The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 19, 2006

Satellite Interview of the Vice President by WSBT-TV, South Bend, Indiana
2nd Congressional District -
Representative Chris Chocola

1:36 P.M. EDT

Q Well, Mr. Vice President, we recently just had a research firm conduct a poll for us asking Indiana's Second District voters, these are voters represented by current Republican Chris Chocola, asked them about the upcoming November election, which issue was most important to them. The issue most named was the war in Iraq. Do you agree with those voters? Is the war in Iraq the most important issue in this upcoming election?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's certainly among the top two or three as I travel the country. I've done about 114 campaigns now, and I talk about the global war on terror, in particular, and Iraq, as well as the economy, taxes, a number of other issues.

Q Now, as of right now, more than 70 American troops have died in Iraq this month. That includes Marine Corporal Aaron Seal, a Marine from our viewing area in Elkhart. We're on pace right now for the deadliest month in Iraq in almost two years. With that being the case, what would you say to voters who are questioning Bush administration policies in Iraq? Why should they vote for Bush administration policies in this upcoming election?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's always difficult any time you take casualties. And certainly, this has been a difficult time with respect to the ongoing conflict in Baghdad. Part of that is a reflection of the fact that we're doing more, that we're more actively and aggressively involved in terms of working against the enemy in Iraq.

But you have to look at Iraq within the broader context of the global war on terror and what we've been able to accomplish. 9/11 was a milestone for us. It demonstrated that a handful of individuals could get into the United States and kill 3,000 people that morning and do great damage. And we decided then to go on offense, which we have done ever since, both with respect to Afghanistan, Iraq, to those states that sponsor terror, were a safe haven for terror. And I think it's been very successful.

We've taken down governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, liberated 50 million people, stood up new democracies. They've had elections, written new constitutions, and we've made significant progress. We've still got a lot to do.

The other point that needs to be made, of course, is that we've now gone over five years without another attack here in the United States, and that's as a result, I think, of the fact that we have been aggressive in taking the fight to the enemy overseas, and at the same time, put in place important measures here at home to safeguard us and allow us to interrupt and stop attacks against the American homeland.

Q Are you saying that you believe fighting in Iraq has prevented terrorist attacks on American soil? And if so, why, since there has not been a direct connection between al Qaeda and Iraq established?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the fact of the matter is there are connections. Mr. Zarqawi, who was the lead terrorist in Iraq for three years, fled there after we went into Afghanistan. He was there before we ever went into Iraq. The sectarian violence that we see now, in part, has been stimulated by the fact of al Qaeda attacks intended to try to create conflict between Shia and Sunni.

The other point that needs to be made here, of course, is that you cannot do what many Democrats have recommended, which is simply pull out of Iraq without having a significant impact upon what we're doing in all those other regions out there. We've got hundreds of thousands of people who, in effect, have signed on with the United States in the fight against terror.

You've got all those people who've enlisted in the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. You've got President Musharraf in Pakistan, where there have been three attempts on his life. He risks his life every day when he goes to work. He's there very actively engaged with the United States in going after al Qaeda.

So it's a global problem. It's a worldwide problem. And Iraqi is very much a part of it. Bin Laden himself has identified Iraq as the central front in the global war on terror.

Q Now, you've mentioned Democrats talking about pulling out. There are some Republicans now talking about a timetable, which I know you have been opposed to. Fred Upton, a local congressman in Michigan, has even mentioned a timetable for getting American troops out of Iraq. Could that not put more responsibility on the Iraqi government if you set a time line for when American troops would leave, and put pressure on the Iraqis to take control of their country?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the Iraqis are already under considerable pressure. This government has only been in office about five months, and there's a great temptation for everybody to demand instant success. And obviously, there's still an awful lot to do, and they've got a lot to do -- major responsibilities. But when you set a time line for the deployment of U.S. forces, all you do is then create a situation in which the enemy can wait until that deadline is passed, and wait for us to withdraw, and then reassert themselves and go back to their conflict. It's important to remember, Kirk, that in this battle against the global terrorist threat that we, in fact, are up against an enemy whose sole strategy is to break our will. They've never been able to beat us in a stand-up fight. They can't.

But what they're betting on is that the American people don't have the stomach for the fight. They look back at Beirut in 1983, or Mogadishu in 1993, when after several Americans were killed, we then withdrew our forces. If we were to withdraw from Iraq now, or to set a timetable and then withdraw, all we do is validate that strategy. We say to the terrorists, you're correct, that the Americans won't stay, won't complete the mission, and that's the strategy that they've pursued all along. We can't allow them to succeed.

Q Before we let you go, I want to switch to the economy quickly. One of the issues, the stock market has had a surge lately. Many experts have attributed that to lower gas prices. We get emails from our viewers concerned about the timing of the drop in gas prices closing in the election. What would you tell a voter concerned that gas prices lowering has something to do with it being an election year?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we don't control gasoline prices. There may be people out there who think we do, but we don't. Gasoline prices have come down, and that's a good thing. They've come down primarily in response to market forces, to the fact that inventories have been building, and we've had considerable success with respect to production around the world, and we're now in a situation where the balance between supply and demand has moved in a direction that's led to a significant reduction in the price of crude oil. And that, in turn, has led to a reduction in the price of gasoline.

There's no great mystery about it. It's fact. The fact is, the economy is in superb shape. We've got all-time record highs on the Dow Jones Industrials again today. We've got 6.6 million new jobs added over the course of the last three years. Inflation is down. Productivity is up. Home ownership is at an all-time record high. Chris Chocola has been very much a part of that, supported those policies. And the Democrats have voted against the tax cuts that created the prosperity that we're now enjoying.

Q Some army generals in Iraq have come out publicly criticizing Donald Rumsfeld's performance in Iraq, some urging him to be fired. Do you still support Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld? And give us an assessment of what you think of his performance in relation to Iraq?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I absolutely do support Secretary Rumsfeld. He's been a superb Secretary of Defense. I know a little bit about the job. The fact is that he's done a superb job for us under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. And the President and both have great confidence in him.

Q Now, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Asia this week dealing with the North Korea nuclear crisis. Given China's close relationship with North Korea, how big of a key is it that China and the United States at least find some common ground, considerable common ground to avoid a war in light of the rhetoric the North Korean government is using right now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: China is very important in this process in terms of managing the North Korean threat. They have more extensive economic ties and relationships with North Korea, more trade than anybody else. They've got an 800-mile border with North Korea. And if we're going to get the North Korea government to come around and understand they need to give up their aspirations to acquire an inventory of nuclear weapons, China will be key. And ever since North Korea announced that they had tested a nuclear weapon, China has been I think more actively and aggressively engaged in this process than ever before, so hopefully, we'll be successful.

The U.N. now voted last week a unanimous set of resolutions and very important from the standpoint of moving forward on the North Korean problem. I expect they will continue to cooperate, that is the Chinese will. And I think the combined efforts of the Chinese, the Japanese, the U.S., the South Koreans, and the Russians hopefully will be able to resolve this diplomatically.

Q All right, the Vice President of the United States, we thank you for your time.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Kirk.

END 1:46 P.M. EDT

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