FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
George W. Bush
Remarks at "Focus
on Women's Issues" Event
September 17, 2004 • Charlotte, NC
Thanks for being here. Go ahead and be
seated. We've got some work to do here. (Laughter.) Thanks
for such a warm welcome here in the great state of North
Carolina; it's nice to be back here. (Applause.) I'm here
asking for the vote and I'm here to ask for your help.
(Applause.) Gosh, there's a lot of people back there --
can you hear me back there? (Applause.) That's good. Thanks
The first thing I'd like you to do is ask you to register
your friends and neighbors to vote. (Applause.) And while
you're doing that, don't overlook discerning Democrats
like Zell Miller. (Applause.) And then after we get them
registered to vote, when it comes voting time, head them
to the polls and remind them if they want a safer America,
a stronger America, a better America, to put me and Dick
Cheney because in office. (Applause.)
Listen, we've got an interesting way to talk about some
issues today. One of the things you've got to know is I've
got a reason to run again. I'm asking for the vote because
there's more to do to make this country a safer place and
a better place for everybody; a more hopeful place for
those of us who live here in America. And so I asked some
of our fellow citizens here to share some ideas, or to
discuss some of the ideas I have about a new term. I think
you're going to find it interesting, I hope you do.
Before I begin to talk with them about ways to make this
country a more hopeful place, I do want to tell you that
I lucked out when Laura said "yes." (Applause.)
One way to maybe look at this race is you can judge the
nature of a fellow by the company he keeps. (Applause.)
I'm keeping great company when it comes to Laura Bush,
I'm proud of her. (Applause.) Listen, when I asked her
to marry me, she said, fine, just so long as I don't have
to give any political speeches. (Laughter.) I said, okay,
you won't have to give any speeches. Fortunately, she didn't
hold me to my word. The other night the country got to
see what I've seen in Laura for all these years: She's
compassionate, she's decent, she's strong, she is a great
mom, a wonderful wife, and a fantastic First Lady for our
I want to thank my friend, Elizabeth Dole. She's a great
United States Senator for the state of North Carolina.
I want to thank my friend, Robin Hayes. I appreciate you
being here, Congressman. I'm glad you're here. Nice to
see you, sir. (Applause.) Congresswoman Sue Myrick, she's
here. Thanks for coming, Sue. It's great to see you. (Applause.)
Richard Burr, is he here? (Applause.) Where is he? Burr,
how are you? (Applause.) I'm in town not only to talk about
my race, I'm in town to talk about his race. He needs to
be elected to the United States Senate. (Applause.)
I want to thank Pat McCrory, the great Mayor of Charlotte,
North Carolina. Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Cherie Berry is with us today. We got some statehouse folks.
We got Patrick Ballantine, the next governor, with us today.
I want to thank the grassroots activists who are here
today. (Applause.) These people put up the signs and do
the hard work. I want to thank you for what you have done
and what you're going to do, which is, coming down the
pike, turn people out to vote. We carried North Carolina
last time, and with your help, we're going to carry it
this time. (Applause.)
I know Teresa Earnhardt is with us today. I'm proud you're
here, Teresa. It's good to see you. Thanks for coming.
There you are. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.) I
was going to the NASCAR race in New Hampshire on Sunday,
but I'm going down to help provide as much comfort as I
can to the folks whose lives have been turned upside down
by the hurricane that hit the coast so hard. I know it's
affecting parts of North Carolina. We send our prayers
to the people whose lives are being affected in your great
state, and we stand ready to help when this storm passes
I appreciate you all coming. Let me tell you something
about what I believe. I believe government should stand
side-by-side with people, not try to tell people how to
run their life. (Applause.) I believe the proper role of
government is to help people help themselves, not dictate
to people. There's a fundamental difference in this campaign
in philosophy of government. And in the course of the next
days coming down the stretch, people are going to see a
Today I also want you to understand I understand the world
of ours is changing, and the fundamental systems of government
must change with the changing world. The government of
the -- the society of ours has changed dramatically. For
example, in the old days women used to stay at home. Now
they're staying at home and working, they're inside the
house and outside the house. (Applause.) That's a fundamental
shift in our labor market. And, yet, the labor laws haven't
changed. So we're going to talk about flex-time and comp-time
today, to help women juggle the needs of work and family.
We want the labor laws to be family-friendly here in America.
We want them to adjust with the times. (Applause.)
