So a lot of things have happened already, but as I say, even more is scheduled once this piece of legislation that's now pending gets approved.
We got number four. We got somebody down here.
Q Mr. Vice President, I have a comment, and then I have a question also. I just finished reading, "Unfit for Command," and I can summarize the book for you. This man is absolutely unfit for command. (Applause.) This month, 45 years ago, I came to this country from Germany. I'm a legal immigrant to this country. (Applause.) I came to this country to be an American, and I am. And what an honor to be here talking to the Vice President of the United States. Only in America can you do something like that. (Applause.)
My question is, we're going to have a problem -- we have a problem now, it's going to be a bigger problem down the road, if we keep letting immigrants -- illegal immigrants come across our border. What are we going to do about it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we need to do everything we can to try to get control of our borders. We've significantly beefed up our Border Patrol. We've added a lot of personnel, a lot of new technology and so forth. The biggest problem has been specifically with the border of Mexico. But the situation is such that because the things that attracted you to come to want to be an American, when you think about the economic differential, so great that we've got millions of people all over the world who would love to come live and work in the United States, because there's opportunity here. And it's a very powerful, potent human drive. It's how most of or ancestors got here.
And what the President has proposed, in an effort to try to gain control over that process that's now -- we've got people obviously in vast numbers trying to come into the United States. Today we've got a lot of illegal immigrants already here. We don't know who they are, we don't know where they are, we don't know what they're doing, we have no indication when they leave. And to try to get a better grip on that problem, and at the same time, provide the opportunity where there's a willing employer with a job an American won't take, and somebody outside who wants to come take the job, to set up a guest worker program that would allow them to come in for a specified period of time, and then return back to their home country. You'd know it when they came in, you'd know what they were doing while they were here, and eventually they would leave. They wouldn't be here on a permanent basis. That's the proposal that the President has laid out.
It hasn't gone anyplace at this point, but we do need to find some way to improve our overall situation with respect to immigration, because the United States is an enormously powerful magnet. And we welcome immigrants -- legal immigrants. As I say, every single -- nearly all of us, those of us who aren't Native American, got here through that process. And we're privileged to live here today because somebody among our ancestors had the gumption to get up and go and come to the United States and become an American, so that we all enjoy the benefits of that. But it needs to be legal; it needs to be done in accordance with the basic fundamental set of requirements. We need to make certain that we've got a system in place so that we don't have people coming in who, for example, have aspirations of carrying out a terrorist attack of some kind.
And so it's a security problem, as well as, I think, a basic question of humanitarian concerns and commitment, as well as the need to provide opportunity for people who want to come work here, we've got jobs for them in some cases -- those jobs where Americans aren't prepared to take those positions. And so we think there's a way to resolve those differences. And we'll keep working on it. It's a big problem.
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm a proxy staffer. (Laughter.) They want you just to take one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: They do? All right. (Laughter.) We got somebody over here, up there in the back.
Q Mr. Vice President, I first want to say thank you so much for being here. It's really a great thing for me to be able to talk to you about my concerns. And I'm really glad you came. And I would like to bring up a question concerning the No Child Left Behind Act. I go to North High here, and a lot of the time I see a lot of kids who don't -- well, it makes it very hard for the teachers to be able to do what they're supposed to do. And it's not fair to them and I don't think it's necessarily fair to the kids who want to -- who need their help more. And so I just want to ask you what you think could be done to maybe tweak this act a little bit so it can work more toward its potential.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm going to delegate this question to my wife, Lynne. (Laughter.) Because she's spent a lot of time on education, worked with then-governor Bush in Texas on his education reforms. And it's all yours.
MRS. CHENEY: You know, I'm not sure that I'm going to address your question exactly, but I'm going to talk about how No Child Left Behind has really benefited our schools. You in Iowa really, in many ways, have been role models for the whole nation in terms of having high standards in your schools, and in terms of being sure that parents know how kids are doing. In too many places, parents haven't known this. I think perhaps even in this case, if No Child Left Behind would work in high schools, parents would have a better idea if kids were entirely goofing off and not getting anyplace.
What happened too often before No Child Left Behind is that we were just shuffling kids through. You know, there was this doctor in West Virginia -- I love this story -- he was a pediatrician. And kids would come in, their parents would bring them in, and he'd say, how is your kid doing in school? How is your child doing? And the parent would always say, above average. Well, if you think about it, I guess in -- who is it -- Garrison Keillor thinks that's possible. You know, all the men are handsome, all the women are strong, and all the children are above average. But in the real world, that doesn't work.
But parents would think the schools are doing okay, because kids are being passed on through. No Child Left Behind gives parents, it gives teachers a real tool of empowerment so they know how children are doing. And it gives parents another special tool of empowerment because there are possibilities of getting out of completely failing schools. There are possibilities of getting private tutoring.
So I say in this sense, that parents know more about their children when No Child Left Behind is enforced. That might be some small solution to your problem. One of the things the President wants to do is extend No Child Left Behind to high schools in his second term.
It has been my conviction -- and this is just on another subject -- it has been my conviction that teachers ought to have more power over getting unruly students out of classes. (Applause.) And I hate to blame trial lawyers for everything in the world -- (laughter.) I mean, we know they're responsible for the mess-up of the medical malpractice system. We know they're responsible for the fact that so many businesses have to spend so much defending themselves that they can't create jobs. But trial lawyers are also part of the problem in not putting teachers in control of their classrooms. So I say, don't vote for John Edwards. I'd start there. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I knew in advance she could handle it. (Laughter.)
Well, we want to thank all of you for being here today and for spending some time with us. This is an extraordinarily important year. We are all uniquely blessed to be Americans, to have an opportunity to participate in this process, to get to choose our leaders and hold them accountable for their performance. Obviously we want to win this election. We're working very hard at it and we're going to do our level-best. And we expect and hope that on November 2nd, Iowa will be in the Bush-Cheney column. (Applause.)
And thank you once again for coming today to be a part of this. Thanks very much. (Applause.)
END 6:15 P.M. CDT