The Next 4 Years: Press
November 4, 2004
Thank you all. Please
Yesterday I pledged to reach out to the whole nation,
and today I'm proving that I'm willing to reach out to
everybody by including the White House press corps. (Laughter.)
This week the voters of America set the direction of our
nation for the next four years. I'm honored by the support
of my fellow citizens and I'm ready for the job.
We are fighting a continuing war on terror and every American
has a stake in the outcome of this war -- Republicans,
Democrats, Independents, all of our country. And together
we'll protect the American people. We will preserve --
we'll persevere until the enemy is defeated. We'll stay
strong and resolute. We have a duty, a solemn duty to protect
the American people, and we will.
Every civilized country also has a stake in the outcome
of this war. Whatever our past disagreements, we share
a common enemy, and we have common duties to protect our
peoples, to confront disease and hunger and poverty in
troubled regions of the world. I'll continue to reach out
to our friends and allies, our partners in the EU and NATO
to promote development and progress, to defeat the terrorists,
and to encourage freedom and democracy as alternatives
to tyranny and terror.
I also look forward to working with the present Congress
and the new Congress that will arrive in January. I congratulate
the men and women who have just been elected to the House
and the Senate. I will join with old friends and new friends
to make progress for all Americans.
Congress will return later this month to finish this current
session. I urge members to pass the appropriations bill
that remain, showing spending discipline while focusing
on our nation's priorities.
Our government also needs the very best intelligence,
especially in a time of war. So I urge the Congress to
pass an effective intelligence reform bill that I can sign
The new Congress that begins its work next year will have
serious responsibilities and historic opportunities. To
accelerate the momentum of this economy and to keep creating
jobs, we must take practical measures to help our job creators,
the entrepreneurs and the small-business owners. We must
confront the frivolous lawsuits that are driving up the
cost of health care and hurting doctors and patients. We
must continue the work of education reform to bring high
standards and accountability not just to our elementary
and secondary schools, but our high schools as well. We
must reform our complicated and outdated tax code. We need
to get rid of the needless paperwork that makes our economy
-- that -- that is a drag on our economy to make our --
make sure our economy is the most competitive in the world.
We must show our leadership by strengthening Social Security
for our children and our grandchildren. This is more than
a problem to be solved; it is an opportunity to help millions
of our fellow citizens find security and independence that
comes from owning something, from ownership.
In the election of 2004, large issues were set before
our country. They were discussed every day on the campaign.
With the campaign over, Americans are expecting a bipartisan
effort and results.
I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals. And I'm
eager to start the work ahead. I'm looking forward to serving
this country for four more years.
I want to thank you all for your hard work in the campaign.
I told you that the other day and you probably thought
I was just seeking votes. (Laughter.) But now that you
voted -- I really meant it. I appreciate the hard work
of the press corps. We all put in long hours and you were
away from your families for a long period of time. But
the country's better off when we have a vigorous and free
press covering our elections, and thanks for your work.
With that overt pandering, I'll answer a few questions.
Q Mr. President -- thank you. As you look at your second
term, how much is the war in Iraq going to cost? Do you
intend to send more troops or bring troops home? And in
the Middle East more broadly, do you agree with Tony Blair
that revitalizing the Middle East peace process is the
single most pressing political issue facing the world?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Now that I've got the will of the people
at my back, I'm going to start enforcing the one-question
rule. That was three questions. (Laughter.)
I'll start with Tony Blair's comments. I agree with him
that the Middle East peace is a very important part of
a peaceful world. I have been working on Middle -- Middle
Eastern peace ever since I've been the president. I laid
down some -- a very hopeful strategy in June of 2002. And
my hope is that we'll make good progress. I think it's
very important for our friends the Israelis to have a peaceful
Palestinian state living on their border. It's very important
for the Palestinian people to have peaceful, hopeful future.