In the old days, you know, the day that her granddad worked
for one company and one career. And today people are now
changing jobs and careers oftentimes. And, yet, the worker
training programs haven't adjusted with the times. You've
got a work force where people are changing jobs often,
you've got to have a worker training program that helps
train people for the jobs which actually exist. And so
we're going to talk about how to make sure the worker training
programs here in America work.
See, what I'm telling you is many of the systems of government
were designed for yesterday. I'm running for President
to make sure they're designed for tomorrow -- our tax system
is designed for tomorrow, our health care systems are designed
for tomorrow, our pension plans are designed for tomorrow.
I want to make sure government helps people be able to
realize their dreams here in the greatest country on the
face of the Earth. (Applause.)
I already worked through one mic. (Laughter.)
In order to make sure there's a hopeful society, we've
got to make sure this economy continues to grow. Now, when
you're out gathering the vote, remind your friends and
neighbors what this economy has been through. We've been
through a recession. We've been through corporate scandals
-- that meant some people forgot what it meant to be a
responsible citizen. We passed laws that now make it clear
we're not going to tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms
of our country. (Applause.)
And we went through that attack on our country on September
the 11th, 2001, that cost jobs. It affected our economy.
We're overcoming these obstacles. These are obstacles in
the way for economic growth and vitality. We're overcoming
them because we've got great workers, great farmers and
ranchers, great small business owners, and because of tax
The economy has added 1.7 million jobs since August of
last year. The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent,
which is lower than the average of the 1970s, 1980s and
1990s. (Applause.) The unemployment rate here in North
Carolina is 5 percent. The tax relief we -- the economic
stimulus plan we passed is working. And so the fundamental
question is, how are you going to make sure this recovery
is sustained economic growth. I'm going to talk a little
bit about that if you don't mind.
First, we need an energy plan to make sure jobs stay right
here in America. In order to make sure people can find
work, this country must have an energy plan. (Applause.)
I submitted one to Congress that said we're going to encourage
conservation, we'll use renewables like ethanol and biodiesel,
we'll use clean coal technologies, we'll use technologies
to explore in environmentally friendly ways for natural
gas. But it's a plan that understands this: In order to
make sure people can find work here in America today and
tomorrow, we need to be less dependent on foreign sources
of energy. (Applause.)
In order to make sure we have jobs here in America, we
need to do something about these junk lawsuits that are
threatening small business owners. (Applause.) In order
to do something about making sure we got jobs here in America,
we got to be wise about our regulatory policy. Many small
business owners fill our regulations. I can't guarantee
you whether anybody in the federal government has ever
read them. (Laughter.) But I do know paperwork is costly.
In order to make sure jobs stay in America we got to have
wise trade policy. Now, we've opened up our markets for
foreign goods, which is good for the American consumers.
If you have more choices in the marketplace you're more
likely to get the product you want at a better quality
and a better price. So what I'm saying to other nations
is, you treat us the way we treat you. (Applause.) That's
why -- that's why we were the first administration to invoke
the China Textile Safeguard. That's why we were the first
administration to file a WTO case against China. The message
is clear: If you want to trade with us, you treat us fairly,
because Americans can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere
if the rules are fair. (Applause.)
Two other things I want to tell you about in order to
make sure jobs are here. See, I got a six-point economic
plan to make sure the recovery that we're witnessing is
a lasting recovery, so people can realize their dreams
here in America. Listen, a hopeful society is one not only
that changes fundamental systems to help people, but it's
one in which the economic vitality is strong enough for
people to be able to find work, or start their own business,
or have a chance to realize their dreams.
Now, we got to be wise about how we spend your money in
Washington if we're going to make sure this economy continues
to grow. Here's my view of things. We're going to set priorities,
and then we're going to let you keep as much money as we
possibly can. Because once the federal government meets
those priorities, I think you can spend your money better
than the federal government can. (Applause.)
To make sure this economy grows, we got to keep your taxes
low. (Applause.) We're going to talk to a small business
owner here in a minute, a woman-owned business. One of
the most amazing -- (applause) -- one of the most important
changes that has taken place in this changing world is
that there are 10 million women-owned businesses here in
America. What a phenomenal change in society, isn't it?
I think tax policy ought to encourage the formation of
women-owned businesses, and I think tax policy ought not
to harm women-owned businesses. Do you realize most businesses
today, small businesses are sub-chapter S corporations,
or limited partnerships, which means they pay tax at the
individual income tax level? So when you cut individual
income taxes, you're really helping small businesses. You're
helping women-owned small businesses. (Applause.)
