Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for the Inhofe Victory Committee in Tulsa, Oklahoma
12:27 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. A warm welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for Congress again. (Laughter.) Almost. (Laughter.) But I'm delighted to be here this morning and have a chance to come back to Tulsa and visit with some old friends. I want to thank Jim for his kind words, and I also want to recognize of course Representatives here. John Sullivan and Mary Fallin are both with us this morning, and State Chairman Gary Jones, GOP State Chairman.
And I want to thank all of you, as well. I've been to your fine city many times over the years as a private citizen, as a businessman, and as a politician. I'm pleased to return, and I bring good wishes to everybody this morning from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
The President and I both appreciate the strong support that we've received from Oklahoma. We're impressed with the Republican members that you've sent to Washington to serve in Congress, including your local Congressman, of course, John Sullivan, and Senator Tom Coburn. And today I count it a very special privilege to stand in Tulsa with an outstanding leader, Jim Inhofe. (Applause.)
Of course you know Jim very well. He served as mayor of this city; he's a veteran of the United States Army; state representative, state senator, congressman. He's devoted much of his life to public service, and the nation and the state are better for it.
Out in Washington, we're accustomed to arguing and disagreeing. But one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on is this: Jim Inhofe is a smart, tough, principled member of the United States Senate. (Applause.) On the Environment and Public Works Committee, he's a voice of responsibility and common sense. On the Armed Services Committee, he looks out for the men and women of the United States military, and for their families, as well. And as the senior senator from Oklahoma, he goes to work every day remembering who sent him to Washington, and serving the values of this state without wavering.
I've known Jim a long time, since our days together in the House of Representatives. I was the congressman from Wyoming in those days. Wyoming only had one congressman. It was a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.) I've known Jim since those days in the House together, and I want to say I think it's safe to say that Jim Inhofe is not Al Gore's idea of a good senator. (Laughter and applause.) But he is Oklahoma's idea of a good senator, and he's earned another term in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
The President and I are proud to serve with Jim. With his help and good counsel, we've put good ideas to work for the American people. We've cut income taxes for every American who pays income taxes. We reduced the marriage penalty, doubled the child tax credit, cut taxes on dividends and capital gains, and gave small businesses incentives to invest in new equipment and create jobs.
Now the results are there for all to see: the Bush tax cuts have proven to be exactly the right policy for our economy. If you think of all that's happened in these eventful years -- the recession that we inherited, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, natural disasters, and a tripling in the price of oil -- it's remarkable how resilient this economy has been. America has created nearly 8 million jobs since August of '03. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising.
Our job is to keep this economy strong by holding the line on federal spending and by maintaining a low-tax policy that promotes growth and that rewards free enterprise. The Democrats in the Senate recently passed their budget, which calls for more spending and for higher taxes. In fact, they want to see the largest tax increase in history. We've got a better idea: Congress should pass the President's budget and make all the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
On every issue, from the economy to the courts to national security, the leadership of the President has made a tremendous difference for this country. He's the first President in a generation to deliver major tax cuts. He's the President who got us out of the antiquated ABM treaty and deployed missile defenses to protect America. He's the first President since Ronald Reagan to appoint a new Chief Justice, and he made an outstanding choice in John Roberts.
Above all, ladies and gentlemen, George Bush is the President we can count on to protect America, to keep our commitments, to stand by our friends, and to win the war on terror. (Applause.)
Progress in the cause of security and peace never comes easily. It requires moral clarity and the courage of our convictions. Above all, it requires active, principled leadership by the United States of America.
A lesson of September 11th, 2001 is that threats can gather 7,000 miles away and strike us right here at home. The way to deal with those threats is to fight them where they are, so we don't have to face them on the streets of our own cities. And for the sake of our peace and security in the long run, America stands for the cause of justice, liberty, and democracy as the alternative to ideologies of power and violence.
We've taken up this cause knowing that it would be hard, knowing that it would take time, and knowing that it would require sacrifice. And so we persevere, and we face our challenges with resolve. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners removed two of the world's worst regimes. And we're keeping our promise to help those countries become secure democracies and allies in the global war on terror.
The work goes on - and very fortunately, we've got senators like Jim Inhofe who understand the struggle we're in and what it will take to prevail. I'm afraid I can't say the same for the leaders of the national Democratic Party. Their prevailing mindset, combined with a series of ill-considered actions in the House and Senate over the last several months, causes me to wonder whether today's Democratic leaders fully appreciate the nature of this danger that the country faces in the war on terror -- a war that was declared against us by jihadists; a war in which the United States went on offense after 9/11; a war whose central front, in the opinion and actions of the enemy, is Iraq.
An early sign of unseriousness was the comment by Howard Dean some years ago, now chairman of their party, that the capture of Saddam Hussein did nothing to make America safer. While running for president he made that statement, and a number of his fellow Democrats sharply criticized him for it. Yet now we hear almost daily the claim that the fight in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror. Opponents of our military action there have called Iraq a diversion from the real conflict, a distraction from the business of fighting and defeating bin Laden and the al Qaeda network. We hear this over and over again -- not as an argument, but as an assertion meant to close off argument.
Yet the evidence is flatly to the contrary. And the critics conveniently disregard the words of bin Laden himself. "The most serious issue today for the whole world," he said, "is this Third World War [that is] raging in [Iraq]." He calls it "a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." He said, "The whole world is watching this war," and that it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation." And in words directed at the American people, bin Laden declares, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever." This leader of al Qaeda has referred to Baghdad as the capital of the caliphate. He has also said, "Success in Baghdad will be success for the United States. Failure in Iraq is the failure of the United States. Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars."
