President at John Sununu for Senate Reception
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 5, 2002
Remarks by the President at
John Sununu for Senate Reception
Expo Center of New Hampshire
Manchester, New Hampshire
12:15 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Listen, it's good to be back. I had the honor of speaking in the Armory before, and it's the place where I cut my teeth in New Hampshire politics by flipping pancakes. (Laughter.) But it was reminiscent of some really good times for Laura and me, and I recognize a lot of faces here, and I want to thank you all for coming.
I'm here because I want to make it as plain as I can, John Sununu will be a great United States Senator for New Hampshire. (Applause.) It's in my interests, it's in New Hampshire's interests, it's in the country's interest that John Sununu be elected. (Applause.)
I want to thank you all for working hard for his election. There's no doubt in my mind that we will be able to work together to do what's right for the country.
I'm impressed by his record. First of all, I know something about what I'm about to speak -- he and I share something in common: we've both got mothers still telling us what to do. (Laughter and applause.) He assures me he's still listening to her -- (laughter) -- and I'm listening to mine. (Laughter.) Most of the time. (Applause.)
We both married above ourselves. (Laughter.) I want to thank Kitty Sununu, mother of three, for standing by John's side. It's tough to run for office, it's hard on a family. But if you've got a good marriage and if you prioritize your family, you can do anything. And I appreciate the Sununus' love for each other, and I appreciate their family values a lot. (Applause.)
Laura sends her best. She made a lot of friends here in New Hampshire. She sends her love to her friends. She sends her best, of course, to the Sununus. She wishes she could be here; she is opening up a museum in Portland, Maine. You all drew the short straw. (Laughter.) But she's doing great. She's doing great. I have been incredibly proud of her.
The country has seen her grace and her strength and her calm when the pressure was on. People began to realize why I asked her to marry me, and some are a little confused as to say why she said yes, but nevertheless. (Laughter.) I love her dearly, she is a fabulous First Lady for the country. (Applause.)
I appreciate Judd Gregg. He's been a friend, he's a solid citizen. He's a really, really good United States Senator. He, too, married well, it's great that Kathy's here. But the Greggs are close friends of Laura and mine, we value their friendship, and I know you value his service to the great state of New Hampshire. (Applause.)
I want to say a word about Bob Smith. Bob served well in the United States Senate. I was incredibly impressed by his graciousness on what had to have been a very difficult night for Bob and his family. He was gracious about John, he was strong in his support. New Hampshire has been well represented by Senator Bob Smith. I, too, am proud to call him friend. And I appreciate his service to the country. (Applause.)
I'm also proud to serve in Washington, D.C., with a fine United States Congressman, a fellow I got to know pretty well as I traveled on John's Winnebago all over the -- all over the state of New Hampshire, and that's Charlie Bass. I appreciate you, Charlie. (Applause.)
I also look forward to being joined in Washington by the Congressman Jeb Bradley. I appreciate the campaign Jeb is running -- (applause) -- and I'm honored to be here with the next Governor of the state of New Hampshire, Craig Benson. I appreciate you, Craig. (Applause.)
I know something about being a governor, and I know what it takes to get elected. And I am impressed by the campaign that Craig is running. He takes nothing for granted; he's out there in those coffee shops and knocking on those doors. He is traveling this state. He has got a burning desire to do what's right for all the people of New Hampshire. I'm confident he's going to win, and I'm equally as confident that he'll do a great job as your governor. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank the grassroots activists of the state of New Hampshire for coming. I want to thank you for what you have done, and, more importantly now, what you're going to do.
And I know what you can do in this state. You can turn out the vote. You can put up the signs. You can mail the mailers. You can get on the phones. John Sununu will be elected the United States Senator, not only because he's got a good message and a good heart, but because of your hard work and your dedication to turn out the vote. (Applause.)
I want to thank the Chairman of the party, John Dowd, and Tom Rath, the National Committeeman, and Nancy Merrill, the National Committeewoman, for leading an active, strong grassroots organization. You need to go to your coffee shops. You need to go to your churches or your synagogues or your mosques or any other place of worship. You need to go to your community centers, and you need to tell everybody in the state of New Hampshire -- Republican, Democrat, or Independent -- that you've got some fine candidates; that John Sununu needs to be the United States Senator. (Applause.)
