George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Reception for Senator Susan Collins in Prout's Neck, Maine

August 03, 2002

Thank you all very much. Please be seated. Well, thank you all very much for that wonderful welcome. This probably is the first political event I've ever traveled to by boat. [Laughter] And I want to thank the boat's captain, "Number 41." You're never supposed to drive a boat wearing a tie. [Laughter] That's why he doesn't have one on. [Laughter]

But as you can see, we—the best of our family isn't with us. My mother is back there in Kennebunkport, and the great First Lady of the United States is in Texas. But if they were here, I can assure you, they would say what I'm about to say, that Susan Collins is a great United States Senator, and Maine needs to send her back to the Senate.

Both of us are really proud to be here to campaign on her behalf. We want to thank you all very much for helping her. We—I urge you to make sure that you continue working for her. For those of you who lick the envelopes and make the phone calls and put out the signs and turn out the vote, get your uniforms on, because you win in all States, but particularly in Maine, through grassroots politics. You win because you energize the voters. You win because you remind the people of what a fine person you have as a United States Senator. So thank you for what you have done on behalf of Susan Collins, and as importantly, thank you for what you're going to do to make sure this fine lady returns back to the United States Senate.

And I appreciate her mother and dad driving all this way. It is a long way. [Laughter] That's a 5 1/2 hour drive. But it's wonderful to meet the Collins family, all of them. And it says something to me that, you know, Mom and Dad and brothers are willing to stand by their sister and/ or child to do whatever it takes to help out. To me, that's what family is all about, and I appreciate so very much the Collins family for being here today, and thank you for supporting your little girl.

Maine's got two fantastic United States Senators. Olympia Snowe is a capable lady. Olympia and Susan make a formidable team on behalf of the citizens of Maine, and it would be wise for Maine not to break that team up. It would be wise for the people of this State to make sure that they send somebody back to Washington who understands that, to get things done, you've got to work with people of both parties and who solidly rejects, like I reject, the same old, tired politics of tearing somebody down to get ahead.

Susan Collins, she's a breath of fresh air in Washington, DC. She's kind of an independent thinker, I might add. [Laughter] I don't do everything she says. [Laughter] She doesn't do everything I say. [Laughter] But she's an ally, and I'm proud to call her friend.

I want to thank very much Steven Joyce and Kevin Raye for tossing their hats in the ring. Steven is running for the Congress, Maine 1; and Kevin is running for Congress, Maine 2. Thank you all for coming. We hope you win. We look forward to seeing you in Washington—appreciate it.

It's nice to be here with the next Governor of the State of Maine, Peter Cianchette. I want to thank the party officials who are here. I want to thank Kathy Watson, who's the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Maine—Kathy, thank you for your hard work—and Jan Martens Staples, who's the national committeewoman.

I want you to know that in Washington, they've got a lot of pretty good talkers, you know, people who can give a fine speech. But somehow, behind all the rhetoric, they don't get much done. That's not the way Susan Collins is. She gets a lot done. Let me talk to you about a couple of issues that's dear to her heart and dear to mine.

First of all, we passed a really good education bill this year. It was called No Child Left Behind. And the reason why it was called that is because Susan and I believe that when we get it right, that we can make sure no child gets left behind in America. It means we've got to set high standards and high expectations for every child who lives in America. It means we've got to trust the local people to run the schools, that we understand that you're not going to have quality education if you try to run the public schools out of Washington, DC. And it means you've got to hold people to account by insisting upon measuring.

See, we want to know. We want to know whether every child is learning how to read and write and add and subtract. And if not, we're going to blow the whistle on failure. If not, we're going to insist that people change. This business about shuffling children through the schools has got to end in America, to make sure no child is left behind. And Susan Collins understands that.

An integral part of the education bill was what we call Reading First. It's a national focus on making sure that every child— not a few but every child—learns how to read. And Susan Collins put her stamp on one of the most important education bills in our Nation's history by leading the charge for the Reading First Initiative. The people of Maine owe her a debt of gratitude, and so do the people of America, for this piece of legislation. I want to thank you, Susan.

And I appreciate her work on making sure our seniors are well treated. Susan insists, like I insist, that the Medicare program be modernized. We recognize the Medicare program has fulfilled a mission, but it's old, and it's stale, and it's tired, and it's not doing its job for our seniors. Medicine has changed, but Medicare hasn't. And we need to make sure that we've got prescription drug coverage as a part of Medicare for every senior in America, and Susan Collins is leading the charge.

We just passed a good piece of legislation that says to corporate America, if you cheat, if you fudge the books, if you don't tell the truth, we're going to hold you accountable. And Susan Collins was a part of that legislation. And you need to know we're going to investigate them, and we're going to arrest them, and we're going to prosecute those who have broken their trust with shareholders, employees, and the American public. And I want to appreciate your work on that bill, Susan.

