For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 31, 2007
President Bush Meets with Iraq President Talabani The Oval Office 3:00 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: It is my honor to welcome the President of a free Iraq back to the Oval Office. President Talabani, thank you for coming. I admire your courage. I admire your dedication to a united Iraq. I admire the leadership you have shown, and I welcome you.
We had a good conversation today about a variety of subjects. I told the President that I'm fully committed to helping the Iraqi government achieve important objectives, we call them benchmarks, political law necessary to show the Iraqi citizens that there is a unified government willing to work on the interest of all people.
The President fully understands the need for the Iraqi government to meet certain benchmarks, and he is dedicated to achieving those benchmarks. We're working very hard, for example, on getting an oil law with an oil revenue-sharing code that will help unite the country. Working very hard on de-Baathification law -- reform, as well as provincial elections.
We talked about a lot of issues.
And I want to thank you very much for your vision, Mr. President, and your willingness to take the hard steps necessary to get the job done.
I told the President the decision I have made -- I've asked one of my top aides, Meghan O'Sullivan, to return to Baghdad. Meghan has been a integral part of our team here at the White House. She has been in Iraq before. She's going back to serve with Ambassador Crocker, to help the Iraqis -- and to help the Embassy help the Iraqis -- meet the benchmarks that the Congress and the President expect to get passed. I want to thank Meghan for her dedicated service to a free Iraq.
Mr. President, it is important that you succeed. Failure in Iraq would endanger the American citizens because failure in Iraq would embolden the enemies of a free Iraq. David Petraeus said, public enemy number one in Iraq is al Qaeda. Al Qaeda happens to be public enemy number one in America, too. And that should say loud and clear to citizens who still remember the lessons of September the 11th that it's in our interest to help the Iraqis defeat al Qaeda.
We must not let al Qaeda have a safe haven in Iraq. We must not retreat in the face of the unspeakable violence that they perpetuate on your citizens. We must help you prevail. And if all Iraqis showed the same courage you show, we will prevail. And there's a lot of courageous Iraqis there.
I'm confident we can succeed, Mr. President, and I want to thank you for coming here to the White House to join me.
PRESIDENT TALABANI: It is an honor meeting our great friend, who we consider the hero of liberating Iraq, President George Bush, who was always with Iraqi people. Also I must tell you that I'm committed as the President of Iraq to benchmarks and to do our best to achieve some progress forward for national reconciliation, for passing the law -- oil law, de-Baathification, and investment, and other laws which are now under discussion. And I think we are due to finish all of these and send it to parliament to be achieved.
At the same time, we are committed to do our best to train our army and our forces to replace gradually the American forces in taking responsibility of the security of our country. Of course, we are very grateful to the American people. And I present my condolences to the sacrifice which these glorious people America has always presented for liberating peoples all over -- (inaudible) -- and for Iraqi people and others.
We are always committing our desire to strengthen the unity of Iraq and the unity of the national government, to have the collective leadership in Iraq for getting the oil problem. And I briefed his excellency, Mr. President, about what we have done and what we have achieved for this purpose.
I'm glad to have the support of President Bush and the Congress. I'm grateful to Congress. I told President Bush that I'm grateful for the Congress for the last decision and for the decision, which was the resolution that was taken by Congress, the resolution of liberating Iraq at the time of President Bill Clinton.
So we are determined to success. Of course, you have problems. I don't think that everything is okay, everything is good, we have no problems -- no, we have problems. We have serious problems with terrorism. The main enemy of Iraqi people is al Qaeda and terrorists cooperating with them. But there are groups who are now raising arms against us, now we are negotiating with them to get them back to the political process of the Iraqi people. You have good achievements also. We hope that this will lead to more big steps forward to national reconciliation in Iraq.
We are also determined to improve our political and economic life in Iraq. We achieved -- unfortunately, media only concentrating on negative sides of Iraq. They are not concentrating on big achievements in Iraq, economic achievements, raising the salaries of the millions of Iraqis, improving the social life and the -- that all the universities, schools, hospitals are working well in Iraq. Besides the problems which we have -- we don't deny it -- we are trying to overcome these difficulties. But we have some achievements. Thanks to the United States of America and our great friend, President Bush, we achieve some good, important success.
Besides some failure in the security, we have also successes in bringing democracy for the first time to Iraq. All kinds of democratic rights are now available for Iraqi people. We have free election, we have now parliament elected by people. We have authorities -- presidency, prime minister -- chosen by the people. This is happening for the first time in the history of the Iraqi people.
Also we have some kind of success in rebuilding our country. Not all parts of Iraq are terrible. You have in the north of Iraq, Kurdistan -- in Iraq living in peace, security and prosperity. And also, in the south, you have about nine provinces now secure and gradually -- days ago the American forces delivered the responsibility of security to the authorities in Iraq -- so we are going forward -- with difficulties; I don't deny difficulties, I don't deny shortcomings, I don't deny that still we are suffering from some problems. But we are determined to benchmarks, and we are determined to move forward and to achieve, as Mr. President mentioned.
Now we are due to have the oil law, which will revolution for all Iraqis; due to review the de-Baathification. We have our new draft for this. We have another draft for investment. We are encouraging investment from outside to Iraq. And we are going to renew the local elections -- in near future for this.
But again, I am grateful to the American people, to the President of the American people, for what they have done for my people, for Iraq. We are now living in much better situation than we had in the past. And we are facing common enemy, which is still -- al Qaeda is the enemy not only of Iraq and America, but all people of the world. Look to the Arab countries, everywhere; al Qaeda -- in Morocco, in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, al Qaeda is starting to work against all peoples of Middle East. So we are fighting this enemy. And as President Bush said, there must be no place for al Qaeda in Iraq or in other places, because if they can have such a kind of bases, they will threaten Europe and United States of America.
Again, Mr. President, thank you very much for your kind visit, and for your important words you say.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. END 3:10 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 31, 2007
President Bush Discusses United States International Development Agenda Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Washington, D.C. 10:07 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you, George, for that kind introduction. Thanks to the United States Global Leadership Council for hosting us this morning. Next week, leaders from around the world will gather in Germany to advance goals shared by people of every nation: economic empowerment, education, and good health.
The eagerness of children to learn, the desire of individuals to provide for themselves and their families, and the longing of mothers to see their babies grow up healthy are universal. Yet poverty, a lack of education, and disease have kept millions from around the world from fulfilling these fundamental desires. Today the governments and citizens of many countries are working to overcome these crises. And the American people are proud to stand with them.
Through our government, the American people have given billions of dollars to lift the burdens of crushing debt, illiteracy, malaria and HIV/AIDS. At the end of June, I'll travel to the African nations of Senegal, Mozambique, Zambia and Mali to see the results -- some of these results firsthand. I'll visit homes protected by mosquito sprays, and go to clinics supported by the President's Malaria Initiative. There, volunteers distribute mosquito nets so that mothers can sleep knowing that their babies are safe.
I'll visit a pediatric hospital supported by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, where doctors and nurses care for thousands of HIV-positive babies. I'll see new wells installed by the Play Pumps Alliance, which will provide as many as 10 million Africans with clean water. And I'll visit schools supported by our government's African Education Initiative. By supplying textbooks and training hundreds of thousands of teachers, the African Education Initiative gives African children hope for security, prosperity and good health.
These are just some of the things our government is doing around the world that Americans should be proud of. Through our development initiatives, we're helping to build free economies, teach children how to read, and save the lives of millions of men and women -- women like Kunene Tantoh. I first met Kunene two years ago when I visited a Mothers to Mothers center in South Africa. At Mothers centers, which receive PEPFAR seed money, HIV-infected women receive information and support to keep their unborn babies HIV free. When Kunene first arrived at the Mothers clinic, she had just discovered she was pregnant -- and HIV positive. A normal CD4 count, which measures a person's immune cells, is between 500 and 1,500. Kunene's count was 2. It seemed unlikely that she would survive.
But with the treatment Kunene received at the Mothers clinic, she did survive, and delivered a beautiful boy named Baron. He's HIV free. Kunene became a mentor to other mothers, and now she serves as a site coordinator at the largest Mothers facility. Today she and Baron stand as a symbol of hope to everyone living positively with HIV. Kunene and Baron. (Applause.) Kunene also represents the many lives that have been touched and saved by the compassion of the American people.
Now I'm proud to introduce a man of extraordinary compassion. Ladies and gentlemen, my husband, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Laura, thanks for that short introduction. (Laughter.) I'm proud to be introduced by my wife. I love her dearly. She's a great First Lady. (Applause.)
And I appreciate the chance to address the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign. This is a fine organization and it's an important organization. It's rallying businesses and non-governmental organizations and faith-based and community and civic organizations across our country to advance a noble cause, ensuring that the United States leads the world in spreading hope and opportunity. It's a big deal, and I appreciate your participation.
It's a big deal because your efforts are needed. Millions suffer from hunger and poverty and disease in this world of ours. Many nations lack the capacity to meet the overwhelming needs of their people. Alleviating this suffering requires bold action from America. It requires America's leadership and requires the action of developed nations, as well.
That's the message I'm going to take with me to Europe next week, when Laura and I go to the G8. At that meeting I will discuss our common responsibility to help struggling nations grow strong and improve the lives of their citizens. And today I'm going to describe some of the initiatives that I will be discussing with world leaders next week to help developing nations build a better future for their people.
Before I do so, I want to thank George Ingram, the President of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign. I thank the members of my Cabinet who share the same passion I do for helping those less fortunate around the world -- that would include Carlos Gutierrez, Department of Commerce; Secretary Mike Leavitt, Department of Health and Human Services; Secretary Sam Bodman at the Department of Energy; Administrator Steve Johnson of the EPA. Thank you all for coming. Proud to be serving with you.
I am glad that the Acting Director of the U.S. Foreign Assistance and Acting Administrator of USAID is here, Henrietta Fore. Thanks for coming. I appreciate John Danilovich, who is the head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Rob Mosbacher, the head of OPIC. I appreciate other members of my administration who joined us today.
I thank the members of the Diplomatic Corps who are here today. I thank the members of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign.
We are a compassionate nation. When Americans see suffering and know that our country can help stop it, they expect our government to respond. I believe in the timeless truth, and so do a lot of other Americans, to whom much is given, much is required. We're blessed to live in this country. We're blessed to live in the world's most prosperous nation. And I believe we have a special responsibility to help those who are not as blessed. It is the call to share our prosperity with others, and to reach out to brothers and sisters in need.
We help the least fortunate across the world because our conscience demands it. We also recognize that helping struggling nations succeed is in our interest. When America helps lift societies out of poverty we create new markets for goods and services, and new jobs for American workers. Prosperity abroad can be translated to jobs here at home. It's in our interest that we help improve the economies of nations around the world.
When America helps reduce chaos and suffering, we make this country safer, because prosperous nations are less likely to feed resentment and breed violence and export terror. Helping poor nations find the path to success benefits this economy and our security, and it makes us a better country. It helps lift our soul and renews our spirit.
So America is pursuing a clear strategy to bring progress and prosperity to struggling nations all across the world. We're working to increase access to trade and relieve the burden of debt. We're increasing our assistance to the world's poorest countries and using this aid to encourage reform, and strengthen education, and fight the scourge of disease. We'll work with developing nations to find ways to address their energy needs and the challenge of global climate change.
Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires opening new opportunities for trade. Trade is the best way to help poor countries develop their economies and improve the lives of their people. When I took office, America had free trade agreements with three countries. Today we have free trade agreements in force with 14 countries, most of which are in the developing world. Three weeks ago, my administration and Congress agreed on a new trade policy that will be applied to free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea. And I look forward to working with Congress to get all these trade bills passed. These bills are good for our economy.
But it's important for members of Congress and the people of this country to understand free trade is the best way to lift people out of poverty. And so the United States also seeks to open markets to the Doha round of trade negotiations. Doha represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help millions in the developing world rise from poverty and despair. If you're interested in helping the poor people, you ought to be for trade and opening up markets for their goods and services. And the Doha round gives us an opportunity to do just that.
We put forward bold proposals to help conclude a successful Doha round. And at the G8 summit next week, I'm going to urge other nations to do the same. A successful Doha round will benefit all our countries and it's going to transform the world.
I know that trade can transform lives, I've seen it firsthand. Laura and I were recently in Guatemala. We went to a small village and saw what can happen when markets are open for local entrepreneurs. In this case, we met some farmers who for years had struggled to survive, worked hard just to put food on the table for their families by growing corn and beans. That's all they were able to do. It's a hard way to make a living, growing corn and beans. When we negotiated the trade agreement called the CAFTA DR, which opened up new markets for Guatemalan farmers, the entrepreneurial spirit came forth. There are entrepreneurs all over the world, if just given a chance, they can succeed.
Today, the farmers in that village are growing high-value crops, because they have new markets in which to sell their product. The business we met -- the entrepreneur we met now employs a thousand people. Trade will improve lives a lot faster than government aid can. It's in our interest that we open up markets, for our products, and for the products of others. People just want to be given a chance. And the United States will take the lead in making sure those markets are open for people to be able to realize a better life.
Building progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires lifting the burden of debt from the poorest countries. That makes sense. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to figure out, if you're paying a lot of money on interest, you're not having enough money to support your own people. In the past, many poor nations borrowed money, and they couldn't repay the debt. And their interest payments were huge. And, therefore, they didn't have the opportunity to invest in education and health care. So the administration, my administration worked with G8 nations to ease the debt burden. We're not the first administration to figure this out. My predecessor did the same thing, because it's the right policy for the United States of America.
Two years ago at Gleneagles, the G8 nations agreed to support a multilateral debt relief agreement that freed poor countries of up to $60 billion in debt. This year, we built on that progress, when the Inter-American Development Bank approved another debt relief initiative for some of the poorest nations in our neighborhood, in our own hemisphere. This initiative will cancel $3.4 billion owed by five countries: Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua. And that represents more than 12 percent of their combined GDP, an average of nearly $110 for every man, woman, and child in these countries. And this money is now free to help these nations invest in improving their lives of citizens. It makes sense to forgive debt. If you're interested in helping the poor, it makes sense for the developed world to forgive the debt. And that's what the United States will continue to do.
Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires increased American assistance to countries most in need. Since I took office, we have more than doubled U.S. development spending across the world -- from about $10 billion in 2000, to $23 billion in 2006. It's the largest increase in development assistance since the Marshall Plan.
The first four years of my administration, we doubled our assistance to Africa. At the G8 summit in 2005, I promised our assistance to Africa would double once again by 2010. I made a promise to the people. People expect us to deliver on that promise, and I expect the Congress to help. We must not shortchange these efforts. Congress needs to approve my full funding request for development assistance this year. We need to get the job done. (Applause.)
We're focusing increased American assistance for developing nations on three key goals -- in other words, we have some goals, we're not just going to spend money. We have a reason to spend the money and we expect there to be results when we spend that money -- so do the taxpayers of this country. It's one thing to be compassionate, it's another thing to be accountable for the money.
First, we're going to use our aid to help developing countries build democratic and accountable institutions and strengthen their civil societies. To succeed in the global economy, nations need fair and transparent legal systems; need free markets that unleash the creativity of their citizens; need banking systems that serve people at all income levels; and a business climate that welcomes foreign investment and supports local entrepreneurs.
The United States is helping developing nations build these and other free institutions through what we call the Millennium Challenge Account. Under this program, America makes a compact with developing nations. We give aid, and in return they agree to implement democratic reforms, to fight corruption, to invest in their people -- particularly in health and education -- and to promote economic freedom. Seems like a fair deal, doesn't it -- taxpayers' money from the United States in return for the habits and procedures necessary for a solid society to develop. We don't want to give aid to a country where the leaders steal the money. We expect there to be accountability for U.S. money and that's the principle behind the Millennium Challenge Account. Eleven nations have compacts in place worth nearly $3 billion. And now 14 additional nations are eligible to negotiate compacts with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, headed by Ambassador Danilovich.
Let me give you an example of how this program can make a difference. In Madagascar the leaders of this island nation set a goal in their compact to improve agricultural production. In other words, we work with a nation, they have set the goal; we support their goal. They want their farmers to be able to compete in the global marketplace. We agreed to help by investing in agricultural business centers that work with local farmers. In one village, this initiative helped a group of farmers who were surviving by collecting firewood and producing charcoal. That's how these folks were trying to get ahead. They'd find firewood and make charcoal out of it, and hope they could find a market. It's a tough way to make a living in a modern world.
The business center that the compact established helped the farmers work together to identify a new product, a natural oil used in skin care products. I probably could use some of that myself. (Laughter.) The center helped these farmers develop -- helped them to develop a business plan. They acquired financing to set up a distilling plant. They built relationships with buyers in their nation's capital.
Before America and Madagascar signed our compact, a typical farmer in this village could earn about $5 a week selling charcoal. After two months of bringing the new product to the market, the livelihood of these farmers increased. One farmer was able to raise his income enough to save about $500, money he plans to use for a child's education.
We're going to help encourage African entrepreneurs in other ways, as well. Today, I'm announcing a new project called Africa Financial Sector Initiative. Through this initiative, we'll provide technical assistance to help African nations strengthen their financial markets. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corps, OPIC, headed by Rob Mosbacher, will work with the financial community to create several new private equity funds that will mobilize up to a billion dollars of additional private investment in Africa.
If you're interested in job creation, there's got to be capital available. It's in our interest that we help provide capital to African entrepreneurs. We want them to find access to capital, and we want them to have access to markets because we want to improve their lives. And when people's lives in countries on the continent of Africa improve, it helps the United States of America. It's what our taxpayers have got to understand. It's in our interest. (Applause.)
All of this will go for naught if people don't have a good education. So the second way we're using our aid is to improve education so that the young in the developing world have the tools they need to realize their God-given potential. Many parents across the world either have no access to education for their children, or simply cannot afford it. It's a fact of life, something the world needs to deal with, particularly those of us who have got some money.
In many nations, girls have even less educational opportunity. It robs them of a chance to satisfy their ambitions or to make use of their talents and skills, and it's really sad, when you think about it. It really is. The question is, does the United States care? Should we do something about it? And the answer is, absolutely. If boys and girls in Africa and other developing nations don't learn how to read, write, and add and subtract, this world is just going to move on without them. And all the aid efforts we'll be trying will go to naught, in my judgment.
And so in 2002, I launched the African Education Initiative to help address the great need. Through this initiative, we have provided about $300 million to expand educational opportunities throughout the continent, and we're going to provide another $300 million by 2010. We will have doubled our commitment. (Applause.)
One young woman who has benefited from this program is a woman named Evelyn Nkadori, from the Masai people of the grasslands of Kenya. In her rural community, girls are rarely offered an education -- just never given a chance. They're expected to care for younger children until they're married themselves at an early age. That was the custom. She had a different vision for her future, and our initiative helped her realize it. Our program helped her complete high school, and now she's attending Chicago State University on a scholarship. She's one of the first -- she is one of the first women from her village ever to receive a college education. She hopes to attend medical school, and then go home and help others.
Evelyn, I appreciate you being here today. I'm honored by your presence. Thank you for your courage. We can't make you want to succeed, but we can help you succeed. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
And we need to do more, for not only children on the continent of Africa, but poor children throughout the world. And so I'm calling on Congress to fund $525 million over the next five years to make our educational initiatives even more robust. And the goal is to provide basic education for 4 million additional children on the continent of Africa and across the globe.
We've got another interesting idea, and that is to establish new Communities of Opportunity centers in poor nations to provide skills and language training for 100,000 at-risk youth; giving these young people in these countries the skills they need to succeed, we're going to give them keys to a brighter future.
The third way we're using our aid is to fight the scourge of disease in Africa and other parts of the developing world. Epidemics like HIV/AIDS and malaria destroy lives and they decimate families. They also impose a crippling economic burden on societies where so many are struggling to lift their families out of poverty. We've taken action to fight these diseases. We've done so because it's in our nation's interest to do so.
In 2003, my administration launched a new initiative to combat HIV/AIDS -- the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. We pledged $15 billion over five years for AIDS prevention and treatment and care programs in many of the poorest nations on Earth. This level of support was unprecedented. I'm proud to report, on behalf of our citizens, that it remains the largest commitment by any nation ever to combat a single disease. (Applause.)
And the program is working. Three years ago, about 50,000 people on the continent of Africa were receiving antiretroviral drugs for help. Today, over 1.1 million people are receiving lifesaving drugs. And this is a good start. It's a necessary start, and it's a promising start; but we need to do more. So yesterday in the Rose Garden, Kunene and Baron and the good Doc -- and I don't know where the Bishop is -- (laughter) -- anyway, they were standing with me up there when I called on Congress to greatly expand our efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS, by doubling our initial commitment, by dedicating an additional $30 billion to this struggle over the next five years in the year 2009. (Applause.)
And here's the goal: support treatment for nearly 2.5 million people, to prevent more than 12 million new infections, and to provide compassionate care for 12 million people, including 5 million more orphans and vulnerable children. We set the goal for the past initiative, and we met it. And we're going to set the goal for this one, and we're going to meet it. But Congress needs to get that money as quickly as possible so it makes it easier to meet the goal. I proposed this unprecedented investment for a reason -- it's in the world's interest and our nation's interest to save lives. And that's exactly what this program is doing.
We saved a life of a fellow named Robert Ongole. He's with us today. John Robert Ongole -- not yet, not yet, John Robert. (Laughter.) I'm going to make it a little more dramatic than that. (Laughter.) You probably didn't know who I was talking about when is skipped the "John." (Laughter.)
John Robert has a family of two children; he has HIV/AIDS. This disease ravaged his body. His weight dropped to 99 pounds. He developed tuberculosis and other health problems. He and his family felt certain that he would die. Then John Robert began receiving antiretroviral treatment through PEPFAR in Uganda. The treatment restored his strength. He returned to the classroom and he continued being a dad.
John Robert is earning his bachelor's degree in education. He's volunteering to help other people. The American people need to hear what he had to say: "When you talk of PEPFAR, that's my life, because it worked. Because without it, I couldn't have lived. Now I want to save the lives of other people." Thanks for coming, John Robert. (Applause.)
Does it matter to America if John Robert lives? You bet it does. That's why this initiative is an important initiative. That's why it's important Congress continue to spend taxpayers' money to save lives like John Robert's, and Kunene's, and Baron's.
As we increase our commitment to fight HIV/AIDS, we're also continuing an unprecedented commitment to fight against malaria. Malaria takes the lives of about 1 million people a year in the developing world, and the vast majority are under five years old. In some countries, this disease takes even more lives than HIV/AIDS. Every 30 seconds, a mother in Africa loses her child to malaria. It's a tragic disease because it's preventable and treatable. We can do something about it.
In 2005, I announced the President's Malaria Initiative. Through this initiative, we're spending $1.2 billion over five years to fight the disease in 15 targeted African countries. This initiative provides insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying, and life-saving anti-malaria medications. This strategy works. It really isn't all that complicated. It takes money and organization and effort.
In Angola, this initiative helped increase the number of children protected by nets from less than 5 percent to nearly 70 percent. You buy the nets, you educate the people, you get the nets to them, and when they start using them, lives are saved. This initiative has expanded malaria protection for more than 6 million Africans in its first year, and by the end of the second year, in 2007, we expect to reach a total of 30 million people. (Applause.)
At the G8 summit, I'm going to urge our partners to join us in this unprecedented effort to fight these dreaded diseases. America is proud to take the lead. We expect others to join us, as well. If you want to help improve lives on the continent of Africa, and around the world, join with the United States and provide substantial help to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires growing amounts of energy. It's hard to grow your economy if you don't have energy. Yet, producing that energy can create environmental challenges for the world. We need to harness the power of technology to help nations meet their growing energy needs while protecting the environment and addressing the challenge of global climate change.
In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it. The United States takes this issue seriously. The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week. The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
So my proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases. To help develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.
In addition to this long-term global goal, each country would establish midterm national targets, and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs. Over the course of the next 18 months, our nations would bring together industry leaders from different sectors of our economies, such as power generation and alternative fuels and transportation. These leaders will form working groups that will cooperate on ways to share clean energy technology and best practices.
It's important to ensure that we get results, and so we will create a strong and transparent system for measuring each country's performance. This new framework would help our nations fulfill our responsibilities under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United States will work with all nations that are part of this convention to adapt to the impacts of climate change, gain access to clean and more energy-efficient technologies, and promote sustainable forestry and agriculture.
The way to meet this challenge of energy and global climate change is through technology, and the United States is in the lead. The world is on the verge of great breakthroughs that will help us become better stewards of the environment. Over the past six years, my administration has spent, along with the Congress, more than $12 billion in research on clean energy technology. We're the world's leader when it comes to figuring out new ways to power our economy and be good stewards of the environment.
We're investing in new technologies to produce electricity in cleaner ways, including solar and wind energy, clean coal technologies. If we can get a breakthrough in clean coal technologies, it's going to help the developing world immeasurably, and at the same time, help protect our environment.
We're spending a lot of money on clean, safe nuclear power. If you're truly interested in cleaning up the environment, or interested in renewable sources of energy, the best way to do so is through safe nuclear power. We're investing in new technologies that transform the way we fuel our cars and trucks. We're expanding the use of hybrid and clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel.
We're spending a lot of your money in figuring out ways to produce ethanol from products other than corn. One of these days, we'll be making fuel to power our automobiles from wood chips, to switchgrasses, to agricultural wastes. I think it makes sense to have our farmers growing energy, so that we don't have to import it from parts of the world where they may not like us too much. And it's good for our environment, as well.
We're pressing on with battery research for plug-in hybrid vehicles that can be powered by electricity from a wall socket, instead of gasoline. We're continuing to research and to advance hydrogen-powered vehicles that emit pure water instead of exhaust fumes; we're taking steps to make sure these technologies reach the market, setting new mandatory fuel standards that require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by the year 2017. It's a mandatory fuel standard. We want to reduce our gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years, which will not only help our national security, it will make us better stewards of the environment. The United States is taking the lead, and that's the message I'm going to take to the G8.
Last week, the Department of Energy announced that in 2006, our carbon emissions decreased by 1.3 percent while our economy grew by 3.3 percent. This experience shows that a strong and growing economy can deliver both a better life for its people and a cleaner environment at the same time.