I think raising taxes on small businesses would be a mistake.
It would hurt our economy. I'm running against a fellow
who's promised $2.2 trillion in new federal spending so
far. And we haven't even got to the stretch run yet. So
they said, how are you going to pay for it? He said, oh,
that's simple, we'll just tax the rich. You run up the
top two brackets of the individual income taxes, you're
taxing about a million small businesses here in America.
Seventy percent of new jobs in America are created by small
businesses, and you're taxing the job creators.
That doesn't make any economic sense. You've heard the
talk before, haven't you -- "We're just going to tax
the rich." Yes. The rich hire accountants and lawyers,
so you get stuck with the bill. You can't tax the rich
enough to pay for $2.2 trillion of new spending. There's
a tax gap. And guess who gets stuck with that tax gap?
You do. But we're not going to let him tax you, because
we're going to win in November. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you. We've got work to do here.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: We've got a little work to do. Thanks.
I told you one of the most amazing statistics is the fact
there's 10 million small business owners. I think in the
state of North Carolina, I think 45 percent of the small
businesses are owned by women. That is an incredibly hopeful
statistic, isn't it? (Applause.) It's a fantastic statistic.
See, when I talk about a changing world, that's what I'm
talking about. And so we got one of those entrepreneurs
with us today. Stewart Gordon is with us. A business owner.
(Applause.) The Buttercup, Inc. What do you do?
MS. GORDON: We're a gift and stationery shop, and we started
29 years ago, five women with an investment of $500 each.
Only in America. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. You're obviously still in
MS. GORDON: We are. We're still going strong.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you have employees?
MS. GORDON: We have 37 talented women that work with us.
(Applause.) We own our own building. And we have a good
time. It's a nourishing environment, not only for us, our
staff, but also for our customers. We are true steel magnolias.
So with determination and a little hard work, The Buttercup
is strong. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Good. The Buttercup is a sub-chapter S
corporation. That means they pay tax at the individual
income tax level. And so when you hear them coming out
of Washington saying, oh, we're just going to tax the rich,
keep The Buttercup in mind. See, when they run up the top
two brackets, companies like The Buttercup get affected.
And if they start taking money out of The Buttercup's coffers,
it's less likely the women who work there are going to
be able to keep their jobs.
How many people did you hire this year, do you know?
MS. GORDON: We hired six.
THE PRESIDENT: Six people. See, that's what's happening
in the economy. Six people hired by this small business
here, six there. This economy is growing because the small
business sector is strong. (Applause.) Tax policy ought
to help women-owned business, not hurt women-owned businesses.
Let's talk about flex-time, do you want to?
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: See, federal labor law -- hold on for a
minute -- labor law prevents there to be maximum of flex-time.
The labor law is stuck in the past. It was written when
women stayed at home. The world has changed. We've got
women now working in the house and out of the house, like
I said, and that's good for our economy. But the labor
laws need to adjust to allow moms to be able to juggle
the needs of the workplace and the family. I'm running
again because I want to change systems of government that
prevent people from realizing their dreams.
If you make it easier for a mother -- or a father, for
that matter -- to be a good mom or a dad, it's more likely
they're going to be a better employee and have a higher
quality of life. (Applause.)
Good job. Are you ready? Yes, she's ready. Frances, you're
ready. My old buddy, Frances; we met before.
One of the things we've changed is to change this concept
of government -- getting people dependent upon government.
We changed welfare laws in a more compassionate way, as
far as I'm concerned. We made the system more compassionate,
so as to help people realize their dreams.
And Frances Cunningham is with us -- my old buddy, right?
MS. CUNNINGHAM: I'm here.
THE PRESIDENT: Until I asked her to come on the stage.
(Laughter.) Mother of two.
MS. CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Can you hear me?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, they can hear you loud and clear.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: You're doing good.
MS. CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Frances is a great story, you know. She
was on welfare. They have a great welfare department here,
they said, let's help -- let's help somebody help themselves.
That's what I'm telling you about. We're changing systems
so people have a chance to realize dreams.
Now what she's saying, she wants to go to the next level.
