FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
George W. Bush
Remarks in Pennsylvania
October 22, 2004 • Wilkes-Barre, PA
Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) Thank
you all for coming. It seems like yesterday I was here
in Wilkes-Barre. (Applause.) Come to think of it, I was.
(Laughter.) I figure if I keep coming back I'll meet everybody
in town. (Applause.) I'm coming back because I want you
to know how important your vote is. That's why I'm here.
We're close to voting time. (Applause.) I've come back
to tell you how important your help is in this election.
Find your friends and neighbors. Convince them to go to
the polls on November the 2nd. Do not overlook discerning
Democrats, people like Zell Miller. (Applause.) And remind
your friends and neighbors, if they want safer America,
a stronger, and a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney
back in office. (Applause.)
I regret that Laura is not traveling with us today.
AUDIENCE: Awww --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that is generally the reaction. (Laughter.)
Kind of like, why didn't you stay home and let her come.
(Laughter.) You know, we were in the same grade at San
Jacinto Junior High in Midland, Texas. That would be the
7th grade. And then I became reacquainted with her when
she was a public school librarian. (Laughter.) And when
I asked her to marry me, she said, fine, but make me a
promise. I said, what is it? Promise me I'll never have
to give a speech. (Laughter.) I said, okay, you got a deal.
Fortunately, she didn't hold me to that promise. She's
giving a lot of speeches. And when she does, the American
people see a warm, compassionate, great First Lady. (Applause.)
I love traveling with my daughters on the campaign trail.
There's nothing better than being with somebody who --
well, tells you to keep your tie straight. (Laughter.)
Don't spill your food before you get out there and talk
to the people. (Laughter.) You know, I used to tell Barbara
and Jenna that one of these days, we'll go on a camping
trip together, the great family camping experience. I'm
sure they envisioned the Colorado River or somewhere. Well
darling, this is it. This is the great -- (laughter.) We're
traveling this country asking for the vote, and I'm glad
Barbara is by my side. (Applause.)
I spoke with our great Vice President this morning. His
spirits are high. He's working hard. I admit that Vice
President Cheney does not have the waviest hair in the
race. (Laughter.) I didn't pick him because of his hairdo.
(Laughter.) I picked him because of his experience, his
sound judgement, and his ability to get the job done for
the American people. (Applause.)
I'm pleased to be sharing the platform with Congressman
Don Sherwood. He's doing a great job. (Applause.) And Congressman
Jim Greenwood is traveling today. He comes up from the
suburbs of Philadelphia. I'm proud to have his support
and I'm proud to call him friend. Thanks for coming, Congressman.
Specter is out there working on behalf of his own campaign
and Santorum is out there working for mine. They're two
fine United States Senators. (Applause.) I hope you put
Arlen Specter back in office. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the state and local officials. I want
to thank Jean Craige Pepper for being here, the candidate
for treasurer of the state. I appreciate people who are
running for office. I want to thank my friend, Sammy Kershaw,
country singer. (Applause.)
Most of all, I want to thank the grassroots activists
who are here, the people putting up all the signs, making
the phone calls, writing the letters. (Applause.) I'm here
to thank you for what you're going to do as we're coming
down the stretch. There is no doubt in my mind, with your
hard work and with your help, we will carry Pennsylvania
and win a great victory in November. (Applause.)
With just 11 days left in this campaign -- who's counting?
(Laughter.) Voters are focusing on the issues that matter
most for their families and for our country. You've heard
the debates. You know where I stand. Sometimes you even
know where my opponent stands. (Laughter and applause.)
You've had a chance to see both of us in action, to measure
our consistency, our resolve, our values and our ability
to lead. This election comes down to five clear choices
for the American families, five choices on issues of great
consequence: your family security, your budget, your quality
of life, your retirement, and the bedrock values that are
so critical to our families and our future. (Applause.)
The first clear choice is very important because it concerns
the security of your family. All progress on every other
issue depends on the safety of our citizens. This will
be the first presidential election since September the
11th, 2001. Americans will go to the polls in a time of
war and ongoing threat to our country. The enemies who
killed thousands of innocent people are still dangerous
and determined to strike us again. The outcome of this
election will set the direction of the war against terror,
and in this war there is no place for confusion and no
substitute for victory. (Applause.)
The most solemn duty -- 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.
