For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 30, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Next week, Americans will gather with friends and family to celebrate the Fourth of July. I look forward to spending this Independence Day in Martinsburg, West Virginia, with the men and women of the West Virginia Air National Guard.
On the Fourth of July we celebrate the courage and convictions of America's founders. We remember the spirit of liberty that led men from 13 different colonies to gather in Philadelphia and pen the Declaration of Independence. In that revolutionary document, they proclaimed our independence based on the belief that freedom was God's gift to all mankind. To defend that freedom, the 56 signers of the Declaration pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Their sacrifices built a new Nation and created a future of freedom for millions yet to be born.
Today, a new generation of Americans has stepped forward and volunteered to defend the ideals of our Nation's founding. Around the world, our brave men and women in uniform are facing danger to protect their fellow citizens from harm. In Afghanistan, our military and NATO forces are hunting down the Taliban and al Qaeda, and helping the Afghan people defend their young democracy. And in Iraq, American and Iraqi forces are standing with the nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace, and opposing ruthless enemies who want to bring down Iraq's democracy and turn that nation into a terrorist safe haven.
This week I traveled to the Naval War College in Rhode Island to give an update on the strategy we're pursuing in Iraq. This strategy is being led by a new commander, General David Petraeus, and a new Ambassador, Ryan Crocker. It recognizes that our top priority must be to help the Iraqi government and its security forces protect their population -- especially in Baghdad. And its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law and is an ally in the war on terror.
So America has sent reinforcements to help the Iraqis secure their population, go after the terrorists, insurgents and militias that are inciting sectarian violence, and get the capital under control. The last of these reinforcements arrived in Iraq earlier this month, and the full surge has begun. One of our top commanders in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, put it this way, "We are beyond a surge of forces. We're now into a surge of operations."
Recently, we launched Operation Phantom Thunder, which has taken the fight to the enemy in Baghdad, as well as the surrounding regions. We're still at the beginning of this offensive, but we're seeing some hopeful signs. We're engaging the enemy, and killing or capturing hundreds. Just this week, our commanders reported the killing of two senior al Qaeda leaders north of Baghdad. Within Baghdad, our military reports that despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the capital are significantly down from what they were in January. We're also finding arms caches at more than three times the rate of a year ago.
The enemy continues to carry out sensational attacks, but the number of car bombings and suicide attacks has been down in May and June. And because of our new strategy, U.S. and Iraqi forces are living among the people they secure, with the result that many Iraqis are now coming forward with information on where the terrorists are hiding.
The fight in Iraq has been tough, and it will remain difficult. We've lost good men and women in this fight. One of those lost was a Marine Lance Corporal named Luke Yepsen. In the spring of 2005, Luke withdrew from his classes at Texas A&M to join the United States Marines. And in October 2006, he deployed to Iraq, where he manned a 50-caliber machine gun on a Humvee. Six months ago, Luke was killed by a sniper while on patrol in Anbar province. Luke's father describes his son's sacrifice this way: "Luke died bringing freedom to an oppressed people. My urgent request is ... finish the mission. Bring freedom to the Iraqi people."
On this Fourth of July, we remember Luke Yepsen and all the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in this struggle. They've helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people. They've helped make Americans more secure. We will not forget their sacrifice. We remember their loved ones in our prayers. And we give thanks for all those from every generation who have defended our Nation and our freedoms.
Laura and I wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July. Thank you for listening.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 28, 2007
President Bush Visits Naval War College, Discusses Iraq, War on Terror Spruance Auditorium, Newport, Rhode Island, 11:22 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. Please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks, Governor; appreciate you -- go find a nice seat. (Laughter.) I am really pleased to be among the best and brightest of the United States military. (Applause.) And I am pleased to see the many here who represent nations from around the world. Thanks for coming by. (Laughter.) Those who go to school here are at a great place. We actually have some things in common. We went to school in New England. (Laughter.) We pursued advanced degrees. And we compiled outstanding academic records. (Laughter.) Well, two out of three. (Laughter and applause.)
The Naval War College is where the United States military does some of its finest thinking. You help the Navy define its mission. You support its combat readiness. You strengthen our maritime security cooperation with other countries. You train officers to think strategically. And that's important. The United States Navy is the most professional and advanced navy the world has ever seen -- and the men and women of the Naval War College are determined to keep it that way, and I appreciate your work.
More than a century ago, the president of this college wrote a book called "The Influence of Sea Power upon History." The book was read by Theodore Roosevelt. It affected American strategic thinking for decades to come. Now we're in a new and unprecedented war against violent Islamic extremists. This is an ideological conflict we face against murderers and killers who try to impose their will. These are the people that attacked us on September the 11th and killed nearly 3,000 people. The stakes are high, and once again, we have had to change our strategic thinking.
The major battleground in this war is Iraq. And this morning I'm going to give you an update on the strategy we're pursuing in Iraq. I'll outline some of the indicators that will tell us if we're succeeding. And I appreciate you giving me a chance to come and visit with you.
I appreciate the Governor of this great state and his wife, Sue. I'm proud to call you friend, and thank you very much for your thoughtfulness today. The Governor gave me a helicopter tour of this beautiful part of the world. The tall ships were magnificent.
Rear Admiral Shuford and his wife, Cathy, thanks as well for being in the military; thanks for leading and thanks for inviting me here. I appreciate Rear Admiral Tom Eccles, Commander, Naval Undersea Warfare Center. I thank my friends, Governors who have joined us: Governor Jodi Rell, Governor Mark Sanford, Governor Matt Blunt. One day we'll all be members of the ex-Governors Club. (Laughter.) Later, rather than sooner, in your case. (Laughter.) I appreciate all the other state and local officials, the students here, the faculty here, and alumni here. Thanks for coming.
Earlier this year, I laid out a new strategy for Iraq. I wasn't pleased with what was taking place on the ground. I didn't approve of what I was seeing. And so I called together our military and said, can we design a different strategy to succeed? And I accepted their recommendations. And this new strategy is different from the one were pursuing before. It is being led by a new commander, General David Petraeus -- and a new ambassador, Ryan Crocker. It recognizes that our top priority must be to help the Iraqi government and its security forces protect their population from attack -- especially in Baghdad, the capital. It's a new mission. And David Petraeus is in Iraq carrying it out. Its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward reconciliation -- to build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and is an ally against the extremists in this war.
And it's in our interests, it's in our national interests to help them succeed. America has sent reinforcements to help the Iraqis secure their population. In other words, one of the decisions I had to make was, what should our troop levels be? I asked the military what they thought the troop levels ought to be. That's what you expect from your Commander-in-Chief, to consult closely with the United States military in times of war. They made recommendations, and I sent the reinforcements in to help the Iraqis secure their population, to go after terrorists, insurgents, and militias that incite sectarian violence and to help get this capital of Iraq under control.
The last of the reinforcements arrived in Iraq earlier this month -- and the full surge has begun. One of our top commanders, Ray Odierno, puts it this way: "We are beyond a surge of forces, and we're now into a surge of operations." Today I am going to give you an update on how these operations are proceeding. I'll talk about the progress and challenges regarding reconciliation at both the national and local levels. I'm going to outline some of the criteria we will be using to tell us if we are succeeding.
Let me begin with Anbar province. You can see here on the map, Anbar is a largely Sunni province that accounts for nearly a third of Iraqi territory. It's a big place. Anbar stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad to Iraq's borders with Jordan and Syria. It was al Qaeda's chief base of operations in Iraq. Remember, when I mention al Qaeda, they're the ones who attacked the United States of America and killed nearly 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001. They're part of the enemy. They're extremists and radicals who try to impose their view on the world.
According to a captured document -- in other words, according to something that we captured from al Qaeda -- they had hoped to set up its -- a government in Anbar. And that would have brought them closer to their stated objective of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and having a safe haven from which to launch attacks on Americans at home and abroad. This is what the enemy said. And I think it is vital that the United States of America listen closely to what the enemy says.
Last September, Anbar was all over the news. It was held up as an example of America's failure in Iraq. The papers cited a leaked intelligence report that was pessimistic about our prospects there. One columnist summed it up this way: "The war is over in Anbar province, and the United States lost."
About the same time some folks were writing off Anbar, our troops were methodically clearing Anbar's capital city of Ramadi of terrorists, and winning the trust of the local population. In parallel with these efforts, a group of tribal sheiks launched a movement called "The Awakening" -- and began cooperating with American and Iraqi forces. These sheiks, these leaders were tired of murder and tired of mayhem that al Qaeda had brought to their towns and communities. They knew exactly who these folks were.
To capitalize on this opportunity, I sent more Marines into Anbar. And gradually they have been helping the locals take back their province from al Qaeda.
These operations are showing good results. Our forces are going into parts of Anbar where they couldn't operate before. With the help of Iraqi and coalition forces, local Sunni tribes have driven al Qaeda from most of Ramadi -- and attacks there are now down to a two-year low. Recruiting of Iraqi police forces now draws thousands of candidates, compared to a few hundred just a few months ago. This month, Anbar opened its first police academy. And as the slide shows, overall attacks in Anbar are sharply down from this time last year.
Despite successes, Anbar province remains a dangerous place. Why? Because al Qaeda wants their base of operations back, and it is working to assassinate sheiks and intimidate the local population. We've got to prepare ourselves for more violence and more setbacks. But a province that had been written off as hopeless now enjoys a level of peace and stability that was unimaginable only a few months ago.
We are hoping to replicate the success we have had in Anbar in other parts of Iraq -- especially in areas in and around Baghdad. In the months since I announced our new strategy, we have been moving reinforcements into key Baghdad neighborhoods and the areas around the capital to help secure the population. I told you what the mission was, and that's what we're doing. Now we have launched a wider offensive, called Operation Phantom Thunder, which is taking the fight to the enemy in the capital as well as its surrounding regions. This operation focuses on defeating al Qaeda terrorists, the insurgents, and militias, denying the extremists safe havens, and breaking up their logistics, supply, and communications.
This map shows Baghdad and its surrounding areas. In January, I explained that 80 percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. Although some of the violence that plagues Baghdad is home-grown, a good part of it originates from terrorists operating in the surrounding areas. If we can clear these strongholds of al Qaeda and death squads, we can improve life for the citizens of the areas -- and inhibit the enemy's ability to strike within the capital. And this is what Phantom Thunder is designed to do.
I am going to describe some of the operations that are unfolding in different areas around the capital:
To the north of Baghdad, our forces have surged into Diyala province. The primary focus is the provincial capital of Baqubah, which is just an hour's car ride from Baghdad. There, masked gunmen enforce their brutal rule with prisons and torture chambers and punish crimes like smoking.
In one building, our forces discovered a medical facility for the terrorists that tells us the enemy was preparing itself for a sustained and deadly fight. They had burrowed in. There was no resistance. They were trying to export their violence to the capital. Iraqi and American troops are now fighting block by block. The colonel leading the assault says we have denied al Qaeda a major bastion. The city is cleared. The challenge, of course, is going to be for coalition and Iraqi forces to keep it that way. But we're making progress in Operation Phantom Thunder.
To the southeast of Baghdad, we are going after al Qaeda in safe havens they established along the Tigris River. These safe havens include areas like Salman Pak and Arab Jabour -- areas well known for sending car and truck bombs into Baghdad. Extremists in many of these areas are being confronted by U.S. and Iraqi forces for the first time in three years. We can expect determined resistance. They don't like to be confronted. But General Petraeus says, in order to accomplish the mission, we're going to confront them with the finest military ever assembled on the face of the Earth. That's the U.S. military. Our forces are determined, and we're going to take those safe havens away from al Qaeda and the extremists.
To the west and northwest of Baghdad, Operation Phantom Thunder is going after al Qaeda's remaining outposts in Anbar. We're taking the fight to areas around Karmah -- it's a known transit point for al Qaeda fighters. One example of what we are now seeing, U.S. and Iraqi forces in Fallujah seized 25,000 gallons of nitric acid -- a critical ingredient for car bombs and truck bombs. The deputy commander of U.S. forces west of Baghdad says we have largely succeeded in driving the terrorists out of Anbar's population centers. He says, "The surge has given us the troops we needed to really clear up those areas, so we cleared them and we stayed."
Within Baghdad itself, the surge in forces has allowed us to establish a presence in areas where the terrorists and insurgents had embedded themselves among the people. In the past two weeks alone, our troops in Baghdad have captured five militia cells. And some of the names you will be hearing in the next few months will include places like Adamiyah, Rashid, and Mansour. These areas are important, because they represent so-called sectarian fault lines -- locations where Shia extremists and al Qaeda terrorists are attempting to reignite sectarian violence through murder, and kidnappings, and other violent activities. Until these areas and others like them are secured, the people of Baghdad can't be protected; they can't go about their lives.
Right now, we're at the beginning stage of the offensive. We finally got the troops there. Americans have got to understand it takes a while to mobilize additional troops and move them from the United States to Iraq. And we got them there. And now we're beginning to move. And there are hopeful signs. Last week our commanders reported the killing of two senior al Qaeda leaders north of Baghdad -- one who operated a cell that helped move foreign fighters into Iraq, and another who served as a courier for the same cell.
Within Baghdad, our military reports that despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the capital are now down substantially from what they were in January. We are finding arms caches at more than three times the rate a year ago. Although the enemy continues to carry out sensational attacks, the number of car bombings and suicide attacks has been down in May and June. And because U.S. and Iraqi forces are living among the people they secure, many Iraqis are now coming forward with information on where the terrorists are hiding.
On the ground, our forces can see the difference the surge is making. General Petraeus recently described what he called "astonishing signs of normalcy." He said that about Baghdad. He talks about professional soccer leagues, and amusement parks, and vibrant markets. In the mixed Shia-Sunni neighborhood of Rashid, our foot patrols discovered a wall with two Arabic sentences spray-painted on them. It's just a small example. It certainly didn't get any news, but it says, "Yes, yes to the new security plan. No difference between Shia and Sunni."
The fight has been tough. It's a tough fight, and it is going to remain difficult. We have lost some good men and women. And even as our troops are showing some success in cornering and trapping al Qaeda, they face a lot of challenges. After all, the people of Iraq lived for decades under the brutal dictatorship that bred distrust. And so there's still sectarian tensions. The feelings are being exploited and they're being manipulated by outsiders. Iran, for example, continues to supply deadly IED explosives that are being used against American forces. It is also providing training in Iran, as well as funding and weapons for Iraqi militias. Meanwhile, Syria continues to be a transit station for al Qaeda and other foreign fighters on their way to Iraq.
The influx of foreign fighters and foreign support makes this job a lot tougher -- tougher on the Iraqis, tougher on our troops. We can expect more casualties as our forces enter enemy strongholds and push back against foreign interference. But General Petraeus and our commanders in Iraq have carefully laid out a plan that our forces are executing on the ground. It's a well conceived plan by smart military people, and we owe them the time and we owe them the support they need to succeed. (Applause.)
I fully agree with the military, that says this is more than a military operation. Have to be making tough decisions -- the Iraqis have got to be making tough decisions towards reconciliations. And that's why I will keep the pressure on Iraqi leaders to meet political benchmarks they laid out for themselves. At home, most of the attention has focused on important pieces of legislation that the Iraqi Parliament must pass to foster political reconciliation -- including laws to share oil revenues, hold provincial elections, and bring more people into the political process. I speak to the Prime Minister and I speak to the Presidency Council quite often, and I remind them we expect the government to function, and to pass law.
Many Americans have been frustrated by the slow pace of legislation, as have I. However, I think we ought to put the challenge into perspective. In a democracy, the head of government just can't decree the outcome. (Laughter.) I'm not saying that's what I'd like to do. (Laughter.) Some in Washington are suggesting that's what I'd like to do. The Iraqi Parliament is composed of members representing many different religions and ethnicities: Sunnis, Shia, Turkoman, Kurds, and others.
Even in a long-established democracy, it's not easy to pass important pieces of legislation in a short period of time. We're asking the Iraqis to accomplish all these things at a time when their country is being attacked. I make no excuses, we will continue to keep the pressure up. We expect there to be reconciliation. We expect them to pass law.
On the benchmarks not related to legislation, they're doing better. Prime Minister Maliki promised to provide three brigades to support the operations in Baghdad -- and he did. Iraqi leaders promised to give military commanders the authority they need to carry out our plans, and for the most part, they have. In addition, Iraqis have helped reduce sectarian violence and established joint security stations. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense is working hard to improve its logistical capabilities. It's going to spend nearly $2 billion of its own funds this year to equip and modernize its forces. The Iraqi government appropriated $2 billion so their force can become more modern, so their force is more ready to take the fight to the enemy.
With the help of our troops, the Iraqi security forces are growing in number, they are becoming more capable, and coming closer to the day when they can assume responsibility for defending their own country. Not all this progress is even, and we're going to keep pressing the Iraqis to keep their commitments. Yet we must keep in mind that these benchmarks are aimed at improving life for the Iraqi people -- and that is the standard by which they should be judged.
To evaluate how life is improving for the Iraqis, we cannot look at the country only from the top down. We need to go beyond the Green Zone and look at Iraq from bottom up. This is where political reconciliation matters the most, because it is where ordinary Iraqis are deciding whether to support new Iraq or to sit on the fence, uncertain about the country's future. I'm encouraged, and more importantly, the people in Baghdad are encouraged by what we're seeing. Citizens are forming neighborhood watch groups. Young Sunnis are signing up for the army and police. Tribal sheiks are joining the fight against al Qaeda. Many Shia are rejecting the militias.
Much of the progress we are seeing is the result of the work of our Provincial Reconstruction Teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. PRTs in Anbar are working with Iraqi judges to restore the rule of law with new trials for terrorist detainees. The PRT in Ramadi helped the provincial council pass a budget that appropriates more than $100 million for capital expenditures so people can begin rebuilding their province and people can begin work. PRT in Kirkuk is extending micro-loans to finance reconstruction and help stimulate job creation.
And the PRT in Ninewah has created more than 1,000 jobs through infrastructure projects that range from renovating a hospital to paving roads to building a new soccer field. This bottom-up approach to reconciliation and reconstruction is not headline-grabbing. You don't read a lot about it. But it is making a difference in the lives of Iraqi citizens, it is ongoing, and we need to make sure it continues.
We are also encouraged by the way Iraqis are responding to atrocities intended to inflame passions and provoke reprisals. In early 2006 -- things were going fine in 2005. You might remember at the end, we had an election where 12 million people showed up, an astonishing moment for the Middle East. And I frankly wasn't surprised, because I believe in the universality of freedom. I believe everybody wants to be free. That's what I believe. (Applause.)
I wasn't surprised, but I was pleased. I was pleased to hear the stories of Iraqis who got to vote, and their joy in voting. Al Qaeda wasn't pleased. As a matter of fact, they were frightened by the advance of democracy. You see, democracy is the opposite of their ideology. These folks believe something, it's just the opposite of what we believe. I remind people one of the great, precious gifts of America is the right for people to worship or not worship and be equally American; that we're all Americans -- (applause) -- that we're all Americans together, whether you're a Christian, Jew, Muslim or don't believe. It's the opposite of what al Qaeda believes. They believe if you don't worship the way they tell you to, they're likely going to kill you.
And so they didn't like the advance of democracy in 2005. And so in early 2006, they blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra. It's one of Shia Islam's holiest sites. It set off a spiral of sectarian killing. Earlier this month, in an attack that had all the hallmarks of al Qaeda, the terrorists went back to their old playbook and blew up the minarets on the same mosque.
This time, Iraqi leaders united immediately in rejecting the attack. They took swift and aggressive actions to prevent a re-run of last year's violence. Prime Minister Maliki imposed a curfew, ordered additional security for holy places, and convened a meeting of Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish leadership. He traveled to Samarra with his Defense and Interior Ministers to demonstrate their commitment to peace and reconciliation. Now, look, there are still some reprisals that have occurred, and it's too early to judge whether the government's efforts will be enough to prevent a spiral of violence that we saw after last year's attacks. But it is not too early to say that the response by the Iraqi leadership has been impressive -- and very different from what it was the last time around.
One reason it is different is that the Iraqis are beginning to understand that al Qaeda is the main enemy for Shia, Sunni, and Kurds alike. Al Qaeda is responsible for the most sensational killings in Iraq. They're responsible for the sensational killing on U.S. soil, and they're responsible for the sensational killings in Iraq. Here at home, we see the bloody aftermath of a suicide bombing in an Iraqi market -- and we wonder what kind of people could do that. That's what we wonder. We're good-hearted people. Our commanders tell me that 80 to 90 percent of these suicide bombings are the work of foreign fighters, people who don't like the advance of an alternative to their ideology, and they come in and murder the innocent to achieve their objectives.
And that's their strategy. Al Qaeda's strategy is to use human beings as bombs to create grisly images for the world to see. They understand that sensational images are the best way to overwhelm the quiet progress on the ground. They aim to cultivate a sense of despair about the future of a free Iraq. They hope to gain by the television screen what they cannot gain on the battlefield against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Our success in Iraq must not be measured by the enemy's ability to get a car bombing into the evening news. No matter how good the security, terrorists will always be able to explode a bomb on a crowded street. In places like Israel, terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in similar attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy that is not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq: the rise of a government that can protect its people, deliver basic services for all its citizens, and function as a democracy even amid violence.
We're involved in a broader war against these ideological killers. Iraq is just a theater in this war. The extremists under this, that if the Middle East knows -- if the Middle East know that the Iraqis succeed, it's going to be a terrible blow to their ambitions. That's what they see. But they also feel the same way about Afghanistan, where the Taliban, one-time allies of al Qaeda, is trying to murder its way back into power; or in Lebanon, where extremists are trying to bring down that nation's democratic government; or in the Palestinian territories, where terrorists have set off a suicidal war; or in Iran, where the government pursues nuclear weapons while its president declares that Israel must be wiped off the map. The stakes are high in the beginning stages of this global war against ideologues that stand for the exact opposite of what America stands for. And what makes the war even more significant is that what happens overseas matters to the security in the United States of America, as we learned on September the 11th, when killers were able to use a failed state to plot the deadly attack. And so if we withdraw before the Iraqi government can defend itself, we would yield the future of Iraq to terrorists like al Qaeda -- and we would give a green light to extremists all throughout a troubled region.
The consequences for America and the Middle East would be disastrous. In Iraq, sectarian violence would multiply on a horrific scale. Fighting could engulf the entire region in chaos. We would soon face a Middle East dominated by Islamic extremists who would pursue nuclear weapons, who would use their control of oil for economic blackmail, and who would be in a position to launch new attacks on the United States of America. September the 11th, we saw how a failed state, like I'd just told you, can affect the security at home. And so for the sake of our own security, for the sake of the security of the United States of America, the United States must stand with millions of moms and dads throughout the Middle East who want a future of dignity and peace, and we must help them defeat a common enemy.
No one understands that better than the men and women in uniform. It is a huge honor to be the Commander-in-Chief of such a noble group of men and women. (Applause.) Our military is not only great, it's good, good-hearted people, all volunteers, who said, I want to serve in the face of danger. It's a remarkable country that can produce such good men and women.
I think of a fellow named Cory Endlich. Cory was an Ohio boy who wanted to join the Army so badly that his dad let him start training his senior year of high school. He was deployed to Iraq. It tells you something about his character that when his mom asked him if he needed anything, he said the only things he asked for -- she said the only things he asked for were coloring books, crayons, and candy for the Iraqi children he had befriended. Earlier this month, he was killed. Here's what his dad said: "He felt the war was justified and wanted to be there." That's what his dad said. "I am proud of him and the job he is doing." And so am I. (Applause.)
Thank you all. I know you will join me in asking a loving God to hold the families of those who have lost a loved one in His loving hand. We resolve to honor their sacrifice by finishing the work they have begun. That's the task ahead of us. And when we do, we'll see a true legacy of a man like Sergeant Endlich: a dawn of a new Middle East where leaders are at peace with their own people, where children enjoy the opportunities their parents only dreamed of, and where America has new allies in the cause of freedom.
Thanks for letting me come today. God bless your work, and God bless our country. (Applause.)
Thank you all. Be seated. I've enjoyed my stay so much, I thought I might answer some questions -- (laughter) -- if you've got any, particularly from the students who might be curious. Yes, sir. You're the guy. Are you the mic man, or are you the questioner? Well, you're the questioner. Mic man, okay. Yes, sir.
Q Mr. President, it was my great privilege to be a representative of the Royal Navy here at the Naval Command College class of 1994. It's a huge privilege, clearly, to be here today, as well. We support and admire your country's commitment and sacrifice in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world in the war on terror. But it strikes me that what you described today is very much a land-orientated campaign. What, if any, impact is that land campaign focus likely to have on your propensity to invest in a maritime strategy in the future, please?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks. Yes. (Laughter.) Now who exactly invited you here? (Laughter.) Thank you, sir. Never mind, just kidding. (Laughter.) It is a land-based campaign, because that's where the enemy is. They hide in caves, and they hide in remote regions, and they try to destabilize countries. They try to create chaos. You've got to understand, chaos is the friend of these radicals. The more chaos there is, the more likely it is they'll be able to find a place to roost.
I know some people in our country just have trouble believing that they want to strike us again, but they do. That's what I live with every day. That's what Presidents do, they think about the threats, and they deal with them. And my attitude has been, let's keep the pressure on them. And the nation is going to have to do that. We're going to have to continually press. This means good intelligence, good special ops, working with allies like Great Britain -- who have been a fantastic country to work with, by the way, j ust got to pressure them. It's hard to plan and plot when you're on the move. And it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of diplomacy, it takes a lot of military action, it takes a lot of good intel, and it's going to take a lot of determination by the United States.
In the meantime, we're going through a transformation of our forces. And one of the most transformative branches has been the Navy. It's amazing how the Navy has been able to accomplish more with less. Perhaps that's what you've been able to -- that's less manpower, more mission, better use of equipment, the capacity to manage manpower better. No question we're increasing our army and Marines, which some claim is part of the Navy -- (laughter) -- he doesn't claim it, yes. (Laughter.) Well, we're not going there.
But our Navy is modern, and we'll keep it that way. The main thing for militaries, as we head into the 21st century, is constantly adjust to meet threat. And we've got a lot of money in our budget, and I hope that this new Congress keeps it that way for the Navy, as well as the rest of the military. It's really important. And it's important we continue to transform and become more interoperable. And that's really the challenge I presume you're studying this year at the university. Part of the strategic thought for our military is interoperability. And we're becoming much better at it -- at least that's what the commanders tell me. And that's important.
By the way, named a Navy man today, sent his name up to the Senate for confirmation as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen; and Vice Chairman is going to be a Marine named "Hoss" Cartwright. They understand the need to continue to wage this war, and also to transform our military to meet the threats of the 21st century. And we're doing it.
One of the major transformative events we have done is we have begun to reposition our troops in Europe. The Cold War is over, it ended. And therefore the troop posture doesn't need to be the way it has been throughout the '50s, '60s and '70s. That's transformative. That also frees up money for capital investment, as well as different places where -- let me just say, the capacity to base out of home is going to save us a lot of money and save you a lot of wear and tear.
The volunteer army only works well if we take care of the wives and husbands; the spouses. (Applause.) And one way to do that is to reposition our forces to meet the threats of the 21st century. Well, it turns out, in many times -- it means they have to be based here, and be then in a capacity to move quickly to deal with the threats.
Anyway, thanks, good question. Great Britain has been a great ally. I said goodbye to my friend, Tony Blair, yesterday. I said hello to the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. And there's no doubt in my mind we'll continue to have a good, close working relationship for the sake of peace; for doing the hard work necessary to make this world a peaceful place.
Surely there's more questions than that. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, I just returned from a week at the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania on national security. I walked away with so much more pride in our military. I would follow them anywhere. My question is: At the beginning of your speech -- that you said that you consult with the military. With all due respect, sir, how much do you really listen and follow them?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, a lot. I don't see how you can be the Commander-in-Chief of a well motivated military without listening carefully to the advice of your commanders. I talk to General Petraeus all the time. I say "all the time" -- weekly; that's all the time -- (laughter) -- on secure video from Baghdad. There's a lot of discussions about troop positioning; what will our footprint look like.
My answer is, it depends on what David Petraeus says. David Petraeus is the commander on the ground and he'll have the full support. And that's the way I do business. It's the way it's been throughout the -- you know, I told you that, and rightly so, that -- look, I had a decision to make: more troops to secure Baghdad and Anbar, or pull back and hope for the best? I made a decision to put more troops in. That was in close consultation with the Pentagon and in particular with the -- you know, the folks who have been charged with operations in Baghdad. And that's what you expect from the Commander in Chief.
We do have a chain of command. It goes from me to Gates to "Fox" Fallon to Petraeus. But a lot of times -- and we're all on the SVTS together -- the secure video together to talk about matters and -- so that's the way we do it, yes. Thanks for the question.
Q Thank you very much. Our family was touched by 9/11, and I want to thank you very much for the support of the 9/11 families. Peter Dutton is my name. I'm from the Naval War College faculty. I wanted to ask you about your thoughts concerning strategic culmination. Are we --
THE PRESIDENT: Strategic --
Q Strategic culmination. In other words, are we getting to the point where we're unable to continue to affect world events in other areas other than the Middle East because of our huge commitment there to the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I appreciate that. Obviously, we're constantly balancing -- the first mission is, succeed in Iraq; let me just put it to you that way. And -- yes, I think we are. I think we're capable of dealing with more than one event at a time; witness the fact that we've got a lot of troops in Afghanistan. Fortunately, we've got a lot of NATO allies with us in Afghanistan. One of the things that I don't think a lot of people have really figured out is how successful we've been about putting -- about our ability to put coalitions together. There are a lot of troops in Iraq other than our own, and there's a lot of troops in Afghanistan other than our own.
The other hot spots, of course, would be the Far East. We've got a significant military presence there. We hope and pray that diplomacy works -- I think it will -- in dealing with the North Korean issue. But we got -- we're amply suited to deal with a lot of different theaters. But we're constantly watching; that's the job of the Joint Chiefs. Their job is to constantly monitor threats, positioning of troops, capabilities; and they bring them to my attention.
And I think people recognize that obviously -- you know, our military is undergoing through a lot of hard work and pressure. But according to them, they feel pretty good about it. And if they feel good about it, so do I.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. I wanted to say, thank you for your support for our military. I wanted to ask you your thoughts about our hospital ships that we've had. We had good success with the Mercy over in Indonesia and also pretty soon we're going to be having the Comfort now in deployment. I'd like to ask your thoughts about using these humanitarian missions as a way to fight the global war on terror.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you very much. Our foreign policy is much more than the use of the military. I know the focus is on the military; it's, like, on TV everyday, I understand that. And that's normal during a time of combat. But our foreign policy is much broader than the use of military. You bring up the Navy ships, Comfort, for example, is just -- saving lives in South America and Central America. I remember going to see -- Laura and I went to Guatemala. We went to this remote region and ran into some military docs and nurses that were just providing essential health care. It's really effective diplomacy to help a mom deal with a child's sickness. And we do a lot of it. We get no credit for it, but we do a lot of it.
Our HIV/AIDS initiative on the continent of Africa -- first of all, I believe to whom much is given, much is required. We've been given a lot in the United States. It's in our interests, it's in our moral interests to help deal with the pandemic on the continent of Africa and elsewhere -- some in our neighborhood, like Haiti, for example. It's in our strategic interest to do so, as well. One of the lessons of this conflict we're in is that how people live matters as to whether or not the enemy is able to recruit. If you live in a society full of despair and hopelessness, it is more likely that you would become a suicide bomber or be swayed by an ideology that is really grim. Desperation is what these people prey on.
And, therefore, it's up to the United States, with our allies, by the way, to deal with desperate situations. I happen to believe that encouraging people and helping people to live in a free society is essential to our long-term security. I think that it is imperative that we have confidence in the ability of liberty to be a transforming agent for peace.
I worry about isolationism in America. I worry about the struggle -- which is going to take a while -- will cause us to lose our confidence in the ability to help others realize the blessings of liberty. I told you earlier I believe in the universality of freedom. It is a principle by which I have made decisions. I believe -- I personally believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of the Almighty to each man, woman and child on the face of the Earth is freedom. That's what I believe.
And I have read a lot of history, as have you. I share the story about my friend, Prime Minister Koizumi, the former Prime Minister of Japan. I marvel at the fact -- or I used to marvel at the fact that my dad fought the Japanese as a United States Navy fighter pilot, and his son sits down at the table to work to keep the peace. It's an amazing -- to me it's an amazing irony, I guess is the best way to describe that -- that a fellow's father fought him, and I'm working to keep peace. We had no stronger ally -- and we still have a strong ally in Prime Minister Abe, by the way, from Japan -- but no stronger ally in recognizing that democracy is the long-term solution to defeating this ideological enemy. And Japan, our former enemy, was making sacrifices in Iraq and helping in Afghanistan.
We've got no stronger ally in working to peacefully solve the North Korean nuclear issue than Japan. And it is -- something happened between when H.W. Bush was flying torpedo bombers and W. was in the White House. And what happened was, Japan changed its form of government. Liberty has got the capacity to change enemies to allies. And the fundamental question facing this country was, will we recognize that as we head into the 21st century? Do we care what life is like around the world, or are we going to hope for the best?
I care about what life is like around the world, and so should America. And, therefore, we ought to worry when people live under the thumb of a tyrant. Our foreign policy for years in the Middle East was stability. What mattered most was stability, are things stable. That, however, created conditions that enabled a group of killers to recruit people to come and kill us. And, therefore, I changed our foreign policy in the Middle East to promote liberty as the great alternative to tyranny and a dark vision.
Now, we're going to be kinetic if we need to be to protect ourselves. I've told you, we're going to stay on the offense and keep the pressure on them. But the long-term solution as to whether or not your grandkids can live in a peaceful world is whether or not we encourage liberty to take root around the Middle East, in particular. And people say, well, they can't possibly -- you know, that's not going to work.
