Remarks at the Max M. Fisher National Republican Award Dinner
June 25, 2008
Thank you. Pleased be seated. (Applause.) Thanks for the --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for the warm welcome. I'm fresh in from Washington, bringing greetings from First Lady Laura Bush, who's done a fabulous job. (Applause.) And I'm so pleased to be back in Michigan. I've spent some quality time in your state. I've enjoyed it every time I've come. I remember -- you know, we've got a lot of fond memories here, such as the time when the Republican Party nominated a really good guy to be the vice presidential candidate with Ronald Reagan. That would be the first President George Bush. (Applause.)
You might remember, that was in Detroit. And I remember the night -- the time that Ronald Reagan reminisced about that evening. As he told the story, a friend of his was watching the convention proceedings in a hotel lounge in California. And he was on the stage, and my dad was on the stage, and all the supporters were on the stage. And then he heard someone ask this question: "Who are all those people up on the podium with Max Fisher?" (Laughter.)
Everybody who knew Max Fisher loved Max Fisher. He was a man of uncommon grace. He was a person that could speak to the folks on the assembly line as well as to Presidents. He was a generous soul who gave to his community, his country, and the city of Detroit. He was a man of great courage. After all, he lived some 40 miles from Ann Arbor, but always reminded people he went to Ohio State. (Laughter.)
I'm proud to join you in honoring Max Fisher's legacy. And if he were with us today, here's what he would say. He'd say, stop talking about me, and getting to work. And our message is, is that we're going to get to work. We will return the Republican Party to the majority of the Michigan House of Representatives. We will take control of the Senate, House, and we will elect John McCain the next President. (Applause.)
Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, thank you for leading the party, and I believe, with your hard work, John McCain is going to carry Michigan. (Applause.)
Today I had the privilege of flying down on Air Force One with Thaddeus McCotter, United States Congressman. (Applause.) This is the town in which he was raised. This is the district he represents. He is a smart, capable member of the House of Representatives. And those of you who live here are lucky to have him as your Congressman. (Applause.)
I'm proud to be here with Attorney General Michael Cox -- Mike Cox -- (applause) -- who happened to marry a woman named Laura. (Laughter.) Thanks for serving, Mike. I appreciate your leadership.
I'm proud to be here with Sheriff Bouchard. (Applause.) Mike has been a friend of mine for a long time. And I know -- I know the folks he represents through law enforcement really appreciate his dedication and hard work.
I appreciate State Representative Jack Hoogendyk, and wife Erin. (Applause.) And I wish Jack all the best in his run for the United States Senate. Thanks for running, appreciate -- wish you all the very best. (Applause.)
I thank my friend, Chuck Yob, who is the Republican National Committeeman from Michigan. (Applause.) And thank you all for coming.
The last time I attended this dinner, I was the governor of Texas, running for President of the United States. Maybe some of you are old enough to remember that. (Laughter.) Since then, some things have changed: My daughter got married, my hair is grayer, the entourage is bigger -- and I haven't seen a traffic jam in eight years. (Laughter and applause.) But some things that haven't changed: the principles that are etched in my soul, and my faith in the American people.
Over these past eight years, we've endured a lot together. When you think about what has taken place, it's been a challenging time for the American people. We've had a recession, high energy prices, housing downturn, unprecedented attack on our homeland, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and devastating natural disasters. The reason I bring that up is because you can't know what the future will bring, but you can bet there's going to be some unexpected challenges facing our country. And that is why the United States must elect a leader that has the experience and judgment necessary to handle those challenges.
I know a lot about the Oval Office -- the daily intelligence briefings, the unexpected challenges, and the tough decisions that can only be made at the President's desk. In trying times, America needs a President who has been tested and will not flinch. We need a President who will do what is right, even when it's not easy. And we need to elect a President who knows what it takes to defeat our enemies. And this year, there is only one man who has shown those kind of leadership qualities -- and that man is John McCain. (Applause.)
And a President McCain is going to need allies on Capitol Hill. That means we need to put the House and the Senate back where they belong -- in Republican hands. (Applause.) And a President McCain will need people he can work with in this state on behalf of the people of Michigan, and that needs -- means we need to put the Michigan House of Representatives where it belongs: back into Republican hands. (Applause.)
