|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 24, 2007
Vice President's Remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership
6:52 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Well, it's great to be with you. And, Mel, I appreciate that kind introduction. A little short. (Laughter.) A warm reception like that almost makes me want to run for office again. (Applause.) Almost, almost. (Applause.)
But I want to thank your fine chairman, David Flaum, and all of you for being here this evening. And I have many great friends in the room. And I'm deeply grateful for the tremendous strength and support and encouragement that you've provided over the years. And I also want to bring you good wishes from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
You know, many of our best efforts have been focused right here in the state of Florida. After the narrow margin in 2000, we worked very hard to build our strength in Florida -- and in 2004, of course, with Ken Mehlman's critical support and leadership, the Bush-Cheney ticket won this state by more than 380,000 votes. (Applause.) And earlier this year, of course, after two successful terms, Jeb Bush left office in the good hands of Governor Charlie Crist. (Applause.) And I get to see Mel Martinez every Tuesday for lunch in the Senate, with the other Republicans -- an original member of our Cabinet, he's doing an outstanding job as Florida's U.S. senator and general chairman of the RNC. (Applause.)
The Republican Jewish Coalition is a terrific organization -- and thanks to the leadership of all of you, it's a growing organization. You're spreading the President's message of freedom and progress, low taxes and limited government, empowering the common sense and the good judgment of Americans. I'm here tonight, not because I'm going to be on the ballot again, but because I share your commitment to the President's agenda and to the vision for the country. (Applause.)
We look to the future with confidence because we have the right ideas for the country -- and because we have delivered on our commitments to the American people. We cut income taxes on the middle class. In fact, we've cut income taxes for every American who pays them. We reduced the marriage penalty, doubled the child tax credit, cut taxes on dividends and capital gains, and gave small businesses incentives to invest in new equipment and the creation of jobs.
Now the results are clear for all to see: The Bush tax relief has proven to be exactly the right policy for the country. If you think of all that's happened in these eventful years -- the recession we inherited, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, natural disasters, a tripling in the price of oil -- it's remarkable how tremendously resilient our economy has been. (Applause.) We've created more than 7.5 million new jobs in the past three and a half years. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, wages are rising. In fact, since 2001, our GDP has grown by 16 percent. (Applause.) Let me put that another way: In less than six years' time, the American economy has expanded by an amount greater than the entire economy of Canada.
Along the way, we've also disproved the fallacy that tax cuts are bad for the budget. The fact is that the economic expansion, driven by tax cuts, has generated higher-than-projected federal revenues. You might recall that back in 2004, President Bush set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. This pledge was greeted with skepticism, to put it mildly. Yet we met that target in 2006, three years ahead of schedule. (Applause.)
But despite the growth in revenues, we still have to hold the line on spending -- and on that score there's still a lot to do. The President's budget continues reducing the deficit each year, and balances the budget in 2012 without any new taxes. To meet that goal, we need to set the right priorities. The first priority is to remember that we are a nation at war, and we cannot cut corners on homeland security or defense. (Applause.) Our enemies are still trying to attack us, to kill innocent Americans. Overseas, of course, we have troops in the field, engaged with the enemy, and reinforcements on the way. Job number one is to provide the resources necessary to protect the American people, and to meet all the needs of the United States armed forces. (Applause.)
Setting priorities for the budget also means dealing with the matter of congressional earmarks -- those items that get slipped into spending bills at the very last minute. Many earmarks never make it to the floor of the House or Senate -- they're simply dropped into the committee reports that aren't even part of the legislation. Congress does not pass them into law. The President does not sign them into law. Yet somehow they get treated as having the force of law. We're going to work with Congress to reform the budget process and to get those earmarks under control.
Spending discipline, budget reform, and, yes, entitlement reform are vital to keeping the economy strong. And so is a low-tax policy that promotes growth, that rewards enterprise, and that keeps government within its proper limits. Under current law, many of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire over the next few years. We feel strongly that Congress should make all the tax cuts permanent -- and that includes ending the federal death tax. (Applause.)
On every issue, from the economy to the courts to national security, the leadership of George W. Bush has made a tremendous difference for the country. He's the first President in a generation to deliver major tax cuts. He's the President who expanded health savings accounts, and updated Medicare to cover prescription drugs. He's the President who got us out of the antiquated ABM treaty and deployed missile defenses for the first time. (Applause.) And he's the first President since Ronald Reagan to appoint a new Chief Justice, and made an outstanding choice in John Roberts. (Applause.)
