For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 4, 2007
President Bush Visits with the Troops at Fort Irwin, California Fort Irwin, California 1:19 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. (Applause.) I've been waiting all day to say, Hoo-ah!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for greeting me. General Cone, thanks. I appreciate your service to our country and thanks for leading these men and women. I'm honored also to be with Jill. Thank you for joining us today for lunch. Command Sergeant Kim Boyink has been a generous host. Sarge, I appreciate being with you. Thank you for your service. Thanks for setting such a good example for the enlisted folks.
I often tell people that the backbone of the Army is the sergeant.
THE PRESIDENT: And I appreciate you sergeants who have joined us here, and I appreciate you serving.
I want to thank two members of the United States Congress who have traveled with me today, men who have concerns about Fort Irwin and have reflected those concerns in different appropriations measures in the United States Congress. In other words, they understand the importance of this mission and they understand the importance of making sure the folks who are stationed here have the best possible housing and food -- could work a little bit on it, but -- (laughter.)
But I do want to introduce to you the Congressmen from this district, Congressman Buck McKeon -- where are you, Buck? There he is. Thanks, Buck. (Applause.) And Congressman Jerry Lewis, ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. (Applause.)
I'm proud to be here with Mayor Dale, of the city of Barstow. I appreciate you coming, Mr. Mayor. (Applause.) Nice of you to be here. Thanks for being here.
I appreciate not only those who wear the uniform who are here today, I want to thank your families, too, for coming. It means a lot to me to be with our military families. I'll say a word about our military families here in a minute.
I do want to thank those who have just returned from Afghanistan, the 699th Maintenance Company.
AUDIENCE: Hoo-ah. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I guess the best words I can say are, welcome -- I mean, thanks and welcome back. We're glad you're here.
I appreciate those of you who are about to deploy in an important theater in this war against radicals and extremists, this war on terror, the "Red Devils" of the 58th Engineers, the "Renegades" of the 557th Maintenance Company, the "Super HETT" of the 2nd Transportation Company. I appreciate your -- (applause.)
Ours is a remarkable country when people volunteer to serve our country in a time of war. The amazing thing about our United States military is thousands and thousands have signed up knowing full well that we're a nation at war. The government didn't say, you have to do this, you chose to do it on your own. You decided to put your country ahead of self in many ways. I'm proud to be the Commander-in-Chief of such decent people, such honorable people, and such noble people. And I'm proud to be in your presence today.
I also want to thank the families. I understand how difficult this war is on America's military families. I understand the rotations are difficult for the moms and husbands, and sons and daughters. I understand that when a loved one is deployed, it creates anxiety. I also understand our military families are very supportive of those who wear the uniform. And so, on behalf of a grateful nation, I say thanks to the families who are here, and all across the United States of America. You're an integral part of making sure this volunteer army is as successful as it is today.
This country's life changed on September the 11th, 2001, and my attitude about the world changed that day, too. I decided that I -- that our most important task in Washington was to protect you, protect the American people. And I decided that I would use all the resources at our disposal to do that. Like many Americans, we struggle with understanding with what this attack meant. But if you think about the lead-up to the attack, you think about the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, or the extremist attack on our troops in Lebanon, or the embassies in Africa; Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; or the USS Cole.
In other words, the attack on September the 11th wasn't the first move by the extremists. As a matter of fact, they conducted their acts of murder believing that there wouldn't be a response. They became convinced that free nations were weak. And they grew bolder believing that history was on their side.
After the attacks of September the 11th I vowed to our country that we wouldn't tire, that we would use whatever it took to protect us. And so we changed our strategy. The strategy is to defeat the enemy overseas so we don't have to face them here at home. The strategy is to find those who would kill Americans and bring them to justice. So for those of you in -- who have been in Afghanistan, you're helping this young democracy recover from a period of time in which brutal extremists provided safe haven to an enemy which attacked the United States. Part of our doctrine is if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorists.
Another part of the doctrine is when you see a threat, we must take threats seriously, before they come here to hurt us. See, what changed on September the 11th is oceans can no longer protect the people in the United States from harm. I saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. And so are the citizens of Iraq.
In the long-term, we must remember that freedom is universal, and the best way to defeat an ideology -- and make no mistake about it, these extremists believe things -- for example, they don't believe you can worship freely; they don't believe you should speak your mind; they don't believe in dissent; they don't believe in human rights. We believe in the right for people to worship. We believe in the dignity of each human being. Our ideology is based on the universality of liberty. Their dark ideology is based upon hatred. And the way to defeat -- ultimately defeat those who would do harm to America is give people a chance to live in a free society.
And that's the work we're doing, whether it be in Afghanistan or in Iraq. And I want to thank you for your sacrifice and service.
Iraq, obviously, has got the attention of the United States, as it should. It's a tough war. The American people are weary of this war. They wonder whether or not we can succeed. They're horrified by the suicide bombings they see. I analyzed all the situation here this fall -- I listened to the advice from the military, I listened to the advice from the political people -- all in reaction to the fact that al Qaeda and the extremists bombed a sacred place, which caused sectarian violence to begin to rage. And it looked like that if action wasn't taken, the capital of this young democracy would be overwhelmed by chaos.
And I had a choice to make, and that is whether or not to pull back and hope that chaos wouldn't spread, or to do something about the sectarian violence that was taking place and to help the Iraqis bring order to their capital in order to give them breathing space, time to reconcile their differences after having lived under the thumb of a tyrant for years.
In weighing the options I thought about the consequences of a country that could sustain itself and defend itself and serve as an ally in the war on terror. And those consequences will have profound impact over the next years, over the decades, to know that in the midst of the Middle East there can flourish free societies, societies where people can live together, societies where people can express their opinions, societies where people can live a free life.
That's important because history has proven, has shown that free societies don't war with each other. But it's also important to have allies in this war against the extremists who would do us harm.
I've also thought about the consequences of failure and what it would mean to the American people. If chaos were to reign in the capital of that country it could spill out to the rest of the country; it could then spill out to the region, where you would have religious extremists fighting each other with one common enemy, the United States of America, or our ally, for example, like Israel.
The enemy that had done us harm would be embolden. They would have seen the mighty United States of America retreat before the job was done, which would enable them to better recruit. They have made it clear -- they, being people like Osama bin Laden or Zawahiri -- have made it clear they want to drive us from Iraq to establish safe haven in order to launch further attacks. In my judgment, defeat -- leaving before the job was done, which I would call defeat -- would make this United States of America at risk to further attack.
In other words, this is a war in which, if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here. That's the lesson of September the 11th. It's an integral part of my thinking about how to secure this country -- to do the most important job that the government must do, and that is to protect the American people.
So I made a decision, in consultation with our military commanders, people of sound military judgment; people who have made a career about how to set strategies in place to achieve military victories. And the new strategy we developed was to, rather than retreat, reenforce; rather than pull back was to go in with additional troops to help this young democracy do the job that the 12 million people who voted in free elections want them to do, which is to provide security, so a mother can raise her child the way we would want our mothers to be able to raise our children; to provide security so that the political reconciliation necessary can go forward in a more secure environment.
As I made the decision to send in more troops, I also made the decision to send in a new commander, General David Petraeus. He's an expert on counter-insurgency. Right now about half of the reinforcements that are expected to go to Baghdad have arrived. American and Iraqi troops are, however, on the move. They're rounding up both Shia and Sunni extremists; they're rounding up those who would do harm to innocent people.
We're after al Qaeda. After all, al Qaeda wants us to fail because they can't stand the thought of a free society in their midst. We're destroying car bomb factories, killing and capturing hundreds of insurgents. And neighborhoods are being reclaimed. There is progress, but the enemy sees that progress and they're responding in a brutal way.
I was amazed by the story of the extremists who put two children into a automobile so that they could make it into a crowded area -- then they got of the car and blew up the car with the children inside. It only hardens my resolve to help free Iraq from a society in which people can do that to children, and it makes me realize the nature of the enemy that we face, which hardens my resolve to protect the American people. The people who do that are not people -- you know, it's not a civil war; it is pure evil. And I believe we have an obligation to protect ourselves from that evil. So while we're making progress, it also is tough. And so the way to deal with it is to stay on the offense, is to help these Iraqis.
I had a meeting, a SVTS -- what they call a SVTS, it's a real-time video conference -- with Prime Minister Maliki. I urged him, of course, to continue making the actions necessary to reconcile in their society: pass an oil law, a de-Baathification law. It's interesting to watch a government emerge. It's interesting to watch this new democracy begin to take on responsibilities. And they are. They said they would commit additional troops into Baghdad; they have. They said they'd name a commander for the city of Baghdad; they did. They said they would man checkpoints; they are. They said they'd spend a significant amount of their own money for their reconstruction; they have -- budgeted $10 billion.
And there's more work to be done. And I reminded the Prime Minister of that. And I reminded him that our patience is not unlimited. I also reminded him that we want him to succeed, that it's in the interest of the United States that this young democracy succeed. It's in the interest we gain a new ally in the war on terror, in the midst of a part of the world that produced 19 kids that came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.
Just as the strategy is starting to make inroads, a narrow majority in the Congress passed legislation they knew all along I would not accept. Their bills impose an artificial deadline for withdrawal from Iraq. Their bills substitute the judgment of Washington politicians for the judgment of our military commanders. Their bills add billions of dollars in pork barrel spending, spending that is unrelated to the war that you're engaged in. Then, instead of sending an acceptable bill to my desk, they went on spring break.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking for our military. The Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chief of Staff of the Army have warned that if Congress delays these funds past mid-April, we'll have significant consequences for our Armed Forces. Army Chief of Staff says this: "Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures, which will impact Army readiness and impose hardship on our soldiers and their families."
For example, the Army says that without these funds, it will be forced to consider cutting back on training for Guard and Reserve units, and eventually for active duty personnel. The folks at Fort Irwin know firsthand how important training is. Washington has a responsibility to ensure that you have the resources you need to keep this training going.
Soon Congress will return from its break. I urge them to work on legislation to fund our troops, but that does not tell our military how to conduct war and sets an artificial timetable for withdrawal. The enemy does not measure the conflict in Iraq in terms of timetables. They plan to fight us, and we've got to fight them, alongside the Iraqis. A strategy that encourages this enemy to wait us out is dangerous -- it's dangerous for our troops, it's dangerous for our country's security. And it's not going to become the law.
There are fine, fine people debating this issue in Washington, D.C. They're patriotic. They're people who have got passionate points of view about this war. And I understand that. Yet, we cannot allow honest differences in Washington to harm our troops in battle, or their families here at home. Members of Congress have sent their message; now they need to send me a war-spending measure that I can sign into law, so we can provide our troops and their families with the funds and support they deserve and they need.
I spent some time with the soldiers out in the field, and I want to share with you what I told them. The work that you have volunteered to do will have a lasting impact on the world in which we live. When we succeed in helping this Iraqi government become a country that can sustain itself, defend itself, govern itself, and serve as an ally in the war on terror, we will have delivered a significant blow to those who have designs on harming the American people, because they can't stand the thought of free societies in their midst. They can't stand the thought of people being able to have a government of, by, and for the people. It is the opposite of what they do.
But we have done this kind of work before. The United States of America has done the kind of work that spread liberty in parts of the world where people never thought liberty could take hold. For example, after World War II, after we had a brutal war with the Japanese and Nazi Germany, our troops stayed behind and helped these societies recover and grow and prosper. And now we're reaping the benefits of helping our former enemies realize the blessings of liberty. Europe is free and at peace.
You know, after the Korean War, if you had asked somebody, can you imagine an American President being able to stand up in front of some troops and say the Far East is peaceful, a part of the world where we lost thousands of our troops in World War II and Korea is now a relatively peaceful part of the world, they would have said what a hopeless idealist that person is. And yet, I can report to you that. And I believe it is because our troops not only helped in Korea and helped rebuild Japan, but I believe it's because the presence of the United States gave breathing space to people to realize the blessings of liberty.
I believe liberty is universal. I don't believe it is just for the United States of America alone. I believe there is an Almighty, and I believe the Almighty's gift to people worldwide is the desire to be free. And I think, if given a chance, people will seize that moment. And that's the work you're doing.
And so that's why I report to our citizens that the hard work we're doing today is laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. And it gives me great confidence to know that standing with the President of the United States is a fantastic military, well-trained, courageous, and dedicated to protecting this country.
I'm proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. May God bless you all. (Applause.) END 1:44 P.M. PDT
For Immediate Release April 3, 2007
Setting The Record Straight: Sen. Reid's Misleading Comments About Iraq Funding Military Leaders Have Made Clear Our Troops Immediately Need Emergency Funds
"Instead of listening to the Democratic Party's extreme fringe, Sen. Reid should listen to the Generals who have made clear the consequences facing our military if Democrats in Congress continue to play politics instead of passing an emergency troops funding bill the President can sign."
– White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, 4/3/07
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV): The President's "own Generals have said [funding] will last until the end of June." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Press Conference, 4/3/07)
But our military leadership has made clear our troops immediately need emergency supplemental funds.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren: "We are particularly concerned as Congress is set to recess until mid-April without enacting this essential legislation. Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families." (Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and Pete Geren, Letter To Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), 3/28/07)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.Peter Pace: After mid-April, "the Army has told us that they will have to begin curtailing some training here at home for Guard, Reserve, and for units, which means that the baseline for those units will be reduced as far as their capability, and when they're called, it will take them longer to be ready and could, over time, delay their availability to go back into combat." (Committee On Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 3/29/07)
President Bush Discusses The Importance Of Funding Our Troops
President Bush: "If Congress fails to act in the next few weeks, it will have significant consequences for our men and women in the Armed Forces." "As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace, recently stated during his testimony before a House subcommittee, if Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on equipment, equipment repair, and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and reserve forces. These cuts would be necessary because the money will have to be shifted to support the troops on the front lines."(President George W. Bush, Statement On The Emergency Supplemental, The White House, 4/3/07)
President Bush: "The Army also would be forced to consider curtailing some training for Guard and reserve units here at home. This would reduce their readiness and could delay their availability to mobilize for missions in Afghanistan and Iraq."
President Bush: "If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute." "The Army would be forced to consider slowing or even freezing funding for its depots, where the equipment our troops depend on is repaired. They will also have to consider delaying or curtailing the training of some active duty forces, reducing the availability of these forces to deploy overseas. If this happens, some of the forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended because other units are not ready to take their places. If Congress does not act, the Army may also have to delay the formation of new brigade combat teams, preventing us from getting those troops into the pool of forces that are available to deploy. If these new teams are unavailable, we would have to ask other units to extend into the theater." (President George W. Bush, Statement On The Emergency Supplemental, The White House, 4/3/07)
Delays Are Already Impacting Troops And Readiness
Last week, the Defense Department notified Congress that in order to meet the force protection needs of the Marine Corps and the Army, it is borrowing funds from other important Marine and Army procurement programs. This borrowing means using funding intended for medium tactical vehicle replacement, Humvees and Humvee equipment, the tactical communications modernization program, and upgrades for other vehicles.
This reprogramming of funds is only necessary because Congress has failed to act in a timely manner on the president's emergency funding request. This underscores the need to get the President a bill he can sign that accomplishes what the troops and military commanders need.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 3, 2007
President Bush Makes Remarks on the Emergency Supplemental The Rose Garden 10:09 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I've just had a good meeting with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, and General Pete Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Secretary Gates and General Pace updated me on the deployment of American reinforcements to Iraq.
At this moment, two of the five additional U.S. Army brigades we are sending for this mission are operating in Baghdad. A third brigade is now moving from Kuwait, and will be fully operational in Baghdad in the coming weeks. And the remaining two brigades will deploy in April and May. It will be early June before all U.S. forces dedicated to the operation are in place. So this operation is still in its beginning stages.
The reinforcements we've sent to Baghdad are having a impact. They're making a difference. And as more of those reinforcements arrive in the months ahead, their impact will continue to grow. But to succeed in their mission, our troops need Congress to provide the resources, funds, and equipment they need to fight our enemies.
It has now been 57 days since I requested that Congress pass emergency funds for our troops. Instead of passing clean bills that fund our troops on the front lines, the House and Senate have spent this time debating bills that undercut the troops, by substituting the judgment of politicians in Washington for the judgment of our commanders on the ground, setting an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, and spending billions of dollars on pork barrel projects completely unrelated to the war.
I made it clear for weeks that if either the House or Senate version of this bill comes to my desk, I will veto it. And it is also clear from the strong support for this position in both Houses that the veto would be sustained. The only way the Democrats were able to pass their bill in the first place was to load the bill with pork and other spending that has nothing to do with the war.
There was -- one leading Democrat in the House said, "A lot of things had to go into that bill that certainly those of us who respect great legislation did not want there." That's an honest appraisal of the process that we just witnessed. Still, the Democrats in Congress continue to pursue their bills, and now they have left Washington for spring recess without finishing the work.
Democrat leaders in Congress seem more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than in providing our troops what they need to fight the battles in Iraq. If Democrat leaders in Congress are bent on making a political statement, then they need to send me this unacceptable bill as quickly as possible when they come back. I'll veto it, and then Congress can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without delay.
If Congress fails to act in the next few weeks, it will have significant consequences for our men and women in the Armed Forces. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace, recently stated during his testimony before a House subcommittee, if Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on equipment, equipment repair, and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and reserve forces. These cuts would be necessary because the money will have to be shifted to support the troops on the front lines.