Well, I suspect if you look back at history they might have been somewhat suspect if someone would have predicted an American President would be sitting down keeping the peace with the Japanese Prime Minister at some point -- particularly after World War II.
I think it's going to be very important for our country to have faith in the capacity of liberty to be transformative. Some say that's -- you know, he's a hopeless idealist guy. Well, I think it's realistic to understand that this is a long-term struggle and alternative ideologies need to be promoted. One particularly based upon hope, that's worked every time, when given a chance to take root. (Applause.)
That's not a seersucker suit, is it? (Laughter.) It's coming back, yes. They're coming back.
Q -- from Colombia.
THE PRESIDENT: From?
Q Colombia, class of 1979.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you, sir.
Q First of all, I want to thank you for the support you are giving our country. And you have -- we know that your main goal is to win the situation in Iraq. I want to ask you which is your assessment for the situation in South America?
THE PRESIDENT: Sí, thank you. First, I am a big admirer of mi amigo, Presidente Uribe. He's strong -- that's the President of Colombia. (Laughter and applause.) He's strong, he's courageous, and he believes in democracy. And he was -- he started off in a really very tough problem, and that is dealing with a very rich group of people who are violent, but didn't necessarily agree with democracy. And I admire the way he has led his nation.
A key moment in our relations with Colombia will be coming up pretty soon. And that is, we negotiated a free-trade agreement with your country. Why? Well, one, we did it because it's in our economic interests to open up markets for U.S. goods and services, just like it's in Colombia's interests to open up our markets for goods and services.
I believe in trade. I believe trade is in the interests of our workers. I think more markets -- listen, we're 5 percent of the people, that means 95 percent of the market should be available to our goods and services. When you're good at something, you ought to make it easier to sell it. We're good farmers, we ought to be selling our crops overseas to the extent they're not needed home. We're good manufacturers of a lot of products; we ought to be selling them.
I also believe that trade is the best way to lift people out of poverty. When there's commerce, when there's activity, when there's enterprise, a society has a better chance of enabling its people to realize dreams. So I'm a big trader -- a free-trader.
That's why we worked with the agreement with Colombia. Now the Congress is going to have an opportunity to determine whether or not they're going to be protectionist in nature and whether or not they'll turn -- this country will turn its back on our friend or not.
The free trade vote has a lot of strategic implications because in the neighborhood there is a person who is undermining a democracy, and therefore we need to be concerned about the loss of democracies in our neighborhood. Democracies yield peace. They don't war against each other. And when we see a democracy being undermined -- and I think it's going to be in the interests for the United States to work with friends in the neighborhood to promote the institutions necessary to prevent individuals from undermining a free society. What does that mean? Free media, the right to dissent, the capacity to have open elections.
So I've got good relations with a lot of the leaders in the neighborhood. And we're working very closely with Brazil, for example, on a lot of initiatives, starting with the biodiesel initiative. It's an interesting initiative, by the way. That has got -- that initiative is all done because of national security interests and economic interests as well as environmental concerns. And Brazil makes a lot of ethanol and we're beginning to make a lot of ethanol; it's in our interests to share technologies to promote others so we become less dependent on oil -- skipping around here.
My only point to you is that good relations with Brazil are necessary to work to make sure our neighborhood remains a peaceful place based upon the form of government. There's only one non-democracy in our neighborhood: that's Cuba. And I strongly believe the people of Cuba ought to live in a free society. It's in our interests that Cuba become free and it's in the interests of the Cuban people that they don't have to live under an antiquated form of government -- that has just been repressive.
So we'll continue to press for freedom on the island of Cuba. One day, the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away (laughter) -- no, no, no -- then, the question is, what will be the approach of the U.S. government? My attitude is, is that we need to use the opportunity to call the world together to promote democracy as the alternative to the form of government they have been living with.
You'll see an interesting debate. Some will say, all that matters is stability, which in my judgment would just simply reinforce the followers of the current regime. I think we ought to be pressing hard for democracy.
I went overseas to the Czech Republic and gave a speech on democracy. I saw Vaclav Havel. You might remember him, he was the leader of the Velvet Revolution that helped lead Eastern Europe to a new form of government -- new forms of government. And he's very much interested in the United States' attitude toward Cuba, because he believes we need to be promoting freedom before stability.
It's going to be an interesting challenge for our country. We're working, by the way -- back to your question, can we do more than one thing at one time -- we're working very closely with the Navy and Coast Guard to make sure that there is not any issues when it comes between the United States and Cuba, should there be a -- when there is a transition.
Anyway, thanks for the question. I think I am somewhat concerned by the fact that -- you know, a lot of rhetoric is geared toward the Middle East and Africa and that people in the neighborhood say, well, the United States is not paying attention, nor do they care about us. That's just simply not the case. In my recent trip down there, I did go to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Central America, and emphasized our humanitarian programs, the health programs, the education programs. I wanted to make it clear to the people of South and Central America that the United States cares deeply about the human condition, and that we believe that on the one hand, our government aid ought to make sure that we battle corruption -- we just don't give money to corrupt societies, that we ought to say that in return for our aid, change your habits if you're corrupt, otherwise you're not going to get additional money.
And at the same time, we believe we ought to foster programs aimed at the individual. And we are. We're spending a lot of money in South America. Now, we're not doing a very good job with the propaganda battle around the world. We created it, and we're losing. And that's one thing we've got to spend a lot of time on, is to make sure that the image of the United States corresponds to the realities on the ground.
Yesterday I went to a mosque -- Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. It's the 50th anniversary of the Islamic Center. It was a place where Dwight Eisenhower went to dedicate, and I went to rededicate it. And my message was, one, freedom is a beautiful thing, and that we expect societies to work toward freedom, and we want to do that. And at the same time, we honor all religion. That's what we do in America. And it is really meant to counter this notion that somehow America is in war against Islam. We're not. We're at war against killers who subvert a great religion in order to achieve their political objectives. And we'll keep working as hard as we can.
Anyway, great question. Look, I've got to go. I thank you all for coming by. God bless. (Applause.) END 12:23 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 28, 2007
President Bush Disappointed by Congress's Failure to Act on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Spruance Auditorium Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, 12:38 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I thank the members of the Senate and members of my administration who worked so hard on the border security and immigration reform bill. I'm sorry the Senate was unable to reach agreement on the bill this morning.
Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people and Congress's failure to act on it is a disappointment. The American people understand the status quo is unacceptable when it comes to our immigration laws. A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find a common ground -- it didn't work.
Congress really needs to prove to the American people that it can come together on hard issues. The Congress needs to work on comprehensive energy policy and good health care; make sure health care is affordable without inviting the federal government to run the health care system. We've got to work together to make sure we can balance this federal budget, and not overspend or raise taxes on the American people. We've got a lot of work to do.
When they come back from the summer -- from the July recess, before the summer break begins, we'll be focusing on the appropriations process. And I look forward to working with Congress to balance our budgets and to be wise about how we spend the people's money. Thank you for your time. END 12:40 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 28, 2007
President Bush Nominates Admiral Michael Mullen and General James Cartwright to Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Roosevelt Room, 8:47 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you all for coming. Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us. I am sending to the United States Senate my nomination of Admiral Mike Mullen to be America's next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And I'm sending my nomination of General James Cartwright to be the next Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mike Mullen and "Hoss" Cartwright are experienced military officers. They're highly qualified for these important positions. I thank them for agreeing to serve their country in these new capacities. We welcome Mike's wife, Deborah, and sons John and Michael. Thank you all for coming. Thanks for wearing the uniform. "Hoss's" wife got stuck on an airplane. (Laughter.) I'm sure she's going to forgive him, and hopefully forgive me. I thank you all for being here and joining on this -- joining these good men on this exciting day for them.
America is at war, and we're at war with brutal enemies who have attacked our nation and who would pursue nuclear weapons; who would use their control over oil as economic blackmail, and who intend to launch new attacks on our country. In such times, one of the most important decisions a President makes is the appointment of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chairman is our nation's highest-ranking military officer. He is the principal military advisor to the President, to the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council. He is responsible for ensuring that our military forces are ready to meet any challenge.
Admiral Mike Mullen is uniquely qualified to take on these important responsibilities. Mike has had an illustrious military career, spanning nearly four decades. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1968. He earned an advanced degree from the Naval Postgraduate School. He has commanded three ships, a cruiser-destroyer group, and an aircraft carrier battle group. He served as commander of NATO's Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy, with responsibility for Alliance missions in the Balkans, Iraq, and Mediterranean. He served as Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe.
At the Pentagon, he has served as the Navy's Director of Surface Warfare; Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Resources, Requirements, and Assessments; Vice Chief of Naval Operations; and Chief of Naval Operations. Mike is a man of experience, of vision, and high integrity. He is the right man to lead America's Armed Forces, and, Mike, I thank you for agreeing to take on this important assignment.
I'm also nominating an outstanding military officer to serve as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General "Hoss" Cartwright. He's a graduate of the University of Iowa, he earned an advanced degree from the Naval War College. He completed a fellowship at MIT. He's a Marine aviator who has commanded deployed Marines at all levels. He has broad experience on the joint staff, having served twice in the Directorate of Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment.
And since 2004, he's served as head of the U.S. Strategic Command. In that position, "Hoss" has been in charge of America's nuclear arsenal, missile defenses, space operations, information operations, global command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and our nation's efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction. These are vital responsibilities and "Hoss" has met them with honor, skill and integrity. He has earned my trust and my confidence. He's going to make an outstanding Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Upon confirmation by the Senate, Mike Mullen and "Hoss" Cartwright will succeed two of America's finest military officers -- General Pete Pace and Admiral Ed Giambastiani. Pete Pace has been at my side most of my presidency, serving first as my Vice Chairman -- as the Vice Chairman, and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We've been through a lot together. Pete was with me after the attacks of September the 11th. He played a key role in planning America's response to that brutal assault on the American homeland.
With the help of his leadership, our men and women in uniform brought down brutal dictatorships in Afghanistan and Iraq. They liberated 50 million people from unspeakable oppression. He's helped lead our military through unprecedented campaigns. And as he has done so, Pete never took his eye off the horizon and the threats that still lie ahead. He played a critical role in transforming our military for challenges of a new century. He made sure that future benefits -- future generations will benefit from the reforms that he has set in motion.
Pete made history as the first Marine to serve as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'm going to remember him simply as one of the best military officers and finest men I've been privileged to know. I'm grateful for his friendship, his sense of humor and his character. I also thank him for the life of service and I thank his wife, Lynne, and his children, as well.
I'm also grateful to Admiral Ed Giambastiani. I just call him Admiral "G." I appreciated his outstanding leadership as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He's an officer of character and vision, and I appreciate his insights and his strong military advice.
Prior to his service as Vice Chairman, Admiral "G" helped lead the transformation of our military as Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command. He helped strengthen the NATO alliance as the first Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation. Ed has given 37 years of dedicated service to our country. His work will affect the security of our nation for decades to come. I thank him for his devotion to duty, I thank his wife, Cindy, and their children, as well.
Pete Pace and Ed Giambastiani are hard acts to follow. I can think of none more qualified to follow them than the men whose nominations I am sending to the United States Senate today. I call on the Senate to quickly confirm Mike Mullen and "Hoss" Cartwright. I thank these fine officers and their families for continuing to serve our country.
Thank you all for coming.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate those kind words and confidence that you and Secretary Gates have expressed in me. Thank you also for allowing my wife, Deborah, and my sons, Jack and Michael, to be with us today. I think we all know that very little can be achieved in life without the love, support and sacrifice of one's family, and I'm certainly no exception.
I'm honored to be nominated to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at this critical time in our history, and I welcome the opportunity to work with the Senate for confirmation. If confirmed, I look forward to working closely with you, sir, Secretary Gates, the Congress, and our outstanding military leaders, including, of course, my fellow nominee, General "Hoss" Cartwright, as we wrestle with the diverse security challenges that lie before us.
Clearly, we remain a nation at war against formidable enemies. The way forward in Iraq and Afghanistan, the path we take now and in the future will shape the character of the longer, larger struggle against terror. It cannot be a military path alone, that much is clear. We must continue to focus on the broad range of America's defense and security commitments around the world, and on the many instruments of national power needed to safeguard those commitments.
We must remain faithful -- excuse me, we must remain mindful that we live in a world made smaller by the speed of change, more dangerous by the actions of extremists and tyrants, and, yet, more hopeful, more promising, by the power of partnerships, cooperation and trust.
The men and women of America's Armed Forces understand these complex challenges, Mr. President, and as you know, are finding new ways to overcome them each and every day. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families are the most dedicated, talented and courageous people with whom I have ever been privileged to serve. Representing them, serving them, in turn, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, would be my great honor.
GENERAL CARTWRIGHT: Thank you, Mr. President, and Mr. Secretary. I'm both humbled and honored to move forward and fill this role as the Vice Chair -- Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Family is important to me, also. And I have a son and a daughter that are currently deployed overseas in separate assignments, and I have a daughter that's here -- my oldest daughter -- in the local area, with her husband. But at the center of that is the greatest invention in the world, which is a grandson that's about three years old and it is my duty to spoil. (Laughter.) So I do have one other allegiance here, sir -- (laughter) -- and I have a wife that's sitting in Omaha with an airplane that's broken. (Laughter.)
If confirmed, I will focus all of my effort on the whole of government's efforts to prevail in this global war on terrorism, and to support our people in all of their phases of service; and also to try to move forward and look to the future for the capabilities that we're going to need to prevail as we move into the future as a nation.
Again, thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Mr. Secretary.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks. END 8:58 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 27, 2007
President Bush Attends Seventh-Annual White House Tee Ball Game South Lawn, 3:16 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to opening day right here on the South Lawn of the White House. Jonas Brothers, thank you guys. Good to see you. Proud you're here. As usual, you did a fantastic job with the National Anthem. Just give them a hand. (Applause.) I'm proud to be here with the Commissioner of Tee Ball, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Michele Smith. Thanks for coming, Michele. (Applause.) Proud to be with you.
First, we want to welcome to tee ball here on the South Lawn, the Bobcats from Allegany County Little League, Cumberland, Maryland. (Applause.) And we want to welcome their mighty opponent, from Luray, Virginia, the Red Wings. (Applause.) The Commissioner and I wish the girls all the very best. We want to thank the coaches, and of course we want to thank the parents for coming. We welcome you here. Opening day of tee ball on the South Lawn.
I do want to thank the Arizona Wildcat National Champs for joining us today. (Applause.) Taryne Mowatt, the coach at first base. Taryne, thanks for coming. Congratulations. Caitlin Lowe, the third base coach. We've got bench coaches, we've got the team. We want to wish you all the very best next year. That would be a three-peat, right? Good luck to you all. Thanks for setting such a fine example.
One reason that we invited the Wildcats to come to honor these girls softball teams is because it's in the nation's interest to promote women athletics. We're a big believer in Title IX programs. We think it's good for America that our women are playing sports. The best way to convince women to play sports is to start early. So these champs are here to encourage these young girls to play hard, play often, and play good, and one day you may be national champs, as well. So thanks for coming. We're glad you're here.
I do want to thank Mayor Ralph Dean of Luray. I forgot to welcome you, Mr. Mayor. We're proud you're here. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) We want to thank Girl Scouts of USA for joining us today. Girls, thanks for bearing the colors. We thank you for coming. We're proud you're here. Thanks for being Scouts. (Applause.)
And by the way, we're about to get the first pitch in. And Meredith Cripe is going to give me the ball in a minute. Meredith, we're really glad you're here. Thanks for coming. It's a big day to be here to put out the first pitch on opening day, and we're glad we selected you.
I do want to thank Hannah Storm, the announcer today. Hannah, thanks for lending your talent. Mother of three soon to be all-start softball players. We're glad you're here. We want to thank the Little League International staff. Thanks for putting on this event. Thanks for supporting Little League baseball. Thanks for helping our kids understand the blessings of exercise and team sports.
I do want to thank representatives from the YWCA, the Boys & Girls Club of America, and Girls on the Run. (Applause.)
And finally, after this event, the Commissioner and I are going to present each of you all a token of our appreciation for you coming, and we're also going to say thanks to Erica Minor, who is the youth volunteer. We like to honor people who serve their neighbors, love a neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves. And Erica is such a person.
And now before we begin the game, and before you give me the ball, Meredith, we're going to have the Little League Pledge. Are you ready? (The pledge is recited.) THE PRESIDENT: Play ball. (Applause.) END 3:20 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 27, 2007
President Bush Discusses Health Care Roosevelt Room, 2:18 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here. I just finished a really interesting and good discussion with a group of distinguished health care experts. I appreciate you all taking your time. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here, as well.
These men and women have different specialties, different backgrounds, and different ideas, but they all agree on an important fact: America's health care system is in need of serious reform. And I agree. The American people share that belief, as well. In my conversations with Republicans and Democrats and business owners and workers, I hear the same concerns: America's health care is too costly, it's too confusing; it leaves too many people uninsured.
The fundamental question is, what should we do about it? On that question, our nation has a clear choice. One option is to put more power in the hands of government by expanding federal health care programs and empowering bureaucrats to make medical decisions. The other option is to put more power in the hands of individuals, by making private health insurance more affordable and accessible and empowering people and their doctors to make the decisions that are right for them. That's the divide.
Debate between these two options is now beginning to play out on Capitol Hill. Democrat leaders in Congress are considering a massive expansion of government health care through a program called S-CHIP, which stands for State Children's Health Insurance Program. This program was designed to ensure that poor children without health insurance receive the medical care they need. I support S-CHIP for that purpose. I think it makes sense to have a program to help poor children get the health insurance they need.
My budget increases funding for the poor children in S-CHIP. The problem is that Democrats want to expand S-CHIP far beyond its original intent. If their proposal becomes law, S-CHIP would expand its reach to include children from family that earn as much as $80,000 a year, as well as some adults. This is a massive expansion of the program.
And as a result, many of these people would give up the private health insurance they have now as they move to government health care. In fact, a recent study estimated that as many as half the children enrolling in S-CHIP would drop their private health coverage, which is contrary to the program's original purpose. The Democrats' proposal is part of a larger strategy.
At the same time that they try to expand S-CHIP to older citizens, they are trying to expand Medicare to younger citizens. Their goal is to take incremental steps down the path to government-run health care for every American. It's the wrong path for our nation. Government-run health care would deprive Americans of the choice and competition that comes from the private market. It would cause huge increases in government spending, which could lead to higher taxes. It would result in rationing, inefficiency and long-waiting lines. It would replace the doctor-patient relationship with dependency on people here in Washington, D.C.
And there's a better way forward. We strongly believe that the S-CHIP proposal put forward by some Democrats in Congress needs to be resisted. And here's what we believe. We believe there's a better alternative. Instead of expanding S-CHIP beyond its purpose, we should return its focus to the children most in need. And instead of encouraging people to drop private coverage in favor of government plans, we should work to make basic private health insurance affordable for all Americans.
My administration is pursuing this goal in a variety of innovative ways. We created health savings accounts which allow people to save, tax free, for routine medical expenses and help reduce the cost of private insurance. We're working to pass association health plans so that small businesses can insure their workers with private coverage at the same discounts that big businesses get. We're working to stop junk lawsuits to drive up private insurance premiums and good doctors out of practice.
The best way to make private insurance more affordable, however, is to reform the tax code. Under current law, workers who are fortunate enough to get health insurance from their employers receive a tax benefit. But if you buy insurance on your own, you get no tax benefit.
That's unfair, so I propose leveling the playing field. Under my plan, every family with private health coverage will receive a standard tax deduction of $15,000. That means families could deduct $15,000 from their income before they pay taxes, no matter where they get their health insurance. I'm pleased that many health care experts and members of Congress share the objective for ending a bias in the tax code.
Now I recognize some of them believe a tax credit for health insurance would be a better way to do so. For example, some have proposed a tax credit of $5,000 for every family with private coverage. This would have a similar outcome as the standard deduction I proposed, and I'm open to further discussions about these two options.
Whichever plan we choose, reforming the tax code would have a major impact on American health care. That's what's important for our citizens to understand. There's a better way from expanding the government, and that is to reform the tax code. For example, just as tax incentives for home ownership have encouraged more Americans to buy homes through the private housing market, new incentives for health insurance would lead more Americans to buy coverage through the private health insurance market. And that's what we want. That ought to be the goal of this country.
By reforming the tax code, it would help more than 100 million people who are now covered by employer-provided insurance reduce their tax bills. Those who now purchase health insurance on their own would save money on their taxes for the first time. As many as 20 million others who have no health insurance would purchase basic coverage.
While the federal government is working to reform the tax code, states should address other problems in our health care system. That's precisely what the Secretary is doing, working with our states. States should make reforms to ensure that their citizens have access to basic private health insurance. It's a dual responsibility. If we want a better system, the federal government has got a responsibility to reform, and so do states. As they do so, they should ensure that help is provided to those who can least afford coverage.
We're at a decisive moment in the debate over health care. The choices we make now will set the direction of medical care in America for years to come. I'm going to continue to work with members of both parties to look past tired, old proposals that make bigger government programs the solution to every problem. I'm going to continue to push for new and innovative ways to help every American afford basic private health insurance. I will continue to put my trust in the good judgment of the American people, and I'll put my trust in the finest system of private medicine in the world.
I want to thank you all for coming, thanks for your interest. Thank you. (Applause.) END 2:25 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 27, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room , 12:39 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Feeling nostalgic?
Q Are you?
MR. SNOW: Our last on-camera briefing at this lovely facility.
Q Do you like it here?
MR. SNOW: I like it here, but only because of the company. So I will be happy -- (laughter) -- so I will like it when we're in Room 450 and I'll really like it when we're in the new briefing room.
Q So while you are trying to get the Senate to pass this immigration bill, the House Republicans say they want no part of it. The House Republican Conference voted 114-23 in opposition to the Senate bill. So where does this go?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, let's try to get this thing through the Senate first. There were also some 70 Republicans who were not part of that vote. I think if we get the Senate bill passed, which we feel confident we will, it creates an opportunity for people to spend a lot of time talking about what the bill does and does not do, and frankly, how it also addresses a lot of the concerns that House Republicans have, such as how can we trust you to enforce the borders? What do you have here that creates credibility in a system that in the past has not been credible in enforcing borders, or trying to hold to account those who crossed over the border illegally? What do you do about employers?
In other words, there are a lot of very practical questions that are of concern, and I think it gives us an opportunity to spend time talking with House members, and also making clear that we share not only their concerns, but reassure them we share their goals in a lot of ways, in terms of border security, in terms of restoring the rule of law, in terms of making sure that citizenship means something. All of those elements are in place. So -- and finally this: If House members do, in fact, have concerns with things that they think can be used to improve the bill, to strengthen it, they're going to have an opportunity to do it, because whatever happens in the House will move from subcommittee to committee to the floor, and offer a chance, I think, for a very full and detailed debate.
Q So you don't see this as a setback to hopes for the bill?
MR. SNOW: No. I mean, we understand --
Q -- when there's an overwhelming majority of House Republicans who voted are against it?
MR. SNOW: An overwhelming majority of those who voted. But there are going to be opportunities to speak to them and to hear their concerns. There are going to be some who are not going to vote with us, we understand that. But on the other hand, we believe, on a bipartisan basis we'll be able to put together the vote -- well, we hope that in the House we'll be able, on a bipartisan basis, to put together the votes we need. But it is going to require a lot of conversation and a lot of opportunities for us again to talk about what the bill does and does not do, because, frankly, there have been characterizations out there that don't reflect what the bill does, nor do they reflect the thinking of the administration.
Q Can you set a picture for us about how the President is making his personal outreach? Is he making the calls from the Oval Office? Is he offering members anything new or trying to pitch this in a new way?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to -- what I will say is that he is making phone calls and will continue to be making phone calls. There have been opportunities also to speak individually with members, and we'll continue to do that.
And the President does that -- he does it on immigration; obviously, we do it with Iraq. So it's the normal practice -- sometimes he'll do it from the Oval, sometimes he'll do it from the residence, sometimes from the small office -- it sort of depends where he is at the time, but he makes sure that he is -- there will be continued outreach, but I'm not going to go into details about how, who, what, when, where, why.
Q And is the outreach going to extend to Senators Lugar and Voinovich for coming to the White House and talking about some of the concerns they've been expressing?
MR. SNOW: Well, we certainly are going to have conversations with them. We're going to be talking to them. You know, it's interesting, because I've been going back again over the Senator Lugar speech. Really, when you take a look at it, the one thing he rules out very quickly is the idea we just get out -- don't fund the troops, don't have precipitant withdrawal. What he's really talking about is the over-the-horizon strategy -- and the President has used that term before -- that once you have created the space in which the Iraqis, in fact, have stepped up, they've made the political progress, they've made the military and training progress, where do you go? And you get to the point where U.S. forces withdraw -- again, over the horizon is the term the President has used -- and it sounds like that's a lot of what Senator Lugar is discussing, as well.
We think it's important to allow the Baghdad security plan to work. But if you take a look -- and what Senator Lugar is trying to figure out is what configuration is going to be conducive in the long run to success, and also build a greater -- bipartisan support.
Q Tony, on Blair's appointment as Quartet envoy, why does the President believe now, after so many failed or stalled initiatives toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians, that Tony Blair is the man who can now carry this forward?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, ultimately, this is going to be up to the Palestinians and the Israelis. An outside politician is not going to be the person who creates peace or a settlement in the Middle East.
On the other hand, Tony Blair is not only enormously capable and well-respected as a world leader, he is somebody who has personal skills that are going to be able to get people to talk with one another. And, frankly, the President is delighted that the Prime Minister has agreed to lend his considerable talents and energies to the task of trying to advance the peace process.
But, as we've said, people are going to have to be making choices and they're going to have to make choices in the direction of peace. And obviously the first step is getting people on the Palestinian side to adopt the Quartet principles.
Q On the President's speech today, does the President believe that moderate Muslims are going to stand up and speak out against extremists? Because, to this point, it seems either they have been intimidated or perhaps indifferent.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I think you've seen a number -- you've seen moderate voices coming forward and especially -- take a look at what's going on, for instance, in Iraq right now where you have leaders -- Sunni and Shia now really focusing a lot of their efforts and also their rhetoric on al Qaeda. When you're talking about an organization that is trying to use Islam as a shield for terrorist activity, al Qaeda really is your perfect example of it, and you do see people standing up for it.
Obviously, what you want is, the dialogue continues for people to speak out more forcefully against the abuse of a religion of peace for those who want to use it as a shield for terror that that religion does not condone.
Q What is the horizon of this administration to stop the killing in Iraq? And does the President have an exit strategy over and beyond "you guys in Iraq, shape up now," the collaborators and so forth who were with us and supposed to carry out our mission?
MR SNOW: What the President -- I think what you -- you focus on exit, Helen. The thing that we're trying to focus on is success.
Q I think that these Republicans are focusing on exit.
MR SNOW: Well, take a look again at what Dick Lugar talked about. Dick Lugar did not talk about exit. What he talked about is reshaping the way the forces are. But the one he rejected is exit. What he is talking --
Q He said that this is the word and that's another story. They are talking about exit.
MR SNOW: No, what he's talking about is a strategy for pulling people, again, over the horizon. Take a look at the speech and also his public statements and you're going to find that what he's not talking about is getting out. What he's trying to come up with is a way of engaging regional powers and also Iraqi powers and the allies in such a way that has to deal with the ongoing problems they've had in terms of violence, but also build the institutions that are going to be absolutely necessary to have a safe and free and democratic Iraq.
Q Tony, can you go back to Tony Blair? How can he hope to make any progress while the West Bank is in one set of Palestinian hands and Gaza is in another?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the first thing you do is you start working with the Palestinian government. President Abbas has appointed a Prime Minister; that is the government, it's a constitutional government, you begin working with them. And the other thing you do is you continue to pour in humanitarian aid to people who need it, and you send a strong signal to Hamas that the way of terror is not going to do it.
Again, Tony Blair is not the person who comes in and says, aha, I will solve it. It's going to be up to the Palestinians. And it's going to be up to Palestinians to say to Hamas, sorry, the way of terror is not, in fact, in the best interests of the future of this country.
Now, Tony Blair is going to have the opportunity to work with and in support of those who support democracy and peace in the region, and that's what he does. He's not Superman, he doesn't have a cape. He's not designed to be doing that. What he is designed to do is to work as an aggressive facilitator between the Quartet and interested parties to try to look for ways to make progress where in the past we have not seen the kind of progress we'd like.
Q Is there any thought to going ahead and attempting a peace with the Palestinian government whose writ right now only runs in the West Bank?
MR. SNOW: Again, at this juncture I leave any of those decisions -- that is a tactical question that I leave to -- now, the one thing we've said is that we believe in -- we're not talking about -- what you're really discussing would be a partition, and we're not talking about a partition. We think that the Palestinian area encompasses Gaza and the West Bank, and that's got to be part of the solution.
Q Tony, could I go back to the hedge fund question of this morning, briefly? You said -- your response was this administration is not predisposed to a tax increase.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Is that predicated on the fact that it would hurt capital formation --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not -- I was not addressing specifically -- I gave you a very general answer for a reason. We're going to take a look at what Democrats have to offer. As you know, we already have a couple of veto threats out on that energy bill. We'll take a look at tax provisions, as well, but I'm not going to get into that --
Q There is a Ways and Means bill that would raise those tax rates to as much as 35 percent -- from 15 percent now. Does your general comment apply to that --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to give you -- I gave you a very general comment. Let's see what the House does and then we will give you a specific comment.
Q But you're not inclined to be in favor of any tax increases?
MR. SNOW: We're not inclined to be in favor of tax increases.
Q Tony, back on immigration. Some are saying it has to be done, all of it has to be done by August -- July-August. Others are saying at the end of the year. When does this have to be done before it's the death knell for immigration, comprehensive immigration?
MR. SNOW: Boy, what a negative way of framing it. First, I think as a practical matter, you're not really talking about July or August, simply because for something to work its way through the House is going to take some time. So if you get a Senate bill, then you move to the House -- you're talking into the fall, anyway. What we're working toward is, again, getting through the Senate and making a vigorous case to the American people -- Democrats and Republicans -- for this to succeed.
Again, April, you take a look -- everybody agrees that it's a problem that has been unaddressed for 21 years; needs to be addressed. Everybody agrees on the importance of border security. Everybody agrees on the importance of restoring the rule of law. Everybody agrees that citizenship ought to mean something.
We think that this bill, when people do have a chance to look at it -- I'll give you an example. A lot of folks say, well, why don't you go ahead and take care of border security? Well, you take a look at the triggers, we're talking about a $6 billion investment over a three-year period, unparalleled in American history, that is the most aggressive, the most assertive, the boldest and most ambitious proposal anybody has put forward. And yet, a lot of times folks say, oh, well, I didn't understand that, how do you prove it to us? Well, the answer is we say that by the end of next year, we have to meet these triggers. It's one of those things where I've said before, don't trust, verify.
So a lot of times, there have been expressed concerns and qualms that we think are actually answered by the legislation. People in the Senate and also here in the White House, we have worked to address concerns of conservatives, especially dealing with the White House, about a lot of items in the legislation, and we think that these are strong provisions that are going to help us with security, and help us also with our long-term economic progress, and do it in a way that is consistent with our traditions and will make us proud.
Q Tony, worst-case scenario, let's say it does not work out in the fall, let's say --
MR. SNOW: But, April, you know I never answer questions like that. I don't even want you to --
Q You've answered a couple of "ifs" recently, so --
MR. SNOW: Well, no, but I don't do "what if X, Y, and Z don't happen between now and the end of the year." We think it's --
Q I'm still going to ask the question, okay?
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Okay, what if the worst-case scenario, it doesn't work out in the fall as the White House hopes, what about next year? Is there hope next year, at the beginning of next year, possibly?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think it's important to get it done this year. April, to say, oh, yeah, we'll do it next year, immediately the headlines springs up, "White House writes off immigration" for the -- we're not going to do that. We're not writing off immigration reform. It's important, it's vital, it's important for the country. The President has shown real leadership on this. He's taken a lot of heat from a lot of people, but he believes very strongly that this is the right way to proceed. And we are going to continue to work hard to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes law.
Q You don't want to get mixed up in immigration and election-year politics at all, do you?
MR. SNOW: What we want to do is get it done.
Q Why did 62 die for lack of detention, according to The New York Times?
MR. SNOW: More than a million people have been detained in those times. You obviously regret any time somebody dies in detention, and you take a look at ways to make sure that, if it's preventable, it is.
Q Tony, can you preview for us President Bush's meeting this weekend with President Putin, some of the issues that they're looking at addressing?
MR. SNOW: Again, we'll have some opportunities -- there will be some opportunities --
Q We won't have you on camera, though, so we kind of need a little --
MR. SNOW: Again, what you are going to have is the kind of exchanges that you would expect. There are a whole series of issues that are of concern to the two nations, and it is likely that they're going to come up. Again, if you're expecting some sort of grand initiative, a bold announcement -- no. This is a consultation between two leaders of very important nations on a host of issues that would include North Korea, that include the Middle East, that include Iran, that include the ongoing challenges that are being faced throughout the region. We're going to talk about -- I'm sure there's going to be an opportunity to discuss the future of missile defense, and all those things. You would expect them to come up.
But I would caution against expecting grand, new announcements. This is, in fact, an opportunity for two leaders to talk honestly and candidly with one another, and they get to -- they're the ones who are going to control the agenda.
Q Let me just follow up on missile defense. The last time these two met missile defense was the principal thing they talked about. The proposal that Putin made at that meeting, is that still being seriously considered by the U.S. government?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to -- what the President -- the President was encouraged that President Putin thought it was important to talk about missile defense, recognizing that if somebody -- if a hostile power, a rogue nation gets the capability of putting nuclear weapons on a missile, everybody in Europe and Asia is going to be in jeopardy, and it is important to provide that kind of a shield for the Europeans, as well as throughout the region.
