Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Sam Graves in Kansas City, Missouri

April 23, 2004

Kansas City Marriot Downtown
Kansas City, Missouri

12:25 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) How do you get them to stop, Sam? (Laughter.) Thank you all very much.

CONGRESSMAN GRAVES: Shows how good a group they are.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, it's not bad. I think I'm going to quit right now. (Laughter.)

Well, we appreciate that warm Missouri welcome. It's great to be back, and especially to be here today to work with Sam. I like Missouri so much that I'm going to be back on Monday. (Laughter.) I'm going down to Fulton to speak at Westminster College. And it's always an enjoyable stop. But I'm here today, specifically to thank Sam Graves for the outstanding work he does every day on behalf of his district, his state, and the nation. And Sam came to Washington, of course, with President Bush in 2001. Over the last three years, he's worked tirelessly for the people of Missouri. And just like the President, he has earned another term in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

The President and I are very grateful for the strong support we received here in Missouri last time around. It was a crucial part of our victory. Of course, every state was a crucial part of that victory. It was a little close. (Laughter.) This time we hope it's not quite so close. But with your help we're going to carry Missouri again in 2004. (Applause.)

I want to say a word about your United States senators, Kit Bond and Jim Talent. My only official duty as Vice President is to preside over the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President, and they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention, they figured out they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate to allow the Vice President to preside over the Senate, also cast that tie-breaking vote when the Senate is 50-50 on a proposition.

My predecessor John Adams, our first Vice President, also had floor privileges. He could go down into the well of the Senate and actually join in the debate and argue the issues of the day. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored. But I have the opportunity, obviously, to watch senators in action, and occasionally the opportunity to come out and deliver a report card to their constituents. I'm happy to tell you that Kit and Jim are two of the most respected, hardest working members of the United States Senate. They do a superb job for the people of Missouri, and I'm delighted to support them, as well. (Applause.)

But the main reason we're all here today is to speak specifically on behalf of Sam Graves. It's always a pleasure for me to get to do that. As Sam mentioned, I spent a decade in the House of Representatives. I was the congressman from Wyoming. Wyoming only has one congressman. It was a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.)

And even now, as President of the Senate, I keep an office over on the House side, courtesy of the Speaker, Denny Hastert. But I've spent some time and a good part of my career working with and judging members of Congress. And I think I know by now what makes a good congressman. You need to work hard, need to stay in close touch with the folks in your district, speak out on those things that matter most to your state and the nation, and that's what Sam Graves does every day.

In his two terms in Congress now, Sam has earned a reputation as a hard worker and a leader with strong principles. He's a valued member of Roy Blunt's whip team, one of the key organizations in the House. He's not afraid to reach across the aisle to get things done, especially when he sees his chance to improve life for people here in Missouri. As a lifelong resident of the sixth district, he shares your values. He fights hard for your priorities -- from lower taxes, to a strong agriculture sector, to quality education for every child in America.

By electing Sam, you put a good man in a big job. And this November I know you're going to send him back to the United States Congress. (Applause.)

These are challenging times for Missouri and for America. Those of us in public office have serious responsibilities, and we hold the public trust. The President and I have been able to count on Sam as a reliable ally on Capitol Hill over these last three years. And today, as we look forward to November, I believe the President has a significant record of accomplishment to show, as well.

The American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of our new century because of the character and the leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

This period in history has been defined by serious challenges, by consequential choices, and by the need for decisive action. And the greatest responsibility of our government is clear: We must protect the safety and security of the American people.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era. We suffered massive civilian casualties on our own soil. We awakened to dangers of even more lethal -- that were even more lethal, the possibility that terrorists could gain chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons from outlaw regimes and turn those weapons against the United States.

Remembering what we saw on the morning of 9/11, and knowing the nature of our enemies, we have as clear a responsibility as could ever fall to government, we must do everything in our power to protect our people from terrorist attacks , and to keep terrorists from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in our national security strategy. For many years prior to 9/11, terror attacks against Americans were treated as isolated incidents and answered, if at all, on an ad hoc basis -- rarely in a systematic way. Even after an attack inside our own country, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, there was a tendency to treat terrorist attacks as individual criminal acts to be handled primarily through law enforcement.

The main perpetrator of that 1993 attack in New York was tracked down, arrested, convicted, and sent off to serve a 240-year sentence. Yet behind that one man was a growing network of operatives inside and outside the United States, waging war against our country.

In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the mastermind of 9/11, first proposed to Osama bin Laden that they use hijacked airliners to attack targets in the U.S. In 1996 and again in 1998, Osama bin Laden declared war against the United States.

During this period, thousands of terrorists were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. And we've seen the work of these terrorists in many attacks since 9/11 all over the world -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbala, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, and Madrid.

The President and I understand that America requires an aggressive strategy against these enemies -- not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, cannot be contained, cannot be appeased, or negotiated with, it can only be destroyed. And that is the business at hand. (Applause.)