Above all, ladies and gentlemen, George W. Bush is the President we can count on to protect America, to keep our commitments, to stand by our friends, and to win the war on terror. (Applause.)
Progress in the cause of security and long-term peace never comes easily. It requires moral clarity, the courage of our convictions, a willingness to act when action is necessary, and a refusal to submit to any form of intimidation, ever.
We persevere because we are the prime targets of a terror movement that is global in nature and global in its ambitions. The leaders of this movement speak openly and specifically of building a totalitarian empire covering the Middle East, extending into Europe, and reaching around to the islands of Indonesia, one that would impose a narrow, radical variety of Islam that rejects tolerance, suppresses dissent, brutalizes women -- and has as one of its foremost objectives the destruction of Israel. Their aim, ultimately, is to acquire the means to match that hatred -- and to use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons to impose their will by unspeakable violence or by blackmail.
An enemy that operates in the shadows, and views the entire world as a battlefield, is not one we can fight with the strategies that we used in other wars. An enemy with fantasies of martyrdom is not going to sit down at a table for negotiations. (Applause.) Nor can we fight to a standoff, hoping that some form of containment or deterrence will protect our people. The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive -- facing the threat directly, patiently, and systematically, until the enemy is destroyed. (Applause.)
We are facing every challenge with resolve. In Afghanistan, where I visited just last month, American and NATO forces are preparing a spring offensive against Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. In Iraq, our goal remains a democratic nation that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror. But for this to happen, the elected government in Iraq needs the space and the time to work on reconciliation goals. And it's hard to do that without basic security in the nation's capital in Baghdad. Our coalition is pursuing a new strategy that brings in reinforcements to help Iraqi forces secure the capital, so that nation can move forward and the political process can turn toward reconciliation. General Dave Petraeus and his troops are in the midst of some extremely tough, intense, and dangerous work. They are doing a brilliant job, and they need to know this country is behind them all the way. (Applause.)
The ones doing the fighting never lose their focus on the mission, or on what is at stake in this war. And neither should the rest of us. Five and a half years have passed since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the loss that morning of nearly 3,000 innocent people here in the United States. As we get farther away from 9/11, I believe there's a temptation to forget the urgency of the task that came to us that day, and the comprehensive approach that's required to protect this country against an enemy that moves and acts on multiple fronts. In fact, five and a half years into the struggle, we find ourselves having to confront a series of myths about the war on terror -- myths that are often repeated and deserve to be refuted.
The most common myth is that Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror. Opponents of our military action there have called Iraq a diversion from the real conflict, a distraction from the business of fighting and defeating bin Laden and al Qaeda. We hear this over and over again -- not as an argument, but as an assertion meant to close off argument. Yet the critics conveniently disregard the words of bin Laden himself: "The most... serious issue today for the whole world," he said, "is this Third World War...[that is] raging in [Iraq]." He calls it "a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." He said, "The whole world is watching this war," and that it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation." And in words directed at the American people, Osama bin Laden declares, quote, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever." This leader of al Qaeda has referred to Baghdad as the capital of the Caliphate. He has also said, and I quote, "Success in Baghdad will be success for the United States. Failure in Iraq is the failure of the United States. Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars." End quote.
Obviously, the terrorists have no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq. They have not called it a distraction or a diversion from their war against the United States. They know it is a central front in that war, and it's where they've chosen to make a stand. Our Marines tonight are fighting al Qaeda terrorists in al Anbar Province. U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed a number of al Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad, who were responsible for numerous car bomb attacks. Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain. Here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear: If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us. (Applause.)
The second myth is the most transparent -- and that is the notion that one can support the troops without giving them the tools and reinforcements they need to carry out their mission.
Twisted logic is not exactly a new phenomenon in Washington -- but last month it reached new heights. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain put the following question to General Dave Petraeus, who was up for confirmation: "Suppose we send you over to your new job... only we tell you... you can't have any additional troops. Can you get your job done?" General Petraeus replied, "No, sir." Yet within days of his confirmation by a unanimous vote in the Senate -- I repeat, a unanimous vote of confidence in General Petraeus, not one single negative vote -- a large group of senators tried to pass a resolution opposing the reinforcements and support that he believed were necessary to carry out his mission. The House of Representatives, of course, did pass such a resolution. As President Bush said, this may be the first time in history that a Congress "voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose the plan he said was necessary to win that battle." It was not a proud episode in the history of the United States Congress.
