Text of Bush WWW Press Conference
by Ahmed Amr
November 1, 2003
Text of President Bush's news conference in the basement of White House Laundry room (10/28/2003). Ahmed Amr of NileMedia transcribed this text. He has hearing problems and the dryers were running, but this is what he thought he heard.
BUSH: Welcome to the basement of the White House Laundry room. As you know, my administration has been accused of dodging the press. Many have pointed out that I have had less than a dozen press conferences since I became your President. But, today, I broke with tradition and actually called on a radio journalist during my morning session with my pals from FOX and CNN. And this afternoon I am happy to hold this historical presidential press conference with hacks from the World Wide Web.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE): About the USS Liberty, I would just like to ask….
BUSH: Excuse me. Particularly since you interrupted me, no. I said no. I will not answer any questions about the USS Liberty. Captain Ward Boston should keep his mouth shut. The book has been closed on the assault on USS Liberty since 1967. The sailors who were killed are now dead and buried in graves that do not even mention their service on the USS Liberty. That should give Captain Boston a hint. Congress will never probe this attack and Captain Ward knows why. He investigated the Israeli attack on the Liberty and has standing orders to remain silent.
Seven administrations, including three Democratic administrations, have ordered the survivors of the Liberty to keep their traps shut. Responsible journalists from the Times and Post know that this can of worms should not be taken off the shelf. If opened, it will bring nothing but embarrassment not only to this administration, not just to Israel, not just to the Israeli Lobby and not just to Johnson and McNamara. The entire Fourth Estate and Congress will be implicated. Every president since Johnson will be assigned his share of blame. It will expose four decades of secrets that will implicate our nation in many of the tragedies of the modern Middle East.
This is not your daddy’s Gulf of Tonkin. We need to all forget about our boys who died on the USS Liberty. Those boys are dead and gone. Leave them buried where they lie.
I would add a word of caution to all those who would probe this matter further. If this USS Liberty thing is not put to sleep, the United States might be forced to pay reparations to every single country and every single individual who has suffered from the consequences of the six-day war. Those who know the details understand why silence must be maintained.
If Admiral Thomas Moorer wants to call it “one of the classic All-American cover-ups”, he has a right to his personal opinion. In the interest of protecting state secrets, the Admiral should stop asking “Why should our government put Israel’s interests ahead of our own”? Americans should stop asking such questions.
Admiral Moorer, Captain Boston and James Ennes are out to stir up a hornet’s nest. Vice Admiral McCain, Senator McCain’s daddy, is on record as having placed a gag order on all the sailors who survived the attack on the USS Liberty. As commander in chief, I order those sailors to put a lid on it. They know that the Liberty ‘incident’ is still top secret.
I can assure you that Israel’s many friends in the media will cooperate and do what is necessary to kill this story. If some Internet hack thinks he can do better than James Ennes, Jeffrey St. Clair, Justin Raimondo or Patrick Buchanan to make us spill the beans, they have serious delusions.
Any more questions about the USS Liberty and I promise you this will be the first and last press conference with you two-bit hacks. And you can forget about ever making a living in the mainstream media business. So, go back to your blogs and rant all you want. Besides, why aren’t you asking Robert McNamara these questions? I was still wearing shorts when our sailors were being mowed down in their life rafts.
BUSH: Where was I before I was so rudely interrupted. OK. I would like to begin by briefly reviewing some of my initial remarks this morning. I am certain that you have already had the opportunity to go through the text of my morning session with the mainstream press.
These terrorists are targeting the very success and freedom we're providing to the Iraqi people. As we go from one success to another, the American people must expect an exponential rise in desperate attacks by those who hate our success.
The essential goal in the war on terror requires continued American leadership and the continued support of Congress. The House and the Senate are now considering my supplemental request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of this money is for the safety and success of our soldiers. For one thing, it will help cover their pay. For the United States, the venture in Iraq is about jobs. And given the dire state of our economy, we should be proud that my administration has created 150,000 jobs for our young men in Iraq. Many more young Americans have also found stable careers in Afghanistan and other hot job markets around the world.
