Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Luncheon for Dino Rossi in Kennewick, Washington

July 26, 2004

Three Rivers Convention Center
Kennewick, Washington

12:18 P.M. PDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you all very much. I want to thank you for the warm welcome. It is great to be back in the state of Washington. Lynne and I have been looking forward to this event for a long time -- every chance we get to come back to this part of the country. Just a couple of weeks ago we were able to go to our 45th high school reunion in Casper, Wyoming. It was a fun night. Some of the people there remembered me. (Laughter.) There were a few who said, whatever happened to Cheney? (Laughter.)

But we enjoyed the trip very much. And to pick up on Lynne's story, I can remember 50 years ago this summer, as a matter of fact, coming to Richland, Washington, to play in a pony league baseball tournament. The other -- we didn't win. (Laughter.) But the other memorable part of that summer was that's the summer we moved to Wyoming.

Dad had worked for the Soil Conservation Service down in Lincoln, Nebraska. And I explain to people that when Dwight Eisenhower got elected, the Agriculture Department got reorganized. Dad got shipped to Casper, Wyoming. And that's where I met Lynne, and we grew up together, and went to high school together. And we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary come August. But I explained to a group the other night, if it hadn't been for that tremendous election victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and how he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) And we all know that's absolutely true. (Laughter.)

But we're spending this week traveling up and down the West. We are headed to Oregon later today. Tomorrow, we'll be in California, a trip to Salt Lake on Wednesday, and then a brief stop at home in Jackson, Wyoming, and then back up here again in Yakima on Friday. So it's going to be a great week, and we're looking forward to the campaign.

Especially we're looking forward to it now because I now have an opponent. And a few weeks ago -- (Laughter.) A few weeks ago, I called Senator Edwards, when he was announced, to welcome him to the race. We had a friendly conversation. People keep telling me -- they say that Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks, his charm, and great hair. I said, how do you think I got this job? (Laughter.)

But I always count it a privilege to speak on behalf of a fine candidate for public office, and here in Washington you have one of our party's rising stars. It's been a while since you've had a Republican governor in Olympia, but I have a feeling that your wait is coming to an end. (Applause.) Dino Rossi knows exactly what Washington needs in a governor. And by the 2nd of November, voters all over this state are going to know he's the man for the job. (Applause.)

It's also my pleasure to bring good wishes to each and every one of you from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.) The President and I are grateful for our supporters in Washington, and here in the Tri-Cities area. And we deeply appreciate the support you've given us in the past. We ran hard in this state in 2000, and came close to victory. We're going to work even harder for your support this time around. And this year, Washington is going to be part of a nationwide victory for us on November 2nd. (Applause.)

You have an outstanding tradition of public service here in the state of Washington. You're well served in our Nation's Capital by your superb Congressman, Doc Hastings, who is here with us today. Doc is down front here. (Applause.) And next year, you'll be able to count on a United States Senator named George Nethercutt. (Applause.) And we're here today to make absolutely certain that Dino Rossi is the next Governor of the state of Washington. (Applause.)

It doesn't take long to get a sense of the Dino's priorities. As an experienced state legislator and successful businessman, he knows that Washington needs to change the way that it does business. As your governor, he'll carry out a common sense plan to streamline regulations and create jobs. He'll also stand up for the values that unite all Washingtonians -- a quality education for every child; more affordable access to health care for families; and a compassionate government, committed to helping the most vulnerable in our society. Dino's campaign is based on strong convictions and sound principles, and he's off to a great start. With your help, he'll keep that momentum going for the next 99 days -- and come Election Day, the voters of Washington will make him your next governor. (Applause.)

What I'd like to do today is a little bit different than what we ordinarily do out on the road, but I'd like to make a few remarks, and then have an opportunity to hear from all of you and throw it open to questions. So we'll have some people around the room with mics, and we'll take questions from the audience and try to respond to your concerns and whatever advice you'd care to offer, as well, too.

For first of all, let me make a couple of remarks about this year's election because I think it truly is one of the most remarkable and important elections in my lifetime. And I say that not just because this year I'm on the ballot. I think as a nation, we are facing one of the great challenges in our history. We're facing an enemy today that is every bit as intent on destroying us as were the Axis powers in World War II, or the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The enemy -- in the words of the 9/11 Commission report just issued -- is, and I quote, "sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal." "What this enemy wants," as the 9/11 report explains, "is to do away with democracy and impose its radical beliefs upon the world."