The Army also would be forced to consider curtailing some training for Guard and reserve units here at home. This would reduce their readiness and could delay their availability to mobilize for missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute. The Army would be forced to consider slowing or even freezing funding for its depots, where the equipment our troops depend on is repaired. They will also have to consider delaying or curtailing the training of some active duty forces, reducing the availability of these forces to deploy overseas. If this happens, some of the forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended because other units are not ready to take their places.
If Congress does not act, the Army may also have to delay the formation of new brigade combat teams, preventing us from getting those troops into the pool of forces that are available to deploy. If these new teams are unavailable, we would have to ask other units to extend into the theater.
In a letter to Congress, Army Chief of Staff General Pete Schoomaker put it this way: "Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures, which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families."
In a time of war, it's irresponsible for the Democrat leadership -- Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds. The bottom line is this: Congress's failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. And others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to. That is unacceptable to me, and I believe it is unacceptable to the American people.
Members of Congress say they support the troops. Now they need to show that support in deed, as well as in word. Members of Congress are entitled to their views and should express them. Yet debating these differences should not come at the expense of funding our troops.
Congress's most basic responsibility is to give our troops the equipment and training they need to fight our enemies and protect our nation. They're now failing in that responsibility, and if they do not change course in the coming weeks, the price of that failure will be paid by our troops and their loved ones.
I'll now answer some questions, starting with Jennifer Loven.
Q Thank you, sir. You agreed to talk to Syria in the context of --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me?
Q You've agreed to talk to Syria in the context of the international conferences on Iraq. What's so different or wrong about Speaker Pelosi having her own meetings there? And are you worried that she might be preempting your own efforts?
THE PRESIDENT: We have made it clear to high-ranking officials, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, that going to Syria sends mixed signals -- signals in the region and, of course, mixed signals to President Assad. And by that, I mean, photo opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community, when, in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror; when, in fact, they're helping expedite -- or at least not stopping the movement of foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq; when, in fact, they have done little to nothing to rein in militant Hamas and Hezbollah; and when, in fact, they destabilize the Lebanese democracy.
There have been a lot of people who have gone to see President Assad -- some Americans, but a lot of European leaders and high-ranking officials. And yet we haven't seen action. In other words, he hasn't responded. It's one thing to send a message; it's another thing to have the person receiving the message actually do something. So the position of this administration is that the best way to meet with a leader like Assad or people from Syria is in the larger context of trying to get the global community to help change his behavior. But sending delegations hasn't worked. It's just simply been counterproductive.
Q Thank you, sir. Would the U.S. be willing to give up five Iranians held in Iraq if it would help persuade Iran to give up the 15 British sailors?
THE PRESIDENT: Steven, I said the other day that -- first of all, the seizure of the sailors is indefensible by the Iranians, and that I support the Blair government's attempts to solve this issue peacefully. So we're in close consultation with the British government. I also strongly support the Prime Minister's declaration that there should be no quid pro quo's when it comes to the hostages.
Let's see here -- Baker, Baker. Are you here? Yes, there you are.
Q Sir, your administration evaluated all 93 U.S. attorneys, in part on the basis of loyalty. That was one of the criteria that was used. What role should loyalty to you play in the evaluation of those charged with administering justice and enforcing the law?
THE PRESIDENT: Peter, obviously, when you name a U.S. attorney you want somebody who can do the job. That's the most important criterion, somebody who is qualified, somebody who can get a job done. The President names the U.S. attorneys, and the President has the right to remove U.S. attorneys. And on this particular issue, the one you're referring to, I believe it's the current issue of the eight U.S. attorneys, they serve at my pleasure, they have served four-year terms, and we have every right to replace them. And --
Q And what --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish, please. I am genuinely concerned about their reputations, now that this has become a Washington, D.C. focus. I'm sorry it's come to this. On the other hand, there had been no credible evidence of any wrongdoing. And that's what the American people have got to understand. We had a right to remove them; we did remove them. And there will be more hearings to determine what I've just said, no credible evidence of wrongdoing.
Q Mr. President, a lot of the disagreement over --
THE PRESIDENT: Wrong Bill.
Q Which one, him?
THE PRESIDENT: No, you. The cute-looking one. (Laughter.)
Q Thanks so much. A lot of the disagreement, sir, over the way you're handling Iraq, disagreements from the public and Congress, stems from the belief that things are not working, despite the surge. The Iraqis have met few, if any, of the benchmarks that were laid down for them so far. Senator McCain walked in the Baghdad marketplace with air cover and a company of troops. But people don't believe that this can work, and they question the continued sacrifice of U.S. troops to help make it work.
THE PRESIDENT: Bill, I'm very aware that there are a group of people that don't think we should be there in the first place. There are some who don't believe that this strategy will work. I've listened carefully to their complaints. Obviously, I listened to these concerns prior to deciding to reinforce. This is precisely the debate we had inside the White House: Can we succeed? I know there are some who have basically said it is impossible to succeed. I strongly disagree with those people. I believe not only can we succeed, I know we must succeed.
And so I decided to, at the recommendation of military commanders, decided to send reinforcements. As opposed to leaving Baghdad and watching the country go up in flames, I chose a different route, which was to send more troops into Baghdad. And General Petraeus, who is a reasoned, sober man, says there is some progress being made. And he cites murders and -- in other words, there's some calm coming to the capital. But he also fully recognizes, as do I, it's still dangerous. In other words, suiciders are willing to kill innocent life in order to send the projection that this is an impossible mission.
The whole strategy is to give the Iraqi government time to reconcile, time to unify the country, time to respond to the demands of the 12 million people that voted.
You've said the Iraqis haven't met any obligations; I would disagree with your characterization. They have said that they will send Iraqi forces into Baghdad to take the lead, along with U.S. troops, to bring security to Baghdad, and they've done that. They said they'd name a commander for Baghdad; they have done that. They said they'd send up -- they'd send troops out into the neighborhoods to clear and hold and then build; they're doing that. They send they would send a budget up that would spend a considerable amount of their money on reconstruction; they have done that. They're working on an oil law that is in progress.
As a matter of fact, I spoke to the Prime Minister yesterday about progress on the oil law. He reminded me that sometimes the legislature doesn't do what the executive branch wants them to do. I reminded him, I understand what he's talking about. But, nevertheless, I strongly agree that we've got to continue to make it clear to the Iraqi government that this is -- the solution to Iraq, an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, is more than a military mission -- precisely the reason why I sent more troops into Baghdad, to be able to provide some breathing space for this democratically-elected government to succeed. And it's hard work, and I understand it's hard work.
Secondly, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, Bill, there's only 40 percent of our troops that are there on the ground. And so I find it somewhat astounding that people in Congress would start calling for withdrawal even before all the troops have made it to Baghdad.
Let's see here -- Rutenberg. Jim Rutenberg.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Matthew Dowd, your chief campaign strategist in 2004, kind of issued a strong critique of you and your administration this weekend. I'm wondering if you were personally stunned, and if you worry about losing support of people -- of him and people like him?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I respect Matthew. I've known him for a while; as you mentioned, he was an integral part of my 2004 campaign. I have not talked to Matthew about his concerns. Nevertheless, I understand his anguish over war. I understand that this is an emotional issue for Matthew, as it is a lot of other people in our country. Matthew's case, as I understand it, is obviously intensified because his son is deployable. In other words, he's got a son in the U.S. Armed Forces, and I can understand Matthew's concerns.
I would hope that people who share Matthew's point of view would understand my concern about what failure would mean to the security of the United States. What I'm worried about is that we leave before the mission is done
-- and that is a country that is able to govern, sustain and defend itself -- and that Iraq becomes a cauldron of chaos which will embolden extremists, whether they be Shia or Sunni extremists; which would enable extremists to have safe haven from which to plot attacks on America; which could provide new resources for an enemy that wants to harm us.
And so, on the one hand, I do fully understand the anguish people go through about this war. And it's not just Matthew, there's a lot of our citizens who are concerned about this war. But I also hope that people will take a sober look at the consequences of failure in Iraq. My main job is to protect the people, and I firmly believe that if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here. And what makes Iraq different from previous struggles is that September the 11th showed that chaos in another part of the world, and/or safe haven for killers, for radicals, affects the security of the United States.
Q Back to Iran, sir. ABC has been reporting that Iran will be capable of building a nuclear bomb within two years. Have you seen evidence that Iran is accelerating its nuclear program?
THE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen the report that you just referred to. I do share concerns about Iranian intention to have a nuclear weapon. I firmly believe that if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon, it would be a seriously destablizing influence in the Middle East. And therefore, we have worked to build a international coalition to try to convince the Iranians to give up their weapon, to make it clear that they have choices to make -- whether the choice be isolation, or missed opportunity to grow their economies. And so we take your -- we take the
-- we take seriously the attempts of the Iranians to gain a nuclear weapon.
Q Have you seen an acceleration, though?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to talk about any intelligence that I've seen one way or the other. But I do want you to know how seriously we take the Iranian nuclear issue. As a matter of fact, it is the cornerstone of our Iranian policy. It is -- and that's why we spend a lot of time in working with friends, allies, concerned people to rally international support, to make it clear to the Iranian people that there is a better option for them.
Now, we have no problem, no beef with the Iranian people. We value their history; we value their traditions. But their government is making some choices that will continue to isolate them and deprive them of a better economic future. So we take the issue very seriously.
Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, are you aware of the current price of a gallon of gas? Can you explain why it's gone up so sharply in recent weeks? And is there anything in the near future indicating that prices might start coming down again before the heavy summer driving season?
THE PRESIDENT: About $2.60 plus.
Q Where are you shopping, sir? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Nationwide average. The price of gasoline, obviously, varies from region to region for a variety of reasons. Some has to do with the amount of taxation at the pump; some of it has to do with the boutique fuels that have been mandated on a state-by-state basis. But a lot of the price of gasoline depends on the price of crude oil.
And the price of crude oil is on the rise, and the price of crude oil is on the rise because people get spooked, for example, when it looks like there may be a crisis with a crude oil-producing nation, like Iran. But the whole point about rising crude oil prices and rising gasoline prices is that this country ought to work hard to get off our addiction to oil -- all the more reason why Congress ought to pass the mandatory fuel standards that I set forth, which will reduce our use of gasoline by 20 percent over the next 10 years. And there's two reasons why. One is for national security reasons, and two is for environmental concerns. And I hope that we can get this done with the Congress, get it out of the Congress to my desk as quickly as possible.
Dancer. Dancing man. That would be David Gregory. For those of you not aware, Gregory put on a show the --
Q Everybody's aware, Mr. President, thank you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, maybe the listeners aren't.
Q Yes, that's all right.
THE PRESIDENT: That was a beautiful performance, seriously.
Q Thank you. Thank you very much. (Laughter.) Mr. President, you say the Democrats are undercutting troops, they way they have voted. They're obviously trying to assert more control over foreign policy. Isn't that what the voters elected them to do in November?
THE PRESIDENT: I think the voters in America want Congress to support our troops who are in harm's way. They want money to the troops. And they don't want politicians in Washington telling our generals how to fight a war. It's one thing to object to the policy, but it's another thing when you have troops in harm's way not to give them the funds they need.
And no question there's been a political dance going on here in Washington. You've followed this closely, you know what I'm talking about. Not only was there a political dance going on -- in other words, people were trying to appeal to one side of their party or another -- but they then had to bring out new funding streams in order to attract votes to a emergency war supplemental.
And my concern, David, is several. One, Congress shouldn't tell generals how to run the war; Congress should not short-change our military; Congress should not use a emergency war spending measure as a vehicle to put pet spending projects on that have nothing to do with the war.
Secondly, as I mentioned in these remarks, delays beyond mid-April and then into May will affect the readiness of the U.S. military. So my attitude is, enough politics. They need to come back, pass a bill -- if they want to play politics, fine; they continue to do that, I will veto it. But they ought to do it quickly. They ought to get the bill to my desk as quickly as possible, and I'll veto it. And then we can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without withdrawal dates.
It is amazing to me that, one, the United States Senate passed a -- confirmed General Petraeus overwhelmingly, after he testified as to what he thinks is necessary to succeed in Iraq, and then won't fund him. Secondly, we have put 40 percent of the reinforcements in place, and yet people already want to start withdrawing before the mission has had a chance to succeed.
They need to come off their vacation, get a bill to my desk, and if it's got strings and mandates and withdrawals and pork I'll veto it. And then we can get down to the business of getting this thing done. And we can do it quickly. It doesn't have to take a lot of time. And we can get the bill -- get the troops funded, and we go about our business of winning this war.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. On climate change and the decision that was issued yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court, what's your reaction to that decision? And don't you think that this makes some kind of broad caps on greenhouse gas emissions more or less inevitable?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, the decision of the Supreme Court we take very seriously. It's the new law of the land. And secondly, we're taking some time to fully understand the details of the decision. As you know, this decision was focused on emissions that come from automobiles. My attitude is, is that we have laid out a plan that will affect greenhouse gases that come from automobiles by having a mandatory fuel standard that insists upon using 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017, which will reduce our gasoline usage by 20 percent and halt the growth in greenhouse gases that emanate from automobiles. In other words, there is a remedy available for Congress. And I strongly hope that they pass this remedy quickly.
In terms of the broader issue, first of all, I've taken this issue very seriously. I have said that it is a serious problem. I recognize that man is contributing greenhouse gases, that -- but here are the principles by which I think we can get a good deal. One, anything that happens cannot hurt economic growth. And I say that because, one, I care about the working people of the country, but also because, in order to solve the greenhouse gas issue over a longer period of time, it's going to require new technologies, which tend to be expensive. And it's easier to afford expensive technologies if you're prosperous.
Secondly, whatever we do must be in concert with what happens internationally, because we could pass any number of measures that are now being discussed in the Congress, but unless there is an accord with China, China will produce greenhouse gases that will offset anything we do in a brief period of time.
And so those are the principles that will guide our decision-making: How do you encourage new technology? How do you grow the economy? And how do you make sure that China is -- and India are a part of a rational solution?
Let's see here -- how about Bret Bair?
Q Mr. President, thank you. Since General Pace made his comments that got a lot of attention about homosexuality, we haven't heard from you on that issue. Do you, sir, believe that homosexuality is immoral?
THE PRESIDENT: I will not be rendering judgment about individual orientation. I do believe the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is good policy.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: You're standing out there, I can see you.
Q When Congress has linked war funding with a timetable you have argued micromanagement. When they've linked it to unrelated spending, you've argued pork barrel. But now there's talk from Harry Reid and others that if you veto this bill, they may come back and just simply cut off funding. Wouldn't that be a legitimate exercise of a congressional authority, which is the power of the purse?
THE PRESIDENT: The Congress is exercising its legitimate authority as it sees fit right now. I just disagree with their decisions. I think setting an artificial timetable for withdrawal is a significant mistake. It is a -- it sends mixed signals and bad signals to the region, and to the Iraqi citizens.
Listen, the Iraqis are wondering whether or not we're going to stay to help. People in America wonder whether or not they've got the political will to do the hard work -- that's what Plante was asking about. My conversations with President [sic] Maliki, he seems dedicated to doing that. And we will continue to work with him to achieve those objectives. But they're wondering whether or not America is going to keep commitments. And so when they hear withdrawal, and timetables, it, rightly so, sends different kinds of signals.
It's interesting that Harry Reid, Leader Reid spoke out with a different option. Whatever option they choose, I would hope they get home, get a bill, and get it to my desk. And if it has artificial timetables of withdrawal, or if it cuts off funding for troops, or if it tells our generals how to run a war, I'll veto it. And then we can get about the business of giving our troops what they need -- what our generals want them to have, and give our generals the flexibility necessary to achieve the objectives that we set out by reinforcing troops in Iraq.
You know, what's interesting is you don't hear a lot of debate about Washington as to what will happen if there is failure. Again, Plante mentioned that people don't think we can succeed -- in other words, there's no chance of succeeding. That's a part of the debate. But what people also have got to understand, what will happen if we fail. And the way you fail is to leave before the job is done; in other words, just abandon this young democracy -- say we're tired; we'll withdraw from Baghdad and hope there's not chaos.
I believe that if this capital city were to fall into chaos, which is where it was headed prior to reinforcing, that there would be no chance for this young democracy to survive. That's why I made the decision I made. And the reason why I believe it's important to help this young democracy survive is so that the country has a chance to become a stabilizing influence in a dangerous part of the world.
I also understand that if the country -- if the experience were to fail, radicals would be emboldened. People that had been -- that can't stand America would find new ways to recruit. There would be potentially additional resources for them to use at their disposal.
The failure in Iraq would endanger American security. I have told the American people often it is best to defeat them there so we don't have to face them here, fully recognizing that what happens over there can affect the security here. That's one of the major lessons of September the 11th. In that case, there was safe haven found in a failed state, where killers plotted and planned and trained, and came and killed 3,000 of our citizens. And I vowed we weren't going to let that happen again.
Secondly, the way to defeat the ideology that these people believe is through a competing ideology, one based upon liberty and human rights and human dignity. And there are some who, I guess, say that's impossible to happen in the Middle East. I strongly disagree. I know it is hard work. I believe it is necessary work to secure this country in the long run.
Q Mr. President, the conservative newspaper columnist, Robert Novak, recently wrote that in 50 years of covering Washington, he's never seen a President more isolated than you are right now. What do you say to critics like Novak who say that you are more isolated now than Richard Nixon was during Watergate?
