Remarks at a Bush-Cheney Reception in Kalamazoo, Michigan
The President. Thank you all. Thanks for coming. Be seated, unless you don't have a seat. [Laughter] I appreciate you being here. It's great to be back in Kalamazoo. It just didn't seem all that long ago that I was here. We had a great trip in 2000. I'm back here asking for the vote again, and I'm asking for your help.
I want to thank you for coming. I want to thank you for showing an interest in the future of our country. For those of you who are ready to go to work like I am, I would urge you to dial up georgewbush.com. That will give you an opportunity to volunteer. It will help you find out ways to register the vote. I'm asking you to go to your community centers and your houses of worship, to speak to your neighbors from all political parties, and tell them I've got a hopeful, optimistic, positive vision for every citizen who lives in the State of Michigan.
We've accomplished a lot in 3 years, but there's more to do. There's more to do. I have a plan to win the war on terror and to spread freedom and peace throughout the world. We have shown the country that this administration can help lead the country through tough times. But there's more to do. I have a plan to make sure this Nation is prosperous in every corner of America, so every citizen from all walks of life can realize the great promise of our country.
I understand the limitations of Government, so I have a plan to call upon the compassion of the American people, to rally the deep love Americans have for their neighbors to make sure that those who hurt find comfort, those who are hungry find food, those who look for shelter can find housing. I have a vision I look forward to laying out to our fellow citizens. With your help, there is no doubt in my mind we will carry Michigan and earn 4 more years from the American people.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. Thank you all.
The best reason for 4 more years is to make sure that Laura is the First Lady for 4 more years. I'm really proud of Laura. She is a great role model. She is steady, a calming influence when the Nation needed calm. She understands the importance of reading in the lives of our fellow citizens. She loves libraries. She loves books. She's been an inspiration to the women in Afghanistan. She has been an inspiration to women all over the world. Laura Bush is a great First Lady, and I'm lucky she's my wife.
When you're out there gathering up the vote, remind them about the team that I have put together on behalf of the American citizens. I've asked people from all walks of life to serve in my Cabinet. I've put together people who are smart and capable, people who are dedicated to the service of our country. Our country has had no finer Vice President than Dick Cheney. Mother heard me say that one time. She said, "Wait a minute." [Laughter]
Today I had the privilege of traveling from Washington to South Bend then to Niles and now here to Kalamazoo with a really fine Member of the United States Congress, Congressman Fred Upton.
I want to thank Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land for joining us today. Secretary, thanks for coming. A good sign when the speaker and the majority leader of the senate show up. Leader Ken Sikkema is with us as well as Speaker Rick Johnson. Thank you both for coming. I'm glad you all are here. Thank you.
And I want to thank the local officials who are here and the State officials. Thank you all for taking time out to come by to say hello. I'm proud you're here. My only advice is, fill the potholes. [Laughter]
I want to thank my friend Betsy DeVos, who is with us today. She represents all the grassroots activists who are here in the crowd. I want to thank you for what you're doing to make sure that people get to the polls. Thank you for coming.
I want to thank the men and women who wear our uniform who are here today. I've had the high honor of being the Commander in Chief of some of the finest citizens our country has every produced. I've been to bases all across our country and all across the world, and I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, freedom is in the hands of some mighty fine people.
This is going to be a tough campaign. That's why I'm here asking for your help. We got a lot of work to do. We got a lot of work to do together. I'm running against an experienced candidate, somebody who spent a lot of time in Washington in the Halls of the United States Senate. I'm not going to take him lightly. He's a worthy opponent, and that's why we've got to do everything we can to convince people to go to the polls. We've got to convince people to listen to the message.
My opponent has been there long enough to develop the Washington language. I call it Washingtonitis. [Laughter] The other day in Washington, they asked him about what kind of car he has. [Laughter] Here in the State of Michigan, he was asked that question. Of course, this is the great auto-producing State. He said, "Well, we've got some SUVs." He talked about having a couple of minivans and a big Suburban. Last month on Earth Day—[laughter]—he had a little different description of the fleet. He said, "I don't own an SUV." To clear up the confusion, he said this: "The family has it. I don't have it." [Laughter] In other words, he doesn't have an SUV except when he's in Michigan. [Laughter] One guy is getting a lot of mileage out of one SUV.
What this country needs is a leader who speaks clearly, and when he says something, he means it. You've got to tell the people what you intend to do and then go out and do it.
We've done a lot for the last 3 years. We've dealt with emergencies and wars and recessions. But there's a lot to do. Today I want to tell you about the course I intend to put this Nation on for the next 4 years. I want this country to be safer and stronger and a better nation.
