|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 19, 2006
Satellite Interview of the Vice President by WFLA-TV, Tampa, Florida
9th Congressional District Open Seat
Candidate Gus Bilirakis
1:48 P.M. EDT
Q Thanks for taking the time this afternoon to speak with us, sir. If I may begin with a story that has just broken today, a federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to release information about who visited your premises, your office, or your home at a certain time. I'd like to get that out of the way first, sir, since this is breaking news right now. What is that about?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's -- apparently it's a request to the Secret Service for records of who entered vice presidential residence over a long period of time. These are not Secret Service records; these are records that belong in the Office of the Vice President. Apparently it's a FOIA request from some news organization. But that's all I know about it.
Q I see. It's a fishing expedition of some kind you suspect?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I believe it is, yes.
Q I see, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Goes with public life these days, Bob.
Q Yes, yes, I'm sure.
The old saying is, it's the economy, stupid. Except not too many Americans seem to be too concerned about the economy these days, and they're concentrating rather on more important issues such as the war and what have you. The one thing Republicans have going for them right now seems to be a booming economy. Is it frustrating to you that the focus doesn't seem to be on that at all?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the economy is booming. I think it's very important. I think it's the result of sound policy, as well as the basic, fundamental underlying strength and resilience of our economy. We've weathered recessions and war and Katrina and the 9/11 attack and the aftermath of all of that, and the economy has bounced back in great shape. We're over 12,000 I believe today on the Dow, and we added 6.6 million jobs in the last three years. The economy is doing very well. Obviously, when you're a public official and part of an administration that's been responsible for that, we hope to get some credit for it.
Q Of course, that doesn't seem to be happening much in the media. The question was, is that frustrating?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't think of it in those terms. I think people have got their concerns they worry about in terms of major national issues, as well as how it affects them in their daily lives. And I've learned over the years in politics that sometimes you get credit for things you don't deserve and sometimes you get blamed for things you don't deserve.
Q Roger that. Of course, what is getting a lot of attention, almost all the attention is the war in Iraq. The plan to have put more troops into Baghdad to suppress the violence there seems to have backfired in that it seems to only be providing more targets for the terrorists.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the fact is that we've had more troops engaged in Baghdad because that's where the biggest threat is. Most of the country is in relatively good shape at this stage. The vast majority of provinces, things are fairly normal. The main struggle has, in fact, been in Baghdad in recent weeks. And there is a significant troop presence there. And that's why I think you see most of the conflict generated there.
But this is a very important mission. And it's very important that we complete the task. We've made significant progress in Iraq. We've had three elections now, a new constitution written. This government has only been in power about five months. They've still got a lot of work to do, and we don't want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we do want to make sure we get the job done. And it's very important that we complete the transition that we've started in Iraq from Saddam Hussein's regime to a new democratically elected government, that we get enough Iraqis trained and equipped so they can provide for their own security and they're capable of taking care of their own needs and requirements. And the world will be much safer for it.
Q Yes, sir, but having stationed so many additional troops in the city has just -- as far as our perception, the American people's perception, along with the statistics -- has simply provided the terrorists an opportunity to kill more Americans, and the violence has escalated, not decreased as a result of our additional presence there.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But I think one of the things you got to look at here, Bob, is what's the enemy up to. They can't beat us in a stand-up fight. They've never been able to. What they're betting on is that they can break our will, that is to say they based on prior experience, based on Beirut in 1983, when we lost 241 Marines and then withdrew after that suicide attack; or Mogadishu in 1993, where we lost 19 men in a battle there and shortly thereafter withdrew our forces; looking at those lessons and the lessons of the '90s, the terrorists have concluded that if they kill enough Americans, they can change U.S. policy.
And I think they've worked very directly to try to influence public opinion here at home. You can look at their websites and see that that's exactly what they're all about. And the level of conflict we're seeing there now I believe is very much based upon that proposition that they're trying to break the will of the American people.
Q Yes, sir. But the purpose of putting additional troops there was to reduce the violence, and instead it has gone up. Therefore, it would seem that our tactic to increase our force in Baghdad has not worked. In fact, it seems to be failing.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You can't defeat the enemy, Bob, by withdrawing from them. You can only defeat them by taking them on, and that's exactly what our troops are doing.
Q Well, taking them on -- my sources in Kabul in Afghanistan have told me that a lot of our troops are being kept inside the wire, so to speak, so that they will not come under attack. If, in fact, my sources are correct, how can we hope to defeat the Taliban, the increasing -- the resurgence of the Taliban there, if our people are staying inside the base?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'd disagree with that assessment. What we've got in Afghanistan is a situation in which NATO has now moved in a major way. NATO has taken on major responsibility. We've got U.S. forces as part of that NATO force, but we've got representatives there, troops there from virtually every country in NATO, under NATO command. And they are doing a superb job. And they are, in fact, engaged in continuing conflict with the Taliban. And it will take a while to finish the conflict there, as well, too.
But look at all we've accomplished. We have, in fact, had the first national elections under a new constitution in the 5,000-year history of Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai now is the President, a good man, doing very well. They've got a newly elected parliament in place. We've got some 70,000 troops now that have been trained that are actively in the field, Afghan forces that are actively participating in the struggle. And eventually, they'll be able to take on responsibility for that themselves.
This is a difficult, dangerous part of the world. Remember what was in Afghanistan before we went in there: training camps where some 20,000 al Qaeda terrorists were trained in the late '90s. Now, I think we learned anything on 9/11, it was that we can't turn our back on that part of the world. And even when it gets tough, and even when it's difficult, and even when we have to commit troops to combat, for us to walk away will simply lead to the restoration of what was there previously. And it was the fact that this was a safe haven for terror for all those years in the late '90s and a training camp for terrorists that led directly to the death of 3,000 Americans here at home on 9/11. So we no longer have the option of retreating behind our oceans. We have to be actively and aggressively involved. We have to go after the enemy, and taking the fight to the enemy over there is a vital part of defending our security here at home.
Q Sir, we haven't got much time left -- you haven't got much time left with me, that is. Here in Florida, we have a significant, older population which I've become a member of recently. Social Security seems to have dropped off the radar completely, this issue. And yet this problem is not going away. What, if anything, in the last couple years of your administration do you think can be done about it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we'll continue to work on it. Of course, the President and I spent a lot of time on it in 2005 and held town hall meetings all over the country, held some in Florida, where we talked with people about the problem. And it is important that we address it long-term as we have the baby boom generation retire. And that process is already beginning. I just had to file for Medicare this year, myself, Bob.
The fact is, we're going to have a significant portion of that generation drawing on Social Security and also being dependent upon Medicare. And we need to find ways to address the financial problems that that will represent long term. I think we can do it. No reason in the world why we can't, but we need to approach it on a bipartisan basis.
Q All right, well, thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, for taking the time to speak with us today.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Bob.
END 1:58 P.M. EDT