For Immediate Release
President Outlines Priorities
Office of the Press Secretary
November 7, 2002
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
2:00 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good afternoon. Thanks for coming.
This is an important week for our country and for the world. The
United Nations will vote tomorrow on a resolution bringing the
civilized world together to disarm Saddam Hussein. Here at home, our
citizens have voted in an election that I believe will strengthen our
ability to make progress for all the American people.
I congratulate the men and women, Republicans and Democrats, who
were elected this week to public office all across America. I
appreciate their willingness to leave their private lives and to serve
their communities and to serve our nation.
I also commend the millions of voters across America, and across
the political spectrum, who went to the polls. At a time when our
freedoms are under attack, it is more important than ever that our
citizens exercise the rights and responsibilities of our democracy.
Now that the voters have spoken, I urge the members of both
political parties to come together to get things done for the American
people. I've talked to leaders of both parties and assured them I want
to work with them. I talked to Senator Daschle yesterday and said
that, although the Republican Party now leads the Senate, I still want
to work with him to get things done for the American people. I talked
to Leader Gephardt, as well.
I look forward to working with members of the Congress and the
newly-elected governors to make America's families safer in their homes
and their communities, to make our economy stronger so people can find
work, to make our country a better and more compassionate place.
Members of the new Congress will take office in January and they'll
have a full agenda. The current Congress, however, will return in just
a few days to take up some unfinished business. We have a
responsibility to protect the American people against threats from any
I'm grateful to the members of the Congress, both Republicans and
Democrats, that came together to support the war against terror, and
authorize, if need be, the use of force to disarm Iraq. We must bring
the same spirit of bipartisan cooperation to the urgent task of
protecting our country from the ongoing threat of terrorist attack.
The single most important item of unfinished business on Capitol
Hill is to create a unified department of homeland security that will
vastly improve our ability to protect our coasts and our borders and
The election may be over, but a terrorist threat is still real.
The Senate must pass a bill that will strengthen our ability to protect
the American people. And they must pass a bill that preserves the
authority every President since John Kennedy has had to act in the
interest of national security. It's imperative that the Congress send
me a bill that I can sign before the 107th Congress ends.
We have a responsibility to strengthen the economy so people can
find work. We're working to keep this economy moving. And one
immediate thing Congress should do to help people put -- back to work
is to pass legislation so that construction projects can get insurance
against terrorism. This will spur construction and create thousands of
good hard-hat jobs that are currently on hold because projects without
insurance cannot be built.
Although it's late in the process, Congress must show fiscal
discipline. At a time when we're at war and a time we need to
strengthen our economy, Congress must be wise with the people's money,
fund the nation's priorities and control wasteful spending. The
workers of America deserve our action on these important issues, which
have been stalled, yet, when approved will strengthen our economy.
Many of the fundamental economic indicators are good. Interest
rates are low, so Americans can buy more homes. Inflation is low, so
paychecks go further in buying groceries and gas. The productivity of
our workers is high. The economy has come out of a recession and is
growing, but I'm not satisfied because I know we can do better. We
must have an economy to grow at a faster and stronger pace so Americans
can find a job. And so I'll work with new Congress to pass new growth
and jobs packages early next year.
I look forward to welcoming a new Congress. And I look forward to
working with the current Congress to finish some very important work.
And now it's my privilege to take some of your questions, starting with
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Do you believe that Tuesday's
election gave you personally a mandate? And now that you have the
Republican Congress, what will you do specifically, beyond terrorism
insurance and government spending restraints, to address the real
anxieties -- of everyday Americans --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. First, I think candidates win elections
because they're good candidates, not because they may happen to have
the President as a friend -- or a foe, for that matter. Races that
were won were won because people were able to convince the voters they
could trust their judgment, convince the voters they care deeply about
their circumstances. I believe if there is a mandate in any election,
at least in this one, it's that people want something to get done.
They want people to work together in Washington, D.C. to pass
meaningful legislation which will improve their lives.
