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Special Event

Bush Addresses National Newspaper Association

Aired March 22, 2001 - 10:42 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we do want to go back live to Washington; the president is addressing the National Newspaper Association. We do expect him to talk about tax cuts. Let's go ahead and listen in.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks for coming and thanks for having me.

Diane (ph), I appreciate so very much the invitation. Ken (ph), thank you for escorting me up here. And Jerry (ph), thank you for that kind introduction. I do remember the Fourth of July parade. I remember how hot it was and next time let's make it a Christmas parade.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: He comes from a great town and a state I love a lot.

You said you never thought you'd be introducing me, that was the last time you saw me. But I can assure you in 1978, when I was running for the U.S. Congress, and you were running the newspaper in Lamb County, Texas, you certainly didn't think you'd be introducing me as president...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: ... because you had that funny feeling I wasn't even going to win the race for the U.S. Congress, which was true.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: It's amazing how life works.

One of the interesting things I did learn in that race -- we had a lot of little-biddy counties in far west Texas -- and Jerry (ph) ran one of the newspapers. He worked for a man named James Roberts (ph). Maybe some of you got to know James over time. He's a fine distinguished Texan. Lord, rest his soul. But he owned a string of little newspapers in Andrews and Lamb County and, I think, maybe in Muleshoe, Texas. And I can remember knocking on the doors of the newspapers when I was traveling the district.

It was a magnificent place to learn about what was going on in each county. It gave me a chance to get a feel for what the people were really all about.

I got to hear the gossip. Got to maybe spread a little good news on my side. But I came away with a deep respect for the small newspapers that dominate the landscape of America.

It's a real sense of community when you walk into those newspapers and sit down with the publishers and the editors and the writers. It's really the best of America in many ways and...

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I sound somewhat nostalgic about those days. I'm loving what I'm doing. It's interesting that I'm doing it in spite of the fact that my first race for public office I came in 2nd in a two-man race.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Life has its interesting twists and turns. Life is unpredictable.

But it turns out, if you aim -- work hard, treat people with respect, keep your priorities straight, life can turn out pretty good. And it certainly has for me.

I'm honored to be your president. I'm honored to be here to discuss some issues that are important to our country. I want to thank my friend Tommy Thompson for having been here. Tommy is serving our nation very well as the important Cabinet position.

I got to know Tommy as a governor, you got to know him as a governor, and he is a fine man. He represents the kind of Cabinet I put together, distinguished citizens, all of whom are here to serve our country, all of whom have put aside their personal comforts to do what's right for America.

I appreciate my friend Roy Blunt. I understand he's coming or has been here, a member of the United States Congress that I'm working closely with to try to get some legislation through the legislative process.

I want to talk about a couple of things, and I'd like to weave issues in, in context of the budget that I presented to the Congress. It's important for opinion-makers such as yourself to hear my side of the budget.

You see, there's a lot of folks in Washington that would like to send out information that might cloud the picture so that they get to keep more of the taxpayers' money here in Washington.

We're in the midst of a big debate, and it's a healthy debate, as to what to do with the people's money. That's what the budget's all about.

Remember, the context I come from, though, is not what to do with the government's money, it's what to do with the people's money. All the talk about the surplus, you know, as the government's money misses the point. They forget who pay the bills. Those who say that the surplus is the government's money forget where it comes from.

And one of the things I'm not going to forget is where it comes from. I'm going to remember where it comes from. It comes from hardworking people. It comes from entrepreneurs, small-business owners, hardworking folks who pay the bills for this government.

And so we sent up a common-sense budget to the Congress. I say common sense because it sets priorities. When you run your businesses, you set priorities. That's sometimes the definition of success, is somebody who figures out how to set priorities and stay on those priorities.

And that's what we did, and we set some clear priorities.

We funded public education or increased the funding of public education. It's the biggest increase of any department in my budget.

Now, unless you forget where I came from, it's one thing to provide money at the federal level, but I can assure you, I'm a strong support of local control of schools. I believe that the best way to run the schools is to trust the local people.

So we're increasing spending, but we're going to also increase power at the local level. One size does not fit all, when it comes to education of the children in America. We've got to have local control of schools. We've got a line of authority and responsibility at the local level, and I'm working with Congress to do that.

But one of the cornerstones of reform for education is to hold people accountable for results. I'm a strong believer that in return for the receipt of taxpayers' money, states and local jurisdictions must develop accountability systems to tell us whether or not children can read.

It's in your best interests, by the way, that we have a literate tomorrow. You're irrelevant, if people can't read. And we need to start figuring out whether they can or cannot early in a child's career. And so, the only way to do that is to measure.

