Remarks at the Republican National Committee Dinner
Thank you all. Thanks for coming. Please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. Mehlman didn't get the dress code— [laughter]—and neither did I. [Laughter] Thanks for having me. I'm proud to be here on the 30th birthday of the Eagles.
For three decades, Eagles have given great parties—[laughter]—but more importantly, they've supported our party. And I'm grateful. I want to thank you for all your help in years past. I want to thank you for your help this year. I want to thank you for the help in years to come. And it's important because it helps us get our message out, which is an optimistic vision for our country. We have a hopeful philosophy. We understand that government ought to be limited and that we ought to trust people to make decisions for their lives. We understand that the best way to grow an economy is to allow small-business owners and entrepreneurs to keep more of their own money, so they can invest and create jobs. We understand that this country has a duty to take care of those who hurt and to lead the world in laying the foundation for peace. Ours is a party of vision, and ours is a party of accomplishment. And I want to thank you for supporting it.
I gave a speech today, earlier, and I was reminded during the speech that Laura and I are fixing to have a wedding anniversary. Sometimes giving speeches helps kind of trigger the memory bank. [Laughter] I asked the crowd there if they had any suggestions on what I ought to give her for the 28th wedding anniversary. Somebody yelled out, diamonds. And then, of course, I went straight to the speech. [Laughter]
But the reason I bring her up is, she sends her love and her best to all of you all. She is a great wife and a fantastic First Lady for the country.
I want to thank the chairman for the RNC, Ken Mehlman, for doing such a fantastic job. He's smart, and he's capable. He's taking our message all across the country. He's not afraid to go into halls where some might have an image of the Republican Party that isn't true. He knows what I know, that our philosophy is good for every American. And I want to thank you for your leadership, Ken, and I appreciate your service. And I also want to thank Jo Ann Davidson, who's the cochairman of the RNC. Thank you for being here.
I know we've got a Member of the United States Senate with us, a man who ran a heck of a race, really decent and honorable fellow, John Thune of South Dakota—somewhere around.
I appreciate Dwight Schar, the finance chairman of the RNC, and Martha. Thank you for your hard work, and thank you for your leadership. I appreciate Bill Paxon, who's the chairman of the RNC Majority Fund. I want to thank Bill for bringing his young daughter here tonight. I want to thank my friend Katie Boyd, who's the Eagles cochairman—thank you for being here, Katie—and Mike Duncan, who's the general counsel of the RNC.
But most of all, thank you all for giving me a chance to come by and thank you and share some thoughts with you. First, I want to tell you that my job is to confront problems and not pass them on. My job is to make decisions on behalf of the people of this country. And I've got to tell you, I'm enjoying every minute of it. Our party is a party that is based upon sound principles. And one of the things I've learned here in Washington is you can't make good decisions unless you stand on principle. And that's exactly what I've done as your leader, and that's exactly what I'll continue to do.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this war on terror. I wish I could tell you it's over. It's not. We face a brutal enemy that has got an ideology and a strategy to impose their view on the world. They believe the exact opposite of what we believe in America. They believe that they should dictate religion. They believe that they ought to control the lives of all people. They are totalitarian in nature.
We stand for freedom. We believe that every man, woman, and child in America should be free to worship as he or she feels. We believe that democracy is the best form of government to encourage progress and hope. We believe that women should be free. That's not what they think.
They've got one weapon, and that is their willingness to take innocent life. They'll kill women and children in order to try to achieve their aims. One of their objectives is to run America out of the broader Middle East. And they want to do so because they want to take over countries. They want to try to not only impose their vision on a group of people but also to have safe havens for—to plot and plan, to kill in greater numbers.
September the 11th was an important moment in the history of this country, and we still mourn for those who lost their lives. But I'll never forget the task at hand, and the task at hand is to find those enemies and bring them to justice before they hurt America again.
These folks—we don't face a set of grievances that can be soothed or addressed. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers, and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. Against such an enemy, there's only one effective response: We'll never back down; we'll never give in; and never accept anything less than complete victory on the war on terror.
The killers have made it clear that Iraq is a central front in the war on terror, and we must understand that. They cannot stand the thought of a democracy evolving in the Middle East. They understand that freedom will lead to their defeat. And so we have a strategy. Our strategy is twofold: one, to pursue a security plan that says, we're going to find these killers and find these foreign terrorists and bring them to justice so they don't kill innocent people. And at the same time, we're going to train Iraqi forces so they can do the job themselves. As Iraqis stand up, America will stand down. And we're making good, steady progress.
