For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 26, 2007
President and Mrs. Bush Meet with 2007 National and State Teachers of the Year Rose Garden 10:17 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Congratulations, Andrea. Congratulations to you. Congratulations to all our Teachers of the Year.
Today as we celebrate your accomplishments, we honor excellent teachers across our nation for their dedication and hard work. I know the characteristics of great teachers. You have extraordinary energy and enthusiasm and superb organizational skills. School people are "people people." You have the ability to interact and respect hundreds of different personalities every single day.
I've seen this energy and enthusiasm, not to mention great resolve, in the teachers I've met across the Gulf Coast. Today gives me a chance to thank those teachers who have worked to reopen their schools as quickly as possible. Gulf Coast teachers have comforted students in stable, nurturing classrooms, even as they're living in FEMA trailers themselves. These teachers, and the outstanding teachers who are here today, remind us that teaching is the greatest public service. (Applause.)
Across our country, excellent teachers show children that there's an adult who cares about them, respects them, and believes in them. It's a lesson that stays with students for a lifetime.
Now I'd like to introduce someone I know who cares for, respects, and believes in our teachers: Ladies and gentlemen, my husband, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: She forgot to add "and loves a teacher." (Laughter.) I made a good move when I married a teacher, and Laura and I are honored to welcome you here to the Rose Garden. Thanks for coming and thanks for teaching.
This is a special day for all who care deeply about education, because we fully understand that without a good teacher it's hard to achieve national goals and objectives. And so the Teacher of the Year ceremony is a chance to pay homage to some really fine public servants and great Americans, so we welcome you.
I appreciate the Secretary of Education joining us. I want to thank Congressman John Boozman and his wife, Cathy, from Arkansas. We thank Jay Inslee, from Washington, for joining us; thank you, Congressman. Dennis Moore and Stephanie, from Kansas, have joined us, as has Rick Larsen from Washington. I wonder why all these Washington congressmen have joined us. (Laughter and applause.)
Laura and I just had a chance to thank every State Teacher of the Year. It's an honor to welcome you to the Oval Office, it is a shrine to democracy and a wonderful place to give our personal thanks to a job well done.
I do want to recognize the finalists this year: Justin Minkel, from Arkansas. (Applause.) Josh Anderson, from Kansas. (Applause.) Tamara Tiong, from New Mexico. (Applause.) Andrea Peterson, the Teacher of the Year. (Applause.) And we've got to recognize Joel, the husband of the Teacher of the Year. Thank you, Joel. (Laughter and applause.) And mom and dad -- I'm going to say something about mom and dad in a minute.
I want to thank Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers for sponsoring this event. Rhonda Mims, the President of ING Foundation, Tom Waldron, the Executive Vice President of ING, and all the Chief State School Officers here today, thanks for coming. Thanks for honoring the teachers. (Applause.)
When you really think about it, few professionals have as direct an impact on our future as our teachers. Teachers are among our children's first role models, counselors, and friends. Teachers awaken young minds, and teachers encourage ingenuity and unleash fertile imaginations.
It's demanding work to be a teacher, even during its best moments. Sometimes, teachers come across students who require them to summon every last ounce of patience and understanding. When those times come, I just ask you remember, one day that student may become the President. (Laughter and applause.)
We ask a lot of our teachers, and we owe them a lot in return. One of the first priorities as President was to work with members of both parties to pass what's called the No Child Left Behind Act. I am -- I can't tell you how important this Act is to make sure every child learns to read, write, and add and subtract. The Act insists upon high standards, standards that you all set in your classrooms. Otherwise, you wouldn't be a Teacher of the Year. It says that it's important to measure to determine whether or not our children are learning and meeting standards. Measurement is not a tool to punish. Measurement is a tool to correct and reward.
The No Child Left Behind Act is working. In reading, nine-year-olds have made more progress in five years than the previous 28 years combined. A President couldn't report that to the nation unless we actually measured to determine whether that was true. In math, nine-year-olds and 13-year-olds have earned their highest test scores ever. In both reading and math, African American and Hispanic students are scoring higher and beginning to close the achievement gap with their peers.
The structure of the No Child Left Behind Act, the strategy of the Act makes a lot of sense. And that's why the Congress needs to reauthorize this good law. But the Act wouldn't be working without really dedicated teachers making sure -- making sure our children learn.
Teaching is more than a profession; it's a calling. And that calling came early to our Teacher of the Year. Andrea Peterson knows the importance of education in her life. After all, as she explained to me in the Oval Office, her first role model was her dad, who has taught for more than 30 years. (Applause.) And we welcome you. And we congratulate you on being such a fine dad that your daughter stands here in the Rose Garden as the National Teacher of the Year. (Applause.)
Andrea has got two sisters-in-law who are teachers, and a mother-in-law who is a teacher. This is a family that really cares about good grammar. (Laughter.) I probably wouldn't do all that well at the dinner table. (Laughter.) When you come from a family of teachers, you tend to develop a life-long appreciation of learning. And more importantly, it enables you to find creative ways to instill that appreciation in others.
Andrea has done some -- a lot of amazing work as a music teacher at Monte Cristo Elementary School in Granite Falls, Washington. (Applause.) In her 10 years at Monte Cristo, she has built an impressive music program, almost from scratch. She helped the school purchase instruments, organized an after-school choir, and helped obtain computer programs that allow students to compose their own music. She has integrated music education into other subjects. She's taken novels that children were reading in other classes and turned them into musical productions. She's used musical notes to explain fractions. She's helped students reach out to the community by developing a music program that honored local veterans. She's used music to reach students who are not doing well in the traditional classroom setting.
She's more than a music teacher. One parent said of Andrea this: "Mrs. Peterson is passionate about her job, and it shows." In fact, like any good teacher, Andrea juggles responsibilities that would exhaust all of us. For example, in the past few months, she's taught classes full-time, she carried out her obligations as Washington State Teacher of the Year, and took part in the National Teacher of the Year activities. And to top it all off, four weeks ago she gave birth to a daughter named Faith. (Applause.) That's what we call multitasking. (Laughter.) Faith probably doesn't know it yet, but she's lucky to have a mom and a dad like the Petersons. (Applause.)
There are a few other teachers who I think deserve mention today, and those are the teachers at Virginia Tech. They did all they could to protect their students from a day of horror, and they're doing all they can to help them heal in the aftermath. One teacher gave his life by using his body to barricade a classroom door while his students jumped to safety from windows. Americans everywhere hold the teachers and students and parents of the Virginia Tech community in our thoughts and in our prayers.
This tragedy has affected at least one of the teachers here in a very personal way, and that would be Susan Evans, who earned her master's degree at Virginia Tech, and we thank you for wearing the Virginia Tech scarf today. (Applause.)
Our nation is still seeking to make sense of this tragedy, and so are America's children. In fact, one of your hardest jobs is to explain horrific acts to the students. It's a hard job, but I want to thank America's teachers for comforting and encouraging our nation's youth during difficult moments such as the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
We're fortunate to have teachers like we do in America -- men and women who are drawn to the classroom with a desire to serve something larger than themselves. So on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for your hard work and your dedication. I thank you for preparing our young children for the challenges of the 21st century. And I thank you for all you do every day to help build a better America.
Congratulations, and welcome to the White House. (Applause.) END 10:30 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 26, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino White House Conference Center Briefing Room 1:51 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Eighty days after President Bush submitted his troop funding bill, the Senate has now joined the House in passing defeatist legislation that insists on a date for surrender, micro-manages our commanders and generals in combat zones from 6,000 miles away, and adds billions of dollars in unrelated spending to the fighting on the ground.
I just spoke to the President in the Oval Office, and as he said he would for weeks, the President will veto this legislation, and he looks forward to working with congressional leaders to craft a bill that he can sign. It is amazing that legislation urgently needed to fund our troops took 80 days to make its way around the Capitol, but that's where we are.
Q Dana, when will the President veto the bill?
MS. PERINO: We still don't know when we will get the bill. We don't know when we're going to get the bill, so we'll make that decision once we have it.
Q Will the goal be to veto it as soon as possible?
MS. PERINO: Well, the President has said that he wants to get the money to the troops as soon as possible. And so as soon as we get the bill, the President, as you could imagine, would make good on his promise to veto it, and then we'll take it from there. And you can assume that the President would soon meet -- quickly after that -- with the congressional leaders in order to start work on the bill.
Q One other on this. Do you see it as a procedural step to veto it and get on with the next stage, or do you see the White House staging some sort of event around it?
MS. PERINO: A little bit too early to preview, but the main point is the President is going to veto the bill, and then get to work with the congressional members on the next step.
Q Dana, the latest CBS News poll has 64 percent of those polled in favor of setting timetables for an Iraqi withdrawal of American troops. And that dovetails, I think, with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that had similar results yesterday. So, clearly, the administration is not on the same page with the majority of the American public.
MS. PERINO: I've said it many times before, and I'll just repeat it. We understand that Americans are tired of this war, they are weary, and they are frustrated, and they want the troops to come home. We want the troops to come home as well, and you're talking about a date for withdrawal. The President is the Commander-in-Chief. He stands on principle. He does not make decisions --
Q But what is --
MS. PERINO: His principle is that he is not going to put our troops into the position of having a date -- a surrender date without providing the Iraqis the chance that they need in order to get the political reconciliation that they need.
Q But here's my question. Isn't his principle, at this point, clearly in opposition with the majority of the American people?
MS. PERINO: Look, I'm not going to -- I can't tell you exactly how your poll ran, or how the question was phrased. I do think that the American people would understand that rashly pulling out quickly, without conditions being right on the ground, is dangerous for the long-term security interests of the United States. Now it is incumbent upon this administration to explain why we think that is the case, and I understand that there are people who disagree, people who are ready for the troops to come home. The President strongly believes that setting a date for surrender is not the way to do that.
Q Let me just follow once on that, because I think what's most interesting in this poll is that two weeks ago the number was 57 percent, and now it's 64 percent. So Americans are watching, they've been watching the last two weeks. The movement is against what the administration's position is.
MS. PERINO: Jim, you've covered the White House long enough to know that this President does not make decisions or change with the wind as the polls change. He understands that it's not popular. He understands how he could be popular, but he's going to continue to have the principled stand that he has.
Q This isn't an issue about popularity at this point, it's a question of which path are you going to take. And the President continues to stay on a path which, at least the polls as a representation of some kind of national opinion, seem to suggest are more divergent than ever.
MS. PERINO: Jim, one thing I would say is that it's not just the President who believes that a precipitous withdrawal is a bad idea. General David Petraeus, who was on Capitol Hill yesterday and gave a press conference today, has said similar, as did the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton group, as did the National Intelligence Estimate that is the consensus of the 16 intelligence agencies that looked into this issue. They all said that a precipitous withdrawal would be devastating for Iraq and for the region, and then ultimately have negative consequences for the long-term security of this country.
Q Dana, the President has often said that he understands the patience of the American people is not unlimited. But should we interpret that to mean that patience should extend to the end of his term?
MS. PERINO: What the President has asked is that -- he understood last November that people wanted a change in the war. He himself said he wasn't satisfied with the way that it was going. And so he took pains to have a comprehensive review in order to create the Baghdad Security Plan now being implemented by David Petraeus. What the President has asked for is for the Congress to give -- and the American people to give this plan a chance to work.
And what you heard from David Petraeus this week -- I'm sorry, I should call him General Petraeus -- is that he doesn't have all the troops there that he's asked for. That should be about mid-June, he said, when they will all get there. They're having small signs of success, the sectarian violence is down, but we have the spectacular bombings from al Qaeda. And he said that sometimes, you start to -- he can see progress on the ground, but that can be overtaken by one spectacular bombing by al Qaeda in a major market that kills hundreds of people. And these are not just -- this is not just killing of American troops. These are innocent men, women, and children of Iraq who are trying to go about their daily lives.
And the American troops are there to help try to protect them and to allow this new government to get the de-Baathification law finished, and get the oil law finished. And we understand that it's very difficult for them, but we also -- I can assure you that the President is constantly in contact with Prime Minister Maliki, pressuring him and pushing him and showing him how to lead that country so that it can be one that can sustain, defend, and govern itself.
Q Dana, why isn't it working? I mean, General Petraeus talks about -- the security situation is obvious. But what has to happen here is for the political track to kick in. It hasn't. How do you expect the American people to have patience with Maliki again? This is where we were last year.
MS. PERINO: Well, I think if you listen to David Petraeus, it's not exactly where we were last year, and that he has said the sectarian violence is down by a third.
Q But Maliki has not made that much progress.
MS. PERINO: There has been some progress. And granted -- and President -- we recognize that there are many issues, like those three that I just mentioned -- the de-Baathification law, and the oil law, and the provisional regional elections -- provincial elections -- has not moved forward fully, it's not finalized. But there has been progress and steps forward.
Q But isn't that the key to all of this?
MS. PERINO: It is key. It is absolutely key. But I think that everyone should keep in mind, we have a fully functioning democracy that's been in place for 200 years. Our Congress, it took them five years to pass one energy bill.
Q The President told the American people and addressed Maliki in January that the time for this to happen, this political progress, was now. What does that mean?
MS. PERINO: And I think that they are starting to make some progress. The oil law has now --
Q How long is now?
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry?
Q How long is "now"? What does "now" mean? What's the President --
MS. PERINO: The President has said -- well, I think the way that I would look at it is that the President has said, we're going to try the surge to try the -- to quell the violence there in Baghdad so that the government can have a little bit more time. And as I've just told you, General Petraeus said they're just about two months into the surge, and they don't have -- he doesn't have all the troops there that he wants, and it's going to take a while.
And as I said yesterday, General Petraeus will provide an assessment towards the fall, and that's, I think, when -- I think that's how I would look at the time frame.
Q Can we also go to something you said this morning, which you said, opponents of the administration have misconstrued the carrier appearance by the President four years ago. I don't know how they've misconstrued it. The President said, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
MS. PERINO: And he specifically also said, and this is a quote, "We still have difficult work to do in a dangerous country, which needed [sic] to be rebuilt." He also said, "The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time." And he has also said -- let me remind you what he said on January 10th --
Q But he said major combat operations are over. I mean, I don't even know why you're still arguing about that. I think the President --
MS. PERINO: What the President has said -- what we were talking about then was the fighting -- we toppled the Iraqi government, we toppled the Iraqi army, and that was a pretty quick succession of events.
But what the President then said, and he said on January 10th, is that he acknowledged many times that the U.S. underestimated the insurgence and the foreign fighters' ability to foment sectarian violence and to perpetrate terrorist attacks. And then he also said, "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."
Q So why quibble over something like this, that he said something that really didn't happen?
MS. PERINO: The President -- because of what -- I think that if you only take the one line, that the end of combat operations -- major combat operations, that's true, but the President also --
Q Yes, but the banner is consideration, as well.
MS. PERINO: Okay, well -- and that's what I meant by that this morning. And we have explained it many times. And you know what? I have a feeling I'm just on the losing end of this battle because the left has decided to believe what they want to believe, which is that the President was saying that the war was over and the troops were coming home. That's not what he said, and I just told you specifically what he said, and I encourage people to read the whole speech.
And that ship -- I'll get to you in a second -- USS America [sic] Lincoln had been deployed for well over its stated period. It was supposed to be gone for six months, and I think it was several months later, that they were coming home. And it was the ship that -- that mission was accomplished. And the President never said, "mission accomplished" in the speech, and people use it that -- now I understand that that's what the banner said, I understand that. But I'm telling you what the President --
Q I'm concentrating on the President's words, more than that.
MS. PERINO: But Martha, what the President said is that the transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time. It is -- we still had difficult work to do in a dangerous country which needed to be rebuilt.
Q Do you believe the timing of all this is related to the May 1st anniversary, which is coming up, in terms of --
MS. PERINO: I would certainly hope not. I think that if that's true, that it is very troubling that Democrats would be so cynical to use our troops in that way, to use troops for a political PR stunt, and to withhold money from the troops and their families. We already know the hardships that are happening from the military based on this.
And I also think that given that they say that they want to provide funding for the troops, it is curious why they didn't appoint conferees for two weeks, and I'm not sure if that had anything to do with this particular timing. I know that their on-the-record quotes are saying that it's just a coincidence, but certainly, the background chatter that they're providing to you anonymously would lead you to -- would only lead me to conclude that they are using the troops for their own political PR stunts.
Q Dana, though, last year it was a Republican Congress that took 118 days to get you a war funding bill, and the White House didn't complain that it took a long time. So why is 70 or 80 --
MS. PERINO: There's a key difference. One is that -- a couple of things. We did not provide the Congress the detail in the request that we did this year with the budget. In fact, we provided it to them later than when the budget came out. This year, we heard their complaints, and we got the request for the supplemental to them the same day as we sent up the regular budget of the United States.
In addition to that, there were some complaints, but the major key difference is, last year we knew that eventually -- that we were going to get a bill that the President could sign.
Q The point is, though, that it took 40 days longer for a Republican Congress to pass a war funding bill, and the money still got to the troops in the field. So isn't this -- aren't you exaggerating the effect on the troops in the field? Last year it took 40 days longer.
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think that we're exaggerating at all. I think if you look at the words from the military, from Secretary Gates and General Pace, that those are real things, and this stage in the war is different than last year. We're in a surge right now. And I think the other thing that they're looking at are some of their long-term procurement contracting issues, that they need to have this money now.
I think you can't underestimate the importance of realizing that we realized that we would get a bill last year that we could sign.
Q But on the question of major combat operations, isn't it more broadly just that, when you said earlier that the American people are weary and frustrated, they want the troops to come home, isn't that due in part to the fact that the President set unrealistic expectations with speeches like that, which suggested to the American people that this was going to be done very quickly?
MS. PERINO: As I said, the President has acknowledged numerous times that he and the administration underestimated the sectarian violence and the ability of al Qaeda in Iraq to foment these spectacular -- I'm sorry, to perpetrate these spectacular bombings, in which hundreds of innocent people are killed. And he said that where any of those mistakes were made, that the responsibility rests with him. And I think that the American people can rest assured that their Commander-in-Chief, number one, takes on that responsibility, and number two, has only the best interests of their security in mind when he makes these decisions.
Q What's your latest pronouncement on when you will know -- since General Petraeus is here now briefing people, when you will know whether or not the surge is working?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to leave that to General Petraeus, who said that it would be sometime in the fall in which he would give an assessment.
Q Dana, looking beyond the veto, you said that the President will be talking to members of Congress. What is the White House position? Is it your position that you will accept nothing less than a clean bill -- no pork, no timetables, no benchmarks -- or is the White House -- is there any give in this from your end?
MS. PERINO: I know that those are all the questions that are burning on your mind. I am not going to negotiate from this podium. I think the best thing to do is let the President get the bill, veto it, and then as I said, you could assume that he would be meeting quickly with congressional leaders. And I'm going to let them talk about it from there.
Q We assume that he is willing to compromise, to a certain extent, to meet them halfway or part way.
MS. PERINO: Sheryl, I'm not going to negotiate at all from here, give any sort of signal in any which way or form.
Q The President has accused the Democrats of holding up funding to the troops. But it's the President's veto that will, effectively, put the funding -- stop the funding in its tracks. So if this is so urgent doesn't he at least share some of the blame?
MS. PERINO: No, Matt --
Q -- some of the blame for the holdup, for failing to have his White House and his fellow Republicans achieve a workable compromise with the Democrats?
MS. PERINO: No. For several weeks the Democrats have known that if the bill, in its current form, is sent to him, that he would veto it. They've also said that they don't plan on cutting off funds for the troops. And given that, since they don't have and they know they don't have the votes to override the President's veto, it is their responsibility to send the President a bill that he can sign. They said -- they insisted on sending him a bill that they knew he couldn't sign. They insisted on sending him a bill that he would veto. And what he had said is, I will reluctantly do so, and then we'll have to get about the business of working on a bill that I can sign. And as you -- as Sheryl's question just indicated, we know that they're going to do that. So the responsibility rested with them.
Q Dana, as the time line issue is lingering, and Americans are in the polls saying they're tired of this war, they want change, does the administration feel that there is pressure that something has to give? I'm asking that as General Barry McCaffrey, someone who has talked to the President, the President has listened to, said that -- let's give Bob Gates another year, and if the game hasn't changed, it's time to go.
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, I don't understand what your question is.
Q The question is, is there pressure, is there pressure on this White House, understanding that Capitol Hill, you have people that you're talking to; the American public is saying look, something has to give --
MS. PERINO: Of course there's pressure. And that's why the President kind of changed strategy in January, and is hoping that the American people and the Congress would give the new strategy a chance to work.
Q But the issue is, is there pressure on this administration to turn around and walk out? Does this administration feel that pressure?
MS. PERINO: I think the President feels pressure to accomplish the mission, fulfill the mission that he's promised to the troops and to their families, and -- why are you looking at me like that?
Q I understand, but you're not answering --
MS. PERINO: I'm answering your question.
Q Not really. The pressure is to turn things around. He hasn't turned it around.
MS. PERINO: April, what I'm saying is that the surge, as General David Petraeus explained today, he doesn't have all the troops that he has said that he will need in order to fulfill his mission. And so the pressure is to let that process get underway and let the troops get there so that they can fulfill it.
Q That will take 10 years, and the American public is not going to wait --
MS. PERINO: It's not going to take 10 years. He said they'd be there by mid-June, April.
Q No, no, no, to turn things around -- you're saying it's going to happen immediately --
MS. PERINO: No, none of us have said it's going to happen immediately. We have said that we are up against a very determined enemy. This is a sworn enemy of the United States who are being helped by other sworn enemies of the United States. This is very serious. We are deluding ourselves if we think that we walk away, that everything is going to be okay, and that we can just let that region fester and not have any consequences for it, and not have to suffer the consequences of our actions here in Washington. And that is why the President has the principled stand that he does. And he is the Commander-in-Chief, with the long-term national security interests of this country in mind with every step of the way.
Q The General today said that, essentially, this is not an open-ended commitment. He talked about the American clock ticking. He talked about in September he'll give an assessment. And he was asked if he thinks it's not working, will he tell the truth, and will he say we should get out of there, and he said, yes, I will tell the truth about that.
MS. PERINO: As one would expect.
Q Right. So is the White House prepared for a report like that in September, where he comes back and says, we should leave and --
MS. PERINO: We are very clear-eyed about the situation, and we are also very heartened and honored that General David Petraeus is leading this mission.
Q Again, though, I'd have to say, is the President determined to stay there, no matter how many options he runs out of?
MS. PERINO: The President is determined to win in Iraq. I think that the bill that they sent us today is mission defeated. And the President wants us to win in Iraq, not only just for the long-term security interests of this nation, but because 12 million people in Iraq came out and they voted, and they wanted a new government and they wanted a constitution. And they said -- they wanted -- they thanked us for allowing them that opportunity, and now we have a responsibility to help that young government stabilize, to get themselves some laws that will get on the books, and will establish some political reconciliation.
Granted, Martha, this is very tough going; it is slow going. But we have to have slow, focused, persistent work, and encouraging patience on behalf of the American people. As you said, there's a -- there's this talk about an American clock versus an Iraqi clock, and sometimes the two don't tick at the same time.
Q I want to ask about the political briefings that were given to --
MS. PERINO: Can we stay on Iraq, just in case, and then -- anybody else on Iraq?
Q I have one more about the oil law, de-Baathification, the constitution stuff. Is it your thought that if there was no terrorist element in Iraq right now, if al Qaeda all packed up and went wherever home is, would the Iraqi government have oil and de-Baathification and constitutional issues worked out, what, weeks, months?
MS. PERINO: Jim, I'm not going to answer that hypothetical, because al Qaeda is in Iraq. They have said this is the battle for them to win.
Q Let me rephrase that. What is a reasonable period of time for the American people to expect the Iraqi government to work out these critical measures of political accomplishment?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to start the stop watch on the Iraqi government. We encourage them to do it soon.
Q When you say that, you're not going to then, nobody -- then it's again -- it's going to go on forever.
MS. PERINO: No, it's not. Listen, the Iraqis also want progress, and they want it fast.
Q But there's been lots of reports this week that say, regardless of the terrorist activity, there are people inside the Iraqi government who are saying, you know what, this just isn't going to happen. So therefore, you have American troops in Iraq, essentially to reach goals that are unreachable.
MS. PERINO: I think that even in our Congress, you can find people who say that we're never going to get an immigration bill this year, or we're never going to be able to get No Child Left Behind reauthorized. Look, we're all working towards it. This is a new democracy, and I think that they deserve a little bit of time to be able to get things done. That's what our -- that's what we offer our Congress, as well.
Q But you can't define "a little bit of time."
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to do that to them.
Q Dana --
MS. PERINO: Let me go to Ben.
Q Part of the Democratic plan is to hold the Iraqi government accountable. And the President often talks about accountability, not just in foreign policy, but how lawmakers should conduct themselves, how elected officials should spend the public's money, and I'm wondering, where is the accountability in the President's plan? You talked about in pressuring Maliki, patience is not unlimited, but where's the accountability? Where's the teeth to it?
MS. PERINO: I think that -- well, one, I think that the President realizes that one of the -- you don't necessarily work with a government that way, with a sovereign government that way. The President has said he's not -- his patience isn't unlimited, and the American patience isn't unlimited. We've also -- as I've said, I mean, nobody wants peace and stability in Iraq more than the Iraqis. So they feel a lot of pressure on themselves in order to accomplish what is going to be very hard for any democracy. And it would be hard for this Congress to be able to pass those things through.
It's very complicated. But I think that we have to look at this objectively. One of the things that they did do that they are being held accountable for, is they passed a bill in Iraq to spend $10 billion of their own money to start help rebuilding that country. And I think that that shows commitment on their part.
Let me go to Martha, and then Sarah. Okay.
Q When you talk about how long this could take and it's a tough battle, Admiral Fallon recently came out apparently saying that he doesn't want the term "long war" used anymore.
MS. PERINO: I saw a newspaper report about that. I don't know. I just -- what I do know is that what the President has said is that this will be a generational war, and I think that people who have -- understand that the enemy that we face -- and I know that Admiral Fallon is one of them -- that this is going to take a long time. I don't know. I'd have to --
Q That seems at odds with what the administration is --
MS. PERINO: I'd have to refer you to Admiral Fallon. I saw a briefing about that -- I'm sorry, a report about that. But there's no doubt that it's going to take a generation in order to help stamp out this enemy.
Q It is a long war.
MS. PERINO: Go ahead, Sarah.
Q Thank you. Same topic. If the President won't accept benchmarks and a timetable to go with them, what will he do to make Iraq -- the Iraqi government effective --
MS. PERINO: Sarah, I've answered that question several times today. I'll refer you back to the transcript.
Keith, go ahead. I'm just -- let's move on. Keith.
Q Okay, on the political briefings, there seems -- there's no shortage of political information out there. Why does the White House feel it's necessary to give these employees these briefings in the first place?
MS. PERINO: I think that's kind of ridiculous question. I mean, there's -- sorry, I usually don't say those things, but I do think that that one was. Look, there is nothing wrong with political appointees providing other political appointees with an informational briefing about the political landscape in which they are working.
Q I understand. That's not an answer, as ridiculous as the question was.
MS. PERINO: What, you think that we should just look at the CBS/New York Times poll and make our decisions based on that?
Q It's 20 briefings --
MS. PERINO: Jim would agree.
Q Well, I'm trying to get to the motivation for this, and it's 20 briefings --
MS. PERINO: The motivation is to provide people information.
Q But why? Why do they need this information --
MS. PERINO: Why are you asking me these questions? You're asking information, as well.
Q No, no, but --
MS. PERINO: My point was that you're asking --
Q Was there any intent to try to tell people that they need to do something about the election, and to take some action?
MS. PERINO: These are information -- they're informational briefings about the political landscape.
Q Okay, so there was -- there was no intent to do that? Who -- did they ask for the briefings, or was it the White House that decided they wanted to give these briefings?
MS. PERINO: I think it sort of goes both ways. I do know that political appointees around the government -- I used to work at an agency, and you are interested in -- the reason that you're here working for the President is that you want to support his policies and his agenda, and so it's good to get information from time to time.
Q Well, who's idea -- it was the White House idea, initially, or was it the agencies?
MS. PERINO: I think that these briefings -- well, I know the Clinton administration had similar briefings. Where did they originate? I don't know. I couldn't give you a date.
Q Can I follow up? I just wondered why, then, did, according to apparently six witnesses that have apparently spoken to Congressman Waxman, say that at the end of the one of these briefings the head of the GSA said to, I think it was Scott Jennings, one of Karl Rove's aides: What, then, after getting this briefing can we do to go help Republican candidates? And he said, let's talk off line about that.
MS. PERINO: I never talked to Scott Jennings about that. I think that --
Q Well, why would he suggest that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I'm not going to speculate as to what he would have meant by that or not. I mean, he could have meant that that was an inappropriate comment to make in front of other people and talked about that off line, instead of embarrassing her in front of --
Q But if you don't know the answer to that, how do you know that no laws were broken or there was nothing unethical, if you --
MS. PERINO: Checking with Counsel's Office and talking about informational briefings about political landscape, that that is okay, that that is acceptable; there is nothing in the law that says you can't do that, it's not unethical. And it is something that is absolutely reasonable and appropriate, to provide political appointees with information about the landscape in which they're working.
Q But what if at the end of those briefings there were other conversations about, then, how you could help --
Q But you don't know the answers to those questions, do you? I mean, how can you make a blanket statement that no laws were broken, as you said this morning, when you don't really know what happened at these briefings or after the briefings?
MS. PERINO: You're asking me to prove a negative and I can't -- nobody can do that.
Q Then how can you make a blanket statement saying no laws were broken? You just made blanket statements without knowing the details.
MS. PERINO: The question is whether or not the political briefings are inappropriate, unethical or unlawful. And the answer to all three of those questions is, no.
Q Even if, at the end of it, an aide to --
MS. PERINO: "Even if," "Even if," I'm not -- you can --
Q Well, but six people who were there say it; it's not just a random "if." Six people.
MS. PERINO: Right, but what I'm saying is you don't -- I have not spoken to Scott Jennings about this, I don't think that I will. If the Office of Special Counsel wants to look into this, they are more than welcome to -- but I'm not going to get into the middle of someone else's investigation. I'm not going to do it.
Q Did the legal Counsel's Office approve -- all of these --
MS. PERINO: As a general rule -- as a general matter, yes, they had approved them.
Q But they didn't go back to them for each one, to approve each one?
MS. PERINO: Not necessarily, no.
Q But isn't a political landscape, in part, describing vulnerable districts and areas where the Republican Party might have trouble in an election season?
MS. PERINO: I think that's what -- yes, of course.
Q Dana, is it the President's view, then, that this Office of Special Counsel inquiry is not warranted?
MS. PERINO: I didn't say that.
Q I'm asking you.
MS. PERINO: No.
Q But if you're saying these briefings are perfectly appropriate --
MS. PERINO: If the Office of Special Counsel wants to inquire about something, that is their right and I'm not going to say whether or not it's appropriate or not. He can inquire and talk to the Counsel's Office about it. We've worked cooperatively with them in the past, and we will do so this time, as well.
Q Dana, I need to clarify something, get you to clarify something really quick. You just said that this is going to be a generational war. And I said something earlier about the American public may not allow the -- accept this, going the way it's going for another 10 years. And you said, it's not going to be 10 years.
MS. PERINO: Oh, I think there's a distinction -- I think that that was about the global war on terror, and I think your question was specifically about the surge.
Q Dana, just back on Iraq for a second. What would be a reasonable period of time for the President to assess whether the surge has worked or not and he had to readjust?
MS. PERINO: As I've said several times, General Petraeus has said that he won't know until the fall, at that point he'll give an assessment. And I think that the President will defer to his commanders on the ground for those assessments.
Q When he gets that assessment, though -- when the President gets that assessment, at that point is the President open to readjusting?
MS. PERINO: Wow, is this, like, hypothetical question day? (Laughter.) I'm not going to say. I think that the President is going to listen to his commanders on the ground, he's going to get an assessment for General Petraeus -- but he's not going to wait until the fall to get an assessment from General Petraeus, they talk quite often -- sometimes weekly, or more.
Q I want to ask about former CIA Director Tenet's new book coming out. He says, in defense of enhanced interrogation techniques, while insisting the United States does not torture, says, "These are people who will never, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who's responsible for the next terrorist attack." Does the President support these because the ends justify the means?
MS. PERINO: Well, Goyal, first of all -- Wendell, sorry --
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Sorry, I was looking at Goyal. I have not seen the book. I'm not going to comment on the book. What you're suggesting is, does the President support torture. The United States --
Q I am not talking about torture or the book, in this case. I'm talking about enhanced interrogation techniques, which the President has commented on.
MS. PERINO: The President wants our intelligence agencies to follow the law and to make sure that they get the information
that they can get in order to protect this country. That's what he supports.
Q Is this a situation, the use of these interrogation techniques, that is specific to now in the global war on terror? Is it policy that's likely to continue? Is it something we're going to be seeing 10, 15 years from now?
MS. PERINO: This is like a hypothetical question day. I can't look 10 to 15 years in the future. What I can tell you is that this President, and I'm sure future Presidents are going to have the responsibility of protecting the American people. We're ensured that the intelligence agencies follow the law and make sure that any information that is needed from suspects that are picked up, that those laws are followed and that that information is used -- any information gleaned from it is used in order to protect the American people, or our allies around the world.
Q This is also a matter of interpreting the law. These enhanced interrogation techniques have come under some criticism from officials of other countries. Has it complicated the U.S. relationship with our allies?
MS. PERINO: I'm sure that there might be some people who disagree with the United States on that, but I've never heard anything -- I've never heard anything or witnessed anything specific about that. And I think that our allies, who we share information with, are supportive. I would just have to point you back to -- and this has nothing to do with enhanced interrogation techniques, that I know of, but last August, when we worked with the Brits in order to prevent a spectacular al Qaeda attack of blowing up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean. We share information with our allies in order to protect innocent men, women, and children from terrorists who want to kill us.
Q But again, I'm talking about the interrogation techniques used on, in particular, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. And the President has said that this was effective, former Director Tenet says we got more information from him than all the other agencies were able to glean from other suspects. So it takes me back to these interrogation techniques, in particular. Are they something that we're using now in the global war on terror that we won't have to use five or 10 years from now?
MS. PERINO: Wendell, look -- I don't know anything more than what the President or George Tenet have said. And I'll just -- I'm just going to have to leave it at that. I can't look at -- I can't look in a crystal ball 10 to 15 years down the road. It would be wonderful if we would believe that terrorists are not going to exist in the world 10 to 15 years from now. But I'm not going to -- nobody can make that prediction.
MS. PERINO: Go ahead.
Q Dana, first of all, you've done an excellent job in Tony's absence. We look forward to his return on Monday. I wanted to return to the case of Pat Tillman. We, of course, spoke about that yesterday. Yesterday, I asked if the President had spoken to the family of Pat Tillman since the IG report came out, or since the family has complained about the numerous falsehoods that were told to them. And you replied that it would be inappropriate for the Commander-in-Chief to do so. But at the same time, from that podium, you said that he feels deeply sorry for the family and all that they've gone through and he hopes that people are held to account. Why couldn't the President express those thoughts directly to the Tillman family? Why couldn't he call them up directly and express not only his condolences for his death, but his regret for the way in which the Pentagon essentially lied to the family?
MS. PERINO: As I said, I'm the President's spokesman. I provided that comment yesterday because I speak for him. I also know that the President provides a personalized letter to everybody, every family who loses a family member in the war on terror. And what I meant by it would be inappropriate for the President to get involved is that there is a command influence issue. And when the Department of Defense is investigating something, it would be inappropriate for the President to insert himself in that process. He believes that Secretary Gates and General Pace and others that came before them were honest in their assessments of what happened. They found out that there was a question of wrongdoing, a question of a cover-up, and that's why we have the information that we have now and that's the way our system of government works.
Q As far as the President learning that his death was from friendly fire, you said yesterday that from all indications it was well after the funeral. First of all, where are you getting that from and what is your definition of "well after the funeral"?
MS. PERINO: I'm getting that just because there is no indication the General McCrystal memo ever made its way to the White House. There's just no recollection on the part of anybody else that the President would have learned about that before the funeral that was held on May 3rd.
Q Does the President feel regret as to the way the family was treated by the Pentagon --
MS. PERINO: Yes --
Q -- and people from the Army?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I expressed so yesterday. Absolutely.
Q Dana, two quick questions. One, as far as global war on terrorism is concerned, Iraqis want to have freedom, they are free now today, but there is terrorism going on and the Iranians are supporting still terrorism in Iraq. And, also, Osama bin Laden has people claiming that they are behind terrorism in Iraq. My question is that are we still really going -- how are we going to find Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda people? Because many people are saying that if we eliminate Osama bin Laden or his people, then you can eliminate terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
MS. PERINO: What I can assure you is that there are people all around the world that are united in trying to hunt down Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Q And, second, just quick. Yesterday President spoke about malaria, no more malaria. And there are 15 countries from Africa, and also we know that millions have died of the diseases in the past and Africa and around the globe. My question, yesterday President was talking about 15 countries in Africa.
MS. PERINO: What's your question?
Q But malaria also has spread in other parts of the world also. What role U.N. is playing and also if President is going to talk about global war on malaria?
MS. PERINO: When the President talked about Malaria Awareness Day it was not just in Africa -- obviously, that's a huge problem, but we recognize that malaria is something that hurts men, women and children all around the world, especially the children.
I'll take one from Lester and then we'll be done. Les, go ahead. Just one.
MS. PERINO: I've got to go.
Q Yesterday, a Republican National Committee cited the AP report that Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said the following: "If you want to hear anybody's true views, you cannot do it in the same room as the press. If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press." What's the President's opinion of this prescription of the end of press freedom in politics coming from a former governor and national chairman of one of our two main parties?
MS. PERINO: Let me decline to comment now. I'll take a look at the comments; this is the first I've heard of them.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Thank you. END 2:26 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 25, 2007
President and Mrs. Bush Discuss Malaria Awareness Day Rose Garden 1:10 P.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Welcome, everyone, to the White House. Thank you very much for being a part of this Malaria Awareness Day.
Today, citizens around the world are making a historic commitment to end malaria. In European capitals, parliaments are debating how their governments can help. In Ontario, Canadians are commemorating their first World Malaria Day by raising money for bed nets for Uganda. Across the continent of Africa, people are teaching their families, friends, and neighbors how to protect themselves from this deadly disease.
Here in the United States, concerned citizens are spreading the word about our moral obligation to defeat malaria. This disease claims more than a million lives every year. It devastates people living with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, babies and children. Somewhere in Africa, a mother loses her baby to malaria every 30 seconds.
The American people, through their government, are working to end this epidemic. In 2005, President Bush announced the President's Malaria Initiative -- a five-year, $1.2 billion program to combat malaria in the hardest-hit African nations. So far, the initiative has distributed life-saving medicines, insecticide sprays, and mosquito nets to millions of Africans.
The initiative calls on developed countries, private foundations, religious institutions, volunteer groups, and individual citizens to reduce the suffering and death caused by malaria. The good news is that there's something simple and inexpensive that all of us can do to help. One of the best protections against malaria is a long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net. Only a fraction of African homes have the mosquito net they need, but any individual who can raise $10 can buy a bed net, and save a life.
Throughout our country, caring citizens are answering this call to help. In sports leagues, in Boys and Girls Clubs, and in church groups, Americans are raising money for mosquito nets. And they're raising awareness about malaria. In school, children are learning about the disease, and what they can do to defeat it. This morning, I visited the Friendship Public Charter School here in Washington, where first graders and I read Nets are Nice. Nets are Nice is a picture book that teaches American children what they can do for children in Africa.
Later, fifth grade students and government officials teamed up to play Malaria Jeopardy. Turns out our Malaria Coordinator, Admiral Ziemer, is a pretty tough competitor. (Laughter.) Inside the gym, the fifth graders had a hoops-shooting contest. For every basket the students made, the NBA and the WNBA's "Nothing But Nets" program donated a bed net to Africa. The kids did so well, "Nothing But Nets" is announcing a contribution of $5,000 dollars to purchase 500 bed nets in Africa. And we have a few of those players here with us today. Where are they? Do you all mind standing up? Thanks so much for being a part of it. (Applause.) Thanks, you all, and thanks to the NBA and the WNBA.
These events encourage kids to reach out to children in Africa, and they instill in our next generation America's compassion for people in need.
Today, I'm delighted to announce a new project. With the Global Business Coalition, the American people -- through the Malaria Initiative, and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- will provide half-a-million bed nets to the nation of Zambia. (Applause.)
President Bush announced Zambia as a PMI focus country in December, at the White House Summit on Malaria. In Zambia -- a country of 10 million people -- there are roughly 4 million documented cases of malaria every year. Adding to the crisis is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. More than a million Zambian adults and children are living with HIV -- which means their immune systems are more susceptible to malaria. Malaria kills 50,000 Zambians every year.
Through the new partnership we're announcing today, mosquito nets will be distributed to Zambia's most vulnerable households. With help from the RAPIDS Consortium, they'll reach about 1 million young children, pregnant mothers, and people infected with HIV -- almost 10 percent of Zambia's population. These nets will help mothers sleep soundly at night, knowing that their babies are safe. They'll help people with HIV live positively. And they'll give a country devastated by malaria the promise of good health and renewed hope. Thank you to everyone here who's made this partnership possible.
This summer, I'll visit Zambia to observe the net distribution. And I'm looking forward to traveling throughout Africa, to meet people who are working to overcome malaria and other obstacles to development. On my past trips to Africa, I've heard tragic stories about the human toll of diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS. But I've also been inspired by the men and women who've told me these stories -- men and women who are determined to secure opportunity, prosperity, and good health for their children.
The American people are proud to stand with them. Our country believes that every life, in every land, has value and dignity. And on this first Malaria Awareness Day, we look to the millions of lives threatened by this disease, and we reaffirm our commitment to saving them.
Thanks to each and every one of you for your work to help defeat malaria. Now I'd like to introduce someone else I know who's determined to end this epidemic: Ladies and gentlemen, my husband, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for coming. Welcome to the White House. The Rose Garden has witnessed many historic events. This afternoon we gather to mark something completely new, the first ever Malaria Awareness Day in the United States, and I'm glad you're here to join us. (Applause.)
On Malaria Awareness Day, we focus our attention on all who suffer from this terrible disease -- especially the millions on the continent of Africa. We remember the millions more who died from this entirely preventable and treatable disease. As a compassionate nation, we are called to spread awareness about malaria -- and we're called to act. That's what compassionate people do. When they see a problem, they act. And that's what we're here to talk about. On this special day, we renew our commitment to lead the world toward an urgent goal, and that is to turn the tide against malaria in Africa, and around the globe.
I want to thank Laura for being my wife -- (laughter) -- and taking the lead on this. (Applause.) Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us. Mike Leavitt, the Department of Health and Human Services. Ambassador Randy Tobias. He now runs USAID. Prior to this job, he led America's monumental effort to confront and deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the continent of Africa. Thank you for your leadership. Karen P., it's good to see you. Ambassador Hughes is with us.
Admiral Ziemer. So if you want to solve a problem, you put a problem solver in charge. And that's what Admiral Ziemer does. He's a problem solver. It makes it easier for me, when I say to other nations -- like with President Lula. He came to visit at Camp David. We were trying to figure out ways we could work together to show our hemisphere and the world that Brazil and the United States shares a compassion about people. And so I said, why don't we work together to eradicate malaria in parts of Africa? Call Ziemer. (Laughter.) He'll see to it that the strategy gets implemented. To show that we're a serious nation, we have named a coordinator, somebody in charge. It's important for me and Laura to know that a good man is handling this responsibility to implementing a strategy. Appreciate what you're doing. I know you know that we take this initiative seriously.
Mr. Chairman, Donald Payne, thank you for coming. We're proud you're here. I respect you, and I respect your concern for the people of Africa, and to make sure that the United States of America stays engaged in that continent in a constructive way. It's good to see Chris Smith. Thank you for coming, Chris. We're proud you're here.
