Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Midwest Airline Center
5:08 P.M. CDT
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. CHENEY: Wow.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all very much.
MRS. CHENEY: Dick, this is a really special crowd. But I tell you, I'm just touched in my heart by that introduction from Bart Starr. What a wonderful man he is. (Applause.)
And we have had a great day in Wisconsin. I'm telling you it is the most beautiful day. You've got the most beautiful state, and we have just enjoyed traveling around. We've got a bus outside. And it has been terrific. So far I've eaten bratwurst and custard. (Laughter and applause.)
Well, I get to introduce Dick. And I have this job because I have known him for such a long time, and they think I'm an expert. I guess I am. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: If you aren't, I don't know who is. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: No, that's true. I have known him since he was 14 years old. And when I first knew him, he was working at the Ben Franklin store in Casper, Wyoming. And his job was sweeping out the store. It gave him some executive experience, right? (Laughter.) But I like to tell about all the jobs that Dick has had since I've known him. He used to dig ditches at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Grounds outside our hometown in Casper. He used to load bentonite, 100-pound bags of bentonite onto railroad cars. That was one of his jobs. He built power line across the West. That was the job he used to pay his way through school. And I like to tell all those stories because I think when you grow up working hard, you learn some really significant lessons. And one of those lessons is how important it is for the hard working men and women of this country to get to keep as much of their paychecks as possible. (Applause.)
Well, we've had a wonderful time campaigning. It can be hard at times. It's a lot of travel, but this is the most beautiful country. This is such a great country, and we have so much to be proud of as Americans. (Applause.) And if I were going to make a list of all of the things we have to be proud of, right at the top, I would put our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.) He has been a magnificent leader over these past four years. And if you'll permit me to say so, the Vice President is no slouch either. (Applause.)
So it gives me great pride to introduce to you to my husband, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you for that warm welcome. It's great to be back in Wisconsin. We've spent a little time here over the years.
I was reminiscing today the first time I traveled through eastern Wisconsin in a political effort was 38 years ago with Warren Knowles, who was then the governor of Wisconsin. I came to Wisconsin -- Lynne and I did in January of 1966. We weren't newlyweds, but close to it. And I worked for the Governor for about a year in 1966, campaigned all over the state with him. And I remember campaigning with Bill Steiger, great congressman from the sixth district. He's a good friend of mine. (Applause.) And we're delighted today to have two of our members of the Wisconsin delegation with us -- Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner. (Applause.)
Of course, in those days in 1966, Bart Starr wasn't campaigning with us. (Laughter.) He had a more important job. He's was a quarterback for the Packers. (Applause.) We're delighted to be with him. Bart extended the privilege to us. Four years ago we campaigned with him across Wisconsin, and he brought us luck, so we thought we'd come back again this year. And we're delighted that he's been willing to spend some time with us today. (Applause.) And this looks like Bush-Cheney country. (Applause.)
Lynne talks about knowing me since she was 14 years old. That's true. But she wouldn't go out with until she was 17. (Laughter.) And I like to talk a lot about the fact that we got married because of the great Republican victory in 1952 when Dwight Eisenhower got elected President. I see frowns in the audience. People say, all right. But what happened in 1952, I lived with my folks in Lincoln, Nebraska -- just a youngster. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, which is where I met Lynne. And we grew up together, went to high school together, and a week ago Sunday celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) And I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) And every man in the audience knows it's absolutely true. (Laughter.) That's the way it works.
But we are delighted to be here today. This has been a great trip for us, starting in Green Bay and down through Sheboygan and so forth. Wisconsin is an extraordinarily important state. It's a battleground state. And that's why you're seeing so much of us. And I'm confident on November 2nd, it's going to be in the winning Bush-Cheney column. (Applause.) But we -- I say, Lynne and I feel like we've got Wisconsin roots. We lived here longer than anyplace other than, I guess, Wyoming or Washington and enjoyed very much our time here. We -- our oldest daughter who is traveling with us today, is here someplace, Liz, was born over in Madison while we were students over there, and while I was working for the Governor. And we've been back many times over the years, and we've got a lot of great friends all across Wisconsin.
But what we'd like to do today is spend a little bit of time, and I've got a couple of thoughts I'd like to share with you about the decisions and the issues that we're wrestling with this year, and then throw it open to questions. And we'll have an opportunity to respond to some of your concerns and comments, as well, too. We've done some of these town hall meetings various places around the country. We like the format. It seems to work well, and it gives us an opportunity to hear from all of you, as well, too. So that's what we propose to do here in the next period of time.
