George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Montana Victory 2006 Rally in Billings, Montana

November 02, 2006

The President. Thank you for the warm welcome. It's good to be in a part of the world where the cowboy hats outnumber the ties. And I'm proud to be here in Big Sky country with a fine United States Senator in Conrad Burns.

You might call him a plain-spoken fellow. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, I've heard some of them say that he's a little rough on the English language. [Laughter] Where have I heard that before? [Laughter]

Conrad, I'm keeping good company. We don't need a lot of doublespeak in Washington. I think somebody who speaks plainly for the values of Montana is somebody you need to send back as your United States Senator.

Laura sends her love. See, Conrad and I married above ourselves. [Laughter] I'm really proud to be here with Phyllis Burns. Phyllis, thank you for coming. There's nothing better than having a First Lady that you can be proud of. And I'm really proud of my First Lady, and I know you are as well. She knows Phyllis and Conrad well, and she joins me in saying: For the good of this State and for the good of the United States, send Conrad Burns back to Washington.

I'm proud to be here with Denny Rehberg. He's one of the strong Members of the United States Congress. Given my age and Conrad's age, I guess you could say he's a young star. [Laughter] But I'm proud to be with Denny and Jan. I want to thank the secretary of state, Brad Johnson, who is with us. The former Governor, Judy Martz, is with us. I want to thank all the grassroots activists. Here's what a grassroots activist is: A grassroots activist is somebody who is putting up the signs and making the phone calls and turning out the vote. I want to thank you in advance for what you're going to do in these last days of the campaign: turn out the vote and send this man back to Washington.

And I know you'll join me in sprinting to the finish line. It's interesting what's happening in Washington, however. Some of them are already measuring the drapes for their new offices. [Laughter] See, they think this election is over. They don't understand that the people of Montana haven't voted yet.

Oh, we've been through this before. You might remember 2004. Some of them were picking out their new offices in the West Wing. [Laughter] The movers never got the call. [Laughter] And the same thing is going to happen on November the 7th. We will win the Senate, and we will win the House.

And we're going to win these elections because we understand the values and priorities of the American people. We're going to win this election because our values and our priorities do not shift because of the latest public opinion poll. We're going to win because we've got an optimistic and hopeful agenda.

Let me tell you something about Conrad Burns. I've worked with him closely. He understands that when the ag economy is strong, the national economy benefits. He spends a lot of time talking to me about— saying, "Let's get those foreign markets open for Montana beef." We worked together on a good piece of farm legislation that's helped Montana's farmers and ranchers. If I were a farmer and rancher in this State, I'd want to make sure this man is sent back to the United States Senate.

We got a lot to do. We're going to continue to work to make sure this country is less dependent on foreign oil. So we worked together to pass good energy legislation that supports conservation, expands domestic production, and invests in cutting-edge technologies. You got a lot of coal in this State. It's very important for us to be able to use your coal in environmentally friendly ways. That's why Conrad Burns promotes clean coal technology. And we're also investing to bring alternative sources of fuel like ethanol and biodiesel to the markets quicker. Here's what I want: I want Montana farmers growing crops that fuel our automobiles so I can tell the American people, we're less dependent on oil from parts of the world where people don't like us.

And Senator Conrad Burns understands the importance of having good judges on the Federal bench. We believe that judges ought to strictly interpret the law and not legislate from the bench. Confirming Federal judges is one of the most important responsibilities of the Senate, and it is one of the most important issues at stake in this election.

When the people of Montana cast the ballot on Tuesday, your vote will determine more than who represents you in the Montana—from Montana in the Senate. It will also determine what kind of judges sit on Federal courts all across the United States.

At this moment, there are 50 vacancies on the Federal bench, and it is vital to maintain a Republican Senate so we can confirm the men and women I have nominated to fill those positions. Our record on appointing judges is clear. With the support of Senators like Conrad Burns, we have confirmed good judges, solid thinkers to the district court, to the circuit courts, and to the Supreme Court.

America is better off because John Roberts and Sam Alito are now serving on the Supreme Court of the United States. The people of Montana have got to understand, a vote for a Democrat Senator would be a vote against highly qualified judges like these. All you have to do is look at the record. When the Democrats held the Senate, they denied a hearing to over one-third of my nominees for the Court of Appeals. When they lost the majority in 2002, the Democrats didn't change their tactics. They filibustered or opposed 19 of my nominees to the Court of Appeals.