That's why I articulated a two-state vision in that Rose
Garden speech. I meant it when I said it, and I mean it
What were the other parts of your question?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, Iraq, yeah. Listen, we will work with
the Allawi government to achieve our objective, which is
elections. And we're on the path to stability, and we'll
continue to train the troops. Our commanders will have
that which they need to complete their missions. And in
terms of the cost, I -- we'll work with OMB and the Defense
Department to bring forth to Congress a realistic assessment
of what the cost will be.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. How will you go about bringing
people together? Will you seek a consensus candidate for
the Supreme Court if there's an opening? Will you bring
some Democrats into your Cabinet?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Again, he violated the one-question rule
right off the bat. Obviously you didn't listen to the will
of the people.
First of all, there's no vacancy for the Supreme Court,
and I will deal with the vacancy when there is one. And
when I told the people on the campaign trail that I'll
pick somebody who knows the difference between personal
opinion and the strict interpretation of the law -- you
might have heard that several times -- I meant what I said.
And if people are interested in knowing the kind of judges
I'll pick, look at the record. I've sent up a lot of judges
-- well- qualified people who know the law, who represent
a judicial temperament that I agree with, and who are qualified
to hold the bench.
The second part of your two-part question?
Q (Off mike) -- change your Cabinet by any chance?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I haven't made any decisions on the Cabinet
Q How else will you bring people together?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We'll put out an agenda that everybody
understands and work with people to achieve the agenda.
Democrats want a free and peaceful world, and we'll --
right away, right after September the 11th, we worked very
closely together to secure our country. There is a common
ground to be had when it comes to a foreign policy that
says the most important objective is to protect the American
people and spread freedom and democracy. Common ground
when it comes to making sure the intelligence services
are able to provide good, actionable intelligence to protect
And this is not a Republican issue; that's a Republican
and Democrat issue. And so I'm -- plenty of places for
us to work together.
All right. Gregory?
Q Thank you, Mr. President. On foreign policy more broadly,
do you believe that America has an image problem in the
world right now because of your efforts in response to
the 9/11 attack? And as you talk down the stretch about
building alliances, talk about what you'll do to build
on those alliances and to deal with these image problems,
particularly in the Islamic world?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I appreciate that. Listen, I've made some
very hard decisions -- decisions to protect ourselves,
decisions to spread peace and freedom -- and I understand
that in certain capitals and certain countries, those decisions
were not popular.
You know, you said -- you asked me to put that in the
context of the response on -- on September the 11th. The
first response, of course, was chasing down the terror
networks, which we will continue to do. And we've -- we've
got great response around the world in working to do that.
There's over 90 nations involved with sharing information,
finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. That is
a broad coalition, and we'll continue to strengthen it.
I laid out a doctrine, David, that said if you harbor
a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist.
And that doctrine was ignored by the Taliban and we removed
the Taliban, and I fully understand some people didn't
agree with that decision. But I believe that when the American
president speaks, he'd better mean what he says in order
to keep the world peaceful. And I believe we have a solemn
duty, whether or not people agree with it or not, to protect
the American people, and they're -- the Taliban and their
harboring of al Qaeda represented a direct threat to the
And of course, and the Iraq issue is one that people disagreed
with. And I -- there's no need to rehash my case, but I
-- I did so, I made the decision I made, in order to protect
our country, first and foremost. I will continue to do
that as the president, but as I do so I will reach out
to others and explain why I make the decisions I make.
There is a certain attitude in the world by some that
says that, you know, it's a waste of time to try to promote
free societies in parts of the world. I've heard that criticism.
I remember I went to London to talk about our vision of
spreading freedom throughout the Greater Middle East. And
I fully understand that that might rankle some and be viewed
by some as folly. I -- I just strongly disagree with those
who do not see the wisdom of trying to promote free societies
around the world.
If we are interested in protecting our country for the
long term, the best way to do so is to promote freedom
and democracy. And I -- I simply do not agree with those
who either say overtly or believe that certain societies
cannot be free. It's just not a part of my thinking.