In Afghanistan, we've removed the brutal Taliban from power, and destroyed the al Qaeda training camps. In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our peace and security. (Applause.) Just over a year ago, Saddam Hussein controlled the lives and the futures of 25 million people -- today, he's in jail: never again to support dangerous terrorists, never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again pursue weapons of mass destruction, never again threaten the United States of America. (Applause.)

We still face serious challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq. There's still a great deal to do. But our progress has been enormous. In Afghanistan, there's a new constitution. Free elections will be held later this year. In Iraq, a new basic law has been signed. This is an historic achievement, and a landmark document in that region. And on the 30th of June, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in the hands of Iraqis. As the President has said, the United States will keep its word to the Iraqi people. Iraq will be a free and independent country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. We stand for freedom and security, and that is a cause that we're proud to serve.

Our nation is extremely fortunate during these times of testing to have the dedicated service of our men and women in uniform. Many of them have seen hard duty, long deployments, and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades. And they are unwavering in their mission. They are proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation and our interests, we are sending the very best of the United States of America. (Applause.)

These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the next. We need a Commander-in-Chief of clear vision and steady determination. And that is just what we have in President George W. Bush. And that measure must be applied, as well, to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of 2004, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.

In one of Senator Kerry's recent observations about foreign policy he informed his listeners that he has met with unnamed foreign leaders who support him. A voter in Pennsylvania asked Senator Kerry who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, "That's none of your business."

But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. Remember that the American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders.

Senator Kerry has also asserted that our troops in Iraq are not receiving the material support they need. May I remind the Senator that last fall, at the President's request, Congress considered legislation providing vital support for our troops -- funding for body armor, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel and spare parts. Senator Kerry was asked whether he would vote against the President's request. He said, quote, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops. That's irresponsible." End quote. The legislation passed overwhelmingly with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted "no."

As a way to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry recently said, and again I quote: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." You want me to repeat that? "I actually did vote -- (laughter) -- for the $87 billion before I voted against it." The Senator, obviously, is free to vote as he chooses, but he should be held to his own standard. It is irresponsible to vote against vital support for the United States military.

On the broader picture, Senator Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. Recently he said, I don't want to use that terminology. In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation. But as we've seen, that approach was tried before and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us.

I leave it for Senator Kerry to explain his votes and his statements about the war on terror, our cause in Iraq, and the needs of the American military. Whatever the explanation, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become Commander-in-Chief in this time of testing for our country.

The American people will have a clear choice in this election, on national security, as well as on policies here at home. When the President and I took office, the economy was sliding into recession. Then, just as our economy was ready to recover, terrorists struck our nation and shook our economy once again. Working with Sam and others in Congress, President Bush has taken strong confident steps to get the economy growing again. The President signed into law significant tax relief for millions of American families and businesses. We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, cut tax rates across the board, and have put the death tax on its way to extinction.

Now, we're seeing the results of the President's policies. Last month, the economy added over 300,000 new jobs, and we've created more than 750,000 jobs since August. In the second half of last year, our economy grew at an annual rate of nearly 6.2 percent, its fastest pace in nearly two decades, and the highest rate of any major industrialized nation in the world. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates and inflation are low. Manufacturing activity is on the increase. Productivity is high. Business investment is rising. Incomes are growing. America's economy is moving in the right direction. And don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

The American people are using their money far better than the government would have, and Congress was right to let them keep it. (Applause.) As you know, there are voices in the land who want to roll back the Bush tax cuts. If elected, Senator Kerry has promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts during his first 100 days in office.

That isn't surprising when you consider his record on taxes. Over the years, Senator Kerry has voted over 350 times for higher taxes, including the biggest tax increase in American history. For the sake of long-term job growth and job-creation, we ought to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Kerry proposes: We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

Sam has helped deliver historic tax relief to the American people to start the economic recovery. To strengthen that recovery we're going to move forward with an aggressive pro-growth agenda. Our nation needs legal reform to protect small business owners and employees from frivolous lawsuits and needless regulation. We need to control the cost of health care by passing medical liability reform. Here in Missouri, and across the nation, good doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) We need to pass sound energy legislation to modernize our electricity system and to make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

It is also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The President has put forward talented, experienced men and women who represent the mainstream of American law and American values. Yet Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters, denying up-or-down votes for months, and even years. That's unfair to the judicial nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And that's why we need more Republicans like Kit Bond and Jim Talent in the United States Senate. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, from national security, to economic growth, to improving our schools, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. President Bush has a clear vision for the future of the nation: Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, to turn back the forces of terror, and to spread hope and freedom throughout the world.

Here at home, we will continue building prosperity that reaches every corner of the land so that every child who grows up in the United States will have a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world.

President Bush and I are both honored by the confidence you've placed in us and by your commitment to the cause we all share. President Bush and I are grateful to all of our friends in this part of the country, and very grateful to the sixth district for sending Sam Graves to Washington. He's made a fine name for himself, and he reflects tremendous credit on the good people of his district. We look forward to working with Sam for a good many years to come.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 12:40 P.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Sam Graves in Kansas City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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