George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Haley Barbour in Jackson, Mississippi

September 12, 2003

Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks for coming. I'm glad to be back in Mississippi. I thank the warm welcome for a former Texas Governor who's proud to be on stage with the future Mississippi Governor. I'm here to remind the good people of this State—Republican, Democrat, or independent—if they're interested in good government, if they want somebody to call upon the best of Mississippi, if they're interested in every person being able to achieve their dreams in this State, they need to elect Haley Barbour as the Governor of Mississippi.

I like his slogan: Mississippi can do better. It says when he's your Governor, he'll have an optimistic outlook for all the people of this State. He believes in high standards and raising that bar. He believes in the vast human potential of Mississippi. There's no doubt in my mind that when you elect Haley Barbour as Governor of Mississippi, Mississippi will do better.

And I know him. This isn't just your typical hot air. [Laughter] I know him well. He recounted some of our history. We've been friends for a long time. So when I say, for example, he believes in personal responsibility, I know he believes that way. And when he says he's going to focus on education to make sure no child is left behind in Mississippi, I know he believes that.

Haley has served at the highest levels of Government, but let me assure you of one thing: Whether it was in my conversations with him in Washington, DC, or in Austin, Texas, he always talked about Yazoo City. [Laughter] It is safe to say he never forgot his roots. No, there's no doubt in my mind this good man can do the job. If the people of this State give him a chance, they're going to realize that he's going to call upon the best of Mississippi.

He and I share something else in common. We both married above ourselves. [Laughter] I'm proud to be on stage with Marsha, had a chance to say hello to Sterling and Reeves. My only advice to those boys was, listen to your mother. [Laughter] I'm still listening to mine.

Laura sends her love. She sends her love not only to Haley and Marsha; she sends her very best to many of our friends out here today. She is a fabulous wife, by the way, and a great First Lady for America.

Speaking about a guy who married well, Senator Lott is with us. [Laughter] Tricia and Trent are really good friends of Laura and mine. We both love our country, and we both love Scottish terriers. [Laughter] Let me tell you something about Trent: Mississippi is really, really lucky to have him as a United States Senator.

You've got some pretty good Congressmen, too. I'm proud to call Roger Wicker and Chip Pickering friends. These guys are doing a great job on behalf of this State. It's great to see Chip and his beautiful wife today. I do want you to do me a favor, if you don't mind, a little personal privilege from the President. I hope you give your dad my best, Judge Charles Pickering. I nominated him to a higher court because I believe in his character. I trust his judicial philosophy. He's a man who will interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. Some Senators are playing politics with American justice. They did this man and this country a disservice. It is time for some on the Senate floor to stop playing politics with people like Charles Pickering's good name.

There's a lot of people here hoping Haley runs good at the top of the ticket, starting with the Lieutenant Governor, Amy Tuck. I'm proud to have welcomed her to the Oval Office the other day. It is—along with Travis Little—they were up there to, oh, get a picture or two taken. [Laughter] But it was good to talk to Amy again. I had the honor of welcoming her to the Republican Party. I appreciate the courage of your decision, Amy, and I appreciate your willingness to lead. Thank you for being here. Of course, I did meet Senator Little.

I also want to thank State auditor Phil Bryant for being here. I want to thank the—thank you, Phil. I appreciate Mike Retzer, my long-time friend, for working hard for the Bush-Cheney campaign. There is another election around the corner one of these days. We'll be back. [Laughter]

I also know you've got some candidates here running, and I always like to mention candidates who have decided to take on the task of a statewide race, because it's not an easy job. It's not easy to ask your family to run—have to ask your family to join you in running. But we've got Julio Del Castillo here, who's the candidate for secretary of state. We've got Scott Newton, the candidate for attorney general. We've got Max Phillips, the candidate for agriculture commissioner. And we've got Tate Reeves, the candidate for treasurer. Thank you all for running, I hope you help them.

It's good to see your former Governor, Kirk Fordice, here today. Kirk, good to see you, sir.

I want to thank Jim Herring, the chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, for his hard work. And I want to thank all the folks involved with grassroots politics here in Mississippi. I want to thank Cindy Phillips, who is the national committeewoman, as well.

Finally, there is a special fellow here that my family has known for a long time. He's a really great American, great fellow from Mississippi. Laura and I occasionally slide across the street there in Washington, DC, to go to church at the little St. John's Church in Lafayette Square. One of our favorite things when we get to church is to shake hands and to say hello to one of the special Americans, and that's my friend Sonny Montgomery. It looks like they still remember you here, Sonny. [Laughter]

I first want to thank you for your generosity but remind you that there is more to do in the campaign for an important race like Governor. You've got to turn out the vote. You've got to go to your coffee shops and tell the people that may not be quite as interested in politics as you are that there's a lot at stake for Mississippi. When they're just about to sip that coffee, you tell them that Haley Barbour has got a clear vision for the future of this State. He's not going to win it on his looks alone. [Laughter] He's going to win it because he cares about people.

