Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressman Jim Gerlach
The Desmond Hotel and Convention Center
12:28 P.M. EDT
Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you all, and thank you, Jim, for those warm remarks. And let me thank all of you. It's great to be back in Pennsylvania again. And I appreciate the warm welcome and the chance to get out of Washington for a few hours, come up and talk to real folks. (Laughter.)
I've been looking forward to coming back and sharing the day with your outstanding congressman, Jim Gerlach. I was proud to campaign last year with Jim when he ran the first time because I knew about the outstanding record he'd achieve in the state senate here in Pennsylvania. And I believed, as I think many people here did, obviously, that he'd be an outstanding congressman for the sixth district.
The voters of Berks, Chester and Montgomery clearly felt the same way on Election Day. And in his freshman year on Capitol Hill, I think Jim has repaid the people's confidence 100 percent.
I've served in the House of Representatives myself, as Jim mentioned, for 10 years, and loved my time in the House. I was the congressman from Wyoming. Wyoming only had one congressman. (Laughter.) It was a small delegation, but it was quality. (Laughter.) But I came to appreciate, as the member from Wyoming, what it takes to make a good congressman. When you're a member from a single-member state like that, you really have to go out and find allies on the major issues of the day. If you're from a big state like California, say, or Texas, and you've got 30 or 40 colleagues to work on state issues with, the world looks a little different than if you're the only member from Wyoming. And if you've got to work on a Wyoming issue, you've got to go find allies and work the other delegations. So you develop an appreciation for the kind of member that is of value in terms of being able to help and make commitments they're willing to sign on and the kind of individual you want to sign up as an ally.
And Jim Gerlach is exactly that kind of congressman. You need to be able to find somebody who can work hard, stay in close touch with the people in their district, speak out on those things that matter most back home, that are grounded in a basic fundamental set of values and principles. And that's exactly the way Jim approaches every day, from his work on the transportation and the small business committees to his service on the Speaker's Prescription Drug Action Team, his leadership on education, on the environment, and on medical liability reform.
He came as an experienced legislator. He knows how to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in a spirit of bipartisan, and I believe he's done Pennsylvania proud in Washington, D.C. And I believe he has earned another term in the United States House of Representatives. (Applause.)
Now, as Vice President, I really have only one job. And in the Constitution -- when they wrote the Constitution and decided to have a Vice President, as they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention, they decided they hadn't given him anything to do. So they decided, well, we'll let him preside over the United States Senate. So my only official title is as the President of the Senate. My pay actually comes from the Senate. About half my staff is paid out of the Senate. And so I get to spend a lot of time in the Senate, if you will.
My predecessor, John Adams, our first Vice President, he also was given floor privileges. That is to say not only did he get to cast tie-breaking votes, which I do, but he was allowed to go down into the well of the Senate and to address the issues of the day and engage in the debate with the other members. And then he did that a couple of times and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored, so I'm not able to do that.
But I do have the great good fortune to spend a lot of time in the Senate working with my friends up there. And I've got to tell you, Pennsylvania has an outstanding delegation in the United States Senate in Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. They do a superb job for you. They're conscientious public servants, leaders on major national issues. And of course, Arlen is on the ballot next year here in Pennsylvania at the same time that the President and I are. And we're going to be very proud, all three of us, to carry Pennsylvania for the ticket in 2004. (Applause.)
When the President and I took office, it would have been difficult to predict how we would spend our time while we were there. Every presidency is shaped by two fundamental things, really. One is the character, the personality of the individual who sits in the Oval Office. But the other that has enormous impact are the events that occur on your watch. And of course, when you become President, you never know precisely what's going to happen on your watch. Sometimes you have a relatively quiet time. And other times, things happen that force you to deal with major crises and problems that nobody could have anticipated.
