Remarks at a Reception for Congressional Candidates Peter Roskam and David McSweeney and the Illinois Congressional Victory Committee in Chicago, Illinois
The President. Thank you very much. Thanks for coming. I'm proud you're here. Before I liberate the Speaker, so he doesn't have to stand up here for this long speech—[laughter]—I want to say this to you: I am proud to be standing with the current Speaker of the House who is going to be the future Speaker of the House.
Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment. You know, he's not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air. He just gets the job done. I have worked with him up close. I know what it's like to work with a Speaker who is determined to protect the United States of America, and a Speaker who wants to make sure that everybody who wants a job in America can find one. He has delivered results for the people. This country is better off with Denny Hastert as the Speaker, and it will be better off when he's the Speaker, the next legislative session.
The Speaker has heard me give a lot of talks, so he wants to make sure if there's a chair nearby—[laughter]—but I want to thank you all for coming. Your support means a lot.
Audience member. We will win.
The President. Yes, sir. I am also proud to be with two fine candidates, Peter Roskam, David McSweeney. And I want to thank you for helping them. I have a sense of what it's like to run for office. [Laughter] I've done it before, and I know how important it is for two candidates who are out, day in and day out, campaigning to be able to look at an audience this size and realize they're getting fine support. Your support means a lot not only to their campaigns, in the sense that you're helping to fill the hat, but it means a lot to their spirits to realize there's a lot of people pulling for them.
And there's nobody better to pull for a candidate than his family—in this case, Peter's family, Elizabeth and his children, and in David's case, his wife, Margaret. And it's been my honor to be able to see both those families, and I want to thank the families for supporting these good men for running for office as well.
Speaking about wives—[laughter]—I was—I happened to have my picture taken a while ago with a group of citizens that came through, and one fellow—I guess I would define him as blunt—said, "You know, I was hoping to have my picture taken with Laura." [Laughter] I said, "It's not hurting my feelings, man. You got good taste." [Laughter] She sends her best to the Speaker and to the candidates; she sends her best to you all. I am a lucky man to have Laura Bush as my wife. And our country—in my nonobjective opinion— is lucky to have her as the First Lady.
I wish Kevin White all the very best in his run for the Fifth Congressional Delegation. Thanks for coming, Kevin; give Geraldine a hug for me.
Audience member. Right in front of you; right here. [Laughter]
Audience member. I'll do it for you.
The President. Yes, thank you. [Laughter]
Audience member. Give her a hug for me. [Laughter]
Audience member. Okay.
The President. That's your responsibility. [Laughter]
I am proud to be here with Congressman Don Manzullo from the great State of Illinois. My thanks to State Representative Tom Cross, who is the minority leader of the Illinois House. I want to thank all the State and local officials who've joined us. But most of all, thank you all for being here.
I thank my friend Pat Ryan. It's not easy to raise this much money, and I know how much organization it takes, and therefore, it takes a strong leader up top, and that's exactly what Pat Ryan is. He's a strong leader and a great American, and I'm proud to be with you, Pat.
I want to thank my friend Andy McKenna, who is the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. The reason I mention grass-roots activists is that you win campaigns by having candidates who can carry a strong message, and we have those candidates. You win a campaign because people are generous with their hard-earned money, and you have been so tonight. And you win campaigns when people get out and put up the signs and make the phone calls, go to the community centers and houses of worship and say, "Support these candidates." So I want to thank you for what you have done, and I encourage you to continue to work to turn out the vote come this November.
We've got a lot to do to make sure this country is prosperous and safe. I'm looking forward to working with these two new Congressmen as we work to diversify our energy supply. I'm going to tell you why we need to. I'm a little concerned at the price—the drop in gasoline prices, which I welcome, and I know you do too. [Laughter] However, masks the fact that it is not in our national interest to be dependent on foreign sources of oil. And so I look forward to working with these Congressmen to promote alternative energy sources, such as ethanol, and new research and development into new battery technologies that will enable you to drive the first 40 miles on electricity, and your car won't have to look like a golf cart. [Laughter]
We've got an aggressive agenda to diversify our energy sources so that we're not dependent on Middle Eastern oil. It's in our national security interests.
