[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush (2004, Book III)]
[October 23, 2004]
[Pages 2672-2679]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks in Lakeland, Florida
October 23, 2004

    The President. Thank you all for coming.
    Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
    The President. Thank you all for coming today. Laura and I are so honored that so many came out to say 
hello. We really appreciate it. It is a beautiful day to be campaigning 
in the great State of Florida. Of course, according to your 
Governor, every day is a beautiful day in Florida.
    I'm here to ask for your vote, and I'm here to ask for your help. 
We're close to voting time. As a matter of fact, in your State, voting 
time is already here. Please go to your friends and neighbors, people 
from all parties--don't overlook discerning Democrats--[laughter]--
people like Zell Miller. They want a better 
country too. Tell them we have a duty in this country to vote. Tell them 
we have an obligation in a free society to go to the polls. And when you 
get them headed to the polls, remind them, if they want a safer America 
and a stronger America and a better America, to put me and Dick 
Cheney back in office.
    I think it's important to go around this country telling people what 
you're going to do. I'm here to tell you why I think you need to put me 
in office for 4 more years. But perhaps the most important reason of all 
is so that Laura is the First Lady for 4 more 
    Audience members. Laura! Laura! Laura!
    The President. I'm sure some of you all will appreciate this, when I 
tell you that Laura and I knew each other in the 
seventh grade in San Jacinto Junior High in Midland, Texas. We became 
reacquainted. She was a public school librarian at the time. I said, 
``Will you marry me?'' She said, ``Fine, so long as you make me a 
promise.'' I said, ``What is it?'' She said, ``I never want to have to 
give a political speech.'' [Laughter] I said, ``Okay, you got a deal.'' 
Fortunately, she didn't hold me to that deal. She is giving a lot of 
speeches, and when she speaks, the American people see a compassionate, 
warm, strong First Lady.
    I'm proud of my runningmate, Dick Cheney. 
He's doing a great job. I see some others out here who are follically 
challenged. [Laughter] See, I admit he doesn't have the waviest hair in 
the race. [Laughter] You'll be pleased to hear I didn't pick him because 
of his hairdo. [Laughter] I picked him because he can get the job done. 
I picked him because of his judgment. I picked him because of his 
    I'm proud to be traveling with my brother. Jeb Bush is a great Governor for Florida. He's led with 
conviction. You know, one thing about him, you don't have to worry about 
where he stands. In other words, he's not one of these politicians who 
is going to take a poll or run a focus group, trying to figure out what 
to tell you. He stands on principles. That's how we were raised. You 
stand for what you believe. And Jeb showed great courage and compassion 
during the times of these storms. I came over to try to lend a hand and 
show the people of this important State that the Federal Government 
cared, people around the country cared for you. But I was incredibly 
impressed by two things, one, Jeb's leadership, and two, the great 
compassion of the people of Florida.
    I'm proud to be up here with Adam Putnam. 
I call him Red; you call him Congressman. [Laughter] We went over and 
saw some orange growers the other day, and it was my honor to be in that 
citrus grove, telling the orange growers of this part of the State, 
we're going to help them get their feet back on the ground.
    I want to thank--listen, while you're out there voting, voting for 
me and Dick Cheney, make sure you vote for Mel 
Martinez for the United States Senate. He'll 
be a

[[Page 2673]]

