Remarks in Sioux City, Iowa
The President. Thank you all. Thank you all for coming. We are honored to be in Sioux land. Thanks for coming. It's good to be in a part of the world where the cowboy hats outnumber the ties. Senator Grassley is right. Laura and I feel right at home with folks like you all, and thanks for coming out to lift our spirits. We're coming down the stretch. I'm here to ask for your vote, I'm here to ask for your help.
I'd like you to get your friends and neighbors to go to the polls tomorrow. Turn out our fellow Republicans, wise independents, and discerning Democrats. And when you get them headed to the polls, remind them, if they want a safer America and a stronger America and a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney back in office.
Perhaps the most important reason of all that I should be reelected is so that Laura is the First Lady for 4 more years. And there's nothing better than coming down the stretch in a Presidential campaign with two women I love, our daughters Barbara and Jenna.
I'm proud of my runningmate, Dick Cheney. I don't want to offend anybody here who is follically challenged, but I readily concede that Vice President Cheney does not have the waviest hair in the race. [Laughter] But I'm confident that you'll appreciate the fact I didn't pick him because of his hairdo. I picked him because of his judgment. I picked him because of his experience.
I'm proud to call Chuck Grassley friend. I know you're proud to call him United States Senator. He's a really fine Senator, and we have done a lot of work together. I—it's important that he remain the chairman of the Finance Committee, and one way to make sure he remains the chairman of the Finance Committee is for the people of South Dakota to elect John Thune to the United States Senate. I know John Thune, and there's no doubt in my mind that he will make a great United States Senator for the people of South Dakota. I want to thank Congressman Steve King from the great State of Iowa for being here.
I want to thank Sioux City Mayor Dave Ferris for being here today. I know the mayor didn't ask me for any advice, but I'm going to give him some. Fill the potholes. [Laughter] Mr. Mayor, thank you for your service. Mr. Mayor, I appreciate it.
I want to thank the speaker of the house, Christopher Rants. I want to thank all the State and local officials. I want to thank my friend Ricky Skaggs for being here, and his band. But most of all, I want to thank you all. Thanks for coming. Thanks for what you have done and thanks for what you're going to do as we come down the stretch, putting up the signs and making the phone calls and turning out the votes. No doubt in my mind, we'll carry Iowa and win a great victory in November.
I am excited about this election, and I am optimistic about the future of our country. I see a brighter day and a more hopeful America. One of my favorite sayings comes from a fellow Texan named Tom Lea. He said, "Sarah and I live on the east side of the mountain. It is the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that is gone." During the course of this campaign, my opponent has spent much of the time talking about the day that is gone. I'm talking about the day that's coming.
I see a great day coming for America. I see a day where prosperity reaches every corner of our country. I see a day where every child is able to read and write and add and subtract. I see a day in which this world becomes more peaceful, where we achieve the peace we want for our children and our grandchildren. And tomorrow, the people of America have a chance to bring that better day by voting for strong, confident, optimistic leadership by voting for Bush-Cheney.
The American President must lead with clarity and purpose. The role of the President is not to follow the path of the latest polls. The role of the President is to lead based upon principle, conviction, and conscience.
During the last 4 years, I've learned that whatever your strengths are, you are going to need them, and whatever your shortcomings are, the people are going to notice them. [Laughter] Sometimes I'm a little too blunt. I get that from my mother. [Laughter] Sometimes I mangle the English language. I get that from my father. [Laughter] But all the time, no matter whether you agree with me or not, you know where I stand, what I believe, and where I'm going to lead this country.
This election comes down to five clear choices for America's families. The first clear choice concerns your family budget. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I pledged to lower taxes for American families, and I have kept my word. We doubled the child credit to help moms and dads all across America. We reduced the marriage penalty. We believe the Tax Code ought to encourage, not penalize marriage. We reduced taxes on everybody who pays taxes. And as a result of these good policies, our economy is growing as fast—at rates as any—as fast in nearly 20 years. Real after-tax income—that's money in your pocket—is up 10 percent since I have been the President. Our farmers and ranchers are making a good living all across America.
Homeownership rate is at an alltime high. More minority owns—more minority families own a house than ever before in our Nation's history. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in America. Our small businesses all across the Nation are doing well. We've added 1.9 million new jobs in the last 13 months. The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent. That's lower than the average rate of the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. In the great State of Iowa, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. This economy is strong, and it is getting stronger.
I've a message for the farmers and ranchers of Iowa and South Dakota and Nebraska. We will continue to open up foreign markets for your products. We'll promote renewables like ethanol and biodiesel. We will keep our farm economy strong, and you can count on me to keep my word.
My opponent has an economic plan. I want you to remember he has voted to increase taxes 98 times in 20 years as a United States Senator.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. That is five times a year. You might say that is a predictable pattern, a leading indicator. In this campaign the Senator has pledged to raise taxes on the top two brackets. But that's not enough to pay for his priorities. See, he's promised $2.2 trillion in new Federal spending. That is trillion with a "T." That's a lot even for a Senator from Massachusetts.
