Remarks in Blountville, Tennessee
Thank you all. Thanks for coming. I'm honored to be here in East Tennessee. I've got a fond spot in my heart for Tennessee, if you know what I mean. I've got a good feeling about the people in this State, and I want to thank you for coming this morning. I'm—your Congressman, Bill Jenkins, is doing a fine job, by the way. He said, "You know, it's time to quit sermonizing, and it's time to pass the plate." [Laughter] I think what he meant was, it's close to voting time, and it's time for you all to go out and vote for the next Governor of Tennessee, Van Hilleary.
See, we have a duty in this country to support our freedoms. And one of the ways we support freedom is to vote. We have an obligation as American citizens to vote. So as we're approaching election day, I'm traveling the country, reminding Republicans and Democrats and people who don't give a hoot about politics to do their duty and go to the polls. But I've got some suggestions once they get in the box. [Laughter]
For the good of Tennessee, for the good of the taxpayers of Tennessee, for the goodof the schoolchildren in Tennessee, vote Van Hilleary as your Governor. And for the sake of making sure the United States Senate and its important seat stays in the hands of a good, honest, capable Senator, vote for Lamar Alexander.
I appreciate Meredith Hilleary working so hard with her husband. She's going to be a great first lady on behalf of the people of Tennessee. I'm pretty good about understanding great First Ladies. The American people are beginning to see why I asked Laura to marry me. She's calm and steady under fire. She's got great, great vision about making sure every child gets educated. She's got a wonderful heart. A lot of people are wondering why she said yes. [Laughter] But she sends her best to the Hillearys and the Alexanders and the good people of Tennessee. She's doing a fabulous job as our First Lady, and I'm really proud of her.
I'm proud to be up here with two fine United States Senators. First, we're going to miss Fred Thompson. He's been a good friend, solid Senator. But we're not going to miss him nearly half enough when—half as much when Lamar Alexander takes his place. I know you join me in sending our best to Fred and expressing our deep appreciation for his great service to the country.
And you sent another good one up there, too, and that's Frist. He's a good man, a good, solid citizen. Both of these men are allies. Both of them are doing a great job for all the people of Tennessee. Bill Jenkins is doing a great job for this congressional district, too. He's a reliable voice who cares deeply about the people of East Tennessee. You ought to be proud of his service to you as well.
I want to thank all the grassroots activists who are here. I want to thank you for what you have done, and I want to thank you for what you're going to do, what you're going to do for candidates such as Janice Bowling, who's going to get elected in the congressional district right next door to here. I appreciate Janice. She's a strong voice. She's a solid soul. She'll make a great Congresswoman.
I also want to thank my friend Darrell Waltrip. There he is. [Laughter] I've known him for quite a while. He's looking younger, and I'm looking older. [Laughter] He's asking me whether or not he can drive the Presidential limousine. [Laughter] No. [Laughter] He's a good, solid man. One of the reasons Hilleary is going to win is because he's going to win the NASCAR vote.
I also appreciate Law and Grace and the Singing Sheriffs group for being here. I'm sorry I didn't get here in time to hear you. Just leave your CD at the door. [Laughter]
But I really want to thank you all and remind you that not only do you have a duty to vote, but if you care about the quality of government in Nashville and in Washington, turn out to vote. Go to your houses of worship. Go to your coffee shops. When you get there Monday morning, instead of sitting around worrying about the weather, worry about who the next Governor is going to be. Worry about who the next Senator is going to be. Talk it up with people who may not pay attention to the politics as much as we do. And don't be afraid to talk up the story of Lamar and Van to Democrats. There's some discerning Democrats out there. They want good government, just like we do. They don't want higher taxes, just like we do. Find those independents that are open-minded and convince them that when you've got good ones, like Van and Lamar, we have a duty in America to support these good people.
We're going to win this election, come Tuesday, because of good, hard-working folks such as yourself, and I'm here to thank you for what you're going to do.
No, there's some reasons—you know, old Van, he's not what we call a show horse; he's a work horse. He can get the job done. He's a plain-spoken fellow. The good thing about him is, he doesn't need a poll or a focus group to tell him what to think. He's well grounded in East Tennessee. He has those values of faith and family, the kind of man you can count on. He's not going to be swayed by the special interests. He's going to do what he thinks is right for all the people of Tennessee. And that's important.