And this enemy is perfectly prepared to slaughter anyone -- man, woman, or child -- to advance its cause. This is not an enemy we can reason with, or negotiate with, or appease. This is, to put it simply, an enemy that must be vanquished. And under the determined leadership of President George W. Bush that is exactly what we will do. (Applause.)

From the moment we were attacked on September 11th and lost 3,000 of our fellow citizens, our President has been focused and steadfast. Under his leadership, we removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and closed down the training camps where terrorists trained to kill Americans. Under his leadership, we removed the regime of Saddam Hussein, a man who cultivated weapons of mass destruction, who had used them against his own people, and had provided safe harbor for terrorists. Saddam Hussein once controlled the lives and future of nearly 25 million. Today, he's in jail. (Applause.)

What this President has accomplished in three-and-a-half years is remarkable, but the danger has not passed. The threat remains. And in the time ahead, we need the same steadfast presidential leadership that we have had over the last three-and-a-half years.

As Dino knows, the security of our nation has to be a first concern. But our nation's strength also depends on the health of our economy. When George Bush and I stood on the inaugural platform at the U.S. Capitol and took the oath of office, our economy was sliding toward recession. To set it on the right path, the President worked with Congress to provide tax relief for the American people -- not once, not twice, but three times.

The tax cuts have helped our national economy create jobs for 10 consecutive months. We've added more than a million and a half new jobs since last August. Here in Washington state, more than 55,000 people have gone to work at a new job over the last year. The national home ownership rate is a record high. Business investment is growing. Consumer confidence is at a two-year high. And personal incomes are on the rise. The economy is strong and growing stronger. And to keep it moving forward, we need to continue the pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda of President George W. Bush for four more years. (Applause.)

There are many other areas that I could touch on today, but I would like to hear from you, so let me mention just one more before we go to questions. During the past three-and-a-half years, President Bush has defended our society's fundamental rights and values. We stand for the fair treatment of faith-based charities so they can receive federal support for their good works. We stand for a culture of life, and we reject the brutal practice of partial birth abortion. We believe that our nation is "one nation under God." And we believe that Americans ought to be able to say "under God" when they pledge allegiance to the flag. (Applause.)

The founders of this great country acknowledged God in the Declaration of Independence. But we have judges now who seem to have forgotten this history. We also have a situation in the United States Senate where Democrats, including Senators Kerry and Edwards, make sure that the Senate does not get to vote on may of the President's nominees.

Just last week, Democrats used their filibuster, their obstructionist tactics, to keep the Senate from voting on four of the sensible, mainstream nominees that the President sent forward. One of them was a man named Bill Myers, a fine man with widespread bipartisan support for his personal integrity, his judicial temperament, and his legal experience. I know him well because he used to work for the Wyoming delegation in the Congress, and he married a woman who worked on my staff. If Bill had made it to the Senate floor, he would have been confirmed to the Ninth Circuit, because he had the votes. And you all know, of course, that the Ninth Circuit decided that we should not be able to say "under God" when we pledge allegiance to the flag. Looks to me like the Ninth Circuit could use some new judges. (Applause.)

What the Democrats in the Senate are doing is simply outrageous. And in the months ahead, I want you to keep that in mind as you work to elect George Nethercutt to the United States Senate. (Applause.)

Let me conclude here by saying that the President and I are looking forward to the campaign ahead, and I know Dino is, too. And with your help, November 2nd is going to be a great Republican day here in Washington state, and all across the nation.

Now I'd be happy to take your questions. Got one over here.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for coming to Tri-Cities and supporting Dino Rossi. Could you offer some more thoughts and comments on the work of the 9/11 Commission?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I could -- and I will. (Laughter.) I haven't completed reading the report. I brought it with me this weekend, and I'm about halfway through it. Let me commend it to you. I don't agree with absolutely everything that's in it, but I think it is very well done as a document -- as government documents go. Some of those reports of commissions can be awfully dry. But I think you'll find this report engrossing once you get into it, and start and begin to understand exactly what did happen on 9/11 and in the run-up to it. So I would commend it to you in that regard.

