For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 20, 2007
Press Gaggle on the President's Bilateral Meetings with Mexico and Canada by Dan Fisk, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, National Security Council Curling Rink, Fairmont Le Château Montebello, Montebello, Canada, 5:38 P.M. EDT
MR. FISK: Good afternoon; good to see a number of faces again. Some of you I guess got your wish today -- you get to see me again. (Laughter.)
Anyway, let me give you a brief overview of both bilateral meetings; I'll do them in chronological order. First, the President's meeting with Prime Minister Harper, that was the first meeting.
A quick overview. They discussed Afghanistan; the border relationship, the U.S.-Canada border relationship; issues like the Western Hemisphere Initiative, land pre-clearance. Third, a bit on trade, focused specifically on Doha and WTO. And then went off on just kind of a basket of general bilateral issues, things like Devil's Lake, LNG and the arctic.
On Afghanistan, the two leaders shared their respective assessments of the situation in that country. Both leaders agreed upon the importance of continuing in sustaining the current conditions in Afghanistan and the continuing support for the Afghan people. The Prime Minister affirmed that Canada would continue with its current mission through February of 2009; explained to the President the dynamic that Afghanistan is considered within Canada.
The President expressed his appreciation for the contribution and the sacrifices that Canadians have made and are making in Afghanistan, support the Afghan people. And the President now has also a better understanding in terms of not only, again, the dynamics here, but the need that at some point the Prime Minister will need to go back to Parliament to have a decision on what the mission will be beyond February 2009.
On the border issues -- and I know this is a set of issues of particular concern to Canadians -- again, things like the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and land pre-clearance. Both leaders agreed that we need to continue to work together to implement a system that facilitates the strong relationship that currently exists between our two countries, while also ensuring the security of both countries.
There was a bit of a discussion, got into some of the details on some of the issues of documents and expectations on our part. The President -- President Bush reaffirmed that we will be going ahead and implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative as required by our legislation, but they were also sensitive to the need to facilitate the travel -- the exchange and the movement between legitimate travelers and commerce. So we will continue to focus on how we can work together to make sure that whatever system -- the system that is put in place again works to the benefits of both countries and continues to build upon the strong relationship we have.
The Prime Minister and the President also briefly discussed Doha, as I mentioned. Both countries strongly support an ambitious outcome of the WTO talks that are currently underway. This I think also will be a discussion that they will pick up tomorrow in the trilateral lunch, when they talk about a broader -- or a global basket of issues.
And then as I mentioned, there were some discussion on general bilateral issue. An issue called Devil's -- an issue involving Devil's Lake, the name of a lake in North Dakota that is of concern, especially, again, here in Canada, on certain environmental issues and what is underway on that.
And then also the Prime Minister talked to the President a little bit about the Arctic and Canadian concerns of what's happening there. I think it's fair to say the President came away with a far better understanding of Canada's position; however, I will note that from the U.S. position we continue to believe that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway, that there is international navigational rights through the Northwest Passage.
Let me move briefly to the bilateral with President Calder n. Let me put this into, if I can, three I think overall, or large issues.
The first one was the hurricane, Hurricane Dean, that appears now to be headed towards the Yucatan and possibly Northern and Central America region. Second is the issue of security cooperation. And the third issue was the situation on immigration.
First, again on the hurricane, the President reiterated our willingness to help Mexico should Mexico need assistance -- and again, clearly responding to what the Mexicans see as their needs. We want to be in a position to help them as appropriate and as best we can should Dean hit any part of Mexico.
On security cooperation, an issue that I know that a number of you have already reported on, on this -- I mean, first, I need to reiterate the very positive feelings that exist toward President Calder n and a great deal of respect for the courageous acts he's already taken and the steps he's made already to take on the drug violence in that country.
I think the key point out of the meeting as I would describe it is, both leaders reaffirmed their strong interest in building a common strategy in order to deal with a common threat, recognizing that this is an issue of illegal drug trade and associated violence that impacts both countries equally, and is something that we should be working together to address -- but also recognizing that in working together that each country has its own unique and specific contribution it needs to make, so that this is not a matter of this being a United States -- this is not a United States strategy that somehow is being given to Mexico. This is a case of us trying to support -- of us supporting a Mexican strategy, and one that the Mexicans themselves define, but also realizing that we have a shard responsibility.
As many of you also know, there's been a series of ongoing discussions on this question of security cooperation. I think the talks today will give those other discussions that have been ongoing at a more technical or expert level more momentum and move this process along.
And then just finally on immigration itself, President Calder n touched on that. They talked a little bit about the executive order that the President issued -- President Bush issued on October 10th, which was a combination of measures in terms of enforcement, especially on the employer verification side, but also in terms of dealing with H2 visas for agricultural workers and then also expanding what's called the TN visa, which is the NAFTA visa for professionals.
So with that, I'll be happy to take some questions from you all, and to the extent I can talk a little bit more I'll be pleased to do so.
Q Dan, can you just clarify a little bit more about this discussion on security cooperation? I know you said that both leaders are interested in continuing to work together on security and immigration, but given what happened in Congress, I guess what I'm left wondering is what are they agreeing to do next? Where is the conversation headed?
MR. FISK: Well, the conversation really does go to how do we, the United States and Mexico, build a common strategy to address a common problem -- recognizing that we have -- we feel the effects of the illegal drug trade in certain ways; in fact, some of those ways are similar in terms of the drug violence that has occurred in both American and Mexican communities. And how can we move that conversation from a very general level to specifics, in terms of what that means.
And the two leaders did not get into the details or get into the widgets, as I put it, but clearly reaffirmed their commitment that we do have a shared responsibility. We have to recognize that each country is going to have a unique contribution and role to play. We understand that the Mexicans are developing their own strategy. There are things we need to be doing on our side that are good for our country, but they also will be good for Mexico.
And so it's a matter of how to move that process forward. And I think the important point out of today's conversation is the reaffirmation of that and also, as I said, to give it further momentum, I think there's been a lot of progress made at the technical level. And it's always useful when the two leaders talk to -- it adds to everyone's interest in moving forward even faster. So I think that's what comes out of today's meeting in a lot of ways, is that this is going to give more momentum to this process and these set of discussions.
Q Is there any update on his travel plans back to Mexico because of Dean? And also, are we to understand that there's not going to be any announcement of any of the drug trafficking aid that has been reported on?
MR. FISK: On your first question, it's clear that President Calder n is watching the weather with a great deal of interest. He will need to make his own decision in terms of what his schedule is. I think that everyone on our side is completely understanding if the President of Mexico decides he needs to return early. And so again, we'll just -- we'll be flexible and if President Calder n makes a decision that he needs to cut this short, he'll make it based on what he thinks the right calculation is for Mexico. And again, we will be very understanding of that.
In terms of any announcement of specifics of the package, there will not be -- there are no plans to have any -- give it any more specificity from this location. The two leaders, again, talked about kind of what are the areas we need to think about, what are some of the areas we've covered. In one part it was a review of kind of what are some of the specific discussions that have occurred at a level that's almost a desk officer level, if you will, but actually at an implementation agency level. But there will be no announcement out of this meeting, in terms of specifics on the package.
Q Is President Bush satisfied that President Calder n has done enough to address kind of the level of corruption that has been fostered by the drug trade in Mexico?
MR. FISK: The President strongly believes that President Calder n has the political will to address criminal activity associated with the drug trade across a range of activities. I mean, we've tended to focus, and you all in the media have tended to focus a bit on the violence -- understandably so. But we also know that there are institutional issues involved. We know that drug corruption has affected both countries at various times, to various degrees.
And there is a recognition that you can't just deal with one part of the problem, you have to deal with the whole range of the challenges that the drug trade confronts, including on our side that we have to do more in terms of dealing with demand; but also realizing that there is on the Mexican side, there is a leader who has already taken concrete steps to show that he will deal with this problem in all of its manifestations. We are satisfied by that. I don't want to appear to be up here giving him a grade or judging him.
But in terms of a belief in his sincere commitment, there's no doubt about that. The President conveyed that. Again, when we use the word "courage," we mean that sincerely and genuinely.
Q Dan, on the border issues with Canada, did the President indicate he might be willing to make any specific concessions as to any of the issues that Canada is upset about? And also, was Secretary Chertoff in the meeting with Mexico?
MR. FISK: Secretary Chertoff was only in the meeting with the Prime Minister, specifically because of the border issues. He was not -- "he," Secretary Chertoff, was not in the meeting with President Calder n.
In terms of the discussion on the border issues with Canada, things like the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, we are committed to implementing WHTI, but we are committed to implementing it in a reasonable way. Again, our focus is on how do we facilitate this peaceful, prosperous, dynamic relationship that exists between the United States and Canada. So we are going to do that in a way that we think also meets our security interests. And that was the basis for the discussion.
It was an opportunity for both sides to have a very full discussion of the issue. I think that everyone on our side has a far better understanding of Canadian concerns. We're going to take those into account. I think we've taken the Canadian concerns into account consistently, in terms of our implementation. I think that it's always helpful to have the two leaders have that discussion with their two relevant ministers -- by the way, Minister MacKay was there, on the Canadian side today in the bilateral. So you had each side, you had its cabinet minister there who is responsible for this relationship on border security.
So again, the key point is, is that we understand the importance of the relationship to both countries. This is $1.4 billion of commerce a day. We want to build on that and make sure it's successful. And we also want to make sure that it's safe.
Q There have been a couple reports about this work to craft some kind of plan if there's, like, another terrorist attack or something, that -- or, like, avian flu or something. What can you tell us about that?
MR. FISK: This goes to the larger security and prosperity partnership agenda. And there has been -- for at least last year and again this year as part of that agenda a discussion of emergency preparedness. The focus over the last year has been on developing a plan on how the three countries could deal with the circumstance of avian or pandemic influenza. I don't want to pre-empt an announcement, but that is something there will be more on I think tomorrow.
But building on that, we hope to have a larger discussion amongst the three countries. And this will be, again, on a continental basis how are we prepared to deal generally with an emergency circumstance, whether it's natural disaster -- say, a hurricane -- or frankly, a man-made or man-created or person-created incident. So that is something that will be a topic of discussion tomorrow.
Q What was the trade figure between all three countries?
MR. FISK: Just for clarification, the daily trade figure between the three countries is considered about $2.4 billion. U.S.-Canada is $1.4 billion. U.S.-Mexico is about a billion dollars. END 5:56 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 18, 2007
President's Radio Address
In recent months, American and Iraqi forces have struck powerful blows against al Qaeda terrorists and violent extremists in Anbar and other provinces. In recent days, our troops and Iraqi allies launched a new offensive called Phantom Strike. In this offensive, we are carrying out targeted operations against terrorists and extremists fleeing Baghdad and other key cities -- to prevent them from returning or setting up new bases of operation. The terrorists remain dangerous and brutal, as we saw this week when they massacred more than 200 innocent Yezidis, a small religious minority in northwestern Iraq. Our hearts go out to the families of those killed, and our troops are going to go after the murderers behind this horrific attack. As we surge combat operations to capture and kill the enemy, we are also surging Provincial Reconstruction Teams to promote political and economic progress. Since January, we have doubled the number of these teams, known as PRTs. They bring together military, civilian, and diplomatic personnel to help Iraqi communities rebuild infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage reconciliation from the ground up. These teams are now deployed throughout the country, and they are helping Iraqis make political gains, especially at the local level.
In Anbar province, at this time last year, the terrorists were in control of many areas and brutalizing the local population. Then local sheikhs joined with American forces to drive the terrorists out of Ramadi and other cities. Residents began to provide critical intelligence, and tribesmen joined the Iraqi police and security forces. Today, the provincial council in Ramadi is back, and last month provincial officials re-opened parts of the war-damaged government center with the help of one of our PRTs. Thirty-five local council members were present as the chairman called the body to order for its inaugural session.
Similar scenes are taking place in other parts of Anbar. Virtually every city and town in the province now has a mayor and a functioning municipal council. The rule of law is being restored. And last month, some 40 judges held a conference in Anbar to restart major criminal trials. In the far west town of al Qaim, tribal leaders turned against the terrorists. Today, those tribal leaders head the regional mayor's office and the local police force. Our PRT leader on the ground reports that al Qaim is seeing new construction, growing commercial activity, and an increasing number of young men volunteering for the Iraqi army and police.
In other provinces, there are also signs of progress from the bottom up. In Muthanna, an overwhelmingly Shia province, the local council held a public meeting to hear from citizens on how to spend their budget and rebuild their neighborhoods. In Diyala province, the city of Baqubah re-opened six of its banks, providing residents with much-needed capital for the local economy. And in Ninewa province, local officials have established a commission to investigate corruption, with a local judge empowered to pursue charges of fraud and racketeering.
Unfortunately, political progress at the national level has not matched the pace of progress at the local level. The Iraqi government in Baghdad has many important measures left to address, such as reforming the de-Baathification laws, organizing provincial elections, and passing a law to formalize the sharing of oil revenues. Yet, the Iraqi parliament has passed about 60 pieces of legislation.
And despite the lack of oil revenue law on the books, oil revenue sharing is taking place. The Iraqi parliament has allocated more than $2 billion in oil revenue for the provinces. And the Shia-led government in Baghdad is sharing a significant portion of these oil revenues with Sunni provincial leaders in places like Anbar.
America will continue to urge Iraq's leaders to meet the benchmarks they have set. Yet Americans can be encouraged by the progress and reconciliation that are taking place at the local level. An American politician once observed that "all politics is local." In a democracy, over time national politics reflects local realities. And as reconciliation occurs in local communities across Iraq, it will help create the conditions for reconciliation in Baghdad as well. Thank you for listening.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 17, 2007
Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe Crawford Middle School, Crawford, Texas, 10:17 A.M. CDT
MR. JOHNDROE: Good morning, everyone. This morning the President had his normal briefings. Then he taped the radio address; the topic will be Iraq, and how the provincial reconstruction teams are working to help facilitate political and economic reforms, as well as assist with bottom up reconciliation.
The President was also briefed this morning on the mine situation in Utah. Our heart goes out to the mine rescuer from the Mine Safety and Health Administration office who was lost. Assistant Secretary of Labor Richard Stickler is out in Utah, and will be briefing on that later today.
At 12:20 p.m. today, the President and Mrs. Bush will attend the annual Republican National Committee reception at the Broken Spoke Ranch. The President has attended this event every year since 2002.
And with that, I'm happy to take any questions.
Q Gordon, what does the White House think of the Federal Reserve action, cutting the discount rate?
MR. JOHNDROE: We have full confidence in the Federal Reserve and respect their independence, but we don't comment on their specific policy announcements.
Q Was the President briefed on it, on the action?
MR. JOHNDROE: The President's economic advisors, led by Secretary Paulson, keep him updated. They are in regular communication with him. I can't speak specifically to the Federal Reserve action. I do know that Secretary Paulson called the President yesterday evening to give him an update on the economy and the markets.
Q Gordon, what's the level of concern at the White House about Russia's resumption of strategic bomber patrols?
MR. JOHNDROE: We have very good working relations with the Russians, with the Russian military. Militaries around the world engage in a variety of different activities. It's not entirely surprising that the Russian air force, the Russian military might engage in this kind of activity or exercise.
Q Why isn't it surprising? I mean, this is a Cold War activity, put in moth balls, what, in the first Bush administration? Why isn't surprising that they'd bring their planes back on line?
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, I think it's an internal decision made by the Russians. And as I said, various militaries around the world can choose to exercise their forces in different ways. I'd just leave it at that.
Q Can I follow up?
MR. JOHNDROE: Sure, Suzanne.
Q Is it considered a security threat in any sense to the U.S. military?
MR. JOHNDROE: Oh, I don't think our military has those concerns about it.
Q Gordon, how does the White House square the rather dramatic difference between FBI Chief Muller's written notes on the meeting with Ashcroft in March 2004 in the hospital with the Attorney General's comments? Just to read out a couple of the comments he had, Mueller says the Attorney General was "feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed," whereas the Attorney General -- I'm sorry, Gonzales says he was "lucid" and "did most of the talking" during that visit.
MR. JOHNDROE: I think this issue and this time period and this event have been gone over many, many times, and I just don't have anything to add to it. I think if you need additional comments -- not that he may have much to add, either -- but Tony Fratto back in Washington follows this issue and comments on it for the White House. But I just -- it's been gone over many, many times, and there's just nothing to add to it.
Q On a different subject. Tony Snow this week told Hugh Hewitt that he's already made it clear at the White House that he's not going to be able to go the distance, meaning serve to the end of the term. Has he submitted his resignation?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I had not heard that Tony had made those comments. I'm not aware of any resignation being submitted or anything like that.
Q On Freddie and Fannie, have you ruled out Fannie and Freddie buying mortgages beyond their current limits, or to do anything else to help provide mortgage finance and other credit markets?
MR. JOHNDROE: I don't believe the White House is going to have any additional comments on the markets or no the mortgage situation. I think the Fed obviously took action today, and I think the Treasury Department may have more for you on that.
Q Gordon, does the verdict in the Jose Padilla case lead the administration to think that enemy combatants can be tried in civilian courts?
MR. JOHNDROE: One, pleased to see that Jose Padilla received a fair trial and a just verdict. But I think each case has to be looked at individually. Some cases do fall into a certain tranche, but each case has to be looked on an individual basis. Different detainees fall under different -- they have different status, and some might be an American citizen, but many are not, as are most held in Guantanamo Bay. And I think that's an important distinction.
All right. Thank you all. END 10:23 A.M. CDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 13, 2007
President Bush Visits Wounded Warriors and Re-Affirms Support for Dole-Shalala Commission Recommendations Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Washington, D.C., 11:07 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. It's an honor for me to be here with Senator Bob Dole, and Secretary Donna Shalala, Secretary Jim Nicholson, and Deputy Secretary Gordon England. I appreciate the opportunity to come to a building full of compassion, a place of expertise, where people are dedicating their time and efforts to help those on active duty and those who have served before.
Any time there is any doubt in anybody's mind that our veterans are not getting excellent care, then we in government have a duty to deal with those doubts. I have asked Secretary Gates and Secretary Nicholson to review their respective departments and the interface of their departments -- the Defense Department and the Veterans Department -- to make sure that any doubt as to whether or not a veteran, or one on active duty, gets the best care, does so.
I also asked Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala to lead a non-partisan, independent commission to identify areas where we can do better, and more importantly, come up with solutions as to how to deal with those problems. The commissioners conducted a very serious and lengthy review of our military and veterans health care systems, and they submitted recommendations to me at the end of July. After Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala briefed me on their recommendations, I then directed Secretaries Gates and Nicholson to study and more importantly implement the recommendations, so we can ensure our severely wounded servicemembers and their families that they will receive the best possible care.
We've got great health care for our wounded. We just want to make sure that the system is seamless and that the families are treated with the utmost of care during these difficult moments. Secretaries Gates and Nicholson and their departments are working hard to make sure their agencies talk to each other and collaborate. Equally importantly, they're looking at the recommendations that the Dole-Shalala commission put forward, and they're implementing them. In other words, the commission did really good work. The commission's recommendations are solid, and therefore, to the extent that we can move without congressional law, we will do so. And not only will we do so, we will keep the commissioners abreast of the progress we are making.
Secondly, we want to work with Congress. When they come back in September, we want to work with Congress to pass that which is necessary to make sure that the Dole-Shalala commission recommendations are fully implemented. In other words, there are some aspects of the commission recommendations that require congressional approval. We believe it's important for Congress to listen to the commission. We believe the recommendations make a lot of sense, and we would ask for the Congress to pass those recommendations as quickly as possible, so I can sign them into law.
There's an amazing -- there's a lot of amazing things taking place here in this facility. For example, we saw information technology, health care records that are being passed seamlessly from the Department of Defense to the VA, to make sure that the care providers here have got up-to-date access for each patient. We saw volunteers helping the wounded learn to regain balance and confidence through kayaking programs. I saw physical therapists -- I heard physical therapists talk about their patients with the kind of care and compassion that obviously requires a big heart and strong commitment.
The commitment of this government is this: Anybody who is sent into harm's way deserves the best possible care. We're dedicated to this goal. If we find problems, we'll solve the problems. For those who are providing the care, we thank you. For the soldiers who are receiving the care, we owe you the best. And for the families who stand by them, we thank you for your patience.
God bless our troops. Thank you. END 11:12 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 11, 2007
President Bush Welcome French President Sarkozy to Walker's Point Walker's Point, Kennebunkport, Maine, 11:47 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: You all having a good time here?
Q Thank you, it's great.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Particularly thinking about you, Mark.
Q Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mark, let me ask you, looking forward to going down to Crawford?
Q You bet, can't wait.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good, well, that will be Monday.
Q Mr. President, what do you expect about France --
PRESIDENT BUSH: I expect to be with a friend. I'm looking forward to having him with my family. The best way we can do things -- best way we send a good signal to President Sarkozy is invite here at the family house. I've got a lot of my brothers around, my sister, my daughters. He's going to figure out what --
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Youngest grandchild made these signs.
MRS. BUSH: Did you see the signs the grandchildren made?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Le signe.
PRESIDENT BUSH: What language are you speaking? (Laughter.)
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Is that "sign" -- signe?
