After Meeting Local Economic Leaders
King County International Airport
August 22, 2003
12:50 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's a pleasure to be here in beautiful Seattle. I just met
with members of the congressional delegation; also members of the business
community, both large and small businesses, to talk about the fact that this
economy here in Washington State is not as strong as it should be.
I'm fully aware that the unemployment numbers here are some of the highest
in the country, and that's of concern. This is a resource-based state with
a significant high-tech component, and both those sectors have been hit very
hard by the economic downturn. And so we talked about ways to stimulate growth.
The first thing I talked about was the fact that the tax plan that the Congress
passed and I signed, the most recent tax plan, is now kicking in. People
are getting their child tax credits, which will be positive. It will be positive
for the people of this state. People are getting more money back, and the
more money they have, the more money they will have to spend. And that's
I talked about trade policy which will help the high-tech industry here
in the state of Washington. We talked about the Healthy Forest Initiative,
which is a common-sense plan to make sure that we save our forests before
they get destroyed by catastrophic fire.
Yesterday I choppered over the fire in Oregon and saw the effects of a backward
forest policy, a policy that has allowed for undergrowth to develop and provide
the kindling necessary for explosive fires. I saw some interesting signs
that -- save our mature large trees. I agree. I also saw the fires destroy
the mature stands of large trees. It's unbelievable how powerful these fires
raged throughout. And we've got to do something about it. A healthy forest
initiative will help protect the resources of a resource-based economy.
I talked today -- we talked today about energy. The good folks in the state
of Washington, or the capital -- people who spend money on capital investment
know that we need to have an energy policy. Today, I talked about something
that made eminent sense to me, and that is when you've got good, clean sources
of energy like hydropower, you don't destroy those sources, particularly
with the nation short of energy. And so we had a very good discussion about
ways to create the conditions of economic vitality and growth.
The federal government can help, and the state of Washington has got to
also set the conditions necessary for people to want to be here. I mean,
one of the things we can do at the federal level is pass medical liability
reform. It's a national issue. I mean, it makes sense for us to have medical
liability reform. If the state of Washington needs to send a message that
this will be a good place to do business, they may -- ought to have the legislature
pass liability reform, or workers compensation reform. There's a lot of things
the state of Washington can do, as well.
And we had a very vital discussion. And the reason why I wanted to have
this discussion is I'm concerned about the size of the unemployment rate
here in this important state.
I'll answer a couple of questions, then I've got to go to another event.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I'm want to ask you about the Middle East.
THE PRESIDENT: Middle East, yes.
QUESTION: Palestinians militants have promised more suicide bombings. Israel itself
has talked about more pinpoint strikes on militants. What can you do to make
sure that the progress in recent months doesn't get destroyed?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well, we'll just keep working the issue, of course,
hard and reminding people of this important fact, that if people want there
to be peace in the Middle East, if the Palestinians want to see their own
state, they've got to dismantle the terrorist networks.
You just opened your question by saying that some in the Palestinian territories
have announced there's going to be more suicide bombings. Suicide bombings
are acts of terror. Suicide bombings kill innocent people. Children, women
-- they don't care, they're indiscriminate. They just kill for the sake of
killing. Those people who conduct suicide bombings are not interested in
the vision that I have outlined, and that is a Palestinian state living side-by-side
with Israel in peace.
What the United States will continue to do is to remind those who love peace
and yearn for freedom in that part of the world to join together and to battle
those few who want to destroy the ambitions of many. I will continue to work
with leaders in the neighborhood to encourage them to cut off the money and
the aid and the help that goes to these terrorist organizations, all of which
aim to destroy any hope for peace.
I am, and will continue to work the issue. I think it's important for us
to -- for the United States to stay very much engaged, and I will.
QUESTION: Mr. President, it seems like the conflict in Iraq is becoming more of
a guerrilla war directed against the West, or international institutions.
How important is it that more countries contribute troops to Iraq? And are
you willing to give more political authority to the United Nations to achieve
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well, look, that's a very interesting question. It's
-- the way I view this is Iraq is turning out to be a continuing battle in
the war on terror. You know, it's one thing to remove the Saddam Hussein
regime from power in order to protect America and our friends and allies,
which we did. And then there are -- we found resistance from former Baathist
officials. These people decided that, well, they'd rather fight than work
for peaceful reconstruction of Iraq because they weren't going to be in power
I also believe there's a foreign element that is moving into Iraq and these
will be al-Qaeda-type fighters. They want to fight us there because they
can't stand the thought of a free society in the Middle East. They hate freedom.
They hate the thought of a democracy emerging. And therefore, they want to
violently prevent that from happening. And it's hard to characterize what
kind of movement it is since this is the -- this is one of the major battles
of the first war of the 21st century.
