For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 2, 2003
President Focuses on U.S. Economy, Iraq & N. Korea
Remarks by the President to the Press Pool
Prairie Chapel Ranch
12:14 P.M. CST
Q Sir, there's another Democrat has thrown his hat into the
ring today, John Edwards. What do you think of the Democrat strategy
to essentially say that you're not keeping America safe enough? You've
heard some of that from some of the speeches.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you know, I understand politics, and I'm not
paying attention to politics. I'm going to continue doing the job the
American people expect, which is to safeguard America and Americans.
We've got a war on our hands. There is a terrorist network that
still is interested in harming Americans and we will hunt them down.
There are countries which are developing weapons of mass destruction
and we will deal with them appropriately. One country is Iraq.
Obviously, we expect them to live up to the U.N. Security resolutions
and disarm, and if they won't, we'll lead a coalition to disarm them.
Another country is North Korea. And we are working with friends
and allies in the region to explain clearly to North Korea it's not in
their nation's interest to develop and proliferate weapons of mass
It was right here at this spot where Jiang Zemin, the leader of
China, and myself got together and we put out a joint declaration that
we expect for the Korean Peninsula to be nuclear weapons-free. That
was a serious statement. I believe the situation with North Korea will
be resolved peacefully. As I said, it's a diplomatic issue, not a
military issue and we're working all fronts.
Q Can I follow that up? You said it could be resolved
diplomatically. You were quoted not long ago saying that you loathe
Kim Jong-il. How can you --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I worry about with a leader like Kim
Jong-il is somebody who starves his people. The United States of
America is the largest -- one of the largest, if not the largest donor
of food to the North Korean people. And one of the reasons why the
people are starving is because the leader of North Korea hasn't seen to
it that they're economy is strong or that they be fed. We've got a
great heart, but I have no heart for somebody who starves his folks.
Q Mr. President, when you look forward and think about economic
stimulus -- we're beginning a new year -- and the stock market people
nursing some losses, what are your views about that? And, secondly,
are you sensitive to the idea that a stimulus is too weighted toward
helping the wealthiest Americans and are you making choices based on
that, to help the middle income --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I'm worried about is job creation. And
I'm worried about those who are unemployed. I am concerned about those
who are looking for work but can't find work. And so next week when I
talk about an economic stimulus package, I will talk about how to
create jobs, how best to create jobs, as well as how to take care of
those who don't have a job.
I'm concerned about all the people. And I don't view the politics
of -- you know, I understand the politics of economic stimulus -- that
some would like to turn this into class warfare. That's not how I
think. I think about the overall economy and how best to help those
folks who are looking for work.
Q Do you -- will you propose new tax cuts? Do you think
they're necessary now for the economy?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm looking at all options. And, of course, if I
knew the answer, I probably wouldn't tell you now, because I'd like for
you to come and pay attention to the speech.
Q I'll do that.
THE PRESIDENT: I know you'll do that.
Q Can I go back to Korea?
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q You're talking about a diplomatic solution and you believe
that there is one. How do you think you can bring some of the other
countries in the region that are reluctant right now --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think the countries are reluctant to
Q -- reluctant to put pressure on.
THE PRESIDENT: They may be putting pressure on and you just don't
know about it. But I know that they're not reluctant when it comes to
the idea of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. And we are in
constant contact with the Japanese and the South Koreans and the
Chinese and the Russians.
As I said -- and the decision to cut off fuel oil was a joint
decision. It was not a U.S. decision, it was jointly made with the
South Koreans and the Japanese and the European Union, for that
matter. It's important for the American people to remember the history
of Kim Jong-il. He created some international tension and the United
States of America went and signed an agreement with him. And the
agreement was that we'd provide -- along with others, we'd provide fuel
oil and help and in return, he would not enrich uranium.
But it turns out he was enriching uranium. And we blew the whistle
on the fact that he was in violation of the '94 agreement. And the
parties to that agreement came together and said, well, in return for
him making that decision, in terms of him abrogating the agreement
there will be a consequence. And that's where we stand right now.
So the parties have come together. There has been a joint
declaration of intent. And we will continue working to resolve the
Q Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm tired of these people calling you Heidi.
Q I appreciate you --
THE PRESIDENT: And I will correct them. (Laughter.) Particularly
Q If we do have to go to war and --
THE PRESIDENT: With which country?
Q With Iraq. And if -- and with our economy stagnating, what
makes you confident that we can afford --
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, you know, I'm hopeful we won't have
to go war, and let's leave it at that.