I'm looking forward to working with these Members to make sure health care is available and affordable. We don't need the Federal Government telling doctors how to practice and telling patients who they got to go see. But we do need the Federal Government to do something about these junk and frivolous lawsuits that are running good doctors out of practice.
A big issue always facing the Congress is how to make sure that the entrepreneurial spirit remains strong in the United States. And we got a strong record. This administration has got a strong record on the economy, and so does Speaker Denny Hastert.
You might remember the facts. This country has been through a recession, a stock market correction. We've been through a terrorist attack on our Nation. We've been at war to defend this country. We've had major hurricanes. For a while, we had high energy prices. And yet America is the envy of the industrialized world when it comes to economic growth.
Our national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent. People are working; we've added 6.6 million new jobs since August of 2003. Our farm economy is strong. Productivity is up. Small businesses are on the rise. This economy is in good shape, and we need to keep Denny Hastert and the Republicans in charge of the United States Congress to keep it that way.
And we're in good shape because we cut the taxes on everybody who paid income taxes. We have a philosophy of government that says, if you have more of your own money in your pocket to save, spend, or invest, this economy will do well. That stands in stark contrast to our opponents, who believe that they can spend your money better than you can spend your money. And so we cut the taxes, not once, but twice. We cut the taxes on families with children; we cut the taxes on people who were married; we put the death tax on the road to extinction; we cut the taxes on small-business people. As a result of good fiscal policy in Washington, DC, this economy is strong. And the best way to keep it there is to make the tax cuts we passed permanent.
That's the opposite view of the Democrats. You might remember the debate about the deficit—they go around the country saying, "Well, we got to solve the deficit, and we need to raise taxes." That's not the way Washington works. If they were to get in charge of the House of Representatives, they would raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend your money. The best way to balance this budget—by the way, a couple of years ago, I stood up and said, we can cut the deficit in half by 2009. It's amazing what happens when you cut taxes; the economy grows; you end up with more tax revenues. When you couple that with fiscal discipline in Washington, DC, which we have exhibited, the deficit gets cut. As a matter of fact, we cut the deficit in half not by 2009, but by 3 years prior to that.
The best way to keep this economy growing, the best way to make sure we've got a fiscal situation that makes sure the economic growth continues is to keep taxes low and prioritize how we spend your money. And the number-one priority has got to be to protect America and make sure those who wear the uniform have all the support they need to do their job.
Our record on taxes is clear. The Democrats in Washington have a clear record of their own. The trouble is, they don't want you to know about it. Recently the top Democrat leader in the House made an interesting declaration. Here's what she said: "We love tax cuts." Given her record, she must be a secret admirer. [Laughter]
It's not just the so-called tax cuts for the rich she opposes, when we cut taxes for everybody who pays income taxes, she voted against it. When we reduced the marriage penalty, she voted against it. When we cut taxes on small businesses, she voted against it. When we lowered the taxes for families with children, she voted against it. When we cut the taxes on dividends and capital gains to stimulate investment, she voted against it. When we put the death tax on the road to extinction, she voted against it. Time and again, when she had an opportunity to show her love for tax cuts, she voted, no. If this is the Democrats' idea of love—[laughter]—I don't want to see what hate looks like. [Laughter]
A big issue in this campaign across the United States and here in Illinois with these two Congressmen is, who is going to keep your taxes low? When we win, we will keep your taxes low. And make no mistake about it, the Democrats will raise your taxes. It's a fundamental difference in this campaign. And I'm looking forward to leading us to victory to make sure the taxes on the people of the United States remain low and reasonable.
No, there's a lot of big domestic issues— and I'm sure our candidates are out there telling people what's on their mind—but the biggest issue facing this country is, who best to protect you? We are a nation at war. You know, I wish I didn't have to say that. I wish I could say everything is fine, but that's not the reality of the world in which we live. The most fundamental job of those of us in government is to protect you and to do everything in our power to protect the American people.
There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans because they cannot stand—they can't stand our values and what we believe. They don't believe in the freedoms that we believe in. They're bound by an ideology, and they're willing to use murder as a tool to achieve that ideology. It's a different kind of war, but it's real, as we learned on that fateful day of September the 11th, 2001.
