Remarks in Dubuque, Iowa
The President. Thank you all for coming. Listen, Laura and I are glad to be back in Dubuque and so honored so many came out to say hello. You lift our spirits. Really appreciate you coming. We're here, of course, asking for the vote and asking for your help. We need you to get your friends and neighbors to go to the polls, find our fellow Republicans, find independents, find discerning Democrats and remind them if they want a safer America, a stronger America, and a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney back in office.
When I asked Laura to marry me, she said, "Fine, so long as you make me a promise." I said, "What is it?" She said, "Promise me I'll never have to give a political speech." [Laughter] I said, "Okay, you've got a deal." Fortunately, she is not holding me to that promise. She's giving a lot of speeches, and when she does, the American people see a compassionate, strong, great First Lady.
And I'm proud of my runningmate, Dick Cheney. He's doing a wonderful job. You know, I admit it, he does not have the waviest hair in the race. [Laughter] You'll be happy to hear I didn't pick him because of his hairdo; I picked him because of his experience, his judgment, his ability to get the job done.
I'm proud to be on the stage with Congressman Jim Nussle, and I want to thank his wife, Karen, for being here. He's the chairman of the Budget Committee. He's watching your money like a hawk—eye. Nussle is a good man, good, solid citizen from the State of Iowa and I'm proud to call him friend.
You know, we love your Senator, Chuck Grassley. I saw him the other day, and I said, "Say, Chuck, you know, the South Lawn has got a lot of grass"—[laughter]— "and we're looking for somebody to give us a hand." [Laughter] He's done a wonderful job as the chairman of the Finance Committee. I know the people of Iowa are proud that he's the Senator; I know you're going to put him back into office for 6 more years.
I want to thank Dale Schultz for coming. Dale is right there. He's from the Third Congressional District in the great State of Wisconsin. He's been traveling with me all day. Just in case anybody from Wisconsin is watching on TV, put this good man in as a Congressman.
I want to thank Dave Vaudt for being here. I want to thank Dave Roederer. I want to thank Doug Gross. I want to thank the Wil Gravatt Band for entertaining you all. I want to thank the grassroots activists who are here, the people putting up all the signs and making the phone calls and helping turn out people to rallies in the Dubuque area. With your help, there is no doubt in my mind we're going to carry Iowa and win a great victory in November.
We have just one week to go. Voters have a clear choice between two very different candidates with dramatically different approaches and records. Now, you know where I stand. And sometimes— sometimes you even know where my opponent stands. [Laughter] We both have records. I'm proudly running on mine. The Senator is running from his, and there's a reason why. There's a mainstream in American politics, and my opponent sits on the far left bank.
I'm a compassionate conservative and proudly so. I have a positive, optimistic vision for our future and a comprehensive strategy for victory in Iraq and the wider war against terror. My opponent has no plan, no vision, just a long list of complaints. [Laughter] But a Monday morning quarterback has never led any team to victory.
This election comes down to five clear choices for America's families: your family's security; your family's budget; your quality of life; your retirement; and the bedrock values that are so critical to our families and to our future.
The first clear choice is the most important because it concerns the security of your family. All progress on every other issue depends on the safety of our citizens. This will be the first Presidential election since September the 11th, 2001. Americans will go the polls in a time of war and ongoing threats. The terrorists who killed thousands are still dangerous and determined to strike us again. And this outcome—the outcome of this election will set the direction of the war against the terrorists. The most solemn duty of the American President is to protect the American people. If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch.
Since that terrible morning of September the 11th, 2001, we fought the terrorists across the Earth, not for pride, not for power but because the lives of our citizens are at stake. Our strategy is clear. We've strengthened the protections for the homeland. We're reforming our intelligence capabilities. We're transforming our military. There will be no draft; the All-Volunteer Army will remain an all-volunteer army. We're staying on the offensive. We are relentless. We are determined. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. We will continue to spread freedom and liberty. And we will prevail.
The President has to lead with consistency and strength. In a war, sometimes your tactics change but not your principles. Americans have seen how I do my job. Even when you might not agree with me, you know what I believe, you know where I stand, and you know what I intend to do.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. On good days and on bad days, whether the polls are up or the polls are down, I am determined to protect the American people and I will always support the men and women who do.
