George W. Bush photo

Remarks at the Republican National Committee Dinner

May 17, 2005

Thank you all very much. Thanks for coming. Thanks for coming. Please be seated. [Laughter] Thank you for the warm welcome. Thank you for supporting the Republican Party. I am proud to be here today to not only offer my thanks but to remind you that our party has a positive, hopeful, optimistic vision for every single person who is fortunate enough to be an American.

We are driving the debate on all key domestic and foreign policy issues. Because of our achievements, the American people see the Republican Party as the party of reform and optimism, the party of ideals and vision. And one of the reasons I asked Ken Mehlman to serve as the chairman of our party is because he is a man of vision; he is an idealistic soul. He is willing to take our message to every neighborhood in the United States of America. He did a fabulous job in managing my campaign in 2004. I'm proud to call him chairman of the Republican Party.

The comedienne in chief—[laughter]— is tied up, but she sends her love. Many of you know Laura as a friend. I'm fortunate to know her as a wife. She is a great mother and a fabulous First Lady for the United States. If you ever want to get a laugh, all you have to do is poke fun at the President and his mother. [Laughter]

I want to thank my Secretary of Interior; Gale Norton is with us.

I want to thank the Members of Congress who are here. I just had a chance to shake hands with Leader Bill Frist, who's doing a fabulous job. I enjoy working with the leadership of the House. Denny Hastert is a great Speaker of the House. Tom DeLay is a fine majority leader. Roy Blunt is a great whip. I thank all the Members of the Senate who are here, Members of the House who are here.

I appreciate my friend Governor Haley Barbour from the great State of Mississippi, who has joined us.

I want to thank Dwight Schar, the RNC finance chairman, and his wife, Martha. And I want to thank all the committee who is up here for working so hard to make this a successful evening. I appreciate your leadership. I appreciate your hard work. I appreciate your contributions. I want to thank Jo Ann Davidson, the RNC cochairman.

I appreciate my friend Ambassador Mercer Reynolds, who is here. You might have heard from Mercer—[laughter]—in the course of the 2004 year. [Laughter] I appreciate his hard work on my behalf.

I want to thank The Spinners, and I want to thank Ricky Skaggs.

But most of all, I thank you all. I want to thank you for supporting this event, and I want to thank you for supporting our party over the past years.

You know, we took on the 2004 campaign with good ideas and a bold agenda. But the reason the people listened is because we did a lot in 2000 and 2002— 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. In other words, we came to Washington, DC, to solve problems. We came with some principles on how to solve those problems. And most importantly, we have shown the American people we're capable of delivering results that are good for the American people.

I mean, we understand that when you face economic hard times, the best way to get out of a recession is to let people keep more of their own money. We understand that when entrepreneurs and small businesses have more money in their treasury, they're more likely to hire somebody. And the economic policies we put in place during rough economic times are paying off. Our economy is growing. Since May 2003, we've added 3 1/2 million new jobs. More people are working in America today than ever before in our Nation's history.

We came to Washington to challenge the status quo when it came to education. A lot of us were appalled at a system that just simply shuffled kids through the system. And so we wanted to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. And we successfully have challenged the soft bigotry of low expectations by insisting on high results and measurement so we can determine whether or not every child is learning to read and write and add and subtract. Because we acted, test scores are rising in America, the achievement gap for minority students is closing, the door of opportunity in our great country is opening more and more to every single child. No child will be left behind in America.

We came to Washington to help keep commitments. Our Nation has made a commitment to health care for our seniors. And yet the Medicare system that was available for our seniors was old and antiquated. We modernized Medicare. We said to seniors that you've got to have a medicine—a medical system that is up to date and current. Because we acted, we have given our seniors the medicine and pharmaceuticals that they deserve and they need to have good health care in their elder years.

And we believe in ownership. We want more people owning something in America. We want more entrepreneurs owning their own business. Do you realize, today, more people own a home than ever before in our Nation's history. More minority families own a home than ever before in our Nation's history. Our party likes the idea when somebody opens their door and say, "Welcome to my house. Welcome to my piece of property." We understand that when you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of the United States of America.

No, we came to Washington to solve problems, and a major problem was presented to us, and that was the problem of a terrorist attack. But we acted. We put together the Homeland Security Department. It's the largest reorganization of Government in nearly a half a century. And I put good people in positions of responsibility and authority. I've asked them to streamline our Government so that I can look you in the eye and tell you, "The United States Government is doing everything we can to protect the people of this country." But the best way to protect the people of America is to stay on the offense against the terrorists and bring them to justice.

