For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 19, 2007
President Bush Visits Mount Vernon, Honors President Washington's 275th Birthday on President's Day Mansion -- Mount Vernon Estate Mount Vernon, Virginia 10:04 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Laura and I are honored to be with you in this historic place, on this special anniversary. I feel right at home here. After all, this is the home of the first George W. (Laughter.) I thank President Washington for welcoming us today. He doesn't look a day over 275 years old. (Laughter.)
We're really glad you're here. I look out and see a lot of the kids who are here today. (Applause.) When I was your age, I was a little fellow from Midland, Texas -- (laughter and applause) -- and my grandmother brought me here. And then Laura and I brought our daughters here. And the reason I bring this up, this is a good place for Americans to come and bring your families. And we welcome you here today.
You know, we're celebrating around the country President's Day, but the folks that work here call it Washington's birthday. (Applause.) We've been celebrating this holiday for more than two centuries, and this morning we continue this tradition by honoring a man who was our first President, the father of our country, and a champion of liberty.
I appreciate Gay Gaines and the -- Regent of Mount Vernon Ladies Association. I appreciate Jim Rees, who is the Executive Director. I thank Togo West, who is the Chairman of the Mount Vernon Advisory Committee. I appreciate the military who have joined us. General, thank you for being here today with us. I thank the members who work hard to make sure Mount Vernon is preserved for the future, and I thank all of you all for being here.
You know, George Washington was born about 80 miles down the river from Mount Vernon in the year 1732. As a young man, he went West, and explored the frontier, and it changed his life. As he grew older, he became convinced that America had a great westward destiny as a nation of free people, independent of the empires of Europe. George Washington became the central figure in our nation's struggle for independence. At age 43, he took command of the Continental Army. At age 51, he was a triumphant hero of the war. And at age 57, he was the obvious and only choice to be the first President of the United States.
With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to take George Washington's successes for granted and to assume that all those events were destined to unfold as they did. Well, the truth is far different. America's path to freedom was long and it was hard. And the outcome was really never certain. Honoring George Washington's life requires us to remember the many challenges that he overcame, and the fact that American history would have turned out very differently without his steady leadership.
On the field of battle, Washington's forces were facing a mighty empire, and the odds against them were overwhelming. The ragged Continental Army lost more battles than it won, suffered waves of desertions, and stood on the brink of disaster many times. Yet George Washington's calm hand and determination kept the cause of independence and the principles of our Declaration alive.
He rallied his troops to brilliant victories at Trenton and Princeton. He guided them through the terrible winter at Valley Forge. And he marched them to Virginia for the war's final battle at Yorktown. In the end, General Washington understood that the Revolutionary War was a test of wills, and his will was unbreakable.
After winning the war, Washington did what victorious leaders rarely did at the time. He voluntarily gave up power. Many would have gladly made George Washington the king of America. Yet all he wanted to do was return here to Mount Vernon, and to be with his loving wife, Martha. As he wrote with satisfaction to his friend Lafayette, "I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree."
George Washington's retirement did not last long. In the years after the Revolution, America's freedom was still far from secure. There were uprisings and revolts. States argued over their borders. And under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government was virtually powerless. With the United States in crisis, George Washington was called back to public life to preside over a Convention of the States. And the result was the United States Constitution and a new executive office called the presidency.
When the American people chose Washington for the role, he reluctantly accepted. He wrote a friend, "My movement to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution." George Washington accepted the presidency because the office needed him, not because he needed the office.
As President, George Washington understood that his decisions would shape the future of our young nation and set precedent. He formed the first Cabinet, appointed the first judges, and issued the first veto. He also helped oversee the construction of a new federal city between the northern and southern states. The nation's new capital would take his name, and George Washington hoped it would inspire Americans to put the welfare of their nation above sectional loyalties.
This son of Virginia had come to see himself first and foremost as an American, and he urged his fellow citizens to do the same. More than two centuries later, the story of George Washington continues to bring Americans together. Every year, about a million people visit Mount Vernon to learn about this good man's life. We find the best of America in his spirit, and our highest hopes for ourselves in his character. His honesty and courage have become the stuff of legend. Children are taught to revere his name, and leaders to look to him for strength in uncertain times.
George Washington's long struggle for freedom has also inspired generations of Americans to stand for freedom in their own time. Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone. He once wrote, "My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom."
President Washington believed that the success of our democracy would also depend on the virtue of our citizens. In his farewell address to the American people, he said, "Morality is a necessary spring of popular government." Over the centuries, America has succeeded because we have always tried to maintain the decency and the honor of our first President.
His example guided us in his time; it guides us in our time, and it will guide us for all time. Thank you for coming, and may God bless. (Applause.) END 10:13 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 17, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today I would like to talk to you about an urgent priority for our Nation: confronting the rising costs of health care.
In my State of the Union Address, I invited Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with my Administration to reform our health care system. In the past few weeks, I've discussed my health care proposals with citizens across our country. Next week, I'll visit a hospital in Tennessee to hear directly from people who do not have access to basic, affordable health insurance. I'll also meet with a panel of experts at the White House to discuss how we can build a vibrant market where individuals can buy their own health insurance.
The problem with our current system is clear: health care costs are rising rapidly, more than twice as fast as wages. These rising costs are driving up the price of health insurance and making it harder for working families to afford coverage. These rising costs also make it harder for small businesses to offer health coverage to their employees. We must address these rising costs so that more Americans can afford basic private health insurance.
One of the most promising ways to make private coverage more affordable and accessible is to reform the tax code. Today, the tax code unfairly penalizes people who do not get health insurance through their job. If you buy health insurance on your own, you pay much more after taxes than if you get it through your job. I proposed to end this unfair bias in the tax code by creating a standard tax deduction for every American who has health insurance, whether they get it through their job or on their own.
For example, every family that has health insurance would get a $15,000 deduction on their taxes. This deduction would also apply to payroll taxes, so that even those who pay no income taxes would benefit. Americans deserve a level playing field. If you're self-employed, a farmer, a rancher, or an employee at a small business who buys health insurance on your own, you should get the same tax advantage as those who get their health insurance through their job at a big business.
At the same time, I proposed "Affordable Choices" grants to help states provide coverage for the uninsured. Governors across our country have put forward innovative ideas for health care reform. Under my proposal, states that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens would receive Federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. Next week, the Nation's governors will come to Washington to discuss challenges facing their states. I've asked my Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, to meet with the governors and discuss ways we can work together to help reduce the number of uninsured Americans.
Reforming health care is a bipartisan priority. Earlier this week, I was pleased to receive a letter from 10 senators -- five Democrats and five Republicans -- who expressed their desire to work together on health care reform. I look forward to discussing our proposals and hearing more about their ideas. I appreciate the commitment of this bipartisan group to work with my Administration, and I will continue to reach across party lines to enact common-sense health care reforms.
From my conversations with Democrats and Republicans, it is clear both parties recognize that strengthening health care for all Americans is one of our most important responsibilities. I am confident that if we put politics aside, we can find practical ways to improve our private health care system, and help millions of Americans enjoy better care, new choices, and healthier lives.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 16, 2007
President Bush Meets with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Ambassador-Designee to Iraq The Oval Office 1:43 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I just had a lengthy conversation with our nominee to be the ambassador from the United States to Iraq. I've gotten to know Ambassador Ryan Crocker during my time as President because he's been -- fulfilled a very important mission for the United States, and that is the Ambassador to Pakistan, where he served ably and served well. And I'm confident I picked the right man to be our new ambassador in Iraq.
The Ambassador will follow General David Petraeus into Iraq, so now we've got a new military commander and a new head of our diplomatic mission there. These are two competent individuals who will help us implement our new strategy in the country of Iraq. And that new strategy has said that we're going to help this young Iraqi government be able to sustain itself and defend itself by enforcing security in the capital city.
I was telling the Ambassador that I had a visit today with Prime Minister Maliki via secure SVTS. I was pleased that he's meeting benchmarks that he had set out for his government. One of the benchmarks was to move Iraqi troops into the city of Baghdad -- troops that will be complemented by our own troops. He is meeting those obligations. A second such benchmark is that he would change the rules of engagement so that criminals, regardless of their religion, would be brought to justice in equal fashion. He is meeting that benchmark. Thirdly, he passed a budget of which $10 billion is available for reconstruction. He said he would do that; the budget has been passed, he has met that benchmark.
And that's good news for the Iraqi people. And it should give people here in the United States confidence that this government knows its responsibilities and is following through on those responsibilities.
And so the Ambassador heads into a really important assignment, carrying a message of hope to the Iraqi people that the United States wants them to succeed, and a message of urgency to the Iraqi government that our patience is not unlimited and that we expect that government to perform. And as I said, I was able to tell the Prime Minister how much -- how closely we're watching, that we've got a good new man coming as ambassador, and that we appreciate the fact that he's beginning to meet the benchmarks that he set out for his people.
Mr. Ambassador, Godspeed, and thank you.
AMBASSADOR CROCKER: Thank you, sir. Pleased to have your confidence.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
By the way, we're looking forward to quick Senate confirmation. He's had his hearing, and of course, when I call him "Ambassador," it's not ambassador to Iraq, it's ambassador designee to Iraq, but ambassador now in Pakistan. And the Senate needs to confirm him as quickly as possible so he can join General Petraeus and do the job.
Thank you. END 1:46 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 16, 2007
President Bush Meets with President Torrijos of the Republic of Panama Oval Office 10:50 A.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: Seņor Presidente, bienvenido a la Casa Blanca. I'm glad you're here.
PRESIDENT TORRIJOS: Thank you, President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I always enjoy my discussions with you. You're a visionary leader who cares deeply about the people of Panama.
I can remember very fondly my visit to your country. I remember going to the Panama Canal, and I was impressed by the operations, impressed by the scope of the Canal. And you told me that, for the good of the world, we're going to build an adjunct to the Canal. And I said, well, that's an ambitious agenda. And then, sure enough, as you sit here now, you tell me it's going to come to be. So I congratulate you on having a vision, and I congratulate you on being a leader.
I'm impressed by the economic statistics that we talked about. You told me that you care deeply about your people and you want them working, and they're working. The unemployment rate is down. Commerce is beginning to expand. And that's positive news for Panama; it's positive news for Central America; and it's also good news for us in America.
I appreciate so very much your desire to work out any differences we have on a free trade agreement. I am committed to a Panamanian free trade agreement because I believe it's in the interest of the United States that we have a free trade agreement with your vital country. And I assure you that we'll work in good faith to get an agreement done, and I will call upon the United States Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to support this deal that will help both nations.
We had an interesting discussion about biofuels. I reminded the President that I said in the State of the Union address that the United States is committed to having about 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels as a part of our fuel mix within a 10-year period of time. Biofuels means ethanol, or biofuels means fuel derived from palm.
It just so happens Panama has got the capacity to make a lot of biofuels. And I believe your capacity to make biofuels and our desire to use biofuels will make an interesting match as we work to become less dependent on oil and better stewards of the environment.
And so I appreciate so very much your vision on that issue, as well. I'm looking forward to working with you. And once again, bienevenidos aqu .
PRESIDENT TORRIJOS: Gracias, Presidente. Thank you.
