George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Mike Fisher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

August 05, 2002

Well, thanks, "Governor"—[laughter]— I'm glad you had me back. I know that your election and Jane's election will be best for the people of Pennsylvania. And I want to thank you all for joining in his effort.

I want to thank the sitting Governor, Mark Schweiker. I, too, want to commend you for your leadership. I appreciate your steady calm and your deep compassion for your fellow citizens during crisis. A lot of people got to see what you're made out of. And as Mike said, a lot of people got to see what the people of Pennsylvania are made out of as a result of that incident. And I thank you, Mark, very much. You did a fine job.

I want to thank the two United States Senators from the great State of Pennsylvania for being here. We've got Arlen Specter. Thank you for coming, Senator Specter. And Rick Santorum, we appreciate Rick Santorum. He's got such a good seat only because he's never on time. But it's good to see you. [Laughter] But both are doing a fine job. And I also appreciate Congresswoman Melissa Hart, from this area, for being here as well. Melissa, where are you? Thank you for coming. I was pleased to meet your mother. I had breakfast with mine today. She's still telling me what to do. [Laughter] And I'm still listening— about half the time. [Laughter]

I appreciate so very much Carol Fisher, the future first lady of the State of Pennsylvania. I want to thank you for standing by your man and getting ready to campaign with him all across this State.

There's nothing like marrying well. [Laughter] I know. I married really well. And Laura sends her best and her love to a lot of our friends here in the State of Pennsylvania. I'm really proud of the job she's doing as the First Lady of the United States. She brings kind of a calm, steady demeanor to a pressure cooker of a life, and I'm a better President because I married so well. And the country is better off to have her as First Lady.

I appreciate very much the next Lieutenant Governor, Jane Earll. It's an honor to meet her husband and her family here. And I want to thank you for your sacrifice, Jane. It shows what kind of Governor Mike's going to be. The fact that he picked Jane shows that he's going to be a inclusive person, somebody who wants to make sure that he represents every single person in the State of Pennsylvania. You made a great pick, Mike, in seeing Jane, and you're going to make a great team when you become elected to Governor and Lieutenant Governor of this State. And Jane, it's great to see you again. Thanks for your service.

I want to thank—I think Tim Murphy is here. There he is. Congressman, good to see you. I appreciate you running, Tim, and I wish you all the best. I look forward to working with you next year. I also look— I want to thank all the leadership of the Republican Party. Christine Toretti, who is my friend, who is the national committeewoman, is here, but—and so are a lot of the grassroots activists.

I know this is what they call a fundraiser, but there's a lot of people here who are going to do a lot more than fund-raise. They're going to go out and put the signs up and organize the rallies and make the phone calls, mail the mailers. And I want to thank you for your efforts, and I want to thank you for the work that you have done and, as importantly, for the work you're going to do to make sure that these two good people get elected.

I like Mike. I like what he's made out of. I like his character. I like the fact that he worked in the steel mills. And I like the fact that he knows how to get votes. See, I thought I ran a pretty good campaign here in the State of Pennsylvania. [Laughter] I didn't particularly care about coming in second, but nevertheless, I worked hard. And he told me the first time I met him, he said, "Well, you ran a pretty good campaign, but I beat you, by about"— [laughter]—"by about 600,000 votes." [Laughter]

Here's a man who knows how to get votes. He's a man who knows how to work with both Republicans and Democrats. He's not afraid of taking his message into neighborhoods that might not be called what we call "Republican" neighborhoods, because, see, his message is bigger than just a party. He's got a great compassion for the people of Pennsylvania, starting with—well, he wants to make sure every child gets educated. See, he understands the most important priority for a Governor is to promote an education system that is the best in the country. That's part of the legacy of Tom Ridge, who, by the way, is doing a fabulous job as the Director of Homeland Security.

Mark understands that, and you're fixing to elect a Governor who shares the same passion. He believes what I believe, that every child in Pennsylvania and in America can learn. See, there must be some in this State and around the country who don't believe that. They've set such low standards and low expectations that the systems just shuffle people through. For the sake of Pennsylvania's future, for the sake of your citizens, you must elect a Governor who believes in the highest of high standards and who is willing to hold people accountable to make sure those standards are achieved for every single child in this State.

Some in this State are willing to accept the status quo, even though the status quo is failing. What Pennsylvania needs is a Governor who has got high hopes and high expectations, a Governor who is willing to insist upon accountability, and then a Governor who is willing to do something about it when he encounters failure. We must not allow the children of Pennsylvania or anywhere else in America be trapped in schools that will not teach and will not change. I firmly believe that Mike Fisher is the right man to make sure that no child is left behind in the State of Pennsylvania.

