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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President's Western Swing

Aired August 23, 2002 - 13:23   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush now in Stockton, California to a rousing welcome now.
Let's listen in.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate you coming to give me a chance to share with you some of my thoughts and concerns and hopes about our great nation. I appreciate you being here.

I want to thank the mayor. My only regret is the mayor didn't take me down to Billy Hebert (ph) Field to see the team play. I'm a baseball guy.

(LAUGHTER)

I want to thank so very much the members of the congressional delegation who met me at Air Force One. I appreciate the hard work of Richard Pombo, who represents this district.

(APPLAUSE)

I was so pleased that he found a tie for this occasion.

(LAUGHTER)

Doug Ose from the next congressional district is here with us.

(APPLAUSE)

Doug, thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

These are two fine members of the United States Congress with whom I have good working relations, people with whom I can work to do what's right for the American people.

I picked a fine Cabinet. You need to judge a president based upon the people who he listens to. I listen to some mighty fine people.

I really do. I've got great advice not only on the national security side, but also on the domestic side of my job.

And I picked a neighbor, somebody from Compton, to serve in an incredibly important position, particularly for the folks in this part of the world, and that is to serve as our secretary of agriculture. Ann Veneman is doing a fabulous job.

(APPLAUSE)

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for helping put on this occasion. I particularly want to thank the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce for their hard work in getting us all ready and inviting people to come.

There's one friend I've got here that I've got to say something about. He's a great citizen from Stockton. He's been a long time friend of mine, and my family's, and that's of course Alex Spanos.

(APPLAUSE)

I like to be around optimistic people. It's important to stay in touch with those folks who are optimistic. Once again, he has told me that the San Diego Chargers are going to win the Super Bowl.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

And once again he believes it.

(LAUGHTER)

Today at Air Force One, I met Malika Rashi (ph). Where is Malika (ph)? Where is she? Oh, there she is.

Thank you Malika (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

She is a Freedom Corp volunteer. She volunteers for the country. In this case, she works for the California Conservation Corp, assisting in fire prevention clean-up projects and clean-up projects. We need, by the way, to have a forest policy that...

(APPLAUSE)

I mentioned -- I mention her because I want people to understand that I understand the true strength of America is not in the halls of our governments, but in the hearts of our people. And there are people like her all across the country who are willing to try to make the communities in which they live a better place for all of us.

I appreciate your service.

(APPLAUSE)

I also appreciate you working on fire prevention, and that's something the federal government needs to work on. Listen, we cannot allow our forests to become places where kindling piles up. It doesn't make any sense to me to fly over these huge fires that are consuming much of the West and realize our forest policy encourages. It doesn't prevent. It doesn't work to make the forests healthier and safer.

The forest -- the hands-off forest policy, proposed by well- meaning people, has failed, and now we need to do something about it.

(APPLAUSE)

We got a lot to do in this country, we really do. We've got some big hurdles, big challenges ahead of us.

And one of the things I found in Washington is, if we can get rid of all the politics...

(LAUGHTER)

... and get people thinking about what's important for the nation, we can get some things done. We really can.

(APPLAUSE)

Oh, I know we'll never get rid of all the politics, but at least we can get people thinking and setting the right priorities on behalf of the American people. That's the most -- that's one of my most important jobs. And we're making some progress.

If you look at the record, when people decided to come together, we're doing some things right for the American people, starting with making sure the funding priorities of the government is to win the war on terror.

(APPLAUSE)

A new priority has been to help secure the homeland by working with our brave first responders -- the police, the fire, the EMS teams all around the country, those who work hard here in Stockton and all around America. It's been a priority of ours. And both Republicans and Democrats have come together to fund that priority for the good of the country.

I proposed some tough new standards for corporate reform. Like you all, I took a look -- I took a look out there and saw a problem, and the problem was we had some folks who were trying to fudge the numbers. We had some people who decided they weren't going to tell the truth when it came to their assets and liabilities, to the detriment of not only shareholder and employee, but to the country itself. You see, a few -- a few -- began to shatter the confidence of the American people.

And so we decided to do something about it. Republicans and Democrats came together. I was honored and proud to sign the most comprehensive corporate reforms since Franklin Roosevelt was the president. This wasn't a Republican idea, it wasn't a Democrat idea.

(APPLAUSE)

It's an American idea to hold people responsible who betray the public's trust, and that is what we're going to do. (APPLAUSE)

I remember giving a speech in New York about how I thought the corporate accountability bill ought to go, and at one point in the speech I talked about the fact that our business schools don't teach right from wrong.

They are unwilling to say to future business leaders there's a right way to deal with things, and there's a wrong way.

And I was lamenting that fact. And I called upon our business schools to show leadership and to teach future leaders, you know, right from wrong.

