Remarks in Tampa, Florida
The President. Thank you all very much. Thanks a lot. Thank you all. Jeb and I are sure glad we came. You're lifting his spirits, and I appreciate that more than you know.
I want to thank you all for coming. I'm traveling the country, reminding people about the American spirit, the fact that no matter what the cost, we'll defend our freedom; this American spirit that says to be a patriot, you've got to serve something greater than yourself; a spirit of America that says we love freedom, and if you love freedom, you have a duty to vote.
If you love our country, it doesn't matter what your political party is; you have an obligation to participate in democracy. I've come into this important State to urge people from all walks of life, from all political parties, to do your duty next Tuesday. But when you get in that voting booth, I've got a good suggestion for you. [Laughter] For the sake of the Florida taxpayers, for the sake of the Florida schoolchildren, for the sake of dignity and integrity in the office of Governor, send Jeb Bush back to Tallahassee. And you might as well send Frank Brogan back with him. They make a great team, on behalf of all the citizens of this State.
One of the things Jeb and I share in common, besides a fine mother who's still telling us what to do on a regular basis— [laughter]—is, we both married above ourselves. We both have got great wives. I'm honored to be here with the great first lady for Florida, Columba Bush, and of course, a University of Texas law school student—Hollywood handsome, I might add—a great man, George P. Bush.
You drew the short straw tonight. You got me instead of Laura. [Laughter] She's campaigning up north, and you got stuck with the President. But she sends her love. She sends her love to Jeb and Columba. She sends her best to all our friends in Florida. And like me, she reminds you: Go to the polls, and take some friends to the polls so this good man can serve you for 4 more years.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. And that's another reason I've come today, is because I want to urge you to help Jeb. See, I want you to go to your houses of worship tomorrow, go to your coffee shops on Monday—go to your coffee shops, go to your community centers. Tell anybody who will listen what a good man you've got in your Governor. I want to remind you, make sure you don't ignore Democrats.
See, they don't want their taxes raised— a lot of them don't. Democrats in Florida know the difference between somebody who tells it like it is and somebody who just tells it any way he sees fit. [Laughter] Democrats in this State want good government. They want somebody to do what he says he's going to do in office. Independents want the same thing. So starting tomorrow, round up people and tell them to go to the polls on Tuesday. Jeb's counting on your help, and so am I.
And you won't be wasting your time. You watch and see what happens next Tuesday, thanks to your hard work, thanks to his good message, thanks to his great record. Not only are Republicans going to turn out in droves, but this man is going to get independent vote, discerning Democrat vote; wise Democrats are going to come his way. And you're going to have 4 more years of a great Governor in Jeb Bush.
I want to thank a couple of Members of Congress who are here. I know Bill Young is here. I call him "the Chairman." See, he runs the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives. Not only do I call him "the Chairman;" I call him "sir." [Laughter] He's a powerful Member from Florida, and he's a great Member from Florida. I'm proud to call him friend, and I'm proud he's here.
Mike Bilirakis is here as well, a fine Member of the United States Congress. These are two of the good ones, and you've got a fine person running for Congress as well. Her name is Ginny Brown-Waite. We need to send her to the United States Congress. So when you're out there rounding up the votes for Jeb, don't forget Ginny.
I'm also proud to be up here with a member of my Cabinet. I wanted somebody to work with me to close the housing gap in America. Too many of them are minorities—don't own their house. Too many of them don't own a home. We're going to close that gap. It makes sense to encourage people to own something in the great country called America. We want all people—[applause]—there's nothing more—there's nothing better than owning your own home. Too many of our African Americans don't own a home. Too many Hispanics in this country don't own a home. And so I called upon a Floridian to help me close that homeownership gap.
I picked a solid American, a man of great success, a man who represents the best of the country. After all, his parents, when he was a little boy, put him on the boat to escape the clutches of Fidel Castro, so he could grow up in freedom, and now he's a member of the President's Cabinet, Mel Martinez.
I'm also proud to be up here with the great General Norman Schwarzkopf, the man who set the example.
Finally, I want to thank the good folks here at the University of South Florida, particularly President Judy Genshaft for her hospitality, and all the good folks who put up with us today. It's a great place to celebrate the candidacy and the soon-to-be victory of Jeb Bush. We thank you for your hospitality.
The thing you've got to remember about this good man who's your Governor is, he did in office what he said he would do. See, that's important. We've got too many in the political process who just say things, just kind of float something out there and hope it sounds good, hope somebody might bite on it, hope it convinces people, but have no intentions or capabilities of getting it done. That's the exact opposite of your Governor. He said he was going to work to improve education for every child in the State of Florida, and he has fulfilled that promise.
See, he's got the right mindset. He believes every child can learn; that's what he believes. And therefore, he's willing to ask the question: Can every child read; can every child write; can every child add and subtract? And if not, he's willing to challenge the status quo. You have a Governor who will not be captured by special interests. You have a Governor with one interest in mind, to make sure that no child in the State of Florida is left behind.