And that's why during the course of the campaign I was
-- I believe I was able to connect, at least with those
who were there, in explaining my policy when I talked about
the free elections in Afghanistan. There was doubt about
whether or not those elections would go forward. I'm not
suggesting any of you here expressed skepticism. But there
was, there was deep skepticism and -- because there is
an attitude among some that certain people may never be
free, you know, they just don't long to be free, or incapable
of running an election. And I disagree with that.
And the Afghan people, by going to the polls in the millions,
proved -- proved that this administration's faith in freedom
to change people's habits is worthy. And that will be a
central part of my foreign policy. And I've got work to
do to explain to people about why that is a central part
of our foreign policy. I mean, I've been doing that for
four years. But if you do not believe people can be free
and can self-govern, then all of a sudden the two-state
solution in the Middle East becomes a moot point, invalid.
If you're willing to condemn a group of people to a system
of government that hasn't worked, then you'll never be
able to achieve the peace.
You cannot lead this world and our country to a better
tomorrow unless you see a better -- unless you have a vision
of a better tomorrow, and I've got one based upon a great
faith that people do want to be free and live in democracy.
John? And then I'll get to Terry.
No follow-ups today, Gregory.
Q Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I could see one --
Q Would you like --
Q I tried.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. (Chuckles.)
Q Now that the political volatility is off the issue because
the election is over, I'd like to ask you about troop levels
in Iraq in the next couple of months leading up to elections.
The Pentagon already has a plan to extend tours of duty
for 6,500 U.S. troops. How many more will be needed to
provide security in Iraq for elections, seeing as how the
Iraqi troops that you're trying to train up are pretty
slow coming on line?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. First of all, the -- we are making
good progress in training the Iraqi troops. There will
be 125,000 of them trained by election time.
Secondly, I have yet to -- I have not sat down with our
secretary of Defense talking about troop levels.
I read some reports during the course of the campaign
where some were speculating in the press corps about the
number of troops needed to protect elections. I -- that
has not been brought to my attention yet. And so I would
caution you that what you have either read about or reported
was pure speculation thus far.
These elections are important, and we will respond, John,
to the requests of our commanders on the ground. And I
have yet to hear from our commanders on the ground that
they need more troops.
Q Mr. President, your victory at the polls came about
in part because of strong support from people of faith,
in particular Christian evangelicals and Pentecostals and
others. And Senator Kerry drew some of his strongest support
from those who do not attend religious services. What do
you make of this religious divide it seems becoming a political
divide in this country? And what do you say to those who
are concerned about the role of a faith they do not share
in public life and in your policies?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. My answer to people is I will be
your president regardless of your faith, and I don't expect
you to agree with me, necessarily, on religion. As a matter
of fact, no president should ever try to impose religion
on our society. The great -- the great tradition of America
is one where people can worship the way they want to worship.
And if they choose not to worship, you're just as patriotic
as your neighbor. That is an essential part of why we are
a great nation.
And I am glad people of faith voted in this election.
I'm glad -- I appreciate all people who voted. And I don't
think you ought to read anything into the politics, the
moment, about whether or not this nation will become a
divided nation over religion. I think the great thing that
unites us is the fact you can worship freely if you choose,
and if you -- you don't have to worship. And if you're
a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim, you're equally American.
That is -- that is such a wonderful aspect of our society,
and it is strong today and it will be strong tomorrow.
Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, you talked once again
this morning about private accounts in Social Security.
During the campaign, you were accused of planning to privatize
the entire system. It has been something you've discussed
for some time. You've lost some of the key Democratic proponents,
such as Pat Moynihan and Bob Kerrey in the Congress. How
will you proceed now with one of the key problems, which
is the transition cost, which some say is as much as $2
trillion? How will you proceed on that? And how soon?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mm-hmm. Well, first, I made social Security
an issue. For those of you who had to suffer through my
speeches on a daily basis, for those of you who actually
listened to my speeches on a daily basis, you might remember,
every speech I've talked about the duty of an American
president to lead. And we -- we must lead on Social Security
because the system is not going to be whole for our children
and our grandchildren.