At the G8 summit, I'm going to encourage world leaders to increase their own investments in research and development. I'm looking forward to working with them. I'm looking forward to discussing ways to encourage more investment in developing nations by making low-cost financing options for clean energy a priority of the international development banks.
We're also going to work to conclude talks with other nations on eliminating tariffs and other barriers to clean energy technologies and services by the end of year. If you are truly committed to helping the environment, nations need to get rid of their tariffs, need to get rid of those barriers that prevent new technologies from coming into their countries. We'll help the world's poorest nations reduce emissions by giving them government-developed technologies at low cost, or in some case, no cost at all.
We have an historic opportunity in the world to extend prosperity to regions that have only known poverty and despair. The United States is in the lead, and we're going to stay in the lead.
The initiatives I've discussed today are making a difference in the lives of millions; our fellow citizens have got to understand that. We're talking about improving lives in a real, tangible way that ought to make our country proud. That's why we've asked these folks to come. It's one thing for the President to be talking about stories; it's another thing for the people to see firsthand what our help has done.
I'm so proud of the United States of America. This initiative shows the good character and the decency of the American people. We are a decent people. We feel responsible for helping those who are less fortunate. And I am proud to be the President of such a good nation. Thanks for coming, and God bless. (Applause.) END 10:46 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release May 31, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow and Jim Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality White House Conference Center Briefing Room 12:03 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Welcome. As you heard just a few minutes ago, the President gave extensive remarks on international development and the international development agenda leading up to the G8. Among other things, he described his ideas that will be presented to the G8 ministers about the environment, and I figured the best person to answer any questions and all questions about it is Jim Connaughton, who is the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, and the President's top environmental advisor, somebody who has been deeply involved in the crafting of this policy.
So without further ado, I will turn it over to Jim on this topic, and then we'll be happy to tackle all others afterward.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Thanks, Tony, and good afternoon, everybody. Today, in the context of the President's speech on development, he's announced our going forward strategy on the issue of energy security and climate change. I think it's important to note that this was in the context of the development agenda. The President emphasized some very important issues on education, on health, on good rule of law. Well, energy is also important to development, and he underscored the theme that in order to help nations grow and prosper, they need access to more energy. But energy carries environmental consequences, and so -- and we realized that, and so the issue is, how do we move forward with an increased use of energy, but to do so in an environmentally responsible way.
Part of that issue is the challenge of global climate change. Our understanding of the science has strengthened, and our understanding of the technology opportunities for solving the problem has also carried us forward with meaningful solutions.
So the President laid out a three-part agenda that he will be taking into discussions at the G8 next week, and more broadly independent of the G8, and the three parts are as follows. First, the United States is going to commit to help lead the way on the development of a new framework on climate change for the time after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. We are going to bring to the United States the countries that represent the largest energy use and the largest emissions of greenhouse gases. In numbers, about 10 to 15 countries are responsible for more than 80 percent of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. We hope to find consensus on the statement of a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases. That has not been done before collectively in the climate change process.
In addition to trying to find consensus, including with countries like India and China, on a long-term vision for where we want to be on greenhouse gases, we're going to work to develop, each country will develop its own national strategies on a midterm basis in the next 10 to 20 years on where they want to take their efforts to improve energy security, reduce air pollution, and also reduce greenhouse gases.
We will then bring together industry sectors. So imagine you have transportation, you have power generation, you have fuels, buildings. There are industrial leaders and NGOs who are very active in each of these sectors. What we want to do is get the representatives from those sectors in each country to see if they can come up with a common work program to share best practices, but also, we would anticipate they would set targets, too. This is an approach we used more recently in something called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate that already involves China and India, as well as South Korea, Japan and Australia.
And then the final element of part one is that we will have a stronger program of measuring performance and making that very transparent so we can compare apples to apples on how we're doing.
The second part of the agenda is a broad agenda that involves all of the participants in the U.N. Framework on Climate Change -- that is 189 countries -- and it's to see if we can develop a common agenda around four main areas of emphasis. One is sustainable land use -- better forestry practices, better agricultural practices, and better thinking through our cities. We want to stop illegal logging -- that's a big problem, and we want to see if we can -- what we can do about halting deforestation.
Second is efficiency. All nations benefit from efficiency. If we're using energy more wisely, that's good for everybody. The third piece is technology sharing: How can we do more to bring technologies in the developed world and get them into the developing world?
The third component will then be an accelerated program on technology and advancement. The United States has already committed to significantly increase its investment in advanced clean energy technologies -- most notably, in the State of the Union announcement this year the President indicated how much more we were going to put into advanced biofuels, as well as other clean coal technologies and other technologies. We're going to call on other leaders to see if they can make similar commitments and get our research programs working together.
Another component will be to see if we can bring a greater priority in our international development banks, who have billions of dollars to lend out at a low-cost basis to see if we can bring a greater priority to clean energy investments by the multilateral development banks.
And then we're proposing two things -- one that's within reach. We have had several years of discussion on the elimination of tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers to the trade in clean energy technologies. This discussion has been going on for several years in the context of Doha. We are going to -- we want to drive to agreement on a schedule of eliminating these tariffs in the Doha round, which seems quite promising, and in any event, to do so by the end of next year. The sooner we can remove these tariffs, the sooner we can get a lot of commonly used technologies in America moving into the global marketplace.
And then finally, the U.S. government taxpayer dollars pay for a lot of research and development of new technologies. We often make that technology available to U.S. manufacturers at very low cost. We are proposing to extend that policy globally, that if the taxpayers producing new clean energy systems will make that available globally, as long as other countries make the same commitment.
So these are the elements of the plan. We hope to conclude this by the end of next year, so within 18 months to have this new framework established. And the President will be bringing these ideas to the G8. Now, these ideas are going to build on the solid foundation that we now have in America of a whole system of new regulations that will help us deal with energy security and climate change, a system of more than $10 billion in tax incentives and innumerable technology advancement partnerships, as well as what you heard, again, this year in the State of the Union, our desire to replace gasoline use by 20 percent in the next 10 years, which should also help us halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars.
So these are the kinds of things we're going to be bringing to the table. This is very consistent and closely in line with the thinking of Prime Minister Blair and Chancellor Merkel, who have laid the foundation for some of this work in Europe. And we also know that there's interest in many of these countries in light of the Asia-Pacific Partnership, where we've gotten the conversation started already. So we're off to a moving start; we're not starting from square one on this.
So, happy to answer your questions.
Q Will the new framework consist of binding commitments, or voluntary commitments?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: It will move similar to the current system, where -- in this instance, you have a long-term aspirational goal that sends a clear signal that we want significant reductions in greenhouse gases. And then what we're calling on is that each country will develop their national strategies for the first phase of trying to meet that goal.
In those national strategies, I'll give the American example. We now have mandatory fuel economy standards, and those are binding. We have mandatory renewable power standards at the state level; those are binding. The President has called on new fuel standards and new auto-efficiency standards. Europe is doing the same thing. They've got sort of a European direction, but each of the European member states sets their own binding national programs.
But also we anticipate it will include technology commitments by sectors that don't require regulation. And those are just good, old-fashion market agreements. And then we think there will be incentives involved, as well.
Q Now I'm confused. Does that mean there will be targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions and that everybody will be making binding commitments to each other about greenhouse gas reductions -- or, at the end of the day, are those just voluntary commitments?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: The commitment at the international level will be to a long-term aspirational goal --
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, I want to be careful about the word "voluntary," because we do these kinds of goals all the time, international agreements. It's the implementing mechanisms that become binding. And in this instance we are expecting that each nation will make a commitment to a national program strategy to achieve this.
I'll give you the example. We do the same thing in fisheries. We set a goal for a fishery, but that has to be carried out through national legislation. That's where it gets its binding characteristics. There's a lot of misconception about what's binding and what's not binding. The issue is you agree on goals in the international process; you implement them through national strategies that include binding measures.
Q But you couldn't really do that internationally, anyway. I mean, you couldn't make it binding through international --
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: There are some international agreements that you bring in a structure that can be enforced, sort of mutually enforced. That has not been utilized in the context of climate change in the past. And it's just challenging because you're trying to deal with big economic issues. If you're dealing with --
Q Why not do that with climate change?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Because where the rubber meets the road on climate change is the effectiveness of the national strategies and the commitment of countries to actually carry them out.
I'll give you an example. China has made a national commitment to improve the energy efficiency of their economy by 20 percent by 2010. That's a very consequential commitment. They're going to achieve that through a wide array of programs. Some of them are quite dramatically regulatory. That's exactly what we'd like to see China do, but they retain sovereignty -- they get to decide on the right mix, rather than us telling them what the mix should be.
Q Chancellor Merkel has made clear that she wants to use next week's G8 summit to forge a consensus on climate control. Now the President wants to call a summit, but later, on the same issue. Doesn't this effectively undercut her effort and put the process off further to the future?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Actually, it's the inverse of that. We've been having a lengthy discussion -- you'll see a text on climate change and energy security that will be longer than 20 pages, and what we're trying to do is reach closure on the broad elements of that. We've had some disagreement over a few issues, but this will actually bring closure on the core of what we can agree on, and that's what Chancellor Merkel is trying to achieve, a situation where the G8 has a sense of how they want to develop a framework, but we are doing it in a way that will also be attractive to large emerging economies, like China and India and Brazil. That's our real challenge -- the G8 is already moving in a common direction; how do we bring these other countries on board.
Q I'd like to go back to the example you just cited of China, for example. If they were to set their own goals, which would be binding within their own system, if they do not hit it, what's left for others to do about that? What's the price?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, what we do is similar to what we're doing now, is we put in a system of measuring progress. We work with the Chinese -- one is to understand why they didn't hit their mark. There are some goals that you try your best and the technology doesn't come along, there are other goals you try your best and technology comes along a heck of a lot faster than you thought, in which case you can ramp down your goals. We do the same thing, for example, in the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances -- we break it out into air conditioning, we break it out into cleaning electronics, aviation. And each country has set its own strategy for how to do that. Then we take it back to the international process and make sure we're making the progress we want to make. This is a marathon, it's not a sprint, and so there's lots of stages to getting to this long-term objective. So we shouldn't lose sight of the fact we want a constructive outcome, where each country is really bringing home to their own domestic circumstances a message of progress that will take hold.
Q The President and you have both again emphasized the development of biofuels, but at the same time, the oil companies say that that focus has them questioning the feasibility of improving refineries and building new ones, thus the higher prices. So what's the balance, what's the answer?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: I think your question is answering itself. We need to find a balance, but the President is very adamant that we've got to make faster progress on improving our energy security through the application of new technology. We've done a lot of internal work in the administration to see just how far we can push the envelope on bringing the second generation of biofuels online.
Now the way that happens, though, is you then get Europe to pursue similarly ambitious goals, you get the developing world to pursue similarly ambitious goals, then all of a sudden the market jumps in and you get a lot more investment, like we're already seeing on corn ethanol. And we expect with this much more ambitious mandate the President set you're going to see a huge push by the private sector of these second generation fuels. When you have the second generation fuels, you then get the second generation vehicles to use those fuels.
So it's part leadership and setting a very aggressive goal, but then it's also being sure that you're responsive to the pace of technology. We believe we will be successful. If we're not, we're going to have to take stock on our way to meeting the goal to see if it requires some adjustment.
Q So in the short-term, then, should the oil industry then just not do anything about its aging refineries; let the status quo on that and let the prices just keep going up?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: The President has emphasized we actually need more of everything. We need more renewable fuel, we need more domestic supplies of oil and gas for energy security, we need a strategic petroleum reserve that gives us the security against a major supply disruption, and we need more efficient vehicles, and we need to alleviate traffic congestion that massively wastes fuel. We need to work on every aspect. There's no silver bullet to the energy security equation, just like there's no silver bullet to the climate change equation. We need it all. And those who suggest there's one approach versus another, they're not facing reality.
Q And no silver bullet to the prices, right?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: No silver bullet to prices. But markets work, and if you're sending clear signals, the markets will respond. And you're already seeing a significant investment and more joint ventures between oil companies and farmers, between livestock producers and technology providers. So we're already seeing, with these high gasoline prices we're experiencing, a lot more interest in the next generation. If global leadership backs that up, it gives the confidence to the markets to respond.
Q You, specifically, in the past couple of days rejected Europe's proposal to set specific limits -- a degree increase beyond which we would not go -- presumably because you felt the world could not meet this without economic penalties that were unacceptable. Do you believe that Europe can meet the goals it has set? Do you believe it has achieved the reductions it claims over the past -- since the passage of Kyoto?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, first of all, we have actually disagreed with one aspect of one piece of this 22-page agreement, and that's the European -- the recently established European goal to commit to a temperature outcome. We don't think that's a very practical approach -- leaving aside other issues with trying to state your goal on temperature. You can't manage the temperature. You can manage to -- emissions. And so that's what the President is talking about. Let's figure out what quantity of emissions we want to try to reduce by by a certain date.
And there's lots of different ideas on that, by the way. Europe doesn't have the lock on this. Europe has one goal they think it should be; Japan has stated a slightly different one; Canada has stated it still differently again. So we want to bring all these -- this ambition to one conversation.
On the second part, how are we doing? The President did highlight in his speech today that we got a flash estimate for '06 where the United States actually had a net reduction of greenhouses gases of 1.3 percent during a period when we had economic growth of 3.3 percent. That is a remarkable outcome. Now that's as a result of reasons intentional and unintentional. The unintentional are, we had cooler summers and warmer winters. The intentional are, we have a lot more clean power coming on line, and with the huge new investment in new manufacturing and more productive manufacturing in America, we're getting more efficient production. So we're getting more output with the same or slightly increasing amount of energy. So there's always going to be a mix.
Europe -- some countries in Europe, like Germany and the U.K., have made very significant strides in reducing their emissions. But if you look at the period since we took office, so since January 2001 -- we have international data through the end of 2004 -- the U.S. saw economic growth of about 10 percent while our emissions went up only about 1.6 percent. In Europe, they had economic growth of 8 percent while their emissions went up 5 percent, not down. It's always going to go up and down, and so you can't pick any one moment in time to gauge your progress. As I said, this is a marathon, it's not a sprint. We want to see what the overall trend lines look like.
Q Will this administration consider mandatory emission caps? And why would Europe and the other nations want to take part in these talks if they're already discussing long-term global emission talks that do include mandatory caps?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, the President has supported a portfolio of policies that includes mandates; it includes very significant tax incentives and includes these technology development partnerships that I discussed. So we think we should have a mix.
We've been very concerned about cap and trade proposals, which is what you're talking about, largely on the grounds that they have tended in the context of climate change not to work very well. What you want is a policy that gets investment in new technology, that produces a real reduction. What we're seeing, though, is if you have an unreasonable cap on your emissions that's impossible to comply with as a matter of technology, you end up going overseas to try to purchase reductions someplace else.
Well, if your partner overseas doesn't have a cap, his incentive is to make more of what you're trying to buy, rather than make less of it. And so we're seeing a dramatic increase in emissions overseas. So it does you no good to cap your emissions here if it's going to lead to an increase in emissions someplace else. We just have to be thoughtful about this. This is not a dogmatic issue, it's a what's the practical policy that gets you the technology investment you think is going to provide a lasting solution.
Q How are you going to bring India and China on board on this?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, we're going to build on the foundation of the Asia-Pacific Partnership. We have found that if you approach India and China on what matters to them, which is energy security, lifting their people out of poverty, and finding ways to clean up their power sources -- and they have choking air pollution. You can also get them onboard with an aggressive greenhouse gas management approach.
It is also the case for China and India, if you make the conversation more practical, they want to know how to get more power out of less fuel. So how do you make power generation more efficient? That's something they want to talk to you about. And by the way, when you do that, they'll set targets, and they'll set targets with real timelines.
If you're having a big esoteric discussion about a broad agenda that you haven't actually laid out a real plan to achieve, that's where they begin to get nervous. Why do they get nervous? Because they're afraid it's going to impose a constraint on their growth, and a constraint on their growth means fewer people coming out of poverty. So we just have to respect that they're in a different place than we are, but we want to see if they can take a stride with us together.
Q Could I follow up on that?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Sure.
Q They have representatives at G8 -- they're not G8 members, but they have representatives at G8. Have you talked to them? What's been the reaction to this? Are they ready to sign up?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: We've had discussions at very high levels and the President, himself, has spoken directly with a number of the world leaders to whom we'll be proposing this, one on one, either by telephone or in person. There is a strong interest on finding a common way forward. And I think that's even different than five years ago. There is a strong interest on trying to design practical strategies that are based on technology. And so that's good.
And so as long as we are focusing the conversation on global trade and clean technologies, that's a really solid ground to build on. They also are beginning to be more comfortable domestically in their own countries in setting goals and educating their population on those goals. So we want to draw that forward.
So I'm looking forward to a very constructive G8 outcome. But what's more important than that is the conversation that occurs where everyone is on equal ground. The G8 is the G8. They've invited five countries; they're not members of the G8. So that's what the President wants to do -- he wants to create neutral ground where China and India are on the same ground the United States and Europe are on, to have this discussion at a very high level.
Q What do you say to those who point to the G8 and say, look, there was a plan on the table, you could have had an agreement there, and what you're doing today effectively kicks the can down the road until the end of the President's time in office?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Actually, it's the opposite of that. We're very close to an agreement in the G8, rather than not an agreement. And the other thing is, if you wanted to kick the can down the road, you would actually run the basic U.N. process, where they meet at the end of this year, they meet at the end of next year, they meet once a year for the next five years.
What we're doing instead is saying, no, let's speed up the clock, and in the 18 months, see if we can get agreement on the basic elements of this framework. If you do that, then the U.N. process actually has something to chew on. If you stick with the current approach, what happens is everybody goes back to their corners. So everyone is kind of in a safe place under the U.N. process. Those who are in the Kyoto Protocol like where they are, those of us like Australia and the United States that aren't in it, we're happy where we are, and we end up just basically restating our classic lines.
We're trying to create a new conversation, and the product of that conversation will be brought into the U.N. process with several years to go before Kyoto expires.
Q Would you expect the G8 -- or hope the G8 will endorse this proposal as it stands, that you're making today?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, we're bringing these ideas to the G8. So what we would be hopeful is, in large measure, the proposal will work its way into the G8 agreement. And why are we hopeful? Because this is a construct that the President has been talking about for years, with Tony Blair, in particular, and that we've introduced now that Chancellor Merkel is leading the G8, and ongoing discussions with Prime Minister Abe in Japan and Prime Minister Harper in Canada. So we're not starting from scratch here. This is the -- this isn't something out of the blue, this is the culmination -- at least even in my recent involvement -- of five intensive months of trying to figure out what matters to everybody and see if you can give it a shape that will bring some consensus. What the President is trying to do here is find that consensus that will allow for forward progress.
Q Why did it take six years since the President pulled out of Kyoto to come up with an alternative international framework?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, actually, in 2002, the President set a 10-year national strategy that included reducing greenhouse gas intensity of our economy by 18 percent, and added a whole series, dozens of programs underneath of that, some of which I've described already.
At the same time the Kyoto countries were busy designing their national strategies to meet Kyoto. That's taken us a few years to get experience with what's working, to get experience with what's not working. So that's number one.
Number two, we now have five years of experience of a whole series of new international technology partnerships -- fusion for the long-term; civilian nuclear -- we have a big group around nuclear; we have a group that's working on how to produce power from coal with no emissions. That's got almost 20 countries involved in it. So we created these international technology partnerships. So when you ask why, the last five years was about building out our base of experience, as well as the funding for a lot of these efforts.
It is also the case that the science progress -- the scientific work has gone forward. As the President indicated in his speech, we understand a lot more about the science. We have a heightened concern about the observed and projected impacts of future climate change, and so that drives us to the next step, as well.
The other piece is, we're five years away from Kyoto, so we want to get the groundwork laid so that we've got a good plan in place for when Kyoto expires. And that just takes some planning. So all of that is the "why now."
In the back.
Q Jim, you seem to suggest that those who are insisting on the cap and trade are dogmatic in their approach. Is that your guys' opinion on this?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: No, because in some countries a cap and trade, under certain circumstances, can be an effective instrument. It is proven in the context of climate change to be much more subject to manipulation than anyone thought, and it's not driving the technology advancement that we would want to see. Now, some countries are content to use a cap and trade just to drive additional efficiency investments. From the American perspective, that's a problem because efficiency is good in the near-term, but China is going to use four times more coal than we will by 2020. And so if we don't figure out how to get the technology that's very expensive on coal to a point where it's low emissions, you can do all the efficiency you want and you're not going to affect long-term temperature trends.
A cap and trade does not deliver that investment. Why? Because that's expensive. The same is true of alternative fuels -- they're expensive, they're not cheap. And the cap and trade programs go looking for cheap reductions. So you have to find that balance and it's going to differ from country to country.
Q You have talked about the medium term as 10 to 20 years. So what, in your vision, is a long-term -- in other words, when will we see the world actually cutting greenhouse gas emissions, as opposed to simply slowing the growth?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, I think in the next 50 years you'll see a combination of both. For example, industrial greenhouse gas emissions in America have been flat or below their 1990 levels since 1990, even though our manufacturing output is way up. In America, we've had an absolute reduction in methane emissions, a significant reduction in methane emissions. Some European countries have already been able to achieve a net reduction of emissions. But the demographics in many of those countries, they don't have growing populations, they have a different fuel supply.
So you have to look at each country's situation individually. China and India, it's very clear in the near to midterm, that their ambition is to slow the growth significantly. But it is conceivable over a midterm that a number of countries can make real strides in reducing their emissions.
This is the hard conversation we have to have: What does that look like? How do we set a reasonably ambitious long-term objective for a net reduction? But then understand that some countries are going to be starting with intensity; others are going to be driving toward net emission reductions.
Q But your long-term goal is net worldwide reductions 50 years from now?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: A number of the proposals from countries have focused on 2050 as the date. I've also heard ideas for staging at 2050, 2075. We don't want to prejudge that conversation, because it's better to get a lot of thinking.
I'll give you a different one. I've heard some saying, well, shouldn't we have a long-term technology objective? So one country has suggested, shouldn't we say we want coal to have this level of low emissions by this date? That's also a plausible approach.
So the point of the next 18 months is to put all those on the table and see if we can bring them together into a common vision.
Q Can I follow up again. So if other countries are putting their goals on the table, what is the United States' vision of what long-term means? Is it 50 years from now?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: We are in a very active discussion about that internally, and we're in an active discussion on that with the Hill. And Congress has a voice in this process, as well, and I've seen a dozen different visions of what a long-term goal might be in Congress. We want to take the next 18 months and see if we can find common ground on that.
Q You mentioned 2050, and that the Prime Minister of Japan that set out the plan that cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by that date. So is this something that -- you mentioned it was plausible -- that the President supports?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Again, I don't want to prejudge the outcome of the next 18 months, because also this is an area of particular sensitivity for the major emerging economies -- like China, India and Brazil. We want to take the time to work through the plausibility of this -- is it reasonably ambitious, and whether it fits within their own vision or their own national future. That's not something you plop in front of them, and say, will you agree to this tomorrow? They are big, sovereign countries, just like we are, and we should respect their bigness and we should respect their sovereignty.
Q How did the -- proposed by President Bush today fit in with Bali? Is it meant to supplement, to reinforce Bali or to replace it?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: It will run in parallel with and reinforce Bali.
Q You've mentioned a couple of times the "strengthening science." What, specifically, do you mean by that? And does the administration now accept that there really isn't a scientific debate about the human impact on global warming?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Well, I want to disagree with the predicate of your question. In 2001, the President made clear, after commissioning a report from the National Academy of Sciences, that the earth is warming and humans are largely -- are a large part of the problem, and he's been consistent about that since the beginning. That is still misinterpreted broadly, so I need to start there.
Since 2001, the IPCC, which is this international panel that looks at all the scientific literature, has a higher level of confidence of the long-term temperature trend, and they have a higher level of confidence that there is a significant human contribution to that. So that has strengthened.
We also have much better data on observed impacts, such as ice melt on land masses that can lead to sea level rise. That is occurring faster than we thought in 2001. There's then still a lot of work underway about sort of long-term projected impacts, but that is also giving us a sense of what some of those could look like. So this is a step. We've taken a step forward from 2001. We have more information, and we're acting on that information.
We still have a lot of science to do. We spend almost $2 billion a year on science, and none of the scientists would say we're done yet. So there's still many questions that we're working on, especially regional impacts, how temperature trends really affect things in Chicago or in South America. There's a lot of work being done there yet, and the scientists are busy about it.
Q But is it safe to assume that as the Europeans ratchet down their cap that more investment, more capital will go into actual reductions there?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: They're in the process of designing the next phase of their system, and they are now actually -- it's a laboratory confronting some of the really problematic projects that took place under the first round of their cap and trade system. And I would note, by the way, their cap and trade system is limited to power production and large industry. They don't have mandatory requirements on cars, they don't have mandatory requirements on their farmers, they don't have mandatory requirements on people in their buildings.
So in the narrow cap and trade system that they do have, they've seen a lot of money, a lot of euros go overseas to projects that most would agree are somewhat questionable. Some of them work. So we'll have some that work, some that don't work.
Looks like we're getting --
Q Can I follow on Kelly's question for a second? Are you familiar with the comments that Michael Griffin, NASA's administrator made to NPR, "I'm not sure that it's fair to say" -- he says global warming exists, but, "I'm not sure it's fair to say that it's a problem we must wrestle with." Does that reflect the general feelings of the Bush administration?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: I think the President has made clear his general feelings for himself and the administration. And it goes all the way back to 2001. This is a serious issue, it deserves a sensible response, and -- just look at his speech today, but also look at the State of the Union.
Q Are you familiar with those comments?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: I read about them today just as you did.
Q What do you make of it?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: The President is committed to this issue, he's committed to a sensible response, and he's committed to doing it in a way that brings advanced energies globally to lift people out of poverty. We get lots of benefits in terms of climate, lots of benefits in terms of health, lots of benefits in terms of economic prosperity. So we're dedicated to action. And in fact, I think the conversation has really moved beyond a statement of the problem, and we're really, really focused now, finally, on the broad effort on solutions. And so that's where we'll take things.
Q I have one more --
Q May I follow --
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: John.
