Remarks at a Reception for Senatorial Candidate Jefferson B. Sessions III in Mobile, Alabama
The President. Thank you all. Thanks for coming. Thank you for the warm welcome. I'm delighted to be here in Mobile. It's an exciting place, isn't it?
Audience members. Yes!
The President. Yes. So I'm flying in with Jeff and Congressman Jo Bonner, who, by the way, is doing a fantastic job for you; couldn't wait to show me the new building. He said: "I understand that Laura loves to come to Mobile. We'll just rent you a place in it." [Laughter]
I'm excited for you to be living in such a vibrant part of our country. For those of you who are creating jobs and helping this part of the world grow: Thank you for doing what you're doing. And Laura and I are great—really grateful to be with you. She loves coming down here. She loves coming to see the Fooses. She's making new friends coming down here. And one of these days, I'm going to come down here and get some fishing in. But in the meantime, I've got a job to do. [Laughter]
So we're proud to be with you. I'm really happy to be here with Jeff Sessions. He's a unique fellow, he's smart, he's capable, he's down-to-earth, what you see is what you get. He has done a fabulous job representing Alabama, and he deserves to be reelected.
Audience members. Yes!
The President. And I want to thank you for helping him. You know, when you get out there as a candidate, sometimes you wonder whether or not anybody is going to be for you. Well, it's easy for me to see, Jeff, that in this room, there's a lot of people for you. And I thank you for your time to help him, and I thank you for your hard-earned money, to make it clear to the people of Alabama that this guy is the right man to represent you in the United States Senate for 6 more years.
I'll never forget coming down here for Hurricane Ivan. As you know—and probably some of you got hit hard by it. One of the things that struck me about Senator Sessions during that time was his great compassion for all the people of Alabama. I—as sure as my memory serves me correctly, he said: "When you get back up there and start writing these emergency declarations, make sure you don't forget the people from the rural part of my State. It's so easy to remember the people living in the big cities. But, Mr. President, there's a lot of good folks from Alabama that are in rural Alabama, and I want you to remember them when it came time for the emergency."
See, Jeff Sessions is a big thinker. He just doesn't get caught up in one aspect of Alabama society. He is—he thinks clearly and compassionately for all people of this State. And so, Jeff, I'm proud of what you told me then. I think I listened to you very carefully and wrote those emergency declarations just like the way you told me to. [Laughter]
He's a strong ally on a lot of fronts. We occasionally have our differences. [Laughter] I mean, take the immigration bill, for example. [Laughter] We both agree we've got a problem. [Laughter] And the fundamental question is, how best to fix it?
I remember—and I'm going to share this with Sessions—I remember a political buddy of mine in Texas. He said, if we agreed 100 percent of the time, one of us wouldn't be necessary. [Laughter] Well, he's necessary in the United States Senate, and I'm proud you're here to back him. And thanks for coming.
I married well, and so did Sessions. [Laughter] And we're proud to be here with Mary and the family. I don't know if you know this or not, but Abbie Sessions is here. That's Jeff's mom, 94 years young. And Ms. Sessions, thanks for coming—as well as his aunt Mary Powe. She's only 88. [Laughter] We're glad you all are here. Thanks for raising a good boy, Ms. Sessions. And I'm sure, Jeff, your mother is like mine—she's constantly telling you what to do. [Laughter] And I hope you're listening. [Laughter]
I'm also proud to be here—I mentioned Jo came down with us and Janee came here as well—the Bonners. Listen, this guy cares a lot about the people of Mobile. He is constantly talking about what needs to happen down here. You know, "We've got to get this plan; we've got to do this, Mr. President. Remember the people down here." He's really making you a fine hand, and it would be really wise to make sure you send him back to the United States Congress as well.
Alabama Treasurer Kay Ivey is with us. Kay, thank you for joining us; proud you're here. She's from Sessions's hometown. What's the name of it again?
Sen. Sessions. Camden.
The President. Camden. Yeah, Camden. There she is back there. Thanks for coming.
And how many people in your high school class?
Sen. Sessions. Thirty.