And clearly, our administration has been of the latter kind when you think about 9/11. And I'll talk about that in a minute because I think it has clearly shaped much of what we do in Washington these days, but first let me say a word, too, about the economy. Because we also -- when we came in, we inherited a set of circumstances with an economy that was on the front end of recession. The stock market had begun its decline in the middle of 2000. And by the beginning of '01, the economy had slipped into recession. You take what had happened in the economy and follow that with the tremendous shock of the terrorist attack nine months later on 9/11 and all that that entailed for the economy, economic activity and the enormous cost that imposed. We had our hands full, clearly, in terms of having to deal with and trying to get the economy back on the right course.
Now, some nearly three years since we took office, we believe we're making significant progress. I think at the heart of what we've been able to do was the President's tax policy. He ran -- and he's kept his commitment -- ran on the platform that we were going to aggressively try to reform the tax code and reduce the tax burden on the American taxpayer. We believe that was also exactly the right medicine in terms of dealing with the economic circumstances that developed. So if you look at what we've been able to achieve, we feel very good about that piece of the agenda.
And as a result of the tax cuts that we were able to pass, with the help of a Republican Congress, both in 2001 and now in 2003, a family of four earning $40,000 a year has had their taxes drop from $1,958 a year to $45 this year -- a very significant development. To the extent we've been able to put money back into the pockets of the people who earn it, we think that's been vital to avoiding an even deeper recession. We think it's been crucial, as well, to getting the recovery underway.
We've been able to cut rates. We've been able to do significant damage to the marriage penalty. We've cut back dramatically and phased out the death tax, been able to reform the double-taxation of dividends and improve the treatment of capital gains, significant expensing for small businesses. And of course, small businesses are really the engine that drive our economy -- that drives our economy. That's where all the jobs get created. So we think we've made major progress there.
Those reforms are key to long-term economic growth. And although some have suggested -- of the other political faith -- that now is the time to raise taxes, I must tell you the President and I think that's one of the worst ideas we've heard in a long time. As we're coming out of the recession, as we're getting the engine of the economy driving again, for us to now raise taxes would be exactly the wrong response. We'd put at risk the progress we've made, and clearly, it would cost probably hundreds of thousands of jobs out there in the economy.
So we think we have turned the corner, that things are looking up. And as we look at the last half of this year and going into 2004, we think that the economic prospects are very bright.
Clearly, the attack of 9/11, that we've all experienced, and that I don't think any of us will ever forget, changed everything in many important respects. It demonstrated conclusively the enormous vulnerability of our nation, that our open society is an open border to be taken advantage of by those who wish us ill, that terrorists were able to come into our country, gain training in commercial flight schools, and together then with an airline ticket and a box cutter, get on an airplane and kill some 3,000 of our fellow citizens in two hours on that September morning.
The follow-on to that attack, obviously, has been the knowledge that's been developed subsequently as a result of our activities in Afghanistan, going into the training camps and getting hold of al Qaeda terrorists that we've been able to debrief, the documentary evidence we've acquired that the terrorists are determined to try to acquire deadlier weapons, that they would love to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. And we know that if they ever did acquire that kind of capability, that they would almost certainly use it.
If you want to contemplate a frightening thought, people ask me what do I worry most about from the standpoint of threats to the United States these days, as former Secretary of Defense, I used to worry about an all-out global war with the Soviet Union, that's no longer the threat. Now the threat, obviously, is the possibility of an al Qaeda terrorist loose in one of our cities with a biological, or perhaps, a nuclear weapon.
What we've learned, as well, since those events of 9/11, is that this is a global problem. The attacks have occurred not only in New York and Washington, but also in Riyadh, Casablanca, Mombassa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, in Iraq. It's a global problem, that there are literally thousands of terrorists who went through those training camps in Afghanistan in the late '90s. They've gone back home to their home base of operations, their home terrorist organizations. And we now have a global problem on our hands.
As we look back and think about those events, and look at the period before that -- and one of the reasons I say 9/11 changed everything, a watershed event, with the world after 9/11 looking different from the world before 9/11, in part, we now recognize that the old pre-9/11 strategy wouldn't work, that a mistake that was made in the past was to look at a terrorist attack as some kind of a criminal enterprise, that the way to respond to it was as a law enforcement problem.