Q If the United States will not accept mandatory emissions cuts without developing nations like China and India signing on, what new specifics are the United States -- is the United States prepared to offer to try to make that happen?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Again, the premise of your question is off. The President, in his State of the Union address -- just to give one example -- has called for a mandatory program to replace 20 percent of our gasoline usage with alternative fuels and through vehicle fuel efficiency. So we do believe that mandatory approaches can work if you design them well to achieve a particular objective.
Now, by the way, that is stated in terms of alternative fuels, but it's going to give us a huge greenhouse gas reduction. There's this fixation on a one-size-fits-all approach. The reality -- and I don't care what country you're in, whether you're in the United States or Canada or the U.K. or Japan -- the reality is, every country, when you see what they're actually doing, is pursuing a portfolio of strategies: mandates, incentives, technology advancement, industry leadership. We're going to continue to do that. So thank you all very much.
MR. SNOW: And if you have further questions on this, I'll refer you back to Jim and you can ask other stuff.
Okay, other questions. Goyal.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, I wanted to ask this in relation. As far as India-U.S. civil nuclear energy agreement is concerned, U.S. Ambassador Mulford in Delhi said there are some hurdles. And also a lot of talks have been going on. And with this agreement India is supposed to have clean energy, and I agree that everyone should move forward. What I'm asking you is what's going on, because two congressmen have written a letter to the Prime Minister of India that two Indians were arrested here in connection with some sort of supplying some nuclear technology to India. And also, what I'm asking you is, is this something -- this has to do with this agreement, or when next week the Prime Minister of India meets with President Bush at the G8, you think they will come up with this final agreement?
MR. SNOW: I can't give you a sense on the final timing, but the government is clearly committed to it. We understand that the civil nuclear agreement not only is important, but it's also a template for dealing with other countries. One of the things we think is important for people to recognize -- and Jim was just talking about this in the context of technological improvement -- is you've got nuclear power, which is clean, you don't have greenhouse emissions. It offers an opportunity to give people the prospect of economic growth without the kind of pollution that has caused environmental concern around the globe.
So, look, anytime you have an agreement this big and this ambitious, you're going to run into some technical issues that make progress a little more halting than you'd like it to be. But we're still committed to its success.
Q Can I follow on the immigration. As far as the immigration reforms -- has been committed to go through this immigration bill, now or never, like Washington Post and others are saying. My question on immigration is that if President is in touch with some of the advocates of immigration, because --
MR. SNOW: He's in touch with who?
Q Immigration advocates like lawyers -- immigration lawyers are saying that there are too harsh conditions, including the payment, how they will pay, these illegal immigrants. And there is a lot of anti-immigrant lobbying in the media. So how we can overcome this --
MR. SNOW: Well, two things here. Number one, if you take a look at the way this bill has been put together, you've got Democrats and Republicans have spent a long time looking at it, and you're talking about people -- among other conditions, they have to maintain continuous employment. And so we do not believe that a $1,000 fine at the front is unreasonable. Many people pay far more than that to get snuck into the United States -- or have in the past.
And secondly, that a $4,000 fine plus application fees is unreasonable -- keep in mind, applications fees are larger than that anyway, Goyal. As for the second, you've made sort of a large characterization about people's views and I'm just not going to get into that. That's too non-specific, and also, frankly, too incendiary.
One of the things we hope to do in this immigration debate is lower the temperature and get people to talk about basic principles. You've got to acknowledge, A, that there's a problem; B, a lot of folks are concerned especially about the presence of 12 million illegals, so what do you do about it? And we've articulated principles that we think can really command a lot of support among Democrats and Republicans and the public at large.
Number one, take care of the border, get it secure. Number two, make sure that you restore respect for the rule of law, and you do that in a whole series of ways, including, as I just mentioned, saying to those who came here illegally, the first thing you've got to do is admit you broke the law. Even though the 1986 legislation had no penalty for crossing illegally, you pay a thousand dollar fine up front. And then there are a whole series of other conversations of how you follow.
Third, citizenship. It's not something where you get a coupon that says, well, welcome to America, you're a citizen now. But, instead, it's something that's earned through good behavior and constructive contributions to American society, and embracing the culture and the language.
So all those I think are areas around which people can rally. And that also transforms the nature of the debate into one that's very practical: how do you get the job done? And so we continue to look forward to working with folks and we understand that it's an area that arouses a lot of passions. But on the other hand, once people have a chance to step back and look at these first principles and look at the overall goals, we feel that we can create an atmosphere where we're going to get some progress and constructive action.
Q Tony, Judge Walton today decided that he will release the letters that were written in the Libby case. When --
MR. SNOW: These are the letters -- by background -- on behalf of Scooter Libby, these are -- yes.
Q On behalf of him and those who weighed in, saying that he shouldn't have a stiff sentence. When they are released, will we find out that the President and Vice President wrote letters?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think you'll just have to wait and see. I actually do not know who wrote letters, but we'll all have an opportunity to see them.
Q You don't know whether the President --
MR. SNOW: No, no, I really don't.
Q How will the sentencing affect the White House's consideration of a pardon?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you continue to try to get us to discuss what, even at this late juncture, even though you've got sentencing coming up, is an ongoing legal concern and I don't have comment and can't.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Syndicated columnist and university professor Walter Williams has noted that the United States successfully deterred a nuclear attack for decades during the Cold War by promising a massive nuclear retaliation for an attack on the United States, as was done by President Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis. And my question: Does President Bush have the same commitment if Iran or any other nation unleashes a nuclear 9/11 on us?
MR. SNOW: I don't know if you missed it, but we're spending a lot of time working on preventing Iran from having that capability. It is the subject of ongoing conversations in front of the United Nations Security Council. The International Atomic Energy Agency is in the game, as well. So it is our aspiration to make sure that that does not become a problem we have to deal with.
Q My question was --
MR. SNOW: I know, but your question is based on a hypothetical, and I'm not accepting the hypothesis.
Q Okay. In Georgia, the President declared those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something that they don't like. But Chairman Bilbray, a Republican of California, said amnesty for 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens -- immigrants isn't a narrow slice, Mr. President, it's the whole darn pie. And my question --
MR. SNOW: Well, and again, I think --
Q And my question --
MR. SNOW: Oh, I'm sorry.
Q What is the President's response to this and to Republican -- another Republican, Congressman Bill Sali, who said, "I can safely say that the number one issue with my constituents is immigration, which is no small slice of pie"?
MR. SNOW: Yes, and on the other hand -- let's take a look at two things. There's no amnesty here. Right now a lot of times "amnesty" is used as shorthand for saying, we don't like the bill. Let me put it this way, Les. If you look up the dictionary definition of amnesty, it means total forgiveness of a crime. What you have here is a crime for which there was no punishment originally. Now what we're saying is everybody who came across the border, number one, you pay a thousand dollar fine. Number two, you are on permanent probation. If you break the law, you're deported. If you do not maintain a job, you are deported. If you do not learn the English language, you're deported. If you do not subject yourself to a criminal background check, you're deported. If you do not have an ID that allows us to trace who you are, where you are, for whom you work, you are deported.
In other words it sets up a very strong series of tests, A, for people who want to remain on American soil. And then if you wish to become a citizen, you have to start with the $4,000 fine, you have to start with a $1,500 application fee. There's also conversation about paying back taxes.
Now, I defy you to say that that is something that simply says --
Q You define me?
MR. SNOW: No, I defy you -- you're indefinable. (Laughter.) But the fact is, Les, that's not amnesty. As a matter of fact, what it is, is the most strenuous and arduous test of people's willingness to step forward, to demonstrate good behavior, and to demonstrate an embrace of the culture in the history of the United States of America. These are people who would not be able to have access to the welfare system. These are people who must contribute, who must be paying taxes, who must be having a constructive contribution to the United States of America over an extended period of time, having paid fines that were not in the law when they came here, and will be, in fact, forced to do what one would expect to be good guests.
Q What percentage of the illegal aliens do you think are going to go through all of that?
MR. SNOW: Well, the percentage --
Q If they were illegal to begin with, what percentage do you think are really going to go in for all of that?
MR. SNOW: All of them are going to have to, Les. That's what the law says.
Q You don't estimate how many will.
MR. SNOW: What you estimate is that you're putting together a system where they're all going to have to. And furthermore, you create mechanisms where those who are going to try to harbor them and those who are going to try to employ them illegally are now subject to fines. The original fine for somebody who knowingly hired an illegal was $250. Now we are talking about fines depending on the piece -- the sort of amendment under discussion that range from as high -- the high level of $25,000 to $75,000 per employee. In other words, it breaks the company.
So these are serious sanctions, and therefore very serious incentives for people not to be harboring folks.
Q Thank you.
Q Tony, we heard just now about the efforts on climate change dating back to '01 in this administration. Why did the topic not rate a State of the Union message until this year?
MR. SNOW: Well, the fact is, whether it rates a State of the Union message, most of the State of the Union messages have been targeted toward significant themes, many of them, quite understandably, about the war on terror. On the other hand, if you take a look at administration policy, it has been aggressive. And you take a look, as Jim was pointing out, carbon dioxide intensity or greenhouse emission intensity has gone down. We've got a better record than the European Union.
Now, the fact is that this has been a very aggressive administration, in terms of financing the science, in terms of looking at alternatives, and in terms of taking the lead when it comes to climate change science and climate change activities, and I invite you all to take a look at the record in totality, because we continue to hear, well, when is the President going to admit that climate change plays a role? We've read the quote out to you many times from June of 2001. So it has, in fact, been a central precept of administration environmental policy from the get-go.
Q Does it remain a fundamental difference, though, the U.S. versus Europe on technology versus regulation?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. And that's why -- what Jim was talking about is you've got a statement that will be put together at the G8, it's more than 20 pages. And Angela Merkel is the Chairman of the EU, obviously is chairing this and she's got a keen interest in it. Tony Blair and the President have talked about this. And what you have to be able to do is to craft approaches that are going to allow nations to use their own best practices to put together the resources necessary to clean the air, clean the environment, and at the same time, keep their economies growing.
So this is in no way inconsistent with the general trend and tenor of the conversations. Look, it's going to be an interesting, but I think a very constructive debate. I know there's a tendency to look at this as kind of a showdown, and I think that would be a mistake in perception.
Q To quickly follow on a couple questions that came up -- this sounds like the message today is this meeting next week is fine, but it's not the time for making final decisions; we need to have some big meetings.
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. What it says is we have been having a series of big meetings and what you have to do is prepare for life after Kyoto. This is -- you've got the Kyoto Accord where a number of nations say that they're going to stay under Kyoto until 2012. Well, you're going to have to start thinking toward the future. What the President is saying is, let's not wait until the last minute, let's start working on ways forward. There are other nations that have not met their Kyoto targets and have made it clear that they're never going to meet their Kyoto targets, so what do you do that -- how do you put together a policy that, in fact, is something that is going to be politically successful in those countries, economically successful and environmentally successful?
This is a very practical exercise in setting ambitious goals and also trying to bring to bear the technology to do it. In addition, it provides a way to bring on board India, China, developing countries that were not part of it before and, in fact, are increasingly contributors to the problem of carbon emissions and global warming. And as a result, if you can come up with that, that's a very significant advance in the overall global strategy for having a cleaner environment.
Q Thank you. Tony, why is the President inviting Putin to Kennebunkport, rather than Crawford? And will Bush 41 talk with Putin about progress between these two countries? What is his relationship with Putin?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, his relationship is personally good, it is honest, and they understand that the countries have differences. The answer to your first question is, if somebody asked you, Sarah, where would you rather be in July of 2007, Crawford or Kennebunkport -- (laughter.) All right?
Q Devastating answer. (Laughter.)
Q There's some concern that we're reviving the Cold War by putting missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland. And what is the rationale really of putting missiles in at that point --
MR. SNOW: I'm glad you asked the question, because it's the opposite of a revival of the Cold War. The Cold War was a face-off of weaponry where you had the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, where the United States and NATO are facing off against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and there was this notion that you had the overwhelming force of arms, and therefore, the prospect of a nuclear exchange was too horrible to contemplate.
This is, in fact, a way of trying to -- what we're trying to do is to take a look at an emerging world where you do have the prospect of rogue nations with nuclear weapons, and the ability to deliver them. How do you protect your allies? This is -- this is in the nature of defensive systems designed to protect soil.
Q You mean Poland and the Czech Republic would be attacked?
MR. SNOW: It's possible. Absolutely. And the fact is, you have the -- you have the prospect of nations within a certain amount -- if you take a look at the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and as various nations are approaching them, rogue nations, you have the ability to hit a wide swath as far away as London. So, yes, it is a possibility. And so you hold that as an opportunity. It is not -- this is not designed as an act of aggression, but, in fact, defense, and those are the kinds of conversations we've been having with the Russians, and we'll continue to.
Q A moment ago, you were comparing the United States' voluntary attempts to reduce the growth rate in greenhouse gases, versus Europeans' mandatory attempts to reduce actual numbers of greenhouse gases. Is this essentially an attempt to replace the Kyoto talks with what happens after 2012?
MR. SNOW: No, I think this is an attempt to come up with a follow on to Kyoto, because you still have to figure out what happens after 2012 when Kyoto ceases to be in effect.
Q But there are discussions right now about the post-2012 process --
MR. SNOW: Yes, and this is part of the contribution of that.
Q Tony, the Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, has written a couple of letters to President Bush, I don't know if you're aware of them, but he's asking for personal assurances from the President that the National Guard troops, before they get deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, the equipment be there and that the training be adequate before they're sent off.
MR. SNOW: Okay. I'm not aware of the Governor's letter, but we have always made it clear that nobody goes into combat without sufficient training and equipment, period.
Now, a lot of that can be done in theater. It quite often is. But the most important reassurance, not only the forces, but their families need to know, is that if and when they go into combat, they will have the equipment they need, and they will have the training they need.
Q What's the message for the President of Iraq today?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?
Q What's the message for President Talabani?
MR. SNOW: It's -- the message. By the way, what time is it?
MS. LAWRIMORE: It's 12:54 p.m.
MR. SNOW: We need to find out what -- okay, I just want to make sure I don't miss the meeting. It's not really a message. It's a follow on yesterday to the meeting with the Council of Presidents. Keep in mind, the Council of Presidents includes key Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders. President Talabani is the President of the Council of Presidents, and it is important to continue on the conversations we had yesterday about the importance of continued progress on the political front, things like oil, the oil law, which is obviously front of mind for many people, but also continuing progress on de-Baathification, constitutional reform, provincial elections and that sort of thing.
There will also be conversations about security, the fears of sectarian -- or the importance of trying to be vigilant about the possibility of sectarian strife and so on.
It's not significantly different from what we had yesterday in the SVTS, but as we mentioned, President Talabani has been in this country for medical treatment; he wasn't there yesterday. So we continue the conversation with him today, and then in the future there will be continued meetings -- the President will continue to have one on ones with the Prime Minister, but also joint meetings with the Prime Minister and the three members of the Council of Presidents.
Q Thanks, Tony.
MR. SNOW: Thank you. END 12:55 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 30, 2007
President Bush Announces Five-Year, $30 Billion HIV/AIDS Plan Rose Garden 1:14 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Welcome to the Rose Garden. Today, I'm joined by some very determined people who are battling one of the worst epidemics of modern times: the spread of HIV/AIDS.
I want to thank you all for being here. I'm honored to be in your presence, and I want to thank others who are joining us in this important cause, as well, starting with Ambassador Mark Dybul, who is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. He runs our PEPFAR initiative. Mark, thank you for being here, as well as Rajat Gupta, who is the Chairman of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Rajat, we're proud you're here.
He's told me something very interesting. Actually, he and I attended the same graduate school, and he said, "It's important for people who have been successful in the business world to contribute something back to society." And Rajat, thank you for that spirit, and thank you for that compassion and concern.
Secretary Mike Leavitt is with us, Department of Health and Human Services; Ambassador John Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State. I'm about to make an important initiative. I appreciate my -- members of my administration for joining us to hear this initiative.
The U.S. and our citizens have tackled HIV/AIDS aggressively. Many HIV-positive Americans are able to lead productive lives. The story has been quite different elsewhere, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
When I took office, an HIV diagnosis in Africa's poorest communities was usually a death sentence. Parents watched their babies die needlessly because local clinics lacked effective treatments. The story of a mother of Kenya affected me deeply when she couldn't afford drugs, except for one person in her family. So she forgave [sic] her own treatment to save her son.
Despairing families who had lost everything to AIDS started to believe that they had been cursed by the Almighty God. This modern-day plague robbed Africa and other countries of the hope of progress, and threatened to push many communities toward chaos.
The United States has responded vigorously to this crisis. In 2003, I asked Congress to approve an emergency plan for AIDS relief. Our nation pledged $15 billion over five years for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in many of the poorest nations on Earth. In the years since, thanks to the support of the United States Congress and the American people, our country has met this pledge. This level of assistance is unprecedented, and the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history.
This investment has yielded the best possible return: saved lives. To date, the emergency plan has supported treatment for 1.1 million people infected with HIV. This is a promising start, yet without further action, the legislation that funded this emergency plan is set to expire in 2008. Today I ask Congress to demonstrate America's continuing commitment to fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS by reauthorizing this legislation now. I ask Congress to double our initial commitment and approve an additional $30 billion for HIV/AIDS prevention, for care, and for treatment over the next five years.
This money will be spent wisely through the establishment of partnership compacts with host nations. These compacts would ensure that U.S. funds support programs that have the greatest possible impact and are sustainable for the future. America will work with governments, the private sector, and faith- and community-based organizations around the world to meet measurable goals: to support treatment for nearly 2.5 million people, to prevent more than 12 million new infections, and to support care for 12 million people, including more than 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.
To help assess the progress we have made to date, Laura, the First Lady, is going to go to Africa next month. She's going to meet with community leaders and visit with participants in HIV/AIDS programs during her trip to Zambia, Senegal, Mali, and Mozambique. And she's going to come back with her findings. I really thank her for her concern about HIV/AIDS. She and I share a passion. We believe strongly that to whom much is given, much is required. Much has been given to the United States of America. Therefore, I believe strongly, as does she, that much is required of us in helping solve this problem.
The statistics and dollar amounts I've cited in the fight against HIV/AIDS are significant. But the scale of this effort is not measured in numbers. This is really a story of the human spirit and the goodness of human hearts. Once again, the generosity of the American people is one of the great untold stories of our time. Our citizens are offering comfort to millions who suffer, and restoring hope to those who feel forsaken.
You know, one good example of this good work is supported by -- that the U.S. supports is called the Coptic Hope Center in Nairobi, Kenya. Three years ago, the center had a staff of four people, and resources to treat no more than five HIV/AIDS patients a day. Today, the staff consists of 40 people and 10 volunteers who provide care and treatment services to over 6,000 people. I want to thank the Director of the Hope Center, Bishop Paul, who's with us today. I want to thank you for being here. I want to thank you for your leadership and for your care for your fellow human beings.
Dr. Bill Pape is with us, as well. Dr. Pape is an expert on infectious diseases and founded in Haiti a leading HIV treatment program, which is a major PEPFAR partner. Dr. Pape has shown that even in the most difficult circumstances, dedicated and caring people can make great progress in fighting HIV/AIDS. We're sure proud you're here, doc. Thanks for coming.
Also with us is Kunene Tantoh. Kunene is HIV-positive. She coordinates a mentoring program supported by U.S. funds for other mothers with HIV in Cape Town, South Africa. Kunene is proof that people with HIV can live productive lives and make a significant difference in the lives of others. Kunene, I want to thank you for joining us. Thank you for bringing Baron. Baron is four years old, and he's letting us know. (Laughter.) We appreciate you all coming. Thank you for the example you have set.
Similar success stories are playing out all across the African continent where victims of HIV/AIDS are finding new reservoirs of strength and support. Villages in Africa now talk of the Lazarus effect, dying communities being brought back to life, thanks to the compassion of the American people. This is the impact that has made our emergency plan and the modern-day good Samaritans who are implementing it so effective. It's important that we continue the work we have begun.
I'm honored that you were here today. I'm honored to be representing a nation that cares deeply about the suffering of others. I look forward to working with Congress on this great and noble effort.
May God bless you all. May God continue to bless the United States. END 1:22 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 30, 2007
President Bush Nominates Robert Zoellick As President Of The World Bank The Roosevelt Room 11:02 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I thank Secretary of Treasury Paulson for joining us today. I'm pleased to announce that I will nominate Bob Zoellick to be the 11th President of the World Bank.
Bob Zoellick has had a long and distinguished career in diplomacy and development economics. It has prepared him well for this new assignment. He is a committed internationalist. He has earned the trust and support of leaders from every region of the world. He is deeply devoted to the mission of the World Bank. He wants to help struggling nations defeat poverty, to grow their economies, and offer their people the hope of a better life. Bob Zoellick is deeply committed to this cause.
Since the end of the second world war, the advance of trade and technology has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Some call this globalization; I call it the triumph of human liberty, stretching across national borders. Every day the expansion of trade creates tremendous new opportunities for people. Unfortunately, too many people are shut out from these opportunities, especially the nearly 1 billion men, women and children who live on less than $1 a day. Bob Zoellick understands that there are about 1 billion men, women and children who live on less than $1 a day, and he's committed to doing something about it.
The United States has a moral and national interest in helping poor and struggling countries transform themselves into free and hopeful societies. The job of the World Bank is to help reduce poverty and raise living standards in the poorest nations. The Bank does this by helping these nations strengthen good government, develop sound financial markets, uphold property rights and combat corruption.
The United States is the Bank's largest donor, and the reason we are is because we believe that it is essential to help developing nations build growing economies that will provide jobs and opportunities for all their citizens.
Bob Zoellick brings a wealth of experience and energy to this task. Over the past three decades he's held important posts in government, business and higher education. And in these posts he has worked on issues ranging from German unification, Latin American debt relief, to the transition of post-Soviet economies. For the past six years -- or most of the past six years, he has served as a member of my Cabinet. As the United States Trade Representative, he helped bring China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization, launched the Doha Round of trade talks at the WTO, and significantly increased the number of U.S. free trade agreements.
Bob has had a strong voice for Africa. He's helped implement the African Growth and Opportunity Act that has increased America's trade with that continent. He has served on the board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an initiative designed to change the way we deliver foreign aid. In 2005, I asked Bob to serve as the Deputy Secretary of State. In that role, he managed a global staff of 57,000 people, he played a leading role in our engagement with China, and he traveled frequently to Darfur and Southern Sudan to help find a path for peace. Most recently, he has been vice chairman international at Goldman Sachs. In short, it would probably be easier to list all the jobs Bob hasn't had.
This man is eminently qualified, and when he takes his place at the World Bank he will replace another able public servant, Paul Wolfowitz. Paul is a man of character and integrity. Under his leadership, the World Bank increased its support for the world's poorest countries to a record $9.5 billion in 2006. Half of this money goes to sub-Saharan Africa. It's hope to some of the poorest folks. As Paul has helped steer more resources to these countries, he has instituted reforms designed to make sure that these resources are used wisely and achieve good results.
Paul took control over the World Bank at a critical moment. He's taken many steps to ensure that the Bank can meet the needs of developing nations in this new century. These steps include strengthening the Bank's role in combating malaria. The steps include establishing a rapid response in fragile states policy, to respond more quickly to nations recovering from crisis or war. These steps include the Clean Energy Investment Framework, a Bank initiative designed to help bring cleaner and more efficient technologies to developing countries.
In these and many other ways, Paul Wolfowitz has made the World Bank a more effective partner for development. I thank him for his dedication to the poor and his devotion to the good work of the World Bank.
Bob Zoellick is the right man to succeed Paul in this vital work. He's a leader who motivates employees. He builds constituent support, and focuses on achieving goals. I'm pleased that he has, once again, agreed to serve our country.
AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: Thank you, Mr. President, for the confidence you've always placed in me, and for the strong support you've continually offered. Your vision of public service is to strive for great goals, and with your help, I'll do my best. I also want to thank Secretary Paulson. The United States is most fortunate to have him as Secretary of the Treasury.
The World Bank is one of the cornerstones of the architecture designed by the founders of the international marketplace and system of security after World War II. The Bank is just as important today as it was then, although in different ways, because circumstances have changed much. The World Bank has a vital mission to overcome poverty and despair through sustainable growth and opportunity. Parents everywhere want better lives and prospects for their children.
In 2001, with the encouragement of the United States, the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals. To help achieve these targets, the World Bank needs to work in concert with a wide-ranging network of other multilateral institutions, national governments, private businesses, foundations, non-governmental organizations, as well as civil society groups. We need to approach this task with humility and creative minds, because the challenges have thwarted good intentions and efforts in the past.
In recent years, some developing countries have achieved access to finance and boost growth to impressive levels. But too many lands, particularly in Africa, are denied opportunity because of disease, weak health care and child mortality, hunger and poor agricultural infrastructure, lack of good schools, discrimination against girls and women, unsound governance and corruption, the want of property rights and the rule of law, and endangered environment, and impediments to business, investment, economic liberty, entrepreneurs, trade, and a thriving free market economy.
These people and places need hope and help and partners. Even developing countries moving up the ladder with higher growth rates still have many poor citizens and staggering problems. They need support, too. Fortunately, there's a new generation of leaders in many developing countries that is assuming responsibility for showing that poverty can be surmounted.
This work, the purpose of the World Bank, is not about charity. The United States has been a strong supporter of the World Bank since its inception. The Bank's reliance on markets, investments, sound policies, good governance and partnerships for self-help are in keeping with the values that Americans esteem. The Bank is about working with men and women around the globe, no matter what their burdens or birth, to have the opportunity to achieve their potential and contribute to the well-being of others in their environment.
The World Bank has passed through a difficult time for all involved. There are frustrations, anxieties, and tensions about the past that could inhibit the future. This is understandable, but not without remedy. We need to put yesterday's discord behind us and to focus on the future together. I believe that the World Bank's best days are still to come.
I look forward to working with the World Bank team, professionals whose overriding goal is to help others. I want to hear their ideas on how to do so. I plan to meet soon with contributors and borrowers and many partners of the World Bank to listen to their perspectives on how the World Bank can best fulfill its purpose. If the board and members of the Bank then concur with this nomination, it will be my aim to work closely with and learn from the institution's dedicated and talented staff. Together, we can consult closely with the Bank's many stakeholders and partners to set a course to advance its missions.
