George W. Bush photo

Remarks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa

August 14, 2002

Thank you all very much for that warm welcome. I came off the—I came off my ranch today in Crawford. There are not many places that would kind of lure me away, but the Iowa State Fair is one. It's an honor to be here. I'm proud—it's good to see so many friends and friendly faces. I think back with fond memories of my travels through this beautiful State—and I mean it's a beautiful State. God has—God has blessed Iowa and the citizens of this great State.

I was hoping to get here in time for the chicken-calling contest—[laughter]—or the hog-calling contest, but they tell me that they've got a ladies husband-calling contest. I think Laura entered this morning.

I'm sorry she's not with me. She's in Texas. She's actually working today in the Austin area. But I send her greetings, and I can't tell you how proud I am with Laura. She's a great First Lady. I'm really lucky she said yes when I asked her to marry me. Some of her friends in Texas are wondering how lucky she was. [Laughter]

But I'm so glad you all came. I want to talk about some of the challenges that face America. I want to talk about how to make sure our economy is strong. I want to tell you that we're doing everything we can to protect the homeland. And I want to assure you, I'm going to do what it takes to win the war on terror.

I appreciate so very much my friend Congressman Greg Ganske for his introduction, and I appreciate his service to the constituency here in the Des Moines area. Greg, thank you for coming. I want to thank our Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman. She's doing a fabulous job. She understands farming and ranching, and she's working hard on behalf of the hardworking farmers and ranchers here in America. I appreciate your Governor coming. Governor, thank you for being here. I'm honored you took time to be here. Governor Vilsack, thanks for coming.

I want to thank Dave Huinker for inviting me to come and setting up this nice little place where we can have a chat about America. I want to thank the boards of directors of the State fair, and I appreciate hard-working Americans for being here as well.

I'm honored to be your President. I understand, and you know, that this economy of ours is challenged. Anytime somebody wants to work and can't find a job, says to me we've got a problem. We've got good, hard-working Americans who are trying to put bread on the table for their families, and they can't find a place to work, then we better do something about it. We better get to work.

When I came into office, we were in a recession. We had three quarters of negative growth. Then the enemy hit us. And then a scandal that had been brewing all of a sudden comes up to the surface, and we found out some people who knew better were cooking the books. But these challenges are pale in comparison to the strength of America. Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world. Our working people can outwork anybody. Our entrepreneurs are more visionary. Interest rates are low. Inflation is low. Productivity is up. Consumers are buying. The foundation for growth is there, but we've got work to do. We've got work to do.

And I really believe that work should start with making sure we've got a strong farmer economy. I believe the backbone for a good American economy is a good farm economy. I spend a lot of time talking about national security, but one thing I don't have to worry about is the lack of food for the American people. Thank goodness, thanks to the American farmers, we've got more food than we need here at home.

One way to help create jobs in America, better jobs for American workers, is to trade. Oh, I've heard the excuses. They say, "Well, trade is going to cause jobs to leave America." I just don't believe that. I believe when you're good at something, you ought to encourage that which you're good at. I believe when you're the best in the world, you ought not to limit capacity but expand capacity. And one place we're the best in the world is growing things, and we ought to be opening markets for Iowa farmers all over the world.

Farmers are, I'm sure, skeptical when they hear about trade. After all, the agriculture sector had been kind of a part of trade negotiations. Then when times got tough, they just kind of tossed the farmers aside, said they'd rather focus on computer chips than corn chips. But those days have changed. Those days have changed.

See, I understand you start with strength when it comes to playing the American hand. I understand that if you're interested in economic security for every American, you do what you're good at. And what we're good at is growing food and hogs and cattle. And it's my job and the job of this administration, now that I've got trade promotion authority, to do everything we can to knock down the barriers so you can be selling your products all over the world.

