Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks at a Dinner for Tom Coburn in Tulsa, Oklahoma

September 24, 2004

Doubletree Hotel Tulsa
Tulsa, Oklahoma

6:30 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Well, thank you for the warm welcome. It's to be back in Tulsa and in Oklahoma. And by the looks of things tonight, Tulsa must be Bush-Cheney country. (Applause.)

Now, Lynne claims she's known me since I was 14, but she wouldn't go out with me until I was 17. (Laughter.) And I tell people we actually got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States. In 1952, when he ran, I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska, just a youngster with my folks. And Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the government, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming -- which is where I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together, and here about two weeks ago celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained that to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) Absolutely true.

But we're here tonight for a very special reason, and that's to support Dr. Tom Coburn and make sure he's the next United States Senator from Oklahoma. (Applause.) Oklahoma has a superb tradition in Washington. And I want to thank Don Nickles for joining us tonight. He has served your state extraordinarily well in the United States Senate for the last 24 years, and we're going to miss him. (Applause.) And I also am delighted that Jim Inhofe is here tonight. Jim and I served together in the House before he achieved exalted rank as a member of the United States Senate. He does a great job, as well, and he needs a good ally in the United States Senate, and the man for that job is Tom Coburn. (Applause.)

Tom is a proven conservative leader, great experience in the House. We need him in Washington. And in a Senate as closely divided as today, every single seat counts.

And let me say just a moment -- spend a moment or two talking about how close the Senate is divided these days. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President. But they got down to the end of the Constitution Convention and they hadn't given him anything to do, so they decided they'd make him the presiding officer in the Senate. So that's my only real job. And I go up and have lunch every Tuesday with my colleagues, the Republican senators. I'm actually paid by the Senate -- half my staff is paid by the Senate. The Vice President of the United States is a creature of the Senate. So I spend a fair amount of time there. And one of the things you do is to cast tie-breaking votes. And last year, I cast three tie-breaking votes, in '03. One of those was on the basic budget resolution that set up the overall parameters for the total package that made room in it for the very significant tax reduction that we passed in '03. The second tie-breaking vote I cast was to reduce the double-taxation of dividends and cut the rate on capital gains. And the third tie-breaking vote I cast was to pass the tax bill. And that tax bill was absolutely vital. (Applause.)

Now, I don't deserve any special credit for casting that vote because after a morning session in the Oval Office, I went to the Hill with some specific instructions that day from the President of the United States. (Laughter.) I knew what he wanted me to do. But the fact is, that package that we passed last year that hung by a threat -- if we'd had one less vote in the Senate, we would not have had last year's tax bill. And that tax bill was directly responsible for the economic growth that we've seen over the course of the last year now. We would not have the recovery we have, if we hadn't passed those tax measures last year. And I would note in passing that Mr. Carson, Congressman Carson voted against those measures in the House of Representatives. It's absolutely essential as we go forward here that we keep in mind that this isn't just about a seat for Oklahoma. This is also about control of the United States Senate and our capacity to be able to get the kind of support on the Hill that the President absolutely has to have going forward on the basic fundamental issues and programs of the day.

It's also about who controls all those key committees in the United States Senate, and about a choice for example, between having Orrin Hatch from Utah as chairman of the judiciary committee, or Pat Leahy from Vermont as chairman of the judiciary committee. And you can walk right down through all the committee structure. Jim Inhofe runs a crucial committee, environment and public works. Jim Jeffords of Vermont will take over that committee if we don't retain control of the Senate for the United States. So as the President of the Senate, I'm here tonight, also as somebody who I think shares the Oklahoma values, and who believes very deeply in what Tom Coburn represents and what Don Nickles has stood for over the years. It is absolutely essential that Tom Coburn be the next United States senator from Oklahoma. (Applause.)

Tom shares our commitment to a secure America. He has pledged to work with the President to keep our economy strong by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. He's a man of action, not just a man of words. In the House, he strongly supported tax relief and co-sponsored legislation to reduce the marriage penalty and end the death tax. He is also a family physician who maintained his practice while in Congress. He knows that better, more affordable health care requires that we focus on what is best for patients, not personal injury lawyers. (Applause.)

The President and I are pleased to be on the ballot with Tom this year. And come next January, I look forward to swearing him in as the new Senator from the state of Oklahoma. (Applause.)

As I said in my convention speech in New York City, I'm mindful that I now have an opponent. 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?"