They tried to use the same tactics when Sam Alito's Supreme Court nomination came before the Senate. More than half of the Senate Democrats voted to filibuster him. And when he finally did get a vote, 40 of the 44 Democrats voted no. If the Democrats had their way, this man would not be sitting on the Supreme Court.

John Roberts had to overcome strong Democrat opposition in the Senate to make it to the Federal bench. More than a decade ago, another President Bush nominated John Roberts to serve on the DC Court of Appeals. A Democrat-controlled Senate denied him even a hearing. When I took office, I renominated him to that seat, and another Democrat chairman of the Senate Judiciary denied him a hearing. I think you're beginning to see the pattern. It was only after the Republicans took the Senate back in 2002 that John Roberts got his hearing and got his vote and was confirmed for the DC Circuit. And then I put him up for the Supreme Court, and we confirmed him as Chief Justice last year.

Now I want you to hear this loud and clear: If the Democrats controlled the Senate, John Roberts would not be the Chief Justice today. He'd still be waiting for the Democrats to give him a hearing for his seat on the Court of Appeals. If the people of Montana want good judges, judges who will not legislate from the bench, judges like John Roberts and Sam Alito, you vote for Conrad Burns for the United States Senate.

Now, there's a lot of big issues facing the voters around the country. The two biggest issues are these: Which party is going to keep your taxes low and keep this economy growing; and which party is going to take the necessary steps to protect you in this war on terror?

First, let me talk about taxes. See, we have a philosophy; Conrad and Denny and I have a philosophy: We believe that you know how to spend your money far better than the Federal Government does. That stands in stark contrast to the Democrats, who want to take more of your own money because they think they can spend it better than you can spend it.

Audience members. Boo!

The President. We believe that when you have more money in your pocket to save, invest, or spend, the economy benefits. The difference between some of them in Washington and those on the stage here is, we don't just talk philosophy; we act. And so we passed the largest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan was the President. We cut taxes for everybody who pays income taxes. We doubled the child tax credit. We reduced the marriage penalty. We cut taxes on small businesses. We cut taxes on capital gains and dividends to encourage investment and jobs. And to reward family farmers and small-business owners for a lifetime of hard work, we put the death tax on the road to extinction.

We got a record to run on. You might remember the debate in Washington. The Democrats predicted the tax cuts would not create jobs; they predicted they would not increase wages; and they said the Federal deficit would explode. Well, the facts are in. The truth is, the tax cuts have led to a growing economy that has added 6.6 million new jobs since August of 2003. The unemployment rate in the great State of Montana is 3.6 percent. Real wages are on the rise, and we cut the deficit in half 3 years ahead of schedule. The tax cuts we passed are working.

The Democrats are going to raise your taxes. They got a record too; they just don't want you to know about it. Interestingly enough, the top Democrat leader in the House made this statement: She said, "We love tax cuts," speaking about the Democrats. Well, given her record, she must be a secret admirer. [Laughter]

She and her party voted against reducing the marriage penalty. They voted against cutting taxes on small businesses. They voted against lowering taxes for families with children. They voted against reducing capital gains and income—dividends, taxes on dividends and capital gains. They voted against getting rid of the death tax. They voted against every single tax cut. Time and time again, when the Democrats in Washington had a opportunity to show their love for tax cuts, they voted no. If that's their idea of love, I sure would hate to see what hate looks like.

Those House Democrats have got a lot of company in the Senate too. We cut taxes in 2003; 46 of 48 Democrats voted against it. During the debate over tax cuts, one senior Democrat in the Senate called our policies insulting. See, there's a mindset; when you get in that box, I want you to remember, there's a mindset amongst the Democrats: It's insulting for you to have more of your own money. And others said the tax cuts were the wrong prescription for our economy.

When people in Montana get in that voting booth, you remember what those tax cuts have done for our economy. If they take control of the Senate and the Congress, they don't have to lift a finger to raise your taxes. See, these tax cuts are set to expire. And their leaders have said they're going to let it expire. And if those tax cuts expire, it means your taxes are going up.

