George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Dinner for Gubernatorial Candidate Doug Gross and the Republican Party of Iowa in Des Moines

August 14, 2002

Thanks for such a warm welcome. It seems like only yesterday I was at the Ames straw poll. [Laughter] I guess you could say I cut my Presidential teeth right here in the State of Iowa.

I want to thank you all for coming today. I'm honored to be here to proudly support the next Governor of the State of Iowa, Doug Gross. They tell me he grew up on a farm with nine brothers and sisters, so many kids they didn't need any machinery. [Laughter] The truth of the matter is, all they've got to do is make sure all those brothers and sisters vote, and it will be a landslide. [Laughter]

I'm honored to be here with the next first lady of the State of Iowa, Eileen Gross. Doug and I both married above ourselves. [Laughter]

Speaking about my wife, she's in Texas today. She sends her greetings to our many friends who are here. I'm sorry she's not with me, but I can tell you, I am incredibly proud to be married to such a fine lady and a person who is making a great First Lady of the United States.

I want to thank all of you all for coming. I want to thank you for helping Doug to this point. I want to thank you for what you are going to do, which is to turn out the vote, to go to your coffee shops, your churches or your synagogues and your community centers, and tell the people of Iowa what a good man this guy is, a man who believes in family, a man who has got deep faith, a man who is going to bring credit to the Governor's office of the State of Iowa.

I'm pleased that we're joined here today by my friend the next United States Senator from Iowa, Greg Ganske. And when you put Ganske in there in the Senate, you're going to have two fine United States Senators; nobody better than Chuck Grassley in the United States Senate. We've done a lot in Washington, a lot of positive things, and a lot of it had to do with his leadership. I'm sorry he's not here to hear me bragging about him. But if you see him, tell him.

And you've got Jim Nussle, who is the chairman of the budget of the House of Representatives. Nussle has done a fantastic job of making sure we've got a sound budget, that he represents the taxpayers of the United States in a great way. I want to thank you for coming, Jim.

I appreciate so very much two fine Governors—or former Governors who are here with us today, people who mentored Doug, who taught Doug how to manage a Governor's office, and that of course would be Bob Ray and Terry Branstad.

We've got some fine Members for the United States House of Representatives with us today, Iowa State Senator Steve King and Stan Thompson, both candidates who are going to win and help us in Washington, DC.

I want to thank so very much Debi Durham, who is going to be the next Lieutenant Governor of the State of Iowa. Thank you, Debi.

I appreciate so very much my friend Chuck Larson, who is the chairman of the Republican Party. And I want to thank all the grassroots activists who are here. Those of us in office never can thank people enough for the grassroots work that goes on in the precincts all across the State of Iowa and all across our country. Many of you have worked tireless hours on our behalf, and both of us, both Doug and I, thank you from the bottom of our heart.

I was working the State fair today, and a proud grandfather, an uncle, I think it is, came up and said, "Have you ever heard of Jeff Clement?" I said, "Yes, I know a little something about baseball. I've heard of the fellow. He's a boy from Marshalltown, Texas. He has the high school home run record." Believe it or not, Jeff is here with us today. Jeff, I want to thank you for coming, and congratulations on being a power slugger.

I not only appreciate Doug's smalltown values. By those, I mean values where, when he says something, he means it. Those are the kind of values you need in office. As you know, when people shake hands in smalltown Iowa and smalltown Texas and they say—they give you the word, they stick to that word. That's the way it works. And those are the values he'll bring to the statehouse here. When he says he's not going to raise your taxes to balance the budget, he means he's not going to raise your taxes to balance the budget.

He understands, if you tax things too much, you're going to get less of it. And what we need is more job growth. We need small businesses to flourish. This State doesn't need more taxes. It needs more jobs so people will stay here at home. And Doug understands that. He's got a creative program to increase the jobs here in the State of Iowa. It starts with fiscal sanity in your statehouse.

And, by the way, we need some fiscal sanity in Washington, DC, as well. One of my big concerns is that we overspend in our Nation's Capital. Fortunately, we've got a good man like Nussle watching the budget. But recently—I don't know if you followed this or not—but recently, the Congress passed what they call a supplemental. It's a way to supplement appropriations. And we needed a supplemental to help fund the war on terror and a supplemental to help pay for homeland defense. But they sent over to me about $5 billion we didn't need, $5 billion of extra money. Part of that $5 billion, by the way, was a new building to house the worm and bug collection of the Federal Government. It doesn't sound like an emergency to me. And the fine print of part of that supplemental said, "You either spend all of it, or you spend none of it. You've got to take the entire 5 billion additional dollars on top of what was needed for the military and homeland, or you don't spend any of it." And they made their position clear, and I made my position clear: For the sake of fiscal sanity, we're not going to spend the $5 billion.