I also appreciate a man who understands that in order to make sure the public school system works, you've got to teach the children how to read. Kind of like me, he's a first-things-first fellow, a practical person. And I kind of get tired of all the theorists who talk education and forget to teach people how to read. We passed a significant piece of educational reform out of Washington. It says we're going to trust the Governors and local folks to chart the path to excellence when it comes to education. But it also says that we're going to insist upon curriculum that works, particularly when it comes to reading. We've got a Reading First Initiative.

I'm comfortable in saying that this man will implement a good reading program all across the State of Pennsylvania, to make sure your children learn to read. And when they do, they'll learn. They'll learn science, and they'll learn math, and they'll learn self-esteem. Reading is the gateway to freedom. Reading is the new civil right, and you'll have a Governor who understands that in the State of Pennsylvania.

As the attorney general, Mike has had a record of making sure schools are safe. It's hard to learn, it's hard to learn to read, it's hard to learn anything in schools that aren't safe. It's important to have a Governor who's willing to blow the whistle on academic failure, and a Governor who is willing to insist that the classrooms be safe—safe on behalf of the children and safe on behalf of the parents and safe on behalf of the teachers who are trying to impart knowledge. Mike has got a good record. He's got a good, solid record when it comes to enforcing the law, and he's got a good heart when it comes to insisting that every child get educated in the State of Pennsylvania.

I also appreciate his attitude about small business and the entrepreneurial spirit. He knows what I know: The role of Government is not to create wealth but an environment in which people can realize their dreams, in which small businesses can grow to be big businesses, in which the entrepreneurial spirit is strong in the great State of Pennsylvania. He knows that I know that most small—small businesses create more jobs in America than big business; that if you're interested in finding employment for the people of Pennsylvania, you've got to stimulate the growth of small businesses, which means you've got to have good tax policy. If you overtax your small businesses in the State of Pennsylvania, or in the country, for that matter, it's going to mean there's no capital for expansion; there's no extra money for job creation.

Pennsylvania must have a Governor like Mike who knows that the economic environment conducive for the growth of small business is vital for job creation. Mike's got a record—I was impressed by the fact that when he was a State senator, he understood that Pennsylvania workers' compensation laws needed to be more fair and less burdensome on the businesses of the State of Pennsylvania, and by changing the law it not only helped worker; it helped set a tone for the State of Pennsylvania so people felt comfortable about employing people in this State. This man is a job creator, and that's what the State of Pennsylvania needs as its Governor.

As you know, I too am worried about jobs here in America. If anybody wants to work and they can't find a job, we've got a problem, as far as I'm concerned. If somebody is looking for work and work is not available, we need to do something about it by focusing on job creation. Part of that is to make sure there's confidence in the private sector.

I was pleased the other day to sign a bill, a corporate responsibility bill that says, if you're in charge of a business, you have the responsibility to your shareholders and your employees to tell the truth, and if you don't, you will be held accountable. And Mike has done just that as the attorney general of this State. He has got a record, a clear record of enforcing laws and coming down hard on corporate fraud and saying that we expect the highest of high standards throughout all our society, that no one is exempt from the laws of our land.

No, I am confident this man is going to make a fabulous Governor for the State of Pennsylvania. I strongly believe he's going to win, and I appreciate you supporting him.

I also want to talk about the national challenges we face. I believe that—I'm an optimist. I'm an optimist about our economy, and I should be. The fundamentals are strong. Interest rates are low. Monetary policy is sound. I can assure you I will work with Congress to control excessive Federal spending. One reason they give the President the veto power is to make sure the Congress doesn't overspend. Overspending could serve as an anchor on economic vitality and growth.

I've mentioned we signed a corporate fraud bill. I also am the first Governor— President in a long period of time to have what they call trade promotion authority. It means that we're going to open up markets for U.S. products, markets for the products of Pennsylvania farmers, markets of the products of Pennsylvania high-tech companies. A confident nation is a nation willing to trade, and this Nation, as a result of the bill I just got and am signing tomorrow, will be a free trading nation.

No, I've got confidence in the economic vitality of this country, because I've got confidence in the American people. I've got confidence in our workers. Productivity is up. I've got confidence in our entrepreneurs. People are still imagining new ways to bring new products. I've got confidence in our tax policy. See, I come from the school of thought that says, if you let people keep more of their own money, they will demand a good or a service. And if somebody demands a good or a service, somebody will produce the good and service. And when somebody produces the good and service, somebody is going to find work. We passed tax relief at exactly the right time, and Congress needs to make the tax cuts permanent.