Q Mr. President, aren't you disappointed that --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Never disappointed, always upbeat. Feeling good, feeling optimistic about life. Thank you. Thank you. Disappointed about what?
Q About Mrs. Sarkozy not coming?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Of course we are. She's a very dynamic woman. She is -- we were looking forward to seeing her, as well as the children. And so we're disappointed she's sick, but we understand. That happens sometimes in life.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Very nice of him to come, having been back to France yesterday --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: -- it's amazing.
Q Are you surprised the President of France vacations in America?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We're pleased he's here. Of course he makes the choice he makes. If people were asking me where I think they ought to vacation, it would be right here in America -- where I'll be vacationing, as you know. Monday, starting in Crawford.
Q Could you imagine you, or you, sir, as President, vacationing in a foreign country?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Of course I could.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, there's some spectacular spots around the world that would be --
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: We've done it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- great places to relax. But as you know, Mark, I'm a fellow -- I'm a Texan, I like my place down there. I like to go down there as much as I can. It's where I can relax. It's also -- the job follows you wherever you go, you're always President. And so here we are at my Mother and Dad's house, enjoying a beautiful Maine day, fixing to sit down with the President of France. We're going to have a heart-to-heart talk. We'll be talking about a lot of key issues.
The good thing about President Sarkozy is you know where he stands, he'll tell you exactly what he thinks. And I hope he'd say the same thing about me.
Q Do you think, if he invites you to go to
France for a vacation --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Of course I'd go.
Q -- would you go?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Particularly if he could find a place for me to ride my mountain bike. (Laughter.)
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Plenty of mountains over there.
Q Mr. President, could you say something in French?
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I can't. I can barely speak English. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, what kind of lunch are you going to have?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We're going to give him a hamburger or hot dog, his choice. (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: A traditional family lunch --
Q Mustard or catsup?
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's up to him. We got it all laid out in there. He's got some baked beans, if he'd like some baked beans we've got that, as well.
MRS. BUSH: Native Maine corn.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Corn on the cob, real fresh this time of year.
MRS. BUSH: -- salad, fresh tomatoes.
PRESIDENT BUSH: If he feels like it, he can have him a piece of blueberry pie -- fresh blueberries up here in Maine.
Q Do you think he's bringing cheese?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think he's bringing goodwill. He's bringing a good brain, good vision and goodwill. I'm looking forward to seeing him.
Q Are you going to go fishing?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't know if we will or not. We've got a --
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: We went this morning to check, there's no fish --
PRESIDENT BUSH: We may go boating. That's the difference between fishing. I need to spend a little time with him alone. We'll figure out the schedule here in a minute. I've got -- we've probably got 45 minutes of private time that we've got to sit down and talk about some of the key issues of the world. This is a complicated world with a lot of opportunities to bring peace, and no question, when America and France work together we can get a lot of important things done.
Q What's the main issue you want to address with him?
PRESIDENT BUSH: There's a lot of issues, a lot of issues. It's a complicated world. One thing --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Sure, absolutely we'll talk about Iran. But, yes, I had a very good visit with the President in Germany and I was very impressed -- impressed with his vision, impressed with his leadership skills. Appreciated very much the involvement of the French government in helping get the nurses out of Libya, and I think we can work well together. And that's going to be good for the people of France and the people of the United States, and it's going to be good to help in the spread of peace.
Q Do you see it as a time to start new relations with France, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We've had good relations with France. Obviously there's been disagreements, but just because you have disagreements on particular issues doesn't mean you have -- not going to have good relations. I respect the French a lot and --
Q -- new government give a new leeway to --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. I respect the French people, I respect the history of France. We have had disagreements -- on Iraq, in particular -- but I've never allowed disagreements to not find other ways to work together. The previous administration and my administration worked very closely on Lebanon, and I'm looking forward to building on the progress -- here comes the President.
Thank you for the press conference. Talk it up. Talk it up as a guy who's trying to reach out and be friendly to the Fourth Estate -- that would be the press.
* * *
Q Mr. Sarkozy --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Do you want to say a few comments?
They just asked me about your wife and I said how disappointed we were, but we fully understand.
Do you want to ask him a couple of questions? He's never shy around the press.
Q (Asked in French and translated.) Mr. Sarkozy, what's the message you bring to the American President and to the Americans?
PRESIDENT SARKOZY: (As translated.) I came to visit the United States on holiday, on vacation, like 900,000 French do every year. It's a great country. I'm very happy to be here. The United States is a close friend of France, and I'm very glad to be able to meet with the President of the United States here today.
Q A new page in the history of the two countries?
PRESIDENT SARKOZY: I just finished reading a biography of Lafayette, and I wanted to tell President Bush about that. The U.S. and France have been allies and friends for 250 years. At the birth of the United States, France chose the side of the U.S. -- there were 4 million Americans at that time, and France was the friend of the Americans. Afterwards we, the French, were involved in the war -- the West were on our side. And on the East Coast, we see a lot of cemeteries with small white crosses -- on the French coast -- and those are young Americans who came to die for us. And that is a lot more important than Mr. Sarkozy or Mr. Bush, because after Mr. Bush, after Mr. Sarkozy, we'll continue to be friends of the Americans.
The U.S. is a large, big democracy. It's a country of freedom and it's a country that we've always admired because it's the county that brought a constitution and freedom to the world. And France is friends with democracies, not with dictatorships.
Do we agree on everything? No. Because maybe even within a family there are disagreements, but we are still a family. And we may be friends and not agree on everything, but we are friends, nevertheless. That's the truth.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Beautiful. Thank you. We've got to go eat a hamburger. We've got to go eat a hamburger.
PRESIDENT SARKOZY: Cecilia called Mrs. Bush this morning --
MRS. BUSH: Yes, we talked.
PRESIDENT SARKOZY: -- I went back to France, yes, for the Cardinal's funeral. I know that -- therefore, I know very well that the distance between the U.S. and France is relatively small. (Laughter.) And as I came back I realized that my wife and two of my children had a sore throat. And George will say that I brought it -- (laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all. Thank you. END 12:00 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 11, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. In America, August is considered a slow news month. But in the war on terror, America and our allies remain on the offense against our enemies. And this month, we've had some encouraging news from both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Earlier this week, I had a good meeting with President Karzai of Afghanistan at Camp David. He updated me on the work his government is doing to help build a more hopeful future for the Afghan people. He told me that senior officials and tribal leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan are meeting to discuss how to deal with the extremists who are targeting both their countries. And he explained why he's confident that his government will prevail against the Taliban remnants who continue to launch attacks throughout his country. Here's how President Karzai put it: "The Taliban do pose dangers to our innocent people .... [But] they are not posing any threat to the government of Afghanistan, they are not posing any threat to the institutions of Afghanistan, or to the buildup of institutions of Afghanistan." He continued: The Taliban "is a force that's defeated" and it is "acting in cowardice by killing children going to school." In other words, the Taliban fighters can still launch attacks on the innocent, but they cannot stop the march of democracy in Afghanistan.
In Iraq, we are working to help put the Iraqi government on the same path. The surge that General Petraeus and our troops are carrying out is designed to help provide security for the Iraqi people, especially in Baghdad -- and aid the rise of an Iraqi government that can protect its people, deliver basic services for all its citizens, and serve as an ally in the war on terror. Our new strategy is delivering good results, and our commanders recently reported more good news.
One encouraging development was a coalition air strike that killed a terrorist named al-Badri earlier this month. Al-Badri was the mastermind of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shia Islam's holiest shrines. That bombing sparked the escalation in sectarian violence we saw in 2006. Al-Badri was the most notorious al Qaeda commander in Samarra. He sheltered foreign terrorists, and he was responsible for attacks that claimed many innocent lives. His death is a victory for a free Iraq, and a sign that America and the Iraqi government will not surrender the future of Iraq to cold-blooded killers.
Al-Badri is just one of the many al Qaeda leaders and other extremists who are coming under a withering assault across Iraq. Only a year ago, al Qaeda ruled places like Ramadi, terrorizing the local population and intimidating local authorities. Today al Qaeda has largely been driven out of these cities, markets and schools are reopening, and normal life is returning. And since January, each month we have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other enemies of Iraq's elected government.
Our surge is seizing the initiative from the enemy and handing it to the Iraqi people. And Iraqis are responding. Local residents are coming forward with tips that are helping U.S. and Iraqi forces rout out terrorists hiding among the population. While political progress has been slower than we had hoped, the Iraqi parliament passed more than 50 pieces of legislation in its most recent session. They approved a $41 billion budget, created an electoral commission and military courts, and laid the groundwork for private sector investment in production of gasoline and diesel fuel. At the same time, Iraqi forces have taken responsibility for security in a number of areas. They are taking losses at a much higher rate than we are. And they're making these sacrifices willingly, because they are determined to see their children live in freedom.
The enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, and the surge is still in its early stages. Changing conditions on the ground is difficult work. But our troops are proving that it can be done. They are carrying out their mission with skill and honor. They are accomplishing great things for the future of our Nation and for the future of a free Iraq.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 10, 2007
President Bush Addresses Border Security and Immigration Challenges
Today, members of my Cabinet announced a series of important new Administrative actions to address border security and immigration challenges. These reforms represent steps my Administration can take within the boundaries of existing law to better secure our borders, improve worksite enforcement, streamline existing temporary worker programs, and help new immigrants assimilate into American society.
Although the Congress has not addressed our broken immigration system by passing comprehensive reform legislation, my Administration will continue to take every possible step to build upon the progress already made in strengthening our borders, enforcing our worksite laws, keeping our economy well-supplied with vital workers, and helping new Americans learn English.
I appreciate the work of Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Gutierrez in implementing these important reforms, which will improve our security and enrich our Nation.
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For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 10, 2007
Fact Sheet: Improving Border Security and Immigration Within Existing Law
Today, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff And Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez Announced A Series Of Reforms The Administration Will Pursue To Address Border Security And Immigration Challenges. The following reforms represent steps the Administration can take within the boundaries of existing law to secure our borders more effectively, improve interior and worksite enforcement, streamline existing guest worker programs, improve the current immigration system, and help new immigrants assimilate into American culture.
1. The Administration Will Continue To Strengthen Security At The Border With Additional Personnel And Infrastructure. We are committed to implementing the following border security measures by December 31, 2008:
18,300 Border Patrol agents
370 miles of fencing
300 miles of vehicle barriers
105 camera and radar towers
Three additional UAVs
We will also work to ensure that 1,700 more Border Patrol Agents and an additional UAV are added in 2009.
2. The Administration Will Maintain The Policy Of "Catch And Return" For Illegal Aliens Apprehended At The Border.For years, limited detention space forced the release of many illegal border crossers from nations other than Mexico with nothing more than a Notice to Appear for a hearing before an immigration judge. Many aliens ignored these notices and instead blended into U.S. society. The Administration has ended this practice and instituted a policy of "catch and return," ensuring that all removable aliens caught trying to cross the border illegally are held until they can be removed.
The Administration Will Further Increase Funding For Detention Beds So There Are Places To Detain 31,500 Illegal Aliens Until They Can Be Returned.
The Administration Will Also Press Recalcitrant Countries To Work With The United States To Repatriate Citizens Who Are In The United States Illegally.
3. The Departments Of State And Homeland Security Will Strengthen Legal Efforts To Keep International Gang Members Out Of The United States. Gangs are at the root of many U.S. crime problems today, and many of the most dangerous gangs draw significant membership from abroad. The Federal government already denies visas to known members of certain gangs from China, the former Soviet Union, and El Salvador. Today, the President is directing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand this list of dangerous organized gangs from other nations and to ensure that members of those gangs are barred from entry into the United States.
4. The Administration Will Expand Exit Requirements So Persons Who Overstay Limited-Duration Visits To The United States Can Be Identified.
By The End Of 2008, The US-VISIT Exit Requirement Will Be Underway At All U.S. Airports And Seaports. The Department of Homeland Security will continue to explore effective and cost-efficient means of establishing biometric exit requirements at land border crossings.
The Administration Will Establish A New Land-Border Exit System For Guest Workers, Starting On A Pilot Basis.This will help ensure that temporary workers in the country now follow the mandate to leave when their work authorization expires.
5. The Administration Will Require All Travelers To Our Ports Of Entry To Use Passports Or Other Similar Secure Documents.Since January 2007, air travelers have been required to carry a passport for entry into the United States. Because of passport processing backlogs, a temporary accommodation has been made for U.S. citizens traveling in the Western Hemisphere, which will be phased out. Starting January 31, 2008, DHS will phase in a requirement for passports or other secure documents for sea and land ports of entry.
6. Beginning This Fall, The Secretary Of Homeland Security Will Deliver Regular "State Of The Border" Reports. These reports will keep the American people informed of the Federal Government's progress in securing the border and hold the Administration accountable for continuing improvement.
7. The Administration Is Training Hundreds Of State And Local Law Enforcement Officers To Address Illegal Immigration In Their Communities.The Administration is maintaining the 287(g) program and expanding other measures that help State and local law officials. These measures include a broad array of enforcement tools, such as formal task forces, greater use of the ICE Law Enforcement Support Center, delegated border search and seizure authority under Title 19, and enhanced partnerships to address location-specific threats, such as gangs.
8. By This Fall, U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement Teams Devoted To Removing Fugitive Aliens Will Have Been Quintupled In Less Than Three Years. There were 15 seven-member Fugitive Operations Teams in 2005. As of this week there are 68; there will be 75 by the end of September.
9. The Justice Department Will Initiate Regulatory Action To Close The "Voluntary Departure" Loophole Manipulated By Many Illegal Immigrants.Illegal immigrants who settle their cases by agreeing to voluntarily depart sometimes then gain extra time inside the United States by filing a procedural motion to reopen the case. New regulations will clarify that filing such a motion will terminate the voluntary departure status and make the alien subject to the order of removal. They will also set a presumptive $3,000 civil penalty for failing to comply with a voluntary departure agreement.
10. Today, The Department Of Homeland Security Issued A "No-Match" Regulation That Will Help Employers Ensure Their Workers Are Legal And Help The Government Identify And Crack Down On Employers Who Knowingly Hire Illegal Workers.In cases in which an employer has a significant number of employees with inaccurate personal identity information, the Social Security Administration will send the employer a "No-Match" letter. The regulation clarifies that employers may be held liable if they ignore the "No Match" problems by failing to take specified steps within 90 days of receiving the letter.
11. In The Coming Months, The Administration Will Publish A Regulation That Will Reduce The Number Of Documents That Employers Must Accept To Confirm The Identity And Work Eligibility Of Their Employees.Presently, no fewer than 29 categories of documents can be used to establish identity and work eligibility. Employers have little capacity to verify the authenticity of these documents, and the sheer quantity of accepted documents is an invitation to fraud. This regulation will reduce unlawful employment by weeding out insecure documents now used often for identity fraud.
12. As A Civil Counterpart To The Administration's Strategy Of Using Criminal Investigations To Deter Illegal Employment, The Department Of Homeland Security Will Raise The Civil Fines Imposed On Employers Who Knowingly Hire Illegal Immigrants By Approximately 25 Percent.Efforts to secure the border will fail unless the "magnet" that attracts illegals is turned off. Unfortunately, the fines for relying on illegal workers are so modest that some companies treat them as little more than a cost of doing business. DHS will use existing authority to update civil fines for inflation in order to boost fines by about 25 percent, as much as is allowed under current law.
13. The Administration Will Continue To Expand Criminal Investigations Against Employers Who Knowingly Hire Large Numbers Of Illegal Aliens.Arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for criminal violations have increased from 24 in FY 1999 to a record 716 in FY 2006. There have been 742 criminal arrests since the beginning of FY 2007 (through July 31), and there is anecdotal evidence that companies are taking notice and adjusting their business practices to follow the law.
14. The Administration Will Commence a Rulemaking Process To Require All Federal Contractors And Vendors To Use E-Verify, The Federal Electronic Employment Verification System, To Ensure That Their Employees Are Authorized To Work In The United States. The Federal government ought to lead by example. As there are more than 200,000 companies doing Federal business, this will significantly expand use of E-Verify, and make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to obtain jobs through fraud.
15. The Administration Will Help States Make Greater Use Of E-Verify.Some States already mandate the use of E-Verify by some or all of their hiring agencies, and other States are considering similar requirements. The Administration will assist such efforts through outreach and offers of technical assistance.
16. The Administration Will Bolster E-Verify By Expanding The Data Sources It Can Check. This will make it easier to catch individuals who commit identity theft. New sources of data will include cross-checks of visa and passport information.
17. The Administration Will Seek Voluntary State Partners Willing To Share Their Department Of Motor Vehicles Photos And Records With E-Verify. Agreements to allow E-Verify access to the repository of photographs in state DMV databases will help prevent illegal immigrants from using fraudulent driver’s licenses to obtain employment. Such agreements will also lay the groundwork for further expansion of the electronic employment eligibility verification system.
STREAMLINING EXISTING GUEST-WORKER PROGRAMS
18. The Department Of Labor (DOL) Will Reform The H-2A Agricultural Seasonal Worker Program.No sector of the American economy requires a legal flow of foreign workers more than agriculture, which has begun to experience severe labor shortages as our Southern border has tightened. The President has therefore directed DOL to review the regulations implementing the H-2A program and to institute changes that will provide farmers with an orderly and timely flow of legal workers, while protecting the rights of laborers.
19. The Department Of Labor Will Issue Regulations Streamlining The H-2B Program For Non-Agricultural Seasonal Workers.Because businesses in seasonal industries such as landscaping and hospitality frequently have a difficult time locating temporary workers, the H-2B program has proven quite popular. Some employers report significant processing delays, however. DOL's proposed rule will speed processing by moving from a government-certified system to an employer-attestation system akin to the PERM system that has reduced backlogs in other areas.
20. The Department Of Homeland Security Will Extend The Visa Term For Professional Workers From Canada And Mexico To Attract More Of These Talented Workers To The United States.The United States must compete for foreign professional workers, and those who elect to lend their talents to the U.S. economy should be welcomed with open arms, not given a bureaucratic runaround. Yet the roughly 65,000 workers who enter the United States each year on the TN visa must go to the trouble of renewing their visa every year. This regulation will extend the TN visa duration to three years – the same term as other popular professional visas.
21. The Department Of Homeland Security And The Department Of Labor Will Study And Report On Potential Administrative Reforms To Visa Programs For Highly Skilled Workers.
IMPROVING EXISTING IMMIGRATION
22. The Administration Will Reform And Expedite Background Checks For Immigration.Current mechanisms for conducting immigration background checks are backed up, slowing processing times and endangering national security. The Administration is investing substantial new funds to address the backlog, and the FBI and USCIS are working together on a variety of projects designed to streamline existing processes so as to reduce waiting times without sacrificing security.
23. The President Is Directing The Department Of Homeland Security And The Social Security Administration To Study The Technical And Recordkeeping Reforms Necessary To Guarantee That Illegal Aliens Do Not Earn Credit In Our Social Security System For Illegal Work. Currently, aliens who make Social Security payments while working here legally can continue to accrue credits even if they overstay their visa. Improved data-sharing can lay the foundation for eventual Congressional action to eliminate this practice (which proved an obstacle to comprehensive reform). The relevant agencies are ordered to report to the President with a detailed plan for eliminating the problem.
24. The Office Of Citizenship Will Announce A Revised Naturalization Test In September 2007. The new test will emphasize fundamental concepts of American democracy, basic U.S. history, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. It will inculcate the basic values we share as Americans, and encourage civic knowledge and patriotism among prospective citizens.
The New Standardized Test Will Ensure Fairness By Eliminating Current Wide Variations In The Quality Of Testing Between Regional Offices.
25. The Office Of Citizenship Will Provide Additional Training For Volunteers And Adult Educators Who Lead Immigrants Through The Naturalization Process. In October 2007, the Office of Citizenship will introduce a web-based training program that covers U.S. government, civics education, and the naturalization process. To complement these on-line materials, USCIS will convene eight regional training conferences, beginning in October 2007, to improve the ability of citizenship instructors and volunteers to teach American history, civics, and the naturalization process to immigrant students. An on-line training module will also be available by the end of the year.
26. The Department Of Education Will Launch A Free, Web-Based Portal To Help Immigrants Learn English, And Expand This Model Over Time. Knowledge of English is the most important component of assimilation. An investment in tools to help new Americans learn English will be repaid many times over in the contributions these immigrants make to our political discourse, economy, and society.
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For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 10, 2007
President Bush Welcomes the United Nations Security Council's Unanimous Vote to Renew the Mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq
The President welcomes today's unanimous vote by the United Nations Security Council to renew the mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). This vote sends an important signal of the United Nations' commitment to support stability and security in Iraq. The UNAMI mandate renewal also reinforces the broader international framework for Iraq, which includes the International Compact with Iraq, and the Neighbors Process, which began in May, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The United States is fully committed to this framework and looks forward to working with the United Nations and international partners to support the Iraqi Government and promote political dialog in Iraq.
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For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 9, 2007
President Bush Discusses American Competitiveness Initiative During Press Conference James S. Brady Briefing Room, 10:33 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, thank you. When I came into office in 2001, our nation was headed into a recession. So we cut the taxes across the board. And hardworking Americans have used this tax relief to produce strong and lasting economic growth.
