Remarks at a Fundraiser for Representative Tom Latham in Des Moines
Thank you very much. Please be seated. It's an unbelievable honor for a guy from Midland, Texas, to be back in Iowa. [Laughter] As I recall, it started here, and I want to thank you all. I want to thank you for your support, and I want to thank you for coming out to support Tom Latham. And I want to thank you for your support for the Iowa Republican Party. And I want to thank you for that warm welcome. It's an honor to be back in your great State.
I too want to extend our most heartfelt sympathies to Katie Roth. As you know, Luke was—ran my campaign here in the primaries. I remember him as a joyous, fine, solid American. I talked to Katie the other day on the phone. I assured her the prayers of Iowa and Luke's friends are with her, and I know you join me, I hope, in praying for God's blessings on Katie and the family.
Somebody said to me the other day, "Do you plan on campaigning? You're the President of all the people." I said, "Sure I am. When I find somebody good, I'm going to help them." And Tom Latham is a good, good United States Congressman.
You bet I'm going to campaign. I'm going to campaign for a party that holds the values that I hold dear to my heart of heralding the individual and limiting the size and scope of Government, recognizing that all wisdom is not in Washington, DC, but is in local governments and individuals, recognizing that we must have a strong national defense to secure freedom. I am. I'm going to campaign. I want Denny Hastert to be the Speaker of the House, and I want Tom Latham returned to the United States Congress.
And I want to thank you all for coming to help, and I appreciate your generosity. I also want to thank Kathy Latham for her patience and her support of Tom. And like me, Tom married above himself. [Laughter] Thank you for being here, Kathy.
Speaking about marrying above myself, Laura is doing great. As you may remember, she was a public school librarian when I married her. She really wasn't interested in politics or politicians, and now she is a fabulous First Lady for the United States of America. She sends her greetings. I'm going to see her here in a while, and I look forward to telling her that I saw a lot of our friends in Iowa today at lunch.
I also want to thank Elaine Chao. You know, one of the ways you judge a President is what kind of team does he put together. And as you've seen, I've put together a fabulous national security team, a team of experienced hands and people who are willing to express their opinion, willing to work for what's best for America. And I've also put together a great domestic team as well. And one of those members is Elaine Chao, who is the Secretary of Labor, and I want to thank you for coming, Elaine.
I see the party chairman; Chuck, thank you for coming here. I got to know Larson on the campaign trail. Never did I realize he'd be elevated to such a high standing in life. [Laughter] But now that he is, I hear that he's doing a great job. So Mr. Chairman, thank you for taking on a leadership role. I love your enthusiasm, and I love your zest for life.
I think Bob Ray is here. He set the standard for what it means to be a Governor. Terry Branstad, I understand, was going to be here as well. If so, thanks for coming. There, Branstad, how are you? Hi, Bob. Thank you all for coming. It's good to see you both again. I know Mary Kramer told me she was coming, and I know the speaker is here and others from the State House. Mary, how are you? Again, thank you, Speaker.
I want to thank you all for being here. I was back—met some folks back there, and this tall giant walked through. He said, "I used to mow down the Texas Rangers on a regular basis." And I said, "You're not Cal Eldred, are you?" He said, "Yes, I am." I said, "Well, I'm sorry to see you again." [Laughter] But I'm glad to see him here. Where are you, Cal? There he is. Thanks for coming, Cal. I appreciate your being here. I know you're sorry to be out of baseball, but Ranger fans are glad you are. [Laughter] At any rate, thank you all for coming.
Let me tell you a couple things about Tom Latham that it's important for those who might be undecided to listen to. One, he's on the Appropriations Committee. That's important, to be on the Appropriations Committee. It requires somebody who has got a little extra—a little extra talent to be on that committee in the House of Representatives. It makes no sense for people in the congressional district in which he's seeking to replace somebody on the Appropriations Committee with somebody who's not. The Appropriations Committee is one of the most important committees there is in the United States Congress. And not only that, but he's got some accomplishments that I want to tout.
One of them is—and this is an important issue that faces the future of America— he is a strong battler of illegal drugs. Methamphetamine, for example, has been a problem in the Midwest, a problem here in Iowa, and this good United States Congressman had the foresight and willingness to work to get a regional training center to fight methamphetamines. And I appreciate that very much, Tom, and so do the people of Iowa, and they've got to remember that when it gets ready to go into the polls.
As you know, in Washington we've got a lot of talkers. And what you need to do is herald the doers, the people who can get things done. One of the interesting issues, as you know, that obviously faces Iowans—and I learned this firsthand, of course—is the agricultural economy here. The farm bill is working its way through, and Tommy Latham understands a couple of points that are important. One, we need a safety net, but we don't want to encourage overproduction. We want a wise farm policy, and part of that wise farm policy is to make sure that we open up markets for trade.