In all seriousness, though, this is a very important election ?- 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 were the Axis powers in World War II. And from the night of September 11th to this day, America has left no doubt where we stand. We have no illusions about the nature of this struggle, or the character of the enemy we face. The beheading of two American hostages, one of them originally from Oklahoma, 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 we must destroy. 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, where terrorists trained in camps to kill Americans, the camps have been closed, 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 the fortunes of 25 million people. Tonight, he sits in jail. (Applause.)

Yesterday, Don and Jim and I sat in the chamber of the House of Representatives as Ayad Allawi, the Prime Minister of a new, free Iraq, addressed the joint session of the Congress and said, "thank you America." (Applause.) He noted the struggle in Iraq is tough and that there have been and will be setbacks. But he also noted there is progress. 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 was appalled by 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 shortly after his remarks yesterday. (Applause.)

Prime Minister Allawi is our ally. Senator Kerry's sagging poll numbers have led him to think he has to go on the attack, and he did that once again this morning. He gave a speech assailing the President and suggesting that Iraq was not a home for terrorists before America deposed Saddam Hussein. But, ladies and gentlemen, Saddam himself was a terrorist. (Applause.) He provided safe haven for terrorists over the years; he was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers; and he had a relationship with al Qaeda. Iraq, for years, was listed by the U.S. State Department as one of the leading state sponsors of terror in the world. America does not create terrorists. But under President Bush, we will defeat them. (Applause.) And we will defeat them where they live and plot and plan so that we do not have to fight them on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)

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

The biggest danger we face today is 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 -- and it is a very important one -- is that the black-market network that supplied nuclear weapons technology to Libya to Iran and to North Korea has been shut down. (Applause.) The world's worst source of nuclear proliferation is out business, and we are all 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 on the war in Iraq. He attacked the progress we are making and the policies that have been implemented. Yet despite all the harsh rhetoric, Senator Kerry endorsed many of the same goals President Bush has been pursuing 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 was -- somehow weakened our national security. Nine months ago when Howard Dean took that similar position during the Democratic primaries, Senator Kerry 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." (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 the 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. And Senators Kerry and Edwards were two of those four.

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

But 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. And I want to thank them and all the veterans here tonight for what they have done for all of us. (Applause.) One of the most important commitments that the President made during that 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.

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. But it's all part of a pattern. He has, in the last several years, been for the No Child Left Behind Act – and against it; spoken in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement -- and against it. He has been 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 and applause.)

Our country requires strong and consistent leadership for our actions overseas, and the same is true for 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, our economy was sliding into recession. Then terrorists struck our nation and shook the 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 federal 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 million here in Oklahoma, benefited from the Bush tax cuts – and so has our economy. We've created jobs for the last 12 consecutive months – a total of about 1.7 million new jobs over the past year – and a 144,000 new jobs in the last month alone. Here in Oklahoma, 16,500 jobs have been added since January 2004. Mortgage rates, and interest rates, and inflation are low. Consumers are confident, businesses are investing, and families are taking home more of what they earn.

We're seeing record exports for farm products. Farm income is up. Our farm economy is strong and that's good for our entire nation.

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

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

With Tom's support, we will work to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. 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 Tom'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.

With Tom's support, we will work for medical liability reform because we know the cost of malpractice insurance is creating a crisis, not only in Oklahoma, but all across the nation. (Applause.) America's doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

Our opponents have a very different vision for our country. They opposed tax relief, now they're proposing massive increases in federal spending. They helped block our energy plan in the Senate. 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 we reject the brutal practice of partial birth abortion. (Applause.) We stand strongly for the Second Amendment, and we'll defend the individual right of every American to bear arms. (Applause.) We believe that our nation is "one nation under God," and that we should be able to say so when we pledge allegiance to their 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. The Democrats in the Senate have been doing everything they can – including using the filibuster – to keep the President's sensible, mainstream nominations 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're going to win this election. (Applause.) A good way for Oklahoma to deal with the problem of the Democratic filibuster is to send Tom Coburn to the United States Senate. (Applause.)

On issue after issue, President Bush has a clear vision for the future of our 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 the humility Americans expect of their President.

Under President Bush's leadership, 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. (Applause.) Here at home, we will continue building a 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.

The President and I are honored by your confidence in us, and 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 Oklahoma, and even in Massachusetts. (Laughter and 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 Tom Coburn. We're proud to have you on the team. And together, on November 2nd, we'll see our cause forward to victory.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 7:55 P.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks at a Dinner for Tom Coburn in Tulsa, Oklahoma Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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