But let me begin by talking about the election this year, and about the issues we're faced with because I do believe -- and I've been involved in this business now for a long time -- I do believe this is the most important election I've ever participated in. Now, you might say, well, your name is on the ballot. Well, that's true. (Laughter.) But more than that, I think it's one of those elections that comes along every once in a while where as a nation we make a decision about the course we're going to follow in the years ahead on some basic, fundamental issues, such as defending the nation -- what kind of national security strategy we're going to pursue, or what kind of domestic policies we're going to pursue. And you can look back through our history and find periods of time when we've made these kinds of decisions, and then see that it became the basic course for the country that was supported then sometimes for the next 30 or 40 years. And I think this may be that kind of an election. I think it's true, especially in the national security area, but also to some extent in the domestic area.
And let me begin by saying a few words about the economy. We think that's an important issue this year. But then I also want to talk about the war on terror, the challenges we're faced with there, too. One the economic front, of course, when the President and I were sworn in not quite four years ago now, three-and-a-half years ago, the economy was sliding into recession. And of course, shortly after that the attack of 9/11 came along and really shook the economy. We lost about a million jobs within a matter of weeks after the attack of 9/11. The travel and tourism industry was hard hit, the airlines, and so forth. To some extent, they're still suffering -- the airlines are -- from the aftermath of that.
But we had to make some basic, fundamental decisions, the President did. And he decided that the most important thing we could do from the standpoint of reinvigorating the economy, and getting the economic growth restored and creating jobs and doing all those things that are so important to maintain a prosperous and healthy America and having opportunities for all of those who want to work, was to leave more money in the hands of the people who earned it, and so he decided to cut taxes. (Applause.)
Now, there's some fundamental, underlying principles there when you make that decision that I think the President got absolutely right, and rather than have government take the money and spend it, that we were going to get more prosperity, more growth, and wiser decisions collectively as a nation if the American people were allowed to make those decisions for themselves. So what we did was to move aggressively to double the marriage credit -- the child credit, for example, to reduce the marriage penalty, to cut rates across the board, the create further incentives by allowing small businesses to expense more so they can invest and create additional jobs. We repealed the death tax so that over time people who had small businesses or farms and ranches could pass it on to the next generation without having it taxed away after they'd already paid tax on it during their lifetime -- a whole series of decisions; reduced the rate on capital gains, and reduced the double-taxation of dividends so that we could stimulate more growth, more savings, more investment in our economy -- a key decision. Absolutely essential, going forward, though, that we keep that basic, fundamental tax policy in place because the problem is that those laws will sunset a few years down the road unless we extend them by statute.
And there is a fundamental difference here between the way we look at these operations, and that basic set of principles and the way Senator Kerry looks at them. I think Senator Kerry has said, specifically, that he would repeal many of the Bush tax cuts within his first hundred days in office. He's called for tax increases. He's called for $2 trillion in additional spending, and he's also said he's got a goal of wanting to cut the deficit in half within four years. To do that, to increase spending $2 trillion and cut the deficit at the same time, there's only one way to do it, and that's with broad gauge, across-the-board tax increases. And that's exactly what we don't need at this time. If we're going to maintain the course we're on and continue to create jobs, and continue to create expansion of the economy and hope and opportunity for the American people economically, we don't need another tax increase. (Applause.)
But there are a number of other things we need to do, too. And we talk about a strong, healthy, growing economy and a prosperous America, there isn't any one single sort of silver bullet that solves all the problems. You got to address the issue in several ways. You've also got to focus, as we talked about, on tax policy. You also need to have a decent energy policy. There isn't any way we can have a strong viable economy if we don't have adequate supplies of affordable energy to run the economy with. (Applause.)
Now, we've been working on getting an energy bill through the Congress. We've got it through the House of Representatives. It has been passed a couple times now. It has been blocked in the Senate. Last time, it came up two votes short in the Senate. Senators Kerry and Edwards didn't even show up to vote. So we'll continue to work that, to get a sound energy policy in place, one that encourages new technologies and innovation, and conservation, and reduces our overall dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Education comes immediately to mind. You cannot have a strong, prosperous America without a good, solid, sound educational system. You can't have people able to take advantage of the job opportunities that are out there if they don't have an adequate education system. And we can't achieve the hopes and dreams we want for our kids and grandkids if they can't go through a first class education system and acquire the skills they need in order to prosper later in life and to be full functioning, effective members of our society.