Yesterday, the House Democrats passed the defense appropriations supplemental to fund our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This will hamper the war effort and interfere with the operational authority of the President with our military commanders. It's counterproductive, it sends exactly the wrong message because of the limitations that are written into the legislation. When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that's been called "slow bleed," they're not supporting the troops, they're undermining them. And when members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines, or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy simply to run out the clock and wait us out.
Congress does, of course, play a critical role in the defense of the nation and the conduct of this war. That role is defined and limited by the Constitution -- after all, the military answers to one commander-in-chief in the White House, not to 535 commanders-in-chief on Capitol Hill. (Applause.) If they really support the troops, then we should take them at their word and expect them to meet the needs of our military on time, in full, and with no strings attached. (Applause.)
There is a third myth about the war on terror, and this is one that is perhaps the most dangerous. Some apparently believe that getting out of Iraq before the job is done will strengthen America's hand in the fight against the terrorists. This myth is dangerous because it represents a complete validation of the al Qaeda strategy. The terrorists do not expect to be able to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have, and they're not likely to try. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission -- and the terrorists do believe that they can force that outcome. Time after time, they have predicted that the American people do not have the stomach for a long-term fight. They've cited the cases of Beirut in the '80s and Somalia in the '90s. These examples, they believe, show that we are weak and decadent, and that if we're hit hard enough, we'll pack it in and retreat. The result would be even greater danger for the United States, because if the terrorists conclude that attacks will change the behavior of a nation, they will attack that nation again and again. And believing they can break our will, they'll become more audacious in their tactics, ever more determined to strike and kill our citizens, and ever more bold in their ambitions of conquest and empire.
That leads me to the fourth, and the cruelest, myth -- and that is the false hope that we can abandon the effort in Iraq without serious consequences to our interests in the broader Middle East. The reality is that, if our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance in that country. The violence would spread throughout the country, and be very difficult to contain. Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions. Many would head for Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others would find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents.
We must consider, as well, just what a precipitous withdrawal would mean to our other efforts in the war on terror, to our interests in the broader Middle East, and to Israel. What would it tell the world if we left high and dry those millions of people who have counted on the United States to keep its commitments? What would it say to leaders like President Karzai and President Musharraf, who risk their lives every day as fearless allies in the war on terror? Commentators enjoy pointing out mistakes through 20/20 hindsight. But the biggest mistake of all can be seen in advance: A sudden withdrawal of our coalition would dissipate much of the effort that has gone into fighting the global war on terror, and result in chaos and mounting danger. And for the sake of our own security, we will not stand by and let it happen. (Applause.)
Five and a half years ago, the President told the Congress and the country that we had entered a new kind of war -- one that would require patience and resolve, and that would influence the policies of this government far into the future. The fact that we've succeeded in stopping another attack on our homeland does not mean that we won't be hit in the future. But the record is testimony not to good luck, but to urgent, competent action by a lot of very skilled men and women -- and to a series of tough decisions by a President who never forgets that his first job is to protect the people of this country. (Applause.)
We can be confident in the outcome of this struggle. America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right, and a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of the Earth. We're the kind of country that fights for freedom, and the men and women in the fight are some of the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. (Applause.) The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that is not an option. We will complete the mission, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
Once again, ladies and gentlemen, let me thank you for the warm welcome this evening, and for all you continue to do as members of the R.J.C. You've proven your commitment to the principles we share. Tonight you're paying special tribute to Sam Fox. (Applause.) I've known Sam for many years. He's an entrepreneur, a leader in education and the arts, a patriot, a gentleman -- and also a very courageous man, because he hunts with me. (Laughter.) As a matter of fact, he's even got a nickname in the White House. Before I came here today, the President said, be sure to say hi to "Foxy." (Laughter.) The President and I are very grateful to Sam for his hard work and idealism over these many years. He's a most deserving recipient of tonight's honor.
Sam, congratulations -- and thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 7:15 P.M. EDT