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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
April 25, 2008

Vice President's Remarks at a Reception for Congressman Jeff Miller and the National Republican Congressional Committee

12:45 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you -- and don't hold back. (Laughter.) Jeff, I appreciate the kind introduction, and the invitation to come join all of you today. I'd like to acknowledge Colonel Day and the local officials that are here with us today -- and thank all of them for coming as well. It's always a pleasure to visit Northwest Florida, and to bring Air Force Two into Eglin Air Force Base -- truly one of America's great military installations. (Applause.) I started the day at the White House, and I want to bring personal greetings to all of you from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I'm sorry my wife, Lynne, couldn't be with us today. She had something she had to do; she had a speech last night in New York, so I'll meet her when I get back to Washington. She, lots of times, comes down on these trips with me, and we still enjoy campaigning together after all these years. But I tell people -- I like to tell people that we have a Republican marriage; that in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower ran for Congress, I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Anybody here from Lincoln? (Laughter.) You're making it up. (Laughter.)

And we -- Dad worked for the Solar Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture. And after Eisenhower got elected, he reorganized the Agriculture Department, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together, and in August we'll celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary.

And we explained to a group of people the other night that if it hadn't been for that victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, I would never have moved to Wyoming, and Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States -- (laughter and applause) -- no doubt in my mind.

But the President and I are deeply grateful for the support we've received here in Florida in both our campaigns, obviously, and throughout these past seven years, as well, too. We did especially well, of course, right here in the Central Time Zone. (Applause.) But as close as it was in 2000, we came back four years later and received more votes in Florida than any other presidential ticket in American history. (Applause.) But we're proud to hold the record, but we won't mind it at all if you set a new record in November, when you help elect John McCain to be the next President of the United States. (Applause.)

President Bush and I look forward to helping our candidates up and down the ticket, even though we're not going to be on the ballot ourselves, because we think it's an extraordinarily important election year this year. And that's why we're here today. This part of the country is served by one of the finest members of the House, and we need to make absolutely certain that Jeff Miller continues on the job in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

You know Jeff well here in the First District. You've sent him to Washington four times, and he's repaid your confidence and trust every single day he's been there. He's a common-sense conservative, a good steward of the taxpayer dollar, a hard worker for the people of the region he represents. And Northwest Florida, of course, is military country, and Jeff is your voice on the Armed Services Committee and on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs -- (applause) -- where he's on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and serves as the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Health. I can't think of a stronger advocate for veterans, or a more reliable supporter of our military in these challenging times. Your Congressman is the kind of man who belongs in the House of Representatives. And come November, I know you'll give Jeff another term on Capitol Hill. (Applause.)

I served in the House of Representatives myself for 10 years, and I was the Congressman from Wyoming -- and Wyoming only had one congressman. (Laughter.) It was a small delegation, but it was quality. (Laughter and applause.) But I like to explain the importance of these races, each and every one of these seats across the country, and obviously the work that Jeff is also doing here today for the NRCC, by reminding everybody about the tax package that we passed in 2003.

You may remember when the President and I got elected to office, we were on the front edge of a recession, and then we had 9/11 and that put a real crimp in the economy; we lost a million jobs in the aftermath of that attack in September of '01. What turned everything around economically was when we passed the tax package in the Spring of '03 when we took the rate on capital gains, rate on dividends, the 15 percent, accelerated the other rate reductions in all the brackets across the board. That tax package passed the Senate by one vote -- my vote. I got to cast the tie-breaking vote that day as Vice President, and that's what made it possible. But the reason it was so important is because you can trace the beginnings of recovery from when that tax package kicked in. And if we'd had one fewer senator, one less member of the United States Senate, that day, we wouldn't have had the tax package.

I don't deserve any special credit for casting that vote. It's not like I had options when I went up there. (Laughter.) I knew what I was supposed to do. (Laughter.) The President made it very clear how I was supposed to vote. But the fact is that if we had one less member of the Senate on that day -- and we've had other very close votes in the House of Representatives -- we wouldn't have had that tax cut. And we wouldn't have had that economic recovery that's gone on now for 52 months -- obviously we're in a bit of rough patch now -- but the longest period of job creation in the history of our economy, because of that package that we were able to pass in '03. And so every single one of these races across the country can have that kind of impact, in terms of the course of action and the policies we've put in place, in the years ahead.

I think you can always count on Jeff, obviously, to do the right things for his constituents, and for the country. Right now, with the economy going through a rough patch, some in Washington view it as an excuse for expanding the size of government and the scope of the federal government. And Jeff believes, as I do, that when Americans are facing tough times, the first thing we should do is let them keep more of their own money. (Applause.)