The best way to win an election is to -- is to earn the trust of
the voters, and that's what happened in state after state after state.
We had some really good candidates who overcame some pretty tough
odds. They were running against incumbents, in a lot of cases, and
they ran great races. And they were reassuring people. And I really
attribute the successes to the nature of their candidacies, and the
hardworking people that turned out the vote. There were some really
effective voter turnout organizations around the country.
And I think the way to look at this election is to say the people
want something done. They see the risks are high, the risk of being
able to find a job or the risk of keeping the homeland secure. And
they want people to come together to work on it, and that's what I
intend to do.
Q The specifics of your --
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, sorry, yes. Well, I'll let you know at the
right time. For right now, we got to get through a lame duck session.
A lame duck session, for people who don't know what that means, it
means the Senate is coming and the House is coming back between now and
Christmas and they've got a few days to get some big things done. And
the most important thing to get done, I want to emphasize, is get a
department of homeland security finished.
Some rumors moving around that we may not be too keen on getting
that done. I want it done. It is a priority. We got a good bill out
of the House, and they need to get a bill out of the Senate and to
conference, and to my desk. I don't know how much time that's going to
take, but having watched the debate prior to the election, it may take
some time. But it doesn't matter how long it takes, they need to get
Secondly, they need to get a budget done. We need to get the
bills, the appropriation bills done. And I mentioned, they've got to
get the terrorism insurance bill done.
Now, given the amount of time they're likely to be here, that's a
pretty big agenda. And in terms of afterwards, I'll let you know. But
there are some issues, of course, that I intend to work with the
Congress on, and one of them is to get prescription drug benefits to
our seniors. That's an important issue. It's an issue that I talked
about at every speech. The candidates, I'm sure both political
parties, talked about it. And that's something that we need to get
But let's get this -- get out of this lame duck session first.
Q Mr. President, how confident are you that the Security
Council will approve the tough new resolution on Iraq? And if that
happens, what happens next; what's the next step? Is war inevitable?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the resolution we put down is a
tough new resolution. It talks about material breach and inspections
and serious consequences if Saddam Hussein continues to defy the world
and not disarm. So, one, I'm pleased with the resolution we put down.
Otherwise, we wouldn't have put it down.
I just talked to Jacques Chirac, and earlier today I talked to
Vladimir Putin. I characterize our conversation -- I'm loathe to put
words in somebody else's mouth. That's, evidently, not the case with a
lot of people in Washington, but nevertheless, I am. And I'm
optimistic we'll get the resolution vote tomorrow -- let me put it to
you that way.
And, Steve, the resolution is a disarmament resolution; that's what
it is. It's a statement of intent to, once and for all, disarm Saddam
Hussein. He's a threat. He's a threat to the country, he's a threat
to people in his neighborhood. He's a real threat. And it's now time
for the world to come together and disarm him. And when this
resolution passes, I will -- we'll be able to say that the United
Nations has recognized the threat, and now we're going to work together
to disarm him.
And he must be cooperative in the disarmament. So the job of
inspectors is to determine his level of cooperation, see. He has got
to be the agent of disarming; he's got to agree that what we're doing
is what he said he we do. And just like the United Nations has agreed
that it is important to disarm him, for the sake of peace, and so the
next step will be to put an inspection regime in there to -- after
all the declarations and after all the preamble to inspections, that
he's got to show the world he's disarming. And that's where we'll be
Let's see here. Helen.
Q I have a follow-up --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I have a list. (Laughter.) I don't want to
be so discriminatory that people will say that I haven't thought this
through. After all, the new arrangement -- and by the way, we're
here in honor of Ari Fleischer; otherwise we'd be in his house. But
since he's getting married this weekend, I thought it appropriate to
leave the podium that he occupies empty, in honor of the fact that he's
getting married. I hope you all have sent your gifts to him.
Ari, I did what you asked me to do. (Laughter. I'm sure he's on
C-SPAN right now.
