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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Bush and Tom Ridge Speak to Conference of Mayors

Aired January 24, 2002 - 09:32   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We take you straight back to Washington, where homeland security director Tom Ridge is at the podium. Let's listen to what he's having to say to the mayors right now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: ... executive order was signed, creating the Office of Homeland Security, the president has been engaged with the office in developing the comprehensive national strategy for this country.

He knows the valuable contribution all elected officials make every single day in their own communities to build a safer and more secure country.

The president understands what comes first in homeland security: our first responders. They died for their country on September 11; they risked their lives every day before and since. They deserve and will get the support of this administration.

The president understands that homeland security is a national effort, not just a federal one. As mayors and county officials and governors work together to develop their anti-terrorism plans, and this White House, working with you, in support of that effort to put those plans into action, the president understands the need to create a 21st-century partnership with the federal government, the states and the cities, working together like never before to combat terrorism.

And finally, our president understands that homeland security can provide long-term benefits to the cities and communities and the people you govern: a better public health system, efficient borders, more tools to fight violent crime, improved technology, more responsive government. The president's goal, this country's goal: a safe and more secure America, a stronger and better America.

For all of these reasons, I am honored and privileged and proud to introduce the leader of this national effort, the president of the United States, George W. Bush.

(APPLAUSE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all. Thanks. Please be seated. Thank you.

Welcome to the White House.

BUSH: It's a privilege for me and for Tom to be with the country's most accountable elected officials.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

The mayors in Los Alcares (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

We always used to say, you know, the government that's closest to the people is that which governs best. You know first-hand. You know what it's like to get the call to make sure the streets are paved or the garbage is picked up. You're what I call practical.

(LAUGHTER)

The farther you get away from the local governments, we get a little theoretical...

(LAUGHTER)

... but there's nothing like being a mayor to be a problem solver.

And, as you know, we've got a new problem to solve here, and that's the security of our homeland. And I'm so pleased that you all are here to give me a chance to discuss how we're going to work together to solve this common national problem, which is the security of our people.

It's your police forces, your emergency medical teams, your firefighters who are responsible for the first response on any terrorist attack and are responsible for saving lives.

I say "terrorist attack" because we're still under attack. They still want to come after us. These are evil people that are relentless in their desire to hurt those who love freedom. And since we're the bastion of freedom, the beacon of freedom, we're their target. And we're going to respond, and we're going to deal with it by working together.

I want to thank -- when you go back to your communities, you make sure that you thank your police chiefs and your fire chiefs and your emergency medical teams, not only on behalf of the president but the entire country.

These good folks put their lives at risk, they work incredibly hard and long hours, and they deserve the praise and love of our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

There obviously is a role for the federal government, and I'll discuss parts of our homeland security strategy in a little bit.

But in order to make sure that our homeland is secure for a long time, we as a nation must be patient enough and resolved enough to hunt down the killers and the terrorists, wherever they try to hide, and bring them to justice. And that's exactly what this country is going to do.

(APPLAUSE)

I say "patient enough" because sometimes there's a certain sense of anxiety that creeps into the national dialogue. Some folks are trying to rush the scorecard, I guess is a way to put it.

There is -- we've made huge progress is four and a half months. I mean, we've done a lot -- thanks to a great military, by the way. And there is a lot of moms and dads and wives and husbands and children who also need to be thanked for their sacrifice.

(APPLAUSE)

But in the first theater to rout out terror, we have done a lot. We've totally destroyed the government and routed out the government that thought they could hide the terrorists.

You see, there used to be, I guess, a school of thought around the world that it's OK to hide a terrorist, you weren't considered a terrorist. We changed that.

We said if you hide a terrorist or you feed a terrorist or you coddle a terrorist, you're just as guilty as a terrorist, and we'll hold you accountable, as the Taliban has found out.

We have liberated people. I'm so proud of our military and this great nation and our coalition -- we've got a strong coalition -- of going into Afghanistan and freeing women and children.

It was a fantastic moment in United States history to be able to liberate people who were so oppressed that they probably thought they had no future. And yet, we came. We came to achieve an objective. The objective was to hold a government accountable for harboring a terrorist and, in so doing, became liberators. It's a proud moment for the country.

And now we're chasing down people in the first theater who, on the one hand, are willing to commit others to suicide, and they themselves hide in caves. And they think they can hide. And they may be able to hide today, but we'll get them.

We're going to get them running, and when they run, we'll bring them to justice.

I'm plenty patient. I have no preconceived notion about how long this should take, and neither do the American people. What the American people expect is a determined, relentless effort, and that's exactly how we're going to behave.

(APPLAUSE)

And so, while we're after them overseas, there's a lot to do at home, and that's what I want to discuss today, that this is a two- front war. Overseas we're fighting, and at home we're fighting.

We're fighting to share information -- or working to share information to make sure that all law enforcement agencies are knitted up, that we do a better job of alerting people, giving people a heads- up that something might be going on in the neighborhood and please help.

Our people are alert. The shoe man, the shoe-bomber, Reid, he found out how alert Americans can be when he showed up on the airplane and all of a sudden people noticed something was odd and they turned him in and now he's in prison. That's what we're doing.

But there's more to do, and I want to discuss that with you today.

We're counting on you, and I'm about to tell you that we're going to make resources available so that we can work together.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank Tom for taking on a tough assignment.

I appreciate you bringing one mayor who thought you did a good job as governor.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm really proud of Tom's efforts. He understands local government. He understands state government. He believes in cooperative efforts. He's an open-minded fellow. I hope you've found that he's willing to listen, willing to listen to good ideas. He's not an "It's got to be invented here" guy. He believes that if there's a good idea, it doesn't matter who brought it up -- Republican or Democrat -- we'll put it in place.

And so, I'm real proud of your efforts, Tom, and thanks for your hard work.

(APPLAUSE)

Mel Martinez is here. He will have spent a lot of quality time with you all on housing issues.

I appreciate your service, Mel. I appreciate your service...

(APPLAUSE)

A man who worked with me a lot in Texas who now runs FEMA, who is a -- who makes sure the agency is responsive to emergencies, who will eventually, soon, play a big effort in making sure this national strategy for homeland defense is effective in a way that helps you do your job, and that's Joe Allbaugh. Thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

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