FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
George W. Bush
the 2004 President's Dinner
July 21, 2004 • Washington, DC
Thank you all very much.
(Applause.) Gosh, thanks for the warm welcome. It is really
good to be with you all tonight. There's nothing like being
the President at the President's Dinner. (Laughter.) And
with your help, I look forward to being your guest next
year, as well. (Applause.)
I want to thank Tom Reynolds, who is my good friend, for
his kind introduction. I appreciate the organizers of this
fantastic dinner. Thank you all for coming. We're here
for a really good cause, and that is to make sure Denny
Hastert remains Speaker of the House, and Bill Frist Majority
Leader of the Senate. (Applause.) It's not only a worthy
cause, it is an important cause. The stakes of the country
depend upon their leadership, their continued leadership.
Plus, they're really good people.
I'm sorry that Laura is not with me tonight. I know. She
is -- she's camping. (Laughter.) But you know something?
I am one lucky man that Laura said yes when I asked her
to marry me. (Applause.) She's a great First Lady -- there's
a lot of reasons why I think I ought to be given four more
years, but perhaps the most important one is so that Laura
will be the First Lady for four more years. (Applause.)
I want to thank George Allen and Lamar Alexander for representing
the Senate at this dinner. Thank you for your strong leadership.
And I appreciate Bob Ney, as well, and Tom Reynolds for
representing the House at the dinner, and helping to raise
the money. (Applause.) These men did a fine job. I also
am proud to recognize my fellow Texan -- the Majority Leader
of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay. Thank you for
coming, sir. (Applause.)
I appreciate all the dinner hosts who are here at the
table. It kind of looks like the old politburo. (Laughter.)
Doesn't act like the old politburo.
I want to thank all the members of the Congress who are
here. I'm proud to work with you. And thank you for representing
our country with such dignity and class. (Applause.)
I want to thank Secretary Ann Veneman, Secretary Elaine
Chao, Secretary Tommy Thompson, for coming tonight, and
thank you for being such good Cabinet members in my administration.
I appreciate John Popper for lending his talents tonight.
And I love the voice of Sara Evans. (Applause.)
As we meet tonight, there are a little over 100 days until
an historic election, and the campaigns are hitting full-swing.
In recent days, I've been in Pennsylvania and Michigan
and Minnesota and Wisconsin and West Virginia and Iowa
and Missouri. Everywhere I go, the crowds are big, the
enthusiasm is high, the signs are good -- we are on our
way to victory. (Applause.)
My opponent has been spending some time with his base,
as well -- at a recent gala with his hollywo9od friends.
(Laughter.) Evidently, things got a little out of hand.
My name came up a few times. (Laughter.) And now the Senator
refuses to release a tape of that whole enchanted evening.
(Laughter.) Could be that his friends, whom he said conveyed
the "heart and soul of America," actually embarrassed
themselves and the candidate. (Applause.) I have a different
theory. You see, the tape shows a meeting of all those
unnamed foreign leaders that the Senator says have endorsed
Now he has a running mate. Some people say that Senator
Edwards was chosen in part because of his boyish good looks.
After all, People Magazine once named John Edwards the "sexiest
politician." One of my administration's great goals
for a new term is to get Dick Cheney on that list. (Laughter
and applause.) In the meantime, I value the Vice President's
experience in government, his expertise in national security,
and his sound judgment. (Applause.)
It's now been three and a half years since the Vice President
and I took office. We've faced significant challenges.
WE have met them head-on. I believe it's the President's
job to confront problems, not to pass them on to future
Presidents and future generations. (Applause.) Because
of our actions, America is becoming a safer and stronger
and better country. (Applause.)
Four years ago, our economy was headed into recession,
and the stock market was in decline. So we passed historic
tax relief for families and small businesses. Because we
acted, our economy since last summer has been growing at
the fastest rate in nearly 20 years. (Applause.) Because
we acted, America has added more than 1.5 million new jobs
since last August. (Applause.) Because we believe in economic
freedom and left more money in the people's hands, America
is a stronger country. (Applause.)
My opponents look at all this progress and somehow conclude
that the sky is falling. Whether their message is delivered
with a frown or a smile, it is the same old pessimism.
And to cheer us up, they propose higher taxes, more federal
spending, and economic isolationism. But that's the surest
way to end economic growth and put Americans out of work.
