FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
George W. Bush
October 6, 2004 • Wilkes-Barre, PA
Thank you all. (Applause.) Thank you all
very much. (Applause.) Thank you all for coming. Please
be seated. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thanks for such a
great welcome. I appreciate it. It's great to be in Wilkes-Barre,
Pennsylvania. It's such an honor to be back here. I'm glad
to be in a part of the world where people work hard, they
love their families -- (applause) -- good to be in a part
of the world where people like to hunt and fish. (Applause.)
My regret is that Laura is not with me. She is --
AUDIENCE: Awww --
THE PRESIDENT: I know it. (Laughter.) That's generally
the reaction. (Laughter.) Kind of like, why didn't you
stay home and send Laura. (Laughter.) You're not going
to believe this, it's a true story -- or kind of true.
(Laughter.) I said, will you marry me? She said, fine,
just so long as I never have to give a speech. (Laughter.)
I said, okay, you got a deal. (Laughter.) Fortunately,
she didn't hold me to that promise. Laura -- when Laura
speaks, people see a compassionate, decent, strong First
I had my morning briefing today with someone you're familiar
with -- that would be your former governor, Tom Ridge.
(Applause.) So Laura sends her best, as does Tom Ridge.
Today I traveled with Don Sherwood. (Applause.) As we
say in Crawford, he's a good one. He's a great member of
the United States House of Representatives. I'm proud to
work with him. He cares deeply about the people of this
important part of the state of Pennsylvania. He is a --
he is a fine representative who brings integrity to the
office. I appreciate your service. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the state and local officials who
are here. I want to thank the candidates who are here.
I want to thank the grassroots activists who are here.
(Applause.) I want to thank you for what you're going to
do, which is to put up the signs, make the phone calls,
turn out the vote. With your help, there's no doubt in
my mind we'll carry Pennsylvania. (Applause.)
I am sure many of you stayed up to watch the vice presidential
debate last night. (Applause.) America saw two very different
visions of our country, and two different hairdos. (Laughter.)
I didn't pick my Vice President for his hairdo. I picked
him for his judgment, his experience -- (applause.) A great
Vice President. I'm proud to be running with him. (Applause.)
In less than a month you'll have a chance to vote for
Dick Cheney and me. Think about that -- less than a month.
I'm looking forward to coming down the stretch with a positive,
strong message. As your President I've worked to make America
a more hopeful and more secure place. I've led our country
with principle and resolve. And that's how I'll lead our
nation for four more years. (Applause.)
When I took -- when I took office in 2001, the bubble
of the '90s had burst. Our economy was headed into a recession.
And because of the attacks of September the 11th, nearly
a million jobs were lost in three months. It was a dangerous
time for our economy. People were warning of potential
deflation and depression. But I acted. To stimulate the
economy, I called on Congress to pass historic tax relief,
which it did, without my opponent's "yes" vote.
(Applause.) The tax relief was the fuel that got our economy
growing again. Thanks to the efforts of our citizens, and
the right policies in the right place at the right time,
we put the recession behind us and America is creating
jobs once again. (Applause.)
We have built a broad and solid record of accomplishment.
In the past year, the United States of America has added
about 1.7 million new jobs. (Applause.) More than Germany,
Japan, Great Britain, Canada and France combined. (Applause.)
Real tax -- real after-tax income -- that's the money in
your pocket to spend on groceries or house payments and
rent -- is up more than 10 percent since I took office.
(Applause.) Home ownership is at an all-time high in America.
(Applause.) Farm income is up. Small businesses are flourishing.
The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in the United States
of America. (Applause.)
Ours is a record of accomplishment. Thanks to reforms
in education, math and reading scores are increasing in
our public schools. (Applause.) Ten million students will
get record levels of grants and loans to help with college.
(Applause.) Low-income seniors -- low-income seniors are
getting $600 extra to help pay for medicine this year in
their drug discount cards. And soon Medicare will offer
prescription drug coverage to every senior in America.
(Applause.) We have made America a stronger, more hopeful
country -- and we're just getting started. (Applause.)
Listen, I -- I like to travel our country because I have
a chance to talk to our fellow citizens. I understand the
challenges facing our nation. People are living and working
in a time of change. Workers switch jobs more than they
used to, which means they often need new skills and benefits
they can take with them from job to job. We're in a changing
world, yet the systems of government haven't changed. I'm
running for four more years to change the systems of government
so people can better realize the great dreams of America.
