Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002

Author: George W. Bush  | Date: August 29, 2002

Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Largent and Senator James M. Inhofe in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,
August 29, 2002

Thank you all. It’s nice to be here in Oklahoma. Thanks. I appreciate so very much the invitation to come and throw my support behind a fine United States Senator and a person this State is surely going to reelect, and that’s Jim Inhofe. And I’m also honored to be here with "Governor" Largent. It’s got a nice ring to it.

Thanks for inviting me. There’s not much that differentiates Texas and Oklahoma—maybe the Red River, a little difference of opinion about football. [Laughter] But I’m thrilled to be here to see so many friends. I’ve always felt at home in Oklahoma, and I want to thank you all for such wonderful hospitality. As my friend said, he said, "You got to remember when you’re heading up there, civilization ends at the Red River." And as my Oklahoma friends said, "Yeah, depends on which side you’re coming from." [Laughter] But one thing is for certain—people on both sides of the Red River love America.

I want to appreciate Don Nickles. He is a leader in the United States Senate. I spent a lot of quality time with him. There in the Cabinet Room, we’re talking about important issues and plotting strategy on how to get things through the Senate that are positive for America. Don, he loves Oklahoma, of course, and he always reminds me about the virtues of Oklahoma. But he clearly loves America too. He’s providing important leadership for our country, and for that I am grateful. And I, too, want to call you friend, and thanks for being here, Don.

I appreciate so very much Kay Inhofe for putting up with Jim and for being such a good mom. The Inhofes are—got fantastic values, because they understand good values, first and foremost, start at home. I’m honored to meet—gosh, I don’t know how many grandkids I met—eleven of them. Well, if they all get out to vote, it’s going to be a landslide. [Laughter] But I want to thank the Inhofe family. I want to thank Kay. And I also want to thank the next first lady of Oklahoma, Terry Largent, in her support for her husband, Steve.

All of us up here on this stage married above ourselves. [Laughter] I had the privilege of saying goodbye for a brief period of time to our First Lady, who’s down there in Crawford. She is—she was born and raised in west Texas. That’s kind of like western Oklahoma, not a lot of native trees and not a lot of water but a lot of really good people. She’s down to Earth; she’s capable. You know, when I married her, she was a public school librarian, and the truth of the matter is, she didn’t particularly care about politicians or politics. And here she is, and what a great comforting voice and what a great wife, and what a wonderful First Lady we have. I am incredibly proud.

Anyway, she sends her love. She sends her love, and she joins me in thanking those of you who want to help these good candidates. Thank you for what you’ve done and what you’re going to do, which is turn out the vote, which is to go to your coffee shops and your churches and your community centers and tell the people of Oklahoma you’ve got two good ones in these candidates. It makes sense to send these people to their respective jobs, not for the good of Republicans but for the good of all the people in the great State of Oklahoma.

I want to thank the members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation. I am proud to work with them on a regular basis. I’m proud we have worked together to accomplish some things on behalf of the American people. I want to thank Congressman John Sullivan, who is here. I want to thank Wes Watkins, and we’re going to miss you, friend. Ernest Istook is here; thank you for coming, Ernest. Frank Lucas is here. I appreciate you, Big Frank, for coming. And finally, another man we’re going to miss is J.C. Watts. I appreciate you, J.C. I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out how to get a hold of me if you need me. [Laughter] But thank you both for your service, and thank all the congressional Members for being here.

I was so pleased to see that my friend Tom Cole won a primary in a convincing way. He beat a field of good people. But he’s going to be the next Congressman, replacing J.C. Watts. I thank you for coming, Tom.

I appreciate your Lieutenant Governor, Mary Fallin, for coming today. I appreciate her long service to the great State of Oklahoma. I appreciate her working with my friend Frank Keating, who’s done a fine job on behalf of the people of Oklahoma. I want to thank the mayor of Oklahoma City, Kirk Humphreys. Kirk has done a fine job for Oklahoma City. I’m proud to call him friend, and I know the people of this city are proud to call him mayor.

I thank Brenda Reneau for being here, who is the head of your department of labor. I also want to thank Chad Alexander, who’s the chairman of the Republican Party. And again, I want to thank you all for coming.

Most of all, I want to extol the virtues of your next Governor. He’s a solid citizen. He doesn’t need a poll to tell him what to think or what to believe. It’s clear when you get to know Steve that he’s got his principles indelibly etched on his heart. He’s got his priorities straight. He has faith foremost in his life, and his family are his two priorities, and then comes government. But it’s with—those kind of priorities are important for a leader. And that’s what you’re trying to figure out, who’s the best leader for the people of Oklahoma, who has got a vision based upon principle, not based upon polls, who will set the right priorities for the people of this State. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Steve Largent has the right priorities for the people of this great State of Oklahoma.