THE PRESIDENT: How did he define "isolated"?
Q He said you're isolated primarily from your own party, that Republican leaders on the Hill were privately telling him that, on the Gonzales matter in particular, you're very isolated.
THE PRESIDENT: I think you're going to find that the White House and the Hill are going to work in close collaboration, starting with this supplemental. When I announced that I will veto a bill with -- that withdrew our troops, that set artificial timetables for withdrawal, or micro-managed the war, the Republicans strongly supported that message. I think you'll find us working together on energy. They know what I know, that dependence on oil will affect the long-term national security of the country. We'll work together on No Child Left Behind. We'll work together on immigration reform. We'll work together, most importantly, on budget, to make sure this budget gets balanced without raising taxes.
The other day, the Democrats submitted budgets that raised taxes on the working people, in order to increase the amount of money they have available for spending. That is a place where the Republicans and this President are going to work very closely together. I adamantly oppose tax increases, and so do the majority of members in the United States Congress.
Q Mr. President, good morning. You've talked --
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Good morning, that's a good way to start.
Q You've talked about the consequences of failure in Iraq, and you've said that enemies would follow us home. I wonder, given that, it seems like that's not exactly a ringing endorsement of people who are charged with the responsibility of keeping America safe. So what --
THE PRESIDENT: What was that again, Ed?
Q Well, you say that the enemies would follow us home --
THE PRESIDENT: I will -- that's what they'll do, just like September the 11th. They plotted, planned, and attacked.
Q So I wonder, in your own mind, how does that vision play out? How do they follow us home? Because we've spent so much money and put so much resources into making this country safer.
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, I'm not going to predict to you the methodology they'll use. Just you need to know they want to hit us again. We do everything we can here at the homeland to protect us. That's why I've got a Homeland Security Department. That's why we are inconveniencing air traffickers, to make sure nobody is carrying weapons on airplanes. That's why we need border enforcement, with a comprehensive immigration bill, by the way, to make sure it's easier to enforce the border. I mean, we're doing a lot. That's why we need to make sure our intelligence services coordinate information better.
So we spend a lot of time trying to protect this country. But if they were ever to have safe haven, it would make the efforts much harder. That's my point. We cannot let them have safe haven again. The lesson of September the 11th is, if these killers are able to find safe haven from which to plot, plan and attack, they will do so.
So, Ed, I don't know what methodology they'll use. We're planning for the worst. We cover all fronts. And it's hard to protect a big country like this, and I applaud those who have done a fantastic job of protecting us since September the 11th. But make no mistake about it, there's still an enemy that would like to do us harm. And I believe, whether it be in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or anywhere else, if these enemy are able to find safe haven, it will endanger the lives of our fellow citizens.
I also understand that the best way to defeat them in the long run is to show people in the Middle East, for example, that there is a better alternative to tyrannical societies, to societies that don't meet the hopes and aspirations of the average people; and that is through a society that is based upon the universal concept of liberty.
Iraq is a very important part of securing the homeland, and it's a very important part of helping change the Middle East into a part of the world that will not serve as a threat to the civilized world, to people like -- or to the developed world, to people like -- in the United States.
So thank you all very much for your interest. I hope you have a nice holiday. Appreciate it. END 10:44 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 2, 2007
President Bush Presents the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy to the United States Naval Academy Football Team Rose Garden 2:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the Rose Garden. It seems to me that this is becoming a spring tradition. (Laughter and applause.) For the fourth year in a row, the football team from the Naval Academy is here to receive the Commander-in-Chief Trophy -- the Rose Garden shall be called "the yard." (Applause.)
This year's team was among the Navy's best ever. That says a lot. This is a team that had the most rushing yards in the nation. That says a lot. You had the highest graduation rate of any football team in the country. That says even more. You went 9 and 3, you made it to the bowl game and you beat Army.
I thank you all for coming. I appreciate members of the administration who have joined us: Deputy Secretary of the VA, Gordon Mansfield; Secretary Don Winter, of the Navy; General Pete Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and, I might add, the first Marine to serve in that capacity; Admiral "G," Ed Giambastiani -- that's hard for a Texan to say, but it's not hard to tell you how much I admire Admiral "G" and Pete Pace; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, thank you for coming, Chief; General Jim Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps; and Ellen Moyer, the Mayor of Annapolis. We are glad you all are here and Mayor, thanks for coming.
Vice Admiral Rod Rempt -- Rod, I notice that you gathered up my speech. (Laughter.) Just remember, page three follows page two. (Laughter.) But it's good to have you again.
VICE ADMIRAL REMPT: Sir, it's a pleasure to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Coach Paul Johnson. You talk about a winner, this guy knows how to build winners. And Coach, we're glad you're back. I'm proud to welcome you and your staff. I appreciate very much the members of the football team that have joined us, and I thank all of the Naval Academy supporters who are here.
The Navy's fourth consecutive winning season may not sound like much to people who don't follow football, but it's a remarkable feat considering that the team was 0 and 10 six years ago. They showed up 10 times, they played hard all 10 times, but they won zero times. And here they are, standing in the Rose Garden with the Commander-in-Chief. It says a lot about resilience and a lot about determination, and a lot about correcting past mistakes.
Coach Johnson has put together a really good coaching staff, and I appreciate very much, Coach, you motivating these players toward championship -- toward the championships that you've earned. The season started with three wins in a row, including a blowout over Stanford; you beat Air Force in Colorado Springs; you beat Army by 12 points, the fifth win in a row for the Naval Academy. They tell me that's a pretty big deal.
You earned a spot in the Meineke Car Care Bowl -- Meineke Car Care Bowl. Nevertheless, you played a big-time school: Boston College. Boston College is a football power, and it was a really great game. I watched it. I was impressed by the 322 yards you earned. I know you're disappointed with the one-point loss, but you can't be disappointed with the effort.
I appreciate the fact that your class is the first in school history to win four straight Commander-in-Chief trophies, the first to go 8 and 0 against Army and Air Force, and the first to play in four straight bowl games. That's a lot of firsts.
Your class won 35 games in four years. The only Navy class to win more games graduated in 1909. I don't know whether William Howard Taft welcomed the team in 1909, but I can tell you, the 43rd President is proud to welcome such champions here to the Rose Garden.
One of the reasons your team was so successful this year, of course, is because you had a captain from Texas. (Laughter.) Five different Navy players rushed for more than 100 yards in a game this season. That's more than any other team in the nation. That's called a well-balanced attack.
I appreciate the fact that one of your quarterbacks stepped in for an injured starter, and went on to score four touchdowns in a single game. I would like to say his name, I'll probably bungle it -- I'll just say, the guy is from Hawaii. (Laughter.)
I appreciate the fact that Keenan Little became the first player in Navy history to score defensive touchdowns against Air Force and Army in the same season. I'm proud to be up here with a fellow Texan from Lewisville, Texas -- the mascot of one of the high school teams in Lewisville, believe it or not, is the "Fighting Farmers." (Laughter.) This guy was your fullback, Adam Ballard. He gained 134 yards against Air Force. When he was named MVP, he wisely -- wisely -- gave the credit to his offensive line. Smart move, Adam. (Laughter.)
You know, it's interesting -- how would you like to be the punter on the Navy team who went two full games without showing up on the field? (Laughter.) Veteto -- Greg is his first name, was, like, the punter on the team, and for two games in a row, he was never used. And, yet, I think he didn't mind.
The team had a special leader in Eddie Martin. I don't know if the country knows this, but he was diagnosed with cancer last year. He didn't play any games this year, but he always led the team out of the locker room for every home game. And so, Eddie, I appreciate the inspiration you've provided for your team and for the Academy. I know you're fighting a brave battle, and a lot of people will pray for your full recovery.
When you signed up for the Naval Academy, you signed up for more than playing football. I'm glad Coach Johnson -- I'm sure Coach Johnson was glad that you said, I want to be a football player at the Naval Academy. But you signed up to become officers in the finest military the world has ever known. And my job is to keep it that way, and I will. But you can't have the finest military the world has ever known without men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform, just like you've done.
You volunteered after September the 11th, 2001. That's a remarkable decision you have made. I vowed after September 11, 2001, that I would use the full power of our government to protect the American people from harm. And I meant what I said. And, therefore, anybody who signed up afterwards knew what they were getting into. It's a remarkable country when people make such a noble decision to serve their country in a time of war. And I'm proud to be the Commander-in-Chief of such decent, honorable, sacrificing men and women.
The lessons you have learned on the football field and at the Naval Academy will serve you well on the battlefield. You learned the importance of teamwork and leadership and strong, personal character. And you're going to put those qualities to the highest possible use, and that is to protect the American people and to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.
The Navy and Marine Corps are on the front line of fighting and winning the war against the extremists, radicals, who would do this country harm. Every day we're on the offense against an enemy. My attitude is, I would rather defeat them over there so we do not have to face them here. And the Marine Corps and the Navy are helping to lead that charge.
The sailors and Marines on the high sea are sending a clear message to the world that we stand for strength, and we stand for peace. Former Navy football players have distinguished themselves in the line of duty. Marine First Lieutenant Brian Stann comes to mind, the class of '03. He won the Silver Star.
We also have some of the former Navy football players lose their lives: Ron Winchester of '01, J.P. Blecksmith of the class of '03. Another gave his life in flight over the Pacific, Navy Lieutenant Commander Scott Zellem, the class of '91. The United States of America will not forget their sacrifices. We will complete our missions so that their sacrifices will not have gone in vain.
It is such an honor to welcome such fine men to the Rose Garden. I'm proud to be standing with you. I thank you for your service to our country. I appreciate the fact that you're good football players. But, more importantly, I appreciate the fact that you're good Americans. God bless. (Applause.) END 2:44 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 2, 2007
President Bush Participates in Meeting on Health Savings Accounts The Roosevelt Room 11:24 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: A cornerstone of good health care policy is to make sure that patients and docs are in charge of medical decisions. And therefore, one of the objectives of this administration has been to encourage the expansion of products like health savings accounts. And today I have met with some small business owners, some employees of companies that have provided health savings accounts for them.
And I'm pleased to report that people have come to realize the benefits of health savings accounts, such as, one, health savings accounts are affordable for individuals and small businesses. In other words, if you're a small business owner and you're worried about providing good health care for your employees, you ought to look into a health savings account as a way to provide that benefit to your employees.
Secondly, health savings accounts enable a person to save, tax-free, for medical expenses. By making rational decisions about your life, you'll end up with more money in your health savings account, on a tax-free basis.
And thirdly, that savings account is something you can carry with you from job to job. A lot of people in America change jobs on a regular basis, and they are deeply concerned about whether or not they'll have a health care plan when they change jobs. And the health savings account enables you to carry your money that you've saved on a tax-free basis from one job to the next.
You know, two years ago there was -- about a million of our citizens had health savings accounts. And today, over 5 million people have health savings accounts -- or nearly 5 million people have health savings accounts. It's up -- actually, you can see from the chart the growth -- 4.5 million people. And that's a 43-percent increase from last year to this year, and the number of people that are beginning to realize the benefits of health savings accounts.
And interestingly enough, of those who purchased -- of individuals who purchased health savings accounts, about 25 percent of them were uninsured. In other words, health savings accounts enable someone who is uninsured to realize the benefits of private insurance, and in an affordable way.
I strongly believe that the United States Congress needs to strengthen health savings accounts, just like they need to make sure that the tax code treats every person in America fairly. And that's why I've suggested we change the tax code to enable the small business owner, the self-employed, or the individual worker to be able to have more affordable insurance. There's a lot we can do together to empower the individual in this country to be in charge of his or her health care decisions.
So I want to thank my fellow Americans for joining us. I really appreciate the discussion we had. We've got people from Minnesota and Texas and Georgia and Michigan. These are people who are beginning to realize the benefits of health savings. And I thank you for sharing your information with me. Thank you. END 11:27 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary April 2, 2007
Executive Order: Renaming a National Forest in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1 of the Act of June 4, 1897 (16 U.S.C. 473) and section 1 of the Act of July 1, 1902 (48 U.S.C. 746), and to rename the Caribbean National Forest in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. The Caribbean National Forest in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is hereby renamed the "El Yunque National Forest."
Sec. 2. Previous references to the Caribbean National Forest in Executive Order 7059-A of June 4, 1935, and Executive Order 10992 of February 9, 1962, shall, for all purposes hereafter, be deemed references to the "El Yunque National Forest."
Sec. 3. This order shall be implemented in accordance with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
Sec. 4. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, agencies, entities, officers, employees, or agents thereof, or any other person.
GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE, April 2, 2007.
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For Immediate Release March 31, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. In recent days, the House and Senate each passed emergency war spending bills that undercut our troops in the field. Each of the Democrats' bills would substitute the judgment of politicians in Washington for that of our generals on the ground. Each bill would impose restrictive conditions on our military commanders. Each bill would also set an arbitrary deadline for surrender and withdrawal in Iraq, and I believe that would have disastrous consequences for our safety here at home.
The Democrats loaded up their bills with billions of dollars in domestic spending completely unrelated to the war, including $3.5 million for visitors to tour the Capitol, $6.4 million for the House of Representatives' Salaries and Expenses Account, and $74 million for secure peanut storage. I like peanuts as much as the next guy, but I believe the security of our troops should come before the security of our peanut crop. For all these reasons, that is why I made it clear to the Democrats in Congress, I will veto the bill. Radio Address
Democrats in the House and the Senate also recently passed their annual budget resolutions. Their budgets would raise your taxes and raise government spending in Washington. And their budgets fail to address the most serious challenge to our Nation's fiscal health: the unsustainable growth in entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare.
Overall, the Democrats would raise taxes by a total of nearly $400 billion over the next five years. To put this in perspective, this would be the largest tax increase in our Nation's history, even larger than the tax increase the Democrats passed the last time they controlled Congress.
Let me explain what it will mean for your annual tax bill if the Democrats get their way. If you have children, the Democrats would raise your taxes by $500 for each child. If you're a family of four making $60,000 a year, the Democrats would raise your taxes by more than $1,800. If you're a single mother with two children working to make ends meet, the Democrats would raise your taxes by more than $1,000. If you are a small business owner working to meet a payroll, the Democrats would raise your taxes by almost $4,000. And more than five million low-income Americans who currently pay no income taxes because of our tax relief would once again have to pay. Whether you have a family, work for a living, own a business, or are simply struggling to get by on a low income, the Democrats want to raise your taxes.
The Democrats plan to spend all those extra tax dollars. In the Senate, Democrats have passed a budget that would spend $145 billion more than I have requested over the next five years. In the House, Democrats have passed a budget that would spend even more -- $213 billion above my request.
With their budgets, the Democrats have revealed their true intentions. During the last campaign, Democrats said that under their "pay as you go" approach, they would pay for their new spending. Now we see what they meant by that. The Democrats have chosen a "tax as you go" approach that requires you to cut your spending to pay higher taxes. And Democrats will use these higher taxes to spend more of your money on their special interest projects.
Our Nation cannot afford such reckless taxing and spending. Under my Administration, we have kept your taxes low and restrained government spending in Washington. Now, America's economy is leading the world, with an economic expansion that has produced 42 months of uninterrupted job growth and created more than 7.5 million new jobs. The fastest way to stop this growth in its tracks would be to allow the Democrats in Congress to impose higher taxes on you so they can spend more of your money.
I believe there's a better way to balance our Federal budget. Last month, I sent Congress a plan that would eliminate the Federal deficit in five years, without raising your taxes. In the months ahead, I will work with Republicans and responsible Democrats in Congress to pass a disciplined budget and to stop the Democratic leadership from taking our Nation back to tax-and-spend policies of the past. By setting clear spending priorities and keeping taxes low, we can keep our economy growing, support our troops in the war on terror, and ensure our children and grandchildren inherit a more prosperous and hopeful America.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 31, 2007
Joint Statement on the Occasion of the Visit by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Camp David
Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and George W. Bush resolved to continue deepening the strategic dialogue between Brazil and the United States, as reflected in the determination to increase bilateral cooperation based on the shared values of democracy, human rights, cultural diversity, trade liberalization, multilateralism, environmental protection, defense of international peace and security, and promotion of development with social justice.
The Presidents welcomed the strengthening of the partnership between the two countries in the area of renewable energy with the Memorandum of Understanding to Advance Cooperation on Biofuels, signed in S o Paulo on March 9, 2007. The Presidents noted with satisfaction the results of the meeting on implementation of the Memorandum, held in Washington on March 29. They expressed their governments' intention to arrange for Brazilian scientists and researchers to visit state-of-the-art biofuels research laboratories in the United States, as well as visits to Brazil by senior officials of the United States Departments of Energy, State, and Agriculture in Spring 2007. The United States and Brazil recognized the support of institutions including the IDB, the United Nations Foundation, and the Organization of American States. Brazil and the United States plan to begin efforts to work together, initially, with Haiti, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, and El Salvador, and to pursue consultations with other countries interested in participating in the cooperation program.
The Presidents noted with satisfaction the growth of bilateral trade and investments between the United States and Brazil. They reaffirmed their intention to use the ongoing "Commercial Dialogue" to seek ways to promote innovation and increase trade opportunities, particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as to protect intellectual property rights. The Heads of State noted the formation of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum to engage directly with leaders in the business community to discuss economic and trade-related topics. They applauded plans by United States Council on Competitiveness and Brazilian Competitiveness Movement to stage an "Innovation Summit" in Brasilia in July 2007 to support greater competitiveness and innovation. The Presidents agreed to direct their governments to explore initiatives in the area of tourism, including examining the possibility of increasing flights between Brazil and the United States, with particular attention to Northeast Brazil.