We share a vision about the children of Tennessee too. It says that every child can learn. You've got to have you a Governor who believes every child can learn, somebody who's willing to set high standards and high expectations, somebody who is willing to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. See, when you have you a Governor who believes in not setting high standards, you're going to get lousy results. Van Hilleary worked with me and Members of the United States Congress to make sure that the Federal bill we passed did two things—provided plenty of money for Tennessee. There's $760 million in Federal education money coming your way, thanks to the hard work of your Senators and Van Hilleary.
But that bill that he worked on said two other things: One, we trust the people of Tennessee to chart the path for excellence for every child. We believe in local control of schools, and that's the way he'll be as your Governor. And secondly, in return for the money spent, we expect results, don't we. You see, we believe every child can learn. Therefore, we expect every child to learn. And therefore, we're going to use accountability to make sure your money is being spent wisely. We use accountability to praise those schools that are meeting expectations, so we can thank our teachers. We will use accountability, though, to make sure that no child, not one single child, gets trapped in a school which will not teach and will not change. Van Hilleary will work with us to make sure no child is left behind in the State of Tennessee.
Our economy is bumping along. It's not doing as well as it should. After all, we're coming out of a recession; then the enemy hit us. That created a problem which we're overcoming. Then we had another problem: Some of our citizens thought they could fudge the numbers, thought it's okay, if they're in positions of responsibility, to not tell the truth. I want to thank the Senators; I want to thank Van Hilleary; I want to thank Bill Jenkins for joining me to pass the most comprehensive corporate reform law since Franklin Roosevelt was the President. See, our message today—my message today is: Those who aren't responsible to shareholder and employee—no easy money in America, just hard time.
I want to thank these Members for understanding that confidence in our economy depends upon us holding people to account if they're not honest with the people. That's the kind of leadership you need in Nashville, and that's the kind of leadership you've got in Washington.
But we need to do more work on our economy. We need to understand, if somebody is looking for work and they can't find a job, we've got a problem. Anybody is looking for work and wants to put food on the table, and they can't find work, we need to make sure we've got people in the Federal office and the State office who understand job creation. The role of Government is not to create wealth. The role of Government is to create an environment in which the small-business person can grow to be a big-business person.
That's why it's important you have somebody in Nashville who understands the role of the small-business owner. Seventy percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses, the entrepreneurs. And you better get you somebody as the Governor who understands that, who understands policy ought to be to encourage the growth of small business. And one way to do that is to let small-business owners and taxpayers keep more of your own money.
That tax relief bill we passed is going to give Tennessee people $27 billion over the next 10 years. That's your money to begin with, by the way. That's not the Government's money. It's your money. And when you've got it in your pocket, you're going to demand a good or a service. If you demand a good or a service, somebody is going to produce that good or a service. And when somebody produces that good or a service, somebody is more likely to find work.
You see, if you listen to that other bunch, they're going to say we need to revisit the tax relief. That's Washington, DC, code for, "We're going to get back in your pocket." [Laughter] Tax relief was good for our economy. It's going to be good for our economy. It's going to be good for the working people, and we need to make tax relief permanent.
No, I look forward to working with Van to do a lot of things to help Tennessee— make sure that welfare system works. Part of the welfare reform that worked and something that needs to go forward is to have a Governor work with the Congress to help people find work. See, when you work, you find dignity. If you want to help people get off welfare, if you want to help them help themselves, you help them have the skills necessary to work. Work needs to be the central core of any good welfare policy.
And Van Hilleary understands that. No, when you put Van Hilleary in office, you're going to be putting a good man in office, a man who's going to work hard to represent all the people of Tennessee, a man who will make you proud as Governor, a man with whom I can work, and a man who will represent that office, that high office, with class and dignity. I'm here to urge the good people of East Tennessee to turn out to vote next Tuesday and put Van Hilleary in as Governor of the great State.