Since we began cutting taxes in 2001, our economy has expanded by more than $1.9 trillion. Since the tax cuts took full effect in 2003, our economy has added more than 8.3 million new jobs, and almost four years of uninterrupted growth. Inflation is low, unemployment is low, real after-tax income has grown by an average of more than $3,400 per person since I took office. The American economy is the envy of the world, and we need to keep it that way.
Our economy is growing in large part because America has the most ambitious, educated and innovative people in the world -- men and women who take risks, try out new ideas, and have the skills and courage to turn their dreams into new technologies and new businesses. To stay competitive in the global economy, we must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity.
So in my 2006 State of the Union address, I announced the American Competitiveness Initiative, and I called on Republicans and Democrats in Congress to join me in this effort, to encourage innovation throughout our economy. As part of this initiative, I asked Congress to expand America's investment in basic research, so we can support our nation's most creative minds as they explore new frontiers in nano-technology or supercomputing or alternative energy sources. I asked Congress to strengthen math and science education, so our children have the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future. I asked Congress to make permanent the research and development tax credit, so we can encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology.
Today I'm going to sign into law a bill that supports many of the key elements of the American Competitiveness Initiative. This legislation supports our efforts to double funding for basic research in physical sciences. This legislation authorizes most of the education programs I called for in the initiative I laid out at the State of the Union. These programs include Math Now proposals to improve instruction in mathematics, and the advanced placement program my administration proposed, to increase the number of teachers and students in AP and international baccalaureate classes.
These are important steps forward, and so I'm going to sign the bill. I'm looking forward to it. Yet the bill Congress sent to my desk leaves some of the key priorities unfulfilled, and authorizes unnecessary and duplicative programs. I will continue to focus my budget requests on the key priorities in the bill I outlined, and will work with Congress to focus its spending on those programs that will be most effective.
I will continue to press Congress to approve the remaining measures of the American Competitiveness Initiative. These measures include the Adjunct Teacher Corps program to encourage math and science professionals to take time out of their lives and teach in our schools, and to inspire the youth to become more interested in math and science. I believe Congress ought to make the research and development tax credit a permanent part of the tax code, to encourage investment.
The bill I will sign today will help ensure that we do remain the most competitive and innovative nation in the world. I thank members of Congress from both parties who worked hard to secure its passage. I particularly want to thank Senators Pete Domenici, Jeff Bingaman, Lamar Alexander and John Ensign, as well as Congressmen Bart Gordon and Vern Ehlers.
You know, this bill shows that we can work together to make sure we're a competitive nation. There's a lot of areas where we can seek common ground coming this fall, and I'm looking forward to working with members of both parties to do that.
Thank you for coming. I'll be glad to answer some of your questions. Starting with you, Terry.
Q Mr. President, former Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Republican Don Young, says there are about 500 bridges around the country like the one that collapsed in Minneapolis last week. And Young and other Transportation Committee members are recommending an increase in federal gasoline taxes to pay for repairs. Would you be willing to go along with an increase in gasoline taxes of five cents a gallon or more?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, Secretary Peters is gathering information and will report to the White House and report to the nation about what she finds about whether there are any structural design flaws that may be applicable to other bridges. She's in the process of gathering this information now.
The American people need to know that we're working hard to find out why the bridge did what it did so that we can assure people that the bridges over which they will be traveling will be safe. That's step one.
You know, it's an interesting question about how Congress spends and prioritizes highway money. My suggestion would be that they revisit the process by which they spend gasoline money in the first place.
As you probably know, the Public Works Committee is the largest committee -- one of the largest committees in the House of Representatives. From my perspective, the way it seems to have worked is that each member on that committee gets to set his or her own priority first, and then whatever is left over is spent through a funding formula. That's not the right way to prioritize the people's money. So before we raise taxes which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities. And if bridges are a priority, let's make sure we set that priority first and foremost before we raise taxes.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. One of your chief allies in the war on terrorism, President Musharraf of Pakistan, has faced so much instability and civil strife recently that there has been talk of declaring a state of emergency. How concerned are you about President Musharraf's situation and whether this might undermine Pakistani efforts against the Taliban and al Qaeda elements in the bordering areas of his country, which have been roundly criticized recently?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I've seen the reports of what they call an emergency declaration. I have seen no such evidence that he's made that decision. In my discussions with President Musharraf, I have reminded him that we share a common enemy: extremists and radicals who would like to do harm to our respective societies -- in his case, they would like to kill him, and they've tried.
I have made it clear to him that I would expect there to be full cooperation in sharing intelligence, and I believe we've got good intelligence sharing. I have indicated to him that the American people would expect there to be swift action taken if there is actionable intelligence on high-value targets inside his country. Now, I recognize Pakistan is a sovereign nation, and that's important for Americans to recognize that. But it's also important for Americans to understand that he shares the same concern about radicals and extremists as I do and as the American people do.
So my focus in terms of the domestic scene there is that he have a free and fair election. And that's what we have been talking to him about and I'm hopeful they will.
Yes, we'll just go down the line here.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You speak often about taking care of the troops and honoring their sacrifice. But the family of Corporal Pat Tillman believes there was a cover up regarding his death, and some say perhaps he was even murdered, instead of just friendly fire. At a hearing last week on Capitol Hill your former Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, other officials used some version of "I don't recall" 82 times. When it was his term to step up, Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative NFL career, served his country and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Now you have a chance to pledge to the family that your government, your administration will finally get to the bottom of it. Can you make that pledge to the family today, that you'll finally, after seven investigations, find out what really happened?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I can understand why Pat Tillman's family, you know, has got significant emotions, because a man they loved and respected was killed while he was serving his country. I always admired the fact that a person who was relatively comfortable in life would be willing to take off one uniform and put on another to defend America. And the best way to honor that commitment of his is to find out the truth. And I'm confident the Defense Department wants to find out the truth, too, and we'll lay it out for the Tillman family to know.
Q But, Mr. President, there have been seven investigations and the Pentagon has not gotten to the bottom of it. Can you also tell us when you, personally, found out that it was not enemy fire, that it was friendly fire?
THE PRESIDENT: I can't give you the precise moment. But obviously the minute I heard that the facts that people believed were true were not true, that I expect there to be a full investigation and get to the bottom of it.
Q Sir, on Monday, at Camp David, when you met with President Karzai from Afghanistan, you were asked if you had actionable intelligence in Pakistan of top al Qaeda leaders; would you take action unilaterally, if in fact you felt that President Musharraf simply, for one reason or another, just simply couldn't get his people there in time, would you move in? And you said, if we had actionable -- good, actionable intelligence, we would get the job done.
My question, one, is, who is "we"? Does that we include the Pakistanis, or -- because the question says, Musharraf wouldn't be able to be in -- would you do it unilaterally? And one reason this is a hot question this week is that one of the Democratic presidential candidates, Barack Obama, talked about taking unilateral action. He kind of got beaten up by people in the Democratic Party, and by Mitt Romney in your party, Romney comparing him to Dr. Strangelove. I don't know if you would agree with that, or if you would feel --
THE PRESIDENT: John, I suspect that over the course of the next months, when I hold a press conference, you'll be trying to get me to engage in presidential politics; trying to get me to opine about what candidates are saying, whether they be Republicans or Democrats. And hopefully I'll be disciplined enough not to fall prey to your question, not to fall into that trap.
To the question you asked, and to my answer in Camp David, I said I'm confident that we -- both the Paks and the Americans -- will be able to work up a plan, based upon actionable intelligence, that will bring the top al Qaeda targets to justice. I meant what I said. We spend a lot of time with the leadership in Pakistan, talking about what we will do with actionable intelligence. And the question was, am I confident that they will be brought to justice, and my answer to you is, yes, I am confident.
Q Are you confident -- permit me to have one follow-up, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Sure. We're getting into kind of a relaxed period here. I'll try to be more accommodating to fellows like you.
Q It's widely assumed that the CIA operatives are in Pakistan, cooperating with the Pakistanis and that they're sharing everything with you, and vice versa. Is that a fair assumption?
THE PRESIDENT: John, what's fair is -- what you must assume is that I'm not going to talk about ongoing intelligence matters.
Q Mr. President, I was talking with a journalist about an hour ago in Baghdad who says to be a cynic in Iraq is to be naive at this point; that there is discernable progress, undeniable progress on the battlefield, but there is just as discernable and undeniable lack of progress on political reconciliation. Given the premise of the surge is to give the Iraqi government breathing space to gets its business done, given that they're not getting their business done, are the American people entitled to hear from you more than, I've told Prime Minister Maliki he's got to do better?
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be coming back to report on the findings of the success of the surge. The surge success will not only include military successes and military failures, but also political successes and political failures. And my own perspective is, is that they have made some progress, but not enough. I fully recognize this is a difficult assignment. One of the things that -- it's difficult because of years of tyrannical rule that have created a lot of suspicions. And there's a lot of -- these folks need to trust each other more.
Secondly, from my perspective, we're watching leaders learn how to be leaders. This is a new process for people to be democratic leaders. Now, no question they haven't passed some of the law we expected them to pass up to now. That's where a lot of people will focus their attention. On the other hand, there is a presidency council, with people from different political parties, trying to work through some of these difficult issues, trying to work through the distrust that has caused them not to be able to pass some of the law we expect.
And the July 15th report that I submitted to Congress, there were indications that they had met about half the benchmarks, and some of the political benchmarks they were falling short. One of the things I found interesting is that the assembly -- elected parliament has passed about 60 pieces of legislation this year, some of which are directly relevant to reconciliations, like judicial reform; some of which were unwinding Saddam's laws in the past.
One of the questions I recently asked about, is there a functioning government, is there -- a lot of Americans look at it and say, there's nothing happening there; there's, like, no government at all, I expect they're saying. So I asked about the budgeting process -- in other words, is there a centralized budgeting system that takes the oil revenues? I understand about 97 percent of the Iraqi revenues to date come from oil. And do they have a rational way of spending that money for the good of society? Now most of the money, it turns out, is going into their military operations -- operating expenses and capital expenses.
But one of the things I found interesting in my questions was there is revenue sharing -- in other words, a central government revenue sharing to provincial governments. It surprised me, frankly, because the impression you get from people who are reporting out of Iraq is that it's like totally dysfunctional -- that's what your -- I guess your kind of -- your friend or whoever you talked to is implying.
In 2006, the central government allocated $2.3 billion to the provinces. You know, I'm not exactly sure how the funding formula worked, but a quick analysis, there is no question that Shia and Sunni provinces and Kurdish provinces were receiving money. Of the $2.3 billion, $1.9 billion had been obligated or spent. Now, some of that money is being better spent now because of bottom up reconciliation that's taken place in places like Anbar, particularly with the help of our provincial reconstruction teams. The PRTs are helping. That's not to say what -- my point to you there is that there needs still to be work in making sure that the provincial governments are functioning well, to earn the trust of the people -- it's not just the central government that we're working with, we're also working with provincial governments to make sure that people have -- are inspired to believe that the state is in their interest.
The point I'm making to you on this, Jim, is that there is a lot of work left to be done, don't get me wrong. If one were to look hard, they could find indications that -- more than indications, facts that show the government is learning how to function. People say we need an oil revenue sharing law. I agree with that, that needs to be codified. However, there is oil revenue sharing taking place, is my point. There's a lot of work to be done, and the fundamental question facing America is, is it worth it, does it matter whether or not we stay long enough for an ally in this war against radicals and extremists to emerge? And my answer is it does matter. Long-term consequences will face our country if we leave before the job is done. How the troops are configured, what the deployment looks like will depend upon the recommendations of David Petraeus.
Q Mr. President, I want to get your thoughts about the volatility in the financial markets, but specifically, a series of questions. Do you think that housing prices will continue to fall? Do you think that the inability of people to borrow money the way they used to is going to spillover into economy generally? And what are you prepared to do about it? And, specifically, are you considering some kind of government bailout for people who might lose their homes?
THE PRESIDENT: David, I'm wise enough to remind you that I'm not an economist, and that I would ask you direct predictions and forecasts about economic matters to those who make a living making forecasts and predictions. I suspect you'll find on the one hand, on the other hand, in how they predict. (Laughter.)
Now, what I focus on are the fundamentals of our economy. My belief is that people will make rational decision based upon facts. And the fundamentals of our economy are strong. I mentioned some of them before. Job creation is strong. Real after-tax wages are on the rise. Inflation is low. Interestingly enough, the global economy is strong, which has enabled us to gain more exports, which helped the second quarter growth numbers to be robust, at 3.4 percent.
Another factor one has got to look at is the amount of liquidity in the system. In other words, is there enough liquidity to enable markets to be able to correct? And I am told there is enough liquidity in the system to enable markets to correct. One area where we can help consumer -- and obviously anybody who loses their home is somebody with whom we must show enormous empathy.
The word "bailout," I'm not exactly sure what you mean. If you mean direct grants to homeowners, the answer would be no, I don't support that. If you mean making sure that financial institutions like the FHA have got flexibility to help these folks refinance their homes, the answer is yes, I support that.
One thing is for certain, is that there needs to be more transparency in the -- in financial documents. In other words, a lot of people sign up to something they're not exactly sure what they're signing up for. More financial literacy, I guess, is the best way to put it. We've had a lot of really hardworking Americans sign up for loans, and the truth of the matter is they probably didn't fully understand what they were signing up for. And therefore, I do believe it's a proper role for government to enhance financial education initiatives, and we're doing that, we've got money in the budget to do that.
Let's see here --
Q Can I just ask one follow up, sir? Come on. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q Because you weren't this circumspect when you were talking to reporters yesterday about the economy.
THE PRESIDENT: How do you know? You weren't there, David.
Q Well, you're right, I wasn't, but --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm curious to know why you weren't there. Ask Baker, he was there. (Laughter.)
Q Only economics reporters were allowed.
THE PRESIDENT: I think I pretty much said the same thing yesterday, in all due respect.
Q What's going on in the housing market, is it a correction or a crisis, in your view? Can you assess that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yesterday I did comment upon that, that there was a -- I talked about the different scenarios that I had been briefed on about whether or not there would be a precipitous decline in housing or whether it would be what one would call a soft landing, and it appeared at this point that it looks we're headed for a soft landing. And that's what the facts say.
Thank you. Mike.
Q Mr. President, thank you. There is more evidence of Iranian weapons ending up in Iraq and ultimately killing U.S. troops. And I'm wondering today, sir, if you have a message to the regime in Tehran about these weapons ending up in Iraq and obviously doing harm to American citizens?
THE PRESIDENT: One of the main reasons that I asked Ambassador Crocker to meet with Iranians inside Iraq was to send the message that there will be consequences for people transporting, delivering EFPs, highly sophisticated IEDs that kill Americans in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki is visiting in Tehran today. His message, I'm confident will be, stabilize, don't destabilize. And the sending of weapons into Iraq is a destabilizing factor. That's why we -- yes, we've sent the message, Peter, and in that meeting.
Q Sir, getting back to the credit crunch caused by defaults in sub-prime mortgages, should Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be allowed to buy mortgages beyond their current limits, or play any additional role that could help revive mortgage finance?
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, we put up a robust reform package for these two institutions, a reform package that will cause them to focus on their core mission, first and foremost; a reform package that says like other lending institutions, there ought to be regulatory oversight. And therefore, first things first when it comes to those two institutions. Congress needs to get them reformed, get them streamlined, get them focused, and then I will consider other options.
Q Thank you, sir. A two-part question. The New Yorker reports that the Red Cross has found the interrogation program in the CIA detention facilities use interrogation techniques that were tantamount to torture. I'm wondering if you have read that report and what your reaction to it is? And the second part of the question is, more than a year ago you said that you wanted to close the detention facility at Guantanamo, and a year later nothing has actually happened in that regard. And the Vice President, Attorney General and Homeland Security Secretary are reported to be resisting such a move. I wonder if you could tell us who's really in charge on this issue, are you doing anything about it, do you expect Guantanamo to be open or closed when you leave office?
THE PRESIDENT: I did say it should be a goal of the nation to shut down Guantanamo. I also made it clear that part of the delay was the reluctance of some nations to take back some of the people being held there. In other words, in order to make it work, we've got to have a place for these people to go. I don't know if you noticed a resolution of the Senate the other day, where all but three senators said we don't want these prisoners in the country. I don't know if it was a 97-3 vote, but it was something-to-three vote. In other words, part of the issue, Peter, is the practical issue of, what do we do with the people. And you say nothing has taken place. I strongly disagree with that. First of all, we are working with other nations to send folks back. Again, it's a fairly steep order. A lot of people don't want killers in their midst, and a lot of these people are killers.
Secondly, of course, we want to make sure that when we do send them back, they're treated as humanely as possible. The other issue was whether or not we can get people to be tried. One of the things I'm anxious about, want to see happen, is that there to be trials. Courts have been involved with deciding how to do this, and Defense is trying to work out mechanisms to get the trials up and running. And the sooner we can get that up and running, the better it is, as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to make any predictions about whether Guantanamo will be available or not. I'm just telling you it's a very complicated subject.
And I laid out an aspiration. Whether or not we can achieve that or not, we'll try to. But it is not as easy a subject as some may think on the surface. Again, I refer to you to the Senate vote. When asked whether or not you want to shut down Guantanamo, and therefore receive some of those prisoners in your home state, there didn't seem to be a lot of support for it. Like, three people said, it's okay by me, in the Senate.
Your other question, sir?
Q Red Cross report?
THE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen it. We don't torture.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to pivot off of what you were talking about earlier, with Prime Minister Maliki's visit to Iran. Reports out of Iran today, out of Iran, say that Prime Minister Maliki told President Ahmadinejad that he appreciated Iran's positive and constructive stance. The pictures from the visit are very warm. I'm wondering, do you and your Iraqi counterparts see eye-to-eye on Iran, and what kind of message do those images send to your allies in the region and Americans who are skeptical about the Prime Minister's role?
THE PRESIDENT: Jim, I haven't seen the reports. Before I would like to comment upon how their meetings went, I would like to get a readout from our embassy, who of course will be in touch with the Prime Minister, and get his readout. And so it's a -- you're asking me to be a little speculative on the subject. I haven't seen the picture.
Look, generally the way these things work is you try to be cordial to the person you're with, and so you don't want the picture to be kind of, you know, ducking it out. Okay, put up your dukes. That's an old boxing expression. (Laughter.)
Q Once more, please?
THE PRESIDENT: And so, I don't know, Jim. You've obviously followed this a lot -- you've seen the reports. I'm sure you're confident that what you've asked me is verifiable. I'm not surprised that there's a picture showing people smiling.
Q However --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish, please. And so it's a -- anyway, let me get the facts on what happened. Now if the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the Prime Minister, because I don't believe they are constructive. I don't think he, in his heart of heart, thinks they're constructive, either. Now maybe he's hopeful in trying to get them to be constructive by laying out a positive picture. You're asking me to speculate.
Should I be concerned of a picture -- should the American people be concerned about Iran? Yes, we ought to be very concerned about Iran. They're a destabilizing influence. They are a government that has -- its declared policy is very troubling, obviously, when they announce -- when Ahmadinejad has announced that the destruction of Israel is part of its foreign policy.
That's something, obviously, we cannot live with. They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program. That, in itself, coupled with their stated foreign policy, is very dangerous for world stability. They are funders of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is intent upon battling forces of moderation. It's a very troubling nation right now.
Iran can do better. The government is isolating its people. The government has caused America and other nations, rational nations, to say, we will work together to do everything we can to deny you economic opportunity because of the decisions you are making. My message to the Iranian people is, you can do better than this current government; you don't have to be isolated; you don't have to be in a position where you can't realize your full economic potential. And the United States of America will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Security Council and elsewhere to put you in a position to deny you your rightful place in the world, not because of our intention, because of your government's intention.
So it is a very -- it's a difficult issue, Jim. And the American people should be concerned about Iran. They should be concerned about Iran's activity in Iraq, and they ought to be concerned about Iran's activity around the world.
Q In your previous conversations with Prime Minister Maliki, have you been confident that he shares your view on Iraq [sic]?
THE PRESIDENT: On Iran?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. He knows that weaponry being smuggled into Iraq from Iran and placed in the hands of extremists over which the government has no control, all aimed at killing innocent life, is a destabilizing factor. He absolutely understands that.
I don't know if you saw yesterday, there was a -- we talked to General Petraeus, or I talked to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker yesterday. I noticed in the papers today there was a description of a military operation that took place in Sadr City. The military operation in Sadr City was going after extremist elements, Shia extremist elements. And it was a very robust operation. Obviously, it -- well, I shouldn't say "obviously" -- it was done with the full understanding of the Maliki government.
Now, I don't know whether this extremist element had been fueled by Iran, but I do know that Maliki is committed against extremist elements who are trying to create enough chaos and confusion that this young government and young democracy is not able to progress. So the first thing I looked for was commitment against the extremists. The second thing is does he understand with some extremist groups there is connections with Iran, and he does. And I'm confident.
Now, is he trying to get Iran to play a more constructive role? I presume he is. But that doesn't -- what my question is -- well, what my message to him is, is that when we catch you playing a non-constructive role there will be a price to pay.
Let's see here, Mark.
Q Mr. President, are you considering a plan to cut corporate taxes? Do you believe America's corporations are not making enough money these days?