Lynne and I both are products of public school. We got great educations at public schools in Wyoming in our day. And it ought to be that way for everybody all across the country. (Applause.) The first piece of legislation the President introduced when he got sworn in was the No Child Left Behind Act, the proposal that had been developed first in Texas when he was governor, and then he brought it to Washington -- basically, the idea of establishing high standards, measuring performance and establishing accountability for parents and teachers in our public school system so parents would know whether or not the schools are producing the results that are needed with respect to providing adequate education for their kids, and creating alternatives if need be, so that if they were trapped in a failing school, that they could move to another public school, an alternative public school, or get support and assistance, for example, in tutoring. A basic, fundamental decision that we think is very sound, and we need to continue to work aggressively to improve on in the future.
The health care costs are another prime area where you've got to be able to have sound, intelligence policy if you're going to have a strong, viable, functioning economy. Right now today, if you look at the uninsured in America, about 60 percent of the uninsured are, in fact, employees or owners of small businesses. And small businesses are at the same time at the heart of our economic growth. They create seven out of every 10 new jobs in America -- our small businesses. And we got to find ways to make it possible for them to meet their needs and requirements, and to be able to provide the health care benefits for their workers when they want to do that. And part of that is some of the proposals the President has put forth, for example, the whole idea of health associations that would allow the pooling of small businesses to come together and create a pool of insured and receive the same kind of benefits and cost reductions that a major corporation gets. It would help significantly in terms of providing an edge for the small businesses in terms of meeting that basic, fundamental requirement.
We need medical liability reform. One of the big problems we've had all across the country is the cost of the malpractice insurance. In a lot of states, my home state of Wyoming, for example, the cost of malpractice insurance has gone up so high, so fast that doctors are leaving the state. They aren't able to pay for the insurance in order to be able to stay in business. In our hometown, the cost of a policy for a general practitioner just to stay in business has gone from $40,000 to $100,000 a year in about three years. We can't get docs to come to the state when they get out of medical school because they need $80,000 up front for the insurance policy to insure them against medical malpractice liability. So that's an area that needs to be addressed. We've succeeded in doing that in the House. We've gotten legislation through the House. Again, it has been blocked in the Senate. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards don't believe in medical liability reform. They're opposed to it. That's another area that needs to be addressed. So a series of programs there where you'll find fundamental differences, I believe, between what the President stands for and represents, and what our opponents believe. And if there are doubts about what they stand for and believe in, all you got to do is look at the record. And I'll talk about that a bit more in a minute. But the fact of the matter is, of course, John Kerry has been member of the United States Senate for 20 years. A senator votes a lot, and you can go look at the basic fundamental issues that were addressed over that 20-year period of time and judge for yourself whether or not he has voted in a way that is consistent with your views, your philosophy, and what we think needs to be done for the country.
And I won't prejudge -- well, yes, I will. (Laughter.) I don't think his philosophy is consistent with the one I've laid out. I don't think it's consistent with the way folks here in Wisconsin believe, or all out across the country. He may have done a good job of representing Massachusetts, but Massachusetts isn't Wisconsin, or Wyoming, or Texas. (Applause.)
The President laid out a series of these proposals in his acceptance speech the other night in New York at what I think was a great convention. I don't know how many of you saw it. But it was a tremendous event. (Applause.) And I really enjoyed the convention. I've done eight of them over the years. And they're always a very special occasion, but I was really glad that Zell Miller, of Georgia, is on our side. (Applause.) But we had a great line-up. Of course, in addition, to the President and Laura, we had John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Guiliani. (Applause.) It was a superb convention.
But if you look at that, you'll see a lot of the basic ideas that were laid out there that we think are important priorities for us in the years ahead.
Let me spend a couple of minutes, if I can, on the national security situation and the war on terror because it is so important, and because I think -- as I said, earlier, this is one of those watershed elections that may decide the course for the nation for a good many years to come.
When we got hit on 9/11, it changed everything in a sense. It forced us to think in new ways about the nature of the threat that we face. Before we'd all gotten used to the Cold War, and the Soviet threat, and the possibility of all-out global war with the Soviets. But we'd put in place strategies that had prevented that, that had been there for 40 years. The period after World War II, we created the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And then for about 40 years, we supported, Republican and Democrat administrations alike, went forward and pursued the policies of deterrence and containment that worked, that allowed us to prevail in the Cold War without there ever being an out-and-out conflict with the Soviet Union.
But when we start to think about what happened on 9/11, and how we were hit that day, the damage that was done to us by 19 terrorists with knives or box cutters and boarding passes, and the fact that they killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens that morning, more people than we lost at Pearl Harbor, worst attack ever on American soil by a foreign power, then you have to think, well, does the old Cold War strategy work when we're talking about terrorists? How do you deter a terrorist who is committed to jihad, whose basic aim in life is to kill infidels, especially Americans, who has no piece of real estate anyplace that he values that you can hold at risk in order to deter him from an attack against the United States? The whole concept doesn't make any sense when you're talking about al Qaeda.
