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Special Event

George W. Bush Addresses Supporters at Michigan State University

Aired February 21, 2000 - 1:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The Republicans are trying to cover a whole lot of territory in Michigan in very little time, 48 hours now. Having thwarted John McCain in South Carolina, George W. Bush is trying to put the nomination virtually out of his challenger's reach. McCain, of course, is trying to prove his win in New Hampshire wasn't just a fluke.

Michigan and Arizona both hold Republican primaries tomorrow. They're open primaries. And while McCain looks to do well in his home state of Arizona, Michigan is anybody's contest. A "Detroit News" poll taken last week before the vote in South Carolina shows a statistical dead heat. Just one week earlier, McCain enjoyed a nine- point lead.

Bush is celebrating Presidents Day at Michigan State University. He's speaking now to a rally, and we're going to dip in here and hear a little bit of this.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): ... with all your soul and with all your might. It's important to understand what the priorities are in life.

(APPLAUSE)

I've enjoyed traveling this state, and I'm looking forward to continue to travel this state with this message: If you're sick and tired of the politics of Washington, D.C., the gridlock, if you want a leader who can unite America and not divide us, there's a home for you in this campaign. I've been traveling your state saying this. If you want somebody to appeal to the better angels of America, not our darker impulses, if you're interested in somebody to lift the sights and spirits of America, come and join this campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

I love looking the folks of Michigan in the eye and saying loud and clear: If you're looking for a reformer with results, if you want somebody from outside of the District of Columbia, somebody who's done in office what he said he would do, somebody who brought the conservative principles and can point to compassionate results -- if you're looking for that kind of standard bearer for the Republican Party, come and join our campaign, because that's exactly what I have done.

(APPLAUSE)

We're having a tax debate in this party. We're having a tax debate in this party. Someone will call it the tax debate, I call it a growth debated. I think it's important to have a standard bearer who understands the role of government's not to create wealth but an environment so entrepreneurship can flourish, in which small businesses can grow to be big businesses. No, I understand something about today's surplus that evidently others don't understand, that excess money is not the government's money, it is the people's money.

(APPLAUSE)

The voices of the status quo. The voices of the status quo, the defenders of Washington, D.C., they say Governor Bush's plan is risky. They say, somehow, that giving people some of their money back is risky. I say what's risky is leaving unspent surpluses in Washington, D.C.. That is risky.

(APPLAUSE)

So I'm talking about a plan that understands America; a plan that is fair and realistic; a plan that doesn't have one of these Washington-style targeted tax cuts, a style of tax cut that kind of picks one over another. My plan says, for everybody who pays taxes in Michigan, everybody, not the favorite, not the few, but everybody who pays income taxes in Michigan ought to get a tax cut.

Hear me out, now. Listen: If you're a family of four making $50,000 in this great state of Michigan, under the George W. Bush plan, you'll get a 50 percent cut in the taxes you pay.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes. One time a college kid said, what's a tax cut got to do with me? I said, one of these days you're going to be working, and you better understand reality. And reality is, today's taxes are the highest they have been since World War II. Today's tax load on the people who are paying the bill are the highest it's been since World War II. And at some point in time, this is going to start to affect our economy. And you all need to be asking the question: Who has the vision for economic growth? Whose vision is it that is the most optimistic for me who's going to be looking for work? The current tax code is unfair. The death tax is unfair and I intend to get rid of it. The marriage penalty is unfair, the earnings test on Social Security recipients is unfair.

(APPLAUSE)

But let me tell you what else is unfair. Under the current tax code, if you're someone living on the outskirts of poverty, if you're a single mom with two children who's working your heart out to put food on the table for your children and money in the bank for their savings, under the current code, if you're that person with the toughest job in America, incredibly enough, for every additional dollar you earn, you pay a higher marginal rate on that dollar than someone making $200,000 a year. And that's true. And that's not right. And this Republican Party must not only hear the voices of the entrepreneurs in America, we must listen carefully to the voices on the outskirts of poverty.

See, our vision and our philosophy is, the person with the toughest job in America ought to be rewarded for the harder she works. We need to knock down the toll booth to the middle class. We need to say, you're welcome in America to the piece of the American dream.

(APPLAUSE)

There you go. I want to take -- I'm not going on much longer. I'm just getting warmed up, though. I want to take my reforming agenda to Washington, D.C. and reform the military. I want the young to understand, I want the young to understand my mission is to keep the peace. I want to be known as the president who maintained and kept the peace. I've got a cold-eyed realism about the world. I see the world exactly the way it is, and this is a world of uncertainty. It is. We're certain about certain things, though, even though the evil empire may have passed: Evil still remains. People who cannot stand what America stands for, they resent our freedoms, they resent our successes. This is the world where there are still madmen and terror and missiles. I believe a dangerous world requires a sharpened sword, so I will rebuild the military power of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

I do so to keep the peace. I do so to keep the peace. Morale is now dangerously low for the men and women who wear our uniform. After all, we've got men and women in uniform on food stamps, and that's not right, Mr. President. We need to pay our troops enough so that they understand they're wanted in the United States military.