We're going through some tough economic times in America. We're kind of bumping along, is how I describe it, just bumping. And that's not good enough for this country. Anytime somebody who wants to work and can't find a job, it says we've got a problem. But there are some bright spots in this Nation about job creation. And the brightest of all bright spots is right here in the State of Florida. This man, he just doesn't talk about jobs. You're creating them here.
He and I understand this: The role of Government is not to create wealth but an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which the small business can grow to be big businesses. No, you've got the right man if you're worried about the economic vitality of your State. You've got the right man if you're worried about job creation. That man is Jeb Bush.
Been tough budget times for a lot of States. It's tough economic times. Remember, we went through a recession. And then the enemy hit us. Then we had a little problem with some of our corporate executives. [Laughter] They forgot what it would mean to be a responsible leader. They forgot what it means to tell the truth. Some of them thought they could fudge the books, shade the numbers. Those days are over with.
Thanks to Members of Congress here, I had the ability to sign the toughest law, the corporate reform law, since Franklin Roosevelt. There's not going to be any more easy money, just hard time when we catch you fudging the numbers and not doing your responsibility.
But as a result of these tough times, revenues have dwindled in States, and it's been hard for some Governors to manage the budget—not the Governor of Florida. This man managed the budget during tough economic times. He took on the tough tasks to make sure your money was spent properly. He understands what I know: When you're talking about money in Tallahassee or money in Washington, it's not the Government's money; it's your money. And Jeb Bush is a good steward of your money.
It should be clear to the people of Florida from all political parties that the man knows what he's doing, that the man is a plain speaker, that the man cares deeply about the citizens of this State. When he hears of hurt, he doesn't go around and say, "Well, if you're hurting, I'll only try to help you if you're a Republican." He cries when anybody hurts. He's got deep compassion for the citizens of Florida, an honest man, who's brought integrity and dignity to the office. He's the kind of guy that will make you proud. He's the kind of guy that you need to send back to Tallahassee as a reelected Governor of Florida.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. Jeb has handled tough problems in Tallahassee, and we're going to handle tough problems in Washington on your behalf. I talked about the economy. I'm worried about people not being able to find work. We'll do everything we can to make sure job creation is strong. And the best way to do that is to let you keep more of your own money. Those tax cuts we passed came at the right time in American history.
Now, when you hear them talking about in Washington up there, "Oh, we better revisit the tax cuts"——
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. ——that just means they're fixing to try to get in your pocket. For the sake of economic vitality, for the sake of growth, and for the sake of jobs, we need to make the tax cuts permanent.
No, there's a lot of issues we'll be working on. We'll be working on health care issues, of course. We've got to make sure Medicare works. Medicine has changed. Medicine is modern. Technology has changed medicine. New discoveries have changed medicine. But Medicare is stuck in the past. It hasn't changed. For the sake of fulfilling our promise to seniors, I need to have people in Washington, DC, with whom I can work to modernize Medicare, which means prescription drugs for the seniors of the State of Florida.
No, there's a lot of issues we need to work on. But the biggest issue of all is to protect you. You see, there's still an enemy out there that lurks around. They hate us. They hate us because of what we love. We love the freedom to worship. We love the freedom to speak our mind. We love every aspect about freedom, and we're not changing. And so long as we love, they hate. And so we've got a task ahead, and that is to protect you. That's why I went to Congress and said, in spite of the fact that a lot of good people are working hard—you see, anytime we get a hint, any piece of evidence that somebody is thinking about doing something to America, we're moving on them. We're disrupting them. We're denying them.
But the threat is real. And therefore I went to Congress and said, "Give us a Homeland Security Department, so we can better coordinate the agencies involved with protecting you. Give us something to make sure that we can change cultures, so that people get the message that our number one responsibility in Washington, DC, is to protect the American people from further attack." The Members of the House responded, but it's stuck in the United States Senate.
Audience members. Boo-o-o!
The President. Yes, and it's stuck in the United States Senate, and you need to know why it's stuck in the United States Senate, and you might let some of your Senators know why it's stuck. It's because they want me to give up power that Presidents have had since John F. Kennedy.
See, Presidents since John F. Kennedy have had the capacity to suspend some collective bargaining rules, in any Department of the Federal Government, for the sake of national security. In other words, I'll have the capacity—I do have the capacity today, unless the Senate has its way, for me to take some rules and set them aside so we can better protect you. And that's the issue, and I'm not giving up that power, for the sake of the American people.
But the best way to protect you is to hunt these killers down, one at a time, and bring them to justice.
Audience members. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
The President. Therapy won't work. [Laughter] I asked Congress for a big increase in defense spending. I want to thank Chairman Young for leading the way. I had the honor of signing a defense appropriations bill, which increased defense spending, the largest increase since Ronald Reagan was the President, and there's two reasons why. I want you to hear the reasons.