The President. Thirty people in the high school—he finished in the top 30 in the— [laughter]. Better than I did. [Laughter]
We appreciate the fact that Mike Duncan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, has come today. Michael, thanks for coming down with us, appreciate your being here. Edgar Welden, national committeeman from Alabama, and his wife Louise—appreciate you being here, Edgar. Thanks for serving.
I thank all the grassroots activists who are here. Those are the people, Jeffrey, who are going to put up your signs, knock on the doors, make the phone calls necessary to do what's right for the country and for this State: and that's to put you back in the United States Senate.
I want to talk about two issues that matter in politics, and it matters for this country: That would be peace and prosperity. This is a nation at war. I wish I could report to you that it wasn't the case, but it is a nation at war. And we better have people in the United States Senate who understand that—and Jeffrey understands that—because when you understand that, then you understand the most important priority for your Government is to protect you. It's the single most important task that we have in Washington, DC, is to do that which is necessary to protect the American people from an attack.
And the first thing in order to understand the nature of this war, you must understand the nature of the enemy. We are facing ideologues, people who have a vision about how they want the world to look. These are people that do not believe in the same freedoms we believe in.
One of the great freedoms of America is the ability of the people—ability for people to worship the way they so choose. These people believe that if you don't worship the way they choose, they'll put you in harm's way. They can't stand freedom. They can't stand the idea of people being able to express their opinions in the public square. They have a vision, and that is to spread their ideology as far as they possibly can. They want to reestablish what's called the caliphate, and they use murder as a tool to achieve their objectives.
These people are dangerous; they're lethal. You can't make any—can't talk common sense to them. The only way to protect the American people is to stay on the offense and defeat them overseas so we don't have to face them here.
And that is the great challenge facing the United States of America. The fundamental question is, will we have people in the United States Senate who understand that we're in a global war against ideologues that murder the innocent to achieve their objectives? The question is, will we have people who understand that their objective is to create as much chaos and havoc and cause us to retreat from the world? That's the challenge.
We face threats from around the world. And that's why I call it a global war on terror. And some of the lessons of September the 11th must never be forgotten. One lesson, of course, is the nature of these people. Another lesson is that when we see threats, we must take them seriously. Third lesson is, is that we must do everything we can to deny safe haven from which these killers could plot and plan attacks on the United States of America. And that's precisely the strategy that you're seeing unfold.
In Afghanistan, the enemy had achieved safe haven. We gave them ample time to kick the enemy out of the country. They chose not to, and we liberated 25 million people as we took the action necessary to protect the American people.
In Iraq, I saw a threat to the United States of America; the world saw the same threat. We went to the United Nations, as you might remember, and said, "Disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences." Saddam Hussein had the choice to make. He defied the world once again, and the United States, with a strong coalition, freed the world of the dangers of Saddam Hussein, freed the Iraqi people. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
Jeff Sessions understands that. He understands that the United States of America must defend ourselves. And he also understands that when we find the enemy overseas, we must deal with them there; otherwise, we'll have to face them here. And in Iraq—this is a tough fight in Iraq; it really is. It's the kind of battle that has got the capability of shaking the will of the American people. We're a compassionate people. We care deeply about human rights and human dignity. And when we see innocent people lose their life, it makes a lot of people wonder whether or not it's worth it, whether or not we can succeed.
I do want to remind you, however, that after living under a brutal tyrant, when given a chance, 12 million Iraqis went to the polls. They said: "Let us be free. We want to exercise our right as free individuals." It seems like an eternity ago—didn't it?—when that vote took place. But in the march of history, it wasn't all that long. People do want to live in a free society. Mothers in the Muslim world want to raise their children in peace, just like mothers in Mobile, Alabama, want to raise their children in peace. There's something universal about the desire to live in a peaceful setting, in a peaceful society. So it shouldn't surprise you, as this young democracy begins to emerge, that the enemies of freedom have taken actions necessary to stop the progress.
The—most of the suicide bombings and the most horrific of bombings are perpetuated on the Iraqi people by Al Qaida. Al Qaida is the same bunch that attacked us on September the 11th and killed nearly 3,000 people. And what's that should tell the American people—it should tell the American people that we ought to take the words of Al Qaida seriously when they say, "We're going to drive you out of Iraq so we can have a safe haven from which to plot and plan attacks on America." The fight for freedom in Iraq is the fight for the security of the United States of America, and we must prevail.
