Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Adrian Smith in Grand Island, Nebraska

June 27, 2006

Midtown Holiday Inn Convention Center Grand Island
Grand Island, Nebraska

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much, a welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run again. (Laughter.) Almost.

But I appreciate your kind words, Adrian, and the warm welcome. I want to thank your new governor, Dave Heineman, of course for being here today to join us. And I want to thank all of you for coming. I've been looking forward to this trip back to the heartland, to join all of you in supporting the next congressman for the third district in Nebraska, Adrian Smith. (Applause.)

Although I've spent much of my life in Wyoming, of course, I was born in Nebraska. (Applause.) Just reflecting back this morning on the way out that some four generations of Cheneys lived here in Nebraska, my great grandfather homesteaded in Amherst after the Civil War. And my grandfather spent most of his life in Sumner. My earliest memories are of Sumner because when Dad went into the Navy during World War II, he sent my mother, my brother and me home to Sumner to live with my grandparents until he got out of the Navy. And so I have many, many fond memories for this part of the country. I used to joke with Doug Bereuter -- we got elected to Congress together -- I was from Wyoming and he was from Lincoln. But I used to tell Doug that if I hadn't moved when I was 13 years old, I'd have that congressional seat and he wouldn't. (Laughter.) And he never bought that. He always challenged me with it.

But we've still got a lot of friends in the state. It's always great to come back, and it always feels like coming home. It's a terrific part of the country, of course, and Nebraska is rightly proud of its incredibly productive farms and ranches and businesses, the diverse industries, the respected colleges and universities, and the decent, hard-working people who call Nebraska home. It's a pleasure to be in your company. And I bring good wishes to everybody from our President, George W. Bush.

The President and I want all of you, as well, to know that your former governor, Mike Johanns, is doing an outstanding job in the Cabinet as Secretary of Agriculture. He's not home much, but he's earning his pay. We're delighted to have him as part of the team.

We also appreciated the opportunity to work with the current congressman from the third district, the fine public servant, patriot and congressman, of course, and that's Tom Osborne. He did a great job for all of us. (Applause.) Not a bad coach, either. (Laughter.)

Our party has nominated a worthy successor to Congressman Osborne, and I'm delighted to give our support to Adrian Smith in this campaign. Adrian is obviously an experienced public servant, a man with deep roots in Nebraska -- has all the energy and common sense that you deserve in a Congressman. He's made a name for himself in both the private and public sectors -– as a hardworking small businessman, city council member, legislator, and a committed, active citizen of his community. Adrian is the kind of public servant who thinks about the future. He understands that government's role is to preserve freedom, to protect the nation, to keep alive the spirit of free enterprise that has made America the most prosperous nation on Earth. This is the kind of man who belongs in the United States Congress, and there's no doubt in my mind that he is on the road to victory on the 7th of November. (Applause.)

It's important that we elect public servants like Adrian because these are times of incredible consequence for the nation. In the last five-and-a-half years we have seen a series of unprecedented challenges. We've experienced war, national emergency, economic recession, corporate scandals, and historic natural disasters. Yet we've faced up to those challenges. We've shown our strength as a people. And America is a stronger and a better nation thanks in no small part to the leadership of our President, George W. Bush.

When the President and I came into office, we inherited an economy that was headed into recession. But we took bold action to turn it around -– and because we acted, the nation's economy today is healthy and vigorous. In 2005 it grew faster than any other major industrialized nation in the world. Since August of '03, America has created over 5.3 million new jobs. The national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent –- lower than the average rate in the 1970s, the 1980s or the 1990s. Productivity is strong. Household net worth is at an all-time, record high.

The current expansion is also translating into higher than projected federal revenues, as we knew would happen. Yet even as revenue grows, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayer's dollar. Wise stewardship means taking a second look at the way business has often been done in the Nation's Capital. We commend the House of Representatives for passing a constitutional line-item veto, a critical tool to help protect American taxpayers. And we look forward to having the Senate take similar action, as well. And as the congressional leadership has stated, we also need reforms in the way projects are earmarked for funding. And we look forward to working with members on the Hill on earmark reform in the months ahead. Government has a duty to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, or not spend them at all. Your next congressman understands this very well. He'll be a strong voice for spending discipline; we need more people like him in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

We have a full agenda for 2006 and beyond. President Bush understands that every decision he makes will affect the lives of millions of Americans far into the future. He's going to lead the effort to develop comprehensive immigration reform, to make the system rational, and to gain control of our borders. And he will continue appointing solid judges to the federal bench like John Roberts and Sam Alito.

Above all else, President Bush never loses sight of his most fundamental duty -– to defend this nation and to protect our people.