And that's the way Doug is going to lead as well. For the sake of fiscal sanity, you can't say yes to every single appropriations bill that comes. You've got to set priorities. You need to have a Governor who knows how to manage the office. A Governor who has got the ability to say no and the ability to say yes, but always remembering that the money that we spend in Government is not the Government's money, it's the people's money.

I look forward to working with Doug on farm policy. Today, at the State fair, I had the honor of talking to a lot of people who make their living off the land. By the way, one of my favorite statements, which is a true statement, is: If you own the land, every day is Earth Day. The people who care more about the quality of our environment are people who have to make a living off the land. And today I was able to talk to a lot of people who make their living off the land. And I assured them that in order for there to be economic prosperity in America, we've got to make sure our agricultural sectors are strong and vibrant. And that's why, one, I was proud to sign the farm bill, and, two, I look forward to working with Doug on not only research and development projects that will enable us to grow our way out of energy dependence but to continue a good policy of promoting ethanol in America.

The thing I like about him the most is his passion for education. He better be passionate for education; he's got enough kids to educate. [Laughter] But he knows what I know, that the number one priority of any Governor has got to be to make sure every child in the State receives a quality education.

And let me tell you our philosophy. It starts with understanding and believing that every child can learn. You see, if you don't think any—every child can learn, then you set low standards. He believes and I know we must set high expectations for the public schools in Iowa and all across our country. He believes that every child has got the capacity to learn to read and write and add and subtract.

We passed a bill out of Washington, DC. It was a good piece of legislation, and one of the cornerstones of that bill says, we trust the Doug Grosses of the world. We trust the people of Iowa to set the path for excellence for every child in the State of Iowa. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to running the public schools. All power shouldn't be in Washington, DC. We ought to be trusting the local folks to run their schools. And when you have this man as your Governor, I trust him to run the schools.

But in order to make sure every child learns and no child is left behind, it is incredibly important that we measure, that we hold people to account, not to punish anybody but to determine if their kids are learning the basics. And if they are, we will continue to praise teachers. And for those of you who teach, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. But when we find children trapped in schools that will not teach and will not change, you better have you a Governor who is willing to challenge the status quo so children are not left behind. And I believe strongly, Doug will be that kind of Governor. He's not going to be beholden to special interests. The only interests he cares about is making sure no child in America—not one single child in the State of Iowa or in America— is left behind.

No, we've got a good man here. I like to put it, when you find a good one in politics, you'd better help him. And that's why I want to thank you all for this help. There's no question in my mind that with his hard work and his vision and his passion for people—bringing people together to get things done, on behalf of all of the citizens of Iowa, come this November, he's going to be the next Governor of your State.

Before I leave, I do want to share with you some of the challenges that our Nation faces. And one, of course, is economic security. The way I like to put it, anytime anybody who wants to work can't find a job, then we've got a problem. And so we've got to constantly think about how to create jobs in America. That ought to be the question of all of us in Government. What can we do to create an environment in which the entrepreneur or small business or producer can flourish? And I believe that starts not only with fiscal restraint in Washington, DC—and as I mentioned, I sent a pretty clear message the other day about my view of overspending.

I also know it has something to do with tax policy. Thank goodness we cut the taxes on the American people when we did. The way to help the Nation recover from recession is to let people keep more of their own money. Some of the folks in Washington don't understand that. They don't understand, if a person has more money, that person is going to demand a good or a service, and if they demand a good or a service, somebody is going to produce the good and service. And when they produce the good and service, it means somebody is more likely to find work. And that's the way the economy works.

But interestingly enough, not only did we reduce the taxes, but we did so on a temporary basis, because the Senate rules have it that after 10 years, the tax reductions revert to where they were. It's awfully hard for people who are trying to set up a business or run a farm to plan with uncertainty in the Tax Code. For the sake of long-term economic growth, for the sake of job creation, the United States Congress must make the tax reductions permanent. And that includes making sure that the repeal of the death tax is permanent.

I can't imagine what's going through the minds of these Senators and Members of the House who do not want to get rid of the death tax. They must not understand what it does to the family farmer or the rancher or the small-business entrepreneur. We've got people coming to our country for the first time, they're starting their own business. It's a part of the dream of being an American. And yet our Tax Code is such that they have trouble leaving it to their heirs because their assets get taxed twice. That's not right. We put the death tax on its way to extinction. It's time you get you a Senator who understands that—two Senators who understand that in Iowa, and it's time for the Congress to make sure that the death tax is permanently repealed.