I'm very pleased and recognize your commitment for pushing the free trade agenda and trying to finish the free trade agreement with Panama and the rest of the Latin American countries. And also I'm very satisfied to know that Latin America is still a very important part of your international agenda, with your trip that's coming next -- and, of course, all the cooperation that we can have in research of biofuels will help all of our countries be less dependent on oil, have more opportunity for our economies to grow.
So it's been, as always, a very sincere and a very fruitful meeting with you, President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Gracias, amigo. Gracias. END 10:55 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 15, 2007
President Bush Discusses Progress in Afghanistan, Global War on Terror The Mayflower Hotel Washington, D.C. 10:05 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. (Laughter.) That's got kind of a nice ring to it. (Laughter.) Chris, thanks for inviting me. I appreciate the chance to come and share some thoughts with the men and women of AEI. I admire AEI a lot -- I'm sure you know that. After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people. More than 20 AEI scholars have worked in my administration. A few have returned to the fold -- you'll have to wait two more years to get another one to return to the fold. Dick Cheney is occupied. (Laughter.) He sends his best.
I appreciate what the AEI stands for. This Institute has been a tireless voice for the principles of individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, and a strong national defense. And no one embodied these principles better than the late Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. (Applause.) She was a professor, author, diplomat, presidential advisor, and a key architect in our victory in the Cold War.
In 2003, I had the honor of asking her to lead the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. I would like to share with you what she told that commission. She said, "[America's] national policy is to assert that all human beings are born free. All human beings are equal in inherent rights and human dignity." That's the policy of the Bush administration, as well. I believe in the universality of freedom, and I believe that this country, this grand country of ours, has an obligation to help people realize the blessings of freedom. I appreciate so very much that Jeane Kirkpatrick was such a well-spoken advocate for that basic truth. I am proud to join you in paying tribute to her life and the legacy of a great American stateswoman.
I appreciate the board of directors of the AEI for giving me this forum. Thanks for trying to stay on the leading edge of thought, as well. It's really important that ideas be conceived, circulated and embraced. I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us today -- there they are. Good, yes. (Laughter.) All friends -- Pete King from New York, Trent Franks from Arizona, Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida, and fellow Texan Mike McCaul. Thanks for coming. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.) I thank the members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us; proud you're here. Thanks for taking time out of a busy schedule to come and hear this address. I appreciate members of the United States Armed Forces who have joined us. I thank the dignitaries and friends of the AEI and members of my administration who have joined. Don't linger. (Laughter.) Get back to work, but thank you for being here. (Laughter.) I fully expect you to stay awake for the entire address.
As scholars and thinkers, you are contributing to a nationwide debate about the direction of the war on terror. A vigorous debate is healthy for our country, it really is, and I welcome the debate. It's one of the true hallmarks of a free society, where people can get up and express their beliefs in open forum. Yet five years into this war, there is one principle of which every member of every party should be able to agree on -- in other words, after all the debate, there is one thing we all ought to be able to agree on, and that is: We've got to fight the terrorists overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home again.
We're acting on that principle. Since the attacks of September the 11th, we have been on the offense. I believe the best way to do our duty in securing the homeland is to stay on the offense. And we're not alone. That's what our fellow citizens have got to understand. We're not in this fight against extremists and murders alone.
Recently in the Philippines, that country's special forces conducted raids in which they killed two top leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization -- a group that we believe was responsible for kidnapping four American citizens and killing two of them. In Tunisia, authorities recently broke up a terrorist cell that was planning to attack the American and British Embassies. In Spain, police captured several fugitives wanted for aiding the escape of terrorists responsible for the Madrid train bombings. And in the past year, nations including Denmark, Italy, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey, Canada, and Britain have broken up terrorist cells. The enemy is active, and so are those of us who love freedom. It's in the interests of the United States to encourage other nations not to relent and not to give in, but to keep the pressure on those who try to have their way by murdering the innocent. And that's exactly what we'll continue to do.
This war against the terrorists, this war to protect ourselves, takes place on many fronts. One such front is Iraq. We're on the offense in Iraq, as we should be, against extremists and killers. I recently announced a new strategy for Iraq -- it's a plan that demands more from the Iraqi government. Not only do we demand more from the Iraqi government, but so do the Iraqi people demand more from the Iraqi government. They want to live in peace. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand a mother in downtown Baghdad wants her child to be able to walk the streets peacefully, just like mothers here in America want their children to be able to go to a playground and play peacefully.
I made Baghdad the top security priority. In other words, it's important, in order to achieve our objective, that the capital city of this grand country be secure. And I sent reinforcements to our troops so they can accomplish that mission. I spent a lot of time with members of my administration thinking about the way forward in Iraq. And we listened to a lot of opinions and a lot of different ideas. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success.
And the reason why I mention success is, it's important for us to succeed. It's important for us to help this young democracy fight off the extremists so moderation can prevail. It's important for us to stand with this young democracy as they live -- as they try to build a society under the most modern constitution written in the Middle East, a constitution approved by millions of their citizens.
One of the interesting things that I have found here in Washington is there is strong disagreement about what to do to succeed, but there is strong agreement that we should not fail. People understand the consequences of failure. If we were to leave this young democracy before the job is done, there would be chaos, and out of chaos would become vacuums, and into those power vacuums would flow extremists who would be emboldened; extremists who want to find safe haven.
As we think about this important front in the war against extremists and terrorists, it's important for our fellow citizens to recognize this truth: If we were to leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy would follow us home.
Our new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is now on the ground in Baghdad. I visited him by secure video yesterday. He reports that coalition troops are arriving on schedule. He says the Iraqi government is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional army brigades in the capital. Prime Minister Maliki has said part of our strategy is to put more Iraqis in the fight in the capital city to achieve our objective, and he's doing that. So far, coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces has been good -- they are beginning joint operations to secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, and insurgents, and the criminals, and the roaming death squads. They're doing what the Iraqi people want in Baghdad -- they want a peaceful life.
The initial signs of progress are encouraging. Yet it's important for us to recognize that this is the beginning of what will be a difficult operation in the Iraqi capital. Our troops are risking their lives. As they carry out the new strategy, they need our patience, and they need our support. (Applause.) When General Petraeus' nomination was considered three weeks ago in the United States Senate, the senators voted unanimously to confirm him to his new position, and I appreciate that affirmation, that strong statement for this good General.
Now, the House is debating a resolution that disapproves of our new strategy. This may become the first time in the history of the United States Congress that it has voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose his plan that is necessary to succeed in that battle.
Members of Congress have every right to express their opinion -- and I fully expect them to do so. The resolution they are debating is non-binding. Soon the Congress is going to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding -- a bill to provide emergency funding for our troops. Our men and women in uniform are counting on their elected leaders to provide them with the support they need to accomplish their mission. We have a responsibility, Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to give our troops the resources they need to do their job and the flexibility they need to prevail. (Applause.)
As we implement a new strategy in Iraq, we are also taking new steps to defeat the terrorists and extremists in Afghanistan. My administration has just completed a top-to-bottom review of our strategy in that country, and today I want to talk to you about the progress we have made in Afghanistan, the challenges we face in Afghanistan, and the strategy we're pursuing to defeat the enemies of freedom in Afghanistan.
It wasn't all that long ago that we learned the lessons of how terrorists operate. It may seem like a long time ago -- five years is a long time in this day and age of instant news cycles -- but it really isn't all that long ago, when you think about the march of history. In Afghanistan, we saw how terrorists and extremists can use those safe havens, safe havens in a failed state, to bring death and destruction to our people here at home.
It was an amazing turning point in the history of our country, really, when you think about it. It was a defining moment for the 21st century. Think about what I just said, that in the remote reaches of the world, because there was a failed state, murderers were able to plot and plan and then execute a deadly attack that killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens. It's a lesson that we've got to remember. And one of the lessons of that September the 11th day is that we cannot allow terrorists to gain sanctuary anywhere, and we must not allow them to reestablish the safe haven they lost in Afghanistan.
Our goal in Afghanistan is to help the people of that country to defeat the terrorists and establish a stable, moderate, and democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens, governs its territory effectively, and is a reliable ally in this war against extremists and terrorists.
Oh, for some that may seem like an impossible task. But it's not impossible if you believe what Jeane Kirkpatrick said, and that freedom is universal; that we believe all human beings to live in freedom and peace.
Over the past five years, we've made real progress toward this goal I just described. In 2001, Afghanistan was a totalitarian nightmare -- a land where girls could not go to school, where religious police roamed the streets, where women were publicly whipped, where there were summary executions in Kabul's soccer stadium, and terrorists operated freely -- they ran camps where they planned and trained for horrific attacks that affected us and other nations.
Today, five short years later, the Taliban have been driven from power, al Qaeda has been driven from its camps, and Afghanistan is free. That's why I say we have made remarkable progress. Afghanistan has a democratically-elected President, named Hamid Karzai. I respect him. I appreciate his courage. Afghanistan has a National Assembly chosen by the Afghan people in free elections.
Under the Taliban, women were barred from public office. Today, Afghanistan's parliament includes 91 women -- and President Karzai has appointed the first woman to serve as a provincial governor.
Under the Taliban, free enterprise was stifled. Today, the Afghan economy has doubled in size since liberation. Afghanistan has attracted $800 million in foreign investment during that time.
Under the Taliban, there were about 900,000 children in school. Today, more than 5 million children are in school -- about 1.8 million of them are girls.
Under the Taliban, an estimated 8 percent of Afghans had access to basic health care. Today, the United States has built or renovated 681 health clinics across the country -- now more than 80 percent of Afghans have access to basic health coverage -- health care.
Under the Taliban, Afghans fled the country in large numbers, seeking safety abroad. Today, more than 4.6 million Afghan refugees have come home -- one of the largest return movements in history.
In today's Afghanistan, people are free to speak their minds, they're free to begin to realize dreams. In today's Afghanistan there's a NATO Alliance is taking the lead to help provide security for the people of Afghanistan. In today's Afghanistan, the terrorists who once oppressed the Afghan people and threatened our country are being captured and killed by NATO forces and soldiers and police of a free Afghanistan. Times have changed. Our work is bringing freedom. A free Afghanistan helps make this country more secure.
We face a thinking enemy. And we face a tough enemy -- they watch our actions, they adjust their tactics. And in 2006, this enemy struck back with vengeance. As freedom began to spread, an enemy that cannot stand the thought of a free society tried to do something about it, tried to stop the advance of this young democracy. It's not the only place in the world where the enemy struck back in 2006. They struck back in Iraq. They struck in Lebanon. This should be a lesson for our fellow citizens to understand, where these group of people find freedom they're willing to resort to brutal tactics.
It's an interesting enemy, isn't it? An enemy that can't stand the thought of somebody being able to live a peaceful life, a life of hope, an optimistic life. And it's an enemy we've got to take seriously.
Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly five-fold. These escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country.
And so the fundamental question is, how do you react? Do you say, maybe it's too tough? Let's just kind of let this young democracy wither and fade away. Do we forget the lessons of September the 11th? And the answer is absolutely not.
