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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Bush's Press Conference Runs on Themes

Aired October 12, 2001 - 06:12   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to the White House right now and check in with our Major Garrett, who's got the latest for us from there this morning. President Bush last night had his first prime time news conference -- good morning, Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

The first prime time press conference for this president was designed to be an update -- a progress report, in the president's words, on the overall global campaign against terrorism.

Let's summarize a few of the highlights: The president said the campaign militarily in Afghanistan is going exactly according to plan. But he also talked about the financial war against terrorism -- that accounts are being frozen. He also mentioned that suspects are being arrested, scores of them around the world, and cooperation from the ever-enlarging, ever-increasing coalition against terrorism is helping in that regard.

There was also a theme of second chances. The president said that the Taliban regime can, if it so chooses, turn over Osama bin Laden and all of his lieutenants, and if so, the U.S. will reconsider its current bombing campaign.

Another theme of second chances: The president said that nations that the U.S. government has already identified as being sponsors of terrorism can make amends by joining the global campaign against terrorism now, but the president, as he said, will not look for diplomatic words, but real actions, real results.

But the president also was confronted with persistent questions about domestic security, and an FBI warning released yesterday saying that there is a possibility the United States might actually be a target again in the very near future of another terrorist attack. And the president was asked very directly: What good such warnings are other than just simply to scare the American public?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We took strong and appropriate action, and we will do so anytime we receive a credible threat.

Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't -- where we don't conduct business or people don't shop. That's their intention. Their intention was not only to kill and maim and destroy, their intention was to frighten to the point where our nation would not act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: It's a difficult balance for this White House, one that senior advisers say the president faces every single day -- how to acknowledge that terrorist threats do exist, but also how to encourage Americans to go on with their daily lives.

Leon, let's look at the exact wording of that FBI warning, so our viewers can dissect it for themselves: "Certain information," the FBI says, "while not specific as to a target, gives the government reason to believe that there may be additional terrorist attacks within the United States and against U.S. interests overseas over the next several days. The FBI has again alerted all local law enforcement to be on the highest alert, and we call on all people to immediately notify the FBI and local law enforcement of any unusual or suspicious activity."

And that's exactly what the president said the American public should do. If you see anything in your neighborhood that looks unusual, something that raises an eyebrow, something you believe is suspicious, something you've never seen before, don't be bashful, don't be afraid, call your local law enforcement.

But the president also said, do not use this heightened state of alert as an excuse to pick on somebody, in the president's words, "different from you, different in color, different in religious belief, different in any way." This country still, the president says, has to uphold its tradition of tolerance, but must remain vigilant to possible terrorism in the United States -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Major, I think I have heard those words that you just read about three or four times, and I've seen them now twice, and they still come off as rather ambiguous.

Is the president going to be making any other statements or appearances today? What's on his schedule?

GARRETT: Well, essentially the president's schedule today is devoted to another part of the press conference. It was kind of an unusual part -- a closing statement, which is not typical for presidential news conferences. And in that closing statement, the president said he is asking every child in America to send $1 to the White House -- a dollar that the White House will then give to relief organizations to provide food and medicine to children in Afghanistan who are about to face a very bitterly cold winter.

This president will underscore that message at a speech at the March of Dimes today, and the overall message to the world is that American children and American parents understand that this is a campaign, not against Afghanistan or the people of that country, but against an illegitimate and repressive regime that's causing them so much suffering -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Now, we have to let you go, but by the way, do you have that address handy? We saw it last hour.

(CROSSTALK)

GARRETT: The address?

HARRIS: Yes.

GARRETT: The address is very simple: The Afghan Relief Fund, c/o the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., and I believe the zip code is 26050.

HARRIS: Here we go: 20509. There we go.

GARRETT: Well, you know, I wasn't even close, right? Numbers have never been my particular strength -- Carol and Leon.

HARRIS: We had you going for a while there. You almost pulled it off -- way to go -- Major Garrett at the White House. We'll talk with you later on -- thanks, much.

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