And so the answer to your second question is we'll start
on Social Security now. We'll start bringing together those
in Congress who agree with my assessment that we need to
We've got a good blueprint, a good go-by. You mentioned
Senator Moynihan. I had asked him prior to his passing
to chair a committee of notable Americans to come up with
some ideas on Social Security, and they did so. And it's
a good place for members of Congress to start.
The president must have the will to take on the issue,
not only in the campaign but now that I'm elected. And
this will -- reforming Social Security will be a priority
of my administration. Obviously there's -- if it were easy
it would have already been done. And this is going to be
hard work to bring people together and to make -- to convince
the Congress to move forward. And there are going to be
costs. But the cost of doing nothing is insignificant --
is much greater than the cost of reforming the system today.
That was the case I made on the campaign trail, and I was
earnest about getting something done.
And as a matter of fact, I talked to members of my staff
today, as we're beginning to plan the strategy to move
agendas forward, about how to do this and do it effectively.
Q (Off mike.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. No, no, you're violating the follow-up
rule. You'll hurt Gregory's feelings.
Q Mr. President, thank you.
Q (Off mike.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: (Laughs.) Hurting Gregory's feelings?
(Laughs.) He is a sensitive guy. Well centered though.
Q I'm not going there. Mr. President, you were disappointed,
even angry, 12 years ago when the voters denied your father
a second term. I'm interested in your thoughts and the
conversation with him yesterday as you were walking to
the Oval Office. And also whether you feel more free to
do any one thing in a second term that perhaps you were
politically constrained from doing in a first.
PRESIDENT BUSH: At 3:30 in the morning on I guess it was
the day after the election, he was sitting upstairs and
I finally said go to bed. He was awaiting the outcome and
was hopeful that we would go over and be able to talk to
our supporters. It just didn't happen that way. So I asked
him the next morning when he got up -- said come by the
Oval Office and visit. And he came by and we had a good
talk. He was heading down to Houston. And it was -- you
know, there was some uncertainty about -- that morning
as to when the election would actually end, and it wasn't
clear at that point in time. So I never got to see him
face to face to watch his, I guess, pride in his tired
eyes as his son got a second term.
I did talk to him and he was relieved. I told him to get
a nap. He was -- I was worried about him staying up too
late. But -- so I haven't had a chance to really visit
and, you know, embrace.
And you're right; '92 is a disappointment. But he taught
me a really good lesson, that life moves on. And it's very
important for those of us in the political arena, win or
lose, to recognize that -- that life is bigger than just
politics -- (chuckles) -- and that's one of the really
good lessons he taught me.
Q Do you feel more free?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, in terms of feeling free. Well, I
don't think you'll let me be too free. There is -- there's
accountability and there are constraints on the presidency,
as there should be in any system.
I feel -- I feel -- I feel it is necessary to move an
agenda that I told the American people I would move. Something
refreshing about coming off an election, even more refreshing
since we all got some sleep last night. But there's --
you -- you -- you go out and you make your case and you
tell the people, "This is what I intend to do." And
after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews
and the whole process, where you keep basically saying
the same thing over and over again, that when -- when that
-- when you win, there is a -- a feeling that the people
have spoken and embraced your point of view. And that's
what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear
what I intend to do as the president; now let's work --
and the people made it clear what they wanted -- now let's
work together. And it's one of the wonderful -- it's one
of the -- it's like earning capital.
You ask, do I feel free? Let me put it to you this way.
I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and
now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened
in -- after the 2000 election. I earned some capital. I've
earned capital in this election, and I'm going to spend
it for -- for what -- what I told the people I'd spend
it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda -- Social Security
and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education,
fighting and winning the war on terror.