I appreciate very much the fact that the World Bank is taking the lead in eradicating poverty in places like Africa, and Paul Wolfowitz, thank you for your leadership of the World Bank. And I appreciate the fact that Ann Veneman is joining us, the Executive Director of UNICEF, which is the largest purchaser of bed nets in the world. These people are here because they're committed to joining us to solve a problem that can be solved.
I also thank other members of my administration here. Thank you for coming and thank you for your interest. I want to thank the members of the diplomatic corps for joining us. I appreciate you coming. I see ambassadors from countries that will be helped by this initiative, and I see ambassadors from countries that we expect to join us in this initiative.
I'm looking forward to -- Mr. Ambassador, to talking to Prime Minister Abe about what Japan can do with the United States to solve this problem. I'm honored you're here. I'm looking forward to seeing the Prime Minister tomorrow evening for dinner. I thank our dance company that will be joining us in a minute. I know you're going to look forward to seeing them; so am I. So I'm warming up out here. (Laughter.) I thank our domestic and international partners. I see so many people who are -- who care about the lives of others, and are willing to do something about it. And I really appreciate you all coming.
As we mark this first Malaria Awareness Day, it makes sense to begin with some facts. Every year, more than a million people die of malaria -- and the vast majority of them are children under five years old. It's a sad statistic. In some countries, malaria takes even more lives than HIV/AIDS. Malaria imposes a crippling economic burden in sub-Saharan Africa, where so many are struggling to lift their families out of poverty.
All of that may seem like a cause for despair. But it's not. The world knows exactly what it takes to treat and prevent malaria. We've seen this disease defeated before, right here in Washington.
I'm sure a lot of citizens don't remember this fact, but about a century ago malaria was a serious problem. The hot and humid summers created a dangerous breeding ground for mosquitoes, and Congress would often flee the capital for months at a time. Other than that, the consequences were all negative. (Laughter.) Some foreign ambassadors to the United States are even reported to have received hardship pay for duties here in Washington. Yet, through the years, because of patient and persistent action, malaria was almost entirely eradicated in Washington and throughout the United States.
In other words, we've solved this problem before. And the fundamental question is, do we have the will to do the same thing on another continent? That's really the question that faces this country and other nations around the world. My commitment is, you bet we have the will. And we've got a strategy to do so.
Defeating malaria is going to be a challenge, but it's not going to require a miracle. That's what I'm here to tell you. It's going to require a smart and sustained campaign.
And so what does that mean? Well, first, it means distributing insecticide-treated bed nets; secondly, expanding indoor insecticide spraying; thirdly, providing anti-malaria medicine to pregnant women, and delivering cutting-edge drugs to people living with the disease. Those are the four steps necessary to achieve our objective.
Thanks to our leadership in science and technology, we have a unique ability to help in all these areas. We have a responsibility to turn that ability into action. When America sees suffering and know that our nation -- when Americans see suffering and know that our nation can help stop it, they expect our government to respond. Most Americans believe in this timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required, and I believe in that, as well.
We have a strategic interest in reducing death and disease in emerging nations of Africa. Societies with healthy and prosperous people are more likely to be sources of stability and peace, not breeding grounds for extremists and terror. It's in our strategic interests that we follow through on our pledges.
I launched the President's Malaria Initiative in 2005. Through this initiative, as Laura mentioned, we're spending $1.2 billion over five years to provide bed nets and indoor spraying and anti-malaria medicine in 15 heavily effected African countries. We're working toward a historic goal to cut the number of malaria-related deaths in country by half. The Admiral has got a goal. It's a measurable goal.
The key element to this initiative is accountability. It's a realistic agenda with a measurable goal. And today is a good day to report to the American people on the impact their dollars are having. During the first year of our initiative, we expanded malaria protection in more than 6 million Africans. We're still early in the second year, but so far we've reached another 5 million people, and by the end of 2007, we expect to reach a total of 30 million. Admiral, you're doing good work, and the American people deserve a lot of credit for supporting you.
A good effort of our -- of this strategy comes from the Zanzibar islands off the east coast of Tanzania. This area was once a hotbed for malaria infection. Then with the support of our malaria initiative, local residents launched a campaign called "Kataa Malaria," which is Swahili for "Reject Malaria." Workers went door to door to teach people how to use beds -- how to use bed nets. They launched TV and radio ads. They spoke in mosques about malaria prevention and treatment, and the efforts worked.
One Zanzibar island reported that malaria cases during the first nine months of last year dropped by a stunning 87 percent. Another example comes from Senegal on the west coast of Africa. In one village, malaria kills half of all the children before the age of five. Imagine growing up in a village like that, imagine being a mom in a village like that.
Not long ago, it looked like a two-year-old fellow named Demba Balde was going to be one of the unlucky children. His mother took him to the village health hut, which receives funding from our malaria initiative. And thanks to enhanced awareness, correct diagnosis and prompt treatment, young Demba won his battle with malaria.
Every life matters to the American people. Every life is precious. Stories like these are cause for hope, and they would not be possible without the courage and commitment of our partners in Africa. This week, nations across Africa are marking their own Malaria Awareness Days. In Angola, the Ministry of Health is helping to lead a "Caravan for Life" in which health workers travel the countryside in trucks loaded with bed nets and medicines and educational materials.
In Benin, almost a million dollars worth of bed nets and medicines is being distributed at an event in the capital city.
In Mozambique, local residents attended a soccer tournament that featured songs and skits on how to prevent malaria.
We're committed to helping our African partners build on these efforts, and so I want to share with you two new endeavors. First, America will expand our cooperation with the government of Uganda, and the non-profit group Malaria No More, to distribute more than a half-a-million bed nets in Uganda. We're going to focus this distribution on children and pregnant mothers in areas of the country with the greatest vulnerability. And when we're finished with this effort, half of all the households in Uganda will own a bed net to protect against malaria.
The second new commitment is Madagascar. There, we will team up with Malaria No More and the American Red Cross to distribute bed nets to nearly 1.4 million children under the age of five. This delivery campaign will include polio vaccines to promote good overall health for children across the island. We're attacking this problem one spot at a time with a comprehensive strategy.
These efforts are a good start, but on this Malaria Awareness Day, we've got to understand, it's just a start, and there's a lot of work to be done. Nations around this world have a role to play. At the G8, I'm going to raise this issue with our partners around the table. I'm going to remind them, to whom much is given, much is required, and that the United States will lead, and we expect others to follow side-by-side. (Applause.)
Private citizens and organizations have an important role to play. Last December, as Laura mentioned, we held the White House Summit on Malaria to urge more non-profit groups and corporations and individuals to join the effort to wipe out this disease. The response has been encouraging. We're seeing inspiring acts of selflessness from what I've called America's armies of compassion.
There's an interesting development taking place tonight. If you happen to tune into "American Idol," you will see the first ever "Idol Gives Back" campaign. This campaign will urge viewers to donate to a variety of charities, including groups devoted to fighting malaria. For all you "Idol" viewers, join this battle, join the cause to help save lives. I'm not so sure I'm going to watch it tonight, but this show does have a large group of viewers, and I really appreciate the producers for joining us.
Major League Soccer is running a promotional campaign that encourages fans to make a donation to cover the cost of bed nets for a family in Africa. College students on more than 50 campuses are holding "Music to End Malaria" events to generate awareness and raise funds. The Magnum Photos agency has launched a photo narrative that depicts the devastating toll of malaria. Awareness is a part of solving the problem.
You don't have to be a part of an organization to make a difference. In an elementary school in Parkersburg, West Virginia, 63 children raised enough money to buy 15 bed nets. This past Christmas, our family -- some of our family gathered in Camp David, and my brother gave us bed nets as a Christmas gift. You can do the same thing here in America. You can make an individual contribution to save somebody's life.
I want to tell you what this third grader explained -- why he contributed to the program. He said, "I want to fight malaria because it's helpful, and I want to help kids in Africa because it's the right thing to do." And it is the right thing to do. And that's why we're gathered here in the Rose Garden, to commit this nation to doing the right thing, and to call upon citizens in this country to do the right thing.
America is a country that gives medicine to the sick and food to the hungry and protection to the threatened, because it's the right thing to do. Malaria Awareness Day is a chance for me to thank all Americans who have donated to this cause, and urge others to do the same. It's a day to call on nations around the world to join us in a great humanitarian effort. And it's a day to remind our fellow citizens that when you help somebody live a life, it strengthens our soul and enhances our spirit.
Thanks for coming, and God bless. (Applause.) END 1:34 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 25, 2007
President Bush Participates in Meeting on Financial Literacy Roosevelt Room 4:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: April is Financial Literacy Month, and so I've asked some of our nation's most caring citizens to come and talk to us about how to develop and hone a strategy that will help more of our American citizens become financially literate. If you're not sure how interest works, it's hard to be a good homeowner. If you don't understand rates of return, it's hard to be a good investor. If you're not sure how money works, it will be missed opportunity for people from all walks of life.
It is in this country's interest that people in every neighborhood, from every background, understand the financial literacy world; understand what it means when people talks terms related to their money. The more financially literate our society is, the more hopeful our society becomes.
Ours is a great system. It is a system that means somebody can come to America or live in America with nothing and end up with a lot; a system where people can realize dreams and work hard and realize those dreams. But unless we have a financially literate society, not enough people are going to be able realize the great promise of America.
And so I want to thank the Secretary of Treasury, and the Secretary of Education, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for agreeing to be a part of the committee to make sure the federal effort toward financial literacy is well coordinated with the private sector. And I thank those from the private sector for joining us. We've got people from corporate America, we've got people from faith-based America, we've got people from community-based-program America, we've got people from all walks of life, all around the country, who are deeply concerned about making sure this country is as financially literate as possible, and I thank you for coming. I appreciate you joining us. Mr. Secretary, thanks for chairing the project.
God bless. END 4:13 P.M. EDT
04/23/07 Please look at the next two Press releases that address the War Supplemental Bill below. The Press Release below was from earlier this month which the Press release on the 23rd addressed. Check both Press Releases out. Jim Liceaga
For Immediate Release April 3, 2007
Setting The Record Straight: Sen. Reid's Misleading Comments About Iraq Funding Military Leaders Have Made Clear Our Troops Immediately Need Emergency Funds
"Instead of listening to the Democratic Party's extreme fringe, Sen. Reid should listen to the Generals who have made clear the consequences facing our military if Democrats in Congress continue to play politics instead of passing an emergency troops funding bill the President can sign."
– White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, 4/3/07
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV): The President's "own Generals have said [funding] will last until the end of June." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Press Conference, 4/3/07)
But our military leadership has made clear our troops immediately need emergency supplemental funds.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren: "We are particularly concerned as Congress is set to recess until mid-April without enacting this essential legislation. Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families." (Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and Pete Geren, Letter To Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), 3/28/07)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.Peter Pace: After mid-April, "the Army has told us that they will have to begin curtailing some training here at home for Guard, Reserve, and for units, which means that the baseline for those units will be reduced as far as their capability, and when they're called, it will take them longer to be ready and could, over time, delay their availability to go back into combat." (Committee On Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 3/29/07)
President Bush Discusses The Importance Of Funding Our Troops
President Bush: "If Congress fails to act in the next few weeks, it will have significant consequences for our men and women in the Armed Forces." "As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace, recently stated during his testimony before a House subcommittee, if Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on equipment, equipment repair, and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and reserve forces. These cuts would be necessary because the money will have to be shifted to support the troops on the front lines."(President George W. Bush, Statement On The Emergency Supplemental, The White House, 4/3/07)
President Bush: "The Army also would be forced to consider curtailing some training for Guard and reserve units here at home. This would reduce their readiness and could delay their availability to mobilize for missions in Afghanistan and Iraq."
President Bush: "If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute." "The Army would be forced to consider slowing or even freezing funding for its depots, where the equipment our troops depend on is repaired. They will also have to consider delaying or curtailing the training of some active duty forces, reducing the availability of these forces to deploy overseas. If this happens, some of the forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended because other units are not ready to take their places. If Congress does not act, the Army may also have to delay the formation of new brigade combat teams, preventing us from getting those troops into the pool of forces that are available to deploy. If these new teams are unavailable, we would have to ask other units to extend into the theater." (President George W. Bush, Statement On The Emergency Supplemental, The White House, 4/3/07)
Delays Are Already Impacting Troops And Readiness
Last week, the Defense Department notified Congress that in order to meet the force protection needs of the Marine Corps and the Army, it is borrowing funds from other important Marine and Army procurement programs. This borrowing means using funding intended for medium tactical vehicle replacement, Humvees and Humvee equipment, the tactical communications modernization program, and upgrades for other vehicles.
This reprogramming of funds is only necessary because Congress has failed to act in a timely manner on the president's emergency funding request. This underscores the need to get the President a bill he can sign that accomplishes what the troops and military commanders need.
# # #
For Immediate Release April 23, 2007
Reid vs. Reid: A State Of Confusion Sen. Reid's State Of Confusion On The Iraq Study Group Report, Regional Conference, Funding For Political Reconciliation, And His Discussion With The President
"Sen. Reid seems to be in a state of confusion. Today, he said the President 'ignored' the Iraq Study Group by sending more troops to secure Baghdad when the Iraq Study Group report said it would support this step. Sen. Reid also called for a regional conference when one is already set to begin in days, called for emphasizing political reconciliation in Iraq when the Senate's own bill cuts $243 million vital for political reconciliation, and said his meetings with the President are unproductive despite characterizing his discussion with the President last Wednesday as a 'good exchange' minutes after the meeting concluded."
– White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, 4/23/07
IN CASE SEN. REID MISSED IT: The Iraq Study Group Endorsed Using Additional Forces To Stabilize Baghdad
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV): "By ordering his troop surge," the President "ignored the advice of the Iraq Study Group." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Remarks On Iraq, Washington, DC, 4/23/07)
Iraq Study Group Report: "We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective." ("The Iraq Study Group Report," 2006)
Iraq Study Group Co-Chair James A. Baker, III: "Setting a deadline for withdrawal regardless of conditions in Iraq makes even less sense today because there is evidence that the temporary surge is reducing the level of violence in Baghdad. As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq. The Iraq Study Group said it could support a short-term surge to stabilize Baghdad or to speed up training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines such steps would be effective. Gen. David Petraeus has so determined." (James A. Baker, III, Op-Ed, "A Path to Common Ground," The Washington Post, 4/5/07)
IN CASE SEN. REID MISSED IT: Regional Conference To Begin In 10 Days
Sen. Reid: "The first thing that needs to be done is a regional conference." "Have, as the Iraq Study Group said, have the United States meet with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and, yes, Iran, to sit down and see what we can do to resolve the issues that are so ugly in Iraq." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Remarks On Iraq, Washington, DC, 4/23/07)
A regional conference is scheduled for early May: "Ministers from Iraq's neighboring countries, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and industrialized nations will hold a meeting in Egypt early next month to discuss the situation in Iraq, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday. … Ministers from Iraq's neighbors as well as Bahrain and Egypt, and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, will hold a meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik on May 3-4, Zebari said. … Also in attendance, Zebari said, will be officials from the so-called Group of Eight industrialized nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S." ("Ministers From 20 Countries To Meet In Egypt Over Iraq Next Month," The Associated Press, 4/7/07)
IN CASE SEN. REID MISSED IT: The Senate Bill Cuts Funds For Political Reconciliation While Saying Reconciliation Is Key
Sen. Reid: "General Petraeus has said the ultimate solution in Iraq is a political one, not a military one." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Remarks On Iraq, Washington, DC, 4/23/07)
Of the President's FY 2007 supplemental request, the Senate cut $243 million in critical programs that would help the Iraqis meet important political and economic benchmarks. The Senate added $120 million to the President's request, of which $70 million is for refugees and internally displaced persons and $50 million is for a specific USAID program, leaving a net cut from the President's request of $243 million.
The $243 million in net Senate cuts included:
$70 million to build the governing capacity of local governments.
$50 million to help the Iraqis draft and implement key legislative and legal reforms.
50 million to support rule of law programs so Iraqis can better govern themselves.
$43 million to promote democracy and civil society efforts.
$40 million to build the governing capacity of the national government.
$10 million for private sector development.
$100 million to support our diplomatic mission and civilian presence, including $41 million for supporting the doubling the PRTs.
President Bush: "We fully recognize that there has to be political progress and economic progress, along with military progress, in order for that government to succeed." (President George W. Bush, Remarks, East Grand Rapids, MI, 4/20/07)
IN CASE SEN. REID MISSED IT: Sen. Reid's Own Comments After Meeting With The President
Sen. Reid today: "We don't have meetings with the President, not real substantive meetings, he holds carefully scripted sessions where he repeats his talking points." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Remarks On Iraq, Washington, DC, 4/23/07)
Sen. Reid immediately following last Wednesday's meeting: "Well, we had an hour-long meeting with the President. It was a good exchange; everyone voiced their considered opinion about the war in Iraq – the conversation was with the war in Iraq, that's basically all it was, with a few variations, but mainly that. ... [P]eople gave their opinions, they gave their considered opinion what was going wrong and right with the war in Iraq. And I think we have too little of that. I think it was extremely important the President hear from us. And he heard from us in detail. And I think he needs to hear more of conversations from people like us – who don't always tell him what he wants to hear. I think we told him things today that he needed to hear." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Remarks After Meeting With The President, Washington, DC, 4/18/07)
Speaker Pelosi on the meeting: "I think the conversation that we had is the basis for future conversations on this. But each side was very clear with its position that that doesn't mean that that's the end of the conversation. And that is what is known as a negotiation and government, that it's not just one meeting."(Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Remarks After Meeting With The President, Washington, DC, 4/18/07)
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
President Bush Commends Attorney General Gonzales and FTC Chairman Majoras on Identity Theft Task Force Report
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
I commend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission Deborah Majoras for their work on the Identity Theft Task Force Report released today. The Report is the culmination of many months of hard work by numerous Federal agencies. Identity theft is a serious problem in America, and my Administration is working to combat this crime and to assist its victims. I thank the Attorney General, the Chairman, and their staffs for taking on this difficult and important assignment.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
President Bush Signs the Older Americans Reauthorization Technical Corrections
On Monday, April 23, 2007, the President signed into law:
S. 1002, the "Older Americans Reauthorization Technical Corrections Act," which authorizes States to use their Nutrition Services Incentive Program allotments to obtain commodities from USDA.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
President and Mrs. Bush Saddened by the Death of Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin
Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. President Yeltsin was an historic figure who served his country during a time of momentous change. He played a key role as the Soviet Union dissolved, helped lay the foundations of freedom in Russia, and became the first democratically elected leader in that country's history. I appreciate the efforts that President Yeltsin made to build a strong relationship between Russia and the United States. We offer our sincerest condolences to the Yeltsin family and to the Russian people.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino White House Conference Center Briefing Room 1:28 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Hello. I'm going to start off today with a statement by the President that will be released after I provide it to you here, about the death of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
"Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. President Yeltsin was an historic figure who served his country during a time of momentous change. He played a key role as the Soviet Union dissolved, helped lay the foundation of freedom in Russia, and became the first democratically elected leader in that country's history. I appreciate the efforts that President Yeltsin made to build a strong relationship between Russia and the United States. We offer our sincerest condolences to the Yeltsin family and to the Russian people."
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q Does the White House think that Congress should have any role in talking about the Iraq war, setting deadlines or anything like this -- that they should have any voice?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think the Congress does have a voice and does have input. And the President has said from the beginning that if they have ideas and they have concerns, that he wants to hear them.
One thing that concerned me today is I heard that Senator Reid said that the President is in denial about the war. And I think that any quick glance in the mirror would show him that he's in denial on several things -- that Senator Reid is.
First of all, he's in denial about the enemy that we face. This is a vicious and brutal enemy that wants to kill innocent men, women and children of Iraq, people who enjoy and love freedom, and that includes Americans. So it's not in our long-term national security interests in order to not deal with this enemy now.
Secondly, he's in denial about the conflict that we are in, how al Qaeda is inciting sectarian violence. He is in denial about the new Baghdad security plan and the new changes that we've implemented in al Anbar province. He's also in denial that a surrender date he thinks is a good idea. It is not a good idea. It is defeat. It is a death sentence for the millions of Iraqis who voted for a constitution, who voted for a government, who voted for a free and democratic society.
We all want the Iraqis to move faster, to do more and to do it faster, in terms of their political reconciliations. But they're just not ready to do it yet. And Americans are not the type that walk away in times of hardship. To leave people in Iraq flailing and defenseless against an enemy who is determined to kill them. And withdrawal is like crying "uncle," it's giving up. And I can assure you they are diluting themselves if they think that offering a surrender date is in the long-term strategic interests of this country. It is not.
And that is why the President has asked them to reconcile their differences and to send him a bill. The role that Congress plays is one in which to send legislation to the President. He has been very clear from the beginning: He will not sign a bill that includes a surrender date or micromanages the generals in this war. He said that again this morning. The Democrats in Congress obviously don't have the votes to override the President's veto, and so it is incumbent upon them to work things out, to reconcile the House and the Senate bills, and to send the President a bill. Now if it's one that he can sign, that was what we would prefer. But if it's one that he has to veto, he will do that.
Q Dana, on March 14th, when the President first talked about Alberto Gonzales, he said, mistakes were made and he will send the Attorney General to Capitol Hill to correct those mistakes. Does the President feel like that's what the Attorney General did last week?
MS. PERINO: You heard from the President this morning, and he said that the Attorney General went to Congress after providing thousands of pages of documents, and talking to them individually, but went to Congress and answered hours of testimony, and he answered as honestly as he could. And so, yes, the President thinks he did the work that he needed to do.
Q But here's what I don't understand about that, because I thought what the President's point was, Alberto Gonzales had to be able to sort of make it right with Congress; to regain the faith and the trust on the Hill. And if you take a look at Republican senators -- so it's not politics as usual -- Republican senators, he didn't do that.
MS. PERINO: I think there is no doubt that there are some people who don't support the Attorney General. But you heard the President today; he does. And I think what the President was talking about on March 14th, and any other time that he said that the Attorney General would go to Capitol Hill, is that he would answer the questions honestly and answer to the best of his ability in terms of what he could recall.
Q He did answer to the best of his ability, I suppose, but that wasn't good enough not just for one or two Republicans -- with the exception of maybe one, one-and-a-half, just about every Republican on the Judiciary Committee. So the question becomes, is the President looking out of touch with his stance of unwavering support behind the Attorney General?
MS. PERINO: We have strong, good relationships with our allies on Capitol Hill. And when you have relationships like that, you can have the opportunity to respectfully disagree with them. And I think that what the Attorney General did is answer to the best of his ability -- and, frankly, just to walk through this one more time, we're talking about eight U.S. attorneys who serve at the pleasure of the President; the Department of Justice has the capability and the ability, under law, to be able to replace those U.S. attorneys. And there's been no credible evidence that there was anything that was done improperly or any sense of wrongdoing.
And so when the Attorney General went up and answered hours' worth of questions from the Congress, he did what he could in order to answer honestly and to the best of his ability. And that's what the President asked him to do.
Q One more follow on this. I understand that point you're making about what was proper and improper, but the fact of the matter is, that after the testimony you could call all over this town -- I'm not just talking about the Jon Stewart's of the world, the late night comics -- I'm talking about Republican senators and congressmen and women who were saying, you know what, the Attorney General has no credibility, he did a lousy job on Capitol Hill yesterday. And now the President seems to be the only one saying, you know what, he's doing a fantastic job.
MS. PERINO: Look, I understand that there are people who disagree, who are not supportive of the Attorney General. The President is. He appreciates the work that he's done to combat terrorism and to protect children from predators and to stamp out corruption in government. And the President stands by him.
Q Dana, to follow on that, you just used a phrase that the President did today, "he answered as honestly as he could." Isn't honesty sort of black and white?
MS. PERINO: I think what I mean by that is that I know that there was frustration because there were several types of questions that the Attorney General could not answer with a "yes" or a "no" because he didn't recall. And I think that's what the President meant, and that's what I mean now.
Q There were about 64 variations, according to some accounts in the media, 64 variations of "I don't recall," "I don't remember. So what about that testimony in which he said "I don't recall," some variation, 64 times, that made the President say he now has increased confidence in the Attorney General?
MS. PERINO: Look, Ed, I think that you had testimony that lasted I don't know how many hours, over seven hours, and so many of those questions were repeated over and over. And the Attorney General, who is an honorable and honest man answered truthfully. And I think that's all that we can ask of any public servant or any of us in this room.
Q But did the President actually see the testimony?
MS. PERINO: He got regular updates from us while we were on the road -- we were on the road that day, on the way to Ohio.
Q So how can he say he has increased confidence if he got updates from other people? So he didn't actually see the testimony, himself, because --
MS. PERINO: He got updates from us, and I think he saw some news coverage of it later that day.
Q But as Jim noted, I mean, Arlen Specter yesterday said that it was "very, very damaging to his own credibility." So what did the President see -- well, he didn't see the testimony, but what did he hear that he --
MS. PERINO: What the President knows is that the Attorney General answered honestly, truthfully and was as responsive to Congress as he could possibly be during hours of testimony and in turning over all the documents, and then making people that work for him available to the Congress in order to answer their questions.
Q What's the status of whether Karl Rove and other White House aides -- when you talk about cooperating with Congress, what's the status of Karl Rove and other White House aides --
MS. PERINO: You know, I think the ball is still in the Democrats' court; they haven't decided whether or not to take us up on our offer.
Q Back on Iraq. The President said this morning he's willing to work with Congress, but Senator Reid said that when he met with the President last week, the President just repeated some scripted talking points. Is that, in fact, true?
MS. PERINO: I think that Senator Reid is confusing scripted talking points with principled stand. And, you know, another thing that I would point out is I just saw Senator Reid's press conference in which he said, one of the things that has to happen is there needs to be a regional conference. Well, we have one of those happening next week, in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt, and Secretary Rice is going to attend.
He shouldn't be able -- Senator Reid should not be allowed to get away with his own scripted talking points, that is sometimes a little bit hard to keep track of because you can't understand what his positions are. But this President has had a very principled stand and I don't think anyone could argue with that.
Q Can you talk about -- you talked about the fact that you won't leave the Iraqis "flailing and defenseless," as you say. And, yet, the President repeatedly says, and everybody from the administration, that this is not an open-ended commitment. So at some point are you willing to leave them? If they don't come along and the Iraqi government doesn't do what you want it to do, what's required -- are you willing to leave them at that point?
MS. PERINO: I think that the President is confident that Prime Minister Maliki understands that the Iraqi people have limited patience, as well, and they are desperate for the security and to get their lives back to what they were before. I think that he believes that while they don't have the capacity yet in order to perform the political reconciliations that need to be done, that they are on their way to be able to doing so.
And the other thing that Senator Reid has said repeatedly over the last few weeks is that there is no military solution alone. While that is true, there is also no political solution if you don't get the security that you need, and that's what the new Baghdad security plan is there to do, is to help protect the people, calm the violence down and allow the parliament there in Iraq to do its work.
Q But back on the open-ended commitment -- I mean, you're trying to clearly pressure the Iraqi government to meet some sort of benchmark, you don't think they're going fast enough, you'd like them to go faster. If they don't go fast enough, then can you see pulling out?
MS. PERINO: Look, I think that you're asking me to answer a hypothetical question. And what I could tell you is that --
Q But you're the one who's saying that the Democrats are saying they would leave them defenseless and flailing.
MS. PERINO: That's what I'm saying. And what the President is saying is let's let this Baghdad security plan have a chance to work. As General Petraeus reported today, he only has I think about 60 percent of the additional troops that he's asked for. And he also has, I think -- what's it, two-and-a-half months that the plan has been in place. And he has said it's going to take several months, probably fall or late fall before we know if this plan is going to be able to succeed in doing all that we need it to do.
So I think it's a little bit premature -- and the President has confidence that Prime Minister Maliki, and that the Iraqi troops who are growing in number, and the police officers who are growing in number, in terms of the training, that they will be able to succeed.
Q Can you describe what success will look like at this point?
MS. PERINO: That has not changed for the President. He believes that success is an Iraq that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror, and be a democratic country in the heart of the Middle East.
Q In an effort to get this legislation the President wants, do you believe, does the President believe the tone is appropriate here, sharp words from this podium, sharp words from Senator Reid? Can that help get anything done?
MS. PERINO: Look, far be it from us to let us be "Whac-a-Mole," and get whacked about the head and not respond. We're going to respond, because it's important for the American people to understand that where we are coming from -- and I don't think that sharp words should be mistaken for -- should not be mistaken for what it really is. We're not questioning someone's patriotism, we are trying to point out a debate on the merits. And I think that if sometimes it takes harsher language to do that, then we'll do so.
Q Dana, back on the Attorney General. Senator Specter was asked yesterday whether he thought it was good or bad for the Attorney General to stay on in the Justice Department, for the Justice Department. And he said, "No doubt it is bad for the department, it's harmful. There's been a very substantial decrease in morale there."
MS. PERINO: I think that there's no doubt that there was a period of unease at the Justice Department, and I think that the Attorney General tried to address that. I think he met with over 70 U.S. attorneys offices as he traveled around the country, and they gathered and they met over the course of two or three weeks. That was essential work to be done, because I think that there needed to be open lines of communication between main Justice and the U.S. attorneys' offices.
I think that now that the hearing is behind us and the Attorney General answered their questions and we have all of the documents turned over, I think that -- hopefully things are calming down. I think if you are on the press release distribution list from Department of Justice, you will see that they are not stopping at all, in terms of succeeding in their prosecutions.
Q It doesn't seem like it's stopping as far as the other side, either, with a growing number of Republicans speaking out, saying it's bad for him to stay on. Would the President be surprised to get an offer of resignation from Attorney General Gonzales?
MS. PERINO: I think that what the President and the Attorney General have talked about is that the President has confidence in him. He thanked him for the work that he did leading up to the hearing. He answered honorably, he answered truthfully, and that's all we can expect from somebody. He has actually done a very good job -- anyone who looks at the record of the Department of Justice could only come to that conclusion.
Q Last thing. The President, as of now, expects Attorney General Gonzales to stay on to the end of his term?
MS. PERINO: The President hopes so.
Q Can the President look past his long personal friendship with Alberto Gonzales, to really look at this as objectively --
MS. PERINO: Yes, I think that he can. I think that you have to. Obviously, they've been long-time friends, but they've also been -- they've worked together, they've accomplished a lot together, and the President appreciates that work.
Go ahead, Les.
Q Thank you, Dana. Another question. The President has more than once invited up to two dozen talk radio hosts to broadcast from the White House. But now, while three dozen are broadcasting on Capitol Hill for three days on illegal immigration, we have received no such presidential invitation or even word of welcome. And my question, does the President wish we would all go home?
MS. PERINO: I think you're talking about apples and oranges, Les.
Q If the President really feels as you contend he does, when will he visit us on Capitol Hill or invite us to the White House?
MS. PERINO: I didn't know there had been an invitation. But we do talk show radio day every once in a while. We'll keep you in mind for the next one.
Q There are three dozen up there, and they'd love to have --
MS. PERINO: Been arranged by --
Q Could you come?
MS. PERINO: I think I'm busy. (Laughter.)
John, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Dana. Turning back to the Department of Justice, Congressman Tom Davis, and the Republican members of the House Government Operations Committee, recently wrote the Attorney General asking why former National Security Council advisor Sandy Berger had not been administered a polygraph test about what he took from the National Archives and looked at there -- something Mr. Berger agreed to in his plea bargain agreement two years ago. The Department of Justice wrote back a terse letter, said there was no need to give him a polygraph test. Mr. Davis has publicly complained about his treatment.
My question is, the last time I checked, the Attorney General works for the President, reports to him. Is the President aware of this? And would he ask his Attorney General to make this test possible?
MS. PERINO: I don't know if the President is aware of it. I do know that it would be inappropriate for the President to get himself involved into an investigation.
Q So he has no opinion -- you have no opinion on --
MS. PERINO: I have not talked to the President about it, John.
Q All right. Will you?
MS. PERINO: I'll see if I can do that.
Q Thank you. Dana, what can you tell us about Prime Minister Maliki not wanting to have the (inaudible) around Baghdad, he says it's not necessary. But I thought that was supposed to be, you know, for security.
MS. PERINO: I think that the way to look at this is that our commanders on the ground have a lot of flexibility, and they work with the Iraqis to try to figure out the best way to protect the men, women and children of Iraq. And these walls were meant as a temporary measure in order to help prevent suicide bombers and kidnappers and others who would perpetrate sectarian violence, from killing innocent people.
We'll continue to work with the Iraqis. And I think the most important thing to remember is that the work that we are doing on the ground there, it is slow, it is focused, it is persistent. They clear an area, they hold it, they train more Iraqis, both the military and the police, and then they move forward in order to rebuild and help these people rebuild their lives. So we'll continue to work with the Iraqis on it.
Q Dana, can I follow on that for a second? I think when you were talking with Martha, or her answering her questions, you said that the President and the administration is interested in getting -- so the Iraqi people can get their lives back to where they were before.
MS. PERINO: Well, obviously that's -- I should -- let me -- are you giving me a chance to expand, revise and extend my remarks? Obviously, they want to be in a time -- in a place where they can feel safe, and I don't believe that, at least most of the population, felt safe under Saddam Hussein. Everybody wants, and the President believes an inherent desire in every person is the freedom to live their lives the way that they would like to live them. That's what I meant.
Q Between them, the Attorney General and Kyle Sampson said, "I don't recall" over 200 times. Is there concern that at the top of the Justice Department, there's seems to be a massive lack of memory?
MS. PERINO: Victoria, I think that that is an outrageous comment. The Attorney General and Kyle Sampson are two of the most honorable people I know. And they were asked multiple questions in various different ways on the same topics in which they did not have full memory. Now what would have been dishonorable is if they had made it up. And they didn't. They were honest.
Q But, nevertheless, they didn't remember.
MS. PERINO: It's just as if you don't remember something. You shouldn't make it up just to satisfy somebody's curiosity about something. That would be wrong.
Q But there is not concern that there are people running the Department --
MS. PERINO: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
April, go ahead.
Q Dana, how far -- on Gonzales, how far does friendship and loyalty go when you have people in your own party now calling for you to step down?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to answer that. You know, Kelly answered [sic] a similar question. And while the President takes very seriously long-time friendships, he takes very seriously, as well, capabilities. And anyone who takes an objective look at the record of the Department of Justice will see that they've done -- he's done a remarkable job at the helm.
Q But is the President to a point where friendship is overriding politics, policy, and what some people are calling common sense?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't believe so. I think that the Attorney General is fulfilling the agenda that the -- the prosecutorial agenda that the President wants to follow. You know, today, he's -- the Attorney General and the FTC Chairman, Deborah Majoras, are holding a press conference talking about identity theft, which is one of the things that he asked them to do. They are going about the business of the American people, and that's what the President expects.
Q And also on Nigeria, last week he came out saying some things, the White House is questioning the elections process in Nigeria. What is the White House saying now about the elections?
MS. PERINO: We are concerned and troubled about reports about irregularities in the Nigerian elections. We look forward to hearing from the election observers. And the United States urges all parties to resolve their concerns through peaceful means. Obviously, there is a lot of tension there, and we hope that people can remain calm, and if they're going to protest, to do so peacefully.
Q So is the President not going to talk to Obasanjo any time soon?
MS. PERINO: I think what we need first, April, is to hear from the election observers before we can make any other moves.
Q Dana, can I ask you, there's been a lot of chatter over the last couple days about this confrontation that Karl Rove allegedly had with a couple of celebrities about global warming, climate change. What was Karl Rove's reaction to being confronted at the dinner in this way?
MS. PERINO: I think Karl Rove just wanted to have some fun on Saturday night. And I think he wasn't the only one.
I think that it's unfortunate that people who have an impassioned view about a topic don't take the time and afford the President the same respect that they are asking for. The President's record on climate change is very strong. I do not understand why they can't take "yes" for an answer. The President has acknowledged, since the beginning of his term, that climate change is real. He has a different approach of how to help solve the problems, but that doesn't mean he hasn't acted.
We have provided billions of dollars, in terms of resources, to develop the new technologies that are not only going to help solve that problem, but will also help lift people out of poverty from around the world because they need the clean energy that everyone else needs in order to help their economies grow.
Q But it was not until this last State of the Union that he mentioned climate change, right, so --
MS. PERINO: Absolutely not.
Q He did not mention it directly.
MS. PERINO: In the State of the Union?
Q In the State of the Union. I thought this was the last --
MS. PERINO: Well, in the State of the Union, but that doesn't mean that people weren't actively working on things. I could point you back to the 2003 State of the Union, in which he announced the FutureGen project, which is a zero-emissions coal-fired power plant, which is currently underway, in terms of its development, and it's a 10-year plan. And what we would hope is that once we get that technology, we will be able to transfer it to developing countries that are going to use coal, like Mexico and South Africa and China, which, by the way, is building one power plant a week that uses coal.
So we have big climate change challenges ahead of us, and I just wish that they would channel some of that Hollywood energy into something constructive, rather than baseless finger pointing.
Q Did Rove leave early because he was angry because of this?
MS. PERINO: Rove left to get in the motorcade to go home. (Laughter.) That's what we all have to do if we're in the motorcade. I got to stay behind.
Q Dana, the President had a conversation with Vladimir Putin today, and a brief statement said that they talked about missile defense, Kosovo, and Secretary Gates. Can you elaborate at least on the missile defense part of that conversation?
MS. PERINO: I can't, because I don't know any additional -- additional points. Obviously, Secretary Gates is there talking with the Russians about that; I refer you to his comments over there. And I would note that when the President and President Putin spoke this morning, the news about Boris Yeltsin's death had not yet been revealed, and so that's why they didn't speak about it.
Q First of all, it was a great White House Correspondent dinner, and it was really wonderful to see that everybody was in the mood of remembering the victims of Virginia Tech.
MS. PERINO: Okay. What's your question?
Q And my question is that yesterday there was a rally against the immigrants at the White House, anti-immigrants rally, and also in the fall several rallies were held, pro-immigrants. My question is that now 62 percent of Americans, what they're saying is that illegals who are here, they should be given chance and let them pay taxes. But at the same time, 68 percent are saying that no more illegals --
MS. PERINO: Well, Goyal, all right, what I would say is that the President, as we've said before, doesn't make decisions based on polls. What we are doing right now is we are working with Congress in order to develop a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will not allow for amnesty, but try to address that problem, as well as create a temporary worker program.
Q What are (inaudible) -- what is the mood of the Democratic Congress now, which President has been always supporting immigration bill, how will he --
MS. PERINO: We're confident we'll be able to get a bill this year. There's going to be a vote at the end of the month on the Senate floor.
Q Thank you. How active is this White House in participating in debates about changing mental health laws --
MS. PERINO: I don't know if you saw it, but in Saturday's radio address, the President announced that Secretaries Leavitt, Spellings and the Attorney General are going to be working on a review of all the aspects regarding policy, mental health policy, and the nexus with guns.
Q But what about meetings up on Capitol Hill? Any activity up there from the White House, itself?
MS. PERINO: I'm sure we'll be engaged with Capitol Hill. I don't know of anything specific.
Q Thank you again, Dana. In the French elections, just before the balloting, Socialist candidate Madame S gol ne Royal said she would not shake the hand of President Bush without bringing up grievances to this country. In her final pre-election rally, she said, "I will not genuflect to George W. Bush." What is the administration's reaction about this statement from a potential --
MS. PERINO: I'm going to decline to answer. I haven't heard -- I haven't seen her comments, and I'll see if I can get back to you.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Okay, thank you. END 1:52 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
President Bush Meets with General Petraeus, Discusses War in Iraq
9:44 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's my high honor to welcome General David Petraeus back to the Oval Office, and I appreciate Deputy Secretary England and General Pace joining us. General Petraeus has taken on a very important assignment for the security of our country, and for the peace of the world, and that is to help this young Iraqi democracy become stable, evolve into a country that can defend itself and govern itself, and serve as an ally in this war against extremists and radicals who wish to do us harm.
General Petraeus has been there for a brief period of time, on his second tour. About a little over half of the troops -- around half of the troops he's requested have arrived on the scene. These troops are all aimed at helping the Iraqi government find the breathing space necessary to do what the people want them to do, and that is to reconcile and move forward with a government of and by and for the Iraqi people. So General Petraeus, we welcome you here.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: It's a tough time there, as the General will tell the Congress. He's here not only to check in with me and other members of my team, but also he'll be going up to the Hill, going up to the joint session of the Congress to brief the members, both Republican and Democrat, about what's going right and what's not going right. He's a straightforward man who is implementing a very good plan to achieve our strategic objectives.
As the General will tell the folks on Capitol Hill, there's been some progress. There' been some horrific bombings, of course. There's also a decline in sectarian violence. And I appreciate you coming, and I really thank you and your family for your service to our country.
I'll answer a couple of questions. Deb.
Q Mr. President, Senator Reid says you're in denial about Iraq, and that Congress is going to pass a bill that includes a fair and reasonable timetable for withdrawal. Could you compromise? Could you accept anything that looks like that, at all?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe strongly that politicians in Washington shouldn't be telling generals how to do their job. And I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake. An artificial timetable of withdrawal would say to an enemy, just wait them out; it would say to the Iraqis, don't do hard things necessary to achieve our objectives; and it would be discouraging for our troops. And therefore I will strongly reject an artificial timetable withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job.
I will, of course, be willing to work with the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, on a way forward. That's what I said during the Cabinet Room. But I also made it clear that no matter how tough it may look, that for the Congress to micromanage this process is a mistake.
Q The Attorney General is still getting a lot of criticism over the U.S. attorneys situation. Was his explanation sufficient, or is there more he needs to do to try to turn things around?
THE PRESIDENT: The Attorney General went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.
One of the things that's important for the American people to understand is that the Attorney General has a right to recommend to me to replace U.S. attorneys. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. In other words, we have named them, and I have the right to replace them with somebody else. And as the investigation, the hearings went forward, it was clear that the Attorney General broke no law, did no wrongdoing. And some senators didn't like his explanation, but he answered as honestly as he could. This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence.
Thank you all for coming. General, it's good to have you here.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Great to be here, Mr. President. Thank you. END 9:49 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
President Bush Congratulates NFL Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts South Lawn 3:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. How about it? Like, the Indianapolis Colts here on the South Lawn. Congratulations. Welcome to the Super Bowl champs. (Applause.)
I want to welcome Jim Irsay and Meg, and Carlie, Casey, and Kalen. I had the honor of calling Jim after they won. I understand how hard it is to be an owner of a sports team and win. (Laughter.) I never did it. But he has, and I congratulate the organization. I congratulate Bill Polian, as well. I want to thank all the front office personnel, the schedulers, the ticket sellers, the travel arrangers, the people who never get any credit. I appreciate you being part of a fine organization. And we're here on the South Lawn to congratulate you.
I congratulate the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy. (Applause.) And I'm glad his wife, Lauren, is here, as well. Tony Dungy is the first African American coach to ever win a Super Bowl. (Applause.) That, in itself, is a great honor. But interestingly enough, he is a man who has used his -- a position of notoriety to behave in a quiet and strong way in the face of personal tragedy that has influenced a lot of our fellow citizens. And I want to thank you for your courage. (Applause.)
Alphonso Jackson is here with us, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to today he told me he was a Cowboy fan. (Laughter.) Like, what are you doing here, A.J.? Oh, okay, you wanted to see the coach. All right, good. I thank Randy Tobias, who was an executive from Indianapolis, but ran our HIV/AIDS initiative -- by the way, helped people in Africa receive antiretroviral drugs. When we came in there was 50,000 people receiving antiretroviral drugs; now there's 850,000 people receiving antiretroviral drugs. (Applause.) Tobias, thank you for your compassion. Al Hubbard, Economic Adviser to the President is here -- Indianapolis Colt fan.
I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us today, starting with Senator Evan Bayh and Susan. It's good to see the Bayh lads with them. Thank you all for coming. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.) Dan Burton, appreciate you coming, Dan, and Samia, I'm glad you're here. Thanks for coming, Samia. Mark Souder, Julia Carson, Mike Pence, Baron Hill, Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth -- glad you all are here. (Applause.)
Some of these guys get elected for the first time, and the first thing that happens is the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl. You're not taking credit, are you? (Laughter.)