My opponent has taken a different approach. It's fair to say that consistency has not been his strong point. Senator Kerry says we're better off with Saddam Hussein out of power, except when he declares that removing Saddam made us less safe. He said in our second debate that he always believed Saddam was a threat, except a few questions later when he said Saddam Hussein was not a threat. [Laughter] He says he was right when he voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein, but that I was wrong to use force against Saddam Hussein. [Laughter] Now my opponent is throwing out a wild claim that he knows where bin Laden was in the fall of 2001, that our military passed up a chance to get him at Tora Bora. It's an unjustified criticism of the military commanders in the field. It is the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking.
Tommy Franks was our commander in Afghanistan, and here's what he said about Tora Bora. He said, "The Senator's understanding of events does not square with reality." Tommy was there. Tommy says that Special Forces were actively involved in the search for the terrorists in Tora Bora and that intelligence reports at the time placed bin Laden in any of several countries.
Now, before Senator Kerry got into political difficulty and revised his views, here's what he said about Tora Bora on national TV in the fall of 2001. He said, "I think we've been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way." At the time, the Senator said about Tora Bora, "I think we've been smart. I think the administration leadership has done it well, and we are on the right track." Well, all I can say to that is, I am George W. Bush, and I approve of that message.
Yet, my opponent's record on national security has a far deeper problem than election-year flip-flopping. On the largest national security issues of our time, he has been consistently wrong. When Ronald Reagan was confronting the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war, Senator Kerry said that President Reagan's policy of peace through strength was making America less safe. Well, history has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and President Ronald Reagan was right.
When former President Bush led a coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1991, Senator Kerry voted against the use of force to liberate Kuwait. If his view had prevailed, Saddam Hussein today would dominate the Middle East and possess the world's most dangerous weapons. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and former President Bush was right.
In 1994, just one year after the first bombing of the World Trade Center, Senator Kerry proposed massive cuts in America's intelligence budget, so massive that even his colleague from Massachusetts opposed them. Well, history has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and—got to be fair—Senator Kennedy was right.
Just last year, American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan needed $87 billion to help them on their missions, to make sure they had all that was necessary in harm's way. First, Senator Kerry said it would be irresponsible to vote against the troops, then he voted against the troops. You might remember perhaps the most famous quote of the 2004 campaign when he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." [Laughter] History has shown that Senator Kerry was right, then wrong, then briefly right, then wrong again. [Laughter]
You know, he's given quite a few answers about that vote, and finally, at one time he just said, "The whole thing was a complicated matter." My fellow Americans, there is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat. I thank our troops. I thank the families of our troops. And I thank the veterans who have set such a great example to our troops.
During the last 20 years, in key moments of challenge and decision for America, my opponent has chosen the position of weakness and inaction. With that record, he stands in opposition not just to me but to the great tradition of the Democratic Party. The party of Franklin Roosevelt, of Harry Truman, of John Kennedy is rightly remembered for confidence and resolve in times of war and hours of crisis. Senator Kerry has turned his back on "pay any price" and "bear any burden," and he has placed those commitments—replaced those commitments with "wait and see" and "cut and run." Many Democrats in this country do not recognize their party anymore. Today I want to speak to every one of them: If you believe that America should lead with strength and purpose and confidence in our ideals, I'd be honored to have your support, and I'm asking for your vote.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. All the difference—all the differences I've outlined today add up to one big difference. My opponent says that September the 11th, in his words, did not change him much at all. And his policies make that clear. He says the war on terror is primarily a law enforcement and intelligence gathering operation.
My outlook was changed on September the 11th. A few days after the attacks, I stood where the buildings fell, in Ground Zero. It's a day I'll never forget—the workers in hardhats yelling at me at the top of their lungs, "Whatever it takes." I remember a guy grabbed me by the arm, he looked me square in the eye, and he said, "Do not let me down." After that morning, I wake—I've wakened up every morning thinking about how to better protect America. I will use every asset at our disposal. I will never relent in defending the security of the American people, whatever it takes.
The second clear choice concerns your family's budget. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I pledged to lower taxes for American families. And I kept my word. We doubled the child credit to help mothers and dads raise their children. We reduced the marriage penalty. Listen, I think the Tax Code ought to encourage marriage, not penalize marriage. We created the lowest bracket of 10 percent, so to help families. We're reduced income taxes for everybody who pays taxes.
Now, I want you to remind your friends and neighbors what we have overcome, the obstacles this economy has overcome. You know, the stock market had been in decline for 6 months prior to my arrival. We were headed into a recession. And these corporate scandals which affected the economy—we passed tough laws, by the way, and we made it abundantly clear we're not going to tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms of America. And then we got attacked, and those attacks cost us about a million jobs in the 3 months after September the 11th. But because we cut your taxes, because we encouraged consumption and investment, because we recognized the contributions small-business owners make in this country, our economic policies have led us on the path to growth.
