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Bush Cabinet Meeting

Aired July 31, 2002 - 11:50   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush is going to be -- we're going to have some videotape of him that's being fed in, and we haven't had a chance to look at it ourselves yet, but we understand he had some comments to make in the cabinet meeting this morning, comments ranging on many topics from the Middle East to what happened this morning.

KAGAN: What happened with the bombing in Jerusalem.

HARRIS: The bombing this morning.

Also talking to us about security as well there in the Middle East, and I believe he also had some comments that we heard he made about tax shelters. Still, that's a big topic right now, that corporate responsibility bill that was signed yesterday. Also, he some comments to make about the economy as well.

KAGAN: Plenty of comments about that these days. Once again, a meeting he had with his cabinet members, allowing cameras in at the beginning.

We have the tape? Let's roll it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: I want to condemn in as strong as possible terms the attack that took place in Israel. They're clearly killers who hate the thought of peace and therefore are willing to take their hatred to all kinds of places, including a university. And this country condemns that kind of killing, and we send our deepest sympathy to the students and their families.

I also want to make it clear to the killers they won't stop us from rallying the world to find their kind of terror, nor will they stop us from having a vision of peace.

I look forward to continuing to work with all responsible parties in the region, starting to insist that they work with us to stop this terror, use all their power to stop organizations such as Hamas from taking innocent life.

And at the same time, as we do so, we must continue to work to put the institutions in place necessary for the evolution of a state which can live at peace with Israel.

Secondly, we met today and talked about our economy. There are some statistics out today that showed that our economy continues to grow. Second-quarter growth was 1.1 percent. When you combine that with the first-quarter growth, it's a 3 percent growth. This is a positive trend. We're heading in the right direction.

But the growth isn't strong enough, as far as I'm concerned. And so, I look forward to working with Congress to pass a trade bill, a bill which will be good for American workers, American farmers, American ranchers.

I look forward to working with Congress to pass a terrorism insurance bill, a bill which will help stimulate construction work, which will help our workers, those who build buildings and construction people who work on projects.

I look forward to working with Congress to show fiscal restraint when it comes to budgeting and spending of the taxpayers' money. I believe Congress ought to make the tax cuts permanent so our small businesses and taxpayers can plan with certainty.

As well, we discussed this corporate fraud task force with the attorney general, and he and I share the same strong commitment to ferret out those who have cheated employees and workers and bring them to justice, which we will continue to do.

So I appreciate my Cabinet coming and sharing ideas about how we can continue the positive trends, so that the people who want to find a job can find one here in America.

I'll answer some questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what's your position on American companies moving their headquarters to foreign tax havens? Should it be outlawed? Did Harken do this while you were...

BUSH: Moving their headquarters?


BUSH: I don't recall Harken moving their headquarters. I think there was an issue over an arrangement with Bahrain, a drilling venture there, which I opposed, as you may recall, when I was a director of the company.

QUESTION: Should the practice be outlawed now?

BUSH: I think we ought to look at people who are trying to avoid U.S. taxes, is a problem. And I think American companies ought to pay taxes here, be a part -- good citizens.

But as far as the Harken issue, you know, we'll try to answer all your questions on that.

QUESTION: The Jordanian foreign minister is pressing for a detailed work plan for Middle East peace accord. Is this something that's worth pursuing?

BUSH: Well, I think it's interesting. What's worth pursuing is a detailed plan toward achieving these objectives: A security force that exists to fight terror and not keep certain officials who haven't been able to deliver on the war against terror in office; a security force that will cooperate with people who care about achieving peace and will provide security not only for the Palestinians, but for the neighborhood.

Secondly, progress toward the writing of a constitution, which will enable a state to evolve that will be at peace with its neighbor. These institutions, by the way, are incredibly important because peace is bigger than an individual. There needs to be institutions in place that last longer than a particular individual.

And the Palestinians, the voice of the Palestinians, those who desire peace, needs to be heard. And so, reform of these institutions are an incredible part of achieving what I believe His Majesty wants, which is two states living side by side in peace.

Eventually there will be a peace conference, but there's needs to be steps leading up to the peace conference where all of us do our jobs about putting those institutions in place that'll lead to peace, so that we all have confidence.

Listen, one of the things that we care deeply about is the plight of the Palestinian family and Palestinian people. These people live in squalor and they're poor and they're downtrodden. And there's nothing more that we'd like to do is to work with our friends to provide humanitarian assistance, a strong package of aid to help these poor people that have, frankly, been used as pawns in the peace process over the decades.

However, it's so important before we spend money that we're confident the money is not going to be stolen, that it be -- that anti-corruption reforms be in place.

So these are all steps necessary to get to where we want to get.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you concerned at all that consumer confidence, which came in at kind of a low number yesterday, is a harbinger of things to come, particularly as people watch their stock portfolios erode and vanish? Will this make them less likely to spend and put more pressure on the recovery?

BUSH: I think -- let me just give you my own consumer confidence index. I am positive about the -- our economy. I feel very optimistic about it, because I look at the facts, and the facts are that inflation is low, interest rates low, productivity is high. We're going to get a trade bill, which will help, presuming the Senate acts this week.

I feel strongly that there -- that the -- that having -- now, it turns out, having been through three quarters of negative growth when I first came into office, we've had three quarters of positive growth. I think that's the right trend. So I'm optimistic about this. And I think when the American people take a look at the facts and are confident about those facts, like I am, they're going to realize we've got a bright future ahead of us.

And I am upbeat, and I think most of the people around this table are upbeat, about the prospects for people being able to find work.

Thank you, all.


HARRIS: And that was just an excerpt from the beginning of the meeting this morning from President Bush and his cabinet. He began the morning by strongly condemning the bombing that happened this morning at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He says he insists that all parties there do all they can to reign in groups like Hamas.

He also talked about the economy. He says the statistics show that the economy is growing. Right now, he says, 1.1 percent, but he says that is a positive trend, but not strong enough in his opinion. He did mention the fact that there have been three quarters now in a row of positive economic growth, and that is a good sign. He also wants Congress to pass a trade bill and some terrorism insurance bills as well, and he also wants it make the tax cuts permanent, all of which he thinks will strengthen the economy even more.




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