That is why my $87 billion in funding request should be seen for what it is; a jobs program.
I commend the Congress for moving forward on elements of my agenda for growth and jobs.
All of us can be optimistic about the future of the war economy, but we cannot be complacent. I will not be satisfied until every American who's looking for work can find a job in America, in Iraq or in Afghanistan. I've proposed additional measures to keep the war economy on the path to greater job creation. Further job opportunities for our young people might soon be made available in Iran and Syria.
Our entire economy depends on steady, affordable supplies of energy. Our new oil colony in Iraq will eventually contribute to satisfying our growing energy needs.
Finally, of course, we are monitoring the fires in California. We have strong suspicions that Al-Qaida has struck again. John Ashcroft informs me that an Al-Qaida looking operative has been caught with a suspicious amount of matches and no cigarettes.
With that, I'll be glad to answer some questions.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
You have said that you are eager to find out whether somebody in the White House leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent. Many experts in such investigations say you could find out if there was a leaker in the White House within hours if you asked all staff members to sign affidavits denying involvement. Why not take that step?
BUSH: Well, the best person to do that is the professionals at the Justice Department. And they're moving forward with the investigation at a pace that should drag out until after the election. We like to call it the Ashcroft Trot. So this investigation is ongoing and by professionals who do this for a living. The longer they keep investigating, the better it is for their living standard. If they did there work in hours, they would join the ranks of the unemployed. In this economy, that would be a heartless thing to do.
About asking staff members to sign affidavits denying involvement. I have already proposed this idea to Cheney, Libby, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams and almost all the neo-cons in my administration. They have advised me that this is a political decision that I am not competent to make. So there will be no signed affidavits, lie detector tests or any such nonsense until such matters are first cleared with the Vice President’s office and the American Enterprise Institute.
I can live with just two national security threats in the White House. Hell, I can live with a dozen of them. I have a staff of 2,000 when you add in the Labor and Agriculture and Sewage departments and the Cafeteria folks. So, two felons out of 2,000 don’t make for a bad percentage. Maybe we will find them. Chances are we don’t have the resources to weed them out. I’ve got fifty or sixty Likudniks in my administration and it could have been any one of them.
You know, I have had people asking me to take to the airwaves to plead with Novak to reveal his criminal sources in the interest of national security. I am not going to waste my Saturday radio show to do that. Get real. This is an election year. Again, that decision was made with the unanimous approval of every neo-con on my staff.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Just a few questions on the USS Liberty and the Plame scandal. Don’t you think independent prosecutors should aggressively handle these issues? Don’t you think the truth about the Israeli attack on the Liberty has been buried for too long? What do you say to critics who believe that there was no ‘intelligence failures’ but a deliberate attempt by Wolfie’s Office of Special Plans to cherry pick and dumb down the work of the CIA and DIA. What do you say to those who see a link between the OSP and the outing of Valerie Plame?
BUSH: No, that's my answer to all your questions. I want no more questions about the Plame affair or the USS Liberty. One is already under investigation and the other will never be investigated. I am not going to tell you again.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you just spoke about the suicide bombers in Iraq as being desperate. Has the United States been able to identify who's behind this surge of attacks, where they come from and how to stop them?
BUSH: Yes. I think it's a very interesting point you make in your question. They're trying to send us a warning. But I would like to assure you that we will heed no warning. Basically what they're trying to do is cause people to run. They want to kill and create chaos. That's the nature of a terrorist. It is just how they train them from the time they are babes in the cradle. That's what terrorists do: They commit suicide acts against innocent people and then expect people to say, "Well, gosh, we better not try to fight you anymore." They use words like ‘gosh’ all the time.