I've come to Kalamazoo to ask for your help but also to let you know I see clearly where I want to lead this Nation. And my most important duty is to make sure this country is safe. My most important duty is to speak clearly about the challenges we face. There's still an enemy that would like to strike America. On September the 11th, our world changed. On September the 11th, we realized that oceans wouldn't protect us and that, because of what we believe, there's an enemy that wants to hurt us. That's the reality that we now face.
I have a solemn duty to do everything I can to protect America, and we made a lot of changes in Washington. The communication between the intelligence agencies and law enforcement are a lot better. The ports are better guarded. As you know, the airplanes are safer. They're even looking at your shoes. [Laughter] We got a lot of good people working hard. We have to be right 100 percent of the time, but the enemy has to be right only once. The best way to protect the homeland is to go on the offensive, is to stay on the offensive, and is to bring the killers to justice.
There are some who question whether America is really at war. In other words, they think that this is primarily a law enforcement and intelligence matter that confronts the country. But that's what we thought after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. We thought it was a law enforcement and intelligence matter. And yet the enemy was planning more sophisticated attacks. The enemy was using training bases in Afghanistan. Those who believe that way, in my judgment, are absolutely wrong. This isn't a matter of intelligence and law enforcement. This is a matter of war. The enemy declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.
And we're making progress—we're making progress. About two-thirds of the known Al Qaida leadership are—have been brought to justice, and we're chasing down the rest of them. We're chasing down the rest of them. Right after September the 11th, I laid out a doctrine that said, "If you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you hide a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist." When an American President lays down such a doctrine, he better mean what he says. For the sake of keeping—for the sake of peace and freedom, when the American President speaks, he better mean it. I meant what I said, and the Taliban in Afghanistan found out I meant what I said.
There are no longer Al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan. In other words, America is more secure. Afghanistan is heading toward democracy and freedom. The thing I really like about our action, besides making America more safe and secure, is the fact that we liberated people. There were people in the clutches—it's hard to believe this if you're an American citizen, because of the nature of our society, but there are young girls—were young girls growing up in Afghanistan who never had a chance to go to school. It's just beyond our comprehension, isn't it, that people would be that barbaric, that backwards. These people were enslaved to a backward ideology, and thanks to America and our allies, people are now free in Afghanistan, and the world is better off for it.
The American President must be a realist. He must see the world the way it really is. And after September the 11th, I learned this lesson, and it's the lesson that we must keep in our minds as we protect our country: When we see a gathering threat, we just can't hope it goes away. If we see a threat, given the lesson of September the 11th, this Nation must lead the world to deal with that threat.
I looked at the intelligence and the history in Iraq and saw a threat. The Congress, the Members of the United States Congress looked at the same intelligence, and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council on my watch looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat. But it also had seen a threat from the past and no wonder. Saddam Hussein was a man who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and in his neighborhood. Saddam Hussein made his hatred of America well known. He was a threat. He paid suiciders to go kill innocent Israeli citizens. He had terrorist connections.
In other words, we all saw a threat. I saw a threat. The Congress saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council saw a threat—to the point where they passed a unanimous resolution that said, "Mr. Sad-dam Hussein, disarm, or face serious consequences."
As I just told you, when the President speaks, he better mean what he says. As he had done for year after year after year, Saddam Hussein didn't answer the request of the free world. So I was faced with a choice: Do I take the word of a madman? Do I forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001, and hope for the best? Or do I take actions necessary to defend America? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.
Thanks to our fantastic military and thanks to over 30 other nations, Iraq is becoming a free society. Thanks to our fantastic military and thanks to friends and allies, the torture chambers in Iraq are closed. Thanks to the United States and friends and allies, the long-suffering people of Iraq now have hope. They have hope to live like we want to live, in a free society, in a peaceful society, and a chance to raise your children in a hopeful environment.
We're on a very difficult mission right now, and it's tough work. It's tough work because there are a few who want to destroy the hopes of many. It's tough work because we're dealing with people with no conscience. They're willing to kill innocent Iraqis, or they're willing to kill coalition forces in order to stop the march of freedom, in order to not allow liberty to take root and to spread its wings in a part of the world that needs freedom and needs liberty. They're doing everything in—they can to shake our will. America will not allow freedom to lose in Iraq because of a bunch of thugs and assassins.
Like you, I mourn the loss of life. Like you, I hurt when a mom or a dad loses a loved one, and I have told them when I've met them in person that the mission of their son or daughter was a vital mission to the long-term security of the United States. Because you see, a free society in the part of the world that breeds resentment will be a peaceful influence in a part of the world that needs peace. These are historic times. These are really important times in our country.