But raising those top two brackets, that penalizes your small-business owner, and at the same time, it doesn't even come close to paying for his promises. There's a tax gap. That's a gap between what he has promised and what he can deliver. And you know who usually fills that tax gap? Middle-class families do. We're not going to let him tax you; we're going to win on Tuesday.
The second clear choice in this election involves the quality of life for our Nation's families. I believe every child can learn and that every school must teach. I went to Washington to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations and to reform our public schools. I have kept my word. We passed education reforms to bring high standards to the classrooms. Math and reading scores are on the rise. We're closing the achievement gap by helping minority students all across America. In a new term, we will build on these reforms, extend them to our high schools so that no child is left behind in America.
We'll continue to improve life for our families by making health care more affordable and available. We will expand health savings accounts. We will allow small businesses to join together so they can buy insurance at the same discounts available to big companies.
We will help families in need, and we will help our patients and doctors all across America by doing something about these junk lawsuits that are running up the cost of medicine. I have met too many ob-gyns across our country that are having to stop practicing medicine because these lawsuits are running up their premiums. And I have met too many expectant moms who are desperately concerned about their health and the health of their little one because they have to drive miles to find a doctor. We have a national problem when it comes to these frivolous lawsuits.
My opponent voted 10 times against medical liability reform, and he put a personal-injury trial lawyer on the ticket.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. I'm standing with the doctors of America. I'm standing with the patients of America. I am for real medical liability reform. In all we do to improve health care, we will make sure that the medical decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by officials in Washington, DC.
My opponent has got his ideas on health care. You might remember one of the debates when they asked him about his health care plan. He looked right in the camera, and he said, "The Government doesn't have anything to do with it." I could barely contain myself. [Laughter] The Government has got a lot to do with it. Eighty percent of the people end up on a Government plan under his vision. Federalizing health care is the wrong prescription for American families.
The third clear choice in this campaign involves your retirement. Our Nation has made a solemn commitment to our seniors on Social Security and Medicare. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I promised to keep that commitment and improve Medicare by adding prescription drug coverage. I have kept my word.
I remember campaigning in 2002 in Iowa with Senator Grassley. I remember all those newspaper editorials saying that Iowa hospitals, rural hospitals were being treated unfairly under Medicare. So I worked with the Senator. Now, Iowa's hospitals are being treated fairly under Medicare because of the work we have done. So are the rural hospitals in Nebraska and South Dakota. And beginning in 2006, all seniors will be able to get prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
My opponent has a record. He voted against the Medicare bill that included prescription drug coverage. He also tries to scare seniors about Social Security. But he forgets to tell you that he's the one who voted eight times to tax Social Security benefits. He can run from his record, but he cannot hide.
I have kept the promise for Social Security, and I will always keep the promise for Social Security for our seniors. And baby boomers like me and some other ones out there that I'm looking at are in pretty good shape when it comes to the Social Security trust.
But we need to worry about our children and our grandchildren when it comes to Social Security. We need to worry about whether or not the Social Security system will be there when they need it. And that is why I think younger workers ought to be allowed to take some of their own payroll taxes and set up a personal savings account, an account that earns a better rate of return, an account they call their own.
The fourth clear choice in this election is on the values that are crucial to keeping our families strong. I stand for marriage and family, which are the foundations of our society. I stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every being counts. And I proudly signed the ban on partial-birth abortion. I stand for the appointment of Federal judges who know the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law.
On these issues, my opponent and I are miles apart. He was part of an extreme minority that voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, and he voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. There is a mainstream in American politics, and Senator John Kerry sits on the far left bank. He ran run from his liberal record, but he cannot hide.
The final choice in this election is the most important of all because it concerns the security of your family. All progress on every other issue depends on the safety of our citizens. The most solemn duty of the American President is to protect the American people. If America shows uncertainty or weakness in these troubled times, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch.
Our strategy is clear. We have strengthened the protections for our homeland. We are reforming and strengthening our intelligence capabilities. We are transforming our All-Volunteer Army. There will be no draft. We are relentless. We are steadfast. We are determined to protect the American people. We're staying on the offensive. We're fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.
We are succeeding. Afghanistan is an ally in the war on terror. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are making arrests and capturing terrorist leaders. Libya is dismantling its weapons programs. The army of a free Iraq is defending freedom. Al Qaida no longer controls Afghanistan. We have shut down its camps. We are systematically destroying the Al Qaida network. More than three-quarters of Al Qaida's key members and associates have been brought to justice, and the rest of them know that we're on their trail.
One reason we're succeeding is because we have a great United States military. I want to thank those who are here who wear our Nation's uniform. I want to thank the military families who are with us today, and I want to thank all the veterans here who have set such a great example for our military.