The Iowa farmers are the best farmers in the world. And it makes sense if you're the best farmer in the world—if you're the best in the world, you want to be able to sell more, not sell less. And so when I was in China recently, I made it very clear to the Chinese officials with whom I met that they need to honor obligations and open up their markets, starting with soybeans from the United States of America. Those protectionist voices in Washington must not understand the Iowa farm community. The more product we sell, the better off it is for the Iowa farmer, and Tom Latham understands that.
He also understands, and I understand, the importance of value-added processing when it comes to agricultural products. I told the good people in Iowa, when I campaigned here, I supported ethanol. I supported ethanol as the nominee of the party, I supported ethanol as a candidate, and I support ethanol as the President of the United States.
But there are some other things we ought to do. We ought to do what Tom Latham has suggested and has done, which is to encourage more research and development between the Energy Department and the Ag Department, so that we can fully explore the potential of biomass. One thing you'll hear me talk a lot about is we need less dependency on foreign sources of energy. And there would be nothing better than to be able to grow our way out of that dependency. But it requires leadership, and Tom Latham has provided that leadership for the good of Iowa, as well as for the good for the Nation.
And finally, an issue that he spends a lot of time thinking about and working on and talking to me about, is to make sure that there is equity for rural hospitals, particularly when it comes to Medicare reimbursements.
My point to the people of Iowa is that this is an accomplished man and a smart man who has got the interest of his district in his heart. And it makes a lot of sense, if you care about the future of Iowa—forget political party, if you care about the future of Iowa—to send this good man back to Washington, DC, come November.
And one other thing I like about him is he understands that the budget I sent up to Washington, DC—up in Washington, that prioritizes our national defense, is the right priority for the country. We're defending freedom, and I sent a budget up there that says, we're going to set a priority for defending freedom. And the Congress ought to pass that budget. It ought to recognize that the price for defending freedom is high, but whatever it takes, we ought to spend because our freedom is precious and dear.
This Nation has sent men and women who wear our uniform into battle to defend freedom, and they have performed brilliantly. But if we send them into battle, they deserve the best training, the best supplies, the best equipment. They deserve another pay raise. And Congress needs to fully fund the military and defense budget I sent up to both the Senate and the House because we're in for a long struggle. You know, I told the American people that this was a new kind of war. The enemy hit us. We've never been attacked like that before on the continental 48, and we realized that we're in a new era. And that's going to require patience of the American people, because we're chasing down a kind of a faceless enemy, an enemy who sends young men to die on suicide missions and they, themselves, try to hide in caves.
But you need to know how determined I am to defend America and our freedom. It doesn't matter how deep the cave is. It doesn't matter where the cave is. We're going to find them. We're going to slowly but surely hunt them down and bring them to justice.
In the course of this war, I laid out some doctrines that are pretty darn clear. One of them is, if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you provide aid or comfort to a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorist. And the Taliban found out exactly what we meant.
Our military took on a tough mission to uphold that doctrine, and it was a dangerous mission, and they performed brilliantly. We're not conquerors; we showed the world we're liberators. We liberated people from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind. I cannot tell you how proud I was to see the joy on the faces of women and little girls in Afghanistan with the realization that this mighty Nation has freed them to realize their dreams.
I also made it clear to the world that either you are with us, or you're against us, that either you're with the United States in defending freedom, or you're not with the United States in defending freedom. And a lot of people have heard that Nation, and they're proud to sign up with us. And we've got a vast coalition, as we're hunting down the Al Qaida. We've had over 1,000 arrests in places outside of Afghanistan. I mean, we're slowly but surely doing what we need to do to protect the homeland. And the coalition understands our determination, and they see our resolve.
I'm proud of the patience of the American people. The American people recognize the new type of war we're in. They understand that sometimes they'll see the action of the United States Government and sometimes we won't. But they also understand we must be strong and diligent as we defend freedom, because that's what we defend.
I made it clear that this is a war beyond just a single individual. One guy thinks he can hide, but he's not going to. We haven't heard much from him lately, by the way. [Laughter] But we fight terror wherever it exists. And this is for the good of our children. History has called us into action, and we must not and we will not blink. It's a chance to define freedom for future generations.
I made it clear that a scenario which I will not let stand is one in which a terrorist organization could team up with a nation that has had a history of mistreating her people, a nontransparent nation perhaps, a nation that is known to be developing weapons of mass destruction. We cannot let, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, terrorist organizations team up with nations that want to develop weapons that can be delivered from long distances that will hurt ourselves, our friends, and our allies. We're not going to let the world's worst regimes develop the worst weapons and threaten the United States of America.
We're doing everything at home to defend the homeland. We've got a good strategy in place. It starts, by the way, with having the best intelligence possible, gathering intelligence from all around the world, disseminating on a quick basis, and following every lead and every hint.
If we get any kind of whiff that somebody is trying to do something to the American people, we're moving. We've got thousands of FBI agents whose major task, primary focus, is on preventing an attack. We're doing a much better job of coordinating with State and local authorities. We've got a national strategy in place to make our borders more secure, to make our Nation more responsive to a potential bioterrorist attack. I mean, we're making good progress, and our budget reflects that. But the best way to secure the homeland is to be relentless in our pursuit against terrorists, and that's exactly what's going to happen, so long as I'm the President of the United States.
