THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 5, 2004
Charleston, South Carolina
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Thank you, all. I am glad to be back
in the great state of South Carolina. (Applause.) I appreciate you all coming
out. I'm so honored to have been invited to one of America's great cities,
Charleston, South Carolina. (Applause.)
This is one of the busiest container ports in our country. It's an important hub
of commerce. And we will work to make sure that not only is the port strong for
economic reasons, we will make sure that the port defends the people, is ready
to defend against the threats of a new era; that this port is secure and safe --
for not only the people of South Carolina, but for the people of the great
United States of America.
I appreciate my friend, Tom Ridge, for becoming the first Secretary of the
Department of Homeland Security. He's got a big job, and he's doing it well.
I want to thank Governor Mark Sanford for greeting me at the airport and for
driving with me to the Port of Charleston. Mark is doing a great job for the
people of South Carolina. (Applause.) I know that the Lieutenant Governor is
with us today, Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer. I appreciate you coming, Andre.
I flew down on Air Force One with some of the members of the mighty South
Carolina congressional delegation, starting with Senator Lindsey Graham.
(Applause.) He was telling me what to do during the entire flight.
(Laughter.) I appreciate so very much Congressman Jim DeMint, Congressman Joe
Wilson, Congressman Gresham Barrett, and the Congressman from this district,
Henry Brown, for joining us, as well. (Applause.)
These are good, honorable citizens; they're working hard in Washington, D.C. on
behalf of the people of South Carolina. I'm proud to call them friend, I'm proud
to work with them for the good of the country.
I appreciate the Mayor, Joe Riley, being here today. Mr. Mayor, thank you for
coming. You're the Mayor of a great city. (Applause.) Last time I saw the Mayor
he said, need I remind you that your mother was educated in this great city.
(Laughter.) No, you didn't need to remind me, Mr. Mayor
-- she reminds me all the time. (Laughter.)
I appreciate my friend, Speaker David Wilkins, who has joined us. All the
members of the Statehouse who are here, thanks for coming, state and local
I want to thank the members of the -- oh, of course, my friend, the Adjutant
General, Stan Spears, is with us today. General, it's good to see you again. I
appreciate Commander Gary Merrick, Captain Jim Tunstall of the mighty Coast
Guard. I appreciate their service here and I want to thank the members of the
Coast Guard who are with us. (Applause.) I'm proud of the men and women of our
Coast Guard, who are always ready, always ready to protect the American people.
I want to thank the members of the Air Force 437th Airlift Wing who are with us
today. (Applause.) I appreciate the members of the United States
Navy who are with us today. (Applause.) I thank the cadets from the
Citadel who have joined us today. (Applause.) I want to thank the employees of
the Department of Homeland Security. (Applause.) Thank you for your work. Thank
you for your dedication. Thank you for what you're doing to make this part of
the world as safe and secure as you can.
I want to thank South Carolina's state and local first responders who are with
us, the police and the fire fighters and the emergency squad personnel.
But most of all, thank you for coming. I've got some things I want to
talk about. (Laughter.) This country is a strong country, and we're
rising to meet great challenges.
The first great challenge is to make sure people can find work. The first great
challenge of this country is to have a pro-growth environment so people can find
a job. Our economy is growing, it's getting better. But I want to remind you of
where we have come from. People say, President Bush is optimistic. You bet I'm
optimistic. I know where we have been and I know where we're going.
We have -- this country went through a recession. And as we were coming out of
the recession, we got attacked. And make no mistake about it, that attack hurt
our country's economy. It also -- you'll hear me talk about how it affected my
view of national security, as well. It hurt.
And as we began to recover from that, we discovered that some of our fellow
citizens forgot what it meant to be a responsible citizen. In other words, they
didn't tell the truth. They didn't tell the truth to their employees, and they
didn't tell the truth to their shareholders. And that affected the confidence of
our economy. By the way, we passed laws to hold those corporate criminals to
account. They will understand now that there is a consequence for not telling
the truth. (Applause.)
