Remarks at a Breakfast for Congressional Candidate Richard W. Pombo in Stockton, California
Thank you all very much. Thanks a lot. Please be seated. I don't want your eggs to get cold. [Laughter] Mr. Chairman, thank you for welcoming me to your district. I'm proud to be here on behalf of Richard Pombo, and I'm proud to be able to tell the people of the State of California, he's doing a fine job for the people of this district.
I know firsthand; I watch him up close; I've seen him in action. I think it makes sense for people from the State of California to send somebody to Washington, DC, who trusts the people of California. And that's Richard Pombo. I think it makes sense to send somebody from the State of California to Washington, DC, who knows what it means to make a living off the land. And that's Richard Pombo.
In all due respect to those of you who are here who are attorneys of law—[laughter]—we've got enough of those kind of people in Washington. [Laughter] It makes sense to have a rancher and a farmer speak commonsense language. See, what we need is some common sense in Washington, DC. Chairman Richard Pombo brings common sense to the big debates of our time. He brings practical experience when it comes to promoting cooperative conservation.
He understands, like I understand, that being dependent on foreign oil endangers the United States of America. It's a national security risk and an economic security risk. Richard Pombo thinks strategically on behalf of the people of this district and the United States. I'm proud to support his efforts to pass comprehensive energy. See, he and I know that technology is going to help us become less dependent on foreign sources of energy in the longer term. We'll be using ethanol from a product grown right here in California to power our cars. We'll have plug-in hybrid batteries. We'll be using hydrogen to power our automobiles. But in the meantime, we need to be exploring in environmentally friendly ways for energy from the United States of America, to make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
I'm proud to support Richard Pombo, a commonsense leader in the House of Representatives, and urge you to send him back to the United States Congress.
I want to thank you all for coming. I told Richard when I walked up here, it's a good sign when the home folks show up in the numbers like you have. [Laughter] It's always a good indication that when the people who know you best support you the strongest. So I want to thank you for contributing of your hard-earned dollars and urge you to help this good man as we're coming down the stretch. And that means turning out the vote, finding those solid Republicans, discerning Democrats, and wise independents to go to the polls and send Richard Pombo back to the United States Congress.
Laura sends her best. She sends her best to Richard, she sends her best to Annette and the Pombo family, and she sends her best to our many friends here in California. I'm a lucky man, when Laura said yes when I asked her to marry me. She has got to be the most patient woman in America. I realize I'm not very objective, but I'll report from the homefront, America's got a fabulous First Lady in Laura Bush.
And old Richard, the chairman, married well himself; Annette, thank you for being here. Thank you for supporting Richard. And I'm proud to be here with Rena and Rachel. It's good to see you young women. Thanks for coming today. I know you'll be putting up the signs and making those phone calls for old dad coming down the stretch.
I'm proud to be with Ralph and Onita Pombo, Richard's mom and dad. I suspect that Mrs. Pombo has something in common with my mother, that they're both not afraid to tell us what to do. [Laughter] And my only advice, Richard, is you make sure you listen to her, because I'm listening to mine, you'll be happy to know.
I'm proud to be here with Mayor Ed Chavez, the mayor of Stockton, California. Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming. It gives me great joy to be able to look out in the audience and see one of the city's finest citizens and a family we call friend in my household, somebody who's been a friend with you during good times and somebody who's a friend with you during not-so-good times but somebody who's always a friend, and that's the Spanos family. Alex and Faye, thank you for coming.
I want to thank all the local and State officials who have joined us. I especially want to thank Specialist Gerry Lee, United States Army National Guard, who not only served in Iraq but went down and helped those souls recovering from Hurricane Katrina. It's an honor to be the Commander in Chief of such fine, fine men and women, people who put on the uniform to the protect this country. And I'll tell you one thing about Richard Pombo. You don't have to worry, and I don't worry about him making sure our troops have all that's needed to do their job to support the United States of America and its people.
There's a lot of issues I could talk about, because there's big differences of opinion in Washington, DC. I don't know how it gets translated back here at home. Sometimes they go up to Washington and say one thing, and then come back and talk differently when they—in front of the home people. You don't have to worry about Richard Pombo. He tells you exactly what he thinks. You don't have to try to read between the lines. You don't have to worry about him taking a poll to determine what he believes. He stands on principle, and that's what you need in Washington, DC.
And he and I share a principle, and that is what to do with your money, how do we deal with the hard-working people's money. And make no mistake about it, there is a philosophical divide in Washington, DC. You might remember what this Nation went through, what our economy went through over the last 51⁄2 years. We had a recession. We had corporate scandals. There was, obviously, the devastating attack on September the 11th, 2001. We responded and protected this people by taking a war to the enemy. We've had hurricanes. We've had high energy prices. Yet our economy is the envy of the industrialized world.
