Vice President and Mrs. Cheney Q & A in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Crown Plaza Hotel
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
12:50 P.M. CDT
MRS. CHENEY: Thank you all so much. That's really -- wow, what a great welcome. Thank you. It's good to be in Iowa, huh? (Laughter.)
Well, I tell you, I've traveled across this beautiful country with Dick. We travel across this country, and I say to myself so many times how fortunate we are to be Americans. (Applause.)
If I were going to make a list of all the reasons that we're lucky to be born in this country and to be citizens of this country, right at the top of my list, I'd put our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.) He has been a wonderful leader these past four years, and if you'll permit me to say so, the Vice President is no slouch, either. (Applause.)
Well, it's my job, I get to introduce Dick as we travel all across the country, and I've been given this job because I have known him for so long. (Laughter.) I first knew him when he was 14 years old and his job that summer was sweeping out the Ben Franklin store in our hometown in Casper, Wyoming. (Applause.) And I've known him through many a job since. I've known him since he was digging ditches at the central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Grounds, and I've known him since he was loading bentonite, 100-pound sacks of bentonite onto railroad cars, and I have known him since he was building power line across the West to pay his way through school.
And I like to talk about all those jobs, because if you think about it, you learn some really important lessons when you grow up working hard. And one of those lessons is it's really important that the hardworking people of this country get to keep as much of their paychecks as possible. (Applause.)
Well, it's great to be here in Iowa, and the President's working hard today. I understand John Kerry is out looking for women's votes. (Laughter.) When I think about what this President has done, I can sort of understand why John Kerry's got a little gender trouble there on the women's front while he's falling behind in those votes.
Think about it. I mean, think about what this President has accomplished in terms of our schools. People have talked for years about trying to get the kind of high standards and accountability in our schools all across the nation so that people could expect to have schools as good as the ones here in Iowa. And the President accomplished that.
And he's worked for our seniors. We've had Medicare reform. People had talked about that, but now we're going to have prescription drug coverage. (Applause.)
And you think about what this President has done for families, for working families, with cutting taxes four times in four years. (Applause.) And so many of our small businesses, now they're the engine that propels job growth in this country, so many of our small businesses are headed by women, and the tax cuts have done so much to help small businesses invest so they can grow and have more jobs.
When I think of all the things the President has done for women and this administration has to be proud of, you know, I've got to think of Laura Bush. Is she wonderful? (Applause.) She's a librarian. (Laughter.) She's a teacher. And there's no doubt in her mind that raising a family is a real job. (Applause.)
With that, let me just do something that makes me so proud, and that is introduce to you my husband, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, thank you all very much. And, Lynne, that was a pretty good introduction. Not bad. (Laughter.) Not bad. She's getting better. (Laughter.)
And she has known me since I was 14. She wouldn't go out with me until I was 17, though. (Laughter.) Still a sore point.
I tell people we got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States. In those years, I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska, with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conversation Service. And Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the government, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne. And we grew up together, went to high school together, and recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.)
I explained that to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's great election victory in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.)
Well, we're delighted to be here today back in Iowa, and especially to get to spend a little bit of time with our great friends, Deba and Jim Leach, Congressman Jim Leach. (Applause.)
They do a superb job for all of us, and Jim and I have known each other, we figured out, for about 35 years now. And he's been a superb member of Congress and does a great job for everybody here in Iowa. And, Jim, it's good to spend time with you. (Applause.)
Of course, this is campaign time, and we're coming down into the home stretch, if you will. We've got, what, 10 or 11 days left, but who's counting? (Laughter.) And we're traveling all across the country as we make the final push in this year's presidential campaign, and it is an extraordinarily important election. And what I wanted to do today, what we usually do in these town hall meetings, is I'll make some remarks. I've got a subject I'd like to raise and to address and talk about it a bit, and then we'll have an opportunity to open it up and let those of you in the audience ask questions or make comments, and I'll try not to use all the time up with a long-winded speech. And if you'll do something for me, and that is think of some questions to ask Lynne, because she's pretty good at answering questions, too, so -- (laughter.)