And we've got some tough tasks ahead of us. We must work together to make sure Americans can find work. The way I like to put it is anytime anybody who wants to work can't find a job, we must do everything we can to seek to expand the job base.
Now, the role of government -- John and I know this -- is not to create wealth. The role of government is to create an environment in which the small business can grow to be a big business, in which the entrepreneur, the spirit of America can flourish, in which our producers have got a chance to make a living. And so therefore, I need somebody in the Senate who understands that -- somebody who also understands the importance, when the economy is slow, of letting people keep more of their own money. (Applause.)
New Hampshire citizens of all political stripes must understand that when the economy is slow, that you don't increase taxes on the American people, but you let people keep more of their own money. Because when they do, they demand a good or a service, and when they demand a good or a service, somebody in the marketplace is likely to produce the good or a service. And when somebody makes that decision to produce a good or a service, somebody is more likely to find work.
For the sake of jobs in New Hampshire, for the sake of economic vitality in this state, you need a United States Senator who will join me in making the tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
John Sununu was with me from the beginning. There was no question in my mind where he stood. He didn't need to take a poll, or a focus group, to make his decision about tax relief. He knew it was the right thing for the national economy. The problem we have, and the reason we have to continue to talking about this issue is because of a quirk in the Senate rules. And I'm going to let old Judd, after I leave back to go see my mother, tell you what -- how this happened.
Let me just put it to you this way, in plain language. The Senate has got the kind of rule where you pass the tax cut and then ten years it goes back to where we were. The way I like to put it, if I can -- in plain English is, on the one hand, they taketh away, on the other hand, they giveth. On the one hand they give tax relief, on the other hand, you don't get tax relief. It's hard to explain in Manchester, New Hampshire, and it's darn sure hard to explain in Crawford, Texas.
But this isn't hard to explain: that wouldn't happen if you had a United States Senate which would vote to make the tax cuts permanent, and that senator would be John Sununu. (Applause.)
A couple of other things that we need to do in Washington to make sure our folks can find work. Listen, we've got a lot of construction projects which are on hold because people can't get terrorism insurance. The enemy hit us, and they affected our economy. And one way they did was a lot of construction projects -- like $15 billion worth -- are not going forward because people can't get insurance, because of a potential terrorist attack.
I think it is a legitimate use for Congress to kind of underwrite terrorism insurance. There is 300,000 jobs going begging, 300,000 hard-hats not finding work because we can't get terrorism insurance. It doesn't cost the American people anything if there's not another attack. But it'll help the economy grow. It'll help make people -- it'll help people find work.
John Sununu understands this. What we need to do is pass a terrorism insurance bill that does not reward trial lawyers, but works to put our hard-hats back to work in America. (Applause.) And, finally, there's a lot of things we can do to make the environment for economic growth strong. But one thing we need to do for certain is to elect people who understand whose money we spend in Washington.
You need to listen carefully to the debates that goes on in our nation's capital. You see, some of them are -- goes on with people trying to get to the nation's capital. Some of them, they talk about the government's money. Folks, we don't spend the government's money in Washington -- we spend your money. And you better make sure you send somebody to Washington who is a fiscally responsible person.
I know firsthand that John is, after all, he's on the -- he's vice chairman of the Budget Committee in the House. And, by the way, the House Budget Committee passed my budget, so the House has a budget. It gets us back to balance quickly. It funds priorities. It gets us back to balance as quickly as possible. It says, let's be responsible with your money. We can't get a budget out of the United States Senate. And if you don't have a budget, and because every idea in Washington sounds like a brilliant idea, even though the price tag may run in the billions, we've got the danger of the Congress overspending. There's no question in mind that John Sununu will be responsible with the people's money when he becomes the United States Senator. (Applause.)