And this is why the President is heartened by President Putin's acknowledgment of the fact. I'm not going to get into any particular details. I'll leave that for the two of them to discuss.
Q A lot of experts have said since then that really this facility that he offered is not appropriate, it's not going to be terribly useful --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to get into assessing it. I'll let them have their conversations. One of the things that has happened is that individuals on both sides have been tasked to take a good, thorough look, which you would expect them to do.
Q Can you characterize the significance of being at Walker's Point for this kind of a visit, with the President's father also in attendance? Can you --
MR. SNOW: I just think it's an acknowledgment of the importance of the relationship, and also I think the importance of having an atmosphere that is going to be conducive to relaxed, but candid discussions of important issues.
Q Is the former President going to be involved in the conversations?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so, but I don't know.
Q Tony, you talked about the recent arrival of troops in the surge, and you also talked about the late start of the surge, how it's just got underway, and you've got two months basically until September. Are you really setting us up for that to be laying the groundwork for support for a report from General Petraeus saying that there hasn't been very much progress?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Are you expecting there to be very much progress?
MR. SNOW: Again, you'll have to take a look, but, no, this is not a way of setting up a lack of progress. We're 12 days into the most ambitious military operation really since the intense combat hostilities, and you have seen reports from General Petraeus and General Odierno and others about significant actions on the part of our forces at Baquba, obviously in Anbar, and in Baghdad, as well.
I would expect there to be a progress report about what's going on and what we've achieved not only militarily, but also what sort of things have been accomplished on the political side and the economic side. It is not merely General Petraeus, but also Ambassador Crocker who are going to be contributing to the report. What we're trying to condition people for is a report that is going to tell us what has been happening. Again, 12 days in to the most significant military action in a very long time, and at the same time, just now getting all of our forces into place -- it's worth giving people a granular look, a detailed look at what has been accomplished and what will have been accomplished by the date.
Q Is it your view that September is too soon for such a report?
MR. SNOW: No, look, we have agreed to make reports in July and September; we're going to do it.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. First, in just the past few weeks, there have been reports of China-made toys being recalled because of dangers of lead paint, China-produced food with contaminants, and even China-produced honey laced with a drug. And now it's being reported that Chinese-made tires are probably faulty and dangerous. What is being done to crack down on what appears to be a concerted effort to dump damaging or dangerous Chinese products on the American public?
MR SNOW: Well, those are your conclusions, Les. That is --
Q No, no, that's a world --
MR SNOW: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. What would you -- what you have done is you have insinuated a conspiracy to dump these things on the American marketplace. Obviously, when you have problems with the safety of things, you deal with it, including the recall of 450,000 tires.
Q Okay. This morning's Washington Post headline "After Speech, Aides Scramble To Cover Bush's 'Amnesty' Slip" -- while we realize that anybody can make mistakes, can you tell us, just for human interest sake, which aide scrambled first, and did the President commend him or her for being alert, or not, and what was his reaction?
MR SNOW: I did, and I don't discuss --
Q You were the first one?
MR SNOW: I believe so. I mean, look --
MR SNOW: -- the President misspoke. It was a -- you recall we issued a statement by the Press Secretary. What was interesting is that Fletch wrote that story; meanwhile I was getting a lot of people saying, what took you so long? So we were getting it from both sides. The fact is that anybody who knows what the President's policy is knows that that was a slip of the tongue. It was overplayed on Drudge. We thought it was important to go ahead and puncture that balloon, which we did, and to move on so that people who actually knew the issue could discuss other things.
Q Thank you.
MR SNOW: You're welcome.
Q Thank you.
MR SNOW: You're welcome, as well. (Laughter.)
Q Possible presidential candidate, Fred Thompson advocates putting a blockade around Iran. What would that accomplish? And isn't a blockade an act of war?
MR SNOW: I would refer all questions to Fred Thompson's policies to Fred Thompson.
Q Thank you.
MR SNOW: Thank you. END 1:00 P.M. EDT #116-06/27
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 27, 2007
President Bush Pleased by Appointment of Tony Blair as Quartet Representative in Middle East
Earlier today I spoke with Prime Minister Blair. It has been my pleasure to work with Tony Blair over the last six and a half years. He is not only a friend, but is also a visionary leader who has prepared his country to face challenges and opportunities over the horizon. Tony is a man who stands up for his beliefs and has the courage of his convictions. Because of his steadfast resolve in the War on Terror, millions of people around the world now enjoy the great rights of freedom and democracy.
I am pleased that this capable man has agreed to continue his work for peace in the Middle East. I welcome the appointment of Tony Blair as the Quartet Representative. In his new role, Tony will help Palestinians develop the political and economic institutions they will need for a democratic, sovereign state able to provide for its people and live in peace and security with Israel. I thank him for his willingness to give his time to this goal, which would be a historic step toward peace in the Middle East.
As he leaves the post of Prime Minister, and as he undertakes a new role as Quartet Representative, the people of the United States of America express our gratitude for his strong friendship and his continued efforts to lay the foundations for freedom in the Middle East.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 27, 2007
President Bush Rededicates Islamic Center of Washington The Islamic Center of Washington, Washington, D.C. 11:08 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Imam, thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me. I bring my personal respect to you, sir. And I appreciate your friendship. I do want to thank the governors of the Islamic Center. I welcome the Ambassadors. Thank you all for coming. I appreciate other distinguished guests who are here. It is an honor to join you at this rededication ceremony.
As the Imam mentioned, half a century has passed since one of our great leaders welcomed the Islamic Center into our nation's family of faith. Dedicating this site, President Dwight D. Eisenhower offered America's hand in friendship to Muslims around the world. He asked that together we commit ourselves "to peaceful progress of all men under one God."
Today we gather, with friendship and respect, to reaffirm that pledge -- and to renew our determination to stand together in the pursuit of freedom and peace. We come to express our appreciation for a faith that has enriched civilization for centuries. We come in celebration of America's diversity of faith and our unity as free people. And we hold in our hearts the ancient wisdom of the great Muslim poet, Rumi: "The lamps are different, but the light is the same."
Moments like this dedication help clarify who Americans are as a people, and what we wish for the world. We live in a time when there are questions about America and her intentions. For those who seek a true understanding of our country, they need to look no farther than here. This Muslim center sits quietly down the road from a synagogue, a Lutheran church, a Catholic parish, a Greek Orthodox chapel, a Buddhist temple -- each with faithful followers who practice their deeply held beliefs and live side by side in peace.
This is what freedom offers: societies where people can live and worship as they choose without intimidation, without suspicion, without a knock on the door from the secret police. The freedom of religion is the very first protection offered in America's Bill of Rights. It is a precious freedom. It is a basic compact under which people of faith agree not to impose their spiritual vision on others, and in return to practice their own beliefs as they see fit. This is the promise of our Constitution, and the calling of our conscience, and a source of our strength.
The freedom to worship is so central to America's character that we tend to take it personally when that freedom is denied to others. Our country was a leading voice on behalf of the Jewish refusniks in the Soviet Union. Americans joined in common cause with Catholics and Protestants who prayed in secret behind an Iron Curtain. America has stood with Muslims seeking to freely practice their beliefs in places such as Burma and China.
To underscore America's respect for the Muslim faith here at home, I came to this Center six days after the 9/11 attacks to denounce incidents of prejudice against Muslim Americans. (Applause.) Today I am announcing a new initiative that will improve mutual understanding and cooperation between America and people in predominately Muslim countries.
I will appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This is the first time a President has made such an appointment to the OIC. (Applause.) Our special envoy will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states and will share with them America's views and values. This is an opportunity for Americans to demonstrate to Muslim communities our interest in respectful dialogue and continued friendship.
We have seen that friendship reflected in the outpouring of support Americans have extended to Muslim communities across the globe during times of war and natural disaster. Americans came to the aid of the victims of devastating earthquakes in Pakistan and Iran, and responded with urgency and compassion to the wreckage of the tsunami in Indonesia and Malaysia. Our country defended Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo after the breakup of Yugoslavia. (Applause.) Today we are rallying the world to confront genocide in Sudan. Americans of all beliefs have undertaken these efforts out of compassion, conviction, and conscience.
The greatest challenge facing people of conscience is to help the forces of moderation win the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East. We've seen the expansion of the concept of religious freedom and individual rights in every region of the world -- except one. In the Middle East, we have seen instead the rise of a group of extremists who seek to use religion as a path to power and a means of domination.
These self-appointed vanguard -- this self-appointed vanguard presumes to speak for Muslims. They do not. They call all Muslims who do not believe in their harsh and hateful ideology "infidels" and "betrayers" of the true Muslim faith. This enemy falsely claims that America is at war with Muslims and the Muslim faith, when in fact it is these radicals who are Islam's true enemy. (Applause.)
They have staged spectacular attacks on Muslim holy sites to divide Muslims and make them fight one another. The majority of the victims of their acts of terror are Muslims. In Afghanistan, they have targeted teachers for beatings and murder. In Iraq, they killed a young boy, and then booby-trapped his body so it would explode when his family came to retrieve him. They put children in the backseat of a car so they could pass a security checkpoint, and then blew up the car with the children still inside. These enemies bombed a wedding reception in Amman, Jordan, a housing complex in Saudi Arabia, a hotel in Jakarta. They claim to undertake these acts of butchery and mayhem in the name of Allah. Yet this enemy is not the true face of Islam, this enemy is the face of hatred.
Men and women of conscience have a duty to speak out and condemn this murderous movement before it finds its path to power. We must help millions of Muslims as they rescue a proud and historic religion from murderers and beheaders who seek to soil the name of Islam. And in this effort, moderate Muslim leaders have the most powerful and influential voice. We admire and thank those Muslims who have denounced what the Secretary General of the OIC called "radical fringe elements who pretend that they act in the name of Islam." We must encourage more Muslim leaders to add their voices, to speak out against radical extremists who infiltrate mosques, to denounce organizations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence, and to reach out to young Muslims -- even in our country and elsewhere in the free world -- who believe suicide bombing may some day be justified.
We need to rally the voices of Muslims who can speak most directly to millions in the Arab world left behind in the global movement toward prosperity and freedom. For decades the free world abandoned Muslims in the Middle East to tyrants, and terrorists, and hopelessness. This was done in the interests of stability and peace, but instead the approach brought neither. The Middle East became an incubator for terrorism and despair, and the result was an increase in Muslims' hostility to the West. I have invested the heart of my presidency in helping Muslims fight terrorism, and claim their liberty, and find their own unique paths to prosperity and peace.
The efforts underway in Afghanistan and Iraq are central in this struggle, but that struggle is not going to end the threats; it's not going to end there. We believe the ultimate success of Afghans and Iraqis will inspire others who want to live in freedom, as well. We will work toward a day when a democratic Palestine lives side by side with Israel in peace. (Applause.) We have already seen stirrings of a democratic future in other parts of the Middle East, though it will take time for liberty to flower. A democratic future is not a plan imposed by Western nations, it is a future that the people of the region will seize for themselves. A future of freedom is the dream and the desire of every loving heart.
We know this because of the 8 million people who braved threats and intimidation to vote in Afghanistan. We know this because of the nearly 12 million people who cast ballots in free elections in Iraq. And we know this because the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution, drove out their Syrian occupiers, and chose new leaders under free elections. Even now the hope for freedom is felt in some dark corners in the Middle East -- whispering in living rooms, and coffee houses, and in classrooms. Millions seek a path to the future where they can say what they think, travel where they wish, and worship as they choose. They plead in silence for their liberty -- and they hope someone, somewhere will answer.
So today, in this place of free worship, in the heart of a free nation, we say to those who yearn for freedom from Damascus to Tehran: You are not bound forever by your misery. You plead in silence no longer. The free world hears you. You are not alone. America offers you its hand in friendship. We work for the day when we can welcome you into the family of free nations. We pray that you and your children may one day know freedom in all things, including the freedom to love and to worship the Almighty God.
May God bless you. END 11:21 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 26, 2007
President Bush Discusses Comprehensive Immigration Reform Room 350, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 9:01 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks for coming. Thanks for working on an immigration bill that's important for this country. I appreciate your efforts and I appreciate your time.
I do want to thank Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Chertoff for their hard work. And one of the things I told members of the Senate, that the administration is going to be involved in crafting a comprehensive bill that's good for the country. And I said we're going to be more than just giving speeches, or using the microphone to proclaim the need for a comprehensive bill. I would send two members plus our staff up to -- two members of my Cabinet plus our staff up to work the -- to work with the senators.
And you guys have done a really good job. Thank you for your time. Thanks for your understanding of the complex, carefully crafted piece of legislation that is moving through the Senate. And you've done exactly what I asked you to do -- that's why you're in the Cabinet. (Laughter.) I appreciate you all helping work this bill through the Senate.
The first thing that we've got to recognize in the country is that the system isn't working. The immigration system needs reform. The status quo is unacceptable. Most Americans understand that. They say, well, we attempted to reform the system in 1986, and the reform didn't work. Our view is, if the status quo is unacceptable, we need to replace it with something that is acceptable, and have been working toward that end with both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. The reason the Senate, of course, is that we'll be moving our attention to the House when it passes a comprehensive piece of legislation.
I view this as an historic opportunity for Congress to act, for Congress to replace a system that is not working with one that we believe will work a lot better. In other words, this is a moment for people who have been elected to come together, focus on a problem, and show the American people that we can work together to fix the problem. If you dislike the status quo on immigration, then you ought to be supporting a comprehensive approach to making sure the system works.
And it's a practical approach. The Senate has worked very hard to craft a comprehensive bill. In a good piece of legislation like this, and a difficult piece of legislation like this, one side doesn't get everything they want. It's a careful compromise, and many of you have been involved with that compromise.
The problem that this bill recognizes, the bill recognizes that we've got to address the problem in a comprehensive fashion. There are people who say, well, we've got to do more to protect our border -- and they're right, we do have to do more to protect our border. And that's why this bill has a lot of border security measures that will help continue the strategy that we have been implementing over the past year. As a matter of fact, there's a $4.4 billion direct deposit on enforcement measures. But it's important for our fellow citizens to understand that in order to enforce the border, there has to be a way for people to come to our country on a temporary basis to do work Americans aren't doing. Otherwise, they will continue to try to sneak in across the border.
And, therefore, a second aspect of the comprehensive bill is one that addresses the economic needs of our country, and that is a temporary worker program that will match foreign workers with jobs Americans aren't doing -- and notice I say temporary worker program. There are a lot of employers here in this country that worry about having a work force that will be able to meet the demands and needs of a growing economy.
There are people who live in our neighborhood and around the world who are desperate to provide food for their families, and recognize there are available jobs, and they will do anything to come to our country to work, because they want to fight off the poverty and starvation that has affected their loved ones.
It's a powerful incentive to be a mom or a dad to make sure your children don't suffer. That's an incentive. That's an incentive for people here in America; it also happens to be an incentive for people around the world. And, therefore, people will be willing to go extra lengths to avoid border security. They'll be willing to be crammed in the bottom of 18-wheelers. They fall prey to these coyotes who smuggle human beings to achieve profit.
When I say the system hadn't worked -- the system hadn't worked to enforce our borders like we want, but the system has also fostered illegal operations that prey upon the human being, and it's not in this nation's interest that that continue to happen.
And, finally, this bill goes to the heart of our values. We have proven that our nation is capable of assimilating people. And I'm confident that we can continue to be a nation that assimilates. The bill recognizes that English is a part of the assimilation process and wants to help people learn the language in order to be able to take advantage of America.
You know, I've heard all the rhetoric -- you've heard it, too -- about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you've got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that. But it also recognizes it's in our nation's interest to bring people out of the shadows; that there's got to be a way forward that recognizes there is a penalty for being here illegally -- on the other hand, that recognizes that each person has got worth and dignity.
I love a country where people come with dreams and aspirations and through hard work can realize those dreams and aspirations. I'm struck every time I hear -- I'm struck about our greatness every time I hear a story about a child taking advantage of a mother's or dad's hard work to realize the blessings of America. I was at the Coast Guard Academy -- I've told this story several times -- and the number one cadet talked about his migrant grandfather. The fellow was a Mexican American -- or is a Mexican American. The father came from -- the grandfather came from Mexico to work hard so that, hopefully, some day somebody in his family would realize the blessings of America. And it worked.
The country is better off. Our soul is constantly renewed. Our spirit is invigorated when people come here and realize the blessings of America. And so the bill that we've worked hard to craft is an important piece of legislation that addresses the needs of a failed system, that says we're going to change for the better.
I want to thank you all for working hard. We've got a couple of days of hard work ahead of us to get the bill through the first stage of the process, and then, of course, when successful in the Senate, we'll be reconvening to figure out how to get the bill out of the House. It's an important piece of legislation; it's an important time to act for the sake of the country.
Thanks for your time. God bless your efforts. God bless our country. Thank you. (Applause.) END 9:10 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 25, 2007
President Bush Congratulates Presidential Scholars, Discusses No Child Left Behind Reauthorization East Room, 3:13 P.M. EDT
T HE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. It's a neat occasion to be able to welcome the 2007 Presidential Scholars. We're glad you're here, I congratulate you on the fine honor, and of course, we wish you all the very best.
The Presidential Scholars program started in 1964. I was a senior in high school -- I didn't make it. (Laughter.) I know all of you worked hard to reach this day. Your families are proud of your effort, and we welcome your family members here. Your teachers are proud of your effort, and we welcome your teachers. And our entire nation is proud to call you Presidential Scholar. (Applause.)
I'm sorry Laura is not here, she would have loved to have welcomed you. She is off to Africa. And she's there to make sure that people on that continent understand that ours is a nation with a good heart -- after all, we're leading the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria on that continent. And so she is spreading the goodwill of the American taxpayer by representing our country. In my judgment, there's no finer representative than Laura Bush. (Applause.)
Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us. We're proud you're here -- the Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings. I thank the members of Congress who have joined us: Senator Lieberman, Congressman Buck McKeon, Congressman Dale Kildee, and Congressman Mike Castle. I'm honored you took time, and so are the Presidential Scholars, they're proud you're here. (Applause.)
I want to thank the members of the Presidential Scholars Commission for picking such a fine group of people, and the Presidential Scholars probably want to thank you, as well. (Laughter.) This is a program that honors high school seniors for exceptional academic and artistic achievements. Past winners have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize, succeed at the highest levels of business, work here at the White House.
This afternoon we honor a new class of promising young men and women. Your fellow scholars have pursued groundbreaking research, written scholarly papers, and performed at Carnegie Hall. Many of you have also reached out to those in need, and have given your time for causes greater than any individual need. And for that we thank you.
Caterina Yuan shared her passion for service with her classmates at Palo Alto High School in California. She's run food drives, raised thousands of dollars for humanitarian efforts in Africa, and helped organize a school-wide day of service. She's a scholar, but she's also a humanitarian.
Erin Jaeger, from Keene, New Hampshire, helped bring hope and comfort to those living in poverty and hardship. She made three trips to El Salvador to build houses and visit orphanages. Charlie Bridge from Belmont, Massachusetts has given back to his community through teaching. He's tutored disadvantaged middle school students, and he plans to continue this important work this summer.
One person not here today is Max Weaver. He's busy preparing for an engagement at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In a few days he's going to begin an intensive basic training regime that cadets like to call "the Beast." We wish him luck and we thank him and all the other brave men and women who have volunteered to serve in the United States Armed Forces. (Applause.)
The reason I bring these examples up is that no matter what you do later in life, I encourage you to use your talents to help other people. The true strength of America is the fact that we've got people of good heart and good soul reaching out to people in need. And I thank you for being leaders and setting a good example.
As we celebrate your accomplishments, we also need to honor those who helped you reach this day. You know, I always say that the first teacher of a child is a mom or a dad. For the moms and dads here, congratulations on doing your job. (Applause.) And I thank the teachers who are here, as well. There's no more noble profession than being a teacher. And I suspect the reason we're honoring Presidential Scholars -- or these Presidential Scholars -- is because you and their parents set high standards, set a high bar of expectations.
You know, part of the problem we've had in our school system is for too often and too long that bar wasn't set high enough; that we had too many students who were victims of low expectations. I used to call it the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Schools just shuffled kids from grade to grade, as if the child couldn't learn to read and write and add and subtract. We never measured; we never had any idea how the child was doing until it was too late. And that was unsatisfactory for the United States of America, it's unsatisfactory for the President, it's unsatisfactory for the future.
And that's why when we came to Washington, we worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass what's called the No Child Left Behind Act. The philosophy behind the law is straightforward. It says the federal government should expect results in return for the money it spends. That's not too much to ask, I don't think. If you believe a child can learn to read, then you ought to expect a child to read. That's what you ought to expect. And the only way to determine that is to measure.
I'm sure some of your classmates would say you don't like to take a test. Well, I didn't either. (Laughter.) But that's too bad, because the only way to determine whether a child is reading at grade level is to have accountability in our school systems. And that's the basic strategy of No Child Left Behind. It says, here's some money; we expect you to teach; we want to measure to determine if you are teaching; we look forward to patting you on the back; but if you're not teaching a child the basics, then we expect you to change, before it is too late.
Measuring results helps teachers spot problems. In other words, you can't solve a problem until you diagnose it. It gives teachers tools and schools tools; the key tool necessary to determine whether or not a curriculum needs to change, or whether or not a child needs to get special attention.
Measuring results gives parents key information about how their child's school is doing. You know, it's amazing how many parents will say, the school my child goes to is doing just fine. That's what everybody hopes and that's what everybody assumes, until scores get posted. It's amazing what happens when you hold people to account. It certainly gets a parent's attention when they find out that their child's school isn't doing as good as the neighborhood's school is, for example, or school next door.
No Child Left Behind is working. In other words, we're making good progress. During the most recent five-year period on record, nine-year-olds made more progress in reading than in the previous 28 years combined. (Applause.) You can't say that unless you measure. You can't stand in front of the taxpayers and say, your money is being well spent because we're measuring; we know, we're measuring. Before, it was just -- you were just guessing. Now, thanks to No Child Left Behind, there is accountability that's important to be able to report progress to the American people.
Speaking about progress, the Non-Partisan Center on Education Policy found that many states have seen reading and math test scores increase since we've passed No Child Left Behind. The study found that minority and low-income students are making some of the biggest gains. And that's positive and important news for the American people.
We had an achievement gap in our country and that's not right to have an achievement gap in America. And this achievement gap is becoming closed thanks to hard work by teachers, but also thanks to the fact that we're measuring and correcting problems early, before they're too late.
The No Child Left Behind Act is working and Congress needs to re-authorize this good piece of legislation. Re-authorizing No Child is one of the top priorities of my administration and I know it's a top priority in members of Congress. Buck McKeon is going to be handling the re-authorization on the Republican side in the House of Representatives. And he is determined to work with people in both sides of the aisle to help to get this job done. We made a historic commitment and I believe we have a moral obligation to keep it.
Our ability to compete in the 21st century depends upon educating children just like the ones standing behind me. Whether we like or not, we're in a global world. And if the world needs engineers or scientists, and those scientists are being educated in China and India, and not being educated in the United States, the jobs of the 21st century are likely to go there. And so we better make sure that we have a strategy aimed at making sure that we have high expectations and good results for every child in the United States, if we expect to remain competitive.
As Presidential Scholars, you leave your high school with confidence in your ability, and you've got a great foundation for success. We want to make sure that same confidence is instilled in every single child that's getting out of high school. And so what can we do? First, we can make sure No Child Left Behind gets reauthorized. You cannot compete in a global world unless you're certain that we're achieving certain standards. We want every child reading at grade level by the 3rd grade. And the only way you know whether that's the case is you measure.
And by the way, inherent in No Child Left Behind is a novel idea that said if a child needs extra help, there's going to be money available to help that child. That's how you make sure that you use the accountability system to achieve results, achieve expectations.
But we need to do more. Our high schools need to have accountability. We want to make sure that same rigor that we've applied in the elementary and middle schools are applied to our high schools. If we want to be competitive, the high school diploma has to mean something. We want to make sure that we expand advance placement. I bet most kids here took AP courses, and AP is a great way to raise standards and raise expectations. And we've got to help teachers learn how to teach AP courses as part of our strategy.
We want to make sure that we have a rigorous course of study available for all our kids. We want to make sure we strengthen math and science. And that's why I proposed a program to encourage 30,000 math and science professionals to become part-time teachers. I remember we went to a school in Maryland, Margaret, and there was two guys there that were making science look cool. I can't do that. Most parents aren't able to do that. (Laughter.) But it's amazing what a scientist can do.
And why do we need that? Why do we need 30,000 math and science professionals to go into classrooms to stimulate interest? Because we can't be a competitive nation without more scientists and more mathematicians. Because in order for us to make sure the best jobs are in America requires us having mathematicians and scientists and engineers and physicists. And the best way to stimulate that interest is from people who actually know what they're talking about.
We want to make sure that we work with Congress to have extra funding for under-performing schools. I told you if you measure, we've got extra money for the children -- we've also got extra money for under-performing schools. And those schools need flexibility. In other words, we've got to trust local folks to make the right decisions for local schools. So Margaret is going to work with the school districts and with the Congress to make sure they've got flexibility to use the resources where they're most needed, to tailor reforms to the specific needs of individual schools.
In other words, people say, well, you can't be for No Child Left Behind, it's the federal government telling you what to do. Quite the opposite. The federal government has said, we believe in local control of schools, you reform them, you fix them. We're just going to insist that you measure, in return for the billions we spend on your behalf.
I proposed an interesting idea that I hope Congress passes, and that is creating a teacher incentive fund, of nearly $200 million for the next year as the beginning -- as a down payment to encourage teachers to teach in districts where they need a little extra help; reward teachers who will go into these school districts that need high expectations. We need people to walk in and say, the status quo is unacceptable, people who show that educational entrepreneurship necessary to make sure every single child gets a good education. And I hope Congress works on that with us.
When schools fail to make progress, No Child Left Behind needs to give parents different options. In other words, you cannot tolerate a system where a child is stuck in a school which will not teach and will not change. There has to be a consequence. We've got remedies in the bill that say we're going to help schools effect their programs, but ultimately a parent must be given the ability to transfer their child out to another public school or free tutoring for their children. In other words, there has to be a consequence in order to make sure that there's effectiveness when it comes to reform -- schools that need to be reformed.
I strongly believe that parents are the front lines of the decision-making and should be empowered -- empowered through information and empowered through different options available through the public school system.
We did something else interesting, and I look forward to working with Congress on this -- and I must confess, it's slightly controversial -- and that is, is that we promoted the first federally funded opportunity scholarship program here in Washington, D.C. It basically said to low-income parents that here's some money to help you send your child to a private school or a parochial school, your choice. In other words, it said, if you're tired of being in a system that simply hasn't met expectations, that there ought to be something different, and that I believe that -- I think it's the role of government to help low-income parents have different options.
The program is working. It's over-subscribed. I mean, there are thousands of families that have been helped through this Washington, D.C. program, which ought to say to policymakers, there's a huge demand for something better. People are sick of mediocrity in the status quo. Obviously, it hasn't happened with these kids, for which we're grateful. But there's still too many schools that just aren't meeting expectations. And so I look forward to working to see if we can't expand this kind of program.
The reason I've asked to speak to you is because I want people to understand how important this No Child Left Behind Act is to America and its future. And we will talk about ways to make the law better. I know some members and senators have got concerns about the law, and we're more than willing to talk about flexibility. But there is no compromise when it comes to setting high standards and measurement. You cannot compromise away the principle of saying, we expect good results, and we're going to measure to determine whether or not we've achieved those results. And when you've achieved the results that we, a society, expect, we'll give you the big embrace. (Applause.)
But if not, for the sake of the country, for the sake of kids who deserve better, we expect you to change. That's what we're going to say, loud and clear and often. And it's working; the program is working.
I want to thank Margaret for working hard with members of Congress. She's engaged, as you know -- she's probably wearing you out, Buck. (Laughter.) And Dale. But that's good. She's up there working. Laura is all involved, too. She's met with a lot of members of Congress, and she'll stay involved, as will I. This is a very important piece of legislation. We want every child in America to be a Presidential Scholar. We want every child in this country to realize the great potential of America by starting them off with a good, sound education that lets them realize their dreams.
Ours is a fabulous country. We've got kids standing up here who not only are scholars, but have volunteered to help a neighbor in need. We've got people volunteering to help protect this country. And the thing we've got to do as policymakers is to make sure that we continue to advance America by giving people the tools necessary to realize the great promise of America.
Thanks for coming. God bless you all, and God bless our country. (Applause.) END 3:30 P.M. EDT
U.S. Commerce Secretary
June 25, 2007
Carlos Gutierrez I apologize for the delay, but we had a fire drill at the Commerce Department. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss what I believe is the most important domestic issue of our time: comprehensive immigration reform. Now is our best chance to solve this critical issue. Doing nothing is not an option. The system we currently have is broken, and we need to fix this problem now.
With comprehensive immigration reform we have an historic opportunity to strengthen our national security and ensure America's future economic competitiveness. I hope I can shed some light on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform by answering a few of your questions.
PAULETTE, from QUEENS NY writes: When is the senate going back in the floor to vote again for this bill? Do you think this bill will pass.
Carlos Gutierrez That’s a great question, Paulette. The bipartisan immigration bill that was introduced in the Senate earlier this month was removed from consideration by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after not enough Senators voted to limit debate and bring the full bill up for a vote.
This week, Senator Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell promised to bring the bill back to the Senate floor to continue debate. This allows more time for Senators from both parties to offer amendments on the legislation. Senators needed more time to consider the bill and hear from their constituents.
I’m hopeful that in the end a truly bipartisan bill will be passed by the Senate, and then we look forward to working with the House of Representatives to pass the legislation in that Chamber.
Nora, from Hope Mills, NC writes: How can the Administration justify ramming a new set of laws that reward illegal behavior down the throats of the American people? Why are buisnesses allowed to openly flaunt existing laws by hiring illegal immigrants with impunity? How many companies have signed up for the government's voluntary employee-verification program? Why are the American people underwriting the Mexican economy? These are rhetorical questions, since I don't believe the Administration has any honest answers to them, anyway.
Carlos Gutierrez Nora, thank you for taking the time to e-mail me your question. You’re right to raise those concerns. This issue is one that sparks tremendous emotion in many people. It is complex and can only be addressed with a multi-faceted approach that includes securing our border, creating a temporary worker program and employee verification system, and addressing the estimated 12 million people who are currently here illegally.
We are a nation that respects the rule of law, and those who break the law should not and will not be rewarded. Under the comprehensive immigration bill being considered by the Senate this week, there are stiff penalties for those who have come to our country illegally. Furthermore, they must undergo a criminal background check and prove that they are employed. We want the gardeners, housekeepers etc. who are here to work and earn a better life to come forward so we can go after the drug dealers and criminals.
As to your point about businesses, that is an important one. We know people are coming to our country because there are jobs here. We agree that we must make employers accountable for only hiring legal workers. The current penalty is just $3,000, but the new bill would raise it to $75,000. The bill also makes mandatory the Employment Eligibility Verification System, which would give employers the tools they need to ensure they are only hiring legal workers. Under the voluntary program more than 16,000 employers have already signed up.
Our immigration system is broken. This bill gives us many tools we need to fix it and ensure that our country is safe and that we have the legal workers we need to keep our economy strong. People like my family have been coming to this country for generations, in search of the American Dream. We must find a way to continue to make that pursuit possible, while ensuring that we uphold our laws and punish those who don’t.
Thomas, from Geary, Oklahoma writes: Why do feel that all of the elements of your immigration bill must be passed at once? Why can't several bills do the same thing?
Carlos Gutierrez You ask a very important question, Tom. We know that the best approach is a comprehensive one. Trying to do it piecemeal will not fix a broken system. We need an across the board fix that protects our security and ensures that we have the legal means to provide our economy with the workers it needs.
Immigration reform is a very multi-dimensional problem. For example, we must secure the border, but we must also have an employee verification system so that employers are not hiring anyone illegally. In order to have an employee verification system, we have to register the workers. In order to register the workers, we have to have them come out of the shadows. The whole thing ties together. Mass deportation is not viable or practical. Neither is amnesty. We believe we struck the right balance.
A comprehensive approach is the best approach and now is the time to do it. Without this approach we are going to end up with a patchwork policy of over 1,000 immigration laws across the country. As the President has said, “securing the border and upholding family values are not partisan concerns. They are important to all Americans. They must be addressed, and this bill is the best way to do it…. By coming together, we can build an immigration system worthy of this great nation.”
I know the President believes this wholeheartedly, and so do I.
Jeff, from Tupelo, MS writes: Why is the administration trying to pass this legislation when we already have laws on the books to secure our border? We are not upholding the laws now why should the American People believe that you are going to start upholding the laws that you are ignoring now. We have an immigration problem because of the lack of back bone by this and prior Presidents to inforce our laws.
Carlos Gutierrez Thanks Jeff. You are right, the laws on the books now were designed over many years, most before 9/11. Our security needs have changed since then and so has our economy.
The 1986 immigration law failed because it did not secure our border, it did not include tough worksite enforcement and did not provide for a temporary worker program. The proposed bill also has tougher penalties for employers who break the law and increases the maximum fine from $3,000 to $75,000. This will force employers to think twice before hiring an illegal worker. Current law is inadequate. It’s not tough enough and doesn’t give us the enforcement tools we need like the Employer Eligibility Verification System.
The comprehensive legislation we are proposing puts border security first, establishes a temporary worker program to meet the legitimate needs of our growing economy, sets up a mandatory system for verifying employment eligibility, and resolves the status of the estimated 12 million people who are here illegally. Once passed this bill will create a comprehensive system that addresses today’s challenges and can be adjusted to address future problems that may arise.