The foreign terrorists are trying to create conditions of fear and retreat because they fear a free and peaceful state in the midst of a part of the world where terror has found recruits. Freedom is exactly what terrorists fear the most. Iraq is no longer a part of that world, that is why we are certain that this is all the work of foreign terrorists who would rather kill themselves than see Iraqis bask in the full glory of American freedom.
QUESTION: If there are foreign terrorists involved, why aren't Syria and Iran being held accountable?
BUSH: Yes, well, we are already contemplating taking preemptive strikes against both countries. Richard Perle has already expressed his happiness about the Israeli strikes against Syria. And the very able John Bolton has advised Sharon that we will not hesitate to escalate this war. Perle has already pointed out that Syria is weak and should be another cakewalk. My administration’s position is well known and anyone who failed to notice our veto at the United Nations should understand that we have given the Israelis a green light to blast away against their northern neighbors. The doctrine of preemption means that if we have a wet dream that some country is a problem, that country will wake up to a serious military confrontation with the young men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.
QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you.
As you know, the chairman of the commission investigating the September 11th attacks wants documents from the White House and said this week that he might have to use subpoena power. You have said there's some national security concerns about turning over some of those documents to people outside of the executive branch.
BUSH: It is important for me to protect national security. That is my job, not the job of the average American who should already have a job. And if he can’t find a job here, we can find him work in the oil colonies.
And so, therefore, kind of, maybe, who knows, the first statements out of this administration were very protective of the presidential prerogatives of the past and to protect the right for other presidents — future presidents to have a good presidential daily brief.
And, therefore, I think Americans will be mindful of the need to gather evidence and at the same time protect the capacity for presidents to get unfettered, real, good intelligence. Once we get our hands on ‘unfettered intelligence’ we have a process in this administration that Vice President Cheney has perfected. He sends it to the Office of Special Plans for Wolfie and his pals to cherry pick. This process served us well in making the case for war against Iraq. And we have every expectation that Wolfie’s lads will be able to draw up ‘new and improved’ intelligence to allow us to proceed with regime change in Syria.
Our British allies, under the able leadership of Tony Blair, were very helpful in assisting us with the OSP operations.
QUESTION: Mr. President, if I may take you back to May 1st, when you stood on the USS Lincoln under a huge banner that said, "Mission Accomplished," at that time, you declared major combat operations were over. But since that time there have been over 1,000 wounded, many of them amputees who are recovering at Walter Reed, 217 killed in action since that date.
Will you acknowledge now that you were premature in making those remarks?
BUSH: Did any of you see me hanging up that sign? The answer to that question is NO. Did you see me paint that sing? NO. Do you think I can spell “accomplished”? NO. That sign was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Blame them or Plame them. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from staff. They weren't that ingenious, by the way. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been in Iraq, in the first place.
If you go back and read my statement, you will notice that my first remark was to ‘tear down that sign’. I went on to say Iraq is dangerous because they are people who couldn’t stand the thought of freedom and peace. They have the same mentality, by the way, that attacked us in — on September the 11th, 2001. "We'll just destroy innocent life and watch the great United States and their friends and allies, you know, crater in the face of hardship." It's the exact same mentality. Although no link has been established between Al-Qaeda and Iraq, you never know. Al-Qaeda operatives on the USS Abraham Lincoln might even be responsible for putting up the ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign to embarrass this administration.
And Iraq is a part of the war on terror. I said it's a central front, a new front in the war on terror. We didn’t have enough fronts on the war on terror, so we went out and created a brand new one, all for the paltry price of $150 billion.
Our strategy in Iraq is to have our strike forces ready and capable to move quickly to other brand new fronts. That's how you deal with terrorists. You make more of them so you get more practice at dealing with them.
Always remember and never forget, these are people that are willing to hide in societies and kill randomly. So, we go in and randomly liquidate their societies. That should teach them some society manners.
You've heard me say that before. That's just, kind of, the motto of the terrorists. That's the way they operate. Well our motto is “Bring them on”.