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, we had an interesting discussion on this subject. And if you read carefully the penetrating report by the financial reporter -- kind of like semi-financial reporter -- (laughter) -- you'll find that it was -- I was talking about an idea that has begun to surface as a result of meetings being held at the Treasury Department.
And the whole reason to look at corporate rates is to determine whether or not they make us less competitive in a global economy. And if so -- in other words, if the conclusion is, is that our tax structure makes it harder for businesses to compete, therefore making it harder for people to find work over time, then we need to address the competitive imbalance in our tax code.
I also made it clear that we're at the very early stages of discussion and that in my own judgment, anything that would be submitted to Congress -- if submitted at all -- would have to be revenue neutral. And therefore, what we'd really be talking about is a simplification of a very complex tax code that might be able to lower rates and at the same time simplify the code, which is like shorthand for certain deductions would be taken away -- in other words, certain tax preferences in the code.
My view all along has been the more simple the code, the better -- whether it be in the individual income tax side or the corporate tax side. However, I would readily concede to you this is a difficult issue because the reason there is tax preferences in the first place are there are powerful interests that have worked to get the preference in the code. And as I remarked to the distinguished group of writers I was talking to yesterday, it's much easier to get something in the code than get it out of the code.
But I do think it's in the interests to constantly evaluate our competitive advantages and disadvantages. And what Hank Paulson told me was that there's a lot of folks who really believe the tax code creates a competitive disadvantage and therefore it's certainly worth looking at.
Q On the subject of tax preferences, what about carried interest? Do you think that taxing those at capital gains rates is fair? A lot of people think it's not.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I think, Mark, that what ends up happening is that in trying to deal with one particular aspect of partnerships is that you end up affecting all partnerships. And partnerships are an important vehicle to encourage investment and capital flows. They've been important vehicles to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit -- in other words, small businesses have been organized as limited partnerships. So we're very, very hesitant about trying to target one aspect of limited partnerships for fear of the spillover it'll have in affecting small business growth. So we don't support that.
Q You've been clear about saying that you will veto overspending by Congress when they come back next month to do appropriations bills. You've also been clear you don't want to raise taxes. Can you do justice to the kind of programs the government needs for bridges, for housing, and also continue to spend as much as you do in the war in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: One can meet priorities if they set priorities. The problem in Congress is they have trouble actually focusing on priorities. Appropriators take their title seriously and they all feel like they got to appropriate, which means there's a myriad of priorities. So the role of the President, it seems to me, is to help Congress focus on that which is important. We have a debate over that which is important, of course, but one thing that we shouldn't have a debate over is whether or not it's important to fund our troops in this war against radicals, extremists, the war on terror. And I think we'll be able to get that kind of cooperation. I would hope that they would get the defense bill to my desk as quickly as possible.
Part of my concerns, of course, is that there are different sets of priorities in both bodies. And it seems like to me that the Congress needs to come together, solve their differences -- solve their differences first, and then bring them to the White House and see if we can find accommodation. I have proven in the past though, Ann, that one is able to set priorities -- keep taxes low, grow the economy and reduce the deficit. In other words, we have cut taxes, causing economic growth, which caused there to be this year alone $187 billion more tax dollars coming into the Treasury; the deficit is reduced to 1.5 percent of GDP, which on a 40-year historical average is very low, or is low, below the average. And we've proven that you can set priorities and meet obligations. And so the Congress needs to learn to do that itself.
Q But you're confident that you can continue to sustain the kind of level of spending that you've invested in, in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: I would certainly hope so, because when you say, sustain the level of spending, you're mainly talking about making sure our troops have what it takes to do the job we've asked them to do. I know there's a lot of members who don't agree with the decisions I've made; I would certainly hope they would agree, however, that once someone is in combat or in harm's way, that they get the full support of the federal government. That's exactly what their families expect and that's what the Commander-in-Chief expects, as well.
Q Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about accountability. You're a big believer in it, you've talked about it with regard to the public schools. But given the performance of Iraqi leaders, given your decision to commute the sentence of Lewis Libby, you've also stood by the Attorney General recently -- there have been a lot of questions about your commitment to accountability. And I'm wondering if you could give the American people some clear examples of how you've held people accountable during your presidency?
THE PRESIDENT: Lewis Libby was held accountable. He was declared guilty by a jury and he's paid a high price for it.
Al Gonzales -- implicit in your questions is that Al Gonzales did something wrong. I haven't seen Congress say he's done anything wrong. As a matter of fact, I believe, David, we're watching a political exercise. I mean, this is a man who has testified, he's sent thousands of papers up there. There's no proof of wrong. Why would I hold somebody accountable who has done nothing wrong? I mean, frankly, I think that's a typical Washington, D.C. assumption -- not to be accusatory, I know you're a kind, open-minded fellow, but you suggested holding the Attorney General accountable for something he did wrong.
And as a matter of fact, I would hope Congress would become more prone to deliver pieces of legislation that matter, as opposed to being the investigative body. I mean, there have been over 600 different hearings and, yet, they're struggling with getting appropriations bills to my desk.
Q If I could follow -- sorry. Given the decision to commute the sentence of Libby and given the performance of Iraqi leaders, is it fair for people to ask questions about your commitment to accountability?
THE PRESIDENT: I would hope people would say that I am deliberate in my decision-making; I think about all aspects of the decisions I make; and I'm a fair person.
Back to Iraq, no question they haven't made as much progress as I would have hoped. But I also recognize how difficult the task is. And I repeat to you the fundamental question is, does it matter whether or not there is a self-governing entity that's an ally in the war on terror in Iraq? Does it matter? Does it matter to a guy living in Crawford, Texas? Does it matter to your children? As you know from these press conferences, I have come to the conclusion that it does matter. And it does matter because enemies that would like to do harm to the American people would be emboldened by failure.
I recognize there's a debate here in America as to whether or not failure in Iraq would cause there to be more danger here in America. I strongly believe that's the case. It matters if the United States does not believe in the universality of freedom. It matters to the security of people here at home if we don't work to change the conditions that cause 19 kids to be lured onto airplanes to come and murder our citizens.
The first question one has to ask on Iraq is, is it worth it? I could not send a mother's child into combat if I did not believe it was necessary for our short-term and long-term security to succeed in Iraq. Once you come to the conclusion that it's worth it, then the question you must ask is, how difficult is the task of a young democracy emerging? Those who study the Articles of Confederation would recognize that there are difficult moments in young democracies emerging, particularly after, in this case, tyrannical rule.
That's not to say that, Dave, we shouldn't be pushing hard for all opportunities for reconciliation. But for those of us who believe it's worth it, we'll see progress. For those who believe it's not worth it, there is no progress. And that's going to be the interesting debate. And what it's going to come down to is whether or not the United States should be in Iraq and in the region in a position to enable societies to begin to embrace liberty for the long-term. This is an ideological struggle.
Now, I recognize some don't view it as an ideological struggle, but I firmly believe it is an ideological struggle. And I believe it's a struggle between the forces of moderation and reasonableness and good, and the forces of murder and intolerance. And what has made the stakes so high is that those forces of murder and intolerance have shown they have the capacity to murder innocent people in our own country. I put that in the context of accountability.
In the case of Iraq, it's a lot more complicated than just the passage of four laws, even though I would hope they would get the four laws passed. But again, I repeat, the threshold question, does it matter, does it matter to our security here at home? And the answer is, absolutely, it does. It does. And then the second question really for a lot of Americans is, can we succeed? And in my mind, the answer to that is absolutely, not only we must succeed, we can succeed.
Listen, thank you all for your time. I appreciate it. END 11:18 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 9, 2007
President Bush on Signing America COMPETES Act
Today I signed into law H.R. 2272, the "America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act." This legislation shares many of the goals of my American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). ACI is one of my most important domestic priorities because it provides a comprehensive strategy to help keep America the most innovative Nation in the world by strengthening our scientific education and research, improving our technological enterprise, and providing 21st century job training.
Since I announced ACI in January 2006, Congress has risen to the competitiveness challenge in a bipartisan way. House and Senate appropriators started the funding for ACI basic research programs in fiscal year 2007, and so far in this year's appropriations process they are fully funding my fiscal year 2008 budget request for the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science in the Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the Department of Commerce.
This bipartisan spirit of cooperation continues with the legislation I signed. This legislation supports our efforts to double funding for basic research in the physical sciences. And the bill authorizes most of the education programs I called for in ACI, including the Math Now proposal that improves instruction in mathematics and the Advanced Placement program that increases the number of teachers and students participating in AP and International Baccalaureate classes.
I am, however, disappointed that Congress failed to authorize my Adjunct Teacher Corps program to encourage math and science professionals to teach in our schools. I am also disappointed that the legislation includes excessive authorizations and expansion of government. In total, the bill creates over 30 new programs that are mostly duplicative or counterproductive -- including a new Department of Energy agency to fund late-stage technology development more appropriately left to the private sector -- and also provides excessive authorizations for existing programs. These new programs, additional requirements and reports, and excessive authorizations will divert resources and focus from priority activities aimed at strengthening the basic research that has given our Nation such a competitive advantage in the world economy. Accordingly, I will request funding in my 2009 Budget for those authorizations that support the focused priorities of the ACI, but will not propose excessive or duplicative funding based on authorizations in this bill.
While this legislation includes many unnecessary and misguided programs, in many important ways it heeds my call to action of nearly two years ago to take steps to ensure the ongoing competitiveness of our Nation. Congress, however, still has more work to do to improve our Nation's competitiveness. In addition to giving priority to full ACI funding in this year's appropriations bills, I call on Congress to complete work on the remaining components of ACI, including modernizing and making permanent the research and development tax credit, authorizing the Adjunct Teacher Corps program, and increasing our ability to attract and retain the best and brightest high-skilled workers from around the world.
I thank Members of both parties in Congress who worked on this legislation, and I appreciate the willingness of Members to remove or otherwise address several of the Administration's serious concerns associated with this legislation. I will continue to work with the Congress to ensure that we keep America competitive through appropriate and strong support for science and technology.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 8, 2007
President Bush Meets with Economic Advisors The Department of Treasury, Washington, D.C. 12:44 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your hospitality. We're pleased to be here at the Treasury Department.
This morning I spoke with Governor Huntsman of Utah. He gave me an update on the efforts to rescue the trapped miners. I told him our nation's thoughts and prayers are with the miners and their families, and that the federal government will help in any way we can.
I just finished a productive meeting with members of my economic team. We discussed our thriving economy and what we need to do to keep it that way. We care a lot about whether our fellow citizens are working, and whether or not they've got money in their pockets to save, spend, or invest as they see fit. We talked about America's role in the global economy.
My administration follows a simple philosophy: Our economy prospers when we trust the American people with their own paychecks. When I came to office in 2001, our nation was headed toward a recession. And so we acted. We acted on the philosophy I just described, and we cut the taxes across-the-board. And the American people have used this money to fuel an economic resurgence.
Since 2003, our economy has added more than 8.3 million new jobs and almost four years of uninterrupted growth. We continue to grow at a steady pace, and during the most recent quarter, it grew at an annual rate of 3.4 percent. Unemployment is low. Real after-tax income has increased by an average of more than $3,400 per person since I took office.
Tax cuts let Americans keep their own money. It stimulates entrepreneurship. And we have a debate here in Washington over tax cuts. Democrats in Congress want to increase taxes and turn them into additional government programs, and I strongly oppose that approach.
We want the people to keep more of their own money because we understand that the American economy, entrepreneurs and small business owners are the ones who create jobs. The genius of our free market economy is that it grows from the bottom up, through the college student who starts up a business in a parent's garage, or a stay-at-home mom who works out of a home office, or the small business owner who dreams of growing his or her enterprise into a big business.
The entrepreneurial spirit has helped our economy keep pace with new technologies, and America is a leader in innovation. Twelve years ago, eBay did not exist. Today eBay is a global business that reported nearly $6 billion in net revenues last year. Hundreds of thousands of Americans now make part of their living by selling products on that website. EBay is an entrepreneurial success story that has helped thousands of Americans become entrepreneurs themselves.
Recently in Nashville, I met a woman who runs a bun company. She cooks bread. Her name was Cordia Harrington. She carved out a foothold in the industry and has built five small businesses. Her businesses employ 260 people. She makes a good product. My point is, this is the enterprising spirit that we must support and encourage here in Washington, D.C.
I appreciate the fact that Hank Paulson agreed to join my administration, after a long career as one of the world's most successful investment bankers. Here's how he puts it. He said, "This is far and away the strongest global economy I've seen in my business lifetime." In other words, not only is our economy strong, but so is the economies around the world. You know, when you grow your economy and -- it's good news for the Treasury and good news for the deficit.
When people earn money, tax revenues go up. This year, tax revenues are expected to be $167 billion higher than last year's, because the economy is growing. Growing tax revenues combined with spending restraint has helped us drive down the federal deficit, and we were able to do so without raising the taxes on the people who work, or without raising taxes on small business owners or farmers. Estimates show the deficit will drop to $205 billion this year. That is well below the average of the past 40 years as a percentage of our economy.
Earlier this year I proposed a budget that will completely eliminate the federal deficit within the next five years and produce surplus by 2012. We can achieve this, but it's going to require spending restraint and it's going to require keeping taxes low to keep this economy growing.
Not everybody agrees with this approach. There's been a heated debate so far in Congress, and I suspect there will be a lot of heat when they come back, because Democrats in Congress got a significant appetite for more federal spending. They passed a budget resolution that includes an extra $205 billion in discretionary spending over the next five years. That averages out to about $112 million per day; $4.7 million per hour; $78,000 per minute. Put another way, it's about $1,300 in higher spending every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year for the next five years.
Now, somebody is going to have to pay for it. And that, of course, will be the hardworking American people will have to pay for that excessive spending. If the majority in Congress gets it way, American families, small businesses will face a massive tax hike. It would amount to the largest tax increase in American history.
Now, look, I recognize the Democrats control the Congress, and with it, the power of the purse. I also have some power, and it's called the veto. And I have the votes in Congress to sustain vetoes, and therefore, I will use the veto to keep your taxes low and to keep federal spending under control.
When members of Congress return from their August recess they'll have less than a month to pass the 12 spending bills needed to keep the federal government running before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. They need to pass these spending bills, one at a time, before the deadline. In a time of war, I ask them to start by sending me the spending bill for the Department of Defense, so I can sign that into law.
There's some long-term challenges to our economy and we need to work together to address those challenges. One way to address the challenges is to continue opening up markets for America's goods and services, and the best way to do that is to expand free trade. We've negotiated new free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama and Korea. And now the Congress needs to carry out its responsibilities and approve these agreements.
We're going to work hard to conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations, all aiming to open up new opportunities for U.S. producers and aiming to fulfill a great calling, and that is to help eliminate poverty around the world.
We need to reform our health care system by making private health insurance more affordable and available. We need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by promoting alternative fuels. We need to confront the rising cost of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to come up with sensible solutions to solve these problems, so that we can say we solved the problems and not pass them on to future generations.
I'm an optimistic person, particularly when it comes to the ability of Americans to create and dream and work hard. I'll be less optimistic if Congress has its way and raises taxes on the American people. And that's why we're going to work hard not to let them do so. We'll keep good policies in place. We want this to be the land of dreamers and doers. I love the stories of the small business owner in Nashville, or the idea that eBay didn't exist 12 years ago and now is a booming, thriving enterprise. The purpose of government is to make it more possible for people to realize dreams, and to enhance the entrepreneurial spirit. That has been the policies of this administration and it will continue to be the policies of this administration.
Thank you all very much. END 12:54 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 8, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow James S. Brady Briefing Room, 1:02 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. A few things up front. This afternoon we're going to give you the results of the President's physical exam. It's actually been conducted in a series of exams over the last couple of weeks. Doctors have determined that the President remains in superior fitness for a man his age -- anybody who has seen him on the bike or out and about certainly knows that -- and that he is fit for duty.
The President and Mrs. Bush are going to welcome French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Mrs. Sarkozy to the home of former President George H.W. Bush, for a private lunch on August 11th -- that will be Saturday. This is a result of an invitation extended during the G8 by Mrs. Bush to Mrs. Sarkozy.
Obviously, the U.S. and France share a deep historic friendship. They've worked together since the founding of the nation to protect freedom around the world. And the President looks forward to visiting with President Sarkozy during their time in Kennebunkport and also, obviously, looks forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.
The President also spoke Tuesday evening with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. The President told the Prime Minister that he looks forward to visiting Sydney in early September for bilateral meetings and for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit. President Bush and Prime Minister Howard discussed a range of issues, including the situation in Iraq, the international economic outlook, and climate change issues.
Q Has the President called Barry Bonds yet?
MR. SNOW: Actually been reaching out to him, and there will be a conversation at some point today.
Q Tony, in the President's statement about the economy, he didn't mention anything about the mortgage issue, which is currently creating a lot of anxiety in some sectors, and also nothing about the credit crunch. I'm wondering why not.
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, obviously people are concerned about the situation. Fortunately, at this juncture, the subprime market is something like 0.7 percent of the overall mortgage market, but it is a source of concern. The President really was speaking broadly of the fundamentals in the economy, and you've got an economy right now where we still have robust levels of growth, we have continued growth in employment, we have wage growth. But the President also thinks it's very important to continue to attend to fundamentals in terms of keeping taxes low, working on regulations, and also looking at trade, because exports, for instance, represent a very important and growing part of our economy.
Why the President didn't mention something, I don't know. But the fact is that you had a broad briefing about a lot of issues; he'll have opportunities to talk about other things later on.
Q On the micro level, a lot of people -- individuals who are reading newspapers every day, aware of their own mortgage statements -- adjustable rate mortgages, for instance -- a lot of people sort of get a sense of how the economy is going through that very individualistic prism. And more and more people -- not just subprime -- are starting to feel some sort of pinch as regards their mortgages.
MR. SNOW: Well, what you're talking about is adjustable rate mortgages. Look, there obviously is some anxiety about mortgages in various parts of the economy. What the President thinks is important is that you have to make sure that you don't strangle the market for providing funds for people to continue to finance their homes. And that is -- that's obviously something that we'll continue to look at it.
Q The President said he would use his veto pen to prevent tax increases, yet even some Republicans are suggesting some tax increases to repair the nation's infrastructure, such as the bridges. Would the President be open to something specific like that, to transportation needs?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think at this juncture, let's -- number one, I haven't heard any specific requests from Republicans for raising taxes on infrastructure. Number two, it's important to take a clear look -- you've got to keep in mind, the majority of funding for infrastructure is state and local. There is a significant federal role, but the majority is from state and local. And we've had a 30 percent increase during this administration in the funding for transportation and for infrastructure.
If this -- if members want to have a conversation about it when they come back, we'll certainly listen, but the President believes it's important to hold the line on taxes. A lot of times, when you are making -- you've got to make decisions about what your priorities are, and members of Congress, obviously, they'll have something to say. But what you're asking me to respond to basically are flyers at this juncture, rather than concrete proposals. Can't really do it in detail.
Q Tony, President Musharraf bailing on this jirga, is that a setback for --
MR. SNOW: We're not -- we're not sure what his schedule is. The Prime Minister is there, and really the most important thing to do right now is to figure out what the jirga achieves. So you have a senior official -- the Prime Minister certainly counts as a senior official within the Pakistani government. I don't know and I'm not sure our people know for sure what President Musharraf's schedule is. But, no, this is obviously important. You've got Pashtun leaders from both sides of the border. They're talking about something that's very important, which is try to build greater confidence and security, and to try to avoid the problem not only of the gaining strength of radical forces within some of the tribal areas in Pakistan, but also stopping cross-border incursions, which has continued to be a source of concern for the Afghans.
Q But is the White House and the President concerned, after Karzai seemed to be friendlier toward Pakistan the other day at Camp David --
MR. SNOW: Again, I think what you're trying to do is to create a personal fight here, and I don't think it exists.
Q Tony, does FISA or any law affecting intelligence gathering need further revisions, or is the state of the law now exactly what the President thinks he needs?
MR. SNOW: There would be further revisions that we would like to see. As we told you before, DNI Director McConnell put together a 66-page bill originally; we pared it down to 11 pages, which were the absolute essentials. Now, we're going to have to see in the atmosphere when we get back what Congress is willing to consider.
What Congress has done now is passed a bill that will stay in effect until -- well, six months from now. In six months it's going to be debated again. It is important at all times to try to figure out how you can collect intelligence, how you can target -- how you can sort of surveil foreign targets who are not on American soil, do so in a way that is consistent with protecting the civil liberties of Americans, and at the same time guaranteeing their security.
I cannot tell you at this point, Ken, what kind of debate is going to be happening in the weeks to come. But certainly it's important to make sure that we realize that in the war on terror we're fighting an enemy that's constantly adapting, that is technologically sophisticated, that certainly is doing what it can to try to make full use of means of communication and means of destruction to go after American citizens, and we've got to be nimble in responding to them.
Q As we sit here today, are there things the President would like to do that he thinks are crucial to defending the country that he thinks the law doesn't allow him to?
MR. SNOW: At this point I'll let the President say it. Right now what we're talking about is we have gotten what the DNI Director says he needs for this month, right now. We can continue the conversation about what other changes might be contemplated later.