There is still hard work ahead in the war on terror, because we are dealing with enemies who have declared an intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aims. And the prime targets are the United States and the American people.

In the face of such enemies, we have to consider a few basic questions: First, whether to confront them on our terms, or their terms; second, whether to face them on their territory, or our territory; and third, whether to wage this war on offense or defense. America and the civilized world have made our decision: Wherever terrorists operate, we will find them where they dwell, stop them in their planning, bring them to justice, and stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Applause.)

We remain on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. We can expect further acts of violence and destruction by the enemies of freedom. But progress has been steady -– and there should be no discounting the hopeful signs in that part of the world. In less than two years' time the Iraqi people have regained their sovereignty; voted for a transitional government; drafted a progressive, democratic constitution in the heart of the Arab world; and then approved the document in a national referendum and elected a new government under the provisions of that new constitution. And Iraq now has a unity government that is committed to a future of freedom and progress for all Iraqis. They have made a strong stand for their own liberty, and the United States is proud to stand at their side.

Our coalition is also helping to build an Iraqi security force that is well trained and well equipped. As that force grows in strength and the political process continues to advance, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists.

There's a vigorous debate taking place right now about the way forward in Iraq. It's always good to have such a discussion, because it directly involves the security of the nation -– the very issue that all of us, Democrat and Republican, care most about. We've reached the point where a number of well known Democrats, including their most recent presidential nominee, talk about setting a firm deadline for withdrawal. You might recall that Senator Kerry was for the war before he was against it. Somebody should do the guy a favor and tell him the election's over so he can stop flip-flopping. (Laughter and applause.)

Seriously, following Senator Kerry's prescription –- giving up and setting a hard deadline –- is a terrible idea, and the Senate was correct last week when they gave it only 13 votes. First, such a move would signal to the Iraqi people that America does not keep its word. Second, it completely disregards the opinions of our commanders in charge of the military effort in Iraq. Americans and our Iraqi allies need to know that decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and by the judgments of our military commanders -– not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

Another prominent Democrat, a good friend of mine, Congressman Jack Murtha, has been on TV recently with his own plan for withdrawal. He said we can deal with the Iraqi situation by redeploying forces to Okinawa. (Laughter.) That's what he said. The Pacific Ocean is a long way from the Persian Gulf, obviously. But the most troubling aspect of Jack's proposal is this: He cited two previous instances of American military withdrawal, and suggested they would be good models for us to follow now in Iraq. The first was America's exit from Beirut in 1983, and the second, our withdrawal from Somalia in 1993.

I've known Jack a long time. We worked closely together when I was Secretary of Defense and he chaired the defense appropriations subcommittee. I've got great respect for him, but he's dead wrong on this issue. His proposal is contrary to the national interest. And he draws exactly the wrong lessons from the examples of Beirut and Somalia. If you look back at the years before 9/11, you'll see case after case of terrorists hitting America -– and America failing to hit back hard enough.

In Beirut terrorists killed 241 of our servicemen with a suicide truck bomber in 1983. Somalia -- we lost 19 Americans in a battle in Mogadishu in 1993. In both cases, the United States responded to those attacks by withdrawing our forces. But by doing so, we simply invited more danger, because the terrorists concluded that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy -- because they had. And so they continued to wage attacks against America and American interests.

We had the bombing at the World Trade Center in New York in 1993; the murders at the Saudi National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995; the attack on the Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000; and, of course, ultimately, the attacks here at home on the Pentagon and New York when we lost 3,000 on 9/11.

If we follow Congressman Murtha's advice and withdraw from Iraq the same way we withdrew from Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1993, we will simply validate the al Qaeda strategy and invite more terrorist attacks in the future.

In the decade prior to 9/11, we spent more than two trillion dollars on national security. Yet we lost nearly 3,000 Americans at the hands of 19 men armed with box cutters and airline tickets. In the case of al-Qaeda we are not dealing with large armies that we can track, or uniforms we can see, or men with territory of their own to defend. Their preferred tactic, which they boldly proclaim, is to slip into countries, blend in among the innocent, and kill without mercy and without restraint. They have intelligence and counterintelligence operations of their own. They are using the most sophisticated communications technology they can get their hands on.

In pursuit of their objectives, they have carried out a number of attacks since 9/11 –- in Casablanca, Jakarta, Mombassa, Bali, Riyadh, Baghdad, Istanbul, Madrid, London, Sharm al-Sheikh, and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., we have not had another 9/11. Obviously, no one can guarantee that we won't be hit again. But the relative safety of these past nearly five years now did not come about by accident. We've been protected by sensible policy decisions by the President, by decisive action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of the people in our armed forces, law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security.

