Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks at a Reception for Congressman Randy Kuhl in Rochester, New York

September 22, 2006

Rochester Riverside Convention Center
Rochester, New York

4:55 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. At ease, please. (Laughter.)

Well, thank you very much, Randy, for those kinds words and the invitation to join you here today. It's true I was the congressman from Wyoming for 10 years. And as Randy pointed out, we only had one congressman. It was a small delegation, but it was quality. (Laughter.) And I enjoyed my time in the House very much, still have my heart in the House some people would suggest, as it really was a formative experience in my career.

But I thought about it this week as I was coming up, because I turned on the television -- I frequently watch C-SPAN in my office and had C-SPAN on this week. And I noticed the man in the chair was Randy Kuhl presiding over the House. And that's a privilege I never had because we were always in the minority when I was there. And so I was envious, but also it helped bring home how enormously important these elections are this year, because, in fact, we're going to decide who gets to preside in the House of Representatives, who chairs all those crucial committees. And that will be determinative in terms of whether or not we're able to go forward with the kinds of policies, for example, in the tax area and national security, the economy that are so vital to the future of the nation. And so the President and I have a vested interest you might say in doing everything we can to make certain that a man like Randy Kuhl gets reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 7th. (Applause.)

We are deeply interested in the race here in the 29th district, obviously because we know Randy. We've come to appreciate his judgment and his enormous expertise that he brings to issues. We believe he has earned another term in the U.S. Congress.

The President and I were proud to run on the same ticket with in 2004 with Randy. We were impressed with the respect he's earned in a very short time on Capitol Hill. He came to Congress, of course, with tremendous experience as a state representative and a state senator. He has done exactly what you would expect of your congressman in working hard, stands up for the interests of the 29th district and the people of New York, and stays in close touch with the people back home. He's an articulate voice for economic growth, for lower taxes, for spending discipline, and for a government that always answers to the people. Your Congressman has lived in this part of the country all his life; he knows the territory. He's in tune with the district. He speaks with conviction and with credibility of the interests for the taxpayers, the farmers, and entrepreneurs. And like all of you, Randy stands one hundred percent behind the men and women in the United States military. (Applause.)

The President and I need Congressman Kuhl to help keep the economy growing and keep generating new jobs for American workers. The economy has taken a lot of hits over the last five-and-a-half years -- from recession, to the effects of 9/11, to corporate scandals. But we've held to policies that are pro-growth and pro-jobs. And as a result, the nation's economy is healthy and strong and vigorous. And last year, growth in America outpaced that of every other major industrialized nation. Since August of '03 at the national level, we've added more than 5.7 million new jobs. The national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent -- of course, lower than the average rate of the '70s, the '80s and the '90s. Productivity is strong. Household net worth is at an all-time high.

The current expansion is also translating into much higher than projected federal revenues. Recently the President announced that a projected deficit of $423 billion has dropped to $296 billion, in less than a year. The good news confirms the lessons of history. Over the last several generations, we've had three major tax cuts in this country -- in the 1960s under President Kennedy, in the 1980s under President Reagan, and now under President Bush. All three were followed by periods of sustained growth, more jobs, and greater wealth creation across the country. The evidence is in -- the best tax policy for America is the kind of tax policy that leaves more money in the hands of the people so they can spend it, save it, and invest it, generates the kind of economic activity and growth that leads to an expansion of federal revenues.

Even as revenue grows, we have a responsibility to keep the lid on federal spending. Your Congressman understands that duty very well. If you want spending discipline in the federal government, it's important that we keep electing men like Randy Kuhl to the United States Congress.

More than anything else, we're going to remember that the first order of business in Washington is to protect the American people, and to support the men and women who have been defending us in a time of war. There's still hard work ahead in the global war on terror. And we harbor no illusions about the kinds of enemies we face.

Our country has never before had to confront adversaries like these. They have no standing armies or navies. They wear no uniform. They recognize no conventions of war, nor any rules of morality. Though they plot and plan and operate by stealth, the terrorists make no secret of their objectives. They want to seize control of a country in the Middle East, so they have a base from which to launch attacks against the United States and to wage war against anyone who doesn't meet their demands. They believe that by controlling one country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, eventually to establish a totalitarian empire that encompasses that part of the globe from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way around to Indonesia. They have declared, as well, their ultimate aim: 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.

The terrorists regard the entire world as a battlefield. That's why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. They want to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat -- and bin Laden himself calls this conflict the "third world war." Americans are fighting there, and in Afghanistan, because our security demands it. Having liberated those countries from tyranny, we will not permit new dictatorships to seize power and give terrorists a base from which to strike the United States and other free nations.

As the President has said, "The terrorists will continue to have the coward's power to plant roadside bombs and to recruit suicide bombers. And you will continue to see the grim results on the evening news. This proves that the war is difficult -- it does not mean that we are losing." And even though it's tough, our cause is right and the effort is worth it.

In Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai leads the first democratically-elected government in the 5,000-year history of that country. In Iraq, the people have ratified a constitution with the broadest democratic mandate in the Arab world, and despite assassins and car-bombers, Iraqis come out to vote in record numbers and at a turnout rate much higher than we see here in the United States. The Iraqi security forces, trained by the Americans, are now about 300,000 strong and determined to defend their own country and to make it a source of stability in a troubled region. When it comes to our own troop levels, President Bush will make that call, he'll do it based on what our military commanders say is needed for victory. He'll make the decision that best serves the national interest, without regard to poll numbers, armchair generals, or artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

One of those who has been calling for withdrawal from Iraq is Congressman Jack Murtha. Jack is an old friend of mine. When I was Secretary of Defense, he was the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Sub-committee. We did a lot of business together, but on this issue, Jack's wrong. In making that proposal he's cited two previous instances of American military withdrawal, and suggested they would be good models for us to follow in Iraq. The first was America's exit from Beirut in 1983, and the second, our withdrawal from Somalia in 1993.