We have an obligation in this country to -- to continue
to work with nations to help alleve poverty and disease.
We will -- we will continue to push forward on the HIV/AIDS
initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account. We will continue
to do our duty to help feed the hungry. And I'm looking
forward to it, I really am.
It's a been a fantastic experience, campaigning the country.
You've seen it from one perspective; I've seen it from
another. I saw you standing there at the last, final rally
in Texas, to my right over there. I was observing you observe,
and you saw the energy. And there was just something uplifting
about people showing up at 11 o'clock at night, expressing
their support and their prayers and their friendship.
BUSH: It's a marvelous experience to campaign across the
country. Mike? ALLEN: Thank you, Mr. President. Do you
plan to reshape your Cabinet for the second term, or will
any changes come at the instigation of individuals? And
as part of the same question, I'm going to ask you what
you've learned about Cabinet government, what works, what
doesn't work. And do you mind also addressing the same
question about the White House staff? (LAUGHTER) BUSH:
The post-election euphoria did not last very long here
at the press corps. (LAUGHTER) Let me talk about the people
that have worked with me. I had a Cabinet meeting today,
and I thanked them for their service to the country and
reminded them we've got a job to do, and I expected them
to do the job.
BUSH: I have made no decisions on my Cabinet and/or White
House staff. I'm mindful that working in the White House
is really -- it is exhausting work. The people who you
try to get to leak to you spend hours away from their families.
And the word burnout is oftentimes used in Washington,
and it's used for a reason, because people do burn out.
And so, obviously, in terms of those who want to stay on
and who want to stay on, I've got to make sure that it's
right for their families and that they're comfortable.
Because when they come to work here in the White House,
I expect them to work as hard as they possibly can on behalf
of the American people.
BUSH: In the Cabinet, there will be some changes. I don't
know who they will be. It's inevitable there will be changes.
It happens in every administration. To a person, I am proud
of the work they have done. And I fully understand we're
about to head into the period of intense speculation as
to who is going to stay and who's not going to stay. And
I assured them that today -- I warned them of the speculative
period. It's a great Washington sport to be talking about
who's going to leave and who the replacements may be and
handicapping, you know, my way of thinking. I'll just give
you a -- but let me just help you out with the speculation
right now: I haven't thought about it.
BUSH: I'm going to start thinking about it. I'm going
to Camp David this afternoon with Laura, and I'll begin
the process of thinking about the Cabinet and the White
House staff. And we'll let you know at the appropriate
time when decisions have been made. Nice try, Mike. Ed
and then... QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) BUSH: Learn and not learn
about the Cabinet?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) BUSH: Yes. Well, first I've learned
that I put together a really good Cabinet. I'm very proud
of the people that have served this government. And they,
to a man and woman, worked their hearts out for the American
people. And I've learned that you've got to continue to
surround yourself with good people. This is a job that
requires crisp decision-making, and therefore, in order
for me to make decisions, I've got to have people who bring,
you know, their point of view into the Oval Office and
are willing to say it.
BUSH: I always jest to people: The Oval Office is the
kind of place where people stand outside, they're getting
ready to come in and tell me what-for, and they walk in
and get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and they say, Man,
you're looking pretty. Therefore, you need people to walk
in on those days when you're not looking so good and saying,
You're not looking so good, Mr. President. And I've got
-- those are the kind of people that served our country.
We've had vigorous debates, which you all, in the last
four years, to great delight in reporting -- differences
of opinion. But that's what you want if you're the commander
in chief and a decision-maker. You want people to walk
in and say, I don't agree with this, or I do agree with
that, and here's what my recommendation is.
BUSH: But the president also has to learn to decide. You
taking -- you know, there's ample time for the debate to
take place and then decide and make up your mind and leave.