I want to thank all the coaches who are here. I want to thank the families of the Colt family who have helped this organization flourish. I want to -- most of all I want to thank the players. I am proud of you, the country is proud of you, the people from Indiana have supported you, and you didn't let them down. As a matter fact, last time you won as Colts, though, was 1971. Interesting, I thought about that. Most of you weren't even born. I was, and that's when they beat our Cowboys, A.J. (Laughter.) But you've -- as Bill put it, he said, "Finally." And a lot of Indianapolis fans said, "Thank goodness." They love to support this team. And you didn't let them down.
It was a pretty tough season, though, when you think about it. It wasn't one of these runaways. It looked like it was going to be a -- Secretary Rice, if you want to come in, please, yes. (Applause.) So you're a big Dungy fan, aren't you?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right, that's what I thought. So the season started off good, like you won the first nine games, and then it appeared this championship team was going to fizzle; it wasn't going to make it. And so they -- you lost four out of seven. And they started to, like, write you off, right? They kind of say -- you probably -- some of these sports writers started to say, you know, well, they don't have what it takes; they can -- they can kind of do okay until it comes to the big one, and then they just don't have the character necessary to make it work. They did okay in the wild card, and you move your way to the playoffs, and then all of a sudden, the guy on Super Bowl 41 runs the kickoff back. (Laughter.) I'm sure a lot of those skeptics were saying, "Told you so, the Indianapolis Colts, good players, fine people, just don't have what it takes to win." But as the coach said, "Our guys just kept saying, 'We're going to fight -- we're not going to be denied.' That heart will take you a long way."
And so this is a victory for good hearts -- good hearts off the field and good hearts on the field. And we congratulate you. Thank you for winning. (Applause.)
So a lot of people here in the White House compound have been really looking forward to seeing Peyton Manning. They wanted to see a guy who gets more air time than I do. (Laughter.) I met Peyton Manning. He said, I'm going to be here during your presidency. We will be here having won the Super Bowl. And sure enough, he delivered. And Peyton, thank you for being a fine person and a good quarterback.
I'm sure Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are saying thanks for being a good quarterback, thanks for getting us the ball -- after all, these two players ranked second and third in the NFL in receiving during the regular season. That's called balanced attack -- particularly when you added that LSU guy, Joseph. Where's Joseph? There he is. (Laughter and applause.) Congratulations to you.
Dominic Rhodes led the NFL in rushing yards in the post-season. You had people who can catch the ball, guy who throws the ball and people who can run the ball. People held your defense as suspect -- but not when it counted. I can remember all the analysts saying, well, the defense is a little short this year; they may have the offensive firepower, but they can't play on the other side of the ball. Until it mattered. And then the defense stood up and helped this team become a Super Bowl champ.
So to the offense, congratulations on doing what people expected. To the defense, thanks for helping this team be here in the White House, as well. (Applause.)
It's good to be the presence of Adam Vinatieri -- again. (Laughter.) The man knows how to pick a winner. (Laughter.) And help contribute to a winner. You know, in 2005 he didn't make it to the White House, and I asked, why. It was a simple matter of he and his wife were having a child -- I hope the kid is doing well. We're glad you're here, Adam, thank you very much.
I appreciate what guard Ryan Lilja said. He said, "The whole team has fought hard the whole season, through ups and downs." Isn't that what life is about, isn't it really? Through the ups -- it's easy to fight hard in the ups. It's when the downs come that you've got to be a fighter. He said, "I couldn't be prouder to be a part of this football team."
And I couldn't be prouder to welcome the football team to the South Lawn of the White House. I appreciate what this team does. I appreciate the example you set. I appreciate the fact that you understand that off the field, a lot of people are looking at you to determine whether or not they want to be like you.
I thank you very much for the "Bleed Blood Blue Drive" [SIC] -- that's hard for a guy from West Texas to say -- (laughter) -- "Bleed Blood Blue Drive" [SIC] in which you've encouraged 2,000 people to donate blood. I appreciate the book drives that you've held to promote literacy in the state of Indiana. I appreciate the food drives that you've held to fight hunger in the state of Indiana. I appreciate the Colts Football Fund.
Most of all, I appreciate you all. Thanks for coming. God bless. (Applause.)
MR. IRSAY: Mr. President, we have a special gift to present to you from the Irsay family and the Colts organization. I knew that you'd love these specially made cowboy hats. We have some special dedications inside there for you, sir, and I hope you'll enjoy it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, sir.
MR. IRSAY: You're welcome.
THE PRESIDENT: Pretty snazzy, huh? (Laughter and applause.)
MR. DUNGY: And on behalf of the team, we got you a Bush Colts jersey. We normally go number 1, but in this case, we had to go 43.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right, thank you. (Applause.) END 3:19 P.M. EDT
April 23, 2007 Indianapolis Colts visits the White House.
Tony Dungy Good afternoon. I would like to thank you for taking the time to express your well wishes. All of us with the Indianapolis Colts are thrilled to visit the White House. This is a wonderful opportunity for our organization. We are pleased to represent the National Football League and the city of Indianapolis. We thank President Bush for his invitation, and this will provide us with life-long memories.
garion, from fayetteville, nc writes: Hello mr.dungy i first want to say good job on your superbowl victoryand you guys will see the lions next year. I want to know how do you plan on getting yoour guys hungry again to get them back into the thick of things and how do you change the new comers thats coming in out of the college mode into a real mans real.
Tony Dungy Garion, fortunately, we have a good group of veteran leaders. They will make sure our guys are working hard in the offseason. We'll need to because everyone is chasing us. But it's really the players that make the difference.
Kay, from Carmel, IN writes: Coach Dungy, congratulations to you and the entire Colts organization on a great season. With all of the issues happening lately with players getting in to trouble with the law, (not only the NFL, but NBA, and major league baseball), do you think that the NFL and the other organizations should make it mandatory that the professional athletes get involved with community organizations and charities. Do you think they will see that giving back to a volunteer organization is much better than getting in trouble with the law?
Tony Dungy Kay, we don't need to make it mandatory for our guys to volunteer. We have so many who do it naturally, but they don't get the publicity that others get. We've really got a good group of players and I think their efforts will be seen by more people.
Tim, from Pensacola, Florida writes: Coach, Congratulations on winning the superbowl and for long overdue recognition for a legacy of success - a validation to your approach which recognizes and compliments "the good" instead of criticizing excessively "the bad." Recent events have led us to focus on "the bad" in this world - a long list. I believe that because of all the good that people like you and the COLTS organization accomplish, the world is a far better place than it would be without it. In the face of so much negative press, how can we continue to focus on what "good" is going on out there and continue to build upon the many successes that we have going for us in this country?? Thanks and "BEAT NEW ENGLAND" Tim
Tony Dungy Tim, you are right. We do need to focus on the positive. It's a conscious decision that we have to make. It's easy to let all the negative forces win out but we at the Colts have chosen to do it the other way. We want to be positive, to encourage each other, and to block out all the negative voices. We feel that's a lesson the whole country could benefit from.
Matt, from Fishers, IN writes: Coach, great season and congratulations on winning the Super Bowl. We here in Indianapolis couldn't be more proud of our Colts. We want to get our kids involved in charities, but aren't sure when to start them and what would be an appropriate charity for teenagers and preteens, aged 14, 12, and 8. We want them to realize how important it is to give back to the community, but we also don't want them to miss out on being a kid. So, what is a good age to start getting them involved and how much should they get involved? Thanks and good luck on the upcoming season. You are such a positive role model to us all. May God Bless you for all that you do.
Tony Dungy Matt, it's never too early to start volunteering. With young kids, just make sure it's fun things that you're having them do. They can kill two birds with one stone by helping others and having fun at the same time.
Charles, from Drexel Hill, Pa. writes: I was a little disappointed to see so many in the media focus on the issue of race after you and Chicago Coach Lovie Smith both became the first African American coaches to bring your teams to the Super Bowl. Of course, this is a huge accomplishment, and you both should be proud Were you surpised at all that this became a topic of discussion in the lead up the big game? Congrats on the win
Tony Dungy Lovie Smith and I were both excited and honored to represent African-American coaches in the Super Bowl. We didn’t want the focus to be on us as individuals, we wanted it to be on our teams, but we also understood the historical significance of the event and how much it was going to mean to Black America, so it was a delicate balance and we were proud to represent African-American coaches in that historic Super Bowl.
Phil, from Indianapolis writes: Mr. Dungy: Congrats on your new book. Our family can't wait to read it. What's your filter to determine what groups may truly need assistance, and what groups are only looking for a handout? It seems as if we need to do a better job moving from volunteerism and community service to having people take the next step -- or congruent step -- toward education and self-responsibility. Thanks again for all that you do.
Tony Dungy There’s no question that athletic figures have a position of prominence – we are given a lot and should be giving back a lot, I feel that many sports figures do, they don’t get publicized. Many guys want to do it, and ladies, many people want to do it without the fanfare. There’s quite a few people who do a lot in the communities that don’t get noticed but we do think we have a responsibility and I’m proud of the coaches and players in the National Football League who do give back to their communities on a regular basis.
Darian, from Wiscconsin writes: How are young people to volunteer? when there is limited places to volunteer. Because I volunteer with two organization, one being the American Red Cross and a small town Fire Deparmtent. But some of the young can't because of age or distance.
Tony Dungy Young people can volunteer in a lot of different ways – you mentioned the Red Cross and the Fire Department, but even if it’s just through their Elementary School or organizing particularly in your neighborhood a clean up or to help people in the very neighborhood you live in. There’s a lot of ways to get started and you’re never too young to start. I would just encourage kids – if you live in a small town or you live far away from those organizations – to come up with ways on your own or come up with ways in school that you can volunteer just to help anyone that you would like. A website to visit would be the USA Freedom Corps at www.volunteer.gov, which has many resources.
Albert, from Indianapolis writes: First of all, congratulations Coach to you and the entire Colts organization. You made us proud and we are thrilled to have you at the helm What's your assesment of the team's schedule and chances this season? Go Colts
Tony Dungy Albert, thanks for checking in from Indianapolis and thank you for your support of the team. Our schedule this year is going to be very challenging. We knew we’d have the national TV games our only disappointment was that we didn’t get more night games at home but we’re looking forward to the schedule and looking forward to defending our division title, that’s always the first goal of our team to win our division and it’s going to be a challenge with this schedule. We’re looking forward to opening up the year on Thursday night football against the New Orleans Saints, carrying on the tradition of the defending champions opening up the year.
Christopher, from Grafton, North Dakota writes: Mr. Dungy, First of all, congratulations on a great year. Secondly, what do you think of FCA? We have a chapter in Grafton.
Tony Dungy Thanks so much for the congratulations. Secondly what do I think of FCA? It means a great deal to me – because the Fellowship of Christian Athletes really brings together two things that are close to me – athletics and my Christian faith. I think that’s a great organization to volunteer with as well as they help out in junior highs, high schools, colleges, and help student-athletes become more aware of their surroundings and their eternal life and that has been a great, great benefit to me as I’ve grown up.
Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes: Coach Dungy: How many of the Colts are involved in Community and Volunteer activities? And are you personaly involved in some of the activities and which ones? Thank You
Tony Dungy We have quite a few players who are involved in volunteer activities in the community. We have many guys who are mentors and interns at high schools, coaching in the off---season, tutoring and teaching. Personally I am involved in three activities. One is Baskets of Hope where we deliver gift baskets to kids in the children’s hospital in Indianapolis. I am also involved with the Prison Crusade Ministry in Tampa, Florida, where we go and visit inmates in the prisons in the Florida Correctional Facilities. And then I’m involved in Family First which is an organization which tries to promote family values, and helping fathers especially connect with their kids a little bit better, so those are three of the activities I’m involved with, and I have really enjoyed volunteering over the years.
Tony Dungy I’d like to thank everyone for your interest in the Indianapolis Colts. Our organization truly appreciates the support we get throughout the country, both as on-field performers and for the work we do off the field. We’re heading back to Indianapolis this afternoon to continue preparation for the upcoming season. Our players will be very busy in the conditioning program, as well as getting ready for our mini-camps, but we will have many, many players in the mean time who will be involved in volunteer activities all across the country and I can speak for our entire organization in urging everyone to make a difference in the communities in which they live. Take a page out of our player’s book, they really feel like winning the Super Bowl is a very important goal, but the most important thing in their lives is how they impact the city of Indianapolis and the places where they live. Thank you very much.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
President Bush Participates in a Meeting on Medicare Part D Roosevelt Room 1:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Today I have been discussing the Medicare Part D reforms that Congress passed and I signed, and that Mike Leavitt and a lot of other people helped to implement.
This reform of Medicare has been a great success. Most importantly, it's been a great success for our senior citizens. The cost of the prescription drug plan has been less than anticipated. The individual stories about people saving money and getting better health care has warmed my heart.
It took a monumental effort by a lot of citizens around the country to make the options that our seniors were given easy to understand. In other words, we reformed Medicare and gave seniors a lot of choices, and it took a lot of loving Americans a lot of time to make these choices available for our senior citizens. Now that the plan is in place, 39 million have signed up for it, drug costs are less than anticipated, and the cost to the taxpayer is about $200 billion less than anticipated.
The lesson is, is that when you trust people to make decisions in their life, when you have competition it is likely you'll get lower price and better quality. It is the spirit of this reform that needs to be now extended to Medicare overall. The trustees report will be coming out today on Social Security and Medicare. It will make clear that senior citizens are in great shape when it comes to the government making their promises. It'll make clear that baby boomers, like me, are in good shape, that the government will meet its promises. But for a younger generation of Americans, it sends yet another warning signal to the United States Congress that now is the time to work to make sure the Social Security is solvent for the future, as is Medicare.
And as we begin to think through solutions for Medicare, we ought to make sure that we remember the principles inherent in this Medicare reform that has worked for well for our seniors -- and that principle is competition works, competition can lower price and improve the quality of people who are a beneficiary of such a plan.
Thank you all very much for coming. END 1:43 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 23, 2007
President Bush Welcomes President García of Peru to the White House Oval Office 11:06 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Es mi honor para recibir el Presidente de Per. It's my honor to receive the President of Peru. I appreciate very much the President's time. I thank you for coming to visit the United States. Es hombre muy amable. He gives good advice.
We talked about the neighborhood. As we discussed, the United States wants the people of South America to fully understand we care about their future; that we want there to be prosperity in the region; that we respect leaders who provide basic education and health care. So we had a very constructive conversation.
The President is here to urge the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to pass the free trade agreement with Peru, and I urge them to vote yes. We talked about our mutual desire to succeed in preventing drugs from coming to the United States and preventing U.S. citizens from using drugs in the first place. The President has got a very clear vision of South America, and I really appreciated his advice and his counsel. It always helps for a person sitting here in the United States to get clarity of what the environment is like.
And finally, I expressed our country's deepest condolence to the student, the Peruvian student who lost his life on the campus at Virginia Tech. And our prayers go to this person's family. And we ask for God's blessings on the family.
PRESIDENT GARCA: Thank you very much. (As translated.) Thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all, we would like to express our deepest condolences to the United States and to you, Mr. President, for all the victims that died in Virginia Tech. A Peruvian student lost his life there, and our prayers and our thoughts are with their families.
Second of all, I am here in the United States to promote the FTA between the United States and Peru. It is vital for our country. It is fundamental to continue this path of growth and social redistribution that we have started in my country. We have achieved an 8 percent annual growth in my country. This year we're expecting a similar growth, 8 percent annually, with 1 percent inflation, which creates more job opportunities.
But this growth, as far as development, needs a greater space and a greater degree of investment, and for that the FTA is essential. It would help us keep and maintain a strong democracy, a democracy that takes care of the poorest and that provides work to the unemployed. It is important to show the world that a democracy, with investment, leads to development. And development is not achieved by becoming static and not opening our doors to the market.
The United States, ever since its founding fathers, has had an ideal, a mission to the world. In the '40s, it sacrificed the lives of many young people to achieve the freedom of the world. Nowadays, we need to focus on democracy and free trade. And I am sure that both Republicans and Democrats would understand that this is key to the mission the United States has for the world.
President Bush and I talked about our contribution to the hemisphere and to humanity, to mankind. And that is the fight against drugs, and the fight against coke. We have started a head-on fight against drug trafficking in my country, against money laundering, and against coca leaf production, by offering farmers alternative crops, which is a way for them to earn a living in a just and legal way.
I have also congratulated President Bush on the very intelligent action he took against North Korea. It could have become a very serious problem for the world had it not been for the tactful intervention by the United States and its allied countries.
In his last trip to Latin America, in spite of some political reactions, which are typical, it has been essential to see the President work with Brazil on ethanol as the new fuel. This will help us refocus on Latin America, which is very favorable for the region.
If President Bush allows me, I am sure that during the time that we will coexist as Presidents he will achieve great things in the world, and he will visit Peru next year. But thank you very much, Mr. President, for the relationship we have of friendship. You are a very nice person, and I'm sure that our relationship will continue to grow.
Thank you very much. PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all. END 11:19 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 22, 2007
President and Mrs. Bush Deeply Saddened by the Death of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald
Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald of California. She was a dedicated public servant who tirelessly and honorably served her country for many years. We hold Rep. Millender-McDonald's family, friends, staff, and constituents in our thoughts and prayers.
# # #
April 21st, 2007 President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
This week, the thoughts and prayers of millions of Americans are with the victims of the Virginia Tech attacks. We mourn promising lives cut short. We pray for the wounded. And we send our love to those who are hurting.
The day after the attack, Laura and I attended a memorial service on the campus in Blacksburg. We met with faculty members who lost students and colleagues, and shared hugs with grieving moms and dads -- including parents who had lost their only child. We offered what words of comfort we could, and we were moved by the solidarity and strength of spirit we found. We wanted everyone at the university to know that this tragedy saddened our entire Nation -- and that the American people stand with them in an hour of darkness.
We can never fully understand what would cause a student to take the lives of 32 innocent people. What we do know is that this was a deeply troubled young man -- and there were many warning signs. Our society continues to wrestle with the question of how to handle individuals whose mental health problems can make them a danger to themselves and to others.
Colleges and state and local officials are now confronting these issues, and the Federal government will help. I've asked top officials at the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services to provide the Virginia Tech community with whatever assistance we can, and to participate in a review of the broader questions raised by this tragedy.
I have directed these officials to travel to communities across our Nation, to meet with educators, mental health experts, and state and local officials. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, to summarize what they learn and report back to me with recommendations about how we can help to avoid such tragedies.
This week at Virginia Tech, we saw a glimpse of humanity at its worst, and we also saw humanity at its best. We learned of students who risked their own safety to tend to wounded classmates. We heard of a teacher who used his body to barricade a classroom door, and gave his life so his students could escape through windows. And we saw the good people of Blacksburg embrace victims of this tragedy and help their neighbors endure, and heal, and hope.
That hope was expressed in a letter written by a Virginia Tech graduate shortly after the attack. He wrote: "Today, there is pain everywhere in our community, and our hearts are troubled. Yet I am certain our university will persevere." He continued, "Evil can never succeed, not while there are...men and women like the people of Virginia Tech who reach every day for success, and endeavor for the improvement of the human condition across the planet."
This week, we reflect on what has been lost and comfort those enduring a profound grief. And somehow we know that a brighter morning will come. We know this because together Americans have overcome many evils and found strength through many storms. And we know there will be a day, as promised in Scripture, when evil will meet its reckoning and when every tear shall be wiped away.
May God bless those who mourn and may God bless our wonderful country. Thank you for listening.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 20, 2007
President Bush Visits East Grand Rapids, Discusses Global War on Terror East Grand Rapids High School, East Grand Rapids, Michigan 1:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. I'm glad to be back in Grand Rapids. I appreciate the opportunity to address the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. I was leaving the White House today, Laura said, where are you headed? I said, to the West Coast. (Laughter.) She said, make sure you take your suntan lotion. (Laughter.) I said, the West Coast of Michigan -- (laughter) -- and I'm glad to be with you.
You can't help but think about Gerald Ford when you come to Grand Rapids, Michigan. You know, our country was blessed to have such a decent, honorable, kind, courageous leader in Gerald R. Ford, and we miss him a lot. (Applause.)
I appreciate Dixie Anderson, who is the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. I thank Barbara Propes who is the President of the World Affairs Council of America. I want to thank Ping Liang, President, Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, and a fellow Yale Bulldog.
I appreciate my friend, Ambassador Pete Secchia for joining us today. He was the Ambassador to Italy under 41. I appreciate Sara Shubel, who is the Superintendent of the East Grand Rapids Public Schools. Thank you very much for allowing me to come to this beautiful auditorium here in East Grand Rapids High School. I appreciate Jenny Fee, the Associate Principal, as well as Larry Fisher. My purpose of coming is to instruct, is to talk about the issues that our world is facing, particularly the issue of Iraq. And I appreciate the chance to come to this high school to do so.
I thank Congressman Vern Ehlers, congressman from this district. I appreciate you being here, Vern, and thank you for joining me and Congressman Pete Hoekstra on Air Force One. It's probably quite convenient for you to fly from Washington on Air Force One. (Laughter.) Glad to provide the transportation. (Laughter.) Both these men are really honorable folks who serve Western Michigan well in Congress, and I want to thank you for your service. (Applause.)
I thank the Michigan Attorney General, Michael Cox, for joining us. Mike, thanks for coming today. Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. She heard this was a foreign policy speech. (Laughter.) I appreciate Cindy Bartman, City of East Grand Rapids; Mayor George Heartwell, City of Grand Rapids. Thank you all for serving. I appreciate your willingness to become public servants. One of the messages I hope that I can convey to the high school students who are here, no matter what your political beliefs may be, that it's important to serve. It's important to serve the community in which you live. And you can do so all kinds of ways. You can run for mayor at some point in time, or you can feed the hungry. But service is noble, and service is necessary. I see we've got some who wear the uniform of the United States military. In this day and age, that's the ultimate service, as far as I'm concerned, and I appreciate you volunteering. (Applause.)
For more than a half century, the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan has been a forum for lively and important debate. I understand this council was set up in 1949. It's been an important forum for people to talk about the big questions facing our country. There is no bigger question than what course our nation should pursue in Iraq, and that's what I'm here to talk about.
Three months ago, my administration completed an extensive review of that very question. I ordered major changes to our strategy in Iraq. And to lead this new strategy, I named General David Petraeus, an expert who wrote the Army's new manual on counterinsurgency warfare.
This new strategy is fundamentally different from the previous strategy. It recognizes that our top priority must be to help Iraq's elected leaders secure their population, especially in Baghdad -- because Iraqis will not be able to make the political and economic progress they need until they have a basic measure of security. Iraq's leaders are committed to providing that security -- but at this point, they cannot do it on their own.
And so I ordered American reinforcements to help Iraqis secure their population, to go after the terrorists and insurgents that are inciting sectarian violence, and to get their capital under control. As our troops take on this mission, they will continue to train and mentor the Iraqi security forces for the day they can take full responsibility for the security of their own country.
General Petraeus has been carrying out this new strategy for just over two months. He reports that it will be later this year before we can judge the potential of success. Yet the first indicators are beginning to emerge -- and they show that so far, the operation is meeting expectations. There are still horrific attacks in Iraq, such as the bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday -- but the direction of the fight is beginning to shift.
In the coming months, I'll deliver regular updates on our operations. Today, I want to share some details about how this effort is unfolding in three areas: Baghdad, Anbar province, and the outskirts of Baghdad where terrorists and extremists are making a stand.
The most significant element of our new strategy is being carried out in Baghdad. Baghdad has been the site of most of the sectarian violence; it is the destination for most of our reinforcements. So far, three additional American brigades totaling about 12,000 troops have reached the Baghdad area; another brigade is in Kuwait preparing to deploy; and one more will arrive in Kuwait next month. The Iraqi government is also meeting its pledge to boost its force levels in the city. For every American combat soldier deployed to Baghdad, there are now about three Iraqi security forces -- giving us a combined total of nearly 80,000 combat forces in the Baghdad area.
My point is, is that the American combat forces are not alone in the effort to secure the nation's capital. And just as important as the growing number of troops is their changing position in the city. I direct your attention to a map showing our troop presence around Baghdad late last year. This is how we were positioned. Most troops were at bases on the outskirts of the city. They would move into Baghdad to clear out neighborhoods during the day, and then they would return to their bases at night. The problem was that when our troops moved back to the bases, the extremists, the radicals, the killers moved back to the neighborhoods.
And we're changing. Part of our strategy change, part of the new mission in Baghdad is for American troops to live and work side by side with Iraqi forces at small neighborhood posts called joint security stations. You can see from this map, there are now more than two dozen joint security stations located throughout Baghdad; more are planned. From these stations, Iraqi and American forces work together to clear out and then secure neighborhoods -- all aimed at providing security for the people of Baghdad. If a heavy fight breaks out, our forces will step in, and Iraqi forces learn valuable skills from American troops; they'll fight shoulder to shoulder with the finest military every assembled.
By living in Baghdad neighborhoods, American forces get to know the culture and concerns of local residents. Equally important, the local residents get to know them. When Iraqi civilians see a large presence of professional soldiers and police patrolling their streets, they grow in confidence and trust. They become less likely to turn to militias for protection. People want security in their lives, and they tend to turn to the most apparently effective security force. And as people gain confidence in the ability of the Iraqi troops, along with the United States to provide security, they begin to cooperate. In fact, Iraqi and American forces have received more tips in the past three months than during any three-month period on record. These are tips provided by local citizens about where to find terrorists and insurgents.
Most people -- the vast majority of people want to live in peace. Iraqi mothers want their children to grow up in peace. And if given the opportunity and given the confidence, civilians turn in the terrorists and extremists and murderers to help achieve that peace.
This new approach to securing Baghdad brings risks. When I announced the new operation, I cautioned that more troops conducting more operations in more neighborhoods would likely to bring more casualties. Since the security operation began, we have seen some of the highest casualty levels of the war. And as the number of troops in Baghdad grows and operations move into even more dangerous neighborhoods, we can expect the pattern to continue.
We must also expect the terrorists and insurgents to continue mounting terrible attacks. Here is a photo of the destruction caused by a car bomb at a bus stop in Baghdad on Wednesday. The victims of this attack were innocent men and women, who were simply coming home from work. Yet this was hardly a random act of murder. It has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack. The terrorists bombed the buses at rush hour, with the specific intent to kill as many people as possible. This has been long a pattern of al Qaeda in Iraq; this is what they do. They carried out the spectacular attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. They bombed the Jordanian embassy in Iraq. They claimed credit for the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra. Just last week, they sent a suicide bomber to attack the Iraqi parliament building.
Al Qaeda believes that its best chance to achieve its objectives -- which is to drive the United States out of Iraq and prevent the emergence of a free society in the Middle East, is to defeat the security operation by conducting spectacular attacks that provoke Iraqis into taking violence into their own hands -- and lead Americans to conclude that the sectarian killing will never be contained. This strategy is merciless, but it is not without logic. It's important for all Iraqis -- Sunnis and Shia alike -- to understand that al Qaeda is the greatest threat to peace in their country. And the question is whether we and the Iraqis will give in, and to respond the way al Qaeda wants. Because of the lessons of September the 11th, the answer is the United States government will not give in to what al Qaeda wants -- and the Iraqis must not give in to al Qaeda if they want to have a peaceful society.
The nature of a strategy aimed at securing the population is that the most important gains are often the least dramatic. Day by day, block by block, Iraqi and American forces are making incremental gains in Baghdad. Thanks to more troops on the streets and more cooperation from residents, the average number of weapons stockpiles seized each week has jumped 50 percent since the beginning of the new strategy. American and Iraqi forces tracked down and captured the leaders of a major car bomb ring. We found and cleared a warehouse where terrorists were storing chemicals to make weapons. We captured members of a death squad that had terrorized hundreds of residents in a Baghdad neighborhood. As a result, displaced families are beginning to return home. And the number of sectarian murders in Baghdad has dropped by half since the operation began.
The results of the security operation are uneven across the city. In some areas, there have been sharp declines in sectarian killing -- while in other areas, the level of violence is still far too high. Yet even in volatile districts like Sadr City, our new approach is beginning to make a difference. A report last month in the Grand Rapids Press quoted an Iraqi resident of Sadr City. Perhaps you read it. If you didn't, here's what it said: "They thanked us" -- they're talking about our forces and Iraqi forces -- "They thanked us with respect and a smile." This resident said, "I'm happy that such a campaign is done in my neighborhood." People want security and they want to live in peace.
Developments like these are not as spectacular as a terrorist bomb. When a family decides to stop depending on militias to protect them, or a young man rejects insurgency and joins the Iraqi army, it doesn't usually make the evening news. Yet small, individual choices like these are vital to the success of our campaign. They show that despite all the violence, the vast majority of Iraqis want security, they want to live in peace. I know I've said that more than once; it's important for our citizens to understand that people around the world are anxious for peace, and, yet, there are extremists and radicals and murderers who will do anything they can to prevent it from happening.
The Iraqi security forces are growing in maturity and gaining trust, and that's important. Our men and women in uniform are showing great courage and skill, and that's important to the Iraqi people, as well.
Another significant element of our new strategy is being carried out in Anbar province -- a largely Sunni area west of Baghdad. For much of the past four years, Anbar has been a hotbed for insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists. Remember, al Qaeda is Sunni in nature. According to a captured al Qaeda document, according to what al Qaeda has made clear, their goal is to take over the Anbar province and make it their home base for Iraq. That would bring them closer to their stated objective of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and having safe haven from which to launch attacks on the United States citizens here at home or abroad. That is what al Qaeda has stated; that is their objective. And Anbar province is where they're trying to achieve their objective. Al Qaeda has pursued this goal through a ruthless campaign of violence -- and they grew in power. They were succeeding.
And then something began to change. The people of Anbar began to realize their life was not the paradise al Qaeda promised -- as a matter of fact, it was a nightmare. So courageous tribal sheiks launched a movement called "The Awakening" and began cooperating with American and Iraqi forces. The sheiks and their followers knew exactly who the terrorists were, and they began providing highly specific intelligence. To help capitalize on this opportunity, I sent more troops into Anbar province. Alongside the Iraqi army and police, U.S. Marines and Special Operations Forces have been striking terrible blows against al Qaeda.
The maps show the dramatic changes taking place in Ramadi, which happens to be the capital of Anbar province. The red-shaded areas in the first map show the concentration of al Qaeda terrorists in the city two months ago. The second map shows the concentration of the terrorists now. Their presence has declined substantially. Here is how one reporter described the changes: "A year ago, Ramadi's police force had virtually been wiped out, leaving only a couple dozen officers and a lawless city with nowhere to turn for help. Now, guerrilla fighters have begun to disappear, schools and shops have reopened, and civilians have begun walking [in] previously deserted streets."
Anbar province is still not safe. Al Qaeda has responded to these changes with sickening brutality. They have bombed fellow Sunnis in prayer at a mosque, they send death squads into neighborhoods, they have recruited children as young as 12 years old to help carry out suicide attacks. But this time, local Sunnis are refusing to be intimidated. With the encouragement of their tribal leaders, they're stepping forward to protect their families and drive out the terrorists. They're stepping forward to prevent al Qaeda, the people who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, from establishing safe haven in Anbar province. And I believe strongly it's in the interest of the United States of America to help them.
General Petraeus said earlier this month: "In the latest recruiting effort, which used to draw minimal numbers of Iraqis willing to serve in the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police in Anbar province, there were over 2,000 volunteers for the latest training." General Petraeus went on, "Frankly, it's a stunning development and reflects the frustration the Sunni Arab tribes have with what al Qaeda has done to them. It has really had a devastating effect." If given a chance, most people will reject extremists and radicals and murderers.
The United States will help Sunni sheiks and will help their people. We will stay on the offense in Anbar province. We and the Iraqi government are carrying out our new strategy in Baghdad and Anbar, as well as the "Baghdad belts" -- these are areas on the outskirts of the capital that have been staging grounds for deadly attacks. I have discussed the capital city with you, I discussed a western province with you, and I'm now going to talk about the belts around the capital city of Iraq.
We have moved an additional Stryker battalion to Diyala province, which is northeast of Baghdad, where our soldiers and Iraqi forces are conducting raids against al Qaeda and insurgents. We have sent reinforcements to Diwaniyah province -- Diwaniyah, a city of Diwaniyah, which is 80 miles south of Baghdad, where we're working with Iraqi forces to route out militia and Shia extremists.
In these and other parts of the Baghdad belts, Iraqi and American forces are fighting to clear and hold territory that the enemies of a free society considered their own. They're fighting back. As a result, violence is increasing. And as our forces move deeper into the territory, the violence could increase even more. Yet these operations are having an important impact on this young democracy. They're keeping the pressure on the terrorists and insurgents who have fled Anbar and Baghdad. They're helping cut off the supply of weapons and fighters to violent groups inside the capital. They're showing Iraqi citizens across the country there will be no sanctuary for killers anywhere in a free Iraq.
All of these military operations are designed to improve security for everyday folks. They're designed to reduce sectarian violence. And they're designed to open up breathing space for political progress by Iraq's government.
It may seem like decades ago, but it wasn't all that long ago that 12 million Iraqi citizens voted for a free and democratic future for their country. And the government they elected is in place -- it hasn't been in place a year yet -- and they're working hard to make progress on some key benchmarks; progress to help this country reconcile and unite after years of tyrannical and brutal rule.
The Iraqi legislature passed a budget that commits $10 billion of their money for reconstruction projects -- and now the government must spend that money to improve the lives of Iraqi citizens. The Council of Ministers recently approved legislation that would provide a framework for an equitable sharing of oil resources -- and now that legislation needs to go before their parliament for approval. The government has formed a committee to organize provincial elections -- and the next step is to set a date for those elections to be held.
Iraqi leaders are taking steps toward agreement on a de-Baathification law that will allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's civic life -- and they need to agree on that measure and send it to parliament. Prime Minister Maliki is working to build greater support from Iraq's neighbors and the international community. I just talked to him the other day on secure video -- I was in the White House and he was in Baghdad -- and we talked about this neighborhood conference, an opportunity to rally the international community to help support this young democracy's efforts to thrive and prosper. And at the conference in Egypt next month, he, along with Secretary Rice and other concerned leaders, will seek increased diplomatic and financial commitments for this country.
Iraq's leaders have begun meeting their benchmarks -- and they've got a lot left to do. As more breathing space is created by reducing the sectarian violence, Iraq's leaders have got to take advantage of that breathing space. I have made it abundantly clear to the Prime Minister that our patience is not unlimited; that we fully recognize that there has to be political progress and economic progress, along with military progress, in order for that government to succeed. And it's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraq-elected folks to show America and the world they're ready to do the hard work necessary to reconcile and move forward.
It's important to understand that Iraq's government is working hard in a difficult environment. The day after its building was bombed, the Iraqi parliament held a special session. Its speaker said the meeting sent, "a clear message to all the terrorists and all those who dare to try to stop this political process that we will sacrifice in order for it to continue." I found that to be a heartening statement; that here al Qaeda bombs their parliament and this man stands up and says, you're not going to scare us; we want to represent the will of the 12 million people who voted.
You've just got to know my view of -- the vast majority of Iraqis are courageous people; they've endured brutality as a result of murderers trying to stop their new country from -- their new system of government from succeeding. And I'm impressed by their courage. And I believe this current government under Prime Minister Maliki is committed to building a strong democracy. That's my judgment, having talked to him. I've watched a man begun to grow in office. I first talked to him in June, when he was named the Prime Minister. I've talked to him consistently ever since. I look to see whether or not he has courage to make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve peace. I'm looking to see whether or not he has got the capacity to reach out and help unify this country.
He says, you know, sometimes it's hard to get the parliament to do exactly what he thinks they ought to do. (Laughter.) I know what he means. (Laughter.)
As we increase troop levels, we're also increasing our civilian presence. We're doubling the number of what's called provincial reconstruction teams, which partner civilian experts with combat units to ensure that military operations are followed up with rapid economic assistance. These teams help local Iraqi leaders restore basic services and stimulate job creation and promote reconciliation. Their work highlights a sharp difference: The Iraqi and American governments want to rebuild communities and improve lives -- the extremists and terrorists want to destroy communities and take lives. And when ordinary Iraqis see this difference for themselves, they become more likely to stand with their elected leaders and help marginalize the extremists in this struggle.
Here at home, a different kind of struggle is taking place -- and its outcome will have a direct impact on the front lines. Despite the initial signs of progress on the ground, despite the fact that many reinforcements have not even arrived, Democrat leadership of the Congress is pushing legislation that would undercut the strategy General David Petraeus has just started to pursue. They have passed bills in the House and Senate that would impose restrictions on our military commanders and mandate a precipitous withdrawal by an arbitrary date -- they say withdrawal regardless of the conditions on the ground. That approach makes for a vivid contrast with the attitude in Iraq. A prominent Middle East scholar recently visited Iraq, described the difference: "A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad."
We have honest differences of opinion in Washington and around this country, and I appreciate those differences. The ability to debate differences openly and frequently is what makes America a great country. Our men and women in uniform should never be caught in the middle of these debates. It has now been 74 days since I sent to Congress a request for emergency funding that our troops urgently need. The leadership in Congress have spent those 74 days trying to substitute their judgment for the judgment of our generals -- without sending me legislation. And now, to cover ongoing Army operations, the Pentagon is being forced to transfer money from military personnel accounts.
The delay in spending is beginning to affect the ability of the Pentagon to fund our troops and all our missions. On Wednesday, I met at the White House with Congressional leaders from both parties; it was a very cordial meeting. I think you would have been pleased at the tone of the meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House -- at least, I was. I urged the people around the table to put politics aside, and to send a bill that funds our troops without arbitrary deadlines, without wasteful spending, and without handcuffing our commanders.
There is ample time to debate this war. We need to get the troops the money. When we debate the war on terror, it can be convenient to divide up the fight by location -- and so we hear about, "the war in Afghanistan," and "the war in Iraq" [as] if they were something separate. This is a natural way to talk about a complicated subject -- I don't think it's accurate. Our enemies make no distinctions based on borders. They view the world as a giant battlefield, and will strike wherever they can. The killers who behead captives and order suicide bombings in Iraq are followers of the same radical ideology as those who destroy markets in Afghanistan; or they set off car bombs in Algeria, and blow up subway trains in London. The men who attacked Iraq's parliament last week swear allegiance to the same terrorist network as those who attacked America on September the 11th, 2001.
The fight in Iraq has been long and is trying. It's a difficult period in our nation's history. I also say it's a consequential moment in our nation's history, as well. It's natural to wish there was an easy way out -- that we could just pack up and bring our troops home and be safe. Yet in Iraq, the easy road would be a road to disaster. If we were to leave Iraq before that government can defend itself, and be an ally in this war against extremists and radicals, and be able to deny safe haven from people who want to hurt the United States, the consequences for this country would be grave.
There would be a security vacuum in Iraq. Extremists and radicals love vacuums in which to spread chaos. The world would see different factions of radicals, different groups of extremists competing for influence and power. The extremists who emerge from this battle would turn the country into a new radical regime in the Middle East. I told you they want to launch new attacks on America and they need safe haven from which to do so.
Not every enemy we face in Iraq wants to attack us here at home, but many of them do. And I believe it's in the interest of this country to take those threats seriously. We don't have to imagine what might happen if a group of terrorists gained safe haven. We've learned that lesson, I hope. Precisely what happened in Afghanistan -- it's really important for our memories not to dim. At least it's important for my memory not to dim, because my most important job is to protect the American people. The lesson of 9/11 is that when you allow extremists and radicals and killers to find a sanctuary anywhere in the world, that can have deadly consequences on the streets of our own cities.
What happens overseas matters here in the United States of America. It's one of the fundamental lessons of September the 11th, 2001.
Those who advocate pulling out of Iraq claim they are proposing an alternative strategy to deal with the situation there. Withdrawal is not a strategy. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent violence from spilling out across that country and plunging Iraq into chaos and anarchy. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent al Qaeda from taking advantage of the chaos to seize control of a nation with some of the world's largest oil resources. Withdrawal would embolden these radicals and extremists. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent al Qaeda from using Iraq as a base to overthrow other moderate countries. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent Iran from exploiting the chaos in Iraq to destabilize the region, expand its radical influence, threaten Israel, and further its ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons.
If anything, withdrawal would make each of these dangerous developments more likely. Withdrawal would embolden enemies and confirm their belief that America is weak and does not have the stomach to do what is necessary to lay the foundations for peace. Ultimately, withdrawal would increase the probability that American troops would have to return to Iraq -- and confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
So no matter how frustrating the fight in Iraq can be, no matter how much we wish the war was over, the security of our country depends directly on the outcome of Iraq. The price of giving up there would be paid in American lives for years to come. I firmly believe that historians would look back on that decision to withdraw and say, what happened to them in the year 2007, how come they could not see the dangers to the United States of America.
No one understands the stakes in Iraq more clearly than our troops. Every man and woman in our military volunteered for the job. They make us proud every day. Michael Evans is a Specialist from Sumner, Illinois. His unit is part of the new operation to secure Baghdad. He said, "It is a great feeling to know we're contributing to getting insurgents off the streets, so the people do not have to live in fear." He went on to say, "I'll be coming away from this knowing that I was doing something to help the American people -- so that what happened on 9/11 never happens again."
I agree with him. Specialist Evans represents the greatness of our country: decent citizens volunteering to protect you. You know, for all we hear about the consequences of failure in Iraq, we should not forget the consequences of success in Iraq. Success in Iraq would bring something powerful and new -- a democracy at the heart of the Middle East, a nation that fights terrorists instead of harboring them, and a powerful example for others of the power of liberty to overcome an ideology of hate.
We have done this kind of work in the United States of America before. I am -- you know, I marvel at the fact that on the one hand my dad joined the Navy at 18 to fight a sworn enemy, the Japanese, and on the other hand, his son, some 55 years later, best friend and keeping the peace with the Prime Minister of Japan. I find that an amazing fact of history: 41 fights them, 43 works with them to lay the foundation for peace -- including working with Japan to deploy Japanese troops in Iraq. It's amazing to me. But it shows the power of liberty to transform enemies into allies.
We have done the hard work before of helping young democracies. As a matter of fact, we did so after a brutal World War II in helping Germany and Japan get back on their feet and establish forms of government that yield peace. We did so after the Korean War. I suspect it would be hard to find anybody in 1953 to predict that an American President would one day be reporting to the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan that relations in the Far East are solid for the United States of America, and that that part of the world is relatively peaceful compared to other troubled parts of the world. In '53 they would have been thinking about all the lives lost in Japan or in Korea. In '53 they would have seen a communist China gaining strength.
And yet, in 2007, we've got a Korea that went through difficult times to get to the democracy she's now in and is now a major trading partner of the United States. We've got a China with an open marketplace, based upon the principles where consumers get to decide things, not the state. The political system has got a long way to go, but the marketplace is beginning to redefine that society. Or how about Japan, a place where we lost thousands of lives and, yet, now they're a partner in peace.
America has done the hard work necessary to give liberty a chance to prevail. And it's in my opinion and in the opinion of people like Specialist Evans that we do so in the Middle East for the sake of peace for a young generation of Americans.
Thank you. (Applause.)
I'll be glad to answer a couple of questions on any subject. Yes, sir.
Q How do you think the new Democratic Congress will (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks. First of all, I just want you to know that even though I'm quite critical of the delay in the supplemental funding, I respect the Democratic leadership in Washington. We have fundamental disagreements about whether or not helping this young democracy is -- the consequences of failure or success, let's put it that way. It's also very important in this debate to understand that even though we have our policy differences -- particularly as the young lad that you are -- that we don't think either of us are not patriotic citizens, okay?
So when you hear the debate, in my perspective, it's because of -- I just disagree with the notion that when we have troops in harm's way that there ought to be a kind of political process with strings attached to a piece of legislation that goes to fund our troops. As I say, there's ample time to discuss right or wrong. I don't believe there's ample time to delay funding for men and women who have volunteered.