Making sure people realize those dreams, it's essential
that our education systems work. We're going to raise the
standards and expectations in every high school. We'll
invest in our nation's fine community colleges so workers
can be prepared to fill the jobs of the 21st century. We're
going to expand health savings accounts so people can pay
health expenses with tax-free money and keep the savings
if they change jobs. We're going to improve Social Security,
to allow younger workers to own a piece of their own retirement,
a nest egg that the Washington politicians can never take
To keep this economy strong and competitive, we must make
sure America is the best place in the world to start a
business and to do business. (Applause.) To make sure America
is the best place in the world to start a business, our
taxes must be low; Congress must make the tax relief we
passed permanent. (Applause.) To keep jobs here, there
need to be less regulations on our small businesses. (Applause.)
To keep jobs here, we must pass an energy plan that makes
us less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
To make sure jobs exist here in America, we got to do something
about these junk and frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) Trial
lawyers shouldn't be getting rich at the expense of our
entrepreneurs and our doctors. (Applause.)
My opponent and I have a very different view on how to
grow our economy. Let me start with taxes. I have a record
of reducing them; he has a record of raising them.
THE PRESIDENT: He voted in the United States Senate to
increase taxes 98 times.
THE PRESIDENT: That's a lot. (Laughter.) He voted for
higher taxes on Social Security benefits.
THE PRESIDENT: In 1997, he voted for the formula that
helped cause the increase in Medicare premiums.
THE PRESIDENT: My opponent was against all of our middle
class tax relief. He voted instead to squeeze another $2,000
per year from the average middle class family. Now the
Senator is proposing higher taxes on more than 900,000
small business owners. My opponent is one of the few candidates
in history to campaign on a pledge to raise taxes. (Laughter.)
And that's the kind of promise a politician from Massachusetts
usually keeps. (Laughter and applause.)
He says the tax increase is only for the rich. You've
heard that kind of rhetoric before. The rich hire lawyers
and accountants for a reason -- to stick you with the tab.
The Senator is not going to tax you because we're going
to win in November. (Applause.)
The Senator and I have different views on another threat
to our economy -- frivolous lawsuits. He's been a part
of the Washington crowd that has obstructed legal reform
again and again. Meanwhile, all across America unfair lawsuits
are hurting small businesses. Lawsuits are driving up health
care costs. Lawsuits are threatening OB/GYNs all across
our country. Lawsuits are driving good doctors out of practice.
(Applause.) We need a President who will stand up to the
trial lawyers in Washington, not put one on the ticket.
The Senator and I have very different views on health
care. I've got a specific plan to help Americans find health
care that's available and affordable, lawsuit reform, association
health care plans to help our small businesses, health
savings accounts, community health centers to help the
poor, expanding health care for low-income children, using
technology to drive down the cost of health care.
He has a different vision. Under his health plan, 8 million
Americans would lose the private insurance they get at
work, and most would end up on a government program. Under
his plan, 8 out of 10 people who get new insurance will
get it from the federal government. My opponent's proposal
would be the largest expansion of government-run health
care ever. And when government pays the bills, government
makes the rules. His plan would put bureaucrats in charge
of dictating coverage, which could ration care and limit
your choice of doctor. Senator Kerry's proposal would put
us on the path to "Clinton-care."
THE PRESIDENT: I'll make sure doctors and patients are
in charge of the decisions in America's health care. (Applause.)
The Senator and I have different views on government spending.
Over the years, he's voted 274 times to break the federal
budget limits. And in this campaign, Senator Kerry has
announced more than $2 trillion in new spending. And that's
a lot of money even for a senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter
and applause.) During his 20 years as a senator, my opponent
hasn't had many accomplishments. Of the hundreds of bills
he submitted, only five became law. One of them was ceremonial.
But to be fair, he's earned a special distinction in Congress.
The nonpartisan National Journal analyzed his record and
named John Kerry the most liberal member of the United
THE PRESIDENT: And when the competition includes Ted Kennedy,
that's really saying something. (Laughter and applause.)
I'm telling you, I know that bunch. (Laughter.) It wasn't
easy for my opponent to become the single most liberal
member of the Senate. You might even say, it was hard work.
