Remarks at a Reception for Gubernatorial Candidate Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., in Baltimore, Maryland
Thanks for coming tonight. Thank you all. So he just gave my speech. [Laughter] You know, when you have somebody who accomplishes positive things—he's got a record of accomplishment for everybody— not just a handful, but everybody—you need to send him back as the Governor of the State of Maryland.
So in our line of work, there's a lot of big talkers. [Laughter] And sometimes you find a doer, somebody who knows how to set an agenda and lead people to accomplish that agenda. Bob Ehrlich is a doer; he's a great leader; and he needs to be reelected Governor of the State of Maryland.
So the one thing he didn't take credit for was—I think he should have—was the Maryland women's basketball team. He can't even touch the net. [Laughter] Well, that's not true.
We both married really well. [Laughter] He married a fabulous woman; the first lady of Maryland is doing a wonderful job. Laura and I are very fond of Kendel and Bob. We consider them friends. We invited them to come to Camp David once, which is, after all, in the State of Maryland. So he arrived—as did about 10 feet of snow. [Laughter] So I said, "Come on back in the summer." [Laughter] But Laura sends her love to the Ehrlichs.
And just a word on Laura. She's down in New Orleans today. She is a fabulous First Lady. She is really—I'm really proud of the job she does for our country.
I'm also proud to be here with Bob's parents, Bob and Nancy. Thank you all for coming. I'm sure Nancy—[applause]—I'm sure one of the reasons why your son is so successful as the Governor is because you keep telling him what to do. [Laughter] And obviously, he's wise enough to listen. [Laughter] I've got the same problem in my family. [Laughter]
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your leadership. I want to thank you all for supporting the Victory Committee. I want to thank you for giving of your money to help this good man and the party succeed. And I want to thank you in advance for what you're going to do when we come down the stretch in October/November, and that is, turn out the vote.
So I want to thank all the grassroots activists who are here. There's a couple of you out there, you know, stuffing the envelopes, making the phone calls, putting up the signs. That's how you win. When you've got somebody as good as Governor Ehrlich, you need to get on the streets and go to the coffee shops and houses of worship and tell the people, you've got a good man; you've got a good man who has done a fabulous job for the people of Maryland. By the way, when you're getting him in as Governor, make sure you put Michael Steele into the United States Senate.
One of the things it's important to have in a chief executive officer, whether it be at the State level or the Federal level, is somebody who's willing to take on problems, to confront problems. You know, a lot of times in the political arena, it's easy just to shuffle them along. You know, you see a problem and say, "Well, let's just not deal with it; let's let somebody else take care of it." I like Bob Ehrlich because he's not afraid to take on problems. He understands that our jobs are to solve problems. Bob Ehrlich is a problem-solver. He sets agendas; he makes decisions based upon principles; he doesn't worry about polls and focus groups; and he leads. And he's the right guy to be reelected to the State of Maryland.
We're living in historic times. These are times that require steadfast conviction. I just want to share some thoughts with you about the war on terror. First of all, I want to thank the Governor for his strong support for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States. As the Commander in Chief of a military full of incredibly fine people, it is important to have people in elected office like the Governor who know what it means to have— to be able to say strong words of support. These kids need our support. They're doing hard work on our behalf.
My most important job and the most important job of the Governor is to protect the American people. And that job came home, became very clear to us on September the 11th of 2001. It's a day that I'll never forget. Many of the decisions that I have made as your President are based upon the lessons I learned on that day. The first lesson I learned on that day is, there are evil people in the world who want to do harm to the American citizens. I learned that you can't negotiate with these people; you can't rationalize with them; you can't hope for the best. That we must— in order to protect the country, we must bring them to justice before they do harm again.
I learned that when a President speaks, he better mean what he says. I understand to protect this country that we must deny safe haven to these terrorists who'd like to do us harm. And so I said, "If you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorists." I meant what I said. I gave the Taliban an opportunity to hand over Al Qaida. They refused to do so. And because of the bravery of our troops and coalition troops, Afghanistan is liberated and free and is no longer a threat to the United States of America.