The important thing now, obviously, is what we do going forward by way of reforms designed to address any weaknesses that have been uncovered in the course of those investigations. And the President is committed to doing that. So we're in the process now -- we had a session just this morning, where we began that process of looking specifically at specific recommendations that they've made. And I think we're at the beginning here of what will be and should be a great debate as we look at how we can improve, both the executive branch and legislative branch's ability to function in this area, to deal with these kinds of threats, and to defeat these kinds of attacks before they can actually be mounted in the future. So I think they've done a good job. I think they deserve a lot of credit for having taken on a very tough assignment, and they deserve our thanks.

Out here.

Q: Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, thank you very much for coming back to New Columbia. We appreciate it very much. My question is, perhaps you could give some examples of how and why the nation is safer after 9/11; and perhaps, more importantly, what can we, as citizens do to assist those efforts?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, in terms of the aftermath of 9/11, and how we've improved our overall situation, a lot of work has already been done to tighten up and improve our capacity to operate.

One of the major problems, for example, that existed before 9/11 had to do with the inability of the CIA and the FBI to share information. Part of that, frankly, had been encouraged over the years because we were always so concerned about not letting the CIA get involved in domestic affairs. We wanted to keep our spies, our intelligence collection apparatus focused overseas, not operating here at home. But we obviously paid a price for that on 9/11 when we had a lack of communications, if you will, back and forth between the CIA and the FBI. That's one of the areas that now is addressed much more effectively because every morning in the Oval Office, at 8:30 there's a meeting in front of the President where the Director of the FBI and the Director of the CIA sit down and we talk about common threats. And that happens about five days a week now. So the coordination is right at the very top, and it goes all the way down through the agencies.

And within the FBI, there's been a lot of work done by Bob Mueller, the director, to reorient the bureau. What the bureau is very good at, and what they've done over the years is to go to the crime scene after the crime has been committed, find out who did it, develop the case, and prosecute the guilty party. You think about the Oklahoma City bombing, for example, back in '95. They did a wondrous job of showing up on site, finding a very small piece of metal off the truck that was used for the truck bomb, and eventually out of that, building a case that led to the arrest and ultimate prosecution of Timothy McVeigh.

That's a very different kind of role, though, than a situation of preempting an attack, stopping the attack before it gets launched. And the emphasis that Mueller has developed inside the bureau, in terms of how they're organized and so forth, the extent to which they do analysis is much more heavily focused now than it used to be on preventing attacks rather than going out and finding out who did the attack after it has occurred. It's a difference, a change if you will from counterterrorism -- to counterterrorism from traditional law enforcement.

In other areas that I would emphasize in terms of the response of U.S. policy, there were a series of attacks by terrorists over the years going back many years prior to 9/11, where the terrorists learned two lessons. There was the Beirut barracks bombed in 1983. We lost 240 Marines. The World Trade Center attack, in 1993; the attack in the Khobar Tower in Saudi Arabia, in '96; East Africa embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, in 1998; the USS Cole, where we lost 17 sailors in the year 2000 -- think back on those attacks; in no instance was there very effective response to any of those attacks. We'd go out and try to find the guilty parties. In some cases, we were successful. Some of them are in prison. But we never really reached behind that to strike at the heart of the organization that was responsible for those attacks. And there were different organizations. They weren't all the same. Beirut, for example, was Hezbollah. Al Qaeda maybe in '93, certainly later on. But that lesson that they learned was that they could strike us with relative impunity. And they had repeatedly. At most we'd shot off a few cruise missiles at their camps in Afghanistan.

The second lesson they learned was they could change U.S. policy, that if you struck the U.S. hard enough, that we would respond as we did, for example, in '83 in Beirut when we took our forces out of Lebanon shortly after. In 1993, in Mogadishu, in Somalia, we had the battle in Mogadishu, we lost 19 soldiers that day. And within weeks, we'd pulled all our forces out of Somalia. So they had learned those two unfortunate lessons: one, they could strike us with impunity; secondly, they could do so in a way that would force us to change our policy.

That ended on 9/11. The President on 9/11 made the decision first and foremost that we would no longer make a distinction between states that sponsored terror, or hosted terrorists, or provided safe harbor for terrorists on the one hand and the terrorists themselves. If you provided safe haven for terrorists, you were going to be on our list just as much as the terrorists themselves.