Let me give you an example. If the child tax credit were to go from $1,000 to $500 per child—which is what would happen if these tax cuts were not extended or made permanent—those of you with children get to pay $500-a-child tax increases. So when you get home this evening, I want you to think about the Democrat plan for you. You can go around the table and count the number of children that are eating dinner, and you can multiple that by $500 a child. So if you've got four children and it's 500 a child—the Democrats win, you're paying $2,000 more in taxes. That may not seem like a lot to the Democrats in Washington, DC, but Conrad and I know it's a lot, and that's why we're going to keep your taxes low.

I want you to not fall prey to one other trick the Democrats like to say. They like to say, "Oh, we're just going to tax the rich; we'll only tax people who make a lot of money." That's not how it works in Washington. Their spending appetite exceeds their capacity to raise taxes. You might remember 1992; they went around the country saying, "Vote for us; we'll give the middle class a tax cut." Well, that middle class tax cut turned out to be one of the largest tax increases in the history of the United States. When it comes to taxes, the Democrats are going to tax whoever they can find, and we're not going to let them because we're going to put Conrad Burns back in the United States Senate.

This election is taking place in an historic time for this country. When our children and grandchildren look back on this period, one question will overwhelm all the rest: Did we do everything in our power to fight and win the war on terror? I wish I could report to you that there wasn't a war, but there is. There's still an enemy that like— would like to strike the United States. These people are brutal. They have no conscience. They do have an ideology. They believe exactly the opposite of what we believe. We believe in basic freedoms: freedom to worship; freedom to dissent; freedom to speak. They do not believe in those freedoms.

And yet they have a plan that says they're going to extend their vision as far as they can extend it. It's called a caliphate. You cannot negotiate with these people. You cannot hope for the best in dealing with these people. The best way to protect the American people is to find them and bring them to justice before they hurt us again.

So our strategy is twofold. We're on the offense overseas, and we're doing everything we can to protect you here at home. And it's a tough task because the enemy only has to be right one time, and we have got to be right 100 percent of the time to do our most important job, which is to protect the American people.

And so that is why, after the enemy hit us, I worked to figure out ways to give the professionals on the frontline of protecting you the tools necessary to do so. There was a wall that prevented our intelligence folks from sharing information with law enforcement. In this different kind of war, we need to have the best kind of intelligence so we can protect you. We need to know what the enemy is thinking so that we can do everything we can to stop attacks.

We designed a piece of legislation that protects our citizens and protects our civil liberties. It was called the PATRIOT Act. And this act—[applause]—and this vital law has helped break up terror cells across the United States. It's an important piece of legislation. If you expect the President and the professionals in Washington to do our jobs and protect you, you must put people in the Congress who will make sure we have the tools to do so.

When it comes to this piece of legislation, the Senate Democrats wanted to have it both ways. In the 2000—2001, the Senate passed this bill 98 to 1. But when the bill came up for renewal in 2005, the Senate Democrats filibustered it. In fact, the Senate leader bragged, "We killed the PATRIOT Act." There's just a different mindset in Washington amongst these people.

The Democrat attempt to filibuster the PATRIOT Act follows an approach that might sound familiar. They voted for it, right before they voted against it. [Laughter] Well, thanks to Senators like Conrad Burns, we overcame their filibuster. And I signed this important piece of legislation.

I want to talk about two other measures, two other steps I've taken to make sure that this Government of ours can protect you. If Al Qaida is making a phone call into the United States, or an affiliate of Al Qaida is making a phone call into the United States, we want to know why. We want to know why they're making a call into our country. So when we created— I sent this bill up to the House, Denny supported it; 90 percent of the Democrats voted against it. It hasn't made it to the Senate floor yet, but rest assured, the folks there have a different attitude about what it takes to protect you. I felt it was important in this different kind of war to understand what the enemy is thinking.

And so when we captured people off the battlefield, I instructed the professionals at the Central Intelligence Agency to interrogate them. We picked up a man named Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—let me tell you about him. Our intelligence folks thinks he was the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks. He's the person that organized and ordered the attacks. When we picked him up, I felt it was important, in order to protect you, that we found out what he knew. See, if he was the mastermind of one attack, he might be masterminding another attack, and therefore it made sense—if our most important job is to protect you—to find out what he knew.

This bill came on the Senate floor. Conrad Burns strongly supported. Seventy percent of the Senate Democrats voted against it.

Audience members. Boo!

The President. On all these vital measures—measures necessary to fight and win the war on terror—the Democrats in Washington have followed a simple philosophy: Just say no. When it comes to listening on to the terrorist—listening to the terrorists, what's the Democrats' answer? Just say no. When it comes to detaining terrorists, what's the Democrats' answer?