(Laughter and applause.) But he earned that title -- by
voting for higher taxes, more regulation, more junk lawsuits,
and more government control over your life.
And that sets up a real difference in this campaign. My
opponent is a tax-and-spend liberal; I'm a compassionate
conservative. (Applause.) My opponent -- my opponent wants
to empower government; I want to use government to empower
people. (Applause.) My opponent seems to think all the
wisdom is found in Washington, D.C.; I trust the wisdom
of the American people. (Applause.)
Our differences are also clear on issues of national security.
When I took office in 2001, threats to America had been
gathering for years. Then on one terrible morning, the
terrorists took more lives than America lost at Pearl Harbor.
Since that day, we have waged a global campaign to protect
the American people and bring our enemies to account. Our
government has trained over a half a million first responders.
We tripled spending on homeland security. Law enforcement
and intelligence have better tools to stop terrorists,
thanks to the Patriot Act, which Senator Kerry voted for,
but now wants to weaken. The Taliban regime that sheltered
al Qaeda is gone from power and the people of Afghanistan
will vote in free elections this very week. (Applause.)
A black market network that provided weapons materials
to North Korea and Libya and Iran is now out of business.
(Applause.) Libya, itself, has given up its weapons of
mass destruction programs. (Applause.) We convinced Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia to join the fight against the terrorists.
And more than three-quarters of al Qaeda's key members
and associates have been brought to justice. (Applause.)
After September the 11th, America had to assess every
potential threat in a new light. Our nation awakened to
an even greater danger, the prospect that terrorists who
killed thousands with hijacked airplanes would kill many
more with weapons of mass murder. We had to take a hard
look at everyplace where terrorists might get those weapons.
And one regime stood out: the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
We knew the dictator had a history of using weapons of
mass destruction, a long record of aggression and hatred
for America. He was listed by Republican and Democrat administrations
as a state sponsor of terrorists. There was a risk -- a
real risk -- that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons, or
materials, or information to terrorist networks. In the
world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could
not afford to take. (Applause.)
After 12 years of United Nations Security Council resolutions,
we gave him a final chance to come clean and listen to
the demands of the free world. When he chose defiance and
war, our coalition enforced the just demands of the world.
And the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting
in a prison cell. (Applause.)
We've had many victories in the war on terror, and that
war goes on. Our nation is safer, but not yet safe. To
win this war, we must fight on every front. We'll stay
on the offensive against terrorist networks, striking them
before they come to America to hurt us. We'll confront
governments that support terrorists and could arm them,
because they're equally guilty of terrorist murder. (Applause.)
And our long-term victory requires confronting the ideology
of hate with freedom and hope. (Applause.)
Our victory requires changing the conditions that produce
radicalism and suicide bombers, and finding new democratic
allies in a troubled part of the region. America is always
more secure when freedom is on the march. And freedom is
on the march -- in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.
(Applause.) There will be good days and there will be bad
days in the war on terror, but every day we will show our
resolve and we will do our duty. This nation is determined:
we will stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Applause.)
My opponent agrees with all this -- except when he doesn't.
(Laughter.) Last week in our debate, he once again came
down firmly on every side of the Iraq war. (Laughter.)
He stated that Saddam Hussein was a threat and that America
had no business removing that threat. Senator Kerry said
our soldiers and Marines are not fighting for a mistake
-- but also called the liberation of Iraq a "colossal
error." He said we need to do more to train Iraqis,
but he also said we shouldn't be spending so much money
over there. He said he wants to hold a summit meeting,
so he can invite other countries to join what he calls "the
wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." (Laughter
He said terrorists are pouring across the Iraqi border,
but also said that fighting those terrorists is a diversion
from the war on terror. (Laughter.) You hear all that and
you can understand why somebody would make a face. (Laughter
My opponent's endless back-and-forth on Iraq is part of
a larger misunderstanding. In the war on terror, Senator
Kerry is proposing policies and doctrines that would weaken
America and make the world more dangerous. His -- Senator
Kerry approaches the world with a September the 10th mind-set.
He declared in his convention speech that "any attack
will be met with a swift and certain response." That
was the mind-set of the 1990s, while al Qaeda was planning
the attacks on America. After September the 11th, our object
in the war on terror is not to wait for the next attack
and respond, but to prevent attacks by taking the fight
to the enemy. (Applause.)