And I want to thank you all for helping make that reality come true. Thanks for your hard work that you're going to do, and thanks for your contributions that will help make this party vibrant and competitive coming down the stretch. After all, the campaign season really hasn't begun. It may seem like it's begun to you, but it really hasn't, because the main campaign is going to be in the fall. And that's the time most Americans are going to take measures of the candidates and they're going to be wondering about what they believe for the future. And when the people start paying attention and when they start looking at the philosophical differences, they're going to find that there's a wide chasm; there really are fundamental differences between what Republicans believe and what Democrats believe.
On the issues that matter most, from taxes and spending to confirming good judges and building a culture of life, to protecting our people and winning the war on terror, the American people are going to have a very clear choice. When they get in that voting booth on Election Day, when they think about what really matters to them, they're going to vote Republican. They're going to vote Republican for Congress; they're going to vote Republican for the Michigan statehouse; and they're going to vote Republican for President of the United States. (Applause.)
This November the American people are going to have a clear choice when it comes to taxes and spending. Republicans believe that American families can spend their own money far better than the government can. (Applause.) We've worked hard to restrain spending in Washington. We delivered the largest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan was the President. We cut taxes for married couples. We don't think you ought to penalize marriage in the tax code. We cut taxes for families with children. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for capital gains and dividends. We put the death tax on the road to extinction. We eliminated income taxes to nearly 5 million families in the lowest tax bracket, and as a result, the American people have more of their own money in their pocket, and that is the way it should be. (Applause.)
Now, our opponents have a different view on taxes -- as you well know here in Michigan. After all, you've seen the Democrats propose and pass millions of dollars in new taxes. And if they increase their numbers in Lansing, we all know that that tax burden is likely to continue to grow.
And in Washington, the Democratically-controlled Congress refuses to make the tax relief we passed permanent. When the tax relief expires, every income tax rate in America will grow -- go up. The marriage penalty will return in full force. The child tax credit will be cut in half, and taxes on capital gains and dividends will increase significantly. The death tax will return to life. A typical family of four with an income of $40,000 will face a tax crease [sic] of more than $2,000. At a time when our citizens are struggling with high food prices and high gas prices and economic uncertainty, the last thing we need is a tax increase. That is why we must elect Republicans to the Congress and John McCain to the presidency to make the tax relief permanent. (Applause.)
Now, there's a reason why the Democrats want to raise taxes. It's because they need more of your money to increase -- to pay for all the new spending they have in mind. This is a well-thought-out plan on their part. You've seen this on the federal level. When the Democrats campaigned for Congress in 2006, they promised fiscal responsibility. And since they took office, they've been acting like teenagers with a new credit card. (Laughter.)
When those bills to increase spending and raise taxes reach my desk, I answer them with my favorite veto pen and the famous words of Elvis Presley: "Return to sender." (Laughter and applause.)
And one area where the Democrats in Congress has [sic] failed to lead is on energy policy, and that's becoming more and more apparent to the American people. You know, I know that you're concerned about rising gasoline prices, and so am I. I've repeatedly proposed ways to boost America's domestic oil supply. The Democrats have rejected virtually all of them.
It puts them in an interesting position. They say they want lower prices at the pump, but they're against measures that would actually do that. You might say when it comes to energy policy, the Democrats in Congress are running on empty. (Laughter and applause.)
This November, the American people have a clear choice when it comes to confirming good judges, and building a culture of life. Republicans aspire to build a society where every human being is welcomed in life and protected in law. We funded crisis pregnancy centers and supported parental notification laws. We outlawed the cruel practice of partial-birth abortion, and we defended this good law all the way to the Supreme Court -- and we won. (Applause.)
And that victory shows how important it is to put good judges on the bench. Republicans have made it-- they made it clear what our view is about the judiciary, the role of our courts in our democracy. We believe that judges should strictly interpret the law, and not legislate from the bench. We need more judges like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. (Applause.)
Our opponents see things differently. There's no clearer illustration of the differences than this: The Democrats' chosen candidate for President voted against both these good men. And our candidate for President, John McCain, voted for them. (Applause.)
And we recently received a fresh reminder of the importance of the courts. A bare majority of five Supreme Court Justices overturned a bipartisan law that Congress passed and I signed to deliver justice to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. With this decision, hardened terrorists now enjoy the same legal rights previously reserved for Americans.
