Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks at a Breakfast for Charles Boustany in Lafayette, Louisiana

September 24, 2004

The City Club River Ranch
Lafayette, Louisiana

9:05 A.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much for the welcome. It's great to be in this great city. By the look of things today, this is Bush-Cheney country. (Applause.)

And I'm looking forward to welcoming Dr. Charles Boustany to Washington as a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives. (Applause.) He comes from a family that has been active in public service, for a long time -- improving the community. He's the right candidate for the times. He's in perfect tune with the values of the seventh district. He shares our commitment to a secure America, to keeping our economy strong and -- by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Charles is also a respected physician, so he'll bring a unique experience and a badly needed perspective to the United States Congress. (Applause.) He knows that better, more affordable health care requires that we focus on what is best for patients, not personal injury lawyers. (Laughter and applause.)

The President and I are pleased to be on the ballot with Charles this year. He's the kind of person who belongs in the United States Congress. And because of your help, Charles is on his way to victory. (Applause.)

Now, Lynne mentioned that she'd known me since I was 14 years old. But the fact is she wouldn't go out with me until I was 17. (Laughter.) And I tell people often that we actually got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States. (Laughter.) In those days in the early '50s, I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the doing, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne, and we grew up and went to high school together, and a couple weeks ago celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) Enough foolishness. (Laughter.)

But we are delighted to be here, running this year with a great slate of candidates -- Republican candidates. One of my jobs, of course, as Vice President -- actually it's my only job -- (laughter) -- is to preside over the Senate. And when they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President, but then they got down the end of the convention and discovered they hadn't given him anything to do so they made him the President of the Senate, the presiding officer of the Senate. And I get to preside over the Senate, to cast tie-breaking votes. My predecessor John Adams, when he had the job, he even had floor privileges. He could go down into the well of the Senate and actually debate the issues of the day. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.)

One of the things I get to do is I get to swear in new senators. And I'm looking forward come January to swearing David Vitter as the new senator from Louisiana. (Applause.)

As I said in my convention speech up in New York, I'm mindful that I now have an opponent. (Laughter.) People keep telling me that Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks, his charm, because he's sexy and has great hair. (Laughter.) I said, "How do you think I got the job?" (Laughter.)

But in all seriousness, this is an important election and serious business that we're about this year. It could not come at a more crucial time in our history. Today we face an enemy every bit as intent on destroying us as the Axis powers were in World War II. From the night of September 11th to this day, America has left no doubt about where we stand. We have no illusions about the character of the struggle or the nature of the enemy we face. The beheading of two American hostages this week is another grim reminder of the evil nature of our adversaries. 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 destroyed. (Applause.) With President George W. Bush as our Commander-in-Chief, that is exactly what we will do. (Applause.)

Under the President's leadership, we have reached around the world to capture and kill hundreds of al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, the camps where terrorists trained to kill Americans have been destroyed, and the Taliban driven from power. In Iraq, we dealt with a gathering threat, and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. Eighteen months ago, he controlled the lives and fortunes of 25 million people. Today he sits in jail.

Yesterday I presided in the House of Representatives as Ayad Allawi, the Prime Minister of Iraq, addressed the Congress and said, "thank you America." He noted the struggle in Iraq is tough, that there have been and there will be setbacks. But he also noted that there is progress -- some of it not always reported in the American media. Iraqi children are in school; security forces are being trained; the country is on a course toward free elections. Prime Minister Allawi is a brave man. Some years ago, Saddam Hussein sent killers after him with axes. They tried to hack him to death in his bed. He is a brave and a determined leader, and I must say I was appalled at the complete lack of respect Senator Kerry showed for this man of courage when he rushed out to hold a press conference and attack the Prime Minister, yesterday right after his speech. Ayad Allawi is our ally. He stands beside us in the war against terror. John Kerry is trying to tear him down and to trash all the good that has been accomplished, and his words are destructive. As Prime Minister Allawi said in his speech, and I quote, "When political leaders sound the siren of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence." End quote. (Applause.)

President Bush's steadfast leadership and clear determination send a very different signal. Just five days after Saddam Hussein was captured, the government of Libya agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program, turn the materials over to the United States, and reenter the community of nations.