Since that -- since that terrible morning of September
the 11th, 2001, we have 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 defending the homeland; we're strengthening our intelligence
capabilities; we are transforming our all-volunteer army
to make sure it remains an all-volunteer army -- (applause.)
We are staying on the offensive, and we are succeeding.
More than three-quarters of al Qaeda's key members and
associates have been brought to justice, and the rest of
them know we're after them. (Applause.) We are in a real
war, and the only strategy must lead to victory.
My opponent has a different approach. He says that September
the 11th -- quote -- "didn't change me much at all."
THE PRESIDENT: And that's pretty clear. He considers the
war on terror primarily a law enforcement and intelligence
gathering operation. His top foreign policy advisor has
questioned whether it's even a war at all, saying that's
just a metaphor, like the war on poverty. I've got news.
Anyone who thinks we are fighting a metaphor does not understand
the enemy we face and has no idea how to win the war and
keep America secure. (Applause.)
My opponent also misunderstands our battle against insurgents
and terrorists. He's called it a diversion from the war
on terror. My opponent used to recognize Saddam Hussein
as a threat. That's until he started to slide in the polls.
Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States. He hated
America. He had a long history of pursuing and even using
weapons of mass destruction. He had ties to terrorists.
He was firing missiles at American pilots enforcing the
sanctions of the world. He paid families of suicide bombers.
He was a threat. (Applause.)
We didn't find the stockpiles that we thought were in
Iraq, that I thought was there, that my opponent thought
was there, that the United Nations thought was there, that
the world thought was there. But I want you to remember
-- tell your friends and neighbors what the Duelfer report
did find. It said that Saddam Hussein had the intent and
capability and the expertise to rebuild a weapons program;
that he was gaming the system, he was using the oil-for-food
program to try to influence officials of other nations
to get rid of the sanctions. And why? Because he wanted
the world to look the other way so he could restart his
programs. That was a risk we could not afford to take.
Knowing what I know today, I would have taken the same
action. (Applause.) America and the world are safer with
Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. (Applause.)
Remember, my opponent called our action a mistake. That's
after he started slipping in the polls. (Laughter.) Iraq
is still dangerous because terrorists there are trying
to stop the advance of freedom and elections. A man named
Zarqawi is responsible for planting car bombs and beheading
Americans in Iraq. He ran a terrorist training camp in
Afghanistan until our coalition forces destroyed that camp.
He then fled to Iraq where he's fighting us today. To confirm
where he's coming from, he recently announced his allegiance
to al Qaeda. If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy
fighting American forces in Iraq, does my opponent think
the would be peaceful citizens of the world? (Laughter.)
Does he think they'd be opening a small business somewhere?
(Laughter and applause.)
Fighting the likes of Zarqawi in Iraq is not a diversion
from the war on terror; it is the way we will win the war
on terror. (Applause.) When it comes to your security,
the choice in this election could not be clearer. 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 the post-September the 11th era. My opponent
has a September 10th point of view. At his convention,
he declared his strategy was to respond to attacks after
America had been hit.
THE PRESIDENT: As we learned on September the 11th, it's
too late to respond. In our debates, he said we can defend
America only if we pass a global test.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not making that up. He was standing
right there when he said it. (Applause.) No, we'll work
with friends and allies, but I will never turn over America's
national security decisions to leaders of other countries.
For the sake of our freedom, and for your security, we'll
fight this war with every asset of our national power.
We'll protect America by striking the terrorists abroad,
so we do not have to face them here at home. And we will
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: We've got another powerful asset at our
disposal, and that's liberty. And that's freedom. (Applause.)
I want the youngsters here listening to think about what
has happened in a brief period of time, some three-and-a-half
years in Afghanistan. It wasn't all that long ago in that
country that young girls were not allowed to go to school,
and their mothers were taken into the public square and
whipped, or sometimes taken to a sports stadium and executed
because they refused to toe the line of the ideologues
of hate, the Taliban which ran Afghanistan.
In working to secure ourselves, in ridding that country
of terrorist camps, of upholding a doctrine that said,
if you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the
terrorist, we liberated over 25 million people in Afghanistan.
And just a couple of weeks ago, millions of Afghan citizens
voted in a presidential election, and the first voter was
a 19-year-old woman. (Applause.) Freedom is on the march.