One, anytime we put our troops into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible equipment. And secondly, you need to know and our friends need to know and our enemy needs to know, we're in this deal for the long haul. There's not a calendar on my desk in the Oval Office that says on suchand-such a date, we're pulling them in. No matter how long it takes, no matter what the cost is, we will defend freedom. History has called us into action, and we're not going to tire. We're not going to quit until we have defeated the agents of terror and until America is safe and our friends are safe.
And we're making progress. This is a different kind of war. In the old days, you know, if you destroyed an enemy's tanks or sunk his ships or knocked down airplanes, you knew you were making progress. A lot of these folks don't have tanks. They hide in caves. They send youngsters to their suicidal deaths. So therefore, the doctrine that says, "Either you're with us, or you're with the enemy," is just as important today as it was a year ago, and it still stands.
Slowly but surely, we're hunting them down. It's going to take awhile. You just have got to know it's going to take awhile. But the stakes are high. And they're really high, particularly on what happened on September the 11th. You see, a cold reality came—my job, by the way, is to see the world the way it is, not the way we hope— hope it is. And there's a cold reality. Oceans no longer protect us from threats. Oceans no longer protect us from gathering dangers across the—in other parts of the world.
It used to be, we could pick or choose. We learned a lesson that the battlefield is here at home, and we've got to be realistic about that. And that's why I started the debate on Iraq. You see, I view the man as a serious threat to America and our friends and allies. He's a man who has told the world he wouldn't have weapons of mass destruction, yet he does. We know a while ago that he was close to having a nuclear weapon. We have no idea today how close he is. If he has a nuclear weapon, it's a serious problem for America and our friends and allies.
We know he's got chemical weapons. He said he wouldn't have them, but we know he's got them. Not only does he have them, he used them. He used them in his neighborhood. He used them on his own people.
We know that he's had connections with Al Qaida. There would be nothing more pleasing to him to be able to use one of these shadowy terrorist networks. He could serve as the armory and the training grounds. They could be the deliverer of weapons, and we would never see his fingerprints.
We know he's a danger. And that's why I went to the United Nations, to take my explanation there. See, I want the United Nations to succeed. I think it's important in the new threats facing America that we have an international body that has got the backbone necessary to hold people to account. For 11 years, however, this guy has defied the United Nations. Not once, not twice, but 16 times he has said, "Forget it."
And therefore, I have said to the United Nations, "Show us whether you can be an effective body at keeping the peace or whether or not you'll be the League of Nations. Show us whether or not you'll be an effective—ability to hold people to account, or whether you're going to be an empty debating society"—their choice to make.
And Mr. Saddam Hussein has got a choice to make as well. He has said he wouldn't have weapons of mass destruction. We expect him not to have weapons of mass destruction. But the Congress spoke with a voice that I hear, and I believe that, if they do not disarm Saddam Hussein, if the United Nations can't act and he himself will not disarm, for the sake of peace and for the sake of freedom, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm him.
I don't know what was going through the mind of the enemy. I can't imagine what the enemy was thinking when they hit us. They probably thought the national religion of America was materialism, that we were so materialistic and caught up in money that we were selfish and self-absorbed and shallow. Oh, they probably thought that after September the 11th, 2001, we'd file a lawsuit or two. [Laughter]
You see, they know something—they don't know something I know, that the spirit of America is strong, the American spirit is alive and well, that this great Nation, if we stay the course, if we remain strong, if we speak clearly, if we remember that freedom is not an American gift to the world, it is a God-given gift to the world, if we remain true to our principles and values, we can achieve peace. And that's the dream, to achieve peace. And that's one of the good that's going to come out of the incredible evil done to America.
And you know what else is going to happen in America? America is going to be a better country as a result of what happened to us. We still weep for the victims. We still mourn for those who lost life. But out of the evil done to America is going to come some great good.
It's because you've got people like Jeb Bush, who understand the true strength of the country lies not in the halls of Government but in the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens. He and I know that Government can hand out money, and we will do everything we can to try to help people help themselves and reform programs and make sure education works. But Government cannot put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That does when—that happens when people put their arm around somebody who hurts and says, "I love you. What can I do to help you? Can I mentor you? Can I be the head of a Boy Scout troop or a Girl Scout troop or run a Boys or Girls Club?"
No, you see, the important thing to remember is that if you want to make a difference in America, you can help change this country one heart, one hurting soul, one conscience at a time. And although one of us can't do everything, each of us can do something to make an enormous difference.
No, the enemy hit us. They had no idea who they were hitting. Out of the evil done to America is going to come a peaceful world. And out of the evil done to America is going to come a more hopeful and compassionate tomorrow, because the American spirit is alive and well. It is strong; it is vibrant.
I want to thank you all for coming tonight. I want to thank you for supporting my brother, Jeb. May God bless you. And may God bless America.
NOTE: The President spoke at 7:20 p.m. in the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, his wife, Columba, and their son George P. Bush; Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan of Florida; Ginny Brown-Waite, candidate for Florida's Fifth Congressional District; Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA (Ret.), former commander of Operation Desert Storm; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
George W. Bush, Remarks in Tampa, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/215859