FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
George W. Bush
October 20, 2004 • Mason City, IA
Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) Thank
you all for coming out to say hello. It is great to be
in Mason City, Iowa. (Applause.) I appreciate the warm
welcome. It's the home of fine corn, fine people, and fine
I'm here to ask for your help. We're less than two weeks
away from voting time. And I'd like for you to get your
friends and neighbors and remind them we have a duty in
democracy to vote. (Applause.) And get them headed to the
polls, and remind them, if they want a safer America and
a stronger America and a better America, to put me and
Dick Cheney back in office. (Applause.)
My only regret is that Laura is not traveling with me
AUDIENCE: Awww --
THE PRESIDENT: That is generally the reaction. (Laughter.)
Why didn't you send her and you stay at home. (Laughter.)
She was a public school librarian when I met her for the
second time. See, we were in the 7th grade together in
San Jacinto Junior High in Midland, Texas. She became a
public school librarian, and I met her again. I said, will
you marry me. She said, fine, just so long as I never have
to give a speech. (Laughter.) I said, okay, you got a deal.
Fortunately, she didn't hold me to that deal. She is giving
a lot of speeches, and when she does the American people
see a warm, compassionate, great First Lady. (Applause.)
I am traveling in Iowa today to give you reasons why I
think you ought to put me back into office, but perhaps
the most important one of all is so that Laura is the First
Lady for four more years. (Applause.)
This morning in the Oval Office I met with our fine Vice
President, Dick Cheney. I was there, of course, to discuss
national security matters before we hit the campaign trail
today. I'm proud of my Vice President. I admit to you,
he does not have the waviest hair in the race. (Laughter.)
You'll be happy I didn't pick him because of his hairdo.
(Laughter.) I picked him because of his judgment, his experience,
and his ability to get the job done. (Applause.)
I am proud of your United States Congressman, Tom Latham.
He is doing an excellent job. (Applause.) You're proud
to call him Congressman; I'm proud to call him friend.
(Applause.) And I appreciate his wife, Kathy, as well.
She's a fine, fine lady. I'm also proud to be working with
your United States Senator, Charles Grassley. I told him
when I saw him -- (applause.) I saw him the other day in
Cedar Rapids. I took him aside and I said, listen, the
South Lawn at the White House has got a lot of grass. (Laughter.)
I'm proud to work with him, and with your help, I'll continue
to work with him for four more years. (Applause.)
I want to thank the House Majority Leader, Chuck Gipp,
who's with us. I want to thank all those who serve in state
and local government. I appreciate the Mayor being here.
I'm honored that the Mayor is taking time out to be here.
My only advice to the Mayor is to pave the potholes. (Laughter
and applause.) I appreciate your service, Mayor.
I want to thank all the grassroots activists. I thank
you for what you have done and what you're going to do
-- put up the signs, get on the phone, turn people out
to vote, talk to your friends and neighbors, go to your
community centers, go to your coffee shops, go to your
houses of worship, remind people we have a duty. With your
help, we will carry Iowa and win a great victory in November.
Listen, in the last few years the American people have
come to know me. They know my blunt way of speaking. I
got that from my mother. (Laughter.) They know that sometimes
I mangle the English language. I got that from my dad.
(Laughter.) Americans also know I tell you exactly what
I'm going to do, and I keep my word. (Applause.) When I
came into office, the stock market had been in serious
decline for six months. That had been an indication that
our economy was sliding into a recession. To help families
and to get this economy growing again, I pledged to reduce
taxes. I kept my word. (Applause.)
The results are clear. The recession was one of the shallowest
in American history. Over the last three years our economy
has grown at rates as fast as any in nearly 20 years. Today,
the home ownership rate is at an all-time high in America.
(Applause.) In the past 13 months, we've added more than
1.9 million new jobs. The unemployment rate in America
is 5.4 percent, lower than the average rate of the 1970s,
1980s and the 1990s. (Applause.) Farm income is up. The
unemployment rate in Iowa is 4.5 percent. This economy
is moving forward and we're not going to go back to the
days of tax and spend. (Applause.)
To keep this economy strong we'll continue to stand with
our farmers. I understand a good national economy depends
on a good farm economy. (Applause.) I signed a good farm
bill that's helping our farmers. We're phasing out the
death tax to help our farmers keep their farms from generation
to generation. (Applause.) We have extended contracts in
the conservation reserve program, to help protect our wildlife,
to help improve land and to help our farm families. We're
expanding broad-band technology to make high-speed Internet
access available to all Americans by 2007. We're opening
up markets for Iowa farmers all across the world. (Applause.)