But what I'd like to do is talk about specific -- one specific area today, and I don't mean to suggest that this is the only area of importance in this campaign.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: As Lynne suggested, there are a lot of issues at stake in this year's campaign. We're talking about the economy and jobs and education and health care, a wide range of issues that are being addressed and where there are some fundamental differences between the candidates.
But the one area I wanted to focus on in particular was the national security area, because I think it is extraordinarily important, because I think we're going through one of those periods in our history when we're putting in place a new strategy, if you will, that's going to be crucial to safeguarding the nation and protecting our country in the years ahead.
And we come to these moments in our history periodically. We came to one of them after World War II, after we'd won tremendous victories in Europe and the Pacific. War was over, but within a few years, we were faced with the prospects of a Cold War, of a Soviet Union that was nuclear-armed, that had occupied half of Europe, and suddenly was a threat to the fundamental existence of the United States. And we had to develop new strategies, a policy of deterrence. We created new institutions, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, new alliances, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, reconfigured our own forces and so forth, and put in place a strategy that was then supported by Republican and Democratic administrations alike for the next 40 years and was ultimately successful, allowed us to safeguard the United States and protect against an attack until ultimately the Soviet Union collapsed and then the Cold War ended on terms favorable to us.
I think we're at another one of those major turning points, if you will, when we have to sit down and think new thoughts about the nature of the threat we face, about what kind of policies we want to put in place to guarantee that we can secure the nation against that threat. And of all of this, of course, stems from the developments that led up to and subsequently have developed from the events of 9/11, when we recognized, I think everybody recognized after 9/11 that, in fact, we were faced with a very serious threat, the threat that on 9/11 led to the worst attack ever on U.S. soil. We lost more lives that day than we lost at Pearl Harbor.
And the events that occurred there forced us to think anew about the kind of threat we're faced with today, the possibility of a handful of terrorists coming into the United States as they did for the 9/11 attack, armed with knives and boarding passes, able ultimately to kill nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens in New York, Washington and, of course, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight United 93 went in.
The big threat we face now, today, is the possibility of terrorists coming into the United States equipped with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us, terrorists who are able to get their hands on chemical weapons or a biological agent of some kind, or even a nuclear weapon. That's the worst possible scenario we can contemplate at this point, and that's sort of the ultimate threat that we have to face up to when we think about the threat in the years ahead.
Given that, it's been necessary for us to develop a new strategy in terms of how we're going to deal with it. And of course, after 9/11, we did a number of things. We moved very aggressively to make the defenses here at home much tougher than they had ever been before; created the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government since we set up the Department of Defense in 1947. We passed the Patriot Act that gave law enforcement tools that were already available for prosecuting drug traffickers and organized crime, now made them available for prosecuting terrorists. We passed something called Project BioShield, that's specifically designed to give the government the authority and the ability to develop defenses against an attack with biological weapons. A series of steps that we've taken to strengthen our defenses, to protect our airline travelers, to improve our border security and so forth.
But the President also made another crucial decision, and that was, given the nature of the threat -- and remember that threat out there, the possibility of terrorists coming into the U.S. with a deadly technology of some kind -- given the nature of that threat, that there's no such thing as a perfect defense, that we can't hunker down behind our oceans and erect some kind of barrier here in the United States and guarantee they can't get at us. We can be successful 999 times out of 1,000, but that's not good enough, because if they get through just once with deadly weapons of the kind that we know they'd like to acquire, that would be a terrible blow to the U.S., and obviously could potentially put at risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans in a single day.
So we also made the judgment that we have to go on offense, that a good defense isn't enough, you've also got to have a good offense. And that meant we aggressively go after the terrorists, wherever they plot and train and plan and organize. But importantly as well, we go after those who sponsor and support terror, and that was a new departure, but very, very important piece of business, that we no longer would make a distinction, if you will, between the terrorists and between those who'd sponsor terror or provided a safe harbor or sanctuary for terrorists or financing or training or weapons of any kind.
And that was -- has come to be known as the Bush doctrine, but a very, very important contribution on the part of the President, and I think vital to our overall strategy if we're going to be successful in the years ahead at prevailing in what's come to be known as the global war on terror.