And his first priority—his first priority is to make sure every child in this State gets educated, not just a few, not just some from the big, fancy school districts, but every child. That’s his vision. See, he understands what I know, that if you have low standards, you get low results. If you don’t believe every child can learn, then certain children won’t learn. And that’s inexcusable to the State of Oklahoma.

So Steve travels this State, talking about setting the highest of high standards with the belief that every child can learn. He also understands that if the legislature micromanages the public schools, if they decide to set all kinds of rules that require permission slips in order for there to be local control of schools, you won’t get excellence for every child. So like me, he is a strong advocate of local control of schools.

But as well, he understands what I know: You’ve got to hold people accountable. You see, if you believe every child can learn, then you’re willing to say, "Let’s see." If you believe certain children can’t learn, then you don’t support accountability. If you believe every child can learn, you’re not afraid to measure, to determine whether every child is learning. You see, the accountability is so important to make sure no child gets left behind. It’s important also to make sure that you address problems early, before it’s too late. Steve knows what I know: There are no second-class children in the State of Oklahoma.

I appreciate his attitude about the role of Government and the entrepreneur. The role of Government is not to create wealth. The role of Government should create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, which means you’ve got to have wise tax policy. You see, you use your Tax Code in order to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. If you over-tax the entrepreneur, it diminishes the capacity for the small business to grow and to create good, vibrant jobs. He understands that.

And one of the big issues that he is going to take on is to reform the workers’ compensation system here in the State of Oklahoma. He also knows that by far the biggest engine of job creation is small business. That’s where most of the new jobs come from in America, and therefore, we’ve got to have policy aimed at small business. And one thing we’ve got to do, in order to make sure small business grows, is to understand the role of the lawsuit in our society. You need to have yourself a Governor who’s willing to look at the plaintiff’s attorney straight in the eye and ask for and get tort reform in the State of Oklahoma.

I appreciate his values. I appreciate his vision. I appreciate his background. I appreciate the fact that he’s a winner. And I appreciate that I’m on the stage with the next Governor of Oklahoma, Steve Largent.

And I appreciate being with a United States Senator who stands on principle, who does what he thinks is right and has lived up to his word. He’s a fellow that said, "I’m going to Washington. I’m not going to change." And he didn’t. I think the thing that struck me most about Jim in our conversation on Air Force One—by the way, it’s not a bad way to travel—[laughter]—was that when he described when his daughter was professor of the year. See, he’s from a family of teachers. His wife is a teacher. They raised some teachers. Jim understands the importance of teaching, and for those of you who have got family members who are teachers or you’re teachers yourself, I want to thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts up here for what you do. But he’s a man who understands the importance of teaching in our society, teaching not only lessons of reading and writing but teaching right from wrong.

He understands the role of energy, the need for an energy policy. See, the people of Oklahoma also understand that. We need an energy policy in America. We need a policy that encourages conservation and renewables, but we need a wise policy that makes sure we’ve got energy here at home. It’s in our economic interests that we promote jobs through good energy policy, and it’s in our national security interests that we become less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. We need to get us an energy bill. These two Senators understand that. We need to get that bill to my desk as soon as they get back from the August recess. It’s in our Nation’s interest that we do so.

Jim also was supportive of the tax relief plan that I campaigned on and got through the Congress. And that was important. You see, you’ve got to remember something about our economy: When we came in there, the economy was just beginning to get into a recession. There had been a slowdown, but the first three quarters of my administration was in recession. That means the economy was going backwards. Thankfully, the last three quarters have been going forward. But one of the reasons why—I’m absolutely certain one of the reasons why is because we let the people keep their own money.

We read from the same textbook. It’s the textbook that says, if you let the people have their own money, they will demand a good or service. And if they demand a good or service, somebody will produce the good or service. And when somebody produces that good or service, somebody is more likely to find jobs. The tax cut, which needs to be permanent—it needs to be permanent—came at the right time for the American economy. And I want to thank Jim for his strong support.

See, he and I understand this: When it comes time to spend the money in Washington, we’re not spending the Government’s money, we’re spending the people’s money.