We've got to put together a brand new approach to defending the nation given the nature of that threat. We also, as a result of a lot of the work that's been done since 9/11, that the biggest threat we face today is the possibility of a terror cell, an al Qaeda, a piece of the al Qaeda organization, or other terror cell in the middle of one of our own cities with a weapon of mass destruction -- that is to say, with a biological agent, for example, or even an nuclear weapon. That's the ultimate threat today that we have to contemplate. And we have to make absolutely certain that that never happens in the United States because if they ever acquired that kind of capability and were able to bring it into the country, there is absolutely no reason why they wouldn't use it. There's no restraint on their part. They will kill anybody -- man, woman, or child -- that stands in their way. We've seen that. We've had a lot of experience with that now. And we know this is a global, worldwide problem because not only have we had the issue since 9/11 after they hit the United States in New York and Washington, and the United 93 that went down in Pennsylvania, we've seen the attacks in Madrid, in Casablanca, in Mombassa, in Istanbul, in Riyadh, in Bali and Jakarta. Most recently, of course, just within the last week, they hit Indonesia again. They tried to go after the Australian embassy. And most recently and devastatingly, they did hit Russia -- took down two airliners, killed 90 people there, and then, of course, over 350 people in Beslan when they took a school hostage. And most of the dead are school children. That is the kind of enemy that you can't negotiate with. You can't appease. There's no treaty at the end of the day that will solve this problem. All you can do is go out and defeat the enemy. That's the only solution. (Applause.)
What the President did after 9/11 was we created a new strategy, if you will. We did some of the things that had been done before, but we added to it. First and foremost, of course, we've moved aggressively to try to make America a tougher target -- that is to put in place policies and institutions that make it easier for us to keep out the terrorists. We created the Department of Homeland Security. It's the biggest reorganization of the federal government since the late 1940s, when we created the Department of Defense. We passed the Patriot Act that allows law enforcement personnel -- (Applause.) And the Patriot Act needs to be renewed. Jim Sensenbrenner is chairman of the committee. We got a shot at it next year. (Applause.) And we need to continue that into the future -- a series of steps like that, designed to make us tougher for the terrorists to come after.
But anybody who has followed the Green Bay Packers over the years knows that a good defense isn't enough. You also have to go on offense. (Applause.) We can be successful at defending against 99 percent of the attacks. But if 1 percent get through, given the sale of the threat that's out there today, obviously, that's enough to kill you. So you've got to do everything we can not only to defend the nation, but also to go on offense. And that's a significant contribution the President made in establishing what we've come to call the Bush doctrine -- the idea that not only will be go after the terrorists, do everything we can to take down the terrorists, and the organizations, and the financial networks that support them, but also we will, in fact, hold accountable for the actions of the terrorists, those who sponsor terror -- who support it and provide safe harbor or sanctuary for terrorists, who provide financial assistance or arms, or training to terrorists. They will be held equally guilty of the crimes committed by the terrorists as the terrorists themselves. (Applause.)
And that means you've got to use military force on occasion. And that's exactly what we've done. In Afghanistan, of course, we moved aggressively to take down the Taliban. We succeeded in doing that. The troops performed magnificently. In a matter of weeks, we captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda. We closed down the training camps. There had been training camps operating in Afghanistan in the latter part of the '90s from about 1996 or '97 on, estimated 20,000 terrorists went through those camps, including some of those who attacked us on 9/11. We closed down the camps. They're out of business, and of course, in the interim we've gone forward to stand up a new government in Afghanistan. We've got now Hamid Karzai as the interim President. They'll have -- they have a constitution. They'll have free elections here in a few weeks before we have our election. They've got 10 million Afghan citizens now registered to vote in the last few weeks, to vote the first time ever in Afghanistan. (Applause.)
And we're standing up a new government in Afghanistan, a democratically elected government that's not a threat to its neighbors, and simultaneously training an Afghan national army and getting the Afghans into the fight so they can provide for their own security as the long-term strategy that we've got to pursue there.
In Iraq, of course, a somewhat different set of circumstances. We went into Iraq because, of course, Saddam Hussein had for 12 years defied the U.N. Security Council and the international community. He had started two wars. He had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction on the Kurds, and on the Iranians. He had provided sanctuary and safe harbor to terrorists. The Abu Nidal organization operated out of Baghdad for years. Saddam himself had spent $25,000 -- rewards for the families of suicide bombers. There was a relationship with al Qaeda. This was an evil, evil regime that was an emerging threat that also needed to be dealt with, and the world is a whole lot safe today, and the American people are safer because Saddam Hussein is in jail. (Applause.)