Q Why did the President need enhanced power to conduct surveillance involving American citizens, as well? I understand the target --
MR. SNOW: What do you mean?
Q Well, because now the target is somebody overseas, but it could be somebody who is talking to an American citizen by phone or email.
MR. SNOW: Well, you've got to keep in mind that the original FISA statute said that you didn't need a warrant if you were, in fact, doing surveillance on a foreigner, period. What we've done is we have restored the original intent and design of FISA.
Again, the target in these conversations: a foreign individual not on U.S. soil. If that person is talking to a U.S. citizen, it does not mean that you're sitting around doing surveillance on the U.S. citizen. Furthermore, if it is a --
Q But if you're surveilling a phone call, you're not just listening to the foreigner's side of the call, right?
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, but on the other hand, if -- you probably understand that if somebody is just calling in and asking how his socks are at the dry cleaners, all of that personal information is combed out and, in fact, the U.S. citizen basically -- you're not conducting surveillance.
If, on the other hand, they're talking about blowing up subways in New York, what happens is then our officials would go to the FISA court, seek a warrant and listen in. But the idea that somehow this is an attempt to sit around and listen in on American citizens -- I can think of nothing less efficient than sitting around and saying, I want to listen to Joe here, but I've got to wait until somebody abroad who belongs to al Qaeda gives him a phone call.
Q But on that point about going to the FISA court, you're saying the administration will still go to the FISA court. But, in fact, the new law is going to give enhanced power to the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to approve this, not the --
MR. SNOW: When you want a warrant to do surveillance on an American citizen, you have to go to the FISA court.
MR. SNOW: Yes, yes. But what we're talking about -- yes, absolutely.
Q So the Attorney General can't just sign off on it, or the DNI, without the FISA court --
MR. SNOW: Well, what happens is that the Attorney General, the DNI, a number of other lawyers and others are going to put together procedures for figuring out who is eligible -- how you do eligibility -- in other words, that foreign target not on American soil. That is the focal point of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And by the way, the vast majority of surveillance conducted on this is foreign to foreign; it has nothing to do with Americans.
So what they end up doing is coming up with the proper procedures and design for -- under which you can conduct surveillance consistent with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This actually is an expansion of the court's power; it did not have that power under the original statute.
Q But if the vast majority do involve foreign to foreign, why did you need this new power to potentially --
MR. SNOW: It's not a new power. What happened is that the way the law was written, if you ended up having a foreign-to-foreign conversation that ended up traveling over a fiber-optic line in the United States, you'd have to go seek a warrant for it. Well, wait a minute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was never designed to go seek warrants for foreigners doing conversation -- foreign targets doing conversations. It was technologically obsolete. So what we were trying to do was to craft a bill that would reflect not only modern-day technology, but also keep in mind that it's not merely terror targets but hostile foreign powers and others. So, again, it is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; foreign targets not on U.S. soil are, in fact, the primary concern.
Q Tony, on two subjects, one on Barry Bonds. Was there ever a concern that the President would not call him because of the cloud over him about steroids?
MR. SNOW: No, the reason we -- the President was asleep when Barry Bonds hit his home run, and Barry Bonds was asleep when the President came to work today. I mean, it's one of those things where baseball players, especially after setting records, tend to stay up late -- and especially when you're three time zones away.
Q The President talked about steroids in his State of the Union address in 2004. In the midst of this controversy, there's a question over it, and some people are saying that there will always be an asterisk next to his name. What is the President saying about the issue of steroids?
MR. SNOW: Number one, the President thinks that steroids are inappropriate; it's a lousy example to kids, and it's also a way to destroy your body if you're a professional athlete. He's made it clear that performance-enhancing drugs, in fact, are destructive not only to the athlete, but certainly set a lousy -- terrible example for kids. He supports Major League Baseball's efforts not only to go after performance-enhancing drugs, but Senator Mitchell also taking a look at the phenomenon within the sport, trying to get to the bottom of it.
As far as Barry Bonds, this is something that's properly -- Major League Baseball is taking its look. We're certainly not going to try to be the fact witness on that.
Q Okay. And on China, it's happening again, apparently seafood is coming into the country that's not being inspected, that has carcinogens and antibiotics. What are you guys doing --
MR. SNOW: As you know, that is the Food and Drug Administration also, and Secretary Leavitt has put together a task force on food safety. Give them a call.
Q A follow-up on China, Tony? There's a report out --
MR. SNOW: Okay. (Laughter.) Pat.
Q Thank you -- a report out of London indicating that Chinese officials are sending word that they might be prepared to use their $1.3 trillion in foreign reserves to counter any pressure from the United States, economic pressure on their exports. Is there a concern here that China --
MR. SNOW: I know nothing about the report. I'm certainly not going to try to engage in global economic speculation on a report that I'm not familiar with.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, going back to Afghanistan. When these two great leaders met at Camp David, President Bush and President Karzai of Afghanistan, what message they had for the 25 million Afghans who were freed and had first freely elected government in Afghanistan, when they were trying for freedom from the Taliban and al Qaeda? But today, they're asking freedom for peace. How can they have peace in Afghanistan?
MR. SNOW: Well, peace is a challenge in Afghanistan. You've got the Taliban who are still trying once again to create its own reign of terror and oppression within Afghanistan. It's obviously important to fight back against them.
Goyal, the aim has always been the same, which is, again, to build a government that's able to stand on its own, that's able to expand the security perimeter beyond Kabul, and at the same time, building the strength among police and army forces. And as we pointed out last week or the week before, there has been significant improvement and increases in training. There are infrastructure problems, there are challenges on the drug front and building a firm economy. Again, when you are trying to build a stable nation, especially in a wreckage of the kind of oppression that -- and destruction that the Taliban wreaked, it takes a considerable amount of time to put all the pieces together.
Q Also, just -- on Afghanistan, many peace workers and many countries and many U.N. workers are not willing to go to Afghanistan to work because now foundations are hostages and others feel the same thing may happen to them. What are we doing as far as security for those who want to work for --
MR. SNOW: Well, look, we -- this gives you an idea of the kind of people we're fighting. And we deplore it when they kidnap and they kill innocent humans -- innocent men and women and children. But the most important thing to do is, again, to continue to work with that Afghan government so that it has the capability and resources to defend itself. And we'll do everything we can to assist.
Q Tony, Asia analysts say the upcoming summit between the two Koreas will actually do very little to get North Korea to start abandoning nuclear weapons, that it will take much more direct U.S. involvement. Does the administration see these talks as being hopeful towards --
MR. SNOW: Well, the administration supports the talks, and South Korea had notified us in advance. We certainly support them. But it is important -- you've got the six-party process and this falls within the six-party process, where you've got to have everybody working together to put pressure on the North Koreans not only to shut down Pyongyang, but also suspend any activities that can be used for uranium enrichment and reprocessing.
I mean, we've -- it's all laid out in the September 13th agreement, and the fact is that you've got to have all parties working together. And they have been. And the tough decisions have to be made by the North Koreans.
Q Tony, Nouri al-Maliki is in Tehran again. Did he consult with the administration before going there? Does it worry the President or his aides that he's talking about -- economic and other cooperation agreements with a regime that the President has repeatedly called a force for instability?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, what the President has said is that the Iranians have to make a decision in that they should have an interest in stability, and to the extent that there has been the movement of weaponry and also fighters over the Iranian border, that is a contributor to instability. As you know, there have been conversations about just that topic between the U.S. Ambassador and Iranian counterparts.
On the other hand, Iran is the neighbor of Iraq, and it is certainly appropriate for the Prime Minister to travel to neighbors and try to make his case also for engaging in the kind of relationships that lead to stability rather than instability.
Q You don't think that repeatedly attempting to negotiate agreements with Tehran is going to, for example, worry the Sunnis and further distance themselves from the so-called unity government?
MR. SNOW: Look, the Prime Minister -- you've got to keep in mind that Prime Minister Maliki is the Prime Minister of all Iraq, and he is obviously thinking about what's going to be important for the stability of Iraq. He's also made it clear that he does not consider himself, and nobody should, a proxy for Iran, or Shia as proxy for Iran. Shia within Iraq are working to get their own homeland, to get their freedoms, to get their economic independence. And, again, so -- I don't want to try to go any further than that, but it is perfectly consistent with his duties as a Prime Minister to reach out to a neighbor and to try to have good relations.
Q Did he consult with us first?
MR. SNOW: I mean, we knew he was going, but he's a sovereign head of state.
Q Tony, given the problems that we have in the economy with the credit on the corporate level and the mortgage market -- it's spilled over from mortgage to credit -- the President's speech today seemed way off target. I'm wondering, is that the speech that was intended, or did they change it at the last minute, because --
MR. SNOW: I think -- I don't want to try to pose here as the overall economic expert, but you've got an economy that's enormously strong. And there have been problems within the credit markets, and it is something that is a source of concern. But on the other hand, you've got inflation that's been moderated; you have continued growth in income and employment; you have very strong fundamentals. So I would -- he may not have said what you would have liked him to say, but, on the other hand, he was talking to some pretty capable economic analysts, in the persons of the Treasury Secretary, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, and so on, and he was trying to give an overall view. What you're saying is, he didn't pinpoint a problem.
Q Well, he did pinpoint a problem. He said that the greatest threat to the economy are the Democrats.
MR. SNOW: But he also -- one of the things it said is that the -- market always prices in a risk premium, and that's one of the things that's been going on in the marketplace.
Q But I mean, why did he bother to give that speech if it's not addressing --
MR. SNOW: Oh, I'm sorry, because it didn't address the bad news that you -- your perceived bad news, because it talks about underlying strengths?
Q Why did he have this lunch? I mean, is this something --
MR. SNOW: He does it every year. This is the seventh year he's done it. He's done it in August of each of the years. Please consult calendar. This is a normal annual event to meet with economic advisors. And you know what, it's legitimate for a President to say, to raise taxes at a time like this is bad policy; to increase regulation at a time like this is bad policy; not to pursue free trade in an increasingly competitive world, where exports represent a growing part of our economy, is bad policy.
Q You're giving a better speech than he did. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I'm getting out of here.
Q Tony, what is the President hoping to get out of this meeting with President Sarkozy? And why is he using Walker's Point, now the second time in just a matter of six weeks?
MR. SNOW: Well, the First Lady extended the invitation at the G8. You've got a new French President who is -- number one, he's vacationing -- he's been vacationing in New Hampshire; he's in the neighborhood. Number two, it looks like we're on the verge of a new era of relations with the French, which is a good thing, and the President believes in building personal relationships with other heads of state. This fits into that pattern. It's coming over -- I'm sure they'll talk about some international matters, but this is not a summit, this is not something with an agenda. The agenda is, come by and let's visit. And the main reason you're at Walker's Point is the First Lady extended the invitation and the French President is in the neighborhood.
Q To follow up on that, this was extended two months ago at the G8, is that correct?
MR. SNOW: Correct.
Q So did the Sarkozys already have plans to come to the United States to vacation?
MR. SNOW: I have not asked them or the French government, so I don't know.
Q Well, is that why Mrs. Bush extended the invitation, because there were going to be in the neighborhood?
MR. SNOW: I honestly don't know, Ann.
Q What do you think of a foreign head of state making his first vacation in the United States?
MR. SNOW: Well, he certainly picked a good country to visit, didn't he? (Laughter.)
Q Can we quote you on that, Tony?
MR. SNOW: Yes, absolutely -- a great country to visit.
Q A couple of questions not related. There's a feeling that McConnell stepped over -- crossed the line at being a propagandist for this spy legislation.
MR. SNOW: I think it's unfortunate because there may be some charges that really don't reflect the realities of Mike McConnell and who he is. He doesn't see himself as a political figure. The President asked a simple question: What do you need? Mike McConnell is the guy who is running DNI and, by the way, has received high marks from Democrats and Republicans, including in some of the reporting today.
So I would sort of steer away from the sort of personal reporting on this because, frankly, he's somebody who is serving as an honest broker and was dealing not only in good faith, but worked very hard with members of both parties and produced a piece of legislation that passed overwhelmingly.
Q My other question is there a gate that the Petraeus report will come through?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm sure there is, we just don't know what it is.
Q In September?
MR. SNOW: Yes, well, look, there is a September 15th reporting date.
Okay, we'll catch up with you. END 1:25 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 6, 2007
President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with President Karzai of Afghanistan Camp David, 11:17 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good morning. Thank you; be seated. Welcome.
I appreciate a man I've come to admire, President Karzai, for joining us. Laura and I had the honor of hosting the President for dinner last night. He and I spent a lot of this morning just sitting down alone talking about our common interests, common concerns. President Karzai is an optimistic man. He's watched his country emerge from days of darkness to days of hope.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I appreciate your stewardship. I appreciate your commitment to empowering your people. I appreciate your strong stance for freedom and justice, and I'm proud to call you an ally in this war against those who would wreak havoc in order to deny people a chance to live in peace.
We're working closely together to help the people of Afghanistan prosper. We work together to give the people of Afghanistan a chance to raise their children in a hopeful world. And we're working together to defeat those who would try to stop the advance of a free Afghan society.
We spent a fair amount of time talking about our security strategy. You might remember it was last winter that people were speculating about the Taliban spring offensive, and about how the Taliban had regrouped and were going to go on the attack inside Afghanistan. There was a spring offensive, all right -- it was conducted by U.S., NATO and, equally importantly, Afghan troops. And we went on the offense because we understand that it is in our mutual interests to deny extremists the opportunity to derail this young democracy.
There is still a fight going on, but I'm proud to report to the American people that the Afghan army is in the fight. The government is in the fight and the army is in the fight. Afghan national security forces are increasing in strength; there's about 110,000 Afghans now defending their nation. And more Afghans are stepping up to serve and it's in the interest of the United States to help you develop that national army and local police that will send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan that the governments can help provide an opportunity for children to raise their children in a peaceful world.
There are a lot of forces there in Afghanistan supporting this government, and our 23,500 troops are proud to stand side by side with 26,000 troops from other nations. And we applaud those countries who have committed their troops to help Afghanistan succeed. We've committed more than $23 billion since 2001 to help rebuild the country. I think our citizens will be interested to know, for example, that 7,000 community health care workers have been trained that provide about 340,000 Afghan men, women and children a month with good health care.
I remember talking a lot about how the Taliban prevented young girls from going to school in Afghanistan. American citizens recoil with horror to think about a government that would deny a young child the opportunity to have the basics necessary to succeed in life. Today there are nearly 5 million students going to school in Afghanistan, a third of who are girls. Still work to be done, don't get me wrong, but progress is being made, Mr. President, and we're proud of you, proud of the work you're doing.
We talked about the need to stem the narcotics trade. I'm sure the President will comment on this. He understands that it's very important for farmers to be incented to grow crops other than poppy, and that he knows full well the United States is watching, measuring and trying to help eradicate poppy cultivation. We spent more than a fair amount of time on it; we spent a lot of time on it. And it's important that we get this right. Mr. President, I appreciate your commitment to not only dealing with the poppy growers and the poppy crop, but also dealing with corruption. It's very important that our societies emerge in such a way that the people have confidence in the capacity of government to conduct the affairs -- conduct their affairs in a way that's above board and honest and transparent.
And finally, I do want to congratulate you on the joint jirga that's coming up. This is a meeting between President Karzai, President Musharraf and representative elements from parts of their respective countries, all coming together to talk about reconciliation and how we can work together -- how you can work together to achieve common solutions to problems. And the main problem is to fight extremism, to recognize that history has called us into action. And by fighting extremists and radicals, we help people realize dreams. And helping people realize dreams helps promote peace. That's what we want.
You come from a part of the world, Mr. President, where there's a long history of violence and a long history of people seeking freedom. It's in the interests of the United States to be on the -- tip the scales of freedom your way. You only do so with strong leadership, and I appreciate the leadership you're providing. So welcome to Camp David.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for seeing me in Camp David. You and the First Lady are generous and kind hosts and thank you very much for that.
Mr. President, I am here today to once again thank you and the American people for all that you have done for Afghanistan; for our liberation first, and then for our stability and prosperity. We have gone a long way.
I have been here many times before in America, thanking the American people for what they have given to Afghanistan. I have spoken of roads, I have spoken of schools, I have spoken of clinics, I have spoken of health services, I have spoken of education, I have spoken of agriculture, I've spoken of lots of achievements. I've also had requests for help that you have delivered to us.
But today I'm going to speak about only one achievement that means so much for the Afghan people, and surely to you and the rest of the world. That is that Afghanistan today, with the help that you have provided and our other allies have provided can save, is saving the life of at least 50,000 infants after they are born, and the life of 85,000 children under five.
Mr. President, when you and I begin to think of the mothers who can have their babies safe today, then we know the value and the importance of this achievement. And thank you very, very much for this tremendous help. Afghanistan would have not had 85,000 children living today had you not been there to help us with the rest of the world.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: That's a massive achievement, and I am happy about it. I'm sure you are, too, and so are women and mothers around the world.
Mr. President, as we have gone a long way, progress has been made. We still continue to fight terrorism; our enemy is still there -- defeated, but still hiding in the mountains. And our duty is to complete the job, to get them out of their hideouts in the mountains and to bring justice to the people of Afghanistan, to the people of America, and to the people around the world who are threatened by these terrorists.
One of the significant steps that we have taken together with Pakistan to have an effective fight against terrorism, an effective fight against extremism and radicalism, was discussed during the dinner that you kindly hosted for me and President Musharraf. And the result of that is going to be seen in two days from today, the 9th of August, where in Kabul we will have the joint Pakistan-Afghanistan jirga. I hope very much that this jirga will bring to us what we need, which I think it will. And thank you very much for this opportunity -- you cause us to have a meeting and to have a result of that.
Mr. President, we have a long journey ahead of us. But what we have traveled so far has given us greater hope for a better future, for a better life. The Afghans are still suffering, but there are millions of Afghans who are enjoying a better and more secure life, who can send their children to school and who can work in their fields. And thank you very much for that.
Yes, we do have the problem of poppies and narcotics in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is committed to fighting it because this evil is first hurting us, and then youth in the rest of the world. So this is for Afghanistan to work against, and for the rest of us to work against. We are committed. It will take time; we are realistic about that. But the fight is there and I hope your assistance will continue to be delivered to Afghanistan to fight narcotics. We have raised our army, indeed. We are working on our police. Our police needs a lot of improvement. And I'm glad that you have committed to helping us with the raising of better police in Afghanistan.
The fight against corruption is going on. We have developed a mechanism, worked through a commission headed by the Chief Justice of Afghanistan that will be ready in two months from now, and will be announced to the Afghan people on hows and measures and the time frame that we will need to have an effective fight against corruption in Afghanistan.
The rest, life, is going on well, with a lot of hope. We have a better administration, more capabilities. We can do lots of things on our own, and I'm sure your continued assistance will make life better for us. And thank you very much, Mr. President. Nice of you to receive me here.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks for coming. A couple of questions. Deb.
Q Mr. President, if you had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of top al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, would you wait for Musharraf's permission to send in U.S. forces, even if it meant missing an opportunity to take them out? Or have you and Musharraf worked out some deal about this already?
And President Karzai, what will be your top concern when you meet with Musharraf later this week?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I am confident that with actionable intelligence, we will be able to bring top al Qaeda to justice. We're in constant communications with the Pakistan government. It's in their interest that foreign fighters be brought to justice. After all, these are the same ones who were plotting to kill President Musharraf. We share a concern. And I'm confident, with real actionable intelligence, we will get the job done.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: When President Musharraf visits Afghanistan on the 9th of August to inaugurate the joint Pakistan-Afghanistan convention, or jirga, together with me, we will be discussing further improvements and relations between the two countries. The two countries are neighbors; they've been having extensive relationships with each other. We will be discussing improvement of those relations on all aspects of them. We will also be discussing the possible outcome of the joint jirga between the two countries, and how effectively, then, we can carry on the fight against terrorism in both countries and in the region as a result of that jirga. So it's a -- it's going to be, I'm sure, a good meeting, ma'am.
Q I will ask in Pashto and then I will translate my question. My question is for Mr. Karzai. (Speaking Pashto.) I will repeat in English, too. Four years ago, in a press conference, Mr. President Karzai said Taliban do not pose any threat to Afghan people. So who do you think supported Taliban to threaten the security by doing kidnappings and taking the government officials, and why?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Four years ago I did say that, and I continue to say that: The Taliban do pose dangers to our innocent people; to children going to school; to our clergy; to our teachers; to our engineers; to international aid workers. They are not posing any threat to the government of Afghanistan, they are not posing any threat to the institutions of Afghanistan, or to the build-up of institutions of Afghanistan. It's a force that's defeated; it's a force that is frustrated; it's a force that is acting in cowardice by killing children going to school.
Who is supporting them is a question that we have been working on for a long time, and since then. And I hope that the jirga between us and Pakistan will give us solutions to some of the questions that we have.
PRESIDENT BUSH: One thing is for certain: We know the vision -- their vision of how to govern. They've been in power. They've had the opportunity to show the world how they think and what they do. It's instructive for people to speak to a mother of a young girl about what life was like under the Taliban. These are brutal, cold-blooded killers.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes.