Q But if we do, though, what --
THE PRESIDENT: Until Saddam Hussein makes up his mind to disarm --
see, it's his choice to make. See, you need to ask him that question,
Q But the White House is drawing up plans to pay for the war,
if we come to that. So why --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let's leave it at if, for a while then, until
Q So you don't want to talk about whether our economy could
sustain it, if that's a possibility?
THE PRESIDENT: I thought that was the question I answered
yesterday, so we'll go back to that question, Heidi. I mean, Holly.
Q Thank you, sir.
Q How do you size up the Democrats who are in line to oppose
you? What do you think of Senator --
THE PRESIDENT: Not paying attention to it yet, not paying
attention to the race yet. I've got a lot on my agenda and a lot on my
platter. And I understand politics. I know there's going to be a lot
of verbiage and a lot of noise and a lot of posturing and a lot of
elbowing. To me, that's just going to be background noise. My job is
to protect the American people and work to create confidence in our
economy so that people can find work.
Q On some level, were you getting ready for a rematch and
hoping for a rematch with Al Gore?
THE PRESIDENT: Really wasn't paying much attention to it,
Stretch. I seriously was -- I've got my mind on the peace and security
of the American people. And politics will sort itself out. And one of
these days, somebody will emerge and we'll tee it up and see who the
American people want to lead. And until that happens, I'm going to be
doing my job.
Q One more thing, any thoughts for the American investor going
into this new year?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hopefully the American investor realizes that
the -- this economy is pretty darn strong, given the fact that we have
been through a recession and a terrorist attack, a breach of corporate
confidence because of some malfeasance. And yet the economy still
grows. That's very positive.
Now, I recognize that there are some uncertainties. But one thing
is certain, that the economy of the United States is strong and
resilient. And we must put policies in place to enhance that
resiliency and enhance that strength.
Q Sir, you asked or you talked the other day about authorizing
an APB for those five people that were wanted by the FBI for coming
into this country. Today one guy from Pakistan says that he is one of
those people on those pictures, and he has never been to the United
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we need to follow up on forged passports and
people trying to come into our country illegally. The American people
need to know that any time we get a hint that somebody might be coming
into our country to cause harm, we'll follow up on it. And, you know,
if we think there's a smuggling ring that's willing to smuggle people
in that might harm America, we'll deal with it.
And there's -- you know, and if this fellow is one of them -- and
I think they're trying to check that out right now. And as I recall,
the story -- I haven't fully read it all -- but as I recall it said he
had a false passport. I'm kind of curious to know why he needs a false
passport. We like things aboveboard here in America.
We want people coming to our country that wants to take -- that
wants to either visit this great country or study in this great country
or see relatives in this great country and do so in a peaceful and
lawful way. And people have a feeling like they've got to travel here
with false passports sends a pretty alarming signal to those of us who
are involved with the security of the country.
Q Do you have the suspicion that there is a smuggling ring that
may not have specific terrorist ties, but that there's a ring of --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure what the -- you know, how to detail.
All I can tell you is that we were concerned and alerted to the fact
that somebody might be coming into the country. There are -- having
said that, there are a lot of smuggling rings that we're dealing with.
The INS needs to deal with that. And the new Homeland Security
Department will be dealing with smuggling rings, like the coyotes right
south of here that are smuggling people across, and treating those poor
people -- stuffing them into these trailers and abusing them. They
need to be dealt with, as well. Most of the smuggling rings are not
terrorist related, but if we get a hint, a whiff that some of them are,
we'll deal with them.
All right, let's go get some coffee.
Q One more. Are you satisfied that the inspectors are getting
to Saddam's weapon scientists?
THE PRESIDENT: He is a man who likes to play games and charades.
The question is, will Saddam Hussein disarm. The world has asked him
to disarm from weapons of mass destruction. The first indication isn't
very positive that he will voluntarily disarm. After all, he put out a
declaration that the world realized was false. And the inspectors are
there to verify whether or not he is disarming. You hear these reports
about Iraqi scientists being interviewed, but there's a "minder" in the
You know, Saddam Hussein -- hopefully he realizes we're serious,
and hopefully he disarms peacefully. He's a danger to the American
people, he's a danger to our friends and allies. For 11 long years,
the world has dealt with him. And now he's got to understand, his day
of reckoning is coming. And therefore, he must disarm voluntarily, I
hope he does.
All right, let's go get a coffee.
END 12:24 P.M. CST