We go out -- say, take the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 in New York City -- we treated that as an act by a small group of individuals. We went and rounded them up. We didn't get them all. We're still on the hunt for a couple of them, but we got the principal operator, a man named Ramzi Yousef, and put him in the slammer. And he's doing 240 years in a maximum security facility now in Colorado. Case closed. Wrong.
We thought the case was closed at the time because we thought of it as a criminal enterprise. But if you think about it as part of a global worldwide effort, part of a conspiracy, if you look behind the perpetrator and look for ties and connections to organizations or states, what we find is that that World Trade Center bombing in '93 was probably the first al Qaeda attack on the United States. We didn't know it at the time. We know it now.
We know it because Ramzi Yousef, before he was arrested and prosecuted, later on took part in an aborted conspiracy to take down 12 American airliners over the Pacific, in Manila, that was broke up a couple of years later. We know it, in part, because the master planner, the mastermind of the attack of 9/11 on the World Trade Center in New York, was Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, a man now in custody. He was Ramzi Yousef's uncle, both part of al Qaeda. We know that that World Trade Center bombing and the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11, we know this now, it's been in the press from interrogating Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, who's now in custody, we know that he first discussed that attack with Osama bin Laden in 1996, five years before it was launched.
So in effect, there was a war underway here, as far as al Qaeda was concerned against the United States, but we hadn't picked up on that as a nation until 9/11, 10 years, or eight years after the first attack.
So clearly the old strategy failed. It didn't work. The idea that you could deal with this through law enforcement and treat it as a crime was exactly the wrong approach. What we had to do was to adapt a new strategy. And that's exactly what we've done. Thanks to President Bush and his leadership, we've developed a strategy that embodies -- involves several new elements that clearly you want to first and foremost protect the homeland. So we've developed robust defenses here at home, passed the act reorganizing the federal government, biggest reorganization since the Defense Department was set up back in the '40s, created the Department of Homeland Security, got Tom Ridge, a great Pennsylvania governor down to Washington to run this major enterprise.
But good defenses aren't enough. When you're dealing with terrorists, a defense that's 99 percent successful isn't sufficient because the 1 percent that may get through can, in fact, kill you. So since there's no such thing as perfect defense you've also got to have a strategy that's based on offense, as well. You've got to be able to go after the terrorists. You've got to destroy the terrorists before they can launch more strikes against the United States.
And once you adopt that as your objective, then you also do a number of other things. You, for example, decide to go after the financial networks. Terrorists don't function in a vacuum. There are groups, organizations out there that have financed them, provided them the resources, provided the logistics network on which they operate. You've go to go take down those financial networks. You've got to go wrap up and find the financial contributors and the money men who make it possible for them to operate. We've never done that before. We're actively and aggressively doing it now.
You've got to work very aggressively with your intel services and the intelligence services of other nations. And we've done that very aggressively. One of the most important contributions the President's made to this enterprise is what we call the Bush doctrine. The night that he addressed the nation on 9/11, after that speech, we met in the bomb shelter under the White House, the National Security Council did, and he made a decision that night that we also had to go after the states that sponsored terror.
In the pre-9/11 period, when we looked at states that had provided sanctuary or safe harbor or resources for the terrorists, we also separated them out from the terrorists themselves. And we'd put them on a list over at the State Department and say that's a terror-sponsoring state. But there were few consequences for being so designated. The President said that day is over with. Henceforth, if we find a state that is sponsoring terror, we will hold them accountable for the acts committed by the terrorists, just like we hold the terrorists accountable. And that's exactly what we've done.
One of the problems we were faced with and one of the things that, frankly, I think encourages and did encourage terrorist attacks in the past is that there had never been an effective, sustained U.S. response to those attacks upon the United States.
If you think back with me for a moment to 1983, 20 years ago, the attack on our Marines in the barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, 241 killed one morning, truck bomb, probably Hezbollah. There was no effective U.S. response to that attack. A few months later, we withdrew, pulled out of Lebanon, brought everybody home.
