Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for the Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign in Billings, Montana
6:49 P.M. MDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. (Applause.) Well, I think I'd be best off if I just ended the rally right now. (Laughter.) He's never treated me that well ever before. (Laughter.)
I'm delighted to be back in Montana and want to thank all of you for being out here this afternoon. It's really a tremendous privilege for us, for the President and me to know that there are so many people willing to sign on early in what we expect to be a very tough campaign for 2004. And we appreciate very much the fact that you're here today.
I can't pass up the opportunity, since Al is here, telling just one Wyoming story. Of course, the fact was, Al mentioned that every time I ran every two years, he only had to run every six years. But he'd come out and campaign with me anyway. I think, just as he said, because he wanted to make sure I was happy with my lot in life in the House and I didn't aspire to be a senator. (Laughter.)
But the truth is, I did once aspire to be a senator. I don't think Al even knows this. And when I first started to think about running for office, I went down to Cheyenne and had a long talk Stan Hathaway. Stan had been our governor, great man. He'd given me my first job in politics, hired me to work in the Wyoming state legislature one year, paid me $300 for 40 days work. It was less than $10 a day, which is probably all I was worth. But he said, your name is being bandied about, people talking about you maybe running for office. And he said, are you thinking about it?
I said, I am thinking about it.
He said, what are you thinking about?
I said, well, I was kind of taking a look at that Senate seat. Cliff Hansen is retiring. And I thought I might take a look at that.
And he said, well -- he said, you could do that. But, he said, you know Al Simpson?
And I said, yes, I know Al.
And he said, he'll kick your butt. (Laughter.)
He was very direct. (Laughter.) And so I said, okay, I'll run for the House of Representatives. (Laughter.) Which is exactly what I did. And it was great advice from Stan. But Al doesn't know how close he came. (Laughter.)
But we did have a tradition in Wyoming, good, hard fought campaigns every two years. And I always remember, one of my favorite races, I was running for reelection, and I was scheduled to be on the radio station in Riverton one morning, for one of these talk shows where people call in and ask questions. I had spent the night before over at Lander, about 24 miles away, with friends, and had to get across 24 miles there to get over to the Riverton radio station. As we drove over -- my aide was driving the car -- we turned on the radio to the station I was going to. And the announcer was on the air saying, we don't know where Cheney is. He was supposed to be here 10 minutes ago. We don't know what happened to him.
Obviously, there had been some kind of scheduling foul-up. So we stepped on it and went tearing over to Riverton, and went into the parking lot of the radio station. For years it had been right there on the south side of town, just before you crossed over the river to get into town. The radio station was right down to the left, we wheeled down into the gravel parking lot. I jumped out, threw open the door, went running up the steps and burst in through the front door of the radio station.
And as I got into the room, I noticed that it didn't look very much like a radio station. I could look through a door over here and see a baby crawling around on the floor in diapers, and back off over here, what looked like a kitchen. And I turned around -- as I'd come in, I'd noticed there was a person standing there by the door. I didn't get a good look at him as I came through rather rapidly. I turned around and looked, and that was the lady of the house, vacuuming the carpet at 9:00in the morning in her nightgown. (Laughter.) She looked at me, she said, I'll bet you're looking for the radio station, aren't you? (Laughter.)
I knew right away that was the right answer. (Laughter.) I said, yes, ma'am, I am looking for the radio station. She said, well, they moved last week. They're uptown in a brand new building. And my husband and I, we've bought this place. And it's home now. We live here.
They still had the call sign up on the end of the building. They hadn't taken that down yet. Well, I felt like an absolute idiot. I had busted in, unannounced, didn't knock or anything, 9:00 in the morning, surprised her in her nightgown, had to say something as I left. So as I went out the door, I introduced myself to her, as her United States Senator, Alan Simpson. (Laughter.)
But anyway, enough old Wyoming stories and Al Simpson. It's been just about three years ago that the President asked me to sign on as his running mate, and it's been a remarkable three years. When he chose me, he said he wasn't worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) We got 67-68 percent of the vote there. But I remind him every once in a while that those three electoral votes from Wyoming were pretty darn important in the outcome of the election. (Laughter.)
But it's been the kind of election that I think it's important for us to remember, as we think about 2004, because it was so close -- the closest in history -- that every single person mattered. Every dollar we raised mattered. Every hour of volunteer work, all of the effort that thousands of people put in, all across the country, mattered. And you didn't have to reduce that effort by very much to have had a different outcome. And that would have been tragic, given the consequences that we've had to deal with since.
