Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Dave McSweeney in Chicago, Illinois

June 23, 2006

Hilton Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

12:23 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, thank you, David. I appreciate your kind words and that warm welcome. It's great to be back in Chicago, a city I love to visit. I explained earlier to some friends our daughter and her husband lived here for three years while she went to school at the University of Chicago. And our oldest granddaughter was born here. So we used to get here a lot and always -- always enjoy coming back to a great city.

I've looked forward to the trip, and to joining all of you and the next Congressman for the eighth district, Dave McSweeney. (Applause.) And I bring good wishes to all of you from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I'm delighted to join you in giving strong support to Dave in his campaign for Congress. He has deep roots in this part of the country. He's a person who clearly speaks with conviction. He's an active citizen, a common-sense conservative. And he knows the issues, he understands the needs of the eighth district, and he's perfectly in tune with the values of the people who live here. This is the kind of man who belongs in the United States Congress, and there's no doubt in my mind that Dave is on the road to victory on the 7th of November. (Applause.)

It's important that we elect public servants like Dave because these are times of incredible consequence for our nation. In the last five-and-a-half years we've seen an unprecedented series challenges. We've experienced war, national emergency, economic recession, corporate scandals, historic natural disasters. And yet we've faced up to those changes -- challenges. We've shown our strength as a people. And America is a stronger and a better nation.

When the President and I came to office, we inherited an economy that was heading into recession. But we took bold action to turn it around -- and because we acted, the nation's economy today is healthy and vigorous -- and in 2005 it grew faster than any other major industrialized nation in the world.

Since August 2003, America has created over 5.3 million new jobs. The national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent -- lower than the average rate of the 1970s, the 1980s, or the 1990s. Productivity is strong. Household net worth is at an all-time high.

The current expansion is also translating into higher than projected federal revenues, as we knew would happen. There is no mystery to this. Over the last several generations, there have been three major tax cuts in the country -- in the 1960s under President Kennedy, in the 1980s under President Reagan, and now under President Bush. All three resulted in sustained growth, in new jobs, and new wealth across the country. The evidence is in -- the best tax policy for America is found in the wisdom of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush.

Yet even as revenue grows, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayer's dollar. Wise stewardship means taking a second look at the way business has often been done in the Nation's Capital. We commend the House of Representatives for passing a constitutional line-item veto, a critical tool to help protect American taxpayers. And as the congressional leadership has stated, we need reform in the way projects are earmarked for funding. And we look forward to working with members on the Hill on earmark reform. Government has a duty to spend taxpayer dollars wisely or not spend them at all. Your next congressman understands this very well. He'll be a strong voice for spending discipline, and we need more people like Dave McSweeney in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

We have a full agenda for 2006 and beyond, and President Bush understands that every decision he makes will affect the lives of millions of Americans far into the future. He's going to lead the effort on comprehensive immigration reform, to make the system rational and get control of the borders. And he will continue appointing solid judges like John Roberts and Sam Alito to the federal bench. (Applause.)

Above all else, President Bush never loses sight of his most fundamental duty -- to defend this nation and to protect our people.

There is still hard work ahead in the global war on terror, because we are dealing with enemies who have declared an intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aims. And their prime targets are the United States and the American people.

In the face of such enemies, we have to consider a few basic questions: First, whether to confront them on our terms, or on their terms. Second: whether to face them on their territory, or on our territory. And third: whether to wage this war on offense or defense. America and the civilized world have made our decision: Wherever terrorists operate, we will find them where they dwell, stop them in their planning, bring them to justice, and stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Applause.)

We remain on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. We can expect further acts of violence and destruction by the enemies of freedom. But progress has been steady -- and there should be no discounting the hopeful signs in that part of the world. In less than two years' time the Iraqi people have gained sovereignty, voted for a transitional government, drafted a progressive, democratic constitution, then approved the document in a national referendum, and elected a new national government under the provisions of that constitution. The most recent election had a voter turnout of more than 70 percent, as Iraqis defied the killers and the car-bombers and went to the polls in huge numbers.

And Iraq now has a unity government that is committed to a future of freedom and progress for all Iraqis. They have made a strong stand for their own liberty; the U.S. is proud to be at their side.

Our coalition is also helping to build an Iraqi security force that is well trained and well equipped. As that force grows in strength and the political process continues to advance, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists.