In Iraq, we're also working on standing up a new government. We've got an interim government appointed there. Mr. Allawi is the Prime Minister. All of the ministries now in Iraq, all of the agencies are now run by Iraqis. They have just recently appointed a national advisory council. They'll have elections in January. Those elections will produce a constitutional assembly. They'll write a new constitution, and by the end of next year, they'll hold free elections under a new constitution and elect for the first time a government, democratically elected government in Iraq.
And we are simultaneously working very hard today to train security forces in Iraq that can take over the responsibility for securing their own country. I don't want to mislead anybody into thinking this is an easy chore. This isn't easy. This is very hard. What we're trying to do in those countries that have never known the kinds of systems that we want to establish is one of the most difficult challenges any government can undertake. We've taken casualties here in our own -- with respect to our military forces because of the terrible task that they have had to do. But it was absolutely essential that we achieve our results there. And we can't simply pursue a strategy that is based on the old mind set, pre-9/11 mind set. We used to think and operate as a government that somehow the solution to a terrorist attack was to treat it as a criminal act. So we'd go out and we'd prosecute the individual criminal, treat it as a law enforcement matter, put him in jail, and case closed. But what we didn't realize was it wasn't an individual criminal act. We were at war. We had been war, as far as the terrorists were concerned in the al Qaeda organization, since about 1996, when they declared war on us. And there was a series of attacks over the years -- 1993, the first World Trade Center; 1996, Khobar Towers; 1998, East Africa embassy bombings; year 2000, the USS Cole -- where Americans were killed, either here at home, or overseas. And the terrorists had taken away from that the belief that they could strike us with impunity because they had. There was rarely a price paid by the organization itself for what they did. And they believed they could change our policy because they had in places like Somalia where they hit us, killed 19 of our guys in Mogadishu, in 1993, and within a matter of weeks, we had withdrawn our forces from Somalia.
So the task we're embarked upon here, the course we're embarked upon here requires us to go beyond just killing terrorists. We've got to go to the point, as well, of changing the circumstances on the ground, strategically of putting in place, in the heart of the Middle East in those areas that have been the breeding grounds for terror, democratically elected governments that are representative of their people that aren't threats to anybody, and that no longer breed the kind of terrorism, or the failed states, or the safe harbor and sanctuary for terrorists that we've seen all too often in the past. That's the key to the strategy. (Applause.)
Now, we can do it. We've got a good start. The President's leadership has been instrumental in all of this in terms of setting us on the right course. But it's important as we think about the election this year, a decision that the American people have to make is: Do we want to pursue that strategy that we think is the right way to go, and that the President has been -- had us all pursuing now for now over three years? Or do we want to go back to the failed -- what I think were the failed policies, pre-9/11. The policies we pursued before 9/11 didn't impose any price on the terrorists, didn't ever wrap up those who support terror, and of course, didn't do anything to discourage the attacks because we got hit on 9/11. And we had the training camps operating in Afghanistan, breeding more terror that ultimately led to the attacks not only in the United States but around the world. We've got to pursue a more aggressive strategy, and that's exactly what we're doing. (Applause.)
Now, I asked -- a lot of Americans have asked legitimately, well, what does John Kerry think we ought to do with respect to this issue. And again, there's a record there that is enlightening. And let me say and emphasize, and I've said this over and over again, I said it the other night in my speech at the Republican Convention, we honor John Kerry for his military service. As a veteran in Vietnam, he deserves the thanks of all of us. And we are not in the business of challenging his patriotism. They'll say that occasionally. We've never done that. I do challenge his judgment. (Applause.)
I can look at 20 years of voting in the United States Senate, and I see a senator who has consistently voted in a way that I think doesn't reflect the views, and the philosophy, and the attitude of the man who would pursue the kind of strategy that I think is essential if we're going to prevail in the war on terror. I see a man who voted against most of the Reagan military proposals in the 1980s. I see a man who when he ran for the Senate in 1984, proposed cutting or eliminate some 65 of our basic weapons systems, including things like the B-2 and the Tomahawk cruise missile and so forth. I see a man who, in 1990 and 1991, when we were getting ready to do Desert Storm, opposed Desert Storm -- stood up on the floor of the Senate and argued against the action we took to liberate Kuwait and send Saddam Hussein back to Baghdad. I see a Senator who argued for the go to war resolution, the authorization of the use of force against Saddam Hussein two years ago when the President asked for it, but then came around some months later when it was time to vote for the funds that were needed to equip the troops that we'd sent into combat, he voted no. There
are only four members of the United States Senate who voted to commit the force, and then voted against providing the resources they needed once they were in combat -- only four. Two of those four were Senators Kerry and Edwards. Now that is not a record that to my mind inspires confidence that this is a man who is -- got the qualifications to do what I think needs to be done as Commander-in-Chief. I think George Bush is the right man for that job. (Applause.)