That society has gone from darkness to light because of
liberty, and America is more secure because of it. Free
societies are peaceful societies. Free societies will not
harbor terrorists. Free societies will be hopeful places
where people can realize their dreams.
Iraq will have elections in January. Iraq is changing.
Think how far that country has come from the days of mass
graves and torture chambers and the brutal reign of one
man. I believe liberty has the capacity to transform societies
and make the world a more peaceful place.
One of our friends in the world is Prime Minister Koizumi.
I said, "our" -- I'm talking about Laura and
me. He is -- he's a good man. He's a person with whom I
work. It wasn't all that long ago that we were at war with
the Japanese. See, 60 years ago, we were fighting the Japanese.
My dad was in that war. I'm confident many other people
were in that war, or families represented were -- had fathers
and grandfathers in the war against the Japanese. (Applause.)
After World War II, Harry Truman -- after we won that
war, Harry Truman believed in the power of liberty to transform
an enemy into an ally. There were a lot of skeptics then.
There were a lot of doubters the Japanese, the enemy could
never become a democracy. Why do we even want to help them,
some would say. After all, they destroyed a lot of U.S.
lives. But there was faith and belief in the power of liberty
to transform societies. And today, because of that belief,
I sit down with the Prime Minister of Japan talking about
keeping the peace that we all want, talking about dealing
with the world's problems. Some day, a duly-elected leader
from Iraq will be sitting down with the President of the
United States of America, talking about the peace in the
Middle East, and our children and our grandchildren will
be better off for it. (Applause.)
Freedom is on the march in this world. I believe everybody
in the Middle East desires to live in freedom. I believe
women in the Middle East want to live in a free society.
I believe mothers and fathers want to raise their children
in a free and peaceful world. 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
The second clear choice in this election concerns your
family budget. When I ran for President four years ago,
I pledged to lower taxes for American families, and I kept
my word. (Applause.) To help our families, we doubled the
child credit to $1,000 per child. We reduced the marriage
penalty. Our tax code should encourage marriage, not discourage
marriage. (Applause.) We dropped the lowest tax bracket
to 10 percent so working families, working Americans can
keep more of their paychecks. We reduced income taxes for
everyone that pays taxes. That's the fair way of doing
As a result of our policies, real after-tax income, money
in your pocket that you can spend, is up about 10 percent
since I took office. (Applause.) Because of tax relief,
because we increased consumer spending and investment,
our economy is overcoming the tough times we've been through.
Remind your friends and neighbors that when I got in office,
the stock market had been in serious decline for six months
prior to our arrival. (Applause.) Then we were in a recession.
And the attacks of September the 11th, 2001 cost us nearly
a million jobs in the three months after the attacks. But
because we acted, this economy of ours is strong and it's
getting stronger. Our economy is growing at rates as fast
as any in nearly 20 years. We've added 1.9 million new
jobs in the last three months. The state of Pennsylvania
has added 4,600 jobs in the month of September, 2004. (Applause.)
The unemployment rate across America is at 5.4 percent,
lower than the average rates of the 1970s, the 1980s, and
the 1990s. (Applause.) And the new unemployment rate figure
in the state of Pennsylvania released today is 5.3 percent.
My opponent has a very different plan for your budget.
He intends to take a bigger chunk out of it.
THE PRESIDENT: He voted against the -- he voted against
a higher child tax credit. He voted against marriage penalty
relief. He voted against lowering the tax rates. If his
vote had prevailed, an average middle-class family would
be paying $2,000 more a year to the IRS.
THE PRESIDENT: That's a fact. It's also part of a pattern.
See, the Senator voted ten times to raise taxes on gasoline.
All told, during his 20 years in the United States Senate,
my opponent has voted to raise taxes 98 times. That's about
five times a year. When he does something that often, he
must really enjoy it. (Laughter.) During his campaign,
my opponent has made a lot of big, expensive promises.
He promised about $2.2 trillion of new spending. That's
with a "T." (Laughter.) That's a lot, even for
a senator from Massachusetts. (Applause.)