And then, of course, there were the uncertainties of war. That affected the
economy. Yet we're still strong, in spite of the hurdles. And one reason we're
strong is because we acted in Washington, D.C. We passed tax relief. You see, we
understand that when somebody has got more money in their pocket, they're more
likely to demand a good or a service.
And when they demand that good or a service, somebody is more likely to produce
the good or a service. And when somebody produces that good or a service,
someone is more likely to be able to find work. The tax relief we passed, the
willingness to have -- people have more money in their pocket to spend, to save,
or invest, is helping this economy recover from tough times. (Applause.)
We also understand that most new jobs are created by small businesses. Most new
jobs in the American economy are created by the entrepreneurs and small business
owners of America. And so the tax relief we passed not only helped individuals
and helped families raise children, but it was also directed at the small
business sector of our economy. We must never forget the vital role that small
businesses play in the United States economy.
Things are looking good across the country. New home construction in 2003 was
the highest in 25 years. Home ownership rates are the highest ever. And for the
first time, most minority households own their own homes. We're closing the
housing gap in America. (Applause.)
Manufacturing activity is increasing, inflation is low, interest rates are low,
exports are growing, productivity is high, jobs are on the rise. The tax relief
we passed has made a difference. (Applause.)
One of the things I know about your great state -- I've spent some quality time
in South Carolina in the past -- one of the things I know about your great state
is this is a state full of decent, hard working, honorable people. You've got a
great work force in the state of South Carolina. Many foreign companies and
companies from other states move here because South Carolina workers are
dependable, good people.
Yet, the state has got economic challenges. Even though the unemployment rate is
down, it's still too high. Many factory workers in textile and apparel have
faced layoffs. But there are new jobs being created, and the challenge at all
levels of government is to make sure that people are trained for jobs which
I laid out what's called the Jobs for the 21st Century program, which says to
states and local communities, we want to help you, we want to help you make sure
the hard working people who are looking for work have got the skills necessary
to take advantage of a changing economy. The numbers aren't as good as they can
be, but they will be with focused efforts; they will be so long as Washington
promotes a pro-entrepreneur, pro-growth agenda; they will be if the Congress
makes sure the tax cuts we passed are permanent. (Applause.)
I'm optimistic about our economy's future because the numbers look good. But
that's not the true reason I'm optimistic. I'm optimistic because I understand
the entrepreneurial spirit of America. I'm optimistic because I know the type of
worker we have in this country. I'm optimistic because I trust the American
The second great challenge is to fight and win the war on terror.
(Applause.) After we were attacked in 2001, I said time would pass and people
would assume that the threats to our country had gone away. That's false
comfort. The terrorists continue to plot against us. They still want to harm us.
This nation will not tire, we will not rest until this threat to civilization is
Part of doing our duty in the war on terror is to protect the homeland. That's
part of our solemn responsibility. And we are taking unprecedented steps to
protect the homeland. In the 2005 budget, as the Secretary mentioned, we
proposed increases in homeland security spending. And some of those increases
are measures to protect our seaports. And that's why I've come to this vital
seaport, to remind people -- to remind the American people, as they pay
attention to the debates in the halls of Congress, that we have a solemn duty to
protect our homeland, including the seaports of America.
Our National Targeting Center in Northern Virginia, where I'll be going tomorrow
with the Secretary, is analyzing cargo manifest information, and focusing
front-line inspection on high-risk shipments. We're looking at things
differently now in America. We're adjusting our strategies to better protect the
We've got a Container Security Initiative, which means we're posting officers at
foreign ports to identify and inspect high-risk shipments before they're loaded
and shipped to America. We've extended the reach-out to make sure America is
more secure. We're doing things more wise in order to protect our country. We're
not waiting for ships and planes to arrive; we've got what we call a
Proliferation Security Initiative -- fancy words which means America is working
with other governments to track and stop the shipments of dangerous weapons and
dangerous cargo. (Applause.) We're determined to keep lethal weapons and
materials out of the hands of our enemies and away from our shores.
We have a duty to protect the American people, a solemn duty. And there's a lot
of people in this crowd who have heard that duty, and I appreciate your service.