We are pursuing an energy strategy that encourages conservation,
increased domestic production and renewables like ethanol
and biodiesel. (Applause.) When I campaigned in your state
in 2000, I told the people of Iowa I support ethanol. I
kept my word. (Applause.) To make sure jobs remain here,
America must be the best place in the world to do business.
That means less regulations on our job creators. That means
we must do something about the frivolous lawsuits that
make it hard for small business owners to expand their
companies. (Applause.) We will open up markets around the
world. We will make sure that we're wise about how we spend
your money. And to make sure this economy continues to
grow, we must keep your taxes low. (Applause.)
Now, my opponent has his own history on the economy. (Laughter.)
In 20 years as a Senator from Massachusetts, he has built
a record of -- a senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter
and applause.) He has voted to raise taxes 98 times.
THE PRESIDENT: I want to remind you he voted to tax Social
THE PRESIDENT: He's been there for 20 years, that's about
five tax increases -- five tax increases every year. I'd
call that a predictable pattern. I'd call that an indicator.
(Applause.) He looked in the camera the other night with
a straight face and said, he's not going to raise taxes
on anyone who earns less than $200,000. The problem with
that is to keep that promise he would have to break almost
all of his other ones. (Applause.) He has proposed more
than $2.2 trillion in new federal spending -- that's trillion
with a "The." (Laughter.) And so they asked him,
how are you going to pay for it? He said, oh, I'll just
tax the rich. Now, we've heard that before, haven't we?
THE PRESIDENT: See, you can't raise enough money by raising
the top two brackets to pay for $2.2 trillion of new spending.
There is a gap between what he has promised and what he
can deliver. And guess who usually has to fill that gap?
AUDIENCE: We do!
THE PRESIDENT: There's also something else wrong with
taxing the rich. The rich hire lawyers and accountants
for a reason -- (laughter) -- to slip the tab and stick
you with the bill. The good news is we're not going to
let him tax you, we're going to carry Iowa and win in November.
When I came into public office too many republic [sic]
schools were passing children, grade to grade, year after
year, without learning the basics. So I pledged to restore
accountability to our schools and to end the soft bigotry
of low expectations. (Applause.) I kept my word. (Applause.)
The No Child Left Behind Act is a solid piece of reform.
We're now seeing results. Our children are making sustained
gains in reading and math. We're closing achievement gaps
all across our country, and we're not going to go back
to the days of low expectations and mediocrity in our classrooms.
When I came into office we had a problem in Medicare --
medicine was changing, but Medicare was not. And that was
a problem. Let me give you an example. Medicare would pay
tens of thousands of dollars for heart surgery, but not
one dime for the prescription drug that could prevent the
heart surgery from being needed in the first place. That
was not fair to our seniors or our taxpayers. In 2002 I
remember campaigning around your state saying that we were
going to reform Medicare so rural hospitals would be treated
more fairly in the state of Iowa. I kept my pledge. (Applause.)
I kept my word. Iowa's rural hospitals are being treated
fairly. Thanks to the good work of Senator Chuck Grassley
and Congressman Tom Latham, beginning in 2006, all seniors
will be able to get prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
There's more to do in health care. We need to make sure
health care is available and affordable for all our citizens.
We need a safety net for those with the greatest needs.
We'll do more to make sure our poor children are fully
subscribed in our programs for low-income families so they
get the health care they need. I believe in community health
centers, places where the poor and the indigent can get
health care. Since I took office we have opened or expanded
more than 600 community health centers. We've provided
care to more than 3 million patients, including many from
farm communities. In a new term, we'll open or expand another
600 centers, and we will make sure every poor county in
America has a community or rural health center. (Applause.)
Most of the uninsured today work for small businesses.
Small businesses are having trouble affording health care.
To help workers get the health care they need we must allow
small businesses to join together so they can buy insurance
at the same discounts that big companies can buy insurance.
(Applause.) We will expand health savings accounts so workers
and small businesses are able to pay lower premiums, and
people can save tax-free in a health care account they
call their own.
To make sure health care is available and affordable,
we must do something about the junk lawsuits that are running
up the cost of medicine and running good doctors out of
practice. (Applause.) By forcing doctors to practice defensive
medicine, these medical lawsuits cost the federal government
$28 billion a year. That means they cost you $28 billion
a year. Lawsuits drive up insurance premiums, which drives
good doctors out of practice. I've talked to too many OB/GYNs,
for example, who are having to leave their practice because
of lawsuits. And I've met too many women who are worried
about the quality of the health care they receive because
of lawsuits. You cannot be pro-doctor and pro-patient and
pro-trial lawyer at the same time. (Applause.) I think
you have to choose. My opponent made his choice and he
put a personal injury trail lawyer on the ticket.