So they said, how are you going to pay for it? He said,
oh, we'll just tax the rich. We've heard that before, haven't
we? He's going to raise the top two brackets. There's three
things -- a lot of things wrong with it, but let me give
you three right off the bat. One is, by raising individual
rates, you're taxing many, many small businesses. Seventy
percent of the new jobs in America are created by small
businesses. Most small businesses pay tax at the individual
income tax level. And by running up the top two brackets,
you're taxing the job creators, and that's bad economic
policy. (Applause.) Secondly, there's a gap between what
he's promised and what he can deliver. By raising the top
two brackets, you raise about $600 billion to $800 billion,
and he's promised $2.2 trillion, so there's a gap, a gap
between the promises and what he can deliver. Guess who
gets to usually fill those gaps? Secondly -- or thirdly,
the rich hire lawyers and accountants for a reason when
it comes to taxes. That's to slip the bill and stick you
with it. But we're going to protect the family budgets.
We're going to carry Pennsylvania and win a great victory
on November the 2nd. (Applause.)
When it comes to your budget, you have a clear choice.
My opponent has earned -- and I mean earned -- his rank
as the most liberal member of the United States Senate.
He'll raise your taxes to fund bigger government. I'm going
to keep your taxes low. This is the road to prosperity.
It's a road to economic vitality. Now, when it comes to
taxes, he may try to run in a camouflaged outfit, but he
cannot hide. (Laughter and applause.)
The third choice in this election involves the quality
of life for our families. I believe a good education and
quality health care are important for successful lives.
When I ran for President four years ago, I promised to
end the soft bigotry of low expectations by reforming our
public schools, and I kept my word. (Applause.) We passed
good education reform. We're raising the standards. We're
making sure our schools are accountable -- accountable
to our parents. We're seeing progress. Math and reading
scores are on the rise. We're closing the achievement gap
all across this country. We will build on these reforms.
We will extend them to our high schools so that not one
single child in America is left behind. (Applause.)
We will continue to improve life for our families by making
health care more affordable and more accessible. We'll
expand health savings accounts and creation association
health plans so small businesses can cover their workers,
so more families are able to get health insurance plans
they manage and they call their own. We'll help families
in need by expanding community health centers. We'll make
sure every eligible child is enrolled in our government's
low-income health insurance program. To make sure health
care is available and affordable for the American citizens,
we're going to do something about the junk lawsuits that
run up the cost of medicine and run good doctors out of
Doctor Linda Barrasse is with us today, a cardiologist.
(Applause.) She's got a group practice in Scranton. She's
just like the docs I met yesterday in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Doctors are concerned about the quality of health care
in Pennsylvania because of all these junk lawsuits. They're
running good docs out of practice. There are too many OB/GYNs
being run out of practice, and too many Pennsylvania women
having to drive for miles to get the care they need and
Linda talks about needing to close offices. They're having
trouble recruiting new doctors. Medical liability is an
issue in the Pennsylvania. It is an issue across this country.
It is a national problem that requires a national solution.
I am for medical liability reform. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry has a different point of view on our schools
and our health care system. Now, he voted for the No Child
Left Behind Act, but now wants to weaken the accountability
standards. He's proposed including measures like teacher
attendance in the accountability measures to judge whether
students can read and write and add and subtract. He voted
against health savings accounts. He opposed association
health care plans that would help our small businesses.
He has voted ten times against medical liability reform
on the floor of the United States Senate.
THE PRESIDENT: The other day, he said, well, he's for
some kind of plan. (Laughter.) He put a trial lawyer on
THE PRESIDENT: He can run, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)
He's proposed a big government health care plan that would
cause eight million families to lose the private coverage
they get at work and have to go on a government plan. Eighty
percent of the people who get coverage under his proposal
would be enrolled on a government program. You might remember
one of our debates. He tried to tell the Americans, when
it comes to his health care plan -- and I quote -- "the
government has nothing to do with it." I could barely
contain myself when I heard that. (Applause.) My opponent's
plan would move America down the road to federal control
of health care, and that is the wrong road to take for
American families. (Applause.)
In all we do to reform health care, we will make sure
the decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by
officials in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
Fourth clear choice in this election involves your retirement.
Our nation made a solid commitment to America's seniors
on Social Security and on Medicare. When I ran for President
four years ago, I promised to keep that commitment and
improve Medicare by adding prescription drugs. I kept my
word. (Applause.) Leaders in both political parties have
talked about strengthening Medicare for years. We got the
job done. Seniors are now getting discounts on medicine
with drug discount cards. Low-income seniors are getting
$600 to help them with their prescription drugs this year,
another $600 next year, and beginning in 2006, all seniors
will be able to get prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
My opponent voted against the Medicare bill that included
prescription drugs, even though it was supported by AARP
and other seniors groups. During this campaign, he said
-- quote -- "If I'm President, we're going to repeal
that phony bill." End quote. Then, of course, later
on, he said, no, I don't want to repeal it. Sounds familiar.
