Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks at a Reception for Senator Jeff Sessions in Birmingham, Alabama

April 02, 2007

The Club
Birmingham, Alabama

12:19 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. A reception like that is almost enough to make you want to run for office again. (Laughter.) Almost. (Laughter.) I'm delighted to be here today, and to be back in Birmingham. Let me thank Jeff for his kind words, words of welcome. I also want to thank Governor Riley for joining us. Where is Bob? Right down here. And Congressman Spencer Bachus with us, as well, too, and your state Chairman, Mike Hubbard. I came here directly from the White House, and I'm pleased to bring good wishes to all of you from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I've been to Alabama many times over the years, and I count it a privilege to stand here in Birmingham today with one of the finest members of the United States Senate, Jeff Sessions. (Applause.) Jeff is part of a great lineup of Republican officeholders in this state, starting with your newly elected governor, Bob Riley, and my former colleague in the House, Senator Richard Shelby. We've worked with your governor, your senators, Congressman Bachus on many issues affecting Alabama -- including, most recently, the relief effort following the tornadoes last month. And there's another fine public official that I know you're very proud of - Dr. Condoleezza Rice, America's outstanding Secretary of State. (Applause.)

I'm grateful to Jeff today for inviting me to join all of you. It's been 10 years now since the people of Alabama sent Jeff to Washington, and in that time he's proven to be a superb advocate for limited government, for low taxes, a strong national defense, and respect for the values of the American people. On the Energy Committee, he's a voice of common sense. And on the Budget Committee, he keeps a close eye on the taxpayer dollars. On Armed Services, he works to meet the needs of our troops and their families. And on the Judiciary Committee, he's worked with us to confirm judges who understand the Constitution, follow the rule of the law, and do not legislate from the bench. (Applause.)

Jeff Sessions is a man who heard the call to public service early in his career. He's made a difference as a federal prosecutor, as attorney general of this state, and as your senator. And it's testimony to his character that high office has never changed this man. He's a person of decency and humility. He never forgets where he came from and who he answers to. Capitol Hill is a better place for his being there, and he has certainly earned another six years as United States Senator. (Applause.)

The President and I are proud to serve with Jeff, and with his help and good counsel, we've put good ideas to work for the American people. We've cut income taxes for every American who pays them. We reduced the marriage penalty, doubled the child tax credit, cut taxes on dividends and capital gains, and gave small businesses incentives to invest in new equipment and to create new jobs.

Now the results are clear for all to see: The Bush tax relief has proven to be exactly the right policy for the country. If you think of all that has happened in these eventful years -- the recession we inherited, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, natural disasters, a tripling in the price of oil -- it's remarkable how tremendously resilient our economy has been. America has created more than 7.5 million new jobs in the past three and a half years. Unemployment is low; inflation is low; wages are rising. In fact, since 2001, our Gross Domestic Product has grown by 16 percent, an amount greater than the entire economy of Canada.

We are going to work to keep this economy strong by holding the line on federal spending, and by maintaining a low-tax policy that promotes growth and rewards free enterprise. The Democrats in the Senate recently passed their budget, which calls for more spending and higher taxes. In fact, they are trying to enact the largest tax increase in history. We've got a better idea -- Congress should pass the President's budget and make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)

On every issue, from the economy to the courts to national security, the leadership of President Bush has made a tremendous difference for this country. He's the first President in a generation to deliver major tax cuts. He's the President who got us out of the antiquated ABM treaty and deployed missile defenses to protect America. He's the first President since Ronald Reagan to appoint a Chief Justice, and he made an outstanding choice in John Roberts.

Above all, ladies and gentlemen, George Bush is the President we can count on to protect America, to keep our commitments, to stand by our friends, and to win the war on terror. (Applause.)

Progress in the cause of security and peace never comes easily. It requires moral clarity and the courage of our convictions. Above all, it requires active, principled leadership by the United States of America.

The lesson of September 11th is that threats can gather 7,000 miles away and strike us right here at home. And the way to deal with those threats is to fight them where they are, so we don't have to face them on the streets of our own cities. And for the sake of our peace and security in the long run, America stands for the cause of justice, liberty, and democracy as the alternative to ideologies of power and violence.

We've taken up this cause knowing that it would be hard, knowing that it would take time, and knowing that it would require sacrifice. And so we persevere, and we face our challenges with resolve. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States and our coalition removed two of the world's most brutal regimes. And we're keeping our promise to help those countries become secure democracies and allies in the war on terror.

In Iraq, more than 12 million people defied the threats of assassins and car-bombers and came out to vote three times for a democratic future. Now it's time for Iraq's government to move the political process toward reconciliation -- and to do that, they first need security in their capital city. So our coalition is bringing in reinforcements to help Iraqi forces secure Baghdad. This operation is still in the initial phase, and success will require a sustained effort over many months. But the mission is well begun, and General Dave Petraeus and his troops are in the midst of some extremely tough, intense, and dangerous work. They are doing a brilliant job. They need to know this country is behind them all the way. (Applause.)

The ones doing the fighting never lose their focus on their mission, or on what is at stake in this war. And neither should the rest of us. Five and a half years have passed since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the loss that morning of nearly 3,000 innocent people right here at home. As we get farther away from 9/11, I believe there's a temptation to forget the urgency of the task that came to us that day, and the comprehensive approach that's required to protect this country against an enemy that moves and acts on multiple fronts. In fact, five and a half years into the struggle, we find ourselves having to confront a series of myths about the war on terror.