fine United States Senator, no doubt in my mind.
    I want to thank Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings for being here. I want to thank the State Senate 
majority whip. I want to thank all the local 
and State officials who are here.
    I want to thank Trini Triggs for performing 
for you all.
    I want to thank the grassroots activists, the people putting up the 
signs, the people making the phone calls, the people who have encouraged 
this rally. I want to thank you for what you've done. I want to thank 
you for what you're going to do. With your help, we will carry Florida 
and win a great victory in November.
    We just got 10 days to go in the campaign. Who's counting? The 
voters have a clear choice between two very different candidates with 
dramatically different approaches and records. You know where I stand. 
And sometimes, you even know where my opponent 
stands. We both have records. We both have records.
    Audience members. Flip-flop! Flip-flop! Flip-flop!
    The President. We both have records. I'm proudly running on mine. 
And the Senator is running from his, and 
there's a reason why. There is a mainstream in American politics, and 
Senator John Kerry sits on the far left bank. I'm a compassionate 
conservative and proudly so. At a time when our country has much to 
accomplish and much more to do, I offer a record of reform and results, 
and my opponent offers a long list of out-of-the-mainstream votes.
    This election comes down to five clear choices for American 
families, five choices on issues of great consequence: your family's 
security; your family's budget; your quality of life; your retirement; 
and the bedrock values that are so critical to our families and our 
    The first choice is the most important because it concerns the 
security of your family. All progress on any of the other issues 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 threats unlike any* we have seen before. 
The terrorists who killed thousands are still dangerous, and they are 
determined to strike again. The outcome of this election will set the 
direction of the war against terrorism.
    *White House correction.
    I believe the most solemn duty of the American President, the most 
solemn duty, is to protect the American people. If America shows 
uncertainty or weakness, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will 
not happen on my watch.
    Since that terrible morning, September the 11th, 2001, we've 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 strengthening the homeland. We're reforming our intelligence 
services. We are transforming our All-Volunteer Army. We will not have a 
draft. We are staying on the offensive against these terrorists. We are 
relentless and we are determined, and our strategy is paying off. More 
than three-quarters of Al Qaida's key members and associates have been 
brought to justice, and the rest of them know we're on their trail.
    My opponent has a different approach. He 
says that September the 11th, quote, ``didn't change me much at all,'' 
end quote.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. And that's pretty clear. He 
considers the war on terror primarily a law enforcement and intelligence 
gathering operation.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. His top foreign policy 
adviser questioned it is even a war at 
all, saying, ``It's just like a metaphor, like the war on poverty.'' 
Anyone who thinks we're fighting a metaphor does not understand the 
enemy we face. You cannot win a war

[[Page 2674]]

if you are not convinced we are even in one.
    Senator Kerry also misunderstands our 
battle against insurgents and terrorists in Iraq. After voting to 
authorize force against Saddam Hussein, after 
calling it the right decision when I sent troops into Iraq, the Senator 
now calls it the ``wrong war.''
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. The Senator used to 
recognize that Saddam Hussein was a gathering 
threat who hated America. After all, he said so. He used to recognize 
that Saddam was a state sponsor of terror with a history of pursuing and 
even using weapons of mass destruction. After all, he said so. He used 
to understand that Saddam was a major source of instability in the 
Middle East. After all, he said so. And when he voted to authorize 
force, the Senator must have recognized the nightmare scenario that 
terrorists might somehow gain access to weapons of mass destruction. 
Senator Kerry seems to have forgotten all of that as his position has 
evolved during the course of this campaign. You might call it election 
amnesia. [Laughter] I know then and I know now that the world and 
America are safer with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell.
    Senator Kerry now calls Iraq a 
``diversion.'' But the case of just one terrorist shows how wrong his 
thinking is. A man named Zarqawi is 
responsible for the car bombs and beheading Americans in Iraq. He ran a 
terrorist training camp in Afghanistan until coalition troops arrived. 
He then ran to Iraq, where he's fighting today. He supports and swore 
allegiance to Usama bin Laden. If Zarqawi 
and his associates were not busy fighting American forces and Iraqi 
forces in Iraq, what does my opponent think he'd be doing, a peaceful 
businessman somewhere? Leading a benevolence campaign? [Laughter] Of 
course not. Our troops will defeat them there so we do not have to face 
them in our own cities.
    The choice in this election could not be clearer when it comes to 
the security of our families. 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 a post-September the 11th world. My 
opponent has a September 10th point of view. 
You might remember, at his convention he declared that his strategy 
would be to respond to attacks after America is hit.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. That would be too late. In our debates, he said we can defend America only if we pass a ``global 
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. I'm not making that up. He 
was standing right there when he said it. I work with our friends and 
allies. We will strengthen our coalitions. But I will never turn over 
America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries.
    I saw some of our troops coming in. I want to thank them for their 
service. I want to thank the veterans who are here for having set such a 
great example for those who wear the uniform. I want to thank our 
military families who are here for supporting our troops fighting for 
freedom and security. And I want to assure you your loved ones will have 
the full support of our Government.
    That's why I went to Congress and asked for $87 billion of 
supplemental funding. This was money to support our troops in harm's 
way. When you're out gathering up the vote, I want you to remind your 
fellow citizens of this startling statistic. There were 4 Members in the 
United States Senate--only 4 out of 100--that voted to authorize the use 
of force and then voted against funding for our troops in harm's way. 
And four of those--two of those four were my opponent and his runningmate.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. They asked him about that 
vote. He said, ``I actually did vote for the 87 billion, right before I 
voted against it.'' You know--I bet you don't hear many people talking 
like that around the coffee shops here. They pressed him even further, 