You know, I remember campaigning in Chicago, and somebody said, "Would you ever spend a deficit?" And I said, "Only if we're at war or we had a recession or there was a national emergency." Little did I realize we'd get the trifecta. [Laughter] It's going to be important for Congress to fund the priorities. But in order to make sure whatever deficit we have is short lived, they better hold the line on the rest of the budget. And that's why the President has the veto pen. It's important for there to be fiscal discipline in Washington, DC, right now.
Our economy is, as you know, has been sputtering. And thankfully, the Congress, working with me, did a smart thing. Last March, we cut the taxes on the people who pay the bills in America. Actually, I think it took place a little later than March. Last year, we cut the taxes. It happened at the exact right time. You see, in order to stimulate economic vitality and growth, when we give people their own money back, it enhances demand, which causes more production, which creates job stability.
Now, there are some in Washington that have been mumbling beneath their breath that maybe they think they want to prevent the rest of the tax relief package from going through. I do not know what economic textbook they're reading. One thing you don't do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession. In order to stimulate growth, you trust the American people with their own money, and that's what we did. I appreciate Latham's vote on that matter, and I'm going to hold the line when it comes to tax relief.
And I can remember standing on farms in Iowa, standing by a generation of farmers, saying one of the worst things that can happen to the Iowa agricultural economy is the death tax. We need to get rid of the death tax, and I'm proud to report the death tax is on its way to extinction.
I hope Congress gives me a trade bill so I can open up markets. I hope Congress gives me an energy bill so we become less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil and can conserve more energy. I hope Congress gives me a stimulus package that not only takes care of workers who lost their jobs but recognizes that people want more than an unemployment check; they want a permanent paycheck. And we need to stimulate economic activity by encouraging more plant and equipment—more investment in plant and equipment. The House has acted. The Senate has stalled. It's time to get some of these important measures to my desk so we can make progress in the country.
I, like everybody else in America, was heartsick on 9/11. I mean, I can't tell you how sad I was, just like you, and then I got a little angry. And then I realized upon reflection that out of this evil was going to come some good, and it has. Out of this terrible evil, we have a chance to keep the peace for a long time coming, and we will. And out of this evil, this Nation has shown the world what a compassionate, kind place we are.
I always used to say that one of my hopes was that this Nation's culture would shift from one that said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a culture which says, "Each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life." Unbeknownst to the evildoers, I think they've helped accelerate that cultural change.
I know millions of Americans are asking the question, "What can I do to fight terror? What is it I can do to fight evil?" And they're beginning to realize what I know, that in order to fight evil, do something good. In order to stand square in the face of evil, this good Nation, through the millions of acts of kindness that take place on a daily basis, stands opposite of evil. And as a result of neighbors looking after neighbors, of people caring for somebody in need, of somebody loving their neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves, people understand there's a new responsibility to be had. Mothers and dads know that the most important job they will ever have is to love their children—is to love their children. Churches and synagogues and mosques, who have these fantastic neighborhood healing programs, need to be unleashed in America through the faith-based initiative that I have proposed. You see, Government shouldn't fear faith. We ought to welcome faith and the power of faith to change people's lives in a very positive way.
You know, I was working the ropeline over there at the retirement plan ceremony, and I ran into a guy I met in Colfax, Iowa, from Teen Challenge. It was a fantastic experience during the course of the caucuses because it gave me a chance to explain to people what I meant when—how faith changes life. But I'll never forget the heroin addict from Chicago standing up and saying he was clean because a power greater than himself entered into his heart.
These kinds of programs Government can't create. But these kind of programs exist in America because of the goodness of America. And this society is changing, as we unleash this compassion, as people understand that part of being responsible is not only responsible for your own family but responsible for loving a neighbor. And it's taking place in the country, and it's so powerful and positive, that leads me to say that out of this evil is going to come a stronger, more decent, more humble society.
There's defining moments that take place in our history, and I think a defining moment was Flight 93, when people on an airplane, on cell phones, told their wives they loved them, said a prayer, and drove a plane into the ground to save somebody's life, to serve something greater than yourself. It's the ultimate testimony to the American character and the American spirit which defines this Nation for what it is, the greatest nation on the face of the Earth. And I am really proud to be its President.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:54 a.m. in the Des Moines Room at the Marriott Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Katie Roth, whose husband, Luke Roth, was the President's Iowa State campaign director; Kathy Latham, wife of Representative Latham; Chuck Larson, Jr., chairman, Republican Party of Iowa; former Iowa Governors Robert D. Ray and Terry Branstad; Mary Kramer, president, Iowa State Senate; Brent Siegrist, speaker, Iowa State House of Representatives; and Cal Eldred, former pitcher, Chicago White Sox. Representative Tom Latham was a candidate for reelection in Iowa's Fifth Congressional District.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Fundraiser for Representative Tom Latham in Des Moines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213626