And of course, we've done that now. We did it in Afghanistan when we went in and took down the Taliban, closed the training camps where some 20,000 terrorists trained in the late '90s, including some of those who struck us on 9/11, captured and kill hundreds of al Qaeda, and subsequent to that, then begun to practice the standing up a democratically-elected government to replace the one we took down. And that's the final step in the strategy.
Why do you worry about standing up a democratically-elected government in Afghanistan? Well, you can't go in and take down the old regime and prosecute and capture and kill terrorists and then walk away. You'll leave a failed state in your wake. It will simply become, once again, a breeding ground for terror. And the best antidote we know of to terror is freedom and democracy and a freely elected government, and that's exactly what we're standing up in Afghanistan now. (Applause.)
You can find a lot of folks, one of them that comes to mind is John Edwards, my opponent, who six months after we went into Afghanistan was making public statements about how this is never going to work, it's going to revert to chaos, the Taliban are coming back. Well, that was two-and-a-half years ago when he made those statements. And two weeks ago tomorrow, after registering 10 million voters in Afghanistan, nearly half of them women, two weeks ago tomorrow they held the first free elections in the 5,000-year history of Afghanistan. (Applause.)
Now, it is tough. It is difficult. It is not easy, without question. We were concerned that there would be every effort made to disrupt that process. But in fact, the election was held. It was viewed by international observers. It looks like it went off not without a hitch, but in relatively good shape. And by the end of this year, there will be a new democratically elected government in power in Afghanistan. (Applause.)
Now, Iraq, somewhat different circumstances, but the overall strategy is the same. We went in primarily because Saddam Hussein was a man who had started two wars, who had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction, who had for years been on the State Department sponsor of terror list, who had provided sanctuary for Abu Nidal, for Palestinian Islamic Jihad; was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers who would kill Israelis and who had a relationship with al Qaeda. And with that background and that history, and with our concern again being the ultimate threat of terrorists armed with deadlier technologies than they'd ever had before, our concern was that Iraq represented that place where the nexus between terror and weapons of mass destruction was most likely to occur. So we went in and we took down the regime. We put Saddam Hussein in jail, where he is today. It's exactly where he begins -- where he belongs. (Applause.)
Now, in the business of standing up a new government in Iraq. We've got an interim government appointed. They've only been in business a few months, but Iraqis now run all the government ministries. They've got a Prime Minister, Prime Minister Allawi, who is a good man. They have assembled a national convention. They will hold elections in January. They'll write a constitution. By the end of next year, there should be a democratically elected government in place in Iraq. (Applause.)
Now, again, very, very difficult thing to do. It requires us to continue to stay there as long as necessary until they can on the first -- the first requirement is to take responsibility for governing their own country, and secondly, take care of their own security requirements. And both in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're spending a lot of time and effort training and equipping, and standing up security forces so they'll be able to take over the responsibility from our guys, and we'll be able to bring our troops home once they've established the capacity to guarantee their own safety and security with respect to the sovereign territory of both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now, these are difficult tasks. I don't want to underestimate for anybody how tough it is, in part because we know that the old elements of the former regime, or people like Mr. Zarqawi, who seems to be the lead terrorist in Iraq today, a man who has been associated with al Qaeda in the past, ran one of the training camps in Afghanistan prior to 9/11, then fled to Iraq after we took Afghanistan, and just recently pledged his loyalty to Osama bin Laden, he will do everything he can to disrupt that progress toward an election because they know once we've got a democratically elected government in place that can, in fact, exercise sovereign authority over the territory of Iraq, they're through. He's said as much in messages we've intercepted between him and the al Qaeda organization. So we've got to complete the mission, and we will get it done. There's no doubt in my mind but what we can accomplish it. They -- you find a lot of people who say, well, it can't be done. It's hard. It's costly. Yes, but it's not nearly as costly as ignoring this problem and letting it fester for some additional period of time. (Applause.)
Now, the President, I think, has been a superb leader through this period, partly because he's made tough decisions -- some of the toughest decisions that can come to the man in the Oval Office. And he's established a good strategy. He's done, I think, a superb job. And the other group of people that we need to thank for their fantastic efforts on behalf of all of us are the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.)