There's a vigorous debate now taking place right now about the way forward in Iraq. It's always good to have such a discussion, because it directly involves the security of the nation -- the very issue that all of us care about. Democrats and Republicans, obviously, are heavily engaged in the debate, as it should be. We've reached the point where a number of well known Democrats, including their most recent presidential nominee, talk about setting a firm deadline for withdrawal. You might recall that Senator Kerry was for the war before he was against it. (Laughter and applause.) Somebody should do him a favor and tell him the election's over so he can stop flip-flopping. (Applause.)

Seriously, Senator Kerry's prescription -- giving up and setting a hard deadline -- is a terrible idea, and the Senate was correct in knocking it down yesterday. It got 13 votes. (Applause.)

First, such a move would signal to the Iraqi people that America does not keep its word. Second, it completely disregards the opinions of commanders in charge of the war effort. Americans and our allies need to know that decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our military commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

Another prominent Democrat, a friend of mine, Congressman Jack Murtha, was on TV Sunday with his own plan for a withdrawal. He said that we can deal with the Iraqi situation by redeploying forces to Okinawa. (Laughter.) The Pacific Ocean is a long way from the Persian Gulf, obviously. But the most troubling aspect of his proposal is this: He cited two previous instances of American military withdrawal, and suggested they would be good models for us to follow now. The first was America's exit from Beirut in 1983, and the second is the withdrawal from Somalia in 1993.

I've known Jack Murtha for a long time. I worked closely with him when I was Secretary of Defense and he chaired the defense appropriations subcommittee. I respect him, but he's dead wrong on this issue. His proposal is contrary to the national interest. And he draws exactly the wrong lessons from the examples of Beirut and Somalia. If you look back at the years before 9/11, you see case after case where terrorists hit America -- and America failed to hit back hard enough. In Beirut terrorists killed 241 of our servicemen. In Somalia we had the killing of 19 Americans. In both cases, the United States responded to the attacks by withdrawing our forces. But by doing so, we simply invited more danger, because the terrorists concluded that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy. And they did. So they continued to wage attacks against America and American interests. We had the bombing at the World Trade Center in New York in 1993, the murders at the Saudi National Guard training facility in Riyadh in 1995; the killings at Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; the bombing on the USS Cole in 2000; and, ultimately, the events of 9/11, when we lost 3,000 Americans here at home.

If we follow Congressman Murtha's advice and withdraw from Iraq the same way we withdrew from Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1993, we will simply validate the al Qaeda strategy and guarantee more terrorist attacks in the future.

In the decade prior to 9/11, this country spent more than two trillion dollars on national security. Yet we lost nearly 3,000 Americans at the hands of 19 men armed with box cutters and airline tickets. In the case of al Qaeda we are not dealing with large armies we can track, or uniforms we can see, or men with territory of their own to defend. Their preferred tactic, which they boldly proclaim, is to slip into this country, to blend in among the innocent, and to kill without mercy and without restraint. They have intelligence and counterintelligence operations of their own. They take their orders from overseas. They are using the most sophisticated communications technology they can get their hands on.

The enemy also has a set of clear objectives. The terrorists want to end all American and Western influence in the Middle East. Their goal in that region is to seize control of a country, so they have a base from which to launch attacks and wage war against governments that do not meet their demands. The terrorists believe that by controlling one country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and ultimately to establish an authoritarian empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia.

They have made clear, as well, their ultimate ambition: to arm themselves with chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons; to destroy Israel; to intimidate all Western countries; and to cause mass death here in the United States.

In pursuit of those objectives, they have carried out a number of attacks since 9/11 -- in Casablanca, Jakarta, Mombassa, Bali, Riyadh, Baghdad, Istanbul, Madrid, London, Sharm al-Sheikh, and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., we have not had another 9/11. (Applause.)

Obviously, no one can guarantee that we won't be hit again. But the relative safety of these years was not an accident. We've been protected by sensible policy decisions by the President, by decisive action at home and abroad, by the round-the-clock efforts on the part of people in the armed forces, law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security. (Applause.)

Unless somebody thinks the threat has gone away and does not exist, they ought to look at their morning newspaper. We've had two weeks ago, of course, in Toronto, a 17-man cell arrested by the Canadians plotting attacks against civilian targets. And of course, this morning the Attorney General held a press conference which I was watching as I came in on the plane to Chicago to announce the arrest of seven individuals in a cell in Miami, plotting among other things an attack on the Sears Tower here in Chicago. It is a very real threat. There are still people out there who are trying to do everything they can to kill Americans. We have to defend ourselves against that threat.

