Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Reception for Goli Ameri and Jim Zupancic in Portland, Oregon

July 26, 2004

Embassy Suites
Portland, Oregon

6:25 P.M. PDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much. We appreciate that warm welcome. It's great to be back in Portland -- an honor to stand with two of Oregon's next representatives in the U.S., Goli Ameri and Jim Zupancic. (Applause.)

You know, Lynne talked about our having been associated for a long time. I guess I could put it that way. About a week ago, we went back to our hometown of Casper, Wyoming to our 45th high school reunion. But I explain to people oftentimes that a very important event in our lives was the election of Dwight Eisenhower as President of the United States in 1952. Now, you may not think that elections have far reaching consequences. But I'm here to tell you, in 1952, my folks and I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. And Eisenhower got elected. He reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming -- which is where I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together, and we'll soon celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) Our fourth grandchild and first grandson arrived about three weeks ago. But I explained to a group the other day that if it hadn't been for that victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and how he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.)

Anyway, we've been looking forward to this visit. It's good to get back to Oregon. And we enjoy the opportunity to come home and campaign in the West. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to live in this great land. And we're spending this week traveling around this part of the country, doing everything we can, obviously, to make certain that we elect great candidates like Goli and Jim to the United States House of Representatives.

We were in Washington state earlier today. We'll be in California tonight and tomorrow. Wednesday, we'll be in Utah. Thursday is a day off. Friday then, we make another swing back through Yakima, Washington; Medford, Oregon; Reno, Nevada; Tucson, Arizona; and Albuquerque. So it should be a good trip. The stakes are very high in this election. And we're delighted to have the opportunity to come out here and spend some of that time with all of you. I want to bring good wishes to each and every one of you from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

The President and I are grateful for every one of our supporters here in Oregon. We're going to work very hard to earn the vote here, and we're going to work very hard for candidates like Jim and Goli. I know many Oregonians plan to cast their ballots by mail, and the President and I have a lot of confidence in our chances because, come November, Oregon is going to be part of a great nationwide victory. (Applause.)

I'm really looking forward to this fall campaign, especially now that I know who my opponent is going to be. (Laughter.) People keep telling me that Senator Edwards got picked because he's sexy, charming, good looking. And I say to them, How do you think I got this job? (Applause.) Why do they laugh, Lynne? (Laughter.)

Here in Oregon, you have a great tradition of smart, independent public servants. And as President of the Senate, I'm delighted to work with your outstanding U.S. Senator, Gordon Smith. (Applause.) And when the 109th Congress convenes next January, I'm confident that Gordon will be joined by Goli Ameri and Jim Zupancic in Oregon's delegation. (Applause.)

These are two strong, independent-minded leaders, with consistent principles and a deep commitment to serving the people of Oregon. As an immigrant from Iran, Goli shares the President's determination to fight terrorism at its source and to spread freedom in the greater Middle East. Goli will be a valuable leader in winning the war on terror, and in making the people of Oregon more secure. As a businesswoman and community leader, Goli has a sensible, bipartisan vision for lower taxes, better health care, and a quality education for every child in Oregon's first district. In the coming months, the voters here are going to realize that it's time for a new voice in Congress -- and Goli Ameri is the right person to do that job. (Applause.)

In the fifth district, Jim is putting together a fine campaign of his own. He's a hard worker, and it's no surprise that he has succeeded at every job he's ever had --from nurseryman, to attorney, to high tech entrepreneur. Jim is also a family man, and he understands what families need to build confidence for the future. As your congressman, he'll be an advocate for time-tested Oregon industries like farming, forestry, and fishing, as well as promising new opportunities in research and technology. People in the fifth district deserve leaders who will work hard every day in Washington, and produce real results for the folks back home, and that's exactly what they get when they send Jim Zupancic to Congress. (Applause.)

What I'd like to do today is proceed little differently than what we usually do at these events. What I'd like to do is make a few brief remarks, and then open it up to questions and hear from you, and have an opportunity to hear what's on your mind, as well. So let me begin a brief set of comments by emphasizing how enormously important the stakes are in this election. We are facing one of the great challenges in our history. We're facing an enemy today every bit as intent on destroying us as the Axis powers were in World War II, or the Soviet Union in the days of the Cold War.

And this is not just my view. I want you to listen to the words of the 9/11 Commission that reported this week. The enemy, in the words of the 9/11 report is "sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal." "What this enemy wants, as the 9/11 report explains, "is to do away with democracy, and the rights of women, and rid the world of religious pluralism" -- in other words anybody who doesn't practice their faith.