And so the Taliban offensive that was launched was turned back by incredible courage of the Afghan soldiers, and by NATO forces that stood strong. You see, I believe the Taliban felt that they could exploit weakness. I believe that they said to themselves, if we can -- we'll test NATO and cause NATO leaders to turn their back on this young democracy.
After the fierce battles throughout the year 2006, the Taliban had failed in their objective of taking and holding new territory.
In recent months, the intensity of the fighting has died down -- that's only natural. It does every year when the snow and ice set in there in Afghanistan. But even in these winter months, we stayed on the offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda. This January, NATO reconnaissance units observed a major Taliban incursion from Pakistan -- with about 150 Taliban fighters crossing the border into the Paktika province. So NATO and Afghan forces launched a coordinated air assault and ground assault, and we destroyed the Taliban force. A large number of enemy fighters were killed; they were forced to retreat, where they were engaged by Pakistani troops.
Just two weeks ago, NATO launched an air strike against Taliban fighters who had seized the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province -- a key Taliban commander was brought to justice.
The snow is going to melt in the Hindu Kush Mountains, and when it does we can expect fierce fighting to continue. The Taliban and al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense, but to go on the offense. This spring there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive. And that's part of our strategy -- relentless in our pressure. We will not give in to murderers and extremists.
And we're focused on five key goals that I want to share with you. First, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces. After all, for this young democracy to survive in the long term, they'll have their own security forces that are capable and trained. We don't have to teach them courage. These folks understand courage. They're willing to fight for their country. They're willing to defend this young democracy. And so it's in our interest and the interest of NATO countries to provide training so they have more, more strong fighters -- so we're going to increase the size of the national police from 61,000 to 82,000 by the end of 2008. And we'll help them develop new specialties: new civil order brigades, counter-narcotics, and border surveillance.
We're going to increase the Afghanistan army. Today, it's 32,000 -- that's not enough to do the job in this vast country -- to 70,000 by the end of 2008. It's one thing to get them trained and one thing to get them uniforms, but they're also going to have to have ways to move around their country. So we're going to add commando battalions, a helicopter unit, combat support units. In other words, we're going to help this young democracy have a fully integrated security force that will respond to the commands of the elected officials.
Capable troops need intelligence. This is a war that requires good intelligence on all fronts. So the United States and our allies will also work with Afghanistan's leaders to improve human intelligence networks, particularly in areas that are threatened by the Taliban. Together with the Afghan government and NATO, we created a new Joint Intelligence Operations Center in Kabul -- so all the forces fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan have a common picture of the enemy. That may sound simple to those of us who have gotten used to sophisticated systems to protect ourselves. This is important innovation in Afghanistan.
America and our allies are going to stand with these folks. That's the message I want to deliver to the Afghanistan people today. Free debates are important. But our commitment is strong: we will train you, we will help you, and we will stand with you as you defend your new democracy. (Applause.)
The second part of our strategy is to work with our allies to strengthen the NATO force in Afghanistan. Today, Afghanistan is NATO's most important military operation. Isn't it interesting that NATO is now in Afghanistan? I suspect 20 years ago if a President stood in front of AEI and said, I'll make a prediction to you that NATO would be a force for freedom and peace outside of Europe -- you probably never would have invited the person back. (Laughter.) Today, NATO is in Afghanistan. And I thank the leaders of the NATO countries for recognizing the importance of Afghanistan in our own security and enhancing the security of our own countries.
For NATO to succeed, member nations must provide commanders on the ground with the troops and the equipment they need to do their jobs. Many allies have made commitments of additional forces and support -- and I appreciate those commitments, but nearly as much as the people in Afghanistan appreciate them. Norway, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have all agreed to send special operation forces to Afghanistan. Britain, Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria have agreed to additional troops. Italy has agreed to send aircraft. Romania will contribute to the EU police mission. Denmark, Greece, Norway and Slovakia will provide funding for Afghan security forces. Iceland will provide airlift. The people of Afghanistan need to know that they've got a lot of friends in this world who want them to succeed.
For NATO to succeed, allies must make sure that we fill the security gaps. In other words, when there is a need, when our commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, we need additional help, our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in this mission.
As well, allies must lift restrictions on the forces they do provide so NATO commanders have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make a stand. The alliance was founded on this principle: An attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on the home soil of a NATO nation, or on allied forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad. By standing together in Afghanistan, NATO forces protect our own people, and they must have the flexibility and rules of engagement to be able to do their job.
Third, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai improve provincial governance and develop Afghanistan's -- and to help develop Afghanistan's rural economy. Many Afghans in remote regions fight with the Taliban simply because there are no other jobs available. The best way to dry up Taliban recruits is to help Afghanistan's government create jobs and opportunity. So NATO is operating 25 provincial reconstruction teams across the country. These teams are made up of civilian and military experts. They are helping the Afghan government extend its reach into distant regions, they're improving security, and they're helping to deliver reconstruction assistance. In other words, I just described military operations that are necessary, but in order for these young democracies to survive, there's got to be more than just military. There has to be political development, and tangible evidence that a government can provide opportunity and hope. And these provincial reconstruction teams do just that.
These teams will help build irrigation systems, improve power production, provide access to micro-credit. The idea is to encourage entrepreneurship, job formation, enterprise. These teams will undertake new efforts to train provincial and local leaders. We take democracy for granted. Democracy hasn't exactly been rooted deeply in Afghan history. It takes a while for people to understand how to function as an elected official. It takes help for people to understand the obligations to respond to the people, and these teams will change provincial and local leaders.
Another key element to bringing stability to Afghanistan is building roads. Lieutenant General Eikenberry, who served with distinction in Afghanistan, just finished his tour, he was the senior commander there, said really something very interesting that caught my attention. He said, "Where the roads end in Afghanistan, the Taliban begin." So in order to help the security of this country, the international community has stepped up its road-building campaign across Afghanistan. So far, the United States and other nations have completed construction of more than 4,000 miles of roads -- that sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. We're also talking about a big country.
Much of the ring road -- we call it the ring road -- that links key provincial capitals to Kabul, is pretty well complete. And that's important, because, first of all, road building brings jobs to young men who might be recruited to the Taliban. But roads enable people to get commerce to centers of trade. In other words, roads promote enterprise. Enterprise provides hope. Hope is what defeats this ideology of darkness. And so we're going to build another 1,000 roads [sic] in 2007. It's an important effort, and our allies need to follow through on their commitments to help this young democracy have a road system that will enable it to flourish and survive.
Fourth, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai reverse the increase in poppy cultivation that is aiding the Taliban. After a decline in 2005, Afghanistan saw a marked increase in poppy cultivation last year. This is a direct threat to a free future for Afghanistan. I have made my concerns to President Karzai pretty clear -- not pretty clear, very clear -- and that in order for him to gain the confidence of his people, and the confidence of the world, he's got to do something about it, with our help.
The Taliban uses drug money to buy weapons -- they benefit from this cultivation -- and they pay Afghans to take up arms against the government. And so we're helping the President in a variety of ways to deal with the problem. First, he has established what's called a Central Narcotics Tribunal in Kabul. One way to deal with the drug problem is for there to be a push back to the drug dealers, and a good way to push back on the drug dealers is convict them and send them to prison. He has improved the Afghan Eradication Force this is mobile units that can deploy across the country to help governors in their eradication efforts.
We're supporting him. We're supporting him through direct aid on these mobile units, and we're supporting him to expand alternative livelihood programs. These poppy growers are trying to make a living. And the idea is to provide these farmers with credit, and seeds, and fertilizer, and assistance to bring their products to market. So the strategy to eliminate poppies is to encourage the government to eradicate, and to provide alternative means for a livelihood, and to help have the roads so that when somebody grows something somebody wants to buy in Kabul, there's a road to be able to take the product along to the markets.
It's important, and we're going to stay focused on the poppy issue. And when the President and his government is able to make progress on it, it will really inspire countries who want to help to do more.
Finally, we're going to help President Karzai fight corruption. And one place where he needs help is in the judicial system. There's nothing more discouraging when justice is not fair. And Afghans too often see their courts run by crooked judges. It's important to have the confidence of the people in a free society. Crooked judges makes it hard to earn that confidence.
President Karzai, to his credit, has established a Criminal Justice Task Force that is now after public corruption. This task force has 400 prosecutors [sic] and there are ongoing investigations. The United States, Britain and Norway are providing full time prosecutors, judges, police, and defense attorneys to mentor their Afghan counterparts -- and I appreciate our own citizens going over there. It is must be neat, really -- I guess "neat" isn't a sophisticated word, but it must be heartening to be somebody who's helping this young democracy develop a judicial system that is worthy. And I cannot thank our citizens for taking time out of their lives to go.
The United States has built or renovated 40 judicial facilities; we've distributed more than 11,000 copies of the Afghan constitution; we've trained more than 750 Afghan judges and lawyers and prosecutors. The international community is helping this new government build a justice system so they can replace the rule of the Taliban with the rule of law.
Now, there's another part of our strategy I want to share with you, and that is to help President Musharraf defeat the terrorists and extremists who operate inside of Pakistan. We're going to work Pakistan and Afghanistan to enhance cooperation to defeat what I would call a common enemy. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters do hide in remote regions of Pakistan -- this is wild country; this is wilder than the Wild West. And these folks hide and recruit and launch attacks.
The President understands our desire to work with him to eliminate this kind of action. People say, well, do you think President Musharraf really understands the threat of extremists in his midst? I said, yes, I do. You know how I know? They've tried to kill him. Al Qaeda has launched attacks against the President of this country. He understands. He also understands that extremists can destabilize countries on the border, or destabilize countries from which they launch their attacks. And so he's launched what they call a frontier strategy, and that is to find and eliminate the extremists and deliver a better governance and economic opportunity.
We're helping him in these efforts. It's in our interest to help him. We provided him -- we're helping him equip his security forces that are patrolling the border regions with Afghanistan. We're funding construction of more than 100 border outposts, which will provide their forces with better access to remote regions of this part of the country. We've given him high-tech equipment to help the Pakistani forces locate the terrorists attempting to cross the border. We're funding an air wing, with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, to give Pakistan better security, better swift response and better surveillance.
President Musharraf is going to better be able to now deal with this problem. Bob Gates went out and visited with him recently, had a good response. He's an ally in this war on terror and it's in our interest to support him in fighting the extremists.
I also had an interesting meeting at the White House last September -- and that is, I hosted a private dinner with President Musharraf and President Karzai, right there in what's called the Family Dining Room. It was a fascinating discussion. Clearly there are different histories, different anxieties about the way forward. We did reach some agreements, however, that it's in all our interests for people to work together, for example, to improve intelligence sharing. It's in our interest to expand trade between these two countries. In other words, on the one hand it's in our interest to work closely on security for security operations, but it's also in our mutual interest -- all three of our interests -- to provide different alternatives for people to choose from.
Remember I said earlier that oftentimes people support the Taliban, or sometimes they support the Taliban in Afghanistan because it's the only job they can find. If that's the case -- and I believe it's true -- we need to help these folks provide an economy that gives hope. And so one way we can do this is what we call reconstruction opportunity zones that exist on both sides of the Pak and Afghan border. These zones will give residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty free. That's our contribution. Got a vast market, wealthy country with a lot of consumers, and it's not going to take much to provide hope if we can get little manufacturing enterprises set up, local entrepreneurs to be able to manufacture goods and sell them here in our countries. It's a tiny contribution for us and a major contribution for providing the conditions necessary for stability.