THE PRESIDENT: I made my choice. I'm standing with the
docs and the patients. I'm for medical liability reform
We have big differences in this campaign when it comes
to health care. My opponent has laid out one that calls
for a bigger and more intrusive government. Now, the other
day, in the debate, he looked right in the camera again,
and he said this, he said, "The government has nothing
to do with it." I could barely contain myself. (Laughter.)
The facts are that eight out of ten people who get health
care under Senator Kerry's plan would be placed on a government
program. Those are the facts.
THE PRESIDENT: He said his plan would help small businesses,
yet upon analysis, small business groups have concluded
that it is an overpriced albatross that would saddle small
businesses with 225 new mandates. I want to help our small
businesses, and will through association health plans,
but we're not going to saddle them with a bunch of new
government regulations. (Applause.) My opponent wants to
move in the direction of government health care. Health
decisions, in my plan, will be made by doctors and patients,
not by officials in Washington, D.C. He can run from his
plan, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)
We'll continue to promote an ownership society in America.
You know, there's a saying that says no one ever washes
a rental car. (Laughter.) There's a lot of wisdom in that
statement. See, when you own something, you care about
it. And when you own something, you have a vital stake
in the future of our country. That's why we will continue
to promote entrepreneurship. Every time a small business
is started, someone is achieving the American Dream. (Applause.)
That's why we're encouraging health savings accounts,
so people can have the security of managing and owning
their own health care account. That's why we'll continue
to promote home ownership in America. I love it when more
and more people open up the door where they live and say,
welcome to my home, welcome to my piece of property. (Applause.)
In a new term we'll take the next step to build an ownership
society by strengthening Social Security. Now, I want to
take you back to the 2002 campaign, if I might, when they
ran all those ads that said, if George W. gets elected,
you will not get your check. You remember those? I want
you to remind your friends and neighbors that they got
their Social Security checks. (Applause.) No one is going
to take the Social Security check away from our seniors.
(Applause.) And as far as the baby boomers like me go,
we're in pretty good shape when it comes to Social Security.
But we need to worry about our children and our grandchildren
when it comes to the Social Security system. We need to
worry about whether or not Social Security will be around
when they need it. I believe we need to think differently
about Social Security for our youngsters. For their sake,
we must strengthen the system by allowing younger workers
to save some of their own payroll accounts -- payroll taxes,
in a personal savings account that they can call their
own, that the government cannot take away. (Applause.)
The other night my opponent said he's going to maintain
the status quo when it comes to Social Security. That is
unacceptable. The job of a President is to confront problems,
not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations.
(Applause.) We have a different philosophy of government.
On just about every issue my opponent is for more authority
to the United States government. I'm for more authority
to the people. (Applause.) On issue after issue, from Medicare
without choices to schools with less accountability to
higher taxes, he takes the side of bigger government. And
there's a word for that attitude. It is called liberalism.
Now, he just dismisses that word as a label. He must have
seen it differently when he told a newspaper, I am liberal
and proud of it. (Laughter.) There have been people who
have judged people's records in politics -- the nonpartisan
National Journal Magazine did a study and named him the
most liberal member of the United States Senate. That takes
hard work. (Laughter.) See, he can run, but he cannot hide.
I have a different record and a different philosophy.
I do not believe in big government and I do not believe
government should be indifferent. I'm a compassionate conservative.
I believe in policies that empower people to improve their
lives, not try to run their lives. So we're helping men
and women find the skills and tools to prosper in a time
of change. We're helping people realize their dreams so
they can find dignity and independence in America, and
that is how I will continue to lead our country for four
more years. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: In a time of change -- in this time of
change, some things do not change -- the values we try
to live by: courage and compassion, reverence and integrity.
In a time of change, we must support the institutions that
give our lives direction and purpose: our families, our
schools, our houses of worship. We stand for a culture
of live in which every person matters and every being counts.
(Applause.) We stand for marriage and family, which are
the foundations of our society. (Applause.) We stand for
the Second Amendment, which protects every American's individual
right to bear arms. (Applause.) We stand for the appointment
of federal judges who know the difference between personal
opinion and the strict interpretation of the law. (Applause.)
My opponent's words on these issues are a little muddy,
but his record is plenty clear. (Laughter.) He says he
supports the institution of marriage, but he voted against
the Defense of Marriage Act. He says he's -- he called
himself the candidate with conservative values, but he
voted against the ban on the brutal practice of partial
THE PRESIDENT: He described the Reagan years as a time
of moral darkness.