I want to thank Jim for his support of making sure our seniors have got prescription drugs and Medicare. It’s time to modernize an important system. The system has lagged behind reality. Medicine has changed. Medicare hadn’t. And we need leadership in the Senate to make sure the Medicare system meets the needs of our seniors, not only in Oklahoma but all around the country. And I want to thank you on that, Jim, very much for your leadership.

And finally, we need to get him back up there so he’ll support some judges that I nominated. I found fine people to serve on our bench, good, honorable, honest people. We named one, Priscilla Owen, recently. She’s smart. She’s capable, one of the top students when she was in law school at Baylor. She got elected twice—I think twice, but I know she got elected at least twice statewide in Texas, with overwhelming numbers. She’s a very, very smart and capable woman. But somehow, some of them up there don’t like her. I guess maybe they don’t like the fact that I nominated her. But this isn’t right for the judicial system, for them to be playing politics with a fine, smart, capable woman. And we need people like Jim Inhofe up there to defend my judicial nominees in Washington, DC.

And I need him up there because he is a strong voice for the defense of this Nation. He’s one of the leading advocates for national defense in Washington. We both understand that history has now called us into action. History has now said to America, you must defend freedom. And that’s exactly what this country is going to do.

I submitted the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President. And I did so for two reasons: One, I want to make it absolutely clear that any time we put one of our soldiers into harm’s way, that person must receive the best training, the best possible pay, the best equipment. We owe it to our soldiers, and we owe it to their families.

And I appreciate Jim Inhofe’s strong, strong support for that defense budget. He’s one of the leaders on the floor of the Senate. He also understands that we need to send that increase up there because we want to make it clear to our friends and allies and foes that we’re in this deal for the long pull. There is no calendar on my desk that says, by such-and-such a date, we’re quitting. See, when it comes to the defense of freedom, when it comes to the defense of the values we hold dear, this United States will be relentless and tough, and we will be victorious.

My most important job now is to defend innocent life in America. The enemy has taken the battle to us, and they’re still there. These are haters. They’re nothing but a bunch of coldblooded killers. You need to tell your kids—people say, "Well, what do I tell my children?" You tell your children, because this Nation loves freedom, they hate us; because this Nation values each and every life—see, every life is important to America. Every life is noble. Every life is worthwhile. That’s the exact opposite of the enemy. They don’t value life. They’re willing to take innocent life just like that. They’ve hijacked a fine, fine, and important religion just to cover their murderous ways.

And remember, it’s a different kind of enemy. You see, you used to be able to measure the strength of an enemy by counting his tanks or airplanes or ships. These are the kind that go to a cave and send youngsters to their suicidal death. That’s the kind of people we’re fighting. But there’s no cave deep enough for America or dark enough to hide. No matter how long it takes, one by one we’re going to hunt them down and bring them to justice.

And that’s what that defense budget says. That’s what that defense budget clearly says. And that’s why, as soon as the Congress gets back, they need to get the defense bill to my desk and not play politics with the defense of the United States of America.

No, that’s the best way to defend the homeland, is to hunt them down. In the meantime, I’ve got to have a Department of Homeland Security that more enables me to tell the American people we’re doing everything we can to protect the homeland. I mean, we need to know who’s coming in the country, what they’re bringing in the country, and if they’re leaving the country when they say they’re going to leave the country. We need to have the capacity to put the right people in the right place at the right time to defend America.

I readily concede I didn’t run on the platform, "Vote for me. I promise to make your Government bigger." I did say, "I’m going to try to make it work better." And so when I got up there and realized there’s over 100 agencies involved with homeland security, I knew it would be hard to hold people to account with that many agencies scattered all over Washington. So I made a proposal to the Congress. I said, "Join together, and let’s have a Department that works."

The House responded, and I want to thank the House Members here. These two Senators have responded. The problem is, is that there’s other Senators in Washington who want to micromanage the process. See, they put their own turf ahead of the security of the American people. They’re more interested in special interests in Washington than the interest of homeland security. I will not accept a homeland security bill that ties the hands of this administration or future administrations to defend the homeland against the enemy.

My point to you is, Jim understands this. He doesn’t need—he doesn’t need a special meeting at the White House to understand this. See, he understands it right off the bat, and that’s why it’s important that you reelect him. He also understands that there’s going to be some tough times ahead for America. There just are. If you’re in this for the long pull, if you’re fighting an enemy that hides in the shadows of the world, it’s going to take a while.

