For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 15, 2007
President Bush Attends White House Tee Ball Game on the South Lawn, Honors Jackie Robinson South Lawn, 4:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome here to tee ball on the South Lawn of the White House. I'm honored to be joined here with the commissioner for today's game, member of the Hall of Fame, the great Frank Robinson. (Applause.) Thanks for being here.
MR. ROBINSON: My pleasure.
THE PRESIDENT: Mario, thanks, great job on the anthem. I thank the Color Guard, as well, for being here. Today we're going to have an outstanding contest. Laura and I are proud to be able to watch. From Los Angeles, California, the Little League Dodgers. (Applause.) And from Brooklyn, New York, the Little League Highlanders. (Applause.) And we want to welcome the players. We particularly thank the coaches for working with the youngsters. Thanks for getting them interested in baseball, America's greatest sport. We want to thank the parents who have come. Thank you for supporting the kids. (Applause.) And we're looking forward to a good game.
Today -- every day is a special day when we play baseball at the White House, but today is particularly special since we're going to pay homage to Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson, as you know, broke the color barrier in baseball, but there were some pioneers ahead of Jackie. And today we're proud to welcome the Negro League players who are here. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)
Imagine what baseball would have been like had you been a part of the Major Leagues. Jackie Robinson was a pioneer, and Frank and I are going to retire his number, just like they did all over Major League parks across our country. But before we do, we're proud that members of the Brooklyn Dodger team who had the honor of playing with Jackie Robinson have joined us: Tommy Lasorda. (Applause.) Don Newcombe. (Applause.) Clyde King. (Applause.) And Ralph Branca. (Applause.)
We're honored you're here. Thank you all for coming. Thanks for being a part of this special ball game. As a matter of fact, two of you are going to end up being first and third base coach. I wish you all the best out there. Looks like we've got some good players that have come to play.
I do want to thank John Warner, Senator John Warner, from the great state of Virginia, and his family, for joining us. Proud you're here, Senator. (Applause.) I see Alphonso Jackson and Dirk Kempthorne, of my Cabinet, who have joined us. I'm proud you all are here. Dutch Morial, thanks for coming Dutch, appreciate you coming -- I mean, Marc Morial -- there he is, Marc, how you doing, brother? He's the head of the Urban League. Roslyn Brock, vice chairman of the NAACP, has joined us, as well. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)
We want to thank the Jackie Robinson Foundation for joining us today, as well as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club of America for being here. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)
I'm so honored that this game is going to be called by Karl Ravech, ESPN. Thanks for coming, Karl.
MR. RAVECH: Pleasure, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: We really appreciate you taking -- you know it's a big game when Karl Ravech comes over to lend his talents. So you players are going to have to play hard, because you've got ESPN here.
Before we -- after we hang up the number honoring Jackie Robinson, after we retire his number here on the South Lawn, we will have Matthew Hearon, he'll be coming out, he's going to help us get the game kicked off. He's the first ball presenter. But before you come out, Matthew, the Hall of Famer and I are now going to hang up Jackie Robinson's number. Ready?
END 4:06 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 14, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
This week, my Administration submitted to Congress an interim report on the situation in Iraq. This report provides an initial assessment of how the Iraqi government is doing in meeting the 18 benchmarks that Congress asked us to measure. This is a preliminary report. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment.
The interim report released this week finds that the Iraqis have made satisfactory progress in eight areas -- such as providing the three brigades they promised for the surge, establishing joint security stations in Baghdad neighborhoods, and providing $10 billion of their own money for reconstruction. In eight other areas, the progress was unsatisfactory -- such as failing to prepare for local elections or pass a law to share oil revenues. In two remaining areas, the progress was too unclear to be characterized one way or the other. Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost are pointing to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism. Our strategy is built on the premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress. This report shows that conditions can change, progress can be made, and the fight in Iraq can be won.
The strategy we are now pursuing is markedly different from the one we were following last year. It became clear that our approach in Iraq was not working. So I consulted my national security team, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military commanders and diplomats on the ground. I brought in outside experts to hear their ideas. And after listening to this advice, in January I announced a new way forward -- sending reinforcements to help the Iraqis protect their people, improve their security forces, and advance the difficult process of reconciliation at both the national and local levels.
Our recent experience in Anbar Province shows what we hope to achieve throughout Iraq. As recently as last September, Anbar was held up as an example of America's failure in Iraq. Around the same time, the situation began to change. Sunni tribes that had been fighting alongside al Qaeda against our coalition came forward to fight alongside our coalition against al Qaeda. So I sent reinforcements to take advantage of this opportunity. And together we have driven al Qaeda from most of Anbar's capital city of Ramadi -- and attacks there are now at a two-year low.
We are now carrying out operations to replicate the success in Anbar in other parts of the country -- especially in the regions in and around Baghdad. We are starting to take the initiative away from al Qaeda -- and aiding the rise of an Iraqi government that can protect its people, deliver basic services, and be an ally in the war against extremists and radicals. By doing this, we are creating the conditions that will allow our troops to begin coming home. When America starts drawing down our forces in Iraq, it will be because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right -- not because pollsters say it would be good politics.
Some people say the surge has been going for six months and that is long enough to conclude that it has failed. In fact, the final reinforcements arrived in Iraq just a month ago -- and only then was General Petraeus able to launch the surge in full force. He and the troops who have begun these dangerous operations deserve the time and resources to carry them out.
To begin to bring troops home before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for our country. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda, risking a humanitarian catastrophe, and allowing the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq and gain control of vast oil resources they could use to fund new attacks on America. And it would increase the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
Most Americans want to see two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops succeed, and they want to see our troops begin to come home. We can do both, and we will. Our troops in Iraq are serving bravely. They're making great sacrifices. Changing the conditions in Iraq is difficult, and it can be done. The best way to start bringing these good men and women home is to make sure the surge succeeds. Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 13, 2007
President Bush Participates in Video Teleconference with Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Team Leaders, Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team Leaders, and Brigade Combat Commanders Roosevelt Room, 10:30 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: As part of our strategy to succeed in Iraq, I not only reenforced our military efforts with more troops, we also surged civilians to work with our military to help the reconciliation efforts in a country that is still recovering from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
And today my Security Council here had a opportunity not only to speak with our Ambassador in Iraq, but also five members of provincial reconstruction teams, three civilians and two military -- colonels. They have briefed us on the grassroots effort to improve services, to improve the economy, to encourage local government, all aiming at enhancing this concept of reconciliation from the bottom up.
We heard from the PRT leader in Anbar. I had the honor of speaking with him months ago, and now he has briefed us on the progress that he has seen. Listen, there is still a lot of work to be done. But these people at the grassroots understand that most Iraqis want to live in peace and that, with time, we'll be able to help them realize that dream.
And so I want to thank you once again for your outstanding service to our nation in the cause of peace. What happens in Iraq matters to the United States of America. A violent, chaotic Iraq will affect our security at home. An Iraq that can self-govern, provide basic services to its people, and be an ally in the war on terror will mean that all of us have accepted a great challenge and laid a foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.
And so, thank you for your service. I appreciate your -- I want to thank your families who are supporting you in this just and noble cause. And may God bless you all. Thank you. END 10:33 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 12, 2007
Press Conference by the President James S. Brady Briefing Room, 10:31 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you. Yesterday, America lost an extraordinary First Lady and a fine Texan, Lady Bird Johnson. She brought grace to the White House and beauty to our country. On behalf of the American people, Laura and I send our condolences to her daughters, Lynda and Luci, and we offer our prayers to the Johnson family.
Before I answer some of your questions, today I'd like to provide the American people with an update on the situation in Iraq. Since America began military operations in Iraq, the conflict there has gone through four major phases. The first phase was the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein. The second phase was the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people and the holding of free elections. The third phase was the tragic escalation of sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
We've entered a fourth phase: deploying reinforcements and launching new operations to help Iraqis bring security to their people. I'm going to explain why the success of this new strategy is vital for protecting our people and bringing our troops home, which is a goal shared by all Americans. I'll brief you on the report we are sending to Congress. I'll discuss why a drawdown of forces that is not linked to the success of our operations would be a disaster.
As President, my most solemn responsibility is to keep the American people safe. So on my orders, good men and women are now fighting the terrorists on the front lines in Iraq. I've given our troops in Iraq clear objectives. And as they risk their lives to achieve these objectives, they need to know they have the unwavering support from the Commander-in-Chief, and they do. And they need the enemy to know that America is not going to back down. So when I speak to the American people about Iraq, I often emphasize the importance of maintaining our resolve and meeting our objectives.
As a result, sometimes the debate over Iraq is cast as a disagreement between those who want to keep our troops in Iraq and those who want to bring our troops home. And this is not the real debate. I don't know anyone who doesn't want to see the day when our brave servicemen and women can start coming home.
In my address to the nation in January, I put it this way: If we increase our support at this crucial moment we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home. The real debate over Iraq is between those who think the fight is lost or not worth the cost, and those that believe the fight can be won and that, as difficult as the fight is, the cost of defeat would be far higher.
I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must. So we're working to defeat al Qaeda and other extremists, and aid the rise of an Iraqi government that can protect its people, deliver basic services, and be an ally in the war against these extremists and radicals. By doing this, we'll create the conditions that would allow our troops to begin coming home, while securing our long-term national interest in Iraq and in the region.
When we start drawing down our forces in Iraq it will be because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right, not because pollsters say it will be good politics. The strategy I announced in January is designed to seize the initiative and create those conditions. It's aimed at helping the Iraqis strengthen their government so that it can function even amid violence. It seeks to open space for Iraq's political leaders to advance the difficult process of national reconciliation, which is essential to lasting security and stability. It is focused on applying sustained military pressure to rout out terrorist networks in Baghdad and surrounding areas. It is committed to using diplomacy to strengthen regional and international support for Iraq's democratic government.
Doing all these things is intended to make possible a more limited role in Iraq for the United States. It's the goal outlined by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. It's the goal shared by the Iraqis and our coalition partners. It is the goal that Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus and our troops are working hard to make a reality.
Our top priority is to help the Iraqis protect their population. So we have launched an offensive in and around Baghdad to go after extremists, to buy more time for Iraqi forces to develop, and to help normal life and civil society take root in communities and neighborhoods throughout the country. We're helping enhance the size, capabilities and effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces so the Iraqis can take over the defense of their own country. We're helping the Iraqis take back their neighborhoods from the extremists. In Anbar province, Sunni tribes that were once fighting alongside al Qaeda against our coalition are now fighting alongside our coalition against al Qaeda. We're working to replicate the success in Anbar and other parts of the country.
Two months ago, in the supplemental appropriations bill funding our troops, Congress established 18 benchmarks to gauge the progress of the Iraqi government. They required we submit a full report to Congress by September the 15th. Today my administration has submitted to Congress an interim report that requires us to assess -- and I quote the bill -- "whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks is or is not being achieved."
Of the 18 benchmarks Congress asked us to measure, we can report that satisfactory progress is being made in eight areas. For example, Iraqis provided the three brigades they promised for operations in and around Baghdad. And the Iraqi government is spending nearly $7.3 billion from its own funds this year to train, equip and modernize its forces. In eight other areas, the Iraqis have much more work to do. For example, they have not done enough to prepare for local elections or pass a law to share oil revenues. And in two remaining areas, progress was too mixed to be characterized one way or the other.
Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism. Our strategy is built on a premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress. So it's not surprising that political progress is lagging behind the security gains we are seeing. Economic development funds are critical to helping Iraq make this political progress. Today, I'm exercising the waiver authority granted me by Congress to release a substantial portion of those funds.
The bottom line is that this is a preliminary report and it comes less than a month after the final reinforcements arrived in Iraq. This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment. By that time, we hope to see further improvement in the positive areas, the beginning of improvement in the negative areas. We'll also have a clearer picture of how the new strategy is unfolding, and be in a better position to judge where we need to make any adjustments.
I will rely on General Petraeus to give me his recommendations for the appropriate troop levels in Iraq. I will discuss the recommendation with the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will continue consultations with members of the United States Congress from both sides of the aisle, and then I'll make a decision.
I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now. To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we'd be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we'd allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that's unfolding across the region. The same region in Iran -- the same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers. The same Hezbollah terrorists who are waging war against the forces of democracy in Lebanon are training extremists to do the same against coalition forces in Iraq. The same Syrian regime that provides support and sanctuary for Islamic jihad and Hamas has refused to close its airport in Damascus to suicide bombers headed to Iraq. All these extremist groups would be emboldened by a precipitous American withdrawal, which would confuse and frighten friends and allies in the region.
Nations throughout the Middle East have a stake in a stable Iraq. To protect our interests and to show our commitment to our friends in the region, we are enhancing our military presence, improving our bilateral security ties, and supporting those fighting the extremists across the Middle East. We're also using the tools of diplomacy to strengthen regional and international support for Iraq's democratic government.
So I'm sending Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice to the region in early August. They will meet with our allies, reemphasize our commitment to the International Compact of Sharm el Sheikh, reassure our friends that the Middle East remains a vital strategic priority for the United States.
There is a conversion of visions between what Iraqi leaders want, what our partners want and what our friends in the region want, and the vision articulated by my administration, the Iraq Study Group and others here at home. The Iraqis do not want U.S. troops patrolling their cities forever, any more than the American people do. But we need to ensure that when U.S. forces do pull back that terrorists and extremists cannot take control.
The strategy that General Petraeus and the troops he commands are now carrying out is the best opportunity to bring us to this point. So I ask Congress to provide them with the time and resources they need. The men and women of the United States military have made enormous sacrifices in Iraq. They have achieved great things, and the best way to begin bringing them home is to make sure our new strategy succeeds.
And now I'll be glad to answer a few questions, starting with Ms. Thomas.
Q Mr. President, you started this war, a war of your choosing, and you can end it alone, today, at this point -- bring in peacekeepers, U.N. peacekeepers. Two million Iraqis have fled their country as refugees. Two million more are displaced. Thousands and thousands are dead. Don't you understand, you brought the al Qaeda into Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically. That's why I went to the United Nations and worked with the United Nations Security Council, which unanimously passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. That was the message, the clear message to Saddam Hussein. He chose the course.
Q Didn't we go into Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: It was his decision to make. Obviously, it was a difficult decision for me to make, to send our brave troops, along with coalition troops, into Iraq. I firmly believe the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. Now the fundamental question facing America is will we stand with this young democracy, will we help them achieve stability, will we help them become an ally in this war against extremists and radicals that is not only evident in Iraq, but it's evident in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan.
We're at the beginning stages of a great ideological conflict between those who yearn for peace and those who want their children to grow up in a normal, decent society, and radicals and extremists who want to impose their dark vision on people throughout the world. Iraq is obviously -- Helen, it's got the attention of the American people, as it should; this is a difficult war and it's a tough war. But as I have consistently stated throughout this presidency, it is a necessary war to secure our peace.
I find it interesting that as this young democracy has taken hold, radicals and extremists kill innocent people to stop its advance. And that ought to be a clear signal to the American people that these are dangerous people and their ambition is not just contained to Iraq. Their ambition is to continue to hurt the American people. My attitude is we ought to defeat them there so we don't have to face them here, and that we ought to defeat their ideology with a more hopeful form of government.
Q Mr. President, you're facing a rebellion from Republican -- key Republican senators who want you to change course and begin reducing the U.S. combat role. Given the mixed report that you present today, how do you persuade Republicans to stick with you as they look ahead to the next elections?
THE PRESIDENT: A couple of things. First of all, I respect those Republicans that you're referring to. I presume you're referring to friends of mine, like Lugar -- Senator Lugar, Domenici, yes. These are good, honorable people. I've spoken to them and I listen very carefully to what they have to say.
First of all, they share my concern that a precipitous withdrawal would embolden al Qaeda. And they also understand that we can't let al Qaeda gain safe haven inside of Iraq. I appreciate their calls and I appreciate their desire to work with the White House to be in a position where we can sustain a presence in Iraq.
What I tell them is this, just what I've told you, is that as the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military ever, I have an obligation, a sincere and serious obligation, to hear out my commander on the ground. And I will take his recommendation. And as I mentioned, to talk to Bob Gates about it, as well as the Joint Chiefs about it, as well as consult with members of the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, as I make a decision about the way forward in Iraq.
And so I -- you know, I value the advice of those senators. I appreciate their concerns about the situation in Iraq, and I am going to continue listening to them.
Q Mr. President, in addition to members of your own party, the American public is clamoring for a change of course in Iraq. Why are you so resistant to that idea, and how much longer are you willing to give the surge to work before considering a change in this policy?
THE PRESIDENT: First, I understand why the American people are -- you know, they're tired of the war. There is -- people are -- there is a war fatigue in America. It's affecting our psychology. I've said this before. I understand that this is an ugly war. It's a war in which an enemy will kill innocent men, women and children in order to achieve a political objective. It doesn't surprise me that there is deep concern amongst our people.
Part of that concern is whether or not we can win; whether or not the objective is achievable. People don't want our troops in harm's way if that which we are trying to achieve can't be accomplished. I feel the same way. I cannot look a mother and father of a troop in the eye and say, I'm sending your kid into combat, but I don't think we can achieve the objective. I wouldn't do that to a parent or a husband or wife of a soldier.
I believe we can succeed and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political tract to succeed, as well. And the report, by the way, which is, as accurately noted, is being submitted today, is written a little less than a month after the full complement of troops arrived.
I went to the country in January and said I have made this decision. I said what was happening on the ground was unsatisfactory in Iraq. In consultation with a lot of folks, I came to the conclusion that we needed to send more troops into Iraq, not less, in order to provide stability, in order to be able to enhance the security of the people there. And David asked for a certain number of troops -- David Petraeus asked for a certain number -- General Petraeus asked for a certain number of troops, and he just got them a couple of weeks ago.
Military -- it takes a while to move our troops, as the experts know. You just can't load them all in one airplane or one big ship and get them into theater. We had to stage the arrival of our troops. And after they arrived in Iraq, it took a while to get them into their missions. Since the reinforcements arrived, things have changed.
For example, I would remind you that Anbar province was considered lost. Maybe some of you reported that last fall. And yet, today, because of what we call bottom-up reconciliation, Anbar province has changed dramatically. The same thing is now beginning to happen in Diyala province. There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where violence is down. There are still car bombs, most of which have the al Qaeda signature on them, but they're declining. In other words, so there's some measurable progress.
And you asked, how long does one wait? I will repeat, as the Commander-in-Chief of a great military who has supported this military and will continue to support this military, not only with my -- with insisting that we get resources to them, but with -- by respecting the command structure, I'm going to wait for David to come back -- David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees. And then we'll use that data, that -- his report to work with the rest of the military chain of command, and members of Congress, to make another decision, if need be.
Q You talk about all the troops now being in place, and only in place the last three weeks or a month. Yet three-quarters of the troops for the surge were in place during the period when this July interim report was written. Are you willing to keep the surge going, no matter what General Petraeus says, if there is no substantial Iraqi political progress by September?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You're asking me to speculate on what my frame of mind will be in September, and I would just ask that you give -- General Petraeus to come back and brief me. And then, of course, I'll be glad to answer your questions along that line.
Q But there has been no substantial political progress, even with three-quarters of the troops in there.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I mentioned --
Q Will you keep that going through September, even if there isn't?
THE PRESIDENT: Martha, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we have felt all along that the security situation needed to change in order for there to be political progress. It's very hard for a young democracy to function with the violence that was raging. Secondly, there's a lot of -- a lot of the past that needs to be worked through the system. I mean, living under the brutal tyrant Saddam Hussein created a lot of anxiety and a lot of tensions and a lot of rivalry, and it's going to take a while to work it through. But they couldn't work through those tensions and rivalries in the midst of serious violence.
And so the strategy was, move in more troops to cause the violence to abate. And that's what David Petraeus will be reporting on.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. A question for you about the process you're describing of your decision-making as Commander-in-Chief. Have you entertained the idea that at some point Congress may take some of that sole decision-making power away, through legislation? And can you tell us, are you still committed to vetoing any troop withdrawal deadline?
THE PRESIDENT: You mean in this interim period? Yes. I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding our troops. I'm certainly interested in their opinion, but trying to run a war through resolution is a prescription for failure, as far as I'm concerned, and we can't afford to fail.
I'll work with Congress; I'll listen to Congress. Congress has got all the right to appropriate money. But the idea of telling our military how to conduct operations, for example, or how to deal with troop strength, I don't think it makes sense. I don't think it makes sense today, nor do I think it's a good precedent for the future. And so the role of the Commander-in-Chief is, of course, to consult with Congress.
Q So if Reed-Levin or anything like it were to pass and set a --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would hope they wouldn't pass, Jim. But I --
Q But what if they've got --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me make sure you understand what I'm saying. Congress has all the right in the world to fund. That's their main involvement in this war, which is to provide funds for our troops. What you're asking is whether or not Congress ought to be basically determining how troops are positioned, or troop strength. And I don't think that would be good for the country.
Q Mr. President, you've said many times this war at this stage is about the Iraqi government creating a self-sustaining, stable government. Last November, your own CIA Director, according to The Washington Post, told you about that government: "The inability of the government to govern seems irreversible. He could not point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around." And he said, in talking about the government, that it's balanced, but it cannot function.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q When you heard that, since that point, you think of how many hundreds of soldiers have been killed, how much money has been spent. Why shouldn't people conclude that you are either stubborn, in denial, but certainly not realistic about the strategy that you've pursued since then?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, it's interesting, it turns out Mike Hayden -- I think you're quoting Mike Hayden there -- was in this morning to give me his weekly briefing, and I asked him about that newspaper article from which you quote. His answer was -- his comments to the Iraq Study Group were a little more nuanced than the quotation you read.
He said that he made it clear the current strategy in Iraq wasn't working -- this is his recollection of the briefing to the Iraq Study Group. He briefed them to the fact it wasn't working and that we needed a change of direction. He also said that those who suggest that we back away and let the Iraqi government do -- this is in November 2006 -- let the Iraqis handle it, don't understand the inability of the Iraq government at that time to take on that responsibility.
He then went on to say -- this is what he -- his recollection of his conversation -- was that our strategy needed to help get the violence down so that there could be political reconciliation from the top down, as well as the bottom up.
There has been political reconciliation, Martha, from the bottom up. Anbar province is a place where the experts had -- an expert had said that it was impossible for us to achieve our objective. This was the part of the country of Iraq where al Qaeda had made it clear that they would like to establish a safe haven from which to plan, plot further attacks, to spread their ideology throughout the Middle East. Since then, since this November 2006 report, and since that statement to the Iraq Study Group, things have changed appreciably on the ground in Anbar province.
And they're beginning to have the same change -- because the people on the ground there are sick and tired of violence and being threatened by people like al Qaeda, who have no positive vision for the future. And there's been a significant turn, where now Sunni sheikhs and Sunni citizens are working with the coalition to bring justice to al Qaeda killers. And that same approach is being taken in Diyala.
And so there's a lot of focus, and should be, frankly, on oil laws or elections. But remember, there's another political reconciliation track taking place, as well, and that's the one that's taking place at the grassroots level. Mike Hayden talked about that, as well.
Q But you think you've been realistic about the strategy and what's possible?
THE PRESIDENT: Well -- thank you for the follow-up -- nothing has changed in the new room. Anyway -- yes. As I told you last November, right about this time, I was part of that group of Americans who didn't approve of what was taking place in Iraq because it looked like all the efforts we had taken to that point in time were about to fail. In other words, sectarian violence was really raging. And I had a choice to make, and that was to pull back, as some suggested, and hope that the chaos and violence that might occur in the capital would not spill out across the country, or send more troops in to prevent the chaos and violence from happening in the first place -- and that's the decision I made. So it was a realistic appraisal by me.
What's realistic, as well, is to understand the consequences of what will happen if we fail in Iraq. In other words, people aren't just going to be content with driving America out of Iraq. Al Qaeda wants to hurt us here. That's their objective. That's what they would like to do. They have got an ideology that they believe that the world ought to live under, and that one way to help spread that ideology is to harm the American people, harm American interests. The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that's why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.
So I've been realistic about the consequences of failure. I have been realistic about what needs to happen on the ground in order for there to be success. And it's been hard work, and the American people see this hard work. And one of the reasons it is hard work is because on our TV screens are these violent killings, perpetuated by people who have done us harm in the past. And that ought to be a lesson for the American people, to understand that what happens in Iraq and overseas matters to the security of the United States of America.
Q But, sir, on that point, what evidence can you present to the American people that the people who attacked the United States on September the 11th are, in fact, the same people who are responsible for the bombings taking place in Iraq? What evidence can you present? And also, are you saying, sir, that al Qaeda in Iraq is the same organization being run by Osama bin Laden, himself?
THE PRESIDENT: Al Qaeda in Iraq has sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And the guys who had perpetuated the attacks on America -- obviously, the guys on the airplane are dead, and the commanders, many of those are either dead or in captivity, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But the people in Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq, has sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And we need to take al Qaeda in Iraq seriously, just like we need to take al Qaeda anywhere in the world seriously.
Let's see here. Working my way around here. Sheryl.
Q Mr. President, in Jordan in November, you stood by Prime Minister Maliki and said he's the right guy for Iraq. Given this report card today and given the lack of top-down political reconciliation, can you tell the American people that you still believe he's the right guy for Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe that he understands that there needs to be serious reconciliation, a need to get law passed; firmly believe that. I have had a series of conference calls with the Prime Minister, as well as the presidency council. The presidency council, you have the President Talabani, you have the two Vice Presidents, al-Mahdi and Hashimi as well as the Prime Minister. And I have urged them to work together to get a law passed. It's not easy to get law passed through certain legislatures, like theirs. There's a lot of work that has to be done. And I will continue to urge, but --
Q Do you have confidence in them?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm almost through with the first one; I'll come back to the second one.
And so I'll continue to urge the Iraqis to show us that they're capable of passing legislation. But it's not just us, it's the Iraqi people. And what really matters is whether or not life is improving for the Iraqi people on the ground.
And, yes, I've got confidence in them, but I also understand how difficult it is. I'm not making excuses, but it is hard. It's hard work for them to get law passed. And sometimes it's hard work for people to get law passed here. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to work to achieve an objective, which is a government that is able to provide security for its people and provide basic services, and, as importantly, serve as an ally against these extremists and radicals.
Q Thank you, Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: No, not you. Michael.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, was that harsh?
THE PRESIDENT: Like the new hall, I should have been more gentle? (Laughter.) Do we ever use "kinder and gentler"? No.
Go ahead, Michael. And then you're next.
Q If I could just switch subjects for a second to another big decision you made recently, which was in the Scooter Libby case.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q You spoke very soberly and seriously in your statement about how you weighed different legal questions in coming to your decision on that commutation. But one issue that you did not address was the issue of the morality of your most senior advisors leaking the name of a confidential intelligence operator. Now that the case is over -- it's not something you've ever spoken to -- can you say whether you're at all disappointed in the behavior of those senior advisors? And have you communicated that disappointment to them in any way?
THE PRESIDENT: Michael, I -- first of all, the Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision. Secondly, I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the testimony that people throughout my administration were forced to give as a result of the special prosecutor. I didn't ask them during the time and I haven't asked them since.
I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person, and I've often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, I did it. Would we have had this, you know, endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter? But it's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House, and it's run its course and now we're going to move on.
Q Mr. President, you have spoken passionately --
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I'm sorry.
Q Are you taking it away from me?