And at the same time that we help secure that society, we'll work with the Iraqis to help them develop a democracy. Ken mentioned a remarkable event that took place recently, and that is that millions of Iraqis went to the polls to vote for a constitution, which today was verified as having been approved by the Iraqi people.
You know, writing a constitution is not an easy process. We had a little trouble ourselves here in America writing a constitution. And you might remember after our Constitution—and by the way, as I recall, two of the delegates from New York, the State of New York, stormed out of the Constitutional Convention. They weren't happy with what they saw.
And then, right after our Constitution was approved, you might remember, we amended it with the Bill of Rights. In other words, the Constitution is a process that brings people together, that says, "You can have a different point of view, but let's settle our differences peacefully, in the context of a democratic society." And that's what you're seeing in Iraq. We had elections in January. We had a constitution approved just last week, and there will be elections next December. Democracy is on the march, and that's important.
One of the stories I like to share with people is my relationship with Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. He's an interesting man. He's a bold leader, as we recently saw when he tackled postal reform in Japan. I like him a lot. He is a good friend. He's a good, strong ally when it comes to keeping the peace in the Korean Peninsula. He put troops in Iraq because he understands democracy leads to peace. He is a friend of the United States of America.
Yet, 60 years ago, my dad and I'm sure some of your relatives, fought the Japanese. They were our bitter enemy. And so what took place between the time an 18-year-old Navy fighter pilot went to war and his son as President can say to a group of friends, he's got a great relationship with the Prime Minister of Japan? I'll tell you what took place: Democracy happened. Democracy has got the capability of helping keep the peace.
Some say, "Perhaps we ought to just pull out of Iraq." That is a foolhardy policy. It's a policy that would invite disaster, not only for the Iraqis but for the American citizens. We will not allow Iraq to become a safe haven for the terrorists. We will promote democracy in Iraq, and we will lay the foundation for peace for generations to come. [Applause] Thank you all.
My biggest job—one of my biggest jobs is to defend our homeland. One way, as you can tell, the best way to do it is to stay on the offense, which we will do. We're dismantling Al Qaida, one person at a time. It doesn't matter how long it takes or where they hide, we will stay on the hunt. And at the same time, we're protecting the homeland by changing our homeland security operations, by strengthening our intelligence. Intelligence is an incredibly important tool in order to win this first war of the 21st century. And so we've reorganized our intelligence services to make sure the President and those around me have got the best information possible to be able to protect the homeland.
We passed good laws like the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act is a very important piece of legislation, which enables our prosecutors and law enforcement to share intelligence to break up terror cells before they strike. We've used it to good success to protect the homeland. The PATRIOT Act—provisions for the PATRIOT Act are set to expire pretty soon. I will remind the Congress that the terrorists aren't going to be going away pretty soon. We need the PATRIOT Act. Congress needs to get the PATRIOT Act to my desk, so we can have the tools necessary to protect this homeland.
I signed a Homeland Security bill the other day, and when I did so, I spent a lot of time talking about the need for this country to protect our borders. We have an obligation to the American people to increase manpower and technology, to increase retention space to secure our borders. That is a solemn duty of the United States, and it's a duty I take seriously.
And at the same time we do so, we've got to be realistic about people crossing into our country to work. We need to match willing employer with willing employee for jobs that Americans will not do, on a temporary basis. We should not be granting amnesty, but we should be saying to willing worker and willing employer, "Here's a reasonable way for you to be able to hire people." That will take pressure off our border. Step one is to secure the border; step two is to have reasonable immigration policies. That will mean our border control agents won't have to worry about people sneaking into the country to work and will have the time to stop drugs, guns, and terrorists from coming into America.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this economy. I want people to work. We want the small-business sector to remain strong. I want you to know, I understand that most new jobs are created by small businesses. And therefore, the policies we've implemented have been aimed at the small-business sector. And that started with good, solid, sound tax relief. The tax relief we passed is working, and Congress needs to make the tax relief permanent.
Speaking about tax relief, we need to get rid of the death tax once and for all. I say it's working because the facts back me up. The unemployment rate is 5.1 percent. That's below the average rate of the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Our economy is the fastest growing economy of any major industrialized nation. Homeowner-ship is at an alltime high. This economy is strong, and we need to make sure we don't foul it up here in Washington, DC, by spending too much of your money.