This nation is on a rising path, and with four more years
we'll achieve more growth, new and higher-paying jobs,
and greater opportunity for all of our citizens. (Applause.)
Four years ago, too many of our public schools were stuck
in a cycle of mediocrity and excuse-making -- with children
often shuffled from grade to grade, year after year. So
we insisted on high standards and accountability, local
control of schools, and now children across America are
showing real progress in reading and math. And America
is better for it. (Applause.)
Four years ago, our Medicare system was falling behind
modern medicine. Many seniors were not getting the drugs
they needed. Because we have updated Medicare and passed
prescription drug coverage for our parents and our grandparents,
America is a better place. (Applause.)
Four years ago, some of the finest, most effective charities
in our country were viewed with suspicion or even hostility
by our government, just because they ware faith-based charities.
Because we have ended discrimination in government contracting,
the armies of compassion are transforming more lives in
our country, and America is better for it. (Applause.)
In each of these areas, we are keeping our promises, we
are doing our duty. Because of our actions, our economy
is stronger, our schools are better, our country is safer.
We have turned a corner, and there's no turning back. And
in the weeks ahead, I will lay out an agenda worthy of
this advancing and confident country.
The American economy is creating good jobs. Now we must
move forward, and make America even more job-friendly,
by keeping taxes low. (Applause.) More job-friendly by
making regulations reasonable and fair, and opening up
new markets around the world. To keep our economy growing,
we must pass a comprehensive energy plan, to make America
more energy-independent. (Applause.)
We will help more Americans get training at our community
colleges for the jobs of the future. We'll protect workers
and entrepreneurs from junk lawsuits that threaten to close
the doors of too many small businesses and factories. (Applause.)
You cannot be pro-small business and pro-trial lawyer at
the same time. (Applause.) You have to choose. My opponent
has made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. (Laughter
and applause.) I've made my choice I will continue to work
with Congress to end the junk lawsuits that hurt small
businesses and threaten jobs all across our country. (Applause.)
Across America, teachers and parents and principals are
now working hard to raise the standards at our elementary
schools, and to see that every child can read by the 3rd
grade. Now we must move forward and make certain that our
high schools are doing their jobs, as well. Every high
school diploma must mean that our graduates are prepared
for jobs, for college, and for success. (Applause.)
The quality of health care in America is one of our great
achievements. Now we must move forward to expand access
to care, and to keep important health decisions in the
hands of patients and doctors, not in government bureaucrats'.
(Applause.) We need to make health care more affordable
by making health insurance available to more Americans,
by harnessing the power of information technology, and
by limiting the costly and abusive litigation that threatens
health care in America. (Applause.) America needs medical
liability reform. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous
Our country has made a lot of progress in ending dependency
on government. Now we must move forward to strengthen work
requirements that lead people from welfare to stable jobs.
We need to encourage marriage and the family ties that
improve the lives of our children. (Applause.) During the
next four years, we'll help more citizens to own their
health plan, to own a piece of their retirement, to own
their own home or their own small business. We'll usher
in a new era of ownership in America, with an agenda to
help all our citizens save and build and invest, so every
person owns a part of the American Dream. (Applause.)
This broad agenda we will carry into the new term comes
from a basic conviction: Government should never try to
control or dominate the lives of our citizens. Yet government
can and should help citizens gain the tools to make their
own choices and to improve their own lives. When men and
women have a sound education, and the skills to seize new
opportunities, and the security of health care, they will
achieve great things for themselves and for our nation.
There is no greater force for good in this world than the
energy of free people. (Applause.)
Our opponents have a very different agenda. Senator Kerry
has spent almost 20 years in the federal government, and
he's concluded that it just isn't big enough. (Laughter.)
He proposed nearly $2 trillion in additional federal spending,
and we're just getting started. But he hasn't told us how
he plans to pay for it all. I think we can guess. He has
a history of voting to raise taxes. But we're going to
make it clear to him that would be the wrong medicine for
America's improving economy. (Applause.)
He and his running mate consistently oppose reforms that
limit the power of Washington and place trust in the individual.
They share the same old Washington mind-set -- they will
give the orders and you pay the bills. But we've gone beyond
that way of thinking, and we're not going back. (Applause.)
America's future also depends on our willingness to lead
in the world. On a September morning, the world changed.
