Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks and Q&A at a Coffee with Community Leaders in Davenport, Iowa
Thunder Bay Grille
8:05 A.M. CDT
MODERATOR: I'm the host here this morning at Thunder Bay, and obviously, it's our real pleasure to have a chance to have some breakfast this morning with the Vice President and his wife, Lynne. Thank you very much for coming once again to Iowa.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's good to be back. We're seeing a lot of Iowa. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Yes, you are.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Do you want to say anything this morning?
MRS. CHENEY: Oh, my gosh, you caught me unprepared.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's the first time that ever happened. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: No, we've just had a grand time traveling this country, seeing so many beautiful places. When I come here and I look across the river, and I think -- the wonderful view you've got, and the wonderful life you have here, and the great schools you have for your kids, I think Iowa is a wonderful place to live.
And it just reminds me again of how fortunate we all are to be Americans, and how much we have to be proud of. And I always like to say when I think of a list of things I like to be proud of, I put our President right at the top. (Applause.) He's done a wonderful job these past four years, and I like to add that the Vice President is no slouch either. (Laughter and applause.)
So with that I'll turn it over to Dick, whoever.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Old What's His Name.
MRS. CHENEY: Yes, yes. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're delighted to be here this morning. What we usually do at these events is I take the opportunity to make some opening remarks, to talk about a subject or two that I think is important in terms of the campaign this year, and the decision we're going to make three weeks from today. Three weeks -- but who's counting, right? (Laughter.) But -- and then we'll open it up to questions so I have an opportunity to hear from all of you, as well, too.
Maybe we might just begin initially by going around the table here and have each of you identify yourselves and your affiliation, and then I'll begin to make a few remarks. I know Mike, of course.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all very much. Let me begin this morning, I want to spend a few minutes and talk about what I think is at the heart of this election, probably the most important decision we're going to make, and that's picking a Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. I'm one of those people who believes that periodically -- if you look back at our history, you can find times when we've come to watersheds, if you will, when we've been faced with new circumstances, new threats. We've had to reorganize ourselves, and get equipped to develop a strategy to deal with a new set of circumstances in terms of the basic threats the nation faces.
We did this right after World War II when we were confronted with the Cold War, and we created the Department of Defense, the CIA. We established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, reconfigured our military forces, developed our nuclear capabilities and pursued a strategy of deterrence -- vis-a-vis the Soviet Union -- that worked throughout the Cold War. It was followed for close to 40 years by Republican and Democratic administrations alike, and that was the heart of our national security strategy.
Now we're at another time when I think, especially since 9/11 when we're faced with a set of circumstances that requires us to come up with a new strategy, a new approach, if you will, to defending the nation, because we've got a new threat, a different kind of threat than any we've faced out there before. And that's, in effect, what we've been doing for the last three plus years now.
And of course, at the heart of that effort is to do everything we can to improve our defenses here at home, so we spent a lot of time and effort creating the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganization of the federal government since the Department of Defense was established back in 1947 -- took 22 different agencies, 170,000 people and put them together in a new department with a specific mission of hardening the target, so to speak, of making the United States a more difficult target for the terrorists to come after.
We've done other things -- the Patriot Act that gave law enforcement some of the tools that had already been given to law enforcement for prosecuting organized crime and drug traffickers, but now focused specifically on the terrorism threat; Project BioShield that spends money and grants authority to do a better job of developing technologies that can be used to defend against biological weapons attacks; a series of steps like that that have been vital.
But again, even if we're successful 99 percent of the time on defense, there's no such thing as a perfect defense. And the key decision the President made after 9/11 was we also have to go on offense, and that's a dramatically different posture from the way we dealt with terror in the period prior to 9/11, as a nation.
The fact of the matter was, we'd been hit repeatedly over the years prior to 9/11, and there rarely was a penalty imposed on the terrorists themselves. We'd go after individual terrorists, wrap them up, prosecute them. If we caught them, we'd put them in jail. But it was treated as a criminal problem, as a law enforcement problem.
And the other lesson the terrorists had learned during that period of time was not only that they could strike us with impunity, because they had, but also that if they hit us hard enough, they could change our policies, which they did on a number of occasions. I think of Beirut, for example, in 1983 when we lost 241 Marines and within a matter of weeks, we'd withdrawn our forces; or of Somalia, 1993, we lost 19 soldiers in the battle in Somalia, and within weeks, we were out of Somalia altogether.
