Remarks by the Vice President on the 2006 Agenda
Omni Shoreham Hotel
7:39 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Dave, I appreciate those kind words. And I want to thank you all for that warm welcome. Getting a reception like that almost makes me want to run for office again. (Laughter and applause.) Almost. (Laughter.)
Well, it's great to visit CPAC once again, be with so many conservative leaders and activists from all across America. I welcome all of you to Washington, and bring greetings from the biggest vote-getter in American history, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
I'm delighted to see our 2004 campaign manager, the superb chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman. (Applause.) CPAC always brings together an impressive group, and this 33rd gathering is no different. I'm delighted that you'll be hearing tomorrow night from Ambassador John Bolton, doing a magnificent job for America at the United Nations. (Applause.)
Let me also thank the members of Congress who are here this evening, and all of the distinguished guests, longtime friends that I see here at the head table. I also want to thank the young people from the group Students for Saving Social Security -- a new organization that already has members nationwide. These young citizens remind all of us that their generation deserves a Social Security system that is on firm financial ground -- and those of us in government have a responsibility to get the job done right. (Applause.)
Meeting responsibilities is the daily business of public life, and never more than in times like these. The last five years have been marked by an unprecedented series of challenges for our country. Our country has experienced war, national emergency, economic recession, corporate scandals, and historic natural disasters. Yet we faced up to those challenges, and in the process we've shown our many strengths as a nation. Ronald Reagan once described Americans this way. He said, "We, as a people, aren't happy if we are not moving forward. A nation that is growing and thriving is one that will solve its problems. We must offer progress instead of stagnation; the truth instead of promises; hope and faith instead of defeatism and despair."
If Ronald Reagan were with us now, he would be proud of this country, and I believe he'd also be proud of the man who lives in the White House. (Applause.) With George Bush as our leader, the United States is moving forward with confidence and with hope. We have no fear of the future, because we intend to shape it.
Our economy today is healthy, and vigorous, and growing faster than that of any other major industrialized nation. Since August 2003, America has created over 4.7 million new jobs -- more than Japan and Europe combined. Despite all the challenges that have come our way, the real story of the last several years is the incredible resilience of the American economy, the strength of the free enterprise system, the productive genius of American entrepreneurs, and above all, the skill and the pride of the American worker.
To remain competitive, we need to keep this economy growing -- and growth is more likely when Americans have more of their own money to spend, to save, and to invest. In the last five years, the Bush tax relief has left $880 billion in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families. They have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth. Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next several years. So if we do nothing, Americans will face a massive tax increase. That would be counterproductive, it would be irresponsible, it would be bad for the economy. Congress needs to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
The President's tax policies have strengthened the economy, as we knew they would. And despite forecasts to the contrary, the tax cuts have translated into higher federal revenues. To take just one example, in 2003 the Joint Committee on Taxation in the Congress projected, or scored, a fall-off in capital gains tax revenues in 2004 and 2005. In fact, since the 2003 capital gains tax rate was reduced to 15 percent, tax revenues from capital gains have been up substantially. Nobody's perfect, but when revenue projections are off by 180 degrees, it's time to reexamine our assumptions and to consider using more dynamic analysis to measure the true impact of tax cuts on the American economy. (Applause.)
Recognizing this, the President's recently submitted budget would create a new Dynamic Analysis Division within the Treasury Department to analyze major tax proposals. The evidence is in, it's time for everyone to admit that sensible tax cuts increase economic growth, and add to the federal treasury. (Applause.)
Even as revenue grows, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollar. Wise stewardship means taking a second look at the way business has been done in Washington. As the Congressional leadership has stated, we need reforms in the way projects are earmarked for funding. And we look forward to working with the responsible members of the Hill on earmark reform. Government has a duty to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, or not at all. (Applause.)
As members of Congress know, yesterday the President signed into law the new Deficit Reduction Act. I'm proud to say I helped bring the bill to passage, by casting a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. (Applause.) The great thing about it is -- every time I get to vote, our side wins. (Laughter and applause.)
To keep America competitive, we need reliable and affordable sources of energy. The President is asking Congress to pass legislation to encourage the building or the expansion of new refineries. With all the energy needs of this massive economy, and with the experience of increased gas prices, it's incredible that the country has not built a new refinery since the 1970's. So we've got a lot of catching up to do.