Now, the fact is a senator can be wrong for 20 years -- year after year after year -- without consequence for the nation. But a President -- a President -- always has the deciding vote. And we've got a President now who gets it right. And that's exactly why we need George Bush for the next four years. (Applause.)
Now, there's one more point I want to make, and then I'll stop so we have an opportunity to hear from all of you. None of what we've been able to do over the course of the last three years would have been possible without the superb performance of the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.) So I'd like to close my remarks today by thanking them, but also all of our veterans here who have served over the years in whatever capacity, in whatever war for what they've done for all of us. We wouldn't be here today without all of them. Thank you, gentlemen. (Applause.)
Now, the way we try to do this -- we've got some folks wandering around in the audience out there in orange vests.
MRS. CHENEY: They're not wandering.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, all right, they're not wandering, they're purposeful. (Laughter.) Orange vests, they've got numbers on them. And they've got microphones with them. And if you'd like to ask a question or make a comment, just hold up your hand and they'll try to connect to you. And then I'll try to respond to your comments or your concerns. Yes, sir, back here.
Q: When you become Vice President and Mr. Bush becomes President, we will be all so very happy. I have a comment. If you always -- there's an old saying that I heard about and I believe in -- if you always say what you always did, you're always going to get what you always got. (Laughter.) And prior to 9/11, that's how it was. My belief is that we have not done what we always did. And George Bush and Dick Cheney are the ones to move us forward. After 9/11, and tomorrow is the anniversary, what do you foresee in the future as far as where the country is going to, as far as protecting us?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Tomorrow is the third anniversary of that day that, obviously, none of us will ever forget who witnessed it. I would like to be able to say to everybody, relax, no problem. I can't say that.
We know that the terrorists are out there, that they're trying very hard to organize further attacks, that they continue to plot and plan. We continue to wrap them up, to break up the cells, to disrupt operations. We've gotten better I think -- both our intelligence services and the way we've established the relationships with others around the world, other intelligence services, so we've had a lot of success against them. And we've arrested or killed, as I say, more -- probably a majority of the senior folks who were involved in al Qaeda at the time that they launched the 9/11 attack. But we can, by no means, relax. The evidence is there for anybody who wishes to look that they are actively and aggressively engaged various places around the world. Fortunately, nobody has been able to get off an attack against the United States for three years. But we should by no means put down our guard.
One of the lessons we learned in watching what happened earlier this year is what happened in Spain. In March, when the terrorists decided that they would try to influence the outcome of that election by launching terrorist attacks just a short period of time before the election. So that's something we have to be concerned about here, as well, too. We have to learn to live with the fact that we've got to take extra precautions, that we do, indeed, have to support the effort that is required by the government, by state and local officials, by first responders, our police and fire and medical personnel. I know it's frustrating to get on the airplane lots of times and have to go through that whole process that folks have to go through, but there's no reason in the world why we can't do it and why we can't succeed.
When you think about the challenges this nation has surmounted over the years, this is a war we can win. There's no doubt in my mind whatsoever. But we have to recognize we are engaged in a war. There's an adversary out there that will do everything they can to get us. And what we need to do is to pull up our socks and support the kind of strong policies we need in order to make certain that over the long term we can pass on the nation to our kids and grandkids safer and more secure than we found it. (Applause.)
Q: I'd just like to ask a question on the economy. On the other side of the spectrum, Senator Kerry and his partner are saying that this economy is in the ditch. I live in a middle class neighborhood in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. And I look out in just the peripheral vision right in my house I see 14 brand new automobiles. Why is that I see all these cars when the economy is doing bad? People don't buy cars in a bad economy. Tell me, what's up with that? (Laughter and applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the economy is kicking along in pretty good shape. The President and I would not suggest that it's perfect. It never is. There's always going to be soft spots out there, or communities that are going through transitions. Sometimes you get industries or businesses that are on their way out, and new ones emerging. That's part of having a dynamic economy. And we've got the -- our economy is the envy of the world because it is dynamic, because it is changing, and growing and developing. And we got new technologies coming in, and new kinds of businesses created, and whole new industries that didn't even exist 15 or 20 years ago that today are sources of employment and productivity and wealth for our economy.
John Kerry says this is the worst economy since the Great Depression. (Laughter.) I think he's been windsurfing too much. (Applause.)