In our debate, Senator Kerry said that removing Saddam
Hussein was a mistake because the threat was not imminent.
The problem with this approach is obvious: if America waits
until a threat is at our doorstep, it might be too late
to save lives. (Applause.) Tyrants and terrorists will
not give us polite notice before they launch an attack
on our country. (Applause.) I refuse to stand by while
dangers gather. In the world after September the 11th,
the path to safety is the path of action. And I will continue
to defend the people of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Thank you all. Thank you all.
My opponent has also announced the Kerry doctrine, declaring
that American actions in the war on terror must pass a "global
THE PRESIDENT: Under this test, America would not be able
to act quickly against threats, because we'd be sitting
around waiting for our grade from other nations and other
I have a different view: America will always work with
allies for security and peace. But the President's job
is not to pass a global test; the President's job is to
protect the American people. (Applause.) Thank you all.
When my opponent first ran for Congress, he argued that
American troops should be deployed only at the directive
of the United Nations.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, he's changed his mind. (Laughter.)
No, he has, in all fairness. But it is a window into his
thinking. Over the years, Senator Kerry has looked for
every excuse to constrain America's action in the world.
These days he praises America's broad coalition in the
Persian Gulf War. But in 1991, he criticized those coalition
members as "shadow battlefield allies who barely carry
a burden." Sounds familiar. At that time, he voted
against the war. If that coalition didn't pass his global
test, clearly, nothing will. (Laughter and applause.) This
mind-set would paralyze America in a dangerous world. I'll
never hand over America's security decisions to foreign
leaders and international bodies that do not have America's
interests at heart. (Applause.)
My opponent's doctrine has other consequences, especially
for our men and women in uniform. My opponent supports
the International Criminal Court, which would allow unaccountable
foreign prosecutors and judges to put American soldiers
THE PRESIDENT: That would be a legal nightmare for our
troops. My fellow citizens, as long as I'm your President,
Americans in uniform will answer to the officers and laws
of the United States -- not to the International Criminal
Court in The Hague.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: The Senator speaks often about his plan
to strengthen America's alliances, but he's got an odd
way of doing it. In the middle of the war, he's chosen
to insult America's fighting allies by calling them, "window
dressing," and the "coalition of the coerced
and the bribed." The Italians who died in Nasiriyah
were not window dressing. They were heroes in the war on
terror. (Applause.) The British and the Poles at the head
of the multinational divisions in Iraq were not coerced
or bribed. They have fought, and some have died, in the
cause of freedom. These good allies and dozens of others
deserve the respect of all Americans, not the scorn of
a politician. (Applause.)
Instead, the Senator would have America bend over backwards
to satisfy a handful of governments with agendas different
from our own. This is my opponent's alliance-building strategy:
brush off your best friends, fawn over your critics. And
that is no way to gain the respect of the world. (Applause.)
My opponent says he has a plan for Iraq. Parts of it should
sound pretty familiar -- it's already known as the Bush
plan. (Laughter and applause.) Senator Kerry suggests we
train Iraqi troops, which we've been doing for months.
Just this week, Iraqi forces backed by coalition troops
fought bravely to take the city of Samarra from the terrorists
and Baathists and insurgents. (Applause.) Senator Kerry
-- Senator Kerry is proposing that we have -- that Iraq
have elections. (Laughter.) Those elections are already
scheduled for January. (Laughter and applause.) He wants
the U.N. to be involved in those elections. Well, the U.N.
is already there.
There was one element of the Senator -- there's one element
of Senator Kerry's plan that's a new element. He's talked
about artificial timetables to pull our troops out of Iraq.
He sent the signal that America's overriding goal in Iraq
would be to leave, even if the job isn't done. That may
satisfy his political needs, but it complicates the essential
work we're doing in Iraq. (Applause.) The Iraqi people
-- the Iraqi people need to know that America will not
cut and run when their freedom is at stake. (Applause.)
Our soldiers and Marines need to know that America will
honor their service and sacrifice by completing the mission.
(Applause.) And our enemies in Iraq need to know that they
can never out-last the will of America. (Applause.)
Senator Kerry assures us that he's the one to win a war
he calls a mistake, an error, and a diversion. But you
can't win a war you don't believe in fighting. (Applause.)