Secondly, I feel very strongly -- wait a minute -- (applause) -- this is a sober forum -- or a forum of sober people, I hope. (Laughter.) There is a -- there is -- I have a fundamental problem with a -- look, a lot of people didn't like the strategy. In other words, people said, you shouldn't have done that, Mr. President. And I fully understand that aspect of it. I also found it quite ironic that the general I asked to lead the strategy, a counterinsurgency expert, David Petraeus, gets approved by the United States Senate 81 to nothing, and then, on his way over, they begin to micromanage his ability to follow through on the strategy.
So we have just a policy difference. When it's all said and done, I believe these troops will get the money they need. I think you're going to see there to be a continual debate on this subject. Interestingly enough, I said in a forum yesterday in Ohio and I'll share with you now, I thought at this point this year, I would be announcing troop reductions in Iraq, because I felt -- this is, again, a year ago -- I felt that the Iraqi government was better prepared to be able to handle their own security. And by the way, they want to handle their own security. The Prime Minister is constantly saying, let me do more of it. We just believe he's not quite ready to do so, and that it's in our interest to be able to help him to be able to take on more of the security challenges. And I thought we'd be reducing troops.
And then what happened was, the Samarra bombing took place by al Qaeda, which caused there to be a sectarian outrage. And because the government was ill-prepared to provide enough security in the capital, people began to use militias to provide security. And the sectarian outrage, the killing started to get out of hand. And I had a decision to make: withdraw from the capital and just kind of hope for the burnout theory -- as you know, I was worried about chaos, and into chaos comes more extremists -- or reinforce; I chose to reinforce, all aiming to get to a position where we'll be able to reposition our forces.
I liked what James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton suggested. I thought that was a good suggestion. And that is to be in a position at some point in time where our troops are embedded with the Iraqi units -- in other words, there's Iraqi units providing security with a handful of U.S. troops -- helping them learn what it means to be a good military. That's not a given. It's hard to have a good military. It's hard to have a chain of command with logistical support and maintenance support. And we're good at it. And we can help others become good at it. And embedding troops and training troops makes sense for me. I like the idea of having our troops on the over-horizon presence, to be able to help bail out extreme situations. I really want to make sure that our special ops stays on the hunt for al Qaeda in Iraq. We can't let al Qaeda develop another safe haven. Listen, we spent a lot of energy to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan; we don't want them to be able to establish a same type of save haven in Iraq. That's where I would like to be.
I made the judgment, along with our military commanders, we could not get there until we provided enough security. And I fully understand this is a rough war. As I mentioned in my speech -- let me put it more bluntly: The enemy has got an advantage. They know that a spectacular bombing is going to make it on the news, and it shakes people's conscience, and it should. Ours is a nation that has deep compassion for human life and human dignity.
But they also know it makes people question whether or not we can succeed in Iraq. Remember, we believe most of the spectaculars, like the ones you saw -- I can't tell you for certain Wednesday's bombing was al Qaeda. In other words, I don't have the -- I can speculate. But I can tell you a lot of the spectacular bombings have been al Qaeda. A lot of the suicide bombings have been al Qaeda. That's why I said al Qaeda is the main threat for peace, because what they're trying to do is shake the confidence of the Iraqi people and their government, and the coalition's ability to provide security, and shake our confidence.
And, you know, as I say, it is tempting to think, well, just pull out of there and everything is going to be fine. I firmly believe, however, that one of the lessons of September the 11th is that if we were to concede Iraq to basically al Qaeda, in a sense, that they would follow us here; that oceans no longer protect us. And it's also important for you to know that my thinking was deeply affected on September the 11th, 2001. And, therefore, a lot of the core of my thinking is to work to protect the United States as my most solemn obligation.
THE PRESIDENT: No, thank you. His question was, one, the relationship with Tony Blair; two, they have reduced their troops in Basra, in southern Iraq, and has that affected our relationship.
First, I have found Tony Blair to be a stand-up man. He's the kind of person who keeps his word. He's a strategic thinker. He thinks beyond the moment, to be able to try to project out beyond the current, so that the decisions that we have made jointly are decisions that end up yielding a long-term peace.
He, of course, like a good ally, informed me of his government's intentions to reduce their presence in Basra. I concurred with him because the conditions on the ground were such that he didn't need to keep as many troops there as were initially stationed there. Secondly, what's interesting, as he made the announcement on Basra, he also made the announcement that they're going to send more troops into Afghanistan. Blair knows what I know -- Prime Minister Blair knows what I know, that we're in a global war, and that we think about Afghanistan and Iraq as separate wars; they're of the same war, they're just different theaters of this war.
He also knows what I know, that we have got to work really closely and share intelligence, and that's one of the reasons I appreciate Pete so much. He understands the intelligence business as a key component of keeping the country safe. We've got to share intelligence. This is -- Tony Blair is the Prime Minister of a country which has been attacked; so has ours. And -- no, I appreciate you bringing him up, he's solid. And in my judgment, the world needs courageous leadership, people like Tony Blair.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. What's the next step for the United States, or even the United Nations, in dealing with the belligerent behavior of Iran with regards to nuclear development?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. Excellent question. You go to school here? No. (Laughter.) I was going to say, give the man an "A."
First of all, you do understand Iran is a Shia nation primarily. Interestingly enough, though, only 50 percent of the nation is Persian. A great portion of Iran is Azeri, Baloch, other kinds of nationalities make up their country.
The Iranians have defied international organizations in an attempt to enrich uranium - and, we believe, because they want to have a nuclear weapon. And I believe this challenge is one of the most significant challenges we face -- "we," the free world, face. There's a lot of reasons why.
One, just as an example, you really don't want a regime that funds terrorist organizations like Hezbollah to have a nuclear weapon as a part of their capacity to create the conditions, for example, of diplomatic blackmail. Secondly, the current leader of Iran has -- I can't remember exactly his words, but the sum of them were that the destruction of one of our allies was important to them -- that would be Israel.
Third, it's ironic, isn't it, that any time a democracy begins to take hold in the Middle East, extremist groups prevent that democracy from moving forward. One such democracy is Lebanon, a wonderful little country. And yet there is a Syrian influence -- Syria uses not only their own agents inside the country, but Hezbollah, to destabilize this young democracy. And Hezbollah is funded by Iran. In other words, the Iranian regime's current posture is to destabilize young democracies. And they're doing so in Iraq, as well.
So our objective is to rally the world to make it clear to the current regime that if they continue their practices they will continue to be isolated. And we're making interesting progress. We've passed several U.N. Security Council resolutions, the primary benefit of which is to say to the Iranian regime, and equally importantly the Iranian people, that countries as diverse as the United States and China and Russia and parts of Europe will isolate you, will deny you, the Iranian people, the benefits that you deserve. Iran is a proud country with a great tradition, and good, hardworking people. And yet their government is making decisions that endanger peace, and at the same time will continue to lead to isolation. And so should the Iranian people worry about isolation? I think so, because you're missing economic opportunities. You're missing the chance to improve your lives. You're missing the chance to enhance your country's great history.
The choice is up to the Iranian government as to whether or not they will be accepted into the family of nations, all aimed at promoting peace and economic prosperity. They've made a bad choice up to now. And so we'll continue to work hard with the rest of the world, all aiming at solving this very difficult problem diplomatically.
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q I think that's a great idea. I was wondering, we did have a group -- a commission, I believe, here, that was discussing how to solve our Iraq problems, but we really haven't implemented the advice from --
THE PRESIDENT: Baker-Hamilton.
Q -- Baker-Hamilton commission. I was wondering how we were going to be able to convince the countries that participate in this conference in Egypt that we will actually consider implementing their advice --
THE PRESIDENT: That's a good question. First, there was a couple of aspects of Baker-Hamilton -- a lot of it had to do with troop posture. And Baker-Hamilton recommended that, as I described, a troop presence to help keep the territorial integrity of Iraq, to embed, to train, to be over the horizon to chase down extremists. That's pretty much what they recommended, and I agree. The problem is -- and by the way, on, like, page 70-something in their book, they said: And the United States may have to increase troop levels necessary to be able to get there. And that's what I did. (Laughter and applause.) Wait a minute, wait a minute -- because I realize that we couldn't be in a position on the troop postures they recommended if the capital went into flames. That's a judgment I made.
By the way, with the advice of a lot of people -- and just so you know, I spend a lot of time listening to our military. I trust our military, I like our military, I'm impressed by our military. I spend a lot of time talking to Condi Rice. I spend a lot of time talking to allies in the Congress, and I spend a lot of time listening to and talking to people who have a different point of view.
It was after this considered judgment that I made that decision, all aiming at some point in time. Now, the problem is, the Congress, many of whom think that it's a good idea, however are unwilling to allow conditions on the ground to make the decisions as to when we can ever get there. I don't have that luxury. I must allow conditions on the ground to dictate our position in order to make decisions.
Now, a lot of what Baker-Hamilton talked about was -- or some of what they talked about was the diplomatic initiatives. There were -- they talked about a regional conference, and we're happy to participate. They also suggested that the United States enter into bilateral negotiations with Syria, for example. And this is where I have a disagreement. As you know -- as you may not know, when I was a younger lad, Jimmy Baker was in Houston and a good friend of my family's, and in spite of my deep affection for him, I invited him into the Oval Office and said, I disagree with you. And he said, fine, I disagree with you. (Laughter.)
And the reason I do is because -- now, there's a difference between a regional conference, in my judgment, and -- I'll tell you what I hope we can gain out of it -- but I do want to address why it's -- I think it would be counterproductive at this point to sit down with the Syrians, because Syria knows exactly what it takes to get better relations with the United States. It's not as if they haven't heard what we're for. And we're for making sure they leave the Lebanese democracy alone. They have undermined Lebanon's democracy. When the United States and France worked together on a U.N. resolution, the U.N. demanded that they leave Lebanon. They did, but they're still meddling.
Secondly, there's a man who was assassinated, named Hariri. It's very important that there be a full investigation of the Hariri murder. And they know we expect them to support that investigation. We believe they're hindering that investigation right now. Thirdly, they're providing safe haven for -- I'll just say they've got -- Hamas and Hezbollah have got centers of influence in Damascus. That's unacceptable to the United States. We have made it clear to them that in order for them to have better relations that they must rid their capital of these organizations, all aimed at wreaking havoc in the Middle East, and preventing, for example, the development of a peaceful Palestinian state that can live with Israel side by side in peace.
And, finally, Syria is a transit way for suicide bombers heading into Iraq. And some, they have been particularly unhelpful in achieving peace we want. What happens when people go sit down with Bashar Assad, the President of Syria, he walks out and holds a press conference, and says, look how important I am; people are coming to see me; people think I'm vital. But he hasn't delivered on one request by the free world.
I asked our security folks, the national security folks to give me a list of all the foreign advisors and foreign secretaries of state, and all the people that have gone to see Bashar Assad. And every time they send one in there, we say, why, why are you sending somebody there, what is your intention, what have you asked them to do? They all say basically what I just said, and nothing has happened. And my attitude is, is that I think talks would be counterproductive. I'm interested not in process, I'm interested in results. I'm interested in this leader turning Syria into a positive influence for peace, not an obstructionist to peace.
On Iran, I said we'll talk to Iran, but they've got to suspend their enrichment. Diplomacy works when people sit down at the table and need something from you. That's how diplomacy works. It is, in my judgment, just talking for the sake of talking doesn't yield positive results often. As a matter of fact, it can reaffirm behavior that is not in our interests. So we've said to the Iranians, we will talk with you, but first do what the world has asked you to do, and suspend the enrichment of uranium.
As I said in my talk here, and I'm speaking to you -- I'm also speaking to the Iranian people. They must know that our beef with Iran is not with the people of Iran, it's with the government of Iran that continues to make decisions that isolates you from the opportunities of a fantastic world.
Now, what do we hope to gain out of the regional conference? It's very important for us, first of all, for the Iraqi democracy to gain acceptance. This is a new government. Remember, these folks were run by a tyrant for years, and now we're watching the emergence of a new government that has not been in office for a year yet, by the way. We've been there for more than a year, but the constitution was passed in '05, late '05, the new government was seated in June of '06, so Prime Minister Maliki -- and it's important, I think, for the world to recognize, or the region to recognize that he was duly elected by the people of Iraq, and represents the will of the Iraqi citizens. It's important for people to express their support for this new government.
Let me just talk about a couple of countries. One, Saudi Arabia. My friend, His Majesty, the King, kindly forgave 80 percent of the debt in the run-up to this conference; 80 percent of Saudi debt to Iraq was forgiven. That's a strong gesture. It's a gesture that I'm confident will spread goodwill in Iraq. And so the conference can be a success on that alone.
I will tell you, however, that His Majesty is skeptical about the Shia government in Iraq. And it's going to be very important for Prime Minister Maliki to follow through on the new de-Baathification law, for example, which reaches out to Sunnis. People say, what does that mean? Well, the law was passed that basically said if you were a member of the Baath party, you couldn't participate in much of civil society. And in some provinces, that is -- that's precluded people from being school teachers. In other words, if you wanted to be a teacher, you had to sign up for Saddam's deal -- and yet you might not have been a political person. And so what a lot of folks are watching is to see whether or not there's going to be a reconciliation with the Sunnis who have been affected by the de-Baathification.
The oil revenue sharing is a very interesting aspect, and this is what people are watching for, because most of the oil is in Shia land or with the Kurds. And, therefore, an equitable sharing agreement of the people's resources throughout society will send a signal that this government is not going to take unnecessary retribution against peaceful Sunnis. And so the benchmarks that I described are important for America, but they're also important to make sure that further regional conferences are successful.
And so I -- I talked to Condi about this last night -- as a matter of fact, this very subject, about what constitutes success. And first of all, it's successful to have people come to the table and discuss Iraq and its new form of government. In other words, the region recognizes there is a new government when they come. And that's vital. And then we'll see whether or not some of the pledges, reconstruction pledges, will be met. Excellent question.
Q Mr. President, thanks for coming to the west coast, first.
THE PRESIDENT: Looking for the surfboard. (Laughter.)
Q You mentioned in your comments, sir, about the American patience. What's the Prime Minister's take on that? What is his understanding of American patience?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he is -- I don't know, I think he's concerned about his own country's patience, first and foremost. He's having a tough time. I will give you my take on patience. I think that if the American people fully understand the stakes of failure, they'll understand why we're doing what we're doing. And my own view of patience is that a President -- and I believe Tony Blair agrees with this -- must make decisions on certain principles, and not try to chase opinion polls. If you make decisions based upon the latest opinion poll, you won't be thinking long-term strategy on behalf of the American people. (Applause.)
And Tony Blair understands that, as well. At least that's what I get from him. That's -- when I talk to him, that's the impression I get.
There weren't opinion polls when Abraham Lincoln was the President. Believe me, I'm not comparing myself to him, but I just don't think a President like Abraham Lincoln made a decision about whether all men were created equal based upon an opinion poll. (Laughter.) Nor do I make an opinion about my strong belief that freedom is universal, and there's no debate. I believe in the universality of liberty, and I believe liberty has got the capacity to help transform parts of the world into peaceful parts of the world.
That's what I described to you at the end of -- what happened at the end of World War II and at the end of the Korean conflict. I firmly believe in the power of freedom, and I firmly believe that everybody wants to be free. As a matter of fact, to take it a step further, I believe there's an Almighty, and I believe a great gift to each man, woman and child in this world is freedom. That's what I believe. It is a principle from which I will not deviate.
People said to me -- the guy asked a question the other day, you don't like the opinion polls and all that stuff -- I said, any politician who says they don't want to be popular, you know -- you can't win if, like, 50-plus-one don't like you for a moment. (Laughter.) You can't make your decisions, however, based on something that just changes; it just, poof. And when it's all said and done, I fully understand that some of the decisions I have made have created a lot of national debate. But I want you to know something, that when I go home and look in the mirror in Crawford, Texas, after my time, I will be able to have said, he didn't change his principles to be the popular guy, you know, he stood for what he believed. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, I really appreciate your emphasis on the universality of freedom. I'm wondering if and how the United States can promote liberal democratic reform in countries like Saudi Arabia, and whether you could address specifically whether it is, perhaps, American support for these autocratic regimes that are creating such an Islamic backlash against the United States?
THE PRESIDENT: That is a -- boy, I don't want to be Mr. Gratuitous, say, fabulous question, but it's really one of the fundamental questions that has caused a lot of debate in Washington, D.C. about my freedom agenda.
There are some who say that promoting democracy and liberty in the Middle East is a waste of time. I happen to believe that, kind of, managing stability doesn't address the root cause of the problems that caused 19 kids to get on an airplane and kill 3,000 of our citizens. And so part of our strategy to defend the country is the promotion of freedom around the world. I also, in my second inaugural address, believe in the interests of the United States to challenge tyranny wherever we find it. As an aside, and I'm not suggesting my friends here, the scribblers over here are saying this, but some have called him hopelessly idealistic to believe in the power of freedom to transform parts of the world that seem impervious to liberty.
I believe it is the only realistic way to protect ourselves in the long-term, and that is to address the conditions that create hatred, envy, and violence.
The other thing that's important to note is that societies, depending upon their past, take a while to achieve freedom as we define it. In other words, some move at snail's pace, some move, obviously, quicker. And all the societies will reflect their own traditions and histories. So when you hear me talk about the freedom agenda, it's not like, I expect Jefferson democracy to be blooming in the desert.
Secondly, friendship with leaders makes it easier to have a frank and candid discussion in a way that doesn't offend. And my friend -- I do have a good, very close relationship with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and I'm proud of that relationship. It gives me a chance to be able to share with him ideas about -- in a private way, obviously not so private now -- (laughter) -- why I believe giving people move voice in the affairs of their government is in the interests of their government. Same with my friend, President Mubarak, of Egypt. I have made it clear, for example, that -- and by the way, the Egyptians had a presidential election that was quite modern and different. And I don't believe that it's going to be possible to be able to have a less-free presidential election during the next round.
And so there is progress being made toward more liberty, in a part of the world that most people said had no chance to be a place for democracy to take hold. I will give you the -- in Yemen there was an election that was supervised by international bodies. They came out and said, it's a fair election. There are women now serving in Kuwait parliament. Jordan, the King of Jordan is making moves toward liberalizing his society. I think, slowly but surely -- and by the way, this is a long process. Remember, I talked about the aftermath of the Korean War. This is like -- we're talking 55 years later. It takes a while.
And the fundamental question facing the country is, will we be engaged in the Middle East helping moderates defeat and fight off radicals -- hopefully not militarily every single time, hopefully rarely militarily -- but by defeating an ideology with forms of government. And it's really going to be an interesting debate. I have staked my claim for the first part of the 21st century. I will tell you, I am worried about our country becoming isolationist and protectionist. We have been through isolationist and protectionist spells in our history. One of my concerns is that people say, it is not worth it to be engaged as heavily as we are in parts of the world, particularly the Middle East. I'm concerned about that. I'm concerned because I believe it will be missed opportunity to help people realize that -- if you've got a Muslim brotherhood doing a better job of providing health care and education, the way to deal with that is to do a better job than they are, as opposed to ignoring the realities on the ground. And that's what open societies that have got an election process force people to do.
I was criticized by some that upon insisting that the Palestinian elections go forward. I believe elections are the beginning of the reform process, not the end. I believe elections have the capacity to show the elite what's right and what's wrong. And I believe the Hamas elections in the Middle East made it clear that the Palestinians are sick and tired of corruption, and government that was not responding to their needs.
I wasn't happy with the outcome of the election -- sometimes that happens, you're not happy with the outcome of elections. (Laughter.) But I was inspired by the fact that the Palestinians went to the polls and said, in the fairest way possible, we're sick of it. Arafat has let us down; no peace. We want to live in peace. Where's the prosperity? Let's get us another bunch in there and see if they can do the job. The problem is, is that the new crowd they have in there refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, which runs contrary to our policy. And, therefore, we will continue to take the posture we're taken, because we're interested in peace.
I'm interested in helping the Palestinians develop a Palestinian state. It's all along the same agenda, by the way, which is the freedom agenda. I believe the only way for Israel to have secure peace in the long run is for there to be a democracy living side by side with Israel in peace. I'm afraid that Israel will ultimately be overrun by demographics in order for her to remain a Jewish democratic state. And yet, Hamas wins. And you can't expect an Israeli democratic elected official to negotiate with a group of people who have avowed to destroy them.
And hopefully, at some point in time, the situation will get clarified, if the people have another right to express themselves, and that right ought to be, are you for a state or not for a state? Are you going to have people that prevent a better future for emerging from you? By the way, this all started with the elections. And they said, oh, you shouldn't have elections, you shouldn't have been fighting against them. Why would I fight against elections? I'm for elections. I think elections are important for society. I think -- and I think they're equally important here as they are in the Middle East.
And the fundamental question, really, facing in the long-term on this is, will the United States believe that the value system that has enabled our country, by the way, to emerge -- and it took us 100 years to get rid of slavery, for example. Far be it from us to say we're perfect. We had a great Constitution, but our history has been scarred by treating people like chattel, with slavery, which is an abhorrent part of our past. But nevertheless, it takes a while. And it takes patience. But it also takes great faith and certain value systems to help societies emerge.
The other question is on trade. And by the way, I happen to believe isolationism and protectionism go hand in hand. As you know, I'm an open-market trader. I believe in free trade. I think competition and trade not only helps the United States, I think it's the best way to alleviate poverty around the world. And that doesn't mean you don't enforce trade agreements. Recently we've enforced trade agreements with China -- not trying to shutdown trade, but trying to enhance trade, trying to make trade more palatable to people in the United States, recognizing that there is such thing as fair trade, as well as free trade.
But I'm concerned about people saying, well, it's just not worth it, shut her down, let's make it harder to trade. There's going to be some interesting trade votes coming up in front of the Congress here -- free trade agreement with Peru and Colombia are coming up. And we'll find out whether or not the leadership and both Republicans and Democrats are truly committed to not only our neighborhood, but trading in a way that enhances prosperity for both sides of the equation.
We're in the middle of negotiations on the Doha round of WTO. I hope some of you are concerned about world poverty. I certainly am. And the best way to deal with world poverty is to encourage prosperity through trade and opening up markets. And we're in complex negotiations, and I'm dedicated to getting this round completed in a way that meets our interests, but also meets other interests.
I want to share with you one other thing, then I've got to get out of here. You know, Laura says, you get up there and all you do is talk and you love to hear yourself talk. (Laughter.) I want to share one other aspect of our foreign policy. I believe to whom much is given, much is required. And I want to share something about this great, generous nation, for which you deserve a lot of credit.
Whether it be on HIV/AIDS or malaria, the United States is in the lead. And when I got elected, I was deeply concerned about the fact that an entire generation of folks on the continent of Africa could be wiped out by a disease that we could not cure but halt. And I set up what's called the Global Fund for AIDS. And yet it kind of sat there empty. It was a deal where everybody could contribute, and then the United States would match to try to encourage commitments, but it didn't fill up. And so I went to Congress and asked that they spend your money on a unilateral initiative where we would take on I think the 17 most or 19 most affected countries in the world and deliver antiretroviral drugs.
Foreign policy is more than military. It is more than just spreading freedom. It's also, in my judgment, in our interest to base it upon that admonition, if you're blessed, you ought to help others. And as a result of the American people, we spread antiretrovirals or got antiretrovirals to 850,000. That's up from 50,000 in three years.
We're all interconnected in this world. What happens overseas matters here at home, from a security perspective, but I also believe it matters here at home from the perspective of keeping our spirits strong. It's in the interest of this country that we be engaged in freeing people from tyranny, the tyranny of government and the tyranny of disease and hunger.
I appreciate you giving me a chance to come and visit with you. God bless. (Applause.) END 2:25 P.M. EDT
April 20, 2007
Stephen L. Johnson Hello again everyone. I’m pleased to join you on the Earth Day edition of Ask the White House.
As you can imagine, Earth Day is a big deal for us at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We see it as an opportunity for our nation to look back at our incredible environmental accomplishments. America’s air, water and land are cleaner today than they were just a generation ago – and under the Bush Administration, this progress continues.
Earth Day also serves as an annual reminder that environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility. A cleaner, brighter future starts with each and every one of us. This Earth Day, President Bush and I are encouraging all Americans to make a difference for our environment, one action at a time.
Steven, from Idaho writes: What is the White House doing to slow the process of Global Warming?
Stephen L. Johnson The President is taking action to address global climate change. His administration has invested over $35 billion to advance climate change science and promote carbon-reducing technologies. That’s more money than any other country in the world has dedicated to this issue.
By implementing an aggressive yet practical strategy, we are on track to meet the President's goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012, while continuing to grow the American economy.
And we’re not just focused at home. Earlier this month, I returned from a trip to India, where I discussed with my international colleagues ways to promote economic growth in their nation, while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes: Administrator Johnson: You can't read a newspaper without seeing an article on GLOBAL this or CLIMATE that. It appears from the article's that we are destroying the EARTH Are we doing anything that help's the earth?
Besides just trying. and if so what has been the BIGGEST help so far? Thank You
Stephen L. Johnson Good question, Cliff. While most of the time we are focused on the challenges ahead, Earth Day gives us a chance to look back at how far we’ve really come.
The first Earth Day in 1970 served as a wake-up call to our country. Back then, a river was so contaminated it caught on fire, entire towns were abandoned because they were built on top of toxic material, and air pollution was so thick that in some cities people actually had to change their shirts twice a day. We’ve spent the last 37 years cleaning up our environment, and this Earth Day we can all celebrate the fact that our air is cleaner, our water is purer and our land is better protected than just a generation ago.
But the biggest change is in the way Americans view their role in protecting the environment. Three decades ago, many people saw environmentalism as a passing fad. Today, more and more communities, companies and individuals are working to out-do each other in “going green.”
The newspapers you are reading reflect the reality that the United States is shifting to a “green culture.” Americans are realizing that environmental protection is not just EPA’s responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility. And this “green culture” will be the driving force behind our nation’s continuing environmental progress.
Kit, from Provo, Utah writes: I'm Kit, a biologist from Utah. I've studied global climate change for the last few years. I am aware of the Supreme Court's decision to act now to help slow and prevent global climate change for the worse. I wanted to know how you, Mr. Johnson, are reacting to this decision? What is the US government and the EPA planning on doing? Is there anything I can do to help the EPA in my location, to help global climate change? My services are at the EPA's benefit.
Stephen L. Johnson Thanks, Kit. It’s always good to hear from a fellow scientist.
EPA and the Bush Administration take seriously the challenge of global climate change, and we are discussing actions to meet the Supreme Court’s decision. I appreciate your willingness to be part of the solution. Environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility, even in the case of climate change.
Earth Day is a good opportunity to remind each and every one of us of our own ability to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses we emit in our daily activities – commonly referred to as our “carbon footprint.” And some of these actions may be easier than you think.
The next time you are shopping for a new computer, television, or even a light bulb, consider the advantages of buying an ENERGY STAR product. By purchasing an energy-efficient model, you’ll not only reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted in order to power your appliance, you’ll save money on your electric bills.
Sraddha, from League City writes: What can I do to help my community to be clean?
Stephen L. Johnson Thanks for your question, Sraddha. There are many simple, everyday choices you can make to help protect your local, and our global, environment.
For starters, you can reduce your carbon footprint by taking public transportation, carpooling, or walking when possible.
You can use water more efficiently. An average American household that fully adopts water efficient products and practices can save up to 30,000 gallons of water per year. That’s enough to supply a year of drinking water for 150 thirsty neighbors.
And finally, you can remember that age-old saying, reduce/reuse/recycle. It takes a quarter of the energy to make a new aluminum can from recycled ones, rather than from raw materials.
Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes: Besides climate change, what is the next biggest environmental challenge to the United States and what is the Administration doing to solve it? Thanks.
Stephen L. Johnson Great question. While climate change attracts much of the attention, it’s only one of the environmental challenges EPA’s world-class scientists and employees are working to address.
I would have to say that maintaining and sustaining our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing us today. Clean, safe water is critical for our nation’s livelihood and health. Communities across the country are confronted by an aging infrastructure – in some cases, their water pipes and sewer systems were built around the time of World War II.
We must make sure that people understand that investments in water infrastructure are investments in their communities. EPA is working with our state and local partners, as well as the private sector, to help our citizens appreciate the value of water. Improving our water infrastructure is not just an EPA challenge, or a local challenge – it’s everyone’s challenge.
Kell, from Austin, Texas writes: How do you respond to the oft leveled criticism that, while talking as if it had done much to aid the environment, the current administration has been, hands down, the worst steward of our planet ever?
Stephen L. Johnson As someone who has worked at EPA for over 26 years, I whole-heartedly disagree with that criticism. However, let’s not talk about opinions – let’s instead look at the facts.
Fact – Since 2001, air pollution emissions across America have declined by 10 percent.
Fact – Two of the five most health protective clean air rules in EPA's history – the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule and the Clean Air Interstate Rule – were adopted during the tenure of President Bush.
Fact – We recently primed America’s pumps with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel –the single greatest achievement in clean fuels since the removal of lead from gasoline. Fact – Through EPA’s Brownfield’s redevelopment program, we’ve made more than 1,300 acres ready for reuse, leveraged more than $5.9 billion in funding and created more than 2,900 jobs since 2001.
And that’s just a few of our many successes.
I’m proud of our nation’s environmental accomplishments under President Bush, and I look forward to continuing this progress by working with all America’s citizens to hand down a cleaner, healthier world.
Ann, from Wakefield Country Day School VA writes: How can small schools utilize the EPA resources to promote Earth Day, recycling, and alternative energy?
Stephen L. Johnson I would encourage you to go to our Web site, epa.gov. There's a wealth of information on recycling, greening our homes and schools and steps to reduce energy and water consumption, just to name a few. I'd like to remind people, everyday should be an Earth Day. Small steps taken everyday can result in a positive change in our environment.
Saawan, from Wakefield Country Day School VA writes: What does the EPA believe is the best type of fuel to use in cars to reduce global warming?
Stephen L. Johnson Are you in the same class as Ann? If so, you must have a great teacher.
We know that renewable fuels such as corn ethanol and ethanol from cellulosic biomass (switch grass, yard clippings, etc) reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is why President Bush is so supportive of moving our fuel supply to renewable sources. The development of and use of renewable fuels is a real hat trick for our country. They are good for energy security, agriculture and the environment. Of course, we encourage people to purchase the most efficient automobiles – not only will you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, you'll save money on fuel costs.
The President is continuing to invest our nation's resources into developing new technologies, such as hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, to help us jump of the treadmill of dependency on foreign oil and improve the environment.
Woody, from Orange, TX writes: Dear Administrator Johnson: There is just as much research stating man does not cause "global warming" as there is that declares that we do. How is the EPA getting out both sides of this controversy?
Have a great weekend, Woody Orange, TX
Stephen L. Johnson Both President Bush and I believe that man's activities do contribute to climate change. The United States is an active participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is an international group of scientists who are studying the science of climate change and its potential impacts. There have been two recent IPCC reports that affirm what the President and I believe, which is why we are committed to an aggressive, yet practical strategy for addressing global climate change.
Steve, from Germantown, MD writes: How does EPA view it's role in building a culture of sustainability?
Stephen L. Johnson Great first name!
As our nation celebrates our 37th Earth Day, we are continuing to equip our growing army of environmental stewards with the tools they need to accelerate environmental protection and instill a culture of sustainability – what we like to call moving to a "green culture."
Just yesterday, I was in Pittsburgh and visited the David L. Lawrence Center – which is the world's first green convention center. The roof of the facility captures rain water, which is then treated and re-used in the building. The benefits add up quickly…over the course of a year, this efficient feature saves the equivalent of the annual water use of 132 Pittsburgh households, and reduces the amount of storm water that would otherwise enter the sewer system.
EPA is pleased to help communities, businesses, and individuals understand the environmental and economic benefits of "going green."
Stephen L. Johnson Thanks for another great session of Ask the White House. I want to apologize for not getting to everyone’s questions. However, the volume we received is yet another testament to our nation’s shift to a “green culture,” with more and more Americans eager to learn how they can protect our precious natural resources.
Thanks again, and I hope everyone has a wonderful – and productive – Earth Day.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 20, 2007
President Bush Signs the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act Roosevelt Room 10:32 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thanks; be seated. Welcome to the Roosevelt Room. This morning I have the honor of signing a bill that will help continue our nation's fight against breast and cervical cancer. This bill reauthorizes the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. I want to thank the Congress for passing this bill. I appreciate you all coming down to witness the signing of this important piece of legislation.
Our family, like many families, has been touched by this issue. Laura's mom, my mother-in-law, Jenna Welch, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 78. She is a fortunate person -- she had surgery, and nine years later she is a cancer survivor, and we are thankful for that. As a result of her mom's battle with cancer, Laura has devoted a lot of time and energy to raising awareness about breast cancer through efforts like the pink ribbon campaign. She managed to get me to wear pink. (Laughter.) I appreciate Laura's good work, and I thank your good work, as well; thank you for joining us.
I want to thank Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services. I appreciate Senator Barbara Mikulski, from Maryland, who is a pioneer in a bill such as this. And, Senator, when you get on an issue -- (laughter) -- you get things done, and we appreciate your leadership.
SENATOR MIKULSKI: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I thank Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who is a bill sponsor, as well as Congresswoman Sue Myrick; Sue is a cancer survivor. And we appreciate both of your leadership on this issue. I thank members from my administration for joining us, good to see you all.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for American women. This year, an estimated 180,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer -- 11,000 will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Together, these two cancers are expected to claim the lives of more than 44,000 Americans in 2007.
Early detection allows early intervention and is the best way to increase the chance for survival. Mammograms and pap tests and other screening services can help doctors diagnose cancer before it has a chance to spread. When breast cancer or cervical cancer is caught early, the survival rate is more than 90 percent. Early detection makes treatment more effective, it gives hopes to patients, and it saves lives.
The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program has helped millions of low-income and uninsured women get screened for cancer. This is an effective program. Since its creation, the program has conducted nearly 7 million cancer screenings, it's diagnosed thousands of cases of breast and cervical cancer, and it's helped educate women about the importance of early detection. We expect that in 2007 this program will provide more than 700,000 screenings for low-income and uninsured women. The program is an important part of this nation's fight against cancer, and the bill I'm about to sign will continue this life-saving work.
I appreciate working with the United States Congress to fund breast and cervical cancer research and prevention. The span of my administration, we have spent, along with Congress, $6.7 billion. My budget for 2008 includes another billion dollars for research and prevention activities. We'll continue to work to ensure that every American woman has access to the screenings she needs to detect the cancers in time to treat them.
Again, I want to thank the members of Congress for their hard work and their dedication in passing this important piece of legislation. I appreciate you all joining us to witness the bill signing ceremony. And it's now my honor to sign the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act. (Laughter and applause.)
(The bill is signed.) (Applause.) END 10:36 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 19, 2007
President Bush Discusses the Global War on Terror in Tipp City, Ohio Tipp City High School, Tipp City, Ohio , 1:05 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. I'm honored you're here. Steve, thank you for the invitation. It's a real pleasure to be with you. What I thought I would do is share some thoughts with you about a couple of subjects, primarily Iraq, and then I'd like to answer some of your questions, on any topic you'd like to ask me about.
Before I do, I do want to thank Steve and the Chamber of Commerce for giving me a chance to dialogue with you, and hopefully giving the students here at this high school a chance to hear from the President firsthand. I know there are students who will be listening. My mission is to not only share with you what's on my mind, and why I have made some of the decisions I have made, but another mission is to convince you that serving the public, that public service is worthwhile; that you can go into politics or you can feed the hungry or you can serve in the military, and it's a fulfilling part of a person's life, and a necessary part, in my judgment, of a country that is a complete country.
So I want to thank the high school folks. I want to thank Chuck Wray, the Principal, for greeting me. I appreciate you letting me come to this center of learning. I particularly want to thank the teachers for teaching. There is no more noble profession than to be a teacher, and I'm honored to be in your midst.
I want to thank the Mayor, George Lovett -- George L. (Laughter.) Thank you, George -- George W. (Laughter.) I'm traveling today with the leader in the House for the Republican Party, John Boehner. (Applause.) John is a -- I've found him to be a good, solid, honest person. I know he is providing strong leadership in the House of Representatives. (Applause.) And I know he cares a lot about this district. I've seen John work issues. I've heard him speak in depth about what he believes. And I appreciate his leadership, and I appreciate him joining me today.
I wish I was traveling here with Laura. The best thing about my family is my wife. (Applause.) She is a great First Lady. I know that sounds not very objective, but that's how I feel. And she's also patient. Putting up with me requires a lot of patience. But she sends her best; she's in New Orleans today.
And I will tell you, one reason -- this may sound counterintuitive, but a good marriage is really good after serving together in Washington, D.C. It's been an amazing experience to be a husband and then a dad as President of the United States. I emphasize, that is the priority for me as the President. It's my faith, my family, and my country. And I am pleased to report that our family is doing great, particularly since my wife is such a fantastic person. And she sends her very best.
Let me say something about Virginia Tech, and I want to first thank Steve for the moment of silence. You know, it's a -- there is -- the President spends time at disasters. Part of the job of the presidency is to help people heal from hurt. And the amazing thing is, though, when you go down to a scene like Virginia Tech, you can't help but be buoyed by the spirit that out of the tragedy comes a certain sense of resolve.
One of the things I try to assure the families and the students and the faculty of that fine university was that there are a lot of people around our country who are praying for them. It's interesting here in Tipp City, the first thing that happened was a moment of silence, a moment of prayer, to provide -- at least my prayer was, please comfort and strengthen those whose lives were affected by this horrible incident. It really speaks to the strength of this country, doesn't it, that total strangers here in Ohio are willing to hold up people in Virginia in prayer. And I thank you for that. And my message to the folks who still hurt in -- at Virginia Tech is that a lot of people care about you, and a lot of people think about you, a lot of people grieve with you, and a lot of people hope you find sustenance in a power higher than yourself. And a lot of us believe you will.
My job is a job to make decisions. I'm a decision -- if the job description were, what do you do -- it's decision-maker. And I make a lot of big ones, and I make a lot of little ones. Interestingly enough, the first decision I made happened right before I got sworn in as President. I was at the Blair House, which is across the street from the White House, getting ready to give my inaugural address. And the phone rang, and the head usher at the White House said, "President-elect Bush." I said, "Yes." He said, "What color rug do you want in the Oval Office?" (Laughter.) I said, this is going to be a decision-making experience. (Laughter.)
The first lesson about decision-making is, if you're short on a subject, ask for help. So if you're a student listening and you're not very good at math, ask for help. Don't be afraid to admit that you need help when it comes to life. I wasn't afraid to admit I wasn't sure how to design a rug, so I called Laura. (Laughter.) I said, they've asked me to design a rug in the Oval Office; I don't know anything about rug designing; will you help me? She said, of course. But I said, I want it to say something -- the President has got to be a strategic thinker and I said to her, make sure the rug says "optimistic person comes to work." Because you can't make decisions unless you're optimistic that the decisions you make will lead to a better tomorrow.
And so, if you were to come in the Oval Office, what you would see is this fantastic rug that looks like the sun. And it just sets the tone for the Oval Office.
I share that with you because I make a lot of decisions, and I'm optimistic that the decisions I have made will yield a better tomorrow. The hardest decision you make is whether or not to commit troops into combat -- people like this young man, people who served our country with great distinction, people who volunteer to say, I want to serve the United States. The hardest decision a President makes is to ask those men and women to go into harm's way.
My decision making was deeply affected by the attack of September the 11th, 2001. It was a -- it was a moment that defined a dangerous world to me with absolute clarity. I realized then that this country was no longer invulnerable to attack from what may be happening overseas.
I realized that there is an enemy of the United States that is active and is lethal. At further study of that enemy, I realized that they share an ideology, that these weren't -- that the -- and when you really think about it, the September the 11th attack was not the first attack. There was a 1993 World Trade Center attack, there was attacks on our embassies in East Africa, there was an attack on the USS Cole, there have been other attacks on U.S. citizens, and that these attacks were instigated and carried out by cold-blooded killers who have a belief system. They are threatened by free societies. They can't stand the thought of freedom being the prevailing attitude in the world because their view is, if you don't believe in what I believe in, you probably shouldn't be around.
This enemy is smart, capable, and unpredictable. They have defined a war on the United States, and I believe we're at war. I believe the attack on America made it clear that we're at war. I wish that wasn't the case. Nobody ought to ever hope to be a war President, or a presidency -- a President during war.
But that's how I see the world. And I made a vow that I would do everything I could, and work with members of Congress to do everything they could, to protect the United States. It is the most solemn duty of our country, is to protect our country from harm.
A lesson learned was that, at least in my opinion, that in order to protect us, we must aggressively pursue the enemy and defeat them elsewhere so we don't have to face them here. In other words, if what happens overseas matters to the United States, therefore, the best way to protect us is to deal with threats overseas. In other words, we just can't let a threat idle; we can't hope that a threat doesn't come home to hurt us. A lesson of that terrible day was, threats overseas can come home to hurt us. And so the fundamental question -- and this has led to constructive debate -- it's, what do you do about it?
I've chosen a path that says we will go overseas and defeat them there. I also know full well that it's important for us if we're facing an ideology, if we're facing ideologues, if we're confronting people who believe something, that we have got to defeat their belief system with a better belief system. Forms of government matter, in my opinion. It matters how -- the nature of the government in which people live. And therefore, I have put as part of our foreign policy not only an aggressive plan to find extremists and radicals and bring them to justice before they hurt us, but also to help people live in liberty -- free societies, as the great alternative to people living under a tyrant, for example.
And so my decision making was based upon those principles. And now we're involved in -- I call it a global war against terror. You can't call it a global war against extremists, a global war against radicals, a global war against people who want to hurt America; you can call it whatever you want, but it is a global effort. And by the way, the United States is not alone in this effort. We're helping lead an effort. And the major battlefield in this global war is Iraq. And I want to spend some time talking about Iraq.
Living under a tyrant must be just brutal, and living under the reign of Saddam Hussein was incredibly brutal. A lot of innocent people were killed, a lot of people were cowed by the state. There really wasn't much in terms of a civil structure that would enable people to have a form of a representative government. People were kept apart through violence, in many ways. People were pitted against each other. A lot of people were given favored treatment.
The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was a difficult decision, I think a necessary decision. If you want to talk about that later on, we can. And what has happened since then is that we are trying to help a young democracy survive in the heart of the Middle East, and at the same time prevent our stated enemies from establishing safe haven from which to attack us again.
Now I say that -- preventing our enemies from establishing a safe haven from which to attack us again -- because that is their stated objective in Iraq. That's what al Qaeda says. Al Qaeda is the same group of folks that attacked us on September the 11th. They have said their objective is to drive the United States out of Iraq in order to establish safe haven. And why would they need safe haven? They would need safe haven from which to plot and plan and train to attack again. They have an objective, and that is to spread their ideology throughout the Middle East. That is what they have stated. That's their objectives.
Our objective is to deny them safe haven, is to prevent al Qaeda from being able to do in Iraq that which they did in Afghanistan, which is where they trained thousands of young men to come and kill -- to eventually kill innocent people.
Our objective also is to help a young democracy flourish in a part of the world that desperately needs liberty, in a part of the world where government -- forms of government will provide hope so as eventually to discourage the type of mentality that says 19 kids should get on airplanes and kill 3,000 people.
And it's incredibly hard work, but I have come to the conclusion, obviously, that it's necessary work. It's necessary work for peace.
In 2005, the Iraqi people went to the polls; 12 million voted. I view that as a statement that says -- by the way, I wasn't surprised that 12 million people, if given a chance to vote, voted. I was pleased, but I wasn't surprised. And the reason I wasn't surprised is because I believe in this principle: I believe liberty is universal. I don't believe freedom is just confined to America. I think there is a universal principle that all people desire and want and should be free, that it's not just an American ideal, it is universal.
I think back, for example, right after World War II -- people might have argued after fighting the Japanese that they don't want to be free, they're the enemy; they killed a lot of people, they attacked the United States; why should we work to help them be free? Except those people were -- didn't quite understand not only do people want to be free, that when free societies emerge they're more likely to yield the peace.
