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Bush Announces Results of Cabinet Meeting

Aired October 11, 2001 - 15:12   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We're told that we do have a video available now of this Cabinet meeting. It got under way a little over an hour ago at 2:00 Eastern time.

Standing by at the White House, our correspondent John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, as we wait for this tape, we know the president wanted a firsthand update from the members of the Cabinet on what their agencies have been doing in the month since the devastating attacks on September 11. And as Tavis just noted, we do know that shortly after that Cabinet meeting began, the Vice President Dick Cheney arrived here at the White House for the first time since Sunday. He was here when the president addressed the nation and announced that the air strikes were under way Afghanistan. Since then, he has been in a secure location.

The White House asked that we not disclose where that is, although we do know where he has been in recent days. But he came back to the White House. It was after the Cabinet meeting began. And until we see this videotape, because only a small group of reporters was allowed in, we do not know if he walked into that meeting late. We do know he first went to his office. We do not believe he actually went into the Cabinet meeting , but sometimes we're proven wrong. They can move around in private here at the White House.

We will see the president in just a minute. And we know he will address the American people tonight, deliver an opening statement at a prime time news conference, the first of his presidency. And before he did that, we know he wanted to sit down firsthand with the members of his Cabinet, again, to get a sense of what they're doing.

Secretary Powell on the diplomacy, Secretary Rumsfeld on the defense and the military options. But also, from others. The Justice Department is involved in this. So is the Department of Health and Human Services, because of the health risks.

And the threat we hear about from time to time -- still a threat of a perhaps how would the government respond to a biological or a chemical terrorist attack? So we will hear the president in the Cabinet room in just a minute.

This Cabinet also has asked in recent days: what about the rest of the domestic agenda? We know the education secretary has been a bit frustrated that all the attention in the past month -- understandably, he says -- but still, important education issues to be dealt with. He wanted to know when will the president push the Congress on that front. So this another one of the interesting moments, as the president handles this crisis. And again, we will hear from him in just a moment -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, how often has the president been meeting with his Cabinet? I know under previous presidents, sometimes Cabinet meetings became almost show-and-tell sessions. They really didn't carry much weight, in terms of real decisions being made. How important have these meetings been to President Bush?

KING: The Bush Cabinet has actually met quite frequently. I will get some angry phone calls for saying this, but Bill Clinton did not use his Cabinet very much at all, and many of its members were quite frustrated. President Clinton prepared to drive much of the domestic policy of his administration himself. The Cabinet was used to travel the country, but there were very infrequent Cabinet meetings, formal sessions here at the White House.

This president has called in his Cabinet about once a month. That's probably a little more frequent than it has happened, but he has relied on them heavily. He talks to individual members quite frequently and has meetings with them, say the secretary of treasury and commerce, Don Evans and Paul O'Neill, both involved heavily in the tax cut strategy, when the president was pushing that through the Congress. So they are quite important.

Obviously receiving the most attention right now is the national security team: Secretary of State Powell, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, as well as the attorney general because of the investigation. But this president has relied on his Cabinet a great deal more than his predecessor.

WOODRUFF: And John, we note that the president has found a number of way to communicate what he's thinking to the American people. He has gone around and visited different departments, he has talked to -- here is the Cabinet meeting. Let's listen to the president.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have asked my Cabinet to come in and give me a briefing on the progress that we're making on the war on terrorism. I can report to the American people we are making substantial progress.

First, our secretary of state and our diplomats around the world have put together a broad coalition of nations to make a stand against terrorists, terrorism and those who harbor terrorist. And I am really pleased that the coalition includes not only our friends in Europe and South America, but as we saw, at the OIC conference, the Organization of Islamic conference. Many Muslim nations have taken a very firm stand against terrorist activities as well.

Obviously, the secretary of defense and the defense department has been busy. And I have said today America is very proud of the men and women who wear the uniform, and they're proud of your leadership. We'll leave the military briefing for the Pentagon.

I had a good visit with our secretary of treasury. He informed me that we've now frozen $40 million worth of assets, Taliban and Al Qaeda assets all around the world, and we've just begun. We want the terrorists to know that we're after them in all kinds of ways. And one good way to make them ineffective is to cut off their money.

The attorney general has reported that here in the homeland, we've interrogated over 600 people that may have been involved with the bombings, as well as spending a great deal of time analyzing information that could lead to the disruption of any potential attack on America.

And then we discuss our legislative priorities before the Congress goes home. One of those, of course, is an economic stimulus package that must include tax relief that has a positive effect on the economy in the short run. But there are two other aspects to a good, strong economic stimulus package, one of which is trade promotion authority. And the other is an energy bill.

Now, there was a good energy bill passed out of the House of Representatives. And the reason it passed is because members of both parties understand that an energy bill is not only good for jobs, it's important for our national security to have a good energy policy.

And I urge the Senate to listen to the will the senators and move a bill. Move a bill that will help Americans find work, and also make it easier for all of us around this table to protect the security of the country. The less dependent we are on foreign sources of crude oil, the more secure we are at home.

We spend a lot of time talking about homeland security, and an integral piece of homeland security is energy independence. And I ask the Senate that they respond to the call to get an energy bill moving. We have got a lot of work to do, and everybody around this table understands that. We are a patient group of people. We are a disciplined group of people.

But one thing we've got in mind as well, is we've got the best interest of the American people in mind. And I'm proud of the job everybody is doing here, and I want to thank you, America, for your hard work. I will see you all tonight.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.


BUSH: Save your questions. You're only going to get one question. And by the way, I suggest a little different combo of your shirt and tie for the American people.



WOODRUFF: President Bush giving the reporters a little bit of a hard time, saying something about an apparently unmatching (sic) shirt and tie, at least in the eyes of the president.

I took note, John King, that at the end, it seems to me the president got to the point of what he was there to say, and that was to urge the Senate to pass the energy bill that the president wants. And he tied it directly to the war against terrorism. He said unless we can get this energy bill passed, we can't protect the security of this nation the way that we like to. He said energy independence is an important piece of homeland security.

KING: That's right, Judy. Also very significant: what the president did not say. Flashback a month and just a day -- September 10 -- and what would we be talking about? The coming budget battle, the fight over dipping into the Social Security surplus. The president prodding at Congress to deal with the patients' bill of rights and education, two issues that were prominent on his agenda 31 days ago. Not so prominent now, as the president directs a war on terrorism. And virtually every priority now shaped by that war. That was missing as well.

The president also had hoped this fall to begin discussions about Medicare reform and long-term Social Security reform. Those issues difficult to begin with, now off the table entirely as the president directs the war on terrorism.

Two other quick footnotes. At the very end you saw at the end of the table the newest member of the Bush Cabinet. Certainly a Cabinet- level position, Governor Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, now runs the homeland security office at the White House, and the president has designated that as a Cabinet-level position.

And as we were listening the president, the Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill steps outside of the White House to brief reporters a little bit more on the subject the president discussed in his remarks: freezing assets of suspected terrorists and their organizations around the world.

Secretary O'Neill saying 62 nations in total have now issued blocking orders, freezing finances; that 102 in total have indicated their intent to join in addition to that. And as the president noted, $24 million so far frozen that the government, the United States government says can be traced back either to the Taliban or to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King spelling out for us just how much the entire agenda of this administration now seems to be tied to the war on terrorism, not just energy, but the stimulus package, trade promotion authority and so on.

All right. Thanks to John King at the White House. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT



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