(Laughter.) As your President for the next four years,
I will defend the reforms we have worked so hard to pass,
and we will keep the promise of Medicare for America's
We will keep the promise of Social Security for our seniors
and strengthen Social Security for generations to come.
(Applause.) Every election, politicians try to scare seniors
about Social Security. It's predictable. In the 2000 campaign,
they ran ads saying that if George W. gets elected, our
seniors will not get their checks. You might remember those
ads. As you round up the vote, would you please remind
our seniors, George W. got elected, and our seniors got
their checks. (Applause.) And when I get elected this time,
the seniors will still get their checks. (Applause.)
But I know today's moms and dads and grandparents are
concerned about their children and grandchildren when it
comes to Social Security. Some day, our youngest workers,
of course, will retire, and we need to make sure Social
Security will be there when they need it, as well. (Applause.)
I believe younger workers ought to take some of their own
money and put it in a personal savings account, a personal
savings account that will earn a greater rate of return
than a Social Security trust, a personal savings account,
they can call their own, an account the government cannot
take away. (Applause.)
My opponent takes a different approach. He talks about
protecting Social Security, but I want everybody to remember,
he is the only candidate who has voted eight times for
higher taxes on Social Security benefits.
THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to the next generation, he
has offered nothing to strengthen Social Security. American
families have a clear choice in this election. My opponent
wants to scare the seniors of today and do nothing to secure
the system for seniors of tomorrow. I'll keep the promise
of Social Security and Medicare, and strengthen these great
systems for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)
The fifth clear choice in this election is on the values
that are so crucial to keeping America's families strong.
Here, my opponent and I are miles apart. I believe marriage
is a sacred commitment -- (applause) -- one of the most
fundamental, most enduring, and most important institutions
of our civilization. My opponent says he supports marriage,
but his record shows he will not defend it. This isn't
a partisan issue. The vast majority of Democrats, for example,
supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage
as the union of a man and a woman, a bill which President
Clinton signed into law. But Senator Kerry was a part of
the far left bank, far left minority, that voted against
that piece of legislation. I will always stand firm to
protect the sanctity of marriage. (Applause.)
I believe it is important to work with people to find
common ground on difficult issues. Republicans and Democrats,
many citizens on both sides of the life issue, agreed we
should ban the brutal practice of partial birth abortion.
(Applause.) But Senator Kerry was part of a far left minority
that voted against the ban.
THE PRESIDENT: He also voted against parental notification
laws and voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
I will continue to --
THE PRESIDENT: I will continue to reach out to Americans
of every belief, and move this good-hearted nation toward
a culture of life. (Applause.)
My opponent -- my opponent has said that you can find
the heart and soul of America in Hollywood. (Laughter.)
Most of us don't look to Hollywood as the source of values.
(Applause.) The heart and soul of America is found right
here in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Applause.)
All these choices make this one of the most important
elections in our history. The security and prosperity of
our country, the health and education of our citizens,
the retirement of our seniors, and the direction of our
culture are all at stake. The decision is in the best hands
because the decision belongs to the American people. (Applause.)
I believe in the future of this country. We see a great
day for the American people. One of my favorite quotes
was written by a Texan, a friend of ours. He said, "Sarah
and I live on the east side of the mountain. It's the sunrise
side, not the sunset side. It is the side that sees the
day that is coming, not to see the day that is gone." My
opponent has spent a lot of this campaign talking about
the day that is gone. I see the day that's coming. (Applause.)
We've been through a lot together. We've been through
a lot together in the last years. Because we've done the
hard work of climbing that mountain, we see the valley
below. We'll protect our families. We'll build on their
prosperity. We'll defend our deepest values. We will spread
freedom and peace. And as we do, America will be safer
here at home.
Four years ago, when I traveled your great state asking
for the vote, I made a pledge that if you honored me with
this office, I would uphold the honor and the dignity.
With your help, I will do so for four more years. Thanks
for coming. On to victory! Thank you all. Thank you all.