Now, I'm against a national test, because a national test would undermine local curriculum and local control of schools. But I am for saying, in return for money, show us. Show us whether or not children can read and write and add and subtract. Hold people accountable, use the accountability system, not as a way to punish, but as a way to correct problems early, before it's too late.

And you mark my words, when you have a system based upon the principles of high accountability and high standards and strong accountability and local control of schools, children will learn.

And that's what this country needs, they need an education system that's responsive, results-oriented that focuses on each child as a child, that challenges the process-oriented system that asks the question: "How old are you? Oh, if you're 10, we'll just put you here. And if you're 14, you go here. And if you're 16, you go here."

It's time in America we start asking the question, "What do you know?" And if you don't know what you're supposed to know, we're all going to come together to make sure you do early, before it's too late.

I'm so confident that we can achieve what we all want: an educated tomorrow. And it starts with having systems in place, systems in place that encourage reform based upon accountability.

Another priority in the budget I sent is more pay for the military. I'm concerned about morale in the troops; it was a big issue during the course of the campaign. I say if you give me a chance to be the president, we'll begin my increasing morale two ways. One is to pay people more money, so in our budget we've increased the budget that I submitted to Congress for better pay and better housing. And, two, to have a commander in chief who will clarify the mission of the U.S. military.

And the mission of the United States military is to have our troops well-prepared and well-trained, and to be ready to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place. The mission of the military must be focused, and the job of the commander in chief is to focus that mission, and that's what I've done.

Now, there'll be a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about increasing military budgets, and my answer is, let's make sure we have a strategic plan before we do so.

Let's have a blueprint of what the future ought to look like. Let's not only make sure that morale is high today, but as we begin to spend our weapon systems, let's make sure they fit into a plan so we keep the peace as we go down the road.

Many of the decisions that are made in the Defense Department today will affect how the military looks like 20 to 30 years from now. And I want to make sure that money is wisely spent and focused on how to keep the peace in the long run.

Another priority is retirement systems of Americans. And so the budget I set up says that payroll taxes are only going to be spent on one thing, and that's Social Security. But the Congress won't be using the payroll taxes for other programs. Lockbox, I think, is the terminology they like to use up here.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Rest assured, it's set aside only for Social Security.

And later on in the year, we're going to begin the process of debating how to make sure the Social Security system works as we go down the road.

One of the things that -- I went to a senior citizens' center yesterday in Orlando, Florida, home of the great Governor Bush. (LAUGHTER)

BUSH: And a couple of folks there said, "Now, you're not going to be messing with my Social Security check?" They didn't quite put it that eloquently.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: But I said, "No." You know, every time there is a campaign, there's a lot of noise and ads and stuff. They try to frighten people into the voting booths.

And by setting aside all of the money that goes into Social Security for only Social Security, we can assure folks who rely upon Social Security that they're going to get their check.

But the fundamental question is, what happens to the younger workers, younger folks in America? Will there be a system available for them? And one of the things that we're going to start thinking about and encourage a lot of debate about is this notion of letting younger workers take some of their own money, some of their own payroll taxes, and invest them in the private markets to get a better rate of return on the money than we get now under the Social Security trust.

You see, we've got to get a better rate of return on payroll taxes, otherwise there's not going to be enough people putting money in the system compared to those who are taking it out of the system. And I'm willing to think differently on the issue and encourage others to do so up here as well.

Health care is a priority in our budget. We put enough money aside to double the number of folks who will be served by what is called community health centers. Perhaps you've got a community health center in your neighborhood.

These are fundamentally important health care delivery systems that enable the indigent or other folks who are struggling with health care to be able to get primary care. These are good programs, and it's an effective part of the delivery of health care.

We double the Medicare budget in the budget I submitted to the United States Congress. And we increased funding so we can double the NIH budget by 2003 from when that initiative first started.

There's a lot of programs that we focus on.

We increased discretionary spending by 4 percent. That's greater than the rate of inflation. It's probably greater than the pay raises you gave the people working for you. It's a pretty healthy increase.

But the problem is, they're not used to that kind of fiscal responsibility in Washington. The discretionary spending at the end of last year increased by 8 percent.

So we've got a new president who comes to town, and says, "Why don't we be fiscally responsible with the people's money? Why don't we, instead of increasing spending by 8 percent...

KAGAN: We've been listening to President George W. Bush as he addresses the National Newspaper Association in Washington, D.C. Touching on a plethora of topics, including the budget, health care and Social Security. When the president goes ahead and answers questions from those newspaper publishers, we will go ahead and dip back in.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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