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's what they are. And the fundamental question facing those of us who believe in freedom is whether or not we confront them, and whether or not it's worth it -- the effort -- to spread an alternative to their hateful vision. And we've come to the conclusion it is. And that's why President Karzai stands right here at Camp David, discussing common concerns, common opportunities, about how to defeat a vision of darkness. That's what they are. They just don't believe in freedom. They don't believe it's possible to live in a society where people are allowed to express themselves in free fashion.
And it's really part of an ongoing challenge that the free world faces. The real question is whether or not those of us who have the blessings of liberty will continue to pursue policies -- foreign policy, security policy aimed at not only protecting our homeland, but aimed at laying a condition for peace to prevail.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. President Karzai said yesterday that he believed Iran was playing a helpful role in Afghanistan. Was he able to convince you in your meetings that that was the case, or do you still have concerns about Iran's role? And I have a question for President Karzai as well. Just wondering if the President was able to give you the assurances that you sought about the effort to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me comment on the civilian casualties, if I might. First, I fully understand the angst, the agony and the sorrow that Afghan citizens feel when an innocent life is lost. I know that must cause grief in villages and heartbreak in homes. Secondly, I can assure the Afghan people, like I assured the President, that we do everything we can to protect the innocent; that our military operations are mindful that innocent life might be exposed to danger, and we adjust accordingly.
Thirdly, it is the Taliban who surround themselves with innocent life as human shields. The Taliban are the cold-blooded killers. The Taliban are the murderers. The Taliban have no regard for human life. And therefore, we've spent some time talking about -- as the President rightly expressed his concerns about civilian casualty. And I assured him that we share those concerns.
Secondly, it's up to Iran to prove to the world that they're a stabilizing force as opposed to a destabilizing force. After all, this is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon. This is a government that is in defiance of international accord, a government that seems to be willing to thumb its nose at the international community and, at the same time, a government that denies its people a rightful place in the world and denies its people the ability to realize their full potential.
So I believe that it's in the interests of all of us that we have an Iran that tries to stabilize, not destabilize; an Iran that gives up its weapons ambitions. And therefore, we're working to that end. The President knows best about what's taking place in his country, and of course, I'm willing to listen. But from my perspective, the burden of proof is on the Iranian government to show us that they're a positive force. And I must tell you that this current leadership there is a big disappointment to the people of Iran. The people of Iran could be doing a lot better than they are today. But because of the actions of this government, this country is isolated. And we will continue to work to isolate it, because they're not a force for good, as far as we can see. They're a destabilizing influence wherever they are.
Now, the President will have to talk to you about Afghanistan. But I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence there in Afghanistan is a positive force -- and therefore, it's going to be up to them to prove to us and prove to the government that they are.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: I had a good discussion with President Bush on civilian casualties. I'm very happy to tell you that President Bush felt very much with the Afghan people, that he calls the Afghan people allies in the war against terror, and friends, and that he is as much concerned as I am, as the Afghan people are. I was very happy with that conversation.
Q Mr. Karzai -- can I ask my question in Dari first?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Please, yes.
Q (Speaking Dari.) You have recently become a father, and also, you have recently pardoned a teenager who suicide himself, and you said he washed -- he was brainwashed.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Brainwashed, yes.
Q Yes. What do you think about the future of Afghanistan in view of this problem?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Well, ma'am, the man -- the boy, I should say, that I pardoned, was a 14-year-old boy from Pakistan's South Waziristan agency. He was sent by his father to a madrassa to get education because he could not any more afford to have him in school, because his mother had a heart ailment, and they had to spend money on her treatment.
Having sent the boy to a madrassa, he disappeared from there. After a few months his father heard that he was arrested in Afghanistan, and then he came to Afghanistan. And having seen that this was a teenage -- rather, legally underage innocent boy, used by terrorists to kill himself and to kill other innocent people, I felt that it was the right decision to pardon him to give him a new opportunity for education and a new life, and to send a message to his mother that your child is going to be back with you. I am very glad I did that.
But this gives us a lesson about those who are the enemies of all of us, the enemies of people who use young children, who brainwashes them, and who forces them to kill themselves.
The message should be clear to the rest of the world about the evil that we are fighting: The heartless people that we are fighting, who don't even have any feeling for young children, for babies, for teenagers. Most of that, we know today, that the terrorists are buying and selling suicide bombers. We have received calls in our government offices by handlers of suicide bombers that they want to sell them to us. So it's become a trade, a mean trade; merchants of death are around there. So it's our job to get rid of them.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much. END 11:42 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 5, 2007
President Bush Commends Congress on Passage of Intelligence Legislation
When our intelligence professionals have the legal tools to gather information about the intentions of our enemies, America is safer. And when these same legal tools also protect the civil liberties of Americans, then we can have the confidence to know that we can preserve our freedoms while making America safer.
The Protect America Act, passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, achieves both of these goals by modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Over the past three decades this law has not kept pace with revolutionary changes in technology. As a result, our intelligence professionals have told us that they are missing significant intelligence information that they need to protect the country.
S.1927 reforms FISA by accounting for changes in technology and restoring the statute to its original focus on appropriate protections for the rights of persons in the United States - and not foreign targets located in foreign lands.
Today we face a dynamic threat from enemies who understand how to use modern technology against us. Whether foreign terrorists, hostile nations, or other actors, they change their tactics frequently and seek to exploit the very openness and freedoms we hold dear. Our tools to deter them must also be dynamic and flexible enough to meet the challenges they pose. This law gives our intelligence professionals this greater flexibility while closing a dangerous gap in our intelligence gathering activities that threatened to weaken our defenses.
We know that information we have been able to acquire about foreign threats will help us detect and prevent attacks on our homeland. Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has assured me that this bill gives him the most immediate tools he needs to defeat the intentions of our enemies. And so in signing this legislation today I am heartened to know that his critical work will be strengthened and we will be better armed to prevent attacks in the future.
I commend members of Congress who supported these important reforms, and also for acting before adjourning for recess. In particular, I want to thank Mitch McConnell and John Boehner for their strong leadership on this issue, and Senators Kit Bond and Dianne Feinstein for coming together in the Senate on an effective bipartisan solution. In the House of Representatives, Pete Hoekstra and Heather Wilson were instrumental in securing enactment of this vital piece of legislation before the August recess, and I thank them for their leadership.
While I appreciate the leadership it took to pass this bill, we must remember that our work is not done. This bill is a temporary, narrowly focused statute to deal with the most immediate shortcomings in the law.
When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 6, 2007
President Bush Signs Legislation Funding Repairs and Reconstruction of I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis On Monday, August 6, 2007 the President signed into law:
H.R. 3311, which authorizes additional funds for emergency repairs and reconstruction of the Interstate I-35 bridge located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that collapsed on August 1, 2007, and waives the limitation on emergency relief funds for those emergency repairs and reconstruction.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 6, 2007
Fact Sheet: The Protect America Act of 2007 President Bush Signs Legislation Modernizing Foreign Intelligence Law To Better Protect America
"We know that information we have been able to acquire about foreign threats will help us detect and prevent attacks on our homeland. Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has assured me that this bill gives him the most immediate tools he needs to defeat the intentions of our enemies. And so in signing this legislation today I am heartened to know that his critical work will be strengthened and we will be better armed to prevent attacks in the future."
President George W. Bush, 8/5/07
The Protect America Act Modernizes The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) To Give Intelligence Professionals The Tools They Urgently Need To Gather Information About Our Enemies, While Protecting The Civil Liberties Of Americans. The Act, passed with bipartisan support in the House and the Senate, restores FISA to its original focus on protecting the rights of Americans, while not acting as an obstacle to conducting foreign intelligence surveillance on foreign targets located overseas.
Changes In Technology Since 1978 Had The Effect Of Expanding The Scope Of FISA's Coverage To Include Intelligence Collection Efforts That Congress Excluded From The Law's Requirements. This unintended expansion of FISA's scope meant the government, in a significant number of cases, needed to obtain a court order to collect foreign intelligence information against a target located overseas. This created an unnecessary obstacle to our Intelligence Community's ability to gain real-time information about the intent of our enemies overseas and diverted scarce resources that would be better spent safeguarding the civil liberties of people in the United States, not foreign terrorists who wish to do us harm.
The Government Should Not Have To Obtain A Court Order To Conduct Surveillance On Foreign Intelligence Targets Located In Foreign Countries. This was not Congress' intent when it enacted FISA. As the Director of National Intelligence stated, continuing to operate under this outdated law meant our intelligence professionals were "missing a significant amount of foreign intelligence that we should be collecting to protect our country."
The Protect America Act Modernizes FISA In Four Important Ways
The Act Permits Our Intelligence Professionals To More Effectively Collect Foreign Intelligence Information On Targets In Foreign Lands Without First Receiving Court Approval. The Act clarifies that the definition of electronic surveillance in FISA shall not be construed to encompass surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. This clarification restores FISA to its original intent and means intelligence professionals will not have to go to court in order to collect foreign intelligence on an overseas target who may be planning to attack the U.S.
The Act Provides A Role For The FISA Court In Reviewing The Procedures The Intelligence Community Uses To Ensure That Surveillance Efforts Target Persons Located Overseas. The Attorney General is required to submit to the FISA court the procedures by which intelligence professionals will determine that the authorized acquisitions of foreign intelligence do not constitute electronic surveillance that is, the procedures by which the government determines that the acquisitions are directed at persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States.
The Act Provides For The FISA Court To Direct Third Parties To Assist The Intelligence Community In Its Collection Efforts. The Act permits the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to direct third parties to provide the information, facilities, and assistance necessary to conduct surveillance of foreign intelligence targets located overseas.
The Act Protects Third Parties From Private Lawsuits Arising From Assistance They Provide The Government. No cause of action may be brought in any court against any person for complying with a directive to provide the Government with all information, facilities, or assistance necessary to accomplish the acquisition of foreign intelligence information.
Our Work Is Not Done This Act Is A Temporary, Narrowly Focused Statute To Deal With The Most Immediate Needs Of The Intelligence Community To Protect The Country. When Congress returns in September, the Intelligence Committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, including the important issues of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 4, 2007
President Bush Visits Minneapolis, Offers Sympathies and Aid U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- St. Paul District, Lower Street Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 10:40 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: On behalf of the citizens of America, I bring prayers from the American people to those who suffered loss of life as a result of the collapse of the 35W bridge here in the Twin Cities. I bring the prayers of those who wonder about whether they'll ever see a loved one again.
First, I want to thank the Governor and the Mayor and the senators, members of the Congress for working in a coordinated way to respond to this tragedy. I have met with the Chief of Police and the Sheriff, rescue workers, people who represent men and women who are working as hard as they possibly can to save life and to find life; to go under these murky waters to find the facts.
And it's going to take a while, but I have been impressed by not only their determination, but have been impressed by their compassion. I have met people that were on the bridge -- I met a man who was on the bridge when it collapsed. His instinct was to run to a school bus of screaming children, and to help bring them to safety.
We have an amazing country, where people's instinct, first instinct, is to help save life. There's a lot of peoples' first instincts here in the Twin Cities was to save the lives of somebody who was hurting. And I know the people of this community thank their fellow citizens who did that.
I'm here with the Secretary of Transportation, because our message to the Twin Cities is, we want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible; that we understand this is a main artery of life here; that people count on this bridge and this highway system to get to work. There's a lot of paperwork involved with government. One of our jobs is to work with the Governor and the Mayor and the senators and the members of the Congress to cut through that paperwork, and to see if we can't get this bridge rebuilt in a way that not only expedites the flow of traffic, but in a way that can stand the test of time.
I make no promises on the timetable. I do promise that Mary Peters, the Secretary of Transportation, is going to be in charge of this project. I do promise she's going to listen to the local authorities to find out what the folks here need. I do promise that when she sees roadblocks and hurdles in the way of getting the job done, she'll do everything she can to eliminate them.
Out of these tragedies can come a better life. And I, having visited with the people here, believe that not only are they committed to a better life, not only are they committed to turning something ugly into something good, but it's going to happen.
So I'm proud to be with you. Thank you for your leadership. God bless the people of this part of the world. Thank you.
END 10:44 A.M. CDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 4, 2007
President Bush on Passage of Intelligence Security Legislation
Tonight the House joined the Senate in passing legislation that will close a critical gap in our intelligence collection, and I appreciate their efforts to complete the legislation before the August recess. The Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has assured me that this bill gives him what he needs to continue to protect the country, and therefore I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk.
I also want to remind Congress that our work on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is not complete. When Congress returns in September, we need to work together on additional reforms, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
# # #
For Immediate Release August 3, 2007
Press Briefing by Scott Stanzel James S. Brady Briefing Room, 12:33 P.M. EDT
MR. STANZEL: Good afternoon, everyone. I don't have anything off the top, so I'll take your questions.
Q The President just now when he was at the FBI said -- in asking Congress to stay until they finish the FISA bill said, "We've worked hard and in good faith with the Democrats to find a solution, but we are not going to put our national security at risk." Can you explain what that means? Is he going to compel Congress to stay? Is there something administratively that the White House can do if they don't complete a bill that he likes?
MR. STANZEL: Well, I don't think that will actually even be an issue. It's clear that Republicans in Congress are committed to staying here until we modernize our FISA laws. The President said very clearly that if the DNI says that the proposal that is offered does not close the gaps in our intelligence gathering, he will veto it. So that is the test for the President and we need to make sure that that gap is closed prior to the August recess.
So I don't think we'll get to a point where the President would need to compel Congress to stay here, because it's very clear that leaders in Congress do want to get this done, and Republican leaders have said that they're committed to staying here until it does get done.
Q So is he willing to do that? Is he willing to compel Congress if it comes to that?
MR. STANZEL: That's a hypothetical, but this is serious business and the President treats it as such. But I just don't think we'll get to that point.
Q And the second thing, is there an administrative solution -- I know it's hypothetical at this point, but is there some administrative solution out there?
MR. STANZEL: There is, and I would refer you to your Constitution on that; but there is.
Q I mean to FISA. Is there something the administration can do unilaterally if Congress --
MR. STANZEL: No, the law needs to be changed. It's outdated, it was created in 1978, it didn't take into account the changes in modern communications technology and it definitely needs to be updated.
Q Do you expect it to be resolved today?
MR. STANZEL: I'm not going to make those predictions. Obviously, predicting what Congress does on a set timeline is a difficult thing to do. But I will say that it's an important matter and we hope and expect that leaders will stay here in Washington to get this done before they leave town.
Q The President can obey the law, can't he?
MR. STANZEL: And he always does, Helen.
Q (Inaudible) two years, only one request has been turned down for surveillance. What's the big problem?
MR. STANZEL: The issue --
Q There are thousands of lawyers in this town who could go right down to the court and get a warrant. Why do you have to --
MR. STANZEL: That means that someone has to -- in 1978, when they created this law, protecting the civil liberties of foreign residents is not an issue. We need to be able to gather the intelligence of foreign targets in foreign lands. That's important. The law in 1978 did not contemplate changes in our communications technology. So being able to target someone in a foreign land, target them and try to understand who they may be calling, what they may be plotting or planning is very important. And waiting around to get a court order is not keeping up with instant communications that we have today -- and that's not something that --
Q Do we have the right to intervene in a sovereign country and wiretap their --
MR. STANZEL: In 1978, actually, that was codified into law, that our procedures are in place --
Q Then what's the problem?
MR. STANZEL: Because communications technologies have changed.
Q So what?
MR. STANZEL: Well, that's the most important thing. That's the most important thing here, Helen.
Q I think (inaudible) more important than the President (inaudible) the law.
MR. STANZEL: In 1978 you may have not been able to sit in that chair with a BlackBerry. Today you can. In 1978, you may not have been able to sit in that chair in the front row with a cell phone. Now you can. Those are changes in communications technology, and the law needs to keep up with that.
Q Speaking of breaking the law, did the House Minority Leader, John Boehner, illegally disclose classified information in an interview this week when he described the secret court decision that necessitated this whole process?
MR. STANZEL: Congressman Boehner is focused on the goal of modernizing the FISA law. It needs to be modernized. He knows what is at stake. It's very important to him as a leader in Congress that members stay here to get that completed. But I'm not going to speculate about what he talked about from here.
Q When did the President first ask Congress for this change, and why is it coming right up unto the 11th hour, as Congress is approaching an established deadline for recess?
MR. STANZEL: These conversations first began in earnest in April. They've been going on even prior to that. But the DNI in April sent Congress a proposal -- I believe it was 66 pages -- about changes that needed to be made to the FISA law. It became clear in the discussions with leaders in Congress they weren't going to be able to get all of those changes made. So last Friday, a week ago, a proposal was sent from the DNI. I believe that was an 11 page proposal. It was tremendously scaled back, a bare minimum of what he needed in order to protect the American people. So that's where the discussions have gone at this point.
They had expressed interest -- leaders in Congress had expressed interest in addressing this problem prior to leaving, so that's where we are today.
Q And the release that they sent out last night, just before midnight, saying that he doesn't want to do it, but he will offer to go ahead and have every instance of surveillance taken to the FISA court after the fact, after the surveillance began -- was that part of the 66 pages and part of the 11 pages?
MR. STANZEL: It was part of their offer last night. I would refer you to them, in terms of their conversations and how they transpired over time.
Q But that's new as of last night?
MR. STANZEL: That is new. And I will just read from his statement from last night. "However, to acknowledge the interests of all, I can agree to a procedure that provides for court review after needed collection has begun of our procedures for gathering foreign intelligence through classified methods directed at foreigners located overseas." He strongly prefers that this not be the case, but he's prepared to take those additional steps to keep the confidence of members of Congress and the American people that these processes have been subject to court approval.
Q And so far the administration has not been told by Congress -- the Democratic leadership in Congress -- that they will accept that?
MR STANZEL: You know, discussions are happening. That's an up-to-the-minute thing, and we can try to keep you posted as those go along today, but not that I'm aware of.
Q Scott, what Congressman Boehner said is not announce -- said he didn't want to speculate. It's not a matter of speculation. He spilled the beans on some details that hadn't been out before. Was this damaging or was it not damaging?
MR. STANZEL: Well, it's not for me to make a judgment from here. That's an issue for the intelligence community to make a judgment about. So it's not for me to make an assessment from here at the podium about a classified matter that I couldn't speak about from here. So I'm not indicating one way or another about the subject, whether it was accurate, whether the story was accurate, or whether or not the information in the story was classified or not. That's not a judgment that I can make from here.
Q Are you saying that an intelligence assessment of what he said is underway?
MR. STANZEL: You would have to ask the intelligence community that. That's not something that I can tell you.
Q Scott, can you talk about the ruling about the portions of the seizure into William Jefferson's office were considered unconstitutional? Was this heavy-handedness by the Department of Justice?
MR. STANZEL: April, that's an ongoing -- a subject of ongoing litigation. Obviously, it's an important issue that's gathered a lot of attention here in Washington, D.C. But because it's a matter of ongoing litigation, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to talk about it from here.
Q There seems to be a consistent pattern with DOJ that when they do something it's excessive or a little bit more than what's called for. What do you say to that? For this to be --
MR. STANZEL: Because all of this is in the context of that ongoing litigation, I'm just not going to be at liberty to pontificate about it.
Q But you have to say something. I mean, this is --
MR. STANZEL: No, I actually don't. (Laughter.)
Q Okay, one point, Scott. I hear you, but I mean, doesn't this go back, it harkens back to everything everyone is talking about, DOJ under the leadership of Alberto Gonzales? I mean, was this heavy-handedness? It's a consistent pattern -- is there a consistent patter of heavy-handedness in this department under this President?
MR. STANZEL: The third time is not a charm, April. I'm going to avoid that question.
Q Can you -- there are ongoing efforts at the U.N. and elsewhere to forge a sort of post-Kyoto protocol arrangement. There are talks in Bali in, I think, December. Can you fit this September conference on climate change in the broader spectrum of ongoing climate talks?
MR. STANZEL: Yes. We feel that this effort is intended to aid the U.N. process that is ongoing. We're pleased to have the support of the Secretary General and the head of the U.N. CCC. We expect the results in 2008 from these major economies to contribute to the global agreement under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change by 2009. So we think it can enhance that process.
Q Scott, some environmentalists are saying that this Washington Conference on Global Warming is actually an effort to deflect international pressure for the United States to accept mandatory greenhouse emissions gas caps, something the President has refused to do. Can you respond to that at all?
MR. STANZEL: This is an effort -- we have always said that we think that this issue should be addressed with developing nations, with the countries that are involved today, that the President invited to this conference. There are 13 entities that were invited -- 13 major economies, I should say, and the U.N. were invited. We think it's an opportunity for those nations and those countries to come together to talk about what we can do in the post-2012 environment to address greenhouse gas emissions; what we can do to advance new technologies to help those developing nations reduce their emissions and help us all have a cleaner environment with a healthy economy.
So, no, this is an effort to help supplement the ongoing efforts in other places around the world.
Q Can we go back to the FISA proposal? A lot of Democrats and, frankly, even some Republicans, have voiced skepticism about Attorney General Gonzales' credibility. Why is it necessary that he sign off on these intercepts?
MR. STANZEL: Well, I would put it this way, Mark. In 1978, when this law was created, it was very important that there be civilian oversight over the intelligence community. I think that's important. So the Attorney General, one of his duties as a function has been involved with this from that point. And we have added the DNI to that approval process, because those were some interests of members of Congress.
