Remarks at an Arkansas Victory 2006 Rally in Bentonville, Arkansas
The President. Thank you all for coming. You know, Asa, I remember landing at this airport in 2000, on the next to last event of my quest for the Presidency. I was then here to ask for your vote for me. I'm coming back, asking for you to vote and work for Asa Hutchinson.
I want to thank you for the interest in his campaign. I appreciate those of you who are putting up the signs and making the phone calls and turning out the vote. With your help, he'll become the next Governor of Arkansas. And by the way, when you get people going into the polls, make sure they send a great United States Congressman back to Washington, John Boozman.
Laura and I are pleased to be here to support the Hutchinsons. We got to know them in Washington. One thing you have to understand is he spent time in Washington, but he never lost his Arkansas values. I guess that's because he grew up on a farm near Gra-vette—Gra-vette. No one has ever accused me of being the best English speaker in America. [Laughter] But I try to talk plain so people know where I'm coming from. And here's where I'm coming from: Asa Hutchinson is the right man to be your Governor.
I liked the fact that he and Susan have been married for 33 years. As a matter of fact, Laura and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. She was in Crawford, and I was campaigning. [Laughter] We've had quite a week there. She celebrated a birthday; we celebrated the 29th anniversary; and on November the 7th, we're going to celebrate a great victory.
I like the fact that when Asa was called by his Government to come and serve, he did. See, he understands that it's important to put service ahead of self. And I gave him some hard jobs. I didn't ask him to come to Washington just to push paper; I asked him to come to Washington to fight drugs, which he did a fine job of—and to help us organize the Homeland Security Department so we can better protect you.
I like the fact that Asa is running on a good platform. See, when I was running for Governor of Texas, I said, "Education is to a State what national defense is to the Federal Government." That's what Asa thinks. The top priority of your government is to make sure every single child gets a good education. He also understands, you need a Governor who is going to be strong about eradicating methamphetamines. You need a Governor who is going to help small businesses flourish. You need a Governor that's going to keep your taxes low. And that Governor is Asa Hutchinson.
I'm sure glad to be here with John and Cathy. I appreciate them being up here on the stage. I appreciate your service. Boozman is well-respected in Washington. People like him up there because they understand he's consistent, and he tells everybody where he stands. And the most important thing he tells me is, "You make sure you remember northwest Arkansas, Mr. President."
I want to thank State Senator Jim Holt, who's the candidate for Lieutenant Governor, joining us today. Johnny Key is with us; he's the minority leader of the Arkansas House of Representatives. Johnny, thanks for being here. I want to thank—welcome Gunner DeLay, running for attorney general. Gunner, you're just going to win on your first name alone. [Laughter] I want to thank Jim Lagrone, who's running for the secretary of state. Chris Morris is running for treasurer.
I want to thank all the grassroots activists who are here. I want to thank you for what you're going to do here over the next 24 hours. I appreciate the members of the Shiloh Christian Saints Band that's been with us. I want to thank the Pine Bluff Drum Line that's with us. I don't know if you noticed, but I had quite a step coming in from Air Force One, thanks to you all. I want to thank everybody else who's performed here. But I want to really thank you all. Laura and I are so pleased you came out.
See, this election is coming soon, but you've probably been reading about the fact that some of the prognosticators have already decided the outcome of the election.
Audience members. Boo!
The President. That's not the first time that's ever happened. [Laughter] Oh, you might remember 2004. As a matter of fact, some of them had already started to pick out their offices in the West Wing in 2004. [Laughter] But then the people of Arkansas voted, and people voted all around the country, and the movers were not needed. Same thing is going to happen this year. They can prognosticate all they want; then the people get to decide. And the people of Arkansas are going to send John back to Congress and Asa to the statehouse, and we're going to control the House and the Senate.