Hopefully, somebody is listening out there in the camera
that says, wait a minute, maybe Frances could make a --
MS. CUNNINGHAM: And I have been promoted on my job, and
it just opened up a lot of doors for me. And I'm sure a
lot of women out here understand, you know, when you have
to depend on the government to help you, that is fine for
a while -- to help you get your life in order. And it's
been great. And I just encourage business to just help
one another and help people, and help us to become better
citizens out here, and mothers and fathers, you know?
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. You're doing great. (Applause.)
Listen, she has the hardest job in America, though. I want
you to know she's got the toughest job in America -- a
single mother is the toughest job in America. (Applause.)
And we need to help. And I appreciate you, you did great.
I want to talk to Kema Jenkins. We're going to talk to
Kema right now --
MS. CUNNINGHAM: Can I say one more thing?
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. You've got the mic and it's
MS. CUNNINGHAM: I just want to thank my supervisor.
THE PRESIDENT: Where is your supervisor?
MS. CUNNINGHAM: That's her, right there.
THE PRESIDENT: Good job. Thanks for coming.
MS. CUNNINGHAM: She's been very supportive.
THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate you being here.
MS. CUNNINGHAM: Give her a handshake for me.
THE PRESIDENT: Handshake right now? Well, let me finish
the thing here. (Laughter.)
MS. CUNNINGHAM: Okay. All right. Thank you. And Mr. Jacobson,
he's not here, Department of Social Service director, he's
been like a mentor.
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. See, people can make a difference
in somebody's life. We can change one America one heart
and one soul at a time if somebody just takes time out
of their life to love a neighbor like you'd like to be
loved yourself. (Applause.)
Are you ready, Kema? I told you one of the real challenges
we have is to help people have the skills necessary to
fill the jobs of the 21st century. We've got a really interesting
story here in Kema Jenkins. She is a -- she's a good soul
who -- well, tell us. You used to work for?
MS. JENKINS: A textile company. That is now --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. You don't want to say its name? No?
Okay. Pillowtex -- I will. (Laughter and applause.)
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: Let me -- if I can help say what you just
said. Look, the government needs to help people gain the
skills necessary to fill jobs. I know what it's like here
with the textile industry, and so do you. It's been hit
hard. But the amazing thing about your economy is that
it is diversifying. There are health care jobs available.
And the government I think has a responsibility to help
people like Kema gain the skills necessary to fill the
jobs of the 21st century. (Applause.)
Nobody likes jobs going away. But there's new opportunity.
In a changing economy like ours, there are new opportunities
for people. When an economy changes it certainly creates
dislocation, and I understand that. And that's not good.
But what is good is that jobs are replaced with higher-paying
jobs so long as the people have the skill set necessary
to fill the jobs. And that's what we're talking about here.
Women need help. If they get laid off from work, they need
help. That's why I'm such a big believer in the community
college system, in helping people go back and gain the
You can't say -- government can't pass a law that says,
Kema has got to go back to school. She's got to make up
her own mind. She said, I want to embetter myself and is
there a place to find help. I think it's a legitimate use
of your taxpayer -- of your money, is to help somebody
like Kema be able to realize dreams in the workplace. (Applause.)
Now, let me ask you something. One of the interesting
things about education -- I didn't see you all over there;
that's the end zone. Okay, never mind. (Applause.)
One of the interesting things about education is that
as you increase your skill level, you increase your productivity.
It means you're a more productive worker. And when you
become more productive, you make more money. One of the
interesting things about a changing economy is that our
workers are more productive than ever before. That means
instead of using a hoe, you use a backhoe. Or instead of
using, you know, a regular old standard typewriter, you
use a computer. In other words, that's an example of becoming
more productive. (Applause.)
But that creates a challenge for us. It creates a challenge
for us in our society because the more productive workers
become, the faster the economy has to grow so people can
find work. That's why my six-point plan is essential to
making sure people in a productive world can find work.
So you worked there for Pillowtex for a while and -- so
what's the difference in pay? I'm not -- maybe not exactly
numbers. More, less, same?
MS. JENKINS: I'm going to be making more this year than
I've made the past 21 years at Pillowtex. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. See, that's the great opportunity
for women. (Applause.) It's the great opportunity for women
in the workplace. If you can help a person with the skill
set necessary to work, help them become more productive,
they make more money. She's making more money in the beginning
of a new career than she made at the end of her other career.