Now, the alternative of doing nothing, or of trying to revert back to what I call the pre 9/11 mind set, again, where we sort of hunker down here behind our oceans and hope we don't get hit again, and we don't actively engage overseas, and we don't aggressively go after the terrorists and after those who sponsor terror, that alternative I don't think works. Somehow there's this notion that some people will peddle out there that you've got a choice between what we're doing today, and a reversion to a more normal time.
John Kerry talked about this the other day in an interview in The New York Times. He talked about getting terrorism back to the point where it was only a nuisance. (Laughter.) And then he compared it with illegal gambling and prostitution. Now, the implication being you can sort of manage it at some acceptable level here.
But I thought about it when he said that, and when was terrorism ever sort of at an acceptable level, or only a nuisance? And you ask yourself that question, and you go back and you look prior to 9/11, four years ago this month when we -- the USS Cole was stuck off -- off Yemen, and we lost 17 sailors and nearly lost the ship, was it a nuisance then? Or maybe six years ago when they simultaneously hit two of our embassies in East Africa, killed hundreds of people including a number of Americans? Or maybe back 11 years ago, when they first struck the World Trade Center in New York, tried to bring it down that time but failed, injured about a thousand people, killed six or seven? Or maybe it was 1988, December, when they took Pan Am 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland with a bomb? Or maybe 1983, 21 years ago, when a suicide bomber drove a truck into the ground floor of a barracks in Beirut and killed 241 Marines? Think about that and say, well, when was terrorism ever a nuisance? Any of those levels represent an acceptable, manageable level of terror that we're willing to accept? And the answer is obviously not. We're not in business to get terror down to some acceptable level. We're in business to defeat it, and we will with George Bush. (Applause.)
So I think the key for us going forward is to stay the course that we're on with respect to the strategy we've got. There's no doubt in my mind but what we can prevail in this conflict, and defeat this challenge just like we have every other challenge we've faced as a nation in the last 200 and some years -- no reason in the world we can't do it. But we got to make the right decision in terms of who we want to have as our Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. And that's the decision we're going to make on November 2nd.
Now, when I look at John Kerry, I'm not challenging his patriotism -- never have challenged his patriotism. I challenge his judgment because I can go back and I can look at a record that stretches back to the 1970s in terms of what he has said about the major issues of the day involving national security, or how he voted for 20 years in the United States Senate. There's a record there for anybody who wants to, to look at it. And you can't fuzz that record up with a little tough talk in a couple of 90-minute presidential debates.
And the record is that when he ran for Congress the first time, he did so on a platform that we should only commit U.S. forces under the authorization of the United Nations.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Or in 1984, when he ran for the Senate the first time on the basis of cutting or eliminating most of the major weapons systems that Ronald Reagan used to keep the peace and win the Cold War. Or in 1993, after the first World Trade Center bombing when his response to that was to offer an amendment to cut several billion dollars out of the intelligence budget, an amendment that was so far out that even Ted Kennedy wouldn't vote for it. (Laughter.) Or in 1991, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, and the issue before the Congress was whether or not we'd commit U.S. forces. This time the U.N. had already authorized it. They voted to approve it, commit U.S. forces for Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait and kick the Iraqis out. And John Kerry voted no. Or we can come forward, obviously, to current controversy surrounding operations in Iraq and the vote that he cast, first of all, to commit the forces, and then against the resources that were needed for the troops once they got into combat, et cetera. You all know the story. The bottom line is I don't have any confidence in John Kerry to be the kind of tough, aggressive Commander-in-Chief that will aggressively pursue our adversaries overseas. And I think that's a major failing because I don't think we can win the war on terror unless we aggressively go after our enemies. I think that's vital. (Applause.)