And there's a reason why. Over the past 5 years, we have accomplished great things together. We've taken the economy from recession to one that is strong and growing. We have risen to the test of September the 11th and have taken the fight to the terrorists all around the world. In other words, we've led. We've done what the people expected us to do. There's another reason we're going to win, is because we understand the values and the principles of the American people. We don't need polls and focus groups to tell us where we stand. Our principles are the principles of the majority of the people in this country. We're going to win this election because we're right on the big issues.
You know, I knew we were going to finish strong. I knew that we were going to come roaring into election day because we got the right position on taxes, and we got the right position on what it takes to protect you from attack.
Let me first start talking about taxes. It's a big issue in this campaign. We believe that you can spend your money better than the Federal Government can spend your money. We believe when you have more of your own money in your pocket to save, spend, or invest, the economy benefits. The Democrats believe they can spend your money better than you can, and that's why they want more of it.
Audience members. Boo!
The President. We have a philosophy, but you'll be happy to hear we did more than philosophize. [Laughter] We acted. I signed the largest tax cut since Ronald Reagan was President of the United States.
Oh, you might remember the debate in Washington when the Democrats said the tax cuts aren't going to cause any people to find jobs; the tax cuts aren't going to help wages; and the tax cuts will cause the deficit to explode. Well, when you're out rounding up the people to vote, remind them of the facts. Our economy is strong, and it's getting better. We found out last week that the national unemployment rate is 4.4 percent. These tax cuts are working. Real wages are on the rise, and we cut the deficit in half 3 years ahead of schedule.
Whether it's here in Arkansas or around the country, there's a difference in this campaign about taxes. And one of the interesting things about these national Democrats is they're not going to tell you that they're going to raise your taxes. Let me just give you one example of what I'm talking about. They asked the lady who thinks she's going to be the Speaker—but she's not—about tax cuts. And she said on TV, "We love tax cuts." Well, given her record, she must be a secret admirer, because when it came time to reduce the marriage penalty or cut taxes on small businesses, when it came time to lower taxes on families with children, when it came time to reducing taxes on capital gains and dividends, and when it came time to getting rid of the death tax, she and her party voted no.
Audience members. Boo!
The President. If that is their definition of love—[laughter]—I'd sure hate to see what hate looks like. [Laughter]
Now here's the problem we've got if the tax cuts we passed are allowed to expire or are not made permanent—you're paying more taxes, see. Now, they're going to go around the country, and they say, "Oh, we're just going to let the tax cuts expire." That means your taxes are going up. Don't take my word for it. Take the word of the person who thinks he is going to be the head of the Ways and Means Committee, which he's not. [Laughter] And so they asked him, "Could you think of any of the tax cuts that you would extend," in other words, keep in place—he said, "I can't think of a one."
Well, let me give you an example of what that means for you. Anybody here got four kids, three kids? You got four? Four. Three, okay. [Applause] Shhh. All right, wait, wait. [Laughter] I don't know why I asked that? [Laughter] Oh, I know why I asked it. When you're at dinner tonight— and, say, you got four kids—if the tax cuts are not extended, the child tax credit goes from $1,000 per child to 500, see. And so then you can start counting heads to determine how much the Democrats are going to raise your taxes. If you've got four children, at dinner, you can just go, one child, two, three, four, times 500. That's a $2,000 tax increase. Now that may not seem like a lot to the Democrats in Washington, but it seems like a lot to me, to Asa, and to John. And that's why you need to vote Republican to keep your taxes low. And we're closing strong in this election because the American people have finally figured out our tax cuts work, and the Democrats are going to raise your taxes.
This election is taking place at a historic time for our country. And when our children look back at this period, they're going to have one question: Did we do everything in our power to protect America and win the war on terror? That's the fundamental question facing this country, and it's a fundamental question in this campaign. I wish I could report to you here in northwest Arkansas that we were not at war, but we are. And we're at war because of what we believe and what the enemy believes. And we're at war because we stand in the way of their ambitions to spread their ideology throughout the world.