It would be an honor to help lead this key institution and to work with the many fine professionals from all over the world who are dedicated to overcoming poverty and creating opportunity.
I would like to thank the U.S. Congress, the people of America, and the governments and peoples of other contributing countries for their generous support of this valuable institution. And I'd like most of all to thank the President, again, for offering this opportunity to lead the World Bank as a steward of development, growth and hope.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. END 11:11 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 29, 2007
President Bush Discusses Genocide in Darfur, Implements Sanctions Diplomatic Reception Room, 8:01 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder, and rape of innocent civilians. My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide. The world has a responsibility to help put an end to it.
Last month I announced that the United States was prepared to take new steps if the government of Sudan did not allow the full deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force; if the government did not begin living up to its many commitments, that the United States would act. I made clear that the time for promises was over, and that President Bashir had to do something to end the suffering.
I held off implementing these steps because the United Nations believed that President Bashir could meet his obligations to stop the killing, and would meet his obligations to stop the killing. Unfortunately, he hasn't met those obligations. President Bashir's actions over the past few weeks follow a long pattern of promising cooperation while finding new methods for obstruction.
One day after I spoke, the military bombed a meeting of rebel commanders designed to discuss a possible peace deal with the government. In following weeks, he used his army and government-sponsored militias to attack rebels and civilians in South Darfur. He's taken no steps to disarm these militias in the year since the Darfur peace agreement was signed. Senior officials continue to oppose the deployment of the U.N. peacekeeping force.
The result is that the dire security situation on the ground in Darfur has not changed. And so today, at my instruction, the United States has taken the steps I announced in April. First, the Department of Treasury is tightening U.S. economic sanctions on Sudan. With this new effort, the United States will more aggressively enforce existing sanctions against Sudan's government.
As part of this effort, the Treasury Department will add 30 companies owned or controlled by the government of Sudan to its list of Specially Designated Nationals. We're also adding an additional company to the list, a company that has been transporting weapons to the Sudanese government and militia forces in Darfur. All these companies are now barred from the U.S. financial system. It is a crime for American companies and individuals to knowingly do business with them.
Second, we're targeting sanctions against individuals responsible for violence. These sanctions will isolate these persons by cutting them off from the U.S. financial system, barring them from doing business with any American citizen or company, and calling the world's attention to their crimes.
Third, I'm directing the Secretary of State to consult with the United Kingdom and other allies on a new United Nations Security Council resolution. This resolution will apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan, against individuals found to be violating human rights or obstructing the peace process. It will impose an expanded embargo on arms sales to the government of Sudan. It will prohibit the Sudanese government from conducting any offensive military flights over Darfur. It will strengthen our ability to monitor and report any violations.
At the same time, we will continue to push for U.N. support, including funding for the African Union peacekeepers who remain the only force in Darfur that is protecting the people. We will continue to work for the deployment of a larger hybrid force of AU and U.N. peacekeeping troops. We will continue to support the diplomacy of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. We will continue to insist on the full implementation of the Darfur peace agreement. We will continue to promote a broadly supported and inclusive political settlement that is the only long-term solution to the crisis in Darfur.
America's commitment is clear. Since this conflict began we have provided more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance for Darfur. We are the world's largest single donor to the people of Darfur. We're working for the day when the families of this troubled region are allowed to return safely to their homes and rebuild their lives in peace.
The people of Darfur are crying out for help, and they deserve it. I urge the United Nations Security Council, the African Union, and all members of the international community to reject any efforts to obstruct implementation of the agreements that would bring peace to Darfur and Sudan.
I call on President Bashir to stop his obstruction, and to allow the peacekeepers in, and to end the campaign of violence that continues to target innocent men, women and children. And I promise this to the people of Darfur: The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world.
Thank you very much. END 8:07 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 29, 2007
President Bush Discusses Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Glynco, Georgia Tom Steed Building, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Glynco, Georgia 11:€31 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Please be seated -- unless, of course, you don't have a chair. Thanks for having me. I'm honored to be here at the headquarters of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
I don't know whether you realize this, or not, but the government originally planned to open this center inside the Capital Beltway. No one looks very sad that they didn't open it inside the Capital Beltway. (Laughter.) It's a spectacular place to have this center. It is a glorious place to live. I'm honored to be in your presence. Thanks for letting me come by and share some thoughts with you.
I want to thank Director Patrick for her strong leadership and her kind introduction. I appreciate very much the tour I have just taken. A lot of our fellow citizens probably don't know what goes on here, but this is a center full of smart, capable instructors who are helping to train men and women who've volunteered to serve our country on the front lines of protecting the homeland. I am grateful to be in your midst. I thank those of you who work here; I thank those of you who are being trained here; and I thank your families, as well.
We have a mission, a vital mission, and that's to protect our country. And you all are on the front lines of that protection. And it gives me great confidence when I meet you to tell the American people there's a lot of decent souls doing everything they can to provide security for the American people. So, thanks.
I appreciate the folks at FLETC that I met that are working the border and helping train people to secure this border of ours. And I've come today not only to thank you, but to talk about immigration. Immigration is a vital issue facing this country. And the fundamental question is, will elected officials have the courage necessary to put a comprehensive immigration plan in place that makes it more likely we can enforce our border and, at the same time, uphold the great traditions of -- immigrant traditions of the United States of America. And that's what I want to discuss with you.
Before I do, I do want to introduce some people. I want to introduce Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez -- I appreciate you coming, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.) Carlos wasn't born here, see. He was born in another country -- Cuba. And now he sits in the Cabinet of the President of the United States. There's something great about a country that welcomes people, people who uphold our laws and realize the great blessings of America.
With us, as well, is Senator Mel Martinez. He wasn't born in America. He's a Senator from Florida. He was born in Cuba. I don't know if you know his story, but his mother and father put him on an airplane to come to the United States of America, to be raised by total strangers because they didn't want their son to grow up under a tyrant named Fidel Castro. He used to sit in the Cabinet of the President of the United States; now he sits in the United States Senate. What a wonderful country it is, where people can come to live in a country based upon liberty, and realize the great blessings of our country.
And I want to mention those two men because, to me, they represent what the immigration debate is all about: Will we be a welcoming place, a place of law, that renews our spirit by giving people a chance to succeed?
So, Senator, thank you for coming, as well. (Applause.)
I saved the other two traveling with me because they were born here -- starting with the United States Senator from Georgia, a south Georgian named Saxby Chambliss, one of the finest senators in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
Finally, I asked Secretary Mike Chertoff to leave the bench to become the Director of the Department of Homeland Security. It's a big job. It's a job that requires organizing various agencies under one task, and that's to provide protection to the American people. Secretary Chertoff is doing a fine job. I'm glad he's joined us today. Thanks for coming, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.)
I thank all the state and local officials here who have joined us. I appreciate you taking time to come over and say hello. I thank the citizens from this part of the world who have joined us, as well. Thanks for supporting this good institution. I know you know this, but FLETC provides an important role for this country of ours, and I thank you for supporting it.
Before I talk about immigration, I do want to offer condolences for Agent Robert Smith. He died last week from injuries in a helicopter crash. He was a Customs and Border Protection agent. He reminds us on a regular basis that those who are on the front line of protecting the country take danger as a part of their job. And, therefore, we offer our deepest condolences for Robert Smith's family and his friends, and we ask for God's blessings on them.
Our nation depends on our federal agents to enforce our immigration laws at the border and across the country. You've got a big job to do; we're counting on you to enforce those laws. And when you graduate from FLETC, you're going to be an important part of that role. That's why you're here; it's to upgrade your skills so you have the capacity to do the job the country expects you to do. You're going to safeguard our ports of entry, you'll investigate workplace immigration violations, and you'll arrest those breaking the law. We are a nation of laws, and we expect people to keep the laws. And if they break the laws, there will be a consequence.
This administration of mine is committed to ensuring that our federal agents have the resources you need to carry out your responsibilities. For some of the older hands here -- I'm not going to pick you out of the crowd -- I'm sure you will tell some of the younger folks that things have changed significantly over the past years. One way to measure how things have changed is look at the budget. We've doubled the funding for border security since I took office. We now spend $10 billion a year to protect this border. One commitment to the American people that we're serious about helping you do your job is to spend more money on the job. It's a way to measure whether or not our -- we're meeting our words with commitment. And we are.
We've used additional money. People say, what are you spending it on? Well, we're expanding the number of Border Patrol agents from about 9,000 to 13,000, and by the end of -- we have expanded it -- and by the end of 2008, we're going to have 18,000 agents. We will have more than doubled the Border Patrol in a relatively quick period of time. We believe the more manpower is on the border, the more likely it is we'll be able to enforce the border, like the American people expect us to do.
We're investing in new technology, we're strengthening infrastructure. In other words, we've taken our duty seriously to protect the border of the United States of America. As a matter of fact, we take it so seriously that I asked the governors to put some National Guard troops down there until our Border Patrol agents got trained.
And we're beginning to see some results. In this immigration debate, oftentimes people say, well, they're not doing anything to protect the border. Well, that's not -- those folks just simply don't know what's going on. You do. Men and women who wear the uniform understand what's going on. There's a focused, concerted effort to enforce our border.
As a matter of fact, you can tell when the border is better defended because the number of arrests go down. In other words, when people know there's a consequence to trying to sneak across, there's less likely to be people sneaking across. Arrests have gone down by 27 percent over the past year on the southern border. That's a sign of progress. It should say to the American people that we're doing what the people expect us to do.
The new infrastructure is making a difference. The Predators make a difference. The number of Border Patrol agents make a difference. I don't know if any of you spent time out in Artesia, New Mexico, if you're working for the Border Patrol, but I was impressed with boot camp. And they're training these Border Patrol agents to do the hard work that the American people expect them to do.
One of the problems we had prior to the administration addressing the problem was we had what was called -- what happened was called catch and release. You had your Border Patrol working hard, finding somebody trying to sneak into our country illegally, they'd catch him, and then they say, well, you know, look, you need to come back for your hearing; we're going to let you out, but come back for your hearing. Well, the problem was, the people didn't want to come back for their hearing. They generally wanted to go work. And so they would just disappear.
And it discouraged our Border Patrol agents. I talked to too many agents and heard too many stories about people saying, wait a minute, I'm tired of doing my job on the front line of protecting the border only to have the people that I have stopped coming in meld into our society.
And so we worked with Congress and we've got a lot of detention facilities now along the border. We didn't have space before. Now we do have space. And as a result, catch and release has virtually been eliminated. It sends a strong -- getting rid of the catch and release program sends a strong signal to people: If you come to the country, we will find you, and we're going to send you home, so don't try to come in the first place.
In other words, we're working hard to enforce the border. And we're stepping up enforcement inside the country. I see a lot of ICE hats. These are the folks that are charged with making sure that people who knowingly hire somebody who's here illegally pay a price. In other words, part of making sure our country is a rule of law, we've got to have people enforce the law. It's against the law to hire somebody who is here illegally. That's the law. And we're training people here to make sure that they know how to enforce that law. And the message to employers, if you're hiring somebody here that you know is illegal, we're going to -- there's a consequence to be paid. That's what a nation that bases it's system on rule of law does. That's what we'll continue to do.
And ICE is active. Your folks are working hard. ICE investigations have led to more than 3,000 arrests for immigration violations since the beginning of this fiscal year; nearly 600 arrests for criminal violations, including fraud and identity theft; and nearly $30 million in penalties against businesses that have violated the law.
We're working hard to enforce the border. The immigration debate, you hear people say, well, they're not doing anything to enforce the border. They're wrong, and you know they're wrong. And I'm here to thank you for doing -- for working as hard as you can.
And now we've got to build on the progress. It's important for our American citizens to understand that the immigration system is in desperate need for comprehensive reform. And Congress has a historic window to act. The system isn't working. Think about a system that encourages smugglers to stuff people in 18-wheelers, people that want to work, people that want to provide for their families. Think about a system in which there's tremendous document forgery.
You've got a person out here in south Georgia who needs somebody to help them on their farm. The person shows up with documents. They don't know whether they're real, or not. There's a lot of forgery going on. We've got people -- in my judgment, this isn't what America should be about. And yet the system is broken to the point where people are being used as human cargo, being exploited, simply because most want to come and provide for their families; most are willing to do jobs Americans aren't doing. The system needs to be fixed.
I appreciate the Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate, starting with Saxby Chambliss and Mel Martinez, who put politics aside and put courage first to work on a comprehensive bill. It takes a lot of courage in the face of some of the criticism in the political world to do what's right, not what's comfortable. And what's right is to fix this system now before it's too late. And I thank you two for your courage. (Applause.)
And Carlos and Mike Chertoff spent a lot of time sitting with the senators from both political parties. I don't know if you're tired of it, but a lot of Americans are simply tired of this endless political bickering, that we can't work together because it might make somebody else look good. I tried to change the system. It's not working. (Applause.) So I sent the two Secretaries in there with the senators from both parties, and said, okay, why don't we sit down and see if we can't figure something -- something that's good for the country. Each side is going to have to give a little bit. Not everybody is going to get everything they want, but what matters more is fixing the problem now.
And we're making some progress. Most Americans -- many Americans say their primary concern is border security and ensuring that those who violate our laws face consequences. That's what you're hearing out there when you're listening to the debate.
Others say their chief concern is keeping this economy strong. There's a -- a lot of employers need a legal way to fill jobs that Americans simply aren't doing. There's a lot of jobs here in Georgia that require people from -- that are willing to do the work that Americans aren't doing. It's just the way it is.
You talk to your farmer friends, or your nursery friends -- I remember the peach grower, Saxby, that you sent over to the White House. He's there saying to me, you've got to understand something, Mr. President, my business won't go forward unless I have some of these good people that are willing to work long hours in my peach orchard helping me harvest the crop. So a lot of people in this debate are concerned about getting a bill in place that will help keep the economy growing.
Others say their main concern is to bring hardworking, decent people out of the shadows of our society. All of these concerns are part of the same issue, and it's important for American citizens to understand that the legislation now before Congress addresses them all as one. Our view is, is that you can't solve the problem unless you address all aspects of the problem. We've tried to address immigration reform in the past by talking about only one aspect of immigration reform. To make it work, to address the concerns of the American people, there must be a comprehensive approach.
A lot of Americans are skeptical about immigration reform primarily because they don't think the government can fix the problems. And my answer to the skeptics is, give us a chance to fix the problems in a comprehensive way that enforces our border and treats people with decency and respect. Give us a chance to fix this problem. Don't try to kill this bill before it gets moving. Give us a chance to make it easier for the folks who wear the uniform along our borders to do their job.
I believe the bill before Congress learns from the mistakes of the past. It is the best hope for lasting reform. If people are interested in fixing a system that's broken, this bill is the best hope to do so. It answers the longstanding concerns of the American people. It deserves widespread support. And I strongly back it.
If you're serious about securing our borders, it makes sense to support legislation that makes enforcement our highest priority. And that's what this bill does. For decades, we have not been in complete control of the borders, and many people have lost faith in our capacity to get control of the borders. I ask them to look at what's taken place over the past years, recent years. I wish they could talk to some of your Border Patrol friends, and talk about the advances that have been made and the good work they're doing down there.
The first step to comprehensive reform must be to enforce immigration laws at the borders and at work sites across America. And this is what this bill does. For the skeptics who say that we're not concerned about border security or workplace enforcement, they need to read the bill. The bill prioritizes enforcing our laws at the border, and saying to employers, we'll hold you to account for employing somebody who's here illegally -- knowingly employing somebody who's here illegally.
This bill sets enforcement benchmarks that have got to be met before other aspects of the comprehensive bill are triggered. In other words, there has to be certain accomplishments in place before other aspects of the bill come into being. And here are some of those markers: Increasing the number of Border Patrol agents. We said we're going to double them; they've got to get doubled, until other aspects of the bill come into being. We're going to build miles of state-of-the-art fencing. We're going to improve surveillance with advanced technologies. We will do a better job of holding employers accountable for the workers they hire.
Most employers want to comply with the law. The peach grower wanted to comply with the law. Believe me, he's a law-abiding, decent man. His attitude is, why don't you help me verify the legal status of a potential employee, as opposed to holding me to account -- which we will do, of course, if he knowingly hires somebody -- give me a hand with the verification system.
And that's why we're going to promote tamper-resistant identification cards. In other words, if you're here working, you're going to have a card that you can't tamper with, that some document forger can't foist off as a document for somebody to come and pick peaches here in Georgia.
In other words, we've got a serious attempt in this bill, and a real attempt, to do what a lot of Americans want us to do, and that's enforce the border. If you're serious about keeping our economy strong, it's makes sense to support legislation that gives foreign workers a legal path to jobs in America. There are people doing jobs here Americans aren't doing.
The peach man said to me, he said, I can't find somebody from my home town who wants to pick peaches, but I can find somebody who wants to put food on their table for a family from Mexico, for example. It seems to me it makes sense to give those people a chance to come and work here on a temporary basis. This bill says, temporary, it means temporary. You'll be here for a number of years, and you'll go back home. That's what a temporary worker plan does. In the meantime, it helps meet the needs of our economy.
This bill -- aspect of the bill will allow federal agents to focus on apprehending violent criminals and terrorists who are a threat to our country rather than people who want to work here. In other words, if you can come to our country on a temporary basis legally, you're not going to sneak across the border. Who wants to pay a coyote hundreds of dollars, or thousands of dollars, when you can walk across, and say, I'm going to have a temporary job here in this country, and here's my tamper -- my tamper-resistant card?
If you're interested in securing the border, wouldn't you rather have Border Patrol agents chasing down terrorists and gun runners and dope runners as opposed to people who are coming to do jobs Americans aren't doing? A temporary worker plan, that is truly temporary, is going to make it easier for us to enforce the border. Border enforcement and having a rational worker plan go hand-in-hand. And that's what the American people have got to understand.
A temporary worker program will not begin until our border security measures are in place, and until we have a reliable system for verifying employment eligibility. That's the way the bill works. Oh, I'm sure you've heard some of the talk out there about people defining the bill. It's clear they hadn't read the bill. They're speculating about what the bill says, and they're trying to rile up people's emotions. This is a good piece of legislation. It addresses the border security needs, and it addresses the employment needs of our country.
If you're serious about bringing hardworking illegal immigrants out of the shadows of our society, it makes sense to support legislation that will resolve their status without animosity, and without amnesty.
Others -- I don't -- they estimate 11 million to 12 million people have been here for, some, quite a while. They're in an underground in America. It's not right, as far as I'm concerned. That's not what this country stands for. I know there are some people out there hollering and saying, kick them out. That is simply unrealistic. It won't work. There are some people saying, give them automatic citizenship. I oppose that. It won't work. I don't think it makes any sense to do that.
Amnesty is forgiveness for being here without any penalties -- that's what amnesty is. I oppose it. The authors -- many of the authors of this bill oppose it. This bill is not an amnesty bill. If you want to scare the American people, what you say is, the bill is an amnesty bill. It's not an amnesty bill. That's empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our fellow citizens. People in Congress need the courage to go back to their districts and explain exactly what this bill is all about, in order to put comprehensive immigration reform in place.
Let me explain how it works. Under the bill, those who want to stay in our country who have been here can apply for a Z visa. At some point in time, those who are coming to work will get temporary work visas. Those who have been here already can apply for a Z visa. To receive the visa, illegal workers must admit they violated the law and pay a meaningful penalty, pass a strict background check, hold a job, maintain a clean record, and eventually earn English -- learn English. That's how it works.
It says, if you want to be here, here's what you have to do. There is a consequence for having broken the law. As a result of a recent Senate amendment, they have to pay back taxes if they haven't paid taxes, too. You're working hard, you pay taxes. People who have been here in this country ought to pay taxes. That's what it says.
The hurdles to citizenship are going to be even higher. In other words, if somebody says, fine, I'll take my Z visa, I'm out of the shadows now, I've got an opportunity to not hide in America. I'll continue doing the work I'm doing, I'm going to keep my record clean. I'll pay the penalties necessary so I can stay here -- that's what it says -- but if you want to be a citizen, there's more hurdles. It says, the Z visa worker would first have to pay an additional fine. In other words, you have broken the law and there's a consequence for breaking the law. That's what the bill says.
Secondly, you've got to return home to file an application for your green card. If you want to be a citizen, you pay a fine, you touch base home to apply for a green card, and then you take your place behind those who have played by the rules and have been waiting in line, patiently, to become a citizen.
This is a good bill. It recognizes that we've got to treat people with respect, and it also recognizes we're a nation of law. And as we go forward, the legislation creates a new system for admitting new immigrants to our country, people who want to come here legally. The system is going to reward applicants based upon skills and education, in addition to family ties, so we can ensure America continues to have the world's most talented work force.
This legislation is also going to help newcomers assimilate into our society. One of the great aspects of American society is people have been able to assimilate.
You know, I was at the Coast Guard Academy the other day, giving a speech there, and the president of the class, a Latino, talked with great pride in his voice about the fact that this grandfather was a migrant to the United States of America, and here he is addressing the Coast Guard Academy. I think it speaks volumes about the great promise of America. One of the reasons why is because his family assimilated into our society and into our culture. The key to unlocking the full promise of America is the ability to speak English. That's the language of our country. If you can speak English in this country and work hard and have dreams, you can make it. That's the great story of America. I believe it's true today like it was true yesterday, as well.
We expect opportunities to help -- we will expand opportunities to help new immigrants learn the language, learn about the ideals that make us a wonderful country. If you're serious about reform, it makes sense to support comprehensive legislation that addresses all aspects of the problem. You cannot solve the problem unless we address all aspects of the problem at the same time.
This reform is complex. There's a lot of emotions around this issue. Convictions run deep. Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like. If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it, you can use it to frighten people. Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all, so the people who wear the uniform in this crowd can do the job we expect them to do.
Now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time for members of both political parties to stand up and show courage, and take a leadership role and do what's right for America.
Thanks for letting me come by, and God bless. (Applause.) END 12:01 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 28, 2007
President Bush Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery Arlington National Cemetary 11:20 A. M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. Secretary England, members of the Cabinet, General Pace, members of Congress, members of the United States military, veterans, families of the fallen, our fellow citizens: Welcome.
Today we honor the warriors who fought our nation's enemies, defended the cause of liberty, and gave their lives in the cause of freedom. We offer our love and our heartfelt compassion to the families who mourn them. We pray that our country may always prove worthy of the sacrifices they made.
For seven generations, we have carried our fallen to these fields. Here rest some 360,000 Americans who died fighting to preserve the Union and end slavery. Here rest some 500,000 Americans who perished in two world wars to conquer tyrannies and build free nations from their ruins. Here rest some 90,000 Americans who gave their lives to confront Communist aggression in places such as Korea and Vietnam.
Many names here are known: the 18-year-old Union soldier named Arthur MacArthur, who grabbed a falling flag and carried it up Missionary Ridge; the Tuskegee Airmen who defended America abroad and challenged prejudice at home; the slain war hero and President who asked that we "assure the survival and success of liberty" and found his rest beneath an eternal flame. Still others here are remembered only by loving families. Some are known only to God.
Now this hallowed ground receives a new generation of heroes -- men and women who gave their lives in places such as Kabul and Kandahar, Baghdad and Ramadi. Like those who came before them, they did not want war -- but they answered the call when it came. They believed in something larger than themselves. They fought for our country, and our country unites to mourn them as one.
We remember Army Specialist Ross Andrew McGinniss. Ross was born on Flag Day in 1987. When he was in kindergarten, he said he wanted to grow up to be "an Army man." He enlisted at 17 -- the first day he was eligible. He deployed to Iraq. Last December, a grenade was thrown into his Humvee as Ross was patrolling the streets of Baghdad. The soldiers inside could not escape in time, so Ross leapt into the vehicle and covered the grenade with his own body. By sacrificing himself to save four other men, he earned a Silver Star -- and the eternal gratitude of the American people.
We remember Marine Sergeant Marc Golczynski of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Marc volunteered for a second tour of duty in Iraq. He knew the dangers his service would entail. Before he deployed, he wrote the following in an email to his family and friends: "Please don't feel bad for us. We are warriors, and as warriors have done before us we fight and sometimes die so our families do not have to." Marc left behind an eight-year-old son, Christian, who is with us today; he managed to be brave while he held his father's folded flag.
With us are other children and families mourning moms and dads and sons and daughters. Nothing said today will ease your pain. But each of you need to know that your country thanks you, and we embrace you, and we will never forget the terrible loss you have suffered. I hope you find comfort in knowing that your loved ones rest in a place even more peaceful than the fields that surround us here.
The greatest memorial to our fallen troops cannot be found in the words we say or the places we gather. The more lasting tribute is all around us -- a country where citizens have the right to worship as they want, to march for what they believe, and to say what they think. These freedoms came at great costs -- and they will survive only as long as there are those willing to step forward to defend them against determined enemies.
As before in our history, Americans find ourselves under attack and underestimated. Our enemies long for our retreat. They question our moral purpose. They doubt our strength of will. Yet even after five years of war, our finest citizens continue to answer our enemies with courage and confidence. Hundreds of thousands of patriots still raise their hands to serve their country; tens of thousands who have seen war on the battlefield volunteer to re-enlist. What an amazing country to produce such fine citizens.
Laura and I have met many of them; we've sat at the bedsides of the wounded. This morning, I met service members who received medals for distinguished service -- and found myself humbled by their grace and their grit. I had the honor of meeting with families of the fallen in the Oval Office, and was amazed by their strength and resolve and decent grace under pressure. We've heard of 174 Marines recently -- almost a quarter of a battalion -- who asked to have their enlistments extended. For these extensions, they would earn no promotion and no promise of a favored posting. They want to serve their nation. And as one of them put it this way: "I'm here so our sons don't have to come and fight here someday."
Those who serve are not fatalists or cynics. They know that one day this war will end -- as all wars do. Our duty is to ensure that its outcome justifies the sacrifices made by those who fought and died in it. From their deaths must come a world where the cruel dreams of tyrants and terrorists are frustrated and foiled -- where our nation is more secure from attack, and where the gift of liberty is secured for millions who have never known it.
This is our country's calling. It's our country's destiny. Americans set off on that voyage more than two centuries ago, confident that this future was within our reach -- even though the shore was distant, and even though the journey may be long. And through generations, our course has been secured by those who wear a uniform, secured by people who man their posts, and do their duty. They have helped us grow stronger with each new sunrise.
