Remarks at a Reception for Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Green in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Thanks for coming. Thanks for the introduction. Thanks for supporting the next Governor of Wisconsin, Mark Green.
I know a little something about what it means to be a Governor and a chief executive officer of government. Here is what you need: You need somebody who knows how to set an agenda; you need somebody who knows how to achieve the agenda; you need somebody who can get results without worrying about public opinion polls; you need somebody who stands on principle; you need somebody who shoots straight with the people. And that person is Mark Green.
There is no doubt in my mind he will be a great Governor for Wisconsin. I got to know him; this isn't the first time I've been with him before. I've seen him in action in Washington, DC. He is a highly respected Member of the United States Congress. People trust his word. When he says something, he means it. He is a positive influence in Washington, DC. He can bring people together, which is what you need in this State. He is an honorable, decent man, and I am proud to stand with him as he runs for Governor. I want to thank you all for supporting him.
I know something about running; you cannot win unless your friends step up. And tonight you have stepped up. And I know Mark is grateful, and so am I, for coming tonight. So, thanks for being here.
You can't run for Governor unless you have a wife who loves you and a family standing with you. And the Green family is a fine, fine family. I want to thank Sue for being here and Rachel and Anna and Alex.
I was also proud to have met Jeremy and Elizabeth Green, the mom and dad. The mom kind of reminded me of my mom—[laughter]—constantly reminding Mark, you know, what to do, how to say it. [Laughter] I said, "Are you listening to her?" He said, "Yes, all the time." I said, "Then you're going to win." Thank you all for being here.
And by the way, Laura sends her love to the Greens. If you really need help coming down the stretch, I suggest you invite Laura to come here to Wisconsin. She'll help you win. She's a great First Lady.
We're having the time of our lives, by the way, and it really helps to—well, I have a 45-second commute. [Laughter] And it helps to commute to a home where there's somebody you respect and love there. And she sends her best. She knows what I know, that you can't win in politics alone. And so for those who have given money, thanks. And for those of you who are kind of warming up for the campaign, thanks in advance for what you're going to do, which is to put up the signs, knock on the doors, get on the telephones; go to your churches, community centers, your synagogues, your houses of worship and say, you've got a good, decent man in Mark Green who can lead this State.
So thanks for being here. It means a lot to Mark, and it means a lot to me. I'm traveling over from Washington, by the way, with another fine public servant from Wisconsin, and that's Congressman Paul Ryan.
By the way, we're working on an important piece of legislation in Washington. That is to give the President the opportunity to kind of take some of these special interest spending out of these spending bills. We call it the line-item veto. It's one way to bring some fiscal sanity to Washington, DC. It's one way to make sure that people don't play politics with your money. Interestingly enough, the bill passed the United States House of Representatives, and the bill sponsor was this fine Member from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. I want to thank you for your leadership.
Green's leaving the House, and he's going to be succeeded by speaker John Gard. And I want to thank you for running, and I wish you all the very best in your run for the United States Congress, Mr. Speaker. You'll make a fine Member of the House of Representatives.
I want to thank all the local officials who are here in the statehouse. By the way, if you're a member of the statehouse, a senator or representative, you're fixing to have a sea change when Mark wins the governorship. You're going to find somebody that's going to be a joy to work with, somebody who will make an agenda, a clear agenda, somebody who is making decisions based upon sound principles. So I look forward on your behalf to get yourself a new Governor for the State of Wisconsin.
I want to thank the grassroots leaders who are here. First of all, Margaret Farrow is here, former Lieutenant Governor. Margaret, thank you for coming. I appreciate you being here. Good to see you again. I've spent some quality time here in the State of Wisconsin. Some of my most fond memories campaigning in 2000 and 2004 were in this State. And I had the honor of getting to know Margaret. So it's great to see you. Thanks for coming. Thanks for helping the next Governor. He needs your help.
I want the thank Rick Graber, who is the chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. He is a good friend of mine and a good man. I want to thank Mary Buestrin, and I want to thank Klauser, Jim Klauser and thank all the grassroots activists again for coming.