And in pursuit of this goal, this enemy is perfectly prepared to slaughter anyone -- man, woman, or child -- to advance their cause. This is not an enemy we can reason with, or negotiate with, or appease. This is, to put it simply, an enemy that we must vanquish. 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 were trained to kill Americans. Under his leadership, we removed the regime of Saddam Hussein, a man who cultivated weapons of mass destruction, used them against his own people, and provided safe harbor and sanctuary for terrorists. Saddam Hussein once controlled the lives and the future of almost 25 million. Tonight, 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 -- during the time ahead, we need the same steadfast presidential leadership that we have had over the last three-and-a-half years.

As Goli and Jim know well, the security of our nation has to be our 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 United States 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 to the American people -- not once, not twice, but three times.

The Bush tax cuts have helped our national economy create jobs now for 10 consecutive months. We've added more than a million and a half new jobs since last August. Here in Oregon, more than 42,000 people have gone to work at a new job during the past year. The national home ownership rate is at 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 economic policies of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

There are many other areas I could touch on today, but I do want to hear from all of you, so let me just say that the President and I are looking forward to the campaign ahead. I know Goli and Jim are, too. And with your help, November 2nd, is going to be a great Republican day here in Oregon and across the nation. (Applause.)

As I say, we're experimenting a bit tonight. But we do have some people in the audience with microphones. And if they raise their hands, I'll call on them and they can get people to respond. Yes, sir, right here.

Q: Mr. Vice President, the Bush administration is really diverse in its make-up. And you've done a great job of broadening the Republican Party. But despite this progress, many voters still perceive us a bit stuff, and I think sometimes they think of white guys in blue suits when they think of Republicans. (Laughter.) In order to showcase our party's diversity and reach, would you be willing to work on getting Goli Ameri a speaking spot at the Republican National Convention? (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: With that kind of move, I think Goli is going to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Applause.) Right, we could do a lot worse. (Laughter.) But, no, I think we have done -- we work at it continuously. I've worked for four Presidents now, and watched a couple of others up close. And I sit in on all of the personnel meetings the President has, as he's staffed up his administration. I did a lot during the transition and since. And I must say, I think he's been absolutely committed to seeing to it that he does have a diverse Cabinet, and a diverse staff. I think we should have -- should receive considerable credit for having some people in key positions without regard to race, or ethnicity or anything else. He really went out to get the best people for the job, and we end up with people like Condi Rice as our National Security Advisor; and Colin Powell, as our Secretary of State; and Al Gonzales, as the Counsel to the President. And I could go on with a long list. And, yes, there are a few of us old white guys in blue suits hanging around, too. (Laughter.)

But it's an important point. It's something the President believes in very deeply, and I think his record shows that. And let me see if I can put in a good word for Goli, okay? (Applause.)

Right here.

Q: Mr. Vice President, you know our current congressman in the first district, is David Wu, a very liberal Democrat, who virtually votes 100 percent with the Democratic leadership. And I think in Goli Ameri, we have, clearly, an independent thinker who can sway many of the swing voters here in Oregon. And although her personal views and positions, aren't exactly the same as Republican platform, what more do you think we could have the Republican national campaign help in getting her elected here in Oregon?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we'll do everything we can. I know I'm here -- and I'm only doing targeted races. That is to say, I spend about half my campaign time -- and I'm out now during the break, five or six days a week on the road. My time is split evenly between Bush-Cheney events and helping congressional candidates. I wouldn't be here tonight if it weren't for the fact that both at the White House, as well as at the Congressional Campaign Committee that the Republicans run on Capitol Hill, if these races weren't deemed to be critical races, and targeted races that we believe we can win -- because we've got great candidates. They've done very well up until now. What they need is the continued support and effort from all of us.

So my very presence here is testimony to the effect that we do, in fact, believe that these two races in the first and fifth districts here in Oregon are absolutely winnable for us. And we're prepared to do everything we can to help. So I think -- I look forward to coming out here. (Applause.)

