Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for 2004 State Victory Committee
|Monday May 24,
Statehouse Convention Center
6:05 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Well, thank you very much, Win, and let me thank all of you for that warm welcome to Arkansas. I was in Bentonville just a few weeks ago. Lynne was down recently. The President has been down in the last few weeks. So we care a lot about Arkansas. And after that last election -- (laughter) -- with the 537 votes in Florida, and the -- of course, the President when he asked me to do this job said he wasn't worried about carrying my home state of Wyoming. (Laughter.) We got 70 percent of the vote there. But I remind him every once in a while those three electoral votes came in mighty handy. (Laughter.)
But it's always great to be back in Arkansas, and a pleasure to bring you good wishes today from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
The President and I are tremendously grateful for all of our friends and supporters here in Arkansas. You worked really hard for us in 2000. We were proud to carry Arkansas. And with your dedication, and the strong leadership of the President, Arkansas is going to be part of a nationwide Bush victory on November 2nd. (Applause.)
This is going to be a critically important election, at every level on the ballot. And some of you may know that my only job as Vice President is to preside over the United States Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President, but they got down to the end of the convention, and they remembered suddenly they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate, the presiding officer.
It's not quite as exciting as it used to be. My predecessor John Adams actually had floor privileges. He could go down in the well and engage in the debate. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored.
But I do get to vote when there's a tie. And since the Senate has been so evenly divided these last few years, I've had the opportunity to break ties on some important matters, like last year's tax bill. And I can -- (Applause.)
I don't want you to think I deserve any special credit for the way I voted -- the President laid some pretty clear preferences on me before I went to the Hill that day. (Laughter.) But if we'd had one less senator -- or if we hadn't had control of the House of Representatives, we would not have been able to pass that tax bill, and we would not have the healthy, growing economy we have today. (Applause.)
There's a tremendous amount at stake come November -- from the direction of our economy, to the conduct of the war on terror. And as the President campaigns across the country, I believe he's got a great record to show for his accomplishments. The American people, I believe, can be confident of a better future, of a stronger economy, and of a safer, more secure America against these dangers of our new era because of our Republican majorities in Congress, and because of the character and the leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
This has been a period in history defined by serious challenges, and the need for decisive action. And the greatest responsibility of our government is clear: We must protect the safety and the security of the American people.
The attacks of September 11th, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era in our history. On that day, we awakened to dangers even more lethal -- the possibility that terrorists could gain chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons from outlaw regimes, and use those weapons against the United States.
More than two-and-a-half years have passed now since 9/11, yet it would be a grave mistake for us to assume that the threat to our country -- indeed, to the world -- has somehow passed. As we have seen since 9/11 in attacks all over the world -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbala, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Madrid -- terrorists are determined to intimidate free countries, and even try to influence elections. We have to assume they will make further attempts inside the United States. And every American can be certain that we are doing everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack on America.
But we also understand that a good defense is not enough. Wars are not won on the defensive -- we have to go on offense. So we are going after the terrorists wherever they plot and plan. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, we removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the training camps where terrorists trained to kill Americans. In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator and rid the world of a gathering threat to our security and freedom. Just over a year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the future of nearly 25 million people. Tonight, he's in jail. (Applause.) Because we acted, because of the President's leadership, Saddam will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support terrorists or pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)
We still face serious challenges on the ground in Iraq. Thugs and assassins are trying desperately to shake our will, and they have made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. The terrorists understand the stakes of our mission in Iraq -- and so do we. Democracies do not breed the anger and radicalism that drag down whole societies -- to export violence. The defeat of tyranny and violence in Iraq, and the rise of democracy in the heart of the Middle East, will be a crucial setback for terror everywhere. As the President will outline in his speech to the nation this evening, we will do what is necessary to help Iraq succeed --- destroying the terrorists, transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people on the 30th of June, and standing with the people of Iraq as they build a government based on democracy, tolerance, and freedom. (Applause.)
From the very beginning, America has sought -- and received -- international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the war on terror, we will always seek cooperation from our friends and allies around the world. But as the President has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country. (Applause.)
Our nation is extremely fortunate during these times of testing to have the dedicated service of our men and women in uniform. The misconduct of a few does not diminish the honor and the decency that our servicemen and women have shown in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Applause.) They are proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation, we are sending the very best of the United States of America.