The Presidents applauded the March 20, 2007 signing in Bras lia of an Agreement for the Exchange of Information Relating to Taxes. The Presidents expressed hope that the signing of this Agreement will be the first step toward cooperation between the Brazilian Federal Revenue Secretariat and the Internal Revenue Service. They pledged to redouble ongoing work toward the conclusion of an agreement on double taxation.
The Presidents noted with satisfaction the progress achieved since their November 2005 meeting in Bras lia, including the first-ever convening of the bilateral Joint Commission on Science and Technology on July 21, 2006; and the launch of a Commercial Dialogue between the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Presidents welcomed the strengthened partnership in education through the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding in this area. They applauded the immediate start-up of its implementation with the launch of a program targeting increased professional and technological education in Brazil and bilateral exchange in an effort to include increasing numbers of young people and adults in the labor market.
The Presidents expressed their support for cooperation with African countries. They applauded the trilateral cooperation to strengthen the Legislative Branch of Guinea-Bissau, as established in the March 30 Memorandum of Understanding. The Presidents also discussed the possible broadening of such cooperative efforts to include other interested African countries. The two Presidents announced a specific commitment to cooperate on a plan to eradicate malaria in Sao Tome and Principe. They also agreed to explore cooperation in combating malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected diseases, especially in Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa such as Angola and Mozambique, and to confront the threat of avian flu, building on their cooperation on HIV/AIDS in Mozambique and Angola.
The Presidents recognized that the success of international action in Haiti depends on simultaneous activities to achieve security, political reconciliation, and socioeconomic development. They intend to act within the United Nations framework to increase multilateral cooperation in Haiti and welcomed efforts to identify areas of mutual cooperation in support of stability and economic development in Cite Soleil. They applauded the success of efforts by Brazil and the United States, in cooperation with other countries in the region, to secure United Nations Security Council renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) last February.
The Presidents sought to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the area of public safety, particularly in combating organized crime, drug trafficking, and money laundering, and in preventing terrorism and terrorism financing, with emphasis on information sharing between intelligence units and on the establishment of mechanisms for recovering assets resulting from transnational crimes.
The Heads of State reaffirmed global economic growth and development as the main objectives of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO). They underscored the importance of continuing to constructively engage negotiators, which facilitated the resumption of the negotiations. The Presidents pledged to work together toward a successful conclusion, taking advantage of the window of opportunity opened in 2007. They emphasized that the agreement should be ambitious and balanced, with a view to both an appreciable increase in market access and in global trade flows, and a significant reduction in global poverty rates.
The Presidents reaffirmed the importance of reform of the United Nations to make the organization better able to deal with today's complex international agenda. They further reaffirmed their commitment to coordinate closely on the issue of Security Council reform.
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For Immediate Release March 31, 2007
President Bush Welcomes President Lula of Brazil to Camp David Camp David 4:20 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, welcome to Camp David. Laura and I are delighted you're here. This is a special spot for Laura and me, and it was my honor to welcome you to this part of America. You come as a friend, we welcome you as a friend, and our discussions were very friendly.
We talked about a lot of areas of mutual concern. We talked about what I would call mutual opportunities. We talked about, of course, trade. Brazil and America trade a lot. Perhaps the most compelling part of the opportunity to work together is for the Doha Round. It's in the U.S. interest that we complete the Doha Round successfully. It is in -- I think it's in Brazil's interest -- at least that's the way the President has told me. I don't want to put words in his mouth. But it is in our interest to work together to make sure that we have a deal that treats Brazil fairly, the United States fairly, as well as other nations fairly.
I strongly believe that the best way to help alleviate world poverty is through trade. And so we had yet another constructive dialogue. We had a good dialogue there in S o Paulo, and here at Camp David we had, as well. Interestingly enough, we announced the creation of a U.S.-Brazil CEO forum. It's a opportunity for people in our respective countries to get to know each other better and to strengthen economic ties, as well as social ties.
We talked about biofuels. I can remember very well, Mr. President, going to the Petrobas plant. It's an amazing facility. It was exciting for me to see the realities of your biofuels industry firsthand. I'm a big believer in alternative fuels. There's a whole new industry here in the United States beginning to spring up. And I told the President that not only are we committed domestically to promoting a alternative fuel industry, we're committed to working with Brazil. And that's why we support the President's initiative on the international biofuels forum, as well as the initiative that we talked about in S o Paulo, and signed a memorandum of understanding, and that is to help nations in our own hemisphere realize the benefits of ethanol and biodiesel.
I appreciate the President's very strong commitment to democracy. I also appreciate his very strong commitment to help nations, particularly on the continent of Africa. And one of the really exciting initiatives that we will work together on is an initiative to eradicate malaria in S o Tom and Pr ncipe, two opportunities for Brazil and the United States to work together to improve somebody's life. There is no excuse for malaria to continuing to kill as many people as it does.
Our great nations can work together to stop that death. There is a reasonable plan in place. It's a plan that I'm confident can achieve great success, and it makes a lot of sense for Brazil and the United States to work toward that plan.
As I said in S o Paulo, Mr. President, I appreciate very much your leadership on Haiti. I appreciate the fact that you've led the U.N. Stabilization Force. We want to, of course, make sure that your efforts to bring security are followed up by opportunity for the people of Haiti. We don't want your forces to be there to simply stabilize, we want your force to leave -- be a part of a constructive future, which is precisely your vision. And we want to work with you very closely to achieve that end.
We spent a lot of time talking about other parts of the world. And that's what you would expect when the United States and Brazil sit at the same table. Brazil is an influential nation, and it's an important nation. And I really do appreciate so very much your -- sharing your strategic thoughts about not only our own neighborhood, but other parts of the world.
And so, Mr. President, it's with great pleasure that I welcome you here. I'm looking forward to giving you a tour of Camp David. We've been spending too much time doing business; now we need to do a little pleasure. And after this press conference, you and I will take a little tour, and then I'll feed you a meal, if you're hungry.
PRESIDENT LULA: (As translated.) Your Excellency, Mr. George W. Bush, the President of the United States; Madam First Lady Laura Bush; Madam Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Ambassador Celso Amorim, and other ministers from Brazil; ladies and gentlemen; members of the Brazilian delegation and the U.S. delegation; newspaper representatives, press representatives. First of all, I would like to thank President Bush for the invitation. My visit to Camp David made it possible for us to cope with issues of global, regional, and bilateral interest.
I believe that the 21st century will be marked by changes that we will have to undertake, and also for the improvement of the things that we did right in the 20th century. We don't have anymore the Cold War amongst us. We don't experience anymore the bipolarity that affected our lives during half a century. And so now we should try to do in the 21st century, make it the century of inclusion of those that are disenfranchised in the 20th century. And I am talking about the less developed countries in Latin America, of South America, of Africa and of Asia.
And we also have a subject matter that we have to cope in the 21st century that we did not cope well in the 20th century, and that could pervade our relations for the next years. That is the issue of climate change that affects the planet Earth. Twenty years ago, when we were warned about the problems that we were causing to the world, we used to put the blame on those that were making this warning. We criticized them. We said that they weren't responsible. And we criticized sometimes minority groups that went to the streets with their banners and flags, advocating for environmental preservation.
Now has come the time for all the countries in the world to take very seriously climate change and environmental issues. Why so? Because humanity faces one of the major risks in its history. Global warming is a reality that threatens us by land, by the air, and by the water, a dilemma that ironically embraces all of us, no matter where in the planet Earth. The issue is frightening and very concrete, and a problem of today. But its solution is still feasible. And part of the solution is in our reach.
We have talked already about this twice. We have talked about biofuels, and about our determination in deepening the cooperation in this sector. The memorandum of understanding that was signed in S o Paulo is the basis of an ambitious partnership that will make it possible for us to confront the major challenges of this century that is now beginning: First of all, the resolution of the energy crisis that affects almost all countries in the world; secondly, the environment protection threatened by the global warming of the planet; and finally, poverty relief and social exclusion with the creation of new jobs and expanding the workers' income for the poorest workers of the world.
We intend to send our scientists and experts from Brazil to research centers in the U.S., and vice versa. We will create a fund with the support of international agencies, so that we can finance the cooperation with the most needy and interest [sic] countries. We're also committed to the strengthening of the international biofuel forum. I invited the United States to participate in an international conference on the issue that Brazil will host in the year 2008.
The concern with the environment is growing in Brazil and in the world, and above all, especially after the latest reports from the U.N. Panel on Climate Change. The stimulus for sustainable production of biofuels is a decisive part of this endeavor to resolve this issue. The biofuels offer equally a unique opportunity for the energy democratization of the world to diversify sources of production. We also have obtained good results in different areas.
It's important to say to President Bush, here in Camp David, in his residence, that, for me, the biofuel issue is almost like an obsession. I don't know why, but we already have talked about -- or heard about biofuels since 1925. Already was mentioned biodiesel in 1943 in Brazil. Nevertheless, since we didn't have the dimension, the scope of the evils that oil could cause, or any other kind of energy matrix to the world -- because also oil was very cheap in those days -- this was not taken forward by any country, neither by the automobile industry of any country. And now we are facing a period, a moment, where this new energy matrix can make the world more independent.
It can make the world creating more wealth, because the experience that we have in Brazil is that for each worker that works in a biodiesel plant, it is necessary 1,000 workers in the countryside, which means that we can create millions of jobs for the less developed countries in the world that was not foreseen in any paper that was signed by us in the 20th century.
In Brazil, in the last four years, we managed to reduce the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest 52 percent. More than two million hectares have been saved. Please pay attention. And carbon gas emissions have been reduced in more than 400 tons, emissions to the atmosphere. And we know that the rainforests are amongst the great victims of climate change. In the negotiations on the Convention on Climate Change, we proposed financial incentives to reduce carbon gas emissions per ton, resulting in further reductions of deforestation. We expect that our proposal would have the support of international community, and obviously, especially and mainly from the U.S.
We first can establish a partnership either for promoting biofuels, and also in fighting the investigation of the global warming, and of deforestation itself with full respect to the sovereignty of each country.
Brazil has the largest and most important biodiversity on the planet. We have the consciousness of the value that this natural asset represents for our country and for the world. Brazil, with 383 million hectares of arable land has the capacity to reconcile food production, biofuel production and the defense of our forests. Our well-known commitment to fight hunger does not allow us that any activity would cause damage to the food production. I should say, and President Bush knows very well, and also know, and I believe that all rulers are aware that the world hunger does not result from a lack of food. Rather, it has more to do with the -- (inaudible) -- distribution of income and the lack of political will.
Talking with President Bush about the concern of my government to fight hunger and poverty, I mentioned our concern with the Doha Round of the WTO. It is central in our struggle against poverty. And I leave Camp David with the certainty that I've never seen in all the previous conversations that I had with President Bush, or with Madam Condoleezza Rice, I never have left a meeting between us with so much optimism as I am this way, that I believe we're getting closer than we have ever been before to reach an agreement during the Doha Round of the WTO.
We are trying to conclude with success these trade negotiations. We have urgency in reach, and ambitious and balanced agreements. The continuation of agriculture subsidies makes food more expensive and does not stimulate its production in the less developed countries. Without eliminating subsidies, the opportunity of development represented by biofuels would be lost. And with that, the possibility of the improvement of living conditions of hundreds of millions of lives of men and women.
So that's why it's necessary to eliminate the trade barriers to ethanol, so that we can really reach a true energy commodity. I dream that, at the most, 15 to 20 years from now, that the world will surrender to the biofuels. So those that believe in that, they start to invest today and now, because if they leave it for the future, they're going to lag behind and they're going to lose the train, and possibly they will be lagging behind in the history of modernization.
Dear friends, naturally, I have spoken with President Bush about the Brazilian concern on the limited progress of the U.N. reform. This is where we have more divergence. But in politics, if there's no divergence, if it's not interesting to work with politics, to being politics [sic], but I really wanted, truly, to say to President Bush what was Brazil's view. And President Bush told me what his vision was.
And we reached a conclusion, and certainly it's not an agreement yet, that the U.N. reform still will have to undertake other reforms that we have to undertake within the U.N. itself so that we can guarantee the U.N. Security Council reform. Since I only have 61 years of age, and I have another four years of my term, I am convinced that it won't take a long time for us to see this council changed and the U.N. reformed. I know that it is a highly complex issue. But we cannot postpone it anymore. I am certain that the dialogue between our countries will contribute to forward the issue in a much more faster and appropriate way.
We also talked about other issues on the international agenda, as the situation in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon. And maybe many of you don't know, and I told President Bush that, that in Brazil, we have a community of more than 10 million inhabitants of Lebanese and Syrian ancestry. And so that's why we have been trying to attend all the fora that deal with this issue. And within our possibilities, we try to cooperate to rebuild Lebanon.
We also have tried to help the construction of a viable Palestinian state while, at the same time, respect Israel's right to exist.
Ladies and gentlemen, we approached important issues in our regional agenda, and I told to President Bush that we have to do more for Haiti. And, in this case, it's interesting to remember that we have reached already agreements not only to work together with Haiti, and work together with the Dominican Republic, and work together in countries like Sno Tom and Pr ncipe in Africa, and in Guinea-Bissau in Africa. And if these experiments are successful, these joint partnerships, this joint work, I believe that we'll have much more room for us to build other projects between the U.S. and Brazil, so that we can help third party countries.
We also agreed that the cooperation with biofuels in Haiti could be decisive to that country. It's not suffice to be the armed forces from Brazil, Chile, Argentina in Haiti, leading the stabilization mission of the U.N. We need to guarantee democracy in Haiti, governance. It's necessary to guarantee their security, but if we don't have development and jobs, all of that will disappear very quickly.
I also told President Bush that Brazil invests firmly in South American integration. I should say, President Bush, this is another thing that I pursued since the first year of my term. If we want to guarantee democracy in South America, if we want to guarantee South American development, if we want to guarantee the strengthening of institutions in South America, we have to have the consciousness that fiscal integration is a basic addition for the development of the region. And maybe, who knows, the United States can be a partner of Brazil and of other countries in South America in the fiscal integration that we so much are in need.
And we understand that this is what will guarantee development for the region and will guarantee democracy, and so will open the opportunities that we did not have years ago for us to develop ourselves.
We are obtaining extraordinary advances vis-a-vis integration, expanding trade and making all the infrastructure work that we can develop. The bottom line is that we're getting closer ties to our people that were very much far away from each other in the past. And so now we're getting closer. And so that's why I invited President Bush from the United States to become a partner in this integration process and building the fiscal integration of our continent.
I also mentioned to President Bush an important role that United States can play with South American countries that are living in special situations, especially those that need trade preferences. It is extremely important for the U.S. to support these countries that need these trade preferences. We need to support them because this will guarantee the regional stability that is the interest to Brazil and all the countries in South America, and certainly this is the interest of the U.S., too.
Together, we can provide aid to those countries that are still needy, especially in Africa. I have already mentioned the agreement that we signed with Guinea-Bissau and for Sno Tom and Pr ncipe.
The challenge, President Bush, in the world of today, in trade, in security, in the environment and fighting poverty are immense. To resolve these issues, there is only one way; it is through dialogue, with a frank and mutually respectful dialogue. That's the only way. With this objective, I have been saying to President Bush that I am willing to gather with him as many times as necessary, and with all the heads of government around the world, as many times would be necessary so that we can, in the 21st century, arouse a little bit of hope in part of the poorest population in the planet. We have in our hands and our reach the power to do so. We will not do it if we don't wish to do so.
So that's why before we answer questions from the press with President Bush, I would like to convey to President Bush that, of all the meetings that I participated, meetings with American government, this was the meeting that was the most productive one. If someone asked me, what are you taking back to Brazil, I would say, nothing, I'm not taking back anything to Brazil; but certainly, the agreements that we have signed today, the agreements that we can still sign from here onwards, can guarantee in a definite way that the relations between U.S. and Brazil, not only is necessary, but it is strategic so that we can consolidate a new development model, a new trade policy, and, above all, a new way to cope with the very serious, severe issues that affect the planet.
So, for all that, thank you very much.
Q The Attorney General's chief of staff testified that Gonzales knew more about the U.S. attorney firings than he let on. How can the American people have confidence in an Attorney General who isn't completely forthright? How long does he have to repair the damage, and can the damage be repaired?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Attorney General Gonzales is an honorable and honest man, and he has my full confidence. He is providing documents for Congress to find the truth. He will testify in front of Congress, and he will tell the truth.
The U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the United States President. I named them to four-year terms. They served their four-year terms. And I appreciate their service. I'm sorry that this -- these hearings and all this stuff have besmirched their reputation. That was certainly not the intent of anybody in this administration. But I will remind you, there is no credible evidence that there has been any wrongdoing.
Q The goodwill between you gentlemen is very evident. President Lula, it is also evident the effort to advance with the Doha Round. If the Doha Round has not reached success, Brazil, does it have a B plan?
President Bush, what is the impediment, or what would be the impediment for the United States to have a bilateral agreement on trade with Brazil?