Audience members. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
The President. I have made a commitment to our military and to the families of our military that our troops will have all that is necessary to complete their missions. That is why in September of 2003, I proposed $87 billion in funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was vital funding. Most of the people in Washington supported that funding. My opponent, on national TV, initially said, "It would be irresponsible to vote against the funding for the troops." And then his poll numbers went down, and he voted against the funding for our troops.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. And then he entered the flip-flop hall of fame. And he entered the flip-flop hall of fame by saying this: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, right before I voted against it." [Laughter] I haven't spent much time in the coffee shops around here, but I feel pretty comfortable in predicting that not many people talk like that in Sioux land.
He's given several explanations of that vote since then. But perhaps the most revealing of all is when he said, "The whole thing is just a complicated matter." [Laughter] My fellow Americans, there is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat.
The problem with Senator Kerry's record on national security are deeper than election-year reversals. For 20 years, on the largest national security issues of our time, he has been consistently wrong. During the cold war, Senator Kerry voted against critical weapons systems and opposed President Ronald Reagan's policy of peace through strength. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and President Ronald Reagan was right.
When former President Bush assembled an international coalition to drive Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, Senator Kerry voted against the use of force to liberate Kuwait. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong and former President Bush was right.
Only a year after the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the Senator proposed massive cuts in America's intelligence, cuts so extreme that even his fellow Massachusetts Senator, Ted Kennedy, would not support them. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong—and we have got to be fair about it—Senator Kennedy was right.
We have a difference of opinion as to how to protect America. My opponent says that America must submit to what he has called a "global test" before we take action to defend ourselves.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. I'm not making that up. [Laughter] I heard it during one of the debates. As far as I can tell, my opponent's "global test" means America must get permission to defend our country. I'll work with allies and I'll work with our friends, but I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries.
Senator Kerry said recently that September the 11th did not change him much at all. Well, it changed the way I look at the world. I'll never forget going to the ruins of the Twin Towers on September the 14th, 2001. There were workers in hardhats there yelling at me at the top of their lungs, "Whatever it takes." I remember the fellow coming out of the rubble, and he grabbed me by the arm, and he looked me in the eye, and he said, "Do not let me down." Ever since that day, I wake up every morning trying to figure out how to better protect the American people. I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes.
Over the next 4 years, we'll use every asset at our disposal to protect the American people. And one of the most—one of the strongest assets we have is freedom. Free nations do not breed resentments and export terror. Free nations become allies in the war on terror. By spreading freedom, it helps us to achieve the peace we all want. I believe in the power of liberty to transform society.
Just think about what's happened in Afghanistan in just 3 short years. That country used to be the home base of Al Qaida and its training camps. Little girls were not allowed to go to school because of the barbaric vision of the Taliban. And if their mothers did not toe their line, their ideological line, they were taken into the public squares and whipped and sometimes shot in a sports stadium. Because we acted to protect our country, because we upheld the doctrine that I laid out that said, "If you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist," millions of people went to the polls to vote for a President of Afghanistan. And the first voter was a 19-year-old woman.
It's an amazing story about the power of liberty to transform a society. Iraq is still very dangerous, and the reason it is, is because democracy is emerging, is because the society is becoming free and freedom scares these terrorists. They can't stand the thought of a free society in their midst. But think how far Iraq has come from the days of torture chambers and mass graves and the brutal reign of a barbaric tyrant.
I believe every soul in the world yearns to be free. I believe mothers and dads want to raise their children in a free world. I believe all these things not because freedom is America's gift to the world; I believe it because freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world.
My fellow citizens, these are historic times, and a lot is at stake in this election. The future safety and prosperity of America are on the ballot. But ultimately, this election comes down to who can you trust— who can you trust to protect your family? Who can you trust to put plans in place to make sure prosperity spreads its wings?
If you believe that taxes should stay low so families can pay the bills and small businesses can create new jobs, I ask you to come stand with me.
If you believe in high standards for our public schools, I ask you, come stand with me.
If you believe patients and doctors should be in charge of health care, I ask you to come stand with me.
If you believe that this Nation must honor the commitments of Medicare and strengthen Social Security for generations to come, I ask you to come stand with me.
If you believe that this Nation should honor marriage and family and make a place for the weak and the vulnerable, I ask you to come stand with me.
If you believe America should fight the war on terror with all our might and lead with unwavering confidence in our ideals, I ask you to come stand with me.
If you are a Democrat who believes your party has turned too far to the left this year, I ask you to come stand with me.
If you are a minority citizen and you believe in free enterprise and good schools and the enduring values of family and faith, and if you are tired of your vote being taken for granted, I ask you to come stand with me.
And if you are a voter who believes that the President of the United States should say what he means and do what he says and keep his word, I ask you to come stand with me.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. Four years ago, when I traveled throughout Sioux land asking for the vote, I made this pledge: If elected, I would uphold the honor and the dignity of the office. With your help, with your hard work, I will do so for 4 more years.
God bless and thanks for coming. Thank you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 4:41 p.m. at the Tysons Event Center. In his remarks, he referred to Christopher Rants, speaker, Iowa State House of Representatives; entertainer Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder; and former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
George W. Bush, Remarks in Sioux City, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213329