John, from Bradenton, FL writes: Secretary Gutierrez - Why has the fence that was approved in 2006 not been started in a more speedy manner? Why is it being held up? Who should we ask to see that the fence gets started immediately? How long will it take to complete that fence? Thank you
Carlos Gutierrez Thanks for your question, John. Fence construction has been ongoing and is progressing rapidly with a priority being given for fence construction in urban areas along the border.
With the border fence it takes time to do site surveys and environmental assessments, acquire materials, get contracts with vendors and, importantly, acquire access to the land on which to build the fence. Once this is done they can move quickly to complete the job. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is moving forward aggressively to get the fence built. New fencing is being built everyday, and by the end of the administration DHS expects to have completed a total of 370 miles of fencing. Additionally, the Administration is supporting the development of the SBInet program which will produce a "virtual fence" along our entire border that is made of sensors, cameras and other technology.
Michael, from Powell, Tn writes: What are the plans for illegal immigrants who have broken other laws and are caught when they come to pay the fine?
Carlos Gutierrez You've raised an important point, Michael. One of the primary benefits of the bipartisan immigration bill is that it strengthens our national security by bringing the current population of illegal immigrants out of the shadows so that we know who they are and where they live. Those with criminal records, such as a felony conviction or three misdemeanor convictions, are subject to removal proceedings. This will be a tremendous improvement for our country's security.
Alan, from Akron ,Ohio writes: Can you please explain how increasing the labor pool with additional lower to mid level skill level people, is good for the American people?
Carlos Gutierrez You’ve asked an important question, Alan. Native-born Americans have become increasingly educated in recent years and have in many ways moved beyond low-skilled jobs. In 1970, 36 percent of the entire labor force did not have a high school diploma. Today, just less than 10 percent of the labor force does not have a high school education, and when you look at native-born Americans specifically, that number drops to just six percent.
Clearly, Americans are becoming more and more capable of taking on higher skilled jobs. But while many Americans are moving up economically, the number of low skilled jobs that need to be filled is still growing. Of the 18.9 million jobs that will be created between 2004 and 2014, almost a third will be low-skilled jobs.
There are some jobs that Americans are simply unwilling to do…just ask farmers who have fruit rotting in their orchards. Many are unable to find the legal workers to pick produce and ultimately we’ll all pay the price at the grocery store checkout.
By creating a comprehensive immigration policy that takes into account our need for workers with all skill levels, we will help Americans continue to improve their standard of living and create new opportunities for everyone.
Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes: Secretary Gutierrez: This immigration issue is so complex and emotional that it is causing a real out cry of support and opposition. Even though both sides have made some effort to meet in the middle on many items. The words that seem's to cause the most stir to the man on the street is LEGAL AND ILLEGAL. The President made a special trip to the Hill to try and put some life support back into an issue that is in critical condition. Do you believe that we can and will beable to bring the issue back to some level of life? Thank You
Carlos Gutierrez You have done a good job of describing the process. This is a complex, emotional issue in which every side has a stake. Every side has a point of view. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s an American issue. Members of Congress from across the political spectrum have realized that immigration reform is important, and I think there’s inevitability about this bill. That’s because we need the security, we need the jobs, and we need the stability that this bill provides.
The measure that is now being debated is the result of months of bipartisan negotiations. We have a President who wants to take on this issue now. And I believe we have the right approach because it is comprehensive, it is realistic and it is humane, in keeping with our American values.
For 400 years people have been coming to these shores seeking a better life for themselves and their families. I am an immigrant. My family fled Cuba for a safer, better life. Like others before us, we came in search of the American Dream. This new generation of immigrants is no different.
We need workers and their families to come out of the shadows because we need to know who is in our country. Doing nothing is not an option. Without this bill, we will not be as secure as we need to be. We will not have the workforce we need to grow. And too many families will continue to live in fear.
This bill moves us forward. It’s our best chance to fix a broken system. Passage of this bill is the right thing to do for our security, for our economy and for our society, and I will work tirelessly to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.
James, from Stutts writes: Why should we possibly believe the President will actually enforce this new law - what little enforcement there actually is there, considering his record to date?
Carlos Gutierrez James, I can understand that some may be skeptical about our ability to enforce the new law. I know the President is committed to enforcing comprehensive immigration reform. I also know there is no issue that is more important to the President than our nation’s security.
I’d disagree that there is little enforcement out there. Our gateways are more secure than ever before and we are committing significant resources to enhancing border security. This includes a doubling of the number of border patrol agents, building hundreds of miles of fencing, and employing advanced technology, from infrared sensors to unmanned aerial vehicles.
Comprehensive immigration reform is complementary to efforts like these that are already underway. Immigration reform is one of the most important ways by which we can increase our security here at home and enhance our economic competitiveness abroad.
Carlos Gutierrez Thank you for your great questions. I hope I have addressed some of the concerns that many people have about this complex and emotional issue.
This is not the first time we’ve tried to fix our immigration system. The lessons of the past are clear. We must address all elements together, or none will be solved. Now is the time to take action.
Our country has been strengthened by immigrants who have come here to work hard, pursue the American dream and better their families, their communities and our country. I know that our security will be strengthened with enhanced border security and documentation. I also know this effort will take leaders who put good policies above partisanship.
The President has taken a leadership position. And Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress are working towards solutions. They know that immigration reform is an issue we must address and that we can achieve a comprehensive solution that benefits all of us.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 25, 2007
President Bush Welcomes President Ilves of Estonia to the White House Oval Office , 11:49 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: We'll make statements only today.
Mr. President, welcome. It is a high honor to welcome President Ilves to the Oval Office. He is the President of a country which has emerged from some really dark days. And having been in Estonia, I can report to my fellow citizens that people now see the light of day, and see a better future because of the form of government that's changed. President Ilves is a very strong advocate for democracy and the marketplace, and as a result, his country is thriving and doing well. And so we welcome you.
I thank you very much for your voice, heard very clearly, for those who suffer under tyrannical societies, and that is, is that freedom is a precious gift to all and that democracy and societies based upon liberty are the best way to not only enable people to realize their talents, but to lay the foundation for peace. And along these lines, Estonia has been a very strong friend to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. These young democracies are fighting off extremists.
I briefed the President today about my conversation with the Prime Minister of Iraq, as well as our conversations with David Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Today, once again, we saw the brutality that extremists can inflict upon societies when a suicider killed innocent people who were working toward reconciliation. All the more reason, Mr. President, for us to remain firm and strong as we stand for this young democracy -- these young democracies.
The people of Estonia paid a high price. You lost -- I know you lost two soldiers in Afghanistan recently, and our thoughts and prayers go to the families and the people of Estonia. We thank you for your sacrifice and just want you to know that we're committed to working hard to make sure that we succeed -- and we succeed for the sake of peace for generations to come.
We talked about a lot of other interesting subjects, as well. Of course, the President pushed me very hard on visas. I readily concede there's an inconsistency in our policy where the people of Estonia are treated differently from other people inside Europe -- even though the people of Estonia are making great sacrifices for the cause of democracy and liberty alongside with U.S. forces. And to this end, Mr. President, I will continue to pursue with Congress a modernization of the visa program. I thank you for bringing it up and, frankly, I don't blame you for bringing it up.
We also talked about an interesting subject, and one that I can learn a lot about, and that is the cyber attack that makes us all vulnerable. Estonia recently went through a wave of cyber attacks. And this President, one, understands the issue well; two, has got some ideas, including a NATO center of excellence in Estonia to deal with this issue. And I really want to thank you for your leadership, and thank you for your clear understanding of the dangers that that imposes not only on your country, but mine and others, as well.
But I'm dealing with a man who is a clear thinker, he speaks with moral authority and moral clarity, and he's a voice for reason and hope around the world. And we're proud to welcome you here to the Oval Office.
PRESIDENT ILVES: Thank you very much, President Bush. It is great to be back here, to be in the United States, a strong ally of my country, a country that has been with Estonians throughout the Cold War, supporting Estonia's desires for democracy and for independence, and even in the darkest of times, and since the reestablishment of our independence, has been with us all along as a very strong partner, strong supporter of our membership in NATO; a country that, whenever things have been tough for us, has stood with us. And it's one reason why Estonia is a strong ally of the United States.
I'm grateful for President Bush's position, which I did push him hard on, on the visa issue. It is something of concern in Estonia, but I think all the other new members of NATO, the ones who are -- who have been very good allies in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and our people don't always understand why it is that those countries that have been the strongest supporters of the United States find it often the most difficult to come for vacation. But that -- I think that is an issue which is more in the hands of Congress, and we hope that Congress will resolve this.
We did, in fact, suffer a series of attacks on our computer infrastructure. It is a serious issue if your most important computer systems go down in a country like mine, where 97 percent of bank transactions are done on the Internet. When you are a highly interneted country like we are, then these kinds of attacks can do very serious damage. And I do think it's the wave of the future -- not that it's a good wave, but it is something that we have to deal with more and more.
We know that the United States and Israel and Denmark have come under cyber attack before, and I think that it's an issue that will require much more attention in the future. And I'm very happy that two countries that are very vast in terms of information technology can work together on these issues.
So I think that -- well, for me, it's been -- it's a very good visit. And I know that President Bush has a busy schedule, but I do hope that when his term in office is up, that you will come to my ranch -- which is a lot smaller than yours. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all for coming. END 11:55 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 25, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino White House Conference Center Briefing Room , 1:17 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. A schedule update for you from this morning. The President spoke this morning with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki via secure video teleconference from the Situation Room. The Prime Minister provided an update on the status of several important measures before the Iraqi parliament, and he reemphasized the importance of advancing these measures and of making progress on political reconciliation within Iraq.
Q Welcome, Dana.
MS. PERINO: Your teachers used to do that to you, I'm sure. (Laughter.) And with that, I'll go to questions.
Q Dana, there were a series of 5-4 decisions from the Supreme Court today -- campaign finance, student speech, faith-based matters -- they all went the way the conservatives wanted. Is this the kind of pattern that the White House had in mind when the President nominated Roberts and Alito?
MS. PERINO: Towards the end of any Supreme Court session you tend to have the harder cases decided later, because they just take longer to grapple with, and so you get more split decisions as you get towards the end of the session, which is June 30th. I haven't had a chance to review all the cases. There were some that the government won and some that the government lost. I think your point is about conservatives.
But the President's position is that in any case, you're going to have someone who loses and someone who wins. But we can all be confident that we have fantastic Supreme Court justices. These are the type of people that the President wanted to have on the bench. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito are proving themselves to be ones who have the intellectual vigor that they can bring to the bench.
These are decisions that are the most difficult ones to grapple with that we deal with in our society. And so since the judiciary is the third branch of government, I think that we can all be very proud that we have a system in which they can make decisions, even if they are close decisions, and we -- as a country we abide by them.
Q Do you not see a pattern there?
MS. PERINO: I do think that it would not be a wise course to try to divine a pattern based on these decisions that came at the end of the session. I don't know of anybody who is actually describing this as a pattern when we lost -- I think it was 9-0 -- on an environmental case about two months ago.
Q Dana, as long as we're talking about branches of government, can you go back to Vice President Cheney again, the argument that he's not part of the executive branch. Does the President believe he's part of the executive branch?
MS. PERINO: I think that that is an interesting constitutional question, and I think that lots of people can debate it. I think when we were talking about the EO from last week, we've gone over that several times. You probably don't want me to go over it again. But the Vice President -- any Vice President has legislative and executive functions.
Every Vice President has legislative and executive functions. The executive functions are given to him by the President. For example, the Vice President's paycheck comes from the Senate. So these are -- that's an interesting constitutional question. When we are talking about this EO, it is separate and apart from -- the President and the Vice President oversee the executive agencies. Supreme Court precedent shows that the Vice President and the President are not seen as an agency when it comes to executive orders.
Q I know that's your argument about an agency, but it's very separate from the argument the Vice President is making. And what is the President -- what is the White House's view of the argument the Vice President is making on whether or not he's part of the executive branch?
Q For one, I think -- I mean, the information is clearly --
MS. PERINO: I'm not opining on it, because the President did not intend for the Vice President to be subject as an agency in that section of the EO.
Q That's an entirely different argument. So you don't Vice President's --
MS. PERINO: No, it's the same --
Q You don't support the Vice President --
MS. PERINO: I'm not opining on it either way.
Q But, Dana, how could the Vice President, earlier in the administration, argue he didn't have to turn over records about the energy task force, for example, because he was a member of the executive branch? He clearly stated that.
MS. PERINO: You could ask the Supreme Court who ruled in his favor.
Q But he did not say, I'm a member of the legislative branch, as well, so I don't have to -- I mean, he clearly stated that there was strong executive power and he didn't have to turn over these records. Now, when it suits his interest, he seems to be saying a different legal argument.
MS. PERINO: Look, I'm not a legal scholar and there's plenty of them that you can find in Washington, D.C. But just that very point that you're making there shows that he has functions in both the executive branch and the legislative branch.
Q But he didn't mention those functions -- dual functions in the early legal arguments at the beginning of the administration. He only used the executive branch arguments.
MS. PERINO: Look, you can try to call his office and try to get more information. I'm not opining on his argument that his office is making. What I can tell you is that the President did not intend for him to be treated separately from himself in this executive order regarding the ISOO office.
Q So, also, though, you mentioned a moment ago that the Vice President gets his paycheck from the Senate.
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Does the White House then also believe he should get funding for the Vice President's office from the legislative branch instead of from the executive branch?
MS. PERINO: I don't know. These are not in position --
Q Well, you just noted that. You just noted he gets his paycheck --
MS. PERINO: I'm just -- the reason I noted that is because I'm trying to illustrate the point that he has roles in both the legislature and in the executive branch.
Q But the National Archives documents they want have to do with his executive branch functions; I mean, the secret documents one assumes are from his duties of Vice -- as Vice President.
MS. PERINO: In the executive order, the President and the Vice President are discharged separately from agencies, in which -- it might be awkward if the President, who is the supervisor of this office, was asking that office to come in and investigate themselves. And in this executive order the President is saying that the Vice President is not different than him.
Q When did he decide that? Just in 2003? I mean, he --
MS. PERINO: In terms of the executive order? I need to go back --
Q He did it for a couple of years before that. He just was doing that out of the good of his heart, or --
MS. PERINO: I think so. (Laughter.)
Q Okay. The office also has a 30-year history, which is part of why the National Archives Oversight Office is concerned, because other Presidents had provided -- other White Houses had provided this information. And so it really is a break with a pattern. Why is that necessary?
MS. PERINO: I don't know why the EO was amended in 2003, and I can try to go back and find out. What I do know is that when the President wrote this EO, it's clear in the reading of it that he does not intend for the Vice President to be seen as separate from himself. And they are not asking someone who is subordinate to them to come in and investigate them. And I think that the ISOO office has had only a complaint about the Vice President's office, not about other places within the executive branch. And so that can be resolved either by the Justice Department or, as I am telling you, as the President's spokesman, he did not intend for the Vice President to be seen as separate from himself.
Q Is the President satisfied that Alberto Gonzales has not responded yet, after five, six months of a request by this office to have this issue mediated?
MS. PERINO: I have not asked the President if he's concerned about that, and I would ask you to call over at the Justice Department to find out about their timing.
Q Should Alberto Gonzales recuse himself because he was White House Counsel?
MS. PERINO: I don't think that's necessary.
Q I mean, if the argument was so clear that you're making about he wasn't part of the agency, then why did he make that argument, coming back? That's not the argument he made.
MS. PERINO: I don't know why he made the arguments that he did, but --
Q Apparently it wasn't so clear to them.
MS. PERINO: It might not have been clear to them, and I don't know all the discussions that they had back and forth between the Vice President's office and ISOO. What I'm telling you is that in the reading of the EO, and in asking about the interpretation of it, that's the answer I've got.
Q Dana, is the White House comfortable with the way the Vice President is being portrayed in this Washington Post four-part series? I mean, two installments have come out now suggesting almost that he's out of control, he's operating around the President, that people like John Ashcroft, when he was Attorney General, actually had to deal with the Vice President, not the President, had to argue, I'm the chief law enforcement officer and should be included in discussions, legal arguments about how detainees are being held -- is the White House comfortable with this portrayal?
MS. PERINO: You've heard me say before that we don't do book reviews from the White House, and I think that that would -- that the length of this article --
Q This isn't a book -- it's not a book.
MS. PERINO: Look, I think any of -- a lot of what is being talked about there is classified -- dealing with classified issues, and following the attacks on our country on 9/11, I'm not going to opine on those. I'm not going to say one way or the other about the articles. What I will say is that one -- number one, this country has not been attacked again; and number two, all that we have undertaken has been lawful.
Q That is not his question.
Q Okay, but one specific example. There was a Bybee memo that was classified at one point, but has since been made public, and it's been on Capitol Hill, it's been out there, it's been in newspapers -- the Bybee memo from 2002 dealing with torture. And it basically -- this story today portrays the Vice President's team as basically helping to draft that memo about how detainees are going to be held and tried, et cetera, where the limits are on torture, and that basically it took two years before the Secretary of State Colin Powell and the National Secretary Advisor Condoleezza Rice even knew that this memo had been written -- this vast policy on the war on terror. The Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor did not know for two years. Is the President comfortable with the Vice President essentially cutting out two of his top national security officials on this critical policy?
MS. PERINO: Look, I'm not privy to internal deliberations of that level. I don't know, and I'm not going to comment on any type of internal deliberations.
Q Do you really think that's the way a White House should operate?
MS. PERINO: Look, I've been around not as long as a lot of people, but long enough to see how the process works here, and I can assure you that the debate is vigorous, and it is held -- people have strongly-held views, and they voice them, and they voice them loudly. I am very comfortable with the process that we have, in terms of how those debates get settled.
Q But how you can say it's a vigorous debate if the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor were not involved in debate for two years, two years?
MS. PERINO: Ed, I'm not commenting on that.
MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting on that either way.
Q But how can you make the claim -- if you're not commenting on it, how can you --
MS. PERINO: I'm commenting on my personal experience at the White House.
Q But how can you make that claim, though, that there's a vigorous debate? The top two national security officials were not involved in that debate. How could it be vigorous?
MS. PERINO: I don't know that to be true, Ed, so I'm not commenting --
Q So is it false?
MS. PERINO: I don't know that to be true, so I'm not commenting on it.
Q Can you send someone out here who can? You're stonewalling. Is the President a member of the executive branch? Is he answerable to any law, to any executive order? I mean, what is this? What's going on here?
MS. PERINO: Helen, the President, of course, is head of the executive branch.
Q Any accountability to the American people?
MS. PERINO: Absolutely.
Q Does the Vice President see top secrets in this administration as a member of the executive branch? Does he attend NSC meetings?
MS. PERINO: In his executive duties, as discharged by the President, he does see classified materials, yes.
Q And he is allowed to?
MS. PERINO: Victoria, go ahead.
Q We should get someone out here who can answer our questions.
Q Does the United States practice cruelty?
MS. PERINO: No. We have gone over this several times. I'd refer you to all the previous comments that we've had in the past. Hadley -- Steve Hadley came and briefed you all in September of 2006, the President has answered public questions about this, so has the Secretary of State on multiple occasions in front of Congress, so has the Attorney General. And we have maintained that we have protected this country in a way that does not involve torture.
Q But there's a difference between cruelty and torture, is my understanding. The cruelty, by definition, is imposition of severe physical and mental pain or suffering, which is different from torture, which is --
MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting on any type of techniques or anything else that is used in order to help get us information in order to prevent terrorist attacks on this country. I'm just not going to do it.
Q But you would say that we do not practice cruel --
MS. PERINO: I can tell you flatly, as has been previously stated by the President himself and by members of his Cabinet, that this administration has not used torture.
Q What? You've got photographs.
MS. PERINO: Goyal.
Q Two questions. One, -- schools (inaudible) President talking about No Child Left Behind. My question is that as far as No Child Left Behind, according to a report, U.S. education system has gone down and violence has increased in many schools here, and as far as children are concerned.
MS. PERINO: What's your question?
Q Immigrant children are doing better in schools, but is the President going to talk about as far as increasing violence in schools today, and education system has gone down?
MS. PERINO: The President today is going to talk about the move to reauthorize No Child Left Behind so that we can make sure that every child is reading at grade level by 2014 and that we have accountability for students, parents and taxpayers.
Q And second, if I may --
MS. PERINO: Bret, going to go to Bret.
Q Can I just rewind to the executive order one more time? I'm trying to see, is the White House saying that you disagree with the argument the Vice President's office is making?
MS. PERINO: No, I didn't say that.
Q I know, but what are you saying? I don't get it, really. Is the White House at odds with what the Vice President is saying the reason he's not --
MS. PERINO: I'm not opining on that, and I'm not going to comment on it. But what I'm saying is that I think that it's irrelevant in this regard. The Vice President and the President are treated as one in the same in this EO. And the argument that is being made by ISOO, that disputes whether or not the Vice President should be seen as an agency, has a disagreement with that. That's their right. They can have a disagreement with that. But the President never intended for the Vice President to be treated as an agency in this executive order.
Q But that's -- rationale. I'm talking about living up to the executive order, as the President signed it. Is the Vice President --
MS. PERINO: Yes, absolutely. The Vice President is in compliance with the executive order, you bet.
Q Dana, is the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President -- not are they being treated the same way -- are they acting in the same way, in terms of --
MS. PERINO: When the Vice President is doing duties that the President has asked him to do, under his executive function, then, yes, he is performing similar duties to what the President is doing.
Q Is the office of the archive able to get a degree of compliance with the EO from the Office of the President that it's not able to get from the Office of the Vice President?
MS. PERINO: The Vice President is in compliance with the EO, as is the President. So that shouldn't be a question.
Q So any kind of inspections they want to make, any kind of procedures that they want to --
MS. PERINO: This does not apply to the President or the Vice President, who have the responsibility to discharge and oversee.
Q Does the NSC? Does the National Security Council?
MS. PERINO: The NSC does, they do comply.
Q The case of Alan Johnston, the BBC prisoner in Gaza, is getting much more serious. Does this administration have any advice, either for the people who hold him, or British people in favor of military action against, or do you favor compliance --
MS. PERINO: We stand behind our British allies in calling for his unjust holding to end immediately, and for him to be returned safely to his family.
Q Is there any desire in the President's strategy to comply with some of their demands --
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on that, and I have to refer you to the British authorities for that. They're leading that.
Q Dana, on the British --
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, I was going to go to Roger, and then I'll come back.
Q I think she's got the same question.
MS. PERINO: How convenient.
Q Any new information on Tony Blair becoming an international envoy? And has the President talked to him in the past two days?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't believe the President has talked to him in the past few days. And if there's more to report on that, we'll let you know as soon as possible.
Q Well, there are reports out that he is going to be named tomorrow. So is that true?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Back to the Oversight Office. They've asked for an opinion from the Justice Department -- you're declaring from the podium that the Vice President is in compliance. So this sounds like there's nothing for the Justice Department to render an opinion on.
MS. PERINO: If the Justice Department wants to review it -- and it is under review, as you pointed out -- they've not responded yet, but what I'm saying is that -- I hate to be repetitive, but -- (laughter) -- the President meant for the Vice President to be one and the same with him in this executive order.
Q It sounds like if the Oversight Office is waiting for an opinion, they shouldn't hold their breath. You've already rendered it.
MS. PERINO: I've given them what the President's interpretation is.
Q You mean complying with the order, you don't mean "complying," that he's turning over documents. You just mean --
MS. PERINO: They're complying with the executive order, correct.
Q -- complying with the executive -- as you read it, as the President reads it.
MS. PERINO: As the President intended it -- not just as I read it.
Q Has the President turned over documents and allowed inspections that the Vice President's office has not done?
MS. PERINO: In terms of the White House office?
MS. PERINO: I don't believe we did. No.
Q So the White House also has not allowed those same inspections that the Vice President's office --
MS. PERINO: The President has discharged, as their supervisor, the ISOO to do these investigations, on-site inspections at agencies of which the President and the Vice President are not a part.
Q Okay, so the President has not had those inspections either -- that's what you're saying?
MS. PERINO: No.
Q Okay. Has he been asked to have those inspections by the National Archives?
MS. PERINO: Not that I -- not that I'm aware. But again, it's the President that's discharging the EO, he's the sole enforcer.
Q Okay. And just lastly, it's a little surreal -- I mean, how is it possible --
MS. PERINO: You're telling me.
Q Well -- that you can't give an opinion about whether the Vice President is part of the executive branch or not?
MS. PERINO: All I know is that --
Q It's a little bit like somebody saying, "I don't know if this is my wife or not." (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: I think it's a little bit more complicated than that.
Q No, but honestly, I mean, there's no --
MS. PERINO: No, honestly, I think it's more complicated than that. I do.
Q But, Dana, one difference is, from this podium came the explanation that the President never intended for this to apply to the Vice President. When there was communication from the counsel of the Vice President's office to ISOO, the rationale was different. It was that there was a split in the duties, the role of the Vice President, and that's where we're getting this -- he's part of the legislative and the executive. So it seems that it was not -- everybody was not on the same page when they were first responding to the National Archives.
MS. PERINO: I don't know that to necessarily be true, but I can see if I can get from the Vice President's office more of an explanation -- because they could have been thinking of one in the same argument, and I'm just -- I don't have the legal mind that can draw those two together.
Q What if one of the staff members of the Vice President was asked to turn over material and the staff member was afraid that they would get in a Scooter Libby type situation if they don't turn it over -- do they have the same protections? Now, we're talking about staff members, not the President and Vice President.
MS. PERINO: I think you're talking about apples and oranges, because I think that the Vice President and the White House -- the President and the Vice President, I think that extends to their offices and the people who actually work for them, as well.
Q That's very important, because --
MS. PERINO: I think I just answered it, but I can look into it again.
Q Dana, for 200-plus years, everybody from civics class on up has had a certain understanding of the way our government works. And this EO clarifies more than 200 years of constitutional scholarship about the way our system works?
MS. PERINO: Maybe it's me, but I think that everyone is making this a little bit more complicated than it needs to be. The President writes an executive order; he says --
Q I'm talking about the part where the Vice President says that there's a question about whether or not he's part of the executive branch.
MS. PERINO: And the point I was trying to make to you before is that I --
Q This really falls into "sky is blue" stuff.
MS. PERINO: For the past two centuries the Senate has provided payment to the Vice President for his duties as a member of the government. I understand that he has roles in both branches. I am -- I don't think that it's as clear-cut as you're trying to make it.
Q That the Vice President of the United States is --
MS. PERINO: I think there is no denying that he has functions in both the legislative and the executive branches. That is a fact.
Q But it seems like the Vice President is saying he's not responsible for the rules of either of those --
MS. PERINO: No, I think that he was saying -- especially when it comes to the executive branch -- is that the duties that he is given are given to him solely by the President of the United States. And some Vice Presidents don't do as much as he does in the realm of national security or in policy development as this Vice President does. But this Vice President was given executive duties to handle --
Q But how is being a part of another branch -- I guess it's debatable -- but how is that an out?
MS. PERINO: It's not an -- that's irrelevant because the President never intended for the Vice President to be subject to the executive order.
Q No, he introduced the topic. The Office of the Vice President introduces that into the argument, into the debate; "well, we're not part of the executive branch."
MS. PERINO: I think that that is also a fact -- and as I said to Kelly, I'll see if I can get more from the Vice President's office to see if they -- how they connected the two, or if they did.
Q He can argue he's part of both, but he can't possibly argue that he's part of neither. And it seems like he's saying he's part of neither.
MS. PERINO: Okay, you have me thoroughly confused, as well.
Q He doesn't know his wife -- (Laughter.)
Q On North Korea, the BDA issue was briefly resolved back in February. Can you comment on why it took so long? And did the transfer actually finish taking place this morning?
MS. PERINO: The North Koreans have said that the transfer has taken place. For a final confirmation of that, I'd have to refer you to the Treasury Department. And I think it took a long time because it's a complex financial maneuver of which I also don't understand. But the Treasury Department can provide you more information.
Q Can you also comment on -- I mean, do you think that this financial measure was an effective tool for diplomacy?
MS. PERINO: I think that what we're doing is we're moving now to the point where North Korea is saying that it is going to dismantle and halt enrichment at Yongbyon facility. And I just heard that Chris Hill is giving a briefing at 2:00 p.m. today, so he'll have a lot more first-hand information than I do.
MS. PERINO: Anybody else? Okay, Les.
Q Dana, thank you. Two questions. First, does the President believe that it will be perceived by most American citizens that the United States really has equal justice under law if Scooter Libby is allowed to be sent to prison while Sandy Berger and Marion Barry remain free?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to give you the standard "no comment" line on that, Les. I know how disappointed you are.
Q Yes. Yesterday New York Times published a column which contended that Vice President Cheney is -- and this is a quote -- "bordering on lunacy" and referring to him as "Crazy
Dick." And my question: Neither the President nor the Vice President would tolerate any of their staffs referring to "Pinch Sulzberger, the left-wing lunatic," would they?
MS. PERINO: We don't refer to him at all. (Laughter.)
Q You don't refer to him at all, okay.
MS. PERINO: Is that it?
Q Then I'm right?
Q Could I just follow up?
Q The President would not --
MS. PERINO: Let me go back to Jim.
Q Just one last big-picture question about -- sort of the cumulative effect of all this. You have this big series in the Post out about the Vice President. You've had this steady series of ways in which it is easy to see that he has created a certain number of questions for you and others to answer in the administration. Does the President consider him a liability, or does he consider him more of a liability now than maybe he did at any point in the past?
MS. PERINO: I don't think he thinks of it that way. I think that the President thinks of the Vice President as a very close and trusted advisor; somebody who has nothing but the country's best interest at heart. And I think that there's been a lot of accusations about this Vice President going back for many years. And as much as we would like to always get fabulous, glowing press, that's not always the case. And so we take the good with the bad, in terms of press coverage. But I think that every day the President relies on the Vice President's good advice.
Q Given the way that a number of initiatives and ideas and policies that the Vice President has been driving on have turned out, do you think the President wants to rethink, or should rethink his reliance on the Vice President?
MS. PERINO: Let me give you three examples. First of all, as I mentioned before, this President has -- was over -- was President during the time of 9/11 when 3,000 of our citizens were killed by terrorists. We have not had another terrorist attack on our soil. And that, as the Vice President has said, is not an accident.
Secondly, the other policies that this Vice President has worked on include things such as tax cuts, of which the entire country benefited and we continued to feel the benefits from with this good economy. So I think that the Vice President's impact is broader and deeper on lots of good policies that have come out of this White House.
Q Are you saying the end justifies the means, following up on the first part of your answer?
MS. PERINO: I don't -- what do you mean --
Q You're saying that we haven't had another attack --
MS. PERINO: -- that I say --
Q -- therefore everything the Vice President --
MS. PERINO: Now, Jim, I think that's a little bit unfair, since about three or five minutes ago I just finished saying and reiterating that this administration has not tortured. But I will say that the policies we put in place -- for example, the terrorist surveillance program, of which we are listening in on phone calls coming into or out of this country, where one person on that phone call is a suspected terrorist -- has saved lives. And that came from General Hayden, now the Director of the CIA. And that's what is not an accident.
Q But does the administration support waterboarding, for example, which is written about again today? It's been considered a war crime since 1901. Do you -- does it --
MS. PERINO: Ed, I appreciate you trying. I'm just -- I am not going to comment.
Q But you said you don't believe in torture, but that's one tactic that --
MS. PERINO: I'm not -- I appreciate it. I am not commenting on it.
Q Are you saying we have not tortured?
MS. PERINO: That's what I'm saying.
Q How can you say that? In every report --
Q Dana, has the Vice President's influence in this administration waned in recent months? Do you think he's as influential as he has -- he was at the beginning?
MS. PERINO: I think that the storyline that a lot of people have tried to explore, I have not witnessed it myself. He was there today at the meeting with the Estonians and he was there last week when we met with the President of Vietnam, and I see him regularly. He was actually there at the SVTS this morning with Prime Minister Maliki. He's influential, his staff is good to work with, and we enjoy having him around.
Q Can I just ask you about immigration?
MS. PERINO: Sure.
Q Since this is a critical week, what's your sense of the state of play on that? And are you worried at all that there's a split in the Republican Party that could spill over to other issues, like Iraq war funding in September, education, No Child Left Behind --
MS. PERINO: I think there's no doubt that there's been a heated debate about the immigration bill. I don't think that is limited to our party, the Republican Party; I think those rifts have been felt in the Democratic Party, as well, but might not have been as well publicized as the ones in Republican Party. And I think that going forward, one, we're going to have a vigorous debate in the Senate this week. We're glad that the bill is going to be called back up. There's going to be 11 amendments a side, so 22 total. They've got a lot of work to do. And we'll see if we can improve that bill to make sure that we have border security first, in addition to the other pieces of the bill that the President wants.
But I also think, Ed, that there are a lot of things that bring the Republican Party together, including the issues of fiscal discipline and spending; life issues -- for example, the President vetoing the stem cell bill last week. And so we have a big tent party and there are lots of issues that bring us together, and when there are ones where we have disagreements, we can do that as friends.
Q Dana, can I follow on that? It seems like the President has adopted a strategy on the immigration front of challenging lawmakers to show courage. He said that in his radio address and he said that a few weeks ago in a major speech. How is that a successful strategy for winning votes on this matter?
MS. PERINO: I think what the President means by that is that these are tough issues; these are ones that go to the core of different districts. You have, in some places where you need more workers, there is great demand for a temporary worker program. You have other communities that are on the border that are feeling the very tough impacts of having illegal immigrants who are there stressing their social services.
And I think what the President is saying is that the courage -- have the courage of your convictions, have the courage to pick up the phone and talk to your constituents, have the courage to come and debate the President, and debate him loudly if you need to. But at the end of the day, the President believes that this is a bill that this country needs in order for us to be both prosperous and safer.