Obviously, the terrorists have no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq. They haven't called it a distraction or a diversion from their war against the United States. They know it is a vital front in that war, and it's where they've chosen to make a stand. Our Marines are fighting al Qaeda terrorists in Anbar province. U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed al Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad, who were responsible for many of the car bomb attacks.
Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain. Here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear: If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us.
The Democratic leadership has assured us that, in any event, they support the troops in the field. They did vote to confirm General Dave Petraeus, unanimously, in the United States Senate, and for good reason. General Petraeus is one of the finest military officers of his generation; an expert in counterinsurgency; a leader committed to victory, with a strategy to achieve it.
The senators knew something else about General Petraeus. They knew he had told the Armed Services Committee that he could not do the job without reinforcements. Yet within days of his confirmation a large group of senators tried to pass a resolution opposing those very reinforcements, thereby undermining the General's mission. Over in the House of Representatives, such a resolution actually passed on the floor. As President Bush said at the time, this may be the first occasion in history that a Congress "voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose the plan he said was necessary to win that battle."
In the weeks since that vote, the actions of the Democratic leadership have become even more irresponsible. It's now been 81 days since the President requested emergency supplemental funding for our military. The Democratic Congress has responded with legislation that ties the hands of military commanders and mandates a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq regardless of conditions on the ground. It is unacceptable, of course, from an institutional standpoint. Under the Constitution, Congress has the purse strings and the power to confirm officers. But military operations are to be directed by the President of the United States. By the wisdom of the framers, that power rests in the hands of one Commander-in-Chief, not 535 commanders in chief on Capitol Hill. (Applause.)
The Democrats' attempt to micromanage our commanders is unwise and it's a perilous endeavor. It's impossible to argue that an unconditional timetable for retreat could serve the security interests of the United States or those of our friends in the region. Instead, it sends a message to our enemies that the calendar is their friend, that all they have to do is wait us out -- wait for the date certain, and claim victory the day after. The timetable legislation is bad policy, and the President will veto the bill, no question about it. (Applause.)
The Democrats' leader in the Senate, my friend Senator Harry Reid -- (laughter) -- has threatened next to send up Senator Russ Feingold's bill to de-fund Iraqi operations altogether. Yet only last November, Senator Reid said there would be no cutoff of funds to the military in Iraq. In less than six months' time, Senator Reid has gone from pledging full funding for the military, and then full funding, but with a timetable, to then a complete cutoff in funding. Three positions in five months, on the most important foreign policy question facing our country and our troops.
Senator Reid, of course, was one of the many Democrats who voted for the use of force in Iraq. And they are entitled to now oppose the war. Yet Americans are entitled to question whether the endlessly shifting positions he and others are taking are a reflection of principle, or of partisanship and blind opposition to the administration.
This is especially the case in light of Senator Reid's recent comments that, number one, the war is lost -- and number two, the war will result in gains for the Democratic Party. It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage. Leaders should make decisions based on the security interests of our country, not the interests of their political party. (Applause.)
Behind this current struggle on Capitol Hill, ladies and gentlemen, is a dangerous myth about the war on terror -- the belief on the part of some that if we get out of Iraq before the job is done, we'll be better able to wage the war on terror. This myth is dangerous because it represents a complete validation of the strategy of our enemy, of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. The terrorists do not expect to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have, and they're not likely to try.
The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission -- and the terrorists do believe that they can force that outcome. Time after time, they have predicted that the American people do not have the stomach for a long-term fight. They cite the cases of Beirut in the 1980s and Somalia in the 1990s as examples, they believe, that show we are weak and decadent, and that if we're hit hard enough, we'll pack it up and retreat.
The result would be even greater danger for the United States, because if the terrorists conclude that attacks will change the behavior of our nation, they will attack us again and again. And believing they can break our will, they'll become more audacious in their tactics, ever more determined to strike and to kill our citizens, and ever more bold in their ambitions of conquest and empire.
The reality is that if our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance in that country. The violence would spread throughout the country, and be very difficult to contain. Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists could look for new missions. Many would head for Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. Others might set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others could find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents.
Very clearly a sudden withdrawal of our coalition would dissipate much of the effort that's gone into fighting the global war on terror, and result in chaos and mounting danger for us. And for the sake of our own security, we will not stand by and let it happen.
Five and a half years ago, the President told the Congress and the country that we had entered a new kind of war -- one that would require patience and resolve, and that would influence the policies of our government far into the future. The fact that we've succeeded in stopping another attack on our homeland like 9/11 does not mean our country won't be hit in the future. But the record is testimony not to good luck, but to urgent, competent action by a lot of very skilled men and women, and to a series of tough decisions by a President who never forgets that his first job is to protect the people of this country.
We can be confident in the outcome of the struggle. America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right, and a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of the earth. We're the kind of nation that fights for freedom, and the men and women in that fight are some of the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. (Applause.) The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that's not an option. We will complete the mission, and we will prevail.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the great privileges of public service is the chance to work with leaders of talent and integrity from all across the country. In my career I've had the privilege of working in a Congressman's office, at the White House as Chief of Staff, as a member of Congress, at the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense, and now as the Vice President. I've met public officials of every variety, and I've learned something that you've known here in Tulsa for many, many years -- that Jim Inhofe is a superb public servant. (Applause.) There's simply no better fit in the U.S. Senate than Jim Inhofe and the state of Oklahoma. He reflects tremendous credit on the fine people of this state, and I know he'll make a difference in Washington for a good many years to come.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:44 P.M. CDT
Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for the Inhofe Victory Committee in Tulsa, Oklahoma Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285942