Q: Mr. Vice President, I've got a policy question, or a political question, if there is a difference. Oregon is a crisis state. We're losing doctors every day to frivolous lawsuits. What specific policy recommendations is the White House going to advance to help health care here in Oregon, and specifically women trying to receive effect health care on the OB side of things?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, this is increasingly a problem I encounter around the country. It's a problem in my own home state of Wyoming. The Wyoming legislature, which never works more than 40 days every other years -- (Laughter.) I'm going to get in trouble, I'm sure. But they just had a special session, which is a unique event in Wyoming. And the reason the legislature was called back into special session was specifically because of the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance that's made it impossible to recruit new docs to come into the state, and made it impossible for many of them to stay there and continue to practice there. Just to give you a quick example, a doctor there in Casper, a general practitioner, two years paid $40,000 for their malpractice insurance policy; today it's $100,000. They were quoted as saying that they were trying to recruit new doctors. They went and talked to these guys just coming out of -- finishing their med school and residency, and so forth, and internship, and said, look, it's a great state. You'll love living there and so forth. All you need is $80,000 for your insurance policy, and, oh, by the way, that's got to be cash up-front. Nobody is willing to take them up on the offer. And it's worse, even in specialties like OB/GYN. It's a big problem in Pennsylvania, a big problem in Maryland. All states where I've encountered people trying to deal with it recently.

What we're trying to do at the federal level is to pass medical liability reform. We've got it through the House twice now. Basically, what it would do is cap non-economic damages. In effect what we would say -- because there are people that do deserve a shot in court at righting grievous wrongs. Occasionally, there are serious problems, complications that come as a result of medical practice. Those people have a right to be able to go to court and seek an adjustment, if you will, a redress of their grievances. But the fact of the matter is, the courts are clogged. And we've gotten to the point now where the medical liability has become so great, the cost of insurance and so forth that it has grossly complicated things and raised the costs for everybody.

One estimate I've seen recently said that the average call you make now in a doctor's office, $40 of the price for that goes for insurance to help them deal with that situation. Our proposal that the President supported, that we passed through the House, as I say, would cap non-economic damages at $250,000. That's been done elsewhere. California has operated that way for some considerable period of time now, and it worked. The California malpractice insurance premiums are significantly lower than they are elsewhere in the country. And most of the reduction comes out of the take of the personal injury trial lawyers, not the people who are insured -- not the individual patients. And that would be a positive development, as well, too. (Applause.)

The bottom line is Senators Kerry and Edwards have both voted against medical liability reform -- in Senator Kerry's case, many times. They're opposed to any legal reform that would stop the abuse, if you will, of the tort system. And so we need to continue to work on that very aggressively. And I think -- well, I think it's an important issue.

Yes, sir, right here.

Q: Mr. Vice President, my son is a United States Marine serving overseas. He's been a year deployed. (Applause.) Thank you. He's been -- he's been in harm's way for a year. And he's asked me to do everything I can at home to make certain that you and his personal friend, Mr. Zupancic, are elected this time. And I'm willing to take that fight on here, if for no other reason, out of respect for him.

But my question is, I believe if the American people knew how the war -- I mean, he and his fellow Marines are in support of the Bush-Cheney policy in executing this war and making sure it's taking it on, if the American people knew it, this wouldn't be a race we'd be in at all. What can we do to make sure the American people understand how the troops in the field feel?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the first thing we need to do is thank him for his service. (Applause.) I'm going to be down at Camp Pendleton in Southern California tomorrow, on the Marine base there, as a matter of fact, to meet with a group of Marines. And I very much look forward to it, and having the opportunity on behalf of the President, myself, and all Americans, really, to thank them for their service. They've done a superb job in Afghanistan, Iraq, and so many other places around the world.

I think it's important for people to understand a couple of basic propositions that are being discussed in this campaign. Prior to 9/11, the way we used to deal with terror was to treat it as a law enforcement problem. That is to say, somebody attempted to blow up the World Trade Center, in '93, we'd go out and find the guilty party, arrest them, put them in jail, case closed.

What we failed to understand was that our adversaries were tied together, in terms of an organization, a structure -- it came to be called al Qaeda -- behind it, that they had declared war on us in 1996. And so they didn't recognize this as a law enforcement problem. They saw it as a war. And what we needed was a national strategy to deal with that war. And that's what we've had since 9/11 because of decisions the President made. And he made several.

One, defend the country -- do everything we could to harden the target, to make it tougher for the terrorists to come after us. Two, recognize that there's no such thing as perfect defense. We can be successful 99 percent of the time, they only have to get through one time to do enormous, devastating damage to us. Number three, you've got to go on offense. You simply have to go after the terrorists wherever they are, wherever they plan, train, recruit -- wherever they live, basically, and take them out before they can launch attacks against us. And that means aggressive use of U.S. military force in places like Afghanistan, and Iraq, and any place else that the President believes that's necessary in order to defend the nation.