Q But it seems pretty clear that the senators know that this is a tough, difficult issue. It seems like, in a way, he's calling them out, as much as he is trying to engage them.
MS. PERINO: I would disagree, because I think that because -- the very fact that the bill is actually coming back on the floor and they're going to have 22 more amendments to debate shows that the members of the Senate, from both sides of the aisle, have courage in order to try to take this issue on.
Is anyone going to say thank you? (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. END 1:46 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 23, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, Senate leaders introduced revised legislation on comprehensive immigration reform. I thank leaders from both parties for their bipartisan effort to fix our immigration system so it can meet the needs of our Nation in the 21st century.
As the Senate takes up this critical bill, I understand that many Americans have concerns about immigration reform -- especially about the federal government's ability to secure the border. So this bill puts the enforcement tools in place first. And it means more Border Patrol agents, more fencing, more infrared cameras and other technologies at the border. It also requires an employee-verification system based on government-issued, tamper-proof identification cards that will help employers ensure that the workers they hire are legal. Only after these enforcement tools are in place will certain other parts of the bill go into effect. To make sure the government keeps its enforcement commitment, the bill includes $4.4 billion in immediate additional funding for these border security and worksite enforcement efforts.
The bill also addresses other problems with immigration enforcement. Right now, our laws are ineffective and insufficient. For example, crossing the border illegally carries weak penalties. In addition, participation in illegal gangs is not enough to bar admission into our country. And when we cannot get other countries to accept the return of their citizens who are dangerous criminals, in most cases our government can only detain these aliens for six months before releasing them into society.
This is unacceptable. The bill before the Senate addresses these problems. Under this bill, those caught crossing illegally will be permanently barred from returning to the United States on a work or tourist visa. Under this bill, anyone known to have taken part in illegal gang activity can be denied admission to our country. And under this bill, we will be able to detain aliens who are dangerous criminals until another country accepts their return.
These enforcement measures are a good start. Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border. Hundreds of thousands of people come here illegally because our current work visa program does not match the needs of a growing and dynamic economy. To discourage people from crossing our border illegally, this bill creates an orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country legally to work on a temporary basis.
With this program in place, employers will have a practical system to fill jobs Americans are not doing -- and foreign workers will have a legal way to apply for them. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in. And that will leave border agents free to chase down drug dealers, human traffickers, and terrorists.
Once the border security and worksite enforcement benchmarks are met, the bill will resolve the status of 12 million people who are now in our country illegally. Under this bill, these workers will be given an opportunity to get right with the law. This is not amnesty. There will be penalties for those who come out of the shadows. If they pass a strict background check, pay a fine, hold a job, maintain a clean criminal record, and eventually learn English, they will qualify for and maintain a Z visa. If they want to get a green card, they have to do all these things -- plus pay an additional fine, go to the back of the line, and return to their country to apply from there.
This bill provides an historic opportunity to uphold America's tradition of welcoming and assimilating immigrants and honoring our heritage as a Nation built on the rule of law. We have an obligation to solve problems that have been piling up for decades. The status quo is unacceptable. We must summon the political courage to move forward with a comprehensive reform bill. By acting now, we can ensure that our laws are respected, that the needs of our economy are met, and that our Nation treats newcomers with dignity and helps them assimilate.
I urge members of both parties to support comprehensive immigration reform. By working together, we can pass this good bill -- and build an immigration system worthy of our great Nation.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 22, 2007
President Bush Celebrates Black Music Month at the White House The East Room, 3:04 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Thank you. Rachel, thank you. Thanks for coming. Thanks for the introduction, and thanks for representing the United States. Proud to have you here.
I want to welcome you all right here to the people's house. I'm pleased you could join us for this annual celebration of Black Music Month. This is an event I've always looked forward to. It's a chance to listen to some good music -- (laughter) -- and to be with some good friends. It's an opportunity for us to thank artists whose work inspire our country. And so thanks for coming. I hope you enjoy the day as much as I do.
I appreciate the fact that Alphonso is with us, Alphonso Jackson and Marcia. He's the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dr. Dorothy Height is with us. I'm proud you're here, Dr. Height. Thanks for joining us. (Applause.) My friend, Bob Johnson has joined us. He knows a little something about black entertainment. (Laughter.) Thanks for coming. (Applause.) Roslyn Brock, Vice Chairman of the NAACP -- I'm proud you're here, Roslyn. Thank you for coming, thank you for joining us. Dyana Williams, President of the International Association of African American Music Foundation -- she knows something about music. (Laughter.) I appreciate Kevin Liles, Executive Vice President of the Warner Music Company. Thank you for coming. And Jonathan Platt, Senior Vice President of EMI Music Publishing and Virgin Records. Appreciate you all being here. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
Most of all, thank you all. Thanks for taking time out of your day to come. One of the best things about living here is that some of the best musicians come to play. It's amazing what kind of talent you can draw here at the White House. (Laughter.) And over the years American Presidents have seen some fantastic African American musicians here on the White House stage. President Chester Arthur -- you might remember Chester -- (laughter) -- he welcomed the first black choir to perform at the White House, the Jubilee Singers from Fisk University. President Benjamin Harrison hosted one of the first black soloists to play at the White House, Sissieretta Jones, who was the daughter of a slave.
President William Howard Taft invited Joseph Douglass -- grandson of Frederick Douglass -- to perform here. Franklin Roosevelt hosted the great Marian Anderson, when she performed "Ave Maria" for the King and Queen of England. President Ronald Reagan hosted Mikhail Gorbachev, and invited the legendary Pearl Bailey to entertain. And when he introduced her, he just simply said -- simply, "our Pearl" -- welcome "our Pearl." (Laughter.) I hope the translator got that right. (Laughter.)
And Laura and I had some incredible entertainers and Americans sing for us and our friends. We've had Eartha Kitt, Patti Austin, B.B. King, Irwin Mayfield, Aaron Neville, just to give you a taste of what happens here at the White House. Each of the performers has inspired people across the world with their talents, and each performer has brought great pride to the United States. It's really a great country that can produce a diverse group of musicians that can serve as ambassadors about what's right about America.
And we're proud to welcome some new musicians here to the White House today. We're just keeping in a long trend of Presidents who have welcomed some of our great musicians here to the White House. So as we honor Black Music Month, it makes sense to bring some talent here to entertain us.
Karina Pasian grew up in New York City. She's the child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Her parents are both teachers in the New York Public School System, and early on it became clear that Karina had an incredible gift for music. At age 3 -- that's the definition of "early on" -- (laughter) -- she was singing and studying piano. By age 12 she was performing at the Coliseum in Rome before a television audience of more than a half-million people, alongside Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder, and Andrea Bocelli. Today she's 15 years old. She's already recorded her first album. And despite of her young age, she tackles very mature issues with her music. She sings about hunger and disease in Africa, and the genocide in Darfur.
We appreciate that clarity, appreciate her bringing these issues to focus, to help more people understand that the world had got to do something about it -- now, before it's too late. I will tell you America is in the lead when it comes to HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa, we're on the lead when it comes to feeding the hungry, we're on the lead when it comes to eradicating malaria. And that's where we need to be, and that's where we will stay. And I appreciate very much Karina bringing this issue to focus. We're proud that you're here, and we're proud that you brought your big heart to this stage.
We're also going to welcome KEM Owens, who learned to love music growing up in Detroit listening to R&B greats. He listened to them on his mom and dad's radio. He taught himself to play piano at the home of his Baptist minister grandfather. But as a teenager, this good man lost his way. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and eventually he became homeless. Today he finds a home, a warm home to welcome him. He was sleeping on the ground near a building on the Detroit River, and he said this: God found him, and inspired him to set his life straight. With the help of the Almighty, he overcame his addictions, and he rediscovered his passion for music. In 2001, he used a credit card to finance the production of an independent CD he called "KEMistry". Get it, KEM Owens? (Laughter.) KEMistry? (Laughter.)
The disc sold 10,000 copies in five months. It caught the attention of music executives in New York who signed KEM to a major label deal. He has gone on to become one of America's most popular R&B singers. But he knows the audience he's truly playing for. He says, "I want my life to be one that God will be pleased with. I'm by no means a saint." I know what you're saying, KEM. (Laughter and applause.) But he went on to say, "My eye is on the prize; He's not done with me yet." We're proud to welcome such a man to the White House today.
And finally, Tourie and Damien Escobar discovered their love for the violin in the 3rd grade, and soon found themselves studying classical music at New York's finest conservatories. But they grew up in a tough neighborhood, and soon Tourie and Damien had drooped their music, dropped out of school, and fallen in with a bad crowd. Yet their mother and aunt never gave up hope. And with their encouragement and prayers, these two brothers returned to the music they loved. They formed a group called "Nuttin' But Stringz" -- performing a new music fusion that bridges classical, R&B and rap. I'm looking forward to it. (Laughter.)
They started by playing on subways, and went on to win amateur music contests at the Apollo Theater. And last month they released their first album. Here's what Tourie says: "The passion for music and the violin saved my life." And today that passion has brought these talented musicians right here to the White House.
All these artists represent the best of our country. They represent hope and hard work. We're looking forward to hearing them perform. They're going to be in a long list of performers who have come here to be able to entertain the country; to lend their musical talents to this, the people's house. I appreciate them coming to help us celebrate Black Music Month. I appreciate you all joining to help celebrate Black Music Month.
May God bless you, and may God continue to bless our country. (Applause.) END 3:14 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 22, 2007
President Bush Welcomes President Nguyen Minh Triet of Vietnam to the White House The Oval Office, 10:50 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, thank you for coming. Laura and I remember very fondly our trip to your beautiful country. And I remember so very well the warm reception that we received from your government and the people of Vietnam.
I explained to the President we want to have good relations with Vietnam. And we've got good economic relations. We signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. And I was impressed by the growing Vietnamese economy.
I also made it very clear that in order for relations to grow deeper that it's important for our friends to have a strong commitment to human rights and freedom and democracy. I explained my strong belief that societies are enriched when people are allowed to express themselves freely or worship freely.
I thanked the President for his continued cooperation on the issue of POWs and MIAs. I saw firsthand that cooperation when I was in Vietnam. We are now extending our search to missing remains in some of the coastal regions of Vietnam.
And I also told the President that Congress recently passed appropriations measures to help with dioxin, or Agent Orange. It has helped the people of his country. And, as well, we're firmly committed to helping Vietnam in the battle against HIV/AIDS.
And so, we welcome you, Mr. President. And thank you for the frank and candid discussion.
PRESIDENT TRIET: (As translated.) Upon the kind invitation extended to me by President Bush, I have decided to make this official visit to the United States. And I would like to thank Mr. President for your warm and kind hospitality. And also, to you, I would like to extend my thanks to the American people for their warm hospitality.
Over the last couple of days, I have had the fortunate opportunity to meet with a large number of American people and American businesses. And everywhere I went and anywhere I met, I always -- I was always extended good hospitality and cooperation.
It's very impressive that yesterday I had a chance to visit a farmer who raised grapes. And the life is very happy, and they have a warmth of feelings toward Vietnam. And the owner had to hug me several times, hesitating to say good-bye to us. And that demonstrates the desire for friendship between our two peoples.
And President Bush and I have had productive and constructive discussions. And both sides agree that our bilateral relationship has continued to develop. Especially since Mr. President's last visit to Vietnam, our relations have witnessed a new, fine development. On the economic front, our cooperation has been intensified. In addition to that, our cooperation has also intensified in other areas such as humanitarian cooperation, science, technology, education and training.
And I sincerely thank the U.S. government and people for your aid to HIV patients. And we highly appreciate the Congress appropriations for dioxin and Agent Orange victims. And I believe that the increased and good relationship between our two country [sic] would benefit not only our two countries, but also constitute a constructive factor for safeguarding peace and stability in our region.
And we have also discussed on specific measures of how to advance further our relations in a wide range of areas, be it political, economic, trade, investment, education, or training, humanitarian, et cetera. And in short, our relations are broadened, deepened on a sustainable and effective -- in a sustainable and effective manner. And as Mr. President has mentioned, both sides have just signed a Trade Investment Framework Agreement, TIFA, and many other high-value economic agreements and contracts.
Mr. President and I also had direct and open exchange of views on a matter that we may different [sic], especially on matters related to religion and human rights. And our approach is that we would increase our dialogue in order to have a better understanding of each other. And we are also determined not to let those differences afflict our overall, larger interest.
And I also would like to take this opportunity to send a message to American people, particularly the good feelings from Vietnamese people to American people. I would like to tell you that Vietnam nowadays is a stable, peaceful and friendly country. And Vietnamese people want to have a good consolidarity and friendship with American people. And so if both peoples both want peace, friendship and solidarity, then we should join hands and march toward the future.
And on this occasion, I also would like to extend my warmest greetings to my fellowman living in the United States. And Vietnamese Americans are part and parcel of the Vietnamese nation. And it is my desire to see them succeed, and hope they will continue to serve as a bridge of friendship between our two countries.
And so, once again, I would like to thank Mr. President and the U.S. government and American people for your warm hospitality.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. END 11:04 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 22, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino White House Conference Center Briefing Room , 1:26 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Happy Friday. One quick announcement. Today the governor of Wyoming appointed John Barrasso to fill the vacancy caused by the unfortunate death of U.S. Senator Craig Thomas. The President looks forward to working with Mr. Barrasso as he begins his work on behalf of our nation and the people of Wyoming. I should say Senator Barrasso. If there is more to update on that later, we'll get it to you.
Q Does the President think that the Information Security Oversight Office should be abolished?
MS. PERINO: No, and I don't think that anyone has suggested that. I went back and I looked at this EO -- I don't know if anyone else had a chance to actually read it. I think one thing is clear: first of all, it's the President of the United States who is the author of the EO, and is the sole enforcer of the EO, the executive order on classified materials. And it's clear from the reading of it, the Vice President is not treated separately from the President in the EO. Agencies are treated separately, for just the small section on this ISOO provision. Everything else does apply, except for that one section, for the Vice President.
Q Including the reporting provision?
MS. PERINO: Correct.
Q So that -- he is exempt from reporting? You support --
MS. PERINO: If you look at the EO, the President, in the performance of executive duties, and the Vice President are treated separately from agencies. The President did not intend -- I went back and looked into this -- the President did not intend for the Vice President to be treated separately from how he would treat himself. Agencies are to report to ISOO, and they do. I don't think there's any suggestion that no one else is complying. The Vice President was not intended to be separate from the President in this regard.
Q But part of the rationale the Vice President's office gave is that as President of the Senate, he's part of the legislative branch, almost distancing himself from the executive branch.
MS. PERINO: I saw those reports yesterday, as well, and I think that while that's an interesting constitutional discussion about the separation of powers and different branches, between executive branch and legislative branch, and different functions, under the role -- as his unique role as the Vice President of the United States. The point of Chairman Waxman's letter yesterday regarded this small portion of an executive order of which the President is the sole enforcer, and of which he did not intend for the President [sic] to be treated separately from himself.
Q I'm a little confused here. Is the President's office and the Vice President's office, are they handling this the same way? In other words, Waxman was asserting that the Vice President's office was saying, we don't want to be inspected to make sure that we are following the procedures laid out in this EO. Is the President -- does he feel the same way?
MS. PERINO: The President and the Vice President are complying with all the rules and regulations regarding the handling of classified material and making sure that it is safeguarded and protected.
What is different is, regarding that small section of this ISOO office, that they are not subject to those -- they are subordinate to the sole enforcer of the EO, which is the President of the United States, and they are not subject to such investigation -- as I understand it, as I read the EO and as I had preliminary discussions in between the gaggle and today.
Q Well, then why did the Vice President not have any issue with this in 2001, 2002?
MS. PERINO: That I don't know. All I know is what I have here, which is the executive order that was released in 2002, I think, did not intend to treat the Vice President any differently than he would treat the President.
Q So what are you saying? That he --
Q Yes, Dana, what are you saying? So the President supports the Vice President saying that he doesn't want these inspections?
MS. PERINO: I don't think that he -- it's not a matter of wanting, it's a matter of who's subject to them. And I think that it's important to remember, the Vice President, his office yesterday said that they are in full compliance with all laws regarding classified materials, as is this President, and the President expects that of everyone here at the White House and of all the agencies across the executive branch that handle classified information.
Q Then why isn't it public?
Q So is he supporting -- so he's supporting what the Vice President is doing, by saying he's not part of the executive branch --
MS. PERINO: If you go back and you read the EO, it's -- the President's intention was never to separate the Vice President out from himself. The President, as the sole enforcer of the EO, is instructing agencies on how to handle classified material on a range of issues. The issue that we're talking about yesterday -- that Chairman Waxman was talking about in his letter yesterday is a very narrow one.
Q But the people at the National Archives say that they are meeting with resistance from the Vice President's office, and only the Vice President's office, not from the White House, not from the Office of the President.
MS. PERINO: That's what I just said, I don't think that there's any -- I don't think there's been any complaint about compliance, except for, in this regards, to the Vice President's office. And as I just said, the President's intention was not to have him separate. If you read that, that's clear in the EO. In the EO, as well, the ISOO does have the capability to go to the Department of Justice and ask for an opinion, of which they have done.
Q They did that in January and still haven't heard anything.
MS. PERINO: You'll have to put that question to the Department of Justice.
Q So that they have to apply to the President for any documents that the Vice President has charge of.
MS. PERINO: All of the -- all of the President -- all of the President's documents and all the Vice President's documents are safeguarded, they are held, they are held in the Archives as part of the Presidential Records Act. And all of those rules and regulations are followed.
This small section regarding just the reporting requirements to the group that -- the ISOO that's out of the National Archives is different.
Q Why? He's a public servant, paid by us. He's accountable.
MS. PERINO: And all the laws and regulations regarding classified materials are being complied with. And that's what you, as a taxpayer, should expect.
Q How do we know that?
MS. PERINO: Because I think that if there weren't, there are other ways for people to challenge and find out.
Q Dana, what do you make of what Congressman Waxman referred to as "absurd," which was the Vice President's contention that his office is not part of the executive branch?
MS. PERINO: As I said, I think that that is an interesting constitutional question that people can debate. What I think is absurd is --
Q But do you agree with his contention?
MS. PERINO: -- it's -- I think what was heard is Chairman Waxman --
Q Hang on a second, do you agree with the --
MS. PERINO: -- asserting -- I think what's absurd is Chairman Waxman asserting --
Q Hang on a second. Do you think with --
MS. PERINO: I think what is absurd is Chairman Waxman asserting some sort of authority over the President regarding an executive order, of which he is the sole enforcer.
Q Do you agree with the contention that the Office of the Vice President is not part of the executive branch?
MS. PERINO: What I know -- and I am not a lawyer; and this is an interesting constitutional question that legal scholars can debate and I'm sure you'll find plenty of them inside the beltway -- is that the Vice President has a unique role in our United States government. He is not only the Vice President of the United States, but in that role he is also the President of the Senate. I will let him go ahead and --
Q So there's a fourth branch of government.
MS. PERINO: -- I will let that debate be held. But what I'm answering questions on in regard to this morning was Chairman Waxman's accusations about this small provision, going back and reading the EO and realizing that the President did not intend to have the Vice President treated any differently than himself; and remembering that the executive order is enforced solely by the President of the United States. I think this is a little bit of a non-issue.
Q But, Dana, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in his letter to the Attorney General, says that the Vice President's office did initially comply in 2001 and 2002, and then stopped complying. They view that the Vice President's office should be participating and is not, and further suggest that the response from Counsel to the Vice President was to eliminate the role of this office in handling and supervising how these classified documents are dealt with.
MS. PERINO: I am not disputing that there is a dispute in regards to how this executive order should be -- who should comply with the executive order in regards to ISOO's questions about the Vice President's office. They have the right to seek a clarification from the Department of Justice, of which they've asked for. That has nothing to do with the President or our office, in terms of the timing of when that's released. I'll ask you to take that to the Department of Justice; I haven't talked to them about that today.
Q Does the President think the Vice President is too secretive?
MS. PERINO: I think the President thinks that the Vice President is a great representor of the United States and that he complies with all the laws regarding secret documents, classified documents, and that he's someone who truly believes in the institution of the presidency and in keeping that intact.
Q Does the President think that the Vice President -- does he agree with the Vice President's handling of this matter?
MS. PERINO: I don't see any reason not to agree with it, especially --
Q So that's a yes?
MS. PERINO: -- when you read the plain face of the EO.
Q So he's not going to tell him --
Q And he's not concerned at all that there's too much secrecy; that he complied with it before; or why he wouldn't want to do the same thing he was doing before?
MS. PERINO: I think that what the President wants to make sure of is that all of the rules and regulations regarding classified materials are being followed, and he is assured that that is the case.
Q Even though it's still being looked at, and even though they're looking at this as an executive branch?
MS. PERINO: I don't think there's a question of the handling of the documents. I think there's a question of the reporting. In the handling of the documents, we are confident that we are in full compliance.
Q And does he have concerns about the reporting?
MS. PERINO: I didn't talk to him about that. I don't believe so. Especially since, as I just said in the EO, he's the sole enforcer of the EO, and he never intended for the Vice President to be treated separately from himself.
Q Dana, can I just clarify -- since he's the sole enforcer of this executive order, was the White House's Counsels Office knowledgeable about the letter trail, the dispute trail, when you consulted them today to ask about --
MS. PERINO: Well, as you know, I think that this letter trail goes back many years, and we have a new Counsel and many new people in the Counsel's Office. So I'm not exactly clear on that.
Q But you have members of the Counsel's Office who preceded Mr. Fielding, so I'm curious, when you consulted, can we write or say that the White House Counsel's Office, on behalf of the President, was fully knowledgeable of the dispute before --
MS. PERINO: I can't tell you that right now, because I don't know, but I can check. There are a lot of new people, and I can't tell you that the people that I talked to were here before.
Q But, I mean, there could have been a paper trail --
MS. PERINO: I'll go back and check. The people I talked to weren't necessarily here before.
Q Can we just go back to this phrase that the President never intended for the Vice President to be treated any differently than -- I'll confess, I'm missing the whole thing here. The Vice President is not getting treated any differently, he's acting differently, according to the National Archive.
MS. PERINO: No, but in the EO, who is directed and how they respond -- if you look on page 18 of the EO, when you have a chance, there's a distinction regarding the Vice President versus what is an agency. And the President also, as the author of an EO, and the person responsible for interpreting the EO, did not intend for the Vice President to be treated as an agency, and that's clear.
Q But the Archive doesn't have an issue with, say, the way the President is handling this; the inspectors, the procedures, the protocols are all being followed. It's the Vice President who is acting differently.
MS. PERINO: Right, but that's because the President never -- the President treats him differently in this EO, separate from an agency. And again, I'm not disputing that there's a dispute that the ISOO has with the Vice President's office, and they have a right under this EO to take that to the Justice Department. But the Vice President was not to be treated -- to be interpreted to be treated separately from the President in this executive order.
Q Can we expect to hear from the Vice President as to why his office did comply for two years, and then made a decision to stop complying?
Q Bring David in here.
Q Why is it separate?
MS. PERINO: If I could -- I'll ask the Vice President if he'll come to the press briefing room and answer your questions.
Q I mean, it is a little curious that all of this -- this breaks, and all we get is like a line response from the Office of the Vice President, we're confident that everything is kosher. I mean, I --
MS. PERINO: I'm here today to try to flesh it out a little bit more for you, and I'm doing the best I can with all that I've got.
Q But why does the Vice President not want to be seen to be in compliance?
MS. PERINO: There's no question that he is in compliance, in terms of the meat of the issue, which is classified -- the handling of classified documents. It's just simply a matter of a small portion of an executive order regarding reporting requirements, of which he is not subject to, and -- the interpretation of the EO.
Q But if he's not monitored, we don't know that --
Q Why isn't he subject to this?
MS. PERINO: Because the President gets to decide whether or not he should be treated separately, and he's decided that he should.
Q Why did the President decide that he shouldn't be subjected to this?
MS. PERINO: And if you look at the EO, throughout the Vice President's office is called out on many other issues, and making sure that they are complying, just as with any other agency. But in this regard, it's different.
Q But if he's not monitored, how do we know that, that he's in compliance?
MS. PERINO: I think there are many other ways -- I'm not a lawyer, but --
Q How? Because it's not as though --
MS. PERINO: Well, Victoria, maybe we can let you in there and you can have an interview and check out his classified materials.
Q The office is not giving away information.
MS. PERINO: Right, they're not giving away classified information, either.
Q Who is making sure they're in compliance?
MS. PERINO: That's a good question. I'm not positive.
Q But you can stand up there and say they're in compliance, but you don't know why or how or who is checking on it.
MS. PERINO: What I said is that the Vice President's office says that they are in compliance, and I can tell you on behalf of the President that we are in compliance with all matters regarding classified materials.
Q And it's just them saying we're in compliance?
MS. PERINO: I'll see if there's any other ways. The ISOO is not the only -- I would believe that ISOO is not the only agency that can check that.
Q Dana, when you make requests to the OVP about this, could you please specify that the big, large, takeaway question is, why no problem in 2001, 2002, and it starts in 2003? Does it have to do with the war, does it have to do with Scooter Libby, does this have to do with what? Why then?
MS. PERINO: I will check into it. I don't know when -- I don't know why the change, and I'll see if there was any different interpretation --
Q Why is an exemption at all? Why is he exempt?
MS. PERINO: He's not exempt from following the laws of the United States. He's exempt just from this reporting requirement in this particular executive order.
Q And why was an announcement not made back then when they stopped reporting, that in fact this was the case, that he was to be treated the same as the President?
MS. PERINO: Why wasn't there a press release announcing it?
MS. PERINO: We issued the EO. You could have -- it says it right here. It was released publicly.
Q There was no announcement like this. In other words, nobody knew.
MS. PERINO: I think that's kind of a backwards way to treat us. We could go back through and we could find any possible EO that the President has issued in the past seven years, and try to figure out, maybe the press might be interested in this five years from now. I think that's a little bit of a stretch to require us -- I think that we put out information, and you're welcome to read it.
Q What was the date of the EO?
MS. PERINO: Go ahead, Elaine.
Q I was going to ask, these questions, obviously, were kind of percolating yesterday, as well, when we were all asking the Vice President's office about this. Why didn't they cite page 18 of this executive order?
MS. PERINO: Well, I was on the road, and I was with the President in Alabama, and I got back today and was able to get you what I can, right now. I worked hard to do it.
Q Can we go on to Guantanamo? Was there a meeting scheduled for today to discuss Guantanamo?
MS. PERINO: There's meetings scheduled regularly to talk about Guantanamo, they happen frequently, they happen often, because people are charged with the responsibilities that the President has given them to try to close down that facility. Yes, there was going to be a meeting today, but there was a determination that it wasn't needed.
Q Was it because of the AP story?
MS. PERINO: I think that the decision to make -- to not have the meeting happened late in the day after that story came out.
Q So it was because of that?
MS. PERINO: What I can tell you is that meeting was not a decisional meeting, there was nothing imminent coming out of that meeting, and that there are people who are charged with -- tasked with working on this issue every day, not only here at the White House, but at the Defense Department, State Department and other agencies, to make sure that we are figuring out a way to repatriate these individuals, so they can go back to their countries in a way that we can make sure that they're going to be held, and not a threat to anybody else, as well as be treated humanely.
Q Are you nearing a decision? Was there anything different about this meeting? Are the meetings and the attendees -- and the Secretary of State? Was there something different? Was this going to be a focus?
MS. PERINO: Well, the meeting was going to be focusing on doing what the President has asked them to do for the past few years, which is work to get the facility closed. I think that -- I think that report was overblown. There was not an imminent decision made. There's no deadline. There was just a regular meeting.
Q It didn't really say it was imminent. I mean --
MS. PERINO: It did say it was imminent.
Q Why would you -- they said they were nearing a decision. Why would you cancel a meeting after a press report about that?
MS. PERINO: Look, there was a decision that a meeting wasn't necessary. But that should not lead you to think that there aren't people who are either talking about it today or working towards it. In fact, I think today --
Q I'm sorry, but why wasn't the meeting necessary? I mean, the timing was a little strange, and then the White House was able to say, there's no meeting scheduled for tomorrow, when you start getting press reports. Was the meeting canceled because of the press report?
MS. PERINO: I wasn't there to decide why the meeting was canceled. All I know is that the meeting was canceled, it wasn't -- I was told that it wasn't necessary to have it. For example, today, we released -- we got six people back -- out of Guantanamo today, two to Tunisia and four to Yemen. This process is ongoing. There's 375 there now; there used to be over 600. We're working on getting people back. I think we've got 80 out of 375 that are about to leave.
And so this is an issue that we're working on. We're trying to ratchet it down, but we have folks like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks who are down there, and we want to see them tried through the Military Commissions Act.
Q How close are you to a firm decision about the closing of Guantanamo?
MS. PERINO: There has been a firm decision. The President gave a firm decision two years ago in which he said, I want this place closed --
Q But can you give us --
MS. PERINO: -- that the United States should not be the world's jailers. Those are his words.
Q But the question after yesterday that everyone's wondering is, we're trying to get a sense of what is imminent. So it is -- is there going to be an announcement -- I know you're not going to give me a calendar date, but next week are we going to hear that the announcement -- is he going to step out and tell us that Guantanamo is going to be closed?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of. What I can tell is that these matters are very complex on how you get individuals who are picked up on the battlefield to be taken back by their home countries. A lot of people have complained about Guantanamo Bay around the world, but many of these countries don't want to take them back, don't want to take their individuals back, or we can't get the assurances that they're going to be treated humanely.
And so while the President has said we want to make sure that we close this facility as quickly as possible, he's not put a deadline on it because they're complex issues; we have to make sure that we handle it appropriately.
Q And does it take weeks to work those complex issues out, months?
MS. PERINO: Well, look, since 2002, over 400 detainees have been sent back -- or put back -- sent back to their countries, and they're either serving their time there or they have served their time.
Q What are they charged with? What are they -- what did they do?
MS. PERINO: These are unlawful enemy combatants that intended to harm the United States or other Western civilization --
Q That we have designated -- were they defending their own country?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think they were. They were intending to hurt innocent people.
Q This isn't a matter of thinking. Do you know?
MS. PERINO: Mark, you're on this topic?
Q Yes, can you describe the purpose of the Afghan facility that the United States is now involved with?
MS. PERINO: Well, we've been working closely to renovate a prison. Let me give you the name of it -- Pole Charki. This was to renovate a part of that prison and to train up enough of the guards in order to take care of those -- that section of the prison. And so we're working just to renovate that. That's the purpose of it.
As you can imagine, many of the detainees that we have in Guantanamo Bay are from Afghanistan, and we'd like for them to be able to go back to be held securely and to make sure that they are being treated humanely.
Q So how should we look on this particular facility, as a partial replacement for Guantanamo, as an alternative, as a place --
MS. PERINO: No. No, I think that, just as with any other country that we have asked to take back their prisoners and to hold them accountable, I would look at it that way. Afghanistan is a sovereign government, and we've asked other governments to take their folks back. As I said, we sent two back to -- let's see, it was four to Yemen and two to Tunisia; I think of it in the same way. But Afghanistan has a slightly different problem, because, one, their facilities were so run down and their infrastructure, plus there were so many of them from Afghanistan. They have to send them -- be sent back.
Q You've spoken of repatriation. But you're not going to repatriate everybody who's at Guantanamo. Ultimately, you're going to be left with some who you are going to put elsewhere. Are you still looking at places to bring them to in America?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Not at all?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Or, in other words --
MS. PERINO: There's the Military Commissions Act that's working through -- there's a different process where you have to be -- you go through a naming process where you are deemed an unlawful enemy combatant, and then you go forward to trial, and those things are underway. It takes a long time, though.
Q Just to be clear, if I'm understanding you right, none of the people who are at Guantanamo now, there is no consideration being given to bringing any of those people to U.S. soil?
MS. PERINO: I think the way that I should answer that is to say, that's a very complex legal question. The Attorney General has been asked this question before; I would refer you to his public comments. And I'm not going to comment here about what is under consideration or not. It's one of the reasons that meeting -- meeting that was going to be today and other meetings that we have on this are private.
Q Dana, one of the lawyers representing a couple of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay said that it's a bunch of doublespeak from this White House saying that you want to close Guantanamo Bay when indeed you're not giving due process to many of the detainees that are there.
MS. PERINO: Well, I just told you that since 2002, we have had over 400 detainees go back to their home countries. And we also have a Military Commissions Act process underway to deal with those who have not gone back to their countries and those that we want to try, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Q I hear what you're saying, but people who are working with the detainees are saying you are not allowing them to go to tribunal, you're not allowing them to have due process, as you were saying, you're not speeding up the process to get rid of these remaining 375 detainees.
MS. PERINO: I strongly disagree, and I'd refer you to Department of Defense, who has dedicated a serious amount of personnel and assets in order to be able to move these trials along.
Q And I want to ask something else. Tony Snow, within the last couple of weeks, he was asked a question, realistically, do you think that this President could close Guantanamo Bay before his term is up? He said no. What will change -- what conditions could change that, from what he said a month ago?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think I'm going to go back to what I said to Mark, which is a lot of very smart people are working on that issue, trying to figure out a way that we could close Guantanamo in a way that makes sure that those who are there are held securely and that they are treated humanely.
Q Held securely where, though? I mean, in U.S. custody where?
MS. PERINO: I never said that they were going to be held in the U.S. I'm not commenting --
Q U.S. custody where?
MS. PERINO: Well, right now they're in Guantanamo, and then we'll just have to see from where we go. One of the reasons that these meetings, these interagency meetings are held is to discuss these very complex issues. And it's not something I'm able or prepared to give to you today.