So those two lessons I think were unfortunately the ones the terrorists had come away from their prior experience with the U.S. What 9/11 represented was the worst attack ever on American soil. We lost 3,000 Americans that morning, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And we learned in the aftermath of that, that not only were the terrorists out there now aggressively looking for ways to strike the United States -- not just targets overseas but the United States directly -- they also were trying to acquire deadly weapons, deadlier weapons than anything they'd ever used. We know from what we've found in the training camps in Afghanistan, and from interrogating people who were detained that they were doing everything they can and are today doing everything they can to acquire deadlier weapons to use against us, a chemical, or a biological agent, or a nuclear weapon. And the biggest threat we face today as a nation is the possibility of a group of terrorists, one of these terror cells in the midst of one of our cities with that kind of deadly capability -- smallpox or a nuclear weapon -- that in relatively short order could threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Now, unless you get your mind around that concept, and come to grips with that, it's difficult to adopt or understand the strategy that's necessary in order to protect the United States against that kind of attack. But given the threat, in effect, the possibility of terrorists equipped with WMD in the middle of one of our own cities. The President determined, I think, very properly that we had to go aggressively on offense, to go after the terrorists wherever we could find them, but also to go after those who sponsor terror, to go after those states and governments that have provided safe harbor or sanctuary for terrorists over the years, or go after those states that, in effect, had the potential to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists to be used against the United States. And of course, that's the course we embarked upon -- first, when we went into Afghanistan and took down the Taliban regime. We closed the training camps there. There were training camps operating in Afghanistan from about 1996 or '97 on that trained, by one estimate, 20,000 terrorists. And a lot of them then scattered back out around the world -- around the world, some of them subsequently have launched attacks. Some of the people involved in 9/11 were trained in those camps in Afghanistan. But we closed the training camps, took down the Taliban, captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda, and, of course, now we're in the business of the final step of the strategy, which is establishing democratically elected governments in Afghanistan, and also in Iraq. And I'll come back to Iraq in a minute.
But the key there is it doesn't do enough for us simply to go take down a government that has sanctioned or supported terror or to kill terrorists if we then turn around, or walk away from a failed state like Afghanistan. What we have to do to keep it from reverting back to what it once was, from becoming a breeding ground once again for terror, or a place where a government would decide they could develop and acquire weapons of mass destruction is to establish a government there that's capable of exercising sovereign authority over that territory, and it's democratically elected because democracies don't breed terror. And that's exactly what we're doing in Afghanistan.
And in spite of a lot of hand-wringing, a lot of people saying, you can't do it, it's too tough, it's hard -- of course it's hard; it's very hard to do; they've never had an election in Afghanistan before, until Saturday -- and last Saturday we saw the results of a major effort in Afghanistan working with the United States and the United Nations, some 10 million people registered to vote -- almost half of them women. And they came to the polls in massive numbers on Saturday. And for the first time in the 5,000-year history of Afghanistan, there's been a free election there. And we're well on our way to setting up a government. (Applause.)
Now, in Iraq, we've embarked upon a similar course, obviously, a slightly different set of circumstances. But in Saddam Hussein, we had a man who had started two wars previously, a man who had produced and used chemical weapons against the Iranians and against his own people, the Kurds, and who had a robust nuclear program back at the time of the first Gulf War, a man who had a long history of supporting terror; who was paying $25,000 to the family of suicide bombers who would launch attacks in Israel and kill Israelis; who had hosted Abu Nidal over the years and who had a relationship with al Qaeda. This is somewhat controversial. It keeps cropping up. The fact of the matter is, George Tenet, who was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency two years ago, in October of '02, went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in open, public session and testified that there had, in fact, been a roughly 10-year relationship between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government.
The situation we faced there was that Saddam Hussein in Iraq represented the most likely place where there could be a nexus between the terrorists on the one hand and weapons of mass destruction on the other, and based on all the information that we had, I'm convinced the President did exactly the right thing. And looking back on it now, with everything we know today, the world is a whale of a lot better off with Saddam Hussein in jail, and we did the right thing by taking him down, and taking his government down. (Applause.)