The President makes decisions. And I made the decision to send more troops into Baghdad and Iraq as opposed to pulling out, and I want to share with you why. I saw the sectarian violence that was beginning to rage. Remember in 2005, we had the elections. The Government was elected under the most modern Constitution written in the Middle East. The enemy sees the progress; they bombed the mosques; it caused the sectarian violence to begin to spill out. And I was deeply concerned about whether or not that violence would spill out of the capital into the country and into the region. And remember, Al Qaida and the extremists love chaos. They're looking for power vacuums into which they can move their ideology as well as their strategies.
I listened very carefully to Senators like Jeff Sessions and Senators who didn't agree with what Jeff and I believed was necessary. I listened to our military. That's what you want your President doing. And, by the way, you want your Senators supporting the United States military, which Jeff Sessions really does.
So I made the decision to name a new commander as well as send troops into Baghdad, all aiming to give this young democracy a chance to survive the relentless attacks from the extremists and radicals who want to prevent their emergence. I knew this; I knew that if we were to retreat from Iraq, unlike other wars we have fought, the enemy would follow us here. It's one of the primary lessons of the world in which we live.
And we're making some progress in Iraq. It's a tough fight. David Petraeus just finally got all the troops he's asked for, this past week. And now we're routing out the enemy along with the Iraqis.
Now, I talked to Prime Minister Maliki last week and made it very clear to him that people all around the United States hope they succeed. But we understand that they are going to have to do some hard work, that they've got to do the political work necessary, that they've got to show those moms that a peaceful world will come. And they'll do the political work necessary to get it done.
But I felt it was necessary to give them some space to get that job done. And so we're going to—and I want to thank Jeff Sessions. You know, it's not necessarily a popular thing to stand up and say, "I support the troops, and I support the reinforcements, and I support David Petraeus." It may not be popular in certain circles, but it certainly brings confidence to the United States military to hear United States Senators speak with strength and conviction about the job these kids are doing.
It's tough work, but its necessary work. If we were to leave before the job is done, if we were to allow this young democracy to be overwhelmed by the extremists and the radicals, people in the Middle East would say, "What's the word of the United States worth?" There would be people who want to live in a peaceful world wondering about the great nation of the United States. Al Qaida would be emboldened. It would make it easier to recruit. It would cause people who might be trying to choose how to—what kind of life they would want to slip into the this—into the company of these radicals and killers. People would look back 50 years from now, I'm confident, and say: "What happened to them in the year 2007? How come they couldn't see the impending danger? How come they couldn't see the threats that would evolve by enabling radicals to be able to emerge? How come they didn't deal with Iran as a perpetuator of radical Shiism that would be in competition with radical Sunniism, all of which would endanger the United States of America?"
Well, I'm going to tell you something. I see the danger; I see the threat. And I can't wait to continue to lead the United States forward to make sure we secure this country for the long time. In the long run, the only way to defeat this ideology of hatred is with an ideology of hope. And that's an ideology based upon freedom.
I will tell you what I believe. I believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a great gift of the Almighty to each man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth is freedom. That's what I believe. And I believe it's in the interests of the United States of America to promote freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to the ideology that inspired 19 kids to come and kill nearly 3,000 of our citizens. And that's the real challenge of the 21st century.
It's the great challenge we face. And the great challenge is to defeat this ideology with something better. And we've done it in the past. This isn't the first time the United States of America has had to defend ourselves against ideologues. This is—I know there's—some of you had relatives who fought in the Pacific in World War II. I did. I find it one of the great ironies of history that one of my great friends during my Presidency was the Prime Minister of Japan. Isn't that interesting? My dad was a Navy fighter pilot who fought the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy of our country. Thousands of people died. And yet, some 60 years later, his son sits at the table talking about the peace with the former enemy: Koizumi, and now Prime Minister Abe.