THE PRESIDENT: I am --
Q After doing the "fair and balanced," you're going to take it away -- (laughter.)
Q Ohhh. (Laughter.)
Q You're going to come back to me, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: You got the mic -- a possession deal, you know what I'm saying? (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, sir. You have spoken passionately about the consequences of failure in Iraq. Your critics say you failed to send enough troops there at the start, failed to keep al Qaeda from stepping into the void created by the collapse of Saddam's army, failed to put enough pressure on Iraq's government to make the political reconciliation necessary to keep the sectarian violence the country is suffering from now from occurring. So why should the American people feel you have the vision for victory in Iraq, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Those are all legitimate questions that I'm sure historians will analyze. I mean, one of the questions is, should we have sent more in the beginning? Well, I asked that question, do you need more, to General Tommy Franks. In the first phase of this operation, General Franks was obviously in charge, and during our discussions in the run up to the decision to remove Saddam Hussein after he ignored the Security Council resolutions. My primary question to General Franks was, do you have what it takes to succeed? And do you have what it takes to succeed after you succeed in removing Saddam Hussein? And his answer was, yes.
Now, history is going to look back to determine whether or not there might have been a different decision made. But at the time, the only thing I can tell you, Wendell, is that I relied upon our military commander to make the proper decision about troop strength. And I can remember a meeting with the Joint Chiefs, who said, we've reviewed the plan. I remember -- and seemed satisfied with it. I remember sitting in the PEOC, or the Situation Room, downstairs here at the White House, and I went to commander and commander that were all responsible of different aspects of the operation to remove Saddam. I said to each one of them, do you have what it takes? Are you satisfied with the strategy? And the answer was, yes.
We have worked hard to help this country reconcile. After all, they do have a modern constitution, which is kind of a framework for reconciliation. And after all, there was a significant series of votes where the people were given a chance to express their desire to live in a free society. As a matter of fact, 12 million Iraqis went to the polls.
What happened then, of course, is that the enemy, al Qaeda, attacks the Samarra Mosque, which, of course, created anxiety and anger amongst the Shia. And then all of a sudden the sectarian violence began to spiral. Reconciliation hadn't taken hold deep enough in society to prevent this violence from taking hold. And so I have a -- you know, I've got to decide whether or not it's okay for that violence to continue, or whether or not it makes sense for us to try to send more troops in to quell the violence, to give the reconciliation process further time to advance.
My concern is, is that as a result of violence and killing, there would be chaos. Now that's a state of affairs that thugs, like al Qaeda, need to survive. They like chaos. As a matter of fact, they like to create chaos in order to create conditions of fear and anxiety and doubt. Out of that chaos would come -- could come a further escalation of violence in the Middle East. And this is what's important for the American people to understand: That violence and that chaos would embolden extremist groups, whether they be Shia or Sunni, and they would then be into competition with each other.
Such chaos and violence would send a mixed signal to the Iranians, who have stated that they believe Israel ought to be wiped off the map. People would begin to wonder about America's resolve. Al Qaeda would certainly be in a better position to raise money and recruit. And what makes all this scenario doubly dangerous is that they have proven themselves able to attack us and kill nearly 3,000 of our citizens. And they would like to do it again.
And, therefore, the strategy has got to be to help this government become an ally against these people. What happens in Iraq -- and I understand how difficult it's been. It's been hard. I have received a lot of inspiration, however, from meeting with our troops, who understand the stakes of this fight, and meeting with their families. And we owe it to our troops to support our commanders -- smart, capable people who are devising a strategy that will enable us to succeed and prevent the conditions I just talked about from happening.
Ed -- no, John. Just kidding.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Your administration has cited al Qaeda leaders such as Zawahiri as saying that if we leave prematurely, it would be a glorious victory for al Qaeda. But the reason that we can't leave or haven't been able to leave is not because we're getting defeated in any way militarily, it's because the Iraqis can't get it together so far. So why can't we counter those messages, and obviously not withdraw precipitously, but begin some sort of gradual withdrawal that prevents ethnic cleansing, but also allows our military to get out?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there's a lot of discussion about a scenario in which our troop posture would be to guard the territorial integrity of the country of Iraq, to embed and train, to help the Iraqi security forces deal with violent elements in their society, as well as keep enough Special Forces there to chase down al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, that is something that I've spoken in public about, said that's a position I'd like to see us in.
However, I felt like we needed to send more troops to be able to get the situation to quiet down enough to be able to end in that position.
And in terms of my own decision making, as I mentioned earlier, I definitely need to be in consultation, and will be, with General David Petraeus, who asked for the additional troops in the first place -- troops which have been in place, fully in place for about three weeks.
And so I would ask members of Congress to give the general a chance to come back and to give us a full assessment of whether this is succeeding or not. And it's at that point in time that I will consult with members of Congress and make a decision about the way forward -- all aiming to succeed in making sure that al Qaeda and other extremists do not benefit from a decision I might have to make.
Q Yes, sir, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir. Mark. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. Thank you, sir. How comfortable are you -- sir, how comfortable are you with your Homeland Security Secretary saying, in the face of no credible intelligence of an imminent threat against the United States, that he has a gut feeling that one is coming this summer? And, sir, what does your gut tell you?
THE PRESIDENT: My gut tells me that -- which my head tells me, as well -- is that when we find a credible threat, I'll share it with people, to make sure that we protect the homeland. My head also tells me that al Qaeda is a serious threat to our homeland, and we've got to continue making sure we've got good intelligence, good response mechanisms in place, that we've got to make sure we don't embolden them with -- by failing in certain theaters of war where they're confronting us, that we ought to continue to keep the pressure on them. We need to chase them down and bring them to justice before they come home to hurt us again.
And so it's a -- this is a serious issue that is going to outlast my presidency. As I say, this is the beginning stages of what I believe is a ideological conflict that -- where you've got competing visions about what the world ought to be like. What makes this more difficult than previous conflicts is that there's the asymmetrical use of power -- in other words, IEDs and suicide bombers are the main tactical device used by these thugs to try to achieve strategic objectives.
Their objective is to impose their vision on the world. Their objective is to drive the United States out of parts of the world. They want safe haven. They love a society where women have no rights, just like the society that they worked to impose with the Taliban on the women of Afghanistan. That's their vision. And it's in our interest to defend ourselves by staying on the offense against them. And it's in our interest to spread an alternative ideology.
We have done this before in our nation's history. We have helped people realize the blessings of liberty, even though they may have been our enemy. And freedom has an amazing way of helping lay the foundation for peace. And it's really important, as we head into this ideological struggle in the 21st century, that we not forget that liberty can transform societies.
Now, the interesting debate is whether or not a nation like Iraq can self-govern; whether or not these people even care about liberty. As you've heard me say before, I believe -- strongly believe -- that freedom is a universal value; that freedom isn't just for Americans, or Methodists, that freedom is universal in its application. And so when they voted in '05, I wasn't surprised -- I was pleased that the numbers were as big as they were, to defy that many threats and car bombers, but I wasn't surprised.
And this is the real challenge we face. And Iraq is just a part of a broader war against these jihadists and extremists, Mark. It is a -- we will be dealing with this issue for a while, just like we dealt with other ideologies for a while. It takes time for ideologies to take root.
I firmly believe that you'll see the democracy movement continue to advance throughout the Middle East if the United States doesn't become isolationist. That's why I've told you that I'm making sure that we continue to stay diplomatically involved in the region. Condi Rice and Bob Gates will be traveling there in early August, to continue to remind our friends and allies that we're -- one, we view them as strategic partners; and, secondly, that we want them to work toward freer societies, and to help this Iraqi government survive. It's in their interests that Iraq become a stable partner.
And I believe we can achieve that objective. And not only do I believe we can achieve, I know we've got to achieve the objective, so we will have done our duty. This is hard work. And one of the things I talked about in the opening comments was, do we do it now, or basically pull back, let the Gallup poll or whatever poll there are decide the fate of the country? And my view is, is that if that were to happen, we would then have to go back in with greater force in order to protect ourselves, because one of the facts of the 21st century is that what happens overseas matters to the security of our country.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. Given the events on the ground in Iraq and the politics here at home, has U.S. military deployment to Iraq reached the ceiling, or can you allow any further military escalation?
THE PRESIDENT: You're trying to do what Martha very skillfully tried to get me to do, and that was to --
Q Can I have a follow-up?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you can, because you're about to realize I'm not going to answer your question -- (laughter) -- except to say this: There's going to be great temptation to -- not "temptation," you won't be tempted, you will actually ask me to speculate about what David Petraeus will talk to us about when he comes home. And I just ask the American people to understand that the Commander-in-Chief must rely upon the wisdom and judgment of the military thinkers and planners. It's very important that there be that solid connection of trust between me and those who are in the field taking incredible risk.
And so, Ed, I'm going to wait to see what David has to say. I'm not going to prejudge what he may say. I trust David Petraeus, his judgment. He's an honest man. Those of you who have interviewed him know that he's a straight shooter, he's an innovative thinker. I was briefed by members of the CODEL that came back, that said that it appeared to them that our troops have high respect for our commanders in Baghdad, as do I.
Now, do you have a follow-up, perhaps another subject, another area, another --
Q Same subject.
THE PRESIDENT: Same question?
Q Different approach.
THE PRESIDENT: It's a different approach; yes, good. (Laughter.)
Q How hard is it for you to conduct the war without popular support? Do you, personally -- do you ever have trouble balancing between doing what you think is the right thing and following the will of the majority of the public, which is really the essence of democracy?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it is. And, first of all, I can fully understand why people are tired of the war. The question they have is, can we win it? And of course I'm concerned about whether or not the American people are in this fight. I believe, however, that when they really think about the consequences if we were to precipitously withdraw, they begin to say to themselves, maybe we ought to win this, maybe we ought to have a stable Iraq.
Their question, it seems like to me, is, can we succeed? And that's a very important, legitimate question for anybody to ask. I think many people understand we must succeed, and I think a lot of people understand we've got to wait for the generals to make these military decisions. I suspect -- I know this, Ed, that if our troops thought that I was taking a poll to decide how to conduct this war, they would be very concerned about the mission. In other words, if our troops said, well, here we are in combat, and we've got a Commander-in-Chief who is running a focus group -- in other words, politics is more important to him than our safety and/or our strategy -- that would dispirit our troops.
And there's a lot of constituencies in this fight -- clearly the American people, who are paying for this, is the major constituency. And I repeat to you, Ed, I understand that there -- this violence has affected them. And a lot of people don't think we can win. There's a lot of people in Congress who don't think we can win, as well, and therefore their attitude is, get out.
My concern with that strategy, something that Mike Hayden also discussed, is that just getting out may sound simple, and it may affect polls, but it would have long-term, serious security consequences for the United States. And so, Ed, sometimes you just have to make the decisions based upon what you think is right. My most important job is to help secure this country, and therefore, the decisions in Iraq are all aimed at helping do that job. And that's what I firmly believe.
A second constituency is the military. And I repeat to you, I'm pretty confident our military do not want their Commander-in-Chief making political decisions about their future.
A third constituency that matters to me a lot is military families. These are good folks who are making huge sacrifices, and they support their loved ones. And I don't think they want their Commander-in-Chief making decisions based upon popularity.
Another constituency group that is important for me to talk to is the Iraqis. Obviously, I want the Iraqi government to understand that we expect there to be reconciliation top down; that we want to see laws passed. I think they've got that message. They know full well that the American government and the American people expect to see tangible evidence of working together; that's what the benchmarks are aimed to do.
But they also need to know that I am making decisions based upon our security interests, of course, but also helping them succeed, and that a poll is not going to determine the course of action by the United States. What will determine the course of actions is, will the decisions that we have made help secure our country for the long run?
And, finally, another constituency is the enemy, who are wondering whether or not America has got the resolve and the determination to stay after them. And so that's what I think about, Ed.
You know, I guess I'm like any other political figure -- everybody wants to be loved, just sometimes the decisions you make and the consequences don't enable you to be loved. And so when it's all said and done, Ed, if you ever come down and visit the old, tired, me down there in Crawford, I will be able to say I looked in the mirror and made decisions based upon principle, not based upon politics. And that's important to me.
Thank you all for your time. I loved being here at this new building. Thank you.
Q Can we just ask you about the al Qaeda intelligence report, please?
THE PRESIDENT: What was that? This is amazing.
Q I know, I know.
THE PRESIDENT: The new me.
The al Qaeda intelligence report.
Q The intelligence analysts are saying al Qaeda has reconstituted in areas of Pakistan, saying the threat to the West is greater than ever now, as great as 2001. What's --
THE PRESIDENT: Okay --
Q Okay, you tell us what --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you asked, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that opportunity to --
Q Thank you for coming back, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm happy to do it. This is not the new me. I mean, this is just an aberration. In other words --
Q It's over next time.
THE PRESIDENT: -- I'm not going to leave and then come back because somebody yells something at me.
Q Like China.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, exactly. (Laughter.) Thank you, David. I appreciate that. Exactly.
There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September the 11th. That's just simply not the case. I think the report will say, since 2001, not prior to September the 11th, 2001.
Secondly, that because of the actions we have taken, al Qaeda is weaker today than they would have been. They are still a threat. They are still dangerous. And that is why it is important that we succeed in Afghanistan and Iraq and anywhere else we find them. That's our strategy, is to stay on the offense against al Qaeda.
Elaine asked the question, is it al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes, it is al Qaeda, just like it's al Qaeda in parts of Pakistan. And I'm working with President Musharraf to be able to -- he doesn't want them in his country; he doesn't want foreign fighters in outposts of his country. And so we're working to make sure that we continue to keep the pressure on al Qaeda.
But no question al Qaeda is dangerous for the American people, and that's why -- as well as other people that love freedom -- and that's why we're working hard with allies and friends to enhance our intelligence. That's why we need terrorist surveillance programs. That's why it's important for us to keep -- you know, would hope Congress would modernize that bill. And that's why we're keeping on the offense.
Ultimately, the way to defeat these radicals and extremists is to offer alternative ways of life so that they're unable to recruit; that they can use -- they like to use frustration and hopelessness. The societies that don't provide hope will become the societies where al Qaeda has got the capacity to convince a youngster to go blow himself up. What we need to do is help governments provide brighter futures for their people so they won't sign up.
And the fundamental question facing the world on this issue is whether or not it makes sense to try to promote an alternative ideology. I happen to think it does. They say, he's idealistic. Yes, I'm idealistic, but I'm also realistic in understanding if there is not an alternative ideology presented, these thugs will be able to continue the recruit. They'll use hopelessness to be able to recruit. And so it's -- thank you for asking that question.
Thank you all. END 11:30 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 11, 2007
President Bush Discusses the Budget Room 450, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 1:03 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Please be seated. Good afternoon. Welcome to the White House, I'm glad you're here. There are certain traditions that all Americans look forward to: picnics with the family, 4th of July celebrations -- and the mid-session review. (Laughter.) It's the time for us to take a look at the federal budget.
Maybe not all Americans look forward to it, but I'm looking forward to talking to the American people about the progress we have made when it comes to growing our economy and keeping our taxes low and being wise about how we spend the money. The mid-session review is important. It lets the American people know how we're doing in meeting what we call fiscal goals. And this year the message is unmistakable. America's economy keeps growing, government revenues keep going up, the budget deficit keeps going down -- and we've done it all without raising your taxes. (Applause.)
And the person in charge with watching the money here in the White House is Rob Portman, Office of the Management and Budget. Thank you for being here; appreciate your service. I'm proud to be here with Senator Thad Cochran, from the great state of Mississippi. Senator, thank you for joining us. Two members from Congress, Joe Bonner and Gresham Barrett. I thank you for taking time to listen to this good news.
I appreciate all the business leaders and guests who have joined us today. The release of the mid-session review is a good opportunity to take stock of the debate over taxes and spending in Washington. At its core, the debate is between two very different economic philosophies and fiscal philosophies. One philosophy says that politicians in Washington know best; says taxes should be high and government should decide where to spend the money. And the other philosophy says that the American people know how to spend their own money better than the government does -- so government should spend less and the taxpayer should keep more. And that's the fundamental debate here in the nation's capital.
For the past six years, my administration and our allies in Congress have pursued the second philosophy. We believe the American people can spend their money better than the government can spend it. We believe workers and families can spend their money better than the government, and that's why we doubled the child tax credit and reduced the marriage penalty and cut tax rates for everybody who pays income taxes. (Applause.)
We believe that entrepreneurs can put their money to better use than the government can. That's what we believe, and we acted on that belief. So we reduced taxes on dividends and capital gains, and created incentives for small businesses to invest and expand.
We believe ranchers and farmers and family business owners can make better decisions about the future than the government can. That's why we put the death tax on the road to extinction. (Applause.)
We also believe taxpayers' dollars should be treated with respect, because Americans have worked hard to earn them. And we believe that taxpayers' dollars should be spent with restraint, because government programs are not the solution to every problem. So we've spent the money necessary to meet the highest priorities of government, including protecting the homeland and supporting our men and women in uniform. Meanwhile, we've tightened spending in other areas. Over the past three years, we've held the growth of annual domestic spending close to 1 percent -- well below the rate of inflation. (Applause.)
Some in Congress disagree with this approach. That's what you expect in a democracy. Not everybody agrees with what I have just described. They said it would not be possible to cut the deficit and deliver tax relief at the same time. They argued for increasing taxes. Well, events have proven them wrong. The critics can keep arguing with us, but they can't argue with the facts.
We began cutting the taxes in 2001, and America's economic growth -- and America's economy has grown for more than five years without interruption. Real after-tax income has increased nearly by 10 percent. That's an average of about $3,000 per person. Our economy has expanded by more than $1.9 trillion. During the time when we cut taxes to today, our economy has grown by more than $1.9 trillion. This amount is larger than the entire economy of Canada.
Since the tax cuts took full effect in 2003, our economy has added more than 8.2 million new jobs. (Applause.) The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.5 percent, exports are up, the service sector is strong, and more Americans are working today than ever before in our nation's history.
Behind these statistics are stories of hardworking Americans who are finding more opportunity and feeling more secure about their future. And I've asked some of them to join me today, and I thank you all for being here.
First, I want to talk about Luther Russell. Luther is here; he owns a small family fencing business. He is like millions of our fellow citizens who are small business owners, and they're working hard. They're working hard not only to provide security for their family, they're providing employment for others. The truth of the matter is, 70 percent of new jobs in America are created by small business owners, and it's important to have fiscal policy that supports our small business owners. We've got one right here with us: Luther Russell, fence man.
Thanks to our tax relief, last year he filed an income tax, he saved $27,000. That's what tax relief has done for the small business, because his business pays taxes at the individual income-tax rates. See, when you cut individual income-tax rates for everybody who pays taxes, and your business is set up so that you pay taxes like an individual does, you're cutting taxes on this small business owner. I like the idea of us being able to meet our spending priorities in Washington, and Luther having $27,000 more in his pocket to expand his business. That's good for America. (Applause.)
Gary and Elizabeth Comparetto are here. They've got eight children, and they saved $8,000 a year because of tax relief. Now, having eight kids is an interesting challenge -- (laughter) -- made easier by the fact that because of our tax relief, this good family has got $8,000 additional so they can do their duty as a mother and father.
Sharon Hawks is with us; serves in the National Guard. Her family is saving $3,600 annually on their taxes. I like the idea of our families having more money to be able to set aside for education or set aside for savings or to be able to expand their home. When I say I'd rather these people be spending their money than the government spending their money, I mean it. It's good for this country; this tax relief is substantial and real for working people.
Jennifer Zatkowski is with us. She saved more than $2,000 a year on her taxes and she's reinvesting the money to expand her pet shop. Tax relief makes a significant difference. Oh, I know, probably here some in Washington don't think $27,000 is a lot for a small business, or $2,000 doesn't amount to much. Just ask these folks. It means a lot to them. And it means a lot to working people all across the United States that we cut the taxes, because men and women like these here on this stage are powering our economic resurgence. That's how the economy works. When you've got more money in your pockets to save, spend or invest, this causes the economy to grow. And we need to keep the government out of their wallets and out of their way in order to keep this economic recovery strong. (Applause.)
Our economic resurgence has also had a positive impact on the federal budget. A growing economy has led to growing tax revenues. Because people are making more money, they're also paying more taxes. That pie is growing. The tax rates remain the same, but the pie is growing, which has yielded more federal revenues. Today's mid-session review shows that this year's federal tax receipts are expected to be $167 billion higher than last year's. That's an increase of nearly 7 percent. And over the last three years, tax revenues have grown 37 percent. That's one of the highest jumps in revenues on record.
These growing tax revenues, combined with spending restraint, are driving down the federal deficit. The mid-session review estimates that this year's deficit will drop to $205 billion. That's down more than $200 billion from 2004. It's down more than $43 billion from last year. And it's even down from last February's projections. More importantly, the size of the deficit is down to only 1.5 percent of America's economy. One way to be able to measure how we're doing with the deficit relative to other years is to measure it as a percentage of GDP. We're estimated to be at 1.5 percent of GDP. That's well below the average of the last 40 years. We've achieved all this deficit reduction without once raising the taxes on the American people. (Applause.)
It's good news, but there's more work to be done. A shrinking deficit is good; no deficit is better. So earlier this year I proposed a balanced budget that will eliminate the federal deficit by 2012. The deficit is not caused by under-taxing; it's caused by over-spending. So the budget we proposed keeps us on the path to low taxes and spending restraint. And according to the mid-session review, that path will lead to a surplus of $33 billion in 2012. In other words, despite the unprecedented challenges we face, the United States is going to be back in the black.
The policies of low taxes and spending restraint have produced a clear and measurable record of success. You can't argue with what I'm telling you. These are the facts. Yet, in the face of all the evidence, Democrats in Congress still want to take us down a different path. We've shown what works. They must not believe us, because they passed a budget framework that calls for $205 billion in additional domestic spending over the next five years. The budget framework they passed calls for $205 billion additional of federal spending in a five-year period. That works out to nearly $680 per person. It's no surprise that their budget framework also includes the largest tax increase in American history.
Some of this might sound familiar to some of you older hands around here -- it's the same old tax-and-spend policy that the Democrats have tried before. It would have the same bad result. Tax-and-spend would add to the burden of families and businesses. It would affect these good folks right here on the stage. Tax-and-spend would put our economic growth in jeopardy. Tax-and-spend would turn our back on the progress we've made on reducing the deficit. Tax-and-spend policies are policies of the past, and I'm going to use my veto to keep it that way. (Applause.)
The Democrats are also delaying the 12 basic spending bills that are needed to keep the federal government running. At their current pace, I am not likely to see a single one of these must-pass spending bills before Congress leaves Washington for a four-week recess. And by the time they return, they will have less than a month before the fiscal year ends on September 30th to pass the appropriations bills.
It's important that they honor the pledges they made when they took control of the Congress, and that is they pledged a policy of transparent government and fiscal responsibility. Well, now is the time to show that they're serious. And one way they can do so is they can pass spending bills on time, instead of creating a massive bill at the end of the process that will be so large that no one can possibly read it and anyone can hide wasteful spending in it. The Democrats should honor their commitment to fiscal discipline by passing these bills in a way that sustains our growing economy and balances the federal budget.
I'm going to work with members of both parties to achieve these goals, and as we do, there are other budget challenges we need to take on.
First, there's the matter of earmarks. Earmarks are spending provisions that are slipped into bills by individual members of Congress for projects in their own district or state; they're just slipped in the bill. Often, the earmarks occur at the last hour and without debate. This violates the trust of the public and often leads to unnecessary spending. The problem is growing, and over the last decade, the number of earmarks has more than tripled.
So earlier this year, I proposed reforms that would make the earmark process more transparent, end the practice of concealing earmarks in so-called report language, would eliminate wasteful earmarks and cut the overall number and cost by at least half. Democrats and Republicans have taken a good step by agreeing to list all earmarks before bills are passed so the public can see them and lawmakers have a chance to strike them down, get rid of them. Now Congress needs to uphold the commitment and the Senate needs to make this transparency part of its formal rules. The American people deserve to know what they're getting for the money they're sending to the nation's capital. There ought to be full disclosure and full transparency in the appropriations process.
The matter we need to confront, as well, is the unsustainable growth of entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. As the mid-session review makes clear, rising entitlement spending is by far the greatest long-term threat to America's fiscal health. These programs are vital to the daily life of millions of Americans. They are growing faster than the economy, faster than inflation, and faster than our ability to pay for them. This isn't going to be a Republican challenge or Democrat challenge. This is really a generational challenge. And the fundamental question facing those of us in Washington today is whether or not we have the capacity and the will to confront the challenge now.
I believe we have a moral obligation to deal with this problem, and that's why I've submitted proposals that will help deal with these programs. Matter of fact, I remember going to Congress and speaking very specifically about how to address the underlying issues of Social Security so that older guys like me could look to young Americans like some of you here, and say, we've done our duty to fix this program once and for all. And I call upon the Democrats in Congress to come forth with their ideas as how to fix it, to step forward with some concrete, specific proposals. I'll be glad to listen to them, and I expect them to listen to mine. That's why we're in Washington. We're here to confront problems today and not pass them on so somebody else has to deal with them.
The federal budget can be complicated, and making decisions about it can be quite contentious. Yet we know what it takes for our economy to succeed. During these budget debates, it's important to keep in mind the lessons of the past. As today's mid-session review makes clear, keeping taxes low and restraining spending leads to a vibrant economy; it leads to new jobs; it leads to better opportunities; and it leads to a shrinking deficit.
Pro-growth policies work, and now is not the time to turn our back on them. I'm going to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to continue these policies so we can keep our economy competitive, so we can keep our economy growing, and so we can remain the world leader for generations to come.
I'm honored you guys are here. Thank you all for coming. God bless. (Applause.) END 1:30 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 11, 2007
President and Mrs. Bush Mourn the Passing of Lady Bird Johnson
Laura and I mourn the passing of our good friend, and a warm and gracious woman, Lady Bird Johnson. Those who were blessed to know her remember Mrs. Johnson's lively and charming personality, and our Nation will always remember her with affection. Mrs. Johnson became First Lady on a fateful day in November 1963 - and was a steady, gentle presence for a mourning Nation in the days that followed.
In the White House, Mrs. Johnson shared her love of the environment and nature with our entire country. The native wildflowers that bloom along roadsides today are part of her lasting legacy. She joined President Johnson in the struggle for civil rights, inspiring millions of Americans. Her commitment to early education gave many children a head start in life.
President Johnson once called her a woman of "ideals, principles, intelligence, and refinement." She remained so throughout their life together, and in the many years given to her afterward. She was much-loved in our home State of Texas, and the Bush family is fortunate to have known her.
Lady Bird Johnson leaves behind her devoted daughters, Lynda and Luci, their fine families, and a Nation that joins them in honoring a good life of kindness and service.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 11, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow James S. Brady Briefing Room, 12:03 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: All right, welcome, everybody. Before we get started, I thought maybe it would be a nice time to honor some of the people who made this new briefing room possible, and I asked them to come forward. We'll do some quick introductions for those who are in the room, and then we will get about our daily business of doing the briefing.
I'm going to do this in alphabetical order. Again, these are folks here at the White House who worked very long and hard to make this possible. And for those of you who were skeptical about whether you'd ever get back in, I'm glad you're back in, and we're all delighted to have this wonderful new facility.
