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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Speaks with Congressional Members

Aired September 26, 2002 - 10:46   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to skip away from this meeting here in Tom Daschle's dugout to President Bush at the White House, there with an assemblage of congressional leaders of a bipartisan sort here.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...members of the United States Congress, to discuss our national security and discuss how best to keep the peace.

The security of our country is the commitment of both political parties and the responsibility of both elected branches of government. We are engaged in a deliberate and civil and thorough discussion. We are moving toward a strong resolution. And all of us, and many others in Congress, are united in our determination to confront an urgent threat to America.

And by passing this resolution we'll send a clear message to the world, and to the Iraqi regime: The demands of the U.N. Security Council must be followed. The Iraqi dictator must be disarmed. These requirements will be met or they will be enforced.

The danger to our country is grave. The danger to our country is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons. And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order were given.

The regime has longstanding and continuing ties to terrorist organizations, and there are Al Qaida terrorists inside Iraq. The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year.

Iraq has already used weapons of mass death against other countries and against her own citizens. The Iraqi regime practices the rape of women as a method of intimidation and the torture of dissenters and their children.

For more than a decade, the regime has answered Security Council resolutions with defiance, bad faith and deception. We know that the Iraqi regime is led by a dangerous and brutal man. We know he's actively seeking the destructive technologies to match his hatred. And we know he must be stopped.

The dangers we face will only worsen from mount to month and from year to year.

To ignore these threats is to encourage them. And when they have fully materialized, it may be too late to protect ourselves and our friends and our allies. By then, Iraqi dictator would have the means to terrorize and dominate the region. Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally.

We refuse to live in this future of fear. Democrats and Republicans refuse to live in a future of fear. We're determined to build a future of security.

All of us long for peace, peace for ourselves, peace for the world.

The members here this morning are committed to American leadership, for the good of all nations. Appreciate their spirit, appreciate their love for country. The resolution we are producing will be an instrument of that leadership.

I appreciate the spirit in which members of Congress are considering this vital issue. Congress will have an important debate, a meaningful debate, a historic debate. It will be conducted with all civility. It will be conducted in a manner that will make Americans proud and Americans to understand the threats to our future.

We're making progress. We're near an agreement. And soon we will speak with one voice.

Thank you all for being here. God bless America.

HARRIS: President Bush there not taking any questions from the press that have assembled there at this photo op. We saw here some representation from Congress, a bipartisan representation of leaders of Congress. President Bush extending something of an olive branch here because of the firestorm kicked up in the wake of his words the other day and the speech yesterday from Senate majority leader Tom Daschle in the well of the Senate yesterday, saying that the president should apologize for saying that the Senate was not concerned with the nation's safety. He began his comments this morning by saying that security is a concern of both political parties.

Let's check in with our Suzanne Malveaux, who is there at the White House -- Suzanne.

Actually, she is not quite ready. We will get to her in just a second. We also heard President Bush going exactly -- to continue to do as he has been doing of late, lay out the case for action against Iraq.

Bill Schneider has been listening in, and Bill has also been tracking this firestorm that I mentioned here, has been stirred up in Washington.

And, Bill, the words you heard this morning, you think that went far enough? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: It went pretty far. He said both political parties are committed to security. He is trying to get rid of this controversy. President Bush would like Congress to agree on and then pass a resolution as quickly as possible so he can get moving on this and then pressure the United Nations, where the fight is likely to be much tougher, to pass some sort of resolution authorizing the use of force.

The president elaborated all of the reasons why he believes he must act now. Nuclear weapons could be obtained within a year, he said. The British have issued a report saying that the Iraqis could deliver biological and chemical weapons in a matter of 45 minutes. Those are his answers to why we must act now.

HARRIS: Let's check in now with our Suzanne Malveaux who is at the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, you heard the president reiterating, again, the case against Saddam Hussein, also emphasizing the need for United Nations Security Council to pass a tough resolution, saying that Iraq must disarm, or the United States will force it to do.

So as you know, there was definitely a controversy over the last 24 hours, in terms of whether or not the whole issue of Iraq has become politicized, Senator Daschle asking for an apology from the administration, saying the president offering an olive branch, praising Republicans and Democrats for working hard in a case against Saddam Hussein.

Also, you heard some of that effort here this morning, praising both Republicans an Democrats for their efforts in a strong and tough resolution, a Congressional resolution, that would give the president the authority to use military force against Iraq. That is something that we are going to be hearing for the days to come, and again, Democrats and Republicans, particularly those from the House, saying that yes, they will give this president that authority, although he doesn't need it in terms of legal terms, the White House says, but they will go forward with a tough Congressional resolution.

They talked to those in the Daschle camp, and despite the recent controversy over these words in terms who've is politicizing this issue, they say they will move forward, that this will not stop the pace from getting that resolution out as quickly as possible, before the midterm elections -- Leon.

HARRIS: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Let's go now to Capitol Hill, Kate Snow checking in from there.

Kate, we just heard President Bush saying all of us long for peace. Is it clear that peace has been made between President Bush and those in the Senate who felt the most stunned by his words? We did not see Tom Daschle there. He did have his own separate meeting this morning.

MALVEAUX: Tom Daschle is actually still speaking. I can see him on my monitor here, but I can't hear him right now. But yes, you saw the president not picking up on the subject of the heated rhetoric of yesterday, of Senator Daschle's comments. The president, at that event, as Suzanne just said, trying to show that there was some unity behind him. One thing that is interesting, Leon, there were a number of Democrats there at White House with him, particularly notable, because these are Democrats who maybe haven't publicly come to this point and stood by the president, saying they will back a resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq.

I spoke with one Democrat, Harold Ford, Democrat of Tennessee, who is at the White House now. I spoke with him earlier this morning about why he was going over there.

He said, look, I am going to sleep a lot better at night if I vote for this resolution, if we have done this. Ford says that does still have some concerns, as well as other Democrats having concerns. His one concern that he mentioned to me is that there is no post- Saddam plan for Iraq. He feels like the president needs to make it more clear what would happen if Saddam Hussein leaves Iraq, and what would the U.S. do reinstate a new regime there. He said he would raise that with the president this morning.

Leon, other Democrats raising concerns about the language of the resolution still. One key point that some Democrats are making is they want it to be more clear that the president will exhaust all diplomatic means before he goes it alone, before he takes any unilateral action.

Senator Tom Daschle just a few moments ago said, we're still negotiating with the White House. He said, what's important is to do this right. He said he is going to have another meeting this afternoon with his Democratic colleagues to discuss the language that is now being batted back and forth here -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thanks much, Kate Snow on Capitol Hill. Thanks as well to Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, and our Bill Schneider, checking in from Boston.

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