If because some people have partisan ill will towards the Attorney General that they want to completely strip out civilian oversight of the intelligence community, we think that that is a really short-sighted way to look at this law. We think it is important that the Attorney General, who is there to help protect the civil liberties of Americans, be involved. And that is why we've taken the approach that we have.
Q And it is that much more cumbersome to go to a member of the FISA court than it is to go to Attorney General Gonzales?
MR. STANZEL: To get pre-approval for those types of things, yes, that is cumbersome.
Q Even though the court was set up specifically for this purpose, and the Attorney General has lots of other duties?
MR. STANZEL: Again, let's go back to what was created in 1978. It wasn't created to have court approval prior to gathering foreign intelligence about people who are in foreign lands. That was never part of the deal. So why should we add it in now? Why do some Democratic leaders want to codify the very problem we're trying to alleviate?
Q Scott, the legislation the President signed today, given the White House assertion that you've already acted on -- what is it -- 37 or 39 of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, what was the point?
MR. STANZEL: What was the point in this legislation? We think that it does build upon the efforts that we have had ongoing already. Obviously, you know we've created a Department of Homeland Security, the largest reorganization of our federal government since World War II. We have the Patriot Act. We've significantly reformed our intelligence gathering capabilities. We've created a Director of National Intelligence.
We think that efforts by members of Congress to address our ongoing and evolving security needs are productive. That's why the President, who did have reservations about this legislation -- there were some things in the legislation that we initially objected to, we voiced our concerns about. We were pleased that members of Congress did work with us to address those concerns about things like the intelligence budget, or having the Transportation Security Agency having flexibility in managing their workforce. Those issues were addressed throughout the process, and that's why the President was able to sign it into law today.
Q The impetus for this legislation was the Democrats' feeling that you were not doing enough to protect the homeland, not doing enough to inspect cargo, not doing enough to implement the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. So are you basically conceding their concerns by signing the legislation?
MR. STANZEL: Actually, if we're talking about implementing the provisions of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, they said that the intelligence oversight capabilities of Congress was dysfunctional. And probably one of the most important recommendations they had -- there were a couple separate recommendations -- was for Congress to reform itself and reform its oversight capabilities. We're disappointed that Congress hasn't done that yet. We have moved forward, as you said, on 37 of the 39 recommendations. There are a couple outstanding that we take a different approach upon, because they deal with disclosure of intelligence budget issues. We don't think that's the right approach. But we think we have made significant progress towards implementing those recommendations.
Q And one final note. Congressman Hamilton says even with this legislation, you will only achieve roughly 80 percent of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. Why the disparity?
MR. STANZEL: I don't know what he's specifically referring to, but certainly two of the big ones that are outstanding is Congress's reform of itself, which it has neglected to do until this point.
Q What will the President do if Congress adjourns tonight?
MR. STANZEL: Well, I just don't think that's going to be an issue, here's why, because my understanding of congressional rules it takes a motion to adjourn, and there are going to be people that are opposed to that motion to adjourn. And further, I can't imagine --
Q Meaning Republicans?
MR. STANZEL: Correct. And I can't imagine leaders in Congress simply wanting to say, you know what, I'd rather leave town; let's take up this issue later -- because the Director of National Intelligence has said we are at risk; we are in a heightened threat environment. So it's important for us to act on these important changes to the FISA modernization -- FISA law, excuse me.
Q He said he would not compel Congress, if they did --
MR. STANZEL: It's all hypothetical that we won't get to. I might want to play in the NBA, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do that.
Q I guess the question is, are Americans -- is it the White House position that Americans are at increased risk as long as FISA is not changed?
MR. STANZEL: Correct. And that's the urgency here.
Q But you're saying that the President -- you're not saying that the President would compel Congress --
MR. STANZEL: What I'm saying is that is three or four or five steps down the road, and I don't think we're ever going to get to step two.
Q Scott, two questions. One, as two leaders, President Bush and President Karzai from Afghanistan meet at Camp David this weekend, President Karzai has already said that there is a terrorism across the border from Pakistan into his country, and now his own people are also blaming, that al Qaedas are getting together in his country. Now there is a governor from Baluchistan, Pakistan side of Baluchistan here in town, and he was speaking at CSIS, and Asia Society, and (inaudible) and everywhere in town, (inaudible) that he has brought with him. What he's blaming is that --
MR. STANZEL: -- your question?
Q The question is that he says that when he was asking where is Osama bin Laden, he asked the CIA, they know where is Osama bin Laden, because they are the one who (inaudible.) But also he said that terrorism is coming into his country from Afghanistan. So where do we stand when these two great leaders meet this weekend as far as terrorism in Afghanistan is concerned?
MR. STANZEL: Well, certainly we're concerned about terrorism in Afghanistan. We're concerned about it in Pakistan. We're concerned about it in the tribal areas. The National Intelligence Estimate had some -- provided some information on that. Certainly we have indicated that the agreement in the federally administrated tribal areas was not working. With respect to Osama bin Laden, rest assured if there was knowledge of where he was, action would be taken.
Q Second, quickly, as far as if President is aware of or worried about that so many reports are coming from China, prison labor makes cheap Chinese goods are coming to the U.S. now, tires and food and other items. Is anybody worried about those, if anybody have told China, or what is the future of these trade between the two countries?
MR. STANZEL: Well, certainly the United States Trade Representative and even folks in other departments like the Department of Agriculture, as it deals with agriculture exports and imports, they're always monitoring these issues, Goyal. So we keep a close eye on them.
Q Scott, ahead of that same meeting, is the President satisfied that the NATO military operation and the U.S. military operation are doing enough to avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan?
MR. STANZEL: That's an issue that I think highlights the great difference between the United States and its allies in prosecuting the war on terror, and the people that we're going against, which is people who specifically target innocent civilians, women and children, for kidnapping, killing, capturing. And I think you can -- you've heard from the Defense Department repeatedly that we've lost -- we mourn every loss of innocent life, and we do more than has ever been done before to avoid that unfortunate situation.
Q Allowing that we do more than anyone has ever done before, is the President satisfied that we're doing as well as we can on this?
MR. STANZEL: He is absolutely satisfied that our military does everything in its power to avoid innocent loss of life.
Q Thank you.
MR. STANZEL: Thank you. END 12:52 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 3, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today, I am traveling to Minneapolis to the site of Wednesday's tragic bridge collapse. Like millions of Americans, I was shocked and saddened when I heard the news that the I-35 bridge gave way during rush hour. The bridge was a major traffic artery, and when it collapsed dozens of cars fell into the Mississippi River.
Laura and I join all Americans in mourning those who lost their lives and in sending our thoughts and prayers to their families. And we pray that those injured will make a full recovery.
On Thursday morning, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Federal Highway Administrator Richard Capka traveled to Minneapolis. They announced $5 million in immediate federal funding for debris removal and to help restore the flow of traffic. This is just the beginning of the financial assistance we will make available to support the state in its recovery efforts. Several federal agencies are on the ground aiding state and local officials, including the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
I recognize how important the I-35 bridge is to the state of Minnesota, and my administration is committed to working closely with Governor Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak to rebuild this bridge as quickly as possible.
In times of tragedy, our hearts ache for those who suffer, yet our hearts are also lifted by acts of courage and compassion. We saw those qualities in the residents of a nearby apartment building who rushed to the scene to offer their help. We saw them in the divers who fought the mighty currents of the Mississippi to reach victims. And we saw them in the firefighters who searched car to car for survivors.
Among the survivors was a group of kids returning from a summer field trip. Their school bus had just passed over the Mississippi River, when the bridge below them gave way. The bus dropped more than 20 feet and came to rest on the guardrail of the collapsed bridge span. A staff member named Jeremy Hernandez quickly swung into action. He broke open the backdoor and helped evacuate the terrified children to safety. The mother of one of the children on board credited Jeremy's presence of mind with helping spare her daughter from tragedy. She put it this way: "I don't know what he was thinking but it must have been something really good."
Our country is fortunate to have brave and selfless citizens like Jeremy, and all those who risked their own safety to aid in the rescue. This is a difficult time for the community in Minneapolis, but the people there are decent and resilient, and they will get through these painful hours. As they do, they know that all of America stands with them, and that we will do all we can to help them recover and rebuild.
May God bless those who are hurting in Minneapolis, and may God bless our wonderful country. Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 3, 2007
President Bush Meets with Counterterrorism Team J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, Washington, D.C., 11:41 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Director Mueller, thank you for your hospitality. I'm honored to be here at the headquarters of the FBI. Just had a beginning of a series of meetings today, and during those meetings it is clear that people around that table fully understand we have no higher duty than to protect the American people. And so I'm pleased to be with my homeland security and counterterrorism teams. We've got folks in our government who spend every day working side by side with like-minded men and women in our federal government, all aiming to protect you, doing everything they can to protect the American people from a dangerous enemy.
I'm going to spend a little time later on this afternoon with intelligence analysts who spend every day analyzing data, attempting to track down known and suspected terrorists who either may be here or elsewhere. We've done a lot of work since September the 11th to make this country safe, and it is safer, but it's not completely safe. It's important for the American people to understand there are cold-blooded killers who want to come to our homeland and wreak havoc through death. And that's what we were discussing today.
We take a clear-eyed view of the world. The people on this team, assembled in this building see the world the way it is, not the way we hope it is. And this is a dangerous world because there's an enemy that wants to strike the homeland again. You know, it was a year ago that I met with the counterterrorism team that we worked with Great Britain to uncover an airline plot, a plot that had it gone forward would have caused death on a massive scale. It was a reminder that the terrorists we face are sophisticated, they are cold-blooded, they are changing tactics and we must always stay ahead of them.
In other words, we've got to do more than just keep pace with these people. We've got to be ahead of the people in order to protect the American people, in order to do our most important duty -- and that's what we're talking about today.
Part of the effort to do our job, part of the effort for this federal government to do the job the American people expects us to do in protecting you is to close intelligence gaps. We have such an intelligence gap in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act needs to be modernized so that all of us engaged in protecting the American people say we have the tools we need to protect you. Leaders in Congress have said they would like to address this problem before they go home. I appreciate that spirit.
The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has provided the Congress with a narrow and targeted piece of legislation that will close the gaps in intelligence. In other words, he's working on the Hill and he's told members this is what we need to do our job to protect the American people. It's the bare minimum the DNI said he needs to do his job. When Congress sends me their version, when Congress listens to all the data and facts and they send me a version of how to close those gaps, I'll ask one question, and I'm going to ask the DNI: Does this legislation give you what you need to prevent an attack on the country? Is this what you need to do your job, Mr. DNI? That's the question I'm going to ask. And if the answer is yes, I'll sign the bill. And if the answer is no, I'm going to veto the bill.
And so far the Democrats in Congress have not drafted a bill I can sign. We've worked hard and in good faith with the Democrats to find a solution, but we are not going to put our national security at risk. Time is short. I'm going to ask Congress to stay in session until they pass a bill that will give our intelligence community the tools they need to protect the United States.
Thank you for your time. END 11:44 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 2, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, 12:44 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. Let me begin by just summarizing some of the points the President made today in his comments after the Cabinet meeting. Much of the Cabinet meeting was, in fact, devoted to talking about future priorities for this administration, the President saying that he's certainly eager to continue the work between now and the end of this administration.
One of the key items is to make sure that the budget is sound and the economy is strong, and there are big differences between the two parties. Now, we have laid out what our spending priorities are, not only for this year, but into the future, and let me just give you a glimpse of what we're talking about, in terms of bringing the budget into balance.
There in the dark bars you see where we stand to date; the lighter bars are the projections for the future. You will note that in the year 2008, the projection goes from $205 billion this year up to $258 billion for next year. A lot of that reflects add-ons in the budget supplemental last year for defense, where Democrats insisted on adding a considerable amount of money. Some of that is also the reflection of some increases in mandatory spending.
But it gives you a sense what happens, sometimes, when people say, well, we're just going to add a little bit to the budget. Quite often those have explosive long-term effects, in terms of what's going to happen to the long-term budget picture. Before we get into great depth about that, let me give you a compare and contrast about the President's budget versus the budget that has been proposed by Democrats in Congress. There you see in the blue bars the administration proposals, in terms of non-defense discretionary spending; the red bars, the congressional proposals.
Now keep in mind, these are the congressional Democratic proposals, and this is without adding in a number of the spending items that the President says he will veto this year, such as S-CHIP and other items in the budget. If you add those in, you have a budget implication of as much as $300 billion in extra spending by Democrats over the next five years, which would raise the per-second increase in spending from $1,300 to close to $2,000, using the method that the President used after the meeting earlier today.
And you've got to ask yourself, Democrats say we're going to balance the budget -- how are they going to do that? Answer? Gouging the taxpayer, significant tax increases -- in many cases, simply by letting tax cuts that are now in effect expire. You will see that the President's proposals for tax increases remain at zero, but if you take a look at a five-year tax increase proposed by Democrats, it's $392 billion, and over a 10-year span, that rises to $1.8 trillion.
Now the business of leadership, and also the business of handling budgets is one where you have to make decisions and you have to step up and honor your responsibilities. As the President pointed out, Democrats won both Houses of Congress fair and square in last year's elections. One of the things they promised was that they were going to step up and they were going to take immediate action to get bills done on time and to do it in such a way as to honor the people's business.
Well, here's what we have in terms of a track record for this year. As you can see, it look as though the House of Representatives will have four votes on all the appropriations bills; the Senate will have had a vote on one bill; and precisely zero of them will have gone to conference. When Congress returns from its vacation, it will have 19 legislative days before the end of the budget year. As the President said, if you want do everything fair and square, you want to do it in a way where the American people can measure what your priorities are and what your policies are, you do that by putting out each and every one of your appropriations bills in order so people can take a look at it, and they can take a good, sound and thoughtful look at what's going on.
Having said that, one other note -- ethics legislation pending right now. There are a couple of interesting items here, too. At the beginning of the year, members of the House and Senate all agreed that it would be very important to make all earmarks transparent. In other words, identify an earmark, say who requested it, say what the purpose is and who would benefit from it. Now all of that is basically gone. As a matter of fact, the language has been considerably weakened. And furthermore, the reporting requirements have been reduced basically to no requirements at all. For instance, when it comes to sponsors of amendments who are going to put in earmarks, they will be required under the new legislation to print the earmark "as soon as practicable." You tell me what that means.
Similarly, bills -- committees reporting bills containing earmarks must identify earmarks on a congressional website "as soon as practicable." Oops, webmaster has a bad cold -- we'll be back in two years. Or earmark requests -- who requested them and why. They must be posted "as soon as practicable." This is one of these things where -- and furthermore, the people making the decisions in the United States Senate will be the parliamentarian and the Senate majority leader.
All of this is a way of saying that there is important business to be done before Congress. One of the most important and solemn responsibilities of Congress is to deal with the people's money. Obviously we are encouraging members of Congress to act swiftly.
And finally, on a pending matter, Jim Nussle as the budget director. His nomination has been up for six-and-a-half weeks. Members of the House and Senate know Jim Nussle. They know he's competent, they know he is capable of working in a professional and bipartisan manner. You've had testimony with House Budget Committee chairmen and subcommittee chairs who have worked with him and served as co-chairs on a variety of committees. He needs to be confirmed before Congress leaves town.
Rob Portman is going to head back to Cincinnati after -- at the close of business tomorrow. If Congress is talking seriously about budget matters, and they say they want to, they've got to have somebody to talk to. So we do believe it is important and incumbent upon Congress to go ahead and nominate a good man that everybody knows is competent and capable, and that is Jim Nussle.
Q Is the bridge collapse in Minneapolis prompting a reevaluation of other bridges across the country, and a look at whether deficiencies that have already been noted are being addressed?
MR. SNOW: Well, there are two things. First, this is a unique catastrophe. But on the other hand, there is also a vigorous program of doing inspections already around the country. The Department of Transportation sets standards for doing inspections and states carry out those inspections, and they do so on a regular basis.
I think I would have to leave it to the various states to answer your question, Terry, because they're the ones taking a look at the structures. But I think it is safe to say -- and this is an important point to make, because there will be lots of "who's responsible," "who could have done what." The fact is if anybody has knowledge that something like this can happen they're going to act on it. Public servants -- this is a horrible time for the families of those who lost loved ones yesterday, and it's also a very trying time for anybody in public service. And so, as a consequence, the most important thing to do with this particular situation is, first, provide comfort for those who are grieving today and, second, move as rapidly as possible to restore that vital transportation artery. And Mary Peters today made it absolutely clear that this administration is going to work arm in arm with the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis to get that restored.
The forensic work is going to take, as we heard today from NTSB, maybe a year to figure out the precise cause. Meanwhile, again, I'm sure that state and local officials all around the country will try to assess whether they need to revisit their own inspection procedures.
Q You said this morning that on a 120-point scale that it was evaluated at 50. So was the -- was corrective action being taken?
MR. SNOW: Well, I will again get back -- the first thing I will do is refer you to what was discussed earlier today. And here is Secretary Peters, she says, "What a rating of 50 means is that the bridge should be considered for replacement at some point in the future. Had the bridge been unsafe, Governor Pawlenty would have shut the bridge down immediately. None of the ratings meant there was danger." Scheduled rehabilitation was in the future for Minnesota DOT. As a matter of fact, the Governor then continued and said, because of the assessment by national officials of structural needs -- that's not the same as it needs to be closed down or torn down or replaced immediately. But there were inspections in 2005 and 2006 that incorporated the ranking, and they were working on figuring out the proper methods and maintenance.
If you want technical answers to these, again I would refer you to DOT or NTSB to try to give you a precise marker on that. But that's how the Secretary of Transportation answered it today.
Q I think people, though, are going to want to know is this a unique tragedy? And when you say it's a unique tragedy, what do you mean by that?
MR. SNOW: Well, there have been very few situations where you've had a catastrophic bridge collapse like this. Don't hold me to it, but the last one I can remember is in Gallipolis, Ohio some years ago. When I was kid, I remember that that bridge collapsed. There may have been some in the interim, but there --
Q One in Florida --
MR. SNOW: Yes, that's right. So you have these incidents that happen from time to time. You know, Jim, I honestly -- these are things where, again, it's a unique -- sort of uniquely catastrophic situation. I don't have, and I don't think anybody can tell you exactly -- an evaluation of each and every bridge in the country. On the other hand, there is a system where there is constant evaluation, and people do make recommendations about how to maintain them.
Q I'm sure every citizen driving over a bridge today is thinking, whatever wasn't picked up about the Minnesota bridge, I wonder if any of that is applicable to the bridge I'm driving over.
MR. SNOW: What you do have is a system where the states, in fact, do the inspections and do the maintenance. And so if you're trying to ask the questions about bridges, in many ways that's a question that you're asking of the states. Again, I will tell you -- it's a matter of common sense. An elected official, one of the things that everybody spends a lot of time thinking about is transportation and road arteries, and the safety of structures is always a real priority. But, again, I cannot answer on the part of 50 governors and transportation departments in each of those states.
Q Tony, I know it is a state or a sometimes municipal responsibility to deal with those bridges, but should the federal government take a role in really urging them to reassess their practices right now, and perhaps accelerate some type of inspections?
MR. SNOW: Again, I don't -- that's making assumptions that people are not, in fact, treating this as a priority. I'm not sure that's the case. Furthermore, an incident like this, I'm sure, has a galvanizing effect on people all over the country; they're going to take a close look at their needs.
But keep in mind, there is a vigorous program of inspection; there always is. It is something that occupies a great deal of time in every transportation department -- every state I've worked in, and I've covered a lot of transportation departments in a lot of states; it's always been a priority. And it's also been something that a lot of local reporters cover for a living. So the structural integrity of bridges and roads, and so on, is obviously a constant and ongoing concern for all the states.
Q Tony, the President said the federal government has to respond robustly, and so far it has quickly sent -- the administration has quickly sent a number of top officials to the scene. Is the administration putting into action lessons that have been learned from the much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina?
MR. SNOW: I don't know how quite to answer that. It's a different kind of a situation. What has happened is that people have moved very swiftly to get to the scene, folks who are involved. This is not one where you have a dam collapse and you have tens of thousands of people placed into harm's way, and that sort of thing. But on the other hand, this is something where the government has responded as rapidly as possible, and has made clear its determination to help.
Again, I'll just give you the line, because it's one of the things that Secretary Peters really made clear -- and I think it's important -- is, at this point, it is our view that the thing we need to do is to work, as she said, arm in arm with local officials. This is a situation where you've got -- there are two main bridges that connect -- that go over the Mississippi in that area of Minneapolis. Now one of them is gone, and it is going to have dramatic economic implications and dramatic implications on the lives of many people there. And we need to work as quickly as possible with the state to provide remediation.
MR. SNOW: Yes, April.
Q A report came out not long ago talking about the nation's bridges, how many of them were substandard and how old they were. At that time, you did not hear about federal oversight, and yes, people have said that this country's infrastructure is poor -- going back to the issue of the levees. That was a situation where the infrastructure of the levees were in somewhat of a compromised position. And now you have the nation's -- many of the nation's bridges over 100 years old -- this bridge 40 -- and the infrastructures are not right. What about federal oversight, as it comes to this?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you have -- the federal government sets the standards, and the local officials, those who should be most answerable -- what you're assuming is that local officials are not competent to build bridges or to inspect them. I guarantee you, that is not the view of local officials, and --
Q Tony, I'm not saying that they're not competent. I'm talking about --
MR. SNOW: So what you're asking for is an extra layer of oversight?