Q If, in fact, there is no decision imminent on Guantanamo, has the administration begun to accelerate or intensify its discussions about the future of that facility in light of the continuing international criticism and legal setbacks?
MS. PERINO: What I know -- you look at what the President has said and what he has directed to his Cabinet, which is, close this facility as soon as possible, people take that very seriously. There are people who have -- their full-time job is to work on how do you move these individuals out of the Guantanamo Bay facility into places where they can be held securely and treated humanely. And so there's not a deadline on it. We're doing it in a way that is responsible.
Q The President expressed his concerns to the Vietnamese President about the human rights record in Vietnam. Did the Vietnamese President turn the tables on the President, as President Putin did recently, and mention that there's some questions that have been raised internationally about the U.S.'s record on Guantanamo?
MS. PERINO: No. And I can tell you that we are confident that people are treated humanely at Guantanamo Bay.
Q I'm sorry -- the holding of prisoners indefinitely without charge is considered worldwide to be a violation of human rights, so --
MS. PERINO: What the President has said is that if there are -- one, we'll do the military commissions, which are underway; two, this was a matter where we had never dealt with this before. We have an enemy who does not conform to any of the traditional rules of law. But we also knew that we couldn't leave them out there on the battlefield. Their intent was to kill innocent people.
And so the President has done the responsible thing. And I would submit to you that countries who have complained most vehemently about the human rights record, alleged abuses of human rights at Guantanamo Bay are the very ones who refuse to take any prisoners themselves.
Q Staying on Guantanamo?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Currently at Guantanamo Bay, there are no prisoners designated as unlawful enemy combatants. The military commission process is at a dead stop. There is nothing on the books to continue, because the question -- both cases that have been brought before the commissions have been thrown out because the judges have said they do not have jurisdiction over enemy combatants, which everybody at Guantanamo Bay is listed as enemy combatant. Before the process can be undertaken to move Guantanamo to Fort Leavenworth, or wherever it's going to go, does everybody first have to be redesignated?
MS. PERINO: I don't know. That's great questions for Department of Defense legal counsel. Don't know.
Q Because that could be a question of years.
MS. PERINO: Les.
Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions. In his statement, "all human life is sacred," the President deplored what he termed, "the deliberate destruction of human embryos." And my question: If a pregnant woman is medically diagnosed as facing death, unless she has a therapeutic abortion, does the President believe it is wrong to destroy the fetus to save the life of the mother?
MS. PERINO: I think that we've made public comments on this before regarding the health of the mother. And you're raising complex ethical questions, which I'd refer you to the NIH to ask.
Q Well, all right. Is the President opposed to the destruction of any embryo resulting from gang rape or incest?
MS. PERINO: I think we've made comments on that, too, Les. We'll get you those from before.
Q He's made them before?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I'll get those for you. Go ahead.
Q Is the President happy with the discussion of human rights with the Vietnamese President? And if the situation is not changed, what else can he do?
MS. PERINO: Well, the President had a good meeting with President Triet, and it was one of the first issues that he brought up, was human rights and religious freedom. And so the President hopes that the Vietnamese President will take those word to heart and that we'll see some behavior changes in Vietnam.
Q In New York, the Vietnamese President mentioned four people who were arrested in Vietnam were criminals, not dissidents. Did President Bush persuade him to change that view, in that one-hour meeting?
MS. PERINO: I don't know the specifics, because I didn't sit in on that meeting, but I'll consult and see if we can get back to you. Just give me your card after this.
Q Thank you. END 1:55 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 21, 2007
President Bush Discusses Energy Initiatives in Athens, Alabama Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Athens, Alabama , 1:38 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming by to say hello. Mr. Chairman, thank you for your kind introduction, and thanks for the invitation to tour this impressive facility. The restart of Browns Ferry Unit Number 1 represents the first nuclear reactor to come online in the United States in more than a decade. (Applause.) This is a demonstration that one is capable of doing a job on time and on budget. And I congratulate you all for your hard work, and thank you for the contribution you're making to the United States of America.
I'm going to talk a little bit about nuclear power today, and there's no better place to do it here than with a group of folks who understand the great benefits of nuclear power to our country. I believe that it is essential that we have a comprehensive energy policy to be able to deal with the challenges we're going to face in the 21st century, whether that be energy independence or economic security or good environmental policy. And at the core of such policy must be electricity generated from nuclear power. (Applause.)
I'm also here to nudge Congress along. They're working on a bill -- (laughter) -- that I hope that they can get to my desk, that is a good bill, a balanced bill, a reasonable approach to making sure we continue to be wise about how we use energy in the United States.
I do want to thank Bill for his leadership, and I thank the members of the board of the TVA. I thank Tom Kilgore for taking time to visit today. He's led me on a tour with R.G. Jones. Some of you may have heard of R.G. (Applause.) R.G. and I discovered we're both 60. (Laughter.) We were born in 1946, which is a fine year to be born, at least as far as R.G. and I are concerned. (Laughter.) I reminded him 60 is not as old as it used to sound -- until I climbed up all those stairs to get to the control room. (Laughter.) I also want to thank Brian O'Grady, the Vice President here. (Applause.)
Put a good man who understands nuclear power as the head of the Energy Department, Sam Bodman. He's with us today. Mr. Secretary, thank you for traveling with us. Appreciate you coming. (Applause.) Also with us is Dr. Dale Klein, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It's an important position. It's a position that's going to expedite the regulations so we can get more plants up and running. And I'll talk a little bit about his intentions and our intentions to help increase nuclear power here in the United States.
I'm traveling with a fine United States Senator, in Jeff Sessions. (Applause.) As well as the Congressman from this district, a man awfully proud of the work you do here, and that's Bud Cramer. (Applause.) Finally, we let a fellow from Mobile tag along with us, Congressman Jo Bonner. Appreciate you coming, Congressman. (Applause.)
I thank all the employees who work at this plant. Thanks for what you're doing. Thanks for being skillful. Thanks for working hard. Thanks for helping the country.
The world is seeing the promise and potential of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. I emphasize that word, peaceful use, because one of my predecessors, Dwight David Eisenhower, in 1953 called on the world's scientists and engineers to find a way to produce peaceful power from atomic energy that would serve the needs, rather than the fears, of mankind. That's exactly what we're doing here. You're serving the needs, rather than the fears, of mankind. You're helping implement the vision of President Dwight David Eisenhower.
Nuclear power is America's third leading source of electricity. It provides nearly 20 percent of our country's electricity. I don't know if a lot of our citizens understand that, but nuclear power is a key component of economic vitality, because it provides 20 percent of the electricity.
Interestingly enough, nuclear power provides 78 percent of electricity for France, provides 50 percent for Sweden, 30 percent for the entire European Union. China has nine nuclear reactors in operation and has ambitious plans to build many more over the next two decades.
Nuclear power is prevalent and it's recognized as a necessary power source, not only here in the United States, but around the world. Nuclear power is clean. It's clean, domestic energy. There is a lot of discussion about the environment, as there should be. We certainly want to leave the environment better for the next generation that comes along. There's a lot of discussion about greenhouse gases, which I believe is a serious problem.
And therefore, I remind those who share my concern about greenhouse gases that nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases. If you are interested in cleaning up the air, then you ought to be an advocate for nuclear power. (Applause.) Without nuclear power here in the United States, there would be nearly 700 million additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere every year. There is no single solution to climate change, but there can be no solution without nuclear power.
Nuclear power is safe. The nuclear sector is one of the safest industries in the United States. Advances in science and engineering and plant design have made nuclear plants even safer than the last generation of plants. In other words, technology has advanced, knowledge has advanced, engineering has advanced. This is a safe plant and the people in the United States must understand that.
They've also got to understand that NRC inspectors are stationed full time at these plants to provide daily inspections, and I appreciate the NRC inspectors who are with us today. In other words, we go extra steps to be able to say to the American people, this is a safe place to work and it's a safe facility to have in the area of the country in which you live.
Nuclear power is affordable and it is reliable. Once a nuclear plant is constructed, fuel and operating costs are low. The cost of electricity from a nuclear power plant is stable. It is predictable. The cost of electricity from a plant like this doesn't fluctuate the way plants fired by natural gas can fluctuate. The flow of power is not intermittent like the wind. This is a reliable source of low-cost energy.
We need nuclear power to play a greater role in our future. That's what I want to share with you and the American people, as we talk about a comprehensive energy strategy, a comprehensive energy plan, nuclear power has got to be a really important part of our future.
Nuclear power is the only large-scale emissions-free power source that is currently able to meet the growing need for electricity. As our economy grows, with additional demands for power and electricity, nuclear power can handle those needs.
In order to keep pace with our nuclear energy needs, experts believe it will be necessary to build an average of three new plants per year starting in 2015. In other words, it's one thing to talk about nuclear power; it's another thing to have -- understand the strategy necessary.
So we are going to need three plants starting in 2015. And as we tackle climate change, it may be necessary to have even more plants. Here's the problem: Our country has not ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970s, partially as a result of constant litigation and overly complex regulations. So we're working to overcome those obstacles. I appreciate the fact that the TVA is making decisions to move forward nuclear power. It's time for our country to start building nuclear power plants again. That's what I want to share with you. (Applause.)
One thing to restart one, and I congratulate you. It's another thing to build the new ones. And that's what we ought to have happen if we're interested in a comprehensive, sound, wise energy policy that is environmentally friendly. The federal government is helping to expand the safe use of nuclear power in some important ways. First, we've set up what's called the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative. We launched the nuclear power initiative, which is a partnership between industry and the U.S. government, to reduce regulatory and other barriers to the development of new nuclear power plants. That's why we set it up. We want to start building plants, and we recognize that there have been some regulatory burdens that prevent the construction of new plants or at least discourage the construction of new plants.
The 2008 budget I submitted would double the requested funding for this initiative to $114 million. In other words, it takes money to get this initiative moving. And we're asking Congress to spend money on it in order to help us put in a comprehensive energy strategy. It makes sense. It's just a common sense strategy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working to improve and streamline the regulatory process to help accelerate the construction of nuclear plants. Under the old system, the permitting process was slow. Some of the older hands here might remember that. It was cumbersome, because it limited builders to completing only one step at a time before moving on. You could only do one thing, and then there would be regulatory deals, and another thing -- and it just took a long time. And when something takes a long time to build, that discourages capital and discourages people from moving forward. Plus you could get sued all the time. That would discourage people, as well.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is implementing a more efficient review process that allows builders to complete several steps at a time without compromising safety. They took a good look at the problems, they said we need more nuclear power, and so we're going to streamline the process. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission now expects 20 applications for combined construction and operating licenses for up to 30 new reactors. In other words, we're beginning to make some progress. Things are beginning to change. Attitudes are changing, and so is the regulatory process, which has enabled me to tell you we've got 20 applications for up to 30 new reactors. That is good news for the American consumer. (Applause.)
We think that we ought to -- America ought to -- should be able to start construction on additional nuclear plants by the end of this decade. That's not all that far away. So I've got the Chairman of the NRC here. I want him to hear what I just said. (Laughter.) He's doing some good work. He's got more work to do.
I signed an energy bill in 2005 that included important incentives to support the development of nuclear power, including federal risk insurance for builders of new nuclear plants, loan guarantee eligibility and production tax credits. In other words, to get this industry started, put some incentives out there for people that would be spending the money to get the plants going.
We're working to settle the issue of storage for nuclear waste. That's an issue. More than 55,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste are stored at a hundred sites in 39 states. I've submitted a budget of $495 million to continue progress on licensing Yucca Mountain as a repository for spent fuel.
There's also another idea that I want you to -- I know you know about it, but I want Americans and Congress to consider. We ought to do something about reprocessing. We ought to bring that technology to bear. (Applause.) We ought to bring new technologies to bear to help us all deal with the spent fuel. So we proposed a global nuclear energy partnership to work with nations with advanced civilian nuclear energy programs, such as France, Japan, China, and Russia. And the reason why we proposed this partnership is we want to use technologies, new technologies -- develop and use technologies that effectively and safely recycle spent nuclear fuel.
Reprocessing spent uranium fuel for use in advanced reactors will allow us to extract more energy and has the potential to reduce storage requirements for nuclear waste by up to 90 percent. I am confident that we can have the technological breakthroughs necessary to deal with the fuel. Congress needs to spend the money in order to do the research. And when we do, we will be able to answer a lot of the charges of our critics that say, what are you going to do with the fuel?
Well, here's a good answer: Recycle it, reburn it and reduce the amount of the problem. And that's what the United States needs to be doing. (Applause.)
Nuclear power is part of a broader strategy. I want to spend a little time on the broader strategy before we all pass out in here. (Laughter.) There's enough hot air in the room as there is. (Laughter.)
We're too dependent on oil. And you know, in 1985, about 27 percent of our oil came from other countries; today, about 60 percent does. And that's a dependency that creates economic and national security problems for us.
On the national security side, our dependence on oil leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes and terrorists. If you can blow up oil facilities overseas, it will affect the price of oil here at home. When you're dependent on something and somebody disrupts the supply on which you're dependent, it will affect you. It effects international politics, to a certain extent, to be dependent on oil.
When the price of oil goes up for whatever reason overseas, it affects the price of gasoline here in northern Alabama. So there is an economic issue for being dependent on oil. And, of course, when oil is burned as a fuel, it effects the environment. So we've got to change our dependency.
One way to do so is to spend some of your money on new technologies that will change how we live in positive ways. So we spent $12 billion since I've been the President to develop cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy sources. I think that's a wise use of your money -- to encourage research and development on new ways to drive your cars, for example.
One such example is -- that we're spending your money on is for clean coal technologies. We've got to do something to make sure that when we have electricity generated by coal that we can say to future generations of Americans that we're going to protect the environment, as well. We've got a lot of coal. If you want to be less dependent on foreign sources of oil, you ought to use the energy sources you've got here at home. Not all electricity is going to be generated as a result of nuclear power. We're going to be burning coal. And so we are spending a lot of money, and I believe that we'll have emission-free coal plants that will capture and remove virtually all air pollutants and greenhouse gases from burning coal. That's what the experts tell me.
So some of your money, some of your hard-earned money is going to encourage that kind of research. I think it's worth it. And I know it's necessary if we want to be less dependent on oil and be good about how we deal with the environment.
And we're also spending money to help others research wind and solar power. That's a nice alternative. It's certainly not going to -- wind power is not going to be nearly as effective and efficient as nuclear power, but it can be a part of the mix.
If you want to affect dependency on oil, then we've got to figure out how to use -- put different power sources in our cars. Gasoline is oil. You know, so when you say I'm using gasoline, you really are using oil. Because that's how -- that's where gasoline comes from. And so one idea that we're working on is to encourage ethanol, which works. See, if you're driving your automobile based upon something a farmer grows here in northern Alabama, as opposed to something that's as a result of buying from overseas -- makes sense to me.
You've got your farmer growing something that powers your automobile, I think it puts us in a much better position economically, from a national security perspective. And we're spending a fair amount of your money to make sure that we can use something other than corn from which to make ethanol. If you're a hog farmer, you're getting tired of seeing the corn prices go up. If you're a corn farmer, it's a nice feeling to see the prices go up. (Laughter.)
But we believe we can come up with technologies that will enable us to use wood chips to make ethanol that you can put in your automobiles to help us become less dependent on oil, or switchgrasses. That would be nice for some of the people from my state. Switchgrass grows in a nice dry environment. I understand you're dry here, by the way. The senator and the congressmen are working hard on me about the drought that you've got here. (Laughter.) But some parts of our country need to -- have got dry country and they can grow some switchgrass.
The whole idea is to come up with different ways to power our automobiles. And along those lines, I think it's not going to be long before you're going to be able to drive an automobile with new battery technologies that you can just plug in to your garage. And your automobile won't look like a golf cart. It will be a normal size pickup truck. (Laughter and applause.)
So I laid out a goal that said we're going to reduce our gasoline usage by 20 percent over 10 years as a part of our energy diversification strategy. And I think we can achieve that. I also know we need to change our fuel economy standards just like we did for trucks, and I want to work with Congress to do that as well.
In other words, it's part of a comprehensive strategy. I call it the 20-10 goal. And I commend Congress for pursuing the framework for the 20-10 proposal. It's a promising start. However, as bills get written, it's being frustrated by special interests and, of course, all the politics that takes place in Washington, D.C.
The current plan being debated in the Senate falls far short of the ambitious goal I laid out. But it's a realistic goal. It's a necessary goal if we want to become less dependent on oil from overseas. The Senate's proposed fuel mandate, for example, calls for just a 10 percent reduction in gasoline usage by 2017. We can do much better than that. We really can. We've got to be optimistic about what America can do when we put our mind to doing something.
And so I urge the Congress to be realistic about the bills they're talking about and get it done. Get it to my desk so we can all say we've done a good job of representing the people.
By the way, as we talk about these new technologies, we're still going to need oil and gas. And we can explore for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways. I strongly believe that we ought to open up more outer continental shelf area, as well as ANWR in Alaska. You know, there's a big debate about whether or not you can drill and find oil and gas that's good for you without ruining the environment. I'm telling you we can. Technologies have changed. (Applause.)
By the way, when they're debating the bill up there, they've also got to fill up -- add to the strategic petroleum reserve. If you're worried about a terrorist attack which could affect the price of oil, we ought to have oil in the ground that we can use to protect the American consumer. And they need to expand the petroleum reserve against natural disasters, protection against natural disasters, as well as a potential attack.
By the way, the Supreme Court -- I don't know if you follow the Supreme Court at all, but they've ruled that the EPA must take action under the Clean Air Act regarding greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. That's what the Court said. And when the Court says something, then the executive branch of government says, okay, you said it, now we'll listen. We'll do what you asked us to do.
And so I directed the EPA and the Department of Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture to take the first steps toward regulations that would cut gasoline consumption and greenhouse gases using the plan I just described to you. So Congress can pass the law, which I hope they do, but if they don't, we're moving forward because the Supreme Court told us to move forward. And either way, in either case, we're going to become less dependent on oil, and that's good for the United States of America. (Applause.)
So I appreciate you letting me come by and talk a little energy. You live it, I'm talking it. (Laughter.) I thank you for what you're doing for the country. I thank you for your hard work, I thank you for your skill, I thank you for your prayers. I thank you for being good Americans.
And may God bless you. And may God bless our country. Thank you all. (Applause.) END 2:03 P.M. CDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 20, 2007
President Bush Meets with Republican Members of the House of Representatives The Oval Office, 3:24 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank Congressmen Boehner, Blunt, and other leaders of the House of Representatives for coming today. We just had a discussion about how we will work together to make sure that when we spend the taxpayers' money, we do so in a way that is fiscally sound and keeps our economy growing.
I submitted a budget to the Congress that sets priorities -- no greater priority, by the way, than defending the homeland against attack. It's a budget that keeps taxes low so the economy continues to grow. And it's a budget that will balance -- be in balance in five years.
Now, there's an alternative budget that has been presented in the Congress by the Democrats, which will increase spending by a significant amount, in our view, and will require tax raises in order to get spending. We don't think that's right for the country. We don't think that's a good way to keep the economy strong, and we think we ought to be trusting taxpayers with their own money, so they can make choices with their money.
And so, to this end, the members of Congress delivered me a letter -- 147 signatures on it that said they will support me on any veto of a bill that is -- exceeds the spending limits that we collectively think is necessary for the good of the country.
And I want to thank the members for coming. I assured them that I'm going to work with them to represent the taxpayers and the working people of the United States -- represent the small business owners that are working hard to realize their dreams and increase their payrolls. And we will be effective by working together. And I thank these leaders for coming down and spending time with us to talk about this important strategy.
Of course, we talk all the time, when you've got a common goal, which is to keep the economy strong and the nation safe. And I appreciate you working with us to achieve that objective.
Thank you. Thank you.
Q What do you think about Bloomberg?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a fine news organization, but who do you work -- no. (Laughter.) END 3:26 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 20, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room , 1:05 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Just getting organized. Hello. Questions.
Q Tony, does the executive order allow researchers to do anything they couldn't do under current guidelines?
MR. SNOW: Well, what it does -- the stem cell guidelines expand the range of pluripotent cells. I think what it does is it acknowledges that there have been some changes within embryonic stem cell science. In the past, if you were looking for pluripotent cells, the one and only acknowledged source were human embryos, and that obviously raised ethical questions, which led the President to promulgate guidelines back in 2001.
More recently, there seem to be some indications, based on research, that one can derive these pluripotent cells -- that is a cell that can transform itself into any other kind of cell within the body -- not necessarily from embryos, but from other sources, including skin cells. What this does is provide a basis for trying to enhance the number of pluripotent cell lines available to researchers using the NIH.
Now, the NIH is going to have 90 days to put together requests for proposals and try to set up a -- establish a procedure where you have peer-reviewed science based on the likelihood of clinical benefit and running through sort of the normal -- so what this really does is acknowledge that there has been at least, based on the literature, some indication that we may be on the verge of some pretty extraordinary breakthroughs in medicine.
Obviously, at this early juncture, you cannot be definitive about it, but this at least creates the space for which there can be federal funding and also a competition for federal funding for such projects.
Q How much federal funding are we talking about?
MR. SNOW: What we're really talking about is money within the NIH right now. The NIH has the ability to distribute money based on grants that it considers worthy, and it will continue to distribute them.
Q Can we quantify it at all?
MR. SNOW: You have to look at the NIH budget.
Q Because there's no additional money, isn't the executive order a way to blunt criticism, because so many Americans favor stem cell research, after the President's veto?
MR. SNOW: Well, what's interesting is -- again, the imprecision of this debate about stem cell research -- the President supports stem cell research, let's be clear. The President is the first person to make embryonic stem cell lines anywhere. Furthermore, this government has spent more money on stem cell research. The President also has never declared it against the law to engage in embryonic stem cell research -- he simply thinks it involves, as do many other people, the taking of a human life, and, therefore, would require taxpayers to engage in a moral bargain that we don't think they should have to be involved in.
Now, what we have is a possibility for even more robust research when it comes to pluripotent stem cell lines, making use of stem cells that are not derived by human embryos, and also sparing people of having to make a very difficult moral choice of having to destroy a human life in order to move on with experimentation that may in the future not be necessary at all. That's a big breakthrough.
Q Is there any way to try to kind of counter critics --
MR. SNOW: No, because I think what happens is the critics quite often who make those complaints are, whether deliberately or not, misstating the nature of the President's commitment to stem cell research, and paying little or no heed or giving no credit to the President's unique and unprecedented role in supporting stem cell research.
Q Well, here's one of these critics today, Tony -- Senator Clinton said, "This is just one example of how the President puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become."
MR. SNOW: Boy, that sounds awfully general. You want to read that again for me?
Q "This is just one example of how the President puts ideology before science" --
MR. SNOW: Okay, stop right there. This actually is the President putting science before ideology. There are many people who believe that you have to force taxpayers into making a choice of destroying a human life -- destroying an embryo in order to proceed with embryonic stem cell research. That would be an ideological position.
What the President is taking is a scientific position that says, no, fortunately, if you've been looking at the literature, there appear to be a couple of recent papers that indicate that you don't have to make that very difficult moral choice. But, furthermore, to the extent that there is embryonic stem cell research, it's being done not because Bill Clinton made it possible, but because George W. Bush made it possible. So as for the first claim, it is factually untrue. But, please, proceed.
Q "Politics before the needs of our families."
MR. SNOW: "Politics before the needs of our families." Hmmm. Again, I find it hard to say that you are arguing against the needs for your families when you are looking at ways of expanding the universe of pluripotent stem cells, also knowing that embryonic stem cells have had some fairly unique problems and are very difficult to control. There is some indication that maybe pluripotent stem cells derived from skin cells or other -- may be somehow more controllable, but I don't want to overstate my expertise.
But in point of fact, when you build a regimen that says we're going to give you more options in terms of pluripotent stem cell lines, we are going to do it on a peer review basis, we are going to try to rank-order them in terms of clinical benefit -- it strikes me that that's a way of saying we want to help get the most bang for our buck in saving human lives.
Q "And just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become."
MR. SNOW: Again, I think you will find that the President's reverence for life is shared by a majority of the American public. And, furthermore, perhaps Senator Clinton -- I don't know, maybe she just got briefed badly, but the fact is all the embryonic stem cell lines that have been available originally began with George W. Bush in August of 2001. This administration continues to fund aggressively stem cell research involving blood cord adult stem cells and a lot of other lines, and now is encouraging people on the cutting edge of science to look for even new and exciting ways.
Rather than being mired in a debate that, itself, is caught up in the abortion debate in this country, the President is saying there is a way that we can move ahead without getting caught in this politically divisive debate and offer, we hope, in the long run, real hope for men and women who suffer from degenerative or other diseases. But the point of fact is, it does allow us to go ahead and look for more options that, in fact, would not be made available if we were mired in rehearsing the old political debate.
Q Last one. Can you just talk about the President's use of his veto? He's used it twice for stem cell legislation. He's used it once for the Iraq bill. But can you talk about the future use of the veto pen and perhaps is it going to be more prevalent soon?
MR. SNOW: It very well may be. I mean, we have issued a series of statements of administration policy and we've got others that we're considering, made it clear that we want to be holding the line on spending. And the President has laid out an overall level of spending for the year; he's serious about that. There are other bills in which people may try to put in amendments that the President would consider inappropriate, and he certainly will not hesitate to use the veto. My guess is it's kind of up to Congress about whether they want to go ahead and listen to the concerns the President has. But if, in fact, you have both houses going ahead and passing legislation that contains language that the President has said he will veto, he will follow through and he will veto it.
Q Tony, so are you suggesting there's a scientific basis for believing these alternatives might be more advantageous than the embryonic stem cell --
MR. SNOW: As I said, what you hear from scientists is it's -- they're not entirely sure. In fact, they're not even entirely sure about what the possible benefits of embryonic stem cells, because again, they're notoriously difficult to control. There has been some impressionistic notion that perhaps these others may be more -- easier to control, but they don't know yet. This really is a science at the very beginning of its development. What this does is, we hope, provide the basis for further pluripotent lines that can allow scientists to really, in a dispassionate way, to try to figure out what the difference is relevant to whatever differences there may be in terms of their effect and their ability to do what a lot of people hope these cells will do.
Q Even if it does -- and you say there's this grey area they don't know -- even if it does, it could take decades to find out.
MR. SNOW: That's -- yes, and as a matter of fact, you find that people are saying precisely the same thing with embryonic stem cells. What's fascinating, Martha, is the business of trying to predict scientific progress is something that -- go back to the human genome; some people thought it was going to take years and years and years and years, and all of a sudden, whamo, it happened with far more speed than people thought.
So you can assign any kind of time line you want, I'm sure it's perfectly credible. We just don't know. It's one of the mysteries of science; every once in a while you have somebody who has one of those moments where, in a flash of insight, they discover something that changes the world.
Q But essentially, there's no new money set aside, there's no change in policy on this, and this research was already going on, correct?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, what we're talking about is research that actually has been going on in private places elsewhere, it's the result of papers. What we're talking about is trying to encourage research along those lines. So, no, you don't have this booming industry. What we're really talking about are a couple of relatively recent scientific papers that indicate there may be some promise.
And so what you'll do is you'll try to use your peer review process to figure out the proper way to go ahead. Always, in a place like NIH, you end up rank-ordering, based on the promise and the potential therapeutic value of anything you may be looking at. I know that very well. And so it's in that sense. But at this moment, there is no special set-aside, but on the other hand, what we have is the ability now to take a look at a broader roster of potentially healing therapies.
Q And no policy change at all?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, the policy change -- again, the policy change is that when you're taking a look at pluripotent stem cell lines, it is no longer limited strictly to embryonic stem cell lines. So that is a change in the law. I mean, you can read -- in sort of a pretty obvious way, there are a number of changes. For instance, you've got 90 days to come up with a plan for a request for proposals that specify and reflect a determination to the extent to which specific techniques may require additional basic or animal research. It prioritized based on clinical benefit. They take into account techniques outlined by the Council on Bioethics. So there are a whole series of things here that really do provide policy nuggets. So I suppose to that extent, you would call it a change in policy.
Q Democrats say they're about one vote short in the Senate from being able to override the veto. They have much more of an uphill battle in the House, of course. How much confidence does the President have in being able to sustain his veto, and what does he think about some of the Republicans, some senior Republicans, in fact, who have abandoned him on this issue?
MR. SNOW: Well, it's going to be interesting, because in the past, we've had some senior Republicans arguing on the basis of pluripotency, thinking that the embryonic stem cell is the one and only place you can get it. Again, there seems to be some indication in the scientific research that that may be old wisdom, not new wisdom.
The President understands that this is an issue that is one where people very thoughtfully disagree. He also believes that it would be inappropriate to say to taxpayers, I know that you think this involves the killing of innocent human life, but I'm going to make you pay for it anyway -- especially since there are billions of dollars available in the private sector to make such research possible. And in that point of fact, that money is being spent anyway.
Let me reiterate, it's not illegal to do embryonic stem cell research. The President has simply determined that it would be morally inappropriate to use federal dollars for it. So what you end up doing is people can certainly go out and encourage as expensive, robust, aggressive embryonic stem cell research as they can. A number of states have set aside money for doing that. But at the same time, you can now concentrate also on stem cell therapies that have, in fact, already demonstrated proven results, especially adulthood blood cord. When you're looking at the areas where you've demonstrated therapeutic results, those are the areas that have produced results before.
But, again, none of us has the God-like ability to know exactly where this is going to turn out, but this is certainly not an attempt to muzzle science, but it is an attempt, I think, to respect people's conscience on such an issue.
Q And the confidence level for sustaining the veto?
MR. SNOW: Yes, it's going to get sustained.
Q Tony, can I go back to Bret's question about the use of vetoes? Is this part of a new strategy in the second term to push back against Democrats? And how does Rob Portman's departure sort of affect that strategy?
MR. SNOW: Second question first. Rob Portman's departure will not affect the strategy. Again, as I made it clear, Rob is an extraordinary guy and was terrific -- is terrific -- as the Budget Director. But Jim Nussle is hardly new to the vagaries of exploring the federal budget or understanding how it works, or, for that matter, understanding what it means when the President draws a line and says, beyond this we shall not go.
There is a great deal of work already in progress that Rob has initiated and that is being carried out by a large and very capable Office of Management and Budget staff. So Jim is going to step in and he's going to continue those efforts.
The first part -- what the President made clear a long time ago is that he was going to be insisting on fiscal discipline. We talked about earmarks also in the State of the Union address. It is something where Democrats made representations, backed off, and now House Republicans are holding their feet to the fire, as they should. And so -- again, if we went into a situation where Democrats say, you know what, we're going to try to hold this budget hostage, we're going to put a lot of great, big spending in important bills -- they're going to find out that the President is very serious about the spending lines.
And, furthermore, on other policy issues, such as stem cells, they're going to find out he's serious about it. So this is -- the ball really lies in the court of those in Congress who have to decide, is it better for them to have a confrontation and have a bill fail, or is it better for them to work through perhaps a slightly more expanded collegial process and have a bill that can be signed for which they can take credit? The question is what do they want as the hallmark of this Democratic Congress, because right now the hallmark is they passed nothing. If they want instead to be able to say they worked on a bipartisan basis and got big, important issues solved, they can take a little more credit for that. But that's their call.
Q Tony, back to the executive order -- I'm trying to figure out how much a departure it is. The non-embryonic research that you want to encourage was allowed before the order and will be allowed after the order.
MR. SNOW: I'm just not sure. The thing is, Mark, this is so new -- it may have been allowed, it just didn't exist.
Q It has been --
MR. SNOW: There have been some very preliminary pieces of research. So like I said, you don't have Skin Pluripotentcy, Inc. You don't have, you know, some little hot shop where they're doing this stuff right now.
Q Before the order, the NIH gets a proposal for such research, as it exists today they can approve it. The President is not going to allow --
MR. SNOW: I don't know. Well, there are a couple of things. I'm not sure that's the case. Certainly the order is available. I'll just run through -- because I think what we have is a new situation where you have new technologies in play and, therefore, you write an executive order that tends to accommodate those. So what is says is, "Secretary of Health and Human Services shall conduct and support research on the isolation, derivation, production and testing of stem cells that are capable of producing all or almost all of the cell types of the developing body. and may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions. But it's derived without creating a human embryo for research purposes or destroying, discarding or subjecting to harm an human embryo or fetus." Now, that, in some ways, is an expression of what's going on.
Then it says that now you have to figure out a way, because you're dealing with a new branch of science, how do you evaluate what you're going to support and what you're not? And there follow a series of things -- "90-day period for setting up standards for requests for proposal; something that will specify and reflect a determination of the extent to which specific techniques may require additional basic or animal research" -- which means you may have to be funding other side research -- "to ensure that any research involving human cells using these techniques is clearly consistent with the standards established under the law."
Q Isn't he ordering NIH to do what it is already able and willing to do?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- no. I think what he's trying to do -- keep in mind, when something new comes up -- and you've seen this happen many times -- if there is not a specific guideline, people are sometimes wary of doing anything for fear of second-guessing or exposure. So this is a matter of due diligence to say, okay, we have new technologies at our disposal and this is the way we're going to proceed.
Whether NIH coulda/woulda/shoulda done this under the status quo -- don't know. But this is a reiteration and, frankly, again, it not only -- it helps do something that I think is worth noting -- and it gets back to Kelly's original question -- the notion that we're against stem cell research is 100 percent wrong, period. We have made possible embryonic stem cell research. No previous administration did it. We have financed non-embryonic stem cell research at levels nobody else has. We are now encouraging research into pluripotent cells that may not require the destruction of human life, of fetuses.
All of those are important steps. There's been no administration that has been more aggressive in funding and doing outreach on the issue of stem cells. We do have before us a Senate bill that the President will veto. But we also have an executive order that says, in effect, we want to assure one and all that we do not want to shutoff pluripotent stem cell research, and also to let one and all know that pluripotent stem cells may not be limited to human embryos. I think it's an important point of clarification.