That's what the job's all about. And so, I have learned
how important it is to be -- to have a really fine group
of people that think through issues, and that are not intimidated
by the process, and they walk in and tell me what's on
their mind. Ed? Ed Stevenson? STEVENSON: Good morning.
Sir, does it bother you that there's a perception out there
that your administration has been one that favors big business
and wealthy individuals? And what can you do to overcome
that, sir? BUSH: Ed, 70 percent of the new jobs in America
are created by small businesses. I understand that.
BUSH: And I have promoted during the course of the last
four years one of the most aggressive, pro-entrepreneur,
small-business policies: tax relief. You might remember
-- I don't know if you know this or not -- but 90 percent
of the businesses are sole proprietorships or subchapter
S corporations. (LAUGHTER) QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) BUSH: Tax
relief helped them. This is an administration that fully
understands that the job creators are the entrepreneurs.
And so in a new term, we will make sure the tax relief
continues to be robust for our small businesses. We'll
push legal reform and regulatory reform. Because I understand
the engine of growth is through the small-business sector.
BUSH: Stevenson? QUESTION: Sir, given your commitment
to reaching out across party lines and to all Americans,
I wonder if you could expand on your definition of bipartisanship
and whether it means simply picking off a few Democrats
on a case-by-case basis to pass the bills you want to pass
or whether you would commit to working regularly with the
Democratic leadership on solutions that can win broad support
across party lines?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Do you remember the No Child Left Behind
Act? I think that's the model I'd look at if I were you.
It is a -- I laid out an agenda for reforming our public
schools. I worked with both Republicans and Democrats to
get that bill passed. In a new term we'll continue to make
sure we do not weaken the accountability standards that
are making a huge difference in people's lives, in these
kids lives. But that's the model I'd look at if I were
And there's a certain practicality to life here in Washington.
And that is, when we get a bill moving, it is important
to get the votes. And if politics starts to get in the
way of getting good legislation through, that's just part
of life here. But I'm also focused on results. I'm thinking
of the Medicare bill. You might remember that old stale
debate. We finally got a bill moving. I was hoping it would
get strong bipartisan support. Unfortunately, it was an
election year. But we got the votes necessary to get the
And so we will -- I will -- my goal is to work on the
ideal and to reach out and to continue to work and find
common ground on issues. On the other hand, I've been wisened
to the ways of Washington. I watched what can happen during
certain parts of the cycle, where politics gets in the
way of good policy. And at that point in time I'll continue
-- you know, I'll try to get this done, try to get our
bills passed in a way, because results really do matter
as far as I'm concerned. I really didn't come here to hold
the office, just to say, "Gosh, it was fun to serve." I
came here to get some things done. And we're doing it.
Yeah? Big Stretch.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I know you haven't had a chance
to learn this, but it appears that Yasser Arafat has passed
PRESIDENT BUSH: Really.
Q And I was just wondering if I could get your initial
reaction, and also your thoughts on perhaps working with
a new generation of Palestinian leadership.
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I appreciate that. My first reaction
is God bless his soul. And my second reaction is, is that
we will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that's
at peace with Israel.
Q Mr. President, as you look at your second-term domestic
priorities, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about
how you see the sequence of action on issues beyond Social
Security -- tax reform, education -- and if you could expand
a little bit for us on the principles that you want to
underpin your tax reform proposal. Do you want it to be
revenue neutral? What kinds of things do you want to accomplish
through that process?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I appreciate that. I was anticipating
this question that, you know, what is the first thing you're
going to do when it comes to legislation. It just doesn't
work that way. (Chuckles.) Particularly when you've laid
out a comprehensive agenda. And part of that comprehensive
agenda is tax simplification. The -- first of all, a principle
would be revenue neutral.
If I'm going to -- you know, if there was a need to raise
taxes, I'd say let's have a tax bill that raises taxes
as opposed to let's simplify the tax code and sneak a tax
increase on the people. It's just not my style. I don't
believe we need to raise taxes. I've said that to the American
people. And so the simplification would be the goal.