And so it's a -- this country began to evolve, and it started with elections. It's easy to forget the elections because of all the violence. In 2006, I was convinced that we would be able to reposition our troops and have fewer troops in Iraq because the Iraqis want to take on the security themselves. This is a sovereign government. People got elected. They want to be -- showing the people of Iraq that they can run their own government. I don't know if you get that sense on your TV screens or not, but I certainly get that sense when I talk to the Prime Minister, with whom I speak quite frequently.
And yet they -- and yet, the enemy -- and the enemy -- when I say, enemy, these are enemies of free societies, primarily al Qaeda inspired -- blew up the great religious shrine in '06, a year ago -- all aiming to create a sense of sectarian violence, all aiming to exacerbate the religious tensions that sometimes were exacerbated under Saddam Hussein, all aiming at preventing this young democracy from succeeding. And they succeeded. The enemy succeeded in causing there to be sectarian strife. In other words, the government wasn't ready to provide security. People started taking matters into their own hands. I'm going to protect myself, or I'm going to rely upon somebody else to protect me, they would say.
So I have a decision point to make, last fall. And the decision point was whether or not to either scale back or increase our presence in Iraq. And that was a difficult decision. It's difficult any time, as I told you, you put a soldier in harm's way. I understand the consequence of committing people into war. The interesting thing is I'm the Commander-in-Chief of an incredibly amazing group of men and women who also understand that consequence, and yet are willing to volunteer.
The question was, do we increase our -- I call it, reinforce, you can call it, surge, there's all kind of words for it -- or do we pull back? As you know, I made a decision to reinforce. And I did because I believe the Iraqis want to have a peaceful society. I believe Iraqi mothers want their children to grow up in peace, just like American mothers do. I think, if given a chance, that society can emerge into a free society. I felt strongly that if violence erupted, sectarian violence erupted in the capital, it would make it impossible to achieve the objective, and that is to help this free society. Listen, there are -- or let it emerge into a free society.
And the goal is a country that is stable enough for the government to work, that can defend itself and serve as an ally in this war on terror, that won't be a safe haven, that will deny the extremists and the radicals. I happen to think there will be an additional dividend when we succeed -- remember the rug? I'm optimistic we can succeed. I wouldn't ask families to have their troops there if I didn't think, one, it was necessary, and two, we can succeed. I believe we're going to succeed. And I believe success will embolden other moderate people that said, we're going to reject extremists and radicals in their midst.
There's a good group of people in Washington, fair, decent, honorable people -- and by the way, in this political discourse, we should never question anybody's patriotism if they don't happen to agree with the President. That's not the American way. The American way is we ought to have a honest and open dialogue. There are good people, patriotic people who didn't believe that additional troops would make that big a difference, and therefore, we should not increase, but in some cases, pull out; in some cases, pull back. Either case, having weighed the options, I didn't think it was viable, and I didn't think it would work.
A couple of points I want to make, and then I promise to stop talking and answer your questions. People often ask me, what are we seeing on TV? What's happening with the violence? Here's my best analysis: One, the spectaculars you see are al Qaeda inspired. They claim credit for a lot of the big bombings. The bombing of the parliament was al Qaeda; the bombing of the Golden Samarra was al Qaeda. These are the Sunni extremists inspired by Osama bin Laden who attacked the United States. I keep repeating that because I want you to understand what matters overseas, in my judgment, affects the security of the United States of America in this new era.
Their objective is twofold: One, shake the confidence of the average Iraqi that their government is incapable of providing security, and therefore, people will turn to militias in order to protect themselves. Their second objective is to shake our confidence. It's an interesting war, isn't it, where asymmetrical warfare is -- and that means people being able to use suicide bombers -- not only, obviously, kills a lot of innocent people, like which happened yesterday in Iraq, but also helps define whether or not we're successful.
If the definition of success in Iraq or anywhere is no suicide bombers, we'll never be successful. We will have handed al Qaeda "that's what it takes" in order to determine whether or not these young democracies, for example, can survive. Think about that: if our definition is no more suiciders, you've just basically said to the suiciders, go ahead.
Iran is influential inside of Iraq. They are influential by providing advanced weaponry. They are influential by dealing with some militias, tend to be Shia militias, all aiming to create discomfort, all aiming to kind of -- according to some -- to create enough discomfort for the United States, but in doing so, they're making it harder for this young democracy to emerge. Isn't it interesting, when you really take a step back and think about what I just said, that al Qaeda is making serious moves in Iraq, as is surrogates for Iran.
Two of the biggest issues we face for the security of this country today and tomorrow is al Qaeda and Iran. And yet their influence is being played out in Iraq. I believe that if we were to leave before this country had an opportunity to stabilize, to grow -- and by the way, I fully understand and completely agree with those who say, this is not just a military mission alone. That is too much to ask our military to be able to achieve objectives without there being a corresponding political avenue, political strategy being fulfilled by the Iraqis. I fully expect them to reconcile. I fully expect them -- and I made it clear to the Prime Minister -- that they should pass different de-Baathification law, that they ought to have local elections, that they ought to share their oil wells so that people feel a common -- you know, a common bound to something bigger than provincialism.
They have to do work. They know they have to do work. I told that to Prime Minister Maliki this week on a secure video: You have an obligation to your people, and to our people, for that matter, to do the hard work necessary, to show people that you're capable of getting your government to move forward with political reconciliation. There has to be reconstruction money spent, their reconstruction money. They've dedicated $10 billion out of their budget, and now they've got to spend that money wisely to show people that the government can be for all the people.
But if we were to leave before that were to happen, I will share a scenario that I'm fearful of. One, that the very radicals and extremists who attack us would be emboldened. It would confirm their sense that the United States is incapable of long-term commitments, incapable of -- it would confirm their commitment that they think we're soft, let me put it to you that way. That's what they think.
I didn't necessarily mean that the United States has to kind of muscle up for the sake of muscling up. That's not what I'm trying to say. But I do believe it is risky to have an enemy that has attacked us before to not take the United States seriously for the long run.
Secondly, there would be a violence -- level of violence that would spill out beyond just the capital, could spill out beyond Iraq. And then you would have ancient feuds fueled by extremists and radicals competing for power -- radical Shia, radical extreme Sunnis, all competing for power. They would happen to share two enemies: one, the United States and Israel, for starters, and every other moderate person in the Middle East.
Imagine a scenario where the oil wealth of certain countries became controlled -- came under the control of a radical, extremist group. And then all of a sudden you'd be dealing not only with safe haven for potential violent attack, you'd be dealing with the economic consequences of people who didn't share the values of the West, for example.
Iran wants to -- they've stated they'd like to have -- let me just say, we believe they would like to have a nuclear weapon. Part of our diplomacy is to prevent them from doing so. If the United States were to leave a chaotic Iraq, not only would the vacuum of our failure there to help this young government enable extremists to move more freely and embolden them, but I also believe it would -- it could cause the Middle East to enter into a nuclear arms race.
The scenario I'm beginning to describe to you I believe is a real scenario, a real possibility for a scenario, and I believe if this were to happen, people would look back 30 years from now, or 20 years from now, and say, what happened to them in 2007; how come they couldn't see the threat?
And so I want to share that with you -- these thoughts with you, because as a person whose job it is to make decisions, you've got to understand that I'm making them on what I believe is solid ground. These are necessary decisions for the country.
We're having an interesting debate in Washington. John and I spent some time talking about it, and that is, this supplemental funding. I sent up a request to make sure our troops had the money necessary to do the missions that they have been asked to do. I want to share a couple thoughts with you on that, and then I'll answer some questions.
First, I think it's a mistake -- and I've made it clear -- that the Congress should not have artificial timetables for withdrawal in a funding statement. I'll tell you why. (Applause.) Thank you. The reason why is, if you're a young commander on the ground, or an Iraqi soldier, and you've been tasked with a mission to help provide security for a city, and an enemy hears that you're leaving soon, it affects your capacity to do your job. It sends a signal to a dangerous part of the world that it's just a matter of time things will happen.
I think it's a mistake for Congress to tell the military how to do its job. We've got fantastic generals and colonels and captains who are trained to carry on military missions; that's their responsibility. And it's very important that they be given the resources and the flexibility necessary to carry out that which the Commander-in-Chief has asked them to do.
I fully understand the debate, and again I repeat to you, it's an important debate. I would hope it would be conducted with civil tone to bring honor to the process. Sometimes it gets a little out of hand there in Washington, I admit. But my message to the Congress has been, don't put our troops in between the debate; let's get them the money, let's get the commanders the flexibility, and we can debate Iraq policy without shorting the capacity for these troops to do their jobs.
These are -- I would call these times consequential times. I believe we're in a long, ideological struggle. And I believe the struggle will determine whether or not this country is secure. People ask me -- you know, I've been reading a lot of history. People ask me, can you think of any historical parallels? Well, clearly the Cold War is an interesting parallel. There's a -- by the way, every new phase of history has its own unique features to it. For example, you've got a kid in the battlefield and he's emailing home every day. Or, four-hour [sic] news cycles. There's a lot of -- asymmetrical warfare, or $50 weapons are sometimes used to defeat expensive vehicles. In other words, these are different times.
But there are some parallels. One is, of course, the ideological standoff during the Cold War, eventually won by freedom, the forces of freedom. For some, that sounds maybe corny. But it's true. It's an historical truth. And in my judgment, it requires people to have faith in that universal principle of liberty.
I like to remind people that my dad was a 18-year-old kid when he signed up to -- for the United States Navy in World War II, and went off to combat in a really bloody war. And yet, his son becomes the President, and one of his best friends in the international scene was the Prime Minister of Japan. Prime Minister Koizumi was a partner in peace. Isn't it interesting? I think there's a historical lesson there, that liberty has got the capacity to transform enemies to allies.
I think there's a lesson in Korea. I think if you were to ask somebody to predict in 1953 what the world would look like in the Far East, I don't think they would have said, China would have a marketplace that was growing, Korea would be our sixth largest trading partner -- I think it's the sixth largest trading partner, but certainly a partner in peace. And Japan would have been an ally, a strong ally that would have committed troops to the young democracy of Iraq, to help this democracy. I don't think people would have predicted that, but, in fact, it happened. It happened because the United States provided enough stability so that societies were able to evolve toward free societies, or freer societies.
We've got -- we face this -- we face a unique set of challenges, but I think we can learn something from history when we think about those challenges. I guess my conclusion is, I believe the decisions I have made were not only necessary to protect the country, but are laying a foundation of peace, the beginnings of laying that foundation of peace, so that generations will look back and say, thank goodness -- thank goodness, America didn't lose sight of basic principles, and thank goodness, America stayed true to her beliefs, and thank goodness, America led.
So thanks for letting me share some thoughts with you. And now I'll be glad to answer some questions. (Applause.)
Okay, thank you. Probably a nerve-wracking experience to think about asking -- it's not a nerve-wracking experience. Go ahead.
Q -- what is your view of the opposing party --
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks. He asked the question about, prior to the meeting yesterday, there was some concern that I wouldn't listen, that I'd made up my mind, and therefore, discussions weren't necessary. And I will tell you we had a very cordial meeting. The Speaker and the Leader, and Minority Leader and Senator McConnell all came down, along with others.
Clearly, there's different points of view, and that's fine. That's the greatness about our society. In my discussions with the leaders, I said, you have the authority to pass the funding legislation. That's your authority, not mine. I submitted what the Pentagon thinks it needs. In other words, the process works where I ask the Pentagon, how much do you need? What do you need to do the job? And they submitted their request, and then we, on behalf of the Pentagon, sent it up to Congress. And they have the authority to pass the -- pass the bill any way they see fit.
I have the authority, in our Constitution, to veto the bill if I don't think it meets certain criteria. They, then, have the authority to say, well, we don't agree with the President's veto, and now we're going to override the veto so that that which they passed becomes law. And here's where we are. I said, get a bill to me as quickly as you can. And I believe they committed to a bill late next week, or a week from next Monday, I think is what they're aiming for. And therefore, we will sit back and hope they get it done quickly. Time is of the essence. We need to get money to the troops. It's important for them to get the money.
However, I did make it clear that in exercising your authority, if you put timetables, or if you micro manage -- or artificial deadlines, or micro manage the war, or insist upon using a war supplemental to load up with items that are not related to the global war on terror, I will exercise my constitutional authority, and then you will have the opportunity to override my veto if you so choose.
My point to the leaders, and it was a very cordial meeting yesterday, by the way, and people -- the positive news is that we don't -- the negative thing is we don't agree 100 percent. That's not -- you shouldn't be surprised. The positive news is that there was a cordial discussion. The discussion was dignified, like you would hope it would be, and people were free to express their minds.
And so my attitude is if they feel they've got to send this up there with their strings, like they said, please do it in a hurry so I can veto it and then we can get down to the business of getting the troops funded. (Laughter and applause.)
Q Mr. President, how would you respond to the rather mistaken idea that the war in Iraq is becoming a war in Vietnam?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. There's a lot of differences. First, the Iraqi people voted for a modern constitution, and then set up a government under that constitution. Secondly, the -- that's as opposed to two divided countries: north and south. In my judgment, the vast majority of people want to live underneath that constitution they passed. They want to live in peace. And what you're seeing is radical on the fringe creating chaos in order to either get the people to lose confidence in their government, or for us to leave.
A major difference as far as here at home is concerned is that our military is an all-volunteer army, and we need to keep it that way. By the way, the way you keep it that way is to make sure our troops have all they need to do their job, and to make sure their families are happy. (Applause.)
There are some similarities, of course -- death is terrible. Another similarity, of course, is that Vietnam was the first time a war was brought to our TV screens here in America on a regular basis. I'm looking around looking for baby boomers; I see a few of us here. It's a different -- it was the first time that the violence and horror of war was brought home. That's the way it is today.
Americans, rightly so, are concerned about whether or not we can succeed in Iraq. Nobody wants to be there if we can't succeed, especially me. And these -- violence on our TV screens affects our frame of mind, probably more so today than what took place in Vietnam. I want to remind you that after Vietnam, after we left, the -- millions of people lost their life. The Khmer Rouge, for example, in Cambodia. And my concern is there would be a parallel there; that if we didn't help this government get going, stay on its feet, be able to defend itself, the same thing would happen. There would be the slaughter of a lot of innocent life. The difference, of course, is that this time around the enemy wouldn't just be content to stay in the Middle East, they'd follow us here.
It's interesting, I met with some congressman today, and one person challenged that. He said, I don't necessarily agree with that. In other words, I have told people that this is a unique war where an enemy will follow us home, because I believe that. But if you give al Qaeda a safe haven and enough time to plan and plot, I believe the risk is they will come and get us. And I freely admit that much of my thinking was affected on September the 11th, 2001, and the aftermath of September the 11th, 2001. I wanted to share that with you and the American people so that they understand that when I make decisions, why I'm making decisions. I can assure you I'm not going to make any decisions in regard to anybody's life based upon a poll or a focus group. (Applause.)
Sir. They don't want you to ask the question. They silenced you. Go ahead and yell.
Q Would you speak, please, a little bit about --
THE PRESIDENT: Now you can use it.
Q Would you speak a little bit about the support, or lack of support that we're getting from other countries, particularly those countries surrounding Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q -- Saudi Arabia, so forth?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. First, our mission is getting a lot of support from the Iraqis. That's the place to first look. Are the Iraqis willing to make sacrifices necessary for their own country? I think there's a lot of Americans who wonder whether or not the Iraqis want to live in a free society, and are willing to do that which is necessary to help their country succeed. If I felt they weren't, I would not have our troops in harm's way. Just so you know.
I believe they are. They have suffered unbelievable death and destruction. Yesterday's bombing -- we don't have the intel on it; I suspect it's al Qaeda. Al Qaeda convinces the suiciders to show up; al Qaeda understands the effects of this kind of warfare on the minds of not only people in Iraq, but here -- and elsewhere in the world.
And yet, the Iraqis continue to recruit for their army and their police force. I thought it was interesting that the Sunni speaker of the house, the day that the council chambers were bombed, said, we're going to meet. These folks have gone through unbelievable horrors, they really have, and yet they continue to show courage in the face of this kind of violence.
Secondly, there is -- there are nations who are concerned about whether or not a Shia government in Iraq will end up being a surrogate for Iran, for example. I think there are some Sunni nations -- Sunni-governed nations, like Saudi and Jordan, that are concerned about a shift in the Middle East toward Iran, and that they are -- wonder whether or not this government of Iraq, which is a Shia government as a result of the fact that most people in Iraq -- or the majority, the largest plurality of people in Iraq are Shia. You wouldn't be surprised if people voted that that's what happened as a result of the elections. And they wonder whether or not the government is going to be of, by, and for the Iraqi people. And that concerns them.
And so one of the reasons we were working with the Iraqis on this neighborhood conference is for people to hear firsthand that the Iraqi government is, first and foremost, Iraqi. They're not interested in being anybody else's surrogate.
We've got a lot of work to do there, and it's an interesting question you asked. I was pleased, and I thank His Majesty that 80 percent of the debt in Saudi -- I'll get you in a minute -- 80 percent of the Saudi debt in Iraq was forgiven. I appreciated that. It's a strong gesture. But we have a lot -- not we, the Iraqi government has a lot of work to do to convince skeptical nations that, in fact, they're going to be a pluralistic society, that they're not going to hold one group above another when it comes to their society.
Iran -- I mentioned Iran. Iran is a serious problem. This is a nation that has said they want to have a nuclear -- or we believe wants to have a nuclear weapon. And to what end? They don't need a nuclear weapon. And it's really important for the free world to work together to prevent them from having a nuclear weapon.
I'm very worried about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It's not in the interests of our children that that happens, for the sake of peace. They have been unhelpful in Iraq, intentionally unhelpful in Iraq. And so I obviously sent out the orders to our troops, commanders, that they will protect themselves against Iranian influence -- or let me just say this -- threats to their lives based -- because of what Iran has done.
We have no beef with the Iranian people, which is really important for the people of Iran to understand. We value the history of Iran. We respect the traditions of Iran. It's the Iranian government that is making the decisions that is causing you to be isolated. You're missing a opportunity to be a great nation because your government has made decisions that is causing the world to put economic sanctions on you and to isolate you. I would hope the Iranian government would change their attitude. And the Iranian people must understand that if they do -- if they don't -- if they stop their enrichment process, that they can have a better relationship with countries such as the United States. If they aren't meddling in Iraq, they can have a better relationship with a country that wishes them no harm.
Syria -- I don't know if I'm going too much, or not, but you asked. (Laughter.) We have made it very clear to President Assad that there are a series of gestures we'd like to see him make for the sake of peace. One such gesture is to leave Lebanon alone; let the Lebanese democracy flourish; stop interfering in this young democracy.
Isn't it interesting that it's the democracies of the Middle East that are having the most problem with the extremists? I think it is. We have said to the Syrians, stop harboring Hamas and Hezbollah -- violent, radical organizations aimed at causing harm in the Middle East. And we have said to President Assad, stop allowing the flow of suicide bombers through your country into Iraq. You know, some have suggested that the United States start diplomatic relations with Syria. My message is, the Syrian has got the choice to make; the Syrian President must make the choice that will stop isolating his regime. And the United States will continue to make it clear to Syria, and work with other nations to make it clear to Syria, that their behavior is unacceptable if we want peace in the Middle East.
And so that's a -- there will be meetings. The Iraq Compact group will be meeting, as well as an Iraq neighbor group. And it's there that the neighborhood can come together, all -- and Condi is going to -- Condi, Secretary Rice will be representing us there -- all aiming to make it clear that we hope that we can encourage nations to help this young democracy to not only survive, but to thrive. And it's an interesting challenge given the history of the region.
Q Mr. President, to kind of switch directions a little bit, illegal aliens in this country apparently are putting a lot of pressure on our social services. Could you comment on what the plans are in the future to take care of that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir. They are not apparently putting pressure on the social services, they are putting pressure on the social services.
I believe it's in the interest of the United States to have a comprehensive immigration plan that meets certain objectives: one, helps us better secure our border; two, recognizes that people are doing work here that Americans are not doing; three, that recognizes that we are a nation of immigrants, and we ought to uphold that tradition in a way that honors the rule of law; four, that it's in the interest of the country that people who are here be assimilated in a way that -- with our traditions and history. In other words, those who eventually become citizens be assimilated. In other words, one of the great things about America is we've been able to assimilate people from different backgrounds and different countries. I suspect some of your relatives might be the kind of people I'm talking about.
Four, that we do not grant amnesty. I am very worried about automatic citizenship being granted to people who have been here illegally. I think that undermines rule of law -- (applause) -- I think it undermines the rule of law, I also think it would create a condition, or send the signal that it's okay for another X-millions of people to come.
Five, you can't kick people out. You may think you can kick people out, but you can't. It's not going to work. It's impractical to think that you can find 10 million people who have been here for a long period of time and boot them out of the country.
Six, if you hire somebody who is an illegal alien, you ought to be held to account. Now, those are the -- (applause) -- wait a minute. Those are the principles. And we're working in Congress. The first step was to make it clear to the American people that we would change our border policy. This is a subject I'm real familiar with. As you might recall, I was the governor of the great state of Texas, and we've been dealing with -- (applause) -- there you go. Always one in every crowd. (Laughter.)
A lot of Americans did not believe that this country was intent upon enforcing our border. And a couple of years ago, working with John and other members of Congress, we began a border modernization program. That meant, for example, more Border Patrol agents, and we will have doubled them -- I can't remember, I don't want to throw out facts, I may get them wrong, but we're doubling the number of Border Patrol agents by 2008.
It means some barriers, whether they be vehicle barriers, or fencing, different roads to make our enforcement folks be able to travel easier on the border; UAVs -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- infrared detection devices. In other words, this border is becoming modernized.
It's interesting, I went down to Yuma, Arizona, right after Easter, and when I first went down there, there was a fence next to Mexico, and that was it; kind of a rickety fence, it looked like. And one of the tactics -- one of the tactics was for people to storm over the fence and rush the neighborhood on the other side. And the Border Patrol may pick up two or three of them, and however many else got in. Now there is double fencing in this area, with a wide area in between that our Border Patrol are able to travel on. In other words, we're beginning to get a modernization program that's pretty effective. As a matter of fact, the number of arrests are down.
Another problem we had -- it's a long answer because it's a really important topic. Another problem we had was catch and release; we would -- the Border Patrol would catch somebody, say, from Mexico, they'd send them right back, but, say, from -- a lot of folks are coming from Central America. By the way, the reason why is because they want to put food on the table, and there are jobs Americans aren't doing. You know what I'm talking about. Some of you -- if you're running a nursery, you know what I'm talking about. If you've got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I'm talking about. People have got starving families and they want to come and work.
By the way, if I were a leader of a country where people were willing to take risks like these people were, I'd be worried that I'd be losing an incredibly good part of my work force -- hard-working people.
Anyway, they're coming across, and from Central America, they're paying exorbitant sums, by the way. There's a whole industry based upon using people as chattel. They're commodities to be exploited, frankly. And they're coming up, and so we would catch up, but we didn't have enough beds on the border. So they catch a fellow from El Salvador trying to sneak in, and they say, check back in with us, you know, we don't have any room to hold you. Come back in and we'll have the immigration judge. Well, guess what happened? A guy wants to work, he's not interested in seeing the immigration judge, off he goes; you'll never find him.
And so we've ended that practice by increasing the number of beds now on the border. So when we get somebody from other than Mexico, we hold them, and then send them back to their country. And the message is getting out that the border is becoming more secure.
However, I think it's very important -- I'm getting to the meat here -- very important for us to have a temporary worker program if you really want to enforce the border. Our border is long. It is hard to enforce to begin with. It seems like to me that it's in our national interest to let people come on a temporary basis to do jobs Americans are not doing, on a temporary, verifiable basis, with a tamper-proof card, to let people come and do jobs Americans aren't doing, and let them go home after that so that they don't have to sneak across the border.
In other words, if there's a way for people to come in an orderly way, they won't have to try to get in the bottom of the 18-wheeler and pay a person thousands of dollars to smuggle them into the United States of America. There are a lot of employers who are worried about losing labor here in the United States. They don't know whether they're legal or illegal, by the way, because not only is there a smuggling operation, there's a document forging operation. In other words, the law that we have in place has created an entire underground system of smugglers, inn keepers, and document forgers. And that's not the American way, by the way.
And so these guys don't know what they're getting -- some card, it looks legal, sure, let's go. You can work in my nursery, or go pick my -- help me pick my lettuce. And they don't know whether they're looking at somebody legal or illegal. We need a tamper-proof card that will enable an employer to verify whether or not this person is here legally or not. Otherwise, it's unfair to hold somebody to account. In other words, if we're enforcing the law, saying you're employing somebody here illegally, we better make sure that that employer is able to verify with certainty whether the person is here legal or not.
Finally, the fundamental question is, what do you do with the -- right there, everybody nervous up front -- the question is, what about the 10 to 12 million people who are already here? It's a tough issue. As I've told you, my position is, not legal automatically. I'm also realistic enough to know that you're just -- it may sound attractive in the political sound byte world, just kick them out. It is not going to work. It's just not going to work.
And so we're working with the Senate and the House to devise a plan that in essence says that you have broken the law, and that you have an obligation to pay a fine for having broken the law if you want to stay in the United States, that there is a line for citizenship -- there's a lot of people in that line right now -- and that after paying a penalty for breaking the law, that you can get at the back of the line, not the front of the line; that if you want to become a citizen, you've got to prove that you can speak the language, that you can assimilate, that you have paid your taxes, that you haven't broken the law -- (applause) -- that you haven't broken the law, and then, if you choose, you have an opportunity to apply for citizenship. But you don't get to jump ahead of people who have played by the rules.
And this is a tough debate, and I appreciate John's leadership on this issue. It's an emotional debate. I just ask our fellow citizens not to forget that we are a nation of law, but we are also a humane country that breaks our heart when we see people being abused and mistreated, and that I believe that -- I know we need to have a civil debate on the subject. We're immigrants. We're a nation of immigrants. And I happen to personally believe, as well, that there's nothing better for society than to have it renewed. When newcomers who come here legally realize the great benefits that one can achieve through hard work, it renews our spirit, and renews our soul, when people are given a chance to realize the great blessings of the United States of America.
And so we're working on it. Thank you for bringing it up. It's going to be an interesting, interesting legislative issue. I'm -- there's a lot of good people in the Senate working hard to reach accord. And we're right in the middle of them, trying to help them. And then if we can get a bill out of the Senate, we'll take it to the House and see where we go. Good question.
Q Thank you, Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: About time you asked a question. (Laughter.)
Q This is truly an honor. Thank you for coming today. My question is about the U.S. military preparedness. I'm actually of a small manufacturing company in Dayton where we manufacture a lot of parts for the up-armored humvees -- gun turrets, and things like that --
THE PRESIDENT: This isn't like one of these self-interest questions, is it? (Laughter.)
Q No, no, no. Here's my -- I'll get right to it. There's -- currently the law is that only 50 percent of the military components have to be U.S.-made. When we went into Afghanistan there was a gentleman in Switzerland who refused to give us part of something for the Nordam --(phonetic) -- bomb that we had -- he refused to make it because it was made over there. And my question is about increasing that percentage, and keeping a prepared military, that we don't have to rely on other countries to defend ourselves.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. My answer is I'm really not sure what you're talking about and I'll look into it. (Laughter and applause.) But I can tell you we're going to spend a lot of money on this military because we're worried about whether or not this military will have the supplies necessary, the equipment necessary, after multiple rotations.
I want to assure parents whose loved one may be in the military, we're not going to put your son or daughter over there unless they're ready. And no question, multiple rotations have been hard on our families. And as you know, recently Secretary Gates recommended to me, and I accepted, saying with certainty to our troops, your tours will be up to 15 months and you'll be home for a guaranteed 12 months. And the reason why he did that is that we had some people deployed for what they thought might be 12 months, and were asked to stay in theater. And what's the most important thing we can do for this volunteer army is to provide certainty for our families.
In other words, you sign -- you volunteer to be in the military and you're deployed; we want to make sure there's certainty so that families can prepare. The worst thing that can happen, according to our military experts there, is for somebody's hopes to be dashed, that there's not clarity about what's expected of our troops. And so we did that.
There is -- the term of art is called "reset" -- that is to make sure that we reset our military. And there is an area where there is good common ground with members of Congress -- the Democrat leadership understands that reset is an important part of keeping this military ready and active.
Let me say one thing I forgot to tell you before. I don't know if you remember the Baker-Hamilton report. James A. Baker, the Secretary of State; Lee Hamilton; two distinguished people, real good people. The kind of Americans that have served with distinction and are still serving. They proposed an interesting idea, which was for the United States to be postured at some point in time with the following force posture: one, embedded with Iraqi troops, not only as a training mission, but to help them understand chain of command issues and the issues of a modern military; that our troops be stationed in an over-the-horizon position, so we could respond to a particular situation, so it didn't get out of control; that we helped defend the territorial integrity of Iraq, and that we chase down al Qaeda.
It's an interesting force posture to be in. Frankly, I was hopeful, as I mentioned to you, that we could be in that kind of force posture a year ago. I really thought we were going to be there until the sectarian violence got out of control. They also said that the United States may have to increase troops in order to be able to get there. And that's what you're seeing happen. And that's where I'd like to be. And I'd like to be in a position so that the certainty of our troop deployments like we've come is just etched in everybody's mind.
I'm watching our military very carefully. I love our military, for starters. And I want to make sure that during these difficult times, that we help them on their needs. One of my concerns is that the health care not be as good as it can possibly be.
I will tell you that we had a bureaucracy problem at Walter Reed. What we didn't have is a compassion problem at Walter Reed. We've got some unbelievably good docs and nurses, who work around the clock to help the trooper, troops and their families. But our bureaucracy, that sometimes can be large and cumbersome at the federal level, didn't respond. And I appreciate the way Secretary Gates got control of the situation.
Just so you know, I am concerned that a soldier getting out of -- or a Marine getting out of uniform and stays in the defense -- is transferred seamlessly from the Defense health system to the Veterans health system. In other words, one of my concerns is that there is a gap. And we owe it to these families, and these soldiers and Marines to make sure that that service is seamless. And that's why I asked Bob Dole and Donna Shalala to make sure that those two bureaucracies don't create the conditions where somebody isn't getting the help they need.
I know that's on people's minds. One of the areas where we do agree is that we got to make sure our veterans are treated as good as we can possibly treat them. We've asked a lot of these troops, and we will do our best to make sure the Veterans Administration and the defense health systems work well.
Q Mr. President, I admire your stay-to-it-iveness -- (inaudible) -- not using polls and focus groups. But I have to ask you personally, with respect to economics, with respect to the war, with respect to the war on terror and Iraq, and immigration, when you go to bed at night and you see these polls -- everybody and their brother does a poll now -- how does it make you feel?
THE PRESIDENT: That's an interesting question. You know, I'm -- I've been in politics long enough to know that polls just go poof at times. I mean, they're a moment; that they are -- let me put it to you this way: When it's all said and done, when Laura and I head back home -- which at this moment will be Crawford, Texas -- I will get there and look in the mirror, and I will say, I came with a set of principles and I didn't try to change my principles to make me popular. You can't make good decisions -- (applause.)
As I mentioned to you, this is a decision-making experience, and you cannot make good decisions if you're not making decisions on a consistent set of principles. It's impossible. Oh, you can make decisions, all right, but they're inconsistent. What I think is important is consistency during difficult and troubled times, so that people -- they may not agree, but they know where I'm coming from.
And I'll share some of the principles. You've heard one -- I believe freedom is universal. I believe that. Let me put it another way: I believe there's an Almighty, and I believe a gift from the Almighty to every man and woman and child on this Earth is freedom. That's what I believe.
Secondly, I believe you can spend your money better than the government can spend your money. (Applause.) Oh, I know that sounds like a sound bite, but it's a principle by which you set budgets. For example, I believe that cutting taxes helped this country overcome a recession and a war. And the reason why is, is that markets flourish when people have more money. Employers, small businesses do better when you have more money. When your treasury is more likely to have money, you're more likely to take risk. And that's what tax cuts do.
And by the way, it's another issue that we're facing. In all due respect to the Democrats, if you look at their budget, they want to raise your taxes. I believe Congress needs to keep your taxes low. I believe, by the way -- (applause.) Thank you. I'm not trying to rally, I'm just trying to explain.
I believe we have proven that the best way to balance the budget -- and I know many of you are concerned about a balanced budget -- is to grow the economy through low taxes, which means enhanced revenues, and be wise about spending your money. In other words, pro-growth economic policies have proven to work. And it turns out that when the economy grows, taxes increase. And therefore, the corollary is to make sure we don't over-spend.
The temptation in Washington is to spend -- it just is, and -- every idea sounds like a great idea. But we are proving that you can balance the budget by keeping taxes low. As a matter of fact, I think it was $167 billion -- the deficit was $167 billion less than anticipated because of -- over the last two years -- because of low taxes. I said we'd cut the deficit in half by five years, or four years, and we've done it three years quicker. Now we've submitted a new budget that shows we can balance the budget without raising taxes. That's a principle.
I believe, for example, that the government ought to trust people to make decisions. And so how does that -- like health care; that's a big issue for all of us. One of the ways I think -- was that your question? Good, okay. I'll ask it for you -- what are you going to do on health care? Anyway -- (laughter.) The tax code discriminates against an individual on health care decisions. And I believe that we ought to change the tax code so an employee of a corporation is treated equally as somebody who is self-employed. In other words, the tax treatment ought to be the same, all aimed at encouraging individual decision-making in the marketplace. I'm a big believer in health savings accounts, because health savings accounts means you are the decision-maker, along with your doc.
Health care -- like Medicare, we changed Medicare for the better. Medicare -- I remind people, Medicare had changed -- medicine had changed, Medicare hadn't. Prescription drugs became an integral part of medicine, and yet, the senior was not covered with prescription drugs in Medicare. It didn't make any sense to me to pay thousands for an ulcer operation, but not a dime for the prescription drugs that could have prevented the ulcer from happening in the first place.
And so we modernized Medicare with the prescription drug benefit, but we also did something unique when it came to government programs. We gave seniors choices. In other words, we created more of a marketplace. It's amazing what happens when people demand something: people provide for it in the marketplace. Competition helps keep price low. It was estimated that we would spend some $600 billion additional money through Medicare, and yet the cost to the government, and you, more particularly, is substantially lower because of competition. That's a principle.
When it comes to pension plans, I think you ought to be managing your money. I don't think you ought to be relying upon government to tell you what your benefit is. I think you ought to be in a position to take your own money and manage it on a tax advantage basis.
My point is, the principle is that we ought to trust people to make decisions. To whom much is given, much is required. I'm glad you asked this question, thank you. (Laughter.) Listen -- Laura says, you love to hear yourself talk, don't you?
I want to share this story with you, though, because I believe an important principle is, to whom much is given, much is required. The United States of America has been given a lot. We are a blessed nation. For those of you who travel around the world know exactly what I'm talking about, about what a -- what a great life we have here compared to a lot of other folks.
When I first came into office, I was deeply concerned about the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, particularly on the continent of Africa. I was concerned because during the 21st century, an entire -- it was possible that an entire generation could be wiped out by a disease for which we could do something about.
I went to Congress, I went to you. I asked for a substantial sum of money to help fund a campaign to save lives on the most 19 affected nations on Earth. I asked a former CEO of Eli Lilly, Randy Tobias, to run the program. As a result of your generosity based upon the principle, to whom much is given, much is required, over 850,000 people receive anti-retroviral drugs today. That's up from 50,000 three years ago.
Is it in our nation's interest to do that? I believe it is. If what happens overseas matters here at home, then I do think it's important to help address issues like starvation and disease. But I also think it's in the interest of the soul of the nation to adhere to an important principle. And I think we're adding to a glorious chapter in our history to say that the people of the United States have helped save thousands of lives that otherwise might have been lost to HIV/AIDS.
And so those are some of the principles. And you asked a question, what do I think? I think it's important to stand on principle. I think it's important to make decisions based upon a core set of beliefs; that's what I think. And politics comes and goes, but your principles don't. And everybody wants to be loved -- not everybody, but -- you run for office, I guess you do. (Laughter.) You never heard anybody say, I want to be despised, I'm running for office. (Laughter.) But I believe, sir, in my soul, that I have made the right decisions for this country when it comes to prosperity and peace. That's what I believe.
I want to share something with you about history. I'm reading a lot of history, I mentioned to you, I read three histories on George Washington last year. The year 2006, I read three histories about our first President. My attitude is, if they're still writing about one, 43 doesn't need to worry about it. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead. Go ahead. Let's get the mic there.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks.
Q This is in regards to the Virginia Tech tragedy. Being a high school student, I was wondering what's being done to ensure safety in schools?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that -- first of all, I don't know your principal very well -- I met him. I will tell you, though, that his biggest concern, besides you learning to read, write, add, and subtract and be a student who can contribute to society, is your safety.
One of the lessons of these tragedies is to make sure that when people see somebody, or know somebody who is exhibiting abnormal behavior, to do something about it, to suggest that somebody take a look; that if you are a parent and your child is doing strange things on the Internet, pay attention to it, and not be afraid to ask for help, and not be afraid to say, I am concerned about what I'm seeing.
I think there's a tendency at times for people -- and I fully understand this -- is to respect somebody's privacy, you know, and not share concerns. But some of the lessons of the shootings have been that it is -- and I don't know about this case -- and by the way, they're still digging out the facts, so I think it's very important for us not to comment until it's all said and done -- but that other cases, there have been warning signals, that if an adult, for example, had taken those signals seriously, perhaps tragedy could have been avoided.
And so the lesson is, is that -- and I know you're -- the lesson is, is that the principals and teachers and adults of this school must be on alert, and I know they are.
And as I -- I repeat to you, you're lucky -- all of us -- a lot of these high schools are really lucky to have people who care about you. Unfortunately, in a complex society, the teacher's job, and the principal's job is more than just teaching; it is safety. And yet, that is a vital concern I know to the folks who run this school.
Okay, yes, ma'am.
THE PRESIDENT: Sure, go ahead. Wait, I want this question recorded. A little hustle there. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you.
Q I believe there's a big misconception that scaling back in Iraq will cost less in the long run than to go in and get the job done. How do you get that message across to America, and especially to Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I appreciate that. Her concern is that a scale-back will either save money, or save lives, or save headache, and how do you get the message out? Coming here is part of getting the message out. The President has got to be educator-in-chief, and I've just got to keep talking about it. I've spent a lot of time on this subject. This is a subject that has concerned a lot of our fellow citizens. They are deeply worried about whether or not it is possible for us to succeed, and that there needs to be an explanation of the violence.
And my answer is, is that the -- there is a political process that's ongoing, an economic process that's ongoing, a rebuilding process that's ongoing, and a security process that's ongoing, and that you can't have the former unless you have security. And therefore, it's in the interest -- if a failed state creates violence and chaos that eventually could come and hurt us, it's in our interest to help succeed.
And therefore, the troop levels need to be commensurate with the capacity of that society to protect itself. The objective is to have the Iraqis take over their own security. It's just that they weren't ready to do so. And I appreciate your question.
It's very important -- I think some really are -- I know a lot of people are tired of it. People get pretty tired of war, and I understand that. It's really important as we -- that we have a sober discussion and understand what will be the consequences of failure.
As I've told you, on the rug -- the reason I brought up the rug was to not only kind of break the ice, but also to talk about strategic thought. The President's job is to think not only about today, but tomorrow. The President's job is not only think about the short-term security of the United States, but to think about the little guys, you know -- what the world will look like 20 or 30 or 40 years from now.
And I appreciate your question because I will continue to work hard to explain the consequences of this world in which we live; that what happens overseas matters here at home in the 21st century, and that we are in the beginning of a long struggle that will have, hopefully, not a lot of military action, would be my hope for future Presidents. But it is a struggle akin to other struggles we have been through.
The ideological struggle of the Cold War is a potential parallel. It's freedom versus communism. This is a -- this is a struggle with freedom versus extreme radicalism. There have been -- how do you allow a society, or how do you encourage societies to evolve after struggle, after conflict? There are other historical parallels. My job is to continue to explain the consequences -- consequences of success, which I believe will be peace; the consequences of failure, which I believe will be creating a more dangerous situation here in the United States.
Boehner is a busy man. He is busy representing the people of this district; he is now giving me the signal -- (laughter.) I'm feeling his vibes. (Laughter.) I'm going to fly him back to Washington.
I'm honored that you gave me a chance to come and visit with you. I ask for God's blessings on our troops and their families, on the people of Virginia Tech, and on the people of the United States. Thank you for your time. (Applause.) END 2:33 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 18, 2007
President Bush Meets with Bipartisan and Bicameral Congressional Leadership Cabinet Room 2:30 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: All of us around the table care deeply about what happened at Virginia Tech. And I know I can speak for all of us here that we send our prayers to the families of the victims, and we send our prayers to the friends of the victims. And we also send our deep concerns to the Virginia Tech community.
This fine educational institution is going through a lot of trauma and pain, and all of us here care deeply about their lives, and they just need to know it. They need to know people grieve.
I also want to thank the leaders from Congress for coming down. I'm looking forward to what will be a -- one, I suspect, of many conversations on this war in Iraq, and other major foreign policy issues.
We're going to have a very good discussion. People have strong opinions around the table, and I'm looking forward to listening to them. I've got my own opinion, which I'm more than willing to share. The whole objective is to figure out how best to get our troops funded, get the money they need to do the job that I've asked them to do.
And so, again, I want to thank you all for coming. I'm looking forward to our discussion. END 2:32 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 18, 2007
President Bush Visits the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington, D.C. 10:32 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you all very much. I appreciate your hospitality, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much for the fine job you're doing. I am honored to have just taken a tour of this important museum with Sara Bloomfield, who arguably is one of the best museum directors in the country -- (applause) -- particularly if you can put up with the board of directors that I've named. (Laughter.)
I thank you all for serving. I appreciate you taking on this important assignment. My friends on the board will tell you that I hold the Holocaust Museum dear to my heart. You will hear me express my appreciation for the work that is being done here, and I mean it sincerely.
I thank very much Elie Wiesel for joining us. He is a -- he's a big figure in the life of the world, as he should be. He speaks with moral clarity. And I can't thank you enough for being a leader of talking about what is right. And I'm honored to be in your presence. (Applause.)
I am traveling with some members of my administration, starting with the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios. (Applause.) And the newly-minted, or newly sworn in U.N. Ambassador Zal Khalilzad. Mr. Ambassador, thanks for coming. (Applause.)
I want to thank the members of Congress who have joined us, appreciate you taking time. I thank the members of the diplomatic community who have joined us. I'm honored that you are here. I thank the survivors of the Holocaust who have graced us with your presence. (Applause.)
We meet at a time of sorrow for our nation. Our flags fly at half-mast in memory of 32 souls whose lives were taken at Virginia Tech on Monday morning. That day we saw horror, but we also saw acts of quiet courage. We saw this courage in a teacher named Liviu Librescu. With the gunman set to enter his class, this brave professor blocked the door with his body while his students fled to safety. On the Day of Remembrance, this Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others might live. And this morning we honor his memory, and we take strength from his example.
This is a place devoted to memory. Inside this building are etched the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "You are my witness." As part of this witness, these walls show how one of the world's most advanced nations embraced a policy aimed at the annihilation of the Jewish people. These walls help restore the humanity of the millions who were loaded into trains and murdered by men who considered themselves cultured. And these walls remind us that the Holocaust was not inevitable -- it was allowed to gather strength and force only because of the world's weakness and appeasement in the face of evil.
Today we call what happened "genocide." But when the Holocaust started, this word did not yet exist. In a 1941 radio address, Churchill spoke of the horrors the Nazis were visiting on innocent civilians in Russia. He said, "We are in the presence of a crime without a name." It is an apt description of the evil that followed the swastika. Mankind had long experience with savagery and slaughter before. Yet in places such as Auschwitz and Dachau and Buchenwald, the world saw something new and terrible: the state-sanctioned extermination of a people -- carried out with a chilling industrial efficiency of a so-called modern nation.
Some may be tempted to ask: Why have a museum dedicated to such a dark subject? The men and women who built this museum will tell you: Because evil is not just a chapter in history -- it is a reality in the human heart. So this museum serves as a living reminder of what happens when good and decent people avert their eyes from hatred and murder. It honors those who died by serving as the conscience for those who live. And it reminds us that the words "never again" do not refer to the past -- they refer to the future.