It startles me every time I think about it, but it gives me great faith in understanding the power of liberty to transform the world in which we live, to make it peaceful for generations to come. It gives me great faith to know that liberty had the capacity to transform an enemy into an ally. Liberty has got the ability to lift people's hopes, to bring light into society. Liberty has got the capacity to lay that foundation of peace for generations to come.
This is the challenge we face in the 21st century. I am proud to be standing with a man who understands the challenges and will do everything in his power to help us accomplish our mission, and that's Jeff Sessions.
I want to talk about one other issue, and that's, how do we make sure this economy stays strong? They're telling me the unemployment rate here in Alabama is 3 percent. Something's working. [Laughter]
The economy is strong around the United States. We created more than 8 million new jobs in—over the past 4 years. When I say "we," that's not government. Those are small-business owners, entrepreneurs, dreamers, doers, risk takers. The economic history, the recent economic history, however, of the country hasn't been all that pleasant. You might remember, shortly after I got sworn in as President of the United States, we went into a recession, and then we had a terrorist attack on our country. We had some corporate scandals we had to deal with, which created uncertainty. The economic outlook, not all that long ago, wasn't all that bright; it wasn't all that cheery.
We came together with Members of the United States Senate like Jeff Sessions. We said, what do we need to do? How do we need to make sure our economy grows? And we put forth an inherent part of our philosophy which says this: You can spend your money better than the government can. And the best way to create economic vitality and economic growth is to cut the taxes on the people who work.
And this is a big issue for the American people. Taxes has always been a big issue, and it will always be a big issue because it is a fundamental debate about the proper role of government. It's a fundamental debate about understanding how new jobs are created. Most new jobs in America are created by small-business owners. When you cut the taxes on people, on the individual taxes, you are really cutting the taxes on small businesses because most small businesses are limited partnerships or sole proprietorships or subchapter S's. When you cut the taxes on people who are working, it gives them hope and inspiration. It puts that proper balance between government and you.
Jeff Sessions understands that. I understand it. The best way to keep this economy growing is to make sure the Democrats don't run up your taxes. And they want to. [Laughter] All you've got to do is look at that budget they just submitted—a lot of new spending. You know, you'll hear them say, "Oh, we're just going to raise the taxes on the rich." Well, first of all, you can't raise enough money on the rich to whet their appetite. And secondly, they're going to say: "We're going to raise your taxes; don't worry about it—just to balance the budget." That's not the way it works in Washington. They will raise your taxes so they can spend new money on new programs.
Make no mistake about it, this is a fundamental divide between our two parties. If you want somebody in the United States Senate who will keep your taxes low, who understands the proper balance between government and entrepreneurship, it is Senator Jeff Sessions.
Some of you are probably concerned about the budget. You should be. But you ought to be pleased with how progrowth economic policies have affected the budget. You see, it's interesting. When you keep taxes low, it causes the economy to grow. And when the economy grows, it causes there to be more tax revenues into the Treasury. And if you're wise about spending the money like we have been over the past 5 years, not overspending, setting priorities—by the way, we're going to make sure our troops get all they need. We'll make sure our veterans are fully supported when they take the uniform off. But we've got to set priorities in Washington.
If you're wise about spending the money, it's amazing what happens to the deficit. I said, "We're going to cut the deficit in half in 5 years." It turns out, we cut the deficit in half 3 years earlier. I then submitted a budget that said, we're going to balance the budget in 5 years. Our deficit relative to GDP is low. In other words, what's happening is, progrowth economic policies are creating plenty of revenues. And now the task is to make sure that we keep your spending down to a reasonable level, and that's why they got the President the veto.
And one thing is, you can count on Sessions, see. That's the thing about it. He understands that we've got to keep taxes low. He understands that you've got to make the tough decision when it comes to spending money. And he understands we better support our troops. I'm proud to be up here with him. I can't think of a better United States Senator than Jeff Sessions. You're lucky to have him in Alabama. He's lucky to have you as friends.
Thanks for coming. God bless.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:05 p.m. at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Gen. David H. Petraeus, USA, commanding general, Multi-National Force—Iraq; Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq; and former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.
George W. Bush, Remarks at a Reception for Senatorial Candidate Jefferson B. Sessions III in Mobile, Alabama Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275691