These are historic times in which we live. And I'm glad to have had Congressman Green in Washington, DC, during a time where the President has had to make some tough decisions and the country has been through some tough times. We are a nation at war. I wish I could report differently. But you need to have a President and you need to have leaders who see the world the way it is, not the way we would hope it would be. And my biggest job, and the biggest job of people in Washington, DC, is to protect the American people from further attack. And the way to do that is to stay on the offense, to give the enemy no quarter, and to bring them to justice before they hurt us again, and that's precisely what this administration will continue to do.
Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It's the central front in the war on terror, and the reason it's a central front is because the enemy that attacked us has made it clear they would like to have a safe haven from which to attack us again. I didn't make this up. I'm just telling you what the enemy has said. In order to make sure this country is secure, you better have a Commander in Chief who listens carefully to what the enemy says and takes them seriously, which I do.
By the way, just so you know, when you're the Chief Executive Officer, you make a lot of decisions. And 9/11 affected my decisionmaking a lot. I vowed that the country would do everything—we would do everything to protect the country. I meant what I said. Iraq is part of protecting the country—not to revisit a lot of history.
But one of the lessons of September the 11th is when this Nation sees a threat, it must take these threats seriously before they fully materialize. That's a lesson we must learn and we must not forget. And we saw a threat; Republicans and Democrats saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. After all, he had attacked his neighbors. He had used weapons of mass destruction. At the very least, he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. He had terrorist connections. He was shooting at American pilots. The decision I made was the right decision. America is safer and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
The enemy believes we're weak. That's what they say. They believe we'll lose our nerve. They believe it's just a matter of time before we pull out of Iraq. The stakes in Iraq are incredibly high. But we've got some things going for us. We've got a fantastic United States military. And I want to thank Mark Green and Brian for supporting these men and women. Listen, any time you have a man or a woman in uniform in harm's way, they deserve the full support of the United States Government. And thanks to these good Congressmen and this administration, we've given them the full support of the United States Government.
We also have 12 million people in Iraq who say, "I want to live in freedom." I know it seems like an eternity since the elections last December. I guess it's because we've got too many TV channels that things seem to move real quick. But it wasn't all that long ago that the people, when given the chance, went to the polls and said, "We want to be free. We want to live in a Iraqi-style democracy. Just give us a chance." That's what they said.
And there are a group of killers, cold-blooded killers, that are trying to stop the advance of this young democracy. That's what they're trying to do. You got to ask yourself, what kind of people fear democracy? Who wouldn't want people to worship freely? What is the mindset where you can't go to the public square and express yourself openly? It's the same mindset that wants to attack us for what we believe in.
We're not going to lose in Iraq. As a matter of fact, we will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course. Twelve million people have voted. They've now got a unity government.
I went over there and saw the man, Prime Minister Maliki. You know what I was looking for? I was looking for, do we have someone there who can set an agenda; somebody who can follow through; somebody who is dedicated to a government of, by, and for the people. And I found a courageous man there. And he's wondering, he's wondering when he hears all the rhetoric in Washington, DC, and around the country, he's wondering whether the United States can keep its word. And I told him this, I said, "So long as you're willing to make the tough decisions, so long as you're willing to represent the people, the United States of America will keep our word."
It's in our interest we succeed in Iraq. And we're going to succeed in Iraq. And when we succeed in Iraq, we'll be a powerful example of freedom in the heart of the Middle East.
You know, you might have noticed recently that I went to Graceland—that's Elvis's place—[laughter]—with Prime Minister Koizumi. I think that's really interesting. I think we need to put that visit in perspective about what we're talking about and the hard decisions we've made in Washington, DC.
You see, 60 years ago my dad, and I'm sure some of your relatives, fought the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy of the United States of America. A lot of people lost their lives in that war, a lot.
By the way, as you might recall, they attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We lost more people on 9/11 than we did in Pearl Harbor. And yet 60 years later, after fighting this bloody war, I go to Graceland with Prime Minister Koizumi. Something happened. And what happened in between that war and today was the Japanese adopted a Japanese-style democracy.