And that's what's happening all around America. That's
why it's important for us to change fundamental systems
to help women -- and men, for that matter -- realize their
dreams. And that's what we're talking about. It's helping
people. It's a difference of philosophy. As opposed to
saying, you know, you will be dependent on government,
or, you will do this, or, you will do that -- my philosophy
says, can we help you, and can we help you help yourself.
In a changing world, helping people help themselves creates
a more hopeful America. (Applause.)
Let me talk about health care right quick. It's an issue
in this campaign. There is a fundamental difference between
what I believe and my opponent believes when it comes to
health care. I believe the best health care decisions are
made by doctors and patients. (Applause.) I believe it
is essential that the federal government does not run your
health care. (Applause.)
And I put out some practical plans to help people. Do
you know that about 50 percent of the working uninsured
work for small businesses? And the reason why they're uninsured
is because small businesses have trouble purchasing affordable
health care for their employees. And, yet, most small business
owners want to purchase affordable health care for their
employees. I see a lot of the women business owners here
nodding, they -- the best way to help small businesses
and their employees and their families is to allow small
businesses to pool together, to bind together across jurisdictional
boundaries so they can buy insurance at the same discounts
that big businesses get to do. (Applause.)
Those are called association health plans. My opponent
is against them. I think they make a lot of sense. Government
should help people solve problems. The -- health savings
accounts are a very interesting way for people to save
money when it comes to health care, and to help small businesses
afford insurance for their employees. Health savings accounts
are basically catastrophic plans with a high deductible
and that the employer and employee contribute, based upon
the contractual arrangement, tax-free money into an account.
So, in other words, if you've got -- say, the insurance
company will pay for everything over $2,000, you cover
from zero to $2,000 either as a contribution to your employee
or the employee puts it in, and it's your money. And if
you spend the $2,000, you replenish next year. If you spend
nothing on your health care because you're a good exerciser,
you make good choices, you've been lucky, things went well,
that $2,000 is your money; it earns interest, tax-free;
you carry it over from one year to the next, and then you've
got a nest egg for the next year.
And basically what it says is, it says that people make
decisions on health care, not some faceless bureaucrat.
It means that you've got a chance to control this health
care plan. In a changing world, people change jobs and
careers quite often, which means you take your health savings
account with you wherever you go. (Applause.)
To make sure health care is available and affordable,
we're going to spend some money to make sure that children
who are eligible for the low-income health programs at
the government level get signed up. See, there's too many
of the kids not signing up what they call S-chip. It's
a good program and we ought to encourage families to take
advantage of the low-income health programs for our children.
I also want to tell you another interesting idea. Actually,
we're doing it right now. To make sure health care is available
for all of us, we're going to expand community health centers.
Now, community health centers are places where the indigent
and the poor can get primary care and preventative care.
It's a good use of your money to expand community health
centers. It's better that people get this kind of care
and get this kind of care at a community health center,
and not in an emergency room of a local hospital. (Applause.)
And so, in a second term -- in a second term, we will expand
community health centers to every poor county in America.
Two other things on health care I want to talk about --
want to talk about Medicare. I went to Washington to fix
problems, not pass them on to future Presidents and future
generations. We had an issue in Medicare. We had an issue
in Medicare. A lot of senior women were affected by a Medicare
system that hadn't modernized. People say, what are you
talking about? I say, well, Medicare would pay for the
$100,000 for the heart surgery, but would not pay for the
prescription drugs that might prevent the heart surgery
from being needed in the first place. That didn't make
any sense. It didn't make any sense for Medicare recipients;
it didn't make any sense for taxpayers.
And so we're modernizing the system. They've got drug
discount cards now available for our seniors. I urge our
seniors to look at drug discount card. People are having
great savings when it comes to prescription drug coverage,
particularly our poor seniors, because we're helping them
with the purchase of drugs. In 2005, there will be preventative
screenings paid for by Medicare, for the first time ever
in the system. It helps us solve problems by diagnosing
problems early. And in 2006, our seniors will get prescription
drug coverage. And the system makes sense. (Applause.)
And finally -- finally, we've got a healer with us today,
a doc, Andrea Torsone. One reason why it's hard for small
businesses to afford health care, one reason why your health
care costs are going up, one reason why docs are becoming
less available for people is because these junk lawsuits
are beginning to hurt the health care industry significantly.