Q Mr. President, what is the logic of your insistence on
invading Iraq at some point, which may someday have nuclear weapons,
and not laying a glove on North Korea, which may have them or may
produce them? Both of which, of course, would be against international
law. And I have a follow-up. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I may decide to let you have that follow-up
or not depending upon -- (laughter) -- depending on whether I like
my answer. (Laughter.)
I am insistent upon one thing about Iraq, and that is that Saddam
Hussein disarm. That's what I'm insistent on. He agreed to do that,
by the way. Saddam Hussein said he would disarm. And he hasn't. And
for the --
Q And you don't --
THE PRESIDENT: Is that the follow-up? (Laughter.) Okay, that is
the follow-up. I do care about North Korea. And as I said from the
beginning of this new war in the 21st century, we'll deal with each
threat differently. Each threat requires a different type of
response. You've heard my strategy on dealing with Iraq. I've been
very clear on dealing with the strategy all along, and tomorrow it
looks like part of that strategy is coming to fruition.
With North Korea, we're taking a different strategy, initially, and
it's this -- that we're going to work with countries in the
neighborhood to convince North Korea that it is not in the world's
interest that they develop a nuclear weapon through highly enriched
We know they've got the capacity through plutonium; we have IAEA
inspectors there watching carefully their plutonium stockpile. And
then we discovered that, contrary to an agreement they had with the
United States, they're enriching uranium, with the desire of developing
a weapon. They admitted to this. And so, therefore, we have worked
with our Japanese friends and South Korean friends, with the leadership
in China -- I will talk with Vladimir Putin about this after my trip
to the NATO summit -- to remind North Korea that if they expect to be
a -- welcomed into this family of peaceful nations, that they should
not enrich uranium.
I thought it was a very interesting statement that Jiang Zemin made
in Crawford, where he declared very clearly that he wants a nuclear
weapons-free Korean Peninsula. That was, in my judgment, an important
clarification of Chinese policy that I hope the North Koreans listen
to. Believe we can achieve this objective, Helen, by working closely
with this consortium of nations, which have got a valid interest in
seeing to it that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons.
Q Mr. President, can I have a follow-up --
THE PRESIDENT: Of course, you can. Yes, it's fine. (Laughter.)
If the elections had gone a different way, I might not be so generous.
Q You are leaving the impression that Iraqi lives, the human
cost doesn't mean anything --
THE PRESIDENT: Say that again?
Q You are leaving the impression that you wouldn't mind if you
go to war against Iraq, but you deal with another nation which may have
weapons in a different way. But there are two other impressions
around. One, that you have an obsession with going after Saddam
Hussein at any cost. And also that you covet the oil fields.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, I'm -- some people have the right
impressions and some people have the wrong impressions.
Q Can you --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, those are the wrong impressions.
THE PRESIDENT: I have a deep desire for peace. That's what I have
a desire for. And freedom for the Iraqi people. See, I don't like a
system where people are repressed through torture and murder in order
to keep a dictator in place. It troubles me deeply. And so the Iraqi
people must hear this loud and clear, that this country never has any
intention to conquer anybody. That's not the intention of the American
people or our government. We believe in freedom and we believe in
peace. And we believe the Iraqi dictator is a threat to peace. And so
that's why I made the decisions I made, in terms of Iraq.
Now, Terry Moran.
Q Thank you, sir. On Iraq, you've said many times that if
Saddam Hussein does not disarm, he will be disarmed militarily, if
necessary, by the U.N. or the U.S. and others. There's a school of
thought that says that going to war against Iraq would be a dangerous
and misguided idea because it would generate a tremendous amount of
anger and hatred at the United States, and out of that you'd
essentially be creating many new terrorists who would want to kill
Americans. What's wrong with that analysis?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's like saying we should not go after al
Qaeda because we might irritate somebody and that would create a danger
to Americans. My attitude is you got to deal with terrorism in a firm
way. And if they see threats you deal with them in all different kinds
of ways. The only way, in my judgment, to deal with Saddam Hussein is
to bring the international community together to convince him to
But if he's not going to disarm, we'll disarm him, in order to make
the world a more peaceful place. And some people aren't going to like
that -- I understand. But some people won't like it if he ends with a
nuclear weapon and uses it. We have an obligation to lead. And I
intend to assume that obligation to make the world more peaceful.