So those who I wish to come forward: Lt. Douglas Bean, Taifa Coger-Boatright, Kelli McClure, Paul Ostazeski, Tony Overton, Anthony Skafidi, Bob Shanholtz, and Alan Zawatsky. Come on up. (Applause.) Pose for pictures -- there you go. I want to thank you all. We've had many meetings and many long days, none longer than yesterday, in getting the facility ready. But we're all delighted to be back. Thank you very much.
Q What was the toughest part of the job? Did you find any old copy around? (Laughter.)
Q Dead rats?
MR. SNOW: Didn't find copy, but we did get to look at all the scrolled signatures on the swimming pool downstairs.
All right, thank you, guys.
One other note. Some of you are curious why I was not here at the gaggle. We had a conference call with Kevin Bergner in Baghdad, who was giving us an update on some of the activities against foreign fighters in Iraq. And it's probably worth running through some of those, because there's some interesting data. And for those of you wanting a little more granularity on what's going on in the way forward, let me give you a bit of -- at least what Kevin had to report. This is all courtesy of MNFI, and also it is on their website. If you want to get further information -- MNF-Iraq.com will give you some of the highlights.
In any event, as we have been saying, the number one enemy in Iraq is al Qaeda. Al Qaeda continues to be the chief organizer of mayhem within Iraq, the chief organization for killing innocent Iraqis. About 80 to 90 percent of suicide attacks in Iraq are conducted by foreign-born al Qaeda terrorists. And as many as 70 percent of those foreign-born terrorists make their way into Iraq through Syria.
Each month al Qaeda lures 60 to 80 terrorists into Iraq. And there have been ongoing efforts not only to intercept those terrorists, but also to try to disrupt the networks that are responsible for recruiting them.
In May and June, MNFI engaged in a series of activities throughout Iraq, in the north, central and southern parts. They killed or captured 26 high-level al Qaeda leaders -- this would include 11 amirs who were city or local al Qaeda leaders, seven facilitators -- these are the people responsible for recruiting and smuggling foreigners, weapons and money into Iraq -- five cell leaders who commanded terrorist units who work for the amirs, and three network leaders responsible for vehicle-borne IEDs.
Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baquba -- we talk also about going into certain areas that have heavy al Qaeda presence. We've talked about breakthroughs in Anbar. In the city of Baquba, which in the last year has been a heavy al Qaeda source of activity, 60 confirmed kills of extremists, al Qaeda in Iraq extremists; 155 extremists captured; 50 weapons caches, 122 IEDs. But maybe more importantly, making it possible for people to begin to return to normal life -- 462 metric tons of food -- for the first time in 10 months, food and medical shipments going back into Baquba, and 10 truckloads of medical supplies, which is enough to support the entire population.
What we have begun to see, is as there has been success against al Qaeda in Iraq -- and some of that success, interestingly enough, was indicated in the most recent Ayman al-Zawahiri tape, where he seems to be worried about dysfunction within the terrorist class. The fact is that Iraqis realize that al Qaeda comes not as a liberator, but as an organization that wants to humiliate the Iraqi people, and far from practicing justice, in fact, has been practicing wholesale, widespread, indiscriminate injustice on the Iraqi people. So you are now starting to get the kind of information that is making it even more possible than ever before for not only U.S. forces, but Iraqi forces to go hard after a lot of the al Qaeda terrorists.
In any event, what again we had today was a briefing in considerable detail. While we get ourselves sort of up to date, and being able to make use of all of our graphic capabilities, we'll also be able to bring you some maps and other things that add a little more detail to that. But that was the basic gist of the briefing.
Q Tony, today Senator Olympia Snowe joined Senator Gordon Smith in sponsoring a bill that would require U.S. troops to start leaving in 120 days, and it would end the combat role of the United States by April 30th of next year. Another defection; is that a cause for concern?
MR. SNOW: No. Look, the positions of Senator Snowe and Smith are hardly new, and we know their concerns. On the other hand, I think it is important -- we've just given you a sense of some of the progress that is going on as a result of U.S. and allied activities --
Q But that kind of information hasn't changed their opinion. There are more people -- there are more Republicans who are coming out --
MR. SNOW: You know what's interesting, you've got -- Gordon Smith did not change his position. That's a position he's had for some time, in terms of being opposed to -- he was opposed to the surge --
Q Senator Lugar and Senator Domenici --
MR. SNOW: Senator Lugar is somebody -- I believe if you go back and look, he has said that he doesn't want to cut off funding, and he doesn't see Congress cutting off funding. He's not somebody who supports a 120-day withdrawal. He is somebody who is actually looking for a way to create some bipartisan comity so that people can work forward.
What I would suggest, once again, is as we get more results about what's going on, it's important to realize that, operationally, the surge is two weeks old, in terms of getting everybody in place, and there are going to be some areas -- when the reports comes out, you're going to find some areas have satisfactory progress, some don't have satisfactory progress, some are a little too close to call; you'll be able to take a look at it.
But what the American people deserve is a commitment by this government to continue to work toward creating a democracy in Iraq and avoiding the very pitfall and danger that is outlined in the National Intelligence Estimate, Baker-Hamilton, and every other report, which is creating a vacuum that will transform the victories against these al Qaeda terrorists into defeats against the Iraqi people by creating a vacuum and walking out.
It's an important debate to have. We understand that there are Republicans who are concerned about it. But we also understand that the American people, taking a look at the polls -- everybody likes to look at the polls -- want to hear what the generals have to say, and they want to hear what the military has to say. They're going to begin to hear precisely what those generals have to say about progress on the ground.
Q Tony, every time a reporter suggests that Republicans like Domenici, Lugar, Voinovich, have broken with the President, we're told that we have a fundamental misread of what's going on. But Senator Lugar and Senator Warner right now are not so much engaged in an effort of bipartisan comity, as you say, they're trying to find a way to shape a new course in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Well, what we have -- two things. Number one, we have a new course in Iraq, and it's two weeks old.
Q They're trying to force a change in mission.
MR. SNOW: I don't think they're trying to force a change in mission. If you go back and look at what Senator Lugar said, among other things, he did say he was looking for bipartisan comity. Look at the original floor statement, look at his appearance on your network, and you will find that what he's trying to do is to create a more congenial political atmosphere.
Q Isn't he trying to meld the various bipartisan dissatisfactions with the administration course into one cohesive piece of legislation --
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure --
Q --- that will force a change in course?
MR. SNOW: What's going to force a change in course is victory. That's what will force a change in course. What you are talking -- you have to have a change in course that is based on the realities on the ground. And what we have been saying, and we continue to say, and you'll have an opportunity to look at it, is, look at the results within Iraq. Ask yourself, where are we making progress; where are we failing to make progress. But it is way premature to try to draw judgment on a Baghdad security plan -- furthermore, going back to Senator Lugar, Senator Lugar said, yes, from what I see, there have been successes. He is worried about whether there's going to be enough political space in this country to permit the surge to succeed. We think it is incumbent to go ahead and make the case as factually as possible about what's going on so people can draw judgments about it.
Q I have one more follow on that, because I want to contrast what the President said yesterday and what you just said about victory as a real possibility, as the ultimate goal for the administration, and what seems to be a growing sense in Congress and the American public that they're not interested in victory as defined by keeping troops there beyond next spring.
MR. SNOW: You don't define victory as keeping troops there. Victory is defeating al Qaeda.
Q Well, the people have given up on the idea of victory, don't you think?
MR. SNOW: I don't -- no, I don't think so. I don't think so. Look, I think --
Q You don't think the American people have given up on the idea of victory?
MR. SNOW: No. Check your email. I mean, I have a feeling that people will be willing to say, no, we want victory.
The question is -- and it's a legitimate question to ask -- is this the proper way to achieve victory? One of the reasons why the President went back and revisited what we were doing in Iraq after the sectarian violence of last year was it wasn't working. And so what you try to do is to come up with a plan that is going to build greater capacity on the part of the Iraqis -- because ultimately, we're not going to win the war; the Iraqis are. And the entire emphasis on the security plan is creating political space, but at the same time, also building capability so the Iraqis are stepping forward.
And I've just laid out for you a series of metrics -- we've talked about Anbar; now you've got Baquba. You also have apprehensions of foreign fighters. And what you do see is a very important change in the mind-set of Iraqis themselves about who the enemy is. The enemy is al Qaeda.
Q Doesn't it point at the whole deal that there is, essentially, a divide in this country between whether victory is possible, and a growing number of people saying, you know what, let's stop talking about victory?
MR. SNOW: Okay, let me put it this way: What Americans don't want is terrorists at their doorstep. Americans do not want terrorists at their doorstep. And if you think that simply packing up and leaving is going to make this country safer, you're wrong. That is the judgment of everybody involved in the intelligence community; it is the judgment of military officials. The fact is, the simple withdrawal is not going to suddenly inspire al Qaeda to lay down arms and to declare peace. Instead, if you listen to what Zawahiri was saying on his own tape this week, he's trying to encourage people to come after the Americans.
Q Tony, is al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda the same organization?
MR. SNOW: Al Qaeda in Iraq is obviously an offshoot --
Q Is it taking operational instructions from Osama bin Laden?
MR. SNOW: That I'm not competent to tell you.
Q Why did the President say yesterday that the same people who attacked us on September the 11th was the crowd that is now bombing people in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Because when you talk -- Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was, in fact -- if you take a look at recruitment, is there a nexus, in terms of the ideology of Ayman al-Zawahiri and also the folks that you're fighting with al Qaeda in Iraq? These are foreign fighters. These are not people who just came in from -- these are not folks who came from Iraq.
Q Are they coming in on Osama bin Laden's orders?
MR. SNOW: Are they coming in on his orders? What you're trying to do, I think, a little bit, Maura, is create a straw man, in the sense of saying that bin Laden, himself, is the only person who can be construed as being operationally capable within al Qaeda. What you saw, for instance, with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a vigorous correspondence between Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two. I think it is safe to say that Zawahiri certainly is active in the efforts. And furthermore, among the other things that Kevin Bergner was pointing out today is a very vigorous propaganda and recruiting effort -- they did find a house, I believe it was in Samara, that had extensive materials that do, in fact, reflect what's going on in al Qaeda.
Q They have similar ideologies, but are they the same organization? You've just said several times from the podium that they're the same organization; the President said it yesterday.
MR. SNOW: No, I said it's al Qaeda. If you look at what Zawahiri says, the organization, itself, is different than it was in the year 2001. Again, go back and read -- the tape that was released earlier this week, he says what everybody knows now, which is that it's become more of a franchise operation, but it doesn't make it any less determined to kill Americans, and it doesn't make it any less capable of spreading money around to organize killing actions designed to destabalize Iraq. And furthermore, it also does not deny them the capability or the determination, as Zawahiri, himself, said this week, to make Iraq -- as we have said for a very long time -- the central front in the war on terror.
Q Tony, why do you keep saying that the surge troops have only been in place for two weeks?
MR. SNOW: No, I said fully operational. I said fully operational.
Q The President has been indicating that basically these troops have only been in place for two weeks, you have to give them a chance. The President announced his policy in January; they've been there in some part for five months.
MR. SNOW: We've been pretty precise about it, which is, of course, some of them -- as a matter of fact, we have pointed to successes for forces that had been in Anbar since January. So we're certainly not disputing that.
But what we're talking about is, if you are going to try to take a look at the totality of operations, why do you try to draw a conclusion when the final pieces of that puzzle, the final pieces of the outfit only got themselves into theater two weeks ago? That's all we're saying.
Q Why -- before the President's speech yesterday there were indications from White House officials that the President was going to be talking to the American people about how he shares their concern about troops not coming home; he gets that, et cetera, and then he ended up giving pretty much a traditional Iraq speech. He didn't really say anything new at all on that front.
MR. SNOW: Look, he's said -- you know what happened is, a lot of people got hyped up because they got some bad news reporting that there suddenly was going to be a dramatic shift in our position. There was no dramatic shift at all.
Q -- they were getting it from the White House -- you saw The Washington Post headlines, Bush plans to stress next phase in Iraq war --
MR. SNOW: Right, and I believe, with all due respect to our Washington Post colleagues, it may have conflated what happens in September -- let me outline again the process by which the Petraeus-Crocker reports work. The first Petraeus-Crocker report, which will be out by the 15th, is going to give us a snapshot at the very beginning stages of having full deployment in the Baghdad security plan. On September 15th there will be a further report that, again, takes a look at all the benchmarks, but also will include recommendations about how to proceed.
Now, if you take recommendations about how to proceed, along with the President's determination to follow the advice of generals, then you have the prospect that there may be some shift in posture or strategy based on the realities on the ground, after September and after the recommendations. But there was never any plan -- and that's why I say, I can't answer for inaccurate reporting. But the fact is that there was never any plan to try to change the --
Q Tony, you just said that the benchmark report, the preliminary report that's due out this week, that it's a snapshot.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q The President, back in May, he was at the Pentagon, made it seem like benchmarks were a big deal; he said, I'm for that, and said that the Iraqi government, basically -- he said, "Without political progress it's going to be hard to achieve a military victory."
MR. SNOW: Yes, that's true.
Q So he seemed to be putting a lot of emphasis on benchmarks. Are you now downplaying them because they're not going to be good and the Iraqis are not meeting them?
MR. SNOW: No. I'm just telling you -- I'm trying to explain, again, you put together a Baghdad security plan; you tell everybody, hey, Ed, it's going to take five months; it's going to start in February, it's going to wrap up in July. It's July. So now we've got all the pieces in place. Why don't we take a look at where we are when we started? I say it's a snapshot because it is. It's a snapshot of --
Q But Senator Lugar and others are saying, again, as was pointed out before, you don't have that much more time. You've got to come up with a new strategy. And you're saying "snapshot" as if you've got a lot of time. You don't.
MR. SNOW: You know what we've got? We've got a mission to succeed in. And I think you keep -- and it's interesting, it's reflective of the political debate that somehow the calendar, in and of itself, devoid of any calculation about what this may mean for American security, and devoid of any calculation about what may be happening on the ground, that the calendar alone rules. That's really not the fact.
And I think you're going to find, as people begin to get more information about what's going to go on, they're going to be curious. They're going to want to find out why is it that men and women in combat in Iraq have the highest re-enlistment rates. Answer: They feel part of a mission. Question: Why do they feel part of a mission? Because they think they're achieving something very important.
Q Why didn't the Army meets its recruiting goals for the second month in a row, just a couple days ago?
MR. SNOW: It did not meet them for the second month in a row, but it came close.
Q You just said the re-enlistment rates are so great. Why did they miss --
MR. SNOW: The re-enlistment -- well, ask about the re-enlistment rate -- I've just told you about the re-enlistment rates --
Q But you didn't cite the recruitment --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, please cut me off.
Q No, I'm sorry, you didn't say the recruitment levels.
MR. SNOW: Well, okay, if you want to take a look at the overall recruitment levels, it's still over the quota for the year. But what I wanted to point out to you, Ed -- and please listen to this part -- it's the people who are fighting who are, in fact, signing up in much higher numbers than quota. Why is that? Ask yourself the question, because it's an important question. Americans are curious about their young men and women who have placed themselves in harm's way; something's going on. And in some cases, they're beginning to see military progress, and they're also beginning to see exposed the brutality of the people who have come across the borders to try to destroy the situation in Iraq and try to destroy the democracy in Iraq. All of those are pieces people are going to look at.
Now, what you have hit on is the central political fact in America today, which is, people are tired of the war, they want out of the war, but they also want the country to be safe. And it is a balance that we are going to have to reach through a long and considered and sometimes heated debate. That's the way it's going to work.
Q Tony, can you pin down whether this Iraq interim report will be released tomorrow or Friday?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Tomorrow or Friday?
MR. SNOW: I can pin it down, I'm just not at liberty to.
Q Will you?
MR. SNOW: No, I won't.
Q Okay. And with Republican support eroding, why is the President not at least laying out a vision of a smaller troop presence in Iraq as a --
MR. SNOW: If you take a look, number one, a smaller troop presence, if you're asking, will you withdraw troops just as they're beginning to have effect -- what I would suggest, again, is a little bit of patience, as the President said yesterday. Take a look at the facts. We understand people's opinions right now. Let's take a look as the reports begin to come in and as the military, itself, begins to report on what's going on on the ground. And it's --
Q But I'm talking about --
MR. SNOW: But, no, because what I'm saying is, you've given me -- why does any change based on today's -- what we're saying is that there's more information coming in. The American people have expressed a desire to find out -- not from you, and not from me, and not from politicians on Capitol Hill, but from the people doing the actual fighting -- they want to find out what's going on. And on the basis of that, we expect that they're going to be fair-minded enough to say, you know what, we think it's going to be important to give them what they need to succeed.
Q I'm not talking about -- I'm talking about a vision, what would it take, under what circumstances would there be in the future to draw down the troops?
MR. SNOW: We're not going to get into that. If you want to draw down -- no, I won't get into that, because the President has done it many times.
Q Tony --
MR. SNOW: I was taking a breath, I wasn't suspending the answer. What the President said all along is, when you get to a point where the Iraqis, in fact, not only have done a lot of the political work, but also are fully capable when it comes to police, when it comes to military, when it comes to economic -- a lot of those things -- and Americans can step back from the front lines, the over-the-horizon support posture -- which is where we want to be -- that's a point where you have a dramatic shift in terms of where you're deploying people.
So it's a place where the President wants to be. He shares that with Senator Lugar, shares it with a lot of Democrats. They all want to be there. Unfortunately, the facts on the ground right now just don't justify it.
Q Tony, you said what it's going to take to force a change in strategy is victory. What does victory look like at this point?
MR. SNOW: Victory -- good question -- what victory looks like is what I've just been describing. We have begun to see a degradation in al Qaeda effectiveness. You have dramatic reductions in sectarian violence, in the success of vehicle-borne IEDs. You've seen a number of -- even though there is still spectacular explosions, the fact is that the disruptions have gone down.
It also does appear in very public ways, tribal leaders have begun to go after al Qaeda, and also, within Iraq people have begun to go after militias that, themselves, seem to be disruptive of the peace. Those are important indicators that something is going on in terms of not only the self-identification of Iraqis as Iraqis, as members of the country, but also the determination to fight against those who are trying to destroy the democracy through acts of violence.
I cannot give you a precise picture of what it looks like. But what you will have is dramatically reduced levels of violence, the ability for the Iraqi government to operate independently and capably, and it will continue to have on its hands, one guesses, certain external threats of terror, but on the other hand, they'll be able to handle them. What you will also have is free elections, and you will have an economy that offers opportunities for everybody, you'll have an education system and all the basics of civil society.
Q Obviously, we're not there yet --
MR. SNOW: That would be true.
Q -- if that's the priority, why did it take six months to get all the troops in place?
MR. SNOW: Because the military -- you ask any person in the military -- you don't just pack everybody up and ship them over. It takes a long time to move the logistical tail, and as a practical matter, that was the quickest the Pentagon thought they could get them deployed.
Q Tony, you just outlined what you believe and what the administration believes victory will look like. Based on what he knows right now, based on what General Petraeus is telling him, how confident is President Bush that we will have a scenario that looks that way in two months? Very confident? A little confident? Not confident at all?
MR. SNOW: Are you talking about everything being settled in two months?
Q No, I'm talking about --
MR. SNOW: What are you talking about?
Q I'm talking about how confident is he that we will have significant progress in two months approaching that goal that you just outlined, so that he can report to Congress that his troop buildup is working.
MR. SNOW: Well, Sheryl, I think what you're trying to do is to create an expectation that is unfulfillable in the sense of saying, will everything be solved in two months. The --
Q I'm not asking that --
MR. SNOW: The more germane question -- the more germane question is, will you have significant progress that will create a level of confidence and faith in what we're doing? That's the real question.
Q Okay, so how confident is he that in two months things will be better?
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll see. I mean, again --
Q No, not "we'll see." He knows a lot about what's going on there.
MR. SNOW: Yes, we'll see. What you're asking me to do is to make a prediction about September, and it's --
Q No, I'm saying that he's getting advice and he's talking to Petraeus on a daily basis. He knows --
MR. SNOW: Not daily, but close.
Q Close -- he knows what's going on there now. And Petraeus is on the ground there; he can sense how things are moving. How confident is he that in September things will look different?
MR. SNOW: The answer, how confident, is an unanswerable question. Tell me what metrical you use, and I will try to give you an answer.
Q Tony, ASEAN diplomats are saying that the United States has informed him that the President has cancelled his appearance at the Singapore summit because of Iraq. Can you confirm that? And what is it that --
MR. SNOW: I know nothing of that.
Q You've heard nothing on it?
MR. SNOW: No. I don't know anything about it.
Q Tony, how do you, as the President's communicator, feel about the Homeland Security Secretary expressing stepped-up concerns about terrorism on the basis of "gut feelings"?
MR. SNOW: Glad we got a Homeland Security Secretary who worries about it all the time. If you take a look at what's going on around the world, you can kind of understand some of the thinking. We had the experiences in London and Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. And summertime has always been a time of heightened activity, particularly by al Qaeda. And even though we do not have -- I think it's important to balance a couple of things, because you don't want to create a condition of panic. What you want to do is, as we did when we were in Kennebunkport, is to remind people that it's a time for heightened awareness.
As you may recall, right after Glasgow, even though we did not and still do not have specific or credible threats against the United States, the Department of Homeland Security went ahead and put out bulletins to law enforcement agencies, transportation agencies and many others, laying out steps for enhanced vigilance. And I think at this time of year, and again also when you've got al Qaeda bit on its heels in a place like Iraq, you've got to keep in mind they want to make a bloody splash someplace. And it's important really to be vigilant.
So I think that's a reflection of Michael Chertoff's belief that this is a time for vigilance. But I do want to make it clear that, again, there is no specific or credible threat at this juncture to our homeland. But on the other hand, we've seen that there are a lot of people who are determined to try to create acts of bloodshed, and we all ought to be on the lookout to help one another.
Q "Gut feeling" -- good choice of words? Does it lend credibility to a terrorist --
MR. SNOW: I'll leave that to his speechwriting team.
Q Does the White House and the President --
MR. SNOW: I'll call on you next, Helen. Go ahead.
Q Does the White House and the President share that same gut feeling?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to try to get into gastrointestinal descriptions. I think perhaps the most important thing to say right now is that what the White House does know is that we live in a world where terrorists want to do us harm. And in that world, we can all help each other by being vigilant. And quite often it is the random act of vigilance, the report to a police department, the sighting of something suspicious that ends up helping save lives -- or the activities of somebody who decides to get involved.
I think, again, what I'm merely trying to reiterate is something that does become standard, and this is something we talked about even before July 4th, last week, is, keep your eyes open; be on the lookout.
Q You're initiating this new press room in the strangest way. You deny an exodus of the power brokers in your own Republican Party. You have contributed --
MR. SNOW: I have what?
Q You deny an exodus.
MR. SNOW: Oh, okay. I was asked about two senators, Senator Snowe and Senator Smith --
Q You deny -- you shade what they're saying, and so forth. It may make you happy, but it's not true. You're also acting like the resistance in Iraq is al Qaeda and wholly al Qaeda. People fight for their country. We brought in the al Qaeda by attacking them.
MR. SNOW: Are you telling me that the mass graves that have recently been found were created by patriotic-minded Iraqis --
Q I'm telling you that we brought them in, they were not there before. Even the President said that. So let's get real. Also, you keep speaking for the American people, who are saying exactly opposite of what you're saying.
MR. SNOW: Okay. Helen, thank you very much, and let me -- if I forget any of the points, please remind me as I proceed.
Q You're welcome.
MR. SNOW: No, she raised a series of points, and I want to respond to them. Number one, on the so-called exodus of power brokers: Gordon Smith and Olympia Snowe have long made clear their opposition to the way forward and they've been skeptics of what's going on. That is not a new position. The people who Terry mentioned today are not new in their opposition. The conversation -- we continue to have conversations --
Q You don't think that any of these people are bowing out?
MR. SNOW: Some of these people have already bowed out, in terms of supporting the administration on this. On the other hand, when you say I speak for the American people -- the American people don't want this war to go on, and neither do we. But on the other hand --
Q No one says so -- but the polls show they want out.
MR. SNOW: Well, polls also say they want to hear from the generals what they have to say.
Q I've never heard of any polls that say that.
MR. SNOW: Well, look at the USA Today/Gallup poll, which, despite 51 percent Democrats in the poll sample, indicated that 55 percent of the American people said they want to hear -- I'm just -- I'm telling you, Helen, it was in the paper three days ago, right there.
Q The generals are not running this country.
MR. SNOW: Okay, but the generals are, in fact, conducting military operations, and I thought that was -- finally, when it comes to the Iraqi people, when you have 90 percent of the vivid acts of violence being created by outsiders, I think it is safe to say that those outsiders represent --
Q Who brought them in?
MR. SNOW: They brought themselves in. They saw what they thought was an opportunity to destroy --
Q After we attacked and invaded?
MR. SNOW: We're back to our normal colloquy. Let me get around and I'll get back to you, Jim. There are a lot of people I haven't gotten through to.
First John, then --
Q Tony, on executive privilege. Senator Schumer made some interesting points today about Sara Taylor's testimony before the Judiciary. She came and she wanted to testify and speak about what she could, and his point was that she was speaking about some aspects of internal deliberations, specifically the White House and what they thought of Tim Griffin. Schumer's point was, we can't pick and choose, under such a broad executive privilege claim, what you can and cannot testify about.
MR. SNOW: Well, I believe there was a specific factual question about Sara Taylor's personal opinion on Tim Griffin that would not be necessarily something that would reflect an internal White House deliberation, but was, in fact, was it not your opinion that X -- and she said, no, it wasn't.
So when it comes to the privilege claim, the privilege claim extends to internal conversations and deliberations bearing on those decisions with the U.S. attorneys. And I think she -- it's a fine line, I'll grant it to you. But I will leave it to her and her lawyers, but it seems to me that she, in fact, did walk the ballast.
Q She did speak about opinions within the White House, not just her own.
MR. SNOW: Again, I'll leave that to her and her -- I understand the argument; I'm sure it will continue.
Q Tony, earlier in the briefing, you said victory is defeating al Qaeda. Are you now saying solely that victory will be achieved by defeating al Qaeda in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: What happens is, if you get all those conditions I was talking about before, which is the Iraq that's able to stand up for itself, that's a defeat for al Qaeda. That's really what I'm talking about.
Q So you're saying, militarily -- not necessarily militarily --
MR. SNOW: No, no, no. Every general -- everybody who's involved in this agrees, this is not strictly a military deal. To have success in Iraq, you have to have a successful society. That means you have to have an economy that's functioning, you have to have electricity, you have to have water, you've got to have a political system, you've got to have a rule of law. That's also why the Baghdad security plan includes far more than merely military commitments, but, in fact, it includes provisional reconstruction teams that have been very active in the past in the provinces, but more recently within Baghdad itself, understanding and acknowledging once you've cleaned out a neighborhood, if you don't create jobs and opportunities, there will be a vacuum and the bad guys will be there in a New York minute.
Q Tony, for over a year, military and national security sources have said there is no way that the United States can win militarily in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Right. We've always said that.
Q So what's the point in having troops there, then?
MR. SNOW: The troops are because the military part is still an enormously important component in the security aspect of victory. When we talk about victory -- I think you're looking at this as simply a battlefield engagement, and it's not; it's an engagement with an enemy that's trying to destroy a society that right now is trying to take root. And therefore, you have to defend all aspects of that society. And that's not always a military operation.