So when we think about that on November 2nd, I think it's important for us to keep that in mind in terms of the choice we're making and the consequences that it has for the nation. And as I say, while the cost is high today, borne especially by our military and their families -- they're the ones that are doing the heavy lifting -- the cost will only increase over time if we postpone the day of reckoning, if we allow them to operate as they did in the past without an aggressive U.S. response -- because there was no aggressive response in the '90s after the World Trade Center bombing in '93, or Khobar Towers in '96, or the East Africa embassy bombings in '98, or the USS Cole in 2000, ask yourself what was the U.S. response. And there wasn't much. One time we launched a few cruise missiles at some empty training camps in Afghanistan. That was it.
The terrorists came to believe that they could strike us with impunity, and they also believed they could change our policy if they hit us hard enough. If we go back to that approach, to that pre-9/11 mind set, all that will happen is they will grow bolder. They'll grow stronger. The odds will go up that sooner or later they'll get their hands on those deadly technologies that they'd love to be able to use against us. And the ultimate cost of defeating that kind of threat will increase. It will be higher than it is today -- very important for us to pursue the strategy we're on, to complete the mission. That's the best way to honor the sacrifice of those who have given it all on our behalf. And we'll do that with George Bush as Commander-in-Chief the next four years. (Applause.)
Now, I've rambled on long enough. What we'd like to do is go to questions. We've got some folks out here in the audience in these attractive red jerseys with the numbers on them that kind of glow in the dark. (Laughter.) And they've got microphones. They didn't choose the colors. We did that. That's our fault. (Laughter.)
But if you've got a question or comment, just get the attention of one of the folks with the microphone, and then I'll move around and call on the people with the numbered shirts, and you'll get an opportunity to speak and say your peace, or offer up advice, counsel, or ask a question. Got a number of hands in the air. Here, number three, why don't you come on down and let's get somebody right here in the front row.
Q: Mr. Vice President, I got first a good comment for you. I'm glad you got a flu shot, and I support you 100 percent.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. (Laughter and applause.)
Q: Second, I want to ask you if you'd sign my bear like President Bush did, and if I can get a hug from both you and your lovely wife. (Laughter.) And then third and last, I wanted to know what plans you have on tracking down Osama bin Laden?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That is a good question, and the answer to the first two is yes and yes. (Laughter.)
Osama bin Laden has been a prime focus of our interest, obviously, since before 9/11, really. And we have not let up for a minute. John Kerry suggested somehow we are not aggressively pursuing Osama bin Laden because we've got other interests. That's just not the case. We've been in the hunt here now for a good, long period of time. We haven't seen much of him. You'll notice there haven't been any bin Laden tapes running on the air where he's out broadcasting messages, frankly, because we think he's probably in a deep hole someplace, in hiding. We'll continue on the hunt until we find him. I'm convinced we will eventually get him. And it's just a matter of time and making a major effort, and we're doing exactly that.
We think it's very important, though, to understand the nature of the threat that we're faced with here. Even if you capture bin Laden tomorrow that will not automatically end the nature of the adversary we're faced here with. Remember what we've got -- al Qaeda itself in Arabic stands for "the base." And it's not a tightly organized, hierarchical organization where you chop off the head and everything else below it then collapses. What it is, is sort of a loose confederation, almost a franchise --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello? Yes, this one works. There are a number of organizations out there that are affiliated with al Qaeda.
Now, what do I mean by affiliated? Well, they may have been -- may have individuals who have pledged some kind of --
MRS. CHENEY: Do you want to try both at the same time?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You mean like this? (Laughter and applause.)
Individuals who have pledged some kind of loyalty to bin Laden. In other cases, they may have just been to Afghanistan, gone through the training camps, been trained in the new techniques, and then gone back to their home country.
And I'll give you an example. In Indonesia, there's a group called Jemaah Islamiya. That's the name of the local Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization. A man named Hambali, who is part of the organization, traveled to Afghanistan, got trained in Afghanistan, received funding from al Qaeda, went back to Indonesia, and then was probably behind the bombings in Jakarta and Bali that were launched some months subsequent to that.