Q Don't you think that needs to be done in the wake of --
MR. SNOW: I think what needs to be done --
Q -- reports that come out and this bridge collapse?
MR. SNOW: Again, you've got a system right now where there are regular inspections, and the states do it, and they do it according to -- if you want federal oversight, that comes in the form of putting together standards that ought to be used and a way of measuring it.
Anybody who understands how local politics work and state politics work understands that these are issues -- the "pothole" issues are always very important, and they're the ones that tend to generate fairly quick responses from local authorities.
Q This is bigger than a pothole.
MR. SNOW: Well, I know it's bigger than a pothole, but what I'm talking about is infrastructure needs. At this juncture, I think it is way premature to talk globally, in terms of some sort of overarching dramatic change in the situation. We're still -- right now, they are still trying to deal with families who want to know where their loved ones are. Let's find that out. Let's figure out how to get the artery restored. Let's figure out what happened. And then we can figure out proper responses.
Q At what point do the states have -- the local government, the state government --
MR. SNOW: No, we're not pointing the -- no, we're not pointing the finger at anybody --
Q You're basically saying that they're supposed to investigate, and they're supposed to investigate, and they're supposed to -- so are you --
MR. SNOW: No, April, this is a classic mistake at a time like this. This is not a time for finger-pointing at all. This is a time for dealing with those in grief and also working to assist the state in getting that artery put together as quickly as possible.
Q So I guess the question is, in light of what has just happened -- you talk about it being premature and finger-pointing, but what should Americans look to to have any measure of confidence that this is not about to happen again somewhere else in the country?
MR. SNOW: Well, I mean, look, this is something where you have very rare occurrences like this; people trust their own experience and they know what's going on. I don't want to get up here and try to act as if I'm the chief engineer of the United States, because I'm not going to give you a survey of each and every bridge. But I can tell you that there are people who devote their lives to doing this stuff and they're serious about it.
Q Doesn't it raise questions about something in the system being broken? You talk about vigorous inspections, but obviously something was overlooked in this situation.
MR. SNOW: I don't know what's obvious, Elaine. Why don't you wait until somebody finds out, rather -- again, I think there's always a temptation to leap to conclusions, to look for a global one-size-fits-all solution. The most important thing is to be responsible and figure out what the facts are; then you can draw a conclusion that are actually responsive to the facts.
Any questions on this topic? Questions on this topic, hands up, and then we'll go to other topics.
Q I guess it comes down to, is there any consideration in the Transportation Department, the Highway Administration, any other federal agency of doing a review of these bridges? All these federal officials today have talked about the deficiencies. Are you telling us that there is no notion at all now --
MR. SNOW: Peter, I'm telling you we're 18 hours away from a bridge collapse. Let's figure out what went on --
Q But this is an alarm bell. Many of these experts see this as an alarm bell.
MR. SNOW: I know. Let's -- right now the first response of this government is to help. It's to help.
Q But it's also investigating already.
MR. SNOW: Well, it is investigating, but I think what you're asking right now is for a snap decision about national policy 18 hours after cars hit the water. And I think at this juncture, let's first deal with the humanitarian situation and the immediate transportation needs; there will be time to take a full assessment of what's going on and we'll be able to answer questions like that in the future. But 18 hours after the bridge collapsed, without profound knowledge of what went on, I think is just premature.
Same topic or different? Keep your hands down until we're exhausted with the topics. Go ahead.
Q Tony, there are conclusions one can draw from this, where you do have reports that maybe thousands of bridges are in bad shape at this point. And every time you give an economic briefing you would think that this was the greatest, most prosperous economy in the world. How much consideration do you take in your estimates about the physical economy of the United States, including the transportation infrastructure?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think you will find, for instance, there was a great debate not too long ago about a highway bill that was the most expensive in U.S. history. You take a look at state budgets, and there is always considerable amount of appropriations for transportation. These are always a budget priority.
I think, yes, you do have a bustling economy, but you do make the point, which is the transportation infrastructure is always a vital and important part of that, and that is why state, local and federal governments are always attentive to those issues.
Q Was this bridge -- or is this bridge a federal interstate bridge, or is it state responsibility? And why did you announce this morning that the President is sending in FBI teams, is there some thought that --
MR. SNOW: No, that was -- they did that immediately because, again, you were trying to figure out whether there were terror links or that sort of thing. Those are the -- what you want to do is to cover every possibility.
To get back to what it is, it's an interstate highway. It is something that is -- where the Department of Transportation sets the standards for doing inspections and the states, in fact, conduct the inspections and conduct the repairs. That's the way it works.
Q Tony, you said that this bridge was a 50 on that scale, and that Secretary Peters said that that meant that the bridge needed to be replaced at some time --
MR. SNOW: At sometime in the future.
Q What does that mean?
MR. SNOW: You're going to have to -- I don't -- again, don't try to get me to play engineer, because I'm just not going to do it.
Q It just sounds like that wishy-washy wording, like you talked about "whenever practicable" --
MR. SNOW: Well, what she -- no, she also said --
Q -- "whenever practicable," when you talk about Democrats and all that --
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the Democratic Governor of the state made the point that he thought --
MR. SNOW: That's right, the Republican Governor, you're right, thank you. I was thinking Minnesota. But the Republican Governor also made the point that scheduled rehabilitation was in the future and they both attested to the fact that this was something where someplace in the future -- and it is indeterminate, you're right, it doesn't say six years or 10 years.
But I think if you are looking for -- again, if you want to get nuanced answers and technical answers about that, please don't ask me. Ask the Department of Transportation, ask the NTSB, because they're going to be able to give that to you. I mean, I can give you the general outlines. They're very legitimate questions; they're just beyond my competence to answer.
Q Should members of the Minnesota congressional delegation, should they have been requesting funds to repair this bridge, given the fact that it was a 50 and should be replaced sometime in the future?
MR. SNOW: Well, once again, you're going to have to ask them. What you're engaging in is 20/20 hindsight. This is something where, again, the state had the responsibility for moving on this. And I honestly don't know what the state was planning. They were, in fact, in the middle of doing some cosmetic work on the bridge, and they were doing regular inspections on the bridge, as the Governor mentioned today.
But again, a lot of times you don't have to ask the federal government if you already have a state budget that's devoted to these things.
But let me just stress again, everybody is trying to do the forensics from right here in the White House press room, 18 hours after a tragedy, where people are still trying to get their minds around it in Minnesota. Let's help the families, let's get working as rapidly possible on replacing it. People have already started, as I've been pointing out, getting to the scene and trying to figure out what happened.
There will be time to gather facts and to draw conclusions. But the one thing you don't have to wait for is reaching out and showing compassion, and also showing a determination to fix the problem.
Q Tony, but don't you think giving answers will help the families? And not only that, many people in this nation, you could not help -- last night and this morning, all you saw was coverage on the bridge. Many people are concerned about riding to work, coming home from work, over bridges --
MR. SNOW: So what do you propose?
Q I'm asking you the questions. We're talking about the interstates --
MR. SNOW: I don't know what the question leads to --
Q Federal oversight, federal oversight. I'm asking, what responsibility does this government, this administration have, in looking over --
MR. SNOW: This administration.
Q Any administration.
MR. SNOW: Federal Highway Administration --
MR. SNOW: April, April, again --
Q Over the highways, the byways, of this nation.
MR. SNOW: Again, let me -- look, these are the kinds of questions that, first, invite finger-pointing. I don't want to engage in that. Secondly, what you're suggesting, I suppose, is to erect -- I don't even want to get into what it might be suggesting. It's important to figure out the safety of all structures, and people understand that and this is what state and local officials do. They do it all the time.
Okay, are we --
Q Is the First Lady --
MR. SNOW: The First Lady will be going tomorrow. Her office will have details about the trip.
Have we exhausted questions on Minnesota?
Q Is the President?
MR. SNOW: We will let you know if there are any --
Q Are there --
MR. SNOW: Wait, hang on. Again, we'll let you know if there are any additions to the President's schedule.
Q Also, in regards with Minnesota, is there any plan to support financially the families of the victims?
MR. SNOW: Again, please, let's figure -- at this point, we're 18 hours into this. There's going to be plenty of time to work things out. What we're trying to do is to get people on the ground, to figure out what took place and to figure out how to deal with the structural problems.
MR. SNOW: No! (Laughter.) From Helen? (Laughter.)
Q You know down to the penny what all the overruns are on the budget. How much does this Iraqi war cost? Who is going to pay for it? And my other question is, yesterday you spoke of many successes in Iraq. I went back to the office and I found out that 140 persons were -- bodies were found in Iraq yesterday. Do you call that success?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't. And it is also one of the things that was pointed out at the beginning of the surge. What you are seeing is the move from terrorists away from U.S. targets to so-called soft targets and civilian targets, and that's a matter of concern. Civilian casualties were up considerably last month. And it remains a -- now, what you see is in some areas where the local populous has risen up and worked against al Qaeda, there's been a dramatic reduction. But you see in some areas of Baghdad, for instance, where you had a vehicle-borne IED yesterday kill 70 people, that there are efforts to try to intimidate the public by terrorists. We certainly do not say that the battle against terrorists is over, and it does remain a concern.
In terms of the cost of the war, obviously that is something that the generals constantly try to calculate, and they will continue to try to calculate. The cost of defeat are catastrophic and, frankly, insupportable by this country.
Q Who's going to pay for it?
MR. SNOW: The taxpayers do pay for it.
Q Also on Iraq, the Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister is calling the Sunni pullout from the government the gravest political crisis they've had since the constitution was adopted. Now, yesterday you seemed to pretty much play down the seriousness of this development. And I'm just wondering, doesn't the President, in fact, see this as a major blow?
MR. SNOW: This is -- I mean, this is an interesting situation. And again, I'll repeat to you what the Prime Minister said yesterday, which is, what you have is you have a number of ministers who have pulled out of their ministerial portfolios in the government. The parliamentarians have stayed in; some of the other key members, such as the Minister of Defense, the Vice President, they've stayed in the government.
It certainly is something where you've got to address it. And if you've listened to statements by the Sunni party, what they've said is they've got some questions with the government and with the Prime Minister and they continue to press their concerns. The Prime Minister said that he is interested in listening to and dealing with those concerns. So there are conversations about it.
So, as I said yesterday, I don't want to try to make predictions about what's going on, but it is clear that the Prime Minister and the government remain engaged with Tawafuq, the Sunni party, to try to bring the ministers back into the government. As I said, the parliamentarians still remain engaged in the council of representatives when they return for business. So let's just wait and see. I mean, we're going to have to see how this plays out.
Q But considering the importance that this development has for whatever progress is cited in the Petraeus-Crocker report, isn't --
MR. SNOW: Well, you're assuming --
Q -- are U.S. diplomats getting involved to push the two sides towards compromise?
MR. SNOW: I don't think that diplomats have to get involved. The Prime Minister brought it up yesterday. I mean, it's clearly a concern for him and it's clearly a concern on the Sunni side. And the fact is they're engaged in it. What you're making -- what you're trying to do is a straight line projection based on a two-day story that nothing is going to change over the next six weeks or whatever. It's pretty clear that the Prime Minister certainly hopes it does.
And if you've listened to some of the statements out of the party, they're still in the process of trying to talk to the government as well. So we will see. I'm not going to try to project out to the time that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker put together a report, because the situation could change dramatically for the better, who knows. And the President certainly made it clear that he expects, and the American people expect, action, not words, in terms of passage of important law. So we will see what happens between now and the time the council of representatives reconvenes.
Q Tony, yesterday I think it was you had said that there was a constitutional requirement that the Iraqi parliament take a break. You've been very critical here today about the U.S. Congress taking exactly the same kind of break in the summer. Why is it okay for the Iraqis to take a break, when it's not okay for the U.S. to take a break, before the business is done?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I will cite to you what the Iraqis say, which they have a constitutional requirement and they're abiding by their constitution. What is important is that it is a break -- it's a working break, in the sense that you have the leaders of the three main parties staying in Baghdad, and in fact talking about key pieces of legislation and how to move forward. During the time leading up to the break they doubled their work week from three to six days, they were working six days a week.
Again, we're not backing off. We made it clear that obviously it is important for that parliament and for the political process to move forward in Iraq.
Q Thank you, Tony. Going back to the comments you made, you've been very clear about what the President is going to veto in terms of appropriations bills coming from Congress. Now, he very strongly signaled and followed up on a veto of the Water Resources Development Act, WRDA, which is an authorization bill, not appropriations. Why did he not consult the former chairman of the Environment Committee and current ranking member, Senator Inhofe? And does he consult with the ranking members in the Senate before a veto?
MR. SNOW: Well, how do you know he didn't consult Senator Inhofe?
Q Senator Inhofe told me.
MR. SNOW: Oh, I see. (Laughter.) The fact is -- what would Senator Inhofe have recommended?
Q Well, he would have recommended that he veto an appropriations bill, and not an authorization bill.
MR. SNOW: Well, let me just -- well, let me just tell you our position on WRDA. It's a classic case of what goes on in Washington. The Senate recommended a $14 billion increase for the Water Resources Development Act. The House recommends a $15 billion increase. They get together and they compromise on a $20 billion increase. Only in Washington do you split the difference between $14 billion and $15 billion by raising it to $20 billion. And I think the President wanted to make a pretty strong point about fiscal discipline.
Q So will he veto other authorization measures before appropriations?
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll take a look. We'll take a look.
Q Tony, on that line, you made a passionate plea for Nussle's confirmation before Congress leaves.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Is there a thought that that is being used as a negotiating tool?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I mean, it's -- let's find out what happens. We're expecting the Budget Committee to vote him out today. Frankly, what you've seen are a lot of people who have worked with him in the House and some members of the Senate who had experience with him in the House talk about what a good guy he is, what a competent guy he is -- these are key Democrats. And one would expect on that basis that you have enough goodwill to move forward. Certainly you hope that somebody would not use this as a cheesy bargaining chip at a time when, in fact, you've got the necessity of getting a budget director confirmed, and a budget director whose personal qualifications, and also whose personal maturity is not in doubt.
Q Did the President get a sense of that from lawmakers in that meeting yesterday morning?
MR. SNOW: I'm sure -- I was not in the meeting, but I don't get the sense that it was raised to a high level there. But there are continuing conversations between the White House and members of the Senate about this, and we are hopeful that he will be confirmed before we get to recess.
Q This morning, the President used the same figures you presented yesterday, breaking down the --
MR. SNOW: Well, he added minutes and seconds. But, you know --
Q But breaking down figures like this -- $4 million an hour. Why is that an appropriate course of action? Have you ever broken down the cost of the Iraq war, per hour?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think -- no, but we can certainly do that. But what we're talking about here is a difference in spending. At a time -- keep in mind, what Democrats were saying, look, there's only 0.7 percent difference between our proposal and the President's. And we're saying, no there isn't, because what you're really talking about is a program which, in typical Washington fashion, starts with a little wedge and the spending rapidly increases. So it's perfectly appropriate to explain to taxpayers out there, who are asking themselves, should they be spending this much more money; what is it going to mean for me. There is no secret, I don't think, about the costs of the war. Those have been made public and people have had an opportunity to think about them.
But on the other hand, when you're also talking about add-ons to a budget, where the President is exercising fiscal discipline, it's perfectly fair to compare and contrast what the differences are. And those are all bills that -- by the way, the war is something that has, in fact, been financed on a bipartisan basis by both Houses of Congress.
Q And do you have any idea what the Iraq combat costs per hour?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't.
Q Tony, we're about to brush up against the limit on the national debt. Is there going to be a move to raise the limit?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I mean, typically that happens. Obviously at some point you have to, when you hit the debt limit. But I don't have anything for you on it, Jim.
Q Tony, could you talk just a little bit about the politics of a recess appoint of Nussle, if it came to that? I mean, is there an upside to it at all?
MR. SNOW: No. No, I'm just not going to play.
Q Tony, can you explain why the legal minds here thought that it was okay for Scott Jennings to testify today, but not -- I should say, appear today -- but not Karl Rove?
MR. SNOW: Yes, it's actually a legal theory that goes back some decades. William Rehnquist first propounded it in the 1970s. Which is, when it comes to executive privilege, those who are not required to testify are those who meet on a regular basis with the President. That would include people like me. Scott Jennings was not somebody who met on a regular basis with the President. Same with Sara Taylor. As a consequence, the Department of Justice, in reviewing the laws that govern such things has come to the conclusion -- this was a DOJ/Steve Bradbury opinion -- the Department of Justice has come to the conclusion that, in fact, they must appear. On the other hand, when matters of executive privilege do come up, they're not compelled to give testimony or hand over documents.
Q Beyond the legal thinking, was there any political concern here that there was a specter of this guy being sort of a sacrificial lamb, sitting there today the way he --
MR. SNOW: No. No, what we're doing is we're obeying the law.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, yesterday Congressman Gary Ackerman, also, head of Committee on Foreign Relations, has been in South Asia, conditions in South Asia. And this weekend President Karzai from Afghanistan will meet with President (inaudible). What do you think they are going to talk about, as far as the situation in the region is concerned, because so much has been written about it?
MR. SNOW: What do you think? I mean, they're going to talk about increasing security and economic cooperation.
Q (Inaudible) solution, as far as problems --
MR. SNOW: Solutions --
Q -- Afghanistan and each country is concerned, al Qaeda --
MR. SNOW: Goyal, I think you understand that these are complex issues and you don't sort of march up the driveway and say, good news, we've got it solved. Instead what you do is you demonstrate that you're working together in a very determined way to address a series of very complicated issues.
There should be no mistake of our commitment to a successful democracy in Afghanistan. And there are a whole series of concerns -- everything from Taliban activity to al Qaeda and Taliban incursions; matters of security, economic development, poppy fields -- I mean, all of those things remain concerns. And we will continue to do what we can to support the government of Hamid Karzai.
Q Two Presidents will have --
Q Tony, tomorrow at all, are you prepared to talk about tomorrow? Is he going to --
MR. SNOW: Again, we've got nothing to announce.
Q Can you talk about the Lebanon seizure order?
MR. SNOW: You can come up and I'll give you that. END 1:20 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary August 2, 2007
President Bush Offers Sympathies and Assistance to Minneapolis and Calls on Congress to Act Before Recess Rose Garden, 10:54 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I just finished a Cabinet meeting. One of the things we discussed was the terrible situation there in Minneapolis. We talked about the fact that the bridge collapsed, and that we in the federal government must respond and respond robustly to help the people there not only recover, but to make sure that lifeline of activity, that bridge, gets rebuilt as quickly as possible.
To that end, Secretary Peters is in Minneapolis, as well as Federal Highway Administrator Capka. I spoke to Governor Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak this morning. I told them that the Secretary would be there. I told them we would help with rescue efforts, but I also told them how much we are in prayer for those who suffered. And I thank my fellow citizens for holding up those who are suffering right now in prayer.
We also talked about -- in the Cabinet meeting talked about the status of important pieces of legislation before the Congress. We spent a fair amount of time talking about the fact that how disappointed we are that Congress hasn't sent any spending bills to my desk. By the end of this week, members are going to be leaving for their month-long August recess. And by the time they will return, there will be less than a month before the end of the fiscal year on September the 30th, and yet they haven't passed one of the 12 spending bills that they're required to pass. If Congress doesn't pass the spending bills by the end of the fiscal year, Cabinet Secretaries report that their departments may be unable to move forward with urgent priorities for our country.
This doesn't have to be this way. The Democrats won last year's election fair and square, and now they control the calendar for bringing up bills in Congress. They need to pass each of these spending bills individually, on time, and in a fiscally responsible way.
The budget I've sent to Congress fully funds America's priorities. It increases discretionary spending by 6.9 percent. My Cabinet Secretaries assure me that this is adequate to meet the needs of our nation.
Unfortunately, Democratic leaders in Congress want to spend far more. Their budget calls for nearly $22 billion more in discretionary spending next year alone. These leaders have tried to downplay that figure. Yesterday one called this increase -- and I quote -- "a very small difference" from what I proposed. Only in Washington can $22 billion be called a very small difference. And that difference will keep getting bigger. Over the next five years it will total nearly $205 billion in additional discretionary spending. That $205 billion averages out to about $112 million per day, $4.7 million per hour, $78,000 per minute.
Put another way, that's about $1,300 in higher spending every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year for the next five years. That's a lot of money -- even for career politicians in Washington. In fact, at that pace, Democrats in Congress would have spent an extra $300,000 since I began these remarks.
There's only one way to pay for all this new federal spending without running up the deficit, and that is to raise your taxes. A massive tax hike is the last thing the American people need. The plan I put forward would keep your taxes low and balance the budget within five years, and that is the right path for our country.
I want to thank OMB Director Rob Portman for his hard work in developing this plan. This was Rob's last Cabinet meeting. Laura and I wish him and his family well. And I call on the Senate to confirm his successor, Jim Nussle, so we can work together to keep our government running, to keep our economy growing, and to keep our nation strong.
Thank you for your time. END 10:59 A.M. EDT
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