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President Bush Holds Media Availability In Crawford, Texas

Aired December 31, 2001 - 14:08   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.
KAGAN: Now let's look at this tape coming from Crawford, Texas -- President Bush going out to lunch on New Year's Eve day. Let's listen in to the president.

BUSH: First of all, I wish everybody a happy new year. 2002's going to be a great year for America. And we will continue to pursue our mission in fighting terror. We'll work hard to make sure our economy rebounds. But most of all, the nation will continue to embrace the culture of compassion, which really flourished right after September the 11th.

I'm looking forward to an early evening tonight. I guess, at the age of 55, it's expected that or it's OK for a guy to go to bed at about 9 o'clock, maybe 10 o'clock. So I don't plan anything glamorous for New Year's Eve.

And I got to tell you, there's nothing more relaxing than being in Crawford, Texas. I'm spending as much time outdoors as I can. I spent -- after my briefing this morning with our National Security Council, I was able to spend about three hours in the canyons, cleaning underbrush, and I feel refreshed and fortunate that we've got such a beautiful piece of land to live on.

I'd be glad to answer a few questions, then I'm going to go have a cheeseburger.

QUESTION: Any information on the whereabouts of bin Laden or Omar? Is there a pursuit under way?

BUSH: No. Yes, I mean, the same -- we're going to get him, and it's just a matter of when.

You know, you hear all kinds of reports, and all kinds of rumors. You know, you've got people saying he's in a cave, people saying he's dead, people saying he's in Pakistan. And all I know is that he's running. And any time you get a person running, it means you're going to get him pretty soon. And the same with Mullah Omar. It's just a matter of time.

And I'm patient, and so is our military. There's no artificial time lines, or you know, deadlines. The definition of success is making sure the Taliban's out of existence, helping rebuild Afghanistan and disrupting this international terrorist network, and we're doing a darn good job of it too. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Yes, sure.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Well, a couple of days ago, I had a good talk with both Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf. I urged President Musharraf to do everything he could to crack down on the terrorist network that had bombed the Indian parliament -- or raided the Indian parliament.

In my conversation with the prime minister, I said I can understand how he feels. If someone attacked the U.S. Capitol, I'd feel angry too. However, I urged -- I explained to the Indian prime minister that while I understood his anger, I was hoping they were not headed for war. I said, "Give us all a chance to work with President Musharraf to bring the terrorists to justice," and today, as you know, he has apprehended the head of what they call LAT (ph), that's after he had apprehended the head of GEM (ph), so he's cracking down hard. And I appreciate his efforts.

Terror is terror, and the fact that the Pakistani president is after terrorists is a good sign.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Well, I talked to interim President Saa -- and no longer President Saa -- and, you know, obviously I'm worried about it. Argentina's a very important part of our hemisphere. I've heard that they're thinking about expediting elections, and that'll be good. As soon as they can get -- I'm confident the country will stay together until they get elections. And once they elect a president, we'll work with him.

But the future president has got to deal with the economic crisis at hand, and once they come up with a plan that'll sustain economic growth, then we're willing to work with them, and we're wiling to provide technical assistance to the government through the IMF. And hopefully they'll get their house in order here pretty quickly.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: I'm not sure what that means. You know, Argentina is a vibrant democracy, they've been around a long time, they have elections. You know, they're going to have elections here pretty quickly. And as soon as they get a democratically elected president in place, we'll work with him. As a matter of fact, I anticipate I'll be calling the person as soon as he wins.

QUESTION: What can Americans expect in the upcoming year in terms of (OFF-MIKE)? What's the next step?

BUSH: Well, what's next is really, you know, a focus on health, in terms of making sure the public health systems work. We're reviewing all our visa policies. We're looking at our immigration policies. We're looking at border policies, both with Canada and with Mexico.

And we'll continue doing what we're doing now, which is anytime we get a lead we're going to disrupt people, we're going to bring them in. We'll give them a chance to protect Americans.

The FBI -- the whole culture of the FBI has changed, for the better. The FBI's main task now is to protect Americans from further attack. The country is on alert, and the classic case is the person who tried to put the bomb in his shoe and the flight attendant, on the American flight, alertly notified people and they got him. And he's now -- we're now giving him a chance to tell us what he knows about terror and about Al Qaeda.

But 2002, the country will still be on alert. We'll still be working hard to protect the American people.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Well -- or you know -- or Christmas, I mean, there's all kinds of excuses for them to attack. Let's just put it this way, that the administration and the government has not -- is on alert and have been since 9/11. And the American people realize we have a new culture, and that is one of being vigilant. We've got people working overtime during the holidays, we've got CAPs still flying around, and anybody who tries to harm an American, there's a good chance we're going to get them.

QUESTION: New Year's message for the American people?

BUSH: Well, it is that we're a blessed nation. God has richly blessed America. And for that we ought to be grateful.

We're a nation that has gone through incredible suffering and hardship, yet as a result of it, we're a strong nation, and a united nation.

And 2002, in my judgment, is going to be a great year. It's going to be a great year because people are going to be able to find work again. It's going to be a great year because our military is going to do the job the Americans expect. It will be a great year because at home we'll protect the American people.

And it's going to be a great year primarily because Americans have taken a look inward, reassessed their values, and realized that some of the basics in life are that which is most important: love of faith, love of family. And as a result, our communities will be stronger.

So I'm really looking forward to 2002.

STAFF: Thank you.

BUSH: I'm also looking forward to my cheeseburger.

STAFF: Thank you everybody, happy new year.

QUESTION: Any resolutions?

BUSH: Resolutions? Eat fewer cheeseburgers.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you all.

QUESTION: Any friends coming over tonight?

BUSH: Yeah, we got two couples from Austin and a couple from Lubbock. And the Lubbock couple are generally -- spent, I guess, New Year's Eve with us for, like, a decade, now. And that's it.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

BUSH: Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Happy new year.

KAGAN: Well, there you have it; President Bush going out for a cheeseburger in Crawford, Texas, on this New Year's Eve afternoon. President sharing with reporters and folks at the hamburger stand there that he doesn't expect to really do too much for New Year's Eve. They have about three couples coming over to join him and Mrs. Bush at the ranch. The president also touching on a number of other topics.

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