Vice President's Remarks in Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola Junior College
3:18 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. Thank you very much for that warm welcome. It's great to be back in Pensacola, America's first settlement. (Applause.) And there's no doubt in my mind, it's also Bush-Cheney country. (Applause.)
Now, it's true -- don't hold back. (Laughter and applause.) It's true Lynne has known me since I was 14, but she wouldn't go out with me until I was 17. (Laughter.) And I tell people we got married because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States. In those days I was a youngster living with my folks in Nebraska. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, reorganized the government, Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne. We grew up together, went to high school together and recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's 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.) It's absolutely true. (Laughter.)
I don't know how many of you noticed -- of course, the campaign, we're getting down to the closing stages here now, and we're seeing some interesting behavior on the other side. I don't know how many of you noticed that Senator Kerry went goose hunting -- (laughter) -- in Ohio last week. (Laughter.)
The Senator wore a new camouflage coat for the occasion. Since he had to go get one, I wondered how often he actually uses one. (Laughter.) My personal opinion is the camo jacket is an October disguise -- (laughter) -- an effort he's making to hide the fact that he votes against gun-owner rights every chance he gets.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But, my fellow sportsmen, this cover-up isn't going to work because you and I know the Second Amendment is more than just a photo opportunity. (Applause.)
Well, with one week left in the campaign, the choices in this election could not be more clear. The stakes are very high, both at home and abroad. And I believe on November 2nd, the American people are going to make George W. Bush President for four more years. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Florida has been through a lot. We kept trying to come down here to campaign, but then there be another hurricane that would come through and we'd have to hold off. You've been through Charley, Jeanne, Frances, Ivan. Escambia County was especially hard hit, but the residents have pulled together. It's a story of endurance, of compassion, and of great courage. (Applause.)
The President and I were tremendously impressed by your efforts and the way you handled adversity. We want you to know the federal government is doing everything possible to help. The President has approved $13.6 billion for the people of Florida and other states hit by the hurricanes. (Applause.)
Florida has been well served by state and local officials, by FEMA personnel, by members of the National Guard, and first responders and I think also been very fortunate to have a superb executive in charge in Governor Jeb Bush. (Applause.)
Now, the President and I have been to Florida many times over the last several years, and we appreciate the strong support we have throughout the state. We are delighted to be running alongside a solid slate of Republican candidates. I want to thank Congressman Jeff Miller for his kind words today. He's doing a great job representing the first district, and it's great to see him and his wife, Vicki here today. And I also was delighted to see my old friend and colleague Earl Hutto, as well, today. He's doing a superb job -- (Applause.)
Although he couldn't be here, I'd like to put in a good word for your Senate candidate, Mel Martinez. (Applause.) And come January, I look forward to swearing him in as the new senator from the state of Florida. (Applause.)
We want to thank everybody who has made phone calls and helped turn out the vote. Grassroots activists are an essential part of the effort, and the campaign, and the President and I are grateful for your support.
Florida voters understand the importance of steady, principled, consistent leadership in the White House. This is no ordinary time for America. Our country faces some serious challenges, but we're meeting every one of those challenges with strength and resolve. Today, people in Florida and across the land can be confident of a better future; a stronger economy; and a more secure nation thanks to the leadership of our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
Over the course of the last four years, I think people have seen very clearly the character and the vision of our President. He's a man of loyalty and kindness who speaks plainly and means what he says. He sets clear goals, and works with members of both parties to achieve them. He puts the country first and his deepest commitment is to making us safer, more prosperous, and more secure.
During the course of this campaign, we have seen something quite different in the President's opponent. He is a man who will say and do anything if he thinks it will advance his cause. Just over a year ago, John Kerry did something truly unthinkable for a man who aspires to be Commander-in-Chief; he turned his back on the troops that he voted to send into combat because he thought it was to his political advantage to do so.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Don't hold back now.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Senator Kerry, you will remember, voted in favor of using force against Saddam Hussein, but then during the Democratic primary when it came time to vote for funds that would provide our fighting men and women with the body armor, ammunition, jet fuel, and spare parts they needed, Senator Kerry voted "no."
