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President Bush Nominates New Secretary of Treasury

Aired December 9, 2002 - 10:59   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We take you now live to Washington.


Today I'm pleased to announce my nominee for the secretary of the treasury. John Snow has excelled as a business leader, an expert on economic policy, an academic and as a public servant. He'll be a superb member of my Cabinet.

I also want to welcome Carolyn (ph) here today.

Thank you for coming. I'm honored you're here.

As we look to a new year and a new Congress, John Snow will be a key adviser on the economy and a key advocate of my administration's agenda for growth, new jobs and wider and more international trade. I'll be proposing specific steps to increase the momentum of our economic recovery. And the treasury secretary will be at the center of this effort.

I appreciate John's willingness to serve our country.

In a varied and productive career, John Snow has shown consistent qualities of foresight and integrity and public spirit. He's led one of our nation's largest railroads with skill and success. He knows firsthand how the economy works.

His peers elected him to lead the Business Roundtable, where he was an articulate voice for pro-growth policies.

John has a deep, long-standing commitment to ethical corporate governance and is the co-chairman of an important commission on public trust and private enterprise. He holds a Ph.D. in economics and has taught in the field. He served in the executive branch under two presidents.

John returns to public service at an important moment for our economy. Inflation is under firmly control, which keeps the cost of food, clothing and other necessities more affordable. Mortgage rates interest remain at historic lows, making home prices more reasonable for millions of Americans; 5.6 percent increase in productivity over the last four quarters is the biggest of any comparable period since 1973; and growth has returned to the American economy.

Yet we also face specific challenges that could slow the recovery and limit future growth. Parts of America are expecting -- are experiencing persistent unemployment. Many Americans have very little money left over after taxes. Some struggle under a weight of debt that makes it difficult to save for retirement. Investor confidence needs to be strengthened in practical ways.

The new Congress will have a responsibility to address these challenges. My administration will make specific proposals as how best to address these challenges.

I look forward to working with John Snow as we move forward on a growth and jobs package. He and I share a basic conviction: We believe the strength of our economy lies in the unmatched enterprise and creativity and hard work of the American people.

It is the task of government to create an environment in which these qualities are rewarded and where jobs are generated, especially by small businesses in America. My administration has acted on these principles, and we will continue to do so.

John will be the senior member of the new economic team.

From the day I took office, I've been fortunate to have outstanding economic advisers at the Treasury Department and in the White House.

I'm deeply grateful to Secretary Paul O'Neill and Dr. Larry Lindsey for their leadership, particularly in the aftermath of September the 11th, 2001. They share credit for an historic tax relief and other economic policies that moved our economy from recession to growth.

Paul and Larry are two of the most fine, honorable, decent men I've ever served with. They can be proud for all they have done for their country.

There is important work ahead to bring greater economic growth in the new year. This economy is strong, and we can make it stronger.

I'm eager for the task, and so is our next secretary of the treasury, and I hope the United States Senate will act quickly to confirm John Snow.


Thank you very much, Mr. President, for those very kind and generous comments. I'm both humbled and deeply honored by your decision selecting me as your secretary of the treasury. Should the United States Senate confirm me, I look forward to joining your economic team to advance a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda.

As you noted, this is an important moment for the economy. Thanks to your leadership and this administration's stewardship of the economy during a tough time, the recession was one of the shortest and shallowest in modern economic history.

Yet, I strongly share your view that we cannot be satisfied until everyone, every single person who is unemployed and seeking a job has an opportunity to work.

I pledge to you to use all my talents, my power, my energy and my ability to strengthen the current economic recovery and create an environment where millions of job creators, those small businesses and partnerships and medium-size businesses and large businesses and investors all across America will grow and prosper.

I also understand the importance of working closely with other countries to build and maintain a prosperous, growing and stable global economy as we successfully prosecute the war on terror.

Mr. President, 25 years ago, I left government service with the hope that one day I might be able to return. You have given me an opportunity to do so, and I intend to make the most of it .

Thank you very much.

BUSH: Congratulations, sir.



Thank you all.

HARRIS: And it is now official, John W. Snow of CSX Corporation is now -- has been officially tapped to head up the Treasury Department for President Bush. Let's go down to our Frank Buckley, standing by at the White House -- Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, you heard Mr. Snow talking about those job creators, these small and medium businesses. That's the message that this administration wants to get out there, that it is working on the economy, that it is doing its best to increase job growth. The president planning to introduce a package of tax cuts in the new year to the new Senate. The president also asking for the Senate to quickly confirm John Snow, when he comes before them in the new year -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Frank, any word then on when we'll see the next announcement that's expected on the Bush economic team, that of who's going to fill in Larry Lindsey's spot as economic adviser?