As for the brave lads in Walter Reed, I won’t answer trick questions. But I would ask them to make one small additional sacrifice for their country. They need to accept slightly less in terms of veteran’s benefits. And it would help if they didn’t take their complaints about medical care to the media. As their commander in chief, I ask them to go through the regular chain of command.
QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you.
In recent weeks, you and your White House team have made a concerted effort to put a positive spin on progress in Iraq. There are people out there who don't believe that the administration is leveling with them about the difficulty and scope of the problem in Iraq.
BUSH: I can't put it any more plainly. Iraq's a dangerous place. That's leveling. It is a dangerous place. The task of the United States is to level that place because it’s dangerous.
So I was just saying we've got to look at the whole picture, that what the terrorists would like is for people to focus only on the conditions which create fear, and that is the death and the toll being taken.
Now, Iraq's a dangerous place and I can't put it any more bluntly than that. I know it's a dangerous place. That is why I have yet to visit our troops over there. Look what happened to Wolfie! He was just exposed to three days of actual live combat experience. I think he will share his first-hand war tales with all the Chicken Hawks in my administration.
My people are constantly taking a look at the enemy. If you look hard enough, you will always find enemies.
And that's exactly what's taking place on a regular basis inside of Iraq. The strategy remains the same. The tactics to respond to, you know, more suiciders driving cars, will alter on the ground.
And Iraq is dangerous, and it's dangerous because terrorists want us to leave. If we leave now, it might stop being a dangerous place. But we don’t know for sure. So, we’re not leaving until we level it.
QUESTION: Mr. President, your policies on the Middle East seem so far to have produced pretty meager results, as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians...
BUSH: Major or meager?
BUSH: OK. You want to ask tough questions? Next Question goes to Meager from Fox.
Meager: I am not with FOX anymore. CNN just hired me.
BUSH: I thought Rupert Murdoch had already completed the CNN/FOX merger, Meager.
Meager: Can I say hi to my mom? Mr. President ... as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians continues. And as you heard last week from Muslim leaders in Indonesia, your policies are seen as biased toward Israel and I'd like to ask you about that.
The government of Israel continues to build settlements in occupied territories and it continues to build the security fence which Palestinians see as stealing their land.
You've criticized these moves mildly a couple of times, but you've never taken any concrete action to back up your words on that. Will you?
BUSH: My policy in the Middle East is pretty clear. We are for a two-state solution. We want there to be a Palestinian state. We haven’t determined yet the size or location of that state, but we are having talks with Argentina and Mauritania. Cyprus is also considered an option. But Sharon is on record as saying that Cyprus is just too close to the Holy Land for Israeli comfort.
Abu Mazen came here to the White House. You were here. You witnessed the press conference. It was one of the few times I have bothered to give journalists the time of day. Abu Mazen asked for help, which we were willing to provide. We gave him a green card and offered him some cheap land in Argentina. Unfortunately, he is no longer in power. But he is making progress learning Spanish. We are now looking for another ‘Abu’ to replace him.
You asked about the fence. I have said the fence is a problem to the extent that the fence is an opportunity to make it difficult for a Palestinian state to emerge. Sharon is just taking the opportunity afforded him by this administration. Some have quibbled about whether this is a fence or an Apartheid wall. Frankly, I have very little patience with people who quibble about terminology. We give Israel a substantial amount of our foreign aid. If they are going to build a fence, it had better be as thick as the walls of Jericho. Otherwise, this administration will raise some serious issues with Sharon about where all the aid is going.
I have also spoken to Arik in the past about the pace of settlement activities. Again, this is an opportunity for Sharon to make it difficult for a Palestinian state to emerge. We hope he makes the best of this opportunity.