Secondly, that -- obviously that it rewards risk and doesn't
-- you know, and it doesn't have unnecessary penalties
in it. The main thing is that it would be viewed as fair,
that it would be a fair system, that it wouldn't be complicated,
that there's a -- you know, kind of that loopholes wouldn't
be there for special interests, that the code itself be
viewed and deemed as a very fair way to -- to encourage
people to -- to invest and save and achieve certain fiscal
objectives in our country as well.
You know, one of the interesting debates will be, of course,
in the -- in the course of simplification, will there be
incentives in the code? Charitable giving, of course, and
mortgage deductions are very important. As governor of
Texas, when I -- sometime I think I was asked about simplification.
I always noted how important it was for certain incentives
to be built into the tax code, and that'll be an interesting
part of the debate.
Certain issues come quicker than others in the course
of a legislative session, and that depends upon whether
or not those issues have been debated. I'm thinking, for
example, of the legal issue, the legal reform issues. They
had been -- medical liability reform had been debated and
got thwarted a couple of times in one body in particular
on Capitol Hill. And so the -- the groundwork has been
laid for some legislation that I've been talking about.
On an issue like tax reform, it's going to -- tax simplification
-- it's going to take a lot of legwork to get something
ready for a legislative package. I fully understand that.
Social Security reform will require some additional legwork,
although the Moynihan commission has laid the groundwork
for what I think is a -- a very good place to start the
debate. The education issue is one that could move pretty
quickly because there's been a lot of discussion about
education. It's -- it's an issue that the members are used
to debating and discussing.
And so I think -- you know, I think it's -- all issues
are important, and the timing of issues as they reach it
-- to committee and floor really depend upon whether or
not some work has already been done on those issues.
A couple of more questions. Bob, you're next.
Q Mr. President, American forces are gearing up for what
appears to be a major offensive in Fallujah over the next
I'm wondering if you could tell us what the objective
is, what the stakes are there for the United States, for
the Iraqi people and the Iraqi elections coming up in January.
PRESIDENT BUSH: In order for Iraq to be a free country,
those who are trying to stop the elections and stop a free
society from emerging must be defeated. And so Prime Minister
Allawi and his government, which fully understands that,
are working with our generals on the ground to do just
that. We will -- we will work closely with the government.
It's their government, it's their country. We're there
at their invitation. And -- but I think there's a recognition
that some of these people have to -- must be defeated.
And so that's what they're thinking about. That's what
you're -- that's why you're hearing discussions about potential
action in Fallujah.
Q Thank you, sir. Many within your own party are unhappy
over the deficit, and they say keeping down discretional
spending alone won't help you reach your goal of halving
the deficit in five years. What else do you plan to do
to cut costs?
PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.) Well, I -- I -- you know,
I would suggest they look at our budget that we've submitted
to Congress, which does in fact get the deficit cut in
half in five years. And it is a specific, line-by-line
budget that we are required to submit, and have done so.
The key to making sure that the deficit is reduced is
for there to be on the one hand spending discipline --
and I -- as you noticed in my opening remarks, I talked
about these appropriations bills that are beginning to
move. And I thought I was pretty clear about the need for
those bills to be -- to be fiscally responsible, and I
meant it. And I look forward to talking to the leadership
about making sure that the budget agreements we had are
still the -- still the budget agreements; that just because
we had an election, that they shouldn't feel comfortable
changing our agreement. And I think they understand that.
Secondly, the other way to make sure that the deficit
is -- decreases is to grow the economy. As the economy
grows, there will be more revenues coming into the Treasury.
That's what you have seen recently. If you notice, there's
been some -- there's been some write-downs of the budget
deficit. In other words, the deficit is less than we thought
because the revenues is exceeding projections. And the
reason why the revenues -- the revenues ARE exceeding projections.