The national unemployment rate is low. The entrepreneurial spirit is high. Small businesses are making a living. Our farmers and ranchers—they probably don't want to admit it, but our farmers and ranchers are doing fine. See, I'm used to farmers and ranchers; after all, I'm from Texas, you might remember. I also want to take a step back and tell you, though, that a strong farm economy and a strong ranching economy is really important to the national economy.
And so in spite of these obstacles, the economy has grown. And something happened, and what happened was, we cut the taxes on the working people. We understand the role of government is not to try to create wealth but to create an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes. The tax relief we passed is working, and the American economy is strong. And the fundamental question is, how do we keep it strong? And Richard Pombo and I believe the best way to keep this economy growing is to make the tax relief we passed permanent.
And the Democrats don't agree. If the Democrats were to gain power, they will raise your taxes, because they believe they can spend your money better than you can. Oh, you'll hear all kinds of excuses: "Let us raise your taxes to balance the budget." That's not how Washington works. They will raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend your money. The best way to balance the budget is to keep the taxes low so we can grow our economy, which increases more tax revenues, and be wise about how we spend your money. We're on our way to cutting this deficit in half before the year 2009 because of the progrowth economic policies we put in place and because of fiscal conservatives like Richard Pombo.
The issue on the economy is a big issue in any campaign. And I want the people of this district to know, plain and simple, that if Richard's opponent wins, your taxes will go up. Make no mistake about it. The Democrat Party is anxious to get their hands on your money. If you want to keep taxes low, if you want to make sure this environment for small-business growth and farmers and ranchers remains strong, put Richard Pombo back in the United States Congress, and we'll work to make the tax cuts we passed permanent.
I also appreciate his strong support in this war on terror. I wish I could tell you that there wasn't a war, but that's not the truth. That is not the reality of the world in which we live. There's an enemy that still plots and plans, that wants to attack us again. They're a group of ideologues bound together by this evil vision of the world, that want to inflict harm on the United States because we stand in the way of their ambitions and because we strongly believe in liberty.
The most important job of the Federal Government in the beginning of the 21st century is to do everything in our power to protect you from further attack. The key issue in this campaign is the security of the United States of America. You got to understand, a lot of my thinking about the world changed on September the 11th, 2001. I make a lot of decisions on your behalf, and many of those decisions were affected by the fact that we lost nearly 3,000 of our citizens, 3,000 innocent lives on our soil on that fateful day. I vowed then, and I've vowed ever since, to use every national asset at my disposal to protect the American people. And the best way to do so is to defeat those people overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.
I thank Richard's support. I appreciate the fact we've got Members of Congress who clearly see the enemy for what they are. You can't negotiate with these people. You cannot hope that they will go away. I like to remind people, therapy isn't going to work. The best way to deal with these folks is to bring them to justice before they hurt America again.
You know, there's a debate in Washington, DC, about how to wage this war, and that's positive. Ours is a democracy; I welcome the debate. But I also have a responsibility to make it clear the consequences of some of the positions our opponents take. They say that Iraq is a distraction in the war on terror. I strongly disagree. I think Iraq is a central front in the war on terror, and we must defeat the enemy in Iraq if we want America to be secure.
But don't take my word for it about Iraq. Our fellow citizens ought to listen to the words of Usama bin Laden and Mr. Zawahiri, who is his number two in Al Qaida. They have clearly stated that Iraq is a central front in their war against us. They have made their ambitions clear, and that is to inflict harm and damage on innocent life to the point where America says it's not worth it and retreats and leaves before the job is done. They have made their ambitions clear: to topple moderate governments. Al Qaida's leadership has told us loud and clear in their own words, their ambitions are to develop new safe haven from which to launch attacks.
Imagine a world in which there are competing forms of religious extremists trying to achieve dominance, a world in which moderate governments feel no longer capable of defending themselves against these radicals and extremists, a world in which they control oil, and a world in which a theocracy may have a nuclear weapon. Those are the stakes as we begin the 21st century. We're in the midst of an ideological struggle. And the fundamental question is, will we have people in the United States Congress who see the world the way it is, who clearly see the threats?
I'm going to tell you this: 20 or 30 years from now it's not going to be said, during my administration or during Richard Pombo's time in Congress, that the United States of America didn't confront these threats now, in order to make our children live in a more peaceful world.