Terry, listen, there's risk in all action we take. But the risk of
inaction is not a choice, as far as I'm concerned. The inaction
creates more risk than doing our duty to make the world more peaceful.
And obviously, I weighed all the consequences about all the
differences. Hopefully, we can do this peacefully -- don't get me
wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so,
and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm,
there's a chance he may decide to do that.
And war is not my first choice, don't -- it's my last choice.
But nevertheless, it is a -- it is an option in order to make the
world a more peaceful place.
Let's see here. King. John King, that is.
Q Sir, in referring to the elections, you're being quite humble
about the results and your role. But many conservative lawmakers and
many more conservative groups are saying, seize the moment. They say
early in the new Congress, you should push your plan to partially
privatize Social Security; you should push for new restrictions on
abortion; you should push and re-nominate the judges that were rejected
by the Senate; and that you should push a total overhaul of the tax
code. What are your views on that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate all the advice I'm getting.
(Laughter.) One of the things about this job, if you listen carefully,
you get a lot of advice. And I -- it's important for a President to
set priorities, and the two biggest priorities are the protection of
the American people -- that's why I wanted to get this homeland
security department done -- and the other one is people being able to
find jobs. And we'll work on those. And tax relief or tax reform,
however you want to describe it, is part of, in my judgment, of
creating economic vitality.
But there are other things we can work on. Obviously, I'd like to
see some of my judges get a good -- a fair hearing and get approved;
and Medicare, prescription drugs is a very important issue, needs to
get done. Terrorism insurance is an important issue; energy bill is an
important issue. I mean, there's a lot of things we can do and should
do when they come back. And I can't remember the litany of things --
listen, there's going to be a huge laundry list of things people want
to get done, and my job is to set priorities and get them done. And
job creation and economic security -- job creation and economic
security, as well as homeland security, are the two most important
priorities we face.
Q Social Security and any new restrictions --
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think the Social Security debate is an
incredibly important debate. And we call them personal savings
accounts, John, so that people have the option, at their choice, to
manage their own money. That would be younger workers. Obviously,
we've got to assure older workers that the promises we have made will
And the danger, really, is for young workers. That's the threat,
as to whether Social Security will be around for young workers without
some massive tax increase. And I still strongly believe that the best
way to achieve security in Social Security for younger workers is to
give them the option of managing their own money through a personal
savings account. Yes, it's an important issue, as well.
Listen, there's a lot of important issues. The budget is an
important issue. The budget is an important issue coming out of the
lame duck session. And the budget, as you know -- you're an old hand
around here -- is always an important issue in the next session. So
that's always an issue, too. There are some practical matters, as
well, that will occupy time here in Washington, D.C.
Roberts. John Roberts, that is.
Q I'm wondering, sir, is Harvey Pitt, the Chairman of the SEC,
just the first member of your economic team to go? And a separate
question: Will you ask William Webster to resign?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me start with Pitt. Harvey Pitt did some
very good things at the SEC, and it's important for the American people
to know that. Right after 9/11, he did a lot to get the markets
opened. He really was -- played a major role in that, and received
good credit for that. And I want to thank Harvey Pitt for that, and
the American people should, as well.
He has done a lot to make it clear to corporate Americans that
think they can -- don't have to be responsible in their positions
-- a lot of enforcement, more so than ever in the history; he's
enforced the corporate responsibility ethos. He has disbarred more
people, more money has been disgorged as a result of illegal activity.
And that's positive, what Harvey has done, as well.
And under his watch, CEOs now must verify their returns, and that's
good. All that's positive. He made the decision himself that he
thought that he couldn't be as effective as he needed to be. I
received his letter. I appreciate his service.