[[Page 2675]]

he finally just threw up his hands. He said, ``The whole thing is a 
complicated matter.'' My fellow Americans, there is nothing complicated 
about supporting our troops in combat.
    And to protect America, we will lead the cause of freedom. I believe 
in the transformational power of liberty. I want the youngsters here to 
understand what has taken place in a short period of time. Afghanistan 
was once ruled by the Taliban. Young girls couldn't go to school. If 
their mothers didn't toe the ideological line of the haters, they'd be 
whipped in the public squares and sometime shot in the stadiums. Because 
we acted in our own self-defense, millions of Afghan citizens went to 
the polls to vote for the President, and the first voter was a 19-year-
old woman. Freedom is on the march. Freedom 
is precious. Freedom is powerful. And we're better off for it.
    Iraq will have Presidential elections in January. Think how far that 
country has come from the days of torture chambers and the brutality of 
Saddam Hussein. Fifty million people now live 
in freedom because we acted to secure ourselves. We're more secure. The 
world is better off as freedom is on the march. I believe everybody 
yearns to be free in this world. 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, your wallet. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I pledged to 
lower taxes for American families. I have kept my word. We raised the 
child credit. We reduced the marriage penalty. The Tax Code ought to 
encourage marriage, not penalize marriage. We created a 10-percent 
bracket to help working families. We reduced income taxes for everybody 
who pays taxes. We're helping our small-business owners. And as a result 
of these policies, real after-tax income, the money in your pocket, is 
up by about 10 percent since I got into office.
    Think about what this economy has been through. Tell your friends 
and neighbors what we have overcome. Six months prior to my arrival, the 
stock market was in serious decline, indicating the recession that came. 
Then we had some corporate scandals. And then we got attacked, and those 
attacks cost us about a million jobs in the 3 months after September the 
    Our economic policies are working. They've led us back to growth. 
Our economy is growing at rates as fast as any in nearly 20 years. We've 
added more than 1.9 million new jobs since August of 2003. The 
unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, lower than the average of the 1970s, 
1980s, and 1990s. Farm income is up. Homeownership rates are at an 
alltime high. The unemployment rate in Florida is 4.5 percent. We're 
moving forward, and we're not going to go back to the old days.
    My opponent has very different plans for 
your budget. He intends to take a big chunk out of it.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. When I proposed the tax relief to help our families 
and get this economy going again, he voted 
against the higher child tax credit. He voted against the marriage 
penalty relief. He voted against lower taxes. He voted against the help 
to small businesses. If he had had his way, the average middle-class 
family in America would have been paying $2,000 more in Federal income 
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. It's part of a pattern. The Senator has voted 10 times to raise gasoline taxes since he's been 
in the Senate. And all told, during his 20 years in the United States 
Senate, my opponent has voted 98 times to raise taxes.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. Think about that. That's about five times every year 
he served. When a Senator does something that 
often, he must really enjoy it. [Laughter]
    During this campaign, he's made a lot of 
big promises. As a matter of fact, he's