The foundation for growth is strong in America. And we'll continue to work to promote ways to foster economic vitality. And one crucial way is, when Congress gets home, gets back from heading out to their districts and their States, they need to pass a terrorism insurance bill so that large construction projects which are now on the books will move forward, so that our construction workers will have work. There are too many construction projects that are put on hold for fear of a—for lack of terrorism insurance. People can't insure their projects, and so they're not moving forward. Congress needs to act, and when they act, they've got to remember, the workers are more important than the trial lawyers in America.

We're making progress on securing the homeland. As I told you, Tom Ridge is doing a fine job. But I took a look at the agencies involved with our homeland security and realized that there's over 100 of them—100 different agencies—over 100 agencies involved with securing the homeland. And they're scattered all over our Nation's Capital. It's awfully hard to hold anybody to account if there's over 100 agencies involved with a single mission. So I sat down with Tom and others in my administration, and we came up with a plan. We decided to create a Department—Cabinetlevel Department of Homeland Security, so I can say to the American people that we have organized ourselves to better protect us from an attack by one of these killers.

And we're making progress on the creation of an office of homeland security. We need an office of homeland security to make sure that the number one priority of our Government is reflected in the agencies, and that is your protection. That's the number one priority right now. And we've got to have an office of homeland security so that we can say to these agency heads, you may have other missions, but your most important mission is to protect the homeland. We've got to have a culture that becomes a part of this new Department that says, protecting the homeland is your most important job.

The House of Representatives passed a good bill. The Senate will take it up when they get home. One of the things you'll hear about the Senate debate is, they're all worried about their turf and special interests and politics. For the sake of the American people, the Senate needs to pass a homeland security bill that provides me with the tools necessary to protect the homeland.

You need to know there's a lot of people working a lot of hours to protect us, a lot of good folks that work in the Federal Government and the State Government and local governments, doing everything they can to chase down every possible lead, every hint that somebody might be fixing to do something to the American people.

And they're out there. The killers are out there. And that's all they are, by the way. They are nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers who hate America because we love freedom. They hate us because we love the values of freedom of religion, freedom to speak, freedom to campaign the way you want to, freedom to assemble. They can't stand that. And so they're going to—they think they're going to hit us again. And we're doing a lot to protect the homeland. We really are. I am grateful for those who spend hours upon hours protecting America. But the best way to protect the homeland is to hunt the killers down one by one and bring them to justice, which is precisely what this country is going to do.

I appreciate the House passing the defense appropriations bill. I appreciate the Senate passing the defense appropriations bill. And I want to thank the Members here for voting for both. Now it's time for them to get together, reconcile the differences between the two appropriations bill for our national defense, and get the bill to my desk in early September. We're at war, and I expect the appropriations bill on my desk—the appropriations bill necessary to fund this war—on my desk as soon as possible. It ought to be the number one priority of the appropriators when they get back from their August recess.

And in that bill you'll see it's the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan. And the reason why is, anytime we send our troops into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, the best equipment possible. And the increase in defense spending sends a message—it sends a message to our friends and allies who are part of our vast coalition. It sends a message to the enemy, we're in this for the long pull. This country isn't going to quit until we secure our freedom. This country is not faint-hearted. We're a determined country. We're strong, and we're united. When it comes to defending our freedoms, we understand the price of freedom is high, but we're willing to pay the price. That's the message we're sending to the enemy and to our friends. And that's an important message to send.

And we're making good progress in the war against terror. We've hauled in over a couple of thousand of them. I say "hauled them in"—that means "arrest" or "incarcerate" or however you want to put it. But those—not only the United States have done this, but so have our friends and allies. And just about the like number haven't been quite as lucky. So we're making good progress.

And this is a different kind of war, though, as you noticed. Sometimes you'll see the progress on your TV screens, and sometimes you won't. Sometimes one of these killers will get plucked off the streets of a foreign nation, and you'll never hear about it. Sometimes it will make big news. But in either case, we're making progress, one by one.

The old war used to be, they'd see these infantry brigades marching across some plain or scurrying through hedgerows. That's not the kind of war we're in. We're in a kind of war now where they've got the commanders, the so-called commanders of the enemy hiding in a cave, telling youngsters to go kill themselves. They send young kids to their suicide in the name of a great religion, and they, themselves, cower—cowards hiding.

But there's no cave deep enough for the United States. There's no cave dark enough for our troops and our friends and allies. In order to secure freedom and defend the American people, we're going to hunt them down, and we owe it to our children to do so. And we also owe it to our children to enforce these doctrines: If you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you close—clothe a terrorist, you're just as guilty as those who killed the people of America on 9/11.

