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 Home > News & Policies > February 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 27, 2006

President's Remarks to the Republican National Governors Association
National Building Museum
Washington, D.C.

6:48 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. Be seated -- unless you don't have a seat. (Laughter.)

Mitt, thank you for that wonderful introduction. That columnist is pretty much alone in your state of Massachusetts -- (laughter) -- but I appreciate it. Appreciate your leadership of the RGA. I want to thank Sonny. I call him "Big Buddy Perdue." (Laughter.) He is a big buddy. And I want to thank Matt Blunt, as well, and Melanie, and Ann Romney. Thank you all very much for taking a strong leadership role.

One of the things you find out about successful governors is they marry well. Same thing happens for Presidents. (Laughter.) And I am married really well. (Applause.)

I want to thank you all for supporting people who know how to get things done. You know, in our line of work there's a lot of talkers -- sometimes there's not many doers; a lot of people who have got opinions, but oftentimes people can't roll up their sleeves and achieve agendas. And the folks you're supporting here today are people who know how to set agendas, make decisions based upon principle and get things done on behalf of our country by running their state. Thank you for supporting them, and thank the governors for being such strong leaders. (Applause.)

I enjoy working with the governors. I know how these folks think. And they know what I know: that we are a nation at war. They are the commanders in chief of their respective National Guard units, many of which have been deployed overseas. And I want to thank our governors and the first ladies for understanding the task ahead for our country, for supporting those who wear the uniform and for reaching out to the families who worry about their loved ones. Our governors, these governors are on the front line in the war against terror and I thank you for your steadfast support. (Applause.)

They, like me, will never forget the lessons of September the 11th. Our nation must never forget the lessons of September the 11th, for the greatest duty of our respective governments -- federal government and state government -- is to protect the American people. The security of our citizens is of paramount importance to my administration, to many in the Congress, as well as our governors.

The way to win the war on terror is to stay on the offense, is to defeat the killers overseas so we do not have to face them here in America; is to be relentless in our pursuit -- never give in, never give up and keep the enemy on the run, which is precisely what we're doing. (Applause.)

In order to win the war on terror, it is really important for the President to speak clearly, and when he says something, means what he says. And so when I said to the world if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist, I meant what I said and the Taliban found out exactly that the United States of America keeps its word. (Applause.) And, today, because we upheld that doctrine, America is a safer place. Al Qaeda no longer has a safe haven in which to plan and plot an attack, and 25 million people are enjoying the fruits of liberty. (Applause.)

A lesson of September the 11th is that when we see a threat we must take the threat seriously. When a lot of us were growing up, oceans -- we felt oceans could protect us from harm; that if we saw a threat overseas, we could deal with it if we wanted to or not, because we were safe. September the 11th changed that forever. September the 11th taught us that when we see threats brewing or materializing, we must take them seriously. I saw a threat, the world saw a threat, people of both political parties in the United States Congress saw a threat -- and that was Saddam Hussein. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. (Applause.)

Many of our governors have been to Iraq, and I thank them for supporting our troops in harm's way. We've got a strategy of victory in Iraq. Our strategy -- our goal is to make sure that Iraq can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself. We'll become an ally in the war on terror and not be a safe haven for al Qaeda, which wants to plan and plot and use the oil wealth to strike America again.

Our strategy is threefold. One, we'll help rebuild that country so people see the fruits of democracy. Two, we'll encourage a political system that will take into account the voices of the people. You saw what I saw: 11 million Iraqis made their voices abundantly clear, we want to be free in the face of terror. They decided to vote in overwhelming numbers. (Applause.)

The leaders of Iraq rejected this notion that a suicider and a thug and a terrorist can create civil war. They're interested in a unified government that will allow the people to express their will, a unified government that will give young mothers and fathers the hope that their children can grow up in a peaceful society.