Q: Wisconsin is a compassionate state, so we're all concerned about the uninsured. Could you explain the difference between your policy and the Democrats'? And what individual consumers could do to address this problem?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the whole area of health and the uninsured is a very important one. I look at the Democratic proposals that Senator Kerry has put forward, and basically it's an all-government solution. I think ultimately it heads down the road towards nationalizing the health care industry. I think it's the wrong way to go.
I think, instead, it's better to look at the kinds of solutions the President has put forward. The whole notion of health savings accounts, for example, we find very attractive. We think that's going to help significantly. HSAs basically provide a way for people to save tax-free for their own immediate medical expenses. And one of the things we want to pursue no in a second term is a refundable tax credit so that small business owners will be able to contribute to the health insurance costs of their employees.
Sixty percent -- as I think I mentioned, 60 percent of our uninsured in the country are the employees of small businesses. And a good way to address the issue is to begin to focus on that capability. The idea of health savings accounts -- and also including in it a provision that we want to work towards, of allowing for the deductibility, the tax deductibility of the cost of a health care premium that an individual buys, for example, a catastrophic policy through their health savings accounts would be a significant step forward.
The other great thing about the HSA concept is that's something you take with you. If you pick up and move, you change jobs, you go from one community to another, that's your account, you take it with you. It's got the tax has been built-up -- it's a tax-free account in terms of the deductions -- the contributions you make to that account. And it begins to address the issue of how to do that, and it gives you control over your own insurance situation. Those are some of the kinds of things that we think would go a long way towards addressing this issue, as well as I talked about the pooling arrangements for small businesses, as well, too.
But if you go after that piece of it, you solve a big part of the problem. And the other end of it is you got to work on the cost side of it. One of the things the President has proposed and that we're pushing hard is to do a better job in terms of building the database and transforming the way we keep medical information about everybody, and then going to a digital forum and automating the whole system away from the way we keep records now. That will do a lot to make it -- in terms of the quality of care that's delivered, much more efficient to reduce the incidence of mistakes and errors, in terms of medical care. And all of that serves to help reduce the cost, as well, and that feeds back into the availability and the cost of what it costs to acquire insurance, health insurance. So I think we've got a much better approach that is based upon structures that are out there, or that plays to people's normal natural desires to want to make those decisions for themselves, rather than have the bureaucracy in Washington make those decisions, or to get between the patient and the doctor. We think that's the wrong way to go. We think that at the end of the day is where you'll end up if you follow John Kerry's recommendations. (Applause.)
Somebody back here.
Q: Recently, the price of crude oil has jumped significantly. I was just wondering that when you and the President are reelected, what are some of the plans that you have for our foreign -- I mean our national energy policy? Thanks.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, if you look at the proposal that we put forward and have been working on now for the last three years, it does a number of things. We've put in place -- we had 106 recommendations that came out. There was a book that we published in the spring of 2001. It's the backbone of what we recommended. It dealt with conservation. It dealt with the new technologies. It dealt with renewable fuels. Some of the things that are provided for in the legislation we've been pushing, as I say, that we're so far only two votes short of getting through the Senate do such things as promote the use of clean coal technology so we can rely more upon the basic, fundamental resource we've got here in the country. We get half of our electric power today from coal. We need to be able to use that resource. But we need to be able to burn it cleanly so that we don't create environmental problems with it. It talks a lot about renewable fuels, and about the importance, for example, of moving in the direction of using ethanol, which will help significantly in terms of our ability to be able to produce here at home a component that can help significantly in the transportation area and be a substitute, and an additive to our petroleum base. We need to do everything we can to improve conservation because there are significant savings to be derived there, as well. And we've done that over the years. If you look at what we've achieved as a nation, we use about half as much energy per unit of output today as we did 20 years ago. We've just gotten better at how we use it, more efficient at how we use it. We need to continue to do that. We need to look at hydrogen fuel cycles, and a whole range of new technologies out there that offer the hope that we'll be able do more in the future.
We also believe that it's important to move aggressively with respect to supporting efforts to develop more of our resources here at home, and do everything we can to reduce our dependence on foreign sources. We're never going to get totally out of that business. But at bottom, we cannot have a strong, viable economy if we don't have adequate supplies of affordable energy for the American people. The economy will not work without energy. You can't heat your homes. You can't drive your car. You can't run your business. And so that will be a prime area of focus for us in the years ahead. As I say, we've got 106 recommendations; about 85 we could do administratively and have. But the rest require legislation, and that's what is pending now before the Congress.
Let me move around over here. You got somebody over here? (Applause.)
MODERATOR: The Vice President has time for just one additional question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, thank you, Paul. We may violate that and take one or two. Go ahead. That's all right. (Laughter.)