I appreciate your willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the people. (Applause.)
Another vital tool in the homeland security is for Congress to pass laws that
enable us to do our job. I'm referring to the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act gives
federal law enforcement the tools they need to seize terrorists' assets and
disrupt their cells. (Applause.) It removes -- the Patriot Act removed legal
barriers that prevented the FBI and the CIA from sharing information,
information that is vitally needed to uncover terrorist plots before they are
carried out in America. Imagine a system that would not allow people to collect
information to share information.
It makes it awfully hard to protect the homeland if the FBI and the CIA can't
share data in order to protect us. The Patriot Act made that possible.
The Patriot Act imposes tougher penalties on terrorists and their supporters. We
want to send a clear message to people, that there will be a consequence. For
years we've used similar provisions, provisions that are now in the act, to
catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. What's in the Patriot Act today is
nothing new; we've been using these provisions in the past. If the methods are
good enough for hunting criminals, they're even more important for hunting
terrorists. The Congress needs to extend the Patriot Act. (Applause.)
We'll do everything in our power to defend the homeland. Yet, we understand
this, that the best way to defend the homeland is to stay on the offensive. The
best way to protect America is to find the killers and bring them to justice
before they ever harm another American -- and that's exactly what this
administration will continue to do. (Applause.)
There are thousands of our troops, and troops of our friends, on an
international manhunt. We're running down al Qaeda, we're finding them where
they hide. For our own security, we're bringing them to justice. Nearly
two-thirds of the al Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed. And we're
chasing the rest of them. There is no hole deep enough to hide from America.
Part of this new war, this different kind of war is to confront regimes that
harbor terrorists, that support terrorists, that could supply them with weapons
of mass murder. This is an essential part of the war on terror. When America
speaks, we better mean what we say. And I said right after September the 11th,
if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the
terrorists, and the Taliban found out exactly what we meant. (Applause.)
It wasn't all that long ago that Afghanistan was a haven for terrorists. This is
where many terrorists learned to kill. There were training camps, places for
them to hide. Thanks to the United States and our friends, thanks to the bravery
of many of our fellow citizens, Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terror.
Afghanistan is a free country. (Applause.)
America also confronted a gathering threat in Iraq. The dictatorship of Saddam
Hussein was one of the most brutal, corrupt, and dangerous regimes in the world.
For years, the dictator funded terrorists and gave reward money for suicide
bombings. For years, he threatened and he invaded his neighbors. For years, he
murdered innocent Iraqis by the hundreds of thousands. For years, he made a
mockery of United Nations' demands that he account for his weapons. For years,
Saddam Hussein did all these things. But he won't be doing any of them this
year. (Applause.) Instead, he's sitting in a prison cell. (Applause.) And he
will be sitting in a courtroom to answer for his crimes. (Applause.)
The liberation of Iraq was an act of justice, delivering an oppressed people
from an evil regime. The liberation of Iraq removed a source of violence and
instability from the Middle East. And the liberation of Iraq removed an enemy of
this country and made America more secure.
America and our friends have shown the world that we are serious about removing
the threats of weapons of mass destruction. And the facts are becoming clearer.
In Iraq, our survey group is on the ground, looking for the truth. We will
compare what the intelligence indicated before the war with what we have learned
afterwards. As the chief weapons inspector said, we have not yet found the
stockpiles of weapons that we thought were there. Yet, the Survey Group has
uncovered some of what the dictator was up to.
We know Saddam Hussein had the capability to produce weapons of mass
destruction. He had the scientists and technology in place to make those
weapons. We know he had the necessary infrastructure to produce weapons of mass
destruction because we found the labs and dual use facilities that could be used
to produce chemical and biological weapons. We know he was developing the
delivery systems, ballistic missiles that the United Nations had prohibited. We
know Saddam Hussein had the intent to arm his regime with weapons of mass
destruction, because he hid all those activities from the world until the last
day of his regime.
And Saddam Hussein had something else -- he had a record of using weapons of
mass destruction against his enemies and against innocent Iraqi citizens.