Q Tony, you just basically gave Olympia Snowe what she's been saying, it's time to pull troops out. You're saying --
MR. SNOW: No, I didn't say that. I didn't say that at all. What I'm saying is that victory itself requires more than simply winning on the battlefield, it also requires rule of law, economic structures, political progress. I think Senator Snowe agrees with a lot of that, as well.
Q Tony, are you sending the July 15 report up to the Hill on Friday evening?
MR. SNOW: We're not going to tell you when. We'll let you know when we send it up.
Q Why can't you?
MR. SNOW: Because we're not doing it yet.
Q Tony, will we hear from the President on it today -- tomorrow, or on Friday?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. When the President wishes to speak about it, I will listen with as much interest as you.
Q One other topic. He had his conversation with Prime Minister Singh of India this morning, talked about the nuclear deal.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q What's going on there? Is it still stuck?
MR. SNOW: I'll refer you to State. State has been handling a lot of those conversations.
Q Tony, does the Attorney General owe the Congress an apology for having testified that there was not one verified case of civil liberties abuse after having been repeatedly told or sent memos that, in fact, there were large-scale abuses --
MR. SNOW: What the Department of Justice has said -- and I'm afraid I will have to refer you back to their public affairs folks who were putting reporters on the phone yesterday -- was that by abuse, he meant, was there any deliberate or malicious attempt to try to acquire and spread around private information that should not have been available. The national security letters obviously have been a problem, and the Department of Justice and others have been, in fact, trying to deal with it.
As far as what the Attorney General should say, I'm going to let him handle that.
Q It is not an abuse for the FBI to have infringed the rules repeatedly and --
MR. SNOW: The question is, did it, in fact, actively violate the civil rights of individuals, or were there clerical and other errors that gathered up information that subsequently was, and properly was, destroyed? Was anybody, in fact, a victim of unnecessary surveillance and abuse, and I don't know. Now, what -- I'm giving you the answer that Justice gave, and I can't go any further, which is that the notion of abuse was something further than simply getting improper information; it was also doing it on purpose and trying to make use of it.
Q Are you satisfied that the Attorney General was okay with his answer and should not have said, well, there are things going on, and we're troubled by them?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to second-guess the Attorney General. I'll let you.
Q Tony, do you think public support for the war will dwindle even further upon release of a report showing sporadic, at best, progress towards the benchmarks?
MR. SNOW: You mean, would the public be dissuaded by one that shows progress toward benchmarks?
Q Well, what is it going to show?
MR. SNOW: We'll find out. What you've just done is you've offered your adjectives. I just decided to strip out the adjectives.
Q Well, you said the other day it's certainly not going to be an "A" on everything.
MR. SNOW: Well, that's right. It's a snapshot at the beginning of an operation.
Q Is there some chance this report will increase public confidence in the mission?
MR. SNOW: Ken, you're going to -- you know what, you're just going to have to find out. I don't know.
Q Any "F"s in the report?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to -- again, you'll find out soon enough. It will be pretty clear.
Q I just want to take one more stab at clarifying your view. Is Republican support for the war eroding?
MR. SNOW: It's a good question. I think public -- I think what you have is -- I don't know. I really don't. I think what you do have is a clear sense on Capitol Hill that the war is unpopular with a lot of Americans, that Americans want a demonstration that we are going to make some progress that, in fact, is going to make it worth the blood and treasure -- which we think it is and we think will be demonstrated. But I honestly -- I'm not going to try to give you, because I do not have the kind of --
Q If you don't know it's eroding, could you characterize the degree of Republican support for the war on the Hill?
MR. SNOW: No. Again, what I think is -- if you talk about the war in absence of the war aims, it's very -- let me try to
-- maybe I'm being too cute here, so you can tell me I am.
Q We'd never say that.
MR. SNOW: But, no, it's a serious offer, because I think what happens when people think about the war, itself, it's a difficult thing and it's something that tears at the heart of any nation. Is the war popular? No. On the other hand, if you talk about the war aims, not merely democracy in Iraq, but also the longer-term prospects of security in the United States, I think people would say, yes, we support that aim.
The question is whether they believe what's going on is effectively supporting that aim. I think that is the key question. It is one that has not been answered to the satisfaction of the American people --
Q But the question I'm asking is, every day people are picking up the papers and watching television and listening on the radio, and hearing about reports of Republican erosion for support. And sometimes it seems the only place that view is not shared is here.
MR. SNOW: Oh, I see. Do we understand that it's politically tough for people? Of course, we do.
Q No, Republicans leaving you.
MR. SNOW: Yes, and the answer is, I don't know. I mean, I just tried to tell you --
Q Well, why is Stephen Hadley on the Hill again today, talking --
MR. SNOW: Say what?
Q Why is Stephen Hadley on the Hill again, yet again? What is it, the second, third, fourth time in the last couple weeks meeting with Republicans?
MR. SNOW: I think this gets back to what I was just trying to say with Jim, Ed, which is that people want insurance that the war aims -- which I think the American people actually do share -- is reflected effectively in what we're doing on the ground. And those are questions that the American people -- the American people hear body counts, but I daresay not many people have heard about the operations that I just told you about. I don't think you packaged it; I don't think many people have. And so I think it is useful to try to give a more robust sense of what's going on so people can form a judgment.
But the American people, I think, want reassurance that the operations are meeting up with the war aims. And so do members of Congress, because, look, members of Congress went home and a lot of them got an earful. Also some members of Congress went to Iraq, like Lindsey -- depending on the party, they seem to have drawn different conclusions. But, for instance, if you listen to what Lindsey Graham and John McCain had to say, they had some interesting things to say about differences now from what they had seen in the past. And so, look, this is a very, very tough political debate in this country.
Q -- the American people if, from that podium, you admitted the obvious, which is that Republicans are eroding from you -- you won't even acknowledge what Republicans are saying.
MR. SNOW: Because, for instance, Senator Lugar has made it clear -- what he -- he still shares the war aims, he still wants to succeed, he still does not support the Democratic proposals. And so what you have is questions about how to do this more effectively.
I don't look at that as leaving the White House. I do look at it as saying, have you thought about this, and having the kind of dialogue that is sometimes tough within a party, but is also necessary.
Q Will you admit, at least -- he doesn't support the Democratic plans to pull out, but he did say on Sunday that he believes you could pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the middle of '08. So that's not your plan.
MR. SNOW: No, he said he would hope -- look, we would hope you'd be able to do it, but it's got to be justified by facts on the ground.
Q Are you at all worried that, as sort of these basic questions are answered and the answer that comes back is not exactly, and it's not black and white, it's gray, and all -- are you worried that the American people listen to this sort of debate and perceive you and the White House as isolated and out of touch on this?
MR. SNOW: No, no more than I think that they look at you and think that you guys are focused on defeat.
Q Wait a minute, that's not my question at all.
MR. SNOW: You just asked me if I'm clueless, and I'm asked if you're a defeatist.
Q Wait a second, hang on. You have Republicans -- Voinovich, Lugar, Domenici -- people who are involved in shaping a new course for the mission, and they are leaving the President. Every time this gets asked about, you tell us, no, that's not what happening. When people listen to this back-and-forth, do you think the inference many Americans draw is, the White House is the last place to get the fact that the Republican Party is leaving them?
MR. SNOW: No, I think the White House is the last part trying to say, public opinion polls are not what the war is made of. Military actions on the ground, the brave sacrifices of Americans, the actions of Iraqis on the ground, the changing and shifts of tides of public opinion based on the fact that Iraqis are standing up and putting their lives on the front line, those are the things that ought to be guiding Americans' opinions.
As seductive as it may be to look at polls, or even to look at -- look, you're absolutely right, there's a lot of skepticism among Republicans. As I told you, they're getting an earful from constituents. But it's also important for us to remind people that the alternative to war is not peace, in this case. The alternative to -- the alternative, if you leave right away, is cataclysmic, and I think you'll find a lot of Democrats and Republicans agree.
So when you have a tough situation -- we're not trying to deny the political difficulties. I mean, that would be foolish. But on the other hand, what we're trying to do is to share with the American people the fact that there's a whole lot more going on than speeches in the well of the Senate. There are things going on in Baquba, and there are things going on in Basra, and there are things going on in Baghdad, and there are things going on in Anbar, and there are things going on in Mosul each and every day. And none of that seems to penetrate.
And so part of it -- we'll accept part of the blame. But if you want to ask what's going on in the war and who's got a clue about the war -- part of this has to do with taking a look operationally at what's going on. And, again, we'll accept -- I'll accept part of the blame, because a lot of the important pieces of information that would make Americans proud somehow have not poked through, and we'll do a better -- we'll try to do a better job.
Q I want to be really clear in saying that, reporters asking questions about Republicans and what they're doing on the Hill does not make us defeatists.
MR. SNOW: No, any more than my answering your questions makes me clueless.
Q I didn't say you were clueless.
MR. SNOW: Oh, I'm sorry, the American people thought we were clueless.
Q I'm asking you --
Q How do you suggest the press is focused on defeat, which is what you just said a moment ago --
MR. SNOW: No, what I was --
Q No, no, no, but that's what you said. So, go ahead, explain what you said.
MR. SNOW: No, what I was doing is that there was a caricature of our position and I responded with a caricature. And I believe I said, no more -- I said that that was not true.
Q Okay, so it's not --
MR. SNOW: Okay, so go back and look at the opening phrase --
Q So, just for the record, the press is not focused on defeat? Do you want to clear that up?
MR. SNOW: Yes, but I'm saying that sometimes you get accused of it.
Q Okay, so Republican Congressman John Doolittle, when he said that Iraq is a quagmire, and "we've got to get off the front lines as soon as possible," do you think he's focused on defeat?
MR. SNOW: No, I think that's his opinion.
Q But do you think it's a quagmire?
MR. SNOW: No, I think it's a difficult situation, Ed. And the solution to a difficult situation is to look for a way forward. And let me once again say --
Q No, but if somebody -- if some Republican comes up with a different opinion, different --
MR. SNOW: No, look, we understand people are going to have different opinions. That's what the country is made of. And I think I also argued that in today's pitched political atmosphere, where somebody wants a big defeat or a big victory today, where there is an effort to either create or smash a political party on the basis of something, this is a tough issue. And I think what Americans actually do want -- and perhaps I'm guilty, Jim, and if so, I'm sorry, of this -- want the temperature lowered so that we start talking in a little more comprehensive terms about what's going on, without the operations --
Q Are those expectations set by the press, or didn't the administration at the beginning of the war say that we would greeted as liberators in Iraq? Do you think that set the expectations?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, Ed. I'll let you figure it out.
Q Let me ask, Tony, a much less serious question, if I may. With this new briefing room come some new restrictions on our use of it, and they, frankly, are a bit of a problem for the crews and seems to me to enable you to show off this place to tours, but make it much less our briefing room. And I want to ask you why we shouldn't feel we've lost something here with this set that makes you look a lot better?
MR. SNOW: Well, what do you have in mind?
Q I want to know why --
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: If you've got a bill of particulars that you're concerned about, you all know that I've gone to bat for you, and will, for matters that you think are important for getting your job done right. So if you've got some complaints, send them to me and we'll work through them. We've done this in the past and we'll do it in the future. I don't think the public wants to hear us ventilating us about how many vending machines we have, or something like that.
Q I'm not talking about vending machines, I'm talking about get out at 7:00 p.m., I'm talking about leave the place clean -- open between -- on weekends, so that tours can see. It's our briefing room.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, it's part of the White House. The White House also has custodial responsibility. But the fact is, we'll work on these things.
Q According to what Secretary Chertoff said yesterday, he had this gut feeling that there was going to be a terrorist attack sometime during the summer. And also, according to senior intelligence officials, they told ABC News that there's an al Qaeda cell either coming to the States or already here. That doesn't gel with what we've been repeatedly told, which is that we're fighting them over there so that they will not fight us here.
MR. SNOW: Well, Victoria, it doesn't mean that they're not going to try to come here. There have also been cells that have been interrupted here. So, please, we are fighting them there so that they don't come over here. But, on the other hand, that doesn't mean that there are not terrorists that are going to try to find plane tickets, who are going to try to get across the border. Of course, they are.
Q Why are we told the mantra, then?
MR. SNOW: Because it's true. But the fact is -- what you're assuming is either/or -- if we fight in Iraq, nobody is going to try to hop on a plane and come kill Americans? Of course, they are.
Q But the mantra gives people the impression that if we're fighting them over there, they won't come here.
MR. SNOW: We have never tried to argue that -- we have argued, number one, that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. We have never argued that it's the only front. And we certainly have not argued that Americans should not be vigilant about what's going on here.
Q Would you agree that it's disingenuous?
MR. SNOW: No, it's not.
Q If my colleagues will permit me to change the subject. Yesterday the former Surgeon General, Dr. Carmona, gave very damning testimony on Capitol Hill, in which he said the administration would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education or prison and mental health and global health issues; he was instructed to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches, et cetera. Why was he given these instructions, who gave them to him, and is there an attempt on the part of the administration to muzzle the nation's public health spokesman?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, if you, in fact, serve at the pleasure of the President, you have some obligation to share his policies. But on the other hand, there have been some of these that are sort of head-scratchers -- for instance, stem cell. Nobody at the White House can recall ever having had any conversation with him about stem cell. Special Olympics -- there was some notion that he wasn't to participate -- the President and First Lady are active in Special Olympics. We're talking about having the torch come through here. We've had a special ceremony for Eunice Shriver. We've had the Kennedy family over here.
But I think on the particulars -- here's the way it works. Dr. Carmona, as Surgeon General, certainly was free to speak his mind. Apparently he thinks he didn't. It's disappointing if he did not use his position to do what -- to advocate what he thought were the proper policies. But on the other hand, he is somebody who works for the administration. I don't know anything --
Q But he's saying his bosses prevented him from using his position to advocate for the proper policy. Is that true?
MR. SNOW: I'm just not aware of that. The other thing is, he was very eager to get reappointed. So I just -- I don't know. I know that members on the Hill -- I know that he was asked questions about, who said this, and so on. And a lot of this is going to have to wash out. I cannot give you specific information. But nobody, as far as I could tell, was, "muzzling" him. But on the other hand, there is certainly nothing scandalous about saying to somebody who was a presidential appointee, you should advocate the President's policies.
Q First of all, also credit goes to the White House Correspondent's Association, under the leadership of Steve and Ann here.
MR. SNOW: Okay, yes -- let's get the question.
Q My question is that as far as terrorism is concerned, President Clinton was speaking at Indian American group in Washington, at the Convention Center, and he said that doctors who supposed to save lives, and they became to take lives of the people, who we can trust now -- and those happen to be also Muslim doctors. My question is here that Arab League is sending a delegation to Israel for peace. Is the President asking Arab League and OIC to send delegates and also the United Nations to educate the Muslims and to come out, Muslim leaders, against terrorism?
MR. SNOW: I think you're making a big mistake there, Goyal, in assuming that Islam is something that enjoins doctors to kill. I think President Clinton was making a wise and smart point, which is that doctors should not be killing.
Q Thank you, Tony. Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently made it clear he's going to abjure the term, "war on terror," and refer to people who have caused incidents such as that that almost happened in Glasgow as criminals and thugs, a very sharp difference with President Bush, and more in line with what Mr. Zelikow, who used to work at the State Department, wanted to do. Your reaction?
MR. SNOW: Based on Gordon Brown's -- the readout of Gordon Brown's conversation with the President, their approach and the vigor with which they intend to prosecute the war on terror is largely the same. The rhetoric may be different, but the approach is the same.
Q You don't have a problem with him not using the term?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to fly-speck his verbiage.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. As titular leader of the Republican Party, and a friend of Senator McCain, how does the President believe the Senator can recover so many of his resigned staff and raise more money?
MR. SNOW: We don't get into that. You know that, Les.
Q All right. The Washington Post this morning quoted Senator Vitter's wife as having said -- (laughter) -- "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. I think fear is a very good motivating factor in marriage." What is the President's reaction to that?
MR. SNOW: Come on, Les, not going to dignify it.
Thank you. END 12:54 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 11, 2007
President Bush Unveils Renovated Press Briefing Room James S. Brady Briefing Room, 8:05 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I like a good, short introduction. (Laughter.)
Q -- (inaudible) --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.) After all, it is your room. (Laughter.) Welcome back to the West Wing. We missed you -- sort of. (Laughter.) I can already tell this place has improved; the last time I was in here to hold a press conference I broke out into a sweat -- not because of your questions, but because of the climate. The air-conditioner seems to work well. I hope the facility is -- suits your needs. I really do.
The relationship between the President and the press is a unique relationship, and it's a necessary relationship. I enjoy it. I hope you do. As I say, sometimes you don't like the decisions I make, and sometimes I don't like the way you write about the decisions. But nevertheless, it's a really important part of our process. And the fact that you were working in substandard conditions just wasn't right. It really wasn't.
And so my White House worked with Steve and Ann, worked with Mark Smith to get it right. And I think it's going to benefit future Presidents and future White House press corps, to be working in modern conditions, conditions where a fellow like me will feel comfortable coming in here answering a few questions without losing 20 pounds. (Laughter.)
It was really hot in here. As a matter of fact, I can't imagine how Snow could handle it on a regular basis. But now it's modern, and it's going to enable you to do a better job. And I'm glad that's the case.
I want to thank Peter Doherty -- where is he? Yes, Peter, thanks for working hard here. You get a lot of credit for making sure this thing works. And one of these days Laura and I are looking forward to coming and actually see what it's like working here. I've never toured -- I've never even been able to get beyond the podium -- (laughter) -- if you know what I mean. As a matter of fact, I've always felt comfortable behind the podium in front of you, kind of as a shield. (Laughter.) But I would like a tour.
Q Bullet-proof --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's not exactly bullet-proof. Some of your bullets are able to -- verbal bullets -- (laughter) -- are able to penetrate. But you've been around a long time, see, you know what it's like to query Presidents. You've been -- you're kind of an older fellow. (Laughter.)
Q -- (inaudible) --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes -- proudly so. Thanks for the birthday greeting, too. I appreciate that thoughtful gesture.
But, anyway, we're glad to join you for this ribbon-cutting, and we thank you very much for working with Hagin and the bunch to make sure this thing -- deal works. And it's going to. And it's going to make your life better and, frankly, it's going to make the lives of future Presidents better, as well. And so it's a good contribution that you all have left behind. And we're glad to have been a part of it. And so -- wait --
Q What, do you think I'm going to ask a question?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I did think you were going to ask me a question, yes. (Laughter.)
Q I am. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, maybe some other time.
Q Oh, but do you think you open --
THE PRESIDENT: See what I'm saying? (Laughter.)
Q You can't come to the press room, especially a modern press room --
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, let's do this -- let me cut the ribbon, and --
Q You think anything has changed?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me cut the ribbon -- are you going to cut it with me, Steve -- and then why don't you all yell simultaneously? (Laughter.) Like, really loudly. (Laughter.) And that way you might get noticed.
Q It doesn't sound like you're going to answer --
THE PRESIDENT: No, I will. I'll, like, listen --
Q And leave?
THE PRESIDENT: -- internalize, play like I'm going to answer the question, and then smile at you and just say, gosh -- (laughter) -- thanks, thanks for such a solid, sound question.
Here we go, ready? I'm going to cut the ribbon. (Laughter.) Then you yell. I cogitate -- and then smile and wave. (Laughter.)
Are you going to come, Laura? Here we go.
(The President and Mrs. Bush cut the ribbon.) (Applause.)
Q -- (inaudible) --
THE PRESIDENT: Brilliant question.
Q -- (inaudible) -- cogitating that, right?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. See you soon.
Q We look forward to seeing you come and do a little --
THE PRESIDENT: I will see you soon, thank you.
Q Y'all come back. (Laughter.)
END 8:12 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 10, 2007
President Bush Visits Cleveland, Ohio Intercontinental Hotel Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio, 1:42 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Fred. Thanks for coming. Thanks for having me. It's a smart marketing tool -- you know, all the cameras. (Laughter.) I thought for sure the largest Chamber of Commerce was in Texas, but I guess not. (Laughter.)
I'm thrilled to be back in Cleveland. I've had a fascinating day. I went to a small business that is on the cutting edge of changing the way we're going to consume energy. I just came from the Cleveland Clinic, which is one of the most fabulous hospitals in America.
I do want to spend a little time talking about our economy, talking about health care and energy policy that will be an integral part of making sure the economy continues to grow. I'd like to spend a little time talking about the war against extremists and radicals. And I'd like to answer some of your questions, if you have any.
Before I do I want to tell you Laura sends her best. She's arguably the most patient woman in America. (Laughter.) She's a fabulous First Lady and a great mom. I love her dearly, and she told me to say hi to you all -- so, hi. (Applause.)
I appreciate Joe Roman, who works with Fred. Thanks for setting this deal up. Appreciate the chance to come and visit with fellow citizens here in Cleveland. I'm the Commander-in-Chief; I'm also the educator-in-chief. Part of my job is to explain the philosophy behind the decisions that I have made. I'm honored you'd give me a chance to do so.
I'm traveling with a good man, the Congressman from this area -- one of the Congressmen from this area, Steve LaTourette. Proud to be with you, Congressman. Thank you for your time. (Applause.) State Auditor Mary Taylor is here -- thanks for being here, Mary. (Applause.) I met the Mayor of Cleveland across the street at the hospital. I was proud to be with him. I tha nk him for his time, for taking time out of his day. I thank Toby Cosgrove of -- Doc, thank you for being here -- from the hospital there across the street. I thank the docs, by the way, for taking time to show me some amazing technology.
Let me first talk about our economy. It's -- our economy is changing and it's strong. I remember back to -- early on in my administration, when we were confronted with some very difficult times. There was a recession, the economy had gotten overheated and it was correcting. Then we got hit by an enemy that killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens, which such an attack obviously would have an effect on the economy. Then there were some corporate scandals that had a psychological effect on our economy. People were beginning to worry about the system where people were not upholding the law, taking advantage of the situation, taking advantage of shareholders.
And yet, we acted and cut taxes -- and cut them hard -- (applause) -- because one of the philosophical drivers of this administration is, is that if you have more money in your pocket to spend, save, or invest, the economy is more likely to grow. In other words, there's always a conflict in Washington about how -- what's the proper amount of money in Washington and what is the proper amount of money in your pocket. I'm one of these fellows that err on the side of trusting people to spend their money, more than trusting government. (Applause.)
I'm not trying to elicit applause -- thank you, but -- (laughter) -- and our plan has worked. I don't know if you noticed last month that we added another 132,000 new jobs. We've added over 8 million new jobs since August of 2003. Entrepreneurship flourishes when people have got more capital in their pocket.
One of the interesting things about the tax cuts that we proposed is that a lot of the tax cuts were aimed at small businesses. One of the statistics that makes our economy interesting and, I believe, robust is that 70 percent of new jobs are created by small business owners. And that's an important thing for our fellow citizens to remember, particularly those in Congress who are thinking about something to do with the tax code.
Most small businesses are Subchapter S corporations or limited partnerships. In other words, they pay tax at the individual income tax rate. So, therefore, when you cut income taxes on everybody who pays taxes -- in other words, when you lower the rates, it affects the ability of small businesses to keep capital; in other words, keep more of what they earn. And when a small business keeps more of what they earn, it is more likely that business will expand. And, therefore, when you hear me say that 8 million new jobs have been created since August of 2003, I might as well have said, as well, the small business sector of America is strong, and the best way to keep it that way is to keep taxes low.
And now we're going to have a debate on that in Washington. And that's going to be the interesting, philosophical argument. You'll hear people say in Washington, well, we need to raise taxes in order to either pay for new programs or balance the budget. I happen to believe we can balance the budget without raising taxes if we're wise about how we spend your money. And we're proving it possible.
Tomorrow I'm going to talk about the size of the deficit. I'm not going to guess what that will be, but I can predict it's going to be substantially lower than it was three years ago. And we didn't raise your taxes. We kept your taxes low, which caused the economy to grow, which yielded more tax revenues. And because we set priorities, the deficit is shrinking.
And the big fight in Washington is going to be whether or not the budgets that the Congress is trying to now pass is going to go through. It's not -- I'll veto them if they're excessive in spending. I'm not going to let them raise your taxes. I think it would be bad for the economy. I think it would be bad for entrepreneurship. (Applause.)
Let me talk about health care, since it's fresh on my mind. The objective has got to be to make sure America is the best place in the world to get health care, that we're the most innovative country, that we encourage doctors to stay in practice, that we are robust in the funding of research, and that patients get good, quality care at a reasonable cost.
The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room. The question is, will we be wise about how we pay for health care. I believe the best way to do so is to enable more people to have private insurance. And the reason I emphasize private insurance, the best health care plan -- the best health care policy is one that emphasizes private health. In other words, the opposite of that would be government control of health care.
And there's a debate in Washington, D.C. over this. It's going to be manifested here shortly by whether or not we ought to expand what's called S-CHIP. S-CHIP is a program designed to help poor children get insurance. I'm for it. It came in when I was the governor of Texas; I supported that. But now there are plans to expand S-CHIP to include families -- some proposals are families making up to $80,000 a year. In other words, the program is going beyond the initial intent of helping poor children. It's now aiming at encouraging more people to get on government health care. That's what that is. It's a way to encourage people to transfer from the private sector to government health care plans.
My position is, we ought to help the poor -- and we do, through Medicaid. My position is, we ought to have a modern medical system for the seniors -- and we do, through Medicare. But I strongly object to the government providing incentives for people to leave private medicine, private health care to the public sector. And I think it's wrong and I think it's a mistake. And therefore, I will resist Congress's attempt -- (applause) -- I'll resist Congress's attempt to federalize medicine.
I mean, think of it this way: They're going to increase the number of folks eligible through S-CHIP; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a -- I wouldn't call it a plot, just a strategy -- (laughter) -- to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care. In my judgment, that would be -- it would lead to not better medicine, but worse medicine. It would lead to not more innovation, but less innovation.
And so -- but you got to be for something in Washington. You can't be against federalization, you've got to be for a plan that enhances the relationship between doctor and patient, and that's what I'm for. Here's what I believe in: One, I believe in health savings accounts as an alternative to the federalization of medicine. It gives people the opportunity to save, tax-free, for routine medical costs and, at the same time, have a catastrophic health care plan to back them up.
I like the idea of people making decisions that are -- that will, one, enhance their health, and two, save money. The doc told me that -- we were looking at one of these brilliant heart guys working for him. You're not going to believe the technology in this hospital, by the way. If you're a Cleveland resident, you ought to be proud of this hospital. It's unbelievable. (Applause.)
He said something pretty wise, though. He said, you can have all the technology that man can conceivably create, but if you continue to smoke, we're going backwards. If you're not exercising, if you're not taking care of the body yourself, all the technology isn't going to save your life. In other words, there is a certain responsibility that we have as citizens to take care of ourselves. And a health savings account actually provides a financial incentive for you to do that.
I believe in plans that enable small businesses to congregate across jurisdictional lines so they can afford insurance, afford spreading risk just the way big corporations can do. In other words, one way to control costs is to enable small businesses, many of which are having trouble affording insurance, to pool -- pool risk.
I'm a strong believer in medical liability reform. We've got a legal system which is driving up the costs of medicine, because docs are practicing defensive medicine and driving good doctors out of practice. And it makes no sense to have a legal system that punishes good medicine. And therefore, I strongly believe that the Congress ought to pass federal medical liability insurance for our doctors and our providers.
