Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President at the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference in Arlington, Virginia

February 15, 2001

Crystal Gateway Marriott Arlington, VA

Well, let me thank you very much, Wayne, for the warm introduction. And let me thank all of you for being here tonight.

I've been looking forward to this evening for some time now. David Keene, of course, invited me here tonight because I used to have an important job in Washington. And I'm honored now to have been called back into public service. And pleased that one of my first appearances...

Pleased that one of my first appearances after becoming vice president is to be here with you at CPAC tonight. And I must say, after eight years in the private sector, I've noticed some differences in the city of Washington. It's awfully nice to see all those signs pointing the way to Ronald Reagan National Airport.

At events like this, we always think of President Reagan and of everything he did for America. Tonight I bring greetings from another Western governor who came to Washington with big changes in mind, President George W. Bush.

Vice presidents are expected to say such things, but we all know it's true. And I know that millions of Americans all across the country agree, that we have a fine administration, an outstanding Cabinet and we're off to a great start.

The president and I would not be where we are today had it not been for the support of friends all across America. So many are in this room tonight and we want to thank each and every one of you for what you did for us. We realize that the real work is only beginning. When President Reagan spoke to CPAC shortly after his inauguration, he talked less of the victory just won than of the challenges just ahead. "The task," he said, "was to stop the drain on the economy by the public sector, to reclaim the values of family, work, neighborhood and faith, and to rebuild the credibility of the United States on the international stage."

Twenty years later, thanks to his leadership, the world we live in is much as he envisioned it, with Americans enjoying the fruits of a long and economic expansion and freedom expanding with it all around the globe.

But our times will bring challenges of their own. In the economy, we see indications of a slowdown. In the federal budget, we see a substantial surplus, yet government continues to take a record high share of the working person's paycheck. In national security, we see the consequences of neglect and misplaced priorities, especially in the quality of life of those who wear the uniform.

It is not for us to wait on events but to act. And we will act on principle. We are going to stand for responsible government, for lower taxes, for a durable peace built on a strong, capable and modern military.

By these principles, President Reagan resolved a crisis and ended the Cold War. And by these principles, George W. Bush will prevent a new one.

The last time Americans received major tax relief was 1981. Since then, taxes have been inching their way back up. They have a way of doing that, you know. In recent years, government has not been content simply to raise taxes, but to even raise them retroactively. Well, President Bush and I have an idea. If you can reach back in time to raise taxes, you can reach back in time to reduce them as well, and that's what we aim to do.

The president's tax cut is pro-growth and America needs it now. It lets overcharged taxpayers keep more of their own money, giving our economy the boost it needs. Over the long term it will lighten the burden on entrepreneurs and investors and this will mean more small businesses and more jobs throughout the economy.

The tax cut is responsible, using only a portion of the surplus and reserving the rest for commitments such as Social Security and paying down the national debt.

The tax cut is fair. Relief will go to every person who pays income taxes. At the same time we will make it easier for low-income Americans to join the middle class. When the president's plan is passed, more than 6 million struggling families will no longer have to pay federal income taxes.

As we strengthen the economy at home, we are going to show a new confidence abroad as well. We will join with friends and allies to extend the peace and to protect American interests. And with care, we will rebuild the military power of the United States of America. During last year's campaign, the president set three very clear goals for our military. The first was to restore the bond of trust between the commander in chief and the military. My friends, that is already happening.

A few days ago the president visited Fort Stewart, Georgia, and announced $5.7 billion in new spending to improve the quality of military life. Our men and women in uniform are going to receive better pay, better training and better housing for their families.

As a candidate, the president also pledged a full-scale review of our force structure, our overseas commitments and our long-term strategy. That review is already taking shape under the guidance of Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld. Don knows the territory. In fact, some have called him the best defense secretary we've ever had. For my part, let's just say he's one of the best.

We will design a new architecture for defending America and our allies. Some existing weapons and equipment will be modernized, but we're also going to look ahead and develop technology to make our forces lighter, easier to move, harder for our enemies to find and more lethal in action.

Finally, the president made a promise that is now a national policy: At the earliest possible date, this administration will build and deploy a defense against ballistic missiles. Our commitment to a stronger military was among the reasons that our campaign succeeded. All across America we promised people in the service that help was on the way. And we now say to them and to their families, "Help has arrived."

As the president and I present our agenda, we realize there will be a good many debates in the months and years ahead. We do not mind debating our opponents. We both did that last fall and it worked out pretty well. He and I are going to make our case just as vigorously as we can. But we also take seriously the responsibility to be honest and to be civil.

In my office, I have a picture of John Adams, the first vice president. Adams liked to say, "The facts are stubborn things." Whatever the issue, we are going to deal with facts and show a decent regard for other points of view. This is not about questioning people's motives or their good faith. The days of the so-called war room and the permanent campaign are over.

This president and his administration are going to change the tone in the city of Washington. I want to close... I want to close my remarks tonight with a brief personal observation. My career in public service began, not as an office holder, but as a staff member, beginning in a congressman's office and ending up as White House chief of staff.

People at the staff level work behind the scenes, but we all know what an enormous impact they have. Their standards of conduct, their attitude toward public service, their sense of duty, these are what really define an administration.

Let me tell you what I'm seeing in this administration. You will find hundreds of Americans from different backgrounds and different walks of life. Most of them are in the early part of their careers. In fact, right now, you're looking at the oldest staffer in the West Wing. But these young people have brought to the White House and to the whole executive branch a deep respect for the institutions of our democracy; a sense, not of entitlement, but of trust and stewardship. They bring great credit to the government and to the country.

What is true in life is especially true in government. To whom much is given, much shall be expected. I've found that time runs fast here in Washington, that opportunities not seized are quickly lost.

President Bush and I are grateful for the privilege we've been given. And I leave you with our pledge to use it wisely in service to the ideals we share and to the country we love.

Thank you very much.

Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference in Arlington, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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