I learned on September the 11th a lesson I'm never going to forget, that we've got to take threats seriously before they come home to hurt us. It's really important, if you think our duty is to protect the folks, to take every threat seriously. You see, when we grew up, or some of us grew up, baby boomers grew up, we felt pretty confident that America could be secure from a foreign attack, except maybe by missile. And then that attitude changed dramatically when we realized oceans couldn't protect us. And so when we see a threat, we've got to take them seriously.
I saw a threat. As a matter of fact, the world saw a threat with Saddam Hussein. See, he was a state sponsor of terror; he had used weapons of mass destruction; he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction; he invaded his neighbors; he was shooting at U.S. pilots. He was given a lot of United Nations Security Council resolutions, to change. He refused to change. He chose war, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
And now we're doing the hard work of helping people who were suppressed by a tyrant, to understand the blessings of liberty. But we shouldn't be discouraged when you see the car bombings and killings. It saddens us. But remember that last December, 12 million Iraqis went to the polls in defiance of car bombers and killers and terrorists, and said, "We want to be free. We want to be free." We understand that freedom is a universal principle. It is universal—I believe in an Almighty, and I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is freedom. Freedom isn't just, you know, for Methodists or Texans or Americans; freedom is for everybody. And it shouldn't surprise us when 12 million people are free.
And it shouldn't surprise us that there are killers and terrorists who are trying to stop democracy. See, their ideology is the exact opposite of a free society. They don't believe in dissent. They don't believe in the freedom to worship. They don't believe women should have rights. Their ideology is dark and backwards. And yet freedom brings light and hope. What you're seeing is an historic—is history being made as societies are—as two societies, Afghanistan and Iraq, have found the beauty of freedom, and they're establishing constitutional Governments of and by and for the people.
We're going to succeed in Iraq. We will succeed because we've got a great military, full of decent and honorable people. We will succeed because the Iraqi people want us to succeed. And we will succeed because the terrorists and killers offer no hope, whatsoever.
I want to tell you something about what's going on. I just talked today to my buddy Prime Minister Koizumi, on the phone. And we were talking about peace. And every time I meet with him, we sit down at the table and talk about peace. We talk about North Korea. He's got a thousand troops in Iraq because he understands the power of democracy to make the world a better place. Yet that wasn't necessarily going to happen after World War II. My dad fought the Japanese—I'm sure relatives of yours fought the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy of the United States. I think it's amazing—don't you—that the President of the United States sits at the table talking about peace with the leader of an enemy, former enemy. You know what happened? Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy after World War II. Fortunately, one of my predecessors, Harry S. Truman, believed in the power of freedom to transform an enemy into an ally.
Someday, an American President will be sitting down with duly elected leaders of Iraq, keeping the peace. Freedom causes people to reach for hope. Freedom brings light into society. Democracies don't war. What you're seeing today is the hard work of changing a society that was under the brutal thumb of a dictator into one that is free. And we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.
At home, if you're looking for work, you can find a job. Bob Ehrlich and I believe that the role of Government is not to create wealth but to create an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes. That's the principle by which we make decisions. And you might remember, we've been through some pretty difficult times in this country when it came to our economy. We've been through a recession and a stock market correction, an attack on our country; we've been to war to defend ourselves; we had some terrible natural disasters; energy prices are up. Yet our economy is strong, and it's getting stronger.
And the reason why our economy grew at 3.5 percent last year—it grew at 5.3 percent in the first quarter of this year—the reason why the national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent and we've added 5.2 million new jobs since August of 2003, is because we cut the taxes. We believe that when someone has more money to save, spend, or invest, the economy grows.
Bob Ehrlich and I understand this fact: 70 percent of new jobs in America are created by the small-business owners—70 percent. And so if you can stimulate small-business growth, you stimulate job growth. And by cutting the taxes, individual tax rates, we cut taxes on subchapter S's and limited partnerships and sole proprietorships. The tax cuts we passed have helped make our small-business sectors strong and robust, and America is better off for it.
Ehrlich is going to fight to keep taxes low. It's not just low on some; it's low on everybody. See, we're not these kind of people who say, "Let's have selective tax cuts." We believe if you're going to cut taxes, you cut taxes on everybody who pays taxes. Tax cuts are good, strong economic policy.