And there have been attacks, of course, since 9/11 in Madrid, in Casablanca, in Mombassa in East Africa, in Istanbul, Riyadh, Baghdad, most recently in Beslan in Southern Russia. And so in each of those, if you go out and look at each one of those organizations, you'll find somebody there may have a different name for their organization. They've got their own agenda, and it's localized. It may be targeted on the government of that particular nation or state where they live, but then they've developed these relationships back to the al Qaeda organization. The point being that even after we get bin Laden, we've still got a major problem out there, and that there are -- as I say, one estimate -- 20,000 -- estimated 20,000 terrorists who went through those training camps in the late '90s in Afghanistan. And they then scattered back out around the globe, and we've got to deal with all of those if we're going to be successful at ultimately eliminating the threat. So we want bin Laden. We will get him eventually. But nobody should be under the mistaken notion that this is the operation of just a single individual, and there's no need to be concerned beyond that. This is going to take a major effort for a long time. It involves intelligence. It involves law enforcement. It involves military forces. It involves financing -- locking up financial networks and so forth, and we're doing all of that.
MRS. CHENEY: Dick, I just wanted to say something -- and nobody has asked me a question yet. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There's only been one question asked.
MRS. CHENEY: Oh. (Laughter.) Well, I really get so tired of hearing John Kerry and John Edwards say that somehow we diverted resources from the search for bin Laden because they had to go into Iraq. Well, you know what, Tommy Franks, who was the commanding general -- Tommy Franks tells a very different story, and I believe Tommy Franks. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You can intervene any time you want. (Laughter.)
Q: I know that our intelligence agencies and our military have been successful at stopping some terrorist acts all around the world and possibly here in the United States. Could you relate to us some of those that maybe the press is not aware of, or we've not been made aware of where we've been successful?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I guess, the way I would describe it, we have, in fact, succeeded in breaking up plots, cells. We think of them as cells. Small groups of individuals who are organized, working together to plan and launch attacks. And we've broken up attacks, or broken up cells here in the United States, certainly in Europe, in London, in Spain, in Italy -- are all places I can think of where we've successfully, working with friends and allies, successfully intervened, if you will, to stop attacks from going forward. The effort that's required, as I say, is you sort of have to work all possible angles in order to go after these folks. And it's not -- it's not as though the United States can stand up and order or direct another nation to do so. We have to work with allies to make it possible for this to occur.
(Technical difficulties.) (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And one of the difficulties, frankly, that you have to deal with is different nations have different rules in terms of how they deal with law enforcement problems, or protect individual rights --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Protect the individual rights of a potential terrorist. Some have laws on the books that make it relatively easy for
them to conduct surveillance of a potential terrorist. Others, the emphasis is on protecting the rights of the individual to the point or to the extent that they're not able to operate effectively against them. But there's a high degree of cooperation involved with Pakistan.
Think about Pakistan for a minute, because there we've captured or killed as a result of close cooperation with President Musharraf and the government of Pakistan over 500 al Qaeda in Pakistan, including Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, who was the mastermind of 9/11. There certainly would have been additional attacks that he had directed if we hadn't wrapped him up some time ago. Ramzi Binalshibh, who was Mohamed Atta's roommate. Mohamed Atta was the lead hijacker on 9/11. Ramzi Binalshibh is another one we wrapped up in Pakistan. So every time we get somebody like that and are able to detain them, and lock them up, we learn more about the organization, and about relationships, and about training, and about who has done what to whom, but we also reduce the number of people out there actively plotting and planning against us. And we just have to keep at it.
As I say, it's a tough, long, hard slog. It's important for us to remember this is a different kind of war than we've fought before, partly because you're not dealing with a huge army. It's not like marching across Western Europe in World War II. It's, in fact, dealing with probably a few thousand individuals out there, scattered various places around the world. And you've also got to remember there's no piece of real estate they're trying to defend. There's nothing you can hold at risk that will deter them from attacking us. They're committed to jihad. They want to kill infidels. That's us. And they're perfectly prepared to die in the attempt. And there's no treaty that you can negotiate at the end of the day where you can sit down over a table in Paris or someplace and write an agreement and solve your problems. Just, it's a very different kind of enemy than we've had before. You've got to go after them one-by-one, wherever they gather, plan, train, plot, organize, and take them down. And that's the only guarantee that they won't be able to launch further attacks against the United States.