The biggest danger we face today is that of having nuclear weapons fall into the hands of terrorists. The President is working with many countries in a global effort to end the trade and transfer of these deadly technologies. The most important result thus far -- and it is an important one -- is that the black-market network that supplied nuclear weapons technology to Libya, as well as to Iran and North Korea, has been shut down. The world's worst source of nuclear proliferation is out of business, and we are safer as a result. (Applause.)

We could not have succeeded in these efforts without the help of dozens of countries around the world. We will always seek international support for international efforts, but as President Bush has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. We will never seek a permission slip to defend the United States of America. (Applause.)

America faces a choice on November 2nd between a strong and steadfast President and his opponent, who seems to adopt a new position every day. Earlier this week, John Kerry gave us yet another position in the war in Iraq. He attacked the progress we are making and the policies we have implemented. Yet despite all the harsh rhetoric, Senator Kerry endorsed many of the same goals President Bush has been pursuing there for months. Senator Kerry also said that under his leadership, more of America's friends would speak with one voice on Iraq. That seems a little odd coming from a guy who doesn't speak with one voice himself. (Laughter and applause.) By his repeated efforts to recast and redefine the war on terror and our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Senator Kerry has given every indication that he lacks the resolve, the determination and the conviction to prevail in the conflict we face.

The position Senator Kerry adopted most recently seems to be that he would not have supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein's regime -- and that removing Saddam has somehow weakened our national security. Nine months ago when Howard Dean took a similar position during the Democratic primaries, Senator Kerry jumped on him and said, and I quote: "Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be President or the credibility to be elected President." (Laughter and applause.) The only thing I have to say to that is, I'm Dick Cheney and I approve this message. (Laughter and applause.)

All the shifts Senator Kerry has made are troubling, but there is one that really stands out. It starts with Senator Kerry and his running mate, Senator Edwards, voting in favor of using force against Saddam Hussein. But then, when it came time to vote for funds that would provide our fighting men and women with body armor, ammunition, jet fuel, and spare parts, Senators Kerry and Edwards voted no. Only 12 members of the United States Senate opposed the funding that would provide vital resources for our troops. Only four Senators voted for the use of force and against the resources our men and women in uniform needed once they were in combat. Only four. Senators Kerry and Edwards were two of the four.

At first Senator Kerry said he didn't really oppose the funding. He both supported and opposed it. (Laughter.) He said, and I quote, "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it." That certainly clears things up. (Laughter.) But lately he's been saying he's proud that he and John Edwards voted no, and then explains that his decision was "complicated."

But as Charles knows, funding American troops in combat should never be a complicated question. (Applause.) We need a President who will back our troops 100 percent, and that's exactly what we've got in George W. Bush. (Applause.)

These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the, next. Our troops, our allies, and our enemies must know where America stands. The President of the United States must be clear and consistent. In his years in Washington, John Kerry has been one of a hundred votes in the United States Senate, and fortunately on matters of national security, his views rarely prevailed. But the presidency is an entirely different proposition. A senator can be wrong for 20 years, without consequence to the nation. But a President ?- a President ?- always casts the deciding vote. And in this time of challenge, America needs – and America has – a President we can count on to get it right. (Applause.)

President Bush knows that our dedicated servicemen and women represent the very best of the United States of America. Right here in Louisiana thousands of troops from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the Warrior Brigade at Fort Polk have returned safely from Iraq this month. I want to thank them and all the veterans with us here today for all that they've done for all of us. (Applause.) One of the most important commitments the President made during the 2000 campaign was that our armed forces would be given the resources they need and the respect they deserve, and he has kept his word to the U.S. military. (Applause.)

On Iraq, Senator Kerry has disagreed with many of his fellow Democrats. But Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself. (Laughter.) His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision, and sends a message of confusion. And it is all part of a pattern. He has, in the last several years, been for the No Child Left Behind Act – and against it. He has spoken in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement – and against it. He is for the Patriot Act – and against it. Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual – America sees two John Kerrys. (Laughter.)