The most common myth is that Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror. Opponents of our military action there have called Iraq a diversion from the real conflict, a distraction from the business of fighting and defeating Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network. We hear this over and over again -- not as an argument, but as an assertion meant to close off argument. Yet the critics conveniently disregard the words of bin Laden himself. "The most T serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War [that is] raging in [Iraq]." He calls it "a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." He said, "The whole world is watching this war," and it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

Obviously, the terrorists have no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq. They have not called it a distraction or a diversion from their war against the United State s. They know it is a central front in that war, and it's where they've chosen to make a stand. Our Marines are fighting al Qaeda terrorists in al Anbar province. U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed al Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad responsible for numerous bomb attacks. Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain. Here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear: If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us. (Applause.)

The second myth is the most transparent -- and that is the notion that one can support the troops without giving them the tools and the reinforcements they need to carry out their mission.

Twisted logic is not exactly a new phenomenon in Washington -- but lately it's gone to new heights. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he was being confirmed to his new post, Senator John McCain put the following question to General Petraeus. "Suppose we send you over to your new job t only we tell you that a you cannot have any additional troops. Can you get your job done?" General Petraeus replied to the senator, "No, sir." Yet within days of his confirmation by a unanimous vote in the Senate -- I repeat, a unanimous vote, not one single vote against General Petraeus -- a large group of senators tried to pass a resolution opposing the very reinforcements he said were necessary. And the House of Representatives, of course, did pass such a resolution. It was not a proud episode in the history of the United States Congress.

Now the Democrats in Congress are working another angle to undercut General Petraeus and the troops. The House passed an emergency war spending bill that put a long list of restrictions on our commanders, and put conditions and deadlines on Iraq's government. And if all the conditions are not met to Congress's satisfaction, the bill mandates a precipitous American withdrawal on a date certain.

The House bill also mandates that by March 1 of next year, American forces would begin a retreat -- with no regard whatsoever for actual conditions on the ground in Iraq. This action by the House of Representatives is irresponsible, and it sends exactly the wrong message to our enemy. When members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines, or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy to simply watch the clock and wait us out. It's time the self-appointed strategists on Capitol Hill understood a very simple concept: You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy when you're going to quit. (Applause.)

In the Senate, as well, Democrats have passed another bad piece of legislation -- over the strong objections, I might add, of Alabama's two senators. Like the House, the Senate has set an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal. And like the House, the Senate Democrats have filled the bill with extra spending for special interests -- spending that has nothing to do with winning the war and protecting the United States of America.

The House and Senate bills are both unacceptable, and if either version comes to the President's desk, he will use the veto, no question about it. (Applause.)

It's also clear that we've got enough supporters of the military in Congress to sustain a veto. And so it's pointless for the Democrats to continue pursuing this legislation. Meanwhile, funding for our mission in Iraq will begin to run out the middle of this month. It's time for Congress to stop the political theater and send the President a bill he can sign into law.

By delaying funding for the troops, the Democrats believe they can make the President accept unwise and inappropriate restrictions on our commanders. It's nothing less than an attempt to force the President's hand. They're going to find out that they've misread George W. Bush. (Applause.)

The fact is that the United States military answers to one Commander-in-Chief in the White House, not 535 commanders-in-chief on Capitol Hill. We expect the House and the Senate to meet the needs of our military on time, in full, and with no strings attached.

Behind this current struggle on Capitol Hill, ladies and gentlemen, is another myth about the war on terror -- the belief on the part of some that if we get out of Iraq before the job is done, we will be better able to wage the war on terror. This myth is dangerous because it represents a complete validation of the al Qaeda strategy. The terrorists do not expect to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have, and they're not likely to try. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission -- and the terrorists do believe they can force that outcome.

Time after time, they have predicted that the American people do not have the stomach for a long-term fight. They've cited the cases of Beirut in the '80s and Somalia in the '90s. These examples, they believe, show that we are weak and decadent, and that if we are hit hard enough, we'll pack it in and retreat. The result would be even greater danger to the United States, because if the terrorists conclude that attacks will change the behavior of a nation, they will attack that nation again and again. And believing they can break our will, they'll become audacious in their tactics, ever more determined to strike and kill our citizens, ever more bold in their ambitions of conquest and empire.

The reality is that, if our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance of the country. The violence could spread throughout the country, and be very difficult to contain. Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions. Many would head for Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others could find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents.

Very clearly a sudden withdrawal of our coalition would dissipate much of the effort that's gone into fighting the global war on terror -- and result in chaos and mounting danger. And for the sake of our own security, we will not stand by and let it happen. (Applause.)

Five and a half years ago, the President told Congress and the country that we had entered a new kind of war, one that would require patience and resolve, and that would influence the policies of our government far into the future. The fact that we have succeeded in stopping another attack on the homeland does not mean our country will not be hit in the future. But the record is testimony not to good luck, but to urgent, competent action by a lot of very skilled men and women -- and to a series of tough decisions by a President who never forgets that his first job is to protect the people of this country.

We can be confident in the outcome of this struggle. America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right, and a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of this earth. We're the kind of country that fights for freedom, and the men and women in that fight are some of the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that's not an option. We will complete the mission, and we will prevail. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the great privileges of public service is the chance to work with leaders of talent and integrity from all across the country. In my career I've had the privilege of working in a Congressman's office, at the White House as chief of staff, as a member of Congress, at the Pentagon as secretary of defense, and now as Vice President and President of the Senate. And in all these experiences, I've rarely encountered a more dedicated, smart, tough, fair-minded, intelligent public servant than Senator Jeff Sessions. (Applause.) He reflects tremendous credit on the people of Alabama, and you can be proud every day that you've sent him to the United States Senate.

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 12:39 P.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks at a Reception for Senator Jeff Sessions in Birmingham, Alabama Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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