So with Jeff's help we moved promptly, on a bipartisan basis, to pass an effective stimulus package. It's not a new spending program or set of regulations, it's just tax relief -- and the checks will be mailed out within the next couple of weeks. (Applause.)

The stimulus will give the economy a boost. But looking down the road, there's still more important work to do on the subject of taxes. Without action by Congress, most of the tax relief we've delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. If that happens, the death tax, which is being phased out right now, would suddenly reappear, at rates up to 55 percent. Taxes would go up on capital gains and dividends. The tax rate for every single income tax bracket would be increased. For income taxpayers in the lowest bracket, the rate would increase by 50 percent. And the child tax credit would drop from $1,000 to $500 per child. The overall effect would be average increases of $1,800 a year in the tax bills of some 116 million Americans.

Aside from the huge risk this tax increase would pose to the economy, there's the larger question of fundamental fairness to the American taxpayer. When you hear politicians saying they want to get rid of the Bush tax cuts, what they're promising is a major tax hike for everybody, including working families. And they wouldn't have to move a muscle to do it, because under the law the tax cuts -- those rates we put in place in '03 -- will simply expire. So without passing legislation, those rates will kick back in, the old high rates, and automatically there will be a tax increase across the board. We need to make sure we elect a Republican Congress to make those tax cuts permanent. We need legislation to be able to do that, and we need a Republican President to sign them into law.

Jeff was elected to Congress just five weeks after our country was attacked on 9/11. His entire career in Washington has been defined by the unique challenges that we face in the war on terror -- and he's never forgotten that our number one responsibility is to protect the people of this nation. In these six and a half years, we have not had another 9/11. (Applause.) Nobody can guarantee we won't be hit again. But the danger remains very real -- and we know the terrorists are still determined to hit us again. I look every day at the intelligence briefs coming in. They are fanatical in their hatred, they have tried many times to cause more violence and grief in this country. So the absence of another 9/11 is not an accident. It's an achievement. And that achievement is the product of some hard work by Americans in intelligence, and law enforcement, and the military, and vital new laws that we put on the books with the help of men like Jeff, and some wise decisions by the President of the United States.

One great lesson of 9/11 was that we had to stop treating terrorist attacks merely as law enforcement problems -- where you find out what happened, arrest the bad guys, put them in jail, and move on. The world changed when a coordinated attack ended the lives of 3,000 innocent people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania on that day. As President Bush has made clear many times, we are dealing with a strategic threat to the United States, and it must be treated as such. And we must act systematically and decisively, and the only way to win is to destroy the enemy.

To wage this fight we have to marshal our resources to go after the terrorists, to shut down their training camps, to take down their networks, to deny them sanctuary, disrupt their sources of funding, and bring them to justice. We decided, as well, to go after the sponsors of terror, and to confront those who might provide these killers with more deadly capabilities. And because some of the early battlefields of the war have been right here in the United States, we've taken vital actions to defend the homeland against future attacks.

One of the ways we've prevented attacks and saved lives is by monitoring terrorist-related communications. Last year Congress passed major revisions to the foreign intelligence surveillance law, the FISA, but those revisions have now expired. And so we've lost an important means for protecting the American people. For Congress to let that happen was simply irresponsible, and it makes the nation more vulnerable to attack. Jeff is on the right side of this issue. The whole Congress needs to follow his lead and give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to protect the American people.

As we proceed on many fronts, we also recognize the war on terror is more than a contest of arms and more than a test of will. It's also a battle of ideas. To prevail in the long run, we have to remove the conditions that inspire the hatred that drove those 19 men to climb on airplanes with box cutters, and come kill us on 9/11. So President Bush made the decision that we wouldn't just remove the Taliban and Saddam Hussein from power, and let other dictators rise in their place. Instead, we would stand with the Iraqi and the Afghan people -- as America did with other young democracies in earlier times -- to help them chart their own destiny. If we keep our commitments, the free and democratic nations of Afghanistan and Iraq will be strategic partners for the United States, helping us to win the war on terror.

The enterprise has not been easy, nor has it been cheap. It has not been predictable in its course. And some who professed enthusiasm for sending troops into Iraq have, over time, lost the desire to support those troops on to victory. But the fact remains that our soldiers and diplomats are serving fundamental American ideals. They are doing good things for the right reasons. (Applause.) We admire them, and we respect their families, and we also make many -- who also -- families also make many sacrifices during those long and difficult deployments. We can never thank them enough. (Applause.)