Sometimes I mangle the English language, I get that. Anyway.
Q An inside joke.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, very inside! (Laughs, laughter.)
The revenues are exceeding projections, and as a result
the projected deficit is less. But my point there is is
that -- so with -- with good economic policy that encourages
economic growth, the revenue streams begin to increase.
And as the revenue streams increase coupled with fiscal
discipline, you'll see the deficit shrinking, and we're
focused on that.
I do believe there ought to be budgetary reform in Washington
on the Hill, Capitol Hill. I think it's very important.
I would like to see the president have a line-item veto
again, one that passed constitutional muster. I think that
would help the executive branch work with the legislative
branch to make sure that -- that we're able to maintain
I've talked to a lot of members of Congress who are wondering
whether or not we'll have the will to confront entitlements,
to make sure that there is entitlement reform that helps
us maintain fiscal discipline. And the answer is yes; that's
why I took on the Social Security issue. I believe it is
-- we have a duty to do so. I want to make sure that the
Medicare reforms that we put in place remain robust to
help us make sure Medicare is available for generations
So there is a -- I've got quite an active agenda to help
work with Congress to bring not only fiscal discipline,
but to make sure that our pro-growth policies are still
Herman (sp)? I'm probably going to regret this, but --
Q Well, I -- I -- I don't know if you had a chance to
check, but I can report you did eke out a victory in Texas
the other day.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I thank you, sir.
I'm interested in getting back to Steve and -- Stevenson's
question about unity. Clearly you believe you have reached
out and will continue to reach out. Do you believe that
Democrats have made a sincere and sufficient effort to
meet you somewhere halfway? And do you think now there's
more reason to do that in light of the election results?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think that Democrats agree that we have
an obligation to serve our country. I believe there will
be goodwill, now that this election is over, to work together.
I found that to be the case when I first arrived here in
Washington, and working with the Democrats and fellow Republicans
we got a lot done. And I -- it is with that spirit that
I go into this coming session, and I will meet with both
Republican and Democrat leaders and I -- I am a -- they'll
-- they'll -- they'll see I'm genuine about working --
working toward some of these -- some of these important
It's going to be -- it's not easy. You know, these are
-- I readily concede I've laid out some very difficult
issues for people to -- to deal with.
Reforming the Social Security system for generations to
come is a difficult issue. Otherwise it would have already
been done. But it is necessary to confront it. And I would
hope to be able to work with Democrats to get this done.
I'm not sure we can get it done without Democrat participation,
because it is a big issue. And I will explain to them and
I will show them Senator Moynihan's thinking as a way to
begin the process. And I will remind everybody who's here
that we have a duty to leave behind a better America and
when we see a problem to deal with it. And I think Democrats
agree with that. And so I'm optimistic.
You covered me when I was a governor of Texas. I told
you that I was going to do that as the governor. There
was probably some skepticism in your beady eyes there,
but you might remember -- (laughter) -- you might remember
-- (laughs) -- you might remember we did. We were able
to accomplish a lot by -- and Washington is different from
Austin. No question about it. Washington -- one of the
disappointments of being here in Washington is how bitter
this town can become and how divisive. I'm not blaming
one party or the other. It's just the reality of Washington,
D.C. -- sometimes exacerbated by you because it's great
sport. It's really -- it's entertaining for some. It also
makes it difficult to govern at times.
But nevertheless, my commitment is there. I fully -- I'm
more seasoned to Washington. I have cut my political eye
teeth, at least the ones I've recently grown here in Washington.
And so I'm aware of what can happen in this town. But nevertheless,
having said that, I am fully prepared to work with both
Republican, Democrat leadership to advance an agenda that
I think makes a big difference for the country.
Listen, thank you. I look forward to working with you.
I've got a question for you. How many of you are going
to be here for a second term, please raise your hand. (Laughter.)
Gosh, we're going to have a lot of fun then. (Laughter.)
Thank you all.
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