On this Day of Memory, we mourn brave citizens who laid their lives down for our freedom. They lived and died as Americans. May we always honor them. May we always embrace them. And may we always be faithful to who they were and what they fought for.
Thank you for having me. May God bless you and may God continue to bless our country. (Applause.) END 11:28 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 26, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This Memorial Day weekend, Americans honor those who have given their lives in service to our Nation. As we pay tribute to the brave men and women who died for our freedom, we also honor those who are defending our liberties around the world today.
On Wednesday, I met with some of the courageous young men and women who will soon take their place in the defense of our Nation: the graduating class of the United States Coast Guard Academy. Since its inception, the Coast Guard has patrolled and protected America's shores. And in this time of war, the Coast Guard has assumed new responsibilities to defend our Nation against terrorist infiltration and help stop new attacks. I was proud to stand with the Class of 2007 and thank them for their bold decision to wear the uniform. The men and women of the Coast Guard are fighting alongside soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have also volunteered to protect America. We live in freedom because patriots such as these are willing to serve, and many have given their lives in defense of our Nation. On Monday, I will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in their country's cause.
One of those who gave his life was Sergeant David Christoff, Jr., of Rossford, Ohio. The day after the attacks of September the 11th, David walked into a recruiting station to become a United States Marine. Asked why he made the decision to serve, David said: "I don't want my brother and sister to live in fear." David eventually deployed to Iraq, where he fought street by street in the battle of Fallujah and earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in action.
While on leave back home, David learned his company was headed for combat in Afghanistan. But he knew there was also a job to finish in Iraq. So he asked to be reassigned to a unit headed for Iraq, and last May he died in Anbar province where the Marines are taking the fight to al Qaeda. When his family received his belongings, his mother and his father each found a letter from David. He asked that they pray for his fellow Marines and all those still serving overseas.
On Memorial Day, our Nation honors Sergeant Christoff's final request. We pray for our men and women serving in harm's way. We pray for their safe return. And we pray for their families and loved ones, who also serve our country with their support and sacrifice.
On Memorial Day, we rededicate ourselves to freedom's cause. In Iraq and Afghanistan, millions have shown their desire to be free. We are determined to help them secure their liberty. Our troops are helping them build democracies that respect the rights of their people, uphold the rule of law, and fight extremists alongside America in the war on terror. With the valor and determination of our men and women in uniform, I am confident that we will succeed and leave a world that is safer and more peaceful for our children and grandchildren.
On Memorial Day, we also pay tribute to Americans from every generation who have given their lives for our freedom. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Kuwait to Kandahar, from Berlin to Baghdad, brave men and women have given up their own futures so that others might have a future of freedom. Because of their sacrifice, millions here and around the world enjoy the blessings of liberty. And wherever these patriots rest, we offer them the respect and gratitude of our Nation.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 25, 2007
President Bush Visits with Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Their Families Naval Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland
12:36 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: First, I applaud the bipartisan effort to get a emergency supplemental bill to my desk. The Speaker and the Leader said they would get it done by Memorial Day recess, and they have. And I appreciate that very much.
You know, this effort shows what can happen when people work together. We've got a good bill that didn't have timetables or tell the military how to do its job, but also sent a clear signal to the Iraqis that there's expectations here in America, expectations that we -- about how to move forward. I look forward to continuing to work with the Prime Minister and his government in meeting those expectations.
I also am honored to be here at this place of compassion and healing on Memorial Day Weekend. It's a weekend which gives us a chance to honor those who have served this country, whether it be in this war or in previous wars.
In being here, I also want to honor the healers here at Bethesda -- the health care here is remarkable. They're dealing with some of the very tragic injuries in this war. People come here without much hope and they leave, in many cases, healed and ready to move on with their lives. So I thank the doctors and nurses.
I also thank the soldiers and their families who I met here, people who are remarkably brave and courageous. I'm constantly amazed at the strength of character of those who wear the uniform. To be the Commander-in-Chief of such men and women is really an awesome honor.
And so, to our troops and their families, may God bless you. And may God continue to bless our country.
Thank you all very much. END 12:38 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 24, 2007
Press Conference by the President Rose Garden 11:01 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Thank you, all. Good morning.
Today, Congress will vote on legislation that provides our troops with the funds they need. It makes clear that our Iraqi partners must demonstrate progress on security and reconciliation. My administration and members of Congress from both parties have had many meetings to work out our differences on this legislation. As a result, we removed the arbitrary timetables for withdrawal and the restrictions on our military commanders that some in Congress have supported.
We were also successful in removing billions in unrelated domestic spending that many of the Democrats were insisting on. I wanted to remove even more; but, still, by voting for this bill members of both parties can show our troops and the Iraqis and the enemy that our country will support our servicemen and women in harm's way.
As it provides vital funds for our troops, this bill also reflects a consensus that the Iraqi government needs to show real progress in return for America's continued support and sacrifice. The Iraqi Study Group -- the Iraq Study Group recommended that we hold the Iraqi government to the series of benchmarks for improved security, political reconciliation and governance that the Iraqis have set for themselves. I agree, so does the Congress, and the bill reflects that recommendation.
These benchmarks provide both the Iraqi government and the American people with a clear road map on the way forward. Meeting these benchmarks will be difficult; it's going to be hard work for this young government. After all, the Iraqis are recovering from decades of brutal dictatorship. Their democratic government is just over a year old. And as they're making tough decisions about their future, they're under relentless attack from extremists and radicals who are trying to bring down the young democracy.
Our new strategy is designed to help Iraq's leaders provide security for their people and get control of their capital, so they can move forward with reconciliation and reconstruction. Our new strategy is designed to take advantage of new opportunities to partner with local tribes, to go after al Qaeda in places like Anbar, which has been the home base of al Qaeda in Iraq.
This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy. The last of five reinforcement brigades we are sending to Iraq is scheduled to arrive in Baghdad by mid-June. As these reinforcements carry out their missions the enemies of a free Iraq, including al Qaeda and illegal militias, will continue to bomb and murder in an attempt to stop us. We're going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months. We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties. We must provide our troops with the funds and resources they need to prevail.
Another important issue before Congress is immigration reform. I want to thank the bipartisan group of senators who produced a bill that will help us secure our borders and reform our immigration system. For decades, the government failed to stop illegal immigration. My administration has stepped up efforts to improve border security, doubling the number of Border Patrol agents. We've effectively ended the policy of catch and release, which allowed some illegal immigrants to be released back into society after they were captured.
Last year alone, we apprehended more than a million people trying to enter this country illegally. This is progress, but it's not enough. Many Americans are rightly skeptical about immigration reform. I strongly believe the bipartisan Senate bill addresses the reasons for past failures, while recognizing the legitimate needs of our economy, and upholding the ideals of our immigrant tradition.
This bill does not grant amnesty. Amnesty is forgiveness without a penalty. Instead, this bill requires workers here illegally to acknowledge that they broke the law, pay a fine, pass background checks, remain employed, and maintain a clean record. This bill provides the best chance to reform our immigration system and help us make certain we know who's in our country and where they are. Our immigration problems cannot be solved piecemeal. They must be all addressed together, and they must be addressed in logical order.
So this legislation requires that border security and worker verification targets are met before other provisions of the bill are triggered. For example, the temporary worker program can begin only after these security measures are fully implemented. Immigration reform is a complex issue; it's a difficult piece of legislation. And those who are looking to find fault with this bill will always be able to find something. If you're serious about securing our borders and bringing millions of illegal immigrants in our country out of the shadows, this bipartisan bill is the best opportunity to move forward. I'm confident with hard work and goodwill, Congress can pass and I can sign a bill that fixes an immigration system we all agree is broken.
The issues of war and immigration are difficult, but that's no excuse in avoiding our responsibility to act. The American people sent us to Washington to take on tough problems, and they expect us to deliver results.
And now I'll be glad to answer some of your questions. Hunt.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The IAEA says that Iran has significantly accelerated its uranium enrichment program. And today President Ahmadinejad said that he would go ahead, he vowed to go ahead. There also is the detention of three Iranian Americans. Where is this all headed? And do you think it's time for tough U.N. sanctions with real teeth, and are you confident that Russia and China would go ahead?
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, we have been discussing this issue a lot at these press avails. Iran is constantly on the agenda at a press avail like this -- or a press conference like this, and the reason why is because they continue to be defiant as to the demands of the free world. The world has spoken, and said no nuclear weapons programs. And yet they're constantly ignoring the demands.
My view is that we need to strengthen our sanction regime. I just spoke to Condoleezza Rice, and we will work with our European partners to develop further sanctions. And, of course, I will discuss this issue with Vladimir Putin, as well as President Hu Jintao.
The first thing that these leaders have got to understand is that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing for the world. It's in their interests that we work collaboratively to continue to isolate that regime.
I'm sympathetic for the people of Iran. I'm sorry they live under a government that continues to insist upon a program that the world has condemned, because it is denying the good people of Iran economic opportunities that they would have. This is a country with a great tradition and a great history. There are hard-working people in that country that want to benefit from a society that is more open, and yet the government insists upon measures that will lead to further isolation. And, therefore, to answer one part of your question, we will work with our partners to continue the pressure.
Secondly, obviously, to the extent that these people are picking up innocent Americans is unacceptable. And we've made it very clear to the Iranian government that the detention of good, decent American souls who are there to be beneficial citizens is not acceptable behavior.
Q Mr. President, dozens of American troops have been killed this month, and sectarian violence appears to be rising again in Iraq. You, yourself, just said that you're expecting more casualties in the weeks and months ahead. How much longer do you believe you can sustain your current policy in Iraq without significant progress on the ground? And how confident are you about finding those missing soldiers?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm confident that the military is doing everything it can to find the missing soldiers. I talked to General Petraeus about this subject and Secretary Gates, and General Petraeus informs him that we're using all the intelligence and all the troops we can to find them. It's a top priority of our people there in Iraq.
Obviously, the loss of life is devastating to families. I fully understand that. But I want to remind you as to why I sent more troops in. It was to help stabilize the capital. You're asking me how much longer; we have yet to even get all our troops in place. General David Petraeus laid out a plan for the Congress, he talked about a strategy all aiming -- all aimed at helping this Iraqi government secure its capital so that they can do the -- some of the political work necessary, the hard work necessary to reconcile.
And as I explained in my opening remarks, all the troops won't be there until mid-June. And one reason you're seeing more fighting is because our troops are going into new areas, along with the Iraqis. And so General Petraeus has said, why don't you give us until September and let me report back, to not only me, but to the United States Congress, about progress.
I would like to see us in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq. However, it's going to require taking control of the capital. And the best way to do that was to follow the recommendations of General Petraeus. As I have constantly made clear, the recommendations of Baker-Hamilton appeal to me, and that is to be embedded and to train and to guard the territorial integrity of the country, and to have Special Forces to chase down al Qaeda. But I didn't think we could get there unless we increased the troop levels to secure the capital. I was fearful that violence would spiral out of control in Iraq, and that this experience of trying to help this democracy would -- couldn't succeed.
And so, therefore, the decisions I made are all aimed at getting us to a different position, and the timing of which will be decided by the commanders on the ground, not politicians here in Washington.
Chen. Ed, excuse me. That's Henry. Chen. You're coming down -- no, sorry. Work the print people a little bit, see. I've got the strategy -- print. Ed, sorry.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. A lot of lawmakers in Congress are saying that China has not done enough to allow its currency to appreciate, and they're talking about things like duties. What is your view about that, and are you prepared to do more to encourage the appreciation of the yuan?
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, Ed. I spoke to Madam Wu Yi today, as a matter of fact, had her into the Oval Office; wanted to thank her for bringing her delegation in, and also to ask her to pass on a message to Hu Jintao that I appreciate his willingness to work in a strategic -- with strategic dialogues in order to put in place the type of measures that reflect a complex relationship -- in other words, the ability to discuss issues such as beef, or intellectual property rights.
And one of the issues that I emphasized to Madam Wu Yi, as well as the delegation, was that we're watching very carefully as to whether or not they will appreciate their currency. And that's all in the context of making it clear to China that we value our relationship, but the $233 billion trade deficit must be addressed. And one way to address it is through currency evaluations.
Another way to address it is for them to help convert their economy from one of savers to consumers. And that's why Secretary Paulson worked very assiduously with this strategic dialogue group to encourage openness for capital markets; that China must open its capital markets to allow for different financial institutions from around the world to go into the country. It not only will be beneficial to the United States, but we happen to think it will be beneficial to the Chinese economy, for the consumers to have different options when it comes to savings and purchases.
And so this is important dialogue, and it's one that I thank the Chinese government for engaging in. And there's been some progress. Yesterday they opened new air routes. That's beneficial for U.S. airlines. It also happens to be beneficial for China, as far I am concerned. It's beneficial for that country to open up its access to more travelers, whether they be business or tourists.
Anyway, this is a complex relationship. There's a lot of areas we're working together, and there's areas where there's friction. And we've just got to work through the friction. One area where I've been disappointed is beef. They need to be eating U.S. beef. It's good for them. They'll like it. And so we're working hard to get that beef market opened up.
Q Mr. President, a new Senate report this morning contends that your administration was warned before the war that by invading Iraq you would actually give Iran and al Qaeda a golden opportunity to expand their influence, the kind of influence you were talking about with al Qaeda yesterday, and with Iran this morning. Why did you ignore those warnings, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, going into Iraq we were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn't happen. And, obviously, as I made a decision as consequential as that, I weighed the risks and rewards of any decision. I firmly believe the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I know the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I think America is safer without Saddam Hussein in power.
As to al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda is going to fight us wherever we are. That's their strategy. Their strategy is to drive us out of the Middle East. They have made it abundantly clear what they want. They want to establish a caliphate. They want to spread their ideology. They want safe haven from which to launch attacks. They're willing to kill the innocent to achieve their objectives, and they will fight us. And the fundamental question is, will we fight them? I have made the decision to do so. I believe that the best way to protect us in this war on terror is to fight them.
And so we're fighting them in Iraq, we're fighting them in Afghanistan, we've helped the Philippines -- Philippine government fight them. We're fighting them. And this notion about how this isn't a war on terror, in my view, is naive. It doesn't -- it doesn't reflect the true nature of the world in which we live.
You know, the lessons of September the 11th are these: we've got to stay on the offense; we've got to bring these people to justice before they hurt again; and at the same time, defeat their ideology with the ideology based upon liberty. And that's what you're seeing, and they're resisting it.
I think it ought to be illustrative to the American people that al Qaeda is trying to stop new democracies from evolving. And what should that tell you? That ought to tell you that we're dealing with people that have an ideology that's opposite of liberty and will take whatever measures are necessary to prevent this young democracy from succeeding.
The danger in this particular theater in the war on terror is that if we were to fail, they'd come and get us. You know, I look at these reports right here in the Oval Office. For people who say that we're not under threat, they simply do not know the world. We are under threat. And it's in our interest to pursue this enemy.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You say you want nothing short of victory, that leaving Iraq would be catastrophic; you once again mentioned al Qaeda. Does that mean that you are willing to leave American troops there, no matter what the Iraqi government does? I know this is a question we've asked before, but you can begin it with a "yes" or "no."
THE PRESIDENT: We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It's their government's choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.
Q -- catastrophic, as you've said over and over again?
THE PRESIDENT: I would hope that they would recognize that the results would be catastrophic. This is a sovereign nation, Martha. We are there at their request. And hopefully the Iraqi government would be wise enough to recognize that without coalition troops, the U.S. troops, that they would endanger their very existence. And it's why we work very closely with them, to make sure that the realities are such that they wouldn't make that request -- but if they were to make the request, we wouldn't be there.
Q Mr. President, after the mistakes that have been made in this war, when you do as you did yesterday, where you raised two-year-old intelligence, talking about the threat posed by al Qaeda, it's met with increasing skepticism. The majority in the public, a growing number of Republicans, appear not to trust you any longer to be able to carry out this policy successfully. Can you explain why you believe you're still a credible messenger on the war?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm credible because I read the intelligence, David, and make it abundantly clear in plain terms that if we let up, we'll be attacked. And I firmly believe that.
Look, this has been a long, difficult experience for the American people. I can assure you al Qaeda, who would like to attack us again, have got plenty of patience and persistence. And the question is, will we?
Yes, I talked about intelligence yesterday. I wanted to make sure the intelligence I laid out was credible, so we took our time. Somebody said, well, he's trying to politicize the thing. If I was trying to politicize it, I'd have dropped it out before the 2006 elections. I believe I have an obligation to tell the truth to the American people as to the nature of the enemy. And it's unpleasant for some. I fully recognize that after 9/11, in the calm here at home, relatively speaking, caused some to say, well, maybe we're not at war. I know that's a comfortable position to be in, but that's not the truth.
Failure in Iraq will cause generations to suffer, in my judgment. Al Qaeda will be emboldened. They will say, yes, once again, we've driven the great soft America out of a part of the region. It will cause them to be able to recruit more. It will give them safe haven. They are a direct threat to the United States.
And I'm going to keep talking about it. That's my job as the President, is to tell people the threats we face and what we're doing about it. And what we've done about it is we've strengthened our homeland defenses, we've got new techniques that we use that enable us to better determine their motives and their plans and plots. We're working with nations around the world to deal with these radicals and extremists. But they're dangerous, and I can't put it any more plainly they're dangerous. And I can't put it any more plainly to the American people and to them, we will stay on the offense.
It's better to fight them there than here. And this concept about, well, maybe let's just kind of just leave them alone and maybe they'll be all right is naive. These people attacked us before we were in Iraq. They viciously attacked us before we were in Iraq, and they've been attacking ever since. They are a threat to your children, David, and whoever is in that Oval Office better understand it and take measures necessary to protect the American people.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to ask you about the Petraeus report, which as you say, will be in September, and report on the progress. Doesn't setting up the September date give the enemy exactly what you've said you don't want them to have, which is a date to focus on, and doesn't it guarantee a bloody August?
And while I have you, sir, the phrase you just used, "a different configuration in Iraq" that you'd like to see, is that a plan B?
THE PRESIDENT: Actually I would call that a plan recommended by Baker-Hamilton, so that would be a plan BH. I stated -- you didn't like it? (Laughter.)
I've stated this is an idea that I like the concept. The question is, could we get there given the violence last fall, and the answer, in my judgment, was, no, we would never be able to configure our troops that way, in that configuration -- place our troops in that configuration given the violence inside the capital city.
David Petraeus felt like that it was important to tell the White House and tell the Congress that he would come back with an assessment in September. It's his decision to give the assessment, and I respect him and I support him.
Q Do you think --
THE PRESIDENT: It does, precisely. It's going to make -- it could make August a tough month, because you see, what they're going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home. Don't you find that interesting? I do -- that they recognize that the death of innocent people could shake our will, could undermine David Petraeus's attempt to create a more stable government. They will do anything they can to prevent success. And the reason why is al Qaeda fully understands that if we retreat they, then, are able to have another safe haven, in their mind.
Yesterday, in my speech, I quoted quotes from Osama bin Laden. And the reason I did was, is that I want the American people to hear what he has to say -- not what I say, what he says. And in my judgment, we ought to be taking the words of the enemy seriously.
And so, yes, it could be a bloody -- it could be a very difficult August, and I fully understand --
Q -- Democrats on that in the Senate about --
THE PRESIDENT: David Petraeus, the commander -- look, you want politicians making those decisions, or do you want commanders on the ground making the decisions? My point is, is that I would trust David Petraeus to make an assessment and a recommendation a lot better than people in the United States Congress. And that's precisely the difference.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. I'd like to ask you about the Justice Department. In the last couple months, we have heard disturbing evidence about senior officials of the Justice Department misleading Congress. We heard disturbing evidence yesterday that a senior official at the Justice Department improperly took, by her own admission, political considerations into effect in evaluating career employees of the Justice Department.
We've also had evidence from the former Deputy Attorney General of the White House strong-arming a sick man into trying to approve an illegal spying program. I'm curious, Mr. President, if you are concerned about the cumulative picture that's being drawn about your Justice Department? And what assurances can you give the American people that the department is delivering impartial justice to the American people?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you, Michael. There is a -- an internal investigation taking place at the Justice Department. And this will be an exhaustive investigation. And if there's wrongdoing, it will be taken care of.
I thought it was interesting how you started your question, "over the months," I think you said, "over the last months." This investigation is taking a long time, kind of being drug out, I suspect for political question -- for political reasons. In other words, as I mentioned the other day, it's just grand political theater.
Attorney General Gonzales has testified, he's produced documents. And I would hope the Senate and the Congress would move expeditiously to finish their hearings and get on to the business of passing legislation that is meaningful for the country. But if there had been wrongdoing, that will be addressed, the way we'd hope it would be.
Q (Inaudible) -- confidence. Are you --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I've got confidence in Al Gonzales doing the job.
Q Mr. President, are you surprised by reports today from the Iraqis that sectarian killings are actually on the rise to pre-troop surge levels? And, if I may, yesterday after your speech, Senator Joe Biden said al Qaeda in Iraq is a "Bush-fulfilling prophecy." They weren't there before, now they're there. He said U.S. troops should get out of the middle of a civil war and fight al Qaeda. Can you respond to that?
THE PRESIDENT: We are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq. A lot of the spectaculars you're seeing are caused by al Qaeda. Al Qaeda will fight us wherever we are. That's what they do, that's what they've said they want to do. They have objectives. These are ideologues driven by a vision of the world that we must defeat. And you defeat them on the one hand by hunting them down and bringing them to justice, and you defeat them on the other hand by offering a different alternative form of government.
The Middle East looked nice and cozy for awhile. Everything looked fine on the surface, but beneath the surface, there was a lot of resentment, there was a lot of frustration, such that 19 kids got on airplanes and killed 3,000 Americans. It's in the long-term interest of this country to address the root causes of these extremists and radicals exploiting people that cause them to kill themselves and kill Americans and others.
I happen to believe one way to do that is to address the forms of government under which people live. Democracy is really difficult work, but democracy has proven to help change parts of the world from cauldrons of frustration to areas of hope. And we will continue to pursue this form of policy; it's in our national interest we do so.
What other aspect of the question?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'm -- there's -- certainly, there's been an uptick in violence. It's a snapshot, it's a moment. And David Petraeus will come back with his assessment after his plan has been fully implemented, and give us a report as to what he recommends -- what he sees, and what he recommends, which is, I think, a lot more credible than what members of Congress recommend. We want our commanders making the recommendations, and -- along with Ryan Crocker, our Ambassador there -- I don't want to leave Ryan out.
And so it's a -- you know, to Axelrod's point, it's a -- no question it's the kind of report that the enemy would like to affect because they want us to leave, they want us out of there. And the reason they want us to leave is because they have objectives that they want to accomplish. Al Qaeda -- David Petraeus called al Qaeda public enemy number one in Iraq. I agree with him. And al Qaeda is public enemy number one in America. It seems like to me that if they're public enemy number one here, we want to help defeat them in Iraq.
This is a tough fight, you know? And it's, obviously, it's had an effect on the American people. Americans -- a lot of Americans want to know win -- when are you going to win? Victory is -- victory will come when that country is stable enough to be able to be an ally in the war on terror and to govern itself and defend itself.
One of the things that appealed to me about the Baker-Hamilton is that it will provide a -- kind of a long-term basis for that likely to happen, assuming the Iraqi government invites us to stay there. I believe this is an area where we can find common ground with Democrats and Republicans, by the way. I fully recognize there are a group of Democrats who say, get out of the deal now; it's just not worth it.
One of the areas where I really believe we need more of a national discussion, however, is, what would be the consequences of failure in Iraq? See, people have got to understand that if that government were to fall, the people would tend to divide into kind of sectarian enclaves, much more so than today, that would invite Iranian influence and would invite al Qaeda influence, much more so than in Iraq today. That would then create enormous turmoil, or could end up creating enormous turmoil in the Middle East, which would have a direct effect on the security of the United States.
Failure in Iraq affects the security of this country. It's hard for some Americans to see that, I fully understand it. I see it clearly. I believe this is the great challenge of the beginning of the 21st century -- not just Iraq, but dealing with this radical, ideological movement in a way that secures us in the short term and more likely secures us in the long term.
Jim. You didn't nod off there, did you? (Laughter.) A little hot out here in the Rose Garden for you? (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well, go ahead and take the tie off. I'm halfway done anyway. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, yesterday you discussed Osama bin Laden's plans to turn Iraq into a terrorist sanctuary. What do you think your own reaction would have been five years ago had you been told that towards the end of your term he would still be at large with that kind of capability, from Iraq, no less, and why -- can you tell the American people -- is he still on the run? Why is he so hard to catch?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say that five years ago, like I said, we're going to pursue him, and we are pursuing him. And he's hiding. He is in a remote region of the world. If I knew precisely where he is, we would take the appropriate action to bring him to justice. He is attempting to establish a base of operations in Iraq. He hasn't established a base in operations. My points yesterday were, here was his intentions, but thankfully, of the three people I named, all of them no longer are a part of his operation.
My point is, is that -- I was making the point, Jim, as I'm sure you recognized, that if we leave, they follow us. And my point was, was that Osama bin Laden was establishing an external cell there, or trying to, and he's been unable to do it. Precisely my point. That's why we've got to stay engaged. Had he been able to establish an internal cell that had safe haven, we would be a lot more in danger today than we are. His organization is a risk. We will continue to pursue as hard as we possibly can. We will do everything we can to bring him and others to justice.
We have had good success in the chief operating officer position of al Qaeda. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi al Rabium -- there's a lot of names, some of whom I mentioned yesterday, that are no longer a threat to the United States. We will continue to work to bring him to justice -- that's exactly what the American people expect us to do -- and in the meantime, use the tools we put in place to protect this homeland.
We are under threat. Some may say, well, he's just saying that to get people to pay attention to him, or try to scare them into -- for some reason -- I would hope our world hadn't become so cynical that they don't take the threats of al Qaeda seriously, because they're real. And it's a danger to the American people. It's a danger to your children, Jim. And it's really important that we do all we can do to bring them to justice.
Q Mr. President, why is he still at large?
THE PRESIDENT: Why is he at large? Because we haven't got him yet, Jim. That's why. And he's hiding, and we're looking, and we will continue to look until we bring him to justice. We've brought a lot of his buddies to justice, but not him. That's why he's still at large. He's not out there traipsing around, he's not leading many parades, however. He's not out feeding the hungry. He's isolated, trying to kill people to achieve his objective.