Now, we're in the midst of establishing a democratically elected government in Iraq. It is hard. You can find experts out there, pundits, talking heads on television, political candidates who wring their hands and say, oh, my gosh, this is hard. No kidding. Yes, it is hard. This is a state that has lived under a dictatorship for over 30 years, one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century, nearly a million of their own people killed by Saddam Hussein, and all that he represented. But we've got a start. We've got an interim government stood up. They've been in business now a little over 90 days since the end of June, under Mr. Allawi, the Prime Minister. Iraqis now run all of the ministries. We are both in Afghanistan and Iraq training Iraqi and Afghan forces to be able to take over their own responsibility for their security down the road, and that effort is a vital part of the exercise, as well, too. And there will be elections in January in Iraq just as there were elections held last Saturday in Afghanistan. And again, we believe that's key to a successful strategy, that you don't turn around and walk away from Iraq, let it become a failed state, once again become a breeding ground for terror, or for the kind of regime that Saddam Hussein represented that clearly was a threat to everybody in the region and had, in fact, been a safe-haven for terrorists and had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction.
So we're on the right track here. And I think the elections on November 2nd, three weeks from today, will be, in part, a referendum, if you will, on what kind of policy we Americans want to pursue going forward with respect to safeguarding the country and dealing with this war on terror. Now, it is a global conflict -- make no mistake about it. Just think of all the places that have been hit since 9/11 -- Madrid, and Casablanca, and Mombassa in East Africa, and Riyadh, and Jakarta, and Bali and Istanbul, and Beslan in Southern Russia, the most recently, of course, in Taba in Egypt, right along the Israeli border, which looks like it probably was an al Qaeda attack, as well. We don't know for sure yet.
This is a war. It needs to be thought of as a war. That's the way we marshal the resources necessary to win it, and that's the way we make the decisions that are required, that are tough decisions but nonetheless need to be taken if, in fact, we're going to succeed in defeating this threat. You can argue that -- as John Kerry has -- a position that was cited in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday of this week, where he talked about his hope that you could move terror back to a point where it was just a nuisance, like -- and he specifically cited -- like the illegal gambling or prostitution. Those are the examples he cited. And I asked myself, I said, well, when was terrorism only a nuisance? Was it in 1983, when terrorists hit our embassy that spring in Beirut, killed several Americans, including a CIA station chief; or the fall of '83 in Beirut when they killed 241 Marines with a suicide bomber and a truck bomb; or maybe it was 1988 in December, when they took down Pam Am 103 over Scotland; or 1993, the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York, when they tried to take down the tower. They failed. Of course, they came back eight years later and got the job done. Or maybe it was 1996, when they hit the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; or maybe 1988, when they simultaneously hit two of our embassies in East Africa, killed hundreds, including several Americans; or maybe 2000, when they hit the USS Cole, one of our destroyers, off Yemen and killed 19 of our sailors. Which one of those was a nuisance? How do you look back on that track record and say that there was ever a time in the last 20 years when we didn't have to be concerned about terror, when we didn't pay a price for it? What changed on 9/11 was it brought home to everybody that we are the target. It's not just the U.S. presence overseas. They're coming here. They're coming after us if they can and as they did that morning, as I said before, the worst attack ever on American soil, when we lost more than we lost at Pearl Harbor.
Now, I think it's a pretty clear choice on November 2nd. There is no doubt in my mind that the right answer for us is to do what the President has laid out there as our strategy, and it's to actively and aggressively defend the county here at home, go after the terrorists wherever we find them, go after those and confront those and hold to account those who support terror, especially states that are sponsors of terror, and then final step, make certain that when we do take an operation as we did in Afghanistan or Iraq, that what we leave behind is a representative government capable of running the country and providing for its own security and no longer a threat to the United States, or the breeding ground that could develop or become a threat to the United States, or our friends and allies around the world.
So I think people who operate as, or maybe have a hope that there's a way to sort of retreat back behind our oceans, not be actively and aggressively engaged out there, why do we have to use military force and send them thousands of miles away to take on these risks and make the sacrifice on behalf of all of us? And the answer in my mind is because the alternative is to wait; the alternative is to turn the other cheek; or to act as though this is not a global conflict, to ignore all those places they've hit since 9/11, and not actively and aggressively go on offense. But I'm convinced if we were to do that, ultimately the cost of solving this problem is only going to go up. The terrorists are going to grow stronger. They're going to hit more places. They may well acquire those deadly weapons, weapons of mass destruction that they want to acquire to use against us, and ultimately the cost of dealing with the problem goes up over time, it doesn't go down.