This administration is prepared to help the Palestinians develop an economy. Any kind of economy will do. The more they economize, the more likely they are to have an economy. We're prepared to help the long-suffering Palestinian people. But the long-suffering Palestinian people need leadership that is willing to do what is necessary to enable a Palestinian state to come forth. For a start, they need to tell their people to tighten their belts. And they need to start teaching them Spanish.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials on the ground and in Iraq have estimated that we have, at most, six months to restore order and quell the violence or else we risk the support of the Iraq populace.
Do you share that sense of pessimism? And if not, why not?
And, in addition, are you considering the possibility of adding more U.S. troops to the forces already on the ground there to help restore order?
BUSH: That's a decision for John Abizaid. General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops. He then consults with Wolfowitz. Wolfie is on record as reprimanding General Shinseki as being ‘wildly off the mark’ when he proposed more troops for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I am not even a Captain on this ship, much less a General. If I came up with troop deployment estimates, Wolfie and Perle would laugh me out of the White House. Now, recall that Perle made it clear that determining troop levels and battle plans were a ‘political decision that the Pentagon was not competent to make’.
I constantly ask the secretary of defense, as well as General Abizaid, "Does he have what it takes to do his mission?" They tell me I need to consult with Wolfie and Perle and the American Enterprise Institute. That is the answer General Erik Shinseki should have given. But he was reckless enough to give his own estimates. I will leave John Abizaid to reach his own conclusions.
Secondly, I believe the Iraqi people are appreciative of our efforts.
If you look at some of the brave actions by the Iraqi police people who've died for the future of their country, you know what I'm talking about. They are willing to die for their country. To quote General Patton, we are willing to kill them for their country.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
Perhaps, the clearest, strongest message you have ever sent from any podium has been what you like to call the Bush doctrine. That is to say: "If you feed a terrorist, if you clothe a terrorist, if you harbor a terrorist, you are a terrorist."
And I'd like to follow up on the Middle East. Some Americans and many Europeans seem to be sympathetic to what they consider a “Palestinian struggle for liberty”. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the Palestinians are freedom fighters. How do we stop these people and why doesn’t Ashcroft pick them up. Indeed, why do we continue to have diplomatic contact with Europeans?
You have noted that Yasser Arafat is compromised by terror. Condi Rice has said he cavorts with terror. Cheney said we should hang him. Why don’t you just hand them some rope and give a little assistance to Sharon who has already proposed assassinating him. It is well documented that Sharon is a serial war criminal with a past that includes Qibya, Sabra and Shatila and Jenin. Killing one more Palestinian should be no sweat for him. Also, how do you propose we silence those who make a moral equivalence between terrorists and war criminals? Are we not responsible as a nation for feeding clothing harboring and financing war criminals that are joining us in the fight against terror?
BUSH: Yes, well, not every action requires rope. As you notice, for example, in North Korea, we've chosen kid gloves and we know they have the bomb.
As a matter of fact, military action is the first resort for us only in the Middle East. The $87 billion we have in front of the Pentagon does not include rope to hang Arafat.
Sharon is just being Sharon. He can’t help himself. And I am in no position to restrain him. I already have a full plate with the war on terror. We need to stay focused or our enemies will think that we are distracted with the burden of investigating war criminals. Our basic position is that if a war criminal says he is just fighting terrorism than he is on our side.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
You recently put Condoleezza Rice, your national security adviser, in charge of the management of the administration's Iraq policy. What has effectively changed since she's been in charge?
And a second question: Can you promise a year from now that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?
BUSH: The second question is a trick question, so I won't answer it. Again, let me refer you to Perle and Wolfowitz. They will be determining troop levels, since that is a political decision that the Pentagon is not competent to make.
The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate inter-agency. She's doing a fine job of coordinating inter-agency. I value her judgment and her intelligence -- but her job is also to deal inter-agency and to help unstick things that may get stuck. That's the best way to put it. She's an unsticker. In other words, she is glueless.
BUSH: Let's see: Mark Smith, a radio man. I thought this conference was just for Internet hacks.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir, for including radio folks here.