Audience members. Just say no!

The President. When it came time to renew the PATRIOT Act, what was the Democrats' answer?

Audience members. Just say no!

The President. When it comes time to questioning the terrorists, what's the Democrats' answer?

Audience members. Just say no!

The President. And so when the Democrats ask for your vote on November the 7th, what's your answer?

Audience members. Noo!

The President. We are on the offense against the enemy wherever we can find them. One of the important lessons of September the 11th, in this new kind of war, America must take threats seriously before they come to the homeland. It's important for the people of this State to understand that lesson. In other words, when we see a threat, we just can no longer hope that oceans will protect us. We can no longer hope for the best—that in order to protect you, we must be on the offense. I saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. Members of both political parties saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. The United Nations saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. I made the right decision to take Saddam Hussein from power.

And now Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. See, this is a global war. It is being fought on a variety of fronts. And Iraq is now the central front in this war. Oh, I hear them in Washington all the time saying, Iraq is just a distraction from the war on terror. I don't believe it's a distraction. Our troops know it is not a distraction in the war on terror. And guess who else doesn't think it's a distraction? Usama bin Laden. He has called Iraq the third world war. He says that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's defeat and disgrace forever.

I want you to listen to the words of a Democrat leader in Washington about Iraq, just to give you a sense of the difference of opinion, a different mindset: "The President says that fighting them makes—fighting them there makes it less likely we'll have to fight them there." That's exactly what I said. I said it then; I'm going to keep saying it because it's true. "The opposite is true," this lady went on to say, "Because we're fighting them there, it may be more likely that we will have to fight them here." I want to remind the Democrats that you do not create terrorism by fighting terrorists.

Our troops were not in Iraq when the terrorists first hit the Trade Center in 1993. Our troops were not in Iraq when they attacked in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole. And our troops were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001, when they killed nearly 3,000 people. The best way to protect you is when we find a terrorist, is to bring them to justice. And that's exactly what we're going to continue to do.

We have a plan for victory in Iraq. I'm not going to leave our troops there unless I can tell you we're going to win. And our plan for victory is an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself and serve as an ally in the war on terror. And no question about it, the fighting in Iraq is tough. It's tough because we face a brutal enemy that is willing to kill innocent men, women, and children in order to achieve their objective. And their objective is to shake the will of the United States. Their objective is to get enough carnage on the TV screens so that we withdraw before the job is done. I've got a message to the terrorists: America does not flee in the face of thugs and assassins.

Our military is constantly adjusting to tactics necessary to stay ahead of the enemy. When the enemy makes a decision, we move. And our troops are performing brilliantly in combat. No matter what your opinion is about my decision to go into Iraq, America needs to support the men and women who wear our uniform. And I know the people of Montana can count on Conrad Burns to make sure our troops have all that is necessary to do the jobs I've asked them to do.

Our troops are brave, and so are the Iraqis. They've been suffering unspeakable violence, yet they are dedicated to having a government of and by and for the people. It's easy to forget, but nearly 12 million people went to the polls to defy car bombers and assassins and said, "We want to live in a free society." I was pleasantly pleased, but I wasn't surprised, because I believe freedom is universal. I believe there's an Almighty, and I believe in the heart of every soul is the desire to be free.

So we'll help this Government politically; we'll help them economically; and we'll help train their security forces so they can take the fight to the enemy. And we'll succeed. The only way we can fail is if we leave before the job is done. And that's exactly what the Democrats want to do.

You know, imagine this: We're in the middle of a war on terror, and one of the most fundamental fights is in Iraq, and yet the Democrats have no plan for victory. They have no idea how to win. Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory. [Laughter] Leading Democrats argue we ought to pull our troops off the battlefield right now. Others suggest we ought to withdraw at a—on a specific date, even though the job may not have been finished. Others recommend moving our troops to an island some 5,000 miles away. These are serious leaders making these kinds of suggestions.

Nineteen House Democrats introduced legislation that would cut off funds for our troops in Iraq. Last week, one of Conrad's colleagues, a Democrat Senator, explained her party's positions this way: "We haven't coalesced around a single plan, but we're in general agreement on the basic principles." She's right; they're in agreement that we ought to leave Iraq before the job is done. I'm not saying these people are unpatriotic; I'm saying they're wrong. You can't win a war unless you're willing to fight the war.