1993, World Trade Center bombing; 1995, attack on Saudi Arabian National Guard Headquarters, five American advisors killed; '96, Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia; '98, East Africa embassies, two of our embassies hit simultaneously, hundreds killed, 12 Americans; in 2000, the USS Cole struck off Yemen, 17 sailors killed -- you ask yourself what was the U.S. response to those attacks? How did we deal with the fact that we'd been struck? And the answer is, we did almost nothing -- launched a few cruise missiles once or twice at some empty camps in Afghanistan. But that was really the sum total of the U.S. response.
From the standpoint of the terrorists and those who had designs on attacking the United States -- every reason for them to believe they could strike us with impunity, that we might try to impose sanctions, file diplomatic protest notes, maybe fire off a few cruise missiles, but it wasn't dangerous if you were a terrorist to launch an attack against the United States. All that changed on 9/11 when they hit us here at home and killed 3,000 of our people. And all that changed when we elected George Bush President of the United States. (Applause.)
Since 9/11, we've mounted major operations in Afghanistan, took down the Taliban, eliminated the major base for the al Qaeda organization, killed or captured a great many al Qaeda. And we've also worked closely with friends in the region out there who've been willing to pitch in and help. The government of Pakistan, for example, signed on, has been enormously helpful to us, has helped us wrap up hundreds of al Qaeda, including Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the man I've mentioned earlier who was the mastermind of 9/11.
Saudi Arabia has been very supportive, especially since last May after they were hit in Riyadh. And they now understand they're right at the top of the list as an enemy of the al Qaeda organization, as well, too. So we've been able to work that whole region and make progress. In Afghanistan, we had to go in forcefully and use U.S. force. In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, working with friendly, cooperative governments.
Iraq, obviously there, we had to go use force as well, too. And the reason we had to do Iraq, if you hark back and think about that link between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was the place where we were most fearful that that was most likely to occur, because in Iraq we've had a government -- not only was it one of the worst dictatorships in modern times, but had oftentimes hosted terrorists in the past -- the Abu Nidal organization, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, suicide -- payments to the families of suicide bombers in Israel and Palestine, but also an established relationship with the al Qaeda organization, and, without question, had previously had and used weapons of mass destruction -- chemical weapons against the Iranians and against the Kurds.
For all of those reasons it was vitally important that we deal with the threat in Iraq, as well, too. One of the interesting things -- and this is a bit of sidelight maybe, but I think it's important that people understand this, we've had this whole debate over, well, maybe Saddam didn't really have WMD. Maybe he was just bluffing, that somebody cooked the books and came up with this notion that the Iraqi government had invested in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Well, first of all, of course, the intelligence community in the United States going back many years, including into the prior administration, concluded that he did, indeed, have programs for chemical, biological and nuclear programs -- nuclear weapons. But yesterday, David Kay, who is the man that's been designated to go supervise something called the Iraqi survey group -- this is a group of technical experts, gone to Iraq. He used to work in the UNSCOM, the old U.N. inspection operations, an American scientist, a very well qualified man. He went before the intelligence committees of the House and Senate and gave classified testimony, sort of a status report. It's not the final report. He's got many months of work yet to do, but a status report on where we are. That testimony has now been declassified, and I thought I'd read a couple of important paragraphs to you today because, frankly, I can turn on the television sometimes at night, and I have the report in front of me and I don't recognize -- (lau
But let me just read to you selected passages:
"Iraq's WMD" -- weapons of mass destruction -- "Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom." End quote.
"We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amount of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that the Iraq survey group has discovered that should have been declared to the U.N."
Now, let me read a few examples of the kinds of things they found, a clandestine network of laboratories and safe houses within the Iraq intelligence service that contained equipment subject to U.N. monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW, chemical, biological weapons research.
A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing, of BW agents that Iraqi officials working to prepare for U.N. inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the United Nations.
Every time they failed to declare something to the United States, they were in material breach of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, and that was deemed by everybody who voted for that resolution, which was everybody in the Security Council, to be sufficient cause to go to war to make Saddam Hussein comply with this resolution.
Next item, reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons. New research on BW-applicable agents, brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever and continuing work on liacin aflatoxin, which had not been declared to the U.N.