I told the story the other day at the press conference about my—Laura and my dinner with Prime Minister Koizumi. He is the Prime Minister of Japan. And we were talking about how to work together to keep the peace on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Chong-il is a danger. Kim Chong-il is developing nuclear weapons. And so, working with a former enemy, it dawned on me during the course of the conversation: What happens if we had got it wrong at the end of World War II? Would I have been talking to the Prime Minister of Japan about a way to make the world a peaceful place? It also dawned on me, when we get it right in Iraq, when freedom and democracy take hold in that part of the world, someday an American President will be talking to an elected Iraqi leader as to how to deal with the current threat of that era. These are historic times. Our troops are performing brilliantly, and we will succeed.
There are plenty of others in the world who agree with the spread of freedom and democracy. Thank goodness. See, I understand freedom is not America's gift to the world or any other country's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman who lives in this world.
We have a duty to spread freedom. We have an obligation to spread freedom, and we're getting plenty of help. There's a difference, however, between leading a coalition of nations and submitting to the objections of a few. I'll always work with other countries. If I'm fortunate enough to be your President for 4 more years, we'll continue to build alliances and to work with other nations to spread freedom and make the world more peaceful. But I will never turn America's national security decisions over to leaders of other countries.
I've come to Kalamazoo to tell you, I've got a clear vision on what we need to do to make the world more free and more peaceful. I've come to let you know that a priority of mine over the next 4 years will be to do everything in our power as a nation to safeguard the American people.
I also have come to let you know that I've got a plan to make sure that America is a strong nation, and that starts with making sure that our economy is strong in every part of our country. I'm an optimistic fellow because I have seen what this Nation has been through. I'm also optimistic because I know how strong the entrepreneurial spirit is in America, how vibrant our economy is because the people are hopeful and optimistic.
Remember what our economy has been through. We've been through a recession. When we came to office, the country was headed into a recession. That's a long word for, "We're going backwards." [Laughter] It's a long word for, "Dismal times," where people were worried about their jobs and small businesses were worried about meeting the payroll.
We started to come out of the recession, and then the enemy hit us. September the 11th affected the economy. It hurt. It hurt us because we realized we were a battlefield in the war on terror. We lost a lot of jobs. Remember, the airlines weren't flying for a while. The stock market was shut down. It was a tough period. We came out of that. America refused to be intimidated, refused to relent.
And then we found out we had some citizens in our country that forgot what it meant to be a responsible citizen, and they didn't tell the truth. The corporate scandals affected the economy. You see, in a market-oriented economy, you've got to have faith in the balance sheet, faith in the numbers. There were some people who broke the faith. We passed tough laws. We will not tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms of America.
The decision to deal with Saddam Hussein also affected the economy. You might remember on the TV screens, it said "March to War." That's not a conducive environment in which to risk capital. Marching to war is an incredibly negative thought. Fortunately, now we're marching to peace.
But all those were overcome because the spirit of America is a strong spirit. And the small-business sector of this economy stepped up. People started to invest. People refused to be pessimistic. People decided to make good decisions about the economy, and I believe one of the main reasons why is because of the tax cuts we delivered for the American people.
The proper role of the Government is to make sure that the entrepreneurial spirit is strong, that the environment for taking risk is good. Cutting taxes was essential to making sure that that was the case. And remember, we just didn't cut taxes on a few. We cut taxes on everybody who paid taxes. We raised the child credit to make it easier to raise a family. We reduced the marriage penalty. What kind of Tax Code is it that penalizes marriage? We want to strengthen families in America. Small businesses benefited. Families benefited.
The tax relief and the economic stimulus package we passed is working. The economy grew at the rate of 4.2 percent in the first quarter. We were in recession in early '01. Early '04, we're growing at the rate of 4.2 percent. Economic growth over the past three quarters has been the fastest in nearly two decades. This economy is beginning to move.
I understand that Michigan still suffers. My attitude is, when I hear one person is looking for work, we got to make sure we continue to grow the economy. And while the growth numbers, the job numbers were good in certain parts of our country, they were slower in Michigan. But the plans we put in place should help those workers. We got to make sure that we don't go backwards and undo the good works we have done. Part of the vision for the next 4 years is to make sure this economy is healthy and strong with pro-growth, pro-small-business, pro-entrepreneur economic policies.
Let me tell you a couple of people I met today, just to maybe put this economic plan in perspective. I met the O'Roarks, Tom and Beth. They're with us. There they are, right. And they got two kids, and the reason I bring them is that the tax relief plan we passed saved them $1,700. That's good. That may not seem like a lot to some. It's a lot to them. They'll save $1,700 this year too. That's their money by the way. When somebody has got more of their own money, they're going to demand additional good or a service. And when that demand goes up, somebody produces the good or a service. And when somebody produces it, somebody is likely to find work.