BUSH: Well, you have the face of an Internet hack.
QUESTION: I wish I could say that was the first time you told me that, sir.
QUESTION: Your package of reconstruction aid, sir, that the Congress, as you point out, is considering, that's an emergency package, meaning it's not budgeted for. Put another way, that means the American taxpayer and future generations of American taxpayers are saddled with that.
Why should they be saddled with that? I know you don't want the Iraqis to be saddled with large amounts of debt, but why should future generations of Americans have that?
BUSH: First of all, it's a one-time expenditure, as you know. Like every other dollar in the half trillion-budget deficit.
And secondly, because a pacified Iraq is essential to the future security of America. Our kids should pick up their share of that burden.
The first step was to remove Saddam Hussein because he was a threat — a gathering threat, as I think I put it. After a dozen years of sanctions and constant Anglo-American bombing, Iraq was reduced to a gathering society. Saddam neglected the farming sector. We will not.
And secondly to make sure that, in the aftermath of removing Saddam Hussein, that we have a free and peaceful country in the midst of a region that is already troubled by our military presence. The war allowed us to relocate our Saudi bases to Iraq and Qatar. Strike another one against Bin Laden and his terrorist organization. And it allowed us to stop the sanctions and the constant bombing. Yet another blow to Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorists. The depleted uranium shells we were using not only poisoned the land but could also have been gathered by Saddam and used to crank out tons of yellowcake uranium and export it to Mali which could have than sold it to Mongolia. And we already have enough problems with North Korea.
QUESTION: In speaking on Abu Mazen, do you feel this administration did everything it could to help him out with his situation?
BUSH: Yes, I do.
QUESTION: And secondly, on Iraq, do you feel that the attacks that have happened recently will discourage some countries to contribute troops or manpower?
BUSH: Good question. I hope not. That's what the terrorists want. They want countries to say, "Oh gosh, well, we'd better not send anybody there because somebody might get hurt." We want other countries to share the pain and put their soldier’s in harm’s way. Friends helping Friends. Our alliance now has troops from Mongolia and El Salvador. We have Sandinistas standing shoulder to shoulder with Bulgarians. We have invited the North Koreans and the French to stand tall with us and help us pacify Iraq. But they both have ancient grudges against the Mongolians. The Kurds say no to the Turks. We don’t know why. But we are investigating their historic grievances. The Mexicans say they already have enough of their nationals killing and dying in the ranks of our liberation army.
But this country will stay the course, with or without Micronesia. We'll do our job.
And it's to our interests that we do our job. It's in our interest we do our job. Our job is to do what’s in our interest. How many ways can I say that?
See, that's what this is all about. This is how do we achieve a peaceful tomorrow? How do we do our duty for our children and our grandchildren? We are the Pepsi generation. Some of our kids might experience life changes and want to settle in the West Bank and Gaza.
We must never forget the lessons of September the 11th. Some of those lessons must remain buried to insure executive privilege. Be certain that this administration will make sure you know what we need you to know.
I said right after September the 11th, this would be a different kind of war. We are going to launch a war against a different country every six months. It is going to be long hard slog ahead. This is an election year and we might slow down to one country a year. We do not have an exit strategy and we do not want an exit strategy. See, that’s what this is all about. Iraq is a brand new front on the war on terror. And we will win this particular battle in the war on terror so we can move on to other countries.
And it's dangerous and it's tough. And at the same time that we're confronting the danger, we're also helping rebuild a society that we just dismantled. See, we have a new blue print for how Iraq and the whole Middle East should look. We commissioned the very able American Enterprise Institute and the Office of Special Plans (OSP). People say we didn’t have a plan. Ask Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith how much work they put in to formulate a new school of social architecture for the Middle East.
We've put in a new currency in place. It's an achievement that is a very important achievement for the future of Iraq. Paper money to replace the coins with the picture of the dictator or the tyrant or the torturer. And that's taking place as I speak.