On that day, I vowed that I would use all of my powers and national assets to protect the American people, and so did the Speaker. These are folks you can't negotiate with. These are ideologues who have stated clearly, their objective is to drive the United States out of the Middle East so they can establish a caliphate based upon their ideology of hate. They have made their plans clear, and it's essential that the President and the United States Congress listen carefully to the words of the enemy.
My view is, is that the best way to defeat this enemy is to stay on the offense and defeat them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. And so we're keeping steady pressure on a group of people who would want to do America harm. It's hard to plan and plot when you're on the run. It's hard to plan and plot when you're in a cave. You just got to know, there's some incredibly brave Americans, working with allies, that are keeping the pressure on this enemy to keep you safe.
One of the terrible lessons of September the 11th is that oceans can no longer protect us, and therefore, it is essential that the United States treat threats seriously before they come home to hurt us, before they fully materialize. I saw a threat. Members of both parties in the United States Congress saw a threat. The United Nations saw a threat in Iraq. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and the world is better off for it.
Iraq is a central front in this war on terror. Oh, I know the Democrats say it's a diversion from the war on terror; some of them say that. But I would ask them to listen to the words of Usama bin Laden or Zawahiri, who is the number two of Al Qaida, who have said clearly, their ambitions are to drive us out of Iraq so they can establish a safe haven from which to launch further attacks; to drive us out of Iraq so they can have resources to use to fund their ambitions; to drive us out of Iraq so they can topple moderate governments.
Imagine a world in which there are violent forms of extremists who've crushed the hopes of moderate, decent people because they have this ideology that is so foreign to us. Imagine a world in which they could use oil to blackmail the free world. Imagine that world, as well, with a group of people that don't care for America, with a nuclear weapon. If that were to happen, a generation of Americans would look and say: "What happened? What happened to the leaders? How come they couldn't see the threat?"
I see the threat. The Speaker sees the threat. We've got a plan for victory in this war on terror, and that includes helping those 12 million people who are desperate for freedom to achieve their dreams of democracy. We've got a goal, a clear goal, which is an Iraq that can defend itself and sustain itself, an Iraq that will be an ally in the war on terror.
We're constantly changing our tactics to meet those of the enemy. We're constantly adjusting. But make no mistake about it, our plan is victory. We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq, and we will win in Iraq for the security of the United States.
We have to be right 100 percent of the time to protect the country. The enemy has to be right one time. And therefore, it is incumbent upon those of us in government to make sure the professionals on the frontlines of protecting America have all the tools necessary to protect you. The Speaker understands that. These candidates running for office understand that.
And that is why I worked with the Congress to pass what's called the PATRIOT Act. It was an act that tore down walls that prevented the intelligence community and the criminal justice community from talking. I know that probably sounds strange that that happened, but it's the reality. You can't defend America unless all elements of government are capable of sharing information so that we can prevent the attack from happening in the first place. I also believed it was essential—and by the way, the Speaker led the charge in making sure the House passed the PATRIOT Act the first time and then reauthorized it.
Secondly, I believe strongly that if an Al Qaida or Al Qaida affiliate was making a phone call into the United States from outside the country, we need to know why. If the most important job of government is to protect you, we need to understand what the enemy is thinking and what they're planning. I thank the Congress for getting the House of Representatives to endorse the terrorist surveillance program. I thought it was very important that when we captured a leader of the enemy on the battlefield that we detain and question that enemy. I thought it was essential to protect you, that we gain information from the leadership of those who would do us harm.
One of the people we captured was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who our intelligence officers believe was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. I thought it was important for this country to gain information from this mastermind in order to be able to say we're doing everything we can to protect you. And we learned a lot of information from those who we have captured, information that our intelligence service believes strongly has prevented attacks on the homeland. And yet we've had a debate on this issue, and the Speaker of the House led the House of Representatives to endorse this vision.
In other words, we've been giving people the tools necessary to protect the homeland, and our Democrat colleagues back in Washington have taken a very different approach to the war on terror. There is a difference of opinion. I'm not questioning anybody's patriotism or love for America, but I am questioning their view of how best to protect you. And this is an issue in this campaign. If the security of the United States is the most important issue, then part of this issue is which party has been willing to step up and give those charged with protecting you the tools necessary to do so.