Knowing what I knew then, and knowing what I know today, America did the right
thing in Iraq. (Applause.)
We had a choice: either take the word of a madman, or take action to defend the
American people. Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.
(Applause.) September the 11th, 2001 was a lesson for America, a lesson I will
never forget, and a lesson this nation must never forget. We cannot wait to
confront the threats of the world, the threats of terror networks and terror
states, until those threats arrive in our own cities. I made a pledge to this
country; I will not stand by and hope for the best while dangers gather. I will
not take risks with the lives and security of the American people. I will
protect and defend this country by taking the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)
When you're the Commander-in-Chief, you have to be willing to make the tough
calls and to see your decisions through. America is safer when our commitments
are clear, our word is good, and our will is strong. And that is the only way I
know how to lead. (Applause.)
If some politicians in Washington had their way, Saddam Hussein would still be
in power. All of the Security Council resolutions and condemnations would still
be issued and still be ignored, scraps of paper amounting to nothing. Other
regimes and terror networks, had we not acted, would have concluded that America
backs down when things get tough. Saddam would still have his weapons
capabilities, and life would sure be different for the Iraqi people. The secret
police would still be making arrests in the middle of the night. Prisons and
torture chambers would still be filled with victims. More innocent Iraqis would
have been sent to mass graves. Because we acted, Iraq's nightmare is over.
(Applause.) Their country, our country and the entire world are better off
because the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone, and gone forever. (Applause.)
Because of American leadership, the world is changing for the better. Other
dictators have seen and noted our resolve. Colonel Ghadafi in Libya got the
message, and is now voluntarily disclosing and eliminating his weapons of mass
destruction programs. (Applause.)
These are historic times, times of change. In Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 50
million people once lived under tyranny. And now they live in free societies,
societies that are moving toward democracy; societies that will set an example
for all of the Middle East. And that's important.
That's important for our own security. Free societies do not attack their
neighbors. Free societies do not develop weapons of mass terror. Freedom and
peace go hand-in-hand. (Applause.)
These are great and hopeful events. And they came about because America and our
allies acted bravely in the cause of freedom. We know there are challenges
ahead. We know that freedom still has enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan --
surviving Baathists, the Taliban, suicide bombers and foreign terrorists. All
these enemies have one goal: They want to stop the advance of freedom and to
shake the will of the United States of America. But they don't understand us.
They don't understand the nature of the American people. We will never be
intimidated by thugs or assassins. (Applause.) The killers will fail, and the
people of Iraq and Afghanistan will live in freedom. (Applause.)
And that's important to us in America, because we understand freedom is not
America's gift to the world; we understand freedom is the Almighty God's gift to
each man and woman in this world. (Applause.)
South Carolina is a state that is really proud of the people who wear the
uniform. Over 5,000 reservists and National Guardsmen are currently deployed in
Iraq and Afghanistan and Kosovo and for the defense of the homeland. Hundreds of
officers from the Citadel are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in
the war on terror. Like everyone who serves in uniform today, these fine
citizens of your state are protecting this nation from danger, and they're
making us proud. (Applause.)
I made a commitment to the men and women of our military: America is asking a
lot of you, and you deserve a lot in return. You deserve our praise and our
thanks, and we will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on
So we depend on our military; our people in uniform depend on their families.
These are challenging times for military families. Some of them have experienced
great loss. We ask for God's blessings. We ask God to give them strength in
their time of grief. Our nation will never take their sacrifice for granted. All
of us are grateful to the families of the men and women who wear the uniform of
the United States. (Applause.)
By the unselfish dedication of Americans in uniform, people in our own country
and in lands far away can live in freedom, and know that -- the peace that
freedom brings. America has been given great responsibilities, and those
responsibilities have come to the right country. By our actions we have shown
what kind of nation we are -- good and just and generous people. We don't shrink
from any challenge. We're rising to the call of history. Now and in the future,
this great land will lead the cause of freedom and peace.
May God bless you all. (Applause.) Thank you for coming. Thank you all.