There's a market developing. There are women-owned small businesses now beginning to flourish in Iraq. These businesses will compensate for all the medium sized women-owned businesses that were destroyed by sanctions and war.
QUESTION: Mr. President, tonight, you're meeting with Muslim leaders at an Iftaar dinner. And I wondered if you could tell us your reaction when you encountered Muslim leaders in Indonesia. Were you surprised at the hostility they expressed toward the United States and toward your policies, both in the Middle East?
And also, I understand that some of them brought up specific comments made by General Boykin.
BUSH: Yes, they did.
QUESTION: And I wondered if you would address those comments and whether you think that General Boykin ought to be disciplined or resign.
BUSH: Sure, I appreciate that.
It was a very positive meeting, very hopeful. The two things that came out of there that I think will interest you: one was that — the question was, "Why do Americans think Muslims are terrorists?" That was the universal question from the three Muslim leaders. How did they get an idea like that? Don’t they have better things to do with their time than watch FOX and CNN? And my answer was, "That's not what Americans think. That is what American think tanks think.”
Americans think Boykin and FOX are bigots out to create a Judeo-Christian identity movement. Daniel Pipes and Boykin have a worldview that they want to share with other Americans. I am not going to judge them for their views. That's what Mr. Boykin's comments were about. But General Boykins' comments don't reflect the administration's comments. Ok, maybe they reflect the comments of Daniel Pipes and Richard Perle. But I have other people in the administration that have slightly different views and I don’t see you attacking them as wimps. We have others who hold the same views as Boykin but don’t make the same kinds of comments in public. The Wall Street Journal calls Arabs ‘wogs’. That is the America we live in today. It is diverse and people have varying degrees of bigotry. So, we shouldn’t paint them all with a single brush.
Boykin doesn't reflect my point of view or the view of some in this administration. Our war is not against any faith; it is about reaffirming our faith as a Christian nation rooted in Judeo-Christian values. As a matter of fact, after lunch, we're celebrating the Iftaar dinner with leaders of our Muslim minority. We then plan to dine with our Buddhist minority. On Friday, we have a menu that includes a vegetarian breakfast with our Hindu community. Monday’s menu also includes a lamb roast lunch with lapsed Catholics, wine tasting with Italian-Americans of the agnostic persuasion, followed by a late dinner with the leaders of the pro-life atheists. We have a special Kosher kitchen in the White House to accommodate the large contingent of neo-cons on my staff.
In America, we love the fact that we are a society in which people can pray openly or not pray at all for that matter. And I made that point to the Muslim leaders.
Secondly, the question was about the Middle Eastern policy. "Why is your policy so slanted toward Israel?" was their question. And I informed them I was the first president ever to have advocated a Palestinian state of any size. I was the first to bring up Argentina. I was the first to give a nod to the ‘transportation’ solution along with the former speaker of the house, Richard Armey. Few seem to recall that he had just left my office before publicly floating that trial balloon on MSNBC. I would add that the current speaker, Tom Delay, also favors taking up this option without delay.
I also informed them that in order for a Palestinian state to go forward, as I told Terry, there must be a focused, concerted effort to put together a fleet for their transportation. To prevent a Palestinian state from emerging in the Holy Land requires good, strong, capable leadership, is what it requires.
And so those were the two main points that were brought up. There was concern about General Boykin.
It seemed like to me that we've got a challenge to make sure that people in countries like Indonesia understand the nature of the few Americans who think like Boykin. They are a key part of my constituency and this is an election year. The American people know, that for good diplomacy in the long run, we got to fight off the imagery of a society which condemns entire swathes of people because of the acts of a few. Which is not the way we are. But if Ashcroft gets his way, it will be the way we get.
It was a very cordial and good discussion. And, you know, I'm going to drop them a note thanking them for showing up and giving me a chance to talk about the America I know and love.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
You have repeatedly urged Americans to have patience when they view postwar operations in Iraq. But isn't there a limit to American patience, particularly in election year when your foreign policies will be the center of debate? Why did you so adamantly refuse advice to be patient with the WMD inspections before launching this war?