And I was working the rope line afterwards, and a fellow walked up who is a professor at a business school. He said, "Thanks for saying that, Mr. President. We needed to hear that."

And a large guy, I assumed he was one of the construction folks that was there, construction union leaders that were supportive of this initiative, he said, "If you want to teach them right from wrong, Mr. President, the best lesson you can send is put them in hand cuffs."

(APPLAUSE)

And that's what's happening -- and that's what's happening. We cannot let a few -- and I emphasize a few -- to set the tone for the many who are decent, honorable citizens of this country who take care of their shareholders, who are good to their employees, who tell the truth. So we're working together.

The other day, I had the honor of signing a bill that both Republicans and Democrats supported that gives me the capacity to open up markets for U.S. goods.

Here's my attitude about trade: If you're good at something, you ought to promote it. If you're good at growing crops, you ought to figure out how to sell more of the crops. And we're the best in the world at farming and ranching.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm thrilled to be here in the bread basket of America, because it gives me a chance to remind our fellow citizens that we have an advantage here in America. We can feed ourselves.

(APPLAUSE)

And we've always got to be able to do that. It puts us in a -- gives us a strategic advantage, a strategic edge. Imagine if we were going around the world asking for food.

It'd be a -- put the president in a pretty tough position.

(LAUGHTER) And they may want to bargain a little high. But fortunately, we can feed ourselves, and not only that, we produce more food than we need, because we're good at what we do.

And therefore, it makes sense, on behalf of the producers, to open up markets. We ought to be feeding the world. Where people are hungry, they ought to be eating American food. We ought to be knocking down those tariffs and those barriers. We ought to be leveling the playing field, and that's precisely what I'm going to do with my new authority.

(APPLAUSE)

I told Ann -- and she will testify to this -- and I told Zoellick, who's our trade man, I said, "I don't want our agriculture producers to be shunted aside, when it comes to opening up markets." As a matter of fact, when you're good at something, it ought to be the cornerstone of your policy. So I want agriculture to be the cornerstone of good international trade policy, and it will be.

And we've made some progress. I don't know if you have been following this, but we had a little problem with the Russians for a while. They agreed to take our chickens. They were going to buy U.S. chickens, and then all of a sudden they decided not to buy the chickens. And that created a problem. It creates a problem for the chicken growers. It affects prices of other commodities. It truly does.

And it was interesting, at one of my press conferences with Vladimir Putin, who I like -- he's a good man -- he said, "You know, the good thing about our new relationship, as opposed to talking about war, we're talking about chickens."

(APPLAUSE)

But I want the agricultural folks here to understand, we talked about chickens up until yesterday when Secretary Veneman announced an agreement with the Russians that they're going to take U.S. chickens, they're going to honor their obligations.

(APPLAUSE)

I bring these examples up because it shows what is possible in Washington when people decide to work together.

And they're getting ready to come back in August. And when they come in August, and when they come back in August -- When the Congress comes back after their August break, I hope they keep in mind the fact that we need to continue to work together on behalf of the American people. We need to work in...

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE: USA! ! USA!

BUSH: And as we work together to make... (APPLAUSE)

... to make America more secure, we must do so on three fronts. We must work together to make sure that there's economic security. We must work together to make sure there's homeland security. And we must work together to make sure that we win the war on terror to defend our freedoms.

(APPLAUSE)

I hosted some folks down to Waco, Texas, middle of Texas in the middle of August. They obviously had something on their mind.

(LAUGHTER)

And it was a really interesting forum, to hear from people from all walks of life talk about the difficulties they face, the hurdles they face to create jobs. That's what I'm interested in. When I hear somebody who wants to work can't find a job, I view that as problem. It concerns me. I want people to be able to find work. That ought to be the cornerstone of any good economic policy.

And so part of what Congress needs to do is to get together and work on ways to make sure that there's economic security for the American people.

The platform for growth is good.

Just as we've had problems, no question. When we came in, there was a recession. History shows that, for the first three quarters of my presidency, we were at negative growth. The next three quarters have been positive growth, which is good news for the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

Wages are rising. The productivity of the American worker is the strongest in the world. We're good -- our workers are really good. Our entrepreneurs are innovative. We've got a good tax base, good monetary policy; interest rates are low. And so, we've got the foundation for growth, but I'm not content with our progress.

And here's some things that I'd like to see done. First, I can't tell you how strongly I feel and passionately I feel about the need to make the tax cuts that we passed permanent.

(APPLAUSE)

See, here's the chapter of the economic book I read, and I admit some of them in Washington didn't read this chapter.

(LAUGHTER)

I believe that when times are slow -- and remember the first three quarters of our administration was negative growth -- when times are slow, you let people keep their own money. And when they keep their own money, they demand a good or a service. And when they demand a good or a service, somebody produces the good or the service. And when somebody produces that good or service, someone is more likely to find work. That's how it works.