The United States was only party to three trade agreements during the past years. There are 190 of them done around the world; we're only party to 3. But those days have ended. My man Zoellick, who is a trade guy, and Ann Veneman are going to work hand in hand to make sure that agriculture is the cornerstone of good international trade policy. And it needs to be. After all, when you look at the tariffs in other countries, it's prohibitive for U.S. product. I mean, we sell now about a billion dollars' worth of soybeans and soybean products around the world. But in our own hemisphere, the tariffs on soybean products can reach as high as 65 percent. Imagine what can happen when we reduce those tariffs, reduce those barriers, level the playing field for America's great farmers. No, if we could get rid of all the barriers around the world, it's estimated that $13 billion of trade, $13 billion of commerce, would flow in our agricultural sector on an annual basis. That means people would be able to make a living on the family farm. That means that the hard work you do will be realized in fair and reasonable prices.

One of the things we're going to do is to make sure that we're not on the sidelines of international trade and open up markets. It's in our Nation's interests to do so for our farmers and ranchers. It's in our Nation's interest and also for our working people too. It's a fact that when you trade, we get better jobs here in America. It's a fact that when you don't seal ourselves off from the rest of the world, our working people are able to realize a better living.

I want you to understand this statistic. Caterpillar right now is beginning to move product around the world. Yet in Chile— they're trying to move something into Chile for that economy—there's a $15,000 tariff on a motor grader. Imagine what would happen if we had a free trade agreement with Chile, which we're going to work hard to do. All of a sudden, those motor graders move a lot quicker, because they're the best in the world. But guess what happens when we sell them into Chile? Somebody else is going to find work here in America. We've got to produce American goods and sell them overseas. It's in our workers' interests to do so.

The head of John Deere is here with us today, and he tells me one out of every four tractors produced at John Deere's largest U.S. factory in Waterloo, Iowa, is sold overseas. That means somebody's earning a living on that plant floor. That means one of your fellow citizens is more likely to be employed. The more tractors John Deere sells overseas, the better off it is for Iowa workers. You see, trade is not only good for the farmers and ranchers, the entrepreneurs, and the high-tech people; trade is good for the working people here in America. And I intend to make America a free trading nation.

But there are other ways to make sure our economy remains strong. Greg talked about my understanding of the need to develop renewable sources of energy. You see, there's a chance, if we do good things on research and development, there's a chance, if we continue wise policy as regards ethanol, we can grow our way to become less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. It's in our Nation's interest that we become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

We need to make sure that, in order for our economy to be strong, for the farm economy to remain strong, that the tax relief package we passed is permanent. When your economy slows down, it is very important to let the people keep their money. You see, when a person has more money in their pocket, they're likely to demand a good or a service. And when they demand a good or a service, somebody is going to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces a good or a service, somebody's going to find work. The tax relief package that we passed came at the right time for America. Unfortunately, because of a quirk in the law, it goes away after 10 years. Unfortunately, it is not permanent. For the sake of our farmers and ranchers, for the sake of the small-business owners here in America, for the sake of people who need to plan, Congress needs to make the tax relief permanent.

Yesterday we had an economic summit in Baylor University in Waco, Texas. I told them, I said, "Welcome to the middle of Texas in the middle of August." [Laughter] They must have had something on their mind, and they did. One of the things we heard over and over again from our small-business people and from our farmers and the ranchers that were there was how terrible the death tax is. I mean, people wonder about, how do you keep the farm in the family? One way you keep the family farms intact is not to tax a person's assets twice. Part of that tax relief plan I'm talking about was the repeal of the death tax. It comes back after 10 years. That's bad public policy. I strongly urge the farmers and ranchers here and those who own small businesses to demand that your elected representatives repeal the death tax once and for all.

There's other things we can do and must do. We've got to have fiscal responsibility in Washington, DC. We've got to make sure we don't overspend. Every project sounds fantastic. Every idea is worth funding in Washington, but that's not reality. It's important to set priorities with your money and to make sure we stick to those priorities.