I'm going to continue to work with both the leaders. It's a useful role for the President of the United States to be in constant contact with both Presidents, to remind them of the great obligations we have to fight the extremists and to help people realize dreams.
So our strategy in this country is robust and important. A lot of attention here in the United States is on Iraq. One reason I've come to address you is I want to make sure people's attention is also on Afghanistan. I'm asking Congress for $11.8 billion over the next two years to help this young democracy survive. I've ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We've extended the stay of 3,200 troops now in the country, for four months, and we'll deploy a replacement force that will sustain this increase for the foreseeable future.
These forces and funds are going to help President Karzai defeat common enemies. Success in Afghanistan is important for our security. We are engaged in a long ideological struggle between the forces of moderation and liberty versus the forces of destruction and extremism. And a victory for the forces of liberty in Afghanistan will be a resounding defeat in this ideological struggle. It's in our national interest that we succeed, that we help President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan succeed. And I'm confident -- I'm confident that with persistence and patience and determination, we will succeed.
And the biggest source for success is the Afghan people, themselves. They want their freedom. Freedom is universal. Jeane Kirkpatrick was right -- people around the world, regardless of their faith, their background, or their gender, want to be free. (Applause.) There is tangible evidence in Afghanistan: 8 million people went to the polls to choose their President in a free election. We take it for granted. Eight million said we want to be free. Imagine how far that society has come from the days of the Taliban. There's courage in that country. People are showing faith and freedom and courage to defend that freedom.
I want to tell you an interesting story about an Afghan security office at Camp Phoenix near Kabul. This fellow has worked at this base for four years -- nearly four years. His job was to guard the front gate and screen cars before they are allowed to approach a U.S. military checkpoint. He is very popular with our troops -- people who have gotten to know him like him a lot. They appreciate his courage and his personality and they call him "Rambo." (Laughter.) Must have been a lot for the Afghan citizen to be called "Rambo," but that's what they call him.
One day Rambo was on duty, a car loaded with explosives tried to crash through the front gate -- they were attempting to get to our troops. This fellow did not hesitate, he jumped in the car and he prevented the terrorist from exploding the device. He saw somebody who was about to harm our citizens, our troops -- he then jumps into the car and stops the attack. A U.S. Army sergeant then responded, helped him pull the guy out of the car.
One of our U.S. soldiers who was there said this, he said, "He saved our lives. I promised him I'd name my firstborn son after him." The guy is hoping for a boy. (Laughter.)
It's a human story. It's a story that speaks of courage and alliance, respect for life. To me it's a story that says these people in Afghanistan want to do what is necessary to survive and succeed, and it's in our interest to help them.
I am really proud that our nation helped liberate the 25 million people of that country. (Applause.) We should be proud to stand alongside the people of Afghanistan, the newly liberated Afghanistan. And I know we're all proud of the men and women who have helped liberate that country -- the men and women who wear our uniform who helped liberate that country and continue to make the sacrifices necessary. (Applause.)
I thank you for giving me a chance to come and talk about a strategy for success, a strategy that is part of our efforts to make sure that a generation of Americans, beyond our generation, will look back and say they did their duty to protect the homeland and, as a result, we can live in peace.
God bless. (Applause.) END 10:53 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 12, 2007
President Bush Celebrates African American History Month The East Room 2:30 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks for coming. Welcome to the White House. I'm so pleased that you all have joined us for the 81st celebration of African American History Month. During this special month we reflect on the many ways African Americans have shaped our nation's history, and we honor outstanding achievements by our fellow citizens.
One of those achievements took place two Sundays ago in Miami, Florida -- took place at a football game. (Laughter and applause.) It might just have been a game for some, but for a lot of folks it was a moment, an historic moment. And we congratulate Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith for their strong leadership and their example -- (applause.) That's an achievement.
I'm also proud to be here with another football coach who deserves a lot of credit, Sylvester Croom, who is the head football coach from Mississippi State University. His achievement is the first African American coach in the Southeastern Football League -- Southeastern Conference. He was picked because he's a strong leader and a fine man. And I thank you for blazing trails. (Applause.)
I'm proud to be here with Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State. (Applause.) So last night on this very stage, we celebrated Abraham Lincoln, and we welcomed Doris Kearns Goodwin, who wrote a book called, "The Team of Rivals." Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with fine Cabinet officers, all of whom wanted one thing -- his job. (Laughter.) Not so fast, Madam Secretary. (Laughter.)
I appreciate so very much members of the Congress for joining us: first the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel. (Applause.) That's an achievement. (Laughter.) I'm looking forward to working with this achievement to get some things -- (laughter) -- to get some things done. He's a good man and a smart guy.
Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota. Senator, thanks for coming. (Applause.) From the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, one of the most important benches in America, Justice Janice Rodgers Brown. Good to see you -- thank you. (Applause.)
And Dewey -- good move, Dewey. Dewey tried to lead the standing ovation. That was -- (laughter.) Loyal husband.
I appreciate Doctor Dorothy Height. Thank you for coming, Dr. Height. (Applause.) Roslyn Brock, who is the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the NAACP. Roslyn, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) I'm proud you're here. Thanks for taking time.
I am so pleased that the Jackson High School Black History Tour Group from Jackson, Michigan, is with us, and Director Shirley Pitts. Thank you for coming. I'm looking forward to hearing you. I'm proud you're here. (Applause.)
The theme of this year's African American History Month is, "From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas." For hundreds of years, the people of Africa were brought -- were bought and sold by colonial merchants and transported as cargo to this hemisphere. The journey endured by millions of Africans is one of the largest migrations of history, and one of the great crimes of history. For the men, women, and children who survived this journey, life in the New World was a life in chains. They toiled for the bread that others would eat. They were often denied even the comfort of suffering together. And their families were broken up when a spouse or child was sold.
Yet despite these assaults on culture and humanity, the children of Africa persevered. They kept faith that the freedom that God intended for all would one day be theirs. And across this hemisphere in different places and at different times, that faith would be redeemed.
In America, their first real hope of freedom came on New Year's Day in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in a room right upstairs. The heroes of the civil rights movement continued the struggle for freedom. And by their courage, they changed laws and opened up the promise for millions of our citizens.
Today, African Americans are seizing opportunities gained at great price, and they're making their mark in this wonderful country in countless ways. We see their character and achievement in the neighborhoods across our nation, and we see it right here in this room -- right here in the White House.
One of those faces is familiar to us, Wesley Autrey. You know, you might remember Wesley from the State of the Union address. I remember Wesley was I think sending a hand signal to you, Mr. Chairman. So was I, by the way. (Laughter.) I love you, man. (Laughter and applause.) Yes, not yet, Wesley. I've got to tell the story one more time. (Laughter.)
So in case you haven't heard the story, he was waiting at a Harlem subway station. He saw the guy fall into the path of a train. He had seconds to act. He jumped onto the track, and he pulled the man into a space between the rails, and he held him as a train went right over them. And so they said, you're a hero. He said, no. Yet, Wesley -- I told him -- I said, you're a hero. He told me, no. I said, Wesley, I disagree, as do millions of our fellow citizens. (Laughter.)
And so we're proud you're here again. We thank you for your courage. We thank you for your commitment to a life of a stranger. What a wonderful example you set for young and old, black, white, anybody in the United States of America. Welcome back here. (Applause.)
I want to tell you the story of Bonnie St. John. She grew up in California, which is -- most places in California are not very close to the snow. But she wanted to be a skier. The problem was at age five she lost one of her legs. But she never lost her dream. She said she fell down a lot while learning to ski, but she also learned the key to success was how fast she got up after the fall.
And so she went to Harvard and she became a Rhodes scholar. And then she won medals in downhill skiing in the Paralymics. She owns her own small business. She's writing an inspirational book to encourage others. She is the kind of person that you really want to be around, and the kind of person that shows that individual courage matters in life.
And so, Bonnie, thanks for coming. God bless. (Applause.)
So at one time in my life I was a baseball person. (Laughter.) Nearly all my life I was a baseball fan. And so I remember a pitcher named Jim "Mudcat" Grant. Some of you baby boomers might remember Mudcat. He pitched for the Minnesota Twins. They went to the 1965 World Series, and he won 25 games. He founded what's called the Black Aces. This is an organization made up of African American pitchers who have won at least 20 games in a single season.
I view the organization as a way not only to herald success, but to inspire others. See, it wasn't all that often -- let me just say this -- at certain points in our past, we didn't have a lot of African American pitchers. And I want to thank you, Mudcat, for showing courage, character and perseverance, and also thank you for setting an example.
With you today happens to be a -- I like to call him a former Texas Ranger -- Chicago Cub fans remember him as a Chicago Cub. Any baseball fan knows he's a Hall of Famer -- and that's Fergie Jenkins, a member of the Black Aces, as well as Mike Norris, former pitcher for the -- (applause.)
Mudcat, don't sit down yet -- sit up yet. Mudcat Grant, everybody. (Applause.)
There happens to be other Black Aces in baseball, one of whom joined us -- Dontrelle Willis, of the Florida team. Dontrelle, he can throw. (Laughter.) So I thought I was looking at a little, tiny left-hander when I first heard Dontrelle Willis was going to be here. No. You might stand up and show everybody that you're not a little, tiny left-hander. (Applause.) Dontrelle, welcome.
Thank you, Mudcat, for bringing your friends, and thank you for bringing class to the baseball diamond. (Applause.)
We've got two folks here who know how to reach for the stars, and that would be Robert Curbeam and Joan Higginbotham. And I really mean that literally. See, these are astronauts who went into space with the crew of the Space Shuttle in early December. Their job was not much of a job, just to rewire the International Space Station. (Laughter.) It sounds complex. (Laughter.) And it is. It was one of the most challenging missions in NASA's history.
They did their job and, thankfully, came home. And in doing so, I suspect they've earned more frequent flier miles than anybody here. (Laughter.) I really appreciate the fact that they are furthering humanity's path of discovery, and I appreciate the fact that you say loud and clear, our country is unlimited in its opportunities for people from all walks of life. We're really proud you're here. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
Tyrone Flowers is with us. His is an interesting story, one that speaks to a good heart, I suspect a gracious and glorious God, as well. You see, he was a basketball star, and he was headed for college and perhaps a scholarship. He was living the dream of a lot of folks. And he got shot, and he's paralyzed.
The interesting thing about this good man is a lot of people would have either quit or sought revenge. But not him. He picked a different path and found a different calling. He went to a community college. He earned a bachelor's degree. And then he became a lawyer. Nothing wrong with that. (Laughter.) Fourteen years ago, he and his wife founded a group called Higher M-pact. Higher M-pact has this goal: to help today's high risk urban youth become tomorrow's leaders. That is a noble goal. It is a necessary goal. And it's a goal that I suspect is more likely to be achieved because this good man has decided to turn a horrific act into an act of love. And we welcome you and thank you. (Applause.)