I believe in information technology. The first time I came to Cleveland Clinic, we were talking about how to modernize our hospital systems and our doctors' offices into the 21st century. Perhaps the best way to describe the problem is we've got too many doctors still writing out prescriptions by hand. Most of them can't write to begin with. (Laughter.) And then they pass the file from one person to the next. That's inefficient in this new era. I mean, technology is changing the way we live; it ought to be changing the way medicine operates. And it is, at Cleveland Clinic. I envision the day, one day, when all of us will have our own medical electronic record that will be safe from snoopers, in other words, will be private, but will make health care more efficient.
Cleveland Clinic did something interesting. I went to four different stations, and after every station they gave me an outcomes book. In other words, we're willing to be measured, says the good doc. There ought to be transparency in medicine. How many of you have ever actually tried to price a medical service? Probably not many. How many of you have ever said, gosh, I wonder whether this health care quality is better than the neighbors? I doubt any of you -- many of you have done that. Why? Because the system is not geared toward that. Somebody else pays your bills. If you really think about it, and you're working, say, for a company in America, and they provide a health care plan for you, there's a third-party payer. Well, if somebody else pays the bills, why do you care what the cost is at the time of purchase?
In other words, the whole plan has got to be to bring more accountability into health care, to make the consumer more responsible for making proper and rational decisions. That's what accountability does. And I applaud you for that, Doc. That's what transparency in pricing means, that you should be able to shop for price.
But the system, by the way, the tax system does not enable the individual to be incented to buy insurance in the private sector. If you work for a company and you get insurance, you get a good -- you get a good tax benefit. If you're an individual and buy insurance, you don't get the same tax benefit. That doesn't make any sense. The tax code needs to be reformed. The tax code ought to treat everybody equally when it comes to health care. And therefore, one proposal, one way to deal with that is something I talked to the Congress about, and said, if you're a married person and you're working, you ought to get a $15,000 deduction, just like a mortgage deduction, from your income, whether you're working for corporate America, or you're working on your own; whether you're working for a small-business owner, or you're looking for a job.
And that way, you begin to make sure the tax code is a level playing field. And that way, an individual market begins to grow, because you have got an incentive at that point in time to go out and purchase health care. As a matter of fact, you won't get your deduction unless you purchase health care if you're in the individual market.
The whole point I'm trying to make is there's an alternative to federalization of health care. It doesn't make a nice, neat sound bite. It's not something that's easy to sell -- what do you care about making sure you expand S-CHIP? That sounds nice and cozy, but nevertheless, it is an alternative that will work, and it is working, right here in America today.
The technological changes in the hospital across the street have been amazing. The quality of care has been fantastic. There's just more we can do to make sure we continue to be the leader, without wrecking the health care system.
Energy: In order to keep this economy strong -- and we do have a strong economy -- not only have we added 8.2 million new jobs since August of 2003, interest is low, inflation is down. I mean, this thing is buzzing. There are some parts of the country that are hurting. The manufacturing sector up here isn't doing as well as other parts of the country. However, I would remind you that the unemployment rate in Ohio is 5.8 percent. Is that perfect? No. Is it better than it has been? You bet it is.
But the -- one of the issues to make sure that we continue to grow strong in the years to come is energy. We're just too dependent on oil. I know that sounds hard for a Texas guy to say. You're probably wondering whether I mean it. (Laughter.) I do. It's a national security issue to be dependent on oil from parts of the world where some of the folks don't like us. It's an issue that's got to be dealt with -- now.
There's an economic security issue when it comes to being dependent on oil. When the demand for crude oil goes up in a place like China because of economic growth, it causes the international price of oil to go up, which affects the gasoline price here in Cleveland, Ohio. That's the way it works. High crude oil prices yield higher gasoline prices. And therefore, there's an economic issue for being dependent on oil. And there's an environmental cost for being dependent on oil. When we're burning carbon, it creates greenhouse gasses, which is an issue that we need to deal with. So we have a fantastic opportunity to do something different, for the sake of our economy, for the sake of our national security, and for the sake of the environment.
Today I went to a fascinating little company here that is building hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen is the input, water is the output, and in the meantime, your car is going. Hydrogen fuel cells are coming. And there's a role for the federal government to -- spending your money to promote new technologies to enable us to become less dependent on oil and better stewards of the environment.
Imagine one day being able to drive your car with hydrogen as its power source, and water driblets as the output of your engine. And that day is coming. Now, it's down the road a little bit, but, nevertheless, it is a part of a comprehensive plan to make sure we become less dependent on oil. In the meantime, when it comes to powering your cars, I want to tell you, I'm a big believer in having our farmers grow a product that will enable us to drive our cars. I think it makes sense to spend your money to invest in new technologies, or to research new technologies, so that when a fellow grows switchgrass, for example, that grass can be processed into ethanol, which can power your automobile.
Now, I don't know if you know this or not -- we're up to about 7 billion gallons of ethanol being produced and used in America. That's up from 2 billion three or four years ago. That's a good deal, if you're interested about energy independence, because that energy is coming from corn growers here in America. The problem is, we're growing a lot of corn for ethanol, which means the price of corn is going up for the pig farmer. So we've got to relieve the pressure on the pig farmer -- (laughter) -- well, not everybody -- pig farmer is paying -- using a lot of corn. And therefore, we're spending money on technologies. And I believe more and more people are going to be using ethanol to power their automobiles.
It's happening in the Midwest a lot now. Cellulosic ethanol breakthroughs will mean that we're going to be having ethanol produced from wood chips, or switchgrasses, which means the market will spread across the United States, which will make us less dependent on oil. And by the way, the exhausts from ethanol are a lot cleaner than the exhaust from hydrocarbon-based fuels.
We need to be promoting nuclear power. If you're really interested in the environment, like a lot of people are, then we ought to be promoting a renewable source of energy that emits no greenhouse gases. And one of the places where your government is spending money and is part of this comprehensive plan to change our energy mix is to figure out a better way to deal with the waste, nuclear waste. And I'm a big believer in reprocessing and fast-burner reactors, which is fancy words for we can burn down the fuel -- reuse it, burn it down to less volume and less toxicity.
We've got 250 years of coal, at least, in America. If we're interested in becoming less dependent on foreign sources of energy, we ought to be using energy here at home in a wise way. But coal can be dirty and, therefore, we're spending a lot of your money on developing clean coal technologies.
And my only point to you is that one of the reasons I've come to Cleveland is to herald some of the new technologies. As a matter of fact, a fellow came up to me at this place and he said, now, you're a wind person. I said, well, you know, I -- a lot of hot air here. (Laughter.) And he said, we got a new industry evolving here: windmills. That's fine. I support that. I think it makes a lot of sense. It makes us less dependent on foreign sources of oil. And that's important for making sure this economy continues to grow.
So my stop here has been really aimed at heralding technology. You got to be optimistic about America's future, because of some of the great technologies that are taking place. And two of the areas where technology is really going to change America for a long time coming is in the energy field and in the medical field.
I want to talk about this war we're in. First of all, I regret I have to tell you we're in war. I never wanted to be a war president. I -- now that I am one, I'm going to do the best I can to protect America.
My mind changed on September the 11th, 2001. It changed because I realized the biggest responsibility government has is to protect the American people from further attack, and that we must confront dangers before they come to hurt us again. That's one of the really valuable lessons of September the 11th -- is to recognize that oceans can't protect us from an enemy that is ideologically driven and who will use murder as a tool to achieve their political objectives.
Some in America don't believe we're at war, and that's their right. I know we are, and therefore, will spend my time as the President doing the best I can to educate people about the perils of the world in which we live, and that we have an active strategy in dealing with it.
First, the enemy. These folks aren't isolated folks, you know, they just kind of randomly show up. They have an objective. They believe as strongly in their ideology as I believe in ours. They believe that they have a obligation to spread a point of view that says, for example, if you don't worship the way we tell you to worship, there will be a consequence; just like I believe we have an obligation to defend a point of view that says, what matters is the right for you to choose your religion, and you're free to do so in the United States of America.
They believe that they can use -- they have no value for human life, see. That's what distinguishes them from us in another way. They will kill a Muslim, a child, or a woman in a moment's notice to achieve a political objective. They are dangerous people that need to be confronted.
And that's why, since September the 11th, our policy has been to find them and defeat them overseas so we don't have to face them here at home again. Now, that is a strong -- a short-term strategy, because the long-term strategy has got to be one that marginalizes these extremists and radicals by promoting an alternative ideology -- I like to say, an ideology based on light; an ideology that promotes hope; an ideology when, given a chance, has worked every time to lift people's spirits. And that's the ideology based upon liberty, the chance for people to live in a free and open society.
And it's hard work. And this war is on a multiple of fronts. One front is Afghanistan. And the front that is consuming the American people right now is Iraq. And I fully understand how tough it is on our psyche. I fully understand that when you watch the violence on TV every night, people are saying, is it worth it? Can we accomplish an objective? Well, first, I want to tell you, yes, we can accomplish and win this fight in Iraq. And secondly, I want to tell you, we must, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren.
You know, I was very optimistic at the end of '05 when 12 million Iraqis went to the polls. I know it seems like a decade ago. It wasn't all that long ago that, when given a chance, 12 million people voted. I wasn't surprised, but I was pleased -- let me put it to you that way. I wasn't surprised because one of the principles on which I make decisions is that I believe in the universality of freedom. I believe that freedom belongs to every man, woman and child on the face of the Earth. As a matter of fact, to take it a step further, I believe it is a gift from an Almighty to every man, woman and child on the face of the Earth. And therefore, I wasn't surprised when people, when given the chance, said, I want to be free. I was pleased that 12 million defied the car bombers and killers to vote.
Our policy at that point in time was to get our force posture in such a position, is that we would train the Iraqis so they would take the fight to those who would stop the advance of democracy, and that we'd be in a position to keep the territorial integrity in place, and chase down the extremists. That was our policy. We didn't get there in 2006 because a thinking enemy -- in this case, we believe al Qaeda, the same people that attacked us in America -- incited serious sectarian violence by blowing up a holy religious site of the Shia. And then there was this wave of reprisal.
And I had a decision to make. Some of Steve's colleagues -- good, decent, patriotic people -- believed the best thing for the United States to do at that point was to step back and to kind of let the violence burn out in the capital of Iraq. I thought long and hard about that. I was deeply concerned that violence in the capital would spill out into the countryside. I was deeply concerned that one of the objectives of al Qaeda -- and by the way, al Qaeda is doing most of the spectacular bombings, trying to incite sectarian violence. The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is the crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims, trying to stop the advance of a system based upon liberty.
And I was concerned that the chaos would more enable them to -- more likely enable them to achieve their stated objective, which is to drive us out of Iraq so they could have a safe haven from which to launch their ideological campaign and launch attacks against America. That's what they have said. The killers who came to America have said, with clarity, we want you out of Iraq so we can have a safe haven from which to attack again.
I think it's important for the Commander-in-Chief to listen carefully to what the enemy says. They thrive on chaos. They like the turmoil. It enables them to more likely achieve their objectives. What they can't stand is the advance of an alternative ideology that will end up marginalizing them.
So I looked at consequences of stepping back -- the consequences not only for Iraq, but the consequences for an important neighborhood for the security of the United States of America. What would the Iranians think about America if we stepped back in the face of this extremist challenge? What would other extremists think? What would al Qaeda be able to do? They'd be able to recruit better and raise more money from which to launch their objectives. Failure in Iraq would have serious consequences for the security of your children and your grandchildren.
And so I made the decision, rather than pulling out of the capital, to send more troops in the capital, all aimed at providing security, so that an alternative system could grow. I listened to the commanders that would be running the operation -- in this case, the main man is a man named General David Petraeus -- a smart, capable man, who gives me his candid advice. His advice, Mr. President, is we must change the mission to provide security for the people in the capital city of Iraq, as well as in Anbar Province, in order for the progress that the 12 million people who voted can be made. That's why we've done what we've done.
And we just started. He got all the troops there a couple of weeks ago. He asked for 20,000-some troops, and I said, if that's what you need, Commander, that's what you got. And they just showed up. And they're now beginning operations in full.
And in Washington, you got people saying, stop. And here's my attitude about this -- and I understand there's a debate, and there ought to be a debate in our democracy, and I welcome it. I welcome a good, honest debate about the consequences of failure, the consequences of success in this war. But I believe that it's in this nation's interest to give the commander a chance to fully implement his operations. And I believe Congress ought to wait for General Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before they make any decisions. That's what the American people expect. They expect for military people to come back and tell us how the military operations are going.
And that's the way I'm going to play it, as the Commander-in-Chief. I'll be glad to discuss different options -- the truth of the matter is, I felt like we could be in a different position at the end of 2005. I believe we can be in a different position in a while, and that would be to have enough troops there to guard the territorial integrity of that country, enough troops there to make sure that al Qaeda doesn't gain safe haven from which to be able to launch further attacks against the United States of America, enough troops to be embedded and to help train the Iraqis to do their job.
But we couldn't get there without additional troops. And now I call upon the United States Congress to give General David Petraeus a chance to come back and tell us whether his strategy is working. And then we can work together on a way forward.
In the meantime, the Iraqis have got to do more work. This coming week I'll be presenting to the Congress a list of some of the accomplishments and some of the shortfalls of their political process. They've asked us to report on 18 different benchmarks. That's what the Congress said in this last supplemental spending bill; they said, come back here in mid-July and give us an interim report as to whether or not any progress is being made in Iraq. And that's what we'll be doing. So at the end of this week you'll see a progress report on what's been happening in Iraq -- and then in September, a final report on the benchmarks that I accepted and that Congress passed.
And so that's the challenge facing the country. And it's a necessary -- in my judgment, it's necessary work. I wouldn't ask a mother or a dad -- I wouldn't put their son in harm's way if I didn't believe this was necessary for the security of the United States and peace of the world. And I strongly believe it. And I strongly believe we will prevail. And I strongly believe that democracy will trump totalitarianism every time. That's what I believe. And those are the belief systems on which I'm making decisions that I believe will yield the peace.
You know, it's really interesting in my position -- I obviously have a unique view of things at times. And one of the most interesting views that I've been able to -- of history that I've been able to really focus on is our relationship with Japan. I've told this story a lot because I find it to be very ironic.
When my dad was a young guy, right out of high school, he joined the United States Navy, became a Navy torpedo bomber pilot and fought the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy of the United States of America. And he, like a lot of other young people, gave it their all. And a lot of people died on both sides of the war. As a matter of fact, it was -- the Japanese, as you rightly know, was the last major attack on the United States, prior to September the 11th, 2001. Some 60 years later, I'm at the table, talking about the peace with the Japanese Prime Minister, Prime Minister Koizumi.
I find that to be an inspiring story and a hopeful story. It's a story about the ability of liberty to transform enemies into allies. It's a story about the ability for those who fought to become partners in peace. Prime Minister Koizumi, and now Prime Minister Abe, are close friends of mine in the international arena. We talk about the spread of democracy in the troubled part of the world because we both have seen the effects of democracy in our own relationship.
I've got great faith in the power of liberty to transform the world for the sake of peace. And the fundamental question facing our country is, will we keep that faith?
Thanks for letting me come and visit with you. And now, I'll be glad to answer some questions. (Applause.)
Main guy, first question. Sure, okay. (Laughter.)
Q Well, this may seem like it was rigged, Mr. President, but there are --
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. There have been a few rigged questions in my day. (Laughter.) I'm not telling you which way they were rigged, though. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, like this world-class health care institution, NASA Glenn is one of the crown jewels, along with the talented people there, in our new economy crown. As you know, we recently won the crew exploration vehicle contract. We're very happy about that. Given all the competing demands for resources in Washington, what kind of funding do you see for NASA and its mission going forward?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. That's an awkward question to ask a Texan. (Laughter.) I think that NASA needed to become relevant in order to be -- to justify the spending of your money, and therefore, I helped changed the mission from one of orbiting in a space shuttle -- in a space station to one of becoming a different kind of group of explorers. And therefore, we set a new mission, which is to go to the moon and set up a launching there from which to further explore space.
And the reason I did that is, I do want to make sure the American people stay involved with -- or understand the relevance of this exploration. I'm a big -- I support exploration, whether it be the exploration of new medicine -- that would be like NIH grants -- the exploration of space through NASA. I can't give you the exact level of funding.
I would argue with you that we got a lot of money in Washington -- not argue, I'll just tell you, we got a lot of money in Washington. (Laughter.) And we need to make sure we set priorities with that money. One of the problems we have in Washington is that unlike the books I saw at the hospital -- of which, you're on the board -- that said "results", we're not very good about measuring results when we spend your money. A lot of time the program sound nice; a lot of time the results don't match the intentions.
So one of the things I've tried to do through the OMB is to be results-oriented, and when programs don't meet results, we try to eliminate them. And that's hard to do. Isn't it, Steve? Yes. But, no -- I believe in exploration, space exploration. And we changed the mission to make it relevant. Thanks.
Q Mr. President, I'm originally from Pakistan.
THE PRESIDENT: Pakistan, good.
Q When I travel there, my friends over here say that I'm crazy to go back --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q And when I'm there, the people over there say I'm crazy to go back. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You're like in between a rock and a hard place, brother --
Q That's right, that's right. My question for you is, what are we doing with public diplomacy to change the minds and the hearts of a billion and a half Muslims around the world?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I appreciate that, great question. First let me say that I'm confident your answer is, I love living in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave; the country where you can come and ask the President a question and a country where -- are you Muslim? --
THE PRESIDENT: -- where you can worship your religion freely. It's a great country where you're able to do that. (Applause.) Have you made a living?
Q Yes, I do --
THE PRESIDENT: A country where can come and make a living regardless of your background. (Laughter.) Seriously. It's a great thing about America. If you dream and work, you can achieve. And we need to keep it that way.
His question is a good question. A lot of people in the Muslim world believe that the United States is at war with Islam; that the response to the attack on our country was one where we attacked somebody based upon their religion. And I, for one, obviously need to battle that image, because we're not facing religious people, we're facing people whose hearts are filled with hate, who have subverted a great religion.
Most Muslims reject the kind of violence perpetuated on innocent people by al Qaeda. I happen to believe -- I just don't believe they're religious people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives.
So step one is to make it clear that we reject radical and extremism and murderers, not reject a great religion. Step two is to encourage people like you to go to Pakistan. You're more credible than I am amongst your pals there. You can say, "You're not going to believe America. You're not going to believe the country, where people from all different backgrounds, all walks of life, can live in freedom."
And I don't exaggerate to you, because the best diplomacy we have is when citizens travel overseas and/or people come here to America. One of the problems we faced when it came to diplomacy, public diplomacy, right after 9/11 is we shut her down. You couldn't get in this country, particularly, perhaps if you were from Pakistan. I mean, this country said, whoa, we got a new world, and, therefore, it was, stop a lot of student visas. You might remember some of the kids that flew those airplanes were on -- here as students. And we did what most Americans expected us to do -- made sure we inventoried where we were so we could best protect the American people.
And we've learned a lot since then. So I'm pleased to report to you that, working with Condi -- and it's her main responsibility -- is that we've got now more students coming to America from other countries, but through a much better screening process. I can't think of a better way to help change people's attitudes about America than having them come here and see for themselves.
One of the big issues we have, of course, is the public airways. There's a lot of television stations in the Middle East who spread some of this propaganda. It's easy to kick America around. And Karen Hughes is now the head of public diplomacy in the State Department, and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to counter the false and negative message about America with the true story of our country.
And so we're on a multiple of fronts -- visits, exchanges, better messaging. We've got to be careful about our language here -- and I am. As a matter of fact, interestingly enough, right after September the 11th, one of the first places I went was to a mosque -- or, actually, an Islamic Center there in Washington, D.C. I went back to the same center 50 years later -- 50 years after Eisenhower -- Ike -- dedicated it, to send a message about America.
But we've got a lot of work to do on that front. It's a great question. Pakistan, by the way, is a -- Musharraf is a strong ally in the war against these extremists. I like him and I appreciate him. I'm, of course, constantly working with him to make sure that democracy continues to advance in Pakistan. He's been a valuable ally in rejecting extremists. And that's important, to cultivate those allies.
See, again I repeat to you -- and this is hard for some Americans to understand -- we are at the beginning stages of a major ideological struggle that will affect the security of the United States. And it's a struggle between moderation and extremists. It's a struggle between radicals who kill and rational people who want to live in peace.
Most Muslim mothers want their children to grow up in peace; they're just like mothers in the United States. There's some universal characteristics of people. And the fundamental question facing us as a country is, will we have wise policies that confront these extremists? And the first step toward wise policy is recognizing they exist and we're at war with them.
Look, I spend a lot of time thinking about this issue. That's what you pay me to do. And I'm briefed every day about threats on the homeland. And you should be grateful to -- for the fact that there are a lot of good, good, honorable people, either at home or overseas, doing everything in their power to protect you.
I wish I could report that this thing, this threat, this struggle, is going to end shortly -- it's not. That doesn't mean we have to have kinetic action all the time. But it does mean America must not lose faith in our values and lose sight of our purpose. And that's going to be the challenge facing this country.
I'm worried about isolationism. I'm worried about people saying, it's not worth it anymore, it's too hard; let it happen over there, it's not going to affect us. It will affect us. And, frankly, I'm worried about protectionism, where people say, it's too hard to trade, let's just wall ourselves off from the rest of the world.
Anyway, it's a long answer to a good question.
Q Mr. President, I know immigration has been a big problem in the U.S., and what is your next step with the immigration bill?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks. (Laughter.) I view it as -- no, it's a great question. No, I appreciate that. Actually, I view it as a great opportunity. And thank you very much for that question. As you know, I've had a difference of opinion with people in both political parties on this issue. I felt like now is the time to address the immigration issue and not just pass it on and hope it gets better.
I believe in rule of law, and therefore, I know that the federal government needs to enforce law. One law is -- one part of the law is, don't sneak into our country. And therefore, we have been aggressive at border security, which is making sure we modernize our border. You've probably never been down there; I grew up down there. It's a big border. And it's really long, and in parts of it, between Arizona and Mexico, you don't know where the border is. There's no -- it's like desert.
Secondly, there is a powerful force in the world, and it's called parenthood. And when you're poor, and you got mouths to feed, and you got an opportunity to put some money on the table, food on the table, you're going to come, if you can see that opportunity. And you'll do everything you can to get here to put food on the table. I used to say, family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River.
And so you shouldn't be surprised that a whole industry has sprung up where people get stuck in the back of an 18-wheeler, or -- and come to work. That troubles a lot of Americans; I understand. What I'm telling you is, it's hard to enforce this border, but we're doing a better job of doing it.
I happen to believe the best way to really enforce the border, however, is to recognize that people are coming to do work Americans aren't doing, and therefore, there ought to be a way for people to do so in a rational way. That's why I supported what's called a temporary worker plan that said, you can come and do a job an American is not doing, on a temporary basis, so you don't have to sneak across the border. In other words, one way to take pressure off the border is to have a way for people to come here on a temporary basis legally.
Now, Steve was telling me -- I was telling Steve -- we're doing a good job, by the way. If you notice in the papers today, the arrests are down. In other words, fewer people are coming. Last year, by the way, we arrested and sent back across over a million people. In other words, there's a lot of action down there. It may not look like it or sound like it on your radios or TVs, but there's a lot of work going on.
There's a lot of nursery people up here in this part of the world, I understand. But one of these days, these nursery people are going to say, we can't continue to grow our business because we can't find the workers. Americans are -- I don't know what the proper terminology is for nursery worker -- pruning, we'll try pruning. (Laughter.) Planting, planting. Starts with a P. (Laughter.) The question is, can they find enough workers? I was talking to a fellow today at lunch -- he said, we need more high-skilled workers here in Cleveland, H1B visas.
The system isn't working, is what I'm telling you -- it's a great question, by the way -- the system -- and I'm glad you asked it -- the system isn't working. And I felt it needed to be fixed, and went to Congress -- and, by the way, the other question is, what do you do with the 12 million people already here? There's 12 million people, they estimate, here illegally. Some of them have been here a long time. Some of them been good citizens; you may even know some of them. They've raised kids. Some of the kids were born here, went to college -- good, productive citizens in America. What do you do with them? Kick them out? I didn't think that was practical. Matter of fact, I know it's not practical. Or you make them a citizen off the bat? No, you don't do that. That's called amnesty. That says, okay, fine, you broke the law, you get rewarded. You can't have that kind of system.
And so I supported a system that said, you pay a fine if you've been here that long, you show you're not a criminal, you show you paid your taxes, you go back home to touch base, to apply for the right to get in line -- not ahead of somebody who has been trying to get here legally, but in line.
Anyway, it didn't work. And we'll have to see whether or not the forces that recognize we've got to do something for the sake of the economy and sake of the border continue to mount, because there wasn't the political will in Washington to get anything done on a comprehensive basis. And that's what happens sometimes in politics.
One of the things I try to remind people in Congress is this -- I've told this story a lot, as well. You get stuck on a story when you're President, you generally stay on it. Anyway, I was at the Coast Guard Academy, giving a graduation speech there. And the number one guy in the class, his grandfather was a migrant worker from Mexico. And he talked with such unbelievable pride about a country where a fellow can come to do jobs Americans weren't doing, to work, and here his grandson is, speaking in front of the President, talking about a bright future.
We should never lose confidence in the ability for this great country to assimilate people into our culture. I think it's healthy that people come to America with a dream. I think it's healthy that people say, just give me a chance, and I'll work my heart out so a next generation can succeed.
And so, in my line of work, ma'am, you just lay out what you think is right. I'm not the kind of fellow to tell you -- I don't run focus groups and polls to tell me what I think is right. I try to lead -- (applause) -- I felt it was the right thing to do. It didn't work, but I'm glad I tried, because when it's all said and done, I'll be able to look in the mirror and say, you came and you did what you thought was the right thing for the country. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, I have an organization that has supported the captive nations of the world for 48 years. And our members are sincerely interested in this visa waiver program for friendly countries --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q -- so people could visit their relatives and friends on a shorter basis, like 30 days, 60 days. Are you in favor of this?
THE PRESIDENT: Great question. Are you from the Baltics? You are?
Q Sort of. I'm of Polish decent.
THE PRESIDENT: Polish decent. Well, that's right. Here's the thing she's talking about: In the Soviet era, we had a different visa policy with Soviet countries than we did with, say, Western European countries. And the danger -- not the danger -- the issue was -- I take it back, not danger -- the issue was that people would come and overstay their visas. In other words, people would say, I'm coming to travel and visit, but, in fact, they were coming to stay. And therefore, there was an accountability system in place that's been in place for a long time.
Fast-forward to today. Polish troops helped us liberate Iraq, and yet the citizens that supported a government that helped us liberate Iraq aren't treated the same as citizens from other allies.
And so, to answer your question, yes, I am for changing the visa waiver policy for Poland and countries like Poland. And every time I go -- as you know, I was in Poland -- you may not know -- I was in Poland the last trip, and the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria and Albania. And they wanted to know, question one is, when are you going to treat us like everybody else in the European Union? And my answer was, we're working on a comprehensive immigration bill -- (laughter) -- to address a lot of issues. And that was one of the issue we're trying to address.
In the name of fairness, Condi and I are working on -- with Congress on a new visa waiver program. Great question. (Applause.)
Yes, sir. Go ahead and yell it out.
Q Mr. President, first of all, as a fairly conservative talk show host, I'd like you to please tell Congress to leave the fairness doctrine in the ground where it is.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you -- yes. (Applause.)