Q Tony, as you said twice, the President is not going to outlaw privately funded embryonic stem cell research. And some of his normal allies on this issue today are questioning, why not?
MR. SNOW: That's the position he's taken.
Q Why doesn't he want to take it a step further? Does he think it wouldn't pass legal muster?
MR. SNOW: No, I think in this particular case, as somebody who has sovereignty -- somebody who has -- not "sovereignty," but somebody who proposes a federal budget, it's perfectly appropriate to try to propose guidelines for use under the federal budget. But, on the other hand, to get in -- you cannot issue an executive order that is going to dictate the way in which people may conduct their private economic affairs. That may be something that states and others would want to consider. It does appear, for the most part, states have moved in the other direction in setting up funds for embryonic stem cell research.
Q Tony, two questions. One, can you update us as far as immigration debate is concerned? The other day when President was speaking to the Hispanic groups he told them that they should get into the immigration debate because there is -- there are forces from both sides, pro and against the immigration bill. And where do we stand now?
MR. SNOW: Well, we're in a position now of we will be having debates I guess next week on a series of amendments that have been agreed upon by Democratic and Republican leaders of the United States Senate. We will be studying those as soon as they become fully available. And my guess is that there's going to be a pretty vigorous fight over some, and there are going to be a coalescence around some of those amendments as things that people can support. Ultimately there will be a vote in the United States Senate in favor of a comprehensive package; we hope and expect it will pass.
And then you go over to the House of Representatives where we'll begin a long and traditional process, starting at the subcommittee level, the committee level, the floor level, and so on, where they debate thoroughly all aspects of comprehensive immigration reform. And there are some other, varying proposals being floated around, as well.
Q Do you think the President sees a light at the end of the dark tunnel for those illegals who are hoping that the President --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what was that?
Q Do you think the President sees a light at the end of the dark tunnel for those illegals who are hoping the President and this Democratic Congress may --
MR. SNOW: No, I don't want -- look as you well know, immigration is the core of who we are as a people. It's how we constantly renew ourselves; we bring in people with talent and ambition, many of whom feel far stronger about the glories of America and the power of freedom because we take a lot of it for granted ourselves.
The President wants to make sure that we restore the rule of law, he wants to make sure that we protect the borders, and he wants to restore also that the notion of citizenship is something very special and precious. So his -- the way the President tends to look at these things is not to try to sort of draw some of how are various people going to feel about it; he thinks it's the right thing to do. And so you're now engaged in the practical exercise of getting the job done.
Q Terrorism -- now as far as support of Iran in Afghanistan and Iraq is concerned, now the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates also is saying now that there's a strong possibility that Iran is involved not only in expanding their nuclear program, but also supporting, arming and financing terrorism, terrorists in Afghanistan, because the reason I'm saying this -- now is saying that we are now getting more and more Talibans and they are terrorizing them. So where do we stand as far as now -- today?
MR. SNOW: Where do we stand? We continue fighting them. I mean, you can read the papers. There are ongoing efforts.
Q What does the President think should be done with embryos that are no longer -- that the families no longer want to keep? Is he opposed to the destruction of any embryos?
MR. SNOW: He is opposed to the use of federal funds to destroy embryos.
Q But he has no opinion on whether families who say they would like to donate those stem cells to --
MR. SNOW: Well, again, my understanding is that that is certainly something that is possible already at the private level. But his position is, on federal funding, we should not have federal funding for anything that would involve the destruction of a living embryo.
Q You talked a little bit about the meeting with Republicans this afternoon. Is that basically for veto material, or what's the nature of --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm sure there will be some immigration, I'm sure there will be some spending strategy. We've got an energy bill, we've got defense approps coming up. There's a very busy legislative calendar not only before, but after the July 4th recess. All of that stuff is likely to come up. Also, the general way a meeting works is the President will have opening comments and members will speak their mind. So they tend to sort of be kind of free-flowing exchanges. It's not something that's going to follow a simple or set trajectory. It never works that way.
Q Tony, the President had a very strong statement yesterday on the Middle East. Are you trying to send a special signal to the Arabs and to terrorist groups? And what are the amounts of the economic and military aid that are being proposed?
MR. SNOW: Well, we're not going to tell you the amounts. Obviously we're in the process -- next year it's going to come time once again to re-up military aid in the 10-year package. And when people have figured out the numbers, I'm sure they'll be happy to announce them. What the President is really doing is once again reiterating support for Israel, which is a bulwark for democracy and an absolutely irreplaceable and valuable ally.
Q For 10 years?
Q Tony, when you were responding to Kelly the first time you said the President is making a unique and unprecedented -- taking a unique and unprecedented role. Well, the medical community -- scientists from the President's Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research says, "Again the President used the stroke of his veto pen deliberately to hamper the process of scientific and medical research, as well as endanger the future health and well-being of the American people. His executive order directing NIH to continue pursuing alternate forms of research is nothing new, since NIH has already been conducting this research for the past several years." Your response?
MR. SNOW: My response is -- you probably don't want to hear it. Look, you know what that is? That's press release language.
Q It might be press release --
MR. SNOW: That's somebody basically --
Q -- from the medical community.
MR. SNOW: No, it is for a PR spokesman. Here's the deal -- please disagree with any of the following propositions: But for George W. Bush, there would have been made available to researchers no embryonic stem cell lines; but for George W. Bush and his proposals passed by Congress we now have the most vigorous program in looking at stem cell research at all levels of any country in the world; but for this President, it is also now possible for states and individuals or private entities to engage in examination of embryonic stem cells.
So what you end up having is from a much greater variety of sources, and income sources, the ability to engage in wide-ranging research, rather than as sometimes becomes the case, if you have one and only one source, people then become hostage to political considerations. What you have now is a situation in which those who want to pursue embryonic stem cell research, they know where to go. Meanwhile, what we're trying to do is to make the best use of taxpayer money on technologies that have demonstrated therapeutic value and have saved lives.
Q Tony, with all respect of what you're saying, throughout the medical community -- not just through this gentleman -- but throughout the medical community we've heard that the embryonic stem cells are more pliable than the other stem cells. And why not -- why not push to see if there are embryos that families don't want, that are going to be discarded anyway, why not continue to push forward for medical advancement to help people live and survive?
MR. SNOW: Two things. Number one, the President does not believe it's appropriate to put an end to human life for research purposes. It's a line he will not cross.
Q But what about embryos that are already getting ready to be discarded?
MR. SNOW: I understand. You know what? They're still human life, April.
Number two, the President also has made clear that there's a possibility of pluripotent stem cell research that, in fact, would give you the pluripotent cells that these scientists are talking about.
Number three, if there is a possibility to extract cells from embryos without killing the embryos, and still finding some way of reaching pluripotent stem cells, okay, that would certainly not fall under what the President had talked before. The bright line is, does it, in fact, put an end to a human life? It's a perfectly reasonable and, I think, moral and humane way to approach it, and it does not cutoff any kind of research. What it does is say if you want to do a kind of research that is forbidden by federal law or by federal regulation, find another place to get it paid.
Q But, Tony, if there is still a question -- like you're saying, we don't know -- isn't there a responsibility of the government to exhaust the possibility of finding out if, indeed, it does --
MR. SNOW: Well, let me ask you this, April. If you've got a series of technologies that are actually producing results and those who are not, where are you going to put your money?
Q But what about the other ones that are more pliable and useable than --
MR. SNOW: You have not been listening to me about the pluripotency --
Q I have listened to you. I've heard you.
MR. SNOW: The pluripotency you may be able to do without having to end human life. Now, if you've got a deal where it says you don't have to face the moral quandary of putting an end to human life and you can get pluripotency, I'm taking that every time, and so will the President.
Q Tony, two quick follows on stem cell. Has the President already vetoed the bill?
MR. SNOW: Stem? Yes.
Q And, secondly, I understand your argument that the point of the executive order is to encourage research and promising new lines, but in terms of timing, you could have done it last week, you could have done it next week. To Kelly's point earlier, why package it today with the veto if not to blunt criticism that the President is doing it --
MR. SNOW: I love the fact that the criticism is always seen as the valid point, as opposed to the advocacy, which I think is more powerful, which is it's another example of the President respecting the right to life, also respecting the importance of trying to advance science on the margins, rather than simply to bicker about things that have been bickered about a long period of time.
So I would argue that this is a good time to call attention to the President's progressive record, as opposed to those who say, he's still not doing embryonic stem cell research -- which he made available seven years -- without talking about what's in the literature right now, which are promising technologies that, in fact, may spare us a divisive national quandary, and give us even more weapons in the fight against these diseases. So I would argue that rather than "trying to blunt criticism," what the President is trying to do is to push forward the frontiers of technology.
Q A study shows that Iraq is the second-most unstable country in the world. Do we have anything to do with that?
MR. SNOW: Do we have anything to do with that? Yes, I saw the study --
Q -- the killing?
MR. SNOW: We don't -- I'm not sure I got the --
Q I'm talking about Petraeus, also, intensifying -- is he trying to build a kill record before September?
MR. SNOW: No. No. In point of fact, Helen, if you take a look at the record of the last two months, the people who have been trying to put together the kill record are al Qaeda. Go to the mosques --
Q Is everybody who resists our occupation a terrorist?
MR. SNOW: Do you think somebody who goes in and blows up 50 people in a mosque is resisting occupation?
Q What have we done for five years?
MR. SNOW: What we have been trying to do is to work with folks to deal with a highly volatile situation in Iraq in the wake of a murderous regime --
Q We've killed thousands of people, tens of thousands --
MR. SNOW: Many have died, and hundreds of thousands died under the previous regime. This is a place that has too long been wracked by violence. And the fact that in fighting --
Q We're not supposed to be comparing, are we?
MR. SNOW: Unfortunately, if we fought evil guys who simply would say, you caught us, we're evil, we give up, we'll be good -- that would be great, that would be wonderful.
Q Everybody isn't evil who fights for his land.
MR. SNOW: A lot of the people we're talking about, Helen, aren't fighting for their land, because it's not their land. They don't even come from Iraq.
Q Are we fighting Iraqis, inherently, in their own country?
MR. SNOW: Are we fighting Iraqis inherently? I think if you take a look at what General Petraeus is saying, is that increasingly Iraqis are joining with us to defend their country from the onslaught of outside fighters, whether they be from al Qaeda or Iran.
Q Good, but we have to admit we're killing a lot of Iraqis who are against our presence.
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure. I mean, that requires the kind of canvas of those who have died that I'm not capable of doing.
Q Does the White House have an opinion about a prominent Republican like Michael Bloomberg leaving the party?
MR. SNOW: No. I mean, at this point -- I mean, I've seen the reports. Has he made it official yet? I saw some stuff on line. It's interesting. I don't have a response.
Q Do you view him as a Republican?
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way; he ran as a Republican, I believe he took Republican money.
Q Tony, two questions; thank you very much. The AP in Dublin has just quoted President Jimmy Carter as saying to Ireland's 8th Annual Forum on Human Rights, "The Bush administration's refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas was criminal." Any my question, surely President Bush has some disagreement with this Carter crime association accusation, and Carter's support of terrorists?
MR. SNOW: The President has made it a graceful point of his administration not to respond to critiques from ex-Presidents. And I think I will continue to try to maintain that sense of decorum.
Q No matter what the ex-President says? I mean -- I have one other --
MR. SNOW: You know, Les, you're a priest, you understand -- you're a former priest, and you understand that sometimes social graces are something worth demonstrating in public.
Q I have to admit, that is a wonderfully circuitous response, and admirable.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
Q You're welcome.
Q Is the White House pushing for Tony Blair to be the Middle East Quartet Envoy?
MR. SNOW: No. But on the other hand -- look, we looked at reports. Right now Tony Blair is Prime Minister. What we're also doing, frankly, is we're engaged in our -- we've got Nick Burns going to the region, we've got a lot of stuff going on. But at this particular point, we're not in the business of designating envoys.
Q That was my question -- has President Bush talked to Prime Minister Blair about being a Quartet envoy?
MR. SNOW: I don't think he has. I don't have any knowledge of it. My guess is I'd know, but I don't know anything.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Thank you. END 1:30 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 20, 2007
President Bush Discusses Stem Cell Veto and Executive Order East Room
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. I'm glad you're here. America is a nation that leads the world in science and technology. Our innovative spirit is making possible incredible advances in medicine that could save lives and cure diseases. America is also a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred -- and our conscience calls us to pursue the possibilities of science in a manner that respects human dignity and upholds our moral values.
I appreciate the fact that we're joined by a lot of folks who share the deep desire to advance science, and at the same time, uphold our moral values. I appreciate the fact that Mike Leavitt is here, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. I want to thank the members of the United States Congress and Senate who have joined us. I thank you for taking your time to be here on this important announcement today.
I'm joined on stage by two good docs, really smart, capable people: Dr. Bill Hurlbut, Professor of Stanford University Medical Center; Dr. Don Landry, Professor at Columbia University Department of Medicine -- actually, he's the Chairman of the Department. The reason they're here is these are brilliant biologists who are seeking new ways to develop stem cell lines without violating human life. And these are smart folks, and I cannot thank them enough for coming to the Oval Office to share with me their wisdom and their vision.
I'm also up here with Carol Franz; she has whipped cancer twice by using adult stem cells. In other words, adult stem cells have saved her life. She's a determined woman who believes strongly that there are different alternatives available to use stem cells other than those which are created as the result of destruction of human life.
And, finally, I'm up here with the McNamara family -- Kaitlyne is with us -- I'm going to talk about her in a second.
I do want to thank the other stem cell patients and researchers and advocates who are here with us today. If you're not in any of those categories you're welcome, too. (Laughter.)
In 2001, I announced a policy to advance stem cell research in a way that is ambitious, ethical, and effective. I became the first President to make federal funds available for embryonic stem cell research -- and my policy did this in ways that would not encourage the destruction of embryos. Since then, my administration has made more than $130 million available for research on stem cell lines derived from embryos that had already been destroyed. We've provided more than $3 billion for research on all forms of stem cells -- including those from adult and other non-embryonic sources.
This careful approach is producing results. It has contributed to proven therapeutic treatments in thousands of patients with many different diseases. It's opening the prospect of new discoveries that could transform lives.
Congress has sent me a bill that would overturn this policy. If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers -- for the first time in our history -- to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line. Last year, Congress passed a similar bill -- I kept my promise by vetoing it. And today I'm keeping my word again: I am vetoing the bill that Congress has sent. (Applause.)
Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical -- and it is not the only option before us. We're already seeing remarkable advances in the science and therapeutic uses of stem cells drawn from adults and children, and the blood from umbilical cords -- with no harm to the donor. Researchers value embryonic stem cells because they are pluripotent -- which means that they have the potential to develop into nearly all the cell types and tissues in the body. Researchers are now developing promising new techniques that offer the potential to produce pluripotent stem cells -- without having to destroy human life.
For example, several new studies released earlier this month showed the potential of reprogramming adult cells -- such as skin cells -- to make them function like embryonic stem cells. It's exciting new research taking place in the United States of America. Scientists from all over the country hailed this as an important breakthrough. And I'm pleased to report to you that my administration and the NIH helped fund this exciting work. The taxpayers' dollars are going to new kinds of therapies, new kinds of science, new kinds of work that do not cross a moral and ethical line.
A few months earlier, scientists discovered that cells extracted from amniotic fluid and placentas could also provide stem cells that seem to do what embryonic cells can. Still other researchers are investigating how to combine reprogramming and other innovative techniques to produce stem cells with the abilities of embryonic stem cells -- without creating or destroying embryos. There's a lot of interesting work going on that's ethical and moral. Scientists are exploring ways to collect stem cells in the same manner that doctors now rescue organs from patients who have died.
With us today are patients who are benefiting from ethical stem cell research -- including Kaitlyne McNamara. Kaitlyne was born with spina bifida, a disease that damaged her bladder. None of the treatments her doctor tried had worked; she was in danger of kidney failure. Then her doctors took a piece of her bladder, isolated the healthy stem cells, and used them to grow a new bladder in a laboratory -- which they then transplanted into her. And here she stands, healthy. (Applause.) Scientific advances like this one are important and should give us hope that there's a better way forward than scientific advances that require the destruction of a human life.
The researchers pursuing these kinds of ethically responsible advances deserve our support, and there is legislation in Congress to give them that support. Recently, the United States Senate passed a bill sponsored by Norm Coleman and others that would authorize additional federal funding for alternative stem cell research. The bill was approved with the backing of 70 United States senators. The House leaders need to pass similar legislation that would authorize additional funds for ethical stem cell research. That would be an important advancement. It would be an important statement. Because we can't lose the opportunity to conduct research that would give hope to those suffering from terrible diseases -- and help this country move beyond the controversies over embryo destruction.
We have a good chance to put aside all the politics and focus on a good piece of legislation that advances science and doesn't cross an ethical line. Norm, I want to thank you and Johnny Isakson for sponsoring that piece of legislation. (Applause.)
In the meantime, my administration is taking immediate action to increase our support for researchers in their vital work. Earlier today, I issued an executive order to strengthen our nation's commitment to research on pluripotent stem cells. This order takes a number of important steps. The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH to ensure that any human pluripotent stem cell lines produced in ways that do not create, destroy, or harm human embryos will be eligible for federal funding.
The order expands the NIH Embryonic Stem Cell registry to include all types of ethically produced human pluripotent stem cells. The order renames the registry -- calls it this, the Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry -- so it reflects what stem cells can do, instead of where they come from. The order invites scientists to work with the NIH, so we can add new ethically derived stem cell lines to the list of those eligible for federal funding. I direct Secretary Leavitt to conduct an assessment of what resources will be necessary to support this important new research.
This science which does not cross ethical lines requires money. I believe it is a good use of taxpayers' money to spend money on this kind of science and research. And Michael is going to expedite it, that's what that means -- it's a fancy paragraph for saying he's going to get it done. (Laughter.)
With these steps, we'll encourage scientists to expand the frontiers of stem cell research. We want to encourage science. We want to say, we stand on your side in an ethically responsible way. Scientists have recently shown they have the ingenuity and skill to pursue the potential benefits of pluripotent stem cell research. Here's two of them right here. That's why they're standing here, they have showed what's possible. I have confidence in their abilities to continue to develop new techniques. With our expanded support of non-destructive research methods, we'll make it more likely that these exciting advances continue to unfold.
Technical innovation in this difficult area is opening up new possibilities for progress without conflict or ethical controversy. So I invite policymakers and scientists to come together to speed our nation toward the destination we all seek -- where medical problems can be solved without compromising either the high aims of science or the sanctity of human life.
Thank you all for coming. May God bless. (Applause.) END 2:52 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 20, 2007
President and Mrs. Bush Host Congressional Picnic South Lawn, June 19, 2007, 8:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Laura and I welcome you to the South Lawn. This is an opportunity to thank the members of Congress and their families for serving the United States.
First, I want to recognize the Speaker. Madam Speaker, thank you for joining us. It means a lot that you've come. I appreciate the leadership of the House and the Senate who have joined us. For all the wives and husbands, thank you for standing by your spouse. It's not easy to be in public office. It's a lot easier, though, when you have somebody who loves you to help you do your job. And so Laura and I want to thank you all, in particular. We're proud to be serving with you. Occasionally we might have our differences, but one thing we all agree on is we represent the greatest country on the face of the Earth. (Applause.)
I want to thank our Chef, Paul Prudhomme, from New Orleans, Louisiana -- one of the great chefs in America. Thanks for coming, Paul. (Applause.) I thank Tony Snow and his bunch of, well, mediocre musicians -- (laughter) -- no, great musicians. Beats Workin, thanks for coming. (Applause.) Kermit, come up here. Kermit, we're proud to have you.
MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.
THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)
MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We're glad to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Proud you're here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it's over. (Laughter.)
God bless you, and may God bless America. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) END 8:12 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 19, 2007
President Bush Nominates Congressman Jim Nussle as Director of the Office of Management and Budget Roosevelt Room, 2:49 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Welcome to the White House. I am here to say goodbye to a good friend, and introduce the newest nominee to my Cabinet. Recently Rob Portman came and told me that after 14 years of public service in Washington, he's ready to head home, to be with Jane and the family. I've known him for many years. There's no finer man in public service than Rob Portman. He's been a trusted advisor, and Laura and I are going to miss him.
Fortunately, we found a good man to succeed him. Today I'm pleased to announce my nomination of Jim Nussle to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I'm proud to welcome Jim's wife, Karen, his mom and dad, Lori and Mark, and his mother-in-law, Eva Mae. Any man who invites his mother-in-law to a -- (laughter) -- has got to have good judgment. (Laughter.) We're going to ask a lot of Jim, and I thank you all for supporting him in this.
The job of OMB Director is one of the most important in our federal government. The Director has a central responsibility for implementing the full range of my administration's agenda, from defense programs that will keep the American people safe to energy initiatives that will break our dependence on foreign oil, to tax policies that keep our economy growing and creating jobs.
In all these areas, the OMB Director works to ensure that the American people get good value for every tax dollar they send to Washington. Jim Nussle is the right man to take on these challenges. For 16 years, Jim represented the people of Northeast Iowa in the United States Congress. As a member of Congress, Jim was a strong advocate for fiscal discipline, and a champion of tax cuts that allowed the American people to keep more of what they earn. In 2001, Jim became Chairman of the House Budget Committee. As a leader in Congress, Jim showed he can work with members of both sides of the aisle to get positive things done for America. Jim's name and knowledge command respect on Capitol Hill. And as OMB Director, he will use his expertise about the budget process to ensure that the taxpayers' money is spent with respect and with restraint.
In his new post, Jim will continue the important work carried out by Rob Portman. Over the past two years, Rob has served my administration in two important jobs. As the United States Trade Representative, Rob negotiated several new trade agreements and reenergized the Doha talks at the World Trade Organization.
And as OMB Director, he helped me achieve our goal of cutting the federal deficit in half, and doing it three years ahead of schedule. He's helped me put forward a plan to balance the budget by 2012, by restraining federal spending and keeping our taxes low. He's put Democratic leaders in Congress on notice that I will veto bills with excessive levels of spending. He has led my administration's efforts to curb the use of congressional earmarks and implement reforms that will make the earmark process more transparent.
I thank Rob for his service and good advice, and, most of all, his friendship. I want to tell his wife, Jane, that after 14 years of commuting to Washington, he's going to be back home in Ohio, especially on the weekends. Rob is a tough act to follow -- but that's why I picked Jim Nussle. He's a man of integrity, a man of vision, a man well-qualified to hold this job. I ask the Senate to act quickly on his nomination. When confirmed, he'll make an outstanding OMB Director.
Congratulations to you. (Applause.)
CONGRESSMAN NUSSLE: Thank you, Mr. President. Well, first, thank you, Mr. President for your kind words, your leadership, and especially for entrusting me with this responsibility. I'm truly humbled, and it is a privilege to stand here with you today and in the coming months. I won't let you down. I won't let you down.
I'd also like to thank Josh Bolten and Rob Portman. Their past work leaves me with very big shoes to fill. Josh, it's going to be great to be able to work with you again. And, Rob, I hope you're going to keep your cell phone handy, because I'm going to need to call you with a lot of questions, I'm sure.
In all seriousness, Rob, I want to thank you for your hard work, your leadership and leaving me with a fantastic team at OMB to help carry on your good work. I wish you and Jane and Jed and Will and Sally all the very best. Today really should be a celebration of your excellent example of public service, and I mean that as sincerely as I can say it.
Mr. President, I look forward to the awesome responsibility you've placed upon me. If I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed, I feel confident that my experiences in Congress and as the House Budget Chair have prepared me well for the challenges that lay ahead. I'm excited to help tackle our nation's priorities and work again with my friends and colleagues in the House and Senate.
I want to say also a few words about my home, Iowa, and also my family and the people who make up that great state. They've given me incredible opportunities throughout my life. My experience, my optimism -- and sometimes humor -- work ethic and success have all come from my family and friends and the people in Iowa, and I want to thank you for the incredible foundation that you've given me. And I'm going to need it in the coming months, I'm sure, your continued prayers and good wishes and friendship.
I want to thank my wife, Karen; my kids, Sarah and Mark; and my family, particularly my mom and dad, who are here today, Lori and Mark Nussle, and my mother-in-law, as the President mentioned, Eva Mae, who are all here today. And I truly wouldn't be standing here without your constant love and support. So thank you for that.
Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity, and I'm ready to get to work. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Good job.
DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Jim is going to need some of that Iowa humor, so if you could -- (laughter) -- that would be good.
Mr. President, first, thank you very much for your kind words and for the opportunities you've given me, and the honor to be able to serve in your Cabinet, both as the Budget Director and the Trade Negotiator. And congratulations to you, Jim.
This is a great opportunity at OMB to make a big difference. It can also be a tough job sometimes. Although my title was Director of OMB, other titles sometimes came my way -- Dr. No. (Laughter.) Tightwad. (Laughter.) Budget hawk. Penny-pincher. (Laughter.) And some not suitable for a television audience. (Laughter.)
But, actually, I want to sincerely thank my colleagues in the Cabinet. I want to thank the Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, and my colleagues here at the White House, and also my former colleagues from the Hill, for their friendship, for their support and for the way we were able to work together to be sure we were spending the taxpayers' dollars as well as possible.
Mr. President, your leadership on fiscal matters has resulted in lower taxes, responsible spending and a growing economy. You proposed a balanced budget and others followed suit. You proposed earmark reforms, and Congress is now adopting those goals. You have shown courage by taking on the toughest budgetary challenge there is, and that's the unsustainable growth and important entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
You've broken new ground in bringing more transparency and accountability to federal spending. I've enjoyed the opportunity to help you shape some of these pro-growth and fiscally responsible policies, and I very much appreciate the confidence you've shown in me to take on some tough challenges.
Some of those challenges go back to my tenure as U.S. Trade Representative, where you set an aggressive agenda to bring down global trade barriers and negotiate trade agreements with allies. We are now opening new markets, and American exports are growing twice as fast as imports. Just as I was proud to represent the United States around the world on trade, I've been very proud to promote your focus on fiscal discipline.
It's difficult to leave such important and meaningful work. But it is now time to go home to Ohio. After 14 years of commuting to Washington, D.C. from Cincinnati every week, it's now time to put my family first. I want to thank my wife, Jane, who is here today, for her love and support and patience. I want to thank my children, Jed, Will and Sally. My family has been very understanding of the intense demands and the unique rewards of public service. In many respects, as the President said when he first nominated me for USTR, they, too, are in public service.
Mr. President, as you know, I felt this was the right time to make a change so that you would have a new director in place as the new budget season begins. And you have made a terrific choice. Jim is a friend and former colleague of mine, as you said, widely respected Chairman of the House Budget Committee. He's a public servant of integrity, knowledge and skill. He knows the budget. He knows the Congress. And he knows how to get things done for the American people.
Thank you again, Mr. President, for the honor of serving you and this great nation.
THE PRESIDENT: Good job. Thank you, all. END 2:59 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 19, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room , 1:53 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: As you all know, nine firefighters in Charleston, South Carolina died last night while fighting a blaze. A building collapsed upon them. It was the deadliest such incident in 35 years, and once again calls into memory the heroism of people who, on a routine basis, place their lives at risk so they can save others.
The President and First Lady have a statement about that: "Laura and I mourn the devastating loss of some of America's bravest. Our prayers are with the families and friends of nine firefighters from Charleston, South Carolina, who selflessly gave their own lives to protect their community. These firefighters were true heroes who demonstrated great skill and courage. Their unwavering commitment to their neighbors and to the city of Charleston is an inspiration to all Americans."
And with that, I will take questions. Yes.
Q I have two questions.
MR. SNOW: I'll try to answer both.
Q Okay. Abbas has 60 days to either hold a new election or do something else. What does the United States hope that he will do?
MR. SNOW: Well, we're certainly not going to advise the Prime Minister in terms of how he would proceed. What's next is we continue to speak with Prime Minister Abbas and -- President Abbas -- I'm sorry, Prime Minister Olmert -- on the way forward, because this is a government that we want to support. We want to support their democratic aspirations and their working with the Israeli government.
As the President noted before the session today, as I told you yesterday, he was sharing with the Prime Minister some of President Abbas's thoughts about reinvigorating the political process and trying to work again toward what everybody should want, which is a two-state solution that preserves the rights and the freedoms of the Palestinians.
Q How do you respond to critics who say that the United States should have done a lot more for Abbas a lot sooner? And do you think the administration feels any responsibility at all for the split, Palestinian split?
MR. SNOW: I think what you really need to be thinking about is the President of the United States did not bind people's hands behind their back and throw them from rooftops. The President of the United States did not mascarade around with masks pulled over the face and slay people who disagreed with Hamas.
It's important to realize the terrorists represent a force of radicalism and extremism that continually tries to bring down democracies. And the President certainly has made note of that. What we have tried to do constantly is to provide real support for those who have democratic aspirations and are moving in the direction of democracy. And we will continue to do that.
The one thing that is clear in conversations both with the Prime Minister of Israel and also with the President of the Palestinian Authority is that they understand not only the dedication and commitment of this President, but also the importance of bringing in people throughout the region. It is not as if the United States is the hegemon. What we are trying to do both in Iraq and also within the Middle East is to figure out ways to empower those who are pursuing democracy. And we certainly have come to their aid when we can and when is necessary. You saw very swift action in terms of supporting President Abbas in just the last couple of days. The Secretary of State laid that out yesterday.
Q Some people are saying that the administration could have done more, earlier.
MR. SNOW: I can't -- "more, earlier," what does that mean? I cannot respond to a vague criticism that sounds like backseat driving. I think what you really want at this point is to realize that the President has maintained a real commitment -- the first President in American history to say that we should have a Palestinian state; a President who has worked aggressively on the diplomatic fronts to try to bring in people throughout the region not only to exert influence on those who are trying to destabilize, but also to create a larger partnership, so that it does become possible for the Israelis and the Palestinians to live peacefully, side-by-side. This is an administration that has been constantly involved in this activity.
Q The policy of isolating and cutting off Hamas has seemed to make it stronger in the past. Is there an indication now that it's going to work differently this time?
MR. SNOW: I can't imagine that killing people in the streets is going to be a big vote getter. The fact is that what people now have seen is that Hamas remains a terrorist organization. It had run on an anti-corruption campaign and it had made promises of bringing to people food and medical attention and social services, precisely the things that are being deprived because of this act of terror.
We've seen that in the case of Hamas, Palestinians turning against fellow Palestinians. And what the United States has always said is that Hamas is a terrorist group, and that it is important to realize that you do have -- the only person who is elected by all the Palestinians is the President, President Abbas. We have been dealing with him, and we will continue to deal with him, and we'll continue to deal with his new Prime Minister as they work through the very difficult issues not only of continuing to try to build greater strength and prosperity and democracy within the West Bank, but also to provide relief to those in Gaza.
Q We heard from the President and the Prime Minister before their meeting and their lunch meeting. Can you give us any other readout about how the meeting went, or specifics of it?
MR. SNOW: I can't give you a lot of specifics. I did talk to the President afterward. I was in the lunch, and I spoke to him afterward. The President and the Prime Minister met privately for nearly an hour and a half, with nobody else in the room. After that, there was a brief interval where the National Security Advisor and the chief NSC -- Elliot Abrams were in the room with him, and their Israeli counterparts, but that was just a couple of minutes.
And then afterward there was a general discussion at lunch about many of the issues that the President outlined. He told me, again, what you had was a -- first you had a conversation about an ideological conflict, forces of radicalism and extremism trying to destabilize democracies, and how important it is to find the best way of supporting those democracies. They talked about Lebanon, they talked about Syria, they talked about Iran, they talked about Gaza, they talked about regional relations, and they also talked about a host of bilateral issues that are subjects of normal conversation.
Q On Hamas again, and back to Bret's point -- if you've got a population isolated there, isn't that a recipe to make extremism grow? How do you counter that? I mean, they certainly viewed Fatah as corrupt -- some of the Hamas people did. So you throw out this corruption, and what's happening there right now, but if you isolate them, it could make them more extreme.
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't think you isolate them when you devote -- when you dedicate $40 million to humanitarian aid. Again, I think -- Martha, also you have to ask yourself, here in Gaza -- and you have seen people who pretend to be "liberators and governors" slaughtering people in the streets -- it's probably going to change your view of them. The real point here is that there is an effort on our part, and there are parallel efforts with our allies, to provide humanitarian aid and to try to deal with this crisis.
Q Okay, but look at Iraq. People are slaughtering people in Iraq, and it's only getting worse and worse. And why in Hamas, if they're looking at -- I don't see how you can't be concerned that that is going to be --
MR. SNOW: Of course, we're concerned about radicalism, and that's why we're doing what we can to stanch it. When you talk about Iraq, just today, you have seen yet other evidence that we continue to have -- as General Petraeus was pointing out the other day, we now have some data points pulling together -- and we've discussed this before -- where, in fact, the blanket statement "it's getting worse" doesn't quite fit. It's not getting worse in Baghdad neighborhoods, where, in fact, locals are cooperating. It's certainly not getting worse in Anbar. Now you are seeing focused activities elsewhere, including areas outside of Baghdad and Diyala, going directly after al Qaeda.
One of the reasons why there is more precision and effectiveness in this particular case is that the Iraqi people themselves are beginning to provide evidence at levels that they haven't done before. So the point here is that, again, what you try to do --
Q They've been doing that for years, and for year after year, people say they're providing more, they're providing more. But Diyala is an example. I mean, it's a mess right now, and you have to do these large-scale operations because it has gone downhill, because people from Baghdad have moved up there.