It's hard work, but it's necessary work. Iraq is a central part on the war on terror, and we have a plan for victory there. We have a security plan that will chase down those extremists and radicals who would like to do us harm, and enable the Iraqis to defend themselves. We have a political strategy, and that is to stand squarely with the 12 million people who said loud and clear, "We want to be free."
You know, it must seem like an eternity to you, when you think about those elections last December. It certainly does to me, in some ways. Ultimately, when this chapter of history will be written, however, it's going to be a comma; the Iraqis voted, comma, and the United States of America understood that Iraq was a central front in the war on terror and helped this young democracy flourish so that a generation of Americans wouldn't have to worry about the extremists emanating from that country to hurt the American people.
The stakes are high. The Democrats are the party of cut-and-run. Ours is a party that has got a clear vision and says we will give our commanders and troops the support necessary to achieve that victory in Iraq. We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq, and we will win in Iraq.
Our strategy is to stay on the offense, and we will do that. You just got to know there's some fine, fine, brave men and women in uniform—and some not in uniform—in the intelligence services, doing everything they can to find the enemy every single day. It's hard to plot and plan when you're hiding in a cave and are on the run. And that's our strategy, and that's the way we're going to keep it.
But we got to do a job here at home too. See, our job is one in which we got to be right 100 percent of the time to protect you, and the enemy has got to be right one time. And that's why, in the days after 9/11, I would—I vowed that we would give those responsible for defending you the tools they need to do so. We worked with Congress—my administration worked with Congress to pass what's called the PATRIOT Act. It's the first measure we took that would break down barriers that prevented intelligence and law enforcement personnel from sharing information with each other.
It's probably hard for you to understand, but law enforcement and intelligence officers couldn't talk, and so the PATRIOT Act addressed that issue. How can you protect the American people if you don't have all branches of government sharing information, is what we thought.
We also established the terrorist surveillance program to monitor terrorist communications in and out of our country. We created a program with the Central Intelligence Agency to detain and question key terrorist operatives that were captured on the battlefield. I told the American people we would give our folks on the frontline of fighting terror to protect you the tools necessary.
On each of these programs, the Democrats have said they share our goals. But when it comes time to vote, they consistently oppose giving our personnel the tools they need to protect us. Time and time again, the Democrats want to have it both ways. They talk tough on terror, but when the votes are counted, their softer side comes out.
Let's take the PATRIOT Act. In the weeks after 9/11, we passed this vital law, and I want to thank Richard Pombo for his support. You don't have to worry about him. He understands that those on the frontline of fighting terror need to have the tools necessary to protect you. And in the 5 years since that law was passed, it has proved invaluable to stopping new attacks on our country. Our law enforcement community has used the law to break up terror cells or prosecute terrorist operatives and supporters in California, in Texas and New Jersey and Illinois and North Carolina and Virginia, Ohio, New York, and Florida.
In 2001, the vote in the United States Senate to pass this law was 98 to 1. But when the bill came up for renewal in 2005, Senate Democrats filibustered it, that means, tried to talk it to death. That's what filibuster means up in Washington-speak. They didn't want it to pass. In fact, the Senate Democrat leader bragged, "We killed the PATRIOT Act." That's what he said. When he was asked later by a reporter whether killing the PATRIOT Act was really something to celebrate, he answered, "Of course it is." The Democrat attempt to filibuster the PATRIOT Act follows an approach that might sound familiar: They voted for it before they voted against it.
Eventually, common sense prevailed. The bill was passed, and I signed it into law, and I firmly believe the American people are safer because that bill was renewed.
After 9/11, we recognized the need for new tools to learn what the terrorists are planning and then to be able to move quickly to stop them. See, this is a different kind of war—that is, different kind of threats—and we've got to make sure the tools are given to those on the frontline of protecting you. If the biggest issue and the biggest job of the Federal Government is to protect you, we must have the tools necessary to do so.
So I directed the National Security Agency to establish the terrorist surveillance program to track terrorist communications between someone overseas and someone in the United States. The philosophy behind this program is pretty clear: If Al Qaida operatives are making calls in the United States, we need to know who they're calling, why they're calling, and what they're planning.
Apparently, this simple logic is not very clear to the Democrats in the United States Congress. Last week, when legislation providing additional authority for the terrorist surveillance program came before the House of Representatives, 177 Democrats voted against listening in on terrorists communications.
The stakes in this election couldn't be more clear. If you don't think we should be listening in on the terrorists, then you ought to vote for the Democrats. If you want your government to continue listening in when Al Qaida planners are making phone calls into the United States, then you vote Republican.