The close election, of course, led a lot of the pundits to suggest that we'd have to trim our sails when we got to Washington, that we'd never be able to go with as full an agenda. Those folks, obviously, didn't know George Bush. He went to Washington to get things done, to make a difference, and he was bound and determined that we'd do everything we can to go full speed ahead with our agenda.
And that first year, we had two major successes, of course. We had a very significant reduction in taxes, as we cut rates, and repealed a good part of the marriage penalty and the death tax. And then we took on the problem of education, and passed major education reform on a bipartisan basis. It's, we think, going to turn out to be a fundamental long-term improvement in our educational system of higher standards and greater accountability.
Then, of course, came 9/11. And the weeks and months and the years since that date, September 11th, of 2001, has been dominated by that event. It's had a huge impact on the President, on all of us working in the administration, I think on the entire country. I don't think any of us will ever forget where we were that morning when we lost some 3,000 people in New York and Washington and that field in Pennsylvania, as the terrorists attacked.
We learned a number of things from that event, watershed event. We learned about our vulnerability, that our openness as a society, those things that make us the world's leading economy and that embody the basic principles and ideals we like to live by, also means we have the kind of society where we were relatively easily attacked. The terrorists found it easy to get inside our borders and reside here for a period of time and to plan and plot against us.
We also know, based on the work we've done in Afghanistan, in the tunnels and terrorist camps and the training camps, that the terrorists are doing everything they can to acquire deadlier weapons -- weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. And we're absolutely certain that if they're ever successful in acquiring those kinds of capabilities, that they will use them.
Given that, we've been forced to think anew about how we defend the country, about what constitutes a viable national security strategy for the nation. The old Cold War strategy doesn't work, the way we went about dealing with Soviet Union during the last half of the 20th century where we basically pursued a strategy of deterrence, we could hold at risk those things the Soviets valued and deter them from ever launching an attack against the United States. It doesn't work when your adversary doesn't have anything they value highly enough so that they would be concerned enough about it that they would want to protect it. Arms control doesn't work with terrorists. The whole notion or strategy of containment, of building alliances, surrounding a geographical area doesn't work when we talk about terror. We needed a new strategy. And that's what we've developed.
We've spent a lot of time trying to harden the target here at home to make the United States a much tougher target than we were before 9/11, created the new Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government since the late 1940s, when we created the Department of Defense.
But we've gone beyond that. A good defense is not enough. You can have a defense that is 99 percent successful against the terrorists. But if you're dealing with the threat, and there's a terrorist willing to smuggle deadly substances or a nuclear weapon into the United States to use against us, 1 percent failure rate is unacceptable -- 1 percent can kill you.
So we have to build a strategy that has a robust and aggressive offense as a part of it. A good part of that was based upon the President's perception and his determination -- it's come to be known as the Bush doctrine -- that we were going to change the way we think about states that sponsor terror.
Prior to 9/11, most of the world was willing to look the other way when we found terrorists states, states or governments that allowed terrorists to operate from their territory. They might go after the terrorists, but there was no consequence, no penalty paid by the state that sponsored the terror, or that provided safe harbor or sanctuary for the terrorist. That day is past.
The President annunciated what's come to be known as the Bush doctrine, and henceforth, we will hold states that sponsor terror or provide bases for terrorists accountable and responsible for any attacks launched by those terrorists. So not only are we going after terror-sponsoring states, we've also worked aggressively to take down the financial networks that support them, to take away their logistical support, which oftentimes is found buried in otherwise legitimate organizations, non-governmental and charitable organizations. We've mounted a major effort with respect to our intelligence services and the intelligence services of other nations.
And of course, most of all, we've launched, when we had to, aggressive military action in order to destroy the terrorists before they can launch further attacks against the United States. Some people have talked about preemption. And sometimes that takes on a negative connotation, the notion that somehow the United States would reach out and strike with military power before we've been struck. But I would argue that we were struck on 9/11. They got in the first blow, and I ask you, if we had been able, with preemptive military action, to defeat that attack before it ever occurred, would we? And the answer is, absolutely, I would hope. You bet.
And I like to think that our actions since 9/11 have prevented more attacks. I certainly hope that's the case. And so this President is prepared to act in order to defend us against further attacks, even if that means launching aggressive military action against would-be attackers.