Congress sent me what they call a supplemental spending bill. There was a healthy amount of money in there for fighting the war on terror and protecting our homeland, which I thought we needed. But they added 5 billion extra dollars, including a new building to house the worm and bug collection of the Federal Government. And they put a stipulation on the money. The Governor will appreciate this. They said, "Either you spend it all, or none of it." Those of us in the executive offices don't particularly like that kind of language. "Either you spend it all, or you spend none. Either you spend everything we think is necessary, including the house for bugs and worms, or you don't spend any of it." Well, they made their decision. I made mine: We're not spending any of the extra $5 billion, for the sake of fiscal sanity in Washington.

There's a lot of things we can do. We need a terrorism insurance package to get our hardhats working again. There's over $8 billion worth of projects, large projects, which are stalled in America because we can't get terrorism insurance to the developers. Congress needs to pass a good bill which understands putting the hardhats back to work is good for the American economy.

But there's one other thing we need to do here in America. We need to take some of the good, old-fashioned farm values and make sure they're a part of our culture. I'm talking about values of hard work and honesty. I'm talking about telling the truth. I love the priorities of our farm families: faith, family, and telling the truth and being honest and upright. And corporate America needs to hear that signal.

By far the vast majority of our corporate leaders are good, honest people, no question about it. You've got some of the great corporations here in Iowa, people who run—companies run by people who care deeply about their shareholders and their employees. But I want to assure you of something. If we find somebody cooking the books, we find somebody not being open and honest, we find somebody trying to get ahead by sleight of hand, they will be prosecuted and they will be—they will be held to account. We can't stand for corporate corruption to corrupt America.

No, we're making progress. We're making progress. We've got a lot of work to do. But I'm optimistic about the economic security of America, because I understand America. I know we've got great people, hard-working citizens. I understand the vibrancy of our entrepreneurial class. I see and hear the vision of people that are dreaming new dreams. I know there's new businesses being started up all around the country. No, we may have hit a bump in the road. But that road is going to smooth out, and people are going to find the economic security they want here in America. But we're not going to rest until that security is throughout the entire country.

We've got another big calling here, too, and that's the homeland security for our country. People wonder, you know, "Why is it that an enemy would want to hit America?" And my answer is pretty simple. It's because we love freedom, and they don't. It's because we value a society in which people are able to worship freely and speak their mind freely and read a free press, and the enemy can't stand it. And they're out there. They're out there, and they hate us. And plus, they don't value life like we do here in America. Every life matters in this country. Every person's got standing, as far as we're concerned. They don't believe that.

And so long as they're out there, we will do everything we can to protect the homeland. There are a lot of really good people at the Federal, State, and local level working hard to protect America. Anytime we get a hint, anytime we get a piece of evidence, we're moving on it, to disrupt whatever plans they may have.

In order to do as good a job of protecting our homeland as possible, I have called upon Congress to create a new Department of Homeland Security. I concede I didn't run for Government saying, "Vote for me. I want our Government to be bigger and more cumbersome." I said, "I want our Government to be effective and to work." And we particularly need an effective Department when it comes to homeland security.

There's over 100 agencies there in Washington that have got something to do with homeland security. I mean, there's just too many of them. It's hard to hold people to account when you've got 100 agencies scattered all over the Nation's Capital. So in order to protect our borders better, in order to be able to deal with first-responders and bioterrorism, I said, "Why don't we collect most of them under one umbrella, give them one boss, give them a chance to set a single priority, which is protecting the homeland?" Oh, I understand that agencies like the Coast Guard will do other things. But protecting our homeland is the number one priority of this Government.

And so therefore, I expect and the American people expect Congress to work with us to give us the tools necessary to protect the homeland. And the House of Representatives made a good start, but the Senate looks a little shaky. The Senate looks like they want to micromanage how we can run the Department of Homeland Security. They want to protect their turf. But their turf isn't nearly as important as the security of the American people. I expect the Senate to give me a bill that will allow me to move people to the right place and the right job and the right time on behalf of the security of the American people.

But the best way to secure this homeland is to hunt the killers down one by one and bring them to justice, and that's what this country is going to do. It's going to take a while. It's going to take a while because, after all, unlike previous wars where you can see these battalions and divisions moving across plains and hedgerows and see aircraft flying in formation, this is one of these wars where people are going to hide in a cave and then they send some youngster to his death. That's the kind of war we're fighting.