(Applause.) If you're a doctor and you're getting sued
all the time, or your neighbor is getting sued all the
time, you're going to practice defensive medicine so that
you can defend yourself in a court of law. That costs --
practicing of defensive medicine, in other words, you're
prescribing more than you need to do, you're just doing
the extra X ray here, or extra test there -- that costs
the federal government $28 billion a year, to practice
defensive medicine. I mean, there is a direct correlation
between these lawsuits and the cost of government
We need to do something about it. Too many good docs are
leaving practice. Too many women are having trouble with
keeping their OB/GYN. Particularly the OB part of the OB/GYN.
And they're getting run out of business. I've talked to
too many women who are pregnant and they don't have their
local doc because the local doc had to surrender the practice
due to the high cost of premiums caused by lawsuits. And
that's not right. That's not right. Good health care for
women, and good health care for every American depends
on having a legal system that is reasonable. We need medical
liability reform now. (Applause.)
And this is an issue in this campaign. This is an issue
in this campaign. There's a fundamental difference of opinion.
See, I don't think you can be pro-doctor and pro-patient
and pro-hospital and pro-trial lawyer at the same time.
(Applause.) I think you have to choose. I think you have
to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put a trial
lawyer on the ticket.
THE PRESIDENT: I made my choice: I'm standing with the
docs and patients. We're for medical liability reform in
this campaign. (Applause.)
All right, Doc. You are a -- what kind of doc?
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: See, this is a problem. Here is a kind,
compassionate soul who is obviously talented, and went
to school because she wanted to deliver babies. And the
cost of doing medicine is so high because of lawsuits that
she no longer does so. It's just one less person to help
a woman and it's -- we got a national problem with this
issue. She said her premiums have gone up 300 percent in
a very brief period of time. That's because it's like a
legal lottery out there, and you just keep filing these
lawsuits, one after another. And it's happening state after
state. Good people are saying, I'm through. I wish I could
practice, I wish I could heal, I wish I could help, but
I can't afford it anymore.
And this is a living example of why we need medical liability
reform in Washington, D.C. Listen, I believe that this
is a national issue. I believe it is a national problem.
And I know it's causing our budgets to go up, and that's
why I submitted a plan to the House and the Senate. It
passed the House; it's stuck in the Senate because there's
too many trial lawyers in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
I also want to share some thoughts with you about my most
important duty, which is protect you and your children.
That's the most important duty I have. (Applause.) Let
me share some lessons I've learned from September the 11th.
One, we face an enemy that has no conscience. They --
it's hard for us to understand people that will kill for
the sake of an ideology of hatred, but they do. And, therefore,
you cannot negotiate with these
people, you cannot hope for the best. You cannot sit down
and maybe think, well, gosh, there's a chance we can rationalize
with them. You cannot. And that's why our strategy in this
government is to find them in places around the world so
we do not have to face them here -- is to bring them to
justice in foreign lands. (Applause.)
Okay, hold on a second. Thank you all, but not yet.
Secondly -- I've got more than one lesson to share with
you. Secondly, this is a different kind of struggle, it's
a different kind of war. There are places where these people
can hide and wait and plan. And, therefore, I laid out
a doctrine which said, if you harbor a terrorist, you're
just as equally -- you're just as guilty as the terrorist.
Now, when the President says something -- hold on for a
second -- when the President says something, he better
mean what he says, in order to make this world more peaceful.
(Applause.) I meant what I said. I meant what I said.
The Taliban ignored what we said. And thanks to a lot
of really fine, fine soldiers, the Taliban is no longer
in power in Afghanistan. And we're better off for it. (Applause.)
The world is safer for it, and so is America. No longer
does al Qaeda have a safe haven. See, these people are
like parasites and they try to find a weak host so they
can eventually, kind of, become the host. And as a result
of removing the Taliban from power, we're safer. These
al Qaeda no longer have safe haven there. There's still
some hiding in remote regions of that part of the world,
and we're after them. Day after day, we're slowly but surely
dismantling the al Qaeda network. Seventy-five percent
of their leaders and associates have been brought to justice.
Over the next four years we'll continue to keep the pressure
on. That's our duty to the American people.
But I also want to tell you what else happened in Afghanistan.
This is a country where many young girls didn't get to
go to school. When I talk about ideologies of hate, I'm
talking about people that would not allow girls to be educated.
That's part of an ideology of hate. Their mothers were
taken to the squares of that country and whipped, or killed
in some cases, in the sports stadium, because they would
not toe the line of this dark ideology. That's the way
these people think. There is no -- (drop in tape.) As a
matter of fact, freedom frightens them -- freedom of thought,
freedom of religion, freedom of speech.