William Webster, the -- there's a IG investigation going on there
at the SEC; we'll see what that says. But I will tell you, William
Webster is a fine man. He is a decent, honorable public servant who
has served our country well.
Q -- with respect to --
THE PRESIDENT: Is this a three-part question?
Q No. I'm just kind of reiterating the first. He is just the
first member of your economic team to go? The implication is -- do
you have --
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, my economic team came in during very
difficult times. There was a recession; there was a terrorist attack;
there were corporate scandals. We have done a lot to return confidence
and to provide a -- provide stimulus through tax cuts. My economic
team developed a tax cut package, sold the tax cut package, is
implementing the tax cut package. And for that, they deserve a lot of
credit. They made good -- we're making good progress on the
economy. There's still work to do. And I appreciate the hard work of
the economic team.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You were very gracious earlier,
giving credit in this last election to the individual candidates. But
a lot of those candidates say they have you to thank. Given the fact
that your own election for President was so close it had to be decided
by the Supreme Court, do you now feel personally reassured that these
midterm elections validated your presidency?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for that loaded question. (Laughter.)
Look, sometimes you win them, and sometimes you lose elections. That's
just the way it is. And I was pleased with the results. I was more
particularly pleased for the candidates who worked so hard, and their
families and their workers. That's how I feel about it. I really
don't put this in personal terms.
I know people in Washington like to do that. You know, George Bush
won, George Bush lost. That's the way they do it here. Zero sum, in
Washington. And I know that. But if you're really interested in what
I think, I think the fact that Norm Coleman ran a very difficult race
in difficult circumstances and won speaks volumes about Norm Coleman.
The fact that John Thune ran a difficult race against difficult
circumstances and at this point is still short, nevertheless, speaks
volumes about his desire and his intention to serve the country.
There's case after case of people who have put their reputations on
the line, who spent a lot of time away from their homes and their
families, shaking a lot of hands and putting their hearts and souls
-- in both parties. They deserve the credit. Thank you for trying to
give it to me, but they deserve the credit.
I know what it's like to run for office. I know the strains it
puts on families. I know the tired -- the endless hours you spend
campaigning, and all the wonderful questions you have to answer as part
of a campaign. I know all that. And these candidates deserve all the
And I was proud to help some of them the best I could. But the way
you win a race is you convince the people of your state or your
district that they can trust your judgment and they can trust your
character and they can trust your values. And it takes a lot of work
to do that, and these candidates get the credit. And I -- I
appreciate you pointing out that some people have given me credit. The
credit belongs to people in the field.
Yes, sir, Wendell.
Q Mr. President, thank you very much. You have put a lot of
effort toward getting the United Nations to rally the world to disarm
Saddam Hussein. And yet you and your aides have expressed a great deal
of skepticism about whether Saddam Hussein will actually comply. Can
you give us an idea, sir, how long you think it might take for the
world to know whether Saddam Hussein actually intends to go along with
the call of the world to disarm? Will it be a matter of days or weeks,
months, or perhaps a year, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Wendell, this much we know -- it's so far
taken him 11 years and 16 resolutions to do nothing. And so we've got
some kind of history as to the man's behavior. We know he likes to try
to deceive and deny, and that's why this inspection regime has got to
be new and tough and different. The status quo is unacceptable, you
know, kind of send a few people in there and hope maybe he's nice to
them and open up the baby milk factory -- it's unacceptable.
And so that's why you'll see us with a different inspection regime,
one that works to see to it that Saddam Hussein disarms. It's his
responsibility to disarm. I don't put timetables on anything. But for
the sake of peace -- sooner, better.
And we'll see. But you must know that I am serious -- so are a
lot of other countries -- serious about holding the man to account.