Those are his words -- his objectives are his words, not mine. He has made it clear -- he and Zawahiri, their number two, have made it clear what they want. And in a war against extremists and radicals like these, we ought to be listening carefully to what they say. We ought to take their words seriously. There have been moments in history where others haven't taken the words of people seriously and they suffered. So I'm taking them seriously.
Q Mr. President, moments ago you said that al Qaeda attacked us before we were in Iraq. Since then Iraq has become much less stable; al Qaeda has used it as a recruiting tool, apparently with some success. So what would you say to those who would argue that what we've done in Iraq has simply enhanced al Qaeda and made the situation worse?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, so, in other words, the option would have been just let Saddam Hussein stay there? Your question is, should we not have left Saddam Hussein in power? And the answer is, absolutely not. Saddam Hussein was an enemy of the United States. He'd attacked his neighbors. He was paying Palestinian suicide bombers. He would have been -- if he were to defy -- and by the way, cheating on the U.N. oil for sanctions program -- oil-for-food program. No, I don't buy it. I don't buy that this world would be a better place with Saddam Hussein in power, and particularly if -- and I'm sure the Iraqis would agree with that.
See, that's the kind of attitude -- he says, okay, let's let them live under a tyrant, and I just don't agree. I obviously thought he had weapons, he didn't have weapons; the world thought he had weapons. It was a surprise to me that he didn't have the weapons of mass destruction everybody thought he had, but he had the capacity at some point in time to make weapons. It would have been a really dangerous world if we had the Iranians trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and Saddam Hussein competing for a nuclear weapon. You can imagine what the mentality of the Middle East would have been like.
So the heart of your question is, shouldn't you have left Saddam Hussein in power? And the answer is, no. And now that we've --
THE PRESIDENT: -- that's really the crux of it. And -- let me finish, please, here. I'm on a roll here. And so now that we have, does it make sense to help this young democracy survive? And the answer is, yes, for a variety of reasons.
One, we want to make sure that this enemy that did attack us doesn't establish a safe haven from which to attack again. Two, the ultimate success in a war against ideologues is to offer a different ideology, one based upon liberty -- by the way, embraced by 12 million people when given the chance. Thirdly, our credibility is at stake in the Middle East. There's a lot of Middle Eastern nations wondering whether the United States of America is willing to push back against radicals and extremists, no matter what their religion base -- religious bases may be.
And so the stakes are high in Iraq. I believe they're absolutely necessary for the security of this country. The consequences of failure are immense.
Q So there was no choice -- so there was no choice between the course we took and leaving Saddam Hussein in power? Nothing else that might have worked?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we tried other things. As you might remember back then, we tried the diplomatic route: 1441 was a unanimous vote in the Security Council that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. So the choice was his to make. And he made -- he made a choice that has subsequently left -- subsequently caused him to lose his life under a system that he wouldn't have given his own citizens. We tried diplomacy. As a matter of fact, not only did I try diplomacy; other Presidents tried diplomacy.
Let's see here. John.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. You've said many times that you plan to sprint to the finish of your presidency. At this point in the home stretch, what can you say you're still expecting to accomplish? And how concerned are you that the immigration bill in particular is going to get caught up in electoral politics?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks. Well, we need to pass additional energy legislation, we need to renew No Child Left Behind, get these trade bills out of Congress -- the trade bills on Panama and Peru and Colombia, hopefully work toward a free trade -- further the work we've done on the Korean free trade agreement. Hopefully I'll be able to bring back successful negotiations on Doha for a congressional vote which will require a TPA extension and/or -- a TPA extension, there's no "and/or" to it. Making sure that this progress on balancing the budget continues. The deficit is -- I know you're following the numbers, John -- the deficit is reduced more than anticipated as a result of increased tax revenues coming in and the fiscal measures that we took. And now we're going to have to work with Congress to make sure they don't overspend and make sure they don't raise the taxes on the people, as well.
Running up the taxes will hurt this economy, which would hurt the revenues to the Treasury. I'm deeply concerned about the Democratic budget that is classic tax and spend. I'm looking forward to seeing how they intend to keep their promise of balancing this budget in five years.
A big -- and of course, fighting this war on terror is a huge issue. I obviously would like to find common ground on how to proceed in Iraq with Democrats and Republicans. I recognize there are a handful there or some who just say, get out, it's just not worth it, let's just leave. I strongly disagree with that attitude. Most Americans do, as well. And the vote showed that what's possible when we work together, the vote -- the pending vote today showed what's possible when we work together, when Republicans and Democrats work together. There's a good group of Republicans that want to work with Democrats. They just don't want to accept something that they don't agree with.
Immigration: This is a tough issue. This is a very emotional, hard issue for members of both parties. I've always been a believer that comprehensive immigration reform is the best way to secure our border. I campaigned on that for President twice. I believed it when I was the governor of Texas. I understand this issue very well. I also understand the frustrations of many citizens in that they believe the government hasn't done its job of stopping illegal migrants from coming into the country.
And that's why over the past couple of years there's been a significant effort to secure the border. There's going to be a doubling of the Border Patrol agents; there's going to be fencing and berms and different types of equipment to help the Border Patrol do its job in a better way. As a matter of fact, I was concerned about it enough to ask the National Guard to go down there for a while.
But, John, I don't see -- and so those concerns, by the way, are addressed in this bill. The bill essentially says that before any other reforms take place, certain benchmarks will be met when it comes to securing the border. Last year, during the debate, people said, well, let's have security first. That's exactly what the bill does.
However, I don't see how you can have the border security the American people expect unless you have a temporary worker program, with a verifiable work card. People will come here to do work to feed their families, and they'll figure out ways to do so. As a result of people wanting to come here to do work to feed their families, there is an underground industry that has sprung up that I think is essentially anti-humanitarian. It is an industry based upon coyotes -- those are smugglers. Good, hardworking, decent people pay pretty good size money to be smuggled into the United States of America.
There is a document forgery industry in America. There are people who are willing to stuff people inside temporary shelter in order for them to evade the law. I don't think this is American. I think the whole industry that exploits the human being is not in our nation's interests. And the best way to deal with this problem is to say, if you're going to come and do jobs Americans aren't doing, here is a opportunity to do so, on a temporary basis.
I would much rather have people crossing the border with a legitimate card, coming to work on a temporary basis, than being stuffed in back of an 18-wheeler. And I would hope most Americans feel that, as well.
Secondly, in order for there to be good employer verification -- it's against the law to hire somebody who is here illegally, but many times small businesses or large are presented with documents and they don't know whether they're real or not. And so, therefore, we must have a tamper-proof identification card, which is a part of this bill.
A tough issue, of course, is what do you do with the people already here? Anything short of kicking them out, as far as some people are concerned, is called amnesty. You can't kick them out. Anybody who advocates trying to dig out 12 million people who have been in our society for a while is sending a signal to the American people that's just not real. It's an impractical solution. Nor do I think they ought to be given automatic citizenship -- that is amnesty: Okay, you're here illegally, therefore you're automatically a citizen.
And so, therefore, we proposed and worked with the Senate to devise a plan that said, if you're here already before a certain date, that there are certain hurdles you must cross in order to receive what's called a Z visa, in order to be able to work here. You've got to go through a background check, you've got to pay a fine at some point in time, there's a probationary period, and there's a series of steps that people have to go through. And then people get at the back of the line, the citizenship line, not the beginning of the citizenship line.
If you're for the bill, I thank you. If you're against it -- you can find every reason in the world to be against a comprehensive bill. It's easy to find something to be against in this bill. All it takes is to take one little aspect of it and ignore the comprehensive nature and how good it is.
I knew this was going to be an explosive issue. It's easy to hold up somebody who is here and working hard as a political target. I would like to get this bill done for a lot of reasons. I'd like to get it done because it's the right thing to do. I'd like to get it done because I happen to believe the approach that is now being discussed in the Senate is an approach that will actually solve the problem. I'd like to get it out of politics. I don't think it's good to be, you know, holding people up. We've been through immigration debates in this country, and they can bring out the worst, sometimes, in people. We're a land of immigrants.
I was touched yesterday when the kid from the Coast Guard Academy, ensign -- now ensign talked about his migrant grandfather from Mexico. And here's this guy, this man standing up in front of the President of the United States and his class, talking about serving America. He wasn't -- you know, his grandfather wasn't born here. I don't know what job he did -- I suspect it was probably manual labor. I don't know, I didn't ask him.
But I do know he spoke with pride. I do know he represents the best about what immigration can mean for America. You know, welcoming people here who want to work and realize the American Dream renews our spirit and soul. It's been the case throughout generations. And we have an opportunity to put a good law in place now -- right now. And it's going to be hard work. And sure politics will get involved. But the question is, will members of Congress rise above politics? I will. It's the right thing to have a comprehensive bill.
And so I'm going to continue to reach out to members of Congress from both parties, and call upon them to take the lead and show the political courage necessary to get the bill to my desk as quickly as possible.
I want to thank you for your interest. END 11:51 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 23, 2007
President Bush Delivers Commencement Address at United States Coast Guard Academy Alumni Building United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut 11:41 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. Admiral Allen, thank you for that kind introduction. Admiral Burhoe, congratulations on your promotion. Academy staff and faculty, Congressman Chris Shays, state and local officials, distinguished guests, proud families and, most importantly, members of the Class of 2007: thanks for having me.
It's a privilege to stand with the future leaders of the United States Coast Guard. Before you receive your degrees today, I want to make sure that you have learned your "indoc." What is the Coast Guard?
CADETS: Mr. President, the Coast Guard is the hard nucleus about which the Navy forms in times of war, sir! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I probably shouldn't relay that to the Secretary of the Navy. (Laughter.)
I see a few "RCF Warriors" out there. Some of you earned demerits for failing to correct your storage [sic], others got caught crawling under the fence on your way to Connecticut College. (Laughter.) However you got bagged, help has arrived. (Laughter.) In keeping with longstanding tradition, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. (Applause.) I'll leave it to Admiral Burhoe to define exactly what "minor" means. (Laughter.)
More than 6,000 young Americans applied to join the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2007, and today just 228 will walk across this stage to receive your diploma and commission. You're a select few, and each of you worked really hard to get to this moment: survived R-Day, Swab Summer, and Friday morning drill practice with a kind and gentle soul, Chief Dillmann. (Laughter.) You learned to brace up, do orderlies, square meals, and eat "hamsters" with your "eyes in the boat." You arrived on this campus as "swabs" -- and today you will leave as proud officers of the United States Coast Guard. (Applause.) Your teachers are proud, your parents are thrilled, and your Commander-in-Chief is grateful for your devotion to duty. Congratulations to you all. (Applause.)
You didn't make it to this day on your own. Many of you had the help of a special faculty member who mentored -- mentored you along the way. Others made it only through as a result of the intervention of one man: Hopley Yeaton -- he's the patron saint of the Square Root Club. For the moms and dads, the Square Root Club is an association of students whose GPA is so low that when you take its square root, it grows larger. (Laughter.) Unfortunately, they didn't have that club where I went to college -- (laughter) -- perhaps you'll make me an honorary member. (Laughter.)
Whether you're graduating today at the top of your class, or by the skin of your teeth, your presence on this field is a tremendous accomplishment. And it would not have been possible without the support of the families who believed in you and encouraged you. So I ask all the parents and loved ones here today to stand and be recognized by the class of 2007. (Applause.)
The degree you've earned will command respect wherever you go, and you will carry the lessons you learned here for the rest of your lives. This Academy has tested your minds, your bodies, and your character, and having passed these trials, you now embark on a voyage as officers in the oldest continuous Maritime service.
The history of the Coast Guard dates back more than two centuries, to the Revenue Cutter Service, established under the presidency of George Washington -- or as I call him, the first George W. (Laughter and applause.) Since its inception, the Coast Guard has conducted search and rescue missions, enforced our maritime laws, protected our marine environment, come to the aid of stranded boaters, and helped staunch the flow of illegal drugs and illegal migrants to our shores. And in this new century, the Coast Guard continues to carry out these vital missions.
Americans rely on the Coast Guard in times of disaster. When Hurricane Katrina hit our nation's Gulf Coast, the men and women of the Coast Guard swung into action, hanging from helicopters, pulling people off rooftops and out of trees, and rescuing more than 33,000 people. (Applause.) When storms and floods and tragedy strike, Americans know that they can count on the United States Coast Guard. (Applause.)
Americans relied on the Coast Guard on September the 11th, 2001. After terrorists struck the Twin Towers, the Coast Guard station on Staten Island put out a call for "all available boats," and organized a massive flotilla of military and civilian craft that evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from lower Manhattan. It was the largest waterborne evacuation in our nation's history. And in the days that followed, the men and women of the Coast Guard stayed on the job, assisting operations at Ground Zero, sending chaplains to comfort the bereaved, and coordinating a round-the-clock defense of New York Harbor and other vital ports. In a time of crisis, the Coast Guard did its job, and did it well. (Applause.)
On September the 11th, the home front you protect became a battlefront in a new and unprecedented war. That day, our nation changed forever, and so did the mission of the United States Coast Guard. This service assumed new and essential responsibilities: to defend our nation against terrorist infiltration, and to help stop new attacks before they kill our people.
As part of Operation Noble Eagle, the men and women of the Coast Guard are protecting more than 360 ports and more than 95,000 miles of coastline. Overseas, the Coast Guard is conducting maritime intercept operations in the Persian Gulf, patrolling the waters off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The men and women of the Coast Guard are serving with courage, and the American people are grateful to live behind your Shield of Freedom.
Soon you'll join your fellow Coasties in carrying out these and other missions. And this Academy has prepared you well for the new challenges you will face in this war on terror. During your time here, you've taken courses in terrorist tactics and counterterrorism strategies; you've studied radiation detection, remote sensing, and the handling of hazardous materials; you participated in military exercises that have prepared you for the threats of this new century.
You'll need all this training to help keep your fellow citizens safe. In this war, we face a brutal enemy that has already killed thousands in our midst, and is determined to bring even greater destruction to our shores. We're blessed that there has not been another terrorist attack on our homeland in the past five-and-a-half years. This is not for lack of effort on the part of the enemy. Since 9/11, al Qaeda and its allies have succeeded in carrying out horrific attacks across the world; al Qaeda leaders have repeatedly made clear they intend to strike our country again.
In January of last year, Osama bin Laden warned the American people: "Operations are under preparation and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished." Seven months later, British authorities broke up the most ambitious known al Qaeda threat to the homeland since the 9/11 attacks: a plot to blow up passenger airplanes flying to America. Our intelligence community believes that this plot was just two or three weeks away from execution. If it had been carried out, it could have rivaled 9/11 in death and destruction.
This was not the first al Qaeda plot that has been foiled since 9/11. In December 2001 we captured an al Qaeda operative named Ali Salih al-Mari. Our intelligence community believes that Ali Salih was training in poisons at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, and had been sent to the United States before September the 11th to serve as a sleeper agent ready for follow-on attacks. He was ordered to our country by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who is now in U.S. custody. Our intelligence community believes that KSM brought Ali Salih to meet Osama bin Laden, where he pledged his loyalty to the al Qaeda leader and offered himself up as a martyr. Among the potential targets our intelligence community believes this al Qaeda operative discussed with KSM were water reservoirs, the New York Stock Exchange, and United States military academies such as this one.
We also broke up two other post-9/11 aviation plots. The first, in 2002, was a plot by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to repeat the destruction of 9/11 by sending operatives to hijack an airplane and fly into the tallest building on the West Coast. During a hearing at Guantanamo Bay just two months ago, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad stated that the intended target was the Library Tower in Los Angeles. And in 2003, we uncovered and stopped a plot led by another suspected senior al Qaeda operative named Abu Bakr al-Azdi. Our intelligence community believes this plot was to be another East Coast aviation attack, including multiple airplanes that had been hijacked and then crashing into targets in the United States.
There is a reason that these and other plots have thus far not succeeded: Since September the 11th, we have taken bold action at home and abroad to keep our people safe.
To help stop new attacks on our country, we have undertaken the most sweeping reorganization of the federal government since the start of the Cold War. We created the new Department of Homeland Security, merging 22 different government organizations, including the Coast Guard, into a single Department with a clear mission: to protect America from future attacks.
To stop new attacks on our country, we've strengthened our nation's intelligence community. We created the position of the Director of National Intelligence to ensure our intelligence agencies operate as a single, unified enterprise. We created the National Counter Terrorism Center, where the FBI, the CIA, and other agencies work side by side to track terrorist threats across the world. We directed the National Security Agency to monitor international terrorist communications. We established a program run by the CIA to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives. These measures are vital. These measures are working. And these measures have helped prevent an attack on our homeland. (Applause.)
To help stop new attacks on our country, we passed the Patriot Act, breaking down the walls that had prevented federal law enforcement and intelligence communities from sharing information about potential terrorist activities. We've transformed the FBI into an agency whose primary focus is stopping terrorist attacks. We've expanded the number of FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces from 35 before 9/11 to more than a hundred today. And we saw their effectiveness recently when one of these teams helped disrupt a plot by a group of al Qaeda-inspired extremists to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
To help stop new attacks on our country, we launched the BioWatch program, placing state-of-the-art equipment in major U.S. cities to detect biological agents. To help prevent terrorists from bringing nuclear or radiological weapons into our county, we're placing radiation detectors in all major U.S. ports. We placed advanced screening equipment and U.S. Homeland Security personnel at foreign ports, so we can pre-screen cargo headed for America. We're determined to stop the world's most dangerous men from striking America with the world's most dangerous weapons. And the Coast Guard is on the front line of this battle. (Applause.)
To help stop new attacks on our country, we've strengthened international cooperation in the fight against terror. A coalition of more than 90 nations -- nearly one-half of the world -- is working together to dry up terrorist financing and bring terrorist leaders to justice. We launched the Proliferation Security Initiative, a vast coalition of nations that are working to stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction on land, at sea, and in the air. With our allies, we have uncovered and shut down the A.Q. Khan network, which had supplied nuclear-related equipment and plans to terrorist states, including Iran and North Korea. With Great Britain, we convinced the leader of Libya to abandon his country's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. The key components of Libya's nuclear program are now locked up in a storage facility right here in the United States. And today the world is safer because Libya is out of the nuclear weapons business. (Applause.)
All these steps are making our country safer, but we're not yet safe. To strike our country, the terrorists only have to be right once; to protect our country, we have to be right 100 percent of the time. That means the best way to protect our people is to take the fight to the enemy. So after 9/11, I vowed to America that we would go on the offense against the terrorists, fighting them across the world so we do not have to face them here at home. And since 9/11, that is precisely what that United States of America has done. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, we removed a regime that gave sanctuary and support to al Qaeda as they planned the 9/11 attacks. Today, because we acted, the terrorist camps in Afghanistan have been shut down, 25 million people have been liberated, and the Afghan people have an elected government that is fighting terrorists, instead of harboring them. (Applause.)
The Taliban and al Qaeda are seeking to roll back Afghanistan's democratic progress -- but forces from 40 nations, including every member of NATO, are helping the Afghan people defend their democratic gains. Earlier this month, Afghan, American, and NATO forces tracked down and killed a top Taliban commander in Afghanistan. His death has sent a clear message to all who would challenge Afghanistan's young democracy: We drove al Qaeda and the Taliban out of power, and they're not going to be allowed to return to power. (Applause.)
In Iraq, we removed a cruel dictator who harbored terrorists, paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, invaded his neighbors, defied the United Nations Security Council, pursued and used weapons of mass destruction. Iraq, the United States and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein in power. (Applause.) And today the Iraqi people are building a young democracy on the rubble of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. In December 2005, nearly 12 million Iraqis demonstrated their desire to be free, going to the polls and choosing a new government under the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world.
In 2006, a thinking enemy responded to this progress and struck back with brutality. They staged sensational attacks that led to a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal. If the sectarian violence continued to spiral out of control, the Iraqi government would have been in danger of collapse. The ensuing chaos would embolden Iran, which is fueling the violence, and al Qaeda, a key driver of Iraq's sectarian conflict. The chaos could eventually spread across the Middle East, and generations of Americans would be in even greater danger.
So I had a choice to make: withdraw our troops, or send reinforcements to help the Iraqis quell the sectarian violence. I decided to send more troops with a new mission: to help the Iraqi government secure their population and get control of Baghdad. As we carry out the new strategy, the Iraqi government has a lot of work to do. They must meet its responsibility to the Iraqi people and achieve benchmarks it has set, including adoption of a national oil law, preparations for provincial elections, progress on a new de-Baathification policy, and a review of the Iraqi constitution. The Iraqi people must see that their government is taking action to bring their country together and give all of Iraq's a stake in a peaceful future.
Now, in 2007, we are at a pivotal moment in this battle. There are many destructive forces in Iraq trying to stop this strategy from succeeding -- the most destructive is al Qaeda. Al Qaeda knows that a democratic Iraq is a threat to their ambitions to impose their hateful ideology across the Middle East. And al Qaeda knows that our presence in Iraq is a direct threat to their existence in Iraq. Our security depends on helping the Iraqis succeed and defeating Iraq -- al Qaeda in Iraq. (Applause.)
Some in our country question whether the battle in Iraq is part of the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there's no doubt. Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: He calls the struggle in Iraq a "war of destiny." He proclaimed "the war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever."
Bin Laden is matching his words with action. He attempted to send a new commander to Iraq, an Iraqi-born terrorist named Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. According to our intelligence community, this terrorist had been a senior advisor to bin Laden, he served as his top commander in Afghanistan, he was responsible for all al Qaeda's military operations against our coalition in that country. Abd al-Hadi never made it to Iraq. He was captured last year, and he was recently he was transferred to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.
There is a reason that bin Laden sent one of his most experienced paramilitary leaders to Iraq: He believes that if al Qaeda can drive us out, they can establish Iraq as a new terrorist sanctuary. Our intelligence community believes that, "al Qaeda leaders see victory in Iraq -- the heart of the caliphate and currently the most active front in their war -- as a religious and strategic imperative." If al Qaeda succeeds in Iraq, they would pursue their stated goals of turning that nation into a base from which to overthrow moderate governments in the region, impose their hateful ideology on millions, and launch new attacks on America and other nations. Victory in Iraq is important for Osama bin Laden -- and victory in Iraq is vital for the United States of America. (Applause.)
I've often warned that if we fail in Iraq, the enemy will follow us home. Many ask: How do you know? Today, I'd like to share some information with you that attests to al Qaeda's intentions. According to our intelligence community, in January 2005, Osama bin Laden tasked the terrorist Zarqawi -- who was then al Qaeda's top leader in Iraq -- with forming a cell to conduct terrorist attacks outside of Iraq. Bin Laden emphasized that America should be Zarqawi's number one priority in terms of foreign attacks. Zarqawi welcomed this direction; he claimed that he had already come up with some good proposals.
To help Zarqawi in these efforts, our intelligence community reports that bin Laden then tasked one of his top terrorist operatives, Hamza Rabia, to send Zarqawi a briefing on al Qaeda's external operations, including information about operations against the American homeland. Our intelligence community reports that a senior al Qaeda leader, Abu Faraj al-Libi, went further and suggested that bin Laden actually send Rabia, himself, to Iraq to help plan external operations. Abu Faraj later speculated that if this effort proved successful, al Qaeda might one day prepare the majority of its external operations from Iraq.
In May of 2005, Abu Faraj was captured and taken into CIA custody. Several months later, in December 2005, Rabia was killed in Pakistan. Several months after that, in June of 2006, the terrorist Zarqawi was killed by American forces in Iraq. Successes like these are blows to al Qaeda. They're a testament to steps we have taken to strengthen our intelligence, work closely with partners overseas, and keep the pressure on the enemy by staying on the offense. (Applause.)
Despite our pressure, despite the setbacks that al Qaeda has suffered, it remains extremely dangerous. As we've surged our forces in Iraq, al Qaeda has responded with a surge of its own. The terrorists' goal in Iraq is to reignite sectarian violence and break support for the war here at home. And they believe they're succeeding. A few weeks ago, al Qaeda's number two, second in command, Zawahiri, issued a video in which he gloated that al Qaeda's "movement of violence" has "forced the Americans to accept a pullout -- about which they only differ in regard to its timing." We can expect al Qaeda to continue its campaign of high profile attacks, including deadly suicide bombings and assassinations. And as they do, our troops will face more fighting and increased risks in the weeks and months ahead.
The fight in Iraq is tough, but my point today to you is the fight is essential to our security -- al Qaeda's leaders inside and outside of Iraq have not given up on their objective of attacking America again. Now, many critics compare the battle in Iraq to the situation we faced in Vietnam. There are many differences between the two conflicts, but one stands out above all: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does. Nine-eleven taught us that to protect the American people, we must fight the terrorists where they live so that we don't have to fight them where we live. (Applause.)
The question for our elected leaders is: Do we comprehend the danger of an al Qaeda victory in Iraq, and will we do what it takes to stop them? However difficult the fight in Iraq has become, we must win it. Al Qaeda is public enemy number one for Iraq's young democracy, and al Qaeda is public enemy number one for America, as well. And that is why we must support our troops, we must support the Iraqi government, and we must defeat al Qaeda in Iraq. (Applause.)
We're thankful to the military, the intelligence, and law enforcement personnel who work tirelessly to stop new attacks on our country. With every plot they foil, every terrorist they capture, we learn more about the enemy's plans and persistence. In the minds of al Qaeda leaders, 9/11 was just a down-payment on violence yet to come. It's tempting to believe that the calm here at home after September the 11th means that the danger to our country has passed. I see the intelligence every day. The danger has not passed. Here in America, we're living in the eye of a storm. All around us, dangerous winds are swirling, and these winds could reach our shores at any moment.
The men and women of the Coast Guard know how to navigate the storm. We're counting on you to help America weather the challenges that lie ahead. As you begin your Coast Guard careers, you can approach the future with confidence, because our nation has faced dangerous enemies before, and emerged victorious every time. Terrorists can try to kill the innocent, but they cannot kill the desire for liberty that burns in the hearts of millions across the earth. The power of freedom defeated the ideologies of fascism and communism in the last century, and freedom will defeat the hateful ideologies of the terrorists in this century.