And I need Lamar up there in Washington too, and so do you. He's got a great record for Tennessee. People know that he is what we call a class act. When given the responsibilities, he handled his business well. More importantly, he cares deeply about the all the citizens of this State. Lamar is going to make a great United States Senator. And there's a lot of things we can work together on, whether it be education—of course, he's an expert on that subject—or whether it would be making sure our economy grows. I know we'll have a strong ally, and the people will have a strong ally in Lamar Alexander.
Oh, there's some things we need to work on, like making sure the health care system works. We need his vote up there to make sure that you've got affordable and accessible health care. We need his vote up there to make sure the Medicare system works. There are too many lawsuits these days which are driving up the cost of medicine and driving doctors out of the practice of medicine. We want the system to work. We want our people to have access to the courts, of course, but these frivolous and junk lawsuits are running these docs out of business, running up your price of medicine. We need to have medical liability reform at the Federal level, and Lamar Alexander will vote that way.
And we've got to make sure Medicare works. Medicine is becoming modern. Technology is changing medicine. New discoveries have changed medicine. But Medicare isn't modern. It's stuck in the past. Just ask our seniors. We need Lamar Alexander in the United States Senate to work to modernize Medicare, which means prescription drug benefits for our senior citizens.
And I need him up there, along with Senator Frist, to make sure that our judiciary works properly. We can't get our judges through the United States Senate. There is a vacancy problem in our Federal courts. Too many of our benches have got vacancies, which means you can't get access to the courts. They're playing politics with the judges in Washington, DC. They don't like the fact that I'm naming good, honorable, decent people who will not use the bench from which to legislate but from which to interpret the United States Constitution.
No, there's a lot of issues we can work on to make America better for everybody. The biggest issue we'll work together on is to secure our homeland, prevent the American people from coming under attack again by a bunch of coldblooded killers. These people hate us because of what we love. And we love freedom, and we're not going to change.
I asked Congress to join me in a creation of a Department of Homeland Security. I did so because I want all the agencies involved with protecting you to be under— to have as their priority protection of the American people, and if need be, change cultures so people get it in their head that there's still an enemy out there which lurks around, so we can coordinate better. The House of Representatives, thanks to Van and Jenkins, supported me on a good bill. The bill is stuck in the Senate. This bill is stuck in the Senate, in spite of the good efforts of Fred Thompson and Bill Frist. And the reason it is was because the Senate wants me to give up a power that Presidents since John Kennedy has had, which is the capacity to suspend certain work rules, certain collective bargaining rules, in the name of national security.
I won't accept a lousy bill out of the Senate. I need a bill to put the right people at the right place at the right time to protect the American people. Under some Senators' vision, I would have the capacity to make national security decisions in Agriculture Department but not in the Department of Homeland Security. That don't make any sense to me, and I know it doesn't make any sense to you. We need Lamar Alexander, and we need to change the United States Senate.
But the best way to secure the homeland is to chase the killers down, one at a time, and bring them to justice, what America is going to do. We've got them on the run, and we're going to keep them on the run. And one of the reasons we've got them on the run is, we've got a fantastic military.
I signed a good defense bill, thanks to the Senators and thanks to Van and Bill Jenkins, a good defense bill that pays our people, equips our people, and trains our people the way you want them. We've got to get them the best pay, the best training, and the best possible equipment. We owe that to the loved ones. We owe that to our troops. But we're also sending a clear signal to friend and foe that we're in this deal for the long haul. We love freedom. It doesn't matter how long it takes to defend America and to protect our freedoms; we're going after them, one at a time.
And we're making progress. Sometimes you'll read about it, and sometimes you won't. Sometimes you'll see the fact that somebody got hauled in, and sometimes it's just not going to make it on to your radar screen. But make no mistake about it, there's no cave deep enough, no corner of the world dark enough to prevent the long arm of justice from the United States to reach them around the world.
And the reason I feel so strong about it is that I recognize we're living in a different world today than we were last—prior to September the 11th. It's a different world because no longer can we be content with the fact that two oceans protect us from danger. It used to be that we don't have to worry about some potential threat overseas because oceans protected us. It used to be we could pick or choose whether or not we wanted to be involved. But at home we were confident we were okay because of oceans, because of our geography. And that changed on that fateful day. Therefore, it's very important for you to elect people to office who are clear-eyed realists, people who see the world the way it is, not the way we would hope it to be.