I was serious about holding the U.N. to account. And when they pass
this resolution, which I hope they do tomorrow, it shows that the U.N.
is beginning to assume its responsibilities to make sure that 11 years
of defiance does not go unanswered. It's very important that the U.N.
be a successful international body because the threats that we face now
require more cooperation than ever. And we're still cooperating with a
lot of nations. We're still sharing intelligence and cutting off money
the best we can. And there's still law enforcement efforts taking
place all around the world.
And that's why the international -- this international body
called the U.N. is an important body for keeping the peace. And it's
very important that they're effective. And we'll see tomorrow --
And then the key on the resolution, I want to remind you, is that
there are serious consequences. And that's one of the key elements to
make sure that everybody gets the picture that we are serious about a
process of disarming him in the name of peace. Hopefully, he'll choose
to do so himself.
Sammons, Super Stretch.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You and I are eye-to-eye, right? (Laughter.)
Q Now that the 2004 presidential campaign has unofficially
begun, can you tell us whether Vice President Cheney will be your
running mate again? Or will you, instead, choose someone who might
harbor greater presidential ambitions to, perhaps, succeed you one
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I'm still recovering from the
'02 elections. And we got plenty of time to deal with this issue. But
should I decide to run, Vice President Cheney will be my running mate.
He's done an excellent job. I appreciate his advice. I appreciate his
counsel. I appreciate his friendship. He is a superb Vice President,
and there's no reason for me to change.
I also want to thank him for all his hard work during the
campaign. He was out there toiling along, working hard and turning out
the vote, and I want to thank him for the hours he put out there, as
Q If I may follow? Last time you had --
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for not standing up, you block the
Q Last time you had to kind of convince him to take the job.
Have you talked to him this time, whether he is interested in serving
THE PRESIDENT: I'm confident that he will serve another term.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said this afternoon that the
U.N. Security Council vote tomorrow would bring the civilized world
together against Iraq. But broad opposition remains all over the world
to your policy. Will you continue to try to build support and, if so,
how will you do that? Or do you think that a Security Council vote
would be all the mandate you need?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, broad opposition around the world not
in support of my policy on Iraq?
Q Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think most people around the world realize
that Saddam Hussein is a threat. And they -- no one likes war, but
they also don't like the idea of Saddam Hussein having a nuclear
weapon. Imagine what would happen. And by the way, we don't know how
close he is to a nuclear weapon right now. We know he wants one. But
we don't know. We know he was close to one at one point in time; we
have no idea today. Imagine Saddam Hussein with a nuclear weapon.
Imagine how the Israeli citizens would feel. Imagine how the citizens
in Saudi Arabia would feel. Imagine how the world would change, how he
could alter diplomacy by the very presence of a nuclear weapon.
And so a lot of people -- serious people around the world are
beginning to think about that consideration. I think about it a lot.
I think about it particularly in the regard of making the world a more
And so it's very important for people to realize the consequences
of us not taking the case to the U.N. Security Council. People need to
think about what would happen if the United States had remained silent
on this issue and just hoped for a change of his attitude, or maybe
hoped that he would not invade somebody again, or just hoped that he
wouldn't use gas on his own people when pressure at home began to
I'm not willing to take those kind of risks. People understand
that. I think a lot of people are saying, you know, gosh, we hope we
don't have war. I feel the same way, I hope we don't have war. I hope
this can be done peacefully. It's up to Saddam Hussein, however, to
make that choice.
I also want to remind you that, should we have to use troops,
should it become a necessity in order to disarm him, the United States,
with friends, will move swiftly with force to do the job. You don't
have to worry about that. We will do -- we will do -- we will do
what it takes militarily to succeed.
I also want to say something else to people of Iraq, that the
generals in Iraq must understand clearly there will be consequences for
their behavior. Should they choose, if force is necessary, to behave
in a way that endangers the lives of their own citizens, as well as
citizens in the neighborhood, there will be a consequence. They will
be held to account.
And as to the Iraq people, what I said before -- the Iraqi people
can have a better life than the one they have now. They can have a --
there are other alternatives to somebody who is willing to rape and
mutilate and murder in order to stay in power. There's just a
better life than the one they have to live now.