And the first emphasis on that, of course, is in Afghanistan, where we went in and took down the Taliban, closed the camps, captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda. And we've responded far more aggressively since 9/11 with respect to U.S. forces, U.S. intelligence capabilities -- both in Afghanistan and Iraq -- than anything that had gone before. And I think that has been a key strategic decision, if you will, that we had to do that.

Once you recognize this isn't a law enforcement problem, that there's no way to negotiate with these people. It doesn't matter how many of them you put in prison. In the end, you have to go destroy the terrorists before they can launch more attacks against the United States. And that's the key to success, and that's the policy and the strategy that we're now pursuing. (Applause.)

Q: Mr. Vice President, have you had a chance to visit with the troops recently?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do, every chance I get. I was up at McChord Air Force Base not long ago. And tomorrow, I'll be down at Camp Pendleton, spending some time with the Marines down there. What I like to do is go and have an opportunity to speak to a large group. But then also, we -- and we'll do this again tomorrow -- we'll pull together maybe two dozen soldiers, primarily enlisted, maybe some noncommissioned officers, and I'll sit down in the room with them, and then we'll have a bull session -- talk to them, find out what on their minds. It's a great way for me to get filled in on their experiences, the kinds of problems they've been encountering in terms of their operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. I learn a lot from those kinds of sessions, so I do that on a regular basis. And as I say, the next one is going to be tomorrow morning down at Pendleton.


Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Vice President, I'm hoping that you can tell some of us -- all of us here, what we can do to help make sure that you and the President win this state? (Laughter and applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I thought you'd never ask. (Laughter.) Well, I guess, the things I would emphasize, it's important for people to understand the significance of the decisions we're going to make. I can't think of a more appropriate setting to have the kind of debate we're going to have both on foreign policy and national security policy with respect to how we prosecute the war on terror and defend the nation, as well as economic policy -- because I think there are fundamental differences there. And the decision we make on November 2nd in those areas will shape the course of history maybe for the next 20, 30, 40 years. I think it's potentially that kind of really significant election. It's not one for anybody who really cares about the country to sit out. Regardless of what your political views are, this is a time when people need to get actively and aggressively involved in exercising their franchise to cast a vote. I obviously have a favorite in this race. (Laughter.) And I think the important thing is to get people organized, to sign up and make sure you and your family and friends are registered to vote. There's ample opportunity at I think that's the right website, to get actively involved. We're building and extensive organization nationwide in all of the states and counties, and down to the county and precinct-level, in terms of getting volunteers to sign up to make sure we identify our voters, and that we can get them to the polls on Election Day. I am pleased to say that as I get out and travel the country, I think we're better organized at an earlier stage now than we ever have been. But I think the opposition is equally committed to the task. And I think it's going to be a good, hard fought contest. And that's as it should be. That's how we make these fundamental decisions for the nation. But I think it's that combination of things of making sure everybody understands the momentous nature of these decisions that we're going to be making on November 2nd, that it will affect the safety and security of our kids and grandkids for a good many years to come, and that there's no more important obligation as a citizen than to participate in that process and take advantage of our constitutional right to get out there and mix it up and round up as many voters as you can, and to commit the time, and effort, and energy to make it happen.

Final point, don't let anybody tell you that your vote or your contribution, or your volunteer time doesn't matter. Remember the last election was ultimately decided by 537 votes in the state of Florida. That was it. The closest election, perhaps, in history. So it all matters. It all counts -- every community, every county, every precinct, every volunteer-effort hour that goes into it is crucial to our success. And we need your help. (Applause.)

Q: Mr. Cheney, I'll be the last question. I just want to really thank you again for the administration's support for eastern Washington, with George W coming to Spokane and you in the Tri-Cities. How is your health? (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I go back on a regular basis. They watch me, monitor me very carefully. Not only -- of course, my wife does. That's what wives are for -- (Laughter) -- to make sure that you're moderate in your behavior. But I go back on a regular basis. And I just completed, about a month ago, my annual check-up. And they've certified me for another 30,000 miles. (Laughter and applause.)

Again, I want to thank all of you for being here today. This is an extraordinarily important race here in Washington this year. Dino Rossi is an outstanding candidate. He's going to make a great governor.

Thank you very much for helping. (Applause.)

END 12:43 P.M. PDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Luncheon for Dino Rossi in Kennewick, Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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