[[Page 2676]]

promised about $2.2 trillion in new spending. That's with a ``T.'' 
[Laughter] That's a lot even for a Senator from Massachusetts. 
[Laughter] 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?
    By running up the top two brackets, guess who he's taxing? 
He's taxing job creators. Seventy percent of 
new jobs are created by small businesses in America. Most small 
businesses pay tax at the individual income-tax level. It's a bad idea 
to tax the job creators in this country.
    Raising the top two brackets will raise between 600 and 800 billion 
dollars, so as you can tell, there's a tax gap. There's a difference 
between what he has promised and what he can 
deliver. Now, you know who gets to fill that tax gap, don't you? I'll 
tell you one other thing about taxing the rich. The rich, during tax 
time, hire lawyers and accountants for a reason: to slip the tab and to 
stick you with the bill. We're not going to let him tax you; we're going 
to carry Florida and win a great victory on November the 2d.
    Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
    The President. The third clear choice in this election involves the 
quality of life for our families. A good education and quality health 
care are important for a successful life. When I ran for President 4 
years ago, I promised to end and to challenge the soft bigotry of low 
expectations in our schools. I kept my word, passed the No Child Left 
Behind Act, which is a great piece of legislation. It brings high 
standards to our classrooms and makes our schools accountable to our 
parents. We're seeing progress. Math and reading scores are rising. We 
are closing an achievement gap all across America. We will build on 
these reforms. We'll extend them to our high schools so that no child is 
left behind in America.
    We'll continue to improve life--the life of our families by making 
health care more affordable and accessible. We'll expand health savings 
accounts so small businesses can cover their workers and more families 
are able to get health care accounts they can manage and call their own. 
We'll create association health plans so small businesses can join 
together and buy insurance at the discounts that big companies are able 
to do. We will help our families in need by expanding community health 
centers. We'll make sure every child eligible is enrolled in our 
Government's low-income health insurance program.
    And we'll help patients and doctors everywhere by doing something 
about these frivolous lawsuits that are running up the cost of health 
care and running good doctors out of practice. I met too many ob-gyns 
that are having trouble making ends meet, and so they're quitting the 
practice. I met too many women who are driving miles to get the good 
health care they need for themselves and their child. And this isn't 
right for America. You can't be pro-trial-lawyer and pro-doctor and pro-
patient at the same time. You have to pick. My opponent made his pick. He put a personal injury trial 
lawyer on the ticket. I stand for medical 
liability reform--now.
    Senator Kerry has a different point of 
view on our schools and health care system. Listen, he voted for the No 
Child Left Behind Act, but now he wants to weaken the accountability 
standards. He has proposed including measures like teacher attendance to 
judge whether students can read or write or add and subtract. He voted 
against health savings accounts. He opposes association health plans 
that will help our small businesses. He voted 10 times against medical 
liability reform.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. He can run from his record, 
but he cannot hide.
    Now he's proposing a big Government health 
care plan that would cause 8 million families to lose private coverage 
they get at work and have to go onto a Government plan. Eighty percent 
of the people who get

[[Page 2677]]