I think a lot about our economy. I'm going to do everything I can to increase the job base. I spend a lot of time on it. It's one way to make sure the country is stronger. Another way to make sure we've got a strong country is to make sure that our federal bench is a bench full of judges that don't use their position from which to legislate. We've got plenty of legislators. We don't need our judges legislating, we need them strictly interpreting the Constitution. (Applause.)
That's an issue in this campaign -- the bench is an issue in this campaign. I named a fabulous lady from Texas, named Priscilla Owen. She'd been running statewide in our state several times, got elected overwhelmingly, had strong Republican support, strong Democrat support. Number one in her law school class, or tops of her law school class. She's ranked the highest rating possible by the American Bar Association. She is a -- you know, she'll interpret the Constitution, she's not going to try to rewrite it.
And I sent her name up there and they -- they weren't fair with her record. They totally politicized the issue. They made this a huge political deal. For the sake of a solid judiciary, I need John Sununu in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
I named a new man, named Michael Estrada, to one of our higher benches. It's a great American success story. He couldn't speak English when he came here -- he's now being nominated by the President to one of the highest benches because he's a brilliant lawyer. He's got fantastic support from Democrats and Republicans. John Sununu will cast his vote with Michael. Judd Gregg would. I wonder if the other candidate in this race will stand up and support the judicial nominees of a President George W. Bush. For the sake of a strong judiciary, we need John Sununu in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
I also appreciate his understanding that our most important priority is to protect the homeland. See, there's an enemy which stills hate America lurking around. And so long as they lurk, we must do everything we can to protect America. That's our most important job, is to protect you. There's a lot of good folks working hard to do this. We're running down every lead, every hint, every idea that somebody might hurt us, we're following up on.
But in order to make sure I can do a better job, I ask the Congress to join me in the creating of a Department of Homeland Security. Listen, when I was campaigning here I didn't say, vote for me, I want your government to be bigger. I did say, I want your government to work, where it needs to work. And it needs to work in protecting the homeland. There's over a hundred agencies scattered around Washington that have got something to do with the homeland.
So for the sake of better managing the department, for the sake of being able to get people to work together, I said, let's have it in one agency. The House heard it. Judd Gregg has heard it. Sununu supported it. But it's tied up in the Senate. And here's the issue. Some senators want there to be a thick book of managerial regulations which will prevent a President from putting the right people at the right place at the right time in order to respond to an enemy. Some people want there to be more bureaucracy than managerial flexibility.
One example, just one of many: we believe, and the Customs Service believes, that people ought to be wearing radiation-detection devices when they inspect cargo, to determine whether or not a weapon of mass destruction is coming into the country. The union representing the Customs agents said, wait a minute, you can't make people wear radiation-detection devices. That's a matter for collective bargain, we need a collective bargain over that -- which could have taken a year to do that.
I need flexibility. I need a Senator who understands that this President and future Presidents -- (applause.)
The best way to protect America, however, is to chase these killers down, one at a time, one person at a time. And that is precisely what we are going to do.
And they're out there. They just are. We're making progress. The doctrine that says either you're with us or you're with the enemy, still stands. It's just as important today as it was the day after the attacks on September the 11th. And so there's a lot of folks working with us. We've got good intelligence, we're sharing it better than ever before. We're cutting off their money. We're denying safe haven. If we can find them lighting somewhere, we get them on the run. And we pulled in a couple of thousand of them.
And sometimes it makes news when we do it and sometimes it doesn't. This is just a different kind of war. In the old days, you destroyed an enemy's tanks and you say, well, we're making progress. Sunk a couple of ships and we're making progress.
These folks don't have ships, they don't have tanks. They hide in caves and they send youngsters to their suicidal death. That guy al-Shibh, bin al-Shibh popped up, and he's no longer a problem. (Laughter.) We hauled him in. (Applause.)
Slowly but surely, we are dismantling an al Qaeda terrorist network, and we've got a lot more work to do. By the way, we probably captured a couple of thousand of them, and just that many weren't as lucky, thanks to the United States military. (Applause.)
By the way, that doctrine that says if you harbor one of those terrorists, you're just as guilty as the terrorists, it still stands, too. But I want you to remind you -- I want you to remind your kids, in all the midst of this talk about military this and that, that this great nation did what it said it was going to do. And at the same time it upheld doctrine, it liberated people.