You who are survivors know why the Holocaust must be taught to every generation. You who lost your families to the gas chambers of Europe watch as Jewish cemeteries and synagogues across that continent are defaced and defiled. You who bear the tattoos of death camps hear the leader of Iran declare that the Holocaust is a "myth." You who have found refuge in a Jewish homeland know that tyrants and terrorists have vowed to wipe it from the map. And you who have survived evil know that the only way to defeat it is to look it in the face, and not back down.
It is evil we are now seeing in Sudan -- and we're not going to back down. For 22 years, Sudan was plagued by a civil war between the north and south that claimed more than 2 million lives. That war came to an end in January 2005, when Sudan's government and rebels in the south signed a comprehensive peace agreement that the United States helped to broker. Under this historic accord, Sudan established a Government of National Unity that includes a First Vice President and other cabinet members from the country's south. It also established a government for Southern Sudan that the United States is providing with aid and other assistance.
Unfortunately, just as peace was coming to the south, another conflict broke out in the west -- where rebel groups in Darfur attacked government outposts. To fight this rebellion, the government in Khartoum unleashed a horse-mounted militia called the Janjaweed, which carried out systematic assaults against innocent civilians.
The human toll has been staggering. More than 200,000 people have died from the conflict -- or from the malnutrition and disease that have spread in its wake. And more than 2 million people have been forced from their homes and villages into camps both inside and outside their country.
Ending the violence in Darfur requires better security for the people of Darfur; it requires progress toward political reconciliation. Today, more than 7,000 African Union troops have been deployed to Darfur and they serve courageously. But the problem is the area they patrol is the size of Texas -- 7,000 people is not enough to provide the security the people of Darfur need. Ultimately the violence will continue until Sudan's government and the rebel groups reach a political settlement that includes traditional community leaders, representatives of civil society, and African and Arab tribes in the region.
This museum cannot stop the violence. But through your good work, you're making it impossible for the world to turn a blind eye. Earlier I saw an exhibit that puts faces on the millions of men, women, and children who have been killed or driven into the desert. I also saw an interesting new venture that you've arranged with Google Earth. As a result of this partnership, millions of Internet users around the world will be able to zoom in and see satellite images of the burnt-out villages and mosques and schools. No one who sees these pictures can doubt that genocide is the only word for what is happening in Darfur -- and that we have a moral obligation to stop it.
The United States is helping to lead this effort. Last May, I announced an agreement for Darfur that we helped broker between the Sudanese government and the largest rebel group. It's a positive agreement. It gave us some sense of optimism that we could help stop the genocide. Under this agreement, Sudan's government promised to disarm the Janjaweed and punish all those who violate the cease-fire. The main rebel group agreed to withdraw into specified areas.
In August, the United Nations followed up this agreement with a new Security Council resolution. This resolution authorized the U.N. Mission in Sudan to extend its forces to Darfur -- and to transform the existing AU forces into a larger, better equipped U.N. peacekeeping mission. The U.N. recognized there were not enough forces in Darfur to bring security and peace.
In November, the United Nations, the African Union, the EU, the Arab League, the government of Sudan, the United States, and 12 other nations reached another important agreement at a meeting in Addis Ababa. This agreement strengthened the terms of the cease-fire; it re-energized the political process and called for a joint U.N.-AU peacekeeping force to go into action, a force that would be nearly three times the size of the existing AU force.
These are all good agreements. They represent a clear plan to end the conflict. And if implemented, they would allow the people of Darfur to return home to their villages safely, and begin to rebuild their lives in peace.
Unfortunately, these agreements have been routinely violated. Sudan's government has moved arms to Darfur, conducted bombing raids on villages, they've used military vehicles and aircraft that are painted white -- which makes them look like those deployed by humanitarian agencies and peacekeeping forces.
Many rebel groups have also pursued violence instead of peace. The groups who have not signed onto last May's peace accord have splintered, and they're roaming the Darfur countryside pillaging and stealing at will. They have killed civilians, they've plundered vehicles and plundered supplies from international aid workers, they've added to the lawlessness. The government in Khartoum has been unable to control the problem -- and they made it even worse last fall with a failed military campaign designed to crush the groups.
While there is now a temporary lull in the fighting between the government and militias and rebel groups, millions of displaced people remain highly vulnerable to attack. The increased lawlessness and instability has made it difficult for aid workers to deliver relief to those who need it -- some organizations have been forced to evacuate their staff for safety reasons. Once again, the consequences are being borne by defenseless men, women and children. That is the story being told here at the Holocaust Museum, and I appreciate what you're doing.
The brutal treatment of innocent civilians in Darfur is unacceptable -- it is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to Americans, it's unacceptable to the United Nations -- at least, that's what they've said. This status quo must not continue.
Just this week, Sudan's government reached an agreement with the United Nations to allow 3,000 U.N. troops and their equipment into the country to support the AU force. The world has heard these promises from Sudan before. President Bashir's record has been to promise cooperation while finding new ways to subvert and obstruct the U.N.'s efforts to bring peace to his country. The time for promises is over -- President Bashir must act.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is now in discussions with President Bashir to get the government of Sudan to meet all its commitments. President Bashir should take the last chance by responding to the Secretary General's efforts -- and to meet the just demands of the international community. He must follow through on the deployment of the U.N. support forces. He must allow the deployment of the full, joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force -- and take every necessary step to facilitate its deployment. He must end support for the Janjaweed, he must reach out to the rebel leaders, and allow humanitarian aid to reach the people of Darfur. And he must stop his pattern of obstruction once and for all.
I have made a decision to allow the Secretary General more time to pursue his diplomacy. However, if President Bashir does not fulfill the steps I outlined above in a short period of time, my administration will take the following steps:
First, the Department of the Treasury will tighten U.S. economic sanctions on Sudan. This new effort will allow the United States to enforce more aggressively existing sanctions against Sudan's government, by blocking any of its dollar transactions within the U.S. financial system. As part of this effort, the Treasury Department will add 29 companies owned or controlled by the government of Sudan to its list of Specially Designated Nationals. This designation will bar these companies from the U.S. financial system -- and make it a crime for U.S. -- American companies and individuals to willfully do business with them.
Second, we will also target sanctions against individuals responsible for the violence. These sanctions will isolate designated individuals by cutting them off from the U.S. financial system, preventing them from doing business with any American citizen or company, and calling the world's attention to their crimes.
Third, I will direct the Secretary of State to prepare a new United Nations Security Council resolution. This resolution will apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan -- and 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 Sudan's government from conducting any offensive military flights over Darfur. It will strengthen our ability to monitor and report any violations. And in the next days, we will begin consulting with other Security Council members on the terms of such a resolution.
If Sudan's obstruction continues despite these measures, we will also consider other options. Last week, I sent Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte to the region. He informed Sudan's government and rebel groups that our patience is limited, that we care deeply about the human condition in Darfur, that it matters to the United States that people are suffering. I have spoken in the past about the need to end Sudan's use of military aircraft to attack innocent civilians. We're also are looking at what steps the international community could take to deny Sudan's government the ability to fly its military aircraft over Darfur. And if we do not begin to see signs of good faith and commitments, we will hear calls for even sterner measures.
The situation doesn't have to come to that. I urge the United Nations Security Council and the African Union and all members of the international community to stand behind the Addis Ababa framework and reject efforts to obstruct its implementation. The world needs to act. If President Bashir does not meet his obligations to the United States of America, we'll act. (Applause.)
As we continue to pressure the government of Sudan to meet its commitments, we will continue our engagement in support of the people of Darfur. My administration is increasing support for the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority -- it's an interim authority designed to help the people of Darfur improve local government and build foundations for a healthy economy. We are increasing support for Sudan's First Vice President and the United Nations and African Union special envoys, who are working to bring the rebel groups together and get them to sign on to the peace process.
We're continuing our humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur. Since 2005, the United States has devoted more than $2 billion to humanitarian relief and development -- and I thank the American people for their generosity. We'll continue to bring relief to the people of Darfur. We'll continue to insist that rebel groups and the Sudanese government allow international workers to deliver this relief to the people who depend on it.
All of the people in this room and people in this country have a vital role to play. Everyone ought to raise their voice. We ought to continue to demand that the genocide in Sudan be stopped.
During my tour of the Darfur exhibits this morning, I was shown a photo of a one-year-old girl who had been shot as her mother fled the Janjaweed. Although the mother had tried to protect her baby, it was to no avail. When the photo was taken, an observer nearby began to shout: "This is what they do! This is what happens here! Now you know! Now you see!"
Thanks to the efforts of people in this room, the world knows and the world sees. And now the world must act.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 10:54 A.M. EDT
April 18, 2007
Andrew S. Natsios Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to interact with you on “Ask the White House.” I want to stress that the only U.S. interest in Darfur is a peaceful end to the crisis. Our goals are to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to the millions of people who have been affected by violence. We also seek to promote a negotiated political settlement to the conflict within the framework of the Darfur Peace Agreement; to support deployment of a robust African Union/United Nation hybrid peacekeeping force, and to ensure the successful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended 21 years of civil war between the North and the South.
Alfonso, from Madrid (Spain) writes: What role should Europe play in the dealing of the Darfur problem? Any joint team should be established between the US and Europe to solve the crisis?
Andrew S. Natsios We are working closely with our European allies to bring about an end to the violence in Darfur. As President Bush mentioned in his speech today t at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, the Arab League, the government of Sudan, the United States, and 12 other nations reached another important agreement at a meeting in Addis Ababa last November 2006. Among other things, this agreement called for a joint U.N.-AU peacekeeping force to go into action, a force that would be nearly three times the size of the existing African Union force. We – and our allies in Europe – have called upon Sudanese President Bashir to immediately agree to accept all phases of the hybrid force so peacekeepers can be deployed to help bring about an end to the crisis.
We consult regularly with our allies in Europe at all levels, and I have visited several European capitals to raise the issue of Darfur since I became Special Envoy in September 2006.
Victor, from Las vegas writes: Why has the United States not sent any troops to Darfur? What are we doing to help the people that really need us?
Andrew S. Natsios The United States has been a strong supporter of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) which has about 7,000 peacekeeping troops on the ground. But we – and our allies – know that AMIS needs to be strengthened. That’s why we are insisting that the Sudanese live up to their commitment to accept the United Nation’s Security Council Resolution 1706 which allows for the deployment of an AU-UN peacekeeping force of 20,000 under U.N. command and control. The supports 34 AMIS camps and maintains vehicles and communications equipment. Since 2004, the United States has contributed more than $350 million to AMIS.
Sudan is one of the highest foreign policy priorities of the United States. We are committed to helping the people of Darfur, and we are the leading international donor of humanitarian assistance. We provided over $2.6 billion in aid to Eastern Chad and Sudan between 2005 and 2006, and we are set to continue spending at that pace.
Roy, from Arlington, VA writes: It seems we've waited too long to intervene into these horrific circumstances in the Sudan. Given the role the Chinese play in the region and the interests of America, what can we really do at this point?
Andrew S. Natsios Over the past several years, the United States has been both vocal and active in protecting the lives of civilians in Darfur. During FY 2005 and 2006, the United States spent more than $825 million on humanitarian programs in Darfur and Eastern Chad to provide food, shelter, water, sanitation and other services to protect refugees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups affected by the conflict. We are deeply concerned about the safety of the civilian population and continue to take steps to protect these groups.
Along with humanitarian assistance, the United States has financially supported the deployment of African Union troops to provide physical security throughout Darfur through the construction of base camps and provision of logistical services.
While the US has pressed the Sudanese government directly, we are also working with many other governments to convince Sudan to end the conflict. Regarding your reference to China, I visited Beijing in January of this year and had positive meetings with senior government officials. I believe that the Chinese have been working quietly behind the scenes to prompt Sudan to cooperate with the international community.
We continue to press the Government of Sudan to ensure the protection of the civilian population and the humanitarian agencies in Darfur, to implement the Darfur Peace Agreement reached in May 2006 and to allow a hybrid force of United Nations and African Union troops to operate in Darfur. The UN has just received agreement from Sudan to send 3000 additional UN-AU troops into Darfur to strengthen the existing AU operation. Finally, we are strongly pushing both the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups that have not signed onto the Darfur Peace Agreement to negotiate a political solution to the conflict as this is the only way we will achieve a lasting peace.
Jeffrey, from Hod HaSharon, Israel writes: Dear Mr. Natsios, I am in 10th grade and I am studying in Israel right now for a semester abroad from my school in Los Angeles. We just finished our unit on the Holocaust and we concluded by thinking about modern genocide. There is too much evidence of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. What is the U.S. government doing to prevent the atrocities happening in Sudan right now?
Also-what can I do to help the refugees in Sudan and help evacuate those still stuck there?
Thank you very much, J.R.
Andrew S. Natsios Thanks for your question, J.R. As President Bush said today in his speech at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, “It is evil we are now seeing in Sudan -- and we're not going to back down.” The President stressed that the brutal treatment of innocent civilians in Darfur is unacceptable to him, to Americans, and to the United Nations.
The United States believes that only a political settlement will end the crisis in Darfur. We also need to deploy a robust force of United Nations-African Union international peacekeepers. The President said that the Government of Sudan must act to allow the peacekeepers to deploy. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is now in discussions with President Bashir to get the government of Sudan to meet all its commitments.
If President Bashir does not fulfill the steps that President Bush has outlined above in a short period of time, the United States will tighten economic sanctions on Sudan, including target sanctions against individuals responsible for the violence. In addition, the Secretary of State will prepare a new United Nations Security Council resolution which will apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan.
Matthew, from Wilmington writes: Why has it taken (and still taking) so long for the government to address the situation in Darfur seriously? What, if any, actions have been discussed? How does the White House plan on raising awareness and keeping the public informed?
Andrew S. Natsios The United States has been active in protecting the lives of civilians in Darfur since the start of the conflict. During FY 2005 and 2006, the United States spent more than $825 million on humanitarian programs in Darfur and Eastern Chad to provide food, shelter, water, sanitation and other services to protect refugees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups affected by the conflict. We are deeply concerned about the safety of the civilian population and continue to take steps to protect these groups.
Along with humanitarian assistance, the United States has financially supported the deployment of African Union troops to provide physical security throughout Darfur through the construction of base camps and provision of logistical services.
We continue to press the Government of Sudan to ensure the protection of the civilian population and the humanitarian agencies in Darfur, to implement the Darfur Peace Agreement reached in May 2006 and to allow a hybrid force of United Nations and African Union troops to operate in Darfur. The UN has just received agreement from Sudan that they will accept 3000 additional UN-AU troops in Darfur to strengthen the existing AU operation. Finally, we are strongly pushing both the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups that have not signed onto the Darfur Peace Agreement to negotiate a political solution to the conflict as this is the only way we will achieve a lasting peace.
Matt, from Fair Haven, NJ writes: What are your feelings towards current U.N. inaction towards the Sudan? Is some of the corruption and complacency at the U.N. during the Rwanda Genocide still present at the international body today? Do you have more confidence action will be taken under Ban Ki Moon's leadership?
Andrew S. Natsios The United Nations, under both Kofi Annan and Ban Ki Moon, has been very focused on finding a solution to the conflict in Darfur. I speak regularly with Ban Ki Moon and his Special Envoy for Sudan, Jan Eliasson and have every confidence in their leadership and ability to move forward on finding a solution to end the situation in Darfur.
Sergei, from Pennsburg, Pennsylvania writes: After hearing about reports of thousands of deaths in Sudan region of Darfur would you classify this escalating crisis as "genocide"?
Andrew S. Natsios In December 2006, President Bush stated that our nation is appalled by the genocide in Darfur. In addition, the State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2006 called events in Darfur a genocide. As President Bush said today, “The human toll has been staggering in Darfur. More than 200,000 people have died from the conflict -- or from the malnutrition and disease that have spread in its wake. And more than 2 million people have been forced from their homes and villages into camps both inside and outside their country.”
Ending the violence in Darfur requires better security for the people of Darfur; it requires progress toward political reconciliation. But there continues to be an overall degradation of the security situation due to inter-tribal fighting, sporadic Janjaweed attacks on villages and general banditry and looting.
Against this backdrop, however, there are some small signs of hope and progress. Credible reports from Darfur indicate that there has been a slow, steady decrease in civilian causalities since January 2007 and direct fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and non-signatory rebel groups has virtually ceased in the past months.
Amy, from Tennessee. writes: Why has there been absolutely no news concerning Darfur and other such places? There are children being forced to fight and kill other children. So far the United States has done nothing about it, and if you keep ignoring the problems that are there, there will be no people left. Instead of focusing on the War in Iraq, why not focus on something that has been taking place for longer than the War in Iraq. Why hasn't anything been done to help these people? All they want is to carry on with their lives in a SAFE environment, and so far, that hasn't been shown to them.
Andrew S. Natsios The United States has been actively engaged in Sudan and Darfur for many years. In fact, the United States helped broker the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South Sudan, ending 21 years of civil war. That agreement was signed in January 2005.
The American people are providing more humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur than any other country. Last year, the U.S. Agency for International Development provided more than 50 percent of the food aid for Darfur. Each month, 40,000 metric tons of food aid is sent to Darfur.
Thanks in part to the United States, brave humanitarian workers in Darfur has done a remarkable job of providing life-saving assistance to more than 2.5 million Internally Displaced People in Darfur and eastern Chad.
All of us would welcome additional news coverage of events in Sudan so the American people can see what is going on there. But journalists – like some humanitarian workers – have had problems with gaining access to the region. And the Government of Sudan has harassed humanitarian relief workers by imposing bureaucratic obstacles.
Steve, from Tallahassee, FL writes: Do you support the efforts of some in Congress to require divestiture from the Sudan?
Andrew S. Natsios As I told the Senate Foreign Committee last week, there is a great deal of concern about divestiture legislation. There are several reasons for it. My concern about it personally is from our past experience with divestiture legislation, it would take a couple of years before it had an effect, and we don't have a couple of years. Divestiture legislation is not going to have an effect on the Sudanese economy in the next year, even if it passed immediately, was immediately enforced. It will take a while. We don't have a while. There is a reluctance to support this because allowing each state and municipality to conduct their own foreign policy could create chaotic conditions.
There is now a Supreme Court ruling that has three conditions for any state or municipality to do divestiture, and it's a hard standard. And I think one statute in Illinois has already been ruled unconstitutional.
Andrew S. Natsios Our objectives are to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to the millions of people who have been displaced from their homes and affected by violence in Darfur; to promote a negotiated, political settlement to the conflict that is agreed to by all parties and to support the deployment of an AU/UN hybrid international, peacekeeping force to protect civilians and ensure continued humanitarian access, and to ensure the successful implementation of the North/South CPA.
For Immediate Release April 18, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino White House Conference Center Briefing Room 12:38 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: I have a few announcements, and then we'll get ready to answer your questions.
The President and Mrs. Bush were greatly moved at the ceremony yesterday in honor of the Virginia Tech students. They offered the prayers and support of a grieving nation. They spent a lot of time with many family members, family of the victims who had lost their lives. He also met with at least one person who had been shot, but had survived. And one of the things that the President and Mrs. Bush said to them is that they should know that the power of prayer is strong, that there are people all across the world that they will never meet who are praying for them and that they should take comfort in that.
One note that I wanted to highlight is something that Mrs. Bush said yesterday, and I think it's important -- possibly some of your children have said -- but we have heard reports that children are concerned about their own safety at their own schools after seeing some of this coverage. And Mrs. Bush asked everyone -- parents, teachers, friends of these children -- to make sure that they know that they're very loved and that there are many people working to ensure their safety at their school.
Q What happened behind the President yesterday?
MS. PERINO: I will answer some questions after a moment; I have a few announcements.
I do have a statement by the President on the Supreme Court decision upholding the partial birth abortion ban -- we will release this in a moment, but I will read it for you. This is from the President:
"I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld a law that prohibits the abhorrent procedure of partial birth abortion. Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives, enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America. The partial birth abortion ban, which an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress passed and I signed into law, represents a commitment to building a culture of life in America.
"The Supreme Court's decision is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life. We will continue to work for the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law."
Later today, at 2:30 p.m. -- I hope you all got the note that we are going to open the President's meeting with the bicameral-bipartisan leadership on the Iraq war supplemental -- it will be pool at the top. The President looks forward to the congressional leadership coming to this meeting today. The troops desperately need the money.
We also look forward to Speaker Pelosi appointing conferees so that the committees -- I'm sorry -- so that the two Houses can get their differences worked out and send a bill to the President's desk. The President will veto a bill that handcuffs our generals, that includes arbitrary dates for withdrawal, or needless and wasteless [sic] spending. It's been 72 days since the President first sent up his request for this money, and the longer that Speaker Pelosi delays in appointing conferees, the worse it gets for our troops.
And finally, the United States Senate today voted to end consideration of legislation that would have had the government negotiate and set prices for prescription drugs available to America's seniors. The Senate made the right decision to do so. When the Congressional Budget Office weighed in this year and last year, they said that, at best, it would do no good. Our view is that it has the potential to do considerable harm, likely resulting in limiting access to necessary drugs for our seniors.
The Medicare prescription drug program is successfully delivering more drugs at cheaper prices than anyone predicted. And if a bill, such as the one that they were contemplating today were to make its way to the President's desk, he would veto it.
I also would encourage anyone who is interested in this story to look at Secretary Leavitt's open letter to America and America's seniors on this. It's got a lot of good points in it.
Q What's the President's strategy for his meeting with congressional leaders today? Is he open to any talk of compromise, or is he just going to hear what they say and insist on a clean bill?
MS. PERINO: The President looks forward to having the members come down -- that's why he invited them. I think one of the things that he is looking forward to hearing is how the Democrats have decided to compromise amongst themselves first so that he knows what their position is. They have several different positions, and as you can imagine, that's really difficult to negotiate with anybody if you don't know where someone stands.
The President has laid out clear principles, and he will be able to give some remarks at the top of the meeting. And then, of course, as you know, I'm sure the members will make their way out to the stakeout afterwards.
Q I mean, there are differences. Both the Senate and the House have passed bills, though, and both of them have some form of a withdrawal deadline, timetable. And that's unacceptable --
MS. PERINO: And here's the point on that, which is that the President has said he will not accept a bill that has an artificial timetable -- time line, deadline for withdrawal, a forced retreat, a legislative failure for our troops. He's not going to do that for our troops, and he's not going to do it to the Iraqis, or for the region, and for the safety of the American public.
The Democrats have said that they will not vote to cut off funding for the troops. And yet, they can't come to an agreement amongst themselves as to how to get a clean bill to the President. So the President is saying, negotiate amongst yourselves first; if you need to send me a bill that I have to veto, I will do it, reluctantly. But that's going to be his position. And so it's the Democrats that need to negotiate amongst themselves first before coming and asking the President to change his positions.
Q But to pick up on that, once they have negotiated among themselves and have a unified position --
MS. PERINO: Well, let's see what that is.
Q -- then they can negotiate with the President?
MS. PERINO: You're asking me a hypothetical situation.
Q No, no, no, they will -- let's say that they have a coherent --
MS. PERINO: Well, that's hypothetical. It's speculative. I don't -- I would like to see if they would come forward and have a position before we talk about anything that would tie the generals' hands or have a deadline for withdrawal.
Q But the way you're stating this leads to --
MS. PERINO: Well, what I've said for many days is that I'm not going to negotiate anything from this podium. I'm going to let them have a meeting.
Q I'm just asking you to finish your thought.
MS. PERINO: I finished my thought.
Q With an incomplete thought, an incomplete sentence?
MS. PERINO: No, I thought it was complete.
All right, Kelly.
Q Earlier this week, the President made his concerns known, with military families surrounding him and members of the military and veterans. Earlier today, the Democratic leadership had some military family members with them as they gave an opposing view. Does the President think there's a point at which military families or veterans should not become the faces of this debate?
MS. PERINO: Well, he has said before that -- and I think it was on Monday, in which he said that this is a debate, we have healthy debate in America, we have a job to do in terms of getting the funds to the troops, but that he does not believe that the troops should be caught in the middle of the debate.
The families that the President met with and talked to on Monday are only a sampling of some of the ones that he hears from, in which they ask him to please not let their sons or daughters who have died over there in Iraq or in Afghanistan -- for their mission to go unfulfilled. They are reassured by the President that he is not going to let their death be in vain.
The Army and the rest of the Department of Defense have made it very clear that there are consequences to not getting this money now. And therefore, the President is going to hold the Democrats' feet to the fire and get them to come to a position. It's been 72 days; they didn't even appoint conferees. Time is wasting, and so he's going to ask them to get together and get a bill to his desk.
Q Some Democrats will surely say that the soldiers and relatives of troops with them today are only a sampling of those they hear from, and that they are telling them that we need to begin the process of pulling out of Iraq. I want to ask Kelly's question again -- is it unseemly that the troops should be props, if you will, in this debate?
MS. PERINO: Well, I can assure you that this President doesn't think of any soldier or sailor, or any man or woman that's in uniform as a prop. He is worried about their welfare. He wants to ensure that their mission -- that they have all that they need to complete their mission, and that they are properly trained, and that they have the amount of support that they need back here at home, plus there on the battlefield. And so I do think that it was appropriate for the President to talk with those families -- just as I'm sure that the Democrats feel that it's appropriate for them, as well.
No doubt that there is -- war is a highly charged, emotional debate, and there are many people who would like the American troops to come home immediately. The President wants them to come home when the mission is finished and when the conditions are right on the ground to make sure that the horrific violence, such as we see today happening in Baghdad, can subside.
Q I'd like to ask you a question about the speech the President gave today. What's the time frame to impose sanctions on Sudan?
MS. PERINO: Well, the President said, soon. And I don't have a number of days to attach to that, but he said it must be soon that President Bashir comply with the demands of the international community, or he will move forward with the steps that he said.
Q This isn't a new threat. Sanctions have been threatened before.
MS. PERINO: These would be additional.
Q Right, but how long? What does "soon" mean?
MS. PERINO: He said -- well, I don't have a date for you. And I think what he would like to see is -- we hope it doesn't have to come to us imposing any more sanctions or any other measures against the government. We want Bashir to follow through on what he has said he is going to do. He hasn't in the past, and the President is skeptical, but we're going to give it a chance to work out. But I can assure you that it won't be for very long before the President takes the next steps.
Q What's his level of awareness about the pressure and the impatience of human rights groups, like the ones that put full-page ads in major papers today?
MS. PERINO: The President hears from a lot of people, but I can tell you that he is deeply concerned, he is personally concerned; many of you have heard him express that privately and publicly. And he thinks about it a lot. I think that the pressure that the groups are putting on is known, but I think that it only is an additional factor, given the President's personal concern about it.
Q Dana, also on Sudan, when the President said that if President Bashir does not follow the steps that President Bush has laid out that the United States could take other measures, aside from the sanctions, was he referring to a military option on Sudan?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't believe so. I think that the President believes that this can be worked out diplomatically. However, what the President said is that, hopefully, Bashir will comply with the agreement that he just said he would comply with. There is skepticism amongst the administration as to whether or not he will actually do that, based on previous experience.
I'm not going to rule anything in or out; I have not heard that discussed in terms of military options. But I can assure you that the President is serious about possible new sanctions, both against companies and individuals. And in addition to that, he has directed Secretary Rice to work on a new U.N. Security Council resolution. And in the coming days Secretary Rice will confer with the other members and see what the next step is.
Q Can I get your reaction to something Admiral Fallon said today when he was before the House Armed Services Committee?
MS. PERINO: I haven't seen it.
Q He was talking about Iraq, and he said, "I believe that the things I see on a daily basis give me some cause for optimism. But I'll tell you that there is hardly a week that goes by, certainly a day that doesn't go by, without some major event that also causes us to lose ground." What's your reaction to that? You have a military man talking about events going --
MS. PERINO: I think that is consistent with what we have said, which is that there are extremely difficult and dangerous situation right now in Iraq, and especially in Baghdad. You see the bombings today. I don't have an official death count, but obviously it is entirely too high. Every life is precious. That includes all the innocent Iraqis, the men, women and children who are defenseless against a barbaric enemy. And as General Petraeus and others have said is that there are small signs of hope that the Baghdad security plan would be able to reduce the violence enough so that the Maliki government can get reconciliation in order to bring a more peaceful existence for the Iraqis.
But we have also said that it's going to be very challenging along the way. We've had higher death tolls amongst our soldiers and Marines, and I think that you can expect that that will continue, because the enemy knows how determined we are, and they are just as determined. And I think anybody who thinks that this enemy is tired, they are mistaken. This is a very determined enemy. They are watching what we are doing and what we are saying, and it's critically important that we finish the job in Iraq.
Q But it doesn't sound that hopeful, when you talk about a military man saying --
MS. PERINO: It's going to take -- it's going to take a long time before we can finish out this new Baghdad security plan, as General Petraeus has said. I think only about half of the additional troops that we wanted to send in have arrived. He said it's going to be several --
Q Why is it taking so long on that point?
MS. PERINO: I think it just takes a little while to get troops moved.
Q Do you have anything more on why it's taking so long?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't, you'll have to ask DOD.
Go ahead, Mark.
Q Sorry, Dana. At the outset, you said the troops desperately need the money. Are U.S. troops in Iraq desperate for lack of money?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that the Department of Defense has articulated the measures that they'd have to take because they don't have the money, and those have been well laid out by the Department of Defense. And they said that this is very difficult for the troops. It's difficult for the Department of Defense to move money around. And it's really unfortunate that the political debate is getting in the way of allowing the troops to have what they need. I think the political debate is going to happen, regardless, but as the President said, the troops shouldn't be caught in the middle.
Q Dana, back on Sudan.
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q For decades, there's been fighting. Sanctions have already been placed against the Sudanese government. What more can new sanctions do, realistically, if they've already been in this spiraling conflict and sanctions and disapproval for years? What more will this do?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that we've shown that, as a diplomatic tool, economic sanctions can be very powerful. And it puts a lot of pressure on a government. And so it's just one of the many diplomatic tools that you can use in order to help effect a behavior change.
Q So what sanctions do you think will bring a change that you didn't have before? What new will make them allow AU troops or other troops to come in to bring peace? What new?
MS. PERINO: Well, as the President said, he would allow for targeting of 29 companies, and then some individuals. I'm not going to give you any detail on that. One, I don't have it, and it wouldn't be prudent for me to do so. While Bashir has this time that he's been given in order to comply, we want to make sure that that program stays intact.
Q The White House said in other situations that military options are not necessarily off the table. You said you wanted to do a diplomatic approach, but is there a possibility that this administration could take military action, air strikes against Sudanese interests, possibly?
MS. PERINO: As you know, the President's position is that no Commander-in-Chief or head of state should take that option off of the table. But it's not anything that I hear being actively discussed.
Q Two quick questions. One, as far as the school shooting is concerned, my heart goes out and my condolence for the families.
MS. PERINO: Absolutely.
Q -- in fact, from Washington to New Delhi, because among the dead at least one Indian student and also a professor from India.
MS. PERINO: Yes, professor.
Q My question is that now there's a feel among the students not only here, but across the globe, including in India, those who want to come for the higher education here. What do you think the President will have a message for them now?
MS. PERINO: I know Sean McCormack got asked this question yesterday at the State Department, and I think it's one that not only people around the world are asking, but I'm sure that parents who are encouraging their children to go to college, and that they have it on their minds, too. Again, I would just try to assure that there people who are working very hard to make sure that places are safe. Unfortunately, there are individuals who, if they are determined to perpetuate violence and to kill people, that they have ways of doing that. And as the facts unfold in this case, we're just learning a lot more about this individual's background and behavior.
What was your second one, quickly?
Q Second one, as far as the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement is concerned, it still is not finalized by the U.S. Congress because there are some questions by the Indian government, which is not recognizing or not agreeing to some of the conditions set by the agreement. My question is -- and also last week, India tested a missile. You think testing a missile last week, and also two Indians were arrested two weeks ago --
MS. PERINO: I don't know of any of that being related. I do know that we're working very hard with the Indian government to get the deal completed.
Q Do you think anything on the way as far as this deal is concerned, all these issues are concerned?
MS. PERINO: I don't think there's any connection.
Go ahead, Olivier.
Q Dana, two on Sudan. The first is -- I don't have the wording exactly in front of me, but the President talked about supporting or exploring ways to deny the Sudanese government the ability to use war planes in Darfur. Was that a reference to an international no-fly zone?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to let the details of that work itself out. Hopefully it won't even come to that, but when there's more to announce, we would announce it. But again, I would stress that hopefully Bashir will follow through on his commitments.
Q Okay. And Tony Blair now says the first discussions on this new resolution will be tomorrow at the U.N. But Russian and Chinese diplomats are already saying it's a non-starter. Was there any effort out of the White House to reach out to either Moscow or Beijing to get some sense of where they were, or to canvas their support before coming out today and saying --
MS. PERINO: I'll check into it. I'm sure that the State Department was in contact with their officials.
Q The critics of the Supreme Court decision today say that this is a case in which the new formation of the Court is taking away Americans' liberties, some of their rights. What does the President say to critics who don't like the change in what they see as --
MS. PERINO: Did they say that last week when the Supreme Court rules on the greenhouse gases issue? They didn't. So I think that the Supreme Court -- they decide and we all follow. And I think that that's what people will have to recognize.
Q Does the President think this is a trend, since this is the first such decision since Roe v. Wade?
MS. PERINO: I haven't heard that from him, no.
Q In his speech on Monday, the President said, "Families gathered here understand that our troops want to finish the job." What evidence does he actually have for that? Because there doesn't seem to be any polling data whatsoever to support the idea that the troops do want to stay and finish the job rather than go home.
MS. PERINO: Victoria, I think that there are many troops and there are many families, and the President hears it personally from them, asking to make sure that the President stays strong and completes the mission.
Q The only polling data there seems to be is an Army Times poll that came out last December, which seems to show, really, that the doubts are whether the troops actually feel that they could finish the job and whether they wanted to finish it.
MS. PERINO: I'm not familiar with that poll. I do know that the President feels confident that when he describes what he hears from the troops, that he's being as forthcoming as he can with the American people. And you just have to -- I think that a lot of it could be anecdotal, but I'm not a polling expert and we don't, as you know, make decisions based on polls.
Q So this isn't based on any empirical data; this is based on people he's spoken with?
MS. PERINO: I think people he's spoken with, generals he hears from that are over there on the ground, people that he talks to. I mean, he talks to many outside experts. Yes, I think that he feels very comfortable that the troops, families of the troops believe that this mission should be completed.
Q I was wondering why you think that the House Democrats have not moved forward with conferees? Do you think they just can't reach an agreement or --
MS. PERINO: I don't know. You'll have to ask the Speaker's office. It's unfathomable. It's nothing I can explain for them -- I wish I could.
Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions. How does the President believe it will help -- how long does the President believe it will be before the lack of a funding plan for the military in Iraq starts costing lives?
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, how long does he think it will be?
Q -- believe it will be before the lack of a funding plan for the military in Iraq starts costing lives.
MS. PERINO: Costing lives --
Q Of our servicemen.
MS. PERINO: Let me just say that the Department of Defense has said that this is creating hardships for the military to do its job. They need the resources now.
Q What does the President think of the gun control rule which prohibited guns on the campus of Virginia Tech?
MS. PERINO: I haven't spoken to him about that specifically. I do know as governor he supported weapons-free school zones.
Q He supported?
MS. PERINO: When he was governor of Texas, yes.
Q And he thinks that this was effective at Virginia Tech?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment about -- obviously, the investigation is ongoing at Virginia Tech.
Q Dana, what happened yesterday when President Bush was helping the person directly behind him?
MS. PERINO: That individual was a father who lost his only daughter, and he was overcome with grief. He shared with the President later that he hadn't eaten or had anything to drink for many hours, and it was quite warm in the gym. He fainted briefly. And then the President did see him afterwards, when he met with the families in the gym, and they shared good fellowship and lots of hugs and had a nice time talking to one another.
Q As everyone is looking back at what could have happened, what should have happened, is the President somewhat taking a look to say maybe this could have been prevented, or maybe this child should not have had -- this young man should not have had a gun, because of certain laws?
MS. PERINO: I think what the President thinks is that, in this time of mourning and grieving and thinking about the aftermath of one individual's actions, that it's only natural that you think about what led to such a tragedy and how to prevent one in the future.
Q Are you thinking -- is he thinking about changing or stepping up gun control issues?
MS. PERINO: As I said yesterday, I think that there's going to be a debate. The President said there's going to be a debate, and it's one that we have in our country about the right to bear arms, as well as gun control policies. In addition to that, I think one of the things that we're learning out of this investigation, as we have from many of the others, is that there are some individuals who are disaffected in society, lonely, and we have to figure out as a society how to identify those individuals and get them help prior to them having -- going on a rampage and killing all this innocent life.
Q When General Pace talked about some evidence that Iran may be supplying weapons in Afghanistan, in addition to Iraq, does the President think this is a spread of Iranian influence, or something that they've just been able to identify now?
MS. PERINO: I have not spoken to the President about it. What I would be able to say is that Iran obviously is trying to spread its elbows out and have more influence in the region, and not anything good. They are a state sponsor of terror, and the more they sponsor terrorism, the more innocent life is ruined. And this is -- and these are people that are -- the people that are in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places that are dealing with the aftermath of the Iranians providing such weapons are people who are dying -- they are innocent people who are dying. It is tragic, and the pressure that we need to put on Iran is very real.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Thanks. END 1:04 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 17, 2007
President Bush Offers Condolences at Virginia Tech Memorial Convocation Cassell Coliseum Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Virginia 2:36 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Governor, thank you. President Steger, thank you very much. Students, and faculty, and staff, and grieving family members, and members of this really extraordinary place.
Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow. This is a day of mourning for the Virginia Tech community -- and it is a day of sadness for our entire nation. We've come to express our sympathy. In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you, and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected.
Yesterday began like any other day. Students woke up, and they grabbed their backpacks and they headed for class. And soon the day took a dark turn, with students and faculty barricading themselves in classrooms and dormitories -- confused, terrified, and deeply worried. By the end of the morning, it was the worst day of violence on a college campus in American history -- and for many of you here today, it was the worst day of your lives.
It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering. Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they're gone -- and they leave behind grieving families, and grieving classmates, and a grieving nation.
In such times as this, we look for sources of strength to sustain us. And in this moment of loss, you're finding these sources everywhere around you. These sources of strength are in this community, this college community. You have a compassionate and resilient community here at Virginia Tech. Even as yesterday's events were still unfolding, members of this community found each other; you came together in dorm rooms and dining halls and on blogs. One recent graduate wrote this: "I don't know most of you guys, but we're all Hokies, which means we're family. To all of you who are okay, I'm happy for that. For those of you who are in pain or have lost someone close to you, I'm sure you can call on anyone of us and have help any time you need it."
These sources of strength are with your loved ones. For many of you, your first instinct was to call home and let your moms and dads know that you were okay. Others took on the terrible duty of calling the relatives of a classmate or a colleague who had been wounded or lost. I know many of you feel awfully far away from people you lean on and people you count on during difficult times. But as a dad, I can assure you, a parent's love is never far from their child's heart. And as you draw closer to your own families in the coming days, I ask you to reach out to those who ache for sons and daughters who will never come home.
These sources of strength are also in the faith that sustains so many of us. Across the town of Blacksburg and in towns all across America, houses of worship from every faith have opened their doors and have lifted you up in prayer. People who have never met you are praying for you; they're praying for your friends who have fallen and who are injured. There's a power in these prayers, real power. In times like this, we can find comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God. As the Scriptures tell us, "Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
And on this terrible day of mourning, it's hard to imagine that a time will come when life at Virginia Tech will return to normal. But such a day will come. And when it does, you will always remember the friends and teachers who were lost yesterday, and the time you shared with them, and the lives they hoped to lead. May God bless you. May God bless and keep the souls of the lost. And may His love touch all those who suffer and grieve. (Applause.) END 2:45 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 16, 2007
President Bush Shocked, Saddened by Shootings at Virginia Tech Diplomatic Reception Room 4:01 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Our nation is shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech today. The exact total has not yet been confirmed, but it appears that more than 30 people were killed and many more were wounded.
I've spoken with Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community who have been devastated by this terrible tragedy. I told them that my administration would do everything possible to assist with the investigation, and that I pledged that we would stand ready to help local law enforcement and the local community in any way we can during this time of sorrow.
Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community.
Today, our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts, we lift them up in our prayers, and we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering today.
Thank you. END 4:03 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 16, 2007
President Bush Discusses the Iraq War Supplemental The East Room 11:00 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Welcome to the White House. You know, I get to welcome a lot of guests here. I don't think there's a more important guest than a veteran or the family of a serviceman or woman, or the families of those whose loved one has given their life to the country. And so I welcome an incredibly important group of guests. And thank you for coming, and thank you for your time.
I appreciate very much to be in the presence of moms and dads, husbands and wives, sons and daughters of some of the finest citizens our nation has ever produced. I want to thank the leaders of organizations that support our military families. I appreciate your tireless work to send a clear signal that many in the United States of America support our troops. Each of you knows what is stake -- what is at stake in this war on terror. And I appreciate your efforts to rally our nation to support our troops, and to support the mission for which they have risked and, in some cases, have given their lives. I thank you for coming. Thanks for your service to the United States of America.
Many of the families here today have relatives serving in harm's way. Others have lost loved ones in the struggle. They have come here to Washington with a message for their elected leaders in our nation's capital: Our troops need the resources, equipment and weapons to fight our enemies. Congress needs to pass an emergency war spending bill, without strings and without further delay.
On Wednesday, I will meet with congressional leaders from both parties right here at the White House. I'm going to pass on your message to them.
I appreciate members of the Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission. Thanks for doing what you do. I want to thank the members of the Armed Forces Foundation, and those who serve with our Veterans Service Organizations.
A time of war is a time of sacrifice for our nation, but especially for our military families. Being left behind when a loved one goes to war is one of the hardest jobs in our military. The families here today inspire our nation -- inspire them with their sense of duty and with their deep devotion to our country.
The families gathered here understand that we are a nation at war. Like me, they wish we weren't at war -- but we are. They know that the enemies who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001 want to bring further destruction to our country. They know that the only way to stop them is to stay on the offense, to fight the extremists and radicals where they live, so we don't have to face them where we live.
The families gathered here understand that our troops want to finish the job. Today, because of email and instant messaging and other modern technologies, our military families are able to stay in contact with their loved ones overseas. I see some baby boomers out there; when they wore our uniform you never would have imagined emailing a loved one in the midst of your time overseas. But that's what's happening today. Families here know what our troops are seeing and hearing on the ground, they get instant feedback as a result of modern technologies. And they know better than anyone our troops' desire to succeed and their determination to prevail.
Families gathered here understand that America is not going to be safe until the terrorist threat has been defeated. If we do not defeat the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they won't leave us alone -- they will follow us to the United States of America. That's what makes this battle in the war on terror so incredibly important. One of the lessons of September the 11th is what happens overseas matters to the security of the United States of America, and we must not forget that lesson.
The consequences of failure in Iraq would be death and destruction in the Middle East and here in America. To protect our citizens at home, we must defeat the terrorists. We defeat them by staying on the offense and we defeat them by helping young democracies defeat their ideology of hate. And it's hard work. But it is necessary work, and thousands of men and women who wear our uniform understand the stakes.
It's a remarkable country, isn't it, where people stand up and volunteer to serve the United States in uniform during a time of war. And, yet, that's who we honor here today.
We must give our men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to prevail. Providing these resources is the responsibility of the United States Congress. And that is why, 70 days ago, I sent Congress an emergency war spending bill that would provide the vital funds our troops urgently need. But instead of approving this funding, Democrats in Congress have spent the past 70 days pushing legislation that would undercut our troops. They passed bills in the House and the Senate that would impose restrictions on our military commanders. They set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq. And they spend billions of dollars on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war. After passing these unacceptable bills, House and Senate leaders then chose to leave town for spring recess, without resolving their differences or sending any legislation to my desk.