And then there's the other thing in Washington, which Bob knows only too well, that says, "Well, look, you got to raise the taxes to balance the budget." But that's not the way Washington works. I suspect it's not the way Annapolis works. They're going to raise your taxes, but they're going to figure out new ways to spend your money. [Laughter] That's the way Washington works. I bet that's the way the statehouse works too. That's why you've got to have a fiscally sound Governor as the Governor of the State of Maryland.
And so the best way to cut the deficit, at least in Washington, is to keep your taxes low so the economy grows. When the economy grows, it generates more tax revenues for the treasury—and then be wise about how we spend your money.
We're going to cut the deficit in half by 2009. I told the Congress, I said, "Look, if you bust the supplemental we've got coming up there, if you're greater than 92.2 billion and—plus some for the pandemic flu, I'm going to veto the bill." I'm serious about it, you know. They've got to understand that we're going to cut this deficit in half by 2009 by being wise about how we spend your money and keeping progrowth economic policies in place.
Bob Ehrlich steps into office, as he told you—you took some of my speech away from me—[laughter]—but the people of Maryland have got to understand, he shows up in office, and they have a $4 billion deficit, see. When he shows up, you're in the hole $4 billion. Now he's standing up here asking for reelection, and he's able to say to the people of Maryland, "We've got us a $2 billion surplus." Don't you want that kind of guy back in office?
Sometimes the temptation, when you get into government, is to grow it. And a good place to look is at the office of the Governor; see, that's a good place to start to determine whether or not you've got yourself a Governor who knows how to manage. See, the chief executive officer not only has got to set an agenda and call people to achieve the agenda; he's also got to be a manager. He's got to be able to do a lot with less, if you're dealing with the taxpayers' money.
Interestingly enough, he's decreased the size of Maryland's executive branch by 7 percent. See, he's in charge of the executive branch. And so the voters of Maryland—I don't care whether you're Republican or Democrat or independent—need to say to yourself, "Who best to manage the executive branch of the State of Maryland?" Bob Ehrlich has got a strong record.
The other thing that's interesting that probably doesn't get discussed a lot here in Maryland, but should, is what could have happened had he not been the Governor. See, we've discussed what he did as the Governor. We know what happened since he's the Governor. The question is, what would have happened? Well, I'll tell you what would have happened. The legislature would have raised $7.5 billion in tax increases had you not had this man as the Governor of the State of Maryland.
I'll talk about three things real quick: one, education. I used to say when I was the Governor of Texas, education is to a State what national defense is to the Federal Government. I think it's by far the most important—should be the most important priority of any Governor. I know it's a really important priority of Governor Bob Ehrlich. You know why? I've been to schools here in Maryland. I've seen him firsthand come into classrooms and talk to teachers and parents. And he generally cares about making sure the public school system—the public school system does what it's supposed to do, and that's educate everybody.
We had—when I came to Washington, I was very concerned about a system that just kind of shuffled people through—social promotion. You know we'd say, oh, you're supposed to be—you're X age; you're supposed to be here. You know what happened under that system? Impoverished kids, inner-city black kids, or kids whose parents don't speak English as a first language just got moved through. That's the easiest thing to do. And so we changed the attitude. And I'm proud to have a partner in Bob Ehrlich who understands, one, you've got to set high standards, see; you've got to believe every child can learn; and secondly, in return for money, we expect people to measure.
Now, I believe in local control of schools, and so does Bob. I'm a strong believer in local control of schools. But I said, in return for increasing Federal money, particularly for poor students, I want to know. I want to know whether a child can read and write and add and subtract. And I want to know early.
And so we worked with Governor Ehrlich. He put in a very strong accountability system—that's uncomfortable for some people. Oh, I've heard every excuse—you know, teaching the test, or you're testing too much. I don't accept that and neither does Governor Ehrlich. You can't have a good education system unless you determine early whether a child can read by grade level, and whether or not, if you find a child not reading by grade level, you've got courage enough to change the curriculum and make sure that child gets extra help. No Child Left Behind Act is working in the State of Maryland because you've got a strong education leader in Bob Ehrlich.