Their ideology is the exact opposite of what we believe. We believe in the right for people to worship freely. We believe in the right for people to dissent. We believe in the right for people to participate in politics. We believe in government of, by, and for the people. They don't. There is—these are coldblooded killers. You cannot negotiate with them. You cannot hope for the best. Therapy won't work. The best way to protect you is to defeat them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.
And so that is part of our strategy. And the other part of our strategy is to protect this homeland. I've told you Asa was a part of an important reorganization to make sure that we can respond better. Right after September the 11th, I analyzed the laws to determine whether or not our professionals had what they need to protect you. And let me talk about three examples. First, there was a wall that prevented the intelligence folks from sharing information with law enforcement. It doesn't make any sense. I understand that, but nevertheless, that was reality. You can't protect you if our folks who know what the enemy may be doing can't tell the folks on the frontline of protecting you—with that information. And so I said to Congress, "Pass the PATRIOT Act, to make sure that we can share information across jurisdictions within government." And they passed the PATRIOT Act. But I want you to remember, when this important piece of legislation—legislation necessary to protect the American people—came up for reauthorization in the United States House and in the United States Senate, the vast majority of Democrats voted no.
Audience members. Boo!
The President. You see, there's a different mindset in Washington, DC. They must think it—one, we're not at war, or it's okay to respond after we're attacked. Our view is, let's make sure we're not attacked in the first place.
I believe if Al Qaida or an Al Qaida affiliate is making a phone call into the United States of America from outside our country, we better understand why. We better make sure that we understand the intentions of the enemy. When this piece of legislation came up on the floor of the House of Representatives—the terrorist surveillance program, it's called—the vast majority of Democrats voted no.
Audience members. Boo!
The President. Your Congressman voted yes. We picked up Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—if you haven't heard that name, he's the person our intelligence officers believe masterminded the September the 11th attacks. And my attitude is, in order to protect you, we've got to be in a position to question him. And so I authorized the Central Intelligence Agency, the professionals in the Central Intelligence Agency, to question Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I'll tell you why. If he knew about one attack, it's conceivable he might know about another attack.
And so when it came time to vote on this valuable program that has prevented attacks on the homeland, the vast majority of Democrats voted no. And so when people go to the polls, they have got to understand that we're at war, and if you want to make sure our professionals have the tools necessary to do our most important job, which is to protect the American people, you need to vote Republican.
This is a global war fought on a variety of fronts. Where we find the enemy, we will confront them. One of the lessons of September the 11th is that when this Nation sees a threat, it must take those threats seriously, before they come home to hurt us. I saw a threat in Saddam Hussein; the United States Congress—people in both parties—saw the same threat; the United Nations saw the threat. The decision I made to get rid of Saddam Hussein was the right decision, and the world is better off for it.
On Sunday, we witnessed a landmark event in the history of Iraq: Saddam Hussein was convicted of heinous crimes on his people. This is a country which is going from the rule of a tyrant to rule of law, and we congratulate the Iraqi people. And as we do, we remember that this never would have happened without the sacrifices of the United States military.
And Iraq is the central front in this war to protect you. Oh, I've heard them in Washington. I know you have as well. They say, "Well, Iraq is just a distraction; Iraq is not a part of the war." Well, I don't believe that, our troops don't believe that, and Usama bin Laden doesn't believe that. [Laughter] He has called the fight in Iraq the third world war. He has said that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's defeat and disgrace forever. We need to take his words seriously. It doesn't matter what party you're in, you need to listen to the enemy.
There's people in Washington who believe that when we fight for Iraqi democracy and when we fight to adhere to the policy, "defeat them there so we don't have to face them here," it creates terrorists. In other words, it makes the world more dangerous. But I want to remind you that the reason we're at war with the terrorists is not because of Iraq. See, we weren't in Iraq when they bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. We weren't in Iraq when they bombed our Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. We weren't in Iraq when they bombed the USS Cole. And we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001, when they killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens.