Democracies yield the peace we want. And guess what we talked about after we got past talking about Elvis? [Laughter] We talked about North Korea. I congratulated Prime Minister Koizumi for committing 1,000 troops into Iraq to help this young democracy. And he did so because he knows what I know: The best way to defeat the terrorists in the short run is to find them and bring them to justice and to prevent them from having safe haven. The best way to defeat them in the long run is the spread of liberty. Freedom yields the peace we want. Freedom is able to convert. Liberty has the capacity of converting an enemy into an ally, and someday an American president will be talking with a duly elected leader of Iraq and talking about the peace.
We're doing the hard work necessary to protect ourselves, and we're doing the hard work of supporting young democracies. So we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. And I appreciate the vision and strength and courage of Mark Green on this tough issue.
So today I had an interesting announcement to make, and that is that the projected deficit of 423 billion is now down to 296 billion in one year. It now means the deficit is 2.3 percent of GDP, which is about average over the last 40 years. What's interesting about that announcement is that we were able to achieve deficit reduction primarily because the revenues increased in spite of the fact that we cut taxes.
You might remember the history of this administration and working with Mark—he understands that and so does Ryan—that we've been through a recession and corporate scandals, a stock market correction, an attack on the United States of America, two wars—two battles in theaters to defend ourselves—Afghanistan and Iraq, major natural disasters, high energy prices. And yet this economy of ours is strong, and we intend to keep it that way.
And one of the reasons it's strong and one of the reasons we recovered is because we cut the taxes. We cut the taxes on small-business people. We cut the taxes on workers. We cut the taxes on families raising children. We cut the taxes on dividends. We cut the taxes on capital gains.
I was at Allen-Edmonds today; we accelerated depreciation, which caused him to buy more equipment, which makes him an incredibly, productive, competitive company. Cutting the taxes works. It makes this economy strong.
You need a Governor who will cut the taxes in Wisconsin. Mark Green is that Governor.
You know, it's amazing, the rhetoric in Washington is beyond belief at times. They say in order to solve the deficit, you've got to raise taxes. We just proved them wrong. In order to solve the deficit, you cut taxes, you increase economic vitality, which yields more taxes. That's how it works. You need a tax cutter as your Governor here. It's just a philosophical difference, by the way, between people like myself and others, me and Mark and others. And it's this: We trust you with your money. Who best to spend your money? You? Or the government?
We believe that you can best spend your money. Do you realize the tax cuts we passed left $1.1 trillion in the hands of workers and small-business owners and entrepreneurs and farmers?
And I made the point today: You have clearly shown that you can spend your money better than the Federal Government can, and therefore, our economy is strong. It's the envy of the world. One thing we've got to do in Washington, DC, is to make sure that we continue to grow. And one good way to do that is to make the tax cuts permanent.
The other equation in reducing the deficit, by the way, is to make sure we're wise about how we spend your money. You need a Governor who knows how to set priorities. I appreciate working with the Speaker and the leader in the Senate; we've set priorities. I told you what the priorities are. It's defending this country and giving our troops what they need to win the war on terror. Beyond that, believe it or not, we've actually cut discretionary spending on non-homeland and defense spending.
We're doing a good job about watching your money. And it's hard work. Everybody's got a good idea. Every program sounds fantastic. You've got to make sure you've got a good fiscal hawk in your Governor's seat. You've got to have somebody who's willing to take on the sacred cow. Somebody's asking, "Do these programs produce results?" Somebody who is willing to look beyond the title of the program to determine whether or not they're delivering result for the people. Mark Green is that kind of guy. He's going to do you a fine job as the Governor when it comes to watching your money.
This is a little off subject here, but the biggest problem we got in the long term is dealing with these entitlement programs that we can't pay for; that's Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid. If you're an older person, you're in good shape. If you're a younger person who is just working, you're in lousy shape. And I can't wait to work with Congress to solve the Social Security and Medicare issue.
One reason I ran for office is to solve problems and not pass them on to other Presidents and other Members of Congress. It's time for the United States Congress to stop playing politics with Social Security and Medicare so a young generation of Americans can look at these entitlement programs and say, "I'm not putting my money into a black hole." And it's hard work.