Q: First of all, Lynne, listening to you introduce your husband in New York, we like A&W root beer here also. It must be the W. (Laughter.)
MRS. CHENEY: Very good.
Q: But the substance of my comments are the W, I want it to stand for workforce. And I know you do, too. Mr. Vice President, I want to extend on behalf of the Milwaukee community and County Exec Scott Walker and our Mayor and others to visit the state of the art Bradley Technical High School because I think every city in this country must rebuild its skilled workforce to protect our infrastructure. You need them in the military. We need them in the fire department. We need police. We need people to maintain the air conditioning. And I'd like to extend the invitation for your and the President to visit this $55 million investment. Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, we'll put it on the list. We'd like to do that. Thank you. (Applause.)
He's got a young man right down here in the front. These are always the toughest questions. (Laughter.)
Q: When you were talking about your national security idea. You mentioned they could have nuclear weapons. Do you think we are going to invade North Korea and Iran then, or just try and hold them off?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's a good question. (Applause.) I'll repeat the question. The basic question is, given the fact that we're concerned about the terrorists acquiring something as deadly as nuclear weapons, what is the proposition with respect to North Korea and Iran? How do we address those issues?
And what we're trying to do, obviously, both in the case of North Korea and Iran are address those issues diplomatically, try to resolve by peaceful means the matter of persuading them that they don't need nuclear weapons, that they shouldn't want nuclear weapons, that it's not in their interest to develop that capability.
The situation obviously that we think holds promise is what happened in Libya. Remember what happened there, we had a situation where we launched -- after we had done Afghanistan, as we launched into Iraq, about that time we were contacted by Colonel Ghadafi, the leader of Libya, said he wanted to talk with us about his WMD programs, his weapons of mass destruction programs. He was he was trying to develop nuclear weapons and so forth. I might point out that when he contacted us, he didn't call the United Nations. He got hold of George Bush and Tony Blair. (Applause.)
And that -- so after several months of negotiation, then five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Colonel Ghadafi announced that he was going to give up all of his WMD, and so all of that material now that he had acquired, the uranium, the centrifuges used to enrich uranium, the design for a nuclear weapon, all of that, he turned over to us. And it is now under lock and key down at Oak Ridge, in Tennessee. (Applause.)
He made a good decision. And the fact of the matter is, there's no need -- no need for a nation like that to acquire nuclear weapons capability. And the message that needs to be conveyed to the Iranians and the North Koreans, and that we do diplomatically as we work with our other nations that are interested here is that their long-term interests aren't served by acquiring nuclear weapons. Their long-term interest is served by establishing normal relations with the United States, by having an opportunity to trade in the international marketplace, to engage in the free flow of commerce and goods and services and so forth back and forth across international boundaries. And that's the way to improve the living standard for their people; it's not to go acquire nuclear weapons.
In Iran, of course, the effort is being worked now through the board of governors, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Germans, the Brits, and the French are heavily involved in that. And in North Korea, we're working with the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Japanese, and the Russians in a series of talks, but should have some more talks, again, here in the future, where we sit down -- in effect, with a six-way conversation. The process is persuading the North Koreans that they need to give up their aspirations in this area.
Hopefully, the peaceful approach, diplomacy will work. We think that's the right way to go. We ran into a problem where Saddam Hussein was concerned, obviously, because for 12 years he defied the international community. He thumbed his nose at the United Nations. He violated 16 different U.N. Security Council resolutions, as I say, started two wars, had produced and developed deadly capability he'd used against his own people and against his neighbors. So that was a different, more critical situation. But we do need to continue to address both the Iranian and North Korea problem. And so we will do exactly that.
One more question and then we'll -- back here.
Q: Mr. Vice President, I'm here today with the Marquette University College Republicans. (Applause.) I'm also the proud son of a Vietnam veteran, and I'm proud to say that our household supports George Bush and Dick Cheney.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
Q: A few months ago, I was flipping through Time Magazine. And it was the issue where President Clinton's book excerpts were printed. And in it he talks the threat that we faced during the Cold War, and the threat that we faced now with the war on terrorism. And he claimed that the threat that we face now isn't as dangerous as the one that we faced during the Cold War, and therefore we shouldn't be as worried about the threat that we face from terrorism. Now, I don't see that as being an accurate portrayal. And I don't think anyone else in here does, either. And I believe this is just as dangerous of an ideology as the threat that we face from terrorism itself. How do we combat that liberal ideology here in the United States?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think you elect George Bush President of the United States on November 2nd. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all very much. We went to thank you for being here today. We really enjoyed it, and we look forward to a great victory on November 2nd in Wisconsin.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 6:02 P.M. CDT
Richard B. Cheney, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/281641