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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Bush Talks to Reporters

Aired August 16, 2002 - 13:22   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you to a tape by President Bush while speaking to reporters in Crawford, Texas. It's about baseball and other very serious matters -- let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, I'll be glad to answer a couple of questions.

(OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You spoke Tuesday (ph) with President Fox. What did you tell him about the execution? And are you disappointed he's not coming?

BUSH: Well, first of all, I understand why he's not coming. He said that if the execution goes forward he's not going to come.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Yes, he did. And I said, "Well, we have laws here in America. The state of Texas has got a law." I said that there's going to be a full recourse to the courts, which there was. And the governor made the decision he made, the Supreme Court made the decision it made and President Fox made the decision he made.

But I am confident that our friendship is strong, that we'll be able to work together to resolve common problems and we'll have future discussions.

Michael (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, not all Republicans seem sold on your intention to deal with dictators who gas their own people. What are you going to do to make that case more persuasively? Are you consulting with them? And what is your obligation of getting approval, not just consultation, from Congress?

BUSH: Yes. I appreciate that question. First of all, I am aware that, you know, some very intelligent people are expressing their opinions about Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

BUSH: I listened carefully to what they have to say. There should be no doubt in anybody's mind that this man is thumbing his nose at the world, that he has gassed his own people, that he is trouble in his neighborhood, that he desires weapons of mass destruction. I will use all the latest intelligence to make informed decisions about how best to keep the world at peace; how best to defend freedom for the long run.

We'll continue to consult. Listen, it's a healthy debate for people to express their opinion. People should be allowed to express their opinion.

But America needs to know, I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence, and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies.

QUESTION: Mr. President, yesterday Secretary O'Neill said that he is going to be -- stop being so candid with his comments about the economy. You just met with him on...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: That's an interesting observation. Let me be honest with you.

QUESTION: Did you suggest to him that maybe he should...

BUSH: No, I didn't -- I don't -- Listen, Paul O'Neill is a -- is doing a fine job as the secretary of the Treasury.

I don't know what prompted him to make that statement. It's -- I find him to be refreshingly candid. I appreciate his judgment. He's a man of great experience. He and I share an optimism about our country's future, and we do so based upon fact. Interest rates are low, inflation's low, productivity's up.

We got a lot of work to do, and I started the process of bringing some fiscal discipline into Washington prior to the end-of-August recess. I meant what I said. In my radio address today I'm talking about fiscal discipline, so that over-spending doesn't serve as an anchor on any economic growth. I firmly believe that the trade bill I got is going to help create jobs. I know we need to have a terrorism insurance package so that we can get many of our construction workers working. And there are some things we need to do, but the secretary and I share a basic optimism about our future.

QUESTION: Sir, the firefighter's union is very upset about the money being withheld from the supplemental and they said that they refuse to meet with you in October. Are they misunderstanding?

BUSH: Well, first of all, you know, I've got a strong commitment to not only the firefighters but the first responders, and here are the facts.

BUSH: The budget prior to September 11 was about $250 million, after September the 11th is over $1 billion. And my '03 request for first responders is over $3.5 billion. And so the commitment is strong, and the commitment is there.

What they ought to be upset about is the fact that Congress tried to tie my hands. They said, "You've got to spend $5 billion or none of the $5 billion." And I chose not to spend the $5 billion because, one, we didn't need to and, two, it is important for this country to be fiscally disciplined as our economy begins to recover.

So there's no question in most people's minds that I've got a very strong commitment to firefighters and first responders.

QUESTION: Mr. President, if I may ask you about the economic forum, what's the most important new thing you learned? And, sir, is there anything at the top of your list based on suggestions or ideas that you heard there?

BUSH: Michael (ph), I am going to analyze and think about some of the suggestions so that when I announce them they'll be well thought out, they'll be a part of a long-term plan.

But there were some interesting ideas, you know. Expensing losses -- increasing the expenses of losses. Accelerating the 401(k) contributions, limits. In other words, making it easier for people to put more money in their 401(k)s quicker. There's a lot interesting talk about capital gains taxes, double taxation of dividends.

There was certainly a very strong sentiment that we're on the right track when it comes to holding people to account who lie, steat or cheal -- lie, cheat or steal, who defraud the people by cooking the books. There was a strong sentiment from CEO and non-CEO alike.

I came away from that summit that the small-business person feels constrained by tax policy and regulatory policy. And I was appreciative of the people coming. I thought it was a very good summit.

Last question, then I've got to go?

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, are you planning on producing a new economic package?

BUSH: Lie, cheat or steal.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Are you planning on producing a new economic package?

BUSH: We're thinking about it, thinking about all options. That's one of the things that came out of the meeting, was that some have urged us to think about additional measures to help economic growth. And so I'm thinking about it.

But one thing Congress has got to do is pass laws that will make a -- that we've already proposed that will make a difference for job creation, and one of them is terrorism insurance. Another one's pension reform. And that's very important.

BUSH: And so, Congress needs to do that when they get back. And the other thing, of course, is Congress should not overspend. Look, I understand Washington. Every project sounds like it's needed, every proposal is one that's got to be funded. And my job is to set the priorities, and I have set priorities. The war is a priority. Homeland defense is a priority. And then hold people to account if they don't accept those priorities, if they overspend. And I started that process by making the decision on the supplemental.

Thank you all. I hope you have a great day.

QUESTION: Mr. President, how's the nature trail coming along?

BUSH: Michael (ph), you're not inviting yourself out there, are you?

(LAUGHTER)

It's coming great. Actually, I haven't been on the good side of a saw for a while. I've been out of the area, as you know. And today, we've got another event here, and then Condi's coming down. We'll spend some time with her. I may be sawing tomorrow. If I need an extra hand, I'll holler.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I tell you what. He represented the press corps in fine fashion. It was an unbelievable effort.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Who's that, Michael (ph)?

QUESTION: I'm not going to identify.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Well, you represented your profession well. I tried to find a model citizen out of the people I could have invited. I tried to find the one person that would represent the integrity of the press corps, somebody who represents those values that we hold dear, that the enemy's trying to attack, as a matter of fact, a free press. I hope you agree with my judgment that Scott (ph) was the right man, the right place at the right time. It's that flexibility I need.

WHITFIELD: All right, President Bush always trying to find some comic relief, at the same time addressing very serious matters while talking to reporters on his vacationing work schedule there at Crawford, Texas. He says on the economy, as a nation, things need to be done to secure the economy. He says he is pleased that they are working towards some progress to do that, but it takes some bipartisan support.

And on baseball, and on this looming strike, now a strike date being set for August 30, he says that the fans will be angry.

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