We went to Afghanistan -- (applause) -- we went to Afghanistan and took down the Taliban and the al Qaeda organization there. We've gone to Iraq, a terror-sponsoring state, a state that had produced and used weapons of mass destruction -- and remember our concern about that potential linkage between the terrorists and WMD -- and a brutal dictator, and that regime is no more. We're faced with a global war on terror, and it's important to think about it in those terms. It's easy to sit back and say, well, it's been almost 23 months now since we were struck, maybe it's over with. We don't have to worry about it any more.
That would be a serious mistake. We know that they're out there today, plotting, planning, trying to find additional ways to attack the United States. If there's any doubt in anybody's mind, just look at the breadth of attacks that have already occurred in New York and Washington, in Bali, in Mombasa, in Riyadh, in Casablanca, and, of course, just this week in Jakarta. I believe once we know all the details of that attack in Jakarta yesterday, we'll find that it, too, was sponsored by an Indonesian organization that's affiliated with the al Qaeda organization.
It is a global war on terror. U.S. forces are heavily engaged when they have to be, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. And unfortunately, we've had more than 300 of our troops killed in action since 9/11. There will be more casualties. Make no mistake about it. But remember that all of this started when we lost 3,000 Americans here at home on 9/11, and that we're in much better shape if we're aggressively going after the terrorists overseas and the mechanisms and the nations that support them, than if we lay back and wait to be struck here at home.
As we go forward and think about all that we've accomplished, I must say, as a former Secretary of Defense, I've never been prouder of our men and women in uniform than I am right now. (Applause.) We owe them a great deal.
As we think about the future, both the next 18 months of this term, and the second term, there's a lot to be done -- not only in terms of continuing to pursue the global war on terror, but also, obviously, here at home. A lot of work to be done on the economy -- we think we're making progress.
We've made major efforts in the tax area. When you think about all the fundamental changes that we've been able to achieve already, all the laws already on the books having reduced the rates and accelerated the point at which those rates kick in, having cut the tax on dividends, cutting the tax on capital gains, significantly reducing the death tax and eliminating that. All of these are fundamental reforms that will stand us in good stead and leave the American people with more resources, more of the money they earn to invest and save and create more rapid and prosperous growth in the years ahead. (Applause.)
We're making progress on energy. We haven't had a good energy policy in place for many years now. We now finally have energy bills through both the House and the Senate. That was the last act the Senate took prior to coming home for the August break. Hopefully, we'll have an energy bill out of conference sometime this fall that the President can sign.
We're moving aggressively on Medicare. Medicare needs to be reformed and upgraded, providing prescription benefits for seniors. We need to move, as well, on legal reform so that our businesses and enterprises and those people involved in providing jobs out there in our economy don't spend all their time fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
And we need to work to make certain that the President's judicial nominees -- good men and women, all; well qualified to serve on the federal bench -- that they are ensured of having an up-or-down vote once they get nominated. (Applause.)
I've had the good fortune prior to going to work for President Bush of watching a number of other Presidents over the years -- Al and I during our time in Washington. I watched President Ford, as I worked for him, come in after Watergate, one of the most serious crises the nation had faced since the Civil War, in terms of our constitutional system, watched him by the sheer force of his personality and his character and his decency restore trust and confidence in the White House.
I watched Ronald Reagan provide strong, decisive, determined leadership that brought an end to the Cold War and ended 40 years of conflict with a very deadly opponent in the Soviet Union. I watched former President Bush, when I served as Secretary of Defense. His actions leave a model of what public service is all about in terms of his determination and his integrity as he went about his job.
I think I've learned something about the qualities that we need to have in the person occupying that chair behind the desk in the Oval Office -- integrity, judgment, compassion, courage in the face of adversity. These are exactly the kind of qualities that we have in our President today, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
These are extremely challenging times, and we may find a hundred years from now that people look back on this period at the very beginning of the 21st century, at the challenges we're faced with, and the opportunities, and conclude that this was, indeed, a major turning point for America.
I think there are very bright days ahead of us. I think the nation has responded extremely well to the challenges that we've faced, that the American people are certainly up to the task. And I know that the President is up to the task, that he's the kind of tough, decisive, determined leader, prepared to use the power of the United States for good, as well as to use it aggressively, whenever necessary, to defeat our enemies. (Applause.)
I want to thank all of you for being here today. This is going to be a good, tough campaign -- as it should be. We'll do our part. We won't take anything for granted. We deeply appreciate the fact that you've been willing to sign on early to give us the resources we need to wage this battle all across the country. And in the meantime, we'll do our level best to give you the kind of administration you can be proud of. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 7:10 P.M. MDT
Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for the Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign in Billings, Montana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285887