Congress needs to get this message, that we will be wise with the taxpayers' money. If a program doesn't work, we ought to eliminate it. And if a program doesn't make sense, we ought to do away with it. And we need to set priorities, and a key priority is defending this homeland.
Ken mentioned to you that the—because of our fiscal responsibility in Washington last year and because of the tax cuts and because of our economic growth, the budget was $108 billion less than expected— the budget deficit was $108 billion less than expected. Our plan is working. And I'm absolutely confident, by being wise with your money, we can help the people in the gulf coast recover from Katrina.
Here's our plan: To help offset the cost of Katrina we need to cut nonsecurity spending and achieve savings in mandatory spending. The House has got plans on the mandatory side that say $50 billion; the Senate has got plans that say $35 billion. I appreciate them working hard. It's a nice start. And there's more we can do together to say to the American people: We are setting priorities with your money, and we're going to spend it wisely, and we'll cut this deficit in half by 2009.
Yesterday, I made a decision that affects the economy. And that is, I named an outstanding individual to succeed another outstanding individual. Ben Bernanke's name has been sent up to the United States Senate to replace Alan Greenspan, and upon confirmation, you'll know what I know, that he's a sound, solid thinker that will be a good steward at the Federal Reserve.
We've got challenges to our economy, and one of those challenges is energy. I told the American people when I ran for office in 2000—and I've been telling them ever since—we need to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. Now, first of all, I believe and I know that conservation can impact the energy supply situation. And so here at the Federal level, we're putting good, sound conservation measures in place.
Secondly, it ought to be clear to the American people that we need more gasoline. Do you realize we haven't built a new refinery since the 1970s? For the sake of national security and for the sake of our consumers, this country needs to expand our refining capacity. And we need more terminals for liquified natural gas. I mean, if you're worried about your heating bills— and you should be—one way to deal with it is to increase the supply available for consumers. And Congress must understand that. We need to get rid of needless regulations that hamper our capacity to increase the supply of energy to you all.
And at the same time, this Government is spending money on—to develop new fuels, like biodiesel and ethanol. We've got a major hydrogen automobile project going forward. In other words, what I'm telling you is technology is going to help us achieve the objective of diversifying away from hydrocarbons so we're less dependent on foreign sources of oil.
Health care—we need a market-based, transparent, patient-centered health care system, where the Government doesn't tell you what to do, where you get to make the decisions. That's why I'm such a strong believer in health savings accounts. It's an amazing opportunity for small businesses to be able to control the cost of health care and at the same time, put their employees in charge of their health care decisions. I believe in association health plans which will allow small businesses to pool risk across jurisdictional boundaries. Small businesses ought to be able to go into the marketplace just like big businesses do, to buy insurance for their employees.
We're improving health information technology, which will help hold down the cost of medicine. We modernized Medicare, something no President or Congress has been able to do. You know, I've heard some say, "Well, Medicare, you know, it's an entitlement." Well, you're right. The Federal Government decided to provide health care for the elderly, and I decided to make sure the health care we provided for the elderly, provided elderly choices as well as prescription drug coverage.
And finally, when it comes to helping control the cost of health care, we need to do something about these frivolous lawsuits that are running good doctors out of practice. When I first came to Washington, I thought that medical liability reform was best left to the States until I saw the cost, at the Federal level, of these junk lawsuits, which not only run up premiums but also cause docs to practice defensive medicine. We spend a lot of money on health care in Washington, DC, and these junk lawsuits are running up the cost to you. Medical liability reform is a national issue that requires a national solution, and I call upon the United States Senate to get a good medical liability bill to my desk.
And speaking about legal reform, we're making some progress in Congress. But I understand, and I hope you do as well, that it's one thing to have a good judicial system where you can take a legitimate claim to court; it's another thing for lawyers to try to get rich off of filing frivolous lawsuits. We did a good job when we passed bipartisan class action reform and bankruptcy reform. And now the Congress needs to get an asbestos legal reform to my desk.
An issue that I've been talking about for quite a while is one that, oh, some said you probably shouldn't talk about. But I didn't come here not to deal with major problems. I guess that's in my nature. And so I've been talking about Social Security. And the reason I've been talking about it is because I understand the mathematics of Social Security. There's a lot of people like me. We're called baby boomers, and we're getting ready to retire. As a matter of fact, my retirement age happens to come in 2008, when I'll be 62. It's a coincidence. [Laughter] And there's a lot of people like me getting ready to retire. The problem is there's not a lot of young people paying in the system to pay ever-increasing benefits to my generation. And the system is going to go broke.