So as you can see, this is a little different kind of speech. It's one where all I had to do was just simply talk about the accomplishments and lives of some of our citizens. And their stories speak a lot louder and a lot clearer than I could have. This is a -- I always tell people the strength of this country lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens. The strength of the African American community has always lied in the hearts and souls of our citizens, people who refuse to allow adversity to diminish the spirit and extinguish the drive to make America live up to its promise.
And that's what we're honoring today -- ordinary citizens who do unbelievably fine things. I can't think of any better way to celebrate African American History Month. And our call -- and our need is to continue to remember promise belongs to everybody. And our call for this country is never to rest until equality is real, opportunity is universal, and every citizen can realize his or her dreams in the greatest country on the face of the Earth.
And now it's my honor to introduce the Jackson High School Black History Tour Group. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)
END 2:46 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 12, 2007
President Bush Meets with President Adamkus of Lithuania Oval Office 11:02 A.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's my honor to welcome a personal friend and a friend of freedom and peace to the Oval Office. Mr. President, I respect you, I respect your country. Lithuania has been a country whose history has been one of great tragedy. You, yourself, have lived through that tragedy. And it's so refreshing for a person like me to talk to somebody and to strategize with somebody who knows the great blessings of living in a free society.
The example of your country is an important example for the world, and that is that freedom is universal, that those of us who have the benefits of living in a free society must prevent a country such as yours from ever again being subjected to the tyranny of a few. You know full well the suffering that your relatives went through.
And, therefore, I find it -- I'm not surprised that in a struggling democracy like Afghanistan, your country has stood up bravely to support the Karzai government and the people of Afghanistan. And I thank you. And I thank the citizens of your country for your willingness to contribute to peace by helping a young democracy survive. I thank you very much for your support for the people of Iraq. It's hard work in Iraq. But, nevertheless, it is inspiring to know that Lithuania has said, we want to help the people realize the blessings of a free society.
We talked about a lot of issues. We talked about energy independence. I was very pleased by the strategy that you and others in the Baltics are working to achieve to achieve energy independence. We share the same objectives here in America, and I look forward to working with you as new technologies become available to make us all less dependent on oil and natural gas.
Secondly, the President was quite adamant about visa waiver. I can understand your strong position, Mr. President. I thank you very much for your clarity of thought. There should be no doubt that here in the Oval Office that President Adamkus represented the will of the majority of the Lithuanian people, when we discussed visa waiver and his desire for the people of his country to be treated like most of the other people in the European Union. I assured him we'll work with Congress to get a fair piece of legislation forward as quickly as possible so we can deal with this issue once and for all.
All in all, I'm so grateful that you and the First Lady came by to say hello here in the Oval Office. And I know Laura was very much looking forward to entertaining your good wife over there at the Residence. I thought the business session here went very well in a very constructive way. And, again, I welcome you back to the Oval Office.
PRESIDENT ADAMKUS: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I believe the visit is just reconfirmation of the Lithuanian people for what we stand for. And I believe there is no doubt that our commitments -- international commitments, joining United States, actually based on the principles, principles which were the guiding light for us during the very difficult times of the Soviet occupation, almost for half of the century.
But at the same time, like I indicated to you, knowing what it means to be free and knowing, I mean, that this freedom still is not available in some parts of the world, this is why we are with our, I would say, meager resources, but standing by you in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Kosovo. And definitely we are going to stand shoulder to shoulder just to make sure that the remaining Iraq people who cannot even enjoy today those kind of privileges -- free speech, respect for human rights -- would be given to them.
So I want to just thank you once again, I mean, for the support we are receiving. We are going to work together, especially in developing situations like we just mentioned during our conversations here about the latest statements in Munich. I believe this is not going to sway away the free people from the -- I mean, its ideals, the direction we are going together, and I think that the final outcome will be this is what we dream about, this is for what the American people stand for, for centuries and the day is coming.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. PRESIDENT ADAMKUS: Thank you very much. END 11:07 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 11, 2007
President Bush Attends Ford's Theatre Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration State Dining Room 7:40 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, and welcome. Laura and I are delighted to have you here as we celebrate the 198th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. And we're really glad you're here.
We thank Ford's Theatre for helping us honor this great American President. We thank David Herbert Donald and Doris Kearns Goodwin for scholarship that has given us a deeper appreciation of Lincoln's life and purpose. We welcome all the Lincoln scholars who are here.
We are here tonight to remember the life -- the incredible life -- and the great sacrifice of the man who saved our Union. We remember Abraham Lincoln's eloquence, his wisdom, his unshakeable faith in the enduring truth that we're all created equal. He worked to renew the promise of America's founding, and to build a more perfect union for all Americans.
As we approach the bicentennial of President Lincoln's birth, his words and principles continue to guide our nation. We look to his example for courage and to find the better angels of our nature. His legacy is the birthright of all Americans. And tonight we honor those who helped pass the story of his life from generation to generation.
In this story of this good and decent man, we really find the best of America. And so, tonight I would like to offer a toast to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, and to our blessed country.
(A toast is offered.) END 7:42 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release February 10, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
Last Saturday, I addressed the annual retreat of Democrats from the House of Representatives. I thanked the Members of the new majority for their service in Congress. And we discussed our responsibility to work together on a wide range of issues -- from fighting the global war on terror, to making health care more affordable, to balancing the Federal budget.
One area with great potential for bipartisan cooperation is energy policy. The need for action is clear. Our Nation's reliance on oil leaves us vulnerable to hostile regimes and terrorists, who could damage our economy by disrupting the global oil supply. A spike in oil prices anywhere in the world could lead to higher prices at gas pumps here in America. And burning oil and gasoline creates air pollution and greenhouse gases.
Republicans and Democrats both recognize these problems. We agree on the solution: We need to diversify our energy supply and make America less dependent on foreign oil. The best way to do that is by developing new energy technologies here at home. So the Federal government has provided more than $10 billion over five years for research into alternative sources of energy. Our scientists and engineers have made great progress, and our Nation is now on the threshold of dramatic breakthroughs in clean energy technology.
These advances in energy technology will help us meet a great new national goal: to reduce America's gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next 10 years. I call this goal "Twenty in Ten," and appreciate the support that many Democrats and Republicans have shown for it.
I know there are different views about the best way to meet this goal. Some say we should increase the supply of alternative fuels. Others say we should decrease demand for gasoline. I believe we need to do both. So on the supply side, I proposed a new mandatory fuels standard that will require the use of 35 billion gallons of renewable and other alternative fuels by 2017. That is nearly a fivefold increase over the current target. On the demand side, I proposed to reform fuel economy standards to make cars more energy efficient, just as my Administration did for light trucks.
This past week, we took a key step toward my "Twenty in Ten" goal when I sent Congress my budget for the next fiscal year. The budget proposes $2.7 billion to expand alternative energy research, a 53 percent increase over the 2006 funding level. These funds will support further research into cellulosic ethanol, which can be produced from sources like wood chips and grasses. These funds will also support promising technologies beyond ethanol, such as new forms of biodiesel, lithium-ion batteries, and hydrogen fuel cells.
I look forward to working with Congress to pass this budget and to meet my "Twenty in Ten" goal. I'm optimistic because the technology we need to achieve this goal is advancing every day. A few weeks ago, I traveled to a DuPont research facility in Delaware, where scientists told me that they are close to making the use of cellulosic ethanol a reality. Imagine what technologies like this would mean for your daily life. You could fill up your gas tank with fuel that comes mostly from an American prairie or farm, instead of an oil well overseas. You could drive to work in a car that runs on electricity instead of gasoline, or on hydrogen fuel cells that emit no pollution. You would see the rise of dynamic new businesses that create jobs for American workers and sell alternative energy products around the world.
This is an ambitious vision, but with the talent and enterprise of our people, it can be achieved. Every Member of Congress who cares about strengthening our economy, protecting our national security, and confronting climate change should support the energy initiatives I have set out. By working together to pass energy legislation soon, we can help solve one of the great challenges facing our generation. And we can leave behind a cleaner and better world for our children and grandchildren.
Thank you for listening.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 9, 2007
President Bush to Welcome President Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia
President Bush will welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia to the White House on February 14, 2007. President Johnson-Sirleaf's visit will mark the President's 100th meeting with an African Head of State during his six years in office. The visit will be an opportunity for the President to hear from President Johnson-Sirleaf on the progress being achieved in rebuilding the social, political, and economic life of Liberia. The President will use the opportunity to reiterate the United States' long-standing commitment to the establishment of stability and democracy in Liberia. The two leaders will also discuss continuing cooperation in the areas of reconstruction, economic development, trade and investment, security sector reform, and debt relief.
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For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 8, 2007
President Bush Discusses Department of Homeland Security Priorities Department of Homeland Security Washington, D.C. 4:20 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for the hospitality. I appreciate you inviting me over to hear what has been a substantive briefing by your different operating entities.
First of all, I'm very proud of the hard work of the men and women of the Homeland Security Department. This vital department is actively engaged in the war on terror. We are still a nation at risk. Part of our strategy, of course, is to stay on the offense against terrorists who would do us harm. In other words, it is important to defeat them overseas so we never have to face them here. Nevertheless, we recognize that we've got to be fully prepared here at the homeland.
Part of that preparation requires a robust budget. We submitted the budget, you testified on the budget. It's about an 8 percent increase in the budget of the Homeland Security Department.
This department works to secure our borders. I appreciate very much, Ralph, you and your department's hard work of doing a difficult job, and that is doing what the American people expect and that is to have secure borders. But we're making good progress. We're modernizing a border that needed to be modernized, whether it be through fencing or the different types of high-tech investments.
I firmly believe that in order for your Border Patrol agents to be able to do their job, we need a guest worker program so that people don't have to sneak in our country, and therefore, we can really enable your good folks to be able to focus on terrorism, drug runners, gun runners.
I appreciate so very much the fact that we've got a wise strategy to effect the security of our ports and cargo. We've got a lot of good people working hard overseas. In other words, we're inspecting cargo before it leaves a port -- foreign port -- so that the first line of defense is away from our shores, or away from our ports. And we've got a lot of good people working hard to achieve that.
I appreciate so very much the effort of TSA. You've got a hard job. It's a job that really was a response to 9/11, and that is we don't want people getting on our airplanes that will terrorize our fellow citizens again. I fully recognize that there are thousands of hardworking people that are trying to do their best to, on the one hand, accommodate our fellow citizens as they travel; on the other hand, protect our country from attack.
We also talked about the need to have effective response if there is a emergency, if there is a catastrophe. And one agency that has been under fire and that needed to be reorganized was FEMA, and I asked David Paulison to do just that. We took the lessons learned from Katrina and applied it to this vital agency. And this agency was recently tested through the tornadoes there in central Florida. And I want to thank you, Dave, and your team for a quick response to help the poor citizens who were affected by that natural disaster.
The Department of Homeland Security was initially melded together by organizations that tended to be stove-piped -- independently run organizations that we felt needed to be brought under the central planning, the central organizing principle of a single department. The organization of such a vast enterprise has been difficult and complicated; nevertheless, there is noticeable and substantial and measurable progress.
And I appreciate all the hardworking folks for putting together an institute, part of our government, all aiming to protect the American people.