We didn't go to Afghanistan, nor will we ever go anywhere, to conquer anybody. See, we believe in freedom. That's why the enemy hates us. We believe in freedom, and we went into Afghanistan -- we freed people. Thanks to the United States -- (applause) -- thanks to the United States young girls now go to -- many young girls now go to school for the first time because of our belief in freedom. Everybody counts. Everybody has got worth. (Applause.)
I sent a bill up there to increase defense spending, a big increase, for two reasons. I hope you appreciate the reasons why. One, anytime we put our troops in harm's way, we owe it to our troops, we owe it to their loved ones, to make sure they've got the best training, the best pay, and the best possible equipment. (Applause.) And secondly, it's a clear signal that we're in this deal for the long haul; that there's not a artificial time line that says, well, we've had enough, we're kind of tired, let's quit.
See, we need to send a signal -- we know this here at home, but others need to know that when it comes to the defense of things which we hold dear, namely our freedoms -- the freedom to worship the way we see fit, the freedom to debate political issues in an open forum, the freedom of the press -- when it comes to the defense of our freedoms, there is no time frame. It doesn't matter how long it takes. It doesn't matter how difficult the task. The United States of America will defend our freedoms. (Applause.)
I haven't seen that Defense bill yet. Judd voted for it and John voted for it; I haven't seen it yet. It's stuck in committee. They don't need to be playing politics with the Defense bill right now. They need to get the bill done before they go home. They need to get the Defense bill on my desk. (Applause.)
I said we're in this deal for the long haul, and we are. We'll be chasing al Qaeda down. They think they can hide somewhere. They just cannot do that with America. The long arm of American and allied justice will seek them out.
We've got some other tasks ahead as well, to keep the peace and to make our country secure. And that of course is Iraq. There's now a national debate, one which I encourage; one which I think is helpful. A national debate on how best to keep the peace; how best to secure the homeland; whether or not we ought to deal with threats before they become so severe that we may never be able to deal with them. It's an important debate.
Monday night I'll be giving a talk to the nation about my take on the debate. I want to share some thought with you right quick, and it's this. The facts and the history of Iraq are pretty clear to me. This is a man who told the world he would not have weapons of mass destruction -- your chemical, your biological or nuclear weapons. For eleven years he has lied.
On the one hand, he said he wouldn't have them -- he does. And remember, this is a guy who's used them. He not only has denied and deceived about possessing weapons, he's actually used the weapons of mass destruction. He's used the weapons of mass destruction against neighbors. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He hates America. He hates many of our friends. He hates Israel. He's a man who contiues his own people who might dissent.
When the inspectors were able to go into the country and have unfettered access, it was discovered that he was a short period away from owning a nuclear weapon.
It's an important debate we're going to have here in America about how best to secure the homeland. I took the debate to the United Nations a while ago. One, I want the United Nations to be effective. I want there to be a body of freedom-loving nations that when they speak, something actually can happen.
This is a man, as I reminded them, who has looked the United Nations in the eye for eleven long years and has defied them. Sixteen times the Security Council passed resolution after resolution after resolution after resolution, and sixteen times he defied them.
My message was, we want you to be effective. We've got a new kind of war we're fighting. You need to be effective. We want you to work. But it's your choice. You can either be an effective United Nations, or you can be the League of Nations. You get to pick.
I also have said as clearly as I can that this is an issue of inspectors. That's what the process oriented people want. This is an issue of disarmament. This is a man who has said he would disarm. The United Nations said he must sixteen times. He said he would, but he hasn't. The choice is his to make, as well. And those choices will be made over time here. But for the sake of our peace, for the sake of our children's future, if the United Nations will not act in strong face, if they continue to be ineffective; if Saddam Hussein makes the choice not to disarm, the United States and a lot of our friends will disarm him. For the sake of peace, for the sake of freedom for the sake of our future and our children's future, we will disarm him. (Applause.)