And the doctrine—and this doctrine still pertains: Either you're with the United States and those of us who love freedom, or you're with the enemy. You see, the strategy is pretty clear. We've disrupted the Taliban. And I want the youngsters here and those of you who have got little ones at home to go home and tell your kids that we went to Afghanistan not as conquerors but as liberators. We freed people from the clutches of a barbaric regime. And now, thanks to the United States and our friends and allies, young girls get to go to school for the first time—many of them for the first time in their life. And our friends understand the message.

So the other day I was pleased to see that Gloria Arroyo, the President of the Philippines, went ahead and unleashed her troops and got after Abu Sayyaf, * which is an Al Qaida-type network which had captured some Americans, amongst others. And she hears loud and clear, "Either you're with us, or you're with the enemy."

So the coalition is knitted up, and we're active. We're cutting off their money. We're sharing information. We're fighting the first war of the 21st century. I say "the first war"—there's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland. But I know this: We will not and we must not allow the world's worst leaders to blackmail the United States and our friends and allies with the world's worst weapons.

I'm a patient man—I'm a patient man. We've got a lot of tools at our disposal, diplomatic tools, intelligence tools, military tools. We've got a lot of tools. We've got a lot of friends as well. And I'm going to take our time to make sure we get the policy right, no matter what part of the world we're in. But I understand that freedom has called us into action—I mean, history has called us into action to defend freedom. I understand where we stand now in history. We have an obligation to the future. And this great country will not shirk its obligation.

Out of the evil done to America can come some incredible good, and part of that good is peace. Oh, I know the rhetoric can be tough. I understand all that. But you just need to know that I believe we can achieve peace, and that's my dream. I want there to be peace here in America. I want us to be able to live the life we love and embrace the freedoms that we cherish and not worry about some killer coming to take out their problems on us because we love freedom.

And I believe we can achieve peace by being strong and determined in parts of the world where peace seems to be far away. I believe we can achieve peace in the Middle East. I believe we can achieve peace in South Asia. I believe this great Nation, by being strong and determined and standing on principles and adhering to our universal values, can help the world achieve peace.

And at home, I know that out of the evil done to America can come some great good. Listen, I understand and you know that in the midst of our plenty, there are pockets of despair; there are pockets of addiction. There are children who say, "What is the American Dream? It's not meant for me. What is this American Dream business? I don't belong to that dream." You see, what we must understand is that we've got individuals, too many individuals, whose vision of the country is dimmed by the circumstances. But I believe and I know we can save those children, one heart— or those people, one heart and one soul, one conscience at a time. 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 why I'm such a believer in faith-based programs, charitable programs, all of which exist because somebody has heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

I landed at the Pittsburgh airport today, and I met six college kids from a program called Jumpstart. One went to Penn State, who has already graduated; five are now undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh. These are children who mentor 5year-old kids, so that when they get to elementary school, they've got a chance to learn to read. These are children who understand that you can save America, one person at a time. They understand one person can't do everything, but one person can do something to be a good citizen. So here they are, college kids, and they've got a lot of other things to do, but part of their life as a college student is to love a child, is to make a difference in a child's life.

People say, "What can I do to help?" What you can do is, love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. What you can do is to be a full citizen of the country by helping to serve others. And that's happening all across this country. You just need to know that. Out of the evil done to America can come some incredible good. Our society is becoming a more compassionate society, because there's a lot of people who have taken a step back and said, "What is my life worth? What is it all about?"

One of the reasons I entered politics in the first place in the State of Texas is because I was concerned about a culture which had clearly said, "If it feels good, do it," and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else." My hope was to be a part of a cultural shift which says that we must usher in a era of personal responsibility if we want our country to realize its full potential. I believe it's happening.

I believe the notion of serving something greater than yourself, which is at the core of being a personally responsible citizen, has taken hold in America, probably best defined not far from here, where Flight 93 hit the ground, citizens aboard an aircraft who heard their plane was going to be used as a weapon. They told their loved ones they loved them. They said a prayer. One guy said, "Let's roll." And they served something greater than themselves in life. No, out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good, because this is a nation that is so good and decent and compassionate.

I want to thank you all for coming to help Mike. May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:15 p.m. in Ballroom 2 at the Hilton Pittsburgh. In his remarks, he referred to Virginia Fisher, Mr. Fisher's stepmother; Jack Daneri, husband of candidate for Lieutenant Governor Jane M. Earll; Pennsylvania State Senator Tim Murphy; Christine J. Toretti, national committeewoman and co-finance chair, Pennsylvania Republican Party; and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines.

* White House correction.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Mike Fisher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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