Today in Afghanistan -- this is three years ago, which
really isn't very long, when you think about it -- three
years after these people were brutalizing much of that
society, 10 million citizens, 41 percent of whom are women,
have registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
(Applause.) Isn't that fantastic? Think about that. This
is a society which has gone -- which is going from darkness
to light because of freedom. And we're better off for it.
We're better off that Afghanistan is a free country. It
helps us to have an ally in the war on terror there, as
opposed to a place where the terrorists can hide.
Third lesson is that we must take threats seriously, before
they fully materialize. That's one of the lessons of September
the 11th. It's a harsh lesson, but it's one we must never
forget. Prior to September the 11th, planners and thinkers
in Washington, D.C. could see a threat and say, well, we
don't have to worry about it because it could never come
and hurt us. That's what we thought. It wasn't that way
during the Cold War, admittedly, but we had a plan, mutually
assured destruction. But after the Cold War, we thought
we were safe, didn't we? If you really think about the
time, three short years ago, we felt like we were protected.
And so when we saw threats we could decide to deal with
it if we wanted to deal with it, or not. After that day,
every threat must be taken seriously.
In Saddam Hussein I saw a threat. I saw a threat because
he was a sworn enemy of the United States of America. He
was our enemy. As a matter of fact, they were firing missiles
-- he was firing missiles at U.S. aircraft enforcing the
world's sanctions. We had been to war with Saddam Hussein
before; he had been to war in his neighborhood -- in other
words, he was a destabilizing influence. He had terrorist
ties. Abu Nidal killed Leon Klinghoffer, if you remember.
Remember that incident? The guy was in Baghdad, as were
people in his organization. Zarqawi, the beheader, was
in and out of Baghdad, and he had a poisons network in
Iraq. He was a terrorist. Saddam Hussein paid the families
of suicide bombers. Suicide bombing is a terrorist activity.
He had terrorist ties. He also had the capability of making
weapons of mass destruction, and he had used weapons of
mass destruction. And the intelligence I looked at and
the intelligence Congress looked at said he actually had
So I saw a threat. And I went to the United States Congress
and said, we got an issue here that we're going to have
to deal with. Members of the Congress of both political
parties looked at the very same intelligence I looked at
-- the very same intelligence -- and they remembered the
same history I remembered, and they concluded that Saddam
Hussein was a threat, and authorized the use of force.
My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at,
and when they said, do you authorize the use of force,
he voted "yes."
Before the Commander-in-Chief commits troops into harm's
way, before the Commander-in-Chief looks a mom or dad in
the eye and says, I'm sending your son or daughter into
harm's way, we must have tried all options -- all options.
And I was hopeful diplomacy would solve this problem. I
was hopeful that we could diplomatically deal with the
threat. And so I went to the United Nations, said, we see
a problem. They looked at the same intelligence I looked
at, they remembered the same history I remembered, and
with a 15-to-nothing vote in United Nations Security Council,
they voted to tell Saddam Hussein: You disclose, disarm,
or face serious consequences.
Now, I told you when I say something, you better mean
it if you're the President. I think when international
bodies speak, they better mean it, as well. (Applause.)
And they said this. Saddam Hussein, as he had for resolution
after resolution after resolution after resolution, ignored
this one. He wasn't about to disclose, disarm. So he didn't
believe there would be serious consequences, I guess. As
a matter of fact, when they sent inspectors in, the U.N.
sent inspectors in, he systematically deceived them. And
I knew he was deceiving them. So I have a choice to make
at this point in time: Do I take the word of a madman and
forget the lessons of September the 11th, or take action
to defend our country? Given that choice, I will defend
America every time. (Applause.)
Okay, hold on.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you all.
A couple of other things I want to share -- let me share
some other things with you right quick. We didn't find
the stockpiles we thought we would find, the stockpiles
that everybody thought was there. But I do know, I do know,
I do know that he had the capability of making those weapons,
and he could have passed that capability on to an enemy.
And that's a risk we could not afford to take after September
the 11th. Knowing what I know today, I would have made
the same decision. (Applause.) The world is better off
with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell, make no mistake
about it. (Applause.)
Prime Minister Allawi is coming here next week. He's a
tough guy who believes that Iraq should be free. And he
cares about the hopes and aspirations of the Iraqi people.