That proposal is contrary to the national interest -- and it draws exactly the wrong lessons from the examples of Beirut and Somalia. If you look back at the years before 9/11, you'll see case after case of terrorists hitting America or American interests -- and America failing to hit back hard enough.

In Beirut, terrorists killed 241 of our servicemen with a truck bomb in 1983. In Somalia, we lost 19 Americans in Mogadishu in 1993. In both cases, the U.S. responded to those 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 -- because they had. And so they continued to wage attacks against the homeland, as well as interest overseas.

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 attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous attack on two of our embassies in East Africa in 1998; or the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Of course, ultimately, all of this led up to the attacks on 9/11.

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

If we have learned anything from modern experience, it is that we have to stay on the offensive until the danger to civilization is removed. And this requires moving forward on many fronts simultaneously -- from using financial tools, to diplomatic pressure, to sustained, multilateral effort to fight weapons proliferation, and, yes, when necessary the use of military force.

We also place the highest priority on intelligence. The best source of information, obviously, is the terrorists themselves. We've obtained extraordinarily valuable information through the detainee program, including from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who masterminded 9/11. The President has made clear that the detainee program is vital to national security. And yesterday, we got an agreement on Capitol Hill that should ensure that the program will go forward. The pending legislation will allow us to capture terrorists, to question terrorists, to bring terrorists to trial, and that's exactly what the American people expect us to do. (Applause.)

We've also gained critical information from the terrorist surveillance program, which the President authorized in the days immediately after 9/11. On occasion you'll hear this called a domestic surveillance or an eavesdropping program. That is more than a misnomer; it is a flat-out falsehood. We are talking about international communications, one end of which we have reason to believe is related to al Qaeda or terrorist networks. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the United States and our safety than communications from inside the United States to outside to al Qaeda.

Like the detainee program, the terrorist surveillance program was set up in a manner that is fully consistent with the Constitution and with the responsibilities and the legal authority of the President and with adequate safeguards for the civil liberties of the American citizens. The activities conducted under this authorization have helped to detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks against the American people. The recent ruling by a federal judge ordering an end to this program is just plain wrong. We're confident it will be reversed on appeal.

If you recall, the 9/11 Commission focused criticism on the nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists overseas. The term that's used is "connecting the dots" -- and the fact is that one small piece of data might very well make it possible to save thousands of lives. The very important question today is whether, on five years' reflection, we have yet learned all the lessons from 9/11.

In the decade prior to those attacks, our country spent more than two trillion dollars on national security. Yet we lost nearly 3,000 Americans that morning at the hands of 19 men armed with box cutters and airline tickets. Since 9/11 terrorists have successfully carried out attacks in Casablanca, Jakarta, Mombassa, Bali, Riyadh, Baghdad, Istanbul, Madrid, London, Sharm al-Sheikh, Bombay, and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., we have not had another 9/11. No one can guarantee that we won't get hit again. But to have come this far without another attack is not an accident. A lot of things can go wrong in a war. But I'm happy to relate that many things have gone right. We've been protected by sensible policy decisions by the President, by decisive action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of people in the armed services, and law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know that we are not going to let down our guard. (Applause.)

As we make our case to the voters in this election season, it's vital to keep issues of national security at the top of the national agenda. The President and I welcome the discussion, because every voter in America needs to know where we stand, as well as how the leaders of the Democratic Party view the war on terror. Their floor leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, boasted publicly of his efforts to kill the Patriot Act. Senator Jay Rockefeller -- who would take over as chairman of the Intelligence Committee if his party took power -- believes the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq. And the chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, has said the capture of Saddam didn't make America safer. Now Mr. Dean's party has turned its back on Senator Joe Lieberman.

Senator Lieberman was my opponent in 2000 -- Al Gore's running mate, a longtime senator, and one of the most loyal and distinguished Democrats of the generation. Joe is also an unapologetic supporter of the global war on terror. He voted to support military action in Iraq when most other senators in both parties did the same -- and he's had the courage to stick by that vote even when the going gets tough. And now, for that reason alone, because he supported the President in the global war on terror, the Dean Democrats have purged Joe Lieberman from the ranks of the Democratic Party in Connecticut. Their choice, instead, is a candidate whose explicit goal is to give up the fight against the terrorists in Iraq -- never mind that Iraq is a fellow democracy; never mind that the Iraqi people and their elected leaders are counting on us. What the Democrats are pushing now is the very kind of retreat that has been tried and failed in the past. We should have learned with 9/11 that it's no longer possible for us to retreat behind our oceans and feel safe and secure here at home.

It would be reckless and inconsistent with our values to withdraw. It would betray our friends, and only heighten the danger to the United States because it would once again validate the terrorists' belief that if they kill enough Americans they change our policy. So the choice before the American people is becoming clearer every day. For the sake of our security, the nation must reject any strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies.

We have to face the simple truth. The enemies that struck America are weakened and fractured, but they are still lethal, still desperately trying to hit us again. We have a duty to act against them as swiftly and as effectively as we possibly can. Either we are serious about fighting this war or we are not. And with George W. Bush leading this nation, we are serious, and we will prevail. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, it will be said of us that we lived in a period of serious testing for our country. And yet with each test, the American people have displayed the true character of our nation. We have built for 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. (Applause.)

For the last two years, we've appreciated having the friendship and the support of Randy Kuhl. His re-election would be great for the 29th district, and for the country. President Bush and I look forward to working with him in the years to come.

Thank you very much.

END 5:15 P.M. EDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks at a Reception for Congressman Randy Kuhl in Rochester, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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