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He offered a ridiculous explanation which, frankly, I think will go down in the history of American politics. He said, and I quote, "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
AUDIENCE: Flip-flop! Flip-flop! Flip-flop!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm getting to that part. (Laughter.)
But the real reason he turned his back on the troops was Howard Dean. Dean was the antiwar candidate and Dean was surging ahead in the polls, and so John Kerry, in order to advance himself in the Democratic primary, turned his back on our troops. He said his vote was "complicated," but, my friends, supporting American troops in combat should never be a complicated matter. (Applause.)
We owe so much to our fighting men and women, and I want to thank them and all the veterans here today for what they have done for all of us. (Applause.)
Just consider what American forces have accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, you'll remember the Soviets fought for 10 years with hundreds of thousands of troops and never managed to conquer that country. We went in with our Special Forces and other light units, and in a matter of weeks, American troops working with local allies took down the entire country. (Applause.)
In Iraq, the war plan put together and executed by General Tommy Franks and the CENTCOM staff was enormously successful. We managed to achieve a high degree of surprise under extraordinary circumstances. The speed of our advance prevented the Iraqis from destroying the oil fields, from blowing up bridges on the route to Baghdad, and from mounting an effective defense of the Iraqi capital city.
The battle plan was creative and imaginative. It demonstrated the tremendous effectiveness of American forces. And it saved American lives. Never before in history have forces of that size moved that fast and that far in so short a period of time and accomplished their objective. (Applause.)
Now, John Kerry sitting 6,000 miles away is trying to cast doubt on these amazing performances. He claims that our forces had Osama bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora in late 2001 and allowed him to escape by "outsourcing" the job of capturing him to Afghan warlords. But General Tommy Franks, who was in charge of American forces in the Middle East, has stated repeatedly, it was not at all certain that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. He might have been there, or in Pakistan, or even Kashmir. U.S. Special Forces were on the ground and in charge of the operations around Tora Bora. They relied on Afghan fighters to help kill and capture Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Tora Bora, because they knew the landscape. We supported them with tactical leadership and air strikes and the Pakistanis provided as many as 100,000 troops to guard the border.
The Senator likes to say that we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan in order to go to Iraq. But again, listen to General Franks, who says, neither attention nor manpower was diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. The General also wisely notes that when you are fighting a global war you have to be able to wage it on many fronts at once, as the United States has. (Applause.)
Given a choice between John Kerry's version of events and General Franks', I'll go with the General every time. (Applause.)
For the last couple of days, Senator Kerry has been saying that American forces did not do enough to protect a weapons facility near Baghdad, with the result of 380 tons of the explosive HMX and RDX disappeared. But it is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad. John Kerry doesn't mention that, nor does he mention the 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that our troops have captured and are destroying. If our troops had not gone into Iraq, as John Kerry apparently thinks they should not have, that is 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that would be in the hands of Saddam Hussein who would still be sitting in his palace, instead of jail. (Applause.)
The actions of America's fighting men and women have made the world safer, and it's time for John Kerry to own up to that fact. (Applause.) Senator Kerry is playing armchair general and not doing a very good job of it. (Laughter.) I suppose this should come as no surprise given the weak record on national security matters that he's established.
He first ran for Congress advocating the idea that we should deploy American troops only under the authority of the United Nations.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He ran for the Senate on the platform that we should dismantle most of the major weapons systems Ronald Reagan used to keep the peace and win the Cold War.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In 1991, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, John Kerry voted against sending American troops to expel him. He opposed Operation Desert Storm.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In the first debate this year, Senator Kerry said that American had to meet some kind of global test before we could take military action.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The President and I know better than that. We know that it is not our job to conduct international opinion polls, our job is to defend America. (Applause.)