And so, Secretary, thank you for the invitation. I appreciate the hard work of the people of this department. I oftentimes say to the American people that you can go about your business, you can run your enterprises, you can send your children to school, knowing full well that there are thousands of our fellow citizens who work every day, 24 hours, to help you by protecting this homeland. And this is where it all starts. And I thank you for your hard work.
Thank you. END 4:25 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 7, 2007
President Bush Discusses the National Parks Centennial Initiative Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center Shenandoah National Park Luray, Virginia 1:10 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Laura and I and the Secretary really appreciate the good folks here at Shenandoah National Park for their hospitality and their hard work in making this beautiful part of our country accessible to its citizens.
Today I had the honor of spending time talking to a group of concerned citizens about our National Park System. We've got about 80 million acres of our Park System, with millions and millions of visits a year by our citizens to take advantage of and participate in the special beauty of our parks -- all you got to do is look out here.
We spent time talking about our understanding that these parks are national treasures; that they are fantastic places in which to learn things, get exercise; that our parks are a way to teach our fellow citizens about the history of the country. After all, Laura and I live in the White House, which is managed by the National Park System. Our parks are important. And the people who work in the parks are important.
I asked Dirk Kempthorne to join my administration because I know that he is committed to the National Park System. He's a man from the West who has been able to enjoy the beauty of the parks in his own home state of Idaho.
One of the things we talked about is how we can make sure the commitment that we all think is necessary to our Park System is really honored in the appropriations requests that we make to Congress.
Our parks will have its 100th anniversary in 2016. And we felt like a vital goal for this country would be to prepare those parks, to guard the parks, to conserve the parks, to make the park relevant to the American people in honor of the 100th anniversary. And so Dirk and I and others in this administration have come up with what we call the National Parks Centennial Initiative. It's a bold program that calls upon the government to do its part, as well as our citizens to become invested in a campaign to really enhance the parks.
The funding starts with a billion-dollar request over the next 10 years that I'll send up to Congress. It's really to enhance the operating missions of our parks. I'm looking forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats to get this initiative passed. I think if any member of Congress were to ask a Park Service employee, or those who know a lot about the parks, our fellow citizens who give of their time to make sure our parks are vital, they will find out that this request is a really important request.
Secondly, we're issuing what's called the President's Challenge, and that is to -- we're asking the private sector to donate up to a billion dollars over the next 10 years to help this Park System be vital and strong, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our Park System. And as they -- fellow citizens contribute, whether it be through foundation, corporation, or individually, the federal government will match those contributions. In other words, this is a collaboration of the federal government and individual programs.
I've asked Dirk, after today, to go around the country and to learn from our fellow citizens, to learn from the park rangers and learn from the foundations that care about our Park System how best to spend this money, how best to honor the centennial that we'll be celebrating in 2016. In other words, we really do want individuals to feel that they own a piece of this strategy. After all, the parks do belong to the people.
We believe that we've got a fantastic chance to enhance habitats in the Park System. Laura, for example, really cares about the bird population of the country, and the Park System has a lot of habitat -- as do I, by the way, as much as you do. (Laughter.) But it's a chance to make sure our Park System enhances bird migratory patterns, for example.
We want to spend time making sure that we enhance educational opportunities in our Park System through new technologies. The iPod is hip amongst some of the younger citizens here in the country, people we want to encourage to come to the parks, so we need to make sure to apply that technology with educational opportunities, as somebody goes walking through our parks. We want to talk about -- and we will continue to talk about expanding park accessibility through a junior ranger program that Laura has been very much involved with.
We're going to hire 3,000 seasonal park rangers, and that's going to make the job of the folks who, for example, run the Shenandoah Park much easier, and more importantly, make the customer service -- in other words, the citizen service -- richer for somebody who comes and uses our parks.
We want to upgrade our facilities and historic buildings. We're going to add and -- ask people in their different Park Systems to become recruiters of volunteers so that more and more people get involved with this fantastic national resource of ours.
So, Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you very much for the hard work you've done leading up to the budget proposal we've made. I want to thank you in advance for the hard work you're going to do, to travel our country to get input from our fellow citizens. And I thank all the people in our country who care about our Park System for your direct involvement and your sincere concerns about making sure the Park System is modern and restored and rehabilitated.
I urge our fellow citizens to use the parks. I urge you to bring your families to the parks. I think you'll find that the people who work in our Park System are genuinely decent, kind people who want you to enjoy the great beauty of the National Park System.
Thank you very much. (Applause.) END 1:17 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 6, 2007
President Bush Discusses Fiscal Responsibility Micron Technology Virginia Manassas, Virginia 10:23 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you for your warm welcome. It's good to be here at Micron Technologies. I'm going to spend a little time with you talking about the state of our economy and the budget I submitted to the United States Congress. It should interest you. After all, it's your money. (Laughter.)
One thing about Micron is that it is clear that the role of government is to encourage investment and enhance educational opportunities. I mean, when you walk through the halls of this innovative company, it's pretty clear to me that you need to know what you're doing in order to make this -- (laughter) -- company survive and thrive like it is.
The other day I was in New York, and I talked about what we need to do to keep the economy growing. In other words, things are fine right now; what do you do to make it even better in the future? And coming to a company like this reminds me about some of the basic things we need to do. One, we need to make sure that we educate kids so that they can become employees in companies like this -- basic, fundamental education -- and encourage additional education for folks so they gain skills to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
Secondly, trade. Like, if you're confident in what you make, you ought to be for trade, because people are going to want to buy what you make. Ninety-five percent of the customers in the world live outside the United States. I mean, we're 5 percent of the population; 95 percent is elsewhere. This company relies upon trade. So you've got the smart people back there making the products that people want, and you want to be in a position to sell it if you want your company to continue to grow.
I appreciate very much the fact that companies like Micron actually have a budget. It's a concept that the government needs to get used to, too. (Laughter.) And I'm going to spend a little time talking about the budget. I submitted a budget yesterday that says we can balance the budget by 2012 without raising your taxes. I'm going to explain how it works.
It's probably counterintuitive to some, particularly those who tend to trust government, but, see, I believe it is not only possible, we have proven it through a document, that by keeping taxes low and being wise about how we spend your money, we actually achieve balance in the budget. That's not to say we won't have other challenges, but this budget can work if Congress resists the temptation to raise your taxes.
Now I do want to thank Steve and the good folk from Idaho for joining us. Virginia is a good part of the world, or obviously you wouldn't be here. But you understand that there's some really fine folks that live here and work here. I appreciate Pat, the site director who gave me a tour. He tried to explain all the big machines that were there to a history major. (Laughter.) I played like I understood. (Laughter.) It's a really interesting place you work in.
I appreciate Mike Simpson. He's the Congressman from Idaho. This innovative company is headquartered in his district. And so he wanted to come by and see this part of Micron's operations. I appreciate the Mayor. Mayor, are you here somewhere? Oh, Mayor, good to see you. Thank you for serving. Appreciate it -- just fill the potholes, that's all I can tell you. (Laughter.) And I'm sure you are. (Laughter.)
I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to visit with you. First thing that's for sure, this economy is strong. I hope you feel it. After all, the company is investing billions of dollars to make sure that your product is competitive in a world economy, and one reason why the company feels confident about investing billions of dollars is because the nature of this economy is strong and the statistics bear it out.
Last quarter we grew at 3.5 percent growth. In a big economy, that is a substantial growth. Last year we grew by 3.4 percent for the year. That's up from 3.1 percent. That's positive news if you're working in America. It's positive news if you're looking for a job. In other words, it's hard to find good work unless this economy is growing. And the economy is strong. The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached an all-time high for the 27th time in the past four months. In other words, people are confident. People feel good about the future.
Real wages are up. That's positive if you rely upon a wage. It's up by 1.7 percent. Real wages is that beyond the cost of living. The average family of four making $1,000 more this year than they were last year, and that helps a lot.
Three months ago, we've added -- over the last three months, we added a million jobs*. It's all due to the entrepreneurial spirit. See, government doesn't create wealth. Government creates an environment that encourages capital flows and investment. I really believe the most important aspect of government is to react to problems and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. I really want it to be said, America is entrepreneurial heaven. It's a great place to take risk and to realize your dreams, and I believe it is. And the question is, how do we keep it that way?
I want you to remember a little bit of the economic history of the recent years. It will help justify why I submitted the budget I submitted. You might remember that we were in a recession in 2001. I don't know if you were working here then, but that recession was being felt all throughout our economy. And then the enemy attacked us, and it hurt a lot. You know, a huge attack like that not only shakes the psychology of the country, it hurt the economy.
And so I decided to do something about it, and cut taxes -- worked with Congress to cut taxes. I believe that if you have more money in your pocket to save or spend or invest, that is what was required to create a condition where people would feel more comfortable about making investments. In other words, the entrepreneurial spirit is enhanced when you have more money, when consumers have more money to spend, or businesses have more money to invest.
And so we cut taxes. We cut taxes on everybody who pays income taxes. I believe the best -- fairest policy in Washington is not to play favorite in the tax code, but say, if you pay income taxes, you ought to get a tax cut. And that's what we did.
We also doubled the child tax credit. We reduced the marriage penalty. We cut taxes on dividends and capital gains in 2003. And the reason why is we want to encourage investment. You cannot spend billions of dollars inside this plant unless somebody is willing to make that investment.
And by cutting capital gains taxes and taxes on dividends, it encourages capital flow; it makes it easier for Micron to attract capital to buy new equipment to expand your business and to remain competitive.
Our economy expanded -- so there's a big debate. There's always somebody -- do tax cuts work? They work. I understand the politics of cutting taxes. Some like it, some don't. I just asked the American people to look at the facts. Since we cut taxes a second time in 2003, we've added 7.4 million new jobs. Tax cuts equaled new jobs. Our economy expanded by 13 percent since we cut taxes in 2003. In other words, we dealt with the recession, we dealt with the attacks, we laid the conditions for economic vitality, and the American people took hold and made it work.
Government didn't grow the economy. The hard working people of our country grew the economy. And so coming into this budget session, I felt like we we're in a good opportunity to balance this budget because of the economic vitality. In other words, if you got a weak economy, it's really hard to stand up with credibility and say to Congress, join me in balancing the budget without raising taxes. We got a strong economy.
One of the things that happens when you have a strong economy, when you have vitality in the private sector, is it turns out you get more tax revenues than you anticipate. See, cutting taxes created the incentives for people to save, invest and consume, which caused the economy to grow; and as the economy grows, the pie gets bigger, the tax revenues to the Treasury increase. And that's what happened.
In 2004, I said, we can cut the deficit in half in five years. There was a lot of skepticism. Washington occasionally has skepticism. They said, you can't do that unless you raise taxes. Well, sure enough, we did do it by not raising taxes. As a matter of fact, we did so three years ahead of schedule.
See, low taxes means economic vitality, which means more tax revenues. And so the fundamental question is, what do you need to do to keep the economy growing, in order to make sure the tax revenues keep coming in to the Treasury? Step one is to keep the taxes low. A lot of people saying, you've got to raise it. I don't believe so. I think raising taxes hurts the economy. I think raising taxes makes it harder to sustain economic growth. I think if we raise taxes, it makes it harder for this company to invest billions of dollars in new equipment. And if this company decides not to invest billions of dollars in new equipment, it makes it harder for your wages to go up; it means somebody is not making that equipment, which will have an effect on the economy.