It's hard work, but I'm confident we can get it done. I'm going to keep working it. That's what the people expect us to do. And I appreciate Congressman Ryan. He's not afraid to take on the tough issues— that's the kind of person you want in Washington, DC—and neither is Mark Green. You see, you've got to have somebody in the Governor's chair who sees a tough issue and says, "I'm going to take it on; that's why I ran." You've got too many people in politics who say, "Well, it might affect my poll numbers and therefore, I'm going to duck it." I just can't imagine people running for office and saying I'm going the duck the tough issue.
You've got to have you a Governor who is willing to stand up and make the tough calls. And Mark Green is that man. He also understands this. I used to tell people when I was the Governor of Texas that education is to a State what national defense is to the Federal Government. I really believe that a Governor has got to make education the number-one priority of the State. And Mark Green is going to do that.
I worked with him on passing the No Child Left Behind Act, and this is a powerful piece of legislation and necessary reform. Here's the way it works: It says, first of all, that we believe everybody can learn to read and write and add and subtract, and we refuse to accept a system that doesn't hold people to account if they're not learning to read and write and add and subtract. We said in Washington, DC, if you're going to receive Federal money, which States do, that we expect you, the State, to measure to determine whether we are achieving certain objectives.
There was a huge howl, of course, when you lay that kind of initiative out there.People said, "How dare you measure." And my answer is, how dare we not measure. How can you expect the school system to be good unless you're willing to test to see whether or not children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. And guess what happens, by the way, in a school system that has no accountability? Guess who loses? Generally inner-city kids or parents who don't speak English as a first language.
See, it's easy to quit on those kinds of children. It's easy just to shuffle them through the grades: say, "When you're 10, you're supposed to be here; if you're 11, you're supposed to be in this grade." We blew the whistle on that kind of soft bigotry of low expectations. We said we were going to measure to determine whether or not the schools are succeeding. And if they're not succeeding, we're going to make sure a child gets extra help early, before it gets too late.
I know there's a big debate here about school choice, and there should be a debate. And it's an important debate. And my attitude is, when you find a child trapped in a school that will not teach and will not change, you have got to give parents other options.
In Mark Green you'll have a Governor who's willing to challenge the status quo in education, a Governor who's willing to insist upon high standards and excellence in the classroom, a Governor who will not rest if he finds children trapped in mediocrity. He understands that the future of a State depends upon the State's capacity to provide an excellent education for every child regardless of what he or she looks like. And that's the Governor Mark Green's going to be.
I bet the doctors in this State can't wait to get yourself a Governor who's willing to support medical liability reform. You can't have good health care; you cannot have affordable and available health care if you have a liability system that has run amok. And I know how tough these trial lawyers are in some of these States. I took them on in the State of Texas. And you need to have a Governor, for the sake of good medicine, for the sake of affordable medicine, for the sake of patients, and for the sake of needed professionals, to stand up to the trial bar and pass medical liability reform. And Mark Green is going to do that.
I think you can tell I'm quite enthusiastic about him. [Laughter] I do want to conclude by saying this about Mark: He and I understand that government is limited in its capacity to love. I mean government— you can pass laws, and you can hold people to account. And government is justice, as it should be. Government is fairness. But government can't put hope in a person's heart or a sense of purpose in a person's life. That happens when a loving person puts their arm around a lost soul and says, "I love you, brother," or, "I love you, sister. What can I do to help?"
I think the State of Wisconsin will benefit mightly from having a person as Governor who is willing to rally the faith-based community and community center groups to do their duty to help change Wisconsin one heart and one soul and one conscience at a time.
Our society should not fear the involvement of faith in helping to cure some of the intractable social ills. We ought to have leaders who welcome those who've heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself, to make your State as good as it can possibly be. And that Governor is going to be Governor Mark Green. Thank you all for coming tonight. God bless.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:51 p.m. at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. In his remarks, he referred to Mary Buestrin, national committeewoman, Republican Party of Wisconsin; James R. Klauser, former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration; former President Saddam Hussein and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq; and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Reception for Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Green in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/267112