The use of our military is my last choice, not my first. I take my responsibilities very seriously as the Commander in Chief. The use of force is not my first choice, it's my last. But my first choice, as well, is not to allow the world's worst leader to blackmail, to harm America with the world's worst weapons.
The United States Congress will speak to this issue next week. It's a very, very important debate. This is not a partisan discussion, it's a philosophical discussion. It's a discussion that's a weighty matter. I look forward to the debate, I actually encourage the debate.
I was proud the other day when both Republicans and Democrats stood with me in the Rose Garden to announce their support for a clear statement of purpose: you disarm, or we will. We owe it to our children to think about this issue, we owe it to the future. My belief is, is that the enemy hit us, and out of the evil can come some incredible good. And one of the good that can come is peace.
The United States can lead the world to peace if we're clear and forthright and determined. If we speak clearly about terror and its threats. If we hold our values, God-given values in the forefront, and that is freedom, we can achieve a peaceful world. (Applause.)
And you know what else we can do here in America? We can achieve a better world for all of us too, better world for each person who lives in this country. (Applause.) There are pockets of despair and loneliness in America. My attitude is, when our citizens hurt, we all hurt. I recognize the limitations of government, I think John does, as well. I mean, we can -- government should educate, see that people are educated. Passed a good education bill. John talked about he was a strong stalwart, as was Judd, who actually was an author, of holding people accountable. It says every child can learn in America. We are going to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations in this country and we're going to insist every child learns. (Applause.)
Government can make sure the health systems are modern. Medicare is old. Medicine has changed, Medicare hasn't. Medicine is modern, Medicare -- and a really incredibly important program -- has not changed with medicine. For the sake of our seniors, we need a prescription drug plan and a modern Medicare system. (Applause.) That's an important part of government being involved with making our society better.
But what government cannot do is cause people to love one another. Government cannot put hope in people's hearts. That's up to us, our fellow citizens. My call to America has been and will continue to be to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.
If you want to fight evil, do some good. Do some good. Help somebody in need. Mentor a child. Go to a Boy Scout, or run a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout troop. Feed the hungry. Find shelter for the homeless. There are many ways to fight the evil that has been done to our country.
You see, it's the millions of acts of kindness and decency by our fellow citizens that reflect the true nature and character of this country. No, the enemy hit us -- they thought, they thought, they probably thought that after September 11, 2001, we would file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.)
What they didn't realize is this country is plenty tough. And the world is beginning to see we're plenty -- we're plenty compassionate, too. (Applause.) That in our -- that our strength is our will and our resolve and our dedication to values we hold dear, and our strength is our collective heart.
You know, one reason I got into politics was because I wanted to be a part of a cultural shift, just a small part of a change. I think the enemy accelerated that cultural shift from one in which it said if it feels good, just go ahead and do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else; to a culture in which each of us understand we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.
If you are a mom or a dad, your most important responsibility is to love your child. If you're living in Manchester, New Hampshire, you have the responsibility for the quality of life. You have the responsibility to making sure the schools work. If you're running corporate America, you have a responsibility to tell the truth, and to treat your shareholders and your employees with dignity and respect. (Applause.)
Perhaps the most vivid example about what I'm talking about, about serving something greater than yourself as part of a culture of personal responsibility, came on Flight 93. It's an important moment, in my judgment, about what took place on America on that terrible day.
We had citizens flying across the country. They were told on the telephone that the airplane they were on was being used as a weapon. They told their loved ones goodbye, they said a prayer -- history will show they said a prayer. A guy said, "Let's roll." They took the plane in the ground.
They sent a clear signal to America that serving something greater than yourself in life is an incredibly important part about being the ultimate American, about serving our country. (Applause.)
No, when the enemy hit us, they didn't know who they were hitting. See, out of the evil done to America is going to come incredible good. The world will be more peaceful. This country will be able to eliminate, work to eliminate the pockets of despair.
There's no question in my mind we face challenges as a nation. But there's no question in my mind we can overcome them. After all, this is the finest nation, the greatest nation, on the face of the earth.
Thanks for coming to help John. May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.)
END 12:51 P.M. EDT