John Kerry does not have the judgment or the conviction that America needs in a President. He is not a steadfast leader. And our President is. (Applause.)
Let me tell you why that matters. A country can never know what a President will be called upon to do. Think of the last four years. Think of the challenges of 9/11 and the global war on terror. And because our President is a man of strong character and steadfast determination, he has led us well. At the Republican Convention, former Mayor Giuliani told the story of how on 9/11 in New York, he turned to Bernie Kerik, his police commissioner, and said, "Thank God, George Bush is our Commander-in-Chief." (Applause.)
Under the President's leadership, we have reached around the world to capture and kill thousands of al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, the camps where terrorists trained to kill Americans have been shut down, the Taliban driven from power. In Iraq, we dealt with a gathering threat, and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. Nineteen months ago, he controlled the lives of 25 million people. And of course, today he sits in jail. (Applause.)
We are also helping the people of Iraq and Afghanistan build representative governments. In Afghanistan, 10 million people registered to vote, nearly half of them women. (Applause.) Elections were held two weeks ago, the first in the 5,000-year history of that country. (Applause.) In January, the people of Iraq will vote, as well. And we will have a safer world as a result. One of the lessons that history teaches is that institutions of self-government turn the energies of people away from violence to the peaceful work of building better lives. Freedom is the best antidote to terrorism. (Applause.)
Because of President Bush's determination in the war on terror, leaders around the world are getting the message. Just five days after Saddam Hussein was captured, Moammar Ghadafi in Libya agreed to abandon his nuclear weapons program and turn the materials over to the U.S. (Applause.)
The biggest danger we face today is having nuclear weapons technology fall into the hands of terrorists. The President is working with many countries in a global effort to end the trade and transfer of these deadly technologies. The most important result thus far is that the black-market network that supplied nuclear weapons technology to Libya, as well as Iran and North Korea, has been shut down. And the world is much safer as a result. (Applause.)
We could not have succeeded in these efforts without the help of dozens of countries around the world. We will always seek international support for international efforts, but as President Bush has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. We will never seek a permission slip to defend the United States of America. (Applause.)
The clearest, most important difference in this campaign is simple to state: President Bush understands the war on terror and has a strategy for winning it; Senator Kerry does not. (Applause.)
All doubt on the matter was removed when Senator Kerry said recently that he wanted to lead America back to the place where we were -- to a time when terrorism was, in his word, a "nuisance" like illegal gambling or prostitution. That's the comparison he made.
When I read that, I thought to myself, well, when was terrorism only a nuisance? Was it a nuisance four years ago, when the USS Cole was attacked and we lost 17 sailors?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Was it a nuisance six years ago when they attacked simultaneously two of our embassies in East Africa, blew them up, and killed hundreds of people?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Or maybe 11 years ago, when the World Trade Center in New York was first bombed?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Or 16 years ago, when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the skies over Lockerbie Scotland?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Or perhaps 21 years ago, when a suicide bomber in a truck bomb drove into the barracks in Beirut and killed 241 American servicemen?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: My friends, there never was a time when terrorism was just a nuisance. (Applause.) There never can be a time when terrorism is a nuisance. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level. Our goal is to defeat terror -- and with George Bush as our President, that's exactly what we're going to do. (Applause.)
President Bush knows that our dedicated servicemen and women represent the very best of the United States of America. Just a few miles from here is the Naval Air Station Whiting Field and, of course, the Naval Air Station Pensacola. (Applause.) I want to thank the tens of thousands of troops and civilian personnel of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, and all the veterans and their families who do so much for all of us. (Applause.)
Our country requires strong and consistent leadership for our actions overseas, and the same is true for our policies here at home. When President Bush and I stood on the inaugural platform on the west front of the Capitol and took the oath of office, the economy was sliding into recession. Then terrorists struck on 9/11 and shook our economy once again. We faced a basic decision – to leave more money with families and businesses, or to take more of the American people's hard-earned money for the federal government. President Bush made his choice. He proposed and he delivered tax cuts for the American people not once, not twice, but four times. (Applause.)