PRESIDENT LULA: Well, I have said to all the heads of state in government that I have been in contact: to President Bush, to Tony Blair, and to Chancellor Angela Merkel, to Prime Minister Prodi, and to President Chirac -- with all I have been talking to, I have said that the Doha Round is not important only for Brazil, it's not important only for the United States, it's important so that we can guarantee hope around the world, and especially the certainty that we will have more peace in the world.
Brazil is a competitive country in agriculture. Brazil, today, 50 percent of its exports are semi-industrialized goods. And so we do have competitiveness conditions. President Bush knows, and I know, and I believe that all the leaders know, that when we talk about agreements at the WTO, we are making -- endeavor at the Doha Round -- we are working especially so that the less developed countries could have an opportunity, a chance. Of course, we can improve our relations when Brazil makes decisions about industrialized products, or in the service industry. Of course, we could improve when the United States takes a position about what kind of subsidy will be reduced, or the European Union could say, if they're going to accept or not agricultural goods -- reduce the subsidy so that the markets of the less developed countries could have market access to Europe.
If we don't reach an agreement, Brazil will continue to follow the path that it's followed: working, producing more, and selling, and also buying. But certainly, those that will suffer more will be those that don't even have the opportunity to participate in the meetings that other countries have the power to do so.
I have made these appeals, and I believe that that's why I said, leaving here, leaving Camp David, I'm leaving here very satisfied because this was an extraordinary and productive meeting, because I heard the intention of the American government on this issue. Our is -- we have full willingness, and I believe that if we work together, the U.S. and Brazil, to try to convince our European partners, I believe that we can reach an agreement.
And I believe that, in this case, there's no B plan; either we have the A plan, or there's no agreement. And if there's no agreement, certainly we will not have winners or losers -- everybody will lose. Everybody will lose. The rich, because they will be liable for what will happen in a poorest [sic] world.
PRESIDENT BUSH: All our trade discussions have centered on completing Doha. It's the only discussions I've had with the President. I've been asked about Plan B's before, on different subjects. And that kind of means you're willing to retreat. I'm a Plan A man, just like the President is. Let's get the job done.
And for the United States, we're willing to reduce our agricultural subsidies in a substantial way. We understand. On the other hand, we expect our goods and services -- whether they be agricultural goods or manufactured goods -- and services to be given access to markets. The interesting thing is, is that Brazil is a strong exporter, and it's in Brazil's interest that their goods and services be -- have access to markets, as well.
This is a difficult negotiation because there's a variety of interests. And step one is -- to be successful in these complex negotiations, is there a genuine desire to succeed. In other words, are people just showing up for the sake of showing up, or are people actually coming to the table with a genuine desire to succeed? I assured the President again that the United States has a genuine desire to succeed in these talks. I do, because I believe that, one, I think the world has a tendency at times to become isolationist and protectionist. In other words, that movement, that isolationist movement can become prevalent. And if that were to happen, it would make the world a lot more unstable, and it would make the world more poor.
I'm going to repeat what I told you earlier: Ours is a very compassionate nation. We deeply care about the human condition around the world. And I firmly believe that the best way to alleviate world poverty is through trade. That's what I believe. It's not the only way, but it is the best start -- let me put it to you that way -- coupled with health initiatives that we're working on, food initiatives that the President described. But if you're generally [sic] interested in eliminating poverty -- and I am -- commerce, trade, opportunity and hope will all flourish with the completion of the Doha Round.
So we are seriously involved. Now, what we won't do is accept a unilateral deal. And the President has never asked us to do that, that's not his intention. His intention is we want to work together to make sure all are treated fairly. I certainly hope that's the case with the rest of our potential trading partners and our negotiating partners, that they don't expect the United States to carry the entire load in making sure the agreement moves forward.
So we strategized together. Our ministers will talk a lot. Ambassador Schwab stayed behind in S o Paulo to converse with her counterparts. There is a lot of work going on. And I believe there's a good chance we can complete the round.
And so, therefore, your Plan B will be irrelevant, I hope.
Q Mr. President, the Iranian hostage crisis has just entered its 9th day. Would the British be within their rights to consider a military option if the crisis drags on? And would the U.S. have considered it an act of war if it had been U.S. sailors and Marines who had been taken? And would you consider trading the five Iranians who were captured in Irbil back in January if it would help resolve the crisis?
And, Mr. President, did you see eye-to-eye with the President on global warming? Would you say that you two agree that global warming is a problem? Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me start with global warming. One reason you promote alternative fuels is to be better stewards of the environment. Many of the greenhouse gases come from tailpipes of automobiles. And therefore, when you get away from gasoline and start using ethanol or biofuels, you make a significant step toward improving environment -- just to make sure I'm on the record here.
The Iranian issue is a serious issue. It's serious because -- the British hostages issue is a serious issue because the Iranians took these people out of Iraqi water. And it's inexcusable behavior. And I strongly support the Blair government's attempts to resolve this peacefully. And I support the Prime Minister when he made it clear there were no quid pro quos. The Iranians must give back the hostages. They're innocent, they were doing nothing, and they were summarily plucked out of water. And it is -- as I say, it's inexcusable behavior.
PRESIDENT LULA: Well, I believe that we are in agreement in relationship to the policies that we have to undertake so that we should be more careful and take better care of the environment. And on the climate change issues discussions, we have common interests. What happens is that -- to know the timing and what to do. Now, in the case of Brazil, we already have 25 percent of ethanol, or better to say, 23 percent of ethanol blended, or as a blender, in gasoline for a long time. Now we have a flex-fuel engine, a car moved by flex-fuel engine that can use 100 percent of gas or 100 percent of ethanol or 50 percent of alcohol, 50 percent of ethanol as blended.
So this is the road where we start to de-pollute. And then it's not only the ethanol issue or the biofuel issue. There is also the electrical hydro-power plants. We also have to have the responsibility to build thermal plants based on coal, moved by coal. And so it's essential that the company should invest more in reducing gas emissions.
So the fact of the matter is the following: that the climate change issue today is a severe disease. There's no social sector that it doesn't reach. It will reach all the planet as a whole. There's no way for us to escape. So we have not managed yet to reach Mars, and the moon is not a proper place for us to live. So either we take care of planet Earth very carefully, as we take care of our sons, or all of us will regret that in the future. And although, those already my age -- I'm with 61 years of age, but I have grandsons, and I want to have grand-grandsons, and so I want them to have the pride that their grandfather helped to build a better world, better than I received from my father.
So I believe that all of us will reach an agreement that it's necessary and very much so the responsibility and liability in the discussions on climate issues than we have had up until today. The evil is facing us -- and we see the evil and we feel the evil, but there's no way that we can turn our back to that.
Q The American government last week manifested a lot of concern with the investments of some foreign companies in the oil industry in Iran. And this week, the American Ambassador in Brazil made it very clear that this concern also extends to Petrobas investments, that Petrobas considers strategic. So I'd like to ask President Lula if in his assessment, Petrobas should continue to make businesses with Iran, or should get away from Iran, like the United States would like us all to do?
So, and I would like to ask President Bush, why does the United States want Petrobas to be out of Iran if the country has fulfilled all its sanctions that was passed by the U.N.?
PRESIDENT LULA: Well, I am convinced that Petrobas will continue to invest in oil prospecting in Iran. Iran has been an important trade partner for Brazil. They buy from us more than $1 billion, and they almost sell anything to us. So I'm an advocate that trade, fair trade is the trade that you buy and sell -- you sell and buy. You can't just sell.
And then there's also political issues in each country. Each country faces their own domestic issues. But up until now, Iran has not been a victim of any sanction that was proposed by the U.N. I know that there's political divergence on this between Iran and other countries, but with Brazil, we have no political divergence with them, so we will continue to work together with Iran on what is of the interest of Brazil. I don't see any major issue to do it in a different way.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Every nation makes the decisions that they think is best in their interest. Brazil is a sovereign nation; he just articulated a sovereign decision. And as you mentioned, the trade that you were discussing was not in violation of any U.N. -- in any U.N. mandate.
Our position is that we would hope that nations would be very careful in dealing with Iran, particularly since Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and a major threat to world peace is if the Iranians had a nuclear weapon. And that is why there are sanctions imposed at the United Nations as a result of collaboration between the United States, EU, China and Russia, to make it clear to the Iranian regime that there is a better way forward other than isolation.
We have no problems with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, the United States highly respects the people of Iran. We respect the history of Iran, we respect the rich traditions of Iran. We, however, are deeply concerned about an Iranian government that is in violation of international accords in their attempt to develop a nuclear weapon. And therefore, whatever comments you hear reflect that concern. And we will continue to work with the international community to say that it is in the world's interest that Iran not develop a weapon. It is in the interest of peace that they not develop a weapon.
And I'm hopeful that the people of Iran will be tired of the isolation. I would hope that there would be some rationality amongst their leaders in choosing a better way forward for the people. They're depriving their people of a lot of opportunity.
Now, having said that, the United States does believe that it's in our interest that we have people-to-people exchanges. As I say, we have no problem with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, we just sent a wrestling team to Iran, all attempting to make it clear to the Iranian people that we're interested in having a constructive relationship, and it is the decisions of their government that are preventing that from happening. Thank you. END 5:04 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 30, 2007
President Bush Visits Troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Walter Reed Army Medical Center Washington, D.C. 2:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you all for joining me. Every time I come to Walter Reed my spirits are lifted. They're first lifted by the soldiers and Marines who are recovering from some very tough wounds. I had the honor of pinning the Purple Heart on quite a few people today, and I am always impressed by their resolve and their commitment to the country. Every time I come to Walter Reed, I'm also impressed by the care givers -- the docs, the nurses, the people who spend many hours trying to heal those who have been wounded in service to our country.
The soldiers and Marines stay here only for a few months, but the compassion they receive here stays with them for a lifetime. And so on behalf of a grateful nation, I do want to thank our docs and our nurses and care givers for providing extraordinary health care to the people who wear the uniform. I know full well that the work you do is behind the scenes. In other words, you don't get a lot of glory for what you do. But you certainly do from the family members, who first come here and they see their loved one on a bed, wondering whether or not that person will ever walk again. And then, six months later, the body is returning and the spirit is strong, the person is up and moving around -- the family and the soldier is impressed by that care.
Americans must understand that the problems recently uncovered at Walter Reed were not the problems of medical care. The quality of care at this fantastic facility is great. And it needs to remain that way. Independent analysis have given extremely high marks for the quality of care here. In other words, this isn't my assessment, nor is it the assessment of people I have talked to -- the families -- although that's what they believe. It is also the assessment of a joint commission, which accredits thousands of American hospitals. And this commission has given Walter Reed the highest possible rating, a gold seal of approval.
Recently, the commission performed a surprise inspection -- they didn't give a bunch of notice, they showed up and verified the high quality of care here. I want to congratulate you for what you're doing. (Applause.)
The problems at Walter Reed were caused by bureaucratic and administrative failures. The system failed you, and it failed our troops. And we're going to fix it.
I met some of the soldiers who had been housed in Building 18. I was disturbed by their accounts of what went wrong. It is not right to have someone volunteer to wear our uniform and not get the best possible care. I apologize for what they went through, and we're going to fix the problem.
And that's exactly what this government is going to do. We're not going to be satisfied until everybody gets the kind of care that their folks and families expect. And that's what I expect. And we've taken important steps to achieve the objective.
First, Secretary Gates has insisted on accountability in the military command. He made changes in leadership. He made tough decisions, because he, like me, demands results. I welcome General Schoomaker. But I also welcome General Tucker. Tucker is not a doc. As General Schoomaker informed me, he is a bureaucracy buster. His job is to make sure that the bureaucracy does not get in the way of making sure every soldier, Marine, and their families get the best possible care. And I welcome you to the command, and thank you.
Secretary Gates, as I said, has approved a non-medical deputy commander -- that's Tucker. Building 18 has been closed. We're fixing that which needs to be fixed, including, interestingly enough, putting a new roof on it. The patients from Building 18 have been transferred into Abrams Hall, and I'm pleased to report that living conditions there are of high quality.
We have formed three working groups to help address problems that may exist and may arise. I want to share some of what the -- the strategy behind the working groups is, and that is, first, Gates established -- Secretary Gates established an independent review group, and that was primarily to examine the conditions at Walter Reed and Bethesda. The group will recommend ways to ensure you have what you need to improve medical care.
I heard one recommendation, in other words, one of the care providers said, make sure we always have the best possible equipment, we want to be on the leading edge of technology, not the trailing edge. I agree completely. Those are the kinds of things that Secretary Gates's commission is going to be looking into.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Nicholson is leading a task force of Cabinet officers to identify potential gaps in the services our wounded troops receive as they return from the battlefield. In other words, we want all hands on deck here at the federal level to make sure that health care is as good as it possibly can be. I'm not talking about the health care in the operating room; I'm talking about the bureaucracies that may prevent good health care from being delivered.
Finally, Bob Dole and Donna Shalala will chair a bipartisan presidential commission on care for our wounded warriors. They will conduct a comprehensive view of the entire system for providing physical and emotional care to servicemen and women injured in this war. They will make sure that that person gets high-quality care from the time they suffer their wounds through their return to civilian life.
We want to make sure, for example, that any transfer from the Defense Department to the Veterans Affairs Department is smooth, and that there's not bureaucratic delay or obstacles in the way of making sure that we can report to our fellow citizens that people are getting the best possible health care.
I want to thank those who are working in these groups, and I'm looking forward to getting their recommendations, because I want to make sure our military families can be assured that their loved ones will get the very best.
This military system of ours, when you really think about it, just across the country, it's very complex and it's large. Yet there's nothing complex about what we owe our troops; we owe them the best. That's what you believe here at Walter Reed. I have seen the care and dedication that you give on a daily basis. I just came from the therapy rooms, the physical therapy and the vocational therapy rooms. I see people patiently working with a wounded soldier on how to pick up cards and play cards with their new prosthesis. It's just hours of help all because the people here recognize each human being matters, each person counts, and each person has endless possibilities, even though they may have received terrible wounds on the battlefield.
None of the problems that we have uncovered can overshadow the great work you do here. That's what you have to know. It's a special calling to serve those who serve our country. It requires a unique person to come here on a daily basis, and to heal the hurts of those who served our country.
And so our nation is grateful, and I'm proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 2:22 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 29, 2007
President Bush Participates in Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring the Tuskegee Airmen United States Capitol 2:23 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you. Madam Speaker, Mr. Leader, members of Congress, Secretary Powell, distinguished guests: You know, the Speaker and I had the honor of having our picture taken with you, and as I walked into the rotunda, a place that occasionally I get invited up here and I walk into, I was impressed by the fact that I wasn't amongst heroes who were statues. I was impressed that I was amongst heroes who still live. (Applause.) I thank you for the honor you have brought to our country. And the medal you're about to receive means our country honors you, and rightly so.
I want to thank Senator Carl Levin and Sergeant Rangel. (Laughter.) Excuse me, Mr. Chairman. (Applause.) I thank you for your leadership on this issue. I have a strong interest in World War II airmen. I was raised by one. He flew with a group of brave young men who endured difficult times in the defense of our country. Yet for all they sacrificed and all they lost, in a way, they were very fortunate, because they never had the burden of having their every mission, their every success, their every failure viewed through the color of their skin. Nobody told them they were a credit to their race. Nobody refused to return their salutes. Nobody expected them to bear the daily humiliations while wearing the uniform of their country.
It was different for the men in this room. When America entered World War II, it might have been easy for them to do little for our country. After all, the country didn't do much for them. Even the Nazis asked why African American men would fight for a country that treated them so unfairly. Yet the Tuskegee airmen were eager to join up.
You know, I'm interested in the story about a young man who was so worried that the Army might change its mind about allowing him to fly, that he drove immediately to the train station. He left his car, as well as $1,000 worth of photography equipment. He never saw his car, he never saw his camera, but he became a flyer.
These men in our presence felt a special sense of urgency. They were fighting two wars: One was in Europe, and the other took place in the hearts and minds of our citizens. That's why we're here. The white commander of the Tuskegee airfield was once asked -- with all seriousness -- how do African Americans fly? -- reflecting the ignorance of the times, they said, how do African Americans fly? He said, "Oh, they fly just like everybody else flies -- stick and rudder." Soon, Americans in their kitchens and living rooms were reading the headlines. You probably didn't realize it at the time, but you were making headlines at home, headlines that spoke about daring pilots winning a common battle.
And little by little, every victory at war was translated to a victory here in the United States. And we're in the presence of men who are earning those victories, important victories, leaders who pierced the unquestioned prejudices of a different society. You gave African Americans a sense of pride and possibility.
You saw that pride and awe, I'm sure you remember, in the faces of young children who came up to you right after the war and tugged and your uniforms and said, "Mister, can you really fly an airplane?" Some of you have been in Germany and Iraq, and you still see that sense of pride.
I appreciate your going. I appreciate the fact that one of our young soldiers today took pictures for -- of you for a scrapbook for his children. I appreciate the fact that one of our soldiers today said, "It's not often that you get a chance to meet the guys who have paved the path for you." (Applause.)
The Tuskegee Airmen helped win a war, and you helped change our nation for the better. Yours is the story of the human spirit, and it ends like all great stories do -- with wisdom and lessons and hope for tomorrow. And the medal that we confer today means that we're doing a small part to ensure that your story will be told and honored for generations to come. (Applause.)
And I would like to offer a gesture to help atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities. And so, on behalf of the office I hold, and a country that honors you, I salute you for the service to the United States of America. (Applause.)