(APPLAUSE)

Our troops are over-deployed and under-trained. If you listen to the voices of those who wear the uniform, you will hear the concern about over-deployment, you'll hear the concerns of young marrieds wondering about separation for long periods of time. I intend to keep the peace, but I'm going to work with our allies to make sure our allies understand we'll be their friends when we don't need each other, so when we do need each other we have a strong voice for freedom. But I'll also tell our allies: If there's conflict in your area, you get to put the troops on the ground, you get to keep the warring parties apart, you get to be the peacekeepers, America will be the peacemakers.

(APPLAUSE)

And let me say one other thing about morale. Let me say one other thing about morale. In order to boost the morale of the men and women who wear our uniform, it is essential that we have a commander in chief who respects the men and women in uniform and who, in turn, earns the respect of the men and women in uniform, and that's exactly what I intend to do.

Now let me say one other thing, one other thing. I want to talk about one other issue right quick now that I've got your attention. It is incredibly important -- in order to make sure the American dream touches every willing heart, it is incredibly important that every child in America be educated and no child be left behind. It is incredibly important.

(APPLAUSE)

When I ran for governor of Texas, when I ran for governor of my state, I said, give me a chance to make our public education system the number one priority of the state of Texas. I said, give me a chance to raise the bar, to raise the standard. I said, give me a chance to have an accountability system that is strong, that lets us know whether our children are learning. I said, give me a chance to have an accountability system with consequences. I said, give us a chance to expand the menu of opportunity, to make sure, if people are frustrated with our school system, that parents and educators have got some different options.

And guess what's happened as a result of the reforms in the state of Texas. Perhaps my most proud accomplishment is to be able to stand in this great state of Michigan and say, and our test scores are up, particularly amongst our African-American students and our Hispanic students. Because, you see, we have begun to abandon the practice of asking our -- of saying, how old are you? You see, a system that says, how old are you? is a system that says if you're 12, you're supposed to be here, and 14, here. Instead, we're starting to ask, what do you know? And if you don't know what you're supposed to know, we'll make sure you do early before it's too late. And our state is better off. I want to take that reforming agenda to Washington, D.C.

Now, people say, wasn't there a contradiction in terms if you believe in local control and you're talking about education running for president? I said, there's no contradiction because, you see, I want to pass power out of Washington to local jurisdictions. We must trust the people of Michigan to make the right decisions for the children in Michigan.

(APPLAUSE)

But at the federal level, at federal level it is incredibly important to have a president who asked the question, what are the results? to have a president who says, if you're a Title 1 district, please show us; please show us whether the very faces of our future, please show us whether the so-called disadvantaged student is learning to read and write and add and subtract. Show us that you're meeting standards. Show us that you're doing the job that we expect in society. And when you do, there'll be a bonus plan. But if you don't, after a reasonable period of time, if our children are trapped in mediocrity, if the disadvantaged students we're trying to help can't read and write and add and subtract, there must be a consequence. And in my vision, the consequence is the money shall no longer go to fund failure, it'll go to the parents so the parent can make a different choice. And you mark my words what will happen. I've seen it with my own eyes. When you have a leader who raises the bar, who insists upon the best, people will rise to the challenge. At worst, we'll be providing scholarships for the neediest of students. And, at any rate, a President Bush will not subsidize mediocrity in our public school system because there are no second-rate children, and there are no second-rate dreams in America.

(APPLAUSE)

And so I want to thank you all. I want to thank you for this. I want to thank you for this grand Michigan State welcome. I want to thank you for allowing Laura and me to come to Spartan country.

(APPLAUSE)

WATERS: Very little time to make an impression on Michigan voters, a confident George Bush coming over an impressive South Carolina primary win, speaking at Michigan State University in East Lansing on Republican boilerplate themes of beefing up the military to keep the peace, taxes and education.

And Patty Davis who is in East Lansing with the Bush campaign, she's been traveling with him.

And, Patty, it was as though Mr. Bush was running in the general election in the fall. No mention of any opposition today.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very energized George W. Bush that you heard here speaking, trying to rally the Republicans here in the state to come out and turn out for him. No mention of the opposition because he's focusing on the Republican primary at this point. No mention of Al Gore, perhaps even John McCain. It's important, though, that he beat John McCain in this primary tomorrow. John McCain, if he wins this primary tomorrow, it would be another setback for George W. Bush.

George W. Bush just won in South Carolina, a very important win, reestablishing himself as the front-runner. The polls seem to indicate, at least the latest one in the "Detroit News," that Republicans are turning, again, once more in this state, to George W. Bush.

Now, you heard a message, also in this speech, of reform. George W. Bush is continuing that theme that he used so successfully in South Carolina. He said that he walks the walk and talks the talk in Texas, reforming test scores, reforming welfare, cutting taxes, putting the names of big contributors to his campaign on the Internet more than, he says, that John McCain, who considers himself a real reformer, has done.

Coming off, now, that big win in South Carolina, Bush now saying that he feels his chances are very good here in Michigan -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Patty Davis with the Bush campaign in Michigan. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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