For the sake of economic growth, I'm going to promote trade. Confident people tear down barriers. And I'm confident in the American farmer, and I'm confident in the American entrepreneur, and I'm confident in the high-tech industry in America. I'm confident in our enterprise. And therefore, I want to level the playing field and tear down trade barriers all around the world, so we can feed the world. We're the best at what we do, and it's important for us to promote the best of what we do. For the sake of job creation, I'm going to use the newly earned trade promotion authority and aggressively promote free trade for American products.

No, there's a lot of other things we can do. We need a terrorism insurance bill. For those of you in the construction industry, you understand what it means to not be able to get insurance because of the premiums as a result of the potential threat of terror. And as a result of terrorism insurance premiums being sky high and not affordable, $8 billion of commercial construction has been delayed or taken off the books in America. That means somebody who is wearing a hardhat isn't working. And this Congress needs to come together and get me a terrorism insurance bill so major construction projects can go forward, a bill which rewards hard-working Americans, not a bill which rewards trial lawyers.

No, the fundamentals of growth are strong in our economy. Inflation is down. Interest rates are down. Productivity is up. Consumers are still buying. But we have been shaken, no question about it. As a matter of fact, the first three quarters when I was in office, we were in recession. However, the last three quarters have been positive growth, which is a good trend. And then the enemy hit us, and that shook our economy.

And then another enemy cropped up. After a while, it became apparent that some in our corporate America thought it was okay to fudge the books, thought it was okay to not tell the truth. Well, we got together, Republicans and Democrats, and passed the most significant corporate reform law since Franklin Roosevelt was the President. And here's my message to those who think they're going to cheat the shareholders or their employees: If you do, we're going to find you, arrest you, prosecute you, and put you in jail.

And we're making progress—and we're making progress. The American people must understand, by far the vast majority of people who are running corporate America are good and honorable, decent people, people who care deeply about their employees, people who understand they have a responsibility to their shareholders. No, we've got a hurdle to cross here in our economy, but I'm optimistic about America, and I'm confident in our future.

And I'm also confident we're doing everything we possibly can do to protect the homeland. My most important job now and the most important job of the Federal Government is to prevent the enemy from hitting us again.

I know there's a lot of kids here today who are probably wondering, "Why would somebody want to strike the United States of America? What is it about our country that creates a certain hatred toward us, toward our citizens?" And the answer is, people hate us—certain people hate us because we love freedom, that's why. We love the fact that people can worship freely in America. We love the fact that we can have political discourse in an open way. We love a free press. The more we love freedom, the more some hate America.

But the bad news is, for the enemy, we're always going to love freedom. We value our freedoms. It's what we're made of. It's what makes us shine as a beacon for many around the world. The Government of the United States is—spends a lot of time chasing down every possible lead, every hint about somebody who might be thinking about doing something to America.

My job is to make sure our Government functions as well as it possibly can, and therefore I proposed a sweeping reform to our Congress. I recognized that there's over 100 agencies involved with homeland defense. I mean, they're scattered all over Washington. You've got them here, and you've got them there, and you've got them here, and it's kind of hard to bundle them up, to make sure that their number one priority is my number one priority, which is to protect the homeland. So I proposed a new Cabinet office, a new Secretary of Homeland Defense, responsible for making sure the agencies who have got something to do with homeland defense make homeland defense its number one priority, and making sure that cultures within the agencies change so that they can work together to defend the homeland.

I'll give you one example. On our borders, we've got all kinds of agencies down there. We've got the Border Patrol. We've got the Customs. We've got the INS. Sometimes they talk. Sometimes they don't talk. They've got different strategies even though they're in the same sector on the border. For the sake of protecting the homeland, we need to bring these agencies under one umbrella, with one major task: Protect America from future attacks.

And I want to thank Nussle and Ganske for working on a homeland defense package, which is a good package out of the House. It gives the administration—not only this administration but future administrations—the flexibility necessary to put the right people in the right place at the right time to create a culture of protection.

But it looks like we might be having a little slight problem in the Senate. See, if you look carefully at what they're doing, they're more interested in protecting their own political turf and their own jurisdictions than they are the American people. They want us to be hamstrung by a thick book of bureaucratic rules, because they have been more interested in special interests. The special interest I've got in mind is the American people, and I call upon the Senate to get me a good bill so I can protect the homeland of the American people.

But the best way to get the homeland secure is to find the enemy one by one and bring them to justice. And that's what the United States of America is going to do. This is a different kind of war than we've been used to. It's—I guess the best way to describe it, it's the kind of war where the commanders hide in caves, and they send youngsters to their suicidal deaths. These people are—they kind of blend into, sometimes big cities, sometimes the countryside. They always find some place where the underbelly is soft, and they burrow in there. It's like we're on an international manhunt.

