Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito in Charleston, West Virginia

September 15, 2003

Charleston Marriott Town Center
Charleston, West Virginia

12:10 P.M. EDT

Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you, Shelley. And let me thank all of you for that warm welcome back to Charleston and West Virginia. I've been looking forward to this event. It's gotten to be a regular item now -- every two years, I come and spend some time with Shelley. But increasingly, it looks like she doesn't need my help. But I am here today and want to bring greetings to all of you from the President of the United States, George W. Bush, the man you helped put in the White House. (Applause.)

And I'm here, too, because we're all great friends of Shelley's. And we want to make absolutely certain that she's reelected to the United States Congress next November. (Applause.)

Shelley mentioned I did serve in the House. Now, of course, I'm the Vice President. My only job is to preside over the Senate. And I'd always aspired to be Speaker of the House of Representatives. Some say I had to settle for second best now to be the President of the Senate. (Laughter.) I don't say that in the Senate, only among our House friends. But I loved my time in the House of Representatives. It was a tremendous experience representing all the people of Wyoming. As Shelley mentioned, it was a small delegation. We only had one seat, but it was quality. (Laughter.) And it was a tremendous experience.

But the thing I enjoy about coming out to help someone like Shelley is because she's done such a commendable job herself. And after you've served in the House for over 10 years, as I did, especially from a single-member state, where you're always out trying to find allies for your cause, every once in a while you come across a member who's been absolutely outstanding in what they do and you know is a tough and effective ally -- great spokesman for the people of West Virginia, but for all America. And Shelley is exactly that kind of member of Congress.

She's helped lead the fight to control the skyrocketing costs of medical liability insurance, which I know has been a problem here in West Virginia, limiting access to medical care. She serves as the Vice Chair of the House Prescription Drug Task Force, and has fought hard to provide prescription drug relief for our seniors, and is dedicated to improving the access to health care across the nation, and especially in our rural communities.

She's given great support to the President in the jobs and growth package designed to bring new long-term economic growth to the nation, to create new jobs and greater investment for the people of West Virginia.

I've been in politics a long time, and I've known people like Shelley Moore Capito, the ones whose reputations grow with every passing year. She works hard. She does her homework. She remembers who she answers to, the hard working people of West Virginia. The President and I badly need Shelley Moore Capito to stay in Congress so she can help us confront the challenges of the 21st century. So reelect her next November -- very important. (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 that it wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) He got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming. But from time to time, I point out to him that those three Wyoming electoral votes came in pretty handy. (Laughter.)

I think a lot of the pundits expected, since we had such a close election, that the administration might trim its sails and move forward with a more limited agenda once we got to Washington. But from the very beginning, the President made it clear that he'd gone to Washington to get something done, and he wanted to move aggressively on all of our urgent priorities.

That very first year we achieved two of our biggest objectives: tax relief and education reform. On the tax front, we lowered income tax rates, reduced the marriage penalty, phased out the death tax. The President also moved aggressively and successfully to build a bipartisan coalition to reform our educational system, a milestone of reform ushering in an era of high standards and accountability. I believe it was truly a turning point, and we think we've set American education on a much better course.

The defining moment, I think, for all us -- certainly for the administration -- was the sudden attack on our country on 9/11, just two years ago last week. That was a day none of us will ever forget. Suddenly we understood how vulnerable we are as a nation, how it was possible for terrorists to take advantage of our open borders and open society and use them against us. We saw that it was relatively easy for a small number of terrorists to launch an attack that killed some 3,000 of our fellow citizens in a couple of hours in New York and Washington that day. It was truly a watershed event in American history.

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

To counter these threats, we've been forced to think anew about national security strategy, about how to defend our country and what's important for us as a nation. We've come to realize that if we're to protect the American people against determined enemies, the old Cold War remedies won't work.

The kind of strategy we used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where we put at risk the things they valued in order to deter them from ever launching an attack against the United States, simply won't work where terrorists are concerned. There's nothing the terrorists value highly enough that we can put at risk to keep them from launching an attack against the United States. So no treaty, or arms control agreement, or strategy of deterrence is likely to end this conflict. We need a new strategy, and that's precisely what we've been developing.

We've begun working aggressively to toughen our defenses here at home, creating the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government since the Department of Defense was created over 50 years ago. But good defense is not enough. We all know the best defense is a good offense. And the problem with terrorist organizations is that even if you build successful defenses, 99 percent successful, the 1 percent that gets through can still kill you. So we need a strategy that takes us on offense, that lets us go after those states that pose a threat to the United States, after those terrorists who pose a threat to the United States and our friends and allies, a strategy that allows us to destroy the terrorists before they can launch attacks against the United States. We cannot wait to act until another day like 9/11, or a day far worse.

And a good part of our new strategy is based on the President's determination to think about the way we look at states who sponsor terror or have sponsored terror in the past. Prior to 9/11, too many nations tended to draw a distinction between terrorist groups and the states that provided these groups with support, with sanctuary, or with safe harbor. They were unwilling to hold those terror-sponsoring states accountable for their actions.