Q: Mr. Vice President, can I ask you about this voting issue? When you get reelected, is there any way that we can get the voting back to November 2nd, instead of having voting early again so that it can be back to -- so everybody isn't voting early again, like back here in Iowa, since we have early voting? And I know that it's being -- it's sounding so bad here that I know that people are voting early and more than once. So is there any way that you can get it back to the floor where it's everywhere in the United States, everybody is voting once?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that's certainly the objective. (Laughter and applause.) I would worry if we have significant voter fraud by anyone in terms of registration, or in terms of actual voting that anybody who is involved in that kind of activity ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. (Applause.)
But the question of regulating the voting process, the electoral process, setting the terms and conditions for things like early voting, or absentee balloting, or when the polls open, when the polls close, that has always traditionally been the prerogative of the states. And we set the national elections on November 2nd, but in the final analysis regulating that process has always been a state responsibility.
Now, after the 2000 election, it was so close -- of course, the Congress did get involved at the federal level, to some extent, in trying to pass legislation that would improve circumstances and avoid problems. But it may be that more action is necessary.
I'm a little bit reluctant to get into the business of thinking the federal government has to run the whole show. That's sort of contrary to the way our federal system is designed to work. But we do have to be concerned about the integrity of the process. And that's important to all Americans.
And, frankly, I think it's important, as well, in terms of how the rest of the world looks at it. If we can't organize and carry out an election in a competent, honest, open fashion, that's bound to generate questions from some of the folks around the world that we like to advise about how to set up democracies and fully functioning political systems. They'll say, look, if you guys can't keep your own house in order and run your own operation, why should we pay any attention to your advice and counsel to us about how we ought to organize. And that's worrisome. I would not want to see something like that happen. So we'll have to see what happens this time around. I'm hopeful that everybody will, in fact, do everything they can to guarantee that we've got a completely fair and free and impartial and open process here. But if it doesn't work this time around, obviously, I think there'll be a lot more interest generated in trying to find ways to reform the process.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's getting out of hand. Well, I can't comment on the specific situation here in Iowa. Iowa is one of those states, I think, that is generally perceived as having really top-notch government, that people are proud of the government here in Iowa. There's always been a lot of citizen involvement in it. But I think of other states that don't have that kind of reputation that Iowa has had over the years. If you've got problems here, then I would be concerned, obviously.
You got somebody over here.
Q: Mr. Vice President and Lynne, thank you for being here, first of all. My question really is with regards to the Senate rules that are really circumventing the appointments of our President. In doing so, are they really serving their constitutional role? And if not, and there has been some question raised about this by members of the Senate, why has not something been done? And if it is being done, would you speak to that? And is there a serious effort to ameliorate this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Talking now about appointments to the federal bench? Yes. Yes, it is a problem. And it has developed just in this last Congress. Specifically, the Constitution provides for us, for the President to nominate judges to go on the federal bench. And the Senate is charged with the responsibility to advise and consent on those nominations. Historically, for nominees to the federal bench, all that was required was a simple majority vote. You get 51 votes in the Senate today, you ought to get confirmed.
What has happened is the Democrats have decided to pick out and oppose a certain number of nominees, and to use the filibuster to block their approval. Filibuster under the Senate rules requires 60 votes, instead of just a simple majority of 51. And so, in effect, they've imposed a new requirement by using the filibuster to block judicial nominees. Historically, that has not been the case. That is the filibuster has generally been viewed as not applying to judicial appointments. And the motive that is behind it, I think, because of the individuals that they've picked out tend to focus on the appellate courts, the circuit courts of appeal around the country. We've worked out arrangements in many cases to get district court judges confirmed. But others we've not been able to get on the circuit court of appeals. And they're keeping some remarkable people off the bench. I can think of Janice Rogers --
MRS. CHENEY: Janice Rogers Brown.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Janice Rogers Brown from California. She is a member of the California State Supreme Court. She is an African American, the first African American woman on the California State Supreme Court. She's got a great personal story -- daughter of sharecroppers, got an education, worked her way through school, and has done a superb job -- generally viewed as eminently qualified. And they've decided to block her nomination.