It's been more than a year now since President -- the President sent General Dave Petraeus out on the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed up by a surge in American forces, to secure Iraq and to set the conditions for political reconciliation. The General has done a superb job in Iraq, and we look forward to his prompt confirmation by the Senate as the new commander of CENTCOM. And we can be confident that President Bush's choice to lead our troops in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, will also do an excellent job as he returns to the theater. These are superb Army officers who have made tremendous contributions to this nation, especially over the last year. There is still tough and dangerous work ahead, and there will be more sacrifices called for in the cause of freedom. But events in Iraq have taken a new turn. The surge is succeeding, it is working, and the forces of freedom are winning. (Applause.)

Our new strategy has succeeded by careful planning, and by close attention to changing conditions on the battlefield. The same will be true of any drawdown of troops in the future. On behalf of the President, I can assure you that the decision will be based on what is right for our security and best for the troops -- without regard to polls, elite opinion, or flip-flops by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

Our mission in Iraq is still being debated very intensely on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail. And there's nothing wrong with a vigorous discussion about an issue that's so important to the future of the country. But from those who demand a hasty exit from Iraq -- whether by a sudden, precipitous withdrawal, or by an arbitrary time line, or by a date randomly chosen on the calendar -- we've heard very little concern about what might come afterwards. Those who insist that we leave Iraq should at least give some thought to what would be left behind. And thinking the matter through, I hope they'll remember the case of Afghanistan over the past generation.

Back in the 1980s, we were heavily engaged in Afghanistan, lending support to the Mujahadeen against the Soviet Union. It was a successful policy -- but afterwards everybody walked away and forgot about Afghanistan. What followed was a civil war, and then the emergence of the Taliban. And then in 1996, Osama bin Laden was invited to Afghanistan, made his way into the country, set up training camps, and trained thousands of terrorists -- some of whom came here on 9/11 and killed 3,000 Americans.

Those who now say we can afford to turn our backs on Iraq are inviting the same kind of outcome that we saw in Afghanistan: a period of chaos and recrimination, a violent power struggle won by a brutal minority, a safe haven for killers. The difference is that now we're in the midst of a global war on terror -- so failure in Iraq would have even more serious and far-reaching consequences.

Failure in Iraq would tell America's friends that we cannot be counted on -- even when people put their lives on the line for freedom because of our promises to help. Failure in Iraq would embolden al Qaeda and other like-minded groups by handing them a staging area for further attacks, with America as the target. And it would validate the enemy's long-held belief that America does not have the stomach for a fight -- that if they hit us hard enough, or hold out long enough, that we'll change our policies. Friends would hear that message, and so would potential adversaries. The regime in Tehran, for one, would conclude that we don't have the will to follow through on a matter of principle -- whether the principle is the defense of democracy today, or the prevention of nuclear proliferation tomorrow.

And just as failure would have consequences, so would success. A free, democratic Iraq will be a strategic partner in the heart of the Middle East, helping us fight and win the war on terror. And that outcome will send a message to moderates throughout the region. From Syria to Lebanon to Iran, advocates for democracy and human rights will take heart, and will be reassured that the free world is not indifferent to their future. As hopes rise in the Middle East, a vital and troubled region can move in the direction of peace and stability. The day will come when terrorists and terror-sponsoring states no longer pose a danger to the United States or to our friends. (Applause.)

Our strategy is the right strategy. In fact, the only way we can lose this fight is if we quit -- and that's not going to happen on our watch. (Applause.) If there is one indispensable element in this battle, it's the skill and the character of the men and women fighting it. Last month I spoke to several thousand of our troops at Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad. And I remember the strong response they gave on one point in particular -- when I said we're going to get this job done right, so that another generation of Americans doesn't have to go back to Iraq and do it again. (Applause.)

John F. Kennedy once said, "There is no way to maintain the frontiers of freedom without cost and commitment and risk." We are learning this lesson once again, in these decisive early years of a new century. And when the history is written, it'll be said that we lived in a safer country, and a more hopeful world, because George Bush was President of these United States. (Applause.)

Today, ladies and gentlemen, with much yet to do at home and abroad, the President and I remain grateful for the opportunity you've given us to serve this nation. We're grateful to all of you, and to people across Northwest Florida, for the outstanding support you've given to us, and to Congressman Jeff Miller. In the months ahead, with an economy to strengthen and a war to fight, we'll stay focused on the business at hand, and we'll come to a strong finish. With your help, we'll leave our jobs in good hands. And we're confident that in the First District in Florida, you'll have the fine representation of Congressman Jeff Miller far into the future.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 1:06 P.M. CDT

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