When I travel around the country and look at hard-working people paying payroll taxes into a system that's going broke, I feel I have an obligation to give them a heads up. But I have a further obligation. I have an obligation to say to the United States Congress: "Just don't mark time. Get a Social Security reform passed." And we can do it. It takes political will and courage from members of both political parties. And as we reform Social Security, we have a fantastic opportunity to increase ownership throughout our society. I believe a strong Social Security package must include personal savings accounts that will allow individuals to realize the advantage of compound rate of interest and, at the same time, have an asset they call their own. We want more people owning more assets in America, and now is the chance to provide that opportunity.
I've had a chance to name two good people as nominees to the Court. And I take this obligation and responsibility very seriously. As you know, I named a good man in John Roberts to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and I want to thank the United States Senate for confirming him. And I had another pick, and I named a really fine person in Harriet Miers to be considered by the United States Senate.
I was looking for somebody who knew the law, somebody who had been a good practicing attorney. Harriet Miers has been a pioneer in my State of Texas. She ran a big law firm, as a matter of fact, the first woman to do so in that firm. She was the president of the Texas State Bar Association. She was consistently named one of the 50 top women attorneys in the United States of America.
I wanted somebody who hadn't been on the court. I thought it was important for the Supreme Court to have a fresh perspective, somebody who had been practicing the law in real life. But more importantly, I was interested in having somebody on the Court who understands the judicial philosophy that I believe is important, that we ought to have people on the Court that will not legislate from the bench but will strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States. And that person is Harriet Miers.
Recently, you may have read where members of both parties have been demanding documents from the White House. See, it's very important for people to understand this issue. It's important for me to get good, sound advice in the Oval Office. It's important for people who work in the White House to be able to come in and tell me what's on their mind without fear of what they're having to tell me ends up in the newspapers. You see, in order to make sure that the President gets good advice, whether it be me or whoever is coming down the pike, there must be confidentiality in the White House. Asking for those documents is a redline, as far as I'm concerned, in protecting the White House and the ability to operate.
I don't know if you've ever read de Tocqueville. You ought to. He wrote a book in 1832 about America. He came over to look at our country and realized one of the great truths of America, and that is that the strength of our country lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens and that in America in the 1830s, citizens came together in what he called voluntary organizations to serve a cause greater than themselves.
One of my jobs is to make sure we never lose that spirit in America. One of my jobs is to call upon our citizens to serve. For those of you who have got loved ones in the United States military, I want you to thank them on behalf of a proud Commander in Chief and tell them the American people stand squarely with those who wear the uniform.
Service goes beyond the military. Service goes beyond Washington. You can serve our country by teaching a child how to read. You can serve our country by mentoring the lonely or feeding the hungry or providing shelter for the homeless. You know, one of the amazing things in the aftermath of Katrina was the incredible response. Citizens all across the country who opened their arms and welcomed a stranger in need—that's the true spirit of America.
And those of us in Washington, DC, must constantly work to keep that spirit alive and strong. And one of the most important initiatives of my Presidency is the Faith-Based and Community Based Initiative. It recognizes that government is limited in its capacity to love. It's an initiative that says faith-based programs—people of all faith—can compete for Federal money to help us cure society's ills. We must not fear the involvement of faith in helping change America, one heart at a time. We must welcome faith in changing America, one heart at a time.
I am amazed by the spirit of this country. It is strong, and it is resilient. And it is because we're a land of amazing people. We've got people who have newly arrived to our country who realize this is a land where you can dream the big dream and achieve security for your family if you work hard. We're a land where neighborhood healers step up and answer the universal call to love a neighbor, and they don't even need the Government to tell them to. We're a land where people bind together to achieve big things. That's America, and it is an incredible honor to be the President of such an incredibly strong and compassionate and decent country.
I want to thank you for giving me a chance. I want to thank you for supporting our cause. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless our country.
NOTE: The President spoke at 6:55 p.m. at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. In his remarks, he referred to Martha Schar, wife of Republican National Committee finance chair Dwight Schar; and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan.
George W. Bush, Remarks at the Republican National Committee Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/212962