See, when he hears somebody is looking for a job, it bothers him. If somebody is looking for a job and can't find work, it means you've got a problem here in Mississippi. That's the way I feel about the Nation. He and I share a philosophy: The role of Government is not to create wealth; the role of Government is to create an environment in which entrepreneurship can flourish, in which small businesses can grow to be big businesses. And that's why, for example, in Washington, I worked with the Congress to pass tax relief. When the economy goes slow, if you let people have more of their own money, they're likely to demand a good or a service.

Haley understands that. He understands whose money we spend in Government. We're not spending the Government's money; we're spending the people's money. And you better have you a Governor who understands that when he gets you elected to represent this great State.

This economy is beginning to pick up a little steam, but there are still some citizens who hurt. So long as they're hurting, we've got to keep creating an environment for economic growth. It will be important to have a Governor in Mississippi who understands that fiscal discipline is necessary at the State capital. If you're interested in job creation, Government has got to be fiscally disciplined. If you're interested in job creation, you've got to put policy in place that encourages small-business growth. After all, most small businesses—most new jobs are created by small businesses in America. Haley has got a plan. He's got good ideas. He comes with the right philosophy, and he's got a plan to create jobs here in Mississippi. For the people in Mississippi who are interested in job creation, the right man for the job is Haley Barbour.

By the way, one way to make sure this is a good State in which to create jobs is to have a Governor who's willing to take off the—take on the plaintiffs' attorneys and fight for real, meaningful litigation reform. You don't want it said that the fastest growth industry in your State is the plaintiffs' bar. That's not good for attracting industry and creating jobs. You don't want the greatest wealth accumulation in any State to be in the hands of plaintiffs' attorneys. You need to get you a Governor who understands that, who's tough enough to stand up to the special interests that oftentimes dominate State politics, is willing to look those in the eye who are trying to ruin the condition for job creation, who are running your doctors out of your State, look them in the eye and say, "I demand that we have reasonable tort reform in the State of Mississippi." And that man is Haley Barbour.

Last time I came to your beautiful State, I was here because I was worried about docs getting run out of Mississippi. I'll never forget meeting with the guy from the Delta. It was a fellow; he came down from the North. He heard a call. He's what you might call a faith-based doctor, practicing real medicine, but he was motivated by faith to help people who hurt, a fantastic person. The guy never grew up in Mississippi but heard there was a need for health care in this State, so he came here. He wanted to give of his time and talents so somebody might live a better life.

And he told me the stories about what it's like to live in a State where the system isn't fair anymore, where the lawyers have pushed too far. And he left your State of Mississippi because the premiums went up too high. You lost a good heart in your State because the system is awry. You need you a Governor who understands that health care must be accessible and affordable, a Governor that when he says he's going to get you medical liability reform, will get you real medical liability reform, not only for the sake of the docs but, more importantly, for the sake of the people who need good health care. Haley Barbour is that Governor.

In order for this State to reach its full potential, you need to have a Governor who understands the number one priority of any State is the education of the children of that State. Haley understands that. We passed good law in Washington, DC. It's an interesting change of attitude for the Nation's Capital. It used to be we just passed out money in Washington. And we're pretty good at that, by the way. But now we've said, if you're going to receive money for education purposes and elementary and secondary act money and Title I money within that title, is now we expect to see whether or not the children are learning to read and write and add and subtract.

See, the State of Mississippi needs a Governor, just like our country needed a President, that was willing to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. When you lower the bar, you get bad results. If you believe certain children can't learn, you'll have a system that just shuffles the kids through. If you believe it's impossible to teach a certain type of child, guess what's going to happen? That type of child will never learn.

I believe every child can learn. I believe it's in the reach with every State and every school to teach the basics. And therefore, in return for Federal money, I expect the basics to be taught. And I want to thank Senator Lott and the Congressman here who stood with me on that important initiative. Now, in return for Federal money, States must show people whether or not our children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. If you believe they can learn, then you want to know. If you believe that the best can happen, then we want to see. We don't want somebody to theorize whether it's happening. We want concrete proof. And if it's not happening, we will use the measurement systems not as a way to punish the good teachers, but to correct the situation.

Haley Barbour agrees with that philosophy. He believes about raising the bar. He believes, support the teachers. But most of all, he knows that we must correct problems early, before they're too late, to make sure that not one single child gets left behind in the State of Mississippi.

I appreciate the fact that Haley understands that there are people who hurt in Mississippi; there are people who are lonely and addicted, people who are homeless, and people who are hungry. He also understands what I know, that the Government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That's done when a loving soul puts their arm around somebody who hurts and says, "I love you. What can I do to help you?"

The true strength of this country is the hearts and souls of the American people. That's our strength. And the job of people in positions of responsibility is to rally that spirit. That's why the Faith-Based Initiative that I proposed in Washington is so vital. It's an initiative that Haley fully understands. It's an initiative that he wants to get started here.

Listen, there are great programs that come out of Government, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. But we ought to use all avenues, all our strengths, to achieve the common goal that everybody feels the great hope of America. When we find somebody who's lonely and addicted on drugs, we ought not to fear a faith-based program's involvement with that person. You see, sometimes it takes a change of heart to change a habit. And when we find effective programs based upon faith, Government at the Federal level and State level should not fear faith, we should welcome faith into the important delivery of human services to people who hurt.