Q Second of all, going back to Iraq, sir, you mentioned Muslim mothers want their children to grow up in peace. The children of extremists, however, are being trained right now. We've seen the videos. We have seen the indoctrination -- schoolchildren being indoctrinated to hate Americans and to hate Jews.
THE PRESIDENT: Correct.
Q The next generations of terrorists are already being bred. Isn't is true that regardless of how long it takes to win in Iraq or Afghanistan, the war on terror will never, ever truly be ended?
THE PRESIDENT: I think the strategy -- first of all, I've read a lot of history, and I'm certainly no history expert, but I wonder what the rhetoric would have been like at the beginning of the Cold War. Is it possible people might have speculated -- and again, I can't tell you if this is -- I'm just kind of speculating now -- is it possible people speculated that after the indoctrination of so many children about the wisdom of Marx that this Cold War would ever end?
After Korea, I suspect no one would have predicted what I'm going to tell you now, that after years and years of bloodshed in the Far East, our relations in the Far East are strong not only with Japan, the former enemy, South Korea, ally, but an ally, by the way, that went through a troublesome march to democracy. They're now a democracy, but you might remember that during the period of that change, they went through a pretty strong-handed military government.
We got good relations with China. I don't think in the early '50s anybody would have predicted that the Chinese marketplace would more likely look like what Adam Smith envisioned, rather than Karl Marx, although the political system lags, admittedly. But nevertheless, there's a lot of -- my only point to you is, I don't think people could have seen what life was like.
And so, yes, it's going to be a struggle, you're right, for a lot of reasons. But is it impossible to achieve the marginalization of those who are able to radicalize people? And I think it is. I think it is. And not only I think it is, I think it's necessary.
I believe that forms of government matter. I believe that frustration and hopelessness, because people don't have a sense of future, makes it easier for radical movements and radicals to be able to recruit. That's what I believe. And therefore, that's why I'm such a strong believer in advocating the march of democracy in the Middle East.
And I fully understand that -- this is a very interesting ideological debate -- people call me -- he's a hopeless idealist, they say. But I also think it's realistic to understand, unless we change the conditions of how people live, that it's going to be hard to marginalize those who would prey upon the young. You notice, none of these guys that have given the orders are actually the suicide bombers. That's why they're still giving the orders. But they're able to prey upon young people. And I think a lot of it has to do with education. And no question, we're working with governments such as Musharraf's government to address the madrasas. Education matters a lot, whether it be in helping to eradicate poverty, or helping to deal with radicalism.
But if you live in a society where you have no hope, then you're going to look for another form of false hope. So I happen to think the idea of encouraging people to adopt forms of government that give people hope is in our national interest.
Now, this is a different foreign policy than what we used to espouse here. It used to be, in many ways, what mattered was calm -- apparent calm. What mattered most was stability. Let's have a foreign policy that promotes stability, to make sure we get plenty of cheap energy, as well.
After September the 11th, I came to the conclusion that such a foreign policy promoted instability, because while things might look calm on the surface, beneath the surface broiled frustration and doubt and hopelessness. And so the policy that I advocate is one that promotes democracy as an alternative in this ideological struggle, all aiming to marginalize the recruiters and give hope to the recruitees. And do I believe it can work? I do. That's why I told you the Japanese story.
History has been -- liberty prevails every time, if we stay with it, if you think about history. Think about Europe. There were two major wars on the continent of Europe, and today Europe is whole, free, and at peace. Why? Because forms of government matter. And it's in our interest -- and I've said this once, I'll say it again -- it's in our interest not to lose faith in certain fundamental values.
And it's hard work, particularly hard work given the fact that we live in this world in which news and imagery travels instantly. The enemy knows that. The interesting thing, they know a lot about us in America. They know we're kind-hearted, decent people who value human life. And they understand that Americans will recoil from the violence on our TV screens. That's what they know. And I know -- or I strongly believe that if we recoil and leave the region, with precipitous withdrawals, or withdrawals not based upon conditions on the ground, it's going to get worse, not better. And my attitude is, now is the time to do the hard work so your children can more likely grow up in peace.
That's what I believe, sir, and that's why I'm making my decisions. (Applause.)
A couple more, then you're paying me a lot of money and I've got to go back to work. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir.
Q -- Republican Presidents, going back to the Nixon administration, have strongly favored Indian self-determination.
THE PRESIDENT: India?
Q American Indian self-determination and first-nation communities. And it seems like the conservative court, however, has been consistently eroding that self-determination. What has your administration -- what position does your administration take with respect to sovereignty and Native American rights?
THE PRESIDENT: Very interesting question. I believe in the sovereignty of the Indian nations. Far be it for me to second-guess court decisions. On the other hand, I will continue to put judges who strictly interpret the Constitution, and not legislate from the bench. (Applause.) But I do support the notion of sovereignty. It's really interesting.
Yes, sir. You're next, after him.
Q Sorry about that. Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Doc.
Q -- I'm a pediatrician at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital across the street.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Nutritionist?
Q Pediatrician, yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Pediatrician.
Q Yes, sir. Returning to a domestic item --
THE PRESIDENT: Must feel good to be a healer.
Q It is, sir. Thank you. Good to serve. One of the things that we're passionate about in pediatrics now, both at Rainbow and across the nation, is disaster preparedness and disaster response, specifically the needs of children. Could you comment, Mr. President, on how well-prepared we are as a nation for, God forbid, the next Katrina, or pandemic flu, or some such calamity?
THE PRESIDENT: We learned a lot of lessons from Katrina. Lesson one is, is that we've got to make sure local governments are better prepared to respond. Lesson two is that there's seamless decision-making between the state and local government. And lesson three is, is that if need be, the federal government needs to move troops in there, regardless of what the local people want.
We are better prepared, and drill it a lot. Great question. The more difficult question is his question on pandemic flu. I asked Mike Leavitt, who is the head of HHS, and Chertoff -- he's the Homeland guy -- Department of Homeland Security -- (laughter) -- Secretary of Homeland Security. (Laughter.) In Crawford, we kind of shortcut it. (Laughter.) Anyway, look, nobody has accused me of being Shakespeare, you know? (Laughter.) Anyway -- I just hope you can figure out what I'm saying -- (laughter) -- is we spend a lot of time on pandemic flu. One way you anticipate a crisis is you kind of war-game it.
The first -- I'm going to try to see if I can remember as much to make it sound like I'm smart on the subject. I actually spend a lot of time on it, because I am concerned that if a pandemic flu -- the H5N1 virus were to mutate to the point where it becomes transmittable from bird to human to human, we'll have a significant international problem on our hands. So step one is to work with countries where the virus is more likely to show up and mutate on transparent information systems.
When I went to Vietnam, one of the things we looked at was the Vietnamese reporting process of the detection of chicken viruses, and whether or not that virus was mutating to the point where it could become infectious. And we've done a good job of that. As a matter of fact, at the APEC -- which is the countries around the Pacific Rim -- meeting, the last two meetings and this next one I'm going to in Australia, I always make it a point to talk about the need for all of us to be in a position where we can share information and track the mutation of the virus.
The issue, as you know, is that there is no, like, inoculation that will stop the spread. Yet we're spending a lot of money on trying to develop new vaccines, based not upon eggs, but on genetics. And Leavitt says we're making some pretty good progress.
Thirdly, just in case it were to hit here in the United States, we have stockpiled a lot of the spray. What's it called -- anyway -- Tamiflu. It may work, may not work. But just in case it does work, we got a lot of stockpile for you. (Laughter.) We do -- as a way to try to, at least, arrest somewhat the spread of the disease.
But the ultimate effect -- and this is what the dangerous thing about this is -- is the ultimate public policy decisions are going to be, do we shut down America? Do you say that nobody can come in and out of your city? Or do you shut down all air travel? And so we've war-gamed a lot of options. And Mike has traveled the country -- Mike Leavitt -- to state and local government to help them think through different procedures that would be necessary to try to halt the spread of this virus if it were to mutate.
For example, how would a local community deal with schools? We happen to believe that the local response would be a better response than the federal government trying to one-size-fits-all each community's response. And that, as you know -- there's different responses to different hurricanes that have hit, and so it would be a little uneven. And so we're trying to train as best as we can and war-game it out. It's a very interesting question you got.
I would give us a "A" for recognizing that we need to think about it. And until we get this vaccine -- and by the way, we do have it teed up pretty well, where the vaccine makers would be willing to go full production if we can find a proper vaccine to manufacture. We're spending a lot of money on it at NIH -- through NIH. I'd give us good marks for recognizing the issue, good marks for doing something about it, and -- I can't tell you what marks we'll get in response, because, thankfully, we haven't had to respond, but we're watching carefully.
Yes, sir. Good question.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. If you talk to a lot of neighborhood folks here in Cleveland, they'll say that there's a war on terror brewing in our neighborhoods with an increase in crime over the past few months.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q What are your thoughts on how we can improve opportunity, and decrease crime in urban areas to make Cleveland an international metropolis?
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks. Yes, great question. First of all, there is -- crime is rising in some communities -- under some crime, like, I think it was 1 percent last year. No question that -- look, I'm an education guy, let me just put it bluntly. I don't see how you can provide a hopeful future for a child if the child can't read, write, add and subtract. That's pretty elementary. But it doesn't happen enough. And therefore, I strongly support accountability in public schools. I happen to believe that it is a huge advance in promoting opportunity.
See, when I was the governor of Texas, I was appalled at the number of schools that just shuffled kids through and hoped that they learned something. And then you know what happened -- we get about the 9th or 10th grade, and, lo and behold, they can't read. And oops, it's a little late. Too bad, just go on through. It's much easier, by the way, to give up on a kid early and just kind of socially promote. And so I insisted, as governor of Texas, and then working with people like Steve LaTourette, to change the way the federal government deals with education.
Now, I believe strongly in local control of schools. I believe you ought to chart the paths to excellence here. I believe that the government closest to the people governs best, because you're most responsive to the needs of your particular community. That's what I believe. However, I also believe that if the federal government spends money, we have the right to ask whether or not certain objectives are being met.
And so, inherent in No Child Left Behind is a solid demand by results-oriented people who want to know whether or not an inner-city kid can read at grade level by the 3rd grade. I don't think that's too much to ask, to set a standard and have expectations that must be met, in return for federal money. Matter of fact, I think that is the way to make sure that -- I used to call it this way -- "challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations."
Let's just face it -- let me finish here -- let's just face it, let's be honest about our ourselves. There is a mind-set at time that certain kids are too hard to educate. Maybe the mother or daddy doesn't speak English as the first language; or inner-city kids, as if there's no inherent God-given talent that, if properly motivated, can enable that kid to excel.
And so I strongly believe it's in the national interest to say, we expect you to read -- unless, of course, you happen to believe they can't. I'm a high expectations person. I believe if you set low expectations, you know what you're going to get? You're going to get low results. I believe every child can learn. That's what I believe. And I believe that governments ought to expect to have good results.
And so, inherent in this education proposal, which is now the law -- which, frankly, has irritated a lot of people -- it just has. That's what happens when you hold people to account -- that I think it makes sense to say, no excuses, we want you to read. And we want you to read not only at the 3rd grade, but at the 4th grade, and at the 5th grade, and at the 6th grade, and at the 7th grade. And we're going to test to make sure you do.
You design the test -- if you believe in local control of schools, the test ought to be designed and they ought to be rigorous. And by the way, if you're a poor inner-city student, and you can't read at grade level, we will use that diagnostic tool to provide you additional money, to make sure that you get the help that you need in order to make sure you're not left behind.
And, frankly, I don't care if that parent spends that money at the public school, or a church, or a private tutor; all I want is to make sure that that child gets the extra help he or she needs to make sure that the next time they test on reading or math, they're at grade level. (Applause.) No, wait, let me finish. I'm not through yet, because you got me started on something I strongly believe in. (Laughter.)
And if the school won't change, nor teach, I believe parents ought to be given different options. We shouldn't have a school system that locks people into persistent failure, if you're interested in changing the dynamics of an inner-city, for example.
You know, we did something in Washington very interesting -- that I found interesting, at least. We have now got a scholarship program, opportunity scholarships. See, the federal government funds the D.C. city and -- a lot of the D.C. city and the schools, and so we can do this in Washington. So we have opportunity scholarships that go to poorer parents, where the parent can take that money and send their child to a parochial school, or a private school. The line is out the door. It's amazing what happens when you give parents options.
Part of the accountability system, by the way, enables parents to understand reality, as well. When I was governor, I talked to a lot of parents, and they say, man, my child's school is great; I'm real happy with the school, Governor, we're doing great. And then all of a sudden the test scores get posted, and if the school isn't meeting expectations compared to the other schools, the parent might say, well, maybe the school is not doing so good, and they start getting involved.
And so step one of your question is, let's get it right early. I believe strongly in after-school programs. I believe that we've got to change the aspirational notions of some our children that college is a good thing to do, and that success is available for people who go to college. And community colleges -- I'm a big believer in community colleges. I think that's part of having a hopeful tomorrow for inner-city -- or not inner-city -- to know that college is available. That's why I'm a big supporter, strong supporter of Pell Grants as a way to encourage kids to go to college.
I am concerned about a society that has not -- a part of our society that hasn't accumulated assets. It's interesting, a lot of us have grown up in a world in which asset accumulation, savings, has been an integral part of our societies. In parts of Cleveland, I suspect, people don't have assets. They haven't had the capacity or the willing -- or the ability to save money. That's why I believe that when we reform Social Security, that we ought to give people the option of setting aside some of their own money they've earned in the Social Security system as a savings account that can earn compound interest, just like money that we put in our own savings account. I want people to own assets. One of the big reasons I've pushed home ownership is I like the idea of encouraging and fostering independence by ownership.
And so -- and finally, one way to help inner-city youth -- this is a subject I've thought a lot about -- is to encourage the involvement of faith-based and community-based programs in the compassionate delivery of love and help. And that's a different idea for a welfare system, see. I am a big believer in the ability of faith-based programs to help change people's lives. I, for one, believe that a faith-based program can help people quit drinking -- me, for starters. I believe that there is nothing more powerful than a mentor putting an arm around a child who needs love and says, I love you. Many of the faith-based programs are full of people who are in the program in the first place because they believe in the universal admonition, to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.
And therefore, one of the initiatives that I have put forth in Washington, that is quite controversial, is that we ought to open up programs, federal money to faith-based programs, so long as, one, they don't proselytize, and two, so long as they help meet a social objective. Why shouldn't we say that we ought to be spending your taxpayers' money on programs to help inner-city kids, regardless of what the delivery system is? Why shouldn't we say faith-based programs, that many times are able to go into neighborhoods that other programs aren't able to go into -- why shouldn't we empower them to help people realize in life that there may be a better path than the path one may be tempted to go down?
So there's a comprehensive agenda. My dream is for all of us to feel that the promise of America belongs to them. And it's a great country. It is, it's a fabulous country. I know people are frustrated and people get concerned. But I would hope we would all keep things in perspective and realize what a fantastic nation we have.
When you really compare our life here, compared to the lives of others around the world, we're blessed. To that end, to whom much is given, much is required. And that's why we're in the lead when it comes to solving the pandemic of HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa, and working to end malaria. These are two achievable objectives. One is to get antiretrovirals into the hands of people who suffer. And American taxpayers have been incredibly generous, and it ought to make you feel good about a country that is willing to say, I see suffering, and I want to help. In other words, we're working on suffering at home, and we ought to work on suffering abroad, as well.
I'm asking Congress for $30 billion. It's double the HIV/AIDS initiative that we've got in place. But let me tell you an interesting statistic. When we first got going on the initiative in 2003, I think it was, 50,000 people were getting antiretrovirals in the countries that we were working in. Today, over 1.2 million people's lives have been saved because of the generosity of the American taxpayer.
And now we're on an initiative to end malaria, or cut it at least in half, in affected countries around the world. Should we be doing that as a country? The answer is, absolutely, we should be. And the reason why is, is that we're a blessed nation. And we've become even doubly blessed by helping others be able to deal with disease and realize the blessings of an Almighty. That's what I believe.
Listen, I got to hop. Thanks for your time. God bless. (Applause.) END 2:59 P.M. EDT
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 9, 2007
Fact Sheet: White House Conference on the Americas Advancing The Cause Of Social Justice In The Americas
"In the coming months, this Administration will convene a White House conference on the Western Hemisphere that will bring together representatives from the private sector, and non-governmental organizations, and faith-based groups and volunteer associations. The purpose is to share experiences and discuss effective ways to deliver aid and build the institutions necessary for strong civil society."
- President George W. Bush, 3/5/07
Today, President And Mrs. Bush Are Hosting A Conference On The Americas To Highlight United States Engagement And Discuss More Effective Ways To Deliver Aid And Strengthen Civil Society. With the theme of "Advancing the Cause of Social Justice in the Americas," the conference includes representatives of approximately 150 regional-based organizations and 100 United States-based groups. It focuses on sharing lessons learned on how to promote education, healthcare, and economic opportunity at the grassroots level, and public-private partnerships throughout the hemisphere.
The Administration Has Launched New Initiatives This Year To Meet Basic Healthcare Needs, Expand Economic Opportunities, And Invest In Education In The Western Hemisphere
1) Meeting Basic Healthcare Needs
The U.S. Has Provided Over $950 Million To Improve Healthcare In The Western Hemisphere Since 2001.
The President Directed The USNS Comfort – A Medical Ship – To Begin A Four-Month Deployment To Provide Medical Care To 12 Latin American And Caribbean Nations. The Comfort deployed in June and has made stops in Belize and Guatemala. It is also scheduled to stop in Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname. Its medical professionals plan to treat 85,000 patients and conduct up to 1,500 surgeries.
In June, Health And Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt Inaugurated A Healthcare Training Center In Panama. Already, 100 healthcare professionals from six countries in the region have attended the first two courses, and another 50 students will be trained in September.
Today, Mrs. Bush Announced The Launch Of The Partnership For Breast Cancer Awareness And Research Of The Americas. This initiative will unite experts from the United States, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico in the fight against breast cancer, which is the most common cause of cancer-related death for women worldwide. The partnership joins the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the U.S government. These partners will work to build capacity in the region by increasing research, training, and community outreach efforts and by helping women build the knowledge and confidence to take charge of their own health.
2) Expanding Economic Opportunity
The United States Is Assisting In Building A Market For Affordable Housing In Latin America. This year, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has already approved $305 million in financing to help underwrite mortgages and build homes in our hemisphere. Also, OPIC is currently planning to support more than $250 million in additional financing this year to help provide low and middle income residential home mortgage loans and home construction loans in ten Latin American countries. Through OPIC, for example, the U.S. provided $10 million in financing to help underwrite mortgages that will benefit low and middle income families in Nicaragua.
In June, The Commerce Department Hosted the First-Ever Americas Competitiveness Forum. Nine hundred participants from more than 30 countries discussed ways to make the Americas more competitive in the international marketplace. Follow-on meetings are scheduled in the hemisphere later this year.
The Treasury Department Has Unveiled A Plan To Help U.S. And Regional Banks Improve Their Ability To Extend Loans To Small Businesses In Latin America. The plan will open new opportunities for small businesses to grow. Increasing access to capital throughout the Americas will help entrepreneurs create new jobs and opportunity for their fellow citizens.
Last Week, The Treasury Department Announced A New Latin American And Caribbean Initiative To Catalyze Private Finance For Infrastructure. The United States will partner with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, to create a program to catalyze private investment in infrastructure in Latin America. This initial $17.5 million infrastructure project development program will include a $4.6 million U.S. contribution and a $1.9 million contribution from Brazil.
The President Calls On Congress To Take Action On The Peru Free Trade Agreement Before The August Recess And Move Forward Quickly To Approve Pending Agreements With Panama, Colombia, And South Korea. On May 10, the Administration and Congress reached agreement on a path forward for our pending free trade agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Congress must now show good faith by taking action on these agreements.
3) Investing In Education
In March, The President Announced A New $75 Million Initiative To Help More Young People Learn English And Study In The United States. The Administration has already provided an initial $1.5 million for this initiative, which will enable 120 undergraduate student leaders to study in the U.S., starting in January 2008. The program will provide the students with a deeper understanding of U.S. society and culture, while enhancing their leadership skills.
The U.S. Has Provided More Than $150 Million For Education Programs In The Western Hemisphere Since 2004.
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For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 9, 2007
President Bush Participates in a Conversation on the Americas Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia, 10:30 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks for coming today. In my recent trip down to Central and South America, I told the folks that we were going to host a conference here in Washington, a conference to promote best practices, which really says, how best can the United States help people in our neighborhood.
Laura and I had a magnificent trip to Central and South America. It reminded me of the importance of having a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood. It's in our interests, in the interests of the United States that our neighborhood be healthy and educated. And so this conference is an attempt to bring together key people of my administration and faith-based groups and private sector groups from the United States, as well as our neighborhood, to discuss how we can work together to promote social justice, to help people realize a better life through good education and good health care.
I do thank members of my administration who have joined us. I understand after this event there's going to be a series of breakout groups, led by members of my Cabinet -- Hank Paulson is here, the Secretary of the Treasury. As a matter of fact, he's heading down to, I think, Brazil tomorrow. Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce, will be leading a group. Mike Leavitt will lead a breakout session -- he's the Secretary of Health and Human Services. And then Margaret Spellings, who is the Secretary of Education. I think you're going to find these folks to be concerned, compassionate Americans who care about the lives of our citizens in our neighborhood. And I appreciate them, certainly.
And then you get a speech from my wife, which is like really smart to have her speak. (Laughter.) You're stuck with the B team right now, and then the A team will be coming for -- (laughter.)
I want to thank all the folks who have joined us. Thanks for coming. As you can see, we've got an interesting way of making a variety of points. What I hope to accomplish at this breakout session is to, first, explain to our fellow citizens how important it is that the United States be active in the neighborhood in which we live.
Secondly -- and, by the way, thanks, ambassadors, for coming. I appreciate you all being here. It's very kind of you to take time out of your busy schedules to be here. We're honored you're here. Secondly, it's important for us -- for me to explain to our fellow citizens some of the work we're doing in the neighborhood. I think our citizens will be pleased to know, for example, that we're working very hard to get trade agreements through our Congress, because the best way to help defeat poverty is to encourage commerce and trade.
We've got trade agreements we've reached with Peru and Panama and Colombia. It's really important for the United States Congress to pass these trade agreements. If you're interested in prosperity in our neighborhood, if you want to help improve the lives of others, then the United States Congress must honor the agreements we've negotiated with these important countries and pass this legislation.
I'd like to see the Peruvian deal done by the beginning of August. They've got time to get the bill done. Members of Congress have got ample days on the calendar to pass this important piece of legislation, so we can send the clear signal to our neighborhood that we want you to be prosperous; that we want to help you realize your potential through trade with the United States of America. Trade agreements are good for both sides -- it's good for U.S. workers, and it's good for Peruvian, Colombian, or Panamanian workers. And it's in our interest to promote trade.
Secondly, we're doing a lot to promote health. One symbol of our commitment is a Navy medical ship called the Comfort, that is traveling the region, but, more importantly, is providing basic and sophisticated health care to people in need. I mean, the United States, we're strong, no question about it, but our greatest strength is our hearts. Tenemos corazones grandes aqu en este pa s. We care deeply about the plight of other people. And when we see their suffering, we want to help. And the Comfort is a way for us to send a clear message that we care about the people that live in the neighborhood that we occupy together.
You know, Laura and I had an amazing experience in Guatemala. That's Maria's country. We went to the highlands. We first saw a small business guy, who was formerly a subsistence farmer who put together a cooperative of fellow farmers that now have got access to the U.S. markets, and they're making a living. The most important thing was, he said, I'm saving money so my child can get a higher education.
But we also went to an outpost where the U.S. military was providing basic health care for people. Now, we've expanded on that health care initiative by setting up a nurse's training center in Panama. That's what Leavitt will be discussing, Secretary Leavitt. The reason I bring this up is that we understand how important it is for people to have good health. We understand that a healthy society is one that will -- is one in which people will be more likely to realize their full God-given potential. And we want to help, and we want to be involved. And part of our discussions today will be how best to -- how best can the United States and faith-based groups and private groups and NGOs work collaboratively to achieve important objectives.
A third objective is education. As I mentioned, Margaret Spellings will be here. She's the Secretary of Education. But the United States is deeply involved in people-to-people projects, all aimed at improving literacy. We believe strongly in helping teachers teach, and therefore, teacher schools make a lot of sense. But the purpose of the groups today -- of this meeting today is to help us better focus our resources and do a better job of helping people in our neighborhood realize their potential.
I happen to be a person who does believe in an Almighty, and I believe the Almighty implants in each soul great human potential. And it's in our interest to help people realize their full potential. And two ways to do so -- and two practical ways to do so is for the United States to be involved in health issues, as well as education issues, and we are. And we're spending a fair amount of taxpayers' monies to achieve those objectives. And so one of my objectives is to explain to the American people, it's in your interest to help people in our neighborhood become better educated, and it's in your interest that we help people get good health care, because a healthy and educated and prosperous neighborhood is in the long-term interests of the United States.
It is also in our interest to help a neighbor in need. It renews our soul. It lifts our collective spirit. I believe to whom much is given, much is required. We've been given a lot as a nation, and therefore, I believe we're required to help -- help people realize their potential.
So that's why I've come. I've also come to hear some of the folks on our panel. You're probably glad I'm about to quit talking so you can hear some of the folks on the panel, too. We're going to start with Shannon. He's worked for me at the NSC in the White House, now is at the State Department. He is the main guy when it comes to South and Latin America -- I don't know if that's a diplomatic term, "main guy," or not. (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: It works for me, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right. Welcome.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Mr. President, thank you very much, and thank you for being here for this conversation.
This conversation will really frame and inform the rest of this conference. And we have around the table with us today representatives of Mexico, Brazil, Haiti, the United States, and Guatemala. It really does span the Americas, but it also captures the themes that we're going to be talking about today -- expanding economic opportunity, investing in education, strengthening health care, and building public-private partnerships.
And our panelists, I believe, will highlight the dynamism and the hope and the effort that really defines the Americas today. And they're evidence that there is a positive agenda in this hemisphere, and it is a positive agenda that has emerged within our democracies. And they're evidence that there are common values that join us and that there are shared tasks that confront us. And, ultimately, they're evidence that we all respond to the demands of our peoples for respect, dignity and freedom.
Our conversation is about the future of our democracies and the recognition that citizenship in our democracies is not just political; it's also social and economic. And our citizens seek not only a voice in their national destiny, but also the capacity and the opportunity to shape their personal destinies. Our panelists and those who follow today in the different breakout sessions highlight, I believe, the richness of our hemisphere and the potential that can be released when governments listen to and work with their peoples.
Finally, this conversation is evidence that our diplomacy in the Americas, the diplomacy of the United States, is larger than just the diplomacy between states; it is really between and among peoples. And we're working towards an alliance of peoples in the Americas. And, Mr. President, I think this is a great place to start.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you, Thomas.
Before I call on Maria, I do want to say something about our expectations, and that is, we expect governments to be of, and by, and for the people. We don't -- and we expect governments to be honest and transparent and open. We reject the notion that it's okay for there to be corruption in government. We really believe that open, transparent societies are those that lead to hopeful tomorrows.