So we've watched what happened in the '80s and the '90s where our basic response was, I think, generally inadequate most of the time. The terrorists got away with striking us with impunity. We fired off a few cruise missiles at training camps in Afghanistan in 1998, but that was about it. I think what we learned from that period of time is they only were emboldened by our failure to act, by our failure to move aggressively against them. And they learned those two unfortunate lessons -- one, they could strike us with impunity, because they did repeatedly; secondly, that they could change our policy if they hit us hard enough, because they did. And that day, I think, ended on 9/11, and it ended because George Bush is President of the United States. (Applause.)
I think the choice is pretty clear. We've got a President who has been operating as Commander-in-Chief now for over three years. He's got a proven track record out there that anybody who wants to can look at it. He understands full well what is involved in this kind of effort. He is not a man who makes a decision lightly and then changes it because the polls don't look good, or because he comes under political heat, or because somebody criticizes him. I think if you look at John Kerry's track record over the years, I think it is -- by anybody's standard, once you look at it -- one that consistently shows that for all of his years in the United States Senate and before that, he came down on the wrong side of every major defense issue of our time. And I think you have to go look at the record.
You look, for example, at his first race for Congress back in the '70s when he ran on the basis that U.S. troops should only be committed someplace with U.N. authorization, or U.N. approval; or 1984, when he ran for the Senate the first time on a platform of cutting or eliminating a great many of our major weapons systems, programs that were put in place during the Reagan administration that were vital to winning the Cold War; or 1990 and '91, I remember well when I was Secretary of Defense and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. And we got ready then, mounted an international coalition, had 34 countries operating alongside, have the approval of the United Nations Security Council at that point. And we had a vote in the Senate about whether or not we should go forward, was the President authorized to go forward with the use of force to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, what became known as Operation Desert Storm -- John Kerry voted no. Now, that met all the tests that he supposedly has laid out, and it still wasn't good enough. And we fast forward a little more, you look at his record on the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he was serving at the time of the attack on the first World Trade Center, and basically what it shows is that he had missed virtually all of the meetings of the intelligence committee in the year after the attack on the World Trade Center, and simultaneously introduced an amendment to the intelligence authorization bill that would have cut intelligence spending by over $6 billion. That was so far out even Ted Kennedy wouldn't support it. (Laughter.) So if you roll forward, there is a pattern of him consistently coming down, as I say, on the wrong side of each of these issues.
Now, he's tried hard in this campaign to obscure that record. He went to Boston and didn't talk about his Senate record. You won't find any mention of it to speak of, in connection with the convention up there. What he talked about was his service in Vietnam, which we've honored him for. In my acceptance speech to the Republican Convention in New York City, I praised John Kerry for his service in Vietnam and got a round of applause for it at a Republican Convention. We've never challenged his patriotism. What we challenge is his judgment. And his judgment has consistently, I believe, been flawed on this. And he's trying now during the course of the campaign -- when it suited his purpose to try to obscure that earlier record, that's why I think he voted for the authorization to use force this time around against Saddam Hussein, but then several months later, when he was under a lot of pressure from Howard Dean, as Howard Dean was running away with the Democratic primaries, and running as an anti-war candidate, then in fact, we then saw John Kerry cast the vote against the funding for the troops, the $87 billion that was needed to provide them with the equipment and spare parts and ammunition and so forth they needed to prosecute the war in Iraq. And I think he did it primarily because he came under a lot of political pressure, and he needed to portray himself as an anti-war candidate in order to be successful in Democratic primaries. So he switched. And since then, he's been back and forth on these and other issues.
He talked in the debate the other night about a global test. I'm curious what kind of global test you need before you commit U.S. forces. That's a decision the President of the United States makes. He can't delegate that to anybody else. He should never delegate it to anybody else. And I think setting up a global test, or restricting yourself isn't wise policy, isn't the solid course of action to go on.