Our economy has been growing at rates as fast as any in nearly 20 years. We've added 1.9 million new jobs since August of 2003. The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent. Let me put that in perspective for you: That's lower than the average rate of the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. Our farm economy is strong. I campaigned here in the caucuses, and I campaigned in 2000, and I've been coming back to your State saying, "I support ethanol." We're supporting ethanol. I said, "I'm going to come back and open up markets so Iowa farm products are all around the world." We've opened up markets. Our farmers are making a good living. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong. Small businesses are flourishing. The homeownership rate is at an alltime high. And the unemployment rate in the State of Iowa is 4.7 percent. Our policies are working, and we're not going to go back to the days of Federal spending and Federal taxes.
We have a different point of view on the budget. My opponent has different plans. He's going to take a big chunk out of your budget. Listen, he's promised $2.2 trillion in new spending in this campaign. That's trillion with a "T." [Laughter] That's a lot even for a Senator from Massachusetts. [Laughter]
And they asked him how he's going to pay for it. And he threw out the same old tired line, "We're going to tax the rich." Well, first of all, when you run up the top two brackets, you're taxing job creators. Do you realize most of the small businesses in America pay individual income taxes because they're either a Subchapter S or a sole proprietorship? Seventy percent of new jobs are created by small businesses. Senator Kerry's plan would tax the job creators of America, and that is bad economic policy.
And secondly, by taxing people who have earned over $200,000 or entities that have earned over $200,000, you raise between 600 and 800 billion dollars. It doesn't take much math to figure out that's far short of the 2.2 trillion he's promised. So there's a gap, a gap between what he's promised and how he's going to pay for it. And guess who usually fills the gap?
Audience members. We do!
The President. You do. The good news is, he's not going to tax you, because we're going to win Iowa and win a great victory.
The third clear choice involves the quality of life for our Nation's families. A good education and quality health care are important for our country's families. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I promised to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations by reforming our public schools. I kept my word. We passed education reform to bring high standards into the classrooms and to make our schools accountable to our parents. We're seeing progress. Math and reading scores are rising. We are closing achievement gaps for minority students all across America. We'll build on these reforms. We'll extend them to our high schools so that no child is left behind in America.
We'll make sure health care is available and affordable. We'll expand health savings accounts so small—more small businesses can cover their workers and more families can get health care accounts they call their own and manage. In order to make sure our small businesses can afford health care, we ought to allow them to pool together, pool risk so they can afford insurance at the same discount that big companies get. We're going to make sure we take care of the poor and the indigent through community and rural health centers. We'll work hard to make sure every eligible child is enrolled in our Government's low-income health insurance program.
To make sure health care is available and affordable for you, we will do something about the frivolous lawsuits that are running up the cost of medicine and running good doctors out of practice. I have met too many good doctors who have quit practicing medicine. Some of the saddest tales are those of ob-gyns. These lawsuits are running up the cost of premiums to the point where they can't afford to stay in business. So they leave their community. Some of them quit the practice of medicine. And that means there are expectant moms who are desperate—desperately worried about whether or not they'll get the health care they need for their child and for themselves.
You cannot be pro-doctor and pro-patient and pro-personal-injury-lawyer at the same time. You have to make a choice. My opponent made his choice, and he put a personal-injury trial lawyer on the ticket. I have made my choice. I'm standing with the patients. I'm standing with doctors. I'm standing with small-business owners. I'm standing with hospitals. I'm for medical liability reform—now.
There is a big difference of opinion when it comes to health care between me and my opponent. I remember that debate when he looked right in the camera, and they asked him about his health care plan, and he said, "The Government doesn't have anything to do with it." I could barely contain myself. [Laughter]
The Government has got a lot to do with it. Eight out of ten people end up on a Government program under his health care. Listen, when you make Medicaid more attractive, small businesses will stop providing insurance for their employees because the Government will. And that moves people from private care—private insurance to Government insurance. And you know what I know: When the Government starts writing the checks, the Government starts making the rules; and the Government starts making the rules, the Government starts making your decisions. They ration care; they decide what doctors you go to. No, Federal health care is the wrong prescription for health care in America. In all we do, we'll make sure the health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by officials in Washington, DC.