And how do we know? We're measuring. You know, there's an achievement gap. So you've got a Governor like Governor Ehrlich, who recognizes what I recognize: You can't have an achievement gap in America and have America be a hopeful place. You can't have certain kids reading at the fourth grade level and other kids not, and you have a bright future for your country. You just can't. And he understands that, and so do I. And so he said, "The achievement gap is narrowing." Do you know why? Do you know? Because we're measuring. High standards, strong accountability, local control of schools, demanding change where you find the status quo is unsatisfactory is the key to success, and Maryland has an education Governor in Bob Ehrlich.
Why are charter schools important? They're important because if the status quo is unacceptable, you need to give parents alternatives. And that's what the charter school movement is all about. It says, "You don't trust government to make decisions for people when it comes to education; you trust the parents to make the decisions for the children." And if parents are not happy with the status quo, they ought to be given other options. The charter school movement is going to put Maryland on the leading edge of educational excellence, and Governor Bob Ehrlich gets a lot of credit for being the pioneer of the charter school movement in this State.
Our party is one that has proven that you can have economic growth and sound environmental policy at the same time. Environmental policy and economic growth are not zero-sum. As a matter of fact, I happen to believe that in order to have a good environment, you've got to have a strong economy so you can afford that which is necessary to protect the environment. Bob Ehrlich has got a very, very strong record of conservation.
He signed the most important legislation to clean up the Chesapeake Bay—ever. That's leadership. Some of them talk a good game—I'm sure they're spouting all kinds of stuff about how—[laughter]. This man has delivered. The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act—the Bob Ehrlich "I'm going to protect the Chesapeake Bay" Act—upgrades the State's 66 largest waste water treatment plants, upgrades sewage systems to increase nitrogen removal.
The Ehrlich-Steele administration has preserved nearly 60,000 acres of fields, forests, and open space and farmland. This man has got a record to run on. And if you care about the environment here in the State of Maryland, you need to put Bob Ehrlich back in as the Governor.
Finally, I proudly wear the label of compassionate conservative, and so does Bob Ehrlich. Let me tell you what I think that means. I think it means that government has got to recognize its limits in providing compassionate care. See, Government can hand out money, but it can't put hope in a person's heart or a sense of purpose in a person's life.
If you find somebody who hurts in society, it's best to rally a person who's heard a universal call to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. There's nothing better than somebody putting their arm around a lonely person and saying, "How can I help you, brother or sister?" There's nothing better than having a church or a synagogue or a mosque take up the cause of feeding the hungry and finding shelter for the homeless. Government should not fear the involvement of faith in our society; we ought to welcome faith in order to help solve some of society's most intractable problems.
Ehrlich's got the Office of Community Initiatives. He's got a way to make sure that bureaucracy gets out of the way of helping people who have heard a universal call to help. I oftentimes remind the American people that—who look at our country and say, "Well, our strengths are our military"—and it's part of our strength, but that's not the greatest strength for America. The size of our wallets, that's important. We're a wealthy nation, and we can do a lot with our wealth—which we're doing, by the way. We're leading the world when it comes to feeding the hungry. We're helping fight HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa. This is a generous nation. We believe to whom much is given, much is required. But the greatest strength of this country lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens.
Alexis De Tocqueville recognized that when he came to America in 1832. He recognized that one of the really unusual things about our society, characteristics of our society, was the voluntary organizations all aimed at helping someone who is down and out. That's what he recognized. Our job is—my job as President and Bob's job as the Governor is to recognize that strength and to rally that strength and to call people to serve; is to help those who need help, by calling on a fellow citizen to love a neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves.
You've got a good man as your Governor in the State of Maryland, and you need to put him back in office, for the good of the people. Thanks for coming. God bless.
NOTE: The President spoke at 6:25 p.m. at the BWI Airport Marriott. In his remarks, he referred to John M. Kane, chairman, Maryland Republican Party; Michael S. Steele, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and former Senatorial candidate; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Reception for Gubernatorial Candidate Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., in Baltimore, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217193