We have supported the United States military, and I can't tell you how proud I am to be the Commander in Chief of such a fine group of men and women. We've closed down terrorist networks and cells. We've disrupted their finances. We have chased their leaders down in mountains and deserts. We have been relentless, and we will stay relentless.

Our most important duty is to protect the American people from these cold-blooded killers. And when the American President speaks, he must mean what he says. And I meant what I said, "If you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist." And I was speaking directly to people like the Taliban. And because we acted, not only did we uphold doctrine and enhance the credibility of the United States of America, but we freed nearly 30 million people from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind. And I took great heart in recognizing that the first voter in the first Presidential election in years in Afghanistan was a 19-year-old woman.

Because we acted, the Middle East and the world are rid of Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime. And like you, I was overwhelmed by the courage of the over 8 million Iraqis who defied the suiciders and car bombers and assassins to cast their vote in the country's first free and democratic election in decades. We were successful. We delivered results because we stayed true to our principles, and we were not afraid to push forward with new ideas.

Let me put it to you this way: I do not need a poll or a focus group to tell me where I need to lead this country. In the midst of the Civil War, the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, said, "As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." And we continue that proud tradition today, as we're heading into the second term.

Many of the most fundamental systems, the Tax Code, pension plans, health coverage, legal systems, and public education, were created to meet the needs of an earlier time. In the next 4 years, we'll reform these institutions to meet the needs of a new century. See, we have a duty. The job of the President is to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations.

And that's why I'm talking about Social Security, and the debate has only just begun. But I believe the side of reform is going to prevail, because the American people now are beginning to realize we have a serious problem when it comes to Social Security. And that problem begins with people like me. See, I'm fixing to retire. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, I turn retirement age in 2008. It turns out to be a convenient time. [Laughter] But there's a lot of people like me; there's a lot of baby boomers getting ready to retire. As a matter of fact, when we fully retire there will be over 70 million people retired. To put that in perspective, today there are 40 million retirees. So there's a lot of us who will be receiving greater benefits.

They used to say when you're running for Congress, "Vote for me. I'm going to increase the benefits." [Laughter] Sure enough, people got elected—[laughter]— and they increased the benefits. [Laughter] To compound things even worse, we're going to live longer. I urge you to exercise on a daily basis. [Laughter] You got a lot of people receiving greater benefits, living longer, with fewer people paying into the system. In 2017, the Social Security system goes into the red.

See, somebody—as I travel the country— and I'm going to go to Milwaukee here later on this week for yet another stop— this is an education program. I've got to educate people about the truth, about the reality. See, a lot of people think there's a lockbox—[laughter]—that we take your money, and we save it for you. This is a pay-as-you-go system. You pay your payroll taxes, and we go ahead and spend it here in Washington, DC. [Laughter] In 2017, the system goes into the red. In 2027, we're $200 billion short on what we owe people like me, relative to the payroll taxes. In 2041, the system goes bankrupt. We've got a serious problem.

We don't have a problem for those people receiving Social Security today. As a matter of fact, if you were born prior to 1950, the system is in good shape. You're going to get your check. We have a problem for generations to come, and now is the time to act. Now is the time for people to come together and solve this problem once and for all.

Not only do we need to save Social Security permanently for younger generations, we've got to make it a better deal for people coming up. That's why I believe younger people ought to be able to take some of their own money and set it aside in a voluntary personal savings account, so they can get a better rate of return on their money than the Government can get for them. But this idea has got more benefits to our society than just better rates of return. See, I don't subscribe to the notion that only certain people are a part of the investor class. I believe every American should be a part of the investor class. I believe every American should be encouraged to own assets, so they can pass it on to whomever they choose, assets that the Federal Government can never take away.

Our party is the party of growth, and we're showing the country we're also the party of spending restraint. That's why I submitted the first budget to actually cut nonsecurity discretionary spending since Ronald Reagan was in office. Congress is on track to hold nondiscretionary—nonsecurity discretionary spending below last year's levels. And that's an important message to send. And the message is this: We're going to spend your money wisely, or we're not going to spend it at all.

Our Tax Code is out of date; it is incoherent. [Laughter] We spend too many hours trying to figure it out. So I've appointed a bipartisan panel to examine the code from top to bottom. And when their recommendations are delivered, we're going to work together to put together a Tax Code that is progrowth, pro-entrepreneur, easy to understand, and fair to all.

I've been spending some time talking about a subject that I know is dear to your heart. See, you've been going to the gasoline pumps lately. This country needs a— we need an energy plan. I submitted a plan to the Congress when I first arrived here. Four years of debate is enough. We need a plan that encourages conservation, encourages environmentally sensitive exploration for oil and gas in our own hemisphere, in our own country. We need a plan that encourages the use of renewables. We need a plan that makes wise use of coal and nuclear power. We need a plan that allows us to diversify away from hydrocarbons. We need a plan that is good for economic security and national security, a plan that makes us less reliable on foreign sources of energy.

