Administration's First-Year Accomplishments
The Oval Office
The White House
December 21, 2001
11:10 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Don't step on the new rug! (Laughter.)
We wanted you to see the new rug. It's a tradition for each President to design
a rug. And Laura helped design this rug, and I think she did a fantastic job,
as you can see. It's just beautiful.
That's the seal in the middle. The border here has got a little Texan in it
MRS. BUSH: We have the Lone Star.
THE PRESIDENT: The Lone Star. The rays are, I think, very dramatic. And so we
wanted you to come by and take a look at it.
The other thing is, it's been an extraordinary year for us. We will continue
to ask the good Lord's blessings on America during the holiday season, particularly
on those who suffered incredible loss. And we -- I hope our soldiers are safe
overseas. We appreciate the job they do.
I'm real proud of how the administration and our government has responded to
the attacks on America. Got a good strategy in the first phase of the war, to
rout terror. Held the doctrine that says that we will bring the murderers to
justice and we will hold those accountable who help the murderers. Responded
quickly to threats to our homeland. Tom Ridge is doing a really good job in
coordinating with those whose job it is to keep America safe.
Every morning I come into the desk, and I would read the threat assessments
to America. And it reminds me that my most important job of all is to protect
the American people from further attack.
On the domestic front, I'm really pleased with what's happened in the Congress
to get the education bill, a significant piece of education reform that believes
that the nation should have high standards for every single child; and that
we ought to make sure that when we spend money that there's results. And along
those lines, we also -- this bill trusts the local governments to make many
decisions about educating children.
We also recognize there's a federal responsibility to make sure that we help
schools achieve a very important goal, and that is every child learn to read
-- something that Laura's been very much involved in.
I'm pleased that we were able to pass the tax relief plan that gave working
people their own -- let them keep their own money. It turned out to be -- by
simplifying the code and dropping the bottom rate, for example, to 10 percent,
as well as making sure that there's a child credit, increasing the child credit,
getting rid of the death tax -- all the tax measures were very fortuitous because
the economy began to slow down in March. And I strongly believe that by providing
the first phase of tax relief, it helped cushion what could have been a very,
very hard landing.
In the House, we passed an energy plan. It's the first time an administration
laid out an energy plan. And the House passed it; it's stuck in the Senate.
I'm pleased that a good piece of environmental policy was passed last night
and that I intend to sign, which is the brownsfield legislation -- legislation
that will help cities around America clean up all industrial sites. It's really
good work, bipartisan work. We've worked closely with members of both parties
to get the bill passed, and I look forward to signing that.
The faith-based initiative is such a vital initiative for making sure that there's
something beyond welfare for people who have lost hope in life. And that bill
passed the House. I look forward to working with the Senate sponsors, Senator
Lieberman and Senator Santorum, to get it passed the Senate. We need to get
a patients' bill of rights done -- bill of rights done next year.
I must tell you, I'm disappointed that the Senate did not follow up on the opportunity
to pass a stimulus package that would have taken care of workers. We worked
really hard with members of both parties to get legislation that would do two
things -- one, help workers by extending unemployment insurance, as well as
helping with their health care. And then there was a -- part of the package
that would encourage investment and job creation. It just didn't get done, and
that's a big disappointment.
I know there was enough votes to get it out of the Senate, had there been the
will to get the bill done. And maybe early next year we can work on it again.
But all in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me. We're so grateful
to be living in this compound and I'm grateful to be working in this office.
It's a joy to walk in here every morning, realizing that I'm the President of
the greatest country on the face of the Earth.
Anything you want to say?
MRS. BUSH: Happy holidays to everybody. Very happy New Year.
THE PRESIDENT: Why don't you say something about the rug?
MRS. BUSH: Do you want to hear more about the rug?
QUESTION: Where was it made?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Terry. (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: It was made, actually, in New York. Edward Fields is the company.
I went and watched as it was being made. They have -- it was very interesting.
They have huge racks the rug is up on, and then they developed this electric
needle that sort of looks like a drill, and the yarn is actually sort of painted
on with this electric drill.
We took a long time working on the design of it, and the colors. We went back
and forth several times with strike-offs on the colors until we got what we
liked. I think it's really pretty. They've done a beautiful job.
In late January, we're going to ask everyone who had to do with the Oval Office
-- Scalamandre, who made the couches and -- the fabric on the couches; Brunschwig,
the fabric on the drapes; the Drapery House, which is also out of New York,
that made them. The museums that loaned these paintings from Texas. Tom Lea's
widow, Sarah Lea. W.H.D. Koerner's son, who we found through Joey O'Neill, who
loaned that painting to us. So we'll ask you back at that time to meet all the
people who had something to do with the decorating of the Oval Office.
QUESTION: Mr. President, can we ask you --
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you think that perhaps the cease-fires and the talks about possible surrender
negotiations gave bin Laden a chance to sneak out of Afghanistan or --
THE PRESIDENT: Ron, I don't know where he is. I haven't heard much from him
recently. And -- which means he could be in a cave that doesn't have an opening
to it anymore, or could be in a cave where he can get out, or may have tried
to slither out into neighboring