The fourth clear choice in this election involves your retirement. We made a solemn commitment to America's seniors on Social Security and Medicare. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I promised to keep that commitment and improve Medicare by adding prescription drug coverage. I kept my word. You might remember the Medicare issue. People in Washington have been debating Medicare for years, and nothing got done. Well, thanks to working with Senator Grassley and Congressman Nussle, we got the job done for our seniors. Beginning in 2006, all seniors will be able to get prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
I remember coming to eastern Iowa during the congressional campaigns in 2002. I said that I understand Iowa's hospitals are not being treated fairly under Medicare. Nussle, you might remember—I stood and looked right in the camera. I said, "I'm going to work with Congressman Nussle and Senator Grassley to make sure Iowa's rural hospitals, in particular, are treated fairly." The bill I signed not only helps our seniors but it helps Iowa hospitals. I kept my word.
And we will keep the promise of Social Security for our seniors. And I want to remind you what happened in the 2000 campaign. I don't know if it's happened here yet or not, but it certainly happened in 2000, when they made it abundantly clear to people that if I got elected, our seniors were not going to get their Social Security checks. That's the old scare tactics that they like to use. You might remember those ads. As you gather up the vote, I want you to remind people, George W. did get elected, and our seniors did get their checks. I don't care how they put it or how they try to scare you, our seniors will continue to get their checks. And baby boomers like me, I think we're in pretty good shape when it comes to getting the checks when we retire.
But we need to worry about our children and our grandchildren when it comes to Social Security. We need to worry about whether or not there will be a Social Security system available for them when they retire. And that's why I think we ought to allow younger workers to take some of their own payroll taxes and set them in a personal savings account, an account that earns a better rate of return, an account that they can call their own.
My opponent has taken a different approach on this issue. He said he is going to protect Social Security, but he forgot to tell you he's the only candidate in this race who voted eight times for higher taxes on Social Security benefits.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. You're wondering why you got those taxes on your Social Security benefits—there's one reason why, Senator John Kerry. And then when he talks about reforming the system for our youngsters, he had nothing to offer. The job of a President is to confront problems, not pass them on to future Presidents and future generations. In a new term, I'll bring people together to strengthen the Social Security system for a younger generation.
And the final clear choice in this election is on the values that are so crucial to keeping our families strong. And here my opponent and I are miles apart. I stand for the appointment of Federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law. I believe marriage is a sacred commitment, a pillar of our civilization, and I will defend it. This isn't a partisan issue. You know, when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman, the vast majority of Democrats supported it and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. But Senator Kerry was part of the out-of-the-mainstream minority that voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. I believe reasonable people can find common ground on difficult issues. Republicans and Democrats came together and agreed we should ban the brutal practice of partial-birth abortion. I proudly signed that bill. But Senator Kerry was part of the out-of-the-mainstream minority that voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion. As a matter of fact, he voted against parental notification laws. He voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. I'll continue to reach out to Americans of every belief and move this goodhearted Nation toward a culture of life.
I don't know if you remember this in the campaign, but at one point my opponent said you can find the heart and soul of America in Hollywood.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. Most families don't look to Hollywood for a source of values. The heart and soul of America is found in communities like Dubuque, Iowa.
All of these choices make this one of the most important elections in our history. The security and prosperity of our country is at stake. The health and education for families are important. The retirement of our seniors, the direction of our culture— they're all at stake. And the decision is in the best of hands; it's in the hands of the American people.
I've got a—I see a great America coming. I see a hopeful day. One of my favorite quotes—I hope it helps capture how I feel about America—is what a fellow Texan named Tom Lea wrote. He said, "Sarah and I live on the east side of the mountain. It's the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that has gone." In the course of this campaign, my opponent has spent much of the time talking about the day that has gone. I'm talking about the day that is coming. I'm talking about a great day for America.
We've been through a lot together in the last nearly 4 years. Because we've done the hard work of climbing the mountain, we can see the valley below. We'll protect our families. We'll build on their prosperity. We'll defend the deepest values. We'll continue to spread liberty and freedom, achieving the peace we all long for.
You know, when I campaigned in your State—around your State in the caucuses and in the 2000 general election, I made you this pledge: I said if I was honored to be elected, I would uphold the honor and the dignity of the office. With your help, with your hard work, I will do so for 4 more years.
Thanks for coming. God bless. We're on to victory. Thank you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 4:03 p.m. at the Grand River Center. In his remarks, he referred to Dale Schultz, candidate in Wisconsin's Third Congressional District; Auditor of State Dave Vaudt of Iowa; David Roederer, Iowa State chair, Bush-Cheney '04, Inc.; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization; and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, USA (Ret.), former combatant commander, U.S. Central Command.
George W. Bush, Remarks in Dubuque, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/214160