Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressman Robin Hayes in Charlotte, North Carolina

September 12, 2003

Charlotte Convention Center
Charlotte, North Carolina

12:12 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Robin; and I want to thank all of you for that warm welcome . It's great to be back in Charlotte, and to see so many old friends here today -- and I want to bring greetings to everybody in North Carolina from the man you helped elect President of the United States, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I'm especially pleased today to see my old friend, Jim Martin. Jim and I served together for a number of terms in the House of Representatives, before he became your governor, and he taught me most of what I know about the House of Representatives -- although, I'm not sure he'll admit that. But I really valued my time in the House. At one point in my career, I thought that's where I was going to spend it literally -- a member of Congress from Wyoming.

Wyoming only had one congressman. It was a small delegation -- (laughter) -- but it was quality. (Laughter.) Thanks, Jim. (Laughter.) But I loved my time in the House, and now have the privilege of presiding over the United States Senate as Vice President. And I'm here today specifically because President Bush and I both believe that it's absolutely essential that we reelect Congressman Robin Hayes to another term in Congress come next November. (Applause.)

Since I've returned as Vice President, I've gotten to know Robin well and had the opportunity to work with him on a number of occasions. And when it comes time to stand up for America and stand up for North Carolina, nobody does a better job than Robin does.

Since being elected to Congress in '98, he's fought to protect North Carolina's family farms, to keep the federal government's promises to North Carolina's seniors, and improve North Carolina's educational system by making it less bureaucratic and more responsive to local control.

And through his service on the House Armed Services, Robin has been a strong and effective advocate of our nation's military in a time of national crisis. North Carolina plays an absolutely vital role in America's defense -- and Robin never forgets about Fort Bragg or Pope Air Force Base here in North Carolina.

Above all, Robin has been a tireless advocate for jobs in North Carolina. Where his constituents are involved, he works very effectively to get things done for everybody in the state.

I've been in politics long enough now, and having served as the congressman from Wyoming, I learned the value of what I would call good congressional horse flesh -- there are always a few members who stand out, who have their roots firmly grounded in their districts, who have a good, solid philosophy and a set of principles by which they live, and who have the capacity to influence others to make crucial decisions for the nation -- Robin is exactly that kind of member, and that's why it's so vital to help him get reelected come November.

He represents, obviously, one of the toughest districts in North Carolina. This is likely to be a priority race next time around, and he will continue to be elected, I believe, because of his strong leadership skills, his bipartisan capabilities, his capacity for working with both sides of the aisle. And the North Carolina people need Robin Hayes in Congress. (Applause.) And President Bush and I need him in Congress to help us to our vital jobs at this crucial moment. (Applause.)

It's been about three years since the President talked to me about becoming his running mate. When he asked me to sign on, he said it wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming -- (laughter) -- in fact, he got nearly 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming. But from time to time I point out to him that those three electoral votes came in pretty handy. (Laughter.)

I think a lot of the pundits expected, since we won a close election -- one of the closest in history -- that our administration might trim its sails and move forward with a timid agenda. But from the very beginning, the President made it clear that he'd gone to Washington to get something done and that we were going to do absolutely everything we could to move ahead on our priorities.

That very first year, we achieved two of our major objectives: tax relief and education reform. On the tax front, we lowered tax rates, reduced the marriage penalty, and eliminated the death tax. (Applause.)

The President also moved aggressively on a bipartisan basis to build a coalition to reform our educational system. It was milestone reform, ushering in an era of standards and accountability. It was, we believe, truly a turning point that set American education on the path towards educational excellence.

But the defining moment for the President, and for all of us, was the sudden attack on our country on September 11th, two years ago yesterday. That's a day none of us will ever forget. Suddenly we understood how vulnerable we were as a nation, how it was possible for terrorists to take advantage of our open borders and open society and to use them against us. We saw that it was relatively easy for a small number of terrorists to launch an attack and kill some 3,000 of our fellow citizens in two hours in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania -- truly a watershed event in American history.

We also began to understand, particularly from the evidence we uncovered in caves and tunnels and training camps in Afghanistan, that our enemies are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, if they can. And we have every reason to believe that if they succeed, they will use them, launching attacks far more deadly than anything we've ever experienced.