As Congress delays, the clock is ticking for our troops. Last week, Secretary of Defense Gates wrote to Congress, laying out the consequences of their failure to pass emergency spending for our troops on the front lines. He warned that because Congress has not acted, "The Army will soon begin reducing quality of life initiatives, reducing the repair and maintenance of equipment necessary for deployment training, and curtailing the training of Army Guard and Reserve units within the United States, reducing their readiness levels." He continued that if emergency funding is not received by mid-May, "the Army will have to consider further actions, to include reducing the pace of equipment overhaul work at Army depots, curtailing training rotations for brigade combat teams currently scheduled for overseas deployment," a step that that the Secretary said, "would likely require the further extension of currently deployed forces." In other words, there are consequences for Congress' delay in getting our troops that the Defense Department has requested.
Congress' failure to fund our troops will mean that the readiness of our forces will suffer. This is unacceptable to me; it's unacceptable to you, and it's unacceptable to the vast majority of the American people.
Listen, I understand Republicans and Democrats in Washington have differences over the best course in Iraq. That's healthy. That's normal. And we should debate those differences. But our troops should not be caught in the middle. Last week, the Senate returned to Washington, and this week the House has returned, as well. I've invited congressional leaders of both parties to meet me at the White House two days from today. That's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to talk out our differences. I'm looking forward to the meeting. I hope the Democratic leadership will drop their unreasonable demands for a precipitous withdrawal. We've only committed about a little over half of our troops into a decision I made to help secure the Iraqi capital -- and, yet, there are some saying we ought to leave before we get there.
I think it is wrong for Congress to restrict our military commanders. I can understand having a difference of opinion about Iraq, but our commanders need the flexibility necessary to meet the mission. We should not be substituting political judgment for the judgment of those in our military. And the idea of putting, you know, peanut storage -- which may be necessary at some point in time; I don't know, I haven't analyzed the peanut storage issue, but I do know it doesn't have much to do with about making sure your loved ones get what's needed to do their job.
I am willing to discuss any way forward that does not hamstring our troops, set an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and spend billions on projects not related to the war. The American people expect their leaders in Washington to find common ground; but they also expect the Congress and the White House to work together to make sure our troops get funded quickly. We should not legislate defeat in this vital war.
We owe it to our men and women in uniform to give them the full support. It's important as people debate this issue to think about somebody like Merrilee Carlson, with us today. She's a Gold Star Mom. Two years ago, Merrilee's son, Michael, gave his life in Iraq when his platoon was on a night mission to take out two terrorist bomb-making factories. As they approached their target, they passed over a culvert that gave way, and their Bradley fighting vehicle plunged into the water and Michael and four others in the vehicle died that day.
Michael penned a high school essay before he joined the Army. This is what he wrote: "I want my life to account for something. Everyone eventually loses their life. I have only so much time. I want to fight for something, be a part of something greater than myself. I want to be a soldier or something of that caliber." He became a soldier, he gave his life for something greater than himself. And now his mom and dad have one just demand, and that is to make sure that Michael's sacrifice is not in vain.
We owe it to the Carlson family, we owe it to other Gold Star families here today, to complete the mission for which their loved ones gave their lives. We owe it to a future generation of Americans to help secure peace. We owe it to the American people to make this nation safer. The most solemn obligation of the government and Washington is to provide security for the American people and to protect them from harm.
We owe it to the brave Iraqis. I just spoke to the Prime Minister; I told him I was coming to see you. He said, please thank the people in the White House for their sacrifices and we will continue to work hard to be an ally in this war on terror. We'll continue to do the hard work necessary to help change the conditions that caused 19 young men to get on airplanes to come and kill thousands of our citizens on September the 11th.
We owe it to every sailor, soldier, airman, Marine in harm's way to give them the tools they need to prevail. That's what we owe them.
As we saw with last week's brutal attack on the Iraqi parliament, our troops face depraved and determined enemies -- enemies that could just as easily come here to kill us. And, therefore, we must give our men and women in uniform the best equipment, the best training, and the unqualified support of our nation.
Congress needs to put the partisanship on hold; it needs to get rid of all the politics right now and send me an emergency war spending bill that I can sign that gets our troops the support they need and gives our commanders the flexibility they need to complete this mission.
I appreciate you coming. God bless. (Applause.) END 11:13 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Vice President April 15, 2007
Interview of the Vice President by Bob Schieffer on CBS News "Face the Nation" Taped April 14, 2007 9:19 A.M. EDT
Q And the Vice President joins us now in the studio. Welcome, Mr. Vice President. I must say, hearing those comments from you, this does not sound like an administration that's in a mood to compromise here, which leads me to ask you, why is the President asking the congressional leaders to come to the White House? Does he want to talk to them? Is he looking for a compromise? Or is he just going to call them there and dress them down?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we're trying to work out the procedures here, obviously, to get the bill passed, the urgent war supplemental. It's absolutely essential we have it. It's for the troops, troops who are in the field or in combat every day. And the process has already run on far too long. We're already some 70 days since the President made this request.
What needs to be worked out is we need a decision, basically, from the Congress whether or not they're going to take the two bills that have now passed the House and Senate and send -- clean them up and send them down to the President in a fashion that he would find acceptable, with no limitations on the forces in Iraq and without all the pork that's in it. Then he'll get a bill he can sign and we can get on with our business.
On the other hand, if they're going to insist on those bills containing those provisions that were in both the House and Senate bill, he'll veto it. And it's important, I think, to have that heart to heart, everybody understand where everybody is.
Now, some of the leadership on the other side have suggested they won't pass any bill at all, or Harry Reid now has said he's adamantly opposed to any funding for the troops. On the other hand, Carl Levin, who is Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has indicated they definitely do want to pass funding for the troops, even if they don't have the votes to override the President's veto on the limitation provisions and on the pork that's in the bill.
Q I guess what struck me, though, about your speech was, I mean, you started out by calling these congressional leaders irresponsible. And I wonder, how does that set the stage for productive talks?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's important they know where we stand. And the fact of the matter is, I do believe that the positions that the Democratic leaders have taken, to a large extent now, are irresponsible. Harry Reid last fall said -- this was after the November elections -- that he would not support an effort to cut off funding for the troops. Then he changed that position to one in which he would support an effort to cut off funding for the troops, place limitations on the funding. And now he's to the point where he's saying he's going to support legislation that cuts all funding for the troops. He's done a complete 180 from where he was, in five months.
I think that is irresponsible. I think he cannot make the basic fundamental decisions that have to be made, with respect to the nation's security, given everything that's at stake in the war on terror and what we're doing in Iraq and with 140,000 American troops in the field in Iraq, in combat, every day, and call that kind of rapid changes in position anything other than irresponsible.
Q Well, serious people can have disagreements over serious things, and this is certainly a serious thing. Are you saying it's irresponsible to disagree with this administration on how to prosecute this war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, but I -- there are members out there who didn't support the war in the first place and have been consistent over time. And that's certainly their prerogative if they want to do that.
I would say, for example, that there's a problem of consistency, if you will, if on the one hand, you vote unanimously to confirm Dave Petraeus as the new commanding general in Iraq, and then try to pass resolutions that deny him the resources he said during the course of his confirmation hearings he had to have in order to accomplish his mission. That's the proposition that we've seen now develop in the Senate, where they did, in fact, vote unanimously -- not one single negative vote on confirming him for that post, but then sending him out to take on this major assignment, turn right around and try to adopt legislation that, in effect, would tie his hands.
Q How long can this standoff go on before the combat units start to run out of money?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the way it will work, the Defense Department has some flexibility, in terms of reprogramming and so forth, but it begins to bite fairly early on. I mean, the concerns that have been expressed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and by Pete Schoomaker, who is the retiring Chief of Staff of the Army, that if we don't get money flowing here shortly, say by the end of this month, it will begin to have an impact. What happens is, you have to pull money out of other accounts in order to fund the forces in combat, but it affects everything from training and readiness here at home of units before they deploy; it affects our work of our depots that are heavily involved in refurbishing equipment that's been heavily used and needs to be refurbished before it can be used again. It begins to have a significant impact in a relatively short period of time on the forces.
And again, remember, we asked for this over two months ago. It is an urgent supplemental; it needs to be passed right away. Instead, it's become a vehicle, if you will, for the other party to try to load a bunch of provisions on it that we think are unwise.
Q If the President has to choose between funding the war and a timetable for withdrawal, what happens? What does he do?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the President has the --
Q I mean, obviously, I know he's going to veto it the first time around --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, he will.
Q -- but what happens after that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think the Congress will pass clean legislation. I think there are enough Democrats on the other side of the aisle who they may support the provisions that were written in in the House and Senate, but if they don't have the votes to override the President's veto, that they will not leave the troops in the field without the resources they need to be able to carry out their mission.
Q But what if they don't do that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm willing to bet the other way, that, in fact, they will. I don't think -- there may be some people who are so irresponsible that they wouldn't support that, but I think the fact of the matter is that the majority of Democrats on the other side of the aisle, once they've gone through the exercise and it's clear the President will veto the provisions that they want in, that they don't have the votes to override, then they will, in fact, give us the bill that's absolutely essential. I don't think that a majority of the Democrats in the Congress want to leave America's fighting forces in harm's way without the resources they need to defend themselves.
Q But a majority of Americans do want a timetable for withdrawal.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, also we've got a majority who, I think, would prefer to have us win. And there's a fundamental debate going on here, in terms of whether or not our objective in Iraq is to "withdraw," or whether our objective in Iraq is to complete the mission. And I think a majority of Americans would prefer the latter, if we can get it done.
Now, it's tough. It's no question it's a very difficult assignment. But we've got a new commander in the field, we've got a good strategy in place, and I think we will see positive results.
Q Mr. Vice President, we also have a terrible situation going on right now, and that's what I want to ask you about. How do you explain what's happening now? I mean, all last week, tens of thousands of Iraqis out in the streets chanting, "Americans go home," a bomb goes off in the parliament. Then this weekend, more Iraqis died; two big bombs go off on Saturday. You said first that we didn't need a lot of American troops there, then you say we're going to put more in and that's going to change the situation. It doesn't seem to be getting better to me.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we are making progress. But the ultimate source of that, of course, is, in terms of that judgment, will be our commanders on the scene and Dave Petraeus. I don't want to underestimate the difficulty of the task, Bob. But just because it's hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. And of course, the enemy will do everything they can during this period of time to try to halt progress on that, so they send in a suicide bomber into the cafeteria in the parliament.
Q Well, the bomb in the parliament, who did that? Is that -- is this part of the civil war? Is this part of the terrorists? Is it a combination of both? Do we even know what has caused this, or who has caused it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We don't know. My expectation is that we'll probably find out. These kinds of attacks in the past have been attributed to al Qaeda in Iraq. They're the ones, for example, who, some years ago, destroyed the U.N. facility in Baghdad. They're the ones who bombed the mosque at Samarra, these strategic strikes that are aimed at trying to foment strife.
So I would expect we will find out who did it in this case. Unfortunately, one member of parliament was killed, obviously. But just because it's difficult or complicated doesn't mean the United States should withdraw, or that we should give up the task. Of course it's hard. This is a very difficult assignment. But it's absolutely essential that we get it right. There's an awful lot riding on it, not only in Iraq, but in terms of the efforts we're making in that part of the world to deal with this global war on terror.
It is a global conflict. This week we had attacks in Casablanca and Algiers, in Algiers by a group, an announced affiliate of al Qaeda. We've seen attacks from New York and Washington, all the way around to Jakarta and Bali in Indonesia. And we've got millions of people in that part of the world who have signed on to fight the good fight, people like President Musharraf in Pakistan and Karzai in Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands who have signed on with the security services, millions who voted, all based on the proposition that the United States is going to lead the way in conducting this fight against this evil ideology. And if we now decide Iraq is too tough and we're going to bail out, what happens to all of those folks who have signed on out there? Are they going to have any confidence at all that the United States is going to stay and complete the mission?
Q Let me ask you, because it leads me to this question, Mr. Vice President, you have, throughout this war, been optimistic about how things were going. Two years ago, you told Larry King, "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." What did you base that on at that time? Because there were many people had a totally different view of what was happening, and it brings us down to where we are now. I mean, why should people believe you now when so many times in the past, statements from this administration have proved to be incorrect?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, partly we have to respond to questions from the press, and we do the best we can with what we know at the time. My statement at the time that you referenced was geared specifically to the fact that we had just had an election in Iraq where some 12 million people defied the car bombers and the assassins, and for the first time, participated in a free election.
And we had three elections in 2005 in Iraq, set up a provisional government, then we had a ratification of a brand new constitution, and then elections under that constitution of the new government, the new government that's in place now.
I still think in the broad sweep of history, those will have been major turning points in the war in Iraq. I do believe we can win in Iraq. I think it is a worthy cause. I think it's absolutely essential that we prevail, and I think the United States of America, at the beginning of the 21st century, is perfectly capable of winning this fight against these people and setting up and establishing an Iraq, a democratic government that can defend itself. That's basically our mission. We need to be able to do it there.
And there might have been a time in our history when we could retreat behind our oceans and not worry about what was happening in the Middle East -- in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or someplace else. But remember what happened in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, we were involved in the 1980s, supported the Mujahideen against the Soviets, the Soviets withdrew in '89, everybody walked away from Afghanistan. In short order, they had a civil war. The Taliban came to power. It became a safe haven for al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden moved in. They set up training camps and trained 20,000 terrorists in the late '90s, some of whom came here and killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
But what happens over there is absolutely vital from the standpoint of U.S. security, and we no longer have the luxury of turning our back on that part of the world and ignoring what happened. We have to prevail in Iraq, and we can.
Q Let's take a break here. We'll come back and talk about this and some other things in a minute, after this break.
* * * * *
Q We're back now with Vice President Cheney. Mr. Vice President, we were talking about credibility. The Attorney General is going to Capitol Hill this week to testify before the Judiciary Committee. There are questions about whether he has been truthful about what's been going on in his Justice Department. Again, it comes back to this question of credibility. We have the Attorney General; we have optimistic statements about the war in Iraq; your own top aide, Scooter Libby, was convicted of perjury. Does this administration have a credibility problem?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think so, Bob. I think, obviously, we've got issues we need to work through. The Attorney General will be doing that this week, with respect to the U.S. attorney question, and the Justice Department. But you do the best you can with what you've got, obviously. And I think that, on reflection, that, indeed, the record of the President and his administration will stand up well to scrutiny.
Q But let me just get to the Attorney General, here. A new story this weekend, new emails show the department was selecting candidates to replace U.S. attorneys -- which, of course, is certainly the President's right, these are political appointees -- a year before they were -- the people in office were dismissed.
Now, before that, they had said just the opposite. They had said these U.S. attorneys were being replaced for performance reasons. That seems to be a direct contradiction, and -- can the Attorney General continue to serve and be effective when there are questions about he can't seem to get his story straight about what's going on in his own department?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Al's going to have the opportunity, I think Wednesday, sometime this week, as you mentioned, to go before the Congress and testify to all these matters. He's a good man. I have every confidence in him; the President has every confidence in him. But he'll have an opportunity to go address these particular issues.
Q It sounds like you're leaving it to him to fix this problem.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as Vice President, I don't know anything about the particular problem you're talking about. I mean, this took place inside the Justice Department. The one who needs to answer to that and lay out on the record the specifics of what transpired is the Attorney General, and he'll do so.
Q I want to also ask you about Scooter Libby. He was your close friend, I assume is still your close friend, after he was found guilty of perjury in connection with the outing of the CIA agent Valerie Plame. You expressed disappointment in the verdict. You said you had no comment and would have no comment. But the prosecutor said the case left a cloud over the Vice Presidency. I'd just like to ask you, first, have you talked to Scooter Libby since the trial?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have not.
Q You have not. Why not?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, there hasn't been occasion to do so. But I have enormous regard for the man. I believe deeply in Scooter Libby. He's one of the most dedicated public servants I've ever worked with, and I think this is a great tragedy.
But I'm also constrained not to discuss it. It's still pending in the courts. The matter will be appealed. And as I said the other day when the verdict was handed down, I'm not going to comment on it.
Q Well, I mean -- but as your friend, wouldn't you even call and express your regrets? I mean, I am surprised to hear you say that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I just -- I haven't had occasion to do that.
Q Do you, in any way, feel responsible for what happened to him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Bob, I'm simply not going to get into the case. And I think it would be inappropriate for me to do so.
Q I ask you that because, as you well know, Senator Schumer said that he was the fall guy for you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Bob, the answer is the same. (Laughter.) You can ask, but you'll get the same answer.
Q Some of the people -- you and I, of course, have known each other since the Ford administration --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Exactly, we have.
Q -- when you were President Ford's Chief of Staff. Shortly before he died, Bob Woodward revealed that President Ford had said that you had become more pugnacious and had developed a fever about what he called the threat of terrorism. He suggested you had sort of changed. Do you feel, Mr. Vice President, that you have changed since those days?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't know that I've changed. I'm certainly older than I was when we worked together in the White House, or you covered us in the White House, 30 years ago. No, I think the thing that some people mistake for, or categorize as "Cheney's changed" sort of analysis, is 9/11. And 9/11 did have, I think, a remarkable impact on the threat to the United States on what we were required to deal with as an administration. I deal with it every day. I look at the intelligence reports every day. Just before I came down here, I went through an intelligence briefing this morning.
The fact is that the threat to the United States now of a 9/11 occurring with a group of terrorists armed not with airline tickets and box cutters, but with a nuclear weapon in the middle of one of our own cities is the greatest threat we face. It's a very real threat. It's something that we have to worry about and defeat every single day.
And we've worked hard now, for going on six years, to do exactly that. We've been successful at defending against further attacks. But it's not easy. It's not dumb luck. It doesn't just happen. It's because we've got a lot of good people who spend a lot of time, devote their entire professional lives, if you will, to this mission.
Now, when you deal with that every day, you can't help but be very serious about the enterprise that we're involved in. And right now, it's my job to be one of those people who worries about that.
Q Senator Reid, who you mentioned earlier, the Democratic leader, said that he thought that President Bush had become more isolated over Iraq than Richard Nixon was during Watergate. You were around during those days.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I was.
Q Do you think that's true?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do not. I think that's a ridiculous notion.
Q It's a ridiculous notion?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Do you feel you have become more isolated?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't think so. I spend as much time as I can, get out and do other things -- at home in Wyoming, or yesterday I managed to go shopping with my daughter for a birthday present for granddaughters. But I obviously spend most of my time on the job.
Q Mr. Vice President, how's your health?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's good.
Q It's very nice to talk to you this morning. I hope we'll see you again soon.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I enjoy doing the show, Bob.
Q All right, thank you very much.
END 9:39 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 14, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I extended an invitation to congressional leaders of both parties to come to the White House so we can discuss the emergency war funding our troops are waiting for. When we meet on Wednesday, I look forward to hearing how Members of Congress plan to meet their responsibilities and provide our troops with the funding they need.
Supporting our troops is a solemn responsibility of all elected officials in Washington, D.C. So 68 days ago, I sent Congress an emergency war spending bill that would provide the vital funds needed for our troops on the front lines. But instead of approving this funding, Democrats in Congress have spent the past 68 days pushing legislation that would undercut our troops. They passed bills that would impose restrictions on our military commanders and set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq, giving our enemies the victory they desperately want.
The Democrats' bills also spend billions of dollars on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war, such as funding for tours of the United States Capitol and for peanut storage. And after passing these unacceptable bills in the House and Senate, Democratic leaders then chose to leave town without sending any legislation to my desk.
The Senate came back to Washington earlier this week, but the House is still on its Easter recess. Meanwhile, our troops are waiting for the funds. And to cover the shortfall, our military may be forced to consider what Army General Pete Schoomaker has called "increasingly draconian measures."
In the next few days, our military leaders will notify Congress that they will be forced to transfer $1.6 billion from other military accounts to make up for the gaps caused by Congress' failure to fund our troops in the field. That means our military will have to take money from personnel accounts so they can continue to fund U.S. Army operations in Iraq and elsewhere.
This $1.6 billion in transfer comes on top of another $1.7 billion in transfers that our military leaders notified Congress about last month. In March, Congress was told that the military would need to take money from personnel accounts, weapons and communications systems, so we can continue to fund programs that protect our troops from improvised explosive devices and send hundreds of mine-resistant vehicles to the front lines. These actions are only the beginning, and the longer Congress delays the worse the impact on the men and women of the Armed Forces will be.
I recognize that Republicans and Democrats in Washington have differences over the best course in Iraq, and we should vigorously debate those differences. But our troops should not be trapped in the middle. They have been waiting for this money long enough. Congress must now work quickly and pass a clean bill that funds our troops, without artificial time lines for withdrawal, without handcuffing our generals on the ground, and without extraneous domestic spending.
When you live in Washington, it's easy to get caught up in the complexities of legislative procedure. But for the American people, this is not a complicated debate. When Americans went to the polls last November, they did not vote for politicians to substitute their judgment for the judgment of our commanders on the ground. And they certainly did not vote to make peanut storage projects part of the funding for our troops.
The American people voted for change in Iraq, and that is exactly what our new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is working to achieve. And they expect their elected leaders to support our men and women on the front lines, so they have every resource they need to complete their mission.
We owe it to the American people and to our troops and their families to deliver our full support. I will continue working with Republicans and responsible Democrats to do just that. I call on Members of Congress to put partisanship on hold, resolve their differences, and send me a clean bill that gets our troops the funds they need.
Thank you for listening.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 13, 2007
President Bush Meets with Parochial Education Leaders and Parents Roosevelt Room 1:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Spellings and I have just had the privilege of talking to some of our country's leading educational entrepreneurs. We had the privilege of talking to parents whose lives have been positively affected by our Catholic school system. One of the great assets in the United States is the Catholic schools, which oftentimes educate the so-called hard to educate -- and they do so in such a spectacular way.
The question is how do we make sure that this important asset is sustainable? How do we make sure that our Catholic schools meet the needs of parents, like Patricia, meet the expectations of some of our educational leaders, like Ben. And one way is for the federal government to provide opportunity scholarships for parents, so that they can redeem that scholarship at a school of their choice.
We've got such a program like that here in Washington, D.C. It's been a very successful program, and Congress needs to make sure it gets fully funded. If any congressman doubts the utility of a program, all they've got to do is speak to Wendy Cunningham, whose daughter takes advantage of this special funding for people, that enables her to say "My school isn't meeting the needs, therefore I'd like to make another choice." A parental choice is a very important part of educational excellence. And one way to make sure that that's the case is not only to fully fund the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship, but to provide these kinds of scholarships for school systems outside of Washington.
For example, we just heard from Margaret Dames who has got a marvelous school program in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And it seems like it makes sense to me for a parent in Bridgeport to be able to have the same kind of opportunity that a parent here in Washington, D.C. has. Congress needs to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, as well. We want all schools to be excellent. We want every school, public or parochial, to meet expectations and to give our children the skill sets necessary to realize the great promise of the country.
One thing is for certain, if you're interested in educational excellence, you can look at the Catholic schools in the United States of America, because they provide it -- and for that, this country is very grateful.
Thank you all for coming, appreciate your time. END 1:48 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 12, 2007
President Bush Discusses the Reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act Roosevelt Room 10:53 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I have just had what I consider to be not only a fascinating meeting, but an important meeting about the No Child Left Behind Act with leaders of the civil rights movement, education leaders from around our country, business leaders who are concerned about America's competitiveness.
There is a universal belief that the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be reauthorized, and I want to thank you all for working with us to get this piece of legislation reauthorized.
I believe the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be reauthorized because it's working. It's a piece of legislation which believes in setting high standards and using accountability to make sure that every single child gets a good education. I strongly support the notion that when we find a child falling behind that there ought to be extra federal help so that child can catch back up early, before it's too late.
I strongly condemn an achievement gap that exists in this country. It's a gap between Anglo students and Latino students, or white students and black students -- and it's not in our country's interest to allow an education system to continue to foster that difference in achievement. The No Child Left Behind Act is beginning to close that gap. It's the impetus necessary to cause the reforms, the curriculum changes necessary to make sure every child has a chance of realizing the great hopes of our country.
Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind Act is an important state, an important move; it's an important piece of legislation necessary to keep this country not only competitive, but also a country of great hope. And so I want to thank you all for joining us.
I also want to comment on today's bombing of the Iraqi parliament. First of all, I strongly condemn the action. It reminds us, though, that there is an enemy willing to bomb innocent people in a symbol of democracy. In other words, this assembly is a place where people have come to represent the 12 million people who voted. There is a type of person that would walk in that building and kill innocent life -- and that is the same type of person that is willing to come and kill innocent Americans. And it is in our interest to help this young democracy be in a position so it can sustain itself and govern itself and defend itself against these extremists and radicals.
Our hearts go out to those who suffered as a result of this bombing. My message to the Iraqi government is we stand with you as you take the steps necessary to not only reconcile politically, but also put a security force in place that is able to deal with these kinds of people.
Thank you all for coming. END 10:56 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 11, 2007
Statement by the President on Stem Cell Research
Scientists believe that stem cells have the potential for medical breakthroughs in treating debilitating medical diseases and disorders. However, the advancement of science and medicine need not conflict with the ethical imperative to protect every human life. I am a strong supporter of scientific research -- which is why I authorized the first federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells, under careful safeguards, starting in 2001.
My policy unleashed an unprecedented scientific effort using the stem cell lines my policy approved for funding. While encouraging -- not banning -- research, my policy also ensures that federal funds are not used to create incentives to destroy, or harm, or create living human embryos for purposes of research.
The Senate today voted in support of legislation to overturn these safeguards. I believe this will encourage taxpayer money to be spent on the destruction or endangerment of living human embryos -- raising serious moral concerns for millions of Americans.
Research using human embryonic stem cells is still at an early stage, and it will be years before researchers know how much promise lies in therapeutic applications. I believe this early stage is precisely when it is most important to develop ethically responsible techniques, so the potential of stem cells can be explored without violating human dignity and life.
S.5 is very similar to legislation I vetoed last year. This bill crosses a moral line that I and many others find troubling. If it advances all the way through Congress to my desk, I will veto it.
Meanwhile, exciting and significant scientific advances have been reported over the past few years on uses of stem cells that do not involve the destruction of embryos. These advances using adult and other forms of stem cells are exciting. Some have even produced effective therapies and treatments for disease -- all without the destruction of human life.
The second bill that passed the Senate today, the Hope Act, builds on this ethically appropriate research by encouraging further development of these alternative techniques for producing stem cells without embryo creation or destruction. I strongly support this bill, and I encourage the Congress to pass it and send it to me for my signature, so stem cell science can progress, without ethical and cultural conflict.
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For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 10, 2007
President Bush Discusses Iraq War Supplemental, War on Terror American Legion Post 177 Fairfax, Virginia 10:23 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Good morning; please be seated. Thank you for your warm hospitality. It's a pleasure to be here at Legion Post 177, Fairfax, Virginia. I appreciate you inviting me. And I've come to share some thoughts about service to our country, this war we face, and the need for the United States Congress to make sure our troops have what is necessary to complete their mission. (Applause.)
Bob Sussan greeted me coming in. I appreciate you, Commander, greeting a fellow from Post 77 -- we dropped the "1" in Houston. (Laughter.) He not only presented me with a cake, he gave me a chance to express my gratitude to the Legion, its members and the service you provide for those who wear the uniform today.
I appreciate the example you have set. You know, there's something to be said for a country where people serve something greater than themselves, where people in this era volunteer in the face of danger to defend the United States of America. And those who have worn the uniform in the past have set such a powerful example for our brave men and women who wear the uniform today and I thank you for that a lot -- I don't know if you know that or not -- but the example of our veterans have inspired many to wear the uniform today.
I find the history of this post interesting, Bob. In November of 1944, a group of World War I veterans gathered here in Fairfax to form an organization to help the troops returning from the battlefield in Word War II. Veterans said, "What can I do to help a fellow veteran?" The founders rallied support for the soldiers and the sailor and the airmen and the Marines. In other words, these veterans understood what it meant to be in war, what it meant to be far from home, and they provided necessary support for our troops.
And when they came back from war, they helped make the transition to civilian life. In other words, there was somebody there available to help them, somebody to -- "Brother or sister, how can I help you? What can I do to help you after you have served our country?" It's a proud American tradition and a tradition being carried on here at Post 177, and I thank you for that a lot.
Today, the men and women at this post visit the wounded in our military hospitals. And I thank you for going to Walter Reed in Bethesda. You know, we're going to make sure that the care is superb care. I went over there the other day and I made it clear to the care-givers that there were some bureaucratic snafus that were unacceptable. Secretary Gates and our military folks will clean that up. But the care that our troops get from the doctors and nurses is superb care, and we owe those people in the front lines of providing care for the wounded a real debt of gratitude, just like we owe the families and the soldiers the best health care possible.
I appreciate very much the ROTC scholarships you provide, particularly for George Mason University students. I'm a big believer in education; I know you are, as well. But rather than talking on the subject, you're acting, and I appreciate that a lot. But, more importantly, the students do, too.
And thanks for sending the care packages to our troops. It matters. Iraq and Afghanistan are far away from home -- a little different from the wars you fought, however; there is email today -- (laughter) -- and cell phones. But, nevertheless, there is a sense of loneliness that can sometimes affect our troops, and the fact that you would take time to send them care packages to remind those who wear the uniform that you support them, a stranger reaches out to them and offers support, I thank you a lot for that.
This is an unusual era in which we live, defined on September the 11th, 2001. See, that's a date that reminded us the world had changed significantly from what we thought the world was. We thought that -- we thought that oceans and friendly neighbors could protect us from attack. And, yet, on that day, less than 20 miles from this post, an airplane crashed into the Pentagon and killed 184 men, women and children. An airplane driven by fanatics and extremists and murderers crashed into the Pentagon. And as you know, on that day nearly 3,000 people died in New York that day. And more would have died had not the people on United Flight 93 showed incredible courage and saved no telling how many lives here in Washington, D.C. by taking that plane to the ground.
My attitude about the world changed, and I know the attitude about the world from a lot of folks here in America's attitude changed. It reminded me that the most solemn duty of your federal government is to protect the American people from harm. The most solemn duty we have is to protect this homeland. I vowed that day that we would go on the offense against an enemy; that the best way to defeat this enemy is to find them overseas and bring them to justice so they will not hurt the folks here at home.
In other words, we don't have the luxury of hoping for the best, of sitting back and being passive in the face of this threat. In the past we would say oceans would protect us, and therefore what happened overseas may not matter here at home. That's what changed on September the 11th. What happens overseas affects the security of the United States. And it's in this nation's interest that we go on the offense and stay on the offense. We want to defeat them there, so we don't have to face them here.
On 9/11, we saw that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away can bring death to our citizens. I vowed that if you harbor a terrorist you're equally as guilty as the terrorist. That's a doctrine. In order for this country to be credible, when the President says something, he must mean it. I meant it, and the Taliban found out that we meant what we said. And, therefore, we ended al Qaeda's safe haven in a failed state.
The two points I want to make is, doctrine matters, and secondly, a failed state can lead to severe consequences for the American people. And therefore it's in our interests not only to pursue the enemy overseas, so we don't have to face them here, it's in our interest to spread an alternative ideology to their hateful ideology. These folks do not believe in the freedom to worship. They don't believe that women have got an equal place in society. They don't believe in human rights and human dignity.
We believe that people have the right to worship the way they see fit. We believe all humans are created equal. We believe in dissent. We believe in public discourse. Our ideology is based upon freedom and liberty; theirs is based upon oppression. And the best way to secure this country in the long run is to offer up an alternative that stands in stark contrast to theirs.
And that's the hard work we're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan the Taliban that ran that country and provided safe haven to al Qaeda, where thousands of people were able to train in order to be able to launch attacks on innocent people, innocent Americans, for example. That Taliban no longer is in power. And, in fact, there is a young, struggling democracy in Afghanistan.
The people in Afghanistan went to the polls and voted. President Karzai is now representing a government of and by and for the people. It's an unimaginable sequence of events. Had you asked people in the mid-1990s, is it possible for there to be a democracy in Afghanistan -- of course not. But there is a democracy in place, and it's in our interest to deny al Qaeda and the Taliban and the radicals and the extremists a safe haven. And it's in our interest to stand with this young democracy as it begins to spread its wings in Afghanistan.
And then we're doing the hard work in Iraq. I made a decision to remove a dictator, a tyrant who was a threat to the United States, a threat to the free world, and a threat to the Iraq people -- and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. (Applause.)
And now we're undertaking the difficult and dangerous work of helping the Iraqi people establish a functioning democracy. I think it's necessary work to help them establish a functioning democracy. It's necessary because it is important for the moderate people -- people who want to live in peace and security -- to see what is possible in the Middle East. It is hard work because we face an enemy that understands the consequences of liberty taking root, and are willing to kill innocent lives in order to achieve their political objectives.
A minority -- and I emphasize "minority" -- of violent extremists have declared that they want to turn that country into a terrorist base from which to launch an ideological war in the Middle East and attacks on the United States of America. That is the stated objective of al Qaeda in Iraq. It's important that we listen to the enemy. It's important we take their threats seriously.
In contrast, however, the vast majority of Iraqis have made it clear they want to live in peace. After all, about 12 million of them went to the polls -- a feat that was, again, unimaginable in the mid-1990s. If you had said, can you imagine Iraqis being able to vote for a constitution and then a government under that constitution in the mid-1990s, they would have said, you're too idealistic, that's impossible. And, yet, that's what happened.
The terrorists, recognizing that this country was headed toward a society based upon liberty, a society based upon an ideology that is the opposite of what they believe, struck. And they struck by blowing up the Golden Mosque of Samarra, which is a holy shrine, a holy site. It's a site that a lot of people hold dear in their heart. And they were attempting to provoke retaliation by a segment of that society -- the Iraqi Shia. And they succeeded. And the result was a tragic escalation of violence.
And in the face of the violence -- in other words, there was reprisal, people said, we're going to get even, how dare these people do this -- and in the face of this violence, I had a choice to make. See, we could withdraw our troops from the capital of Iraq and hope that violence would not spiral out of control, or we could send reinforcements into the capital in the hopes of quelling sectarian violence, in order to give this young democracy time to reconcile, time to deal, with the politics necessary for a government that can sustain itself and defend itself to emerge.
I made the decisions after -- to reinforce. But I didn't do it in a vacuum. I called in our military commanders and experts, and I listened to a lot of opinions -- and there's a lot of opinions in Washington, D.C., in case you hadn't noticed. (Laughter.) The opinions that matter a lot to me are what our military folks think. After all, this is a military operation, and as the Commander-in-Chief, you must listen to your military and trust their judgment on military matters. And that's what I did.
They recognized what I recognized, and it's important for the American citizen to recognize this, that if we were to have stepped back from Baghdad before the Iraqis were capable of securing their capital, before they had the troops trained well enough to secure the capital, there would have been a vacuum that could have easily been filled by Sunni and Shia extremists, radicals that would be bolstered by outside forces. In other words, the lack of security would have created an opportunity for extremists to move in. Most people want to live in peace in Iraq. There are extremists who can't stand the thought of a free society that would have taken advantage of the vacuum. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country, and in time the violence could affect the entire region.
What happens in the Middle East matters here in America. The terrorists would have emerged under this scenario more emboldened. They would have said, our enemy, the United States, the enemy that we attacked, turns out to be what they thought: weak in the face of violence, weak in the face of challenge. They would have been able to more likely recruit. They would have had new safe haven from which to launch attacks. Imagine a scenario in which the extremists are able to control oil revenues to achieve economic blackmail, to achieve their objectives. This is all what they have stated. This is their ambition.
If we retreat -- were to retreat from Iraq, what's interesting and different about this war is that the enemy would follow us here. And that's why it's important we succeed in Iraq. If this scenario were to take place, 50 years from now people would look back and say, "What happened to those folks in the year 2007? How come they couldn't see the danger of a Middle East spiraling out of control where extremists competed for power, but they shared an objective which was to harm the United States of America? How come they couldn't remember the lesson of September the 11th, that we were no longer protected by oceans and chaos and violence, and extremism could end up being a serious danger to the homeland?"
That's what went through my mind as I made a difficult decision, but a necessary decision. And so rather than retreat, I sent more troops in. Rather than pull back, I made the decision to help this young democracy bring order to its capital so there can be time for the hard work of reconciliation to take place after years of tyrannical rule, brutal tyrannical rule.
And now it's time for these Iraqis, the Iraqi government, to stand up and start making some -- making some strong political moves. And they're beginning to. I speak to the Prime Minister quite often and remind him that here at home we expect them to do hard work; we want to help, but we expect them to do some hard work. And he reminds me, sometimes legislative bodies and parliaments don't move as quickly as the executive branch would like. (Laughter.) But he understands. He understands we expect them to spend money on their reconstruction, and they've committed $10 billion to do so.
They understand that when we said we were going to send more troops in, you need to send more troops into Baghdad, that we expect them to, and they have. They understand that when we work together to set up a security plan where there is a top military figure in charge of Baghdad's security from the Iraq side, that we expect somebody there who is going to be non-sectarian and implement security for all the people of Baghdad, they responded. See, the understand that. And now we expect them to get an oil law that helps unify the country, to change the de-Baathification law so that, for example, Sunni teachers that had been banned from teaching are allowed back in the classroom, and that there be provincial elections. And we'll continue to remind them of that.
In sending more troops -- in other words, in sending troops in, it is -- I recognize that this is more than a military mission. It requires a political response from the Iraqis, as well.
The Iraqi people, by the way, have already made a political response; they voted. (Laughter.) I also sent a new commander in, General David Petraeus. He is an expert in counterinsurgency warfare. He's been in Baghdad two months. A little less than half of -- only about half of the reinforcements that he's asked for have arrived. In other words, this operation is just getting started. There's kind of, I guess, knowledge or a thought in Washington that all you got to say is send 21,000 in and they show up the next day; that's not the way it works. (Laughter.) It takes a while for troops to be trained and readied and moved into theater. And that's what our military is doing now.
And there are some encouraging signs. There's no question it's violent, no question the extremists are dangerous people. But there are encouraging signs. Iraqi and American forces have established joint security stations across Baghdad. As you might remember, we had a strategy of clear, hold and build. Well, because we didn't have enough troops, nor did the Iraqis have enough troops, we would do the clear part, but we didn't do the hold part, and so it made it hard to do the build part. And now because of our presence and more Iraqi troops, along with coalition troops, they're deployed 24 hours a day in neighborhoods to help change the psychology of the capital, that for a while was comfortable in its security, and then violence began to spiral out of control. That's the decision point I had to make, do you try to stop it? And what I'm telling you is, according to David Petraeus, with whom I speak on a weekly basis, we're beginning to see some progress toward the mission -- that they're completing the mission.
Our troops are also training Iraqis. In other words, part of the effort is not only to provide security to neighborhoods, but we're constantly training Iraqis so that they can do this job. The leaders want to do the job. Prime Minister Maliki makes it clear he understands it's his responsibility. We just want to make sure that when they do the job, they've got a force structure that's capable of doing the job. So that's why I rely upon our commanders, like General Petraeus, that let me know how well the Iraqis are doing. So it's the combination of providing security in neighborhoods through these joint security stations, and training that is the current mission we're going through, with a heavy emphasis on security in Baghdad.
Iraqis see our forces out there, joint forces, both coalition and Iraqi forces, and they have confidence. And as a result of the confidence, they're now cooperating more against the extremists. Most people want to live in peace. Iraqi mothers, regardless of their religious affiliation, want their children to grow up in a peaceful world. They want there to be opportunities. They don't want their children to be subject to random murder. They expect our government to provide security. And when the government doesn't provide security, it causes a lack of confidence. And they're beginning to see more security, and so people are coming into the stations and talking about different -- giving different tips about where we may be able to find the extremists or radicals who kill innocent people to achieve political objectives.
We're using the information wisely. And I say "we" -- every time I say "we," it's just not American troops, there are brave Iraqi troops with us. Our forces have launched successful operations against extremists, both Shia and Sunni. My attitude is, if you're a murderer, you're a murderer, and you ought to be held to account. Recently, Iraqi and American forces captured the head of a Baghdad car bomb network that was responsible for the attacks that you see on your TV screens -- some of the attacks you see on your TV screen.
Look, these people are smart people, these killers. They know that if they can continue the spectacular suicide bombings they will cause the American people to say, is it worth it? Can we win? Is it possible to succeed? And that really speaks to the heart of the American people, I think. I mean, we are a compassionate people. We care about human life. And when we see the wanton destruction of innocent life, it causes us to wonder whether or not it is possible to succeed. I understand that.
But I also understand the mentality of an enemy that is trying to achieve a victory over us by causing us to lose our will. Yet we're after these car bombers. In other words, slowly but surely these extremists are being brought to justice by Iraqis, with our help. Violence in Baghdad, sectarian violence in Baghdad, that violence that was beginning to spiral out of control is beginning to subside. And as the violence decreases, people have more confidence, and if people have more confidence, they're then willing to make difficult decisions of reconciliation necessary for Baghdad to be secure and this country to survive and thrive as a democracy.
The reinforcements are having an impact, and as more reinforcements go in, it will have a greater impact. Remember, only about half of the folks we've asked to go in are there.
It's now been 64 days since I have requested that Congress pass emergency funding for these troops. We don't have all of them there. About half more are going to head in. We're making some progress. And 64 days ago, I said to the United States Congress, these troops need funding. And instead of proving [sic] that vital funding, the Democrat leadership in Congress has spent the past 64 days pushing legislation that would undercut our troops, just as we're beginning to make progress in Baghdad. In both the House and the Senate, majorities have passed bills that substitute the judgment of politicians in Washington for the judgment of our commanders on the ground. They set arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq, and they spend billions of dollars on pork barrel projects and spending that are completely unrelated to this war.
Now, the Democrats who pass these bills know that I'll veto them, and they know that this veto will be sustained. Yet they continue to pursue the legislation. And as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. In other words, there are consequences for delaying this money. In the coming days, our military leaders will notify Congress that they will be forced to transfer $1.6 billion from other military accounts to cover the shortfall caused by Congress's failure to fund our troops in the field. That means our military will have to take money from personnel accounts so they can continue to fund U.S. Army operations in Iraq and elsewhere.
This $1.6 billion in transfers come on top of another $1.7 billion in transfers that our military leaders notified Congress about last month. In March, Congress was told that the military would need to take money from military personnel accounts, weapons and communications systems so we can continue to fund programs to protect our soldiers and Marines from improvised explosive devices and send hundreds of mine-resistant vehicles to our troops on the front lines. These actions are only the beginning, and the longer Congress delays, the worse the impact on the men and women of the Armed Forces will be.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, recently testified that if Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on equipment repair and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and Reserve forces. The Army will also be forced to consider curtailing some training for Guard and Reserve units here at home. This would reduce their readiness, and could delay their availability to mobilize for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute. The Army will be forced to consider slowing or even freezing funding for its depots, where the equipment our troops depend on is repaired. They will have to consider delaying or curtailing the training of some active duty forces, reducing the availability of those the force -- of those forces to deploy overseas. And the Army may also have to delay the formation of new brigade combat teams, preventing us from getting those troops into the pool of forces that are available to deploy.
So what does that mean? These things happen: Some of our forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended, because other units are not ready to take their places. In a letter to Congress, the Army Chief of Staff, Pete Shoemaker, recently warned, "Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures, which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families."
The bottom line is this: Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated. This is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to me, it's unacceptable to our veterans, it's unacceptable to our military families, and it's unacceptable to many in this country.
The United States Senate has come back from its spring recess today. The House will return next week. When it comes to funding our troops, we have no time to waste. It's time for them to get the job done. So I'm inviting congressional leaders from both parties -- both political parties -- to meet with me at the White House next week. At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk. We can discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill: a bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal, and without handcuffing our generals on the ground.
I'm hopeful we'll see some results soon from the Congress. I know we have our differences over the best course in Iraq. These differences should not prevent us from getting our troops the funding they need without withdrawal and without giving our commanders flexibility.
The Democrat leaders in -- Democratic leaders in Congress are bent on using a bill that funds our troops to make a political statement about the war. They need to do it quickly and get it to my desk so I can veto it, and then Congress can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without further delay. (Applause.)