I think the people of the world understand that too, Judy. I don't
take -- I don't take -- I don't spend a lot of time taking polls
around the world to tell me what I think is the right way to act; I've
just got to know how I feel. I feel strongly about freedom. I feel
strongly about liberty. And I feel strongly about the obligation to
make the world a more peaceful place. And I take those
responsibilities really seriously.
Q Thank you, sir. You just said you've reached out to
Democrats. Does this mean that you will be governing more from the
center and taking fewer cues from the conservative arm of your party?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't take cues from anybody, I just do what I
think is right. That's just the way I lead. And what's right is to
work to stimulate the economy. I strongly believe the tax relief was
the right thing to do. If people are really interested in job
creation, they ought to join me in my call to make the tax cuts
permanent. It's an important part of sending a signal that there is
certainty in the tax code; that all the benefits from tax relief don't
go away after 10 years.
As I like to say -- you might have heard me once or 10 times or a
hundred times -- the Senate giveth and the Senate taketh away. That
means there's uncertainty when that happens. And you've got to have
certainty in a system that requires risk. And making the tax cuts
permanent is an essential part. I mean -- and so that is a
common-sense drive, to create jobs.
I will just tell people what I think about how to solve the
problems we face. And I ran on a political philosophy; I'm not
changing my political philosophy. I am who I am prior -- the say guy
after the election that I was prior to the election. That's just who I
am and how I intend to lead this country.
Jean Cummings. I'm having such a good time. (Laughter.) Jean
Cummings -- there she is, yes.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the question of
THE PRESIDENT: Pitt, yes.
Q What kind of person are you looking for to fill that position
now? And how quickly do you want to move on that? And then also, as
much as you said that Mr. Webster is a well-respected and quality
person, do you think that the chairman -- whoever that new chairman
is -- should have a chance to select their own person and have a
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think -- that's kind of the double-whammy
hypothetical there, Jean. I think that the -- on Webster, first,
let's find out what the facts are so that everybody knows. That's why
they're doing this investigation. And it's -- one fact is
irrefutable, he's a decent man. He's served the country well. And I
know he can do that job.
Secondly, as soon as possible, for the SEC nominee, and somebody
who is going to continue to fulfill the obligation that -- of holding
people to account. In other words, holding wrongdoers to account and
making sure the numbers are fair and open and transparent, and
everybody understands the facts when it comes to -- to accounting, so
we continue to regain confidence in our system. That people, when they
invest based upon the numbers of a particular stock, are confident in
that which they read. And that's an essential part of the SEC job, and
I'm confident we can find somebody soon to be able to do that.
Q Thank you. I wanted to go back to your earlier point about
the risk of an action versus the risk of inaction.
THE PRESIDENT: Where would that be, in the Congress or at the
Q With Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, okay.
Q Your CIA Director told Congress just last month that it
appears that Saddam Hussein "now appears to be drawing a line short of
conducting terrorist attacks against the United States." But if we
attacked him he would "probably become much less constrained." Is he
wrong about that?
THE PRESIDENT: No. I think that -- I think that if you would
read the full -- I'm sure he said other sentences. Let me just put
it to you, I know George Tenet well. I meet with him every single
day. He sees Saddam Hussein as a threat. I don't know what the
context of that quote is. I'm telling you, the guy knows what I know,
that he is a problem and we must deal with him.
And, you know, it's like people say, oh, we must leave Saddam
alone; otherwise, if we did something against him, he might attack us.
Well, if we don't do something, he might attack us, and he might attack
us with a more serious weapon. The man is a threat, Hutch, I'm telling
you. He's a threat not only with what he has, he's a threat with what
he's done. He's a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda. In my
Cincinnati speech, I reminded the American people, a true threat facing
our country is that an al Qaeda-type network trained and armed by
Saddam could attack America and leave not one fingerprint. That is a
threat. And we're going to deal with it.