(APPLAUSE)

And therefore, the tax relief happened at the right time. Not only did we provide lower tax rates, which, by the way, is a spur to small-business growth. Most small-business owners are sole proprietors. Most small-business owners pay a tax rates at the individual rate because they're limited partnerships. Most small businesses -- small businesses create most new jobs in America, and therefore we ought to have policy that encourages the growth of small business. By cutting individual rates, we understand the importance of small business.

(APPLAUSE)

And not only that, we put the death tax on the road to extinction. The death tax is a bad tax.

(APPLAUSE)

And not only that, we began to change the marriage penalty. Because we want the tax code to encourage marriage, not discourage marriage.

(APPLAUSE)

But here's why I bring up the issue: Because of a quirk in the Senate law, all the work that we did reverts back to normal in 10 years, normal being what it was prior to the tax relief. In other words, it's kind of hard to explain.

(LAUGHTER)

But you get tax relief, you don't get tax relief, see. It stays in place for 10 years, and then it goes away. And so Congress -- Republicans and Democrats have got to understand, for the good of the economy, we need some permanency. People need to be able to plan. They need to be able to know that what is real today will be real tomorrow. Therefore, the tax cuts need to be made permanent.

(APPLAUSE)

We've got a problem when it comes to construction here in America because many folks cannot get insurance to cover losses from a potential terrorist attack. There's about $8 billion worth of projects that have been put aside because people can't get terrorism insurance.

That means we've got some hard hats here in America who aren't working who should be working. That means there's some good hardworking folks who aren't as active as they should be in the job market.

And therefore, I have asked Congress -- the House responded, and the Senate came up with a version -- they need to get together to provide terrorism insurance legislation to help these big construction programs go forward.

This bill would put people back to work so long as the House and the Senate understand that the priority is not trial lawyers, but hard-hat workers in America.

(APPLAUSE)

Congress, when they get back, needs to give me an energy bill. In order for the economy to be strong, we've got to have an energy plan. We've got to have a bill that promotes renewable sources of energy that encourages conservation. But we need more energy explored here at home in an environmentally friendly way. It is in our economic security that we find more energy at home; it is in our national security that we become less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil.

(APPLAUSE)

Congress needs to get to work on a reauthorization of the welfare bill. See, the welfare bill is coming up again. And by the way, it worked when we said to people we will help them find work. It made people less dependent upon government. It has been a successful -- successful -- public policy in America. And we need to continue that. There are some in the Senate who want to say, work isn't important. And so, they've got all kinds of loopholes. I think work is incredibly important. Work leads to dignity, and therefore, the...

(APPLAUSE)

And therefore, they need to get me a welfare bill like the House bill that says, "We're going to help people help themselves by finding work." That's what we're going to do. We're going to train people for jobs, but we're going to insist that they work in return for help.

(APPLAUSE)

And there's one other vital piece of legislation that they need to get to me before they all go back to their districts and campaign. And it's this: I want to unleash the great compassion of America by recognizing the power of faith-based institutions in our society.

(APPLAUSE)

I asked the question, "Does it work?" That's what I asked. Does it work if somebody's heart is changed and, therefore, they get off alcohol and drugs, does that work? And if it does, our government ought not to fear programs based upon the capacity to change somebody's heart. As a matter of fact, we ought to welcome those programs.

(APPLAUSE)

We ought to say it's a good idea. And you got a Cross on the wall, or the Star of David, or if you're a mosque, we welcome those ideas to help change society one person at a time.

(APPLAUSE)

We'll never fund religion. Of course, we're not going to fund religion. That's not the purpose.

But we want to help people. And we should not discriminate against programs which have the capacity to help save lives. When we save a life in America, we make America a better place for all of us.

(APPLAUSE)

Congress has got work to do on the homeland security front as well. My most important job is to protect you all -- our fellow Americans -- from another attack. That's my most important job. And make no mistake about it, there are coldblooded killers out there. And we're doing everything we can to find them. Some people might not think they're out there. They're out there -- they just are.

People say, "Why would someone want to attack America?" And the answer is because we love freedom, that's why.

(APPLAUSE)

They hate us because we value each life. Each life is important here in America. Everybody counts. Our's is a country that recognizes in our great diversity that every single person has worth. And they can't stand that. They can't stand the thought...

(APPLAUSE)

They can't stand the thought of a nation which recognizes that people can worship an almighty god in different ways -- that we welcome that type of diversity in America, that we love that freedom.

(APPLAUSE)

WHITFIELD: President Bush crisscrossing a number of topics just as he crisscrosses the west coast in Stockton, California, where he is getting a rousing welcome there. He says America needs three things, economic security, homeland security and to win the war on terrorism.

Of course, he's on the West Coast, particularly in the state of California right now, trying to raise money for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, trying to raise $3 million.

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