MR. SNOW: Well, in some cases, also you've had a number of apprehensions and you've taken out bad guys. Martha, they're terrorists. We understand that. They're not simply going to lay down arms easily. But simply to say a problem is difficult is not the same as arguing that it should not be confronted.
Similarly with Hamas, we are dedicated and devoted to the cause of Palestinian democracy and defending the human rights of people who are being deprived their rights right now. It is a difficult chore, but you simply do not embrace a kind of neologism. Instead what you do is you demonstrate steadfastness by supporting those who are allies in the fight.
Q Let me just finish up, if I can. In Afghanistan -- you probably saw this video that was obtained by ABC, which was apparently suicide bombers. What does that say about what we've done in Afghanistan?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, we're looking at it. At this point, we don't have a definitive thing. It's not clear exactly what they're claiming, but we're reviewing it. But look, it's typical al Qaeda propaganda. Al Qaeda is also good at slick propaganda that encourages people to go out and blow themselves up. Notice that the leaders don't make that effort; instead what they do is they pick younger people and they send them off to die. They are good at manipulating the press. They will continue to do what they can to try to destabilize that government. Again, it fits into what I was talking about, is the forces of radicalism and extremism.
But on the other hand, you also have evidence that a government in Afghanistan and certainly allies in Afghanistan are fighting back because it is a cause worth promoting and defending.
Q Prime Minister Olmert said that he would do everything possible to cooperate with President Abbas. Specifically, the only concrete action he seems to be taking is releasing Palestinian tax revenues that have been frozen. Did the President press him for any further concrete steps, such as releasing Palestinian prisoners, dismantling Jewish settlements, or removing roadblocks?
MR. SNOW: They've had discussions, and I will let Prime Minister Olmert make whatever -- the fact is that, again, a free-flowing conversation. The President does not go in and press. I think that's a -- for one thing, if you're a head of state, you treat a fellow head of state, especially a colleague, with respect. You don't issue orders. What the -- and the President and Prime Minister Olmert have a very good and very candid relationship, and it's one where they're very relaxed about being candid with one another. So I can assure you --
Q Did he ask him to take --
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not going to tell you. But the point is that they are looking for ways to strengthen the government of Prime Minister Abbas, and to be supportive of him and to look for ways forward. And they discussed a whole host of different ways in which that might be accomplished.
Q What did they discuss specifically that the Israelis could do --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to do that. That's for the government -- the government of Israel may make whatever announcements about its specific intentions.
Q Did the President ask Olmert to release the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners and the one-third of the legislature -- all lawmakers who are in prison?
MR. SNOW: Again, I am not going to tell you what the President may or may not --
Q You're interested in humanity and democracy. Why don't you make a plea for some of these people?
MR. SNOW: We'll also plea for the end of slaughter in Gaza. Can we agree on that?
Q I say that you haven't opened your mouth about people being kidnapped and taken prisoner in Israel.
MR. SNOW: There are conversations ongoing.
Q I'm wondering, when Hamas won the initial legislative victories, they were viewed with some degree of surprise here. And the explanations given were that the garbage is being picked up now and essential services are being provided for the first time. Is there a view inside the White House that perhaps what this does is vindicate an administration position, and that perhaps the initial positive was a fundamental misread and wishful thinking on the parts of others?
MR. SNOW: A couple of things. First, I'm not sure that there was that much surprise about the Hamas parliamentary victories, the winning. That was an election that was close all along, according to the polls. I don't think you ever look upon the slaughter of innocents as vindication in any way, shape, or form. It is a sad confirmation of the way in which terrorists operate.
Q The degree to which those Palestinians are isolated now by Hamas, what is the administration's confidence that aid can actually get to them, and that they -- if they are so terrorized and afraid, will be able to respond in a way that would be unhelpful to Hamas?
MR. SNOW: Well, unfortunately, I can't pose as an expert on how you get the money through NGOs. But I do know that we're very serious about working through international organizations to get aid to them. It's been done before; we're presuming it can be done. I will -- we'll try to do some inquiries. I honestly don't know precisely how you would do that. It is obviously an immensely important practical question, and it's one that our people do -- are thinking about very seriously -- and also the international organizations, because, again, you're working through the United Nations and others to try to make sure -- they have long experience in dealing with this in areas that are quite often amid the ravages of war. And we're counting on them to make sure that the aid gets to innocents and not to those who are victimizing them.
Q Tony, President Abbas has called for fresh peace talks. Today the President and the Prime Minister referred to Abbas repeatedly as the only representative of the Palestinians, the real representative of the Palestinian people. Is there any point to peace talks so long as he effectively controls, or is the government of half the Palestinian people?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not -- what you're doing is you're -- the point is, yes, there is a point of talking to the person who has been elected. There is also a point of trying to restore a semblance of democracy throughout the Palestinian areas. This is not a time to try to write off Gaza. It is important, once again, to make sure that the rights of those in Gaza are honored.
Q I guess I'm specifically asking about peace negotiations with Israel, with the goal of the President's two-state solution. If Hamas effectively controls Gaza, is the two-state solution effectively shelved?
MR. SNOW: No. We are going to continue -- look, I think what you -- there are a whole series of things that have to happen before you get to the two-state solution. Among them is making sure that you have acceptance of the Quartet principles; it is that you have a way of addressing those who are trying to destabilize -- those whose ideology of destroying democracy has certainly reared itself in Gaza. But on the other hand, you continue to work with those who are committed to it, understanding that you do not want the status quo to remain in effect in Gaza, but you want to create conditions in which democracy can survive there.
Q Could that two-state solution involve a state that's just comprised of the West Bank?
MR. SNOW: There's no conversation about that.
Q Tony, we're seeing some stories about the rather dire circumstances of people trying to leave Gaza. Does the administration believe Israel should allow this to happen more freely?
MR. SNOW: Again, that's a question for the Israelis to answer.
Q Tony, two questions. One, there is disturbing news, and the Indian American community is very angry that Senator Obama and his campaign has been calling the Indian American community taboo and other names, calling names, and all that because of the relations with the Clintons, President Clinton and Hillary Clinton. My question is, how does -- what does President think about the Indian American community and his relations with the Indian American community?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President, obviously, is proud of our -- the growing closeness of the United States and the Indians. Not to be holding a brief for Senator Obama, but I don't believe that he made comments of that sort. I do believe that was a staff comment for which he issued apologies. But having said that, it is important to realize that the United States looks upon India as the world's largest democracy, as an important and vital ally in a whole host of things -- regional security, global trade, climate change. I mean, the role of -- the importance of India is not to be understated. And we are certainly glad that the relations between the nations continue to draw closer.
Q Second, just on Sunday I was in Washington, here at the Verizon Center, over 20,000 Indians, mostly Hindu, gathered together there. And their message was peace and unity, internationally and here also. The question is here that President has gone to all the denominations here, but never to a Hindu temple. And he goes to church, I go to temple, but he is a religious man, so am I. What my question is that this weekend --
MR. SNOW: You want to know if he's going to go to the temple?
Q This weekend there is a grand opening of Hindu temple in Adelphi, right on the beltway, if he can make it there sometime or --
MR. SNOW: I don't think that's on the schedule, and I think you do appreciate, Goyal, that Presidents don't do casual drop-bys.
Q He has been invited.
MR. SNOW: Again, I appreciate the suggestion.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. But first I thought you would like to acknowledge the fact that today is Sarah's 50th wedding anniversary to Ivan.
MR. SNOW: Do they make medals for that sort of thing? (Laughter.)
Q I just thought you would like to acknowledge this.
MR. SNOW: Congratulations to both of you. That's wonderful.
Q Thank you. Thank you.
Q The London Times reports that Sir Salmon Rushdie is "once again the subject of death threats across the Islamic world" --
MR. SNOW: Okay, Les, don't go any further. That's not something -- I'm not going to answer a Salmon Rushdie question today.
Q Well, wait a minute.
MR. SNOW: Okay, okay, continue and then I'll shut you down. (Laughter.)
Q What is the President's reaction to this, and do you know of any Islamic leaders in the United States who have denounced this murder for money --
MR. SNOW: Again -- thank you.
Q Wait a minute, wait a minute, I had two. Two.
MR. SNOW: It just seemed like two. Okay, go ahead.
Q The AP reports from London that British police, aided by U.S. authorities, have smashed a global Internet pedophile ring with 700 suspects worldwide. And as the President's chief media advisor, do you know of any expressed and specific opposition to NAMBLA by any of this nation's activist homosexual groups?
MR. SNOW: That is such a four-bumper shot. Thank you.
Q You're dodging it?
MR. SNOW: No, I just think it's inappropriate. I really do. If you want to bring in cheesy --
Q It's a pretty important issue, Tony.
MR. SNOW: Les, the President made it absolutely clear what he thinks about the decency, dignity of every human being when it comes to pornography and exploitation. And it is absolutely -- he has made it clear. He has gone after human traffickers, he's gone after slavers, he's gone after genocide in Darfur. You know it. I think you've got to be careful sometimes because it really does sound a little more tawdry than people expect in this room.
Q Can I just clarify, going back to Hamas, basically, the administration view is that Hamas essentially forfeited any right, democratic right to govern or lead by engaging in this violent takeover --
MR. SNOW: Do you call that "governing"?
Q I'm asking you.
MR. SNOW: I mean, when people are being slaughtered that's not governing, that is, in fact, an assault on their rights. What we have always done is we have dealt with the sovereign head of government, which we tend to do, and we continue to deal with the elected head of government, President Abbas.
Q These violent tactics, though, you're saying --
MR. SNOW: "Violent tactics"? It's murder.
Q -- the Palestinian people, you're saying, are just now seeing the true face of Hamas? Is that your contention?
MR. SNOW: I don't know about that. I think that there's -- look, there has been -- Hamas had an opportunity to step up. We issued -- we made it clear the conditions under which we would deal with them, which were the Quartet conditions, and, furthermore, encouraged Hamas to enter the democratic mainstream and to work peaceably. And that hasn't happened, unfortunately.
Q Tony, with Rob Portman deciding to leave as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, he's been influential in the immigration debate, representing the President. With his absence, how do you see that going forward? What are your expectations?
MR. SNOW: Full-steam ahead. I mean, we're going to continue to remain very aggressive because we think it's a very important part really of not only addressing an issue that is of concern to a huge number of Americans, but doing it in a way that is going to be consistent with our principles; doing it in a way that is going to secure our borders, that's going to restore the rule of law and make sure that citizenship means something; and in the finest traditions of this country where people that work hard and demonstrate a love of country and their determination to make this a greater place, that this will become a home, and at the same time, to make sure that those who have broken laws not only acknowledge it, but pay a debt. Jim Nussle certainly is capable.
One of the things that Rob brought to this -- to OMB was long experience in Congress, and prior to that, as a member of the first Bush White House, as well as serving as a U.S. Trade Rep and the Budget Director. And we're going to miss him a lot. I mean, he and I are fellow Cincinnatians. But at this point, too, you take a look -- and Rob's kids are 12, 14, and 17; their father has been commuting back and forth to Washington for 14 straight years. His 12 and 14-year-old have never seen Daddy at home during the weekdays. As a parent of a teen -- and many who understand parents of teens -- it's very important for Rob to get back. Clearly he will remain engaged in politics in Ohio, there's a little bit of that going on. But on the other hand, he's returning home.
But again, getting back to the issue of immigration, Jim Nussle brings those same talents. As a member of Congress, he knows how to talk with Democrats and Republicans and to play it straight with them and to work constructively to try to get an immigration bill that is going to solve the host of problems that clearly were not solved between 1986 and today. Thanks.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 19, 2007
President Bush Meets With Prime Minister Olmert of Israel Oval Office, 9:51 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for coming. I've been looking forward to this visit. Last time we were together we had a long and serious discussion about what we can do together to keep the peace.
This visit comes, obviously, during a period of great concern for the world about what's taking place in Gaza, and so it's a timely visit. I'm looking forward to our discussions about how we can promote a common vision, a vision that speaks to hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people, and a vision that speaks to the security of Israel.
I'm looking forward to sharing with the Prime Minister the results of a phone call I had yesterday with President Abbas. He is the President of all the Palestinians. He has spoken out for moderation. He is a voice that is a reasonable voice amongst the extremists in your neighborhood.
You also come at an important moment, because there is yet again another moment for the world to see the great challenges we face in the 21st century. We face extremists and radicals who use violence and murder as a tool to achieve objectives. And it's a chance, Mr. Prime Minister, for us to work on our bilateral relations, but also work on a common strategy to fight off those extremists, and to promote a alternative ideology, based upon human liberty and the human condition.
And it's a great challenge. It's exciting to be in office during this period. It can be difficult for those of us who have been given the great honor of serving our country, but it's an exciting moment. And I'm looking forward to working with a strong leader, a man committed to the security and prosperity of his country, and at the same time, committed to try to work the conditions necessary for peace.
And so I'm glad to welcome a friend back to the Oval Office, and proud you're back.
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: Thank you very much, President. I am honored and delighted, after half a year almost, to be again a guest of yours, Mr. President, in the White House, and to discuss with you some of the kind of issues.
As you have said already, this is a very special time. Things happen lately very dramatically. I'm sure that many people in the world were astounded by the brutality and the cruelty and the viciousness of the Hamas murderers that killed so many Palestinians in such a way. We who live in the Middle East, some of us surprised, but not less outraged by these events.
And I gladly share with you, Mr. President, the vision that, even under such circumstances, what we ought to do is to try and find opportunities for the future that align this situation. And I'm absolutely determined that there is an opportunity. And like you, I want to strengthen the moderates, and cooperate with President Abu Mazen, who is President of all Palestinians; is the only person who was widely elected in a democratic manner by all of the Palestinian people. And I am going to make every possible effort to cooperate with him and to move forward to see how to -- can work jointly in order to provide the Palestinians with a real, genuine chance for a state of their own, fulfilling your vision, Mr. President, which I share, of a two-state solution, and at the same time, making sure that there is security for the people of Israel, and the people of Israel deserve security both in the south and in the north and in the east side of our country.
I'm sure that we will find some time, also, to discuss other measures, such as the danger of Iran and the threats that come from the President of Iran, who talks time and again about the liquidation of the state of Israel, something that is totally intolerable and unacceptable. And we have to continue the measures taken in order to stop the Iranian efforts to establish unconventional weapons.
And again, I thank you for your friendship and for the power that you manifest and your dedication to the principles that you believe in. And I am proud to follow the same route to fight for the principles and to carry on. Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We'll answer a couple of questions, starting with Jennifer.
Q Thank you, sir. Will you try to persuade, during the session with the Prime Minister, to reenter peace talks with Mr. Abbas? And to the Prime Minister, what do you think of the offer, and do you think it's possible to have peace with just half the Palestinian people?
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: I didn't hear the first part of the question.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Will I try to persuade you to enter talks.
First of all, we share a common vision of two states living side-by-side in peace. And the reason why at least I think that's important -- one, I think it's important for the moderate people, the ordinary Palestinians to have something to be for. I also think it's in Israel's interest to have a state. It's a demographic pressure that ultimately is going to make it very difficult for Israel to maintain its Jewishness as a state.
So there's a practical reason, as well as a moral reason for there to be discussions about a way forward to achieve a two-state solution. And the Prime Minister has said that he wants -- you can ask him if he's going to talk to Abbas. I'm not going to put words in his mouth.
But what I'm trying to say, Jennifer, is that we share a common way forward. And our hope is, is that others in the region understand that this way forward leads to peace. People other than President Abbas and the Palestinians -- we would hope that the Arab world supports such a concept. Inherent in that is Israel's right to exist. There needs to be solid recognition of this state's right to live in peace.
At the same time, we want to have a vision for the Palestinians to see that there's a better tomorrow for them. These folks have been denied for a long period of time the right to a normal life, starting with leadership that failed them. And our hope is that President Abbas and that Prime Minister Fayyad, who is a good fellow, will be strengthened to the point where they can lead the Palestinians in a different direction, with a different hope.
The Prime Minister has spoken to me, and I have spoken to him about our desire to help suffering Palestinians. Nobody likes suffering on their border, nobody likes to see suffering in the world. So we'll talk about that. We'll also talk about the broader war against extremists and radicals.
It's interesting that extremists attack democracies around the Middle East, whether it be the Iraq democracy, the Lebanese democracy, or a potential Palestinian democracy. And what that should say clearly to people all around the world is that we are involved with an ideological conflict that is a monumental conflict. And those of us that believe in liberty and human rights and human decency need to be bound together in common cause to fight off these extremists, and to defeat them.
You can only defeat them so much militarily. We have to also defeat them with a better idea. It's a better idea that's being practiced by our friend, Israel. It's called democracy. And that's the fundamental challenge facing this century: Will we have the courage and the resolve necessary to help democracy defeat this ideology. And I will tell the Prime Minister, once again, I'm deeply committed to this cause, whether it be in Iraq, or Lebanon, or the Palestinian Territory, or anywhere else in the Middle East, and around the world.
Q Will you enter into talks with Mr. Abbas?
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: Well, naturally, I think at this particular point, I'm sure the President will not have hard work to convince me, because I proposed to meet with President Abbas -- in fact, I initiated the idea that we will meet on a regular basis, bi-weekly, to discuss the matters. And I proposed that I even come to Jericho, something that no Prime Minister before me did.
The President was having serious difficulties, some of which we have witnessed lately. And that's perhaps the reason why he had to cancel some of the meetings. But there's no question that I want to talk to the President of the Palestinian community, Mr. Abbas. I will be talking to him. The teams of both sides meet regularly every week and discuss on the matters.
And the idea that I have is to talk with him of the current issues that can help upgrade the quality of life of the people and provide them better security in the West Bank, and to share with him the efforts to calm the terror -- this is something that he is absolutely committed to doing, we have to do it, and this is not something that the Palestinians can escape. They will help fight terror in a most effective way -- something that they haven't done, unfortunately, up until now. But this is something that I am sure he understands is a prerequisite for any major development in the future.
Of course, we also have to talk about a groundwork that needs to be done in order to allow us rapidly to talk about the creation of a Palestinian state. This is the main vision of my friend, President Bush. This is the vision that we share. This is the ultimate goal, to create the Palestinian state. We have to prepare the groundwork that will allow -- soon, I hope -- to be able to start serious negotiations about the creation of a Palestinian state.
In order to achieve peace, we have to fight terror, we have to increase security, we have to upgrade the quality of life for the Palestinians. And, of course, the Palestinians have to establish a much more credible and serious administration that will be able to take care of daily needs in an appropriate manner.
Q Thank you. (Speaking Hebrew.)
And, Mr. President, the Prime Minister --
PRESIDENT BUSH: What did you just ask him?
Q I asked him what --
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- that's unfair. (Laughter.)
Q I asked him what he will do with the refugees coming from Gaza? Will you deliver to the murderers guns, or will they be taken to a refuge in the West Bank?
And I would like to ask you, the Prime Minister of Israel calls for negotiation with no precondition with Syria; so does President Assad of Syria, and he asks for U.S. mediation. Will you do it?
PRESIDENT BUSH: They can handle their own negotiations with Syria. If the Prime Minister wants to negotiate with Syria, he doesn't need me to mediate.
Q Do you think it's a good idea?
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's up to the Prime Minister. I haven't had a chance to talk to him about that. I don't know if you're putting words in his mouth, or not. But I'm looking forward to having a discussion about Iran and Syria and the neighborhood. But this man is plenty capable of conducting his own negotiations without mediation.
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: I will answer your question, right? We have been very, very attentive to the needs of the -- humanitarian needs of Gaza and we will continue to provide everything that is necessary in order to meet these humanitarian needs. Israel will not be indifferent to the human suffering in Gaza. Israel will be different from the Palestinians, themselves, because the reality is that all this suffering is caused by Palestinians against their own people. What the Hamas was doing in Gaza is absolutely atrocious and intolerable. And I'm sure that many who had some hopes that maybe Hamas can be more reasonable and more restrained I think lost these hopes because of what they have been doing to their own people -- killing innocent civilians, pulling out from hospital beds Fatah people that were wounded and dropped them off fifth story building to kill them in the street, and terrible other things.
We will not be indifferent. We already are taking care of many of the Palestinians in Gaza during the last few days, and we will continue to deal with it as it comes. Of course, they are not interested in staying in Israel, they want to be amongst Palestinians, and they will be treated in this manner.
Q So you will let them go?
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: So as I said, we will check every single case and we'll see how we can help them and I'm sure that we will help them.
As for Syria, I'm afraid that you may have not have understood correctly what the Syrian leader said. The Syrian leader said that he is against any preconditions from the Israeli side, but he's certainly for preconditions from the Syrian side. One of the preconditions is that he wants President Bush to work more than he does already in regional issues and to be the mediator. And the President said correctly, this is not the -- I think -- the job for the President of the United States. He's got many other things to do. And I don't think, if someone wants to speak directly, he needs the involvement of America in order to allow these negotiations to take place.
I am not certain that the understanding of the President of Syria can lay the foundations for immediate discussions between Syria and Israel.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Matt.
Q Mr. President, with Hamas's takeover of Gaza, aren't you effectively accepting a split between the two main Palestinian territories? And how big of a blow is this to your vision of achieving agreement before the end of your term for a Palestinian state and Israel living side-by-side in peace?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, we recognize the President of all the Palestinian people, and that's President Abu Mazen. He was elected; he's the President. Secondly, we recognize that it was Hamas that attacked the unity government. They made a choice of violence. It was their decision that has caused there to be this current situation in the Middle East, about which we'll be spending some time discussing.
Matt, what you're seeing now in this part of the 21st century is going to be played out over time. This is an ideological struggle. We're looking at the difference between a group of people that want to represent the Palestinians who believe in peace, that want a better way for their people, that believe in democracy -- they need help to build the institutions necessary for democracy to flourish, and they need help to build security forces so that they can end up enforcing what most of the people want, which is to live in peace -- and that's versus a group of radicals and extremists who are willing to use violence, unspeakable violence sometimes, to achieve a political objective.
And the challenge is, for those of us who believe there's a -- democracy can help yield the peace is to continue to move forward. And that's what we'll be discussing about today, how to do so. The Prime Minister said he's willing to have discussions with the forces of moderation in the Palestinian Territory, laying the groundwork for serious discussions. That's -- that is a statement that shows that the Prime Minister is willing to move with a -- to promote an alternative vision.
You know, the world is going to be confronted with these choices: Are you willing to accept the fact that extremism is around and is willing to promote violence, or should we resist that? Should we not combine forces and efforts to promote alternatives to this vision? That's precisely what we're doing in Iraq. We strongly believe it's in the world's interest to support this young democracy. Al Qaeda, the people that killed nearly 3,000 of our people here in the United States, are conducting major car bombs and acts of unspeakable violence in Iraq, trying to drive us out, because they want to impose their vision on the Iraqi people.
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, I'm committed to helping the Iraqis succeed with a democracy. It's in the interest of the Middle East that this democracy succeed, as an alternative, because if we were to fail, then all of a sudden, these extremists would have safe haven. Extremists in the Middle East would be emboldened by the failure of those of us who live nice, comfortable existences not help those who are struggling for freedom.
So it's the great challenge of our time, Matt. And there will be forward movement and there will be setbacks. The fundamental question facing those of us who have offices, is do we have the determination and the will and the vision to present an alternative to these people, and I believe we do. And I believe that's the calling of our time.
And so that's why I'm excited to be talking about it with a man who shares the vision that there is a better way than to accommodate and accept extremism and radicalism.
Q Mr. President, question. Regarding the ongoing attempts by Iran to acquire nuclear capability of atom bomb, would you -- are you willing to say at this time that a military action against Iran is no longer an option in light of the situation?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I will tell you this, that my position hasn't changed, and that is all options are on the table. I would hope that we could solve this diplomatically. And that's why the United States -- first of all, we take the threat very seriously. And I fully understand the concerns of any Israeli when they hear the voice of the man in Iran saying, on the one hand, we want to acquire the technologies and know-how to build a -- enrich uranium, which could then be converted into a nuclear weapon, and on the other hand, we want to destroy Israel. Look, if I were an Israeli citizen I would view that as a serious threat to my security. And as a strong ally of Israel, I view that as a serious threat to its security -- not only the security of Israel, but the security of the Middle East.
That's why we are constantly working to remind our European friends, as well as Russia and other members of the U.N., we have an obligation to see if we can't work together to solve this issue diplomatically. That means to provide consequences to the Iranian government if they continue to pursue a nuclear weapon, such as financial sanctions, or economic sanctions. We want there to be a choice. We want people to see there's -- in isolation there's got a consequence to it, that there's a price that's paid for this kind of intransigence and these threatening tones.
And it's difficult work to keep the nations bound together to help deal with this issue diplomatically, but we have done a pretty good job so far. Now, whether or not they abandon their nuclear weapons program, we'll see. But at least we got unanimity so far, speaking -- at the U.N. Security Council -- speaking pretty clearly that there will be consequences. And there are being consequences, economic consequences beginning to affect the economy.
Look, the Iranian people don't need to live under this kind of conditions. These are proud people with a great tradition. Their government can do better for them. And threatening the world has caused there to be isolation. And these good folks could have leadership that enables them to have a better economy and a better way of life, an economy and a way of life that enriches their families, that gives them a better chance to succeed. But, no, this group of people have made a different alternative, and now our job is to make sure that we continue to keep the pressure on.
Listen, thank you all very much. END 10:19 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary June 18, 2007
President Bush Meets with NCAA Championship Teams South Lawn , 4:44 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. Please be seated. Welcome to the South Lawn. This is an historic day -- after all, this is the largest gathering that we've had for Champions' Day, and we're glad to welcome the champs here to the South Lawn. I appreciate being with good athletes, good students and good leaders -- and that's what it takes to become a champion.
I appreciate the fact that you've endured tough practices, that you've set big goals, and you worked hard to achieve them. And so we congratulate your coaches, we congratulate your families -- but, most importantly, we congratulate you. We honor America's champs. (Applause.)
The Secretary of the Treasury is with us, Secretary Paulson; thank you for coming, sir. I appreciate the members of the United States Congress that have joined us, and the United States Senate. You don't need to do the gator thing. (Laughter.)
The teams here today span 21 different campuses, in 14 different states -- from California all the way over to Florida. You represent eight different athletic conferences: the Big Ten to the Pac-10 to the West Coast Conference and to the Ivy League. There's Tigers and Badgers, Huskers and Anteaters. (Laughter.) Go Anteaters. (Laughter.) Fight Anteaters.
You've distinguished yourselves on fields and fairways, tracks and tennis courts, rivers and rinks, pommel horses and pools, bowling alleys, mountains and basketball arenas. You have one thing in common: You have achieved the great title, "champion," and nobody can take that away from you.
We have a number of first-time champs here today. The Auburn Women's Outdoor Track and Field Team is here. (Applause.) I think that would go "War Eagle."
AUDIENCE: War Eagle!
THE PRESIDENT: There you go. Don't get carried away here, it's a little -- (laughter) -- it's a little hot. (Laughter.)
Speaking about the Anteaters, UC Irvine Men's Volleyball Team is with us. Congratulations. (Applause.) The Gauchos, UC Santa Barbara Men's Soccer Team. Georgia Tech Women's Tennis Team, the first-time champ. Pepperdine Men's Tennis Team is with us. Vanderbilt Women's Bowling Team is with us today. (Applause.) There you go. Wisconsin Men's Indoor Track and Field. (Applause.)
Some of the teams here have been waiting a long time to reclaim a championship. Dartmouth Men's and Women's Skiing Team -- they won their first title 30 years ago, and now they're here at the White House. Congratulations. (Applause.)
Michigan State Men's Ice Hockey Team -- they won their first hockey crown more than 20 years ago, and they're back. Congratulations to you. (Applause.)
We've got some repeat champs here. It's hard enough to win; it's really hard to repeat. Auburn Women's Swimming Team, back-to-back -- (applause.) Ready? War Eagle --
AUDIENCE: War Eagle!
THE PRESIDENT: Cal Women's Crew. (Applause.)
A feat that's really hard to do is win back-to-back NCAA Basketball titles, and we're proud to welcome the Florida Men's Basketball Team. (Applause.)
Not to provoke a rivalry, however, but the Florida State Men's Outdoor Track and Field Team is with us. (Applause.) Maryland Women's Field Hockey Team, repeat champs. (Applause.) Wisconsin Women's Ice Hockey Team, repeat champs. (Applause.)
We've got teams here that have won three championships in a row. (Applause.) That would be called a three-peat. Georgia Women's Gymnastics -- (applause) -- Northwestern Women's Lacrosse -- (applause). I might as well go on the record, all right -- I was disappointed in the footwear. (Laughter.) It's just too conventional, especially on a hot day.
And the Stanford Women's Tennis Team. (Applause.) A three-peat champion, UCLA Women's Water Polo. (Applause.) And by the way, their title was UCLA's 100th overall national championship. Congratulations to UCLA. (Applause.) Five-peat, Auburn Men's Swimming Team. (Applause.)
Some of the teams are adding new chapters to their schools' record books. Cal Men's Water Polo, they won their 12th water polo championship, which is an NCAA record. (Applause.) The Colorado Men's Cross Country Team, the Buffalos won their second title in three years -- and congratulations, welcome back. (Applause.) The North Carolina Women's Soccer Team. (Applause.) Eighteenth championship in the 25 year history of the tournament. Georgia Men's Tennis -- (applause) -- they went undefeated. They claimed their fifth NCAA tennis title. Nebraska Women's Volleyball. The Huskers were ranked number one the entire season, and won their third NCAA championship.
Penn State Men's and Women's Fencing. (Applause.) They won their tenth national championship, more than any other fencing team in the nation. Penn State Men's Gymnastics won their 12th national championship. (Applause.) Stanford Men's Golf. (Applause.) Wire-to-wire victory to earn their eighth NCAA golf title.
So I'm sitting back there with the captains, I said, do you want the one-hour speech, or the five-minute speech? They said, you been outside lately? I said, yes, barely. I said, how about the two-minute speech? (Laughter.) So I want to conclude this ceremony by thanking all the people that are here. I appreciate the fact that you're champions on the field and champions off the field.
You know, I asked some of the seniors what they're going to do, and I remember one girl told me she's going to be Teach for America. That means being a champ off the field. (Applause.) It means giving back something to society. I appreciate the fact that the Pepperdine Men's Tennis Team held a free clinic for children in Washington, D.C. just yesterday.
In other words, you can win on the athletic field, and you can win in the classroom, but you can also contribute to our country by helping somebody in need, by using your championship status to help heal a broken heart or to help somebody live a better life. And so to the champs, I'm glad you're here. For those of you who follow presidential politics, you know I'll be around one more year. I'm looking forward to having you come back. In the meantime, I ask for God's blessings on you, your family and our country. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) END 4:52 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release June 16, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, Congress began to debate its annual spending bills. The American people expect us to spend their tax dollars wisely, or not at all, and to pursue pro-growth economic policies that will allow us to reduce the deficit while keeping our economy strong.
Since my Administration's tax relief was implemented four years ago, our economy has added more than eight million new jobs, and we've experienced 45 months of uninterrupted job growth. With more Americans working and more businesses thriving, our economy has produced record tax revenues. The Treasury Department recently reported that this year's Federal revenues are up eight percent over last year. As a result, our Nation's budget deficit is about one-third lower than it was at this time last year.
In addition to pursuing pro-growth tax relief, my Administration is working to reduce the Federal deficit through strict fiscal discipline. Over the past three years, we have met the urgent needs of our Nation while holding the growth of annual domestic spending close to one percent -- well below the rate of inflation. I've also proposed policies that would slow the unsustainable growth of our most serious long-term fiscal challenge: entitlement spending. By keeping taxes low and restraining Federal spending, we can meet my plan to have a balanced budget by 2012.
The Democrats in Congress are trying to take us in a different direction. They've passed a budget that would mean higher taxes for American families and job creators, ignore the need for entitlement reform, and pile on hundreds of billions of dollars in new government spending over the next five years. This tax-and-spend approach puts our economic growth and deficit reduction at risk.
For months, I've warned the Democrats in Congress that I will not accept an irresponsible tax-and-spend budget. I put Democratic leaders on notice that I will veto bills with excessive levels of spending. And I am not alone in my opposition. In the House, 147 Republicans have pledged to support fiscal discipline by opposing excessive spending. These 147 members are more than one-third needed to sustain my veto of any bills that spend too much.
Another key area of difference between my Administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress is my support for meaningful earmark reform. Earmarks are spending provisions that are slipped into bills by individual members of Congress, often at the last hour and without discussion or debate. It's not surprising that this leads to unnecessary Federal spending. And the problem is growing. Over the last decade, the number of earmarks has more than tripled.
In January, I proposed reforms that would make the earmark process more transparent, end the practice of concealing earmarks in so-called report language that is never included in legislation, and cut the number and cost of earmarks by at least half. My Administration has also developed the government's first public database of earmarks, and we've posted them on a website: earmarks.omb.gov. On this website, we will also be releasing information on new earmarks, because this Administration wants you to see where your tax dollars are being spent.
After I announced my earmark reforms in January, the House passed a rule that called for full disclosure of earmarks. But in the past few weeks, Democratic House leaders announced that they were abandoning this commitment. Instead of full disclosure, they decided they would not make public any earmarks until after Members had already voted on the spending bills. This change would have allowed a small group of lawmakers and their unelected staff to meet behind closed doors to decide how and where to spend your tax dollars. I'm pleased to report that earlier this week a group of House Republicans stopped this plan and extracted a commitment from House Democrats to list all earmarks in advance and give lawmakers a chance to strike them. The American people need to hold House Democrats accountable for keeping that commitment.
In the weeks ahead, my Administration will continue pushing for earmark reform and holding the line on Federal spending. The American people do not want to return to the days of tax and spend policies. They expect accountability and fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. And I will use my veto to stop tax increases and runaway spending that threaten the strength of our economy and the prosperity of our people.
Thank you for listening. END
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