MRS. CHENEY: Miguel Estrada.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Miguel Estrada is another one. Miguel Estrada is a man who was born in Honduras, came to this country, learned English, went to school, worked his way through Harvard Law, was editor of the Harvard Law Review, held a prominent post in the Justice Department under both Clinton and Bush administrations, and he, too, has been blocked from a circuit court appointment requiring a filibuster to let him through. These are people who can easily get 53, 54, 55 votes, but because they can't get 60 votes, because the Democrats have approached it on a block, they're kept from doing it.
A good friend of mine, a man named Bill Myers, used to work for my colleague Al Simpson from Wyoming, has been working in Idaho, was nominated to the Ninth Circuit. He's been blocked. He had 55 votes cold on the floor, but they wouldn't let it come to a vote because they used the filibuster. He was nominated to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit was the circuit that recently handed down the decision that said when we pledge allegiance to the flag, we can't say "under God."
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. Sounds to me like they could use some new judges on that circuit. (Applause.)
There are a couple of solutions. One is elect more Republican senators. I think that helps. (Applause.) There are other -- there are some procedural moves that have been contemplated from time to time, in terms of a challenge on the floor of the Senate that basically would involve moving to change the rules of the Senate and do that by a majority vote, in effect, specifically exempting judicial nominations from the filibuster rule. That would probably -- some people call that the, sort of the nuclear option, that would start an amazing battle on the floor of the Senate. Some of us think there's a certain appeal to that kind of an approach. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Thank you very much for being here. Thank you for what you're doing for the state of Iowa and our country. And we have time for one more question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. Let's see if we can get somebody. Do we have anybody back here? Yeah, I'm sorry, we have -- number two, you have somebody there?
Q: Thank you very much for coming. We really appreciate it here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Applause.) There are a number of us who have been very, very active, and we really appreciate the conservative values of the Republican party, and the pro-life and other conservatives agendas on the program. (Applause.)
I'm also concerned about voter fraud, especially with Florida having been such a horrible state in the past. Now I have read that there are 58,000 people who live both in New York and in Florida, and 46,000 of those people are Democrats and they're voting -- they are allowed to vote in both states. And I am really concerned about that, because -- we had another question on voter fraud, but this point concerns me, as well as the fact that Kerry has been intimidating people where there should be no intimidation when it comes to that.
And at our Kirkwood campus just recently, they had set up a Kerry agenda where we were having a satellite voting program there, and it was just a few feet away from where the Kerry people were. But anyway, I'm really concerned about a number of these things, including voter fraud. And thank you again so much for coming to Cedar Rapids.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. (Applause.) Well, I say, I hope that this election comes off without the kind of -- without serious questions being raised by the way it's conducted or by the way some people participate in it. Obviously, I can't guarantee that. But I think we need to do everything we can to make certain that it's a free and fair election, and I think that, in part, puts a responsibility on the backs of local election officials -- state and local election officials.
I know that we also need active participants to get out there as poll watchers and to take advantage of the law to make sure that it is fully and fairly enforced, and if people do see evidence that there is voter fraud, that it be reported to the appropriate authorities so that it can be dealt with.
I think it's vital that we do everything to guarantee that this election, whatever the outcome, is one that can be respected and that it doesn't raise doubts about the quality of democracy here in the United States, so we'll do our best. (Applause.)
Finally, let me thank all of you for being here today. It's been a tremendous privilege for Lynne and me to have the opportunity to participate in this campaign. And when President Bush asked me to sign on as his running mate a little over four years ago, the first time I said, well, I don't think I really want to go back to public life. And then he persuaded me to help him find a running mate. (Laughter.) And we could handle that. I guess that shows I wasn't a very good headhunter. (Laughter.)
But he eventually persuaded me that I was the man he wanted to sign on to give him a hand as the Vice President. (Applause.) It's been an enormous privilege for us, partly because we get the opportunity to come out and spend time with great folks all across the country. We've been in 48 states in this election cycle, and we are enormously privileged, all of us, to be Americans. And make certain that you take advantage of the tremendous privilege we're all given to participating in that electoral process on November 2nd. Thank you very much for being here.
END 1:42 p.m. CDT
Richard B. Cheney, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney Q & A in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/281003