Our country requires strong and consistent leadership for our actions overseas, as well as our policies here at home. When President Bush and I stood on the inaugural platform on the west front of the Capitol and took the oath of office, the economy was sliding into recession. Then, on 9/11, terrorists struck and shook our economy once again. We faced a basic decision – to leave more money with families and businesses, or to take more of the American people's hard-earned money for the government. President Bush made his choice. He proposed and he delivered tax savings to the American people -- not once, not twice, but three times. (Applause.)

Every American who pays federal income taxes, including 1.3 million here in Louisiana, benefited from the Bush tax cuts – and so has our economy. We've created jobs for the last 12 consecutive months – a total of 1.7 million new jobs over the past year – including 144,000 new jobs last month alone. Here in Louisiana, 15,300 jobs have been created since July a year ago. Mortgage rates, interest rates, and inflation are all low. Consumers are confident, businesses are investing, and families are taking home more of what they earn.

We know there are still challenges out there. The President and I will not be satisfied until every American who wants to work can find a job. But this is a strong economy, it's growing stronger. The Bush tax cuts are working. (Applause.)

Charles shares our hopeful, optimistic vision for the future, and we look forward to working with him in Congress to accomplish great goals. In our second term, we will keep moving forward with a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda.

With Charles's support, we will work to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.) Congress took an important step yesterday by extending tax relief for working families. And the President will be proud to sign that bill into law. With Charles in Congress, we will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code.

With Charles's support, we will work to end lawsuit abuse. (Applause.) We know it's a lot easier for America's businesses to hire new workers if they don't have to keep hiring lawyers. (Applause.)

And with Charles's support, we will work for medical liability reform because America's doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

With Charles's support, we will also work to continue to move forward to adopt a comprehensive energy policy – one that promotes domestic energy production, respects the environment, and modernized our electricity grid. The President's plan does all these things. But it was blocked by a Democrat filibuster in the Senate. We fell two votes short of being able to get that legislation passed. Senators Kerry and Edwards didn't even show up for the vote.

Our opponents have a very different vision for the country. They opposed our tax relief, and now they're proposing massive increases in federal spending. They oppose effective reform of the legal system, and they're against medical liability reform. Their big idea for the economy: raise our taxes.

President Bush and I will also continue to defend our society's fundamental rights and values. We stand for a culture of life and reject the brutal practice of partial birth abortion. (Applause.) We stand strongly for the Second Amendment, and we will defend the individual right of every American to bear arms. (Applause.) We believe that our nation is "one nation under God." (Applause.) And we believe that we ought to be able to say so when we pledge allegiance to the flag. (Applause.)

There shouldn't be any question about this, and there wouldn't be if we had more reasonable judges on the federal bench. (Applause.) The Democrats in the Senate have been doing everything they can – including using the filibuster – to keep the President's sensible, mainstream nominees off the bench. They are hoping to wait the President out. But I've got news for them. That's not going to happen because we are going to win this election. (Applause.) And a good way to deal with the problem of the Democratic filibuster in the Senate is to elect some good Republican senators like David Vitter. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, President Bush has a clear vision for the future of the nation. America has come to know him, and I have come to admire him very much. I watch him at work every day. He's a person of loyalty and kindness, a man who says what he means and means what he says. I have seen him face some of the hardest decisions that can come to the occupant of the Oval Office – and make those decisions with the wisdom and humility that Americans expect of their President.

Under President Bush's leadership and with Charles' help at home, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, to protect our homeland by turning back and defeating the forces of terror, and spreading hope and freedom around the world. Here at home, we will continue building prosperity that reaches every corner of the land so that every child in America has a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world. (Applause.)

The President and I are honored by your confidence in us, by your commitment to the cause we all share. President Bush and I will wage this effort with complete confidence in the judgment of the American people. The signs are good – here in Louisiana, and even in Massachusetts. (Applause.) According to a news account, people leaving the Democratic National Convention in July asked a Boston policeman for directions. He replied, "Leave here – and go vote Republican." (Laughter and applause.)

President Bush and I are honored to have the support of that police officer, and of Democrats, Republicans, and independents from every calling in American life. We're grateful to you for supporting Charles. We're proud to have you on the team. And together, we'll see our cause forward to victory on November 2nd.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 9:25 A.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks at a Breakfast for Charles Boustany in Lafayette, Louisiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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