And since that day we have changed the world. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, al Qaeda terrorists were plotting
and moving across borders with little fear. Today, two-thirds
of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed,
and America and the world are safer. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, the security of the American
homeland was in grave danger. Our government was not organized
to meet the new threat. We transformed our defenses; we
created a new Department of Homeland Security. We rallied
the world to pursue terrorists abroad and strengthen our
laws to act against terrorists at home. We're using the
Patriot Act to track terrorist activity and break up terror
cells. We're using intelligence and law enforcement better
than ever before. The mission of the FBI is now focused
on preventing terrorism. In a vast and free nation such
as ours, it is impossible to guarantee perfect security.
But I can assure you, many fine professionals in intelligence
and national security and homeland security and law enforcement
are working around the clock; they're doing everything
they can to protect us. And because of their vigilance,
America is safer. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, Afghanistan served as the home
base of al Qaeda, which trained and deployed thousands
of killers to set up terror cells in dozens of countries,
including our own. Today, Afghanistan is a rising democracy,
an ally in the war on terror, and America and the world
are safer. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, Pakistan was a safe transit
point for terrorists. Today, Pakistani forces are aggressively
helping to round up terrorists, they're an ally in the
war on terror. America and the world is safer. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, in Saudi Arabia, terrorists
were raising money, and recruiting and operating with little
opposition. Today, the Saudi government is taking the fight
to al Qaeda, and America and the world are safer. (Applause.)
Before September the 11th, Libya was spending millions
to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Today, because
America and allies have sent a strong and clear message,
the leader of Libya has abandoned his pursuit of weapons
of mass destruction, and America and the world are safer.
Before September the 11th, the ruler of Iraq was a sworn
enemy of America. He was defying the world, and firing
weapons at American pilots enforcing the world's sanctions.
He had pursued and used weapons of mass destruction. He
threatened his neighbors. He subsidized the families of
suicide bombers. He had murdered tens of thousands of his
own citizens. He was a source of great instability in the
world's most volatile region That's why, even before September
the 11th, the policy of our country was regime change in
Iraq. After September the 11th, the risk that Saddam Hussein
could have used weapons, or could have shared his capability
to produce them with terrorists was simply too great.
We went to the United States Congress, which overwhelmingly
agreed; then to the United Nations Security Council, which
unanimously demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's
weapons programs. When he again refused to comply, and
continued to systematically deceive the weapons inspectors,
we made the decision to remove him from power. (Applause.)
Although we have not found the stockpiles of weapons that
our intelligence showed would be there, we were right to
go into Iraq. (Applause.) With Saddam Hussein in prison,
America and the world are safer. (Applause.)
We still have important and difficult work to do. Our
immediate task is to work with friends and allies around
the world, to continue aggressively pursuing the terrorist
and foreign fighters in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere.
You can't talk sense to the terrorists. You cannot negotiate
with terrorists. We must engage these enemies in Afghanistan
and Iraq and around the world so we do not have to face
them here at home. (Applause.)
The conditions for success in Afghanistan and Iraq are
now coming together. These two nations are now governed
by strong leaders, committed men, people who want peace
and freedom for their people. The people of Iraq are taking
more and more responsibility for their own security. They
want to live in a free society. Men and women in Iraq want
their children to grow up in a peaceful world. Schools
and hospitals are being reopened. Citizens' lives are improving.
Both nations are on the path to elections.
The people of those countries can count on America and
our coalition. When we acted to protect our own security,
we also promised to help deliver them from tyranny, to
restore their sovereignty, to set them on the path of democracy.
And when America gives its word, America keeps its word.
Over the next four years we will continue to defend our
homeland, we'll continue to defeat the terrorists abroad.
Yet, in the long run, our safety requires something more.
We must work to change the conditions that give rise to
terror in the Middle East: the poverty, and the hopelessness,
and the resentments that terrorists too often exploit.
Life in that region will be far more hopeful and peaceful
when men and women can choose their own leaders, when the
people can decide their own future. A free and peaceful
Iraq, a free and peaceful Afghanistan will be powerful
examples to their neighbors. Free countries do not export
terror. Free countries do not stifle the dreams of their
citizens. By serving the ideal of liberty, we are bringing
hope to others, and that makes America more secure. (Applause.)