THE PRESIDENT: There is a mainstream in American politics,
and my opponent sits on the far left bank. (Applause.)
In this campaign, he can try to run from his record and
his philosophy, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)
This election will also determine how America responds
to the continuing danger of terrorism. The most solemn
duty of the American President is to protect the American
people. If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this
decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will
not happen on my watch. (Applause.)
Since that terrible morning of September the 11th, 2001,
we've fought the terrorists across the Earth -- not for
pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens
are at stake. Our strategy is clear. We're reforming and
strengthening our intelligence gathering capabilities.
We're defending the homeland. We're transforming our military.
The all-volunteer army will remain an all-volunteer army.
(Applause.) We're staying on the offensive. We will strike
the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here
at home. We will spread freedom and liberty and we will
Our strategy is succeeding. Think about the world the
way it was some three-and-a-half years ago. Afghanistan
was the home base of al Qaeda. It's where terrorists were
training to inflict great harm on America and the free
world. Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups.
Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fundraising.
Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iraq was a
dangerous place and a gathering threat, and al Qaeda was
largely unchallenged as it planned horrific attacks.
But because we acted, because the United States of America
was steadfast and resolved, Afghanistan is now a free nation
and an ally in the war on terror. (Applause.) Pakistan
is capturing terrorist leaders. Saudi Arabia is making
raids and arrests. The army of a free Iraq is fighting
for freedom, and more than three-quarters of al Qaeda's
key members and associates have been brought to justice.
(Applause.) Now we're standing with the people of Afghanistan
and Iraq. When America gives its word, America must keep
its word. (Applause.)
But I want the youngsters here to hear what is happening
in the world in which you live. Think about Afghanistan
three-and-a-half years ago. There were young girls there
who couldn't go to schools, and their mothers were pulled
in the public square and whipped if they didn't toe the
line of these ideologues of hate who ran the country. They
were called the Taliban. These were barbaric, brutal people.
Because we acted in our own self-interest, because we upheld
the doctrine that said, if you harbor a terrorist, you're
equally as guilty as the terrorist, today Afghanistan is
free. Millions of people voted in a presidential election.
The first voter in the Afghan presidential election was
a 19-year-old woman. Freedom is on the march. (Applause.)
People want to be free. That's what you've got to know.
People desire to be free. In Iraq, there will be elections
in January. Think how far that society has come from the
days of torture chambers, the days of a brutal dictator
who was willing to cut the hands off people arbitrarily.
Think about the difference that is from the days of the
mass graves. See, free societies help us keep the peace.
Free societies will be hopeful societies which no longer
feed resentments and breed violence for exports. Free countries
will join us in fighting these ideologues of hate, instead
of supporting them. And that helps us keep the peace we
all long for. (Applause.)
And so our mission is clear. We will help train police
and armies in Afghanistan and Iraq so people in those countries
can do the hard work of defending their own freedom. We
will get those countries on the path to stability and democracy
as quickly as possible, and then our troops will come home
with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)
It is such an honor to be the Commander-in-Chief of such
a great military. And it is a great military because of
the character of the people who wear our nation's uniform.
And I want to thank the veterans who are here today for
having set such a great example. (Applause.)
And I want to thank the military families who are here.
And I want you to know that we will keep our commitment
to those who wear the uniform and their families by making
sure that our troops have all they need to complete their
missions. That's why I went to the United States Congress
in September of 2003 and asked for $87 billion in supplemental
funding to support our troops in harm's way, in both Iraq
and Afghanistan. I was very pleased with the overwhelming
bipartisan support for that important funding request.
As a matter of fact, the support was so strong that only
12 members of the United States Senate voted against the
funding to support our troops in combat, two of whom were
my opponent and his running mate.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, let me remind you of a startling statistic,
and I want you to remind your friends and neighbors of
this startling statistic. There were only four members
of the United States Senate, four out of a hundred, who
voted to authorize the use of force, and then voted against
the funding to support our troops in combat. Two of those
four were my opponent and his running mate.
THE PRESIDENT: So I asked him why. I asked him about that
vote. And that's when he said, "I actually did vote
for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Now,
I don't know if a lot of folks around the coffee shops
in this part of the world talk like that. (Laughter.) I
doubt they do. They continued to press them. He was giving
them a bunch of answers as to why he made that vote. One
of the most interesting ones of all is he finally just
said it was a complicated matter. (Laughter.) There's nothing
complicated about supporting our troops in combat. (Applause.)