We'd much rather have -- in spite of the burden that places on our forces -- much rather have our forces actively deployed overseas taking on the terrorists in Afghanistan or Iraq than have to fight them here on the streets of our own cities with our firefighters and policemen, and medical personnel. And that's just a crucial difference, I think, or distinction, if you will, between the President's approach and the way John Kerry would approach this issue. It's vital that we get it right. We've been reasonably successful since 9/11 at defending the nation. But it is thanks especially to the enormous sacrifice of so many brave young Americans who are willing to put on the uniform and go in harm's way on our behalf. We must never forget the enormous debt we owe to all of them. (Applause.)

Q: Mr. Vice President, I understand this is the last question, many of the Democrats, or your opponents, complain about the No Child Left Behind Act. And as a mother of four daughters that are school-age, I'm very interested in your assessment of the negative and the positive impact of this at the local level?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we think the No Child Left Behind Act was an absolutely crucial piece of legislation. It harkens back to the President's experience in Texas. The Texas public schools were having considerable difficulties. And growing out of that experience and work he did there, we developed and proposed -- it was the President's first proposal to the Congress after he got elected -- the No Child Left Behind Act that basically says we're going to measure performance and find out how well our kids are doing, and then we're going to hold the school system accountable for results. And we're going to give parents the opportunity, for example, of public choice. If they have their kids in a school that's not performing up to snuff over a period of time, they'll have the opportunity to send them to another public school.

We think you cannot possibly assess how our schools are doing if you don't measure results. It's true of any other endeavor, human endeavor. And so that's at the heart of what the President proposed, and Congress approved on a bipartisan basis. Ted Kennedy was at the signing ceremony. This was not a partisan effort at all, but it was widely supported on both sides of the aisle.

Now, the criticism that's been offered by the Democrats is, well, you didn't fund it adequately. Well, my reconstruction is if you look at the funding that was available in 2001, when we started versus the funding in 2004 for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the heart of where that funding goes, it's up 42 percent in about three years. So we have, in fact, committed significant resources to the effort. It's vital that we continue to work on this path.

Lynne and I had the great, good fortune to go to public schools in Casper, Wyoming back in the '50s. We got a tremendous education. We had devoted teachers, parents who cared, a school system that worked. That's something that we ought to provide for every child in America, and No Child Left Behind is to date the best thing I've seen in terms of moving us down that road. (Applause.)

So again, let me thank all of you for being here tonight. We got two outstanding candidates here in Goli and Jim. They'll do a superb piece of work if you give them the opportunity to do that for you. This election is going to be very close. After what we went through four years ago, don't let anybody tell you that individual effort doesn't matter. When you get down to 537 votes in Florida decided who was going to be President of the United States for the next four years. Every vote counts. Every volunteer hour counts. Working the phone banks counts. Registering the voters, getting your friends and family to register and make certain that they're out there. Every dollar that's contributed is absolutely essential.

And you can take that basic concept -- if it applies to the presidency, it applies out there in House and Senate races all across this country. I had the privilege of casting three tie-breaking votes in the Senate in the last Congress, last year. That's what I get to do. That's the Vice President's only real job. (Laughter.)

But I cast them on the budget resolution last year, in '03, that set the overall parameters of the budget debate and made room for our tax cut. I cast the deciding vote on reducing the tax on capital gains, and reducing the double taxation of dividends, and final passage on the tax bill. (Applause.) I don't deserve any special credit for that because I went to Capitol Hill that day with some pretty firm instructions from the President -- what I was supposed to do. (Laughter.)

The point is if we'd had one less senator in the United States Senate, we would not have had the recovery we have today that's directly attributable to those policies. If we hadn't controlled the House of Representatives, which we didn't the 10 years I served there, we wouldn't have had that tax package because it had to originate in the House. The Republican House reported out a great bill. We were able then to get it through the Senate. It was crucial to where we are today as an economy and as a nation. This election matters. It matters a great deal. It matters not only at the national level, but down at the county, the precinct level, and especially in congressional districts. You got two great candidates here, make sure they win on November 2nd.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 7:00 P.M. PDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Reception for Goli Ameri and Jim Zupancic in Portland, Oregon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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