Victory in this struggle will require valor and determination and persistence, and these qualities can be found in abundance in the Class of 2007. (Applause.)
Your class has chosen a motto: Let Courage Part the Seas. America will be counting on your courage in the years to come. You will take your oath as Coast Guard officers in a time of war, knowing all the risks your service entails. I thank each of you for your bold decision to wear the uniform. My call to you is this: Trust in the power of freedom to overcome tyranny and terror; show leadership in freedom's defense, and character in all you do; be ready for anything. The Coasties who came before you never thought they would be organizing a flotilla in New York Harbor, or patrolling distant coasts in the Persian Gulf. Like them, you will serve in ways you cannot imagine today. But if you bring the skills and creativity you learned at this Academy to every task, our nation's security will be in good hands. (Applause.)
You leave this Academy "strong in resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard."
I respect your passion for service, and the courage of your choice. Your country is grateful, and proud of each of you. Congratulations. God bless. Semper Paratus. (Applause.) END 12:14 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 22, 2007
Fact Sheet: Immigration Fact Check: Responding to Key Myths
1. MYTH: Ending the current green card backlog would result in 900,000 new residents per year on top of current numbers.
FACT: The current proposal aims to end the green card backlog in eight years. However, this does not mean that 3.5 to 4 million people over the current number will be admitted into the country. The backlog will be cleared in two ways:
240,000 green cards are being shifted from other priorities within the existing green card pool. This is important – it does not represent an increase in the number of green cards given, it is simply a reallocation of green cards that are authorized for issuance within the current system.
Separately, the number of green cards will be temporarily increased by 200,000 for each of the eight years after the enactment of the bill. This is an increase, but it does not mean 200,000 applicants plus their spouses and children. It is 200,000 new people total.
FACT: About 15 percent of family-based green card recipients are already residing in the U.S. on temporary visas or illegally. Thus, only about 170,000 additional individuals per year are entering the country.
2. MYTH: The border security and employer enforcement triggers can be waived. It has been asserted that the bill contains the following language: "b) Subsection (a) of this section shall apply only if the President certifies within 180 days of enactment that the border security and other measures described in such subsection can be completed within 18 months of enactment, subject to the necessary appropriations."
FACT: This is false. This language is not in the bill currently, but was in an earlier draft. Instead, the bill contains a sense of Congress that all triggers can be met in 18 months. All triggers must be met before the guest worker program or the Z visa program could begin.
3. MYTH: Z visa applicants (current undocumented) do not have to pay fines.
FACT: Z visa applicants will have to pay a $1,000 fine for heads of households and an additional $500 fine for each dependent (spouses and children). There will also be a processing fee of up to $1,500 and a $500 state impact assistance fee. The $1,000 is not the cost of the visa, but rather a fine for having broken the law. The processing fee will take care of the costs of the visa. The fines and fees are not the only hurdle – applicants must be employed, pass background checks, pay processing fees, and agree to meet accelerated English and civics requirements to get their Z visas.
FACT: A Z visa holder wishing to remain in the country under their Z visa indefinitely would still have to renew their visa every four years. Renewing the Z visa means more processing fees (again, up to $1,500 each time). The financial liability for Z visa holders starts to add up very quickly if holders choose to remain in this status instead of pursuing Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status.
4. MYTH:DHS only has only one day to complete background checks.
FACT: Obtaining Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status is a multi-step process that includes thorough background checks with no guarantees. It can be broken down into three parts: probationary period, Z status, and LPR.
1. Probationary Period. The undocumented worker comes out of the shadows to acknowledge they have broken the law. In order to obtain probationary status, they must show they are employed and pass a preliminary background check. There is a provision in the bill that says DHS has one day to find a “disqualifying factor,” but that is not the end of the process. That is a very short term way of ensuring that if someone comes out of the shadows and admits their illegality, they will not be deported while the process is ongoing and can continue working while the full background check is completed. At any time if something pops up, the applicant becomes deportable, and will never have a chance at Z status and certainly not LPR status.
2. Z Status. If they have passed the hurdles above, the undocumented worker is considered for Z status. At this stage they must pay their $1,000 fine ($1,000 is just for a head of household – there is an additional fine of $500 for each dependent) and processing fees; are subject to updated background checks to make sure they have not committed crimes while in probationary status; agree to meet English and civics standards as a condition of renewal; and show employment. There is no one day “Treatment of applications” in this process. One must complete or agree to all of the above before they are able to achieve Z status.
3. LPR Status. Here, there is another $4,000 fine and more processing fees. More background checks are also conducted in order to make sure that the applicant has kept his or her record clean. The applicant will have had to have stayed employed and met the English and civics requirements. They will have to make an application from their home country, go to the back of the line, and demonstrate merit under the new green card points system. Then, and only then, will the undocumented worker obtain a green card.
5. MYTH: A Rasmussen poll shows Americans support an enforcement-only approach.
FACT: The plan proposed in Rasmussen’s poll does not include many of the components included in the actual plan. Rasmussen asked respondents: “A different proposal has been made that also includes a fence along the Mexican border, more border patrol agents, strict penalties on anyone who hires illegal aliens. This proposal, however, would also offer illegal aliens a path to citizenship if they pay back taxes and other fines. Would you favor or oppose this proposal?”
FACT: The process is much more onerous than the text of Rasmussen's question suggests. In order to have an opportunity for citizenship, undocumented workers will have to pay a total of $5,000 in fines, pass multiple background checks, complete accelerated English and civics requirements, go back home to apply in their home country, demonstrate merit in the new merit-based green card system, AND go to the back of the line behind those who applied lawfully.
FACT: A recent bi-partisan poll conducted by The Tarrance Group (R) and Lake Research (D) that did include more components of the plan found 75 percent of American voters said they would favor a plan that: provides resources to greatly increase border security; imposes much tougher penalties on employers who hire illegal workers; allows additional foreign workers to come to the U.S. to work for a temporary period; creates a system in which illegal immigrants could come forward and register, pay a fine, and receive a temporary work permit; and provides these temporary workers with a multi-year path to earned citizenship, if they get to the end of the line and meet certain requirements like living crime free, learning English, and paying taxes. Only 17 percent opposed this plan.
6. MYTH: The bill will impose a huge new tax on businesses that follow the law.
FACT: Companies are held liable if their contractors and subcontractors hire undocumented workers. However, the Department of Homeland Security will create systems to help ensure these burdens can be met by employers who want to follow the law through the Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS) and other procedures.
FACT: This bill seeks to help employers verify the status of workers. Enforcement of the paperwork fines will be targeted against those employers trying to avoid the law and hire illegal workers. The law includes a provision for the Secretary of Homeland Security to send a pre-penalty notice where he believes there may be a violation, and the employer can avoid a penalty by showing mitigating circumstances (e.g., good faith compliance).
FACT: This bill does not seek to put the sole responsibility for legal hiring practices on the government OR the private sector. The bill is designed to have participation from the business community so the government can easily determine which employers are knowingly violating the law.
7. MYTH: The bill does not crack down on employers who violate the law.
FACT: In the bill, fines for hiring an illegal worker are $5,000 maximum per illegal worker for the first offense, $10,000 maximum per illegal worker for the second, and $25,000 maximum per illegal worker for the third.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 21, 2007
President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer Bush Ranch Crawford, Texas , 11:22 A.M. CDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all for coming. Mr. Secretary General, thank you very much for joining us. Laura and I are really happy to have you here at our place in Crawford. And thank you very much for bringing Jeannine with you. We had a lovely dinner last night, and that's what you'd expect when friends get together.
I appreciate your leadership. The Secretary General of NATO has been a strong advocate of fighting terror, spreading freedom, helping the oppressed and modernizing this important alliance. I can't thank you enough for being steadfast and strong.
We spent a lot of time talking about Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a vital mission for the United States; it's a vital mission for our allies in Europe, because what happens in Afghanistan matters to the security of our countries. We appreciate the fact that in Afghanistan you'll find NATO's largest deployment, thousands of miles from Europe, and success in that country is vital. I thank you for setting that important goal for the world to rally around. The NATO mission in Afghanistan includes more than 15,000 U.S. troops, 21,000 troops from 36 other nations, including all our allies. That wouldn't be happening without your leadership. Together, with more than 100,000 Afghan security forces we're working to support Afghanistan's elected government.
The Secretary General is also focused on ensuring that NATO commanders have the forces they need to defeat the extremists and murderers who are trying to stop the advance of that country. I pledged to the Secretary General we'll work with our NATO allies to convince them that we must share more of the burden and must all share the risks in meeting our goal.
We also appreciate the fact that Afghanistan requires more than military action. We support a long-term comprehensive strategy to help strengthen Afghanistan's democratic institutions and help create the economic opportunity that will help this young democracy survive and thrive.
The Secretary General is also determined to help transform NATO from a Cold War institution into an alliance that can continue to be effective, and that means an alliance which will meet the security threats of the 21st century. So we talked about the need to have more special operations forces and strategic airlift capabilities.
I appreciate his leadership in recognizing that in order for NATO to be effective it has to transform itself into an organization that actually meets the threats that free nations face. We talked about enlargement -- we're looking forward to going to the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest to talk about enlargement. And I pledged to the Secretary General that I'll work with nations that are interested in becoming a part of NATO over the next year to make sure they meet the requirements necessary for a country to be accepted into NATO.
We talked about missile defense. NATO allies and other nations recognize the threat we face from ballistic missiles launched by a rogue state. I appreciate the fact that the Secretary General agrees that U.S. missile defense plans complement NATO efforts to keep all nations safe from attack. And of course, I will continue to reach out to Russia. I sent Secretary Gates to Russia recently to have a full and transparent conversation with President Putin and his cabinet, to make sure that the Russians understand that this missile shield is not directed at them, but in fact, directed at other nations that could conceivably affect the peace of Europe. I appreciate the fact that the NATO-Russian Council is an integral part of the Secretary General's plans to make sure that Russia fully understands our intentions.
And so, Mr. Secretary General, thanks for coming. It's been a good trip. I'm glad you're here, and the podium is yours.
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Let me start by, on behalf of me and Jeannine, thank you and Mrs. Laura Bush most warmly for the wonderful hospitality we have enjoyed and are enjoying on this beautiful ranch. It is really great of you to have us here. We had good conversations a moment ago, about which I'll make a few remarks, but I should start with the atmosphere and the ambiance at the Crawford ranch. That's beautiful. Thank you ever so much for that on behalf of the two of us.
Mr. President, you mentioned already a number of subjects, and if we look at those from a NATO perspective, it is very clear that NATO's operations and missions are of primary importance. And among those operations, of course, Afghanistan. If we discuss Afghanistan, I should start by saying that we, the international community -- NATO forces, U.S. forces -- are there to help rebuild and develop that nation. That nation deserves to be developed and to be rebuilt.
But we are there for other reasons, as well. Afghanistan is still one of the front lines in our fight against terrorism. And it is my strong conviction that that front line should not become a fault line. And that is why it's so important that all 26 NATO allies are committed to Afghanistan and that the whole international community, for the longer-term, stays committed to that nation.
And I know it's tough from time to time. And I know and you know that at any price, NATO forces and coalition forces will try to avoid civilian casualties. We'll do that and we'll look very seriously into that -- the military commanders, us, we, as politicians, as leaders. But let me tell you one thing, we are not in the same moral category as our opponents, as the Taliban in Afghanistan. We don't behead people. We don't burn schools. We don't kill teachers. We don't plant roadside bombs. We don't send in suicide bombers. And if we talk about innocent Afghanistan civilians -- yes, dramatically, the result of our military actions could be that civilians, innocent civilians are killed -- but look at the number of Afghanistan civilians killed by the Taliban and by our opposing forces.
In brief, we are not in the same moral category there, and that's, I think, a very important mission.
I do hope, and the President said it already, that NATO as a whole alliance will stay committed to Afghanistan. It is important for that operation to succeed. And if you visit the country, if you go there, you see a lot of reconstruction and development going on. On the other hand, we'll be tough -- NATO, I said, will be tough where there's a need to be tough, our most important -- our most important operation.
The second remark -- the President mentioned this already -- we discussed missile defense, very important subjects giving vulnerabilities. We had the U.S. discussion on the so-called third site in Europe. I think it will be now up to NATO -- and I'll try to lead NATO into that direction -- but apart from the third site and the U.S. plans, there will be a NATO system which complements, which will be bolted in the U.S. system so that everybody and everything will be covered for the long-range threats, the medium-range threats, and the short-range threats -- an important element, I think.
We discussed, of course, Kosovo. While I think it's of great importance that NATO allies -- but it's now in the Security Council, and the U.S. presidency this month -- that there's full support for the Atisaari proposals. And I would like to see, as NATO Secretary General -- we have 16,000 NATO forces in Kosovo to create an element -- an environment, I should say, of stability and security -- that we see a Secretary Council resolution so that the Atisaari proposals can be brought into effect. So a resolution is important; the Atisaari proposals are good proposals.
We discussed, of course, also at this year's NATO summit prospects for NATO enlargement. The nations who are knocking on NATO's door need encouragement, but they also need to perform further reforms so that we can have a successful summit in the spring of next year.
So, in brief, a great number of subjects we discussed in this informal atmosphere. Once again, thank you very much, Mr. President, for having us here. Thank you for the good conversations we had. You can rest assured that as Secretary General of NATO, I'll make the alliance work in the sense that all 26 NATO allies will participate in NATO's operations and missions, and will show the solidarity on which this alliance is built.
Thank you so much.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.
We'll take two questions a side. In that there's only one questioner on the other side, it will be two questions and one question. Feller.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The Senate is considering a vote of no confidence in your Attorney General, and some Republican senators have joined Democrats in calling for his resignation. Is it your intention to keep Alberto Gonzales as your Attorney General for the rest of your administration, regardless of what the Senate does?
And, Mr. Secretary General, if I may, you mentioned the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan. Is it your concern that those deaths are eroding the ability of NATO forces to do their work?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me comment on that real quick. The Taliban likes to surround themselves with innocent civilians. That's their -- part of their modus operandi. They don't mind using human shields because they devalue human life. That's why they're willing to kill innocent people to achieve political objectives.
And, obviously, to the extent that the United States is working with our NATO allies in combat, we care deeply about protecting innocent life. And to those who -- Afghans who have lost innocent civilians, we grieve with you. To the Afghan families that have been affected by the Taliban using them as shields, we have great sympathy. We do not have sympathy, however, for the tactics of the Taliban.
Now, you asked about Alberto Gonzales. He has got my confidence. He has done nothing wrong. There's been enormous amount of attention on him -- that there's been no wrongdoing on his part. He has testified in front of Congress. And I, frankly, view what's taking place in Washington today as pure political theater. And it is this kind of political theater that has caused the American people to lose confidence in how Washington operates.
I stand by Al Gonzales and I would hope that people would be more sober in how they address these important issues. And they ought to get the job done of passing legislation, as opposed to figuring out how to be actors on the political theater stage.
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me add that -- I'll stress again, like the President did, of course every innocent civilian fatality, death, is one too many. But in a conflict it is from time to time unavoidable -- dramatically, but unavoidable. NATO and ISAF forces still have the support of the large majority of the Afghan people.
I had a long telephone conversation with President Karzai a few days ago, on this subject. We'll avoid it; our military commanders are doing everything they can. NATO ISAF forces and coalition forces are doing everything they can. But the President talked about Taliban tactics -- we are in a different moral category. We'll be there, we'll try to, as quickly as possible, bring in, also finance to see that these people can build up their lives again, and do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties.
But I think if you talk about and ask me about the hearts and minds in Afghanistan, we still have very much the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, because they do see -- they do see that their nation, their own nation, has no future under Taliban rule. And I only have to refer to the kinds and type of Afghanistan we saw -- you and I saw -- under Taliban rule, a regime of the most gross human rights violations the world has seen.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Do you want to call upon the one European person here?
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I could call upon the one European person here. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you for coming. Brave of you --
Q Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- pioneering spirit that made America great. (Laughter.)
Q I've just got one question. Mr. de Hoop Scheffer, how gezellig was it yesterday?
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: It was very gezellig. I'll try to translate "gezellig" in American.
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's not in my vocabulary.
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Very friendly, cozy atmosphere. We had a very, very nice move around the ranch with Mrs. Bush and the President, my wife and I. We had a splendid dinner in the house here at the ranch. This morning, I can tell you that the President and I had a mountain bike ride together. We had our conversations. So you can speak about a very nice weekend, and we had good talks on top of it. So what can one wish more? It was very gezellig.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve.
Q Mr. President, Jimmy Carter unleashed some fairly harsh criticism of you over the weekend. We're you surprised by this, and do you take much stock in what he said?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve, you know, I get criticized a lot from different quarters, and that's just part of what happens when you're President. And I will continue to make decisions that I think are necessary to protect the American people from harm. I will continue to make decisions based upon certain principles, one of which is my strong belief in the universality of freedom.
We're at war with an enemy that is relentless and determined, and it's essential that the decisions I make protect the American people as best as we can. And it turns out my presidency is such that we talk about how -- with strong allies -- how to defend ourselves. I firmly believe that in order to protect America we must go on the offense against radicals, extremists, murderers in order to protect not only ourselves, but our allies.
And I also realize that we're involved in an ideological struggle, that these murderers, these radicals, these extremists have got a point of view. If you want to find out what their point of view is about, look what happened in Afghanistan under the brutal relationship of the Taliban and al Qaeda. On the one hand, if you're a woman and spoke out, or a woman and tried to advance, you were suppressed, in brutal fashion sometimes. And in the meantime, an enemy that hates America, plotted and planned.
And so, look, I understand some people are -- may not agree with the decisions I make. But what the American people need to know, I'm making them based upon what's best for this country.
And, anyway, thank you all for coming. It was -- what was the word?
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Gezellig.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Gezellig?
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Yes.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You talk about some good gezellig -- (laughter.)
Thank you all.
SECRETARY GENERAL DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you. END 11:38 A.M. CDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 20, 2007
President's Statement on Anniversary of Cuba's Independence
I send greetings to all those celebrating the 105th anniversary of Cuba's Independence.
The longing for justice, freedom, and human rights is a desire that can be delayed but never denied. The United States remains committed to extending the full blessings of liberty around the world, and on this important milestone, we stand united with freedom-loving people of all nations in the conviction that Cuba's future must be one of dignity, liberty, and opportunity.
This day is also an opportunity to recognize the generations of Cuban Americans who have made contributions to our society. Your hard work and high ideals reflect the best of America and enrich our Nation.
Laura and I send our best wishes. May God bless the people of Cuba and all the sons and daughters of Cuba who call America home.
GEORGE W. BUSH
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 19, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, my Administration reached an agreement with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on immigration reform. I thank the leaders in both parties who worked hard to produce legislation that will secure the border, restore respect for the law, and meet the legitimate needs of our economy.
This legislation includes all the elements required for comprehensive immigration reform. It will improve security at our borders. It will give employers new tools to verify the employment status of workers and hold businesses to account for those they hire. It will create a temporary worker program. It will help us resolve the status of millions of illegal immigrants who are here already, without animosity and without amnesty. And it will honor the great American tradition of the melting pot by strengthening our efforts to help new arrivals assimilate into our society. Here's how the bill works: First, it will require that strong border security and enforcement benchmarks are met before other elements of the legislation are implemented. These benchmarks include completing our plan to double the number of Border Patrol agents, improving border infrastructure, and maintaining enough beds in our detention facilities so that all those apprehended at the border can be held and returned to their home countries. We will also improve work site enforcement by implementing an effective system to verify worker eligibility using tamper-resistant identification cards, and by imposing stiffer penalties on companies that knowingly violate the law. Once these benchmarks are met, they will trigger other provisions of comprehensive reform.
The legislation will create a new temporary worker program. Such a program will help our economy and take pressure off the border by providing foreign workers with a legal and orderly way to enter our country to fill jobs that Americans are not doing. To ensure that this program is truly temporary, workers will be limited to three two-year terms, with at least a year spent outside the United States between each term. Temporary workers will be allowed to bring immediate family members only if they demonstrate that they can support them financially, and that their family members are covered by health insurance.
This legislation will also help resolve the status of illegal immigrants who are already in our country without amnesty. Those who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. 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 become citizens, they have to do all these things, plus pay an additional fine, go to the back of the line, pass a citizenship test, and return to their country to apply for their green card.
This legislation will also strengthen our efforts to help new immigrants assimilate. The key to unlocking the full promise of America is the ability to speak English. This bill affirms that English is the language of the United States. And it provides new opportunities for immigrants to learn English and embrace the shared ideals that bind us as a nation.
In addition, this legislation will clear the backlog of family members who've applied to come to our country lawfully, and have been waiting patiently in line. This legislation will end chain migration by limiting the relatives who can automatically receive green cards to spouses and minor children. And this legislation will transform our immigration system so that future immigration decisions are focused on admitting immigrants who have the skills, education, and English proficiency that will help America compete in a global economy.
I realize that many hold strong convictions on this issue, and reaching an agreement was not easy. I appreciate the effort of Senators who came together to craft this important legislation. This bill brings us closer to an immigration system that enforces our laws and upholds the great American tradition of welcoming those who share our values and our love of freedom.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 17, 2007
President Bush Discusses Comprehensive Immigration Bill South Lawn , 3:25 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Chertoff have just briefed me about the negotiations on the comprehensive immigration bill that just concluded in the Senate. I want to thank, first of all, my Secretaries for being involved in the process, being engaged in this important issue, and helping move the process forward. I congratulate members of the Senate, both political parties, who decided it was time to work together to come up with a comprehensive immigration bill that addresses a major problem facing our country. After weeks of long work, these negotiations came to a successful conclusion.
I want to thank the members of the Senate who worked hard. I appreciate the leadership shown on both sides of the aisle. As I reflect upon this important accomplishment, important first step toward a comprehensive immigration bill, it reminds me of how much the Americans appreciate the fact that we can work together -- when we work together they see positive things.
Immigration is a tough issue for a lot of Americans. The agreement reached today is one that will help enforce our borders, but equally importantly, it will treat people with respect. This is a bill where people who live here in our country will be treated without amnesty, but without animosity.
And so I want to thank you all very much for representing the White House. I thank the senators for working hard. I look forward to a good vote out of the United States Senate as quickly as Leader Reid can get the bill moving, and then of course we look forward to working with the House of Representatives to take this first step and convert it into a successful second step. I really am anxious to sign a comprehensive immigration bill as soon as I possibly can. Today we took a good step toward that direction.
Thank you. END 3:27 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 17, 2007
President Bush Attends Joint Reserve Officer Training Corps Commissioning Ceremony East Room , 2:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good afternoon. Welcome. Here we are in the East Room, a room that has had a long history. When President John Adams moved in, his wife, Abigail, used it to dry the family's laundry. (Laughter.) Abraham Lincoln's children once raced their goats in this room during a reception. (Laughter.)
Over the years this room has been used for dances, concerts, weddings, funerals, award presentations, press conferences and bill signings. Today we add another event to the storied legacy of the East Room -- the first Joint ROTC Commissioning Ceremony. And we're glad you're here.
The young men and women we honor today represent the great diversity of the American people. You come from different backgrounds; you represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And when you leave here today, you will wear on your shoulders the same powerful symbol of achievement: the gold bars of an officer of the United States Armed Forces.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us. Proud to be here with Secretary Bob Gates and Becky. I thank Pete Geren, Acting Secretary of the Army. I appreciate so very much General Pete Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. You all have brought out some of the brass. (Laughter.)
I appreciate Senator Ben Nelson, United States Senator, for taking his time out to be here today. Senator, it means a lot that you're here. I thank the ROTC members being commissioned here today. I welcome your friends, and most importantly, I welcome your families.
I appreciate all the others in our military here, too. Thanks for coming.
We gather at a solemn moment for this country. Many of you were still in high school when terrorists brought death and destruction to our streets on September the 11th, 2001. You were high school students. And yet, some of you understood that the cause of freedom would soon depend on your generation's willingness to step forward to defend it. And when it came time to be counted, each of you volunteered, knowing full well the risks involved during a time of war. As your Commander-in-Chief, I salute your decision to serve, and I congratulate you on a fine achievement.
The idea of providing college students an opportunity to train for a military commission has its roots in the old land-grant universities of the 19th century -- which included a program of military science. The modern program dates to 1916 -- when the government established the Reserve Officers Training Corps to improve and standardize the training of junior officers. ROTC starts by identifying men and women of leadership and ability. It then prepares them morally, mentally, and physically for their responsibilities as officers in the finest Armed Forces in the world.
As part of this preparation, you have been taught a way of life that elevates service above self. You have learned that honor is not just a word -- it is a sacred inheritance to be preserved and handed down. You have learned that courage is not the absence of fear -- it is the ability to do the right thing in spite of your fears. And you have learned that much is expected of our military officers. For most of you, an ROTC scholarship helped pay for your college education. The American people provide these funds willingly. And in return they ask one thing: when their sons and daughters are put in harm's way, they will be led by officers of character and integrity.
The path you have taken to this day is not an easy one. When your roommates slept in -- (laughter) -- you got up at dawn for a three-mile run. While others spread out on the grass on a sunny day, you marched in formation. And when your friends called it a night and headed out to the town, you stayed back to shine your shoes and iron your uniform in preparation for the next day's inspection.
All of you have made many sacrifices to receive your commission. Yet some of you have had to endure even greater hardships -- because your universities do not allow ROTC on campus. For those of you in this position, this can require long commutes several times a week to another campus that does offer ROTC, so you can attend a military class, participate in a drill. Most of all, it means living a split existence -- where your life as a cadet or midshipmen is invisible to most of your fellow students.
Every American citizen is entitled to his or her opinion about our military. But surely the concept of diversity is large enough to embrace one of the most diverse institutions in American life. It should not be hard for our great schools of learning to find room to honor the service of men and women who are standing up to defend the freedoms that make the work of our universities possible. To the cadets and midshipmen who are graduating from a college or university that believes ROTC is not worthy of a place on campus, here is my message: Your university may not honor your military service, but the United States of America does. (Applause.) And in this, the people's house, we will always make a place for those who wear the uniform of our country.
In a few minutes, you will raise your right hands, and swear an oath to defend our Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic, knowing that these enemies are real. You will receive your commissions as officers, knowing that you will soon have the lives of other men and women in your own hands. You will leave this room with heads held high, knowing that you take your place in one of the greatest forces for freedom in the history of mankind.