At the same time, we can and should produce more crude oil here at home. And one of the most promising sites for oil in America is a 2,000 acre site in Alaska -- and thanks to modern technology, we can reach this energy with little impact on the land or on wildlife. (Applause.) Congress needs to look at the facts and send the President a bill that includes exploration of ANWR for the sake of the nation. (Applause.) And for long-term energy security, we will encourage breakthrough technologies -- from zero-emission coal burning, to hydrogen fuel, to cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol. Our nation can have a cleaner environment and much more diverse and reliable supply of energy. And the sooner we get started, the better.
We have a full agenda for 2006 and beyond. President Bush understands that every decision he makes will affect the lives of millions of Americans for a long time to come. He takes that duty seriously -- always asking what is best for America and what is right by the Constitution. And with George W. Bush, there is never any doubt where he stands or what he believes. (Applause.)
The President believes in equal justice under law -- and he has shown that conviction in the kind of appointments he's made to the federal courts. (Applause.) For all too many years, in too many cases, we've seen non-elected judges imposing their own values and policy views and disregarding the democratic rights of the people. From the free exercise of religion in public places, to the pledge of allegiance, to issues of life itself, some judges are acting like legislators. In two national campaigns, George W. Bush ran on a promise to nominate judges who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and the laws of our country. He's kept that promise, and he's given the nation two outstanding members of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. (Applause.) In this second term, the President will continue to appoint men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law, and not legislate from the bench. (Applause.)
Above all, President Bush never loses sight of his most fundamental duty -- to defend this nation and to protect the American people. (Applause.)
There is still hard work ahead in the war on terror, because we are dealing with enemies who have declared an intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aims. Their prime targets are the United States and the American people. And so we have a continuing responsibility to lead in this fight.
The terrorists were at war with our country long before the liberation of Iraq, and long before the events of 9/11. But for many years, they were the ones on the offensive. They became convinced that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 service members. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia. Over time, the terrorists concluded that they could strike America without paying a price, because they did, repeatedly: They bombed the World Trade Center in New York in 1993, committed murder at the Saudi National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995, killed many at the Khobar Towers in 1996, attacked simultaneously our two embassies in East Africa in 1998, and, of course, the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.
Believing they could strike us with impunity and that they could change U.S. policy, they finally attacked us on 9/11 here in the homeland and killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens. Now they're making a stand in Iraq -- testing our resolve, trying to intimidate the United States into abandoning our friends and permitting the overthrow of a new Middle Eastern democracy.
We are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady. In less than two years' time the Iraqi people have gained sovereignty, voted for a transitional government, drafted a progressive, democratic constitution in the heart of the Middle East, then approved the document in a national referendum, and elected a new government under the provisions of that constitution. And in each successive election, there has been less violence, broader participation, and bigger voter turnout. Iraqis have shown that they value their own liberty and are determined to choose their own destiny -- and America is proud to be an ally in freedom's cause. (Applause.)
Our coalition is also helping to build an Iraqi security force that is well equipped and well trained. And as that force grows in strength and the political process continues to advance, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists. Going forward, any decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and the judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
Lately our forces in Iraq have been receiving some mixed signals out of Washington. They have at times been unfairly criticized, as when John Kerry said on national television that American soldiers were, quote, "terrorizing" Iraqi women and children in their homes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Just before Christmas, I went to Iraq and had a chance to meet with some of our men and women serving there. I told them that we're all mighty proud of them, and of the tremendous progress they're making every day. And I assured them that the American people do not support a policy of resignation and defeatism in a time of war. (Applause.)
Here in Washington, if any believe America should suddenly withdraw from Iraq and stop fighting al Qaeda in the very place they have gathered, let them say so clearly. If any believe that America should break our word and abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, let them make it known. If any believe that America would be safer with men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of Iraq, let them try to make that case. The reality is that bin Laden and Zarqawi regard Iraq as the central front in the war on terror. And we must do the same. And this nation has made a decision: We will stand by our friends, and engage our enemies with the goal of victory. As the President said in the State of the Union, "We are in this fight to win, and we are winning." (Applause.)