In each vote, a clear pattern has emerged on which party can best protect the American people. More than 75 percent of the House Democrats voted to block the renewal of the PATRIOT Act. Almost 80 percent of the House Democrats voted against allowing the CIA to continue the interrogation program. Almost 90 percent of the House Democrats voted against continuing to monitor terrorist communications through the terrorist surveillance program. Rarely has a single series of votes summed up the difference between the two political parties so clearly. If the Democrats' Congress had their way, we wouldn't have had the PATRIOT Act or the interrogation program or the terrorist surveillance program. They can run from this record, but we're not going to let them hide.
You know, I was—recently read where the Democrat leader said this. She said, "The midterm elections should not be about national security." I strongly disagree. I want those discerning Democrats and independents and Republicans to hear loud and clear that the person who wants to be Speaker of the House has said that the midterm elections shouldn't be about national security.
I know this election ought to be about national security. I'm briefed every day on the threats this country faces. The United States of America cannot afford to wait and respond to an attack. The United States of America must be on the offense to make sure the attacks don't happen in the first place.
We've got one great asset at our disposal as well, and it's called liberty. I believe in the universality of liberty. I believe there is an Almighty, and I believe one of the great gifts of that Almighty is the desire for people to be free. I believe that. I believe that Muslim moms want to be free. I believe that people all across the globe have this great desire and yearning to live in freedom. And I believe that freedom will help us yield the peace we want for our children and grandchildren.
The way to defeat—the way I like to put it is, we're in an ideological struggle. It's a struggle between extremists, radicals, and reasonable people who simply want to have a better life. And I believe it's incumbent upon the United States of America to stand with those who are reasonable and moderate against the extremists and radicals.
I believe it's our call to do so, and I have great faith in the power of liberty to transform regions of hate to regions of hope and to transform enemies to allies. And the reason I say that to you, I've had some amazing experience as your President, and perhaps one of the most unusual is my relationship with the Prime Minister of Japan. I must have told this story hundreds of times because it is so ironic that my relationship is so close, and yet my dad, when he was a young man, volunteered to fight the Japanese as a sworn enemy.
You know, recently I invited my friend, the former Prime Minister—he just left office—to go to Elvis's place. [Laughter] I'd never been there. [Laughter] He wanted to go there. See, he's an Elvis fan. But I also wanted to tell a story to the American people about ideological struggles and the faith we should have in liberty—because on Air Force One, going down to Memphis, Tennessee, the Prime Minister and I talked about keeping the peace. Isn't that interesting? My dad fought the enemy, fought the Japanese as the enemy, and now his son is talking about the peace.
We're talking about North Korea and how it's important for there to be more than one voice at the table when it comes to convincing the leader of North Korea. By the way, it's much better to have China at the table with the United States. It's much better to have Japan and South Korea—[applause].
We talked about the fact that Japan had deployed 1,000 troops in Iraq, because he understands what I know, the advent of democracy is a huge defeat to the extremists. That's why they're fighting so hard. That's why this is such a brutal battle. And I understand it affects the American people, because the enemy has got a weapon, and they use it, and that's the murder of innocent people. And it gets on our TV screens, and we're a nation of compassionate, decent people who care about human life in all its forms. And yet Prime Minister Koizumi knows what I know, that we will succeed as liberty progresses, and we will succeed by helping people who yearn for a better life, and we will succeed by marginalizing those extremists and radicals and, if need be, bring them to justice before they hurt us again.
Something happened between World War II and when I became the President, talking with this Japanese Prime Minister. And what happened was, Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy. Liberty has got the capacity to transform an enemy into an ally. And someday, an American President will be sitting down with elected leaders in the Middle East talking about how to keep the peace, and a generation of Americans will be better off for it.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. at the Hilton Chicago. In his remarks, he referred to Patrick G. Ryan, executive chairman and founder, Aon Corp.; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist organization; former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan; and Chairman Kim Jong Il of North Korea.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Reception for Congressional Candidates Peter Roskam and David McSweeney and the Illinois Congressional Victory Committee in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269801