The President has made a number of decisions since 9/11 that are designed to do exactly that. One of those is the terrorist surveillance program some of you have heard recently referred to as the domestic surveillance program by the press corps. It is not domestic surveillance. This is a program that's targeted upon communications one end of which is outside the United States, and one end of which, we believe, is affiliated with al Qaeda. It is a good program.

There's another program that has been in the papers this morning that deals with finances, that is referred to -- or I will refer to it as a the terrorist finance tracking program, that allows us to track the movements of funds internationally that are al Qaeda-related and al Qaeda-affiliated.

Now, the President has been criticized. We've been criticized, the administration on the terrorist surveillance program -- may also be criticized on the financial program by our opponents. Russ Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, has called for the censure of the President over the terrorist surveillance program. The fact of the matter is that these are good, solid sound programs. They are conducted in accordance with the laws of the land. They are -- they're carried in a manner that is fully consistent with the constitutional authority of the President of the United States. They are absolutely essential in terms of protecting us against attacks. And I am personally persuaded that they are absolutely -- have been absolutely essential in the fact that we have not been hit again since 9/11.

The thing that I find most disturbing about these stories -- even though these programs have been briefed to the Congress, and they are conducted in a way to guarantee and safeguard the civil liberties of the American people, what I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people. That offends me. (Applause.)

This nation is pursuing a clear and a necessary course of action against the terrorists. We are absolutely determined to prevent attacks before they occur, and so we're working with other countries to break up terror cells, to track down terrorist operatives, and to put heavy pressure on their ability to organize and plan attacks. The work is difficult. It's often perilous, and there is much yet to do. But we have made tremendous progress against this enemy that dwells in the shadows.

Second, we are determined to deny safe haven to the terrorists. Since the day our country was attacked, we have pursued the Bush Doctrine: Any person or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account. (Applause.)

Third, we are working to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to keep those weapons out of the hands of killers.

Fourth, we are determined to deny the terrorists control of any nation, which they could use as a home base and staging ground for terrorist attacks against the United States or others. That's why we continue to fight Taliban remnants and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. That is why we are working with President Musharraf to oppose and isolate the terrorist element in Pakistan. And that is why we are fighting the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime and the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Iraq.

Because our coalition has stood by our commitments to the Afghan and Iraqi peoples, some 50 million men, women, and children who lived under dictators now live in freedom. Afghanistan is a rising democracy, with the first fully elected government in its 5,000-year history. Iraq has the most progressive constitution and the strongest democratic mandate in the entire Arab world. The people now on duty in that part of the world, our men and women in uniform, have done an absolutely outstanding job for all of us. (Applause.)

So, ladies and gentlemen, it is critically important that we keep these issues of national security at the top of the agenda in this election year. The President and I welcome the discussion, because every voter in America needs to know where the President and I stand and where Dave McSweeney stands, as well as how the leaders of the Democratic Party view the war on terror. (Applause.)

Their leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, boasted publicly of his efforts to kill the Patriot Act. The Chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, said the capture of Saddam Hussein would not make America safer. And those prominent Democrats who now advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq are counseling the very kind of retreat that has been tried in the past and would only heighten the danger to the United States. For the sake of our security, this nation must reject any strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of terrorist enemies. (Applause.)

We have to face the simple truth. The enemies that struck America are weakened and fractured, but they are still lethal and still desperately trying to find ways to kill Americans. They hate us, they hate our country, and they hate the liberties for which we stand. They have contempt for our values. They doubt our strength and our resolve. We have a duty to act against them as effectively as we possibly can. Either we are serious about fighting this war or we are not. As long as George W. Bush is leading this nation, we are serious, and we will not let down our guard. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, in these five-and-a-half years we've been through a great deal as a nation. Yet with each test, the American people have displayed the true character of our country. We have built ourselves an economy and a standard of living that are the envy of the world. We have faced dangers with resolve. And we have been defended by some of the bravest men and women this nation has ever produced. And when future generations look back on our time, they will know that we met our moment with courage and clear thinking. And they will know that America became a better nation -- stronger, more prosperous, and more secure -- under the leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

We'll continue making progress for the American people -- and it's vital we have strong partners like Dave McSweeney in the Congress of the United States to help us. (Applause.) The President and I have tremendous confidence in Dave. Send him to Washington and you'll have a congressman who speaks for your interests and your values each and every day. I'm proud to join you in supporting Dave's campaign. He'll do a fantastic job, and the President and I look forward to working with him beginning in January.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:45 P.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Dave McSweeney in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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