And I appreciate your understanding that Government doesn't create wealth. That's not the role of Government. The role of Government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which small businesses can grow to be big businesses. Our role is to make sure the climate for economic growth is strong, and it is. Interest rates are low. We've got good monetary policy. I can assure you, I will use the veto, if necessary, to make sure we don't overspend in Washington, DC.

We just passed a trade bill for the first time in a long time. I want to thank Susan for her support on that trade bill. Opening up markets for American goods, for products produced in Maine, for agricultural products produced in this State, is good for workers. It's so important that we not wall ourselves off from the rest of the world. It's important that we be confident. And when you're good at something, you ought to promote it. And we're good at a lot of things in America, and we need to be selling our goods and services all across the world. I want to thank the Senate and the House for giving me trade promotion authority. I'm going to sign the bill on Tuesday, and this bill will be good for American workers.

There's some other things we can do when the Senate and the House gets back. We need to pass a terrorism insurance bill to make sure that large construction projects can go forward. We want our hard-hats working in America. We want our working people out there. We want there to be jobs. And the Senate and the House needs to act. They need to think about workers, not about trial lawyers, when it comes to passing good pieces of legislation like the terrorism insurance bill.

And you know something, it turns out Vice President Cheney was right. He said, when we first got here, it looked like we might be in a recession. Of course, some people didn't appreciate him saying that. And then all of a sudden, the statistics came out recently, which showed that the first three quarters of my administration were negative growth. We did, in fact, inherit an economic slowdown.

And thank goodness, thank goodness I convinced the Congress to let the people keep more of their own money. Thank goodness we had a tax cut. There are some people in Washington that read a different textbook than Susan and I do. They think if you raise people's taxes, it's going to be good for the economy. What we believe is that when you let somebody have their own money, keep their own money, it means they're going to demand a good and a service. And when somebody demands a good or a service, somebody is going to produce the good or service. And if somebody produces a good or a service, it means somebody is going to be able to find work. That's what that means. For the good of the American economy, we need to make the tax cuts permanent.

One of the worst taxes we have in America is the death tax. The death tax taxes a person's assets more than once. You know, some of us are worried about people being forced to sell their farms or their ranches because of the death tax. And so the Senate did a smart thing, and the House did a smart thing. It repealed the death tax. But because of a quirk in the law, because of the Senate rules, the death tax comes back to life after 10 years. It is important to get rid of this tax once and for all. It's important for the small-business owners in America; it's important to ranchers and farmers to permanently repeal the death tax.

The economic security of our people is a vital issue, and I will continue to work with Congress to make sure we pass needed legislation to keep our economy growing. Listen, anytime anybody who wants to work can't find work, we've got a problem, as far as I'm concerned. So when Congress gets back, we'll continue to talk about ways to make sure that the environment for economic growth is strong and viable.

We've also got a significant issue, obviously. The biggest issue that I confront is to make sure the homeland is secure. The biggest issue, the biggest challenge that we face, the President and the Congress, is to prevent the killers from taking American life again. That's the biggest challenge.

And you need to know—you need to know there's some fine people in your Government doing everything they can to run down any hint or any lead, any evidence whatsoever, to make sure that they don't hit us again. It's a big chore. But there are a lot of fine Americans working hard to enable me to say that we're doing everything we can to protect you.

But there's something else we need to do. We need to reorganize our Government to make sure that the homeland security function is the number one priority of many of our Federal agencies. You see, right now in Washington, there's over 100 agencies involved with the defense of our homeland. They're scattered everywhere. It makes it awfully difficult to hold anybody accountable.

And so for the sake of changing the culture of many agencies, for the sake of insisting that the homeland security is the number one priority, I've asked Congress to reorganize much of our Government under one Cabinet agency called the office for homeland security. It is vital Congress gets it right. The House passed a good bill. I have listened to some of the Senate debate. They seem to think that political turf is more important than the security of the homeland. I will not accept a bill that doesn't allow me to adequately manage people and resources to better protect the homeland. The Senate must not protect their own turf. They must work to protect the American people.

But the best way to protect the homeland is to hunt the killers down one by one and bring them to justice. And that's what we're going to do. And they're out there, and they're tough, but not as tough as the United States of America. You've got to understand the nature of the enemy. They hate freedom. They hate the fact that we worship freely in America. They can't stand the thought that we have open debate, that we have a free press. They hate everything we stand for, and therefore, they're relentless. But so are we—so are we.

You know, this is a different kind of war. I'm standing up here with a great World War II veteran. In those days, they would occupy battlegrounds, and they would move tanks across fields and formation of aircraft. This is a different kind of war. This is the first war of the 21st century. This is a war where the so-called leaders of the enemy send youngsters to their death, and they, themselves, hide in caves. Oh, sometimes they group up, and when they do, they pay a significant price.