Retreat from Iraq before the job is done would embolden the enemy. It would make this country more vulnerable to attacks. This is a different kind of war. In this war, if we leave early, if we leave before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, it would enable these extremists and radicals to be able to recruit. If we leave before the job is done, it would embolden the extremists and it would dishonor the sacrifice of the men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States of America.

The consequences of retreat from Iraq would be felt for generations. The enemy has said that they want to drive us out of Iraq because they want to establish safe haven, because they believe they can topple moderate governments. I want you to envision a world in which extremists battle for power, in which moderate governments have been toppled, in which these radicals are then capable of using oil to extract blackmail from the West.

Couple all that with a country with a nuclear weapon that can't stand America, and a generation of Americans will say, "What happened in 2006? How come the leaders couldn't see the impending dangers? Where were they when the warning signs were evident?" I want you to understand, I see the impending danger. That is why we will support our troops; that is why we will fight the enemy; and that's why we will win in Iraq.

Victory in Iraq will be a blow to the terrorists and the extremists and the radicals. Victory will say to those in the Middle East who long for peace, you've got a friend in America. Victory will make Iraq an ally in the war on terror. Victory will say to young democracies, we're willing to stand with you. You see, we not only got great assets in our military; we got a fantastic asset in the power of liberty.

I want to share a story with you before we—before I unleash you to go turn out the vote. [Laughter] It's a story of my recent trip to Elvis's place. You might have heard about that. I went down there with then-sitting Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan.

People said, "Well, why did you go to Elvis's place?" Well, one, I had never been down there. And Laura was kind of— [laughter]—pushing me. She said, it's about time we took a family vacation. [Laughter] Secondly, Prime Minister Koizumi wanted to go to Elvis's place. He's a big believer in—he loved Elvis, in other words.

But I also wanted to tell a story, and it's a story that many of you share here, too, because you had a relative, just like I did, that fought the Japanese. World War II came about; the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor. In Pearl Harbor, we lost fewer people than we did at the World Trade Center and in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. But it was an attack on the homeland. Thousands of young Americans volunteered, just like happening today, by the way.

One of those volunteers was George H.W. Bush, Navy fighter pilot. And he, like a lot of other youngsters, fought hard against the Japanese. Thousands and thousands died. It was a bloody war. I find it very interesting that on the plane down to Elvis's place, I was talking about keeping the peace with the Prime Minister of the former enemy. Something happened between my dad's being in the Navy and your relatives being in the military fighting the Japanese, and in 2006, the President of the United States talking about the peace.

See, we're talking about the fact that Japan had 1,000 troops in Iraq. Prime Minister Koizumi understands what I know: In this ideological struggle of moderation versus extremism, when you find a young democracy, you support that democracy. We talked about working to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa, understanding, to whom much is given, much is required. We were talking about the North Korean and how we must work together to convince him to give up his nuclear weapons.

Something happened between World War II and talking about the peace: Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy. The lesson of history is, liberty has got the capacity to convert an enemy into an ally. Liberty has got the capacity to turn regions of despair into regions of hope. Freedom is universal. People desire to be free, and the more people that become free, the more likely it is our children will live in peace.

Someday duly elected leaders from the Middle East will be talking about keeping the peace with an American President, and generations of Americans will be better off for it. And that's why I say these are historic times. In the election—the differences of opinion in this election are clear. If you want your taxes to go up, just go ahead and vote Democrat. If you want your taxes to stay low so this economy continue to grow and create opportunity, elect Conrad Burns to the United States Senate. If you want this country to do everything in its power to protect the American people, to stay on the offense against an enemy, and at the same time, create the conditions for lasting peace, you vote for Conrad Burns for the United States Senate. And while you're in there, make sure Denny goes back to Washington too.

So my call for our fellow citizens is to leave the hall, find our fellow Republicans, and tell them we have a duty to vote; find discerning Democrats, and remind them about the stakes; find discerning independents, and tell them what's at stake in this election. Work hard between now and election day. Turn out the vote, and Conrad Burns will be reelected for the United States Senate.

God Bless.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:27 a.m. at the MetraPark Arena. In his remarks, he referred to Janice Rehberg, wife of Rep. Rehberg; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization; and Chairman Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Montana Victory 2006 Rally in Billings, Montana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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