The third part of our strategy is you train the Iraqis so they can take the fight to the enemy, and that's exactly what's happening. The Iraqis are standing up, and as they do, we will stand down. I know many of you are concerned about the troop levels. I know our governors are worried about the troop levels in Iraq. Here's my response: I will determine the troop levels in Iraq, one, necessary to achieve victory based upon the recommendations of our commanders, not based upon politics in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

Ours is an enemy that has no conscience, but they do have a philosophy. They're totalitarian in nature. They're fascist in their tactics. They will spare no life in order to achieve their objective. Their aims are clear. They believe the United States is weak and flaccid; it's only a matter of time before we withdraw and create vacuums into which their awful ideology can flow and in which they can achieve their objectives. They do not understand the United States of America. We will not flinch in the face of their terror. We will not let thugs and assassins determine the foreign policy of the United States. We will stay in the fight and we will the fight for the security of the United States of America. (Applause.)

In the long run, the way to defeat an ideology of darkness is with an ideology of hope and light. And that ideology is based upon liberty, the fundamental rights of men and women to live in a free society. I believe -- I believe that deep within everybody's soul is the desire to be free. So I wasn't surprised when 11 million people voted. I wasn't surprised when the Afghans fought off the terrorists. I'm not surprised when people take to streets in Lebanon demanding their freedom. Freedom is on the march. And by having freedom on the march, we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. (Applause.)

It's not easy work. It's hard work. But this nation has done that kind of work before. I want to remind you that after World War II, America didn't abandon the world -- we helped our enemies rebuild and become democracies. World War II and World War I cost our country dearly in the number of lives lost. But today, because we stuck with the principle that liberty is universal and democracies yield to peace, Europe is whole, free and at peace.

And in Japan -- you know, my dad went, many of your relatives have fought the Japanese; they were the sworn enemy of the United States of America. And, yet, today, some 60 years after World War II ended, I can sit down at the table with one of my close friends in the international arena, the Prime Minister of Japan, talking about keeping the peace. And what happened, Japan took on a Japanese-style democracy and democracies and liberty convert enemies into allies. In order to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come, this country of ours must never forget the lessons of history, and be confident in the universal values that can change the world to be a peaceful world. (Applause.)

And my fellow governors understand that, and I appreciate your courage and I appreciate your strong support and I appreciate your steadfast will in the face of -- in the face of the enemy.

And here at home we've got a strong agenda, as well. Mitt was right -- this economy of ours has overcome a lot. It's overcome recession and war and terrorist attacks and corporate scandals and hurricanes and high energy prices. Yet, we're strong and we're getting stronger. And one of the reasons why is we understand that when you let people keep more of their own money, they will save and spend and invest and cause this economy to get going. (Applause.)

Our economy grew at 3.5 percent last year. Unemployment is 4.7 percent. We've added 4.7 million new jobs since August of 2003. Productivity is on the rise. Home ownership is at an all-time high. More minorities own a home today than ever before in our nation's history. (Applause.)

And, yet, these are times of uncertainty. There's competition in the global economy. People are changing jobs quite often. There's kind of an unsettling feeling here in the United States of America. And the fundamental question is what do we do as we head into the future. Some say let us retreat, let's isolate ourselves from the world -- or let's protect ourselves with artificial walls. That's not the attitude of me or our governors. We're confident about the future because we intend to shape the future and keep the United States of America as the leading economy in the world. (Applause.)

To keep this economy growing we've got to keep pro-growth economic policies in place not only at the federal level, but at the state level. You know, there's a lot of talk here in Washington about the deficit. I'm concerned about the deficit, too. But don't fall prey to those who say all you've got to do is raise the taxes and balance the budget -- that's not how Washington works. Here's the way Washington works: They're going to run up your taxes and they're going to figure out new ways to spend the money. The best way to deal with the deficit is keep taxes low. Congress needs to make the tax relief permanent. (Applause.)

On the one hand you have pro-growth economic policies that create economic wealth and generate new revenues for the Treasury. On the other hand, we've got to be wise about how we spend your money. I'm looking forward to working with Congress on yet another lean budget that focuses on priority; a budget that doesn't try to be all things to all people; a budget that recognizes we can cut our deficit in half by 2009 if we're fiscally sound with your money. And the governors understand fiscal sanity. And I appreciate the surpluses you have. Don't be calling on us for any more money. (Laughter and applause.)