Now, if we evaluate where Senator Kerry is on Iraq and on the global war on terror, it's very hard to tell. Friday night in the debate, he said, I've never changed my mind on Iraq. Words right out of his mouth. That's on page 5 of the transcript. He said he believed Saddam Hussein was a threat, and on page 12 of the transcript, he said, Iraq was not a threat. It is very hard, I think, for us to accept the proposition that this man has demonstrated consistently over time the qualities, I think, we need in a Commander-in-Chief given the nature of the threat we face, and given what is going to be required in the years ahead to keep America safe and defeat our enemies and guarantee the safety and security of our kids and grandkids, and that ultimately is the test.
Finally, I've rambled on long enough, I want to just close by saying that we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to our men and women in uniform and their families. They're the ones that are doing the -- (Applause.)
I think the choice is clear. I believe the American people understand the choice is very clear, and I think that's what we'll see three weeks from today. But in the meantime, we're not taking anything for granted. We're working hard all across the country. We've been delighted with the support we've seen in Iowa this year. We'll be back again between now and 21 days from now, so thank you very much for being here this morning. (Applause.)
Mike, go ahead, and I guess you're going to moderate.
MODERATOR: I think we're going to open it up to some questions for the Vice President.
Q: I'm a local farmer here, and I for one -- and I know everyone in this room really appreciates the fact that the administration, you and the President, are in there -- the dignity, the steadfast goals that you've set for this country are right on course.
Mrs. Cheney, I have a family farm. My wife is very involved. It is great to see you with the Vice President, and I'm very proud of both the First Lady and you and what you bring to the ticket. (Applause.)
I have four children, one of which just left this morning to go to Washington, D.C. He's a senior in high school; he's going to learn about politics. (Laughter.) I'm glad that you're in there as the administration.
The other two boys came home from college, are in production agriculture. In fact, at this time, they're running the combine, bringing in a bumper corn crop, so we're going to have a good crop. I think -- and the one son says to be sure to tell you that you did an outstanding job in the debate. (Applause.)
I want to thank you for the administration's efforts on the job bill, and the corporate tax law, which just passed yesterday in the Senate, the House on Friday. That's going to bring tremendous help to farmers, to co-ops, to manufacturers, to many areas of the economy, and particularly the rural area, which I am, by the way, involved.
The other thing I want to thank you for is the trade policy that the administration has had. We are very good at producing. We're very good at producing. We're very good at domestically getting our product to our domestic consumers, but we need access to foreign trade. And your administration has been a champion on opening up of areas that we can get our further value-added products into -- and value-added in Iowa and the Midwest mean jobs, jobs and taxes so vitally important.
We are sitting very close to the Mississippi River, and I think if my sons are going to be competitive in the future, one thing I would ask the administration is that you continue to try to work hard to make sure the locks and dams are improved so that we have an opportunity to be competitive in the global market. But I just want to say a big thank you for everything that you've done.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, appreciate that. (Applause.)
I think it's important to remind people of how enormously important agriculture is to our total economy. It's not just about the rural areas, or farming. I think you probably know these numbers better than I do, but something like every third acre in America is devoted to export, and that the numbers I looked at the other day, showed for Iowa, doesn't all exports, but the export market for Iowa and for agricultural and other products is about $18,000 per capita for every man, woman and child in the state. So access to those foreign markets is vital. The President has aggressively pursued that. I think we've negotiated now bilateral agreements with -- free-trade agreements with 12 nations that we've wrapped up on our watch, and we've got 10 more in the works. That combined market there is something like $2.5 trillion. When you look at what it will represent, it will be about the fifth largest market that the United States has anyplace in the world. China has become an important export market for us, especially for soy beans, and the prices have held up reasonably well. So a bumper crop is obviously something everybody is very interested in. No, we think it's a vital part of our economy, and we're delighted that the programs are working.
Q: Mr. Cheney, first of all, I want to thank you -- and of course, my wife is involved in this -- but I want to thank you for backing the President so steadfastly in these years when I personally think next to Jesus Christ, he probably took the greatest load upon his shoulders of any individual, so it had to be with strong backing that he has been able to stand for his testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. I appreciate you backing him, so many times stating this is the President's programs, I'm with the President. So thank you for that, very much.