BUSH: That's a good question.
BUSH: First let me answer your last question. You know, patience is a virtue that comes with age. I only recently acquired this trait. I am an older man than I was in March when we launched the war.
I would add that I think the American people are patient during election years, because they tend to be able to differentiate between, you know, politics and reality. And as a matter of fact, the American people are — the electors are a heck of a lot smarter than most politicians. And I am one politician who is a good example of that.
And, you know, the only thing I know to do is to just keep telling people what I think is right for the country and stand on what I believe. My election slogan will be “Stand by your man”. My administration is all about faith based policies. There are cosmic reasons why I am your president. I believe that the same cosmic conditions will prevail during the coming election. Call me a weatherman, but you will soon see which way the cosmic winds are blowing.
BUSH: But I will defend my record at the appropriate time and look forward to it. I have hired Nancy Reagan’s sky gazers to help me chart the most appropriate time.
I am practicing my lines already. I'll say that the world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership, and America is more secure, and that'll be how I'll begin describing our foreign policy. Except for the French, the whole world is ecstatic to be under my leadership. And I expect many Americans will believe that. Just like they believed that Saddam had WMDs, links to Al-Qaeda and was the ‘evil-doer’ behind the 9/11 atrocities. We managed to market that message to 70% of Americans. We have already lined up FOX and CNN to do a repeat performance.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
BUSH: Fine looking vest.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
BUSH: Fine looking vest.
QUESTION: It's inspired by some of the attire from your APEC colleagues last week.
Sir, David Kay's interim report cited substantial evidence of a secretive weapons program, but the absence of any substantial stores of chemical or biological weapons there have caused some people even those who supported the war to feel somehow betrayed.
Can you explain to those Americans, sir, whether you are surprised those weapons haven't turned up, why they haven't turned up and whether you feel that your administration's credibility has been affected in any way by that?
BUSH: David Kay's is still looking to find the truth and he will be looking till after the elections. He has already discovered that Saddam had ambitions. He had nuclear dreams that could have resulted in me waking up in the middle of the night with a nuclear nightmare. I was not about to let Saddam with his fourth rate army disturb my sleeping pattern. There is a war on terror out there and I need to get my rest.
The American people know that Saddam Hussein was a gathering danger, as I said. And we have evidence that he was gathering instead of farming. The world food supply is safer as a result of us removing him from power and getting Iraqi society to progress to an agricultural economy. And given the attacks of September the 11th, it was — you know, we needed to enforce U.N. recommendations for the security of world wheat supplies, and we did. We took action based upon good, solid intelligence from Wolfie and his pals at the Office of Special Plans. Dick Cheney and Lewis Libby were active participants in ‘gathering’ intelligence. We had satellite pictures to prove Saddam and his people where ‘gathering’ instead of farming. The OSP had solid evidence that Saddam and his Baathist cronies had reduced Iraq to a gathering horde of nomads. We had multiple intelligence sources. Cheney verified what Wolfie said and Wolfie verified what Libby cooked up. It was the right thing to do to make America more secure and the world more peaceful and better fed.
And David Kay continues to ferret out the truth. Saddam Hussein is a man who hid food programs and agricultural equipment from his people. He did it for years. He was a master at hiding things. He is still hiding. When we find him we expect to find a whole bunch of hidden tractors and seeds. And so, David Kay will continue his search.
Causus beli, baby. It means that would have been a cause for war. In other words, he was dangerous to world food supplies.
BUSH: And in order to keep the peace, it's important for there to be credibility in this world, credibility on the side of freedom and hope and preemptive strikes against societies stuck in the gathering stage of economic development.
Thank you all very much.
* It's Hard to Satirize Satire: Transcript of President Bush's Actual Press Conference (watch the video to get the full flavor)