In Iraq, Senator Kerry has a strategy of retreat; I have
a strategy of victory. (Applause.) We've returned sovereignty
to the Iraqi people ahead of schedule. We've trained about
100,000 Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security
personnel, and that total will rise to 125,000 by year-end.
We've already allocated more than $7 billion for reconstruction
efforts, so more Iraqis can see the benefits of freedom.
We're working with a coalition of some 30 nations to provide
security. Other nations are helping with debt relief and
reconstruction aid for Iraqis. And although the terrorists
will try to stop them, Iraq will hold free elections in
January, because the Iraqi people want and deserve to govern
I understand some Americans have strong concerns about
our role in Iraq. I respect the fact that they take this
issue seriously, because it is a serious matter. I assure
them we're in Iraq because I deeply believe it is necessary
and right and critical to the outcome of the war on terror.
If another terror regime were allowed to emerge in Iraq,
the terrorists would find a home, a source of funding,
vital support. They would correctly conclude that free
nations do not have the will to defend themselves. If Iraq
becomes a free society at the heart of the Middle East,
an ally in the war on terror, a model of hopeful reform
in a region that needs hopeful reform, the terrorists will
suffer a crushing defeat, and every free nation will be
more secure. (Applause.)
This is why Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman calls Iraq
a "crucial battle in the global war on terrorism." This
is why Prime Minister Tony Blair has called the struggle
in Iraq "the crucible in which the future of global
terrorism will be determined." This is why the terrorists
are fighting with desperate cruelty. They know their own
future is at stake. Iraq is no diversion; it is the place
where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos
and terror -- and we must not waver. (Applause.)
Unfortunately, my opponent has been known to waver. (Laughter.)
His well-chosen words and rationalizations cannot explain
why he voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein,
and then voted against money for bullets, and vehicles
and body armor for the troops on the ground. He tried to
clear it all up by saying, I actually did vote for the
$87 billion before I voted against it. Now he says he "made
a mistake" in how he talked about the war. The mistake
here is not what Senator Kerry said; the mistake is what
he did in voting against funding for Americans in combat.
(Applause.) That is the kind of wavering a nation at war
can never afford.
As a candidate, my opponent promises to defend America.
The problem is as a senator for two decades, he has built
a record of weakness. The record shows he twice led efforts
to gut our intelligence service budgets. The record shows
he voted against many of the weapons that won the Cold
War, and are vital to current military operations. And
the record shows he has voted more than 50 times against
missile defense systems that would help protect us from
the threats of a dangerous world.
I have a record in office, as well. And all Americans
have seen that record. On September the 14th, 2001, I stood
in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day I will never
forget. There were workers in hard hats yelling at me, "Whatever
it takes." I remember trying to console people coming
out of that rubble, and a guy grabbed me by the arm, and
he looked me in the eye and said, "Do not let me down." These
men and women -- (applause) -- the men and women there
took it personally. You took it personally. I took it personally.
I have a responsibility that goes on. I wake up every morning
thinking about how to make our country more secure. I have
acted again and again to protect our people. I will never
relent in defending America, whatever it takes. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: Twenty-seven -- 27 days from today, Americans
will make a critical choice. My opponent offers an agenda
that is stuck in the thinking and the policies of the past.
On national security, he offers the defensive mind-set
of September the 10th, a global test to replace American
leadership, a strategy of retreat in Iraq, and a 20-year
history of weakness in the United States Senate. Here at
home, he offers a record and an agenda of more taxes and
more spending, and more litigation, and more government
control over your life.
The race for President is a contest for the future, and
you know where I stand. I'm running for President to keep
this nation on the offensive against terrorists, with the
goal of total victory. I'm running -- (applause) -- I'm
running for President to keep this economy moving so every
worker has a good job and quality health care and a secure
retirement. (Applause.) I'm running for President to make
our nation a more compassionate society, where no one is
left out, where every life matters.
I have a hopeful vision. I believe this young century
will be liberty's century. We'll promote liberty abroad,
protect our country and build a better world beyond the
war on terror. We'll encourage liberty at home to spread
the prosperity and opportunity of America to every corner
of our country. I will carry this message to my fellow
citizens in the closing days of this campaign, and with
your help, we will win a great victory on November the
2nd. God bless. God bless our great country. (Applause.)
Thank you all. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)