We owe it to our children, however, that we keep going on. That’s who we owe it to. But not only to our children, we owe it to children all around the world. We will enforce doctrine—one doctrine says, "You’re with us, or you’re with them." And we work hard to keep this coalition of nations together. It makes it easier to share intelligence and to haul them in when we can find them. And by the way, we’ve pulled in over—a couple a thousand of them. A couple of thousand Al-Qaida-types and terrorist leaders are no longer circulating around. By the way, about equal that number weren’t as lucky.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do to also enforce that doctrine that says, "If you harbor one of them, you’re just as guilty. If you harbor a terrorist, you’re as guilty as the terrorist."

So it’s important to have Senators and Members of the House who understand the need for this Nation to be steady and resolved and determined and honest about the difference between good and evil. It also is important to have leadership that understands that we must not allow the world’s worst leaders to develop and harbor the world’s worst weapons.

I’ve got a lot of tools at my disposal, and I’m a patient man. And I’m a patient man. But I understand that history gives us an opportunity to make the world more peaceful. See, out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good. And you need to tell your little ones that part of that good is a more peaceful world, that there’s going to be some steep hills to climb between now and then, but by being tough and strong, patient, smart, and wise about using our assets and all the tools at our disposal, that we can make the world more peaceful for generations to come.

By fighting terror where we find it, and by rallying people to join us, I believe the evil done to America—out of that evil will come peace. I also know here at home that we’ll be a better America.

I don’t know what went through the minds of the enemy when they attacked us. They probably thought we were so materialistic, so selfish, so self-absorbed, so greedy, that all we’d do after September 11th is maybe file a lawsuit or two. They didn’t understand the character of this Nation. They didn’t understand that if you try to take away our freedoms, we’re going to respond. See, we love—we love freedom. That’s what they didn’t understand. They hate things. We love things. They act out of hatred. We don’t seek revenge. We seek justice out of love.

They also couldn’t have possibly realized that the evil done to America would waken a spirit of compassion in this country. See, people say to me, "How can I join the war on terror?" I say, "Just love your neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself. If you want to fight evil, do some good. If you want to fight evil, put your arms around a child and say, ’I love you. I’d like to mentor you. I want to help you."’ You see, in this land of plenty, there are pockets of despair, addiction, and hopelessness. I understand full well Government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in people’s hearts. It can’t provide a purpose for people’s lives. No, that is done when our fellow citizens take the time out of their life to love somebody. That’s when that happens.

See, America is changing, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time, because our fellow Americans have now understood—understand—that being a patriot is more than the Pledge of Allegiance, pledging your allegiance to "one Nation under God." A patriot is somebody who is willing to take responsibility for their lives, willing to love a neighbor, willing to mentor a child, willing to go to a shut-in and help somebody in need, willing to feed the hungry, willing to be a Boy Scout leader, willing to change America one soul, one conscience at a time. And that’s what’s happening here in America.

America has understood that each of us can’t do everything, but each of can do something to make our country a better place. Perhaps that was best illustrated on Flight 93. Citizens flying across the country—they realized their plane was going to be a weapon. They told their loved ones they loved them. They said a prayer. A guy said, "Let’s roll." They saved lives. They served something greater than themselves.

No, out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good, peace, and a more compassionate, decent, hopeful America for everybody—I mean everybody—who’s lucky enough to call themselves citizen of this great country.

We’re going to succeed. There’s no question in my mind. On my wall there’s a painting of a west Texas scene by Tom Lee. He said, "Sarah and I live on the east side of the mountain. It is the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It’s the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that has gone." I see a day that is coming that is fantastic for America, because we are the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.

God bless, and God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 11:25 a.m. at the Cox Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Kay Inhofe, wife of Senator James M. Inhofe; Terry Largent, wife of candidate Steve Largent; Tom Cole, candidate for Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District; Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma; Chad Alexander, chairman, Oklahoma Republican Party; and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit.


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Chicago: George W. Bush, "Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Largent and Senator James M. Inhofe in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, August 29, 2002," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002 in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, August 30, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 38:1453-1458 1454–1458. Original Sources, accessed December 8, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YIVW23BQEKC9F3E.

MLA: Bush, George W. "Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Largent and Senator James M. Inhofe in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, August 29, 2002." Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002, in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, August 30, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 38:1453-1458, pp. 1454–1458. Original Sources. 8 Dec. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YIVW23BQEKC9F3E.

Harvard: Bush, GW, 'Remarks at a Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Largent and Senator James M. Inhofe in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, August 29, 2002' in Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002. cited in , United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, August 30, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 38:1453-1458, pp.1454–1458. Original Sources, retrieved 8 December 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YIVW23BQEKC9F3E.