The question this morning with me, when there is much, much talk about jobs lost under this administration, maybe it has been and I've not heard it, but why is there not more said about the job loss on 9/11, and we've had to recover all of that plus some other jobs?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now, let me go ahead and talk about the jobs situation. One of the things people have been concerned about is manufacturing, and there has been a long-term downward trend since about 1970 in terms of employment in manufacturing. I know the last three years of the Clinton administration, the total manufacturing job loss in the country was about 530,000 jobs. So this is not a new problem. It's one that arrived before we got here.
If you look at the overall performance of the economy, clearly we were headed for a recession as we took over in January of '01, and then that was followed up by the attack on 9/11, which cost us by one estimate a million jobs over the course of the next couple of months in terms of what that attack did to travel, to tourism and so forth. So it has been a challenging time for us. But I think as I look at it, it's amazing how resilient the economy was, and that we could take shocks like that, and bounce back and keep going. It turned out to be one of the shortest recessions on record, I think in part because of the President's policies, because in fact, we went aggressively forward with tax reduction on the income tax side, but -- reduced rates across the board, but we also increased the child tax credit. We reduced the marriage penalty. We got the phase-out of the death tax. All of these things that help middle class Americans -- created a new 10 percent bracket at the lower income level. We also dropped about 5 million people off the income tax rolls altogether with that change. But most especially, we made it possible for farms and ranchers and small businesses to increase the amount they could expense from $25,000 to $100,000 a year, and let people invest in new equipment. And keep in mind that seven out of 10 new jobs in this country are created by small business. So all the policies that we've pursued that area have been instrumental, I think, in helping the recovery.
Where are we today? Well, the unemployment rate today is 5.4 percent nationwide. That is less than what it was when Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996 and touted a strong economy, then it was about 5.5 percent. We've added 1.9 million new jobs over the last 13 months. The other intriguing thing is to look at what is happening with respect to employment and which survey you look at. The numbers that we see all the time, in terms of that are reported in the press, is what is taken from what is called the establishment survey. This is where the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- the Department of Labor goes out, and they've got a list of
companies they contact on a regular basis and ask if they're hiring or laying off, and that gives you your overall measure.
But there's another survey that I think over time is important, and that's the household survey. That's where you go to an individual household and ask people how many people in the house or in the home are working. And what it shows is a significant increase -- and it shows that these two indicators that have tracked fairly closely historically have started to diverge, with the household survey producing significantly more employment than the establishment survey going back now -- starting about three years ago. And one suggestion is that there are fundamental changes underway in the economy, more people are in business for themselves. That gets picked up under the household survey; it doesn't get picked up under the establishment survey. And if you look at the household survey what it shows is that on balance net, we've added 2 million new jobs since January of '01 when we came in.
So I think things are good in terms of we're making significant progress. We're not going to be satisfied until everybody who wants to work can find a job. We need to do everything we can to make America the best place in the world to do business, and that means we've got to address tax policy and regulations and the need for litigation reform, and a first class education system so that we've got a work force that's trained and can take advantage of the job opportunities that come along. We've got to recognize that this is a very competitive world we live, and we've got to be able to beat the competition wherever they're located, and so we need to look to our own circumstances here at home and make certain that government is supportive of those efforts and it doesn't get in the way of the need for the private sector to be able to go out there and invest, and take risk, and display the old entrepreneurial spirit that builds businesses and creates job opportunities and guarantees long-term economic success. And that's what we're about.
Q: I'm an intermediate school teacher here in Davenport, Iowa. And I'd like to talk with you about the No Child Left Behind. First of all, I'd like to say that I don't think we hear enough positive things about the many opportunities that it's providing for our children to succeed in school -- and I'd like to thank you for noticing what good schools we have here in Iowa. I'm very proud to be an educator in the state of Iowa. (Applause.) We have some absolutely marvelous programs that have been put into place under our President's and your guidance in the past three years. I'd like to just mention a few of those positive changes that we've seen that I personally have seen within my classroom, and in our district.
We have an excellent after-school program that allows children to continue building skills on reading and math and science that we didn't have before your administration. And I think that's marvelous that our children have that extra opportunity, and I thank you for your support -- both financially and your support that Laura Bush gives us with her reading, which is wonderful.
We also, as educators now, have an opportunity to actually look at test scores and figure out who the children are that need the improvement, and then to focus our lessons on those. In my building now, we have daily focused lessons on reading, which we are seeing growth with our children already in the first six weeks of school. We are seeing improvements made. And that's through initiatives that have been provided through the No Child Left Behind. I think that I'm fortunate as an educator to have those opportunities now to work with those children.