I put that plan to the United States Congress. The House passed a good bill. Now it is time for the United States Senate to follow suit. And I expect them, for the sake of this country and for the sake of our economy, to get me a bill by the August recess—a bill that I can sign.

We're going to continue to work to free our businesses, small and large, from needless regulations and to protect honest job creators from the junk lawsuits. We're making progress. I signed a bill that passed both the House and the Senate, for class-action reform and bankruptcy reform. Now we need to pass asbestos litigation reform. And for the sake of good medical care, we need to stop these junk lawsuits that are running good docs out of practice and running up the price of your medical bills.

We've got a clear agenda to make health care more affordable and to give families greater access to coverage and more control over their health care decisions. We're going to move forward to improve information technology. We're going to continue to expand health savings accounts. Congress needs to pass association health care plans so small businesses are able to pool risk and buy insurance at the same discounts that big business is going to do. One thing we're not going to do is we're not going to allow the Federal Government to make the health care decisions for patients and doctors in America.

We'll continue to pass along to future generations time-honored values that sustain freedom and personal responsibility here at home. One of the most important initiatives I've laid out, and that we're now implementing, is our faith-based and community groups initiative. It's an initiative that understands that in parts of our country, people of faith and people of good will are able to heal broken hearts. The Federal Government should not fear faith-based institutions. We ought to welcome the healing works of the faith community in America.

This party of ours will continue to promote a culture of life, and we will defend the institution of marriage from being redefined forever by activist judges.

And speaking about judges—[laughter]— in the last two elections, the American people made clear that they want judges who faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. I have a duty to nominate well-qualified men and women to the Federal judiciary. I have done just that, and I will continue to do so.

The Senate also has a duty to promptly consider each of these nominees on the Senate floor, discuss and debate their qualifications, and then give them the up-or-down vote they deserve. And speaking of confirmations, the Senate should also promptly confirm Mr. John Bolton, my nominee to be our Ambassador to the United Nations, so we can get on to the business of reforming that vital institution.

Over the next 4 years, we'll be relentless in tracking down the terrorists. We will confront them abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And as we do so, I want you to understand, I understand that the best way to make America more secure is to spread freedom and democracy.

Freedom is on the march, because I believe etched in everybody's soul is the desire to be free. I don't care what your religion is. I don't care where you're from. Deep in your soul is the desire to be free. I believe every mother across the globe wants to raise her child in a peaceful and free society. I believe everybody wants to be able to express themselves freely and worship freely without fear of government.

People in the Palestinian Territories cast their ballot against violence and corruption. The people of Lebanon are rising up to demand freedom and independence. The people in Egypt are taking its first steps on the path to democratic reform. The people in the Ukraine have stood strongly for their rights. I was in Georgia recently, the site of the Rose Revolution, where people stood in the town square and said, "Let us be free." Freedom is on the march, and the world will be more peaceful as a result of it.

We have a duty for future generations. We have a duty to leave this world more peaceful. We have a duty to reform the institutions that are old and tired. That's our duty.

You know, political parties can take one of two approaches to great problems. One approach is simply to do nothing, to deny that a problem exists or delay solutions or refuse to take responsibility. The political parties that choose this option will not gain the trust of the American people. The other approach is to lead, to focus on the people's business, and to take on the tough problems. And that's exactly what we're doing here in Washington, DC. We're focusing on the people's business, and we are taking on the tough problems. And that's why the American people have entrusted us with the leadership of this Nation at an historic time.

It's a great privilege to serve the American people, and it carries great responsibilities. You see, the actions that we take today will shape the course of events for the next half-century. We've set big goals, and they're not always easy to achieve. The truth of the matter is, if they're easy, somebody else would have already done it. [Laughter] But we're going to continue to be the party of idealism and reform. And we'll continue to lead, no matter how tough the challenge.

We'll trust the American people. We'll continue to give them a clear choice. And so long as we stay true to our values and our ideas, we will do what Americans have always done, and that is to build a better world for our children and our grandchildren.

Thanks for coming. God bless. Thank you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:56 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Kenneth B. Mehlman, chairman, Republican National Committee; Mercer Reynolds, former Victory national finance chairman, Bush-Cheney '04 campaign; entertainers The Spinners and Ricky Skaggs; and former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. He also referred to the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.

George W. Bush, Remarks at the Republican National Committee Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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