This is America's first presidential election since September
the 11th, 2001. The security of our country is at risk
in ways different from any we have before faced. We are
in the midst of a global war against a well-trained, highly
motivated enemy, an enemy who hates America for the very
freedoms and values we cherish most. The next Commander-in-Chief
must lead us to victory in this war, and you cannot lead
a war when you don't believe you're fighting one. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry was recently asked how September the 11th
had changed him. He replied, "It didn't change me
much at all." And this unchanged world view becomes
obvious when he calls the war against terror primarily
and intelligence and law enforcement operation, rather
than what I believe: a war which requires the full use
of American power to keep us secure. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry's top foreign policy advisor has questioned
whether this is even a war at all. Here's what he said,
and I quote, "We're not in a war on terror in the
literal sense. It is like saying 'the war on poverty.'
It is just a metaphor." End quote. Confusing food
programs with terrorist killings reveals a fundamental
misunderstanding of the war we face, and that is very dangerous
My opponent also misunderstands our battle against insurgents
and terrorists in Iraq, calling Iraq a diversion from the
war on terror. The case of one terrorist shows how wrong
his thinking is. The terrorist leader we face in Iraq today,
the one responsible for planting car bombs and beheading
Americans is a man named Zarqawi. Zarqawi ran a terrorist
training camp in Afghanistan until our military coalition
destroyed that camp. He then fled to Iraq where he got
medical treatment and continued his plotting and planning.
To confirm where he's coming from, just the other day,
Zarqawi publicly announced his sworn allegiance to Osama
bin Laden. If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy
fighting American forces in Iraq, does Senator Kerry think
he would be leading a productive and peaceful life? Of
course not. And that's why Iraq is no diversion, but a
central commitment in the war on terror, a place where
our military is confronting and defeating terrorists overseas
so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
You cannot lead our nation to decisive victory on which
the security of every American family depends if you do
not see the true dangers of a post-September the 11th world.
The war against terror requires all our resources, all
our strength. We will stay on the offense. We will improve
our homeland protections. And of course, we'll continue
to work with our allies and our coalition to keep us safe.
Senator Kerry's view of alliance-building is to call them
the coerced and the bribed, is to insult the friends who
stands with us and try to placate countries who disagree
with us. No, we'll work hard with all our friends and allies,
but I will never give a country a veto power over our national
I believe in the transformational power of liberty. That's
what I believe. You know, I have had many conversations
with Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. That may not seem
like much to some here. But it wasn't all that long ago,
when you think about it, that we were at war with Japan.
Japan was the sworn enemy of the United States of America.
My dad fought against the Japanese; I'm confident many
out here's relatives fought against the Japanese, as well.
And after we won that war, Harry S. Truman, President of
the United States, believed in the power of liberty to
transform an enemy into an ally. There was a lot of skepticism
about that during that period in our history. You can understand
why. Japan couldn't conceivably become a democracy, people
would say. Why do we want to help a country that inflicted
such harm on the United States of America, others would
say. There was pessimism and doubt.
But, fortunately, predecessors of ours believed in the
power of liberty to transform, and as a result of that
belief, and because we helped Japan become a democracy,
I now sit at the table with Prime Minister Koizumi talking
about how to keep the peace we all want. Some day an American
President will be sitting down the a duly-elected leader
of Iraq, talking about keeping the peace in the Middle
East. And our children and our grandchildren will be better
off for it. (Applause.)
I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence
for their freedom. I believe women in the Middle East want
to live in a free society. I believe mothers and dads in
the Middle East want to raise their children in a free
and peaceful environment. I believe all these things because
freedom is not America's gift to the world, freedom is
the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world.
We have climbed the mountain and we see the valley below.
And the valley below is one of peace and hope and optimism.
You know, 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 its leaders. This
isn't one of those times. (Laughter.) This is a time that
requires firm resolve, clear vision, and a deep faith in
the values that makes us a great nation. (Applause.)
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. I will never forget the
day. I will never forget the voices of those in their hard
hats yelling at me at the top of their lungs, "Whatever
it takes." I will never forget the look in the man's
eye who grabbed me by the arm, and he said, "Do not
let me down." Ever since that day, I wake up every
morning thinking about how to better protect our country.
I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes.
Four years ago when I traveled your great state in the
caucuses, and then in the general election, I made a pledge
that if you gave me a chance to serve, I would uphold the
honor and the dignity of the office to which I had been
elected. With your help, with your hard work coming down
the stretch, I will do so for four more years. God bless.
Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) I appreciate you
being here. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.)