We are at war. It is irresponsible for the Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds they need to succeed. As the national commander of the American Legion, Paul Morin, recently put it, "The men and women of the armed forces in the theater of operations are dependent on this funding to sustain and achieve their military missions. This funding is absolutely critical to their success and individual well being." I thank the commander and the American Legion for their strong support on this issue. You do not make a political statement; you're making a statement about what is necessary for our troops in the field, and I am grateful. (Applause.)
I'm always amazed at the men and women who wear our uniform. Last week, before I went down to Crawford -- for a snowy Easter, I might add -- (laughter) -- I was in California at Fort Irwin. And I had a chance to visit with some who had just come back from Iraq and some who were going over to Iraq, and it just amazes me that these young men and women know the stakes, they understand what we're doing, and they have volunteered to serve. We're really a remarkable country, and a remarkable military, and therefore, we owe it to the families and to those who wear the uniform to make sure that this remarkable group of men and women are strongly supported -- strongly supported, by the way, during their time in uniform, and then after their time in uniform through the Veterans Administration. (Applause.)
I tried to put this war into a historical context for them. In other words, I told them that they're laying the foundation of peace. In other words, the work we're doing today really will yield peace for a generation to come. And part of my discussion with them was I wanted them to think back to the work after World War II. After World War II, we defeated -- after we defeated Germany and Japan, this country went about the business of helping these countries develop into democracies. Isn't it interesting a country would go to -- have a bloody conflict with two nations, and then help democracy succeed? Why? Because our predecessors understood that forms of government help yield peace. In other words, it matters what happens in distant lands.
And so today, I can report to you that Japan is a strong ally of the United States. I've always found that very ironic that my dad, like many of your relatives, fought the Japanese as the sworn enemy, and today one of the strongest allies in keeping the peace is the Prime Minister of Japan. Something happened between when old George H. W. Bush was a Navy fighter pilot, and his boy is the President of the United States. Well, what happened was the form of government changed. Liberty can transform enemies into allies. The hard work done after World War II helped lay the foundation of peace.
How about after the Korean War? Some of you are Korean vets, I know. I bet it would have been hard for you to predict, if you can think back to the early '50s, to predict that an American President would say that we've got great relations with South Korea, great relations with Japan, that China is an emerging marketplace economy, and that the region is peaceful. This is a part of the world where we lost thousands of young American soldiers, and yet there's peace.
I believe that U.S. presence there has given people the time necessary to develop systems of government that make that part of the world a peaceful part of the world, to lay the foundation for peace. And that's the work our soldiers are doing in the Middle East today. And it's necessary work. It is necessary because what happens in the Middle East, for example, can affect the security of the United States of America. And it's hard work, and we've lost some fantastic young men and women, and we pray for their families, and we honor their service and their sacrifice by completing the mission, by helping a generation of Americans grow up in a peaceful world.
I cannot tell you how honored I am to meet with the families of the fallen. They bear an unbelievable pain in their heart. And it's very important for me to make it clear to them that I believe the sacrifice is necessary to achieve the peace we all long for.
I thank you for supporting our troops. I thank you for setting such a fantastic example for a great group of men and women who have volunteered to serve our country. And thanks for being such fine Americans.
God bless. (Applause.) END 11:00 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 10, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino White House Conference Center Briefing Room 12:45 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Welcome back, everybody. I don't have any opening announcements, so we can go straight to questions.
Q Senator Reid said today, in response to the President's invitation to come down and talk, he said the President has to deal with Congress and he has got to listen to us, and that what the President is offering is not a negotiation.
MS. PERINO: I'm not quite sure where to begin with all that, because, first of all, they have known for 64 days that the President needed this money for the troops. Secondly, they've known for well over a month -- before they even passed the two bills, one out of the House and one out of the Senate -- that the President would veto it, based on the arbitrary time line in terms of a date for a forced retreat, the micromanaging that they put into the bill that would handcuff our generals on the ground, and then the extra pork barrel spending that they had to include in order to get the ball across the finish line.
On March 28th, Senator Reid points to a letter he sent to the President, saying that they wanted to sit down and talk. So now that the President, after their two-week recess, says, why don't we have this discussion, I'm not quite sure I can understand why he so, out of hand, rejects the President's offer to meet. It was a knee-jerk reaction and it was quite unfortunate. The invitation stands; we would like for them to come down and talk with us.
Q But you said that it's not a negotiation. And what I think Senator Reid is saying is the President has got to listen to the Congress and has to deal with the Congress. Is there room for negotiation and compromise from the White House?
MS. PERINO: Well, the President has said we should not have a bill that ties the hands of our generals and that adds all this extraneous spending and puts strings on all the money that they say that they want to give to the troops. He's asked for a clean bill.
Senator Reid has me very confused. On the one hand, he says that they want to fund the troops. But on the other hand
-- at what price are they going to give this money to the troops? They believe that the war either cannot be won, or that it has already been lost. And so if they have the courage of their convictions and they really want to cut off funding for the troops, then they should go ahead and do that. But instead, what the President is saying is, if you need for me to veto this bill, I will -- reluctantly, but I will, if that's the political statement that you need to make. But if the goal is, as you've stated -- at least in some parts of your communication on this
-- that they want to get the money to the troops, then let's go ahead and have a clean bill. If you want to have other discussions, that's fine, but the President has said, let's meet, let's discuss. You can talk about how -- you don't have the votes to override my veto, but yet you say you want to fund the troops. So why don't we have a discussion about how we're going to get there.
Q Dana, the Senator, I think, was addressing sort of the bigger picture of the tone of these discussions. And he said -- I'd like to get you to respond to this -- that the President must realize he has to deal with Congress, that there's no more rubber stamp. He's got to listen to us because we are speaking for the American people and he isn't.
MS. PERINO: I don't -- look, the President has been dealing with Congress since we got here in 2001. I understand that they have said many times that there's a Congress to deal with, that there's constitutional roles for them to play. We agree. We have a constitutional role to play, as well. What they can do in their constitutional role is decide whether or not they're going to fund the troops. They don't have the constitutional role to micromanage the war effort, and the management of the commanders on the ground.
I think that the tone that everyone needs to take a step back and look at is that the President is saying, let's go ahead and have a discussion about how we're going to get a bill to me that funds our troops, because you have to admit you don't have the votes to override my veto.
Q But he's saying -- he is saying, I think Senator Reid is saying, look, the President doesn't -- he's not the sole determinant of the discussion about the way forward in Iraq. The President has the way he wants to proceed, but Harry Reid is saying that Congress is speaking for the American people when it comes to how to proceed in Iraq, not the President.
MS. PERINO: I don't think the American people are saying that the generals should be handcuffed and that there should be micromanagement by Senator Harry Reid as a military advisor. He should be the Senator from Nevada and the leader of the Senate. The American people have wanted change in Iraq, and they got it. The President announced a new policy on January 10th that was quite different and divergent from where we were before. And about three weeks later, the Senate unanimously confirmed General Petraeus and sent him to war with a battle plan. And yet now they say that that battle plan won't work.
And so my point is, we have an opportunity for them to come down and discuss how we're going to get money for the troops. I understand that they might not agree with the President's policy, but there is a new one, and it's been implemented according to General Petraeus and many others on the ground. Despite the real challenges that we have and the violence that continues, seeds of hope have been planted, that we can get the violence under control. So the tone of the discussion rests on both sides.
Q Were you listening to Senator Reid today? Your reaction was what? Would you say confusion?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it -- I was only able to read his comments, I wasn't able to see them. But I am confused by the Democrats' position, and by their own position. On the one hand, he says he would vote to cut off funds for the troops completely. On the other hand, today he says that they would never do that. So our point is, the Democrats ought to negotiate amongst themselves first, figure out what their position is, and then come forward and talk to the President about either how they're going to send him a bill that can fund the troops that meets the requirements of being able to give the troops what they need without strings attached, or, if they're not going to do that, then they have to figure out another path forward.
Q So, Dana, just to follow, I mean, if the Democrats don't come up with a negotiation or something that's different to present to the President, then what do they have to get out of this meeting? I mean, the President and the administration always accuses them of political theater, but how is it not more than a photo op if they're not really -- if the White House isn't willing to give anything?
MS. PERINO: I think, Suzanne, you have to remember, the ball is in the Congress's court. When they know that they can't override the President's veto, and yet they still say that they want to send money to the troops, it is incumbent upon them to figure out how they're going to do that. And this discussion with the President can provide for a forum for both leaders. Remember, it's a bipartisan meeting -- Republicans and Democrats can sit down, talk with the President about his position, and about how they can move forward.
Q The bottom line is, is that it's a take-it-or-leave-it deal from this administration; there's no room for negotiation?
MS. PERINO: The President will not accept a timetable for withdrawal that forces retreat and forces failure. And he will not accept micromanagement from Capitol Hill on his generals. And it is unconscionable that they would have pork barrel spending added to it that is -- for tours of the Capitol and other such "emergencies" in an emergency spending bill when there is a budget process that's going forward in Congress on a parallel track. I think that those are principled stands that the President has had. If we can get beyond that, and talk about funding for the troops, we should. We are interested in how they think that we can improve in Iraq. If they have other ideas beyond what General David Petraeus is going, by all means, let's hear them.
Go ahead, Matt.
Q You seem to be saying that the President wants to talk to the Democrats about this.
MS. PERINO: We have an open invitation for them to come talk to us.
Q But he's actually ruling out any kind of compromise, is that correct?
MS. PERINO: This is not a meeting in order to compromise. This is a meeting to discuss the way forward, because the Democrats have to admit that they don't have the votes to override the President's veto. And at the same time, they say that they want to fund the troops. So at some point, the Democrats are going to have to come to a consensus on how to move forward. And a meeting with the President is a chance for the leaders to get together -- leadership from both parties -- to sit down and figure out how they're going to do that.
Q You said that this was a change of policy for the President, the surge.
MS. PERINO: Certainly.
Q And so escalation of the war is a change of policy?
MS. PERINO: Helen, we can go back over all the things that the President said in January, but there was a couple of key points.
Q No, no, I mean, is that what you call a change of policy, when we escalate the war?
MS. PERINO: A couple of key points. What the President said is that we needed to -- agreed with the Iraqis that we needed to try to transition power to them more quickly for their Iraqi security forces. But the key issue was that violence in Baghdad was so great that the President realized after talking to his military advisors that to leave would be very harmful to the region and to our country, but to stay and try to quell the violence in Baghdad --
Q But why? Do you mean Iraqis are going to come and attack us?
MS. PERINO: The terrorists that are seeking a safe haven in Iraq, if we were to leave, would find one, just like they had one in Afghanistan, and they could --
Q How do you know that?
MS. PERINO: -- hurt us and -- well, based on experience from September 11th. That's how we know it.
Q September 11th had nothing to do with Iraq.
Q When the President today said if Congress wants to make a political statement they should do so quickly -- and then you also used that phrase -- does referring to Congress's role in this as a political statement in any way diminish their part in this process?
MS. PERINO: No, I think that the point we're trying to make is that they do not have votes to override the President's veto. In order to get this bill passed, they had to add fixed time lines for withdrawal, they had to add micromanagement on the generals, and they had to have a lot of extra pork barrel spending in order to get the bare minimum in order to get the ball across the finish line.
That is the political statement that I think that the President felt that they had to make. If they have decided that they don't need to have all of those positions out there, if they've taken their votes and that they don't need to send that conference -- get together for a conference report and send a bill to the President that he has to veto, fine. But what we have to do is get a process going where they can get a clean bill to us.
Q Does the President risk using the troops when this morning he talked about if this does not go the way he wants, those troops and their families may have to wait longer for them to come home?
MS. PERINO: The President takes great pains not to politicize the troops. But what he was repeating was what the military -- Department of Defense has told him they are going to have to do, since they don't have this money.
Q What would you consider a clean bill? And could a clean bill include goals for withdrawals in the future, versus the hard time lines that the Democrats seem to --
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that hopefully the Democrats will come down and have a meeting with the President on Tuesday and they can have discussions. I'm not going not going to negotiate from here.
Go ahead, Keith.
Q I'm just having a little trouble understanding the meeting, I guess. On the one hand, it's not a negotiation, but it does sound like while the President is going to reject these bills that are out there, that he is willing to entertain some other ideas from the Democrats, as long as there aren't timetables and there isn't micromanaging. Of course, that's a word you can define --
MS. PERINO: There are some very clear lines that the President has drawn and they are outlined in our statements of administration policy and we've talked about them for well over a month now. What the President has said is that he's very serious about getting this money for our troops. He laid out the reasons why, the drastic reasons why from the Department of Defense -- on why we need to get that money to them sooner than later. It's a very real problem now.
Q But in this meeting he is willing to listen to other Democratic ideas --
MS. PERINO: The President has always been willing to listen to other ideas.
Q Okay, so could it end up becoming a negotiation of putting their ideas out and he has ideas -- I mean, it sounds like it might be a negotiation.
MS. PERINO: I think that the point that Suzanne was making was, if they have ideas about how we can improve in Iraq, the President was -- absolutely wants to hear them. Many members went to the Middle East and to Iraq over the recess, and if they saw something there that they think General Petraeus and his men could be doing better, by all means, I'm sure that we'd all like to hear it.
Go ahead, Sheryl.
Q I guess I'm also having trouble understanding this meeting and what the Democrats could get out of it, and what role does the President see himself playing. You said this is not a meeting in order to compromise, it's a meeting to discuss a way forward. Does the President envision himself as some kind of mediator in this effort to --
MS. PERINO: No, I think the President understands that it's incumbent upon him to explain to the members his positions and reasons why. And it's not just the President that thinks that arbitrary timetables are a bad idea. The military advisors do; Prime Minister Maliki today said he thinks it's a bad idea. And -- because really what it does is it just signals to the enemy that we're going to be leaving on this date; sit around and wait a while, and then you can attack us at will. So what the President wants to do is to tell the Congress that once you're back in town, after this two-week break, let's get together and let's get about the business of getting the money for our troops.
Q Is it his -- does he envision himself simply giving kind of a private lecture to Congress of the sort that he has been giving publicly?
MS. PERINO: The President is not asking to lecture anybody, nor does he want to. We understand that the Congress has a role to play; we understand what that role is. I would hope that they understand what the Commander-in-Chief's role is. And if a meeting can help alleviate some of the tension, then that's what we are for.
Q And then, finally, if a bill were to include sort of softer milestones, as opposed to fixed timetables for withdrawal, is that something that could be acceptable to the President?
MS. PERINO: This is the same question that John asked, and I'll give you the same answer. I'll decline to negotiate from here.
Q Realistically, both sides are entrenched on their opinions of this, and you're saying it's not a compromise. What, realistically, are you expecting as an outcome from this meeting?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that's up to the Democrats right now. I think that they don't have the votes to override the President's veto, they've known that for many weeks. They also have said that they want to fund the troops. So at some point the Democrats are going to have to come together amongst themselves and coalesce around a position that the President can talk to -- that the President then can talk to them about.
Q Does it benefit this White House to keep its feet in the sand, saying, I'm not going to move, and allow them to just stay the same way?
MS. PERINO: I think it benefits the troops and the American people for the Commander-in-Chief to be a strong, principled leader, which is what the President is.
Q And another subject, quickly. Yesterday you gave me a statement from the President that he said Don Imus's apology was the appropriate thing to do. Does the President, who has supported women in his administration, African American women, Secretary of State, you standing there at the podium, does he feel that punishment of the suspension of Don Imus was enough, and should the FCC have stronger rulings or regulations on sexist and racist statements?
MS. PERINO: I haven't talked to him beyond what I was able to get yesterday, which is that the President believes that the apology was the absolute right thing to do. And beyond that, I think that his employer is going to have to make a decision about any action that they take based on it.
Q Were you offended personally as a woman?
MS. PERINO: Well, I'm here to speak for the President. So you and I can talk later.
Q You got out of that one. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: Go ahead, Paula.
Q Dana, you frequently mention the pork barrel spending as -- needed to be taken out, but you don't mention the minimum wage -- (inaudible) -- does that have to be --
MS. PERINO: I don't believe so. I think that -- well, obviously, the President wants a clean bill, and he wants it as quickly as possible, and things that are going to hold it up would not be -- he would not look favorably upon. On that issue, I believe that there's a little bit more consensus. But I think we'll have to see how it goes from there.
Q Can you tell us, Dana, where the administration stands on the stem cell bills that are coming up on the Hill now, and the rationale, too?
MS. PERINO: Well, earlier today -- as you know, the Senate is going to be debating this on the floor the next two days. A couple of things on that. We put out two statements of administration policy earlier today. There are two -- there are several bills moving through Congress, but there are two that are going to be debated on the floor this week. One the President said that he strongly supports and could sign, and the other one is similar to one that he vetoed before and he would veto again if it were to pass.
Just taking a step back -- in 2001, the President was confronted with this ethical challenge and ethical dilemma. And as President, he had given the issue a considerable amount of thought. He consulted with religious leaders and bio-ethicists and scientists. He has -- it is incumbent upon the President to balance both the moral and the ethical boundaries for new scientific research.
His policy reaches balance in a way that he believes does not cross what he considers to be a clear moral line. And that was that tens of millions of Americans believe that embryos are human beings and human life, and that the taxpayer dollars that were requested to go towards this research were going to be used to destroy those embryos. And the President believes that that was the moral line that he could not cross. However, what he did do -- and he was the first President to do -- was he funded federal taxpayer dollars to 21 stem cell lines that were already in existence. So that money was the first to go towards that.
In addition to that, the President has strongly encouraged other types of stem cell research, like adult stem cell and cord blood research. There is also no ban on private sector funding. I think that I see -- I see that reported in places where the President is accused of trying to stop or ban stem cell research, but that could not be farther from the truth. He's been supportive of it. And I realize that there are many people out there who believe that stem cell research could hopefully lead to cures for many different diseases, and the President hopes that that's true. And he's very encouraged that there are so many scientists who are out there working to create a body of research that can move forward on stem cell research without the destruction of human embryos.
Q Is the President's mind at all -- has he had any second thoughts in light of what his own NIH Director said about how the limiting effect of his order about federal funding --
MS. PERINO: The President weighed this issue very carefully back in 2001, and has thought about it since. And he believes that that clear moral line that he established back in August of 2001 is a good place for the country to be. And he understands that there are people who might have different viewpoints, but he believes that federal taxpayer dollars, tens of millions of which comes from Americans who believe that that is a human embryo -- or a human life -- that their taxpayer dollars should not be used to destroy them.
Q Follow on that?
MS. PERINO: Following on? Go ahead.
Q Why does he think the Isakson version is any better, since it uses embryonic stem cells?
MS. PERINO: As I understand it, the Isakson bill would not destroy the embryo.
Q I'm not sure that's exactly correct. Why does the President think it's all right to use some of these embryos that are considered non-viable? I mean, who decides?
MS. PERINO: I don't believe that that's accurate, but if I could -- let me just get you somebody that can talk to you a little bit more in an expert way, because there's a distinction there. But the President would not fund -- use federal taxpayer dollars to fund anything that would destroy an embryo.
Q Can I just follow, Dana --
MS. PERINO: On stem cells?
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q Dana, like you said, we spend billions of dollars on health care in this country and medicines and all that. As you know that yoga has become a household name in America today, and President also spoke one time about this yoga. Can you --
MS. PERINO: The President does yoga?
Q No, no, he spoke one time, somebody brought it to his attention. But my question is, that you think President can go beyond talking and he can endorse that -- yoga is free of any medicines and free of --
MS. PERINO: How about I say that the President endorses all sorts of exercises, depending on whatever anybody can and is willing to do.
Q I'll try to follow that one. (Laughter.) Senator Reid said he wasn't going to a meeting where there are preconditions. How did you read that statement?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it's a knee-jerk reaction that's unfortunate. I think that the President has extended a hand and that the immediate reaction is one of disappointment -- we're disappointed. I don't know how their conditions have changed at all, in terms of the President saying early on, about over a month ago, that he would veto the bill if it came to his desk in its present form. I don't know what they're thinking about, in terms of how they could change. I don't even know if they've coalesced around a single idea over on the Senate side. And so it's one of disappointment, but we have an open invitation and we hope that they show up.
Q The discussion that you talk about that the President wants to have would be a discussion to reiterate his stance?
MS. PERINO: I think it's a chance for the President to reiterate his stance and to explain to the members why an arbitrary date for a withdrawal is basically mandating failure. And because he knows -- and the Democrats know -- that they don't have the votes to override the President's veto, that it's incumbent upon the Democrats, if they say that they want to fund the troops, to figure out a path forward to do that.
Q Have any members actually accepted the invitation yet?
MS. PERINO: I don't think so.
Q Dana, on another subject, the House Judiciary --
MS. PERINO: Oh, I hate it when you're looking at your Blackberry. (Laughter.)
Q The House Judiciary Committee served its subpoena to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, seeking documents relating to the firing of the U.S. attorneys. Are you aware of that? And would the White House support that?
MS. PERINO: I'm not aware of a subpoena. I do know that the Justice Department -- I know from personal experience, based on the press calls that I've gotten -- has been working very hard to turn over documents to be responsive to the Congress's requests, and so we'll have to take a look. I don't know what's different there.
Q So you're not aware that the House Judiciary has issued a subpoena to the Attorney General seeking those documents that they haven't yet provided?
MS. PERINO: I think the Justice Department has been working very hard to be fully responsive to the request, as the President asked them to do. So I don't know what's new here and we'll have to check it out.
Q Dana, in your statement this morning, this is not a negotiation -- was that one of your prepared talking points, was that just -- (laughter) -- and do you regret saying it?
MS. PERINO: What? You don't think that I can be spontaneous? No, I meant to say what I said.
Go ahead, Greg.
Q Dana, on Iran, we heard from that country's President this week touting success or progress anyway in its nuclear capacity. We know that the White House has expressed concern about this kind of action before, but is there any alarm at the White House over the latest statement?
MS. PERINO: No, I think that our intelligence community makes those assessments, and Director McConnell from the DNI's office has spoken to them. I don't know -- I don't believe that they're beliefs or assessments have changed. I'd have to refer you over there.
What I can say is that the Iranians had several opportunities to take up the offer that is before them, if they suspend their uranium enrichment and reprocessing, that we can go back to negotiations. And we certainly hope that they would make the right choice. The Permanent 5-plus-1, those countries, we have shown that we can speak with one voice and speak strongly, and that we can continue to further isolate Iran if they decide to take the wrong path.
Q The President has talked about weapons of mass destruction, of course, for a number of years. Has the Iranian threat reached the level of the Iraqi threat of a few years ago?
MS. PERINO: I don't know what you're trying to drive at there. I can reiterate for you that we are working diplomatically with our partners and our allies, and making sure that Iran does not achieve what its stated aim is, is to have a -- well, they haven't said that they -- they want a peaceful nuclear program, but we do believe that they are working towards a nuclear weapon and we are not going to allow that to happen.
Q Supporters of Muqtada al Sadr held a large rally yesterday. And it's clear they want an Islamic state, not a democratic coalition. How does this administration hope to coopt them and bring them into the fold so that their views of how they want that country run can work in conjunction with the way that the President of Iraq wants it run?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that's part of what Prime Minister Maliki has been working to do, which is to have political reconciliation within the country. There's no doubt there are several thousand people that rallied and said that they would like to have Americans leave. Look, we would like to leave, as well, but we want to do it when the conditions on the ground are right to do that, and when the Iraqis have the capability in order to protect their own citizens.
If we were to leave now, that vacuum would be filled by al Qaeda and the Shia insurgents, and the killing and bloodshed would no doubt increase, and then a safe haven would be created for al Qaeda in which to launch other attacks. So the concerns that we have and the reasons that we think it is so important that we get the troops the money that they need is so that we can help General Petraeus finish the mission that he was sent to do.
Go ahead, Joanie.
Q Thank you. What is the White House's reaction to the Macau announcement this morning to unblock the North Korea funds? And, also, how can the White House be sure these funds will be used for humanitarian needs and how does the administration think this all plays into the six-party talks?
MS. PERINO: Well, we do think that it's important that within the context of the six-party talks that we believe that everyone is operating in good faith. And that money was released today, the $25 million. We have been assured that it is going to be used for humanitarian and education reasons.
I would remind you that it is the six-party talks which have provided the leverage now to make sure that we do not have a nuclear weapon in North Korea. And the allies that have spoken today are all holding very strong on that. So I think that as North Korea nears its deadline, that this step was a big one. And Chris Hill spoke to that earlier today. I'd refer you for more detail to his comments and to the Treasury Department.
Q Thank you. I have two British questions I might ask if you'd take them -- does the U.S. know anything about the missing British reporter in Gaza? And can the U.S. help out through back channels to try to locate him?
MS. PERINO: I'd refer you to State Department on that one.
Q Okay. And does the U.S. or the President have any opinion on the British servicemen selling their stories? Are Americans allowed to sell stories --
MS. PERINO: No, I haven't talked to him about it.
Q Can -- perhaps you can look into it?
MS. PERINO: Jim, go ahead.
Q Can we go back one more time to this notion of what a clean bill is? Now, not to negotiate, but to define it. If a bill shows up, stripped of the pork, but still has some kind of timetable in it, is that unacceptable to the President?
MS. PERINO: I'm not -- I know that would be great to get me to negotiate from here. I would refer you back to the position of the President --
Q I don't want to negotiate. I want a definition.
MS. PERINO: He has said that an arbitrary timetable in which we send a save-the-date card to the Iraqis is unacceptable to him.
Q So you say save-the-date? So you --
MS. PERINO: I stole that from Don Stewart. (Laughter.)
Q I bet you just guaranteed yourself an appearance there. (Laughter.)
Q I don't think that was Jon Stewart, I think it was Don Stewart. (Laughter.)
Q And if you take the timetables out but keep the pork, then that's not acceptable either?
MS. PERINO: The President has said he would veto it based on the pork and the arbitrary timetables.
Q So how are those not preconditions, then?
MS. PERINO: How is it not preconditions for them to say that they're going to keep them in?
Q No, but the terms they're coming down to discuss and to say that the President set up preconditions.
MS. PERINO: We get -- all the time we get these questions of, why won't we just meet? And the President is saying, let's have a meeting, let's have a discussion. And I think that it would be -- it would be the right thing for both sides to do, to sit down and have a talk.
Q Thank you.
Q Dana --
MS. PERINO: I'll get you afterwards, Les.
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry. END 1:16 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 9, 2007
President Bush Discusses Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Yuma, Arizona U.S. Border Patrol - Yuma Station Headquarters Yuma, Arizona 10:21 A.M. MST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you all very much, please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks for the warm weather. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Twenty-eight degrees in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, 28 degrees in Washington, that's right. I appreciate you sharing that with me. (Laughter.) Sometimes it's a little hotter than that in Washington. But I'm glad to be back here in Yuma. Thank you so very much for your hospitality. Thanks for your service to the country. I appreciate so very much the work you're doing day and night to protect these borders. And the American people owe you a great debt of gratitude.
The Border Patrol is really an important agency. I know some people are wondering whether or not it makes sense to join the Border Patrol. My answer is, I've gotten to know the Border Patrol, I know the people serving in this fine agency -- I would strongly urge our fellow citizens to take a look at this profession. You're outdoors, you're working with good people, and you're making a solid contribution to the United States of America. And I want to thank you all for wearing the uniform and doing the tough work necessary, the work that the American people expect you to do.
Last May, I visited this section of the border, and it was then that I talked about the need for our government to give you the manpower and resources you need to do your job. We were understaffed here. We weren't using enough technology to enable those who work here to be able to do the job the American people expect. I Returned to check on the progress, to make sure that the check wasn't in the mail -- it, in fact, had been delivered.
I went to a neighborhood that abuts up against the border when I was here in May. It's the place where a lot of people came charging across. One or two agents would be trying to do their job and stopping a flood of folks charging into Arizona, and they couldn't do the job -- just physically impossible. Back at this site, there's now infrastructure, there's fencing. And the amount of people trying to cross the border at that spot is down significantly.
I appreciate very much Ron Colburn and Ulay Littleton. They gave me the tour. Colburn, as you know, is heading up north. He's going to miss the weather. More importantly, he's going to miss the folks he worked with down here. I appreciate both of their service, I appreciate the tour. The efforts are working -- this border is more secure, and America is safer as a result.
Securing the border is a critical part of a strategy for comprehensive immigration reform. It is an important part of a reform that is necessary so that the Border Patrol agents down here can do their job more effectively. Congress is going to take up the legislation on immigration. It is a matter of national interest and it's a matter of deep conviction for me. I've been working to bring Republicans and Democrats together to resolve outstanding issues so that Congress can pass a comprehensive bill and I can sign it into law this year. (Applause.)
I appreciate the hard work of Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I appreciate Commissioner Ralph Basham, he's the main man in charge of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. David Aguilar, Chief of the Border Patrol is with us. David, thank you for the job you're doing. Lieutenant General Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. I want to thank the governor of the state of Arizona, Janet Napolitano. I appreciate you being here, Governor, thank you for taking time from the session to be down here. It means a lot when the governors take an active interest in what's going on in the borders of their respective states.
I appreciate so very much Senator John Kyl. Kyl is one of the most respected United States senators and I'm proud to be with him today -- and glad to give him a ride back to Washington, I might add. (Laughter.)
I appreciate members of the congressional delegation who have joined us: John Shadegg; Jeff Flake -- from Snowflake, Arizona, I want you to know -- and I appreciate you working on this immigration issue; Congressman Trent Franks, and Congressman Harry Mitchell. I appreciate you all taking time for being with me here today, it means a lot that you'd come.
I want to thank Senator Tim Bee, he's the president of the Arizona State Senate, for being here. Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming. Larry Nelson, the Mayor of Yuma, Arizona. I appreciate you being here, Mr. Mayor.
I do want to thank Major General David Ratacheck, the Adjutant General of the state of Arizona; thank all the local and state officials; and, most importantly, I want to thank the Border Patrol agents and I want to thank the National Guard folks for wearing the uniform. I am proud to be the Commander-in-Chief of all these units here today and I appreciate your service to the United States of America. (Applause.)
I hope by now the American people understand the need for comprehensive immigration reform is a clear need. Illegal immigration is a serious problem -- you know it better than anybody. It puts pressure on the public schools and the hospitals, not only here in our border states, but states around the country. It drains the state and local budgets. I was talking to the governor about how it strained the budgets. Incarceration of criminals who are here illegally strains the Arizona budget. But there's a lot of other ways it strains the local and state budgets. It brings crime to our communities.
It's a problem and we need to address it aggressively. This problem has been growing for decades, and past efforts to address it have failed. These failures helped create a perception that America was not serious about enforcing our immigration laws and that they could be broken without consequence. Past efforts at reform did not do enough to secure our nation's borders. As a result, many people have been able to sneak into this country.
If you don't man your borders and don't protect your borders, people are going to sneak in, and that's what's been happening for a long time. Past efforts at reform failed to address the underlying economic reasons behind illegal immigration. People will make great sacrifices to get into this country the find jobs and provide for their families.
When I was the governor of Texas I used to say family values did not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming here to put food on the table, and they're doing jobs Americans are not doing. And the farmers in this part of the world understand exactly what I'm saying. But so do a lot of other folks around the country. People are coming to work, and many of them have no lawful way to come to America, and so they're sneaking in.
Past efforts at reform also failed to provide sensible ways for employers to verify the legal status of the workers they hire. It's against the law to knowingly hire an illegal alien. And as a result, because they couldn't verify the legal status, it was difficult for employers to comply. It was difficult for the government to enforce the law at the work site. And, yet, it is a necessary part of a comprehensive plan. You see, the lessons of all these experiences -- the lesson of these experiences is clear: All elements of the issue must be addressed together. You can't address just one aspect and not be able to say to the American people that we're securing our borders.
We need a comprehensive bill, and that's what I'm working with members of Congress on, a comprehensive immigration bill. And now is the year to get it done. The first element, of course, is to secure this border. That's what I'm down here for, to remind the American people that we're spending their taxpayer -- their money, taxpayers' money, on securing the border. And we're making progress. This border should be open to trade and lawful immigration, and shut down to criminals and drug dealers and terrorists and coyotes and smugglers, people who prey on innocent life.
We more than doubled the funding for border security since I've been the President. In other words, it's one thing to hear people come down here and talk; it's another thing for people to come down and do what they say they're going to do. And I want to thank Congress for working on this issue. The funding is increasing manpower. The additional funding is increasing infrastructure, and it's increasing technology.
When I landed here at the airport, the first thing I saw was an unmanned aerial vehicle. It's a sophisticated piece of equipment. You can fly it from inside a truck, and you can look at people moving at night. It's the most sophisticated technology we have, and it's down here on the border to help the Border Patrol agents do their job. We've expanded the number of Border Patrol agents from about 9,000 to 13,000, and by the end of 2008, we're going to have a total of more than 18,000 agents.
I had the privilege of going to Artesia, New Mexico, to the training center. It was a fantastic experience to see the young cadets getting ready to come and wear the green of the Border Patrol. By the time we're through, we will have doubled the size of the Border Patrol. In other words, you can't do the job the American people expect unless you got enough manpower, and we're increasing the manpower down here.
This new technology is really important to basically leverage the manpower. Whether it be the technology of surveillance and communication, we're going to make sure the agents have got what is necessary to be able to establish a common picture and get information out to the field as quickly as possible so that those 18,000 agents, when they're finally on station, can do the job the American people expect.
But manpower can't do it alone. In other words, there has to be some infrastructure along the border to be able to let these agents do their job. And so I appreciate the fact that we've got double fencing, all-weather roads, new lighting, mobile cameras. The American people have no earthly idea what's going on down here. One of the reasons I've come is to let you know, let the taxpayers know, the good folks down here are making progress.
We've worked with our nation's governors to deploy 6,000 National Guard members to provide the Border Patrol with immediate reinforcements. In other words, it takes time to train the Border Patrol, and until they're fully trained, we've asked the Guard to come down. It's called Operation Jump Start, and the Guard down here is serving nobly.
I had the chance to visit with some of the Guard, and Mr. Mayor, you'll be pleased to hear they like being down here in Yuma, Arizona. They like the people, and they like the mission. More than 600 members of the Guard are serving here in the Yuma Sector. And I thank the Guard, and, equally importantly, I thank their families for standing by the men and women who wear the uniform during this particular mission. You email them back home and tell them how much I appreciate the fact they're standing by you.
I appreciate very much the fact that illegal border crossings in this area are down. In the months before Operation Jump Start, an average of more than 400 people a day were apprehended trying to cross here. The number has dropped to fewer than 140 a day. In other words, one way that the Border Patrol can tell whether or not we're making progress is the number of apprehensions. When you're apprehending fewer people, it means fewer are trying to come across. And fewer are trying to come across because we're deterring people from attempting illegal border crossings in the first place.
I appreciate what Colburn said -- he puts it this way, they're watching -- "They see us watching them," that's what he said, "and they have decided they just can't get across." And that's part of the effort we're doing. We're saying we're going to make it harder for you, so don't try in the first place.
We're seeing similar results all across the southern border. The number of people apprehended for illegally crossing our southern border is down by nearly 30 percent this year. We're making progress. And thanks for your hard work. It's hard work, but necessary work.
Another important deterrent to illegal immigration is to end what was called catch and release. I know how this discouraged some of our Border Patrol agents. I talked to them personally. They worked hard to find somebody sneaking in the country, they apprehended them; the next thing they know, they're back in society on our side of the border. There's nothing more discouraging than have somebody risk their life or work hard and have the fruits of their labor undermined. And that's what was happening with catch and release. In other words, we'd catch people, and we'd say, show up for your court date, and they wouldn't show up for their court date. That shouldn't surprise anybody. But that's what was happening. And the reason why that was happening is because we didn't have enough beds to detain people.
Now, most of the people we apprehend down here are from Mexico. About 85 percent of the illegal immigrants caught crossing into -- crossing this border are Mexicans -- crossing the southern border are Mexicans. And they're sent home within 24 hours. It's the illegal immigrants from other countries that are not that easy to send home.
For many years, the government didn't have enough space, and so Michael and I worked with Congress to increase the number of beds available. So that excuse was eliminated. The practice has been effectively ended. Catch and release for every non-Mexican has been effectively ended. And I want to thank the Border Patrol and the leaders of the Border Patrol for allowing me to stand up and say that's the case.
The reason why is not only do we have beds, we've expedited the legal process to cut the average deportation time. Now, these are non-Mexican illegal aliens that we've caught trying to sneak into our country. We're making it clear to foreign governments that they must accept back their citizens who violate our immigration laws. I said we're going to effectively end catch and release, and we have. And I appreciate your hard work in doing that.
The second element of a comprehensive immigration reform is a temporary worker program. You cannot fully secure the border until we take pressure off the border. And that requires a temporary worker program. It seems to make sense to me that if you've got people coming here to do jobs Americans aren't doing, we need to figure out a way that they can do so in a legal basis for a temporary period of time. And that way our Border Patrol can chase the criminals and the drug runners, potential terrorists, and not have to try to chase people who are coming here to do work Americans are not doing.
If you want to take the pressure off your border, have a temporary worker program. It will help not only reduce the number of people coming across the border, but it will do something about the inhumane treatment that these people are subjected to. There's a whole smuggling operation. You know this better than I do. There's a bunch of smugglers that use the individual as a piece of -- as a commodity. And they make money off these poor people. And they stuff them in the back of 18-wheelers. And they find hovels for them to hide in. And there's a whole industry that has sprung up. And it seems like to me that since this country respects human rights and the human condition, that it be a great contribution to eliminate this thuggery, to free these people from this kind of extortion that they go through. And one way to do so is to say you can come and work in our country for jobs Americans aren't doing for a temporary period of time.
The third element of a comprehensive reform is to hold employers accountable for the workers they hire. In other words, if you want to make sure that we've got a system in which people are not violating the law, then you've got to make sure we hold people to account, like employers. Enforcing immigration is a vital part of any successful reform. And so Chertoff and his department are cracking down on employers who knowingly violate the law.
But not only are there coyotes smuggling people in, there are document forgers that are making a living off these people. So, in other words, people may want to comply with the law, but it's very difficult at times to verify the legal status of their employees. And so to make the work site enforcement practical on a larger scale, we have got to issue a tamper-proof identification card for legal foreign workers.
We must create a better system for employers to verify the he legality of the workers. In other words, we got work to do. And part of a comprehensive bill is to make sure work site enforcement is effective.
Fourth, we've got to resolve the status of millions of illegal immigrants already here in the country. People who entered our country illegally should not be given amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. I oppose amnesty, and I think most people in the United States Congress oppose amnesty. People say, why not have amnesty? Well, the reason why is because 10 years from now you don't want to have a President having to address the next 11 million people who might be here illegally. That's why you don't want amnesty. And, secondly, we're a nation of law, and we expect people to uphold the law.
So we're working closely with Republicans and Democrats to find a practical answer that lies between granting automatic citizenship to every illegal immigrant and deporting every illegal immigrant.
It is impractical to take the position that, oh, we'll just find the 11 million or 12 million people and send them home. It's just an impractical position; it's not going to work. It may sound good. It may make nice sound bite news. It won't happen.
And, therefore, we need to work together to come up with a practical solution to this problem, and I know people in Congress are working hard on this issue. Illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, and pay their taxes, and learn the English language, and show work -- show that they've worked in a job for a number of years. People who meet a reasonable number of conditions and pay a penalty of time and money should be able to apply for citizenship. But approval would not be automatic, and they would have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.
What I've described is a way for those who've broken the law to pay their debt to society and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.
Finally, we have got to honor the tradition of the melting pot, and help people assimilate into our society by learning our history, our values and our language. Last June I created a new task force to look for ways to help newcomers assimilate and succeed in our country. Many organizations, from churches to businesses to civic associations, are working to answer this call, and I'm grateful for their service.
And so here are the outlines for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It's an emotional issue, as I'm sure you can imagine. People have got deep convictions. And my hope is that we can have a serious and civil and conclusive debate. And so we'll continue to work with members of both political parties. I think the atmosphere up there is good right now. I think people generally want to come together and put a good bill together -- one, by the way, that will make your job a lot easier.
It's important that we address this issue in good faith. And it's important for people to listen to everybody's positions. It's important for people not to give up, no matter how hard it looks from a legislative perspective. It's important that we get a bill done. We deserve a system that secures our borders, and honors our proud history as a nation of immigrants.
And so I can't think of a better place to come and to talk about the good work that's being done and the important work that needs to be done in Washington, D.C., and that's right here in Yuma, Arizona, a place full of decent, hardworking, honorable people. May God bless you all. (Applause.) END 10:45 A.M. MST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 8, 2007
President and Mrs. Bush Celebrate Easter Sunday at Fort Hood, Texas th Sustainment Command Chapel Fort Hood, Texas 10:00 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Laura and I just had the honor of celebrating Easter Sunday with members of our Armed Forces. I had a chance to reflect on the great sacrifice that our military and their families are making. I prayed for their safety, I prayed for their strength and comfort, and I pray for peace.
This is a joyous day for many people around the world, and it's a day for us to reflect on the many blessings in our lives. And we thank the General and the preacher at Fort Hood for welcoming me and Laura, and Mother and Dad and my Mother-in-Law. We wish all Americans a peaceful weekend. We wish our troops all the very best.
MRS. BUSH: Happy Easter. END 10:01 A.M. CDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 7, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, people around the world celebrate Passover and Easter. These holy days remind us of the presence of a loving God who delivers His people from oppression, and offers a love more powerful than death. We take joy in spending this special time with family and friends, and we give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.
One of our greatest blessings as Americans is that we have brave citizens who step forward to defend us. Every man or woman who wears our Nation's uniform is a volunteer, a patriot who has made the noble decision to serve a cause larger than self. This weekend, many of our service men and women are celebrating the holidays far from home. They are separated from their families by great distances, but they are always close in our thoughts. And this Passover and Easter, I ask you to keep them in your prayers.
Our men and women in uniform deserve the gratitude of every American. And from their elected leaders, they deserve something more: the funds, resources, and equipment they need to do their jobs.
Sixty-one days have passed since I sent Congress an emergency war spending bill to provide the funds our troops urgently need. But instead of approving that vital funding, Democrats in Congress have spent the past 61 days working to pass legislation that would substitute the judgment of politicians in Washington for the judgment of our generals in the field.
In both the House and Senate, Democratic majorities have passed bills that would impose restrictions on our military commanders, set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq, and fund domestic spending that has nothing to do with the war. The Democrats who passed these bills know that I will veto either version if it reaches my desk, and they know my veto will be sustained. Yet they continue to pursue the legislation. And now the process is on hold for two weeks, until the full Congress returns to session.
I recognize that Democrats are trying to show their current opposition to the war in Iraq. They see the emergency war spending bill as a chance to make that statement. Yet for our men and women in uniform, this emergency war spending bill is not a political statement, it is a source of critical funding that has a direct impact on their daily lives.
When Congress does not fund our troops on the front lines, our military is forced to make cuts in other areas to cover the shortfall. Military leaders have warned Congress about this problem. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pete Pace, recently testified that if Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on training, equipment repair, and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and Reserve forces. In a letter to Congress, Army Chief of Staff Pete Schoomaker put it this way: "Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families."
If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute. The Army will be forced to consider slowing or even freezing funding for depots where pivotal equipment is repaired, delaying or curtailing the training of some active duty forces, and delaying the formation of new brigade combat teams. The bottom line is that Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. And others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than they need to. That is unacceptable to me, and I believe it is unacceptable to the American people.
The full Congress will not be back from spring vacation until the week of April 16th. That means the soonest the House and Senate could get a bill to my desk will be sometime late this month, after the adverse consequences for our troops and their families have already begun. For our troops, the clock is ticking. If the Democrats continue to insist on making a political statement, they should send me their bill as soon as possible. I will veto it, and then Congress can go to work on a good bill that gives our troops the funds they need, without strings and without further delay.
We have our differences in Washington, D.C., but our troops should not be caught in the middle. All who serve in elected office have a solemn responsibility to provide for our men and women in uniform. We need to put partisan politics aside, and do our duty to those who defend us. Thank you for listening. END
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