(The Congressional Gold Medal is conferred.) (Applause.) END 2:34 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 29, 2007
President Bush Discusses the Budget and the Emergency Supplemental North Portico 10:28 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank the Republican leadership and the Republican members of Congress for coming down to have a very frank and open discussion about issues facing our country. Yesterday I gave a speech, making it clear that I'll veto a bill that restricts our commanders on the ground in Iraq, a bill that doesn't fund our troops, a bill that's got too much spending on it. I made that clear to the members.
We stand united in saying loud and clear that when we've got a troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded; and we've got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders; and that we expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people's money.
We spent time talking today about our strong belief that we've got to keep taxes low. And so we had a very productive session, a session of friends talking amongst friends, all aiming to put a strategy together of how we can work together to secure this nation and keep it prosperous. And so I appreciate you all coming. You're welcome back at the White House any time you want to join us.
Thank you very much. (Applause.) END 10:30 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 28, 2007
President Bush Discusses Economy, War on Terror During Remarks to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Holiday Inn on the Hill Washington, D.C. 10:13 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for having me. (Applause.) Thank you, please be seated. Not a bad introduction by a cowboy. (Laughter.) Thanks for having me. Welcome to Washington. I'm glad to be with you. I was telling Laura this morning, I'm really looking forward to going over to talk to the nation's cattlemen. I appreciate being with people who understand the importance of faith, family, hard work, good values. I like to remind people, every day is Earth Day if you make a living off the land. (Applause.) It's good to be with fellow conservationists.
I'm going to talk a little bit about two big priorities: one, how to keep this economy strong so people can make a living; and secondly, how this country needs to stay resolved and firm in protecting the security of our country. (Applause.) And I appreciate you giving me a chance to come over and visit.
I do want to thank John Queen. I want to thank the Board of Directors. Thanks for being here and making your voices heard. You can influence the debate in Washington. And this is a town where people do listen to other people's voices. I've got a few suggestions for you when you go up to Capitol Hill. (Laughter.) But before I give them, I do want to recognize Senator Craig Thomas from the state of Wyoming, and Marilyn Musgrave from Colorado. Appreciate you both being here. (Applause.)
Let me talk about how to keep this economy growing. You know, one of the main jobs of government is to create the conditions for economic growth. A main job of government is not to try to create wealth. The fundamental question we've got to ask here in Washington is, what do we need to do to encourage investment and risk-takers, and to encourage entrepreneurship? And I believe the heart of good economic policy is keeping people's taxes low. (Applause.)
The reason I say that is there's a fundamental debate in Washington, when you really get down to it, and the debate is who best to spend your money. And I believe a cattleman can spend their money better than the government can. Now, obviously, we need some amount of money here, and that's called setting priorities. But beyond that, the best way to keep this economy growing is to let you keep more of your own tax money. The tax cuts we passed are working.
You know, when you cut the individual tax rates, you affect farmers and ranchers. Many farmers and ranchers are Sub-chapter S corporations, or limited partnerships, or sole proprietorships, which means you pay tax at the individual income tax level. And if you're worried about a vibrant agricultural economy, it makes sense to let those who work the land keep more of their own money so they can invest, so they can make the necessary changes so that their businesses can remain vibrant.
I say the tax cuts work. Since we enacted major tax reform in 2003, in response to recession and a terrorist attack, this economy of ours has created more than 7 million jobs, new jobs, and it's expanded 13 percent. The tax cuts are working, and the United States Congress needs to make those tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
One of the taxes that concerns you a lot, I know, is the death tax. It should. You get taxed while you're living and then you get taxed after you die. It's double taxation at its worst. We put the death tax on the road to extinction. Notice I didn't say it is going to be extinct. Under current law, it will come back into effect in 2011, which puts people in an awkward position in 2010. (Laughter.)
I really believe Congress needs to pay attention to the effects of the death tax on our farmers and ranchers. If people are concerned about keeping land in the hands of the family rancher, the best way to do so is to get rid of the death tax for those who ranch the land, once and for all. (Applause.)
When you're working the halls of Congress, I hope you work hard on the death tax issue. There's no excuse not to get rid of it. Now, you'll hear people say, we don't want to give tax relief to the billionaires. Okay, fine. But let's put a bill on the President's desk that respects the ranchers of the United States of America, and the farmers, and the small business owners, and I'll sign it. (Applause.)
To keep the economy growing, we've got to be wise about our budgets. Now, what you'll hear here in Washington is, we've got to raise your taxes in order to balance the budget. That's not the way Washington, D.C. works. They will raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend your money. All I do is ask you to look at the budget that the Senate just recently passed. You know, we changed hands here in Washington in the Senate and the House, and the new leadership there in the Senate passed a new budget which raises taxes so they can increase spending, and the House is looking at the same type of approach.
I have a different view. My attitude is, keep the taxes low so the economy grows to generate more tax revenues, and don't overspend; to set priorities with the people's money, not try to be all things to all people. And so I submitted a budget to the House and the Senate that balances the budget in five years without raising one dime on the working people of the United States of America. (Applause.)
I'm looking forward to working with you on a farm bill that's good and decent and fair. I just put up a -- submitted some ideas through our Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns. I want to remind you in the bill we submitted to Congress we asked for a $17-billion increase in conservation spending over a 10-year period. That's an increase over the last farm bill. That includes money for CRP, and a 30-percent increase for equip. (Applause.) Plus $1.75 billion on water conservation programs. I think this is a wise use of our money.
I'm interested in a farm bill that enhances conservation, that recognizes the contribution our ranchers make, that is fair, that is reform oriented, and helps us compete in the global marketplace. I appreciate your efforts to work on a good farm bill. I'm looking forward to working with you on it.
Finally, to keep the economy growing, we ought to open up markets for U.S. goods and services. If you're interested in economic vitality and growth, the way to encourage that growth is to find new markets for U.S. products. And I want to spend a little time talking about trade today.
Last year, the United States exported $1.4 trillion worth of goods and services. That makes us the largest exporter in the world. To me, that says, is that when we have opportunities that are fair, we produce the kinds of goods and services people want to buy. Every time we break down a barrier to trade, it makes it more likely somebody who's raising a cow will have an opportunity to sell that cow into a better market.
Free trade lowers consumer prices. In other words, when you open up trade, it's good for consumers. Trade is good for people working. I don't know if you realize this or not, but jobs exported by -- supported by exports pay wages that are 13 to 18 percent higher than the average. If you manufacture a good that is sold overseas, you're making more money that somebody who's not exporting. Isn't that an interesting fact?
I happen to believe competition is good. I believe competition brings out the best in everybody. So I don't mind competition, so long as the playing rules are fair. My attitude on trade is, you treat us the way we treat you, and then let's compete. America is 5 percent of the world's population, which means 95 percent of the rest of the world are potential customers for things that we grow or manufacture.
I think it's good business to open up trade agreements. When I came into office we only had trade agreements with three nations; now we have 11 of them in force, and more on the way. The countries that America has free trade agreements with represent 7 percent of the world's GDP, yet they account for 43 percent of our exports. The reason I bring this up to you is there's a lot of room for expansion when it comes to trade. There's a lot of opportunity.
And so this administration is committed to open up markets. And there's a vital vote getting ready to come up in front of the -- up to the Congress, and that is agreements that we have cut with Peru, Colombia and Panama. I believe these are important markets for you, and important markets for U.S. goods and services. Congress needs to make sure that they send an affirmative message when it comes to trade on these three agreements.
Now, trade obviously creates issues. We end up with disputes and opportunities for people to make mischief when it comes to trade, people to use excuses for not opening up markets. And we went through one of those periods with you all, and that is with the BSE issue. BSE was discovered in 2003, and we worked with our cattle folks aggressively to address the issue, to prevent further introduction and spread of the disease. In other words, there was a proactive effort by government and the cattle raisers to address the issue.
In the last three years, we've conducted over 800,000 tests to assess the health of our cattle herds. Thanks to these and other science-based measures, we've helped the farmers and ranchers manage any possible BSE risk in the cattle population. And today, because of our collaborative efforts and a strong scientific approach to deal with BSE, we can say to global consumers with complete assurance, American beef is safe and it is good to eat. (Applause.)
And the word is getting out. In 2006, exports of beef and beef products totaled more than $2 billion. That's nearly a 50-percent increase from 2005. It's not at the levels we want, but there has been some improvement in sales. And that's important for you. The more markets there are that are open for your product, the easier it's going to be for you to make a living. And I understand that, and it's important for Congress to understand that, as well.
Today, more than 100 countries have fully or partially opened their markets to U.S. beef. The objective of this administration, however, is to make sure that they're better than partially opened, they're fully opened, including the countries like Japan and Korea. We're also working to open up markets that have still got a ban on our imports. In other words, this is an important part of our foreign policy. When I'm talking to leaders and they've got an issue with American beef, it's on the agenda. I say, if you want to get the attention of the American people in a positive way, you open up your markets to U.S. beef. People understand that when it comes to being treated fairly in the world marketplace. (Applause.)
We got an opportunity to expand further -- open up further markets by expanding trade through the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization. It gives us a chance to level the playing field. It gives us a chance so that I can say to our cattle raisers and others that, you'll be treated fairly. Now, you got to compete; you got to grow some product that somebody wants. But you should be treated fairly. The rules will treat you fairly. That's all you can expect.
And so I want you to know that we're going to work hard to bring Doha to a successful conclusion. It's hard work. This weekend the President of Brazil is coming to see me, and we'll be talking about how we can work together to open up markets, and at the same time, address their concerns about our farm issues.
The only way that we can complete Doha and make headway on other trade agreements, however, is for Congress to extend trade promotion authority. This authority allows the President to negotiate complicated trade deals, and then send them to the United States Congress for an up or down vote on the whole agreement. Presidents of both parties have considered this a incredibly important tool for completing trade agreements. In other words, our trade partners have got to say, if that's the deal we negotiate, that's the one that somebody is going to have to vote up or down on. You can't negotiate a deal in fairness with the United States if you think it's going to be changed on the floor of the Congress. So the up or down vote is important to get, and that's what you get when you get trade promotion authority.
And yet, this authority will expire on July the 1st unless Congress acts. And I want to thank the National Cattlemen's Beef Association for joining with the administration and other organizations in urging the Congress to renew trade promotion authority. (Applause.)
There's going to be a vigorous debate about trade in Congress, and I thank you for engaging in that debate. And you know, trashing trade will make a good sound byte on the evening news. But walling off America from the rest of the world would harm this economy, and it would harm our cattle raisers. The road to protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline. So I urge Congress to reject protectionism and to keep this economy open to tremendous opportunities that the world has to offer for our ranchers and farmers and entrepreneurs.
Just as our prosperity depends on rejecting economic isolationism, so, too, our security depends on rejecting calls for America to abandon its leadership in this world.
September the 11th is an important moment in this country's history. It's a sad moment. But it should serve as a wake-up call to the realities of the world in which we live. On September the 11th, we saw problems originating in a failed state some 7,000 miles away that affected how we live. See, September the 11th was not only a day we were attacked, it is a day that our country must never forget, and the lessons of that day must never be forgot, that what happens overseas matters here at home. It may be tempting to say, oh, just let it run its natural course. But for me, allowing the world to run its natural course, which could lead to more violence and hatred, would end up reducing the security of the United States, not enhancing the security. And our biggest job in America, the biggest job of this government, is to protect you from harm.
I think about it every day, and so do a lot of other good, decent citizens of this country. The best way to protect this country is to defeat the enemy overseas so we don't have to face them here at home. (Applause.) And for the long-term peace and security of this country, we must advance an ideology that stands in stark contrast to the ideology of the killers. The best way to secure this homeland is to stay on the offense, and in the meantime, encourage the spread of liberty as an alternative to tyranny.
And it's hard work, but it is necessary work. We went into Afghanistan, and we did so to remove a vicious tyranny that had harbored terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks on our country. Our message was, if you provide safe haven, if you provide comfort to an enemy, you're just as guilty as the enemy. And so, along with allies, we captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters; we closed down their training camps; we helped the people of Afghanistan replace the Taliban regime with a democratic government. And it's in our nation's long-term interests that we help the people of Afghanistan survive the threats and onslaughts by people who want to reinstate tyranny.
And then we went into Iraq. And we removed the dictator who was a threat to the United States and to the world. And now we're undertaking the difficult and dangerous work of helping the Iraqi people establish a functioning democracy that can protect their own people and serve as an ally in this global war against those who would do America harm.
In 2005 -- I want you to remember -- in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections. Oh, it seems like a decade ago, doesn't it? And yet in the march of history, it's not all that long ago that the Iraqi people showed up at the election box, after having lived under the thumb of a brutal and murderous tyrant, to express their will about the future of their country. They chose a transitional government. They adopted the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world. And then they elected a government underneath that constitution. Despite the endless threats from killers, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote, in a show of hope and solidarity that the United States should never forget.
A thinking enemy watched all this. See, there are some who can't stand the thought of a free society emerging in their midst. And this enemy escalated attacks. Al Qaeda is very active in Iraq. And they and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam, the Golden Mosque of Samarra. Why did they do that? They did that to provoke retaliation. They did that to cause people to take up -- arm themselves. And they succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom have received support from Iran, increased their support of death squads, and then the situation began to escalate.
And so I had a choice to make. Last fall, I looked at the facts, I consulted with a lot of folks in Congress, and our military commanders. And my choice really boiled down to this: Do we withdraw our troops and let violence spiral out of control, let this young democracy fail, or do I send reinforcements to help the Iraqis quell the violence and secure their capital? In other words, do we give them breathing space to get on the path of reconciliation so that this young democracy could survive?
Well, I weighed the options, and the military commanders and I concluded that the consequences of withdrawal would be disastrous for the United States of America. And let me tell you why. If we were to step back from Baghdad before it was more secure, before the government could secure its own capital, it would leave a security vacuum. And into that vacuum could quickly come Sunni and Shia extremists, bolstered by outside forces. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country, and in time, the violence of these emboldened extremists could affect the entire region. The terrorists could emerge from chaos -- see, they benefit when the situation is chaotic -- with new safe havens to replace the one they had lost in Afghanistan.
There's no doubt in my mind that their intention is to try to strike us again, and they need the resources and the safe haven to do so. If we were to abandon this young democracy to chaos, it would embolden these extremists. It would enable them to be able to recruit more. It would give them new resources from which to plot and plan. I believe the consequences of failure in Iraq affect the security of the United States of America, and that's why I made the decision I made. (Applause.)
And so instead of retreating, we reinforced -- troops led by a capable commander named General David Petraeus. The Iraqi government saw our firm support, and they're now beginning to carry out an aggressive plan to secure their nation's capital. And the plan is still in the beginning stages. I mean, General Petraeus had been on the ground just for about two months. Only half of the reinforcements that he needs have arrived. And he says it's going to be early June before all the troops that are dedicated to the operation are even in place. In other words, I've sent reinforcements into Baghdad with a new commander, with a plan to help the Iraqis secure the plan, a plan that we believe will be successful. He's been there for about two months. Half the troops that he needs have arrived.
And, look, I recognize it's going to require a sustained, determined effort to succeed; I know that. And there are some early signs that are encouraging. For example, the Iraqi leader has appointed a commander for Baghdad who is working closely with our generals. The last of the nine Iraqi surge battalions arrived in the Iraqi capital. In other words, they said, we're going to commit troops to this plan to secure the capital, and they're delivering. Iraqis are showing up. Iraqi leaders have lifted restrictions that once prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into areas like Sadr City. You've been reading about Sadr City; well, my attitude is, murderers are murderers, and they ought to be brought to justice. And so any political restrictions preventing our people are being lifted. Iraqis are in the lead, we're helping them.
We're now setting up checkpoints across Baghdad. When I say "we," that is the Iraqis, with American help. They're hardening perimeters around markets and areas that have been targets for these spectacular attacks, all aimed at shaking the confidence of the American people and shaking the confidence of the Iraqi people. We've got joint security stations throughout the Iraqi capital. In the past, we would clear an area, and then we'd go home, and then the insurgents or killers would move back in. Now we've got a strategy of clear, hold -- that's what that means -- and then using money to help reconstruct Iraq. By the way, most of the money is coming from the Iraqis -- he's put out a $10 billion reconstruction budget. That's what we expect. A government of and by the people should be spending the people's money to help rebuild their country.
American forces are now deployed 24 hours in these neighborhoods, and guess what's happening. The Iraqi people are beginning to gain confidence. Support from the Iraqi people can be measured by the tips our people get. In other words, people saying, so-and-so is over here; a cache of weapons over there. And we're using the tips to aggressively pursue. We've launched successful operations against Shia extremists. We've captured hundreds of fighters that are spreading sectarian violence. In other words, we're after killers. We're after -- we don't say, this religious group, or this religious group. We're saying, if you're trying to destabilize this young democracy, the Iraqis, with coalition help, are coming after you.
Last week, we captured a Shia extremist leader and his associates who were implicated in the kidnaping and murder of five U.S. soldiers in Karbala. Last month, American and Iraqi forces uncovered more than 400 weapons caches. We're conducting dozens and dozens of operations on a daily basis throughout that country, with the Iraqi forces.
See, ultimately, the Iraqis are going to have to defend themselves. Ultimately, it is their responsibility. That's what the 12 million people who voted want. We just need to give them some breathing space so they can gain their confidence and have the capabilities necessary to protect this country.