I had a chance to talk to Haley on Air Force One coming down. He came over to Fort Stewart, and I thought it might be okay if I shared some thoughts on the war on terror. So I think I will. I was in Fort Stewart; it's the home of the 3d Infantry Division. They're the troops who took it up the west side, from the south of Iraq to free Baghdad. What an honor it is to stand up in front of fantastically brave troops and to thank them on behalf of a grateful nation.

It's important for me to continue to do this because this Nation still remains at war. It's a different kind of war. You saw how different it was on September the 11th, 2001. Instead of armies marching across plains or Air Forces bombing Pearl Harbor, we were attacked by coldblooded killers who took our own assets and flew them into the buildings without regard to the nature of the victim. These people didn't care if they were young kids, women, men—no such thing in their mind as innocent or guilt. They're interested in one thing, death.

On that day, this country decided that no matter how long it took, we would find those who would inflict harm upon America and bring them to justice. I will never forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001, so long as I am your President. I have a solemn duty to protect America, and we're making progress. We're slowly but surely bringing the Al Qaida killers to justice. I remind people that over two-thirds of the known operatives and leaders are either dead or captured. And I can assure you, we're after the rest of them. No matter how long it takes, no matter what the cost, we will bring those who harmed America and want to harm America to justice. We owe it to future generations of Americans. We owe it to the peace and security of the world to use our strength to find the killers.

Therapy will not work with these kind of people. Treaties make no sense. There's only one thing: Get them before they get us, to stay on the offensive.

Right after September the 11th, I laid out a new American doctrine that said, "If you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you house a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists." And the Taliban found out what the United States of America meant. Not only were we able to destroy terrorist training camps and cut off support for these killers when we routed the Taliban out of Afghanistan, but we did something even—as important: Young girls now go to school for the first time, because the Taliban is no more. Girls go to school, thanks to the might of the United States of America.

And that's important, because we believe everybody matters. We believe every life is precious. We believe and know that freedom is not America's gift to the world; it is the Almighty's gift to every individual in the world. And we've brought freedom to the people of Iraq in a military operation that was one of the swiftest and most humane military operations in history. We rid the world of Saddam Hussein, and we freed millions of people in Iraq. There are no more torture chambers in Iraq. There will be no more mass graves in Iraq. Schools are—the hospitals are now opened. Schools are flourishing. And one thing is for certain: Terrorist groups will no longer find support in Iraq, and terrorist groups will not ever be able to get weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Saddam Hussein is no more.

But I understand this, that in order to make sure America is secure in the long run and the world is more peaceful, we must spread freedom. Free people don't attack their neighbors. Free people don't develop weapons of mass destruction. The truth of the matter is, the greatest security for America in the long term is the spread of liberty. And that's why it's so important in the heart of the Middle East that we establish a free society in Iraq. It is so important that we succeed. And that's why I went to the Nation the other night and asked for a significant amount of money from the United States Congress to fund the efforts necessary to make Iraq secure and free and peaceful. The money we spend today to achieve this incredibly important objective will be money that others don't have to spend in future years. We would rather win our war against terror in Iraq than to fight them here on the streets of America. And we must succeed in making sure that freedom takes hold in that important part of the world.

There is no doubt in my mind America will prevail. See, I understand the country pretty well. I know the people of America. We are resolved, and we are strong, and we're plenty tough when we have to be tough. The truth of the matter is, this is a country as well that's got a great heart, great generosity. Not only are we going to work hard here in Mississippi and other places to make sure promise is available and hope is available for everybody, ours is a nation that is willing to lead the world in the incredibly important work of human rescue. We're going to provide medicine to millions of men and women and children suffering from AIDS on the continent of Africa.

See, that's the spirit of the country. That's the country we are. We believe in freedom for everybody. We believe in hope. We believe in opportunity. And when we see suffering, we will not turn our back.

I believe that when you find somebody good and honorable, you give him a chance to represent you. In this State, you've found a man that's good and honorable. The guy has got the experience to do the job, a fellow that when he picks up the phone, the President might just go ahead and answer it. [Laughter] It's a man who will represent you with class. He'll call upon the best of this State. This is a man who is serving for the right reason: He believes in serving something greater than himself in life. And that man is your next Governor, Mr. Haley Barbour. Thank you for supporting him.

God bless, and God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:33 p.m. at the Mississippi Coliseum. In his remarks, he referred to Marsha Barbour, wife of Haley Barbour, and their sons Sterling and Reeves; Tricia Lott, wife of Sen. Trent Lott; Leisha Pickering, wife of Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering, Jr.; Mississippi State Senator Travis L. Little; former Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery of Mississippi; Judge Charles W. Pickering, Sr., whose nomination to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit failed on March 14, 2002, when the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to send it forward for a vote by the Senate; Mike Retzer, treasurer, Republican National Committee; and former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Haley Barbour in Jackson, Mississippi Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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