And so part of our foreign policy -- for example, through the Millennium Challenge Account -- is to set expectations, expectations that most people want: the expectation of a government that invests in the health and education of her people; the expectation that there will be no corruption, that there will be transparency, that people will be able to express themselves in an open forum without fear of reprisal.
And so, no question we want to be involved on the people-to-people programs, but we also have the objective of enhancing good government, as well, which we believe strongly will lead to more hopeful futures.
Anyway, Maria is here. Where are you from, Maria?
MS. PACHECO: I'm from Guatemala.
THE PRESIDENT: Que bueno. Bienvenidos.
MS. PACHECO: Muchas gracias.
THE PRESIDENT: And so what do you do for a living?
MS. PACHECO: In Guatemala, I have a little business incubator. But before I go into that, I just want to say that I'm really happy to be in a country like this, because I think this country represents dreams and represents dreams becoming realities. And I also come here to this country with a dream.
Before I get into that I'd like to tell you a story that --
THE PRESIDENT: Por favor. You speak in English and I'll speak in Spanish. (Laughter.)
MS. PACHECO: Bueno. Esta bien.
THE PRESIDENT: Except I'll ruin the language, and you won't. (Laughter.)
MS. PACHECO: I'm Guatemalan, and in Guatemala in 2001, there was a famine that occurred for the first time. There was a drought in these communities, and there was a coffee crisis. And in the newspaper there were pictures of small girls dying of hunger. And we were able to come to this community and see what was happening and meet the people. And along the road, I met this woman called Dona Santa (phonetic). And she took me to her house, and I go there -- a little palm house -- there's a little boy, sick, and I tell her, you know, Dona Santa, why don't you take him to a hospital, he's going to die? And she said, you know, Maria, I have $5 in my pocket. With those, I can try to save this child or I can try to feed the other six for the rest of the month.
But for me, I love this story because it has a happy ending. When we asked Dona Santa, you know, what can we do for you, what do you need? She said, markets. She said, Maria, if you can sell what we produce, the rest we can do on our own.
So that changed the whole way of what our organization was thinking of doing, and we started selling markets. We were able to find an industry that needed packaging, this industry exports products to the world, and they needed a fiber packaging done by hand.
And what we see, five years after this community has had a steady source of income from being connected, is amazing. Like you said, in the community, the women started feeding their children. For the first time, we have kids in the 11th or 12th grade dreaming of going to school. But the most important thing that we saw is what you said: the human potential that was in these women, that seemed to be a problem, just came out through markets. And the pride that you could see in them is really what I think markets are all about.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you a question. So, you started this group initially to -- what's the name of it?
MS. PACHECO: Keij de los Bosques.
THE PRESIDENT: Si. (Laughter.)
MS. PACHECO: It's a Mayan word. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You started it when, in 2001?
MS. PACHECO: In 2004.
THE PRESIDENT: In 2004, good. How many members?
MS. PACHECO: We have -- well, there's 22 people in the company, but we're working now with more than a thousand women in Guatemala in different regions.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. So, lesson one, by the way, there is such thing as social entrepreneurs. It is somebody who says, I'm going to help somebody else, and takes time, talent, energy, and as a result, you're affecting a thousand lives -- a thousand primary interfaces, which affects, no telling, how many lives.
One of the messages, I hope, that comes out of this meeting, is that you can make a difference. It doesn't take much. And as a matter of fact, society has changed one heart at a time, and therefore, if you're one of those persons changing hearts, you're part of societal change for the better.
And so I hope that we can inspire our fellow citizens to become involved with the NGOs or the faith-based groups or the community-based groups, all helping our neighborhood, and hopefully inspire people, like in Guatemala, to step up and do the same thing that Maria has done.
So, are you pretty upbeat? Optimistic? Pessimistic? Tell me how you're looking these days.
MS. PACHECO: I think what we have seen with this community, it gets us really optimistic because with this event, not only the community changed, but the private sector and the government is saying, how can we do more of this on a bigger scale? So I'm really optimistic because what I have seen is that trade can be beautiful -- a trade that recovers ecosystems; a trade that values ancestral cultures; a trade that incorporates people that were outside of the productive sector, for the first time, into a supply chain. I think that kind of trade becomes a very important tool.
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate it. Look, it's very important for my fellow citizens to understand that when we open up markets in a fair way -- in other words, we treat our producers the same as producers in other countries -- it benefits us. It particularly helps lift people out of poverty. And that's what we want. We want people prosperous in your neighborhood. If you're living in a neighborhood, you want there to be prosperity in your neighborhood. So I appreciate you bringing up the importance of markets, and providing -- giving people just a basic opportunities in life, and it will make it -- it's a transforming strategy. And so thanks for coming.
Maria, it says here you're an organic farmer?
MS. PACHECO: Yes, I was an organic farmer for 12 years.
THE PRESIDENT: What were you farming?
MS. PACHECO: I was farming vegetables.
THE PRESIDENT: Vegetables, yes. I'm not big on vegetables, but thanks. (Laughter.)
MS. PACHECO: Broccoli. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Don't tell my mother that. But thank you very much for coming.
MS. PACHECO: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I appreciate your time.
Matthew, what do you do?
MR. CLAUSEN: I work for Partners of the Americas.
THE PRESIDENT: And what is that?
MR. CLAUSEN: Partners of the Americas is an organization -- we've been around for over 40 years now, and we connect people with other people in our hemisphere.
THE PRESIDENT: Really. What does that mean, connect people with other people?
MR. CLAUSEN: It means we have volunteer groups in almost every state of the U.S. that are partnered with similar groups in almost every country in the region.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great.
MR. CLAUSEN: And so those local groups are filled with volunteers that are teachers and doctors, along with churches and organizations and business people. And when we engage those groups, we engage those people, say in an exchange, for example, somebody from Wisconsin going to Nicaragua, or someone from Paraguay coming to Kansas, they may be traveling alone, but it's almost like the plane was filled with all of their connections to their communities. And people say -- we say we work with civil society, and people say, well, what is civil society? That's civil society; it's all those people, they're all those connections. When you have one person interacting with a new community, it has a ripple effect, a multiplier effect, a leverage that is a great investment.
And if you look at a small investment -- a couple of examples. The Youth Ambassadors program, which we've had the pleasure of working with the U.S. government and our embassies and the private sector, to provide opportunities to underprivileged youth in nine different countries -- these are kids who are self-starters. One of our Brazilian Youth Ambassadors, I asked him who his English teacher was, and he said, Mariah Carey, on the radio. This is someone who deserves an opportunity, and he was able to come and spend a week in Washington, see how our government, how our democracy works, and then, more importantly, perhaps -- no offense to Washington -- he was able to go out and stay with a host family, go to school with kids his age, learn about cultures in different states in the U.S., and take that experience back with him.
THE PRESIDENT: So are you looking for volunteers?
MR. CLAUSEN: We are always looking for volunteers.
THE PRESIDENT: And how would one who might be interested in volunteering find information about ways to help? Do you have a website, for example?
MR. CLAUSEN: We do. We have partners.net, is a great place to start.
THE PRESIDENT: Partners.net. What would one find there?
MR. CLAUSEN: One would find a list of our programs and our partnerships; which states are partnered with which countries, and some of the areas of priority, areas that they've been working on. You would also find information about a program that you announced in 2001, the American Fellows program, which we are proud to say has been a great success. Not only is it just a government fellows program, it's also a business fellows program. And by the end of this month, our 100th fellow will have returned from service.
We believe in these people-to-people partnerships, but we also believe in sector-to-sector partnerships. We have -- our "A Ganar" program involves teaching youth employability skills by using soccer, team sports. And we work with the Inter-American Development Bank, and we have very important private sector contributions from corporations like Microsoft.
THE PRESIDENT: So what happens if somebody wanted to become a teacher for the summer, or wanted to take a trip, and part of the experience of the trip was to make an impact on somebody's life? Can they find that kind of program on your website?
MR. CLAUSEN: Certainly. There are many opportunities for exchange. And one of the good things now -- we have a lot of representatives here from other organizations. We're certainly not the only show in town, and it's great to have that competition, in the healthy sense of the word. There's a lot of opportunities for service learning.
THE PRESIDENT: And so is there a common website? Do we have a website, for example, as a result of the meeting? I might ask my friend, Karen Hughes, to think about this. She probably has already thought about it, knowing her -- and that is to think maybe about a listing of different ways our fellow citizens can get involved in helping different programs, either financially or through time and effort. Maybe we ought to think about that. I know you already have.
Good, thanks. Anything else you want to say, Matthew, while you've got the floor here?
MR. CLAUSEN: Well, I can't pass up that opportunity.
THE PRESIDENT: Here's your chance, man. (Laughter.)
MR. CLAUSEN: Well, there are some interesting initiatives out there. One in the Senate now, a bipartisan bill that's the Global Service Fellowship Act, which would give vouchers to people who want to volunteer, not just in this region, but elsewhere. It's a great idea, because people can come with a little bit of resources, which when they then go and travel somewhere, they're not only doing what they're doing, that exact activity, but they are citizen diplomats. And there's no better way, I think, for any country, not just ours, to represent what we believe in than by just doing things together in a community.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. A healthy society is one in which people are responsible for their behaviors. A healthy capitalist society is one in which corporate America, in this case, is responsible for -- becomes a responsible citizen. And we have got such a soul here in Vivian Alegria. She is from Mexico.
MS. ALEGRIA: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. You work for?
MS. ALEGRIA: For the Coca Cola Foundation in Mexico.
THE PRESIDENT: Coca Cola Foundation. And what does the Coca Cola Foundation do?
MS. ALEGRIA: The Coca Cola Foundation in Mexico is focused on projects that strengthen the communities and that raise the living standards; focused on education, and directed to the most needy communities. So we are building the schools for these children that live isolated, and we are refurbishment -- what they call indigenous scholar shelters. This is like boarding school, where children can live from Monday until Friday, in order to attend school. Because of the dispersion we have in our indigenous population in Mexico, sometimes they need eight-hour distances in order to go to school.
THE PRESIDENT: So you're building schools?
MS. ALEGRIA: We're building schools and boarding schools. We're working closely with the government, with the Mexican government. That was a very important partnership for us, because we have the people, they have the knowledge, they have infrastructure. And what is most important, they know the country needs. So we are supporting them.
And right now the school shelters, they're like true community centers for these populations. We have multiple use room inside the shelter, where they can have libraries and also computers. Computers in these communities, they have been really the difference for these children, because it's like a window to the world for them; finally, through Internet -- all of them have Internet, with solar energy, some of them -- through Internet they have a lot of opportunities right now.
We're working also with different NGOs, universities, doing their social service there; the federal and state government and with Coca Cola Foundation, and we're putting together different programs inside the shelters. So we have a nutrition program for the children, health and wellness, and also a reforestation program and arts and crafts, reinforcing their tradition and their culture
All the shelters, they're friendly with the environment, because all of them have a harvest water system, also a reforestation program. We're taking advantage of this program in order to take the people of the Coca Cola company -- include the people of the Coca Cola company in the system, to help them with the maintenance and planting trees and all the different activities we have to do there. So we are trying to foster -- we are fostering, not trying, a culture of collaboration and sustainability.
THE PRESIDENT: I think one of the things that our citizens have got to understand here, there's a lot of corporate America that are very much involved in the communities, of which they're active. And that's important. And I would encourage our companies that do business in the neighborhood to understand that it's one thing to sell a product, it's another thing to help people be able to buy the product, and become involved in the communities in which they're doing business. And I'm confident a lot of our companies are. I know Microsoft, for example, is very much involved with education programs. Laura and I are working on a very important initiative to help eradicate malaria in parts of the world, and corporate America is helping there, too. So for those of you who represent corporate America, thanks for coming, and thanks for being involved.
And if you're not, get involved. It will not only help your business, it will help your country, because I want to keep saying this over and over again, an objective of our country and this government is for there to be a healthy, educated and prosperous neighborhood. It's in our interests. America does better when people in the neighborhood in which we live are feeling better, can read better, and are making more money. Prosperity is -- and health and education are just essential to a peaceful community around us.
Anyway, so thanks for coming, Vivian. It's good to see you.
Gilberto. You are from Brazil. Great country.
MR. DIMENSTEIN: Great country. Great, great country.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm proud to report that relations with Brazil are improving a lot. I've got a very close relationship with President Lula, we've worked hard to make it that way. And one of the interesting initiatives we're working on is a alternative fuel initiative, where the United States and Brazil can work and share technologies, not only between our two countries, but in the neighborhood, so that we can all become less dependent on oil.
Anyway, so relations are good. And so, what do you do for a living, Gilberto?
MR. DIMENSTEIN: I'm a journalist.
THE PRESIDENT: A journalist? That's good. (Laughter.)
MR. DIMENSTEIN: Very good?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MR. DIMENSTEIN: Or not very good?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it's great, believe me. (Laughter.) Isn't it? Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. DIMENSTEIN: I work for Folha de S o Paulo, one of the leading newspapers in Brazil, and a global organization, another leading media organization. And then the last almost 20 years I've been writing about violence against kids and the lessons in Brazil --
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you.
MR. DIMENSTEIN: -- denouncing the assassination of kids, sexual exploitation. Many of the books is relating to many parts; this is my private life. But at the same time I do my (inaudible) work, and I create a program that is called (inaudible), which means "teaching neighborhood," and this motto means this. We go to the neighborhood and we see everything that we have in the neighborhood -- NGOs, the schools, charities, universities, volunteers, theaters, cinemas -- whatever, everything -- and the great net among all of these people, all of these institutions, and the kids, the lessons. We will have (inaudible) in school as a neighborhood.
So it's a 24-hour teaching neighborhood where it can have health, linking to the school, linking to the theater, lining to the social assistance. And the kids are going to school as he lives or she lives in the place where they can learn everywhere.
And in the last -- I developed this idea and started when I was living in New York, because I was so impressed about how the community could tackle the violence. I was in school in Columbia University. And I started to do this in '97, when I was living in Manhattan. And then only this year UNICEF decided to adopt this idea as a model to assimilate throughout the Americas. And last week, the federal government decided to replicate this idea all over the country because we have indicators showing that (inaudible) Escola could at the same time, improve education, the performance, without spending money, only rearranging the potential. At the same time, we have very strong signs that when we create social capital and human capital together, the violence in schools goes down, as well.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. And when you say countrywide, first, you've got a big country. This will be promoted by the federal government in cooperation with --
MR. DIMENSTEIN: With UNICEF, and there are a bunch of American companies that are supporting us, like Intel, J.P. Morgan, who are helping training, because our goal, Mr. President, is to train people in the community in order to create nets. That's why our program is a mix between education and communication. And we've learned that when we put people together it's very easy to make the education improve. One instance, we create one model, the neighborhood that I live, because you want to change the world, first try to change your neighborhood.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
MR. DIMENSTEIN: And only because we put together the health center to the school, the school performance improved 30 percent in one year and a half, because the people have problems in hearing or eyes, and so on and so on, and discovered that the best way to spend money is not to waste money -- and to not waste money, you see everything you can use toward education. That's the (inaudible) Escola, teaching neighborhoods 24 hours, that we create that.
THE PRESIDENT: So part of the purpose of this gathering is to analyze best practices. And by that I mean what works. Gilberto has just described a program that works, and hopefully somebody will be inspired by this idea and try it out in another part of our neighborhood.
And so I appreciate you coming. Thanks for bring something that --
MR. DIMENSTEIN: Thank you very much for the invitation.
THE PRESIDENT: You're not only a social entrepreneur, you're an educational entrepreneur. And we appreciate your vision and your hard work to make your country a better place.
An individual can make a significant difference in the life -- in somebody else's life. And when you can motivate and encourage millions of individuals to make a difference in somebody's life, then the impact becomes pretty profound. And here's an example of one fellow who is working hard to improve his country. Thanks for coming.
Dr. Marie. How are you, Doc?
DR. DESCHAMPS: I'm doing fine, thank you. It's an honor to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: What kind of doctor are you?
DR. DESCHAMPS: From my graduation in Haiti as a doctor -- I was trained in the U.S. and become an infectious disease specialist. At that time, AIDS epidemic had started, but we did not know the entirety of HIV/AIDS at that time. So stigmatization was high. And I decided to return home and co-founded the GHESKIO Health Institution as an NGO, working closely with the Ministry of Health. So a two-faceted TB, HIV and infected (inaudible), we developed the model eventually which its services offering care and prevention treatment for the HIV, the tuberculosis, malaria, and other sexual transmitted infection.
And, unfortunately, we saw that the epidemic went from the beginning where it was mostly male individuals, it became now an (inaudible) disease, and actually 62 percent of the population coming to the clinic are women. So I decided to integrate a (inaudible) of health service with (inaudible) clinic, offering treatment also to the pregnant woman to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
And, unfortunately, sexual violence toward women became very high also in Haiti. So in 2000, I integrate a unit offering care and treatment for victims of sexual violence, which is an interesting model where all those services are integrated. The Ministry of Health had requested that we replicate this model throughout the country. So for the last three years, with the PEPFAR funds, which are an incentive, we have created a network of 27 health institutions, public and private, offering the same services.
And what is amazing is that what we are observing is that we are creating more partnership with other organization, working in the field, and we share the experience. And with a strong partnership, public and private sector partnership, we are about to replicate our model also in the existing health institution.
THE PRESIDENT: So she's from Haiti, obviously. She's a doc. She's deeply concerned about HIV/AIDS and malaria.
You know, our government and the people -- the generosity of the Americans, American people can be -- as manifested by just money, spending money. Up to now we have talked about how American citizens spend time and effort to help improve lives. We also spend money. And this is an area where I feel very strongly that America should be involved and make a difference, and that is fighting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and dealing with malaria.
And so, to this end, I'm asking Congress for $30 billion expenditure over the next five years. She mentioned PEPFAR. That's, like, initials for the AIDS initiative, and we're making a big difference.
The reason I bring this up again is that -- I'm not bragging, I'm just telling the American taxpayer that through your hard work and your tax dollars, we're helping programs like Maria's that are saving lives. We can measure the lives being saved. We can measure the amount of antiretroviral drugs ending up in people's systems. We can measure how many different groups there are involved. This is an area, for example, where the faith-based community has made a significant difference, not only in our own hemisphere but in other affected countries as well.
Maria mentioned that it's amazing what happens when they start networking; when one group attracts another group, that attracts another group, and all of a sudden, there's a grassroots organization in place to deal with this terrible pandemic.
And so I want to thank you for going back to your country; for lending your skills to help solve a significant problem that can be -- that at least, we can arrest the race. At least we can help -- and we save children through the mother-to-child transmission -- programs that prevent that transmission of AIDS.
So, good going.
MS. PACHECO: Thank you.
DR. DESCHAMPS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. You upbeat? You feeling all right about things?
DR. DESCHAMPS: Oh, very good. We are very happy. And what we found, interestingly, when you give them the drugs, patients feel better, they're healthy, and they don't beg for food, their one job. So, interestingly, with the PEPFAR funds, we are able to give them the help that they require and now they ask for a job. So we create, again, partnership, with a micro-credit institution, so healthy individuals, whether they were HIV or not, have access to micro-credit. And now they create their own micro-business.
And what is interesting is that 95% of those individuals, who were a beneficiary of this organization, were able to return the funds back. So more and more people can use now the micro-credit.
THE PRESIDENT: That's one thing that Secretary Paulson's going to discuss in the break-out session that he is going to be leading, and that is, our view of the importance of micro-loans -- micro-credit, as a way to help people, again, help themselves and realize their potential. So thanks for coming.
DR. DESCHAMPS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Glad you're here.
DR. DESCHAMPS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Our last panelist is John Howe, formerly of the great state of Texas. Once a Texan, always a Texan, John. (Laughter.) He is the President and CEO of Project HOPE. Why don't you explain what that is and tell us what you're doing.
DR. HOWE: Thank you, Mr. President. Next year's the 50th anniversary of this wonderful organization. In 1958, President Eisenhower provided encouragement for us to be created. To tell you a secret, we're not legally charted as Project HOPE. We're legally chartered here in Washington as the People-to-People Foundation, doing business as Project HOPE.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
DR. HOWE: And it was in that era that President Eisenhower provided a ship. And the rest is history. This is in 12 countries, over 12 years. The last two years was in Brazil, and, reaching out and making a difference as a result in Peru, where Secretary Hughes will be later this summer, the ship visit, the original S.S. HOPE. And as a result, the first medical school university hospital was created outside of Lima. And the same stories were recapitulated on and on.
But that's yesterday. Let me put a face on today. In the past 72 hours, a woman named Elmira Quia left her village in Guatemala, in pot-holed barrios, and she took a trip -- on foot, with a truck, with a bus -- 400 kilometers to reach the ship; the great Naval hospital ship, the Comfort, that had been dispatched by Admiral Stravitas (phonetic), who's with us today.
And onboard were Project HOPE volunteers; ordinary Americans, volunteers. And she met Dr. Nick Morris from Powell, Wyoming, and Nick is a general surgeon. She walked there because she was not able to care for her family, because she had a huge -- now I'm going to get medical -- abdominal hernia. And she met Dr. Morris, and Dr. Morris took her to the ship and repaired that hernia.
She's back in her village today, having been cured. And it was life-changing for her, sir, but it was life-changing for Dr. Morris. Put another way, as we were talking with our colleague from Guatemala, after two stops out of the 12 this summer, of the Comfort, the volunteers on board the Naval hospital ship from Project HOPE and our Navy counterparts, have cared for 27,000 patients, at the least, in Guatemala. And when you count in the patients in Panama, just completed 35,000. Next week I'll have an opportunity to go onboard the ship in Nicaragua to say thank you to the volunteers, say thank you.
So, sir, I want to say that when you gave permission for the Mercy, the other big white hospital ship to respond to the needs in Banda Aceh, what you unleashed is evidence of the spirit of volunteerism in our country -- 4,000 doctors and nurses applied for the 210 positions two years ago, and we've had a similar experience. So it's a wonderful example of America at its best.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, John. You know, it's interesting, our country has got certain images that -- some are true, some aren't true. And it's very important, as part of our diplomacy, diplomatic effort, on behalf of the American citizens, to remind people about some of the great generous acts that our citizens are doing. And they do it out of the goodness of their hearts. There's nothing better than being a volunteer. It's probably one of the great acts of kindness that somebody can do, is to volunteer to save somebody's life, or just to add a little love in somebody's heart.
And we've got millions of our citizens who do that on a daily basis here at home. And it's in our interest that citizens who so want to can do that outside, in our neighborhood. And part of the purpose of having this gathering today is to remind our citizens of that which we're doing, and to call upon our citizens, if they've got time, to help somebody in need. As you said, the doctor from Wyoming benefited just as much as the woman in Guatemala did. And that's the beauty of giving.
And so I thank you all for joining today. Our panelists did a magnificent job, like I knew they would. I thank you all very much for your interest in coming. To my fellow citizens, I appreciate you taking time. I appreciate you being involved. I thank you for caring about the plight of our fellow human beings in the neighborhood in which we live. For those of you from other countries, welcome to America. You'll find this to be a loving country, full of decent, caring, fine people. And it is an honor to be the President of such a country.
Que Dios les bendiga. May God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.) END 11:15 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 10, 2007
President Bush Discusses Energy During Visit to GrafTech International, LTD GrafTech International, Ltd., Parma, Ohio, 10:59 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's great to be in Cleveland. I've come to Cleveland to highlight a couple of important issues. First, energy independence is an important part of our nation's future. One way to achieve energy independence is to promote technologies that will enable us to drive our economy without the use of Middle Eastern oil, for example. And one such technology is hydrogen fuel cells, and GrafTech is on the leading edge of developing a technology that will work, that will be competitive with other forms of energy, and that will enable us, on the one hand, to be less dependent on oil, and better stewards of the environment.
And so I'm glad to be with these entrepreneurs, these scientists, these thinkers. We've -- as part of the hydrogen fuel cell initiative that I proposed to the Congress, this company got a grant. And I think it's a wise use of taxpayers' money, to help the people in this company develop this new technology. This forklift right here is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Doesn't require any oil, or products derived from oil. And the exhaust from this is water.
And so we're going to continue to promote these kinds of technologies. And so I want to thank you all for having me. I'm about to go to a -- after lunch, go to a hospital to talk about the need for a health care system that is patient driven. I will resist the idea of the federal government running the health care system, and I'm going to spend some time talking during a town hall meeting about the kinds of reforms that we ought to be promoting out of Washington that encourage there to be a consumer-driven health care system. We'll take care of the poor, and we'll help the elderly. But we believe health care is best run in the private sector, not by the government.
And finally, I'm going to spend some time talking about the war on terror and our need to succeed in Iraq. And I'm going to remind the people in the audience today that troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C., and that we've got a plan to lead to victory. And I fully understand that this is a difficult war, and it's hard on the American people. But I will once again explain the consequences of failure to the American people, and I'll explain the consequences of success, as well.
And so I thank the people of Cleveland for welcoming me here. I'm glad to be in your city. Looking forward to a full day.
Thank you all. END 11:02 A.M. EDT
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
This week, we received more good news showing that our economy is strong and growing. The Department of Labor reports that our economy has now created jobs for 46 consecutive months. America added 132,000 jobs in June, and that means our economy has added more than 8.2 million new jobs since August of 2003. Unemployment is low, consumer confidence is high, incomes are rising, and opportunity is growing across America.
Our Nation's strong economy is no accident. It is the result of the hard work of the American people and pro-growth policies in Washington. Starting in 2001, my Administration delivered the largest tax relief since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Our tax relief has left $1.1 trillion in the hands of citizens like you to save, and spend, and invest as you see fit. Over the past three years, we have also held the growth of annual domestic spending close to one percent -- well below the rate of inflation. The result is a thriving and resilient economy that is the envy of the world.
Over the past six years, our economy has overcome serious challenges: a stock market decline, recession, corporate scandals, an attack on our homeland, and the demands of an ongoing war on terror. Despite these obstacles, our economy recovered and tax revenues soared, and America is now in a position to balance the Federal budget. To achieve this goal, I sent Congress a budget plan this February that would keep taxes low, restrain Federal spending, and put us in surplus by 2012.
Next week, my Administration will release a report called the Mid-Session Review, which will provide you with an update on our Nation's progress in meeting the goal of a balanced budget. We know from experience that when we pursue policies of low taxes and spending restraint, the economy grows, tax revenues go up, and the deficit goes down.
Democratic leaders in Congress want to take our country down a different track. They are working to bring back the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past. The Democrats' budget plan proposes $205 billion in additional domestic spending over the next five years and includes the largest tax increase in history. No nation has ever taxed and spent its way to prosperity. And I have made it clear that I will veto any attempt to take America down this road.
Democrats in Congress are also behind schedule passing the individual spending bills needed to keep the Federal government running. At their current pace, I will not see a single one of the 12 must-pass bills before Congress leaves Washington for the month-long August recess. The fiscal year ends September 30th. By failing to do the work necessary to pass these important bills by the end of the fiscal year, Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people's money wisely.
This moment is a test. Under our Constitution, Congress holds the power of the purse. Democratic leaders are in control of Congress. They set the schedule for when bills are considered. They determine when votes are held. Democrats have a chance to prove they are for open and transparent government by working to complete each spending bill independently and on time. I urge Democrats in Congress to step forward now and pass these bills one at a time.
As they do, I will insist they restrain spending so we can keep our government running -- while sustaining our growing economy and getting our budget into balance. And to help achieve these goals, I call on the Senate to act on my nomination of Jim Nussle as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Jim is a former Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and he will be a strong advocate for protecting your tax dollars here in Washington.