Documents and equipment hidden in scientists' home that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation.
A line of unmanned aerial vehicles, not fully declared, and an admission that they had tested them out to a range of 500 kilometers. That's 350 kilometers beyond the legal limit that they were allowed.
Continuing covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant useful only for prohibited Scud-bearing missiles. Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1,000 kilometers, well beyond the 150-kilometer range limit imposed by the U.N.
Missiles with a 1,000-kilometer range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets throughout the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo, Abu Dhabi.
Clandestine attempts between late 1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300-kilometer range ballistic missiles, probably the No Dong; 300-kilometer range anti-ship cruise missiles and other prohibited military equipment, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So there's no question in my mind but what Saddam was guilty of what we said he was guilty of, and that the action that the President ordered in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If we had had that information and ignored it, if we'd been told, as we were, by the intelligence community that he was capable of producing a nuclear weapon within a year if he could acquire fissile material and ignored it, if we had not paid any attention to the fact that al Qaeda was being hosted in Northeastern Iraq, part of poisons network producing ricin and cyanide that was intended to be used in attacks both in Europe, as well as in North Africa and ignored it, we would have been derelict in our duties and responsibilities. There was no way this President could have done that. So we launched the effort -- I think -- and have had great success.
In Iraq, major efforts are underway to rebuild after taking down the regime. We've got a governing coalition in place -- of Iraqis now. We've appointed Iraqis to run all of the ministries. Over 90 percent of the local governments have councils that they've put in place. All the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the universities are open. Oil production is back up to almost 2 million barrels a day. The electricity grid is operating close to pre-war levels. They still need more because they've let it degrade over time, but they've made significant progress there. The economy is picking up. There are thousands of new small businesses. The city of Baghdad, the streets are bustling with economic activity.
There still is a security threat, no question about it. And our people will be engaged over there dealing with that security threat as long as it exists. A lot of it is either remnants of the old regime, or al Qaeda. Al Qaeda who were there before and who are there since we've gone in. But our troops are doing an absolutely magnificent job, and they deserve the thanks and the support of every American. (Applause.)
What's at stake here is our success in the global war on terror. If we can plant in the middle of the Middle East in Iraq and in Afghanistan representative governments, democratically elected governments, governments that are no longer safe havens for terrorists, that are no longer engaged in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, that don't launch wars against their neighbors, as Saddam Hussein did twice, that have committed to the kinds of things that people in the United States are committed to, want to become functioning, sovereign members of the international community, we will have dealt a massive blow to the terrorists. And they know that. They understand that. They know that this is a battle to the death, if you will, in the streets of Baghdad and in Kabul, Afghanistan, and throughout those countries.
We've got a great start. We've got first-class people we're working with over there. It's absolutely essential we follow through and get the job done. And that's what it's all about. I think the American people understand. I think they know very well that it's far better for us to take on the al Qaeda and destroy their base of operations overseas than it is to have to deal with them here in the United States. We know what that's like, because we had to do it on 9/11. The world is going to be a safer more secure place for our kids and our grandkids if we get it right, we follow through, we do what we set out to do. The President is absolutely determined to do that. (Applause.)
I've rambled on long enough, talked more than I planned to talk today, but the key -- one of the keys to this enterprise, as well is, that we continue to have the kind of outstanding members of Congress that you've sent us from Pennsylvania, especially in people like Jim Gerlach, Joe Pitts, Arlen Specter, Rick Santorum. It means so much to us in terms of what the President and I have to do on a daily basis to have a Congress that is controlled by a majority, both houses by Republicans. I don't say that just in the partisan sense, but I sure am grateful for the fact that Ted Stevens, of Alaska, is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, instead of Bobby Byrd, of West Virginia. (Laughter.) And I could repeat that litany down through all the committees.
But it's vital to our success that we continue to have the support of the American people, that we continue to have your support, and that you continue to send us outstanding members who are willing to go back there and help us do what's right and what needs to be done, as I say, not only for this generation but for future generations. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:58 P.M. EDT
Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressman Jim Gerlach Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/280836