To counter these threats, we've been forced to think anew about how we defend our country, and about what constitutes a viable national security strategy for our America. We've come to realize that if we are to protect the American people against determined enemies, we can't simply rely on our old Cold War strategy. The kind of strategy we used against the Soviets during the Cold War, where we put at risk those things they valued in order to deter them from ever launching an attack against the United States, simply will not work where terrorists are concerned. There is nothing the terrorists value highly enough that we can put at risk to keep them from ever launching that attack. So no treaty or arms control agreement or strategy of deterrence will end this conflict. We need a new strategy -- and that's precisely what we've developed.

We began working aggressively here at home to toughen our defenses, created the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government since the Department of Defense was created back in the 1940s.

But good defense is not enough. The problem with terrorist organization is that, even if you build defenses that are 99 percent successful, the 1 percent that gets through can kill you. We need a strategy that takes us on offense, and that lets us go after those who pose a threat to the United States and to our friends and allies -- a strategy that allows us to destroy the terrorists before they can launch further attacks against the United States. (Applause.) We cannot wait to act until after we have another day like 9/11 or a day perhaps far even worse. A good part of our new strategy is, indeed, based upon the President's determination to change the way we think about states that sponsor terror.

Prior to 9/11, too many nations tended to draw a distinction between terrorist groups and the states that provided those groups with support, with sanctuary and safe harbor. They were unwilling, oftentimes in the past, to hold terror-sponsoring states accountable for their actions.

After 9/11, President Bush decided that the distinction between the terrorists and their sponsors could no longer be permitted to stand. The Bush doctrine makes clear that those states that support terrorists, or provide sanctuary for terrorists, are just as guilty as the terrorists themselves. So in addition to going after the terrorists, in addition to dismantling their financial networks and their logistic support, we also are taking on states that sponsor terrorism. (Applause.)

I'll never forget that Friday after the attack, when the President went to Ground Zero in New York -- many of you may remember it. He stood up on a pile of rubble with a bullhorn in his hand. And when the men in the hard hats working nearby said they couldn't hear him, he responded, "Well, I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will soon hear from all of us." He's been a man of his word.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime harbored al Qaeda and brutalized an entire population. That regime is no more. In Iraq, where a brutal dictator threatened the peace and gave support to terrorists, the United States launched one of the most extraordinary military campaigns in history. And that regime is no more.

Some people have questioned the strategy, suggesting somehow it's wrong for the United States to strike "before an enemy strikes us." But I would argue that on 9/11 we were struck. We lost more people that day than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And I ask you, if we had been able, through preemptive military action, to defeat the attack before it ever occurred, would we have been justified? The answer is, you bet we would have. And make no mistake: this President will act against further attacks, even when it means moving aggressively to head-off would-be attackers. (Applause.)

So the war on terror continues. It's a war being fought all over the globe -- just look at the attacks that have occurred in the last two years, not only in New York and Washington -- but also in Bali, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca, Jakarta, Bombay, Baghdad and Najaf. And the war will continue, perhaps as long as we're in office, perhaps even longer.

In this global war on terror, U.S. forces are heavily engaged where they need to be, and especially today in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will stay in Afghanistan and Iraq to make absolutely certain that the job is done before we move on. We will stay until we've wrapped up all the weapons of mass destruction and eliminated those who are enemies of the United States.

This war is not without sacrifice. More than 400 of our troops have already given their lives since the war on terror began on 9/11. And there are bound to be more casualties. But remember, we lost some 3,000 Americans here at home on 9/11. We'll be much safer and much more secure long-term if we're aggressively going after the terrorists and after the nations and mechanisms that support them overseas than if we lay back and wait for them to strike us again here at home.

In the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan and in other fronts in the war on terror, we've depended on the skill and courage of our men and women in uniform. They have faced enemies who have no regard for the rules of warfare or morality. They have carried out urgent and difficult missions in some of the most remote and hostile parts of the world. And they've done all this with the bravery and honor we have come to expect of them. As a former Secretary of Defense, I've never been more proud of our men and women in uniform than I am today. (Applause.)

Waging and winning the war on terror is only part of our responsibility toward other nations. There is great work in this world that only America can do. In the Middle East, we're encouraging free markets, democracy, tolerance, because these are the ideas and aspirations that overcome violence and turn societies toward the pursuit of peace.