As I told the American people after 9/11, one, I would never forget 9/11
and the lessons learned about protecting the security of this country, but
also that we were facing a different kind of war. And having said that, we
do need and welcome more foreign troops into Iraq, and there will be more
foreign troops into Iraq. And what that will do is that will enable many
of those troops to guard the infrastructure. If you notice what's happening,
of course, is as the life of the average Iraqi begins to improve, those who
hate freedom destroy the infrastructures that we've been improving. It's
part of their strategy. So we'll get more people guarding that.
And in the meantime -- and that will help free up our hunter teams. We're
getting better human intelligence. Every day that goes by, we're getting
more solid evidence from Iraqi citizens about the whereabouts of certain
former thugs -- or current thugs of a former regime, is a better way to put
it, like Chemical Ali. And we're winning.
And it's -- we've been there for 120 days since major operations, or something
like that. We've haven't been there a long time. And these people -- let
me finish. Just getting warmed up. (Laughter.) These people have been subjugated
for years and years and years. Torture chambers were prevalent throughout
the Iraqi society. Mass graves -- we discovered mass graves of innocent people
whose lives were slaughtered because they didn't agree with Saddam Hussein.
And you can imagine the psychology of a country that has been through a --
life under Saddam. Slowly but surely, people are now beginning to develop
the habits necessary for a free society to emerge.
We're going to stay the course. Now, your other question was the United
Nations. Well, I've always said the United Nations ought to have vital role,
and they were playing a vital role in Iraq, such a vital role, that the killers
decided to destroy the very people that were providing food for the hungry
and medicine for the afflicted.
Now, what kind of mind-set is that? That's -- it is that type of mentality
that we must defeat if we expect the world to be secure and peaceful.
And so, yes, there will be a vital role for the U.N. As a matter of fact,
we're discussing regulation -- I mean, resolutions now about how to encourage
other nations to participate in the process.
And, let me -- one more. Ryan.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Fine, Ryan. Is this a short question? If it is a short question,
I can call on Bennett. If it's not a short question, he gets filibustered.
QUESTION: Sir, three tax cuts, two wars, and now, a new military role in Liberia.
And your administration is now projecting deficits up near a trillion dollars
this year and next. Meanwhile, a major jobless recovery as you've just mentioned
here today in Washington, and Wall Street is becoming more and more nervous
about the effect of these deficits in the long-term economy. Can this economy
sustain long-term deficits?
THE PRESIDENT: We'll have the deficit in half over a five-year period of
time if Congress holds the line on discretionary spending. And one of my
jobs is to make sure they do. I proposed reasonable budgets on discretionary
spending, and I expect Congress to join me on those budgets.
Let me remind the people that -- to whom you're writing, this erudite article
-- what caused the deficit. It was caused by the lack of revenues coming
into the treasury because of a recession. Half of the deficit was because
of the recession that took place in the first quarter -- first three quarters
And remember, the stock market started to decline in March of 2000. That
caused a lack of revenue coming into the treasury. Then the country went
into recession. And recession by its very nature means less business activity,
less money in circulation, less monies coming into the treasury.
And then, we were at war. And I decided to request from Congress enough
money to fight and win the war. That's what the American people expect. They
expect a Commander-in-Chief to support the troops. And that's what I did,
and will continue to do.
Part of the deficit is also caused by the fact that Congress passed the
tax relief I asked for. But the reason I asked for the tax relief is to stimulate
economic growth. And so, the -- those who are worried about the deficit must
first worry -- I hope would worry first about people being able to find work,
like in Washington state. I am more concerned about somebody finding a job
than I am about numbers on paper.
But having said that, I want to repeat that we've got a plan to reduce the
deficit in half in five years.
Final question, Bennett of the Houston Chronicle. I've known him for a long
time. For those of you who don't know him, he's a fine lad. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I have sort of a Texas-related question. Mr. President, next week there's
going to be a report issued on the Space Shuttle Columbia that's expected
to be highly critical of NASA. Do you support the resumption of manned-space
flights? Do you think the program should be better funded and restructured?
Where do you see the future?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me first -- I've been a strong supporter of NASA. I want
to look at the report before I comment. You may have seen the report; I haven't,
in which case, I want to look at it. I do believe that a space program is
important for a country that is trying to stay on the leading edge of technological
change. But let me look and first see what the report says, how critical
it is, what it says, what it means. And I'll answer -- try to answer that
very question after I've had a chance to enrich my knowledge about a pending
Thank you all.
QUESTION: It's her birthday.
THE PRESIDENT: Today is your birthday?
QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yes, it is.
THE PRESIDENT: You shouldn't be so shy in front of national cameras. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I'd rather it not be a topic, thank you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Would you like for your compadres to break out in a "Happy
Birthday" here on TV?
QUESTION: They've already done that, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: They have? Should we have the business community sing? (Laughter.)