They just think different; the Democrats have a different view of the world. It's an important part of this election. I'm going to remind our citizens, you do not create terrorists by fighting the terrorists. The best way to protect this country is to stay on the offense and bring them to justice before they can hurt us again.
Our goal in Iraq is victory, and victory means a country which can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror. And it's hard work. It is really hard work because the enemy understands the stakes of a democracy in the midst of a region that desires for liberty. They understand that success in Iraq will be a major blow to their desires. They also are willing to use weapons that disturb the American people, and those weapons kill innocent men, women, and children. And the reason they do so is they have no conscience, and they are convinced it's just a matter of time before the United States loses its will.
What they don't understand is—they don't understand this administration; they don't understand the American people. We're not going to run from thugs and assassins. We've got a strategy for victory where the goal is the same but the tactics constantly change. I have told our commanders, whatever it takes to get the job done you can have from Washington, DC. Our tactics are flexible. We've got great assets at our disposal, starting with the finest United States military ever assembled.
And Boozman and I understand this fact: When you have anybody in harm's way representing the United States of America, our Government must give them everything they need in order to get the job done. And I'd like to share one other thought with you. Whether or not you agreed with my decision or not to remove Saddam Hussein, you owe it to support our troops.
We got something else going for us, and those are Iraqis that want to live in a free society. These folks are suffering unspeakable violence, yet they are determined to set up a government that will reflect the will of the nearly 12 million people who voted. Let me say something. I was pleased by the vote, but I wasn't surprised. I'll tell you why I wasn't surprised. I believe that an Almighty's gift to each man, woman, and child is the desire to be free. I believe in the universality of freedom. And so we'll help this Government unify the country, we'll help their economy grow, and we will train Iraqis so they can take the fight to defend their country.
I want you to know that if you have a loved one in harm's way, that I wouldn't have your son or daughter there if I didn't believe the cause was noble and just and if I didn't believe we could win. As a matter of fact, the only way we cannot win is if we leave before the job is done.
This is a serious issue, and yet if you listen to the debate, if you listen for the plan of the Democrats, they don't have one. It's the central front in the war on terror, and they have yet to describe to the American people what they intend to do. Oh, they're beginning to give us glimpses. Some of them have said, "Just get out now." Others have said, "Let's just set a date, and then get out before the job is done." One of the leaders in the House, one of the Democrat leaders, said, "Why don't we move our troops to an island 5,000 miles away?" Nineteen of them up there, of the Democrats, introduced legislation that would cut off the funds for their troops. They don't have a plan, but they have— they're united on principle, and that is, get out before the job is done.
No, I'm not saying these folks are unpatriotic; I'm just saying they're wrong. You can't win a war unless you're willing to fight the war. They've taken a calculated gamble. They believe the only way they can win this election is to criticize and not offer a plan. You know, there's 24 hours left; they still have an opportunity to step up and tell the American people what they intend to do to prevail in this war against these terrorists.
If you happen to run into a Democrat candidate, you might ask him these questions. If they say they want to protect the homeland but oppose the PATRIOT Act, just ask them this question: What's your plan? If they say they want to uncover terrorist plots but oppose listening in on the terrorist conversation, ask them this question: What's your plan? If they say they want to stop new attacks on our country but oppose letting the CIA detain and question the terrorists who might know about those plots, ask them this question: What's your plan?
Audience members. What's your plan?
The President. Yes. If they say they want to win the war on terror but call for America to pull out from what Al Qaida says is the central front in this war on terror, ask them a simple question——
Audience members. What's your plan?
The President. They can't answer it. Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory. Second-guessing is not a strategy. We have a plan for victory. We've got a strategy to win. And part of that is to elect Republicans to the Congress and to the Senate.
Retreat from Iraq before the job is done would embolden the enemy and make this country less secure. In this war, if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here. These radicals and extremists would be able to recruit better. Just imagine their propaganda, when they say, "We caused the mighty United States to retreat." It would dash the hopes of millions of people in the Middle East who want to live a peaceful life. If we were to leave before the job is done, it would dishonor the sacrifice of the men and women who have worn our uniform.