Under President Bush, America acts in the world according to both our fundamental interests and our founding ideals. We believe in the dignity of life and the right of all people to live in freedom. And all who strive and sacrifice for the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States.

Here at home, we'll continue with an active and aggressive agenda. We have made major progress on the economy. When we took office, America was sliding into recession, too many people who wanted to work couldn't find a job. To help create jobs and to get the economy growing again, we have cut taxes each of the three years we've been in office. In the bill we passed this year, not only did we cut the income tax rates, but we also significantly cut taxes on dividends and capital gains -- a fundamental reform of the tax system that should encourage and stimulate long-term economic growth. We've delivered the largest tax relief since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Some in Congress have suggested we need to repeal tax relief and raise taxes on the American people. But raining taxes now, at a time like this, will hurt the recovery and postpone the day when we generate sufficient revenues to be able to close the deficit.

It's vital that we move forward to do everything we can, as well, to encourage greater growth and development in the manufacturing sector. I know you've had significant problems you've been addressing here in North Carolina. The administration wants to work closely with Robin Hayes and do everything we can to make certain that you've got a strong economy here and that we take care of the needs of the people of South Carolina who've been badly adversely affected.

We've also had action both in the House and the Senate on an energy bill. And as in New York, Ohio and Michigan, firsthand people experienced last week, two weeks ago, that our nation's electricity grid badly needs to be upgraded. We're hopeful that Congress will work swiftly to move an energy bill through the conference committee and to produce a bill that will improve our nation's infrastructure, and promote energy efficiency and conservation, develop cleaner technologies and help reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- a must for the sake of our national security.

After many years of inaction, we are making progress on bringing Medicare into the 21st century. Last January, President Bush submitted a framework for Medicare reform to Congress that would give seniors access to prescription drugs and offer them better choices under Medicare. Both Houses have taken historic action, and now Congress must complete its work and send a bill to the President that provides seniors with better health coverage and relief from the rising costs of prescription drugs. We're also looking forward to working with Congress to help small businesses better be able to afford affordable health care for their employees.

We also need to fix the judicial confirmation process. Right now, far too many nominations to the federal bench are being held up because of the threat of filibuster. Our friends on the other side of the aisle refuse to allow nominees of great merit to even be voted on, on the Senate floor. Well-qualified nominees like Terry Boyle, here in North Carolina, have been attacked by Senate Democrats who blocked an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And just last week, another outstanding nominee, rated well-qualified by everybody who has looked at him, a man named Miguel Estrada, withdrew his name from consideration after waiting two years for a vote on the Senate floor. The treatment of this fine man has truly been disgraceful. It's time now to restore dignity and civility to the judicial confirmation process to make sure that every person nominated to the federal bench gets a timely up-or-down vote.

We have achieved a great deal in these two-and-a-half years. But there is much left to do in Washington and around the world. We need to enact Project Bioshield to help protect the American people against the threat of bio-terrorism. We need legal reform, because the strength of our economy is undermined by frivolous lawsuits. And while there are encouraging signs that the economy is picking up steam, the President and I will not rest until everyone who wants a job can find a job.

The campaign season will come in due course -- and when it does, we will run hard and take nothing for granted. President Bush and I know that the key to victory is to do the work we've been given and to do it well. We intend to make good use of every day we have the honor of serving the America people.

Long before I took this job, I had the good fortune to work with other presidents whom I greatly admire. As the White House Chief of Staff in the aftermath of Watergate, I watched Gerald Ford restore confidence in government by the sheer decency and force of his character. As a congressman during the decisive years of the Cold War, I saw the conviction and moral courage of Ronald Reagan. And as a member of the Cabinet and Secretary of Defense under former President Bush, I saw the idea of public service in its purest form and came to know a leader of true honor and integrity.

Along the way, I learned a few things about the presidency, and about the kind of person it takes to do it well. It takes the finest qualities of character: a conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, compassion, courage in times of testing for the nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the White House today. (Applause.)

I am honored to work with George W. Bush. And he and I are both honored by your confidence in us, by your support for strong congressmen like Robin Hayes, and by your commitment to this great and good country of ours, the United States of America.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:32 P.M. EDT

Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressman Robin Hayes in Charlotte, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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