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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Speaks to Congressional Leaders

Aired May 9, 2002 - 13:41   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...seats that aren't filled with judges, and therefore America hurts. America is not getting the justice it needs. Ours is a system that relies upon an independent court system, and when there's vacancies the American people suffer. And I call upon the Senate to approve, at least give hearings to, people we've sent up to the Senate. There are 30 court vacancies in America, and they've approved seven. This is a bad record, and it's a record that's bad for the country.

Over a year ago, I submitted the names of 11 qualified, well- qualified, Americans and the Senate has only dealt with three of them.

These senators here bring stories about circuit courts in their own states and their own districts, that because of vacancies, good, honest Americans aren't getting their hearings. And this isn't right. For the good of the country, the Senate needs to act and act expeditiously on the nominees I've sent up. It's important that our judiciary be full.

I'd be glad to answer a couple of questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) politics on the part of the Democrats?

BUSH: Well, you can ask the senators here, but yes, I do. I think it's bad politics. These are well-qualified -- you know, they've relied upon the American Bar Association in the past. These nominees have been given well-qualified or qualified ratings. I think it's wrong politics, and I think it's bad for the country.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the CIA...

BUSH: Does this have anything to do about judges?

QUESTION: ... launched a missile attack against an Afghan warlord. Is this now...

BUSH: What was that again?

QUESTION: Near Kabul, an Afghan warlord survived a missile attack, and this has been acknowledged today by government officials. My question to you is whether this is now the policy to pursue with missiles anyone -- I mean, why were you firing at this man? Is he suspected to be Taliban or Al Qaeda?

BUSH: I can assure when we go after individuals in the theater of war, it's because they intend to do some harm to America.

QUESTION: Mr. President, last night you budget director said that he had, in his words, "grave doubts" whether the deficit could be erased by 2004 as your administration previously said it would be. Has (UNINTELLIGIBLE) given you any concern that you might be facing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the budget will still be in the red?

BUSH: Well, first of all I'm not thinking that far ahead about my elections. I am thinking about how to win a war and how to get this country's economy growing and how to deal with a national emergency. When I ran for office, I said the only way we'd have a deficit, as far as I was concerned, if any of those three happened. All three happened. And I firmly believe that we need to spend what it takes to protect our freedoms. And we're going to do that. We need to make sure our military's got the best equipment, the best training, the best pay possible to win this war.

And it's going to take a while to win the war. This isn't a war that's going to end tomorrow, it's a war that is going to require a steady, patient, united country going after people who still want to harm America. It's going to require money to make sure our national security, our homeland security is intact.

And in terms of the economy, the economy's beginning to come back, but certainly not as strong as I would like. And until the economy comes back as strong as it can, our revenues aren't going to be as good as they should be.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Israelis officials told me yesterday that you weren't against the idea of moving Yasser Arafat out of a position of power in a reformed Palestinian Authority, as long as he was neither hurt nor exiled. Is that an accurate reflection...

BUSH: No, it's not.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BUSH: No, it's not an accurate reflection of what went on in the Oval Office, as the secretary of state has made clear, who was in the meeting as well.

What is an accurate reflection of my opinion is that Mr. Arafat has let the Palestinian people down. He hasn't led. And as a result, the Palestinians suffer. And my heart breaks for the Palestinian moms and dads who wonder whether or not their children are going to be get a good education and whether or not there's going to be a job available for their children.

And one of the things that we did talk about was how to put institutions in place so that a potential Palestinian state can be a peaceful neighbor with Israel. Reforms such as making sure there's a single command security force that can be held accountable for arresting terrorists. Reforms such as having a, kind of -- an economic system that would help promote rule of law and defeat corruption. Reform so that there if there is ever a rebuilding campaign, which we've expressed an interest in doing and the Europeans have, that the money's actually spent on the projects that we intend them to be spent on. And that's what we did discuss.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hamas members arrested (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BUSH: We'll have to see.

BUSH: But what I said was, I said I was pleased that Chairman Arafat spoke in Arabic against terrorism. That's good; that's a positive development.

Now it's up to Chairman Arafat to perform; to keep them in jail -- arrest them, and keep them in jail. In order for there to be peace, there must be -- we must root out terror.

And to answer you question time will tell.

Thank you.

HEMMER: President Bush, clearly referring to a number of different topics there. If the tape continues, we shall dip back in. All right, that's it.

Talking about the judges, the nominations, right now in front of the Senate, to top it off, President Bush clearly not pleased with what he considers Democratic senators blocking the nominations that he sent up to Capitol Hill just about a year ago.

Clearly, there are more talk today about the Middle East and Chairman Arafat, President Bush saying there that time will tell, time will tell as to whether or not those arrested will continue to stay behind bars and whether more arrests will be made and headed up by Chairman Arafat. In the words of the president, as he said yesterday, he was pleased to hear the statement that Chairman Arafat made, in terms of Arabic, denouncing terrorism against Israeli civilians.

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