Every American who pays federal income taxes benefited from the Bush tax cuts, and so has the economy. We've created jobs for 13 consecutive months – a total of 1.9 million new jobs during that period. Here in Florida, more than 300,000 jobs have been created since December of '01. Mortgage rates, interest rates, inflation are all low. Consumers are confident; businesses are investing; families are taking home more of what they earn. (Applause.)
We're seeing record exports for farm products. Farm income is up. Our farm economy is strong and that's good for the entire nation. (Applause.)
We know there are still challenges. The President and I will not be satisfied until every American who wants to work can find a job. But this is a strong, growing economy -- don't let the Democrats tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
Our accomplishments these last four years have made America safer, stronger, and better. In our second term, we'll keep moving forward with a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda. We'll work to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.) And to help families and small businesses, we'll lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code. (Applause.)
We'll work to end lawsuit abuse because we know it's easier for America's businesses to hire new workers if they don't have to keep hiring lawyers. (Applause.)
And we will continue to work to help parents and teachers improve public schools so that our children receive the world-class education they deserve. (Applause.) We'll work to make it easier for small businesses to provide health insurance to employees and for families to meet their health care needs ?- and we'll do this in ways that keep health decisions in the hands of doctors and patients, not in the hands of Washington bureaucrats. (Applause.)
And we will work for medical liability reform because we know the cost of malpractice insurance is creating a crisis, not only in Florida, but across the nation. America's doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
President Bush and I will also continue to defend our society's fundamental rights and values. We stand for a culture of life, and we reject the brutal practice of partial birth abortion. (Applause.) We stand strongly for the Second Amendment and will defend the individual right of every American to bear arms. (Applause.) We believe that our nation is "one nation under God." (Applause.) And we believe Americans ought to be able to say so when we pledge allegiance to our flag. (Applause.)
There shouldn't be any question about this ?- and there wouldn't be if we had more reasonable judges on the federal bench. (Applause.) The Democrats in the Senate have been doing everything they can – including using the filibuster – to keep the President's mainstream, sensible nominees off the bench. They are hoping to wait the President out. But I've got news for them. That's not going to happen because we're going to win this election. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: A good way to deal with the problem of the Democratic filibuster in the Senate is elect Republicans like Mel Martinez. (Applause.)
My friends, the differences between the President and his opponent are as sharp as they can possibly be, and the consequences for the country are enormous. On vital matters of national security, Senator Kerry offers a record of weakness and a strategy of retreat. President Bush offers a record of steady purpose, and resolute action, and a strategy for victory. (Applause.) Senator Kerry wants to empower government; President Bush will empower the citizens of this great country. (Applause.) John Kerry seems to think that all wisdom is found in Washington, D.C.; George Bush trusts the wisdom of the American people. (Applause.)
Under President Bush's leadership, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes, to protect our homeland by turning back and defeating the forces of terror, and spreading hope and freedom around the world. Here at home, we'll continue to build a prosperity that reaches every corner of the land so that every child in America has a chance to learn, to succeed, and to rise in the world. (Applause.)
The President and I are honored by your commitment to the cause we all share. President Bush and I will wage this effort with complete confidence in the American people. The signs are good – here in Florida, and even in Massachusetts. (Applause.) According to a news account, people leaving the Democratic National Convention in July asked a Boston policeman for directions. He replied, leave here ?- and go vote Republican. (Applause.)
President Bush and I are honored to have the support of that police officer and of Democrats, Republicans, and independents from every calling in American life. We're grateful to our many friends across the great state of Florida. I want to thank you for the tremendous welcome today. We're proud to have you on the team. (Applause.) And together, on November 2nd, we'll see our cause forward to victory.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 3:51 P.M. CDT
Richard B. Cheney, Vice President's Remarks in Pensacola, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/281015