This issue on the war on terror, this issue about Iraq is a vital issue. And the victory there or retreat from Iraq would be felt for generations. And that's why we want to make sure that we understand that we're not only talking about this generation but generations of Americans coming up. And I'll tell you why. The enemy has made it abundantly clear that they want us to retreat so they can have, one, safe haven from which to launch further attacks, safe havens similar to that safe haven they had in Afghanistan. Secondly, they want us to retreat so they can topple moderate governments. They want to be able to spread their ideology as far and wide as possible, and they understand our presence prevents them from doing so. Thirdly, they would like to control energy resources.
Imagine a world in which these extremists and radicals, bound together by a hateful ideology, was able to say to the West, to the United States, for example, "If you do not abandon your alliances, if you do not withdraw, we will run the price of oil up to the point that it chokes your economy." You can imagine somebody saying, "Abandon Israel, or we will bring you to your knees," or, "Get out of our way, or we'll bring you to your knees." And couple that with a country which doesn't like us with a nuclear weapon, and people will look back at this period of time and say, "What happened to them in 2006? How come they couldn't see the danger? What clouded their vision?" Well, I want you to know I clearly see the danger. That is why we will fight in Iraq and win in Iraq.
I want to share a story with you about the power of liberty. Recently Laura and I had the honor of taking our friend the former Prime Minister—he was the sitting Prime Minister at the time—of Japan—to Elvis's place. They said, "Why did you go?" Well, we hadn't been on a vacation lately. [Laughter] We also went because Prime Minister Koizumi liked Elvis. But I also wanted to tell a story, a tale about history and the power of liberty.
Right after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, thousands and thousands of our citizens—I'm sure your relatives—volunteered to fight the enemy. See, Japan was the sworn enemy of the United States, and we fought them in a bloody war, and thousands lost their lives. And here I am on Air Force One with the Prime Minister of the former enemy talking about the peace. See, we were talking about how do we make sure the Korean Peninsula doesn't have a nuclear weapon. We were talking about the fact that Japan had 1,000 troops in Iraq, helping this young democracy. The Prime Minister knows what I know: In this ideological struggle, with extremism on one hand and reasonable folks on the other, anytime you can help a young democracy survive, you're making the world more peaceful. You're marginalizing the extremists.
We talked about this concept, that whom much is given, much is required—that's what I believe. And we talked about how we can work together, for example, to get rid of the pandemic of HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa. In other words, we were talking about our duties as responsible citizens of the world to lay the foundation for peace. Isn't it interesting? My dad fought the Japanese, and his son is sitting down talking about the peace with the Prime Minister of the very same country. What happened was, Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy.
The lesson is that liberty has got the capacity to change an enemy into an ally. And liberty has got the capacity to change a region of resentment, a region that needs hope, into a place where people can realize the benefits of a rational life, where people can realize the benefits of a free society. Someday American Presidents will be sitting down with elected leaders from the Middle East talking about keeping the peace, and a generation of Americans will be better off for it.
And these are the stakes in this election. And I thank you for your interest. I ask you to go forth and find fellow Republicans, discerning Democrats, and open-minded independents and convince them, if you want a good Governor, vote for Asa Hutchinson. Remind them that if they want more money in their pocket, remind them if they want government that trusts you to make the right decisions with your money, you vote Republican. And remind them that we're in a tough fight against an enemy that wants to do us harm. And if you want government that responds with all assets, a government that will do everything in our capability to protect you and, at the same time, lay the foundation for peace for generations to come, vote Republican.
Thanks for coming. God bless you, and God bless America.
NOTE: The President spoke at 4:23 p.m. at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Cathy Boozman, wife of Rep. John Boozman; Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization; and former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan.
George W. Bush, Remarks at an Arkansas Victory 2006 Rally in Bentonville, Arkansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/271293