And we're making progress. We really are. We're using our intelligence services wisely. We're sharing intelligence with members of this vast coalition of freedom we put together. We've got a fabulous military, a lot of young men and women who are taking a risk on behalf of freedom. And we're hunting them down, one by one. We've arrested over 2,000 of these killers; another like number haven't been quite so lucky. But there's more of them out there; there just are. You just need to know that. And so long as they're out there, and so long as they're threatening America, this Government is going to do everything we can to find them.

We don't seek revenge; we seek justice. And justice we're going to find. That's why I've submitted the largest budget since Ronald—defense budget since Ronald Reagan was the President. I wanted to make it clear to those who wear our uniforms and their loved ones and their families, when we put you in harm's way, you deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best equipment possible.

I also wanted to make it clear to the enemy and to our friends that history has called us to action. We understand that, and we're going to defend freedom. And we're going to do everything possible to secure freedom for our children. That's the message we're sending, that we're not fainthearted, but we're determined. We're resolved. We're united. We understand the moment, and we're not going to blink, and we're not going to yield.

The task at hand is pretty tough, no question about it, but so are we. We're plenty tough. But we're also plenty caring. I said loud and clear at one point, if you harbor a terrorist or feed one of those terrorists, you're just as guilty as the terrorists. And the Taliban found out exactly what the United States meant. But we just didn't go into Afghanistan to conquer; we went in to liberate. It's important to remember that thanks to the United States and our coalition, young girls now go to school for the first time—some young girls go to school for the first time in Afghanistan. And we haven't left Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, we're helping democracy flourish there, and we're helping rebuild that country. No, we're a kind nation. We're plenty tough, but we're plenty kind.

I don't know what was going through the enemy's mind when they hit us. They must have listened to too much of the gossip shows or something, and thought that we were so materialistic, so focused on our own personal balance sheets, so self-absorbed, that after 9/11 all we might do is file a lawsuit or two. [Laughter] But they found out this is a different kind of nation than they thought. This is a determined people, a resolved people, a people who are willing to defend values, values that we hold dear.

Out of the evil done to America is going to come some good. Out of what was done to this country is going to come some incredible good. By being strong and united, by willing to stand tough in the face of adversity, we can lead the world to peace. And that's my goal. My goal is peace. By speaking plainly and clearly about what's right and wrong, about the effects of terror, we can not only achieve peace in America, I believe we can achieve peace in the Middle East and South Asia, countries and people that have given up on the hope of peace.

No, out of the evil done to America can come some incredible good, not only abroad but here at home. It's so important for us and for all of us to remember that in this land of plenty, there are pockets of despair, pockets of poverty, places where children say, "This American experience isn't meant for me." So long as people suffer, the whole country suffers. And therefore, we must resolve as a nation to help eliminate those pockets of addiction and despair. Government can hand out money, and we do a pretty good job of that at times. But it's important to remember, what Government cannot do is put hope into people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That's done when a loving citizen remembers the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. That happens when somebody mentors a child, or feeds the hungry, or goes and sees a shut-in and says, "I love you." That's how that happens. You see, America can change, one act of decency at a time. I like to remind our fellow citizens that one person can't do everything, but each of us can do something to make our country a better place. People ask me, "What can I do to help on the war on terror?" You can love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. It is the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and decency which will define the true character of America.

No, out of the evil done to our country is going to come some incredible good. And part of that good is not only the understanding that you've got to serve something greater than yourself in life, part of it is to sacrifice to make the country a better place. And that sacrifice comes in all different ways. Perhaps the most dramatic sacrifice of all was on Flight 93. Citizens were flying across the country. They were told on their cell phones by their loved ones that their plane was going to be used as a weapon to perhaps destroy the White House or the Capitol. History will record, these brave souls told their loved ones they loved them. One of the last words was "love." They said a prayer. A guy said, "Let's roll," and they drove the plane in the ground. What a fantastic example—a sad example but a fantastic example of serving something greater than yourself.

If you want to join in the war on terror, help somebody in need. Work hard to make your community a better place. Tell your children you love them every single day. Love them with all your heart and all your soul. No, I believe that out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good, because this is the finest country, full of the finest people on the face of the Earth.

It is my honor to be here for your next Governor. Thank you all for coming, and God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:55 p.m. in the Arena at the Polk County Veterans Memorial Auditorium. In his remarks, he referred to Steve King, candidate for Iowa's Fifth Congressional District; Stan Thompson, candidate for Iowa's Third Congressional District; and Chuck Larson, Jr., chairman, Republican Party of Iowa.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Dinner for Gubernatorial Candidate Doug Gross and the Republican Party of Iowa in Des Moines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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