Some in the press, in particular The New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs.

The first was the terrorist surveillance program. Sometimes the press calls it domestic surveillance, it is not domestic surveillance. It's a program aimed at the communications that are international in nature -- at least one end of the communication has to be outside the United States, and one end has to be affiliated with or associated with al Qaeda.

The second program that The New York Times has now disclosed is the terrorist financial tracking program, just within about the last week or so. These are both good programs. They provide valuable intelligence. They are very carefully managed to safeguard the civil liberties of the American people. They have been successful in helping break up terrorist plots. They are done in accordance with the Constitution, and there has in both cases -- both programs have been properly notified to the appropriate officials in the United States Congress.

The New York Times has now twice -- two separate occasions -- disclosed programs both times they had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials. They went ahead anyway. The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging. The ability to intercept al Qaeda communications and to track their sources of financing are essential if we're going to successfully prosecute the global war on terror. Our capabilities in these areas help explain why we have been so successful in preventing further attacks like 9/11. The New York Times has now made it more difficult for us to prevent attacks in the future. Publishing this highly classified information about our sources and methods for collecting intelligence will enable the terrorists to look for ways to defeat our efforts. These kinds of stories also adversely affect our relationships with people who work with us against the terrorists. In the future, they will be less likely to cooperate if they think the United States is incapable of keeping a secret.

What is doubly disturbing for me is that not only have they gone forward with these stories, but they've been rewarded for it, for example, in the case of the terrorist surveillance program, by being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding journalism. I think that is a disgrace.

The nation is pursuing a clear and a necessary course of action against the terrorists. First, we are absolutely determined to prevent attacks before they occur, so we're working with other countries to break up terror cells, to track down terrorist operatives, to put heavy pressure on their ability to organize and plan attacks. The work is difficult and very often perilous, and there is much yet to do. But we have made tremendous progress against the enemy that dwells in the shadows.

Second, we're determined to deny safe haven to the terrorists. Since the day our country was attacked, we have applied the Bush Doctrine: Any person or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account.

Third, we are working to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to keep those weapons out of the hands of killers.

Fourth, we're determined to deny the terrorists control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and staging area for terrorist attacks on others. That's why we continue to fight Taliban remnants and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. That's why we are working with President Musharraf to oppose and isolate the terrorist element in Pakistan. And that is why we are fighting the Saddam remnants and al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. Because our coalition has stood by our commitments to the Afghani and Iraqi peoples, some 50 million men, women, and children who lived under dictators now live in freedom. Afghanistan is a rising democracy, with the first fully elected government in its 5,000-year history. Iraq has the most progressive constitution and the strongest democratic mandate in the entire Arab world. And the people now on duty in that part of the world can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it is critically important that we keep issues of national security at the top of the agenda of this year's election. The President and I welcome the discussion, because every voter in America needs to know where the President and I stand, and where Adrian Smith stands, as well as how the leaders of the Democratic Party view the global war on terror. Their leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, boasted recently of his efforts to kill the Patriot Act. The Chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, said the capture of Saddam Hussein "didn't make America safer." Other Democrats like Russ Feingold of Wisconsin have introduced a resolution to censure the President over the terrorist surveillance program, even though it is absolutely essential to national security and is conducted in accordance with the laws of the land. And those who now advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq are counseling the very kind of retreat that has been tried in the past and would only heighten the long-term danger to the United States. For the sake of our security, this nation must reject any strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies.

We have to face the simple truth. The enemies that struck America are weakened and fractured, but they are still lethal, still desperately trying to hit us again. Only days ago, thanks to the efforts of superb men and women, the Justice Department secured the indictments of seven men for plotting further catastrophic attacks inside the country. This is the group arrested in Miami with allegedly aspirations of blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago. Either we are serious about fighting this war, or we are not. And with George W. Bush leading this nation, we are serious and we will not let down our guard. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, in these five-and-a-half years we've been through a great deal as a nation. Yet with each test, the American people have displayed the true character of our country. We've built for ourselves an economy and a standard of living that are the envy of the world. We've faced dangers with resolve. And we have been defended by some of the bravest men and women this nation has ever produced. (Applause.) When future generations look back on our time, they will know that we met our moment with courage and clear thinking. And they will know that America became a better nation –- stronger, more prosperous, and more secure –- under the leadership of our President.

We'll continue making progress for the American people –- and it's vital that we have strong partners like Adrian Smith in the Congress of the United States. (Applause.) The President and I have tremendous confidence in him, and we're proud to stand with all of you in supporting this outstanding candidate. Send him to Washington; he'll make you proud each and every day.

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 2.31 P.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Adrian Smith in Grand Island, Nebraska Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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