To keep this economy strong we've got to make sure we have a flexible economy. And to make this economy stay the most competitive economy in the world we've got to be smart about legal policy. We've got too many lawsuits in the United States of America, junk lawsuits that are driving capital away from job creation. We strongly believe in legal reform in order to make sure this economy remains the best economy in the world. I thank our governors for tort reform. (Applause.)

We've got a problem: we're hooked on oil. I know that might surprise some of you to hear a Texan say that. But if we want to be the leading economy in the world, we have got to spend money on research and development to get us off of oil. Oil creates an economic problem for us. Because of rising demand in places like China and demand relative to the supply of oil we're finding it causes your price of gasoline to go up at the pump. That hurts our economy. Dependency upon oil also creates a national security issue.

Let me put it bluntly: Sometimes we rely upon oil from people that don't like us. And, therefore, in order to make sure we're not only competitive, but to make sure we're nationally secure we have got to figure out new ways to power our automobiles, ways like ethanol and plug in hybrid battery vehicles. And to make sure that we're less dependent on oil we've got to have clean coal technology, nuclear power, as well as solar and wind power. This administration looks forward to working with the governors to get us unhooked from foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)

Man, I've got a lot to say tonight, except Laura said "keep it short." (Laughter.) I'm a wise man, I always listen to my wife. (Laughter.)

But I do want to share another concern of mine, and that is unless our children are well grounded in math and science, the jobs of the 21st century are going to go elsewhere. And our governors understand that. Our governors also understand that it's important for the federal government, as well as private companies, to invest in research and development so that we're always on the leading edge of technological change. And so I'm proposing to Congress that we double the federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences. And I'm saying to Congress as clearly as I can: Let's make the research and development tax credit a permanent part of the tax code so our corporations can accurately plan for investment that is necessary to make sure America is the most competitive nation in the world. (Applause.)

Finally, I look forward to working with our governors to make sure the No Child Left Behind Act is fully implemented. The No Child Left Behind Act says, first of all, these guys know what to do when it comes to running the schools. We believe in local control of schools. But it does say in return for federal money we expect there to be high standards and measurement to make sure every child learns how to read and write and add and subtract. (Applause.) And if we find a child who cannot read and write early on, we'll correct those problems early, before it's too late. We strongly believe every child in America should learn, and we expect every single school to teach. (Applause.)

And I look forward to working with our governors to apply that same rigor of accountability, particularly in our junior high grades, for math and science. Because we believe and we know that not only can every child learn, but that when we ground our students in the skills necessary to be good engineers and good physicists and good chemists and good scientists, the United States of America will continue to be the preeminent economy in the world in the 21st century. (Applause.)

So ours is an agenda that is optimistic and hopeful. We believe in America. We believe in the ingenuity of the American people. We understand the power of this country lies in our people, not in our halls of government. (Applause.) And we also understand the true strength of America lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens. And so I want to thank our governors for setting up faith-based and community based offices to help rally the vast numbers in the armies of compassion that help heal broken hearts, that surround people with love who are lonely.

See, we recognize that government is not an agent of love; government is law and justice; government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in a person's heart or sense of purpose in a person's life. That's done when a kind, decent soul who has heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself opens his or her arms and helps mentor a child, helps somebody to read, helps somebody find food if they're hungry and shelter if they're homeless. Our governors are on the forefront of a conservative and compassionate agenda, and I'm proud to stand with you. (Applause.)

So I've come to thank our governors. And I've come to thank you all for helping our governors. These are good, decent, honorable men and women who deserve your support, and you've given it. So thanks for doing it. I'm looking forward to working with our governors to make this country to continue to be the greatest land on the face of the Earth. I love my job. They love their jobs. And collectively we love representing the people of the United States of America. Thanks for coming, and God bless. (Applause.)

END 7:08 P.M. EST