And so step one for a good budget, step one to balancing the budget is to keep taxes low. As a matter of fact, not only do I think we ought not to raise them, I think we ought to make every tax cut we passed permanent.
Now, it also means we're going to have to set priorities with your money. See, the temptation in Washington is to spend your money on everything that sounds good. That's not how you run your family budget, that's not how this company runs its company budget, and that's certainly how the government ought not to run its budget, which means you have to do the hard work and set priorities.
And so the budget I submitted to Congress sets clear priorities. The number one priority, as far as I'm concerned, for the federal government, is to protect the American people. The number one priority is to spend monies necessary to defeat an enemy that wants to -- wants to cause us harm. One of the lessons of September the 11th is that chaos and safe haven overseas could cause an enemy to come and harm us, and I'm never going to forget the lesson.
Secondly, a priority is when we ask an American to wear the uniform, volunteers to wear the uniform to go into harm's way, that person deserves the full support of the United States government.
And so the priority in this budget is to make sure that those who are on the front lines of protecting you, in a war which I wish wasn't waging, in a war that came home to us on September the 11th, is to make sure they have the tools necessary to do the job. If government's job is to protect the American people from harm, then we better make sure those we've charged with protecting you have what it takes to do so.
There's something called discretionary spending in the budget. I don't want to get to be too much of a budget expert for you, but we've got what's called mandatory spending -- in other words, it's going to happen based upon formula -- and discretionary spending, where the government gets to decide on an annual basis how much is spent.
And so therefore, if you're trying to balance the budget after you've set your priority and funded it, then the Congress has to be wise about other aspects of discretionary spending. And so the budget I've submitted says that we can meet our obligations but don't have to spend up to the rate of inflation. In other words, you have to have some fiscal discipline if you want to balance the federal budget, and that's what I'm asking Congress to do.
One of the things I presume you expect us to do is analyze programs. In other words, if they say, this is going to do this, and the results aren't there, I think the American people expect us to eliminate those programs or cut the programs back or not fund them, and that's exactly what we do. It's a little hard sometimes to say to a person, a member of Congress, by the way, the program that you think is a good program is not working. But we spend a lot of time doing that in Washington, D.C. And we got a pretty good record about eliminating programs that don't work. And we'll continue to work with Congress to hold people to account. That's what happens here at Micron. If your product line is not meeting expectations, you don't keep funding something that's not working. That's what government ought to do, as well.
I want to talk about an interesting topic that tends to dominate Washington, and one that is necessary to make sure that we spend your money wisely and balance the budget, and that's the issue of earmarks. I'm sure you've heard about them. Earmarks are special interest items that get slipped into spending bills a lot of times at the last minute. In other words, they're moving a piece of appropriations out, and then somebody shows up and says, well, I need this for my district, or I need this for my district.
In 2005, we had more than 13,000 earmarks. More than 90 percent of the earmarks never make it to the floor of the House or the Senate. Isn't that interesting? In other words, they're never voted on. They're just dropped into a committee report. And these committee reports are not even a part of the bill that arrives on my desk. And here's what they look like.
These things didn't get voted on, and yet they have the force of law. And they provide taxpayers' dollars from a lot of things -- researching wool, swimming pools in here. They didn't vote them into law. In other words, Congress didn't vote these things into law. I didn't sign them into law, yet they have the force of law.
And therefore, it's important for Congress to continue -- to reform the process, and we want to work with them. In other words, as a taxpayer, I presume you expect that every single appropriation has been looked at and analyzed and debated. In other words, let that sun shine in. It's called transparency. And if the members of Congress think it's a good idea, then they ought to vote it up or down and then send it to my desk so I know full well that there's been full scrutiny in Congress. We can do a better job with your money. And one way to do so is to reform the earmark process.
Another way to do a better job with your money is to give me the line-item veto so I can work with Congress. In other words, what happens is, is that we have -- we debate the size of the pie. In other words, in order to balance the budget, we need this much top line spending. But a lot of times, we don't -- it makes it different to deal with the slices of the pie. And I believe there needs to be a process where the President has got the capacity to work with Congress to say well, maybe this slice of the pie doesn't meet a national priority; where I'm able to red-line projects, for example, and send them back to Congress for an up or down vote.
In other words, if Congress is genuinely concerned about spending your money wisely, and I believe most members are, then, one, they got to do something about earmarks. And secondly, they need to work with the executive branch in order to have a tool necessary to let spending be given the full light of day. Most states have line-item vetoes. I believe it to be a necessary reform for the federal government to have the same opportunity to work together.
I want to talk a little bit about entitlement programs. I told you there's discretionary spending. There's also mandatory spending, non-discretionary spending. And the biggest programs, of course, are Social Security and Medicare. I submitted in my budget some reform for Medicare by slowing down the rate of growth from 7.4 percent per year to 6.7 percent per year. And that saves billions of dollars in doing that.
In other words, instead of spending -- instead of saying these mandatory programs will grow at the rate of nearly 7.5 percent, why don't we just be reasonable and see if we can slow it down a little bit. You'll hear people say, well, he's cutting spending. No. That may be Washington, D.C. definition of cut, but slowing the rate of spending saves you a lot of money.
Now, mandatory spending requires more than that as far I'm concerned. We have a fundamental problem when it comes to, say, a program like Social Security. Why? Baby boomers like me are getting ready to retire. Like my retirement date and my Social Security date happen to be the same, 2008. It's convenient. (Laughter.) Sixty-two years old in 2008. And by the way, if you're not 60, it's not as old as it sounds. (Laughter.) And yet there are fewer people paying into the system necessary to support the promises that have been made to me and other baby boomers. Our benefits are growing quite dramatically.
In other words, previous Congresses have said, vote for me, I promise you to raise the benefits inherent in Social Security, without considering the fact that the number of workers paying into the system relative to the number of beneficiaries is shrinking. And the mathematics isn't going to work. And if we don't do something quite rapidly, in my judgment, we're going to saddle a younger generation of Americans, a younger generation of workers, with unbelievably difficult choices -- raising taxes significantly to pay for the promises, slashing benefits, or slashing other programs.
Now is the time for members of the Congress in both political parties to bring their best ideas to the table as to how to solve the problems involved with entitlement programs. And yet, it's really hard to do in Washington, I must confess. There's a lot of politics in the nation's capital, too much, as far as I'm concerned.
And one of my jobs, and I believe the jobs of the leadership of the Congress, is to say, let us look at this problem in a sober light; let us come and address the significant deficiencies inherent in two really important programs -- Medicare and Social Security -- and let us do it for the sake of a future generation of workers. Every year we wait, the problem becomes more acute.
And so I'm hopeful, genuinely hopeful, that I can get Democrats and Republicans in Congress to come to the table. I'll lay out, like I have done over the past years, how I think we all can solve the problems. By the way, I've got an idea how to do so without raising your taxes. And I expect -- would hope other members would come and say, well here's how we think we can solve it, and hopefully we can find some common ground to do our duty.
See, I like to remind people that the job for those of us in Washington is to confront problems now and not pass them on to other people, is to do the hard work necessary to say to America, look, we know your problems, and we're going to do our best to solve them, whether it be on the domestic front or on foreign policy.
I really am upbeat about the future of the country. I feel great about it. All you've got to do is come to Micron and feel good about life. I didn't see a lot of smiles on people's faces because they had those masks on -- (laughter) -- but I detected a bounce in people's step, I detected the fact that I'm here in an exciting place for people to work. I appreciated when the plant manager and the CEO tells me that they spend a lot of time educating people, adding added value so that people will be able to be able to find those jobs that are necessary in the 21st century.
I'll tell you this, that if government and private sector doesn't continue to work together to make sure people have a skill set, the jobs will go somewhere else. And therefore, now is the time to educate our people. We live in a global economy, and therefore, lawsuits matter. If you get sued all the time in America, it's going to make it harder for you to compete with people elsewhere. The amount of taxes you pay matters if you're going to be a competitive company and provide good jobs for people.
And the budget I've submitted to the United States Congress reflects all this. It says we can balance the budget without raising your taxes. We're just going to have to be smart about how we spend your money. It also recognizes that the decisions made in the budget will affect how this company does business.
So you've got two things to pay attention to. One, will Micron remain competitive as a result of government policy, and two, will you have more money so you get to make the decisions? And my fundamental question to the American people is, who do you want making the decisions with your money? Do you want to make it yourself, or do you want the government making those decisions? The budget I've submitted says we can meet our priorities and let you make the decisions with the hard money -- with the money you've earned through your hard work.
So I'm honored to be here. I appreciate you giving me a chance to come and express my views on an important subject. And I ask for God's blessings on you all. Thank you very much. (Applause.) END 10:45 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 5, 2007
President Bush Meets with the Cabinet The Cabinet Room 10:48 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate my Cabinet joining me today as we discussed our budget. Today we submit a budget to the United States Congress that shows we can balance the budget in five years without raising taxes.
Our economy is strong because of good policy and because the entrepreneurial spirit is strong. By keeping taxes down, we actually generate strong revenues to the Treasury.
And I appreciate Director Portman helping us devise a plan that sets priorities and, at the same time, emphasizes fiscal restraint. Our priority is to protect the American people. And our priority is to make sure our troops have what it takes to do their jobs. We also have got priorities in national parks and education and health care. But we have proven, and I strongly believe Congress needs to listen to a budget which has no tax increase, and a budget, because of fiscal discipline, that can be balanced in five years.
Secondly, I strongly believe that Congress needs to do something on earmarks. In order to make sure that we're fiscally responsible with the people's money, Congress needs to make sure that when they spend the people's money, there's transparency and an up or down vote for each item. As well, I believe the President needs to have the line-item veto. It's one thing to get the size of the budget pie right; it's another thing to make sure that the slices in that pie meet national priorities.
And so the budget that Director Portman is going to be talking about is realistic, it's achievable, and it's got good reforms in it. So thank you very much. Looking forward to working with the Congress to get this budget passed.
I'll answer a couple of questions. Ben.
Q Mr. President, thank you. You oppose setting time lines for withdrawal in Iraq, yet your new budget plan assumes that war spending will be down to $50 billion by 2009 and none beyond that. Are you, in effect, sir, setting a time line for the end of the war?
THE PRESIDENT: Ben, we've had years of projections in the past. We've said to the Congress, here's what our anticipated expenditure is in the short-term. And we've been able to manage our budgets with five years of war behind us, and we'll manage the budgets in the out-years. There will be no timetable set. And the reason why is, is because we don't want to send mixed signals to an enemy, or to a struggling democracy, or to our troops.
Q Mr. President, how do you respond to some criticism from the Iraqis that the reason for the recent escalation of violence in Iraq is because the United States has been too slow to implement its new strategy?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, General Petraeus is heading to Iraq this week, early this -- tomorrow. And my message is, is that both of us, the Iraqis and the U.S. and coalition forces, have got to get this plan in place as quickly as possible. Of course, we want the plan to work, and we want to make sure that the strategy we've implemented -- or the strategy we've outlined is implemented properly.