These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the next. We need a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and steady determination, and that's just what we have in President George W. Bush. (Applause.) That same standard should be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in this year's election, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: A while back, Senator Kerry informed us that he has met with unnamed foreign leaders who support him. (Laughter.) Not long after, a voter asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, "That's none of your business." (Laughter.) That's a direct quote. But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. This election will be decided by the American people -- not unnamed foreign leaders. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry has also asserted that our troops in Iraq are not receiving the material support they need. May I remind the Senator that last fall, at the President's request, Congress considered legislation providing funding for a supplemental appropriation for the military for body armor and other vital support, such as hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel and spare parts. Senator Kerry was asked at the time whether he would vote against the President's request. He said then, and I quote, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops. That's irresponsible." End quote. Within weeks, the legislation passed overwhelmingly, with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted "no."
THE VICE PRESIDENT: As a way to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry said, and again I quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) Obviously, the Senator is free to vote as he wishes, but he should be held to his own standard. It is irresponsible to vote against vital support for our men and women in the midst of a war.
On the broader picture, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. He said, quote, "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and more of a law enforcement operation. But as we've seen that approach was tried before, and proved inadequate to protecting the American people from terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us.
I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain, or explain away, his inconsistent votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, and the needs of the American military. Whatever the explanation, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become Commander-in-Chief in this time of testing for our country.
The American people will have a clear choice in the election of 2004, on a national basis, in terms of national security, as well as on policies here at home.
When the President and I took office, the economy was sliding into recession. Then, just as the economy began to recover, terrorists struck, and the economy was shaken once again. President Bush took strong steps to get the economy growing again. Working with our allies on Capitol Hill, the President signed into law significant tax relief for millions of American families and businesses. We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, cut tax rates across the board, and put the death tax on the way to extinction. (Applause.)
Across the nation, the results of the President's policies are clear. The economy added 288,000 new jobs last month. We have added over 600,000 in the past two months, and more than 1.1 million new jobs since August. Manufacturing jobs have increased for three straight months. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Productivity is high. Incomes, wages, and factory orders are rising. And over the last year, our economy has grown at a rate of 4.9 percent -- the fastest rate of growth since Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House, and the fastest rate of any major industrialized nation in the world. (Applause.) There's a simple reason for our growing prosperity: the Bush tax cuts are working. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
Not surprisingly, the American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and Congress was right to let them keep it. There are voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Let's choose one at random, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter.)
If elected, Senator Kerry has promised to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts within his first 100 days in office.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: This is a good crowd. I may take you home with me. (Laughter.)
This isn't surprising when you consider his record. Over the years, Senator Kerry has voted some 350 times for higher taxes on the American people -- including the biggest tax increase in history. That's an average of a vote for higher taxes every three weeks for the last 20 years. (Groans.) At least the folks back in Massachusetts knew he was on the job. (Laughter.)
For the sake of long-term growth and job creation, we should do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposes. We should continue spending discipline in Washington, D.C. -- and because tax cuts are the basis of our economic recovery, we should make the tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
Under the strong economic leadership of President Bush, this nation is going to continue moving forward with an aggressive, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda.
Our nation needs legal reform, to protect small businesses from junk lawsuits and needless regulation. (Applause.) America's entrepreneurs should be able to hire productive workers, instead of hiring lawyers. (Laughter.)
Our country needs medical liability reform to control the costs of health care. (Applause.) Here in Arkansas and across the nation, doctors should be able to spend time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
Congress also needs to pass energy legislation. Three years ago, the President sent Congress a sound energy plan to modernize our electricity system, increase conservation, expand the use of alternative fuels, and produce more energy here at home. If Congress had acted on our energy plan three years ago, today we would be well on our way to increasing our domestic energy supply. The House has passed legislation, yet it's hung up in the Senate. It's time for Congress to pass our energy plan, so we can make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
It's also time for the Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The recent agreement by Senate Democrats to stop obstructing votes on 25 of the President's nominees is a welcome step. Yet far too many nominees are still being forced to spend months, or even years, waiting for a hearing and an up-or-down vote. A number are still being filibustered. That's unfair to the nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. (Applause.) Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And that's another reason why we should send more Republicans to the United States Senate. (Applause.)
On issue after issue -- from national security to economic growth -- President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. The President has a clear vision for the future of the nation. Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes -- to protect our homeland by turning back the forces of terror, and spread hope and freedom throughout the world. Here at home, we will continue building a prosperity that reaches every corner of the land, so that every child who grows up in the United States will have a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world. (Applause.)
President Bush and I are both honored by your confidence in us, by your commitment to the cause we share. We're grateful to our many friends here in Little Rock and all across Arkansas. And now, together, we are going to see our cause forward to victory on November 2nd, 2004.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 6:25 P.M. CDT
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