But this is a war that's going to require a different way of thinking. It means we've got to have the best intelligence in the world. It means we've got to—and we will—maintain a vast coalition of freedom-loving countries and make sure the doctrine, "Either you're with us, or you're with the enemy," sticks. This is the kind of war where sometimes you'll see our victories, and sometimes you won't. It's an international manhunt, is what it is. And we've got them on the run, and we're going to keep them on the run. And so, as long as I'm the President of the United States, we're going to run them down one by one, in order for America to be free.

And we're making progress. We're making progress. We've captured—and I say "we;" it's not just America. I can point to country after country that has responded to our call. We've captured over a couple thousand of their leaders, of their combatants, and just about as many weren't quite as lucky. Our strategy is clear. I say this as often as I can: If you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist. And the Taliban know exactly what I'm talking about now.

And I want the youngsters here to understand that your great Nation did not go into Afghanistan to conquer anybody. We went into Afghanistan to liberate—to liberate a people from the clutches of the most barbaric regime in history, in modern history. And we did.

But we've got a lot of work to do, and we're going to do it. I asked the Congress for the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President. And thanks to leaders such as Susan Collins, the Senate voted, and the House voted, significant increases. And now, when they get back, for the good of the war and for the good of the country, they need to reconcile their differences and get a defense appropriations bill on my desk as soon as possible.

But Susan understands what I understand. She supported this increase in defense spending because anytime we commit an American service man or woman into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, the best equipment possible.

And secondly, it's a signal to our friends and it's a signal to the enemy that we're not quitting. There's not a calendar on my desk that says, oh, by such-and-such a day, you've got to quit, Mr. President. When it comes to our freedom, America doesn't quit. When it comes to upholding our obligation to future citizens of our country, we don't quit. When it comes to chasing down people who would harm Americans, we don't quit, much to the chagrin of the enemy.

Our task and our responsibility to history is more than just an Al Qaida network. We owe it to the future of civilization not to allow the world's worst leaders to develop and deploy and therefore blackmail free, loving countries with the world's worst weapons. I'm a patient man. I'm a patient man. I've got a lot of tools at my disposal. But I can assure you, I understand history has called us into action, and this country will defend freedom no matter what the cost.

I believe strongly that out of the evil done to America will come incredible good. I believe that as this Nation leads the world, that we can achieve peace. I know that as we remain strong and united and focused on fighting terror, on spreading democracy, on embracing the values we love, that we can achieve peace. We can achieve peace in parts of the world where peace may be an afterthought to so many. See, I believe by leading the coalition for freedom, we can achieve peace in the Middle East or in South Asia. We can achieve peace not only for our homeland but for our friends and allies.

No, out of the evil done to America can come some great good, not only abroad but here at home as well. It's so important for all of us to remember that, in the midst of our prosperity, there are pockets of despair and hopelessness. There are pockets of addiction. People say, "American Dream," and we've got people in America saying, "What does that mean? It certainly doesn't mean anything to me."

No, out of the evil done to America can come some great good, because Americans are beginning to understand that serving something greater than yourself in life is an important part of being an American. People ask me, "What can I do to help on the war against terror?" I tell them, "Love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself." If you want to fight evil, mentor a child. If you want to do some good, go into a shut-in's home and say, "I love you." If you want to be a responsible American, go into your church or your synagogue or your mosque and say, "How can I help somebody in need?" You see, out of the evil done to America is going to come some great good, because we can change America one heart, one conscience, one soul at a time. And that's what's happening in this country.

I ran for Governor of Texas for a lot of reasons, but one main reason was, I was worried about a culture which had clearly said to Americans from all walks of life, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else." I wanted to be part of a culture shift that says, each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life; that if you're a mom or a dad, you are responsible for loving your child with all your heart and all your soul; if you're a responsible citizen, you're responsible for making sure the community in which you live is a place of bright lights and hope and optimism; that you have a responsibility to help a neighbor in need. And that's happening. Out of the evil done to America is good, because people are now beginning to understand that shallow materialism is not what life is about, that helping somebody and helping our great Nation realize its full potential is the culture of America.

You know, it brought home to me most vividly when Flight 93 was driven into the ground. We had people on an airplane who told their loved ones goodbye. I want it noted, they said a prayer. One guy said, "Let's roll." They served something greater than themselves in life. I think this is going to be a defining moment in America's cultural history, because we vividly got to see what it means to be a true and patriotic American.

No, out of the evil done to America— out of the evil done to this country will come incredible good, because this is the finest nation, full of the finest people on the face of the Earth.

Thank you for helping Susan. God bless. God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:20 p.m. in the Ocean Overlook at the Black Point Inn. In his remarks, he referred to Don and Patricia Collins, parents of Senator Collins.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Reception for Senator Susan Collins in Prout's Neck, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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