We're destroying bomb factories. Just last week, we captured the head of the al Qaeda bomb network, responsible for some of the most horrific bombings in Baghdad. It's interesting, I mentioned al Qaeda; al Qaeda wants us to fail in Iraq. This is what their leaders have clearly said, and they're willing to kill innocent women and children to achieve their objectives.
The missions I described are only the opening salvos in what is going to be a sustained effort. Yet, the Iraqi people are beginning to say -- see positive changes. I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we've got here -- (laughter) -- "Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve."
I want to read something that Army Sergeant Major Chris Nadeau says -- the guy is on his second tour in Iraq. He says, "I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm a soldier. The facts are the facts. Things are getting better, we're picking up momentum."
These are hopeful signs, and that's positive. Yet at the very moment that General Petraeus's strategy is beginning to show signs of success, the Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed an emergency war spending bill that undercuts him and the troops under his command. This bill would damage our effort in Iraq three ways. First, the House bill would impose restrictions on our commanders in Iraq, as well as rigid conditions and arbitrary deadlines on the Iraqi government. It would mandate a precipitous withdrawal of American forces, if every one of these conditions is not met by a date certain. Even if they are met, the bill would still require that most American forces begin retreating from Iraq by March 1st of next year, regardless of conditions on the ground.
It's unclear what the military significance of this date is. What is clear is that the consequences of imposing such a specific and random date for withdrawal would be disastrous. If the House bill becomes law, our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars. They'd spend the months ahead picking how to use their new -- plotting how to use their new safe havens once we were to leave. It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C. to be dictating arbitrary time lines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away. (Applause.)
I want to read to you what a major newspaper editorial page said -- and by the way, this editorial page, like, generally not singing my praises -- (laughter) -- "Imagine if Dwight Eisenhower had been forced to adhere to a congressional war plan in scheduling the Normandy landings -- or if, in 1863, President Lincoln had been forced by Congress to conclude the Civil War the following year. This is the worst kind of congressional meddling in military strategy." (Applause.)
Second, the House bill also undermines the Iraqi government, and contradicts the Democrats' claim that they simply want to help the Iraqis solve their own problems. For example, the House bill would cut funding for the Iraqi security forces if Iraqi leaders did not meet arbitrary deadlines.
The Democrats cannot have it both ways. They can't say that the Iraqis must do more, and then take away the funds that will help them do so. Iraq is a young democracy. It is fighting for its survival in a region that is vital to our security. The lesson of September the 11th must not be forgot. To cut off support for the security forces would put our own security at risk.
Third, the House bill would add billions of dollars in domestic spending that is completely unrelated to the war. For example, the bill includes $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers. These may be emergencies, they may be problems, but they can be addressed in the normal course of business. They don't need to be added on to a bill that's supporting our troops. There's $6.4 million for the House of Representatives' salaries and expense accounts. I don't know what that is -- (laughter) -- but it is not related to the war and protecting the United States of America. (Applause.)
This week the Senate is considering a version that is no better. The Senate bill sets an arbitrary date for withdrawal. It also undermines the Iraqi government's ability to take more responsibility for their own country by cutting funds for Iraqi reconstruction and law enforcement. And just like their colleagues in the House, Senate Democrats have loaded their bill with special interest spending.
The bill includes $40 million for tree assistance. You know, all these matters may be important matters. They don't need to be loaded on to a bill that is an emergency spending bill for our troops. There's $3.5 million for visitors to tour the Capitol and see for themselves how Congress works. (Laughter.) I'm not kidding you. (Laughter.)
Here's the bottom line: The House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders, and an artificial timetable for withdrawal. (Applause.) And I have made it clear for weeks, if either version comes to my desk, I'm going to veto it. (Applause.) It is also clear from the strong opposition in both houses that my veto would be sustained. Yet Congress continues to pursue these bills, and as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements, and start providing vital funds for our troops. They need to get that bill to my desk so I can sign it into law.
Now, some of them believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely. That's not going to happen. If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible. (Applause.) Our troops in Iraq deserve the full support of the Congress and the full support of this nation. (Applause.)
I know when you see somebody in the uniform, you praise them, and I thank you for that. We need to praise those military families, too, that are strong, standing by their loved one in this mighty struggle to defend this country. They risk their lives to fight a brutal and determined enemy, an enemy that has no respect for human life.
We saw that brutality in a recent attack. Just two weeks ago, terrorists in Baghdad put two children in the back of an explosive-laden car, and they used them to get the car past a security checkpoint. And once through, the terrorists fled the vehicle and detonated the car with the children inside. Some call this civil war; others call it emergency [sic] -- I call it pure evil. And that evil that uses children in a terrorist attack in Iraq is the same evil that inspired and rejoiced in the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. And that evil must be defeated overseas, so we don't have to face them here again. (Applause.)
If we cannot muster the resolve to defeat this evil in Iraq, America will have lost its moral purpose in the world, and we will endanger our citizens, because if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here. Prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy. Four years after this war began, the nature of the fight has changed, but this is a fight that can be won. We can have confidence in the outcome, because this nation has done this kind of work before.
You know, following World War II, after we fought bitter enemies, we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan and Germany and stood with them as they built their representative governments. We committed years and resources to this cause. And the effort has been repaid many times over in three generations of friendship and peace. After the Korean War, had you predicted that Korea would have been a major trading partner in the world, or Japan would have been a major trading partner and vibrant economy, or China would be developing an open market, and the Far East would be relatively peaceful, they'd have called you a hopeless idealist. And yet, because of America's presence and influence, the Far East has emerged as I've described it.
The stakes are high in the efforts we're undertaking in Iraq. It's a part of a long ideological struggle against those who spread hatred, and lack of hope, and lack of opportunity. But I believe, with patience and resolve we will succeed. The efforts we're undertaking today will affect a generation of Americans who are coming up in our society.
You know, it's important for you to understand that the Iraqi people want to live in freedom and peace. I believe strongly in the universality of liberty. I believe people want to be free, and if given a chance, they will take the risks necessary to be free. And that's what's happened in Iraq. We see the desire for liberty in Iraqi soldiers who risk their lives every day. We see the desire in the shopkeepers and civic leaders who are working to reform their neighborhoods. We see it in the desire of Iraq moms an dads who want the same thing for their children that we want for our children.
If we stand by the Iraqi people today and help them develop their young Iraqi-style democracy, they're going to be able to take responsibility for their own security. And when that day comes, our forces can come home, and that we will leave behind a stable country that can serve as an example for others, and be an ally in this global struggle against those who would do us harm.
It's tough work, but it's necessary work -- work the United States has done before, and work the United States will complete now.
God bless you. (Applause.) END 10:56 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 28, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino White House Conference Center Briefing Room 12:45 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. I'll start with an opening statement, and then I'll take your questions. As you heard the President today, he talked about, in his speech to the Cattlemen's Association, the Iraqi war supplemental. Today Senator Reid responded to the President by saying, "We should get real with what's going on with the world." Let me just take a moment to step back and talk about where we are in the world.
On March 8th, the President said -- we said that the President would veto any bill that tied a timetable or restrictions to the supplemental. So the Democrats have known for 20 days, nearly three weeks, that their current bill would never become law. Yet they continued down their current path. A week ago, they heard from the Secretary of Defense that if the emergency funding isn't provided by April 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so will their families. Yet they continued down their current path, and they cobbled together votes by adding extraneous spending and domestic spending for such things as the spinach, peanut, and shrimp lobbies.
So they continued down that path. And let me remind you that two months ago, the National Intelligence Estimate, released on February 2nd, predicted that withdrawing coalition forces from Iraq within the next 12 to 18 months would not solve Iraq's problems, but would, in fact, lead to catastrophe.
Democrats in Congress must take responsibility for their votes and their statements, and stop trying to have it both ways. It is completely disingenuous to stand up and highlight the intelligence community's judgment about conditions on the ground in Iraq one month, as Senator Reid did, but then vote for the precise action that the same experts say would make the situation catastrophic the next. It is also disingenuous to praise the Iraq Study Group's report in December, but now support an artificial timetable for withdrawal.
Secretary Baker, himself, says General Petraeus and our new strategy "ought to be given a chance." And the Iraq Study Group said of withdrawal, "the point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose." Have Democrats decided to reject the judgment of our intelligence community, the Baker-Hamilton report, and our military experts? If not, then they need to stop undermining the early progress we are seeing in Iraq, so that they can sound tough without having to take responsibility for their actions.
Q On this Iraq spending bill, does the President really think that majority votes by both houses of Congress requires no give on his part?
MS. PERINO: Well, that's -- first, let's step back and talk about that majority, which was a bare majority of 50 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House, which were cobbled together in order to twist arms and buy votes using domestic spending from all the different lobbies that I mentioned, plus other ones -- tropical fish -- I forgot to throw that one in there.
So if we start there, and say that is not, in any way, representative of large majorities in either side. Of course, the President understands that there needs to be give-and-take between Congress and the White House when we're talking about any type of legislation. But they've known for three weeks what the President's position is regarding arbitrary timetables for withdrawal, and that is what he said he would veto.
Q Dana, just to follow up on that, then, perhaps a little clarity -- if a bill were to come back stripped of spinach, peanut, shrimp, tropical fish, anything else, if it came back stripped entirely of pork, but had timetables in there, would they still get a veto?
MS. PERINO: I think the President said that if there are arbitrary timetables for withdrawal that would tie the hands of our commanders on the ground, then, yes, he said he would veto it.
Q So he doesn't want to be out before 2008?
MS. PERINO: The President would like to see troops home as soon as possible --
Q We know all that business.
MS. PERINO: -- but the President does not want to tie the generals' hands on the ground. I'll tell you, the framers of our Constitution had it right when they realized that you needed to have one Commander-in-Chief in charge of the war, not 535 generals on Capitol Hill.
Q The President emphasized al Qaeda in Iraq, and if they don't -- we'll fight them there. Before the war, he indicated -- he not only indicated, he said that there were no ties with Saddam. Is he responsible for bringing al Qaeda into Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I don't think the President is responsible -- no, absolutely not. Al Qaeda went to Iraq --
Q Absolutely not?
MS. PERINO: You just have to go back to Zarqawi, and how he set up shop there in Iraq, and started fomenting the sectarian violence, and he was successful --
Q And he doesn't think our moves brought them in?
MS. PERINO: -- and we're having to fight that now.
Q This morning you said that if the funds stop for the troops in Iraq, that will be the fault of the Democrats, not the President. But in point of fact, it would be the President who is denying this funding from going through. So does the President really want to halt funds to our troops?
MS. PERINO: Surely there can be no excuse for the Democrats trying to pin the blame on the President. What he has said --
Q But it's not -- it's the mechanical way this works. It would literally be the President who's stopping this. Is he comfortable being the person stopping the funding?
MS. PERINO: The President has said he is going to -- if this bill comes to him in this form and it ties the generals' hands and does not allow them the flexibility that they need, that tells General Petraeus, we really like you, General Petraeus, we really trust in you, we really want you to complete your mission, but we think it's going to fail, then, yes, the President would veto it.
And I think that if -- it's really disingenuous to try to have it both ways. If the Democrats want to end this war and they want to cut off funding, then they should go ahead and do that. But that's not what they've done. They've made -- had this charade going for three weeks, they knew the President was going to veto the bill. We've given them substantial warning and information, and we've been talking to them about all of our reasons. And so this cannot be laid at the President's feet. This will be the fault of the Democrats.
Q In his speech today, the President also quoted from a blogger in Iraq as an example of positive developments there, people who see positive developments. Is this really representative of what's going on in Iraq, one blogger? Is this what the White House is relying on?
MS. PERINO: No, Jessica, you have to look at all the different inputs that are coming in, and General Petraeus's reports, and from the commanders on the ground, and your own colleagues' reporting over there. We know that there are real challenges. Obviously, real challenges remain. We have lots of violence. But I think what the President was doing was taking an opportunity to talk about what one person's expression is. But that doesn't mean that there aren't other people having that same expression. Certainly nobody can deny what General Petraeus has been saying and reporting.*
Q Dana, Nancy Pelosi said she wishes the President would just take a deep breath. Any response to that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think I would go back to the same thing, which is that -- she also said that each of us -- meaning the Congress and the White House -- has a constitutional role, and that is true. And the founders of our country realized that the Commander-in-Chief needed to be the one having the power to conduct the war, not 535 generals on Capitol Hill. And so I think that maybe Washington could take a collective deep breath, but the President has been clearly and calmly explaining that he would veto this bill if it came to him in this format.
Q You don't feel he's overheated --
MS. PERINO: No, I don't.
Q Democrats say they're reflecting the prevailing opinion of the American people, and the polls seem to bear them out. What's wrong with doing that?
MS. PERINO: We understand that people want the troops to come home. It's absolutely clear. We know that war is not popular, it hasn't been, and this war has not been going well, which is why the President had to have the Iraq review that he did last fall, that culminated in the new way forward that he announced on January 10th.
I don't think that the American people want our troops to not have the funds that they need when they're in harm's way. I don't think the American people want the generals' hands to be tied behind their backs. I don't think that they want to mandate failure and legislate failure, which is what these bills would do.
Q Dana, back on the issue of the bloggers, the unnamed Iraqi bloggers that the President cited and tried to use to help make his argument for progress in Iraq -- this is an administration that doesn't respond to anonymous quotes in established media outlets here in the United States. The President is citing these anonymous -- two anonymous Iraqi bloggers to help make the argument --
MS. PERINO: It's one input from many different inputs that are coming in regarding progress on the ground.
Q Isn't that a little ironic, though?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think it is. You guys call me with anonymous quotes that you want me to respond to all of the time, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I do. I have before.
Q But as a tactic, for him to be -- is there something that prompted that specific --
MS. PERINO: I'll look into the -- I think that maybe somebody found it compelling, the President wanted to include it in his speech. And I'll see if I can get more for you on it, but I don't think it's unusual. Blogs are new for all of us, and I know that you all look at them, because then you call me and ask me what we think about the blogs.
Q Dana, two questions. One, is it your contention that there is not support for a cutoff date in Congress, that the Democrats essentially bought this with the additional spending?
MS. PERINO: I think that there's no doubt that they had to go out and get this extra domestic spending in order for them to get the bare majorities that they got.
Q Second, Senator Levin seems to recognize that the bills will not pass -- or will not be signed into law by the President. But he says, the votes that Congress has conducted serve to put pressure on the Iraqi government to live up to its benchmarks, and that helps the President. Do you dispute that?
MS. PERINO: No, I -- remember, we believe in benchmarks, and we worked with the Iraqi government on benchmarks. Two examples that we've been talking about are the oil law and the de-Baathification law. Progress is very slow. It takes a long time to get something done. But, imagine -- I can't remember the exact date, but one of the timetables and benchmarks that they tied this funding to up on Capitol Hill is that they have to have the oil law passed and finalized by a certain date, three months from now. I can't imagine Congress being able to finalize any type of legislation -- our Congress, our fully-functioning Congress that's been in place over 200 years, being able to complete anything in three months. They couldn't even pass a budget last year. These things are complicated. We do want the Iraqis to be able to reach consensus and it is a slow-moving progress, but progress, nonetheless.
Q Not so much the date that Congress has set, the pressure on the U.S. President serves notice to the Iraqis, Senator Levin is saying --
MS. PERINO: I think that everyone feels the pressure and is fully incentivized in order to get the situation stabilized in Iraq. I think you would have to ask no one -- all of the Iraqis, especially the ones in the government, understand the tremendous pressure that they're under, how their citizens are living in fear and how they need to get their services back up, in order -- I mean, there's no one more incentivized than the Iraqis.
Q Dana, the President -- given the current congressional schedule, the soonest that they could get to conference on this, if they stick to their current schedule, would be the 16th of April, which is a day after Secretary Gates and other people have said that the money will start running out. Would the President like to see Congress stay, cut their recess short, in order to resolve this?
MS. PERINO: Look, that's going to be up to members of Congress. The President has said that he'll be here, he'll be in Washington and is willing to work. We have that one Easter break, but we'll be back by the 9th. And we think that if Congress wants to work these things out that they can do that.
I do think it's very real -- and the people -- Senator McConnell, this morning, had an op-ed in which he said that,"The only ones directly affected in the short-term by this action would be the American soldiers in Iraq and their families here at home. By forcing a presidential veto and delaying the shipment of supplies, they're the ones who lose." And so I think that Congress ought to take that into consideration.
Q Has he expressed this to the leaders on either side?
MS. PERINO: Yes, the President has talked about how he would veto the bill.
Q But his willingness to stay and work through the recess?
MS. PERINO: The President is going to be here. So it's up to them.
Q He could sign and then they'd have the support --
MS. PERINO: I haven't heard any of that, and that will be up to Congress. But what the President has said is, let's get this over with. You've made your political statements; send the bill up here, the President will veto it, and then we can get about the business of negotiating.
Q But he wouldn't use his power to call them back, would he? Or would he?
MS. PERINO: That's a hypothetical that I have not even -- I didn't even know he could. I think I kind of knew he could, back from civics class. But we'll have to check into it and see. But I haven't heard anybody talking about that.
Q -- then you're holding out --
MS. PERINO: I'm not holding anything out there. You are. But I will check into it. (Laughter.)
Q Dana, what's the administration's policy over the years of holding out sweeteners for help on funding and special projects, to get votes from members of Congress on issues that it wants?