So I ask you today: Bring honor to the uniform. Set high standards for yourself. Do not ask of those under your command anything that you would not ask of yourselves. If you do all these things, your career will take care of itself, your service will be a source of pride, and you will help build a safer and more hopeful world for your fellow citizens.
So congratulations to our new lieutenants and ensigns. And may Almighty God keep you close as you keep the American people safe.
And now I ask the Secretary of Defense to administer the oath.
(The oath is administered.) (Applause.) END 2:22 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 17, 2007
President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with United Kingdom Prime Minister Blair Rose Garden, 11:23 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. I'm pleased to welcome Tony Blair back to the White House. He is a good friend. He has led the British people for a long time, since 1797. (Laughter.)
You know, I was sitting with Tony on the Truman balcony last night, and we were discussing a lot of issues. And it dawned on me, once again, what a clear strategic thinker he is. Somebody asked me the other day, how would you define Tony Blair and your relationship with him? I said, first of all, it's cordial, it's open, and I appreciate the fact that he can see beyond the horizon. And that's the kind of leadership the world needs.
I do congratulate the Prime Minister for being a -- when he gets on a subject, it's dogged. Witness his patience and resolve regarding Northern Ireland. And congratulations for your leadership.
We talked about a lot of issues at dinner and our meetings. We talked about, of course, Iraq. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister and I have just finished a video conference with our respective commanders and ambassadors from Baghdad. We got a full briefing on the situation on the ground. I appreciated Tony's willingness to interface with our people there. I reminded our people that the best decisions are made when you listen to the commanders. And our commanders have got good, specific advice as to how to achieve our objectives, which I believe we'll achieve; objectives that I know are necessary for peace -- peace in the Middle East, peace in the United States, and in the United Kingdom.
We talked about Afghanistan. We strongly support our NATO mission in Afghanistan, and I informed the Prime Minister that the Secretary General of NATO will be coming to Crawford this weekend. I'm looking forward to talking to him about how we can continue to work together. And I want to thank you for your strong commitment to the NATO mission and the people of Afghanistan.
We talked about the Middle East, and we're concerned about the violence we see in Gaza. We strongly urge the parties to work toward a two-state solution. I'm looking forward to continue to work on this issue. I've instructed my Secretary of State to be actively engaged. She represents the position of the Bush government, which is two states living side by side in peace. We believe that vision is possible, but it requires strong leadership on both sides of the issue.
The Prime Minister and I discussed the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. We recognized the deep humiliation that can come as a result of living in a land where you can't move freely, and where people can't realize dreams. We talked about the need to reject and fight terrorism. We understand the fright that can come when you're worried about a rocket landing on top of your home. I'm committed to peace in the Middle East, and I appreciate Tony Blair being a partner in peace.
We talked about Iran. We fully recognize that the Iranians must not have a nuclear weapon. And therefore it's important to continue to work in the international arena to speak with one voice. And if we're unable to make progress with the Iranians, we want to work together to implement new sanctions through the United Nations, to continue to make it clear that Iran with a nuclear weapon is not in the interests of peace in the world.
We talked about, of course, Africa. We spent a lot of time talking about Africa. I told the Prime Minister that the AIDS initiative that got started under my administration will continue; that I'll work with Congress to make sure that the PEPFAR Initiative, that has been so effective at getting anti-retro viral drugs to people on that continent will continue. It's an important initiative of ours.
I applaud the Prime Minister's education initiative on the continent of Africa. It's a bold stroke. And we look forward to working with you on that initiative. We talked about Darfur, and how frustrated I am, and I know the Prime Minister is frustrated at the inability for the international community to react with consequence in Darfur. And I explained to him my strategy of moving forward with sanctions, and hopefully a new, stronger United Nations resolution if we don't see some improvement in the lives of the people there.
And we talked, of course, about climate change. We spent a lot of time on climate change. And I agree with the Prime Minister, as I have stated publicly, this is a serious issue, and the United States takes it seriously, just like we take energy security seriously.
We talked about the upcoming G8, and I assured the Prime Minister we want to be a part of a solution, that we want to work constructively together. He's got some really good ideas on how to advance the technologies that are going to be necessary to help solve this problem. And I told him I've got some good ideas as how to convince China and India to be a part of a global solution. We have a lot of common ground that we've been discussing today.
Finally, we agreed to improve defense cooperation by working towards an agreement reducing barriers to trade in defense goods and services and information between the United States and the United Kingdom, including defense industries. This is an important issue for the Prime Minister; it's an important issue to me. I made it clear to the Prime Minister we will work on this issue tirelessly until we can get it solved.
It's been a joy having you back here. I appreciate -- every time I'm with you I appreciate very much the insight you provide. And I guess, for the final time as Prime Minister, you get to address the good folks in our country from the Rose Garden.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you, as ever, for the kindness and graciousness of your welcome to me here at the White House. And thank you also for the strength of your leadership over the past few years. You have been a strong leader at a time when the world needed strong leadership. You've been unyielding and unflinching, and determined in the fight that we face together. And I thank you for that.
And I also would take this opportunity of saying that I believe that the relationship between the United States of America and Britain is a relationship that is in the interests of our two countries and in the interests of the peace and stability of the wider world. And sometimes it's a controversial relationship -- at least over in my country. But I've never doubted its importance. I've never doubted that it's based on principle, on shared values, and on a shared purpose, which is to make our world a better, more free, more just place in which people of all nations and all faiths can live.
So I would like to thank you for the strength also of that relationship over these past few years.
The President has, rightly and comprehensively, gone through the various issues that we discussed. And I would like to pick out from those, first of all, the discussion we were able to have with our ambassadors and commanders in respect of Iraq, where there's no doubt at all it's immensely challenging, immensely difficult, but also there is a huge amount that is being done, not just to improve the security there, which is important, but also in respect to the politics where, as they were telling us, there are the majority elements in each of the main communities, whether Sunni, or Shia, or Kurd, who actually want to live in peace with one another, and want a future for that country that is not marred by terrorism and sectarianism. And we, of course, want to see that happen in the interests of that country, and the interests of the stability of the wider region and the world.
Again, in respect of Afghanistan, where American troops, and of course, British troops, down in the Helmand province, are doing an extraordinary job, a heroic job, actually. And I think we can be so proud of the Armed Forces of both countries and what they're doing in the world today.
The situation is fraught with danger, which they take on with immense courage and immense determination. And down in the south of Afghanistan at the moment, there are operations the whole time against the Taliban, in favor of, again, what the Afghan people want, which is the chance to have a better future and escape from the poverty and misery and oppression of the Taliban years.
And we discussed, of course, the Middle East and the very dangerous, difficult situation there, and our belief, again, that the important thing is how we make progress towards the two-state solution, which is the only solution in the end that will offer a realistic prospect and progress in that region.
And of course, also, we talked about the upcoming G8 where there's going to be important negotiations over the issue of climate change and over the issue of Africa. I mean, in respect of climate change, I welcome very much what the President has said today. The important thing is that we see that it's possible for people to come together on an agreement for the future that will allow us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that will allow us to have a way forward that involves not just Europe and the United States of America, but China and India and the rest of the developing world also, and that also addresses what is an issue of top, top priority now in Europe, but also, I know here, which is energy security.
There are two reasons why this issue is on the agenda in a way that is perhaps more acute than ever before. There is the issue of the environment, there's the issue of energy security. And I think there's a -- there's a synergy between those two issues and the way they come together, which offer some prospect of hope for the future.
And in respect of Africa, as you will know, at the Gleneagles summit a couple of years ago, we made Africa, if you like, the centerpiece of the summit. I think it's important that we recommit to the undertakings we gave there to help people in Africa, and that we do not lose sight of that as a major, in some sense, the major moral course of our time, which is to lift people out of poverty on that troubled continent. And I totally agree with what the President was saying. We have the same position exactly on Darfur and the need to take action there.
And finally, can I thank the President for what he has said on the issue to do with defense and trade between our two countries. This is an issue that seems technical, but actually is a very important way of trumpeting the understanding, the work that we're doing together on the issue of defense and technology between our two countries.
And so let me end where I began, which is the importance of the relationship between the United States and Britain. I mean, whether it's in respect of fighting terrorism, the big issues to do with energy and climate change, the cause that is Africa, the agreements between our two countries in respect to defense, our two nations should always work together. It's served us well in the past. But it's not a relationship that's founded on history; it's a relationship that is about a shared future.
PRESIDENT BUSH: So as a parting gift to the Prime Minister, we'll take some questions. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. Mr. Prime Minister, will Britain in the coming months and years be as staunch an ally in Iraq for the United States as it has been under your leadership?
And, Mr. President, will you sign a war spending bill that has consequences for the Iraqi government if it fails to meet benchmarks for progress?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: The answer to your question is yes, I believe that we will remain a staunch and steadfast ally in the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Let me just explain one thing that came out very powerfully from the discussion we had with our commanders this morning. Essentially, what we have in Iraq at the moment is a situation where there is a renewed attempt to find political reconciliation -- between Sunni and Shia, particularly. And I believe there are signs, real and genuine signs of progress there.
But what you are seeing in Iraq is an attempt by al Qaeda -- through these appalling suicide bombs and also, particularly, down in the south, through the improvised explosive devices by Iranian-backed elements -- to try to disturb any prospect of Sunni and Shia coming together and delivering what the people of Iraq want to see.
And the only point that I would make is this, and this is the reason why it's important that Britain holds steadfast to the course of fighting alongside America in this battle against terrorism: The forces that we are fighting in Iraq -- al Qaeda on the one hand, Iranian-backed elements on the other -- are the same forces we're fighting everywhere. And over these past few weeks you can see in different parts of the world -- Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia recently -- where this extremism is rearing its head, is trying to dislodge the prospects of stability and progress in so many different countries. There is no alternative for us but to fight it wherever it exists. And that is true whether it's in our own countries, which have both suffered from terrorism, or in Iraq, or Afghanistan.
And so this is not a -- it's not about us remaining true to the course that we've set out because of the alliance with America. It is about us remaining steadfast because what we are fighting, the enemy we are fighting is an enemy that is aiming its destruction at our way of life and anybody who wants that way of life. And in those circumstances, the harder they fight, the more determined we must be to fight back.
If what happens is, the harder they fight, the more our will diminishes, then that's a fight we're going to lose. And this is a fight we cannot afford to lose.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I've instructed Josh to stay in touch with leaders -- Josh Bolten, Chief of Staff -- stay in touch with leaders, both Democrat and Republican, about moving a supplemental as quickly as possible. First I applaud what Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi said, that time is of the essence; we've got to get the bill done, and if need be -- I think they said -- they would keep members here to get the troops funded.
Secondly, I appreciate you trying to get me to negotiate here on the platform. Josh has been told that -- we understand benchmarks are important. I talked specifically about benchmarks, and he'll work with members of Congress to come up with a supplemental that we -- both sides can live with. And I'm confident we can get the job done.
There's been a series of votes in Congress that people have been able to express their opinion; now it's time to put forth a spending bill that doesn't have artificial timetables for withdrawal, doesn't micromanage the military, and is wise about how we spend the people's money. We'll work it hard. I think we can get a deal.
Q -- question?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As I said, you're trying to get me to negotiate. Our negotiator is Josh. And we fully understand the need to have benchmarks in a bill. I accept and respect the members' desire to have benchmarks -- after all, I'm the person who laid them out initially. We will work through something we can all live with, and enable us to get the job done.
Again, this is an issue that has been very emotional here in Washington. People have got strong opinions. I do appreciate the leadership of the Speaker and the Leader in saying, okay, now let's work together and get it solved. I'm optimistic we can do so.
Q During the course of this visit it has been confirmed that Gordon Brown is going to be the next British Prime Minister, taking over in 40 days' time. I wonder if I could have both your reactions to that. And, in particular, Mr. Blair, what you say to those people who are saying now there is a new Prime Minister in place, you should go sooner? And to Mr. Bush, whether --
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's a lovely question. (Laughter.)
Q -- however inadvertently, you once said that you would like Tony Blair to stay for the duration of your presidency. He's not doing that. Do you think you're partly to blame for that?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I haven't polled the Labour conference, but could be. (Laughter.) The question is, am I to blame for his leaving? I don't know.
Q And what do you think of Brown?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I hope to help him in office the way Tony Blair helped me. Newly elected President, Tony Blair came over and he reached out, he was gracious -- was able to converse in a way where our shared interests were the most important aspect of the relationship. I would hope I would provide the same opportunities for Gordon Brown. I met him, thought he was a good fellow.
My attitude is this, this man here is the Prime Minister, we've got a lot of work to do until he finishes. He's going to sprint to the wire. He's going to finish the job that the people want him to do, and I'm going to work with him to do it. The meetings today weren't -- this wasn't like a farewell deal; this was "how can we continue to work together for the common good." And that's what we'll do.
As to why things happen politically in Great Britain, I'd suggest you go over there and ask people. Nice to see you again. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: You had kind of forgotten what the British media were like, hadn't you? (Laughter.) These things --
PRESIDENT BUSH: He woke up to ask the question. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: First of all, having signed Gordon's nomination forms to nominate him as leader, of course I wish him well and I believe he'll make a great Prime Minister. And I know he believes in the relationship with America, too. And as for me, I will carry on doing the things that I've set out over the next few weeks that I need to do, not least and what we're talking about with the upcoming G8 summit and the deal which we've been trying to put together, different countries involved on climate change, and Africa -- and then, of course, you've got the European agreement at the end of June, which is going to be very important.
And just let me to stress to you, incidentally, that will be a government position. It will be a government negotiation that goes on there. But it's very, very important so that we can make sure that Europe moves forward. And then, of course, there are various domestic issues, too, as well.
I'll answer the question about the President, as well, in relation to me. You can debate that as much as you like, but I want to say one thing to you -- since it will be the last chance I get to have a press conference in the Rose Garden, standing next to President Bush -- I've admired him as a President and I regard him as a friend. I have taken the view that Britain should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America after September 11th. I have never deviated from that view. I do not regret that view. I am proud of the relationship we have had. I am proud of the relationship between our two countries.
And I think that sometimes in politics there are all sorts of issues where you've got to negotiate and compromise, but when it comes to the fundamental questions that affect our security and the future of the world, you should do what is right. I have tried to do that. And I believe that is what he has done, as well.
Q Would you do it again?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: And I would take the same position of alliance with America again; yes, I would.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve.
Q Thank you, sir. The fate of Paul Wolfowitz appears to be hanging in the balance. After all we've heard in recent days, is it still possible for him to provide the kind of leadership needed at the Bank?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I believe all parties in this matter have acted in good faith. I regret that it's come to this. I admire Paul Wolfowitz. I admire his heart. And I particularly admired his focus on helping the poor. There is a board meeting going on as we speak. All I can tell you is I know that Paul Wolfowitz has a interest in what's best for the Bank, and just like he's had an interest in what's best for making sure the Bank focused on things that matter: human suffering, the human condition. I -- and so I applaud his vision, I respect him a lot, and as I said, I regret this has come to this right now.
Q Mr. Blair, you outlined some very big policy areas there -- in your discussions with the President. Is it really possible, do you think, to make significant progress on them in the time that you have left?
And, Mr. President, if I could ask you, is this really still the right man to be talking to?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. No question about it's the right man to be talking to. And, yes, we can get a lot done.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: You know, we're going to have a G8 summit in a couple of weeks time, at which these issues to do with climate change in Africa are going to be debated and discussed. And I hope very much, because you come together at the G8 a bit like we did a couple of years ago at Gleneagles, and it's an opportunity for the international community, a major part of the international community, to come together and reach, in principle, agreements. I think most people would accept that what happened at Gleneagles a couple of years ago was very important.
I think what happens in Germany in a couple of weeks time could be equally important, and that will be the time when we come to those decisions. So of course, I want to see -- see that through, because I've been involved in this all the way -- all the way through.
And the important thing, as well, is that I think you will find at the German summit that not just the G8 countries are there, but also China and India and Brazil and Mexico, South Africa, maybe some of the African nations. And so it will be an opportunity for us to recommit on Africa, and for the world to make important commitments on that, and then to see if it's possible to agree the elements that could go into a more comprehensive climate change deal. So it's a pretty important thing, and that's what we're working on.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, it's interesting, like trying to do a tap dance on his political grave, aren't you? I mean, this -- you don't understand how effective Blair is, I guess, because when we're in a room with world leaders and he speaks, people listen. And they -- they view his opinion as considered and his judgment as sound.
And I find it interesting the first two questions are, is this the right guy? Well, he happens to be your Prime Minister, but more importantly, he is a respected man in the international arena. People admire him. Even if they may not agree with him a hundred percent, they admire him a lot. And it's not just the American President who admires him; a lot of people admire him. And so he's effective. He's effective because he is -- his recommendations to solve problems are sound. He's also effective because he is the kind of person who follows through.
There's a lot of blowhards in the political process, you know, a lot of hot-air artists, people who have got something fancy to say. Tony Blair is somebody who actually follows through with his convictions, and therefore, is admired in the international community.
So I guess this is an appropriate question to ask -- right guy, is he still standing -- yes. This guy is a very strong, respected leader, and he's absolutely the right guy for me to be dealing with.
Kelly. By the way, if I'm not mistaken, this is your birthday. It is? Would you like me and the Prime Minister to do a duet, you know? (Laughter.)
Q I didn't realize the intel briefing was so far-reaching. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's right. Kelly O'Donnell.
Q Thank you, sir. There's been some very dramatic testimony before the Senate this week from one of your former top Justice Department officials, who describes a scene that some senators called "stunning," about a time when the wireless -- when the warrantless wiretap program was being reviewed. Sir, did you send your then Chief of Staff and White House Counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft while he was ill to get him to approve that program? And do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Kelly, there's a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn't happen; I'm not going to talk about it. It's a very sensitive program. I will tell you that, one, the program is necessary to protect the American people, and it's still necessary because there's still an enemy that wants to do us harm.
And therefore, I have an obligation to put in place programs that honor the civil liberties of the American people; a program that was, in this case, constantly reviewed and briefed to the United States Congress. And the program, as I say, is an essential part of protecting this country.
And so there will be all kinds of talk about it. As I say, I'm not going to move the issue forward by talking about something as highly sensitive -- highly classified subject. I will tell you, however, that the program is necessary.
Q Was it on your order, sir?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As I said, this program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress. It's an important part of protecting the United States. And it's still an important part of our protection because there's still an enemy that would like to attack us. No matter how calm it may seem here in America, an enemy lurks. And they would like to strike. They would like to do harm to the American people because they have an agenda. They want to impose an ideology; they want us to retreat from the world; they want to find safe haven. And these just aren't empty words, these are the words of al Qaeda themselves.
And so we will put in place programs to protect the American people that honor the civil liberties of our people, and programs that we constantly brief to Congress.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Hi, Tom.
Q Hello. -- Prime Minister many times in the course of the last six years. But it's been five years since a leader of the British Conservative Party set foot in this city. Mr. President, does it surprise you that aides close to David Cameron say that he does not want to be seen with you? And can I ask you both what it means for the prospect of future relations between Britain and America when the leader of the opposition dare not set foot in Washington?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I can just tell you, my relationship with the leader of Great Britain has been unbelievably productive, and I have enjoyed working with Tony Blair more than I could have possibly imagined.
It's hard to define our relationship in sound bites or press conferences, or to -- in a way that really reflects the depth of what we have done together. And so I -- you know, I don't regret things about what may or may not have happened over the past five years. I honor a relationship that I truly believe has been laying the foundation for peace.
This may not interest you, but I'll tell you anyway -- I read three histories on George Washington last year. It's interesting to me that they're still analyzing the presidency of our first President. And my attitude is, if they're still analyzing 1, 43 doesn't need to worry about it. (Laughter.) I'm not going to be around to see the final history written on my administration.
When you work on big items, items to -- agendas based upon sound philosophy that will transform parts of the world to make it more peaceful, we're not going to be around to see it. So my -- let me finish. My relationship with this good man is where I've been focused, and that's where my concentration is. And I don't regret any other aspect of it.
And so I -- we filled a lot of space together. We have had a unique ability to speak in terms that help design common strategies and tactics to achieve big objectives. And it's -- will I miss working with Tony Blair? You bet I will. Absolutely. Can I work with the next guy? Of course.
And I'm here to make it clear to the people of our respective countries that this relationship is one that is vital to accomplish big objectives. It has been vital in the past; it has stood the free world -- it has enabled the free world to do hard things. And it's a relationship that I believe is necessary to do the hard things in the 21st century. And so I honor Tony Blair.
Q What about David Cameron?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Never met him.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I don't -- it's not for me to give advice to the leader of the Conservative Party, or a different political party. And that's up to them as to what they do, and up to him as to whether he comes here or not.
But I do just make this observation to you, and -- what we are -- what we are trying to do is -- don't mind these two individual leaders, but the two countries, let's accept for a moment that at least even if people very strongly disagree with Iraq, for example, that at least people understand that there is a battle that we are fighting around the world today.
And let's at least accept, also, that it's a battle about the type of values that govern the world in the early 21st century. You don't win those battles by being a fair-weather friend to your ally, you don't win those battles by being hesitant or withdrawing support for each other when the going gets tough. You don't win those battles by losing the will to fight if your enemy's will to fight is very strong, and very powerful.
And actually, the values that we represent, us two countries, are shown by what we -- what we've been through today. I mean, the President gets tough questions from the American press corps; I get, I like to say, even tougher questions -- (laughter) -- or at least as tough questions in the British press corps. And --
PRESIDENT BUSH: One at a time is tough. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: And we can -- here as we speak at this press conference, I mean, I can't make out the words that they're shouting over there, but I bet they're not totally complimentary to either of us. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Wait a minute, I don't know about that. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I mean, it could be the supporters we brought in, but I've got a feeling the likelihood is, no. (Laughter.) And that's what it's about. It's about democracy, and it's about people being free to express their views, and it's about politicians having to face the pressure to justify their decisions, to be punished if the people don't like those decisions. And it's a commonality of values that we have that is so important for the world today.
And so -- you know, yes, of course, it's like -- anybody who's sitting there inviting a politician in any part of Europe today, if you want to get the easiest round of applause, get up and attack America, you can get a round of applause if you attack the President, you get a --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Standing ovation. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Yes. And that's -- that's fine if everyone wants to do that, but when all of that is cleared away, you're left with something very, very simple, fundamental, and clear: that that battle for values is still going on.
And you can debate about the mistakes and the issues and you can debate about Iraq, whether we should have done this or we should have done that. But, actually, what is happening in Iraq today is that our enemy is fighting us, and, therefore, if what happens when our enemy fights us is that we drift away from our friends, that we kind of make the little accommodations so that we don't escape some of the difficulty and the responsibility and occasionally a proprium of decision-making -- if we do that, our enemy takes heart from that, they watch that. They watch what we're doing the whole time. They ask, are these guys standing up for what they believe, or if we carry on, is their will going to diminish and they're going to give up, because it's just too difficult, because the public opinion is too difficult, because the opinion polls tell them it's too difficult?"
Now, that is the decision of leadership. And it's not just a decision for me and him; it's a decision for everybody who's engaged in politics. And people run down politics and say it's all just a series of positions and attitudes and sound bites and occasionally even lies and all the rest of it. Actually, what politics is in the end, when it's done in the right way, when people stand up for what they believe, is it's about public service. And there's nothing to be ashamed of in that. And the fact is, the decisions are difficult; of course they're difficult.
And we took a decision that we thought was very difficult. I thought then, and I think now, it was the right decision. History will make a judgment at a particular time. But one thing I know is that what we represent coming here today, speaking in the Rose Garden to you people and getting your questions and being under your pressure, that is a finer and better way of life than either a brutal, secular dictatorship or religious extremism. It's a better way of life and it's the way of life, actually, people, anytime they are given the choice, choose to have. And what we should be about, our two nations, is giving as many people in the world as possible that choice and being proud of it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: What I know is the world needs courage. And what I know is this good man is a courageous man.
Thanks for coming. END 11:59 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 16, 2007
President Bush Participates in a Roundtable on Employment Eligibility Verification System Embassy Suites Washington, D.C. 11:35 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate the discussion we just had on immigration. With us are people who are employers, people who provide work for citizens who are in our country legally. They know full well it's against the law to hire somebody who is here illegally. They need help from the government to make sure the person they hire is here legally, that they're not dealing with forged documents.
And so we've been reviewing the upgrading of the basic pilot program, which is the government's attempt to help small business owners and larger business owners make sure that the people they're finding work for are not breaking the law. In other words, we can't ask our employers to verify somebody here unless we help them. And the reason why we're talking about this subject is that holding employers to account for violating the law is an integral part of a comprehensive immigration reform package.
I thank members of my Cabinet, Secretaries Gutierrez and Chertoff, for taking the White House lead in working with members of the United States Senate to get a comprehensive immigration bill to the floor as quickly as possible, that can pass the Senate. And it's been hard work. This is a very emotional issue. I firmly believe that the bill needs to be comprehensive. You can't have one aspect of immigration reform passed and not other aspects, otherwise we'll be back to where we were in the past, and that is reform efforts have failed because it hadn't been comprehensive enough.
The best way, and, frankly, the only way to get a comprehensive bill done that will matter and deal with this issue once and for all is for the bipartisan approach that we're now working on to come to fruition, that it's got to be a bipartisan bill that is -- is that bill our Secretaries are working on with members from both parties in the Senate. Hopefully, that bill can get to the floor as quickly as possible, and hopefully we can get a positive vote so we can get the bill over to the House of Representatives.
But there is a good chance, I'm optimistic that we can get comprehensive immigration reform, one, that enforces our borders; two, holds employers to account; three, recognizes we've got workers here who are doing jobs Americans aren't doing, and they ought to have a -- there ought to be a temporary worker permit to do so; four, to make sure that we treat people who are here already with respect and dignity, without amnesty, without animosity; and, five, to continue the assimilation program so necessary to make sure our country continues to move forward in an optimistic way.
And so I want to thank you all for sharing with me your stories. I appreciate the fact that you're deeply concerned about upholding the law. I thank you for sharing with me your desire to see that Congress get a comprehensive immigration bill done soon. And I assure you that the White House, along with the decent, honorable members of the Senate, are working very hard to bring that bill to a conclusion.
Thank you. END 11:39 A.M. EDT
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