This is precisely the kind of judicial activism that frustrates the American people. And the best way to change it is to put Republicans back in charge of the United States Senate, and John McCain in the White House. (Applause.)
And the best way to keep judges in Michigan from substituting their own political views for the clear principles of the Constitution is to elect more judges like Cliff Taylor on the Michigan Supreme Court. (Applause.)
This November, the American people are going to have a clear choice when it comes to protecting our country and winning the war on terror. Republicans believe that our most solemn duty is to protect the American people. And since September the 11th, 2001, we have worked day and night to stop an -- another attack on our homeland. At home we've strengthened our defenses, we've reformed our intelligence community, and we've launched a new program to monitor terrorist communications. Around the world we have gone on the offense against the terrorists and advanced freedom as the great alternative to their ideology of hatred and violence. In a time of war, we need a Commander-in-Chief who understands that we must defeat the enemy overseas so we do not have to face them here at home -- and that man is John McCain. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, we destroyed al Qaeda training camps and removed the Taliban from power. And today we're helping a democratic society take root, and ensuring that Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terrorists planning an attack on America.
And in Iraq, we removed a dangerous regime run by Saddam Hussein. The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision at the time, and it is the right decision today. (Applause.)
Early last year, when the situation in Iraq was deteriorating, we launched what's the call the "surge." And since the surge, violence in Iraq has dropped -- a lot. Civilian deaths and sectarian killings are down, and political and economic progress is taking place. Democracy is taking root where a tyrant once ruled.
In Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world, our men and women are performing with skill and honor. Some of these brave troops have come from Michigan. We honor their sacrifices. We are grateful to their families. And every single American should be proud of their noble work. (Applause.)
The war on terror is the great challenge of our time. The Democratic Party has repeatedly shown that it would take America in the wrong direction, starting with the fact that many don't consider this to be a war at all. In their view, this is a -- primarily a matter of law enforcement. In the war on terror, our focus should not be on prosecuting criminals after they have committed a crime. Our job is to find the terrorists and stop new attacks before they happen. (Applause.)
To stop new attacks, we need to know what the terrorists are planning. And the best source of information about terrorist attacks is the terrorists themselves. After 9/11 we established a program at the CIA to detain and question key terrorist operatives and their leaders. This program has stopped new attacks on our country and has saved American lives. And despite these successes, Democratic leaders in Congress have tried to shut it down.
To stop new attacks we also need to deny terrorists safe haven, including in Iraq. And that's why we launched the surge. Yet the Democrats declared the surge a failure before it even began. And now that the surge has turned the situation around, they still call for retreat.
The other side talks a lot about hope -- and that sums up their Iraq policy pretty well: They want to retreat from Iraq and hope nothing bad happens. (Laughter and applause.) But wistful thinking is no way to fight a war and to protect the American people. Leaving Iraq before the job is done would endanger our citizens and embolden the enemies who have vowed to attack us again. When it comes to the war on terror, our Democratic leaders should pay more attention to the warnings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and spend less time heeding the demands of MoveOn.org and Code Pink. (Applause.)
Over the next few months, you're going to hear a lot of talk about change. The Democrats say they're a party of change. Let me review the history of the Democratic Party. There was a time when they believed that low taxes were the path to growth and opportunity -- but they've changed. There was a time when they believed in common-sense American values -- but they have changed. There was a time when they believed that America should pay any price and bear any burden in the defense of liberty -- but they have changed.
This isn't the kind of change the American people want. Americans want change that makes their lives better and their country safer. And that requires changing the party in control of the Congress. And that requires having a Commander-in-Chief who will support our military, and will fight and win the war against those who would do us harm. And that Commander-in-Chief will be John McCain. (Applause.)
And so I thank you for coming tonight. I just want you to know that we've got a lot of work to do together. I don't know about you, but my energy is up and my spirits are high, and I'm going to finish my job with a sprint to the finish line. (Applause.)
So with confidence in our vision and faith in our values, let's go forward together. Let's put Republicans back in control of the Congress and the Senate. Let's make sure Republicans run the statehouse here in Michigan. And let's do all we can to put John McCain in the Oval Office.
May God bless you, and may God bless our country. (Applause.)
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