We got to make sure people have got the tools necessary to defeat this enemy in a new kind of war. After the 9/11 attacks, I established a CIA program to detain and question key terrorist operatives and leaders who were captured on the battlefield in this war on terror. Captured terrorists have unique knowledge about where their operatives are deployed and what plots may be underway. In other words, they know. And it seems like it makes sense for us to know what they know, in order to protect you.
See, I know the security of the United States depends on getting this kind of information. For the past 5 years, the good and decent professionals of the CIA have worked tirelessly to get information from captured terrorists that enabled us to stop new attacks on our homeland and to save American lives.
Every American must understand what this program has meant to the security of our country. Information from the terrorists questioned by the CIA helped break up a cell of Southeast Asian terrorist operatives that had been groomed for attacks inside the United States. The program helped us stop an Al Qaida cell from developing anthrax for attacks against the United States. This program helped us stop a planned strike on a U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti. It helped prevent a planned attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi. It helped foil a plot to hijack planes and fly them into Heathrow Airport and London's Canary Wharf.
Were it not for the information gained from the terrorists questioned by the Central Intelligence Agency, our intelligence community believes that Al Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. The CIA program has saved lives, and it remains one of the most vital tools our Nation has in the war against these extremists and terrorists.
Last week, Congress held a vote on the future of this CIA program. The choice before every Member was clear: Should the CIA program continue or not? Congress voted to continue the program. I look forward to signing it into law.
The vote tells us a great deal about where the two parties stand when it comes to defending America in this war on terror. In the House of Representatives, 160 Democrats—including the entire Democrat leadership—voted against continuing this program. Think about that. Almost 80 percent of the House Democrats want to stop a program that has provided invaluable intelligence that's saved American lives. In the Senate, 32 Democrats, including every member of the Senate leadership save one, voted to kill this vital program. That means almost three-quarters of the Democrats in the Senate, including both of your Senators here in California, voted to stop the men and women of the CIA from continuing a program to get information from terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about planned attacks on the United States.
During the debate on the Senate floor, one senior Democrat, their ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, compared the brave Americans who question these terrorists to the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. This exposes a dangerous mindset on the part of Democrats in Congress. You can't defend America if you cannot tell the difference between the CIA officers who protect their fellow citizens and brutal dictators who kill their fellow citizens.
Another Senate Democrat said that allowing the CIA to go forward with this program to question the most dangerous terrorists we have captured would diminish the security and safety of Americans everywhere. If they feel we are safer without this program, the Democrats in the United States Senate need to explain to the American people which of the attacks that the CIA program stopped would they have been willing to let go forward.
We got a clear record on this issue. We know this program is making Americans safer, and we're not going to allow the Democrats in Congress to take it away.
People of this district have got to understand, there's a different mindset. Look, people in Washington are patriotic people. The Democrats are good people; they've just got a different view of the world than I have. They don't see it the way I see it. The House Democrat leader summed up her party's approach to the midterm elections. She said this—and I quote—she said this election, quote, "should not be about national security." I strongly disagree. The security of this country comes first, as far as I'm concerned. And this Government, with supporters like Richard Pombo, will do everything we can to protect you. Of course, to give the leader some credit, given her party's record on national security, I can see why she feels that way. [Laughter] I wouldn't want to be talking about the record, either.
The difference between our parties comes down to this: Democrats take a law enforcement approach to terrorism. That means America will wait until we're attacked again before we respond. We believe we're at war, and we will prevent those attacks from happening in the first place.
Their record is clear. When people go to the polls here in this district and districts around the country, I want them to look at the record, to look at the facts. Democrats have voted time and again to deny our personnel the tools they need to protect you. Republicans are giving you the tools they need—giving our folks the tools they need to keep this country safe. If you want leaders in Washington that understand the enemy we face and who are not going to sit back and wait for them to attack us again, I urge you to send Richard Pombo back to the United States Congress.
Again, I want to thank you for coming. I believe the decisions that I have made have made this country safer. And I believe the decisions I have made to take the enemy on overseas and to promote liberty and freedom to people who are desperate to be free, I believe those decisions are laying the foundation of peace for a generation to come.
I'm proud to be on the stage with a fellow citizen who understands the power of liberty to bring the peace we want. I'm proud to be with you all as you help this good man get reelected. I thank you for your prayers. I thank you for being here, and may God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:22 a.m. at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium. In his remarks, he referred to Annette Pombo, wife of Rep. Richard W. Pombo; Alex G. Spanos, owner, San Diego Chargers professional football team, and his wife, Faye; Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, senior Al Qaida leader responsible for planning the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, who was arrested in Pakistan on March 1, 2003; and former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Breakfast for Congressional Candidate Richard W. Pombo in Stockton, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/268874