Also we've been noticing a heightened safety awareness within our buildings, and it's so nice to have that safety in our buildings and to know that our children are safe and that we're in a safe work environment on a daily basis. And it's wonderful, we just finished parent-teacher conferences, and many parents noticed a difference in their child's learning -- in their child's attitude towards learning. They're excited about the new programs that we have in our building, and they're excited about being in middle school. I'm a 6th grade teacher, so it's a transitional year. They've just come out of the elementary building into intermediate building, and that can be a big change for many children.
I really appreciate the way that President Bush and you have supported us by funding our programs that we have. So many times we hear -- just Friday evening, Kerry mentioned, well, No Child Left Behind, you've thrown that out there, but you've not given the schools anything, well, I'd like to talk to him about that because you have. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you.
MRS. CHENEY: I do appreciate that testimony because like you I get tired of hearing about -- they're not -- haven't been any funding increases for No Child Left Behind. And the funding increases under the Bush administration, which has been going on for three years and, oh, I don't know, eight or nine months now have been more than the increases that occurred under the Clinton administration over eight years. So it has been quite dramatic. But I just want to say, Dick and I both went to public school. And we understand totally that education is the key to opportunity, and so does the President. I tell you, if there's one thing you can do to make sure that every child in this country gets a chance to rise and succeed in the world, it's have good public schools. And I will be ever proud of what this President has done for elementary and secondary education, and looking forward to the extension of the ideas of accountability and high standards, the extension of those ideas into high schools all across the country, which is what he has promised for a second term.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: We need to keep the Vice President and Mrs. Cheney on schedule, so we only have time for one more question.
Q: Good morning, Vice President Cheney, Mrs. Cheney.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Morning.
Q: Thank you for coming. This morning in line I was talking to a World War II veteran and he told me how he had served our country. Quite often as citizens, we're asking you, the public servants, for things as you run for office, but when I was growing up, President Kennedy asked us to ask what we could do for our country, what are some of the things that your administration is doing to empower people to serve their country, to give back to the country?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the advice and counsel is a good one. I guess, I'd start -- the thing that comes immediately to mind, partly because of the time of year it is, is the active participation in the political process, that one of the unique and distinguishing features of our civilization is we get to pick our leaders and then hold them accountable. And we do that through the elections process. And I can't think of a more appropriate role or way for people to say thank you, or to contribute, if you will, to the overall success of our society than to become active participants in that process, whether it's as a volunteer manning headquarters, or out there as a candidate, whether you're raising money, or working the phone banks, or knocking on doors, whatever it is, we are uniquely blessed to have that privilege, and an awful lot of people paid a very high price to make it possible for us to do that. And to some extent, we honor their sacrifice by being active, participating in the process, thanking those who have gone before for what they've done to make all of that possible.
But there are a lot of ways people contribute I think to the overall good of the society. Obviously, we've got folks serving in the military, and we owe them a very special debt. But you can look at so many different activities in our society, school teachers, first responders, our fire, police and medical personnel who look after us in a crisis. The contributions that so many different people make in so many different ways, start a business. You got a business you're providing job opportunities for people, they, in turn, are able to support their families. So I don't think it's restricted necessarily to being on the public payroll, or running for public office. There are a great many ways that people participate in our society and give back more than they receive. And I think that's one of the great strengths, if you will, of what it means to be an American. But we are a society of volunteers, and we do do so many different things whether it's through our church groups or civic organizations, or the political process, there are numerous opportunities out there for anybody who wants to jump in, and so I certainly would encourage it.
As I say, right now the thing that comes immediately to mind since this is an election year is don't pass up the right and the responsibility to participate in that process, especially on November 2nd, three weeks from today. So again, thank you all very much for being here. (Applause.)
MRS. CHENEY: We got to go?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We do.
MRS. CHENEY: Oh. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Thank you so much.
MRS. CHENEY: Can we take cinnamon rolls?
MODERATOR: You can take all you want. Thank you very much for coming.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
END 8:45 A.M. CDT
Richard B. Cheney, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks and Q&A at a Coffee with Community Leaders in Davenport, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/282096