By setting clear budget priorities and maintaining strong fiscal discipline, we can promote economic growth and bring our budget into balance. Our Nation has the most innovative, industrious, and talented people on the face of the Earth. And when we unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our country, there is no limit to what the American people can achieve, or the hope and opportunity we can pass on to future generations. Thank you for listening.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 4, 2007
President Bush Celebrates Independence Day With West Virginia Air National Guard 167th Airlift Wing, C-5 Maintenance Hangar, Martinsburg, West Virginia, 9:21 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks for the warm welcome. Happy 4th of July. I'm thrilled to be here in Martinsburg. This is the fourth Independence Day that I have spent in the great state of West Virginia since I've been your President. (Applause.) I appreciate General Tackett's introduction. Thank you, sir -- you read it just like I wrote it. (Laughter.)
I love coming to your state because it's a state full of decent, hardworking, patriotic Americans. And I can't think of a better way to celebrate the 4th of July than to spend it with some of what we call the Mountain State's bravest and most dedicated citizens -- the men and women of the West Virginia Air National Guard. (Applause.)
I am proud to stand with the 167th Airlift Wing. (Applause.) I like your slogan: "Mountaineer Pride, Worldwide." (Applause.) I'm also honored to be with West Virginia's great military families. Some of you have loved ones deployed overseas this 4th of July. I know that. And I know it may be hard to enjoy the fireworks and the picnics and the other celebrations while they're away on dangerous duty in a faraway land. And so I've come today to express our affection -- the affection of the United States of America for the military families who stand strong in the face of the difficult struggle we face to secure the United States of America. We're blessed to have our military families in the United States and I'm blessed to be here with you. Thanks for letting me come by. (Applause.)
Speaking about Laura -- speaking about families, Laura sends her love. She would be with me, but I told her to fire up the grill. (Laughter.) Don't tell her I said that. (Laughter.) I thank Brigadier General Terry Butler, Commander, West Virginia Air National Guard, and his wife, Susan. I want to thank Eric Vollmecke, he's the 167th Wing Commander, and his wife, Sigrid.
I appreciate being here today with a really fine United States Congresswoman, Shelly Moore Capito, and her husband, Charlie. (Applause.) You don't have to worry about her supporting the military. When we've got somebody in harm's way, she understands what I understand: that that military person and his or her family deserve the very strongest support from the federal government at all times. (Applause.)
I enjoyed reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with some of the children from our military families. I thought they handled their task quite well. I appreciate Major Dave Reynolds, Chaplain, for giving the blessing. I thank the 249th Army Band of the West Virginia Army National Guard for playing here today. (Applause.)
But most importantly, thank you all for coming. Thanks for being here. The 4th of July is a day for celebration and a day for gratitude. Across America, our citizens are going to come together for parades and pyrotechnic displays, and readings from our Declaration of Independence. It's a grand celebration. It's a great day to be an American.
And when we carry on these festivities, it's important you know we're carrying on a grand tradition. This isn't the first time our country has celebrated the 4th of July. As a matter of fact, I would like to read a couple of paragraphs from a 1777 newspaper. And here's what it said on the first anniversary of the Declaration, as it described the scene in Philadelphia:
"The 4th of July was celebrated with joy and festivity, fine performances, a number of toasts, followed by a discharge of artillery and small arms" -- don't do that today. (Laughter.) "And at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks and the city was beautifully illuminated." This newspaper article from Philadelphia in 1777 went on to say: "Thus may that glorious and memorable day be celebrated through America by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more." We're still celebrating, and rightly so.
Our first Independence Day celebration took place in a midst of a war -- a bloody and difficult struggle that would not end for six more years before America finally secured her freedom. More than two decades [sic] later, it is hard to imagine the Revolutionary War coming out any other way -- but at the time, America's victory was far from certain. In other words, when we celebrated the first 4th of July celebration, our struggle for independence was far from certain. Citizens had to struggle for six more years to finally determine the outcome of the Revolutionary War.
We were a small band of freedom-loving patriots taking on the most powerful empire in the world. And one of those patriots was the founder of Martinsburg, West Virginia -- Major General Adam Stephen. Of course, it wasn't West Virginia then, but it was Martinsburg. (Laughter.) He crossed the Delaware with Washington. He helped secure America's victory at the Battle of Trenton -- and he later went -- and later, when our liberty was won, delivered stirring remarks in the Virginia House of Delegates that helped secure ratification of our Constitution.
On Independence Day we give thanks, we give thanks for our Founders, we give thanks for all the brave citizen-soldiers of our Continental Army who dropped pitchforks and took up muskets to fight for our freedom and liberty and independence.
You're the successors of those brave men. Those who wear the uniform are the successors of those who dropped their pitchforks and picked up their muskets to fight for liberty. Like those early patriots, you're fighting a new and unprecedented war -- pledging your lives and honor to defend our freedom and way of life. In this war, the weapons have changed, and so have our enemies, but one thing remains the same: The men and women of the Guard stand ready to put on the uniform and fight for America. (Applause.)
In this war against radicals and extremists, in this war on terror, you're showing that the courage which won our independence more than two centuries ago is alive and well here in West Virginia. Since the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, every operational unit of the West Virginia National Guard has been deployed -- and some are on their second and third deployments.
One member of the 167th Airlift Wing, Master Sergeant Richard Howland, has deployed seven times since the 9/11 attacks -- and this good man just volunteered to go to Baghdad for an eighth deployment in September. (Applause.) Our fellow citizens should listen to what Richard has said, what this volunteer has said. He said: "It is my patriotic duty to do whatever I can do to help." It feels "good that I'm keeping a lot of people safe." We're an incredible nation that has produced men like Richard Howland and you, who in the face of danger wear the uniform of the United States of America and step forward in freedom's defense. And I thank you for that. (Applause.)
Since September the 11th, members of the West Virginia Air National Guard have earned seven Bronze stars and four Purple Hearts. Two of those Purple Hearts were awarded to Staff Sergeants Brad Runkles and Derek Brown. They're here today. (Applause.) You're not related to them, are you? (Laughter.)
Brad and Derek are childhood friends; they grew up right here in Martinsburg and they signed up together to serve in the West Virginia Guard. In 2004, they were driving together in the lead gun truck of a convoy in Iraq when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Brad and Derek made it out, but they suffered burns on their hands and faces. They recovered from their wounds -- and in May of last year, they both re-enlisted. (Applause.)
Today is the day to celebrate courage in the face of adversity. I want you to hear what Derek says. He said: "This war is something that has to be done -- either over there or here. And I think it's best we fight it over there," he said. (Applause.) "I'm proud to serve my country like those before me -- for the cause of freedom." America is proud to have citizens like Derek and Brad, that we call neighbors and friends and defenders of the peace. (Applause.)
And your service is needed. We need for people to volunteer to defend America. Because in this war, we face dangerous enemies who have attacked us here at home. Oh, I know the passage of time has convinced some -- maybe convinced some that danger doesn't exist. But that's not how I see it, and that's not how many of you see it. These people want to strike us again. We learned on September the 11th that in the age of terror, the best way to do our duty, which is to protect the American people, is to go on the offense and stay on the offense. And that's exactly what we've been doing against these radicals and extremists. (Applause.)
It is best that we take the fight to where the enemy lives, so we don't have to face them where we live. And so since 9/11, that's precisely the strategy we have followed. In Afghanistan -- where I know some of you have been deployed and some of you are deployed -- we removed a regime that gave sanctuary and support to al Qaeda as they planned the 9/11 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 citizens. They found safe haven. That's what they like. They like a place where they can plot and plan in relatively -- in security, all aiming to come and harm the citizens of the greatest face for liberty in the world.
Today, because we acted, the terrorist camps in Afghanistan have been shut down, 25 million people have been liberated, and the Afghan people have elected a government that is fighting terrorists, instead of harboring terrorists. (Applause.) This enemy of ours -- they have got an ideology. They believe in something. In other words, the attacks are just a tactic to enable them to spread their dark vision of the world. Perhaps one way to differentiate between our thoughts is just think about religion. In the great country of the United States, we believe that you should be able to worship any way you see fit; that you're equally American, regardless of your religious beliefs. They believe that if you don't worship the way they see it, then they're going to bring you harm.
We believe in an Almighty, we believe in the freedom for people to worship that Almighty. They don't. They don't believe you should worship the way you choose. They believe the only way you should worship is the way they choose. And, therefore -- and, therefore, they will do anything they can to spread that ideology. And it's our charge, it's our calling to keep the pressure on these people, to defend America and to spread an ideology of hope and an ideology of peace so that the kids who came up here to give the Pledge of Allegiance will be able to live in peace and security. (Applause.)
There's more than one front in this war against these radicals and extremists. And, obviously, the toughest threat of all is in Iraq. In that country, we removed a cruel dictator who harbored terrorists, paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, invaded his neighbors, defied the United Nations Security Council, pursued and used weapons of mass destruction. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. (Applause.) And today, U.S. and coalition troops are standing with the Iraqi troops and the nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace. We're opposing ruthless enemies who want to bring down Iraq's democracy and turn that nation into a terrorist safe haven.
Earlier this year, I announced a new strategy in Iraq, under the leadership of General David Petraeus, and new Ambassador, Ryan Crocker. Our goal is to help the Iraqi government protect their population, so they can make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, and upholds the rule of law, and is an ally against these extremists and terrorists and killers. And so we sent reinforcements to help the Iraqis secure their neighborhoods, and go after the terrorists and insurgents and militias that are inciting sectarian violence, and help get the capital under control.
It's a tough fight, but I wouldn't have asked those troops to go into harm's way if the fight was not essential to the security of the United States of America. (Applause.) Many of the spectacular car bombings and killings you see are as a result of al Qaeda -- the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th. A major enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that dared attack the United States on that fateful day.
Al Qaeda hasn't given up its objectives inside Iraq. And that is to cause enough chaos and confusion so America would leave, and they would be able to establish their safe haven from which to do two things: to further spread their ideology; and to plan and plot attacks against the United States. If we were to quit Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists we are fighting would not declare victory and lay down their arms -- they would follow us here, home. If we were to allow them to gain control of Iraq, they would have control of a nation with massive oil reserves -- which they could use to fund new attacks and exhort economic blackmail on those who didn't kowtow to their wishes. However difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it -- we must succeed for our own sake; for the security of our citizens, we must support our troops, we must support the Iraqi government, and we must defeat al Qaeda in Iraq. (Applause.)
Victory in this struggle will require more patience, more courage, and more sacrifice. And we've lost some good men and women in this fight. And so on this 4th of July, we pause to remember the fallen -- and the grieving families they have left behind. We hold them in our hearts, we lift them up in our prayers, and we pledge to honor their memory by finishing the work for which they have given their life.
Here at the Martinsburg Air National Guard Base, you're living in a wonderful and caring community. Over the course of this struggle, you've looked out for each other and you've given strength to each other in difficult moments. One of the community leaders making a difference on this base is Joy Enders. A couple of you -- (applause.)
In case you haven't ever heard of Joy, she's the President of the 167th Airlift Wing Family Readiness Group. She and the other members of the group make it their mission to care for the families of our deployed Guardsmen and women. Before one recent deployment, they took pictures of all the deploying airmen, and created iron-on transfers to place on pillowcases for the children of the deploying troops. It's a simple act, but it's an act of love and compassion that gave the children a sense that their moms and dads were nearby -- even though they were deployed a thousand miles away.
Our military families miss their moms and dads, and husbands and wives, and sons and daughters. And they look forward to welcoming their loved ones home. And we all long for the day when there are far fewer American servicemen and women in Iraq. The time will come when Iraq has a stable, self-sustaining government that is an ally against these extremists and killers. That time will come when the Iraqi people will not need the help of 159,000 American troops in their country. Yet, withdrawing our troops prematurely based on politics, not on the advice and recommendation of our military commanders, would not be in our national interest. It would hand the enemy a victory and put America's security at risk -- and that's something we're not going to do.
Our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and other fronts in the war on terror are serving in a cause that is vital and just. And on this 4th of July, I ask every American to find a way to thank the men and women who are defending our freedom -- and the families that support them. (Applause.) There are many ways to show your gratitude. There are many ways for our fellow citizens to say thanks to the men and women who wear the uniform and their families. You can send a care package. You can reach out to a military family in your neighborhood with a mom or dad on the front lines; you can ask somebody, "What can I do to help you? What do you need?" You can car pool. You can be on bended knee and pray for a soldier and their families. To help you find ways to help, the Department of Defense has set up a website -- I would hope our fellow citizens all across the United States would call up AmericaSupportsYou.mil. At this website, AmericaSupportsYou.mil, you can learn about efforts in your own community as to how you can support our troops.
As we celebrate our independence this 4th, we can have confidence in the enduring principles of our founding. The words of our Declaration hold a promise for all mankind -- and those ideals continue to inspire millions across the world.
Recently, I traveled to Prague, the Czech Republic, where I spoke to a conference of dissidents and democratic activists from 17 nations on five continents. I was proud to represent our country at that historic meeting. I was proud to tell those brave souls that America stands with them in their struggle for liberty, because we believe in the universality of liberty. I personally believe that freedom is a gift from an Almighty to every man, woman and child on the face of the Earth.
I looked out in that audience and I saw men and women who believe in the power of freedom to transform their countries and to remake the world. And I saw that those who live in tyranny and yearn for freedom still place their hopes in the United States of America.
For the past six and a half years, it's been a privilege to be the President of such a good and decent nation that inspires and holds out hope to people all across the world. It's an awesome experience, and a humbling experience to hold a powerful office like President. It brings with it the great honor of being the Commander-in-Chief of the finest military the world has ever known. (Applause.) Because of the service of our military men and women, because our nation has got a military full of the bravest and most decent people that I've ever met, America remains a beacon of hope for all around the world; America remains the place where peace has the best chance to be encouraged.
We're doing the hard work now so generations of American kids can grow up in peace. It's necessary work, it's important work, and I thank you for your sacrifices. (Applause.)
May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.) END 9:49 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 29, 2007
Independence Day, 2007
I send greetings to Americans everywhere celebrating Independence Day.
Two hundred thirty-one years ago, 56 brave men signed their names to a bold creed of freedom that set the course of our Nation and changed the history of the world. On this anniversary, we remember the great courage and conviction of our Founders, and we celebrate the enduring principles of our Declaration of Independence.
Through selfless sacrifice and unrelenting determination, the patriots of the American Revolution ensured that our Nation's claim to liberty and equality would not be dismissed or forgotten. The ideals they fought for and the country they helped establish are lasting symbols of hope to the entire world.
Our commitment to America's founding truths remains steadfast. We believe that freedom is a blessing from the Almighty and the birthright of every man and woman. As our Nation faces new challenges, we are answering history's call with confidence that our legacy of freedom will always prevail. On Independence Day, we express our gratitude to the generations of courageous Americans who have defended us and those who continue to serve in our country's hour of need, and we celebrate the liberty that makes America a light to the nations.
Laura and I wish you a Happy Fourth of July. May God bless you, and may He bless our wonderful country. GEORGE W. BUSH
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For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 3, 2007
President Bush's Remarks After Visiting with Wounded Military Personnel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Washington, D.C., 12:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. General, thank you very much for your hospitality. It's a true honor to come to Walter Reed to be able to see the docs and nurses, the physical therapists who are working with our wounded soldiers. The care here is remarkable. There has been some bureaucratic red-tape issues in the past that the military is working hard to cure. But when it comes time to healing broken bodies, this is a fabulous place.
I am constantly amazed at the character and courage of those who wear our uniform. And that's no more vividly displayed than here in this place of healing. I want to thank our soldiers, sailors and Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and women for their service to the country, and I thank their families. As we head into the 4th of July, we're a fortunate nation to have people who are willing to volunteer in the face of danger to help secure this country in the long run.
I'll be glad to answer two questions from you.
Q Mr. President, are you willing to rule out that you will eventually pardon Scooter Libby?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I had to make a very difficult decision. I weighed this decision carefully. I thought that the jury verdict should stand. I felt the punishment was severe, so I made a decision that would commute his sentence, but leave in place a serious fine and probation. As to the future, I rule nothing in or nothing out.
Q Mr. President, federal sentencing guidelines call for jail time in these kinds of cases of perjury and obstruction of justice. Why do you feel otherwise, and are you worried that this decision sends a signal that you won't go to jail if you lie to the FBI?
THE PRESIDENT: I took this decision very seriously on Mr. Libby. I considered his background, his service to the country, as well as the jury verdict. I felt like the jury verdict ought to stand, and I felt like some of the punishments that the judge determined were adequate should stand. But I felt like the 30-month sentencing was severe; made a judgment, a considered judgment that I believe is the right decision to make in this case, and I stand by it.
Thank you all. END 12:11 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary July 2, 2007
President Bush Meets with President Putin of Russian Federation Walker's Point Kennebunkport, Maine, 12:28 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: I wanted to congratulate the President for being the only person that caught a fish. A fine catch. Secondly, I welcome you to my family home.
And we had a good, casual discussion on a variety of issues. You know, through the course of our relationship there have been times when we've agreed on issues and there's been times when we haven't agreed on issues. But one thing I've found about Vladimir Putin is that he is consistent, transparent, honest and is an easy man to discuss our opportunities and problems with.
We talked about nuclear security and made great strides in setting a foundation for future relations between the United States and Russia in dealing with the nuclear security issues. We talked about our bilateral relations, we talked about the relations with countries like Iran and North Korea. We had a very long, strategic dialogue that I found to be important, necessary and productive.
And so I welcome you, Vladimir. Thanks for coming.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: (As translated.) I would like to congratulate us with the good work done.
First of all, I would like to thank the hosts for their invitation. And President Bush for this invitation. Indeed, we had a very nice fishing party this morning. We caught one fish, but that was a team effort, and we let it go to the captain -- (laughter) --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Very thoughtful of you. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT PUTIN: -- the 42nd President of the United States. (Laughter.)
As for the negotiations, negotiations were very substantial. We discussed basically the entire gamut of both bilateral issues and international issues. George listed practically all issues that we've touched upon. And I was pleased to note that we are seeking the points of coincidence in our positions and very frequently we do find them. And I'm very grateful to the Bush family for this very warm, homey atmosphere around this meeting, and we appreciate it very much.
I do believe that we have to learn something from the older generation. And the attitude shown both to me and to the members of my delegation was way beyond the official and protocol needs. And, additionally, we had an opportunity to have a look at this part of the United States, a fantastic place. We've seen the warmth and the very positive attitude of the people around here and use this opportunity to say to them that we appreciate their warmness and we are grateful for their very warm reception of us.
Mind you, the fish that we caught, we've let it free. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: A couple of questions. Tony, you going to call on them? Hold on, please. Please. Tony.
Q Mr. President, I have a question for either one, or both of you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Either one of us, okay -- or both of us.
Q Both of you. For you, sir, were you successful in getting President Putin's support for tough sanctions, like cargo inspections against Iran?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We spent a lot of time talking about the Iranian issue, and we both agree -- excuse me, go ahead. We spent a lot of time talking about the Iranian issue. I am concerned about the Iranians' attempt to develop the technologies, know-how to develop a nuclear weapon. The President shares that -- I'm a little hesitant to put words in his mouth, but I think he shares that same concern. After all, this is an issue we've been talking about for about six years.
And I have come to the conclusion that when Russia and America speaks with, you know, along the same lines, it tends to have an effect. And, therefore, I appreciate very much the Russian attitude in the United Nations. I have been counting on the Russian's support to send a clear message to the Iranians, and that support and that message is a strong message, and, hopefully, we'll be able to convince the regime that we have no problems with the people in Iran, but we do have a problem with a regime that is in defiance of international norm. And so we discussed a variety of ways to continue sending a joint message.
And, by the way, one other issue that I didn't mention in my opening my comments that I think you'll find interesting is that President Putin proposed a regional approach to missile defense; that we ought to work together bilaterally, as well as work through the Russia-NATO Council. And I'm in strong agreement with that concept.
That's all I've got to say, Deb. Have you got something else?
Q Well, I still would like to know --
PRESIDENT BUSH: You just got wedged out, sorry.
Q I still would like to know if you're far apart on how tough the sanctions should be.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We're close on recognizing that we've got to work together to send a common message.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: So far, we have managed to work within the framework of the Security Council, and I think we will continue to be successful on this front. Recently, we've seen some signals coming from Iran with regard to interaction, cooperation with the IAEA. Mr. Solana also brings us some positive data and information. I think all of this would contribute to further, substantial intercourse on this issue.
Q -- Mr. Putin made a proposal for anti-ballistic missile cooperation between Russia and the United States. And you called it "interesting." In which direction your cooperation? And what's wrong with European countries using this calculation? And if it is no breakthrough in the foreseeable future, maybe it's a time to make a (inaudible)? Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks. It's more than an interesting idea, it's an idea that we're following up on through consultative meetings, which we've started. And as I told you, the President made a very -- I thought a very constructive and bold, strategic move, and that is why don't we broaden the dialogue and include Europe, through NATO and the Russia-NATO Council -- I don't know if want to expand on that, or not.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: Oh, I have to answer that, too? As President Bush has already said, we do support the idea of the continued consultations on this score. At the same time, we do believe that the number of parties to this consultation could be expanded through the European countries who are interested in resolving the issue. And the idea is to achieve this through the forum of the Russia-NATO Council.
But our proposal is not limited to this only. We propose establishing an information exchange center in Moscow. We've agreed on that a few years back; it's time now to put this decision into practice. This is not yet all. A similar center could be established in one of the European capitals, in particular, in Brussels, for example. This could have been a single system that would work on line.
In this case, there would be no need to place any more facilities in Europe -- I mean, these facilities in Czech Republic and the missile base in Poland. And if need be, we are prepared to involve in this work, not only the Gabala radar, which we rent from the Azerbaijanis -- if necessary, we are prepared to modernize it. And if that is not enough, we would be prepared to engage in this system also a newly built radar, early warning system in the south of Russia.
Such cooperation I believe would result in raising to an entirely new level the quality of cooperation between Russia and the United States. And for all practical purposes, this would lead to a gradual development of strategic partnership in the area of security.
As for the Europeans, well, it's their choice; each and every country will have to decide whether it wants to be part of the system or not. But it would be clear to even a layman, if a country doesn't decide in a strategic partnership, this choice would determine the position of any country both in economic terms and on the political arena in the final analysis, in the long term.
Therefore, I'm confident that there will be interstate partners or parties in Europe.
Q Mr. President, six years ago, you seemed to have formed a bond with President Putin, when you said you had gotten a sense of his soul. Do you still feel that you trust him? And how troubled are you by the political freedoms -- the state of political freedoms in Russia?
And President Putin, do you appreciate advice from Washington about democracy in Russia?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Here's the thing when you're dealing with a world leader, you wonder whether or not he's telling the truth or not. I've never had to worry about that with Vladimir Putin. Sometimes he says things I don't want to hear, but I know he's always telling me the truth. And you don't have to guess about his opinions, which makes it a lot easier to do -- to find common ground.
And so you ask, do I trust I him? Yes, I trust him. Do I like everything he says? No. And I suspect he doesn't like everything I say. But we're able to say it in a way that shows mutual respect.
Take missile defense. He just laid out a vision. I think it's very sincere. I think it's innovative. I think it's strategic. But as I told Vladimir, I think that the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system. And the only way I know how to find common ground on complicated issues is to share my thoughts, and that's what he does with me. And so I've had a very constructive relationship.
Obviously, you know -- I'll let him talk about his view of democracy, but I will tell you, at the G8 in St. Petersburg, he did a very interesting thing. You might remember the dinner when you said, anybody who has got any doubts about democracy, ask me questions. And I remember part of my discussions with him about whether or not the -- you know, how -- the relations between the government and the press, you'll be amazed to hear. He strongly defends his views, and you can listen to him yourself, right now. But ours is a relationship where I feel very comfortable bringing up and asking him why he's made decisions he's made.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: Speaking of common democratic values, we are guided by the idea and principle that these are important both for you and for us. In the last 15 years, Russia has undergone a very serious transformation. It has to do with changes in the political system and in the economic system, as well.
Of course, it has considerable social repercussions and consequences. All of these taken together has determined the way our transition and our society has been developing and forming. Even in the, shall we say, sustainable democracies, mature democracies, we see basically the same problems, the same issue that they have to deal with. It has to do with the relationship with the media; it has to do with human rights and the right for private life being beyond the control of the government and the state. If you remember how Larry King tortured the former CIA Director, you would also understand that there are some other problems and issues, as well, in this world. (Laughter.) And I cannot even repeat all the things that were said then.
We have common problems. And we are prepared to listen to each other. The only thing that we would never, never accept is these tools -- this leverage being used to interfere into our domestic affairs to make us do things the way we would do not see fit. In our dialogue, in our contacts with President Bush, we always discuss these things and, as he says, it's frankly and straightly, and we are always constantly engaged in the dialogue geared to making things better in Russia and elsewhere.
I do not always agree with him, but we never engage in paternalism. We do not assume mentors' tone. We always talk as friends.
Q Mr. President, how do you evaluate the relations between Russia and the U.S. right now? Are they in crisis or not? And what is the legacy you are planning to leave to your successor? Also, since for you both this is your final year in office --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Not mine. I've got more than a year. Anyway, nice try. (Laughter.)
Q Since 2008, election year for both of you, do you believe that -- are you going to meet after you are not Presidents any more, or is this your final meeting?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: I do believe that our relationship developed normally, not bad, and they are being strengthened every time we meet. And the relationship between Russia and the United States is entirely different than that between the United States and the Soviet Union. And we are not -- we do not look at each other through the sights of our weapons systems. And in this, I fully agree with my colleague, President Bush.
As for the future, as I already mentioned, we are now discussing a possibility of raising our relations to an entirely new level that would involve a very private and very, shall we say, sensitive dialogue on all issues related to the international security, including, of course, the missile defense issue.
If this is to happen, I would like to draw your attention to this. The relations between our two countries would be raised to an entirely new level. Gradually, our relations would become those of a strategic partnership nature. It would mean raising the level of our -- and improving the level of our interaction in the area of international security, thus leading to improved political interaction and cooperation with a final effect being, of course, evident in our economic relations and situation.
Well, basically, we may state that the deck has been dealt, and we are here to play. And I would very much hope that we are playing one and the same game.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think we'll see each other in Australia. Secondly, I know we'll be talking on the phone, because there's a lot of issues that we are working together on, which is part of the legacy of this relationship, and that is that it's in the U.S. interest to keep close relations with Russia; and that when it comes to confronting real threats, such as nuclear proliferation or the threat of radicalism and extremism, Russia is a good, solid partner.
Russia has made some amazing progress in a very quick period of time. One of the first conversations I had with Vladimir Putin was about Soviet-era debt. This is a country with no debt. It's got solid reserves. It's a significant international player. It's got a growing middle class. For those old Russian hands who remember what it was like, there's an amazing transformation taking place. Is it perfect from the eyes of Americans? Not necessarily. Is the change real? Absolutely. And it's in our interests -- in the U.S. interests to have good, solid relations with Russia. And that's what Vladimir and I have worked hard to achieve.
And we're going to go continue those relations with a lunch. So thanks for coming.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: Of course we will continue our relations in the future. Today's fishing party demonstrated that we have a very similar -- we share the same passion -- that is, passion.
Q Is Cheney a member of the executive branch?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I didn't hear you. END 1:00 P.M. EDT
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