After 9/11, President Bush decided the distinction between the terrorists and their sponsors could no longer be permitted to stand. The Bush doctrine makes clear, those states that support terrorists or provide sanctuary for terrorists are just as guilty as the terrorists themselves of the acts that are committed. So in addition to going after the terrorists, in addition to dismantling their financial networks and logistical support, we've also taken on states that sponsor terror.

I'll never forget that Friday after the attack on 9/11, when the President went to Ground Zero in New York. He stood up on a pile of rubble with a bullhorn in his hand. And when the men in 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 down these buildings will soon hear from all of us."

The President has been a man of his word. In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime harbored al Qaeda and brutalized an entire population. And 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 that, perhaps, the United States should not strike an enemy before we're struck. But I would argue that that already happened on 9/11. We lost more people that day than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And I ask you, if we'd been able, with preemptive military action, to defeat that attack before it ever occurred, would we? And the answer is, you bet we would have.

Make no mistake, the President is acting to protect us against further attacks, even when that means moving aggressively against would-be attackers. So the war on terror continues. It is a war. It's being fought all around the globe. Just look at the attacks that have already occurred, not only in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, but in Bali, in Mombassa, in Riyadh, Casablanca, Jakarta, Jerusalem, 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 when and where they need to be, but especially today in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will stay in Afghanistan and Iraq to make absolutely certain the job is done before we move on. We will stay until we've wrapped up all the weapons of mass destruction and eliminated all of those who are enemies of the United States.

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

In the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in other fronts of the war on terror, we've depended on the skill and the courage of our men and women in uniform. They've faced enemies who have no regard for the rules of warfare or morality. They've carried out urgent and difficult missions in some of the most remote and hostile parts of the world. And they've done all of this with the bravery and the honor that we've 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.)

But waging and winning the war on terror is only part of our responsibility to other nations. There's a great work in this world that only America can do. In the Middle East, we are encouraging free markets, democracy, tolerance -- because these are the ideas and aspirations that overcome hatred and violence and turn societies to 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 will continue with an active and aggressive agenda. We believe we've 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've cut taxes each of the three years we've been in office.

In the bill we passed this year, not only did we cut income taxes, but we also significantly cut the taxes on capital gains and on dividends -- fundamental reforms that will encourage long-term growth in our economy. And we've delivered the largest tax relief since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Some in Congress want to repeal the tax relief and raise taxes. But raising taxes at this time will hurt the recovery and is exactly the wrong medicine as we meet this stage of our economic cycle.

We've also had action, both in the House and the Senate, on an energy bill. As Shelley mentioned, the people in New York, Ohio, and Michigan experienced firsthand during the recent blackouts our nation's electricity grid needs repair, upgrade and expansion. We're hopeful that Congress will work swiftly to move the bill through the conference committee and will produce a plan that will improve our nation's energy infrastructure, promote energy efficiency and conservation, develop cleaner technologies to help us explore for more energy in an environmentally friendly way, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- a must for the sake of our national security. We made our recommendations to the Congress now two years ago last May. It's time for Congress to act.

After many years of inaction, we're making progress, as well, 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 drug coverage and offer them better choices under Medicare. Both houses have taken historic action -- and I want to thank Shelley for her leadership role in helping to modernize our Medicare system. Now Congress must complete its work, and send a bill to the President to provide seniors with better health coverage and relief from the rising cost of prescription drugs. We're also looking forward to working with Congress to help small businesses provide affordable health care for their employees, as well.

In other areas, we also need to fix the judicial confirmation process. Right now, far too many nominations for 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 even to have an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Well qualified nominees, like Justice Priscilla Owen, of Texas, and Attorney General Bill Pryor, of Alabama -- both of whom had outstanding credentials to serve on the federal bench -- have been attacked by Senate Democrats who have blocked an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Less than two weeks ago, another outstanding nominee, Miguel Estrada, withdrew his name from -- consideration after waiting more than two years for a vote. The treatment of this fine man was truly disgraceful. Everybody who has looked at it understands he's an outstanding candidate for service on the federal bench. It's time now for us to restore dignity and civility to the judicial confirmation process by making certain that every person nominated to the federal bench gets a timely up-or-down vote.

We've achieved a great deal in these two-and-a-half years, but there's much left to do in Washington and around the world. We need to enact Project BioShield to help protect America against the threat of attacks with biological weapons. We need legal reform because the strength of our economy is undermined by frivolous lawsuits. And while there are encouraging signs the economy is picking up steam, the President and I will not rest until everyone who wants a job can find a job. (Applause.)

The campaign season will come in due course. When it does, we'll run hard and take nothing for granted. President Bush and I know that the key to victory is to do the work that 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 American people.

Long before I took this job I had the good fortune to work with other Presidents that I greatly admire. As a White House Chief of Staff in the aftermath of Watergate, I saw 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 the moral courage of Ronald Reagan. And as a member of the Cabinet, and Secretary of Defense, under former President Bush, I saw the ideal of public service in its purest form and came to know a leader of real 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: conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, compassion, and 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'm honored to work with George W. Bush, and he and I are both honored by your confidence in us, by your support for outstanding leaders, like Shelley Moore Capito, and by your commitment to this great and good country of ours, the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:30 P.M. EDT

Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito in Charleston, West Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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