No, the tax relief was important for our economy, but it's also important for families all across the country like the O'Roarks. I said the other day, our tax relief is showing that Americans can spend their money far better than the Federal Government would have.
Factory orders are up. Manufacturing is coming back. I tell you a statistic I love about our Nation right now: More people own a home. See, the homeownership rate is incredibly high, and not only that, more minorities own their own home. I tell you what's beautiful about that: We want more people owning something in America. We want people owning their own business. We want people owning and managing their own retirement accounts. We want more people owning their own home because this administration understands when you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of our country.
It's very important that fiscal policy understand the importance of small businesses in our society. Seventy percent of new jobs are created by small-business owners. Good fiscal policy, good economic policy focuses on the small-business sector—should focus on the small-business sector of America. I want you to know that an inherent part of the economic plan that we put forward is creating incentives for small business to expand.
Most small businesses in America are Subchapter S corporations or sole proprietorships. Those are legal terms describing what kind of taxes they pay, basically. If you're a sole proprietorship or a Subchapter S corporation, you pay tax at the individual income-tax rate. Therefore, when you hear us saying we're going to reduce individual income taxes, we're really reducing taxes as well on small businesses. The more a small business has in its coffers, the more likely it is it's going to expand. If 70 percent of new jobs are created by small businesses and you're worried about job creation, it seems to make sense to provide stimulus to the small-business sector of the economy.
I was talking to Jim Van Zoeren. He runs a trucking company—Big Jim—and he's an upbeat guy. He's going to invest about $4 million in trucks and trailers and forklifts this year. He's a small-business guy. He's willing to invest. "Invest" means he's going to buy something from somebody. And when he buys it from somebody, somebody has got to make it.
In other words, the economy works as a result of the decisionmaking process from people like Jim. He has already hired 20 workers in the year 2004 to meet that investment. In other words, when you hear investment is up, you hear the tax plan encouraged investment, think jobs. Because there's 20 more people working for his firm as a result of the investments that he made. He's planning to hire 10 more this year. See, when Jim hires 30 people this year, there's people like him—it says something's happening. There's people like him all across the country. There's a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs who are optimistic and hopeful, who have had their decisionmaking helped by good tax policy. And I intend to keep it that way. One reason I need to stay in office is to make sure that we don't ruin the incentives and don't stop the momentum of economic growth by failed Washington, DC, policies.
One thing you better watch out for are spending promises on a campaign. And you've got to take these promisers for their word. My opponent is a pretty good spender. We've got 6 more months to go in the campaign, and he's easily over a trillion in new promises. And so the question that I ask is, how is he going to pay for it? He said, of course, by taxing the rich. There's not enough money to tax the rich to pay for the new promises he's made. So guess who he is going to tax? He's going to tax you. That's what's going to happen. In order to meet all the promises he's making, he's going to have to raise the taxes on the American people.
Now is not the time to be raising taxes. This economy is getting strong. This economy is getting better. A tax increase on the American people, a tax increase on small-business owners, a tax increase on moms and dads who are trying to raise their families, raising that marriage penalty up is the wrong policy at the wrong time, and we're not going to let him have a chance to do so.
There is more to do to make sure this economy is the best place to do business in the world. If you're interested in jobs growing here in America, if you're interested in jobs staying here, I got some ideas that I want to share with you right quick. First, we cannot let Congress raise taxes on you. Raising taxes on the American people will make the country less competitive and will make it harder for people to find a job.
Secondly, we've got to make sure we've got good worker training programs. Listen, technology is changing. There are—changing the workforce. And the demand for workers—there's all kinds of jobs in America, but oftentimes, workers need new skills. They need new training. The community college system in America is a fantastic place to match up workers who want to find new skills with employers looking for new workers. I've got a plan called the Jobs for the 21st Century program to do just that.
We've got to make sure that health care costs are more affordable, and we must do so without letting the Federal Government run the health care industry. That's why I'm for association health care plans and health savings accounts, and that's why I am for medical liability reform at the Federal level, to stop the junk and frivolous lawsuits which are running up the cost of medicine.
You know, most American Presidents have opened up our markets to foreign products. That's good for consumers. When you get more products to choose from, it helps on price; it helps on quality. The problem is, a lot of American Presidents haven't said to other nations, "Open up your markets." The best way to make sure that we have jobs for the 21st century, the best way we make sure that people can find work is reject economic isolationism and make sure the playing field is level. Listen, American workers, American farmers, American ranchers can compete with anybody, any time, anyplace so long as the rules are fair.