The debate about whether we're going to deal with Saddam Hussein is
over. And now the question is how do we deal with him. I made the
decision to go to the United Nations because I want to try to do this
peacefully. I want Saddam to disarm. The best way to convince him to
disarm is to get the nations to come together through the U.N. and try
to convince him to disarm.
We're going to work on that. We've been spending a lot of time --
I wouldn't exactly call it gnashing of teeth, but working hard on the
U.N. resolution. It took a while, but we've been grinding it out,
trying to bring a consensus, trying to get people together, so that we
can say to the world the international community has spoken through the
Security Council of the United Nations and now, once again, we expect
Saddam to disarm.
This would be the 17th time that we expect Saddam to disarm. This
time we mean it. See, that's the difference -- I guess. This time
it's for real. And I say it must not have been for real the last 16
times because nothing happened when he didn't. This time something
happens. He knows -- he's got to understand that. The members of
the U.N. Security Council understand that. Saddam has got to
understand it so he, so, in the name of peace, for a peaceful
resolution of this, we hope he disarms.
Jackson, from Texas. You got anything -- a Texas question?
Q As a matter of fact, I do. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q Do you intend to resuscitate the nomination of Priscilla Owen
and Charles Pickering? And, also, how bloody do you think the next
Supreme Court nomination will be?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I want the new chairman of the Senate
Judiciary Committee to understand that I am very serious about the
reforms that I suggested in the East Room, about how to get this
process of nominating judges and approving judges on the right course,
not only for this administration, but future administrations; not only
for this Senate, but future Senates. And so step one on the judiciary
process, I believe there needs to be reform. I would be glad to
reprise the reforms if you can't remember them.
Q Owen and Pickering, are they going to --
THE PRESIDENT: I'll be there in a minute. (Laughter.) I'm using
this as an opportunity to make a point on judicial reform. And that is
that if a judge thinks he's going to retire, give us a year's notice,
if possible. And then we will act -- "we," the administrative
branch, will nominate somebody and clear them within 180 days. And
then the Senate judiciary has got 90 days to go through the process and
then get the person's name to the floor, and 180 days for an up or down
vote. To me that would be a needed and necessary reform.
So step one on the nomination process is to work with Senator Hatch
-- and Senator Leahy -- to put these reforms in place; is to
convince members of the Senate we're serious about a process that will
get rid of the old bitterness of the judicial process.
This is probably not to your liking, by the way. You love those
court fights. I'm confident it makes great covering and great
I also said at the time of Priscilla Owen's being -- not being
put to the floor of the Senate that I would hope that the judiciary
committee would let her name out to the Senate floor at some point in
time. We don't have to recommit them, they never -- they're
there. Pickering and Owen are still there at the committee level.
They just weren't ever -- their names were never let to the floor for
By the way, if they had been let to the floor for a vote, we
believe they would have won the vote -- perhaps the reason why they
were never let to the floor for a vote. But -- so, I hope that
judiciary committee will let their names out and they get a fair
I thought you were going to talk about the Texas elections. But
that's okay. (Laughter.)
April, last question.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: How's your child, April?
Q She's wonderful.
THE PRESIDENT: Georgia W? (Laughter.)
Q My husband is watching, and the name is Ryan Tyler James.
THE PRESIDENT: You might as well turn to the camera when you say
Q Well, Mr. President, some critics contend there is a racial
disparity in how immigrants are handled here, and speaking of the
Haitians versus immigrants, the other immigrants. Do you support the
current law on the books about Haiti, and why, either way?
THE PRESIDENT: April, first of all, the immigration laws ought to
be the same for Haitians and everybody else -- except for Cubans.
And the difference, of course, is that we don't send people back to
Cuba because they're going to be persecuted. And that's why we've got
the special law on the books as regards to Cubans. But Haitians and
everybody else ought to be treated the same way. And we're in the
process of making sure that happens.
It's been an enjoyable experience.
END 2:47 P.M. EST