But we're patient. We're a patient country. And we're disciplined, and we're united, because we understand history has called us into action. History said, you know, what are we made out of? We're about to show the world what we're made out of. We love our freedoms. No one is going to take them away from us. And we've got a fantastic United States military to back us up.

I called on Congress to pass the largest defense appropriations bill since Ronald Reagan was the President for two reasons: One, anytime we put our soldiers into harm's way, we better make sure they've got the best pay, the best equipment, and the best possible training. Secondly, we're sending a pretty strong message to the rest of the world that we're not quitting, that America understands our obligations and responsibilities to future generations, that we love freedom, that we love our—the ability to live a free life. And therefore, we're going to remain vigilant and strong and lead a mighty coalition against those who would try to take away our freedoms.

And we're making progress. We're making pretty good progress. We've hauled in or captured—however you want to put it— brought to justice over a couple of thousand of them. And a couple of other thousand weren't so lucky. But they're still out there. They're out there. And they just have got to hear the message from America loud and clear: You can't hide; you can't run. Slowly but surely, we're going to bring you to justice.

I hope when we get back from our— what they call a recess, the August recess, that Congress acts quickly on the defense appropriations bill. Sometimes they like to play politics with the defense appropriations bill, but we're at war. We don't need any politics with the defense appropriations bill. I want to sign the bill as soon as possible after we get back. It's important for our military. It's important for our planners.

I believe we've got some hurdles ahead of us, but there's no question we're going to—we'll deal with them, because we're America, a fantastic country. I believe that out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good. I believe, sure as I'm standing here, that if we remain tough and strong in the war against terror, that we'll bring peace to the world; that by being steadfast in our love, we can achieve a peace that's important for future generations of Americans, but equally as important for future generations of children growing up all around the world. We have that chance, and I believe it's going to happen.

And I know, here at home—I know, here at home, that we have a chance to change America for the better. There are pockets of despair and hopelessness in this land of plenty. There are people who really wonder whether or not the American experience is meant for them. So long as one of us suffers, all of us suffer. But I know that America can change, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. I like to put it this way: One of us can't do everything, but each of us can do something to help make America a more compassionate place.

I was joined at Air Force One by Erika McCroskey today. She's from right here in the Des Moines area. Erika, stand up for a minute, will you? Erika is an AmeriCorps volunteer. She decided she is going to do something with her life by helping others. I was reading that—and Erika, she's going to Bolivia to help somebody in need there. I said, "Erika, why are you going?" She said,"My mother raised me in the spirit of service." You see, the great strength of America are the Erikas. I call them soldiers in the armies of compassion, people that don't need a Government law to tell them to love a neighbor just like they'd like to be loved themselves, people who have heard a call that's much bigger than Government.

You know, our fellow citizens say to me, "What can I do to help in the war against terror?" I tell them to love somebody in need. If you want to fight evil, do some good. What's happening in America as a result of the attack is that people are now understanding that patriotism is more than just putting your hand over your heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" in it. A patriot—a patriot—a patriot is somebody who assumes the personal responsibility to help somebody in need. And that's happening in this country. Our culture is changing from one that has said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a culture in which each of us understand we're responsible for the decisions we make in life; if you're fortunate enough to be a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your children with all your heart and all your soul; that you're responsible for helping people in need, that you're responsible for a society that hurts sometimes, and that you're responsible for helping somebody who's just calling out for a little love and some attention.

No, if you want to help in the war against terror, do some good. It's what I call the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness, which are defining the true character and the true nature of our country. No, the enemy hit us. The enemy had probably thought we'd file a few lawsuits or two. But they realized we're a little different than that. This is a strong nation, a nation of deep character, a nation that can overcome problems, and a nation that will see to it that out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good.

Thank you all for coming today. And may God bless you, and may God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. at the machinery grounds at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Thomas Vilsack of Iowa; Dave Huinker, president, 2002 Iowa State Fair Board; and Robert W. Lane, chairman and chief executive officer, John Deere. The Office of the Press Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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