MS. PERINO: I know that there have probably been bills in which those -- when you work with members of Congress, you have to talk those things through. I don't know about emergency war supplementals, and I would have -- I'll check into it for you. But I think that this one is separate and apart.
Q Another question. What happened to the Sam Fox nomination?
MS. PERINO: Sam Fox nomination? Let me -- I've got a couple notes on that. As you saw, we sent up a withdrawal for Sam Fox's nomination. The President believes that Mr. Fox is qualified to serve as ambassador to Belgium. He has a proven record of leadership and a strong willingness to serve our country. He has a long list of accomplishments, including one of them being named the St. Louis Citizen of the Year.
Unfortunately, we received word that because of politics, some members of the Senate would have voted against his nomination, which would have prevented him from serving in this important position. So we are disappointed that they made their decision based upon partisan politics instead of his leadership abilities, and that's why we withdrew the nomination.
Q The votes weren't there because of his $50,000 contribution to the Swift Boat group?
MS. PERINO: I don't know what all the reasons were in terms of individual members making that decision. But we do think that he was qualified to serve, but we have withdrawn his nomination.
Q Do you think that his involvement with the Swift Boat group should be an issue, or should have been an issue?
MS. PERINO: I think that you look at his -- no, I don't think it is, and I think that -- but, of course, members of Congress can make their own decisions. Senators can look at any nominee and weigh that decision. I think that weighed -- if you look at that he was Chairman and CEO of the Harbour Group, Limited, served in key leadership roles in cultural, education and charitable institutions in St. Louis, on and on -- and again, St. Louis Citizen of the Year. And so I think that senators have to make their own decisions, but obviously this is a person who's qualified to serve as ambassador.
Q Did the White House know about his contribution before they nominated him?
MS. PERINO: There's no -- I don't believe so. But I know that the President did not when he nominated him.
Q Would that have had an effect?
MS. PERINO: I don't know.
Q On this topic, did senators threaten to put holds --
MS. PERINO: I don't know. I do know that his nomination would not have passed today if the vote had been called up.
Q And why not let the vote go ahead?
MS. PERINO: We just decided to withdraw his name.
Q On the speech today, on these bloggers, does the White House know the identity, or is this just something someone came across --
MS. PERINO: Can I check? I don't know, I'll have to check. It was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article at some point. I think I let some of you know that this morning.
Q And just now the White House came upon them?
MS. PERINO: I'm not sure. I don't know if somebody saw it initially. I don't know. We can try to check into it. We keep records on that.
Q Dana --
MS. PERINO: Goyal, can I go to the back real quick and come back to you?
MS. PERINO: Okay. Victoria.
Q Yesterday, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller said, again -- he admitted to mistakes, carelessness, confusion, lack of training, lack of guidance, and lack of adequate oversight. Is it time for the President to ask for his resignation and regain the trust of the American people in the FBI?
MS. PERINO: The President has confidence in FBI Director Mueller. He went up to the Senate, he answered all of their questions, he took responsibility as the Director. And I think that that was the appropriate thing to do. He also talked about all the measures that they've put in place in order to start addressing some of the issues that were brought up in those IG investigations.
Q There was also talk among the senators and the Director about the possibility of some kind of MI-5 organization that, just basically, the FBI has too much on its plate and that they can't take it on. What does the administration think about that?
MS. PERINO: I think that those are ideas that are floating out there, but I don't know of anyone seriously considering --
Q Does the President have a view?
MS. PERINO: I've never talked to him about it. I don't know. I think that he believes that the FBI is doing a great job in protecting this country, and I think the facts bear that out.
Q Would the President veto a supplemental bill strictly over a withdrawal date that is not legally binding?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to negotiate from this podium. Of course, we're going to have conversations with Congress, and the President has been clear that arbitrary timetables that put handcuffs on our generals and tie funding to conditions on the ground that don't match the conditions on the ground is what he would be against.
Q A follow-up on that. If the war effort were to literally start running out of money, doesn't the President have some emergency spending powers akin to what goes on here when there's a government shutdown? Have you been looking into that?
MS. PERINO: I'd have to refer you to Department of Defense. I'm not -- or we can look into it and try to get back to you. I don't know. What I do know is that the President has listened to Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who has said that as of April 15th, the money is going to start running out.
Let me go to April, and then I'll go to you, Les.
Q On that subject, basically both sides are standing toe-to-toe, looking eye-to-eye. No one is blinking. Is the President prepared to allow the troops not to be funded after April 15th? Because he continually talks about the need for flexibility, the need to fund them for what they need on the ground.
MS. PERINO: The President -- we stand ready. We have open lines of communication with Capitol Hill. You can bet that we're in constant communication. You know that the members have been down -- both sides of the aisle have been down to talk with the President, and members of our staff are up there talking to them, and I'm sure there are phone calls going back and forth.
Q Is there any way the President will bend on all of this pork and allow some to stay in?
MS. PERINO: Again, I'm not going to negotiate from this podium, or talk about any specific negotiations that would be ongoing. But we're going to be talking to Capitol Hill that we need the money for the troops.
Q So, basically, the President is not going to blink?
MS. PERINO: We'll be talking with members of Congress.
Q Yes. Thank you, Dana. Two questions. What is the President prepared to offer in the way of help to Great Britain to free the 15 of its armed forces seized by the Iranians?
MS. PERINO: I do have one update. The President did speak to Tony Blair today by SVTS. This was a secure video teleconference. That was scheduled before this incident had occurred, and they did speak today on a variety of topics, including this one. The President fully backs Tony Blair and our allies in Britain.
Q Does the President believe that PA President Abbas truly desires to be a partner for peace, when only weeks ago Abbas and his Fatah party joined the Hamas terrorist government after signing the Mecca agreement, which does not call for peace, but for more terrorism, and demands the so-called "right of return"?
MS. PERINO: Peace in the Middle East is a priority for this administration. Secretary Rice is in the region. We are talking to them, are talking to the unity government.
Q She seems to think that this is a development for peace. And I'd like to know, where does the President stand on what PA President Abbas has done?
MS. PERINO: I do believe that the President believes that President Abbas has the intention of finding a peaceful solution. And we are encouraged by Secretary Rice's discussions with them, as one of the things that has come out of her trip is that they will be meeting -- Abbas and Olmert will be meeting bi-weekly to have meetings and discussions, and that's encouraging. We need to have them to have a continuing conversation.
Peter, did you have one?
Q I wanted to come back for a second on the war bill. You said earlier that you thought the public does not support the kind of conditions that the House and Senate are talking about, even though the Pew poll just the other day showed, in fact, strong majority support exactly the kind of bills -- the majority says they want their representative to vote for these bills. How do you reconcile that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it's incumbent upon us to talk about the consequences of what these bills would do. I know people want the troops to come home, and I think it is probably attractive to think of a date when we could come home, that that would be a goal that we could all look forward to. Unfortunately -- and it is incumbent upon us to talk to people across the country, to let them know that those timetables are dates when people can -- our enemies can mark their calendars and sit back, regroup, refit, relax, and get ready to have a new safe haven from which to launch attacks. I don't think the American people would be for that.
Q So they support it, but they're just not fully aware of the consequences?
MS. PERINO: I think that the consequences are important. I also think that if they realize that the troops weren't going to be able to get the funding that they needed while they're in harm's way, and that their families back home would also be victims of this problem, that they would not support the Democrats' position. I think that what we need to do is have us get the bill up here, let the President do the veto, and then let more discussions begin on a cleaner bill.
Q Back to the speech, if I may. The President said, quoting the Iraqi blogger, that displaced people are coming back home and that the markets in Baghdad in busy. Does the President believe this is what's happening in Iraq today?
MS. PERINO: I believe General Petraeus has said similar things, and reports on the ground -- again, amid real challenges. We're under no illusions that there are -- that things are rosy in Baghdad. Clearly, it is a very, very tough situation and it remains so. But as General Petraeus has said, they are beginning to see some signs of improvement based on the plan that he's implementing, that the Senate sent him to do unanimously, but now says that they don't want to fund him to do.
Q Dana, two quick questions. First, I agree with President Bush when he said yesterday that we have to pray for Tony Snow.
MS. PERINO: Yes, I think we all do.
Q The question is, that as far as Iranian issue is concerned, number of countries who were warned not to do business with the Iranian government, that they are still doing business, as far as -- (inaudible) -- they are dealing with Iran.
MS. PERINO: What's your question?
Q Number of countries who were warned by the United States not to do business with Iran, but they are still doing business with Iran.
MS. PERINO: I'll have to refer you to State Department. I don't know, Goyal.
Q And second, as far as the immigration bill is concerned, which was sponsored by the President and Secretary of Homeland Security also supported the bill. And recent raids in Senator Kennedy's home town or home state -- where the Secretary was accused by Senator Kennedy that maybe there were ill treatment of the workers there or something. But Secretary was defending his move, as far as illegal immigration is concerned. My question is that as far as the small business community is concerned, and illegal immigrants, they are in fear that they cannot find any workers now, because of those ongoing raids.
MS. PERINO: Well, workplace enforcement is an important part of immigration reform. I will make sure -- everyone should go ahead and take a look at the ombudsman column from Sunday's Washington Post, in which they talked about those stories, because a lot of them were -- a lot of the stories that came out of that were not based on the facts. And I think that ICE -- the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency over at Department of Homeland Security has tried to correct those.
On immigration reform, absolutely, we have to continue to work closely with members of Congress. We need to get a bill so that we can have a temporary worker program.
Q How close President is moving on this bill in the --
MS. PERINO: We want to get it done before August. That's what the President said.
Q You said the Department of Justice continues looking for new documents, if they need to release more. In some of those documents that have been released, there have been non-White House addresses, email addresses, that people have written from. Is there a policy from the White House that tells employees that if they're doing White House business, it should be with their White House email? Or are people always free to use an outside address for business?
MS. PERINO: No -- and I talked a little bit about this yesterday, that there are certain individuals, limited individuals, that have responsibilities that may straddle both worlds, both White House and then have interface with political organizations. And so in those cases, they've been given these emails in which -- in order to avoid any possible potential violations of the Hatch Act, they use those emails. Of course, people are encouraged, on official White House business, to use their official White House accounts. Sometimes there might be a gray area and people have to make a judgment call.
Q And since this came to light, has anybody inside the White House, like yesterday, issued a new directive, reminding people to use their White House emails?
MS. PERINO: I don't know -- I don't know of any new directive, but it is what we ask people to do.
Q Dana, on the war supplemental, besides the extraneous funding provisions, there's also amendments that would include minimum wage and small business tax breaks. Is that now at a level, pertaining to the small business relief, that the administration would support if it were separated out?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment specifically. I do know that those measures were included, and we're continuing to have discussions with the Hill. Obviously, the tax relief, along with the minimum wage increase, was what we had looked for in terms of our principles.
Q Any update on Tony Snow?
MS. PERINO: I don't have an update on Tony Snow. I tried to reach him before I came over here. I wasn't able because he was on the phone with Secretary Rice. (Laughter.) We know he is up and about and at least talking to Secretary Rice.
And I really want to thank each and every one of you, and your colleagues, for all the outpouring of support. He really feels it. And I talked to him last night -- well, yesterday afternoon about 4:30 p.m., and he said he was up, walking around. He was not in any pain, that he was in consultations with his doctors, and that his family was -- he was surrounded by family. And so I think he's in good spirits.
Q Let's get a bus and all go over there. That will work. (Laughter.)
Q He'd love that.
MS. PERINO: That was Roger's idea yesterday.
Okay, thank you. END 1:12 P.M. EDT
*Omar and Mohammed Fadhil write an English-language blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad. These two brothers, who are both dentists, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on December 9, 2004. Their writings have been widely sited in news outlets like the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Investor's Business Daily. On March 5, 2007, they authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Notes from Baghdad."
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 27, 2007
President Bush Participates in Demonstration of Alternative Fuel Vehicles at U.S. Postal Service Facility U.S. Postal Service Vehicle Maintenance Facility Washington, D.C. 10:39 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary, thank you. I want to thank you all very much.
Yesterday I talked with the chief executive officers of U.S. auto companies about what they're doing to help us meet the goal of reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent over 10 years. Today I've had the honor of visiting with private sector companies -- "Big Brown," FedEx, the Metro bus line, as well as the Postal Office folks, and DaimlerChrysler, as well, to talk about how we are using new technologies to convert truck fleets, bus fleets to vehicles that will be able to help meet the goal of reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent over 10 years.
The reason I've come is I want the American people to understand that there are new technologies on the market that are being used every single day, but there's more we can do. I'm looking forward to working with Congress to meet this goal. They need to pass meaningful energy legislation as soon as possible, all aiming at making sure that we promote technologies that, for the sake of our national security and for the sake of good environmental policy, we reduce the usage of gasoline.
The goal I laid out of reducing gasoline by 20 percent over 10 years is a realistic goal. In other words, this isn't a pipe dream, this is something that our nation can accomplish. It's going to take more research dollars, it's going to take working with the private sector, and it's going to take innovative leadership. And I thank the folks here who are representing companies that have got innovative leadership, people willing to make use of technologies that change the way we drive and will change the way we live.
So I appreciate you all being with me. It's an honor to be with you. Thank you for your time. END 10:41 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 27, 2007
President Bush's Statement on Tony Snow's Cancer Recurrence Rose Garden 10:54 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: This morning I got a phone call from Tony Snow. He called me from the hospital. He told me that when they went in and operated on him they found cancer. It's a recurrence of the cancer that he thought that he had successfully dealt with in the past. His attitude is, one, that he is not going to let this whip him, and he's upbeat. My attitude is, is that we need to pray for him, and for his family.
Obviously, a lot of folks here in the White House worry a lot about their friend, as do Laura and I. And so my message to Tony is, stay strong; a lot of people love you and care for you and will pray for you. And we're hoping for all the best. I'm looking forward to the day that he comes back to the White House and briefs the press corps on the decisions that I'm making and why I'm making them. In the meantime, I hope our fellow citizens offer a prayer to he and his family.
Thank you. END 10:55 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 26, 2007
President Bush Participates in Demonstration of Alternative Fuel Vehicles with CEOs of Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler The South Lawn 11:11 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I've just spent quite a while talking to our CEOs of American automobile companies. And I was interested in their take on my goal of reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.
I found it very interesting that by 2012, 50 percent of the automobiles in America will be flex-fuel vehicles. That means that the American consumer will be able to either use gasoline or ethanol, depending upon, obviously, price and convenience. That's a major technological breakthrough for the country. If you want to reduce gasoline usage, like I believe we need to do so for national security reasons, as well as for environmental concerns, the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice. And so I appreciate very much the fact that American automobile manufacturers recognize the reality of the world in which we live and are using new technologies to give the consumers different options.
Right now, most of our ethanol is made from corn. But the federal government is spending a lot of money to try to develop new technologies that will mean that ethanol could be made from wood chips or switchgrass. Part of that request is embedded in a request to the Congress, and I would hope that Congress would move expeditiously on our plan to reduce gasoline usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years. It's in our national security interest that we do this, it's in economic security interest we do it, and all at the same time, it will help us be better stewards of the environment.
And now I'd like to ask these gentlemen to make a few comments.
MR. WAGONER: Yes, I'd just -- from General Motors' perspective, we very much share the President's vision, and we definitely see a path through to both lower oil consumption, lower amounts of imported oil, and fewer carbon emissions. And obviously, a near-term opportunity that we are moving on right now, as the President cited, is flex-fuel vehicles that are powered by E85 ethanol. There are millions on the road today. As a group, we've agreed to double our production by the year 2010, and then have 50 percent of our production E85-capable by the year 2012. This makes a big difference, and there's nothing that can be done which can reduce the curve of growth in imported oil and actually turn it down like using E85, taking advantage of what's there today.
So we look forward to the opportunity to work closely with the administration and Congress to increase the production of ethanol and to improve the distribution. And on the manufacturer's side, we look very, very much forward to playing our role in that process, as well.
MR. MULALLY: Well, I might add to what Rick said, that we at Ford absolutely are supportive of the President's goal, both for energy efficiency and independence, and to be good stewards of our environment.
One of the neat things about the conversation, again, today, on the continuing dialogue that we've had, is being able to -- the United States system to have options and have flexibility. And the fact that we have ethanol solutions today, hybrids coming along, and plus hydrogen and fuel cells and new battery technology, gives some great options to satisfy our need for flexibility, as well as being good stewards of the environment.
So Mr. President, we appreciate the leadership and we look forward to working with you going forward.
MR. LASORDA: Well, DaimlerChrysler, which includes the Mercedes car group, the Freightliner and other truck divisions in the Chrysler group, we've committed, as well, by 2012, to have 50 percent of our production not only in E85, but biodiesel. This Jeep Grand Cherokee here today is going into production as we speak, being shipped from the factory with B5.
So we've very committed to this, as well, and we think this is the answer for America to lower our dependence on foreign oil.
THE PRESIDENT: One of the things that I think it's important for American taxpayers to understand is that we're using some of their dollars to promote new technologies, and we're working with these CEOs and their respective companies to advance new technologies. They're on the leading edge of technological change, and it's in our interest to help promote these new technologies that are coming to the market.
And I'm excited about the future. I'm optimistic we can meet our goal. I look forward to working with Congress to do so, and I appreciate you all coming today.
Thank you. END 11:16 A.M. EDT
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