BUCKLEY: Well, that's going to be Stephen Friedman, the former chair of Goldman Sachs. This is the Wall Street side of this news team -- of this new team. They were looking for a Main Street person and a Wall Street person. We're expecting, possibly -- it was possibly as early as today that we would have an announcement. It may be that it will not come today, that they'll get another day of headlines of working on the economy tomorrow. So we actually saw Lindsey in that announcement today, so obviously, the announcement not coming now, maybe tomorrow.

HARRIS: OK. Well, then aside from the personnel changes here, is there any other news to come then about changes in the economic plan? . BUCKLEY: Well, that's doubtful. The president is pretty clear on exactly what he wants. He wants to make permanent his $1.35- trillion dollar tax cuts. He -- as you just mentioned, will have a jobs and growth package. I read that to mean additional tax cuts of some kind to be introduced in legislation in the new year.

He wants two people who are well equipped to communicate those ideas who will not alienate the constituencies that need to be reached to get things like that passed and to also keep in touch with Wall Street and make Wall Street happy.

So these are the people who are being tapped to communicate better. That's the key that the administration sees in getting some of the president's economic policies passed. Now on the Democrat side, they will say that there simply are no -- there is no coherent economic policy by this president and this is all about personalities and it should be about policy.

HARRIS: Frank Buckley at the White House, thanks, Frank. Let's learn some more now about John W. Snow and find out exactly what it is that he brings to the table that Paul O'Neill did not.

Robert Lenzner is a national editor for Forbes magazine. He joins us now from New York. Good morning. Glad to have you with us today. First of all, let me ask you that question -- what is it that John Snow has here that Paul O'Neill does not?

ROBERT LENZNER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "FORBES": Well, I think it's a very good question. He's, obviously, a decent man, probably a better communicator to the public. But I think that, basically, outside of his being a decent man and a respected industrialist, and well meaning, I think it's kind of a mediocre appointment. You know,, the treasury -- it's not of the same class as a Bob Rubin or a Jim Baker or a Douglas Dillon or a John Connolly (ph) or a Don Regan. I don't think it is. He has a mediocre record as an industrialist in running a large railroad. I don't think it really is a -- it isn't really going to impress people I think around the world, this particular appointment.

HARRIS: Interesting.

LENZNER: I'm surprised by it, actually.

HARRIS: Really? Interesting. I'm surprised to hear you say that. This is the first I've heard of any aspersion that could be cast upon this appointment. Let me ask you about a potential, I don't know, difference here between him and his past, at least, and his new mission.

In the past, he was credited with working very closely with the Clinton administration on reducing the budget deficit. However, he's coming in with a administration that is very strong on keep tax cuts and making tax cuts that are already now on the books and making them permanent. And in everyone's estimation, that's going to explode the deficit. LENZNER: Well, I would say he's probably not an ideologue. He's a businessman, so he's a pragmatist, and they're going to have to increase the deficit greatly, in order to keep the economy moving along and that's the job he's been hired for, that's the job he's going to do. So is it inconsistent? Have there been inconsistencies before, where people promised to balance the budget and don't? Yes, this always happens. And in this in this particular time, we need to really stimulate the economy and the Federal Reserve has done as much as it can by lowering interest rates. Now it's got to be done by lowering taxes and stimulating programs.

HARRIS: Can I ask you about -- the other name that we've been talking about, Stephen Friedman of Goldman Sachs, he is now being -- rumored to be the person that's going to be tapped to replace Larry Lindsey as economic adviser.

LENZNER: Right. Well...

HARRIS: Well, what do you think about -- is that a better than mediocre pick, in your estimation?

LENZNER: Yes, that is a better than mediocre pick. I have to tell you that I've known him for 30 to 40 years. He's an aggressive, hard-driving, very articulate, clear thinking, not a conventional investment banker. I think that he'll be a very, very strong candidate for this job if he's given -- if he actually is nominated. I spoke to him, as a matter of fact, yesterday afternoon. Had he not been offered the job as of yesterday afternoon.

HARRIS: But he's certainly heard the talk, no doubt.

LENZNER: Well, I think that they need somebody that could go on national television on Sunday and really express what the policies are and coordinate between the White House and the other agencies, particularly the Treasury.

I think it would have been better, actually, to have had somebody from Wall Street as the secretary of the Treasury. So in a way, I think this is kind of a peculiar combination. Actually, Friedman is a very strong personality, very articulate, not an ideologue, quite pragmatic and not a conventional investment banker. So this will be a challenge for him, because it's going to be a very, difficult time.

HARRIS: Very interesting. You've given us a lot to think about and I hope to get a chance to talk with you some more about it.

Robert Lenzner from Forbes magazine. Thank you very much. Take care.


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