We need to make sure we get an energy policy in this country. We want to make sure that people are able to find work in the 21st century. This Nation needs an energy policy. I've laid out a plan to encourage conservation. I've laid out a plan to develop alternative sources of energy. Listen, I want to be the person that lays the groundwork for a President to be able to say, "Hey, the corn harvest was up, and we're less dependent." We need alternative sources of energy to be developed in this country. We've got research and development—ongoing research and development to encourage that. We need clean coal technology. We need to be exploring for natural gas in our own hemisphere. We need safe nuclear energy. We need a full-scale energy plan to make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
I'm running because I got a plan to make sure we're the best place to do business, so people can find work. I'm running because I understand what it means to keep America competitive in the world. We live in a global economy. I'm also running because I want to keep us—I want to enable us to be the innovative society that we are. Listen, we need to have broadband technology in every home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and every farm in rural Michigan as well.
The role of Government is not to create wealth but an environment in which the entrepreneur, the imagination, the genius of the American people can survive, and that's why I need 4 more years as your President.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. Finally, I want to talk about something that's dear to my heart because—and it's because I understand the true strength of the country, and that is, my job is to rally the compassion of America to help save lives in this country. Look, Government is not a loving organization. [Laughter] Government is justice. Government is law. But Government is not loving. Love exists in the hearts and souls of the American citizens. The true strength of this country is not our military, although it's an important part of keeping the peace. The true strength of the country is not the fact that we're a very strong economy relative to other nations in the world. The true strength of the country is the hearts and souls of the American people, and I understand that.
I also understand that many problems can be only solved by love. Many problems can only be solved when a decent citizen takes time out of their life and says, "How can I help you, brother? What can I do to make your life better?"
No, the job of the President is to understand the proper relationship between the Government and the strength of the country. And the job of the President is to call upon that strength and rally that strength and encourage that strength to help save America one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.
And that's why I have pushed so hard for what I call the Faith- and Community-Based Initiative that says to people, "Let us not focus on the process in Washington, DC. Let's focus on the results." And if there's a faith community that's got the capacity to change hearts and, therefore, help an addict on drugs, we ought not to fear empowering that program. We ought to encourage that program through Government help.
I met Iris and Louie Tortorelli here today. Where are the Tortorellis? There they are. [Applause] Thank you all. Nice spattering of applause there for them. [Laughter] They're mentors. These are people that have lived a full life, and they want to live a fuller life by taking time out to help a child learn to read—what a wonderful gift, not only a gift to the child but a gift to them.
Like many of you in the audience, they are soldiers in the army of compassion. I'm sure I'm looking at people that have heard that call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself, people who are willing to do simple acts of kindness and love to help brighten somebody's day. These good folks are mentoring children, elementary school children. Here's what Louie said. He said, "It's so rewarding to work with the kids. I'm excited about what I'm doing. I can't do much physical work anymore, but I can do that."
I want to thank Iris and Louie for setting such a fine example. I want to thank you all as well. It's really part of what I call ushering in a new culture—the responsibility era, I like to call it. It's a different kind of culture from one that we had been through in the country, the culture that said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and, "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else." I envision a new culture, and it's happening not because of me but because of America, where each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life.
If you're a mom or a dad, you are responsible for loving your children with all your heart and all your soul. If you're worried about the quality of the education in the community in which you live, you're responsible for doing something about it. If you're a CEO in corporate America, you're responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your employees. Each of us is responsible for loving our neighbor like we'd like to be loved yourself. It's happening here in America. It's happening because the strength of this country is the character of the American people.
On September the 14th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. I will never forget that day. There were workers in hardhats shouting, "Whatever it takes." A guy pointed at me and said, "Don't let me down." As we all did that day, these men and women searching through the rubble took it personally. I took it personally. You took it personally. I have a responsibility that goes on. I will never relent in bringing justice to our enemies. I will defend the security of America, whatever it takes.
I want to again thank you for coming. We have a purpose together. We have a mission. We have a war to win, and the world is counting on us to lead the cause of freedom and peace. We have a duty to spread opportunity to every part of this country. That is the work that history has set before us. We welcome it. And we know that for our country, the best days lie ahead.
May God bless you.
NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 4:30 p.m. at Wings Stadium. In his remarks, he referred to Speaker Rick Johnson and Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, Michigan State Legislature; Betsy DeVos, chairman, Michigan Republican Party; former President Sad-dam Hussein of Iraq; Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan; and Chairman Kim Chong-il of North Korea. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of the First Lady, who introduced the President.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Bush-Cheney Reception in Kalamazoo, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/212787