By serving the ideal of liberty, we also serve the deepest
ideals of our country. Freedom is not America's gift to
the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man
and woman in this world. (Applause.)
Our men and women in the military are serving the cause
of freedom. They're taking great risks on our behalf. At
bases across the country and the world, I've had the privilege
of meeting with those who defend our country and sacrifice
for our security. I've seen their great decency and their
unselfish courage. And I assure you, ladies and gentlemen,
the cause of freedom is in good hands. (Applause.)
We must make sure our troops have the very best. Last
September, while our troops were in combat in both Afghanistan
and Iraq, I proposed supplemental funding to support them
in their missions. The legislation provided funding for
body armor and other vital equipment, for hazard pay, for
health benefits, for ammunition, for fuel, for spare parts
for our military. In the Senate, only a small, out-of-the-mainstream
minority of 12 senators voted against that legislation.
And two of those 12 senators are my opponent and his running
Senator Kerry tried to explain his vote by saying, "I
actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against
it." (Laughter.) End quote. Now he's offering different
explanations. Last week, Senator Kerry said he was "proud" that
he and his running mate voted against the funding for the
troops. Then he further said the whole thing is a "complicated" matter.
There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops
in combat. (Applause.) Leaders need to stand behind our
military, and back them up 100 percent. And that's what
I will do every day that I am your President. (Applause.)
America is leading the world with confidence and moral
clarity. We put together a strong coalition to help defeat
the terrorists. There are over 60 nations involved in the
Proliferation Security Initiative, nearly 40 nations are
involved in Afghanistan, some 30 nations involved in Iraq.
We'll continue to build our alliances; we'll continue to
work with our friends for the cause of security and peace.
But I will never turn over America's national security
decisions to leaders of other nations. (Applause.)
This nation is prosperous and strong; yet we need to remember
that our greatest strength is in the character of our citizens.
Our nation is strong because of the values we try to live
by: courage and compassion, reverence and integrity. We're
strong because of the institutions that help to give us
direction and purpose: our families, our schools, our religious
congregations. These values and institutions are fundamental
to our lives; they deserve the respect of our government.
We stand for institutions like marriage and family, which
are the foundations of society. (Applause.) We stand for
a culture of life in which every person counts and every
person matters. (Applause.) We stand for judges who strictly
and faithfully interpret the law, instead of legislating
from the bench. (Applause.)
And we're building a culture of responsibility here in
America. The culture of this country is changing from one
that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you've got
a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each
of us understands we are responsible for the decisions
we make in life. (Applause.) If you are fortunate enough
to be a mother or father, you are responsible for loving
your child with all your heart and all your soul. (Applause.)
If you're worried about the quality of the education in
community in which you live, you are responsible for doing
something about it. (Applause.) If you're a CEO in corporate
America, you're responsible for telling the truth to your
shareholders and your employees. (Applause.) And in this
new responsibility society, each of us is responsible for
loving our neighbors just like we'd like to be loved ourselves.
For all Americans, these years in our history will always
stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation
when little is expected of the leaders; this isn't one
of those times. None of us will ever forget that week when
one era ended and another began. On September the 14th,
2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day
I'll never forget. There were workers in hard-hats yelling
at me, "Whatever it takes." A fellow grabbed
me by the arm -- I can't remember if he was a policeman
or fireman -- and he said, "Do not let me down."
As we all did that day, these men and women searching
through the rubble took it personally. I took it personally.
I have a responsibility that goes on. I will never relent
in bringing justice to our enemies. I will defend the security
of our country, whatever it takes. (Applause.)
In these times, I've also been a witness to the character
of this nation. I've seen the unselfish courage of our
troops. I've seen the heroism of Americans in the face
of danger. I've seen the spirit of service and compassion
renewed in our country, in the quiet love of neighbor for
neighbor. We've all seen our nation unite in common purpose
when it mattered most.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have come through much together.
We've done the hard work. We've made our nation better
and safer. We've turned the corner in extending freedom
throughout the world. We're expanding opportunity here
at home. And now, we move forward with confidence. During
the next four years, we will spread opportunity to every
corner of this country. We will pass the enduring values
of our country to another generation. We will continue
to lead the cause of freedom and peace, and we will prevail.
May God bless you all. (Applause.) Thank you all very
much. God bless our great country. (Applause.)