coverage under his proposal would be enrolled in a Government plan. In 
one of our debates, he said with a straight face that 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. [Laughter] 
The Government has a lot to do with it. His plan would move America down 
the road to Federal control of health care, and that's the wrong road 
for American families. He can run from his record, but he cannot hide.
    In all we do to improve health care, we will make sure decisions are 
made by doctors and patients, not by officials in Washington, DC.
    Fourth clear choice in this election involves your retirement. Our 
Nation has made a solemn commitment to America's seniors on Social 
Security and Medicare. When I ran for President 4 years ago, I promised 
to keep that commitment and improve Medicare by adding prescription drug 
coverage. I have kept my word. You know, leaders in both political 
parties have talked about Medicare for years--for years. We got the job 
done. Seniors are now getting discounts on medicine with drug discount 
cards. Low-income seniors are getting $600 on their card this year and 
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 drug coverage, even though it was 
supported by the AARP and other seniors groups. Later he said, quote, 
``If I am President, we're going to repeal that phony bill.'' A little 
later on, he said, ``No, I don't want to repeal it.'' Kind of sounds 
familiar. As your President for the next 4 years, I will defend the 
reforms we have worked so hard to pass and keep the promise of Medicare 
for our senior citizens.
    And we will keep the promise of Social Security for our seniors, and 
we'll strengthen Social Security for generations to come. Every 
election, desperate politicians try to scare our seniors about Social 
Security. It is predictable, and it's beginning to happen again. I want 
you to tell your friends and neighbors about what happened in the 2000 
campaign. They said, ``If George W. gets elected, our seniors will not 
get their checks.'' Now, you might remember that. Well, tell them George 
W. did get elected, and our seniors did get their checks. And our 
seniors will continue to get their checks, and baby boomers like me are 
in pretty good shape when it comes to the Social Security trust.
    But we need to think about our children and our grandchildren. We 
need to make sure that when they retire, there's a Social Security 
system available to meet their needs. And that is why I believe younger 
workers ought to be allowed to take some of their own money and put it 
in a personal account. It will earn a better rate of return, a personal 
account they call their own, a personal account the Government cannot 
take away.
    My opponent is taking a different 
approach. He talks about protecting Social Security. He's the only 
candidate in this race that voted to tax Social Security benefits eight 
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. He can run, but he cannot 
hide. And when it comes to the next generation, he has offered no 
reform. The job of a President is to confront problems, not to pass them 
on to future Presidents and future generations. In a new term, I'll 
bring Republicans and Democrats together to make sure Social Security is 
around when a younger generation of America needs it.
    The fifth clear choice in this election is on the values that are so 
critical to keeping America's families strong. And my opponent and I are miles apart. I believe marriage is a sacred 
institution. Marriage is a pillar of our civilization, and I will always 
defend it. This is not a partisan issue. When Congress passed the 
Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as the

[[Page 2678]]

union of a man and a woman, the vast majority of Democrats supported it, 
and my predecessor, President Bill Clinton, signed it into law. Senator Kerry was part of an out-of-
the-mainstream minority that voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. I believe that reasonable people can find common 
ground on the most difficult of issues. Republicans and Democrats and 
many citizens on both sides of the life issue came together and agreed 
we should ban the brutal practice of partial-birth abortion. Senator 
Kerry was part of an out-of-the-mainstream 
minority that voted against the ban.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. He voted against parental 
notification laws.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. He voted against the Unborn 
Victims of Violence Act.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. I'll continue to reach out to Americans of every 
belief and move this goodhearted Nation toward a culture of life.
    My opponent has said that the heart and 
soul of America can be found in Hollywood.
    Audience members. Boo-o-o!
    The President. I understand most American families do not look to 
Hollywood as a source of values. The heart and soul of America is found 
in communities like Lakeland, Florida.
    All of 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 families, the retirement of our seniors, and the 
direction of our culture are all at stake. And this decision is in the 
best of hands, because the decision rests with the American people.
    I can't tell you how optimistic I am about the future of this 
country. I see a better day for everybody. You know, one of my favorite 
quotes was written by a fellow Texan named Tom Lea. 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 to 
see the day that is coming, not the side to see the day that is gone.'' 
My opponent has spent much of this campaign 
talking about the day that is gone. I see the day that is coming.
    We've been lot--we've been through a lot together in the last nearly 
4 years. Because we've done the hard work of climbing the mountain, we 
can see the valley below. We'll protect our families and build their 
prosperity and defend our deepest values. We'll spread freedom in the 
world and the peace we all want.
    Four years ago, when I traveled your State asking for the vote, I 
pledged to restore honor and dignity to the office to which I had been 
elected. With your help, I will do so for 4 more years.
    God bless. Thank you all. Thank you all. On to victory!

Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. at Ty Cobb Field. In his 
remarks, he referred to Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who made the 
keynote address at the 2004 Republican National Convention; Lt. Gov. 
Toni Jennings of Florida; Paula Dockery, majority whip, Florida State 
Senate; entertainer Trini Triggs; former President Saddam Hussein of 
Iraq; and senior Al Qaida associate Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.

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