And that's the reason why I started the debate in our Congress and amongst the American people, in fact, in the world community, about the threat to America and threat to our friends and allies from Mr. Saddam Hussein. He's a dangerous man. He told the world he wouldn't have weapons of mass destruction—11 years ago he said that. He's got them. We found out a while ago that he was close to having a nuclear weapon. We dismantled that when he used to let inspectors in. We don't know where he stands today, but we know what's in his mind. We know the implications of him having a nuclear weapon.
We know that this is a man who has chemical weapons, and we know he's used them. See, he's used them. He hasn't stockpiled them. He's used them in his neighborhood, and he's used them on his own people. We know he can't stand America. We know he can't stand some of our closest friends. We know that he has had contacts with terrorist networks like Al Qaida. And we know, clearly, that one of the dangers we face is him serving as a training ground and an arsenal for one of these shadowy terrorist networks, which could come home, could come home here. And so he's a danger.
I went to the United Nations because I want that body to be effective to help us keep the peace. I said to the United Nations, "This man has defied you 16 times. How long is it going to take for you to show some backbone so we can work together to keep the peace? You have a choice to be the United Nations, which is an effective body to keep the peace, or the League of Nations. That's your choice to make."
And Saddam Hussein has a choice. He can disarm like he said. He can get rid of his weapons of mass destruction. But if the United Nations won't act and if Saddam Hussein won't disarm, this country, in the name of peace and in the name of freedom, will lead a coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein.
I say that as a man who longs for peace. I say that as a man who knows the stakes. I say that as a man who's not going to forget September the 11th, 2001, or the attack on a French vessel recently or the attack in Bali, Indonesia. I say this as a man who is briefed on a daily basis about the threats we face in America. I say this as a man who is absolutely confident that out of the evil done to America can come some good, because I understand the nature of this country. I believe if we remain the course and stay strong and diligent and focused and remember that freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to the world, that we can achieve peace, that we can have a peaceful world.
I believe out of the evil done to America, we can achieve peace if we're strong and diligent and focused, not only here at home but—because we value each life; everybody counts—in parts of the world which have quit on peace. I believe peace is possible if we're tough and strong in the Middle East. I believe peace is possible in South Asia. And I know at home, out of the evil done to America can come a more compassionate and better country.
See, Government can help, and we will. We'll all work on laws to make things better. But what Government cannot do is put love in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. And amongst our plenty we've got to remember there are some who hurt, some who are lonely, some who are addicted, some who are wondering whether the American Dream is meant for them. I'm optimistic that out of the evil done to this country can come a better day where everybody understands the great promise of this country, because I know the strength of America, and the strength of America is in the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens. If you want to fight evil, if you want to be a patriot, love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourselves.
Today I met Kathy Henderson. She's an active volunteer at Central Heights Elementary School. She decided she wanted to be part of the army of compassion; she wanted to make a difference in somebody's life. So she's helping young children learn to read. There's all kinds of ways where we can change America for the better, whether it be Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or Boys and Girls Clubs or mentoring like Kathy. She asked me to say she needs volunteers, by the way, on the Read Along With Me program. You can do it by just telling somebody you love them, a shut-in, that you love them. You can help feed the hungry; you can house the homeless. There's all kinds of ways we can help.
No, the enemy had no idea who they were hitting. Oh, they probably thought we'd file a lawsuit or two. [Laughter] They didn't realize America like we know. The spirit of America is alive and well. It's the spirit which says, when it comes to the defense of our country, we'll be plenty tough. But the spirit also says that a patriot is somebody who is willing to serve something greater than themselves. A patriot is willing to help somebody who hurts.
No, I boldly predict to you that out of the evil done to America is going to come a more peaceful world. And out of the evil done to America will become a more hopeful America, because this is the greatest country, full of the finest people on the face of the Earth.
Thank you for coming today. May God bless, and God bless America.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:50 a.m. at the Tri-Cities Regional TN/VA Airport. In his remarks, he referred to gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary and his wife, Meredith; senatorial candidate Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey; Janice Bowling, candidate for Tennessee's Fourth Congressional District; NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
George W. Bush, Remarks in Blountville, Tennessee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/215903