He is -- I'm looking forward to meeting him. I think he's
coming to speak to the Congress -- I hope I didn't let
the cat out of the bag. Everybody knows that? Okay, good.
(Laughter.) Hope he knows it. (Laughter.) I'm looking forward
to the American people hearing him. It's important that
we hear from someone there on the ground who -- who believes
that people want to be free, believes that the people of
Iraq really want to be free.
Here's our strategy in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We're
going to help the Iraqis hold elections. The Afghan people
are holding their elections soon. There will be free elections
in Iraq in January of this year. People want to vote. People
want to participate. (Applause.) We're going to help train
Iraqi police and army so they can defend themselves against
the few who are trying to stop the dreams of the many in
that country. We'll help them, and we're making progress.
We're making progress. It's tough. Of course, it's tough,
because there are killers there who are trying to shake
our will and shake the will of the Iraqis. It's tough on
the Iraqi citizens. These people are indiscriminately killing
because they want to cause us to leave, and they want the
Iraqis to grow weary of trying to be a free society. Listen
to Allawi. He'll talk about what it means to be free.
Once we get these folks trained and get them on the path
to stability and democracy, our troops are coming home,
with the honor they earned. (Applause.) And I appreciate
those in the United States military. I'm proud you all
are here. (Applause.)
Here's the fourth lesson I want to share with you. The
fourth lesson is, when we put troops in harm's way, they
deserve the full support of the federal government, full
support. (Applause.) That's why I went to the Congress
and asked for $87 billion of support for our troops. And
this is important funding, really important funding. As
a matter of fact, it was so important that there was wide
bipartisan support in the Senate and in the House. As a
matter of fact, when I say "wide bipartisan support," I'm
talking only 12 members of the Senate voted against the
funding -- two of whom are my opponent and his running
THE PRESIDENT: When you're out rounding up the vote, when
you're rounding up the vote, remind people of this fact:
only four members of the Senate voted to authorize the
use of force, and then voted not to fund the troops --
two of whom are my opponent and his running mate.
Now, you might remember, when they asked him, they said,
why, and he said, well, I actually did vote for the $87
billion, before I voted against it. There's not a lot of
folks in Charlotte, North Carolina who speak that way,
I can assure you. (Applause.)
We've done hard work. We've done hard work. Because of
the hard work we've done, this world is becoming more peaceful.
I believe -- I believe in the transformational power of
liberty. That's what I believe. It's the heart of much
of what I think, is because I believe liberty can change
enemies to allies, and change distressed societies to hopeful
societies. I like to share with people my feelings about
Japan. You know, Prime Minister Koizumi is a friend of
mine. I like him. He's a good guy to talk to. And he is
the Prime Minister of a country with which we were at war
during my dad's lifetime. After all, he was there, as was
your dads and granddads. Think about that. It wasn't all
that long ago that Japan was the sworn enemy of the United
States of America. We were fighting them. Young men went
off to war and a lot didn't come back.
And, yet, after World War II, Harry Truman and other American
citizens believed that if Japan became a democracy the
world would be better off. And that was hard work, really
hard work. You can imagine why. You can imagine the moms
here saying, what do you mean, working with Japan to make
a democracy. They just killed -- caused great harm. And,
yet, there was this unshakeable faith that liberty could
change societies. And as a result of that unshakeable faith
of a prior President and citizens of this country, I know
sit down at the table with Prime Minister Koizumi talking
about keeping the peace. Think about that. (Applause.)
Some day -- some day an American President, whoever he
or she may be -- (applause) -- will be sitting down, will
be sitting down with a duly elected leader of Iraq talking
about how to keep the peace in the greater Middle East.
And our children and grandchildren will be better off for
Liberty can change societies. Free societies are peaceful
societies. Free societies help change the world. I believe
everybody longs for freedom. And I believe this not because
freedom is America's gift to the world, I believe it because
freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman
in this world. (Applause.)
I'm here today to let you know I have a reason to seek
the office again. I'm running to help transform systems
of government so people can realize their dreams. I'm running
again to continue to lead so this world will be a safer
place. I'm running again because I want to help spread
the peace we all want. I'm running again because I have
great faith in the American people and have great faith
in the values that make us a great nation. I know where
I want to lead. And I want to thank your help -- for your
help in helping us get there. With your help, we'll win
a great victory in November of this year. God bless. (Applause.)
God bless you all. (Applause.)