I appreciate the fact that the Iraqi government is anxious to get security inside the capital of the country. That's a good sign. It's a good sign that there's a sense of concern and anxiety. It means that the governments understands they have a responsibility to protect their people. And we want to help them.
What we're trying to do with this reinforcement of our troops is to provide enough space so that the Iraqi government can meet certain benchmarks or certain requirements for a unity government to survive and for the country to be strong.
I had to make a decision as to whether or not we were going to allow the status quo to continue. And the status quo wasn't acceptable. I listened to a lot of people in Congress as to whether or not we ought to slowly withdraw and redeploy troops. My worry about that was that the capital would get worse, and out of that chaos would come grave danger to the United States. And so I listened to a lot of other folks, including our military, and said, look, we got to take care and help these Iraqis take care of the violence inside of Baghdad.
And that's why I made the decision I made, and we're in the process of implementing that plan. We'd like to do it as quickly as possible. The success of that plan is going to depend upon the capacity and willingness of the Iraqis to do hard work, and we want to help them do that work. And the fact that government officials are now saying that it's time to start implementing the plan is a good sign. It shows that they understand that now is the time to do the things necessary to protect their people.
Thank you. END 10:53 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary February 3, 2007
President Bush Attends House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference Kingsmill Resort & Spa Williamsburg, Virginia 10:22 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. It's nice to be here. Thank you very much. The last time I looked at some of your faces, I was at the State of the Union, and I saw kind of a strange expression when I referred to something as the Democrat Party. Now, look, my diction isn't all that good. (Laughter.) I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. (Laughter.) And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party. (Laughter and applause.)
Thanks for having me, Madam Speaker. I'm proud to be here. I'm proud to have met your grandchild. I know the mother well. (Laughter.) If the child has as much spunk as the mother, she's going to have a fantastic life. And so thank you for having me.
I want to thank the members for allowing me to come. I'm looking forward to visiting with you. I particularly want to thank your families. I know how hard it is on a family to support a loved one in public life. (Applause.) It takes a lot of sacrifice to encourage your spouse to serve the country. Politics can be ugly. Sometimes they say not nice things about you in the local newspaper. You're traveling a lot. Campaigns are rough on a family. And so I really want to thank -- I thank the members for serving, but I know full well that you couldn't serve without the love and support of your family members. So I really appreciate your contribution to the country.
Madam Speaker, thank you very much for your leadership. I was genuinely touched when I thought about how your dad would be reacting to seeing you sitting up there in the House chamber. It was an historic moment, and I know you're proud of the accomplishments, and I appreciate you all supporting this fine woman into a really important leadership role. (Applause.)
On the way in we spent a little time talking about Florida, and I talked to the Governor yesterday. The Speaker was concerned, as am I, to make sure that the folks get the help they need down there. And, Madam Speaker, you and I, and every member here, shares concerns for those whose lives were turned upside down by that storm. And as I told you earlier, and told the Governor, whatever federal response is needed, we will make it quick and sure. And so thank you for your concerns. (Applause.)
I'm glad to be here with Steny Hoyer. Good to see you. Thank you, Steny. He is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense guy. I'm looking forward to working with you. (Applause.) James Clyburn and Rahm Emanuel and John Larson and all the leadership, I'm looking forward to working with you. I know you've probably heard that, and you doubt whether it's true -- it's true. We can do some big things together. In order to do big things, we're going to have to do it together.
So I'd like to share some of the thoughts about the big things I'd like to see us try to accomplish. First, balancing the budget. That's a big thing. (Applause.) Rob Portman is going to submit a budget tomorrow. Some of it you'll like, some of it you won't like, but it achieves the goal that we have said, which is to balance the budget. And we will show you how to do so in five years. You will have your own ideas, and we can work together, hopefully, to achieve that big goal.
Inherent in the budget issue is whether or not -- is unfunded liabilities as a part of entitlement programs. This is a difficult issue for members of both parties. I fully understand it's hard to come to the table to address Social Security or Medicare; the unfunded liabilities inherent in those programs. I've asked members of my party to come to the table with ideas. I will bring ideas. I ask members of the Democratic Party to come to the table, as well. I believe we have an obligation to work to solve the problem. (Applause.) Is it going to be hard work? You bet it's hard work. A lot of times people say, well, why don't we just wait for the crisis to come upon us? Well, I think the crisis is here. That's why I've included reforms of entitlement in every State of the Union address. And I'm going to keep talking -- well, I've got one more left; I'll keep talking about it for the next time, as well. Hopefully I won't have to, if we're able to sit and come together. But I'm under no illusions of how hard it's going to be. The only thing I want to share with you is, is my desire to see if we can't work together to get it done.
Secondly, there's a great goal, and to make sure every child has got the foundation necessary to be able to enjoy the great opportunities our country affords. As you know, I am a big believer in the No Child Left Behind Act. I think it has worked. I fully recognize that some have got concerns about it, and I'm willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to address those concerns. My only admonition is, let us don't water down the accountability inherent in this good law that enables us to detect problems early so we can solve the problems before it's too late.
Secondly, I know we can work together on passing the American Competitiveness Initiative, aimed at making sure that math and science is more prevalent amongst our youngsters, and doubling the amount of basic research at the federal level which will enable our country to remain the most innovative country in the world. (Applause.)
Thirdly, we've got to make sure people have got health insurance. I mentioned this in the State of the Union. I believe the role of the federal government is to help the poor, the disabled, and the elderly, and we will work with you to make sure that's happened. But I also think it's very important to figure out why health insurance is less affordable and less available for more of our citizens.
I believe part of the reason is because the tax code discourages private individuals from being able to purchase health care. I ask you to carefully consider the idea that we have put out. I've already heard from some members who thought it was a lousy idea, I understand that. But please look at it in depth as a way to address an issue that concerns us all, and that is, not enough people having health insurance.
Secondly, I strongly believe the states are the proper laboratories for change. And I think it makes sense to encourage innovation at the state level, in terms of helping people on Medicaid get health insurance; helping the poor get health insurance; making sure that we develop risk pools to enable those who cannot afford insurance because of health reasons have coverage. Anyway, it's a comprehensive approach that addresses a common goal of ours.
Thirdly, I set a goal to reduce our gasoline use by 20 percent over the next 10 years. (Applause.) And I thank you very much for receiving the idea that the country has advanced enough technologically to be able to have a mandatory fuels standard that encourages the use of renewables and alternatives, up to 37 billion gallons by 2017. We have spent a lot of money on developing new technologies. I look forward to working with you to continue to do so.
There's some concern, I know, amongst some of the farm state congressmen that when you use a lot of corn for ethanol it's going to rise -- it's going to cause the feed for hogs and cattle to rise. I've heard loud and clear those complaints. And to a certain extent, they're right. As a matter of fact, that is why we need to spend money on cellulosic ethanol, to make sure that we have got substitutes -- (applause) -- substitute raw material -- in other words, we are able to replace corn as the main raw material for the ethanol in order to achieve a great goal. And I'm looking forward to working with you on it.
It's an area where we can show the American people that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party has got the capability of enabling us to be able to say to the people, by being less dependent on oil, we've enhanced our national security, we've helped our economic security, and we've done something positive on the environment.
I believe a great goal is a comprehensive energy -- immigration bill. (Applause.) This, too, is a difficult issue. And in order to get it done, it's going to require members in the House and the Senate, Republican members, Democratic members, finding common ground. And the White House wants to help. I believe strongly in this issue. I know that in order to enforce our border, which all of us wants to -- all of us here want to do, that we must have a comprehensive plan to be able to do so.
I believe it is in the nation's interests to have a temporary worker program. It's in the interests of small business owners and farmers to be able to have folks that are willing to do work Americans are not doing on a temporary basis. I know that in order to enforce this border, we better have a plan that doesn't cause people to sneak in. We want our Border Patrol agents guarding the border from criminals and drug dealers and terrorists, not from folks that are coming to do jobs that Americans aren't doing.
And so this is an important issue. And I repeat to you, I want to work with you on it. I went to the Oval Office to address it, because I believe strongly that we can achieve an objective. I'm under no illusions as to how hard it's going to be, but it will be a lot easier when Republicans and Democrats work together to achieve this important objective. (Applause.)
We share a common goal, and that is to keep America safe. You know, I welcome debate in a time of war, and I hope you know that. Nor do I consider anybody's -- nor do I consider a belief that if you don't happen to agree with me you don't share the same sense of patriotism I do. You can get that thought out of your mind, if that's what some believe. (Applause.)
These are tough times, and yet there's no doubt in my mind that you want to secure this homeland just as much as I do. You remember the lessons of September the 11th just like I do. And you understand a fundamental obligation of government is to do everything in our power to protect people here. And I'm looking forward to working with you on that, to make sure our intelligence agencies have what they need to be able to detect problems before they come, to continue to secure the homeland. I believe we can work together in Afghanistan, to make sure that former safe haven is able to grow as a democracy. (Applause.)
I put out a plan that has caused a lot of debate on Iraq. I took a lot of time thinking about how best to achieve an objective of a country governing and sustaining and defending itself, a country that will be an ally in this war on terror. I listened to many members here. I listened to members of my own party. I listened to the military, and came up with a plan that I genuinely believe has the best chance of succeeding.
I do know we agree on some things, and that is that the Maliki government is going to have to show strong leadership. (Applause.) I appreciate the fact that the Speaker and many of -- the distinguished chairman came and briefed me on their trip. She said loud and clear, Mr. President, you've got to make it clear to the Iraqi people that their government has got to perform. And I understand that. I agree, Madam Speaker.
There's got to be success not only on the military front -- in other words, the Iraqis have got to be taking the lead in Baghdad to secure its capital, but there's also got to be success on the political front. They've got to pass an oil law. They've got to amend their constitution so that all segments of that society feel that the government is for them. (Applause.) We've got to spend our money on reconstruction projects that help unite the country. They've got to have local elections so people feel involved in the provincial governments. In other words, there's benchmarks that they have got to achieve. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi government, just like I made it clear to the American people, our commitment is not open ended. (Applause.)
We've got other equities in foreign policy that I know we can work together on. I cannot thank you enough for supporting the HIV/AIDS initiative on the continent of Africa. (Applause.) It's a pleasure to be able to stand up in front of the American people and say, your tax dollars have made a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. And this plan would not have been funded without the able leadership and support of many people here in this building. And I appreciate that.
We've set another great goal, and that's to reduce malaria in countries on the continent of Africa. And I'm convinced we can work together with a -- (applause) -- strategy that will work. I promised people in my State of the Union that we will continue to pursue freedom in places like Cuba or Belarus or Burma, and that we'll continue to rally the world to stay focused on Darfur. (Applause.)
And so this is a bold agenda for all of us. And I agree, Madam Speaker, there's a chance to show people that we can get beyond the politics of Washington, D.C.; that we're able to treat each other with civility, and at the same time, accomplish big goals. And so I've come, at your kind invitation, to assure the members that I look forward to working with you in doing the best we possibly can do for the good of all American citizens.
Thank you for having me. (Applause.) END 10:39 A.M. EST
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