I recognize that some have claimed the fight in Iraq is somehow a distraction from the war on terror. But that leaves me to wonder: Which part of the war on terror do they consider worth fighting? Even on the home front, where the attacks actually occurred, we're seeing attempts to undermine vital protections put in place after 9/11 to track our enemies and disrupt their plans. Just over four years ago, Congress passed the Patriot Act. At that time there was no need for a tie-breaking vote, because the bill passed 98 to one. Now there is a movement to undo the law, led by senators who were for it before being against it. (Laughter.) One of these original supporters, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, has boasted to liberal activists about his efforts to, "kill the Patriot Act." But this law is helping to protect our country, by giving law enforcement the same tools they use to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. Congress needs to reauthorize the Patriot Act. (Applause.)
Another imperative on the war on terror is that we learn the intentions of our enemy. We've heard it said many times that our government failed to connect the dots before 9/11. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas before that attack. We did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack, and based on authority given him by the Constitution and by statute, the President authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al Qaeda operatives and affiliates calling to and from America. (Applause.) Some of our critics call this a, "domestic surveillance program." Wrong. That is inaccurate. It is not domestic surveillance. We are talking about communications, one end of which is outside the United States and therefore international, and one end of which we have reason to believe is somehow tied to or related to al Qaeda. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States. (Applause.)
Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority -- and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed. As conservatives, all of us are committed to protecting the civil liberties of the American people. The terrorist surveillance program is limited, and elaborate steps are in place and have been taken to protect civil liberties. The President personally has to reauthorize this program every 45 days, and he does so only after it's been certified as necessary and required by our intelligence professionals and signed off on by the Attorney General of the United States. This program has also helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. And I want to add, I thought Attorney General Al Gonzales did a fantastic job defending the program this week before the Senate. (Applause.)
The terrorist surveillance program was highly classified, and information about it was improperly given to the news media. As the Attorney General pointed out this week, it's easy to imagine America's enemies "shaking their heads in amazement" that anyone would disclose this information, thereby giving notice to those enemies, damaging national security, and putting our citizens at risk. But that is what happened, so a debate is now underway. At the very least, this debate has clarified where all of us stand on the issue. And with an important election coming up, people need to know just how we view the most critical questions of national security, and how we propose to defend the nation that all of us, Republicans and Democrats, love and are privileged to serve. As always, the President has made his thinking absolutely clear to the citizens of this land: If there are people inside our country talking with al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, when President Bush spoke to Congress after that terrible day in 2001, he expressed the hope that life in this nation would go back to normal. He rightly said that it would be good for Americans to return to our lives and to our daily routine. He also said that the events of 9/11 would be on his mind every day. Well, I see the President almost every single day, starting first thing in the morning, in the Oval Office, with our intelligence briefing. He knows what his job is. He knows what is at stake. And he has not for a single moment relented in the work of protecting the American people. (Applause.)
It seems more than obvious to say that our nation is still at risk of attack. Yet as we get farther away from September 11th, some in Washington are yielding to the temptation to downplay the threat, and to back away from the business at hand. That mindset may be comforting, but it is dangerous. We're all grateful that this nation has gone well over four years now without another 9/11. Obviously, no one can guarantee that we won't be struck again. But our nation has been protected by more than just luck. We've been protected by sensible policy decisions, by decisive action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of the people in the armed services, in law enforcement, in intelligence, and in homeland security. We are not dealing with a conventional enemy, but with a group of killers whose objective is to slip into our country, to work in sleeper cells, to communicate in secret, using every means of technology from the Internet to cell phone networks. This enemy is weakened and fractured, yet still lethal, still determined to hurt Americans. We have a duty to act against them as swiftly and as effectively as we possibly can. Either we are serious about fighting this war or we are not. And as long George W. Bush leads this nation, we are serious, and we will not let down our guard. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, in these five years we've been through a great deal as a nation. Yet with each test, the American people have displayed the true character of our country. We have built for ourselves an economy and a standard of living that are the envy of the world. We have faced dangers with resolve. And we have been defended by some of the bravest men and women this nation has ever produced. (Applause.) When future generations look back on our time, they will know that we met our moment with courage and with clear thinking. And they will know that America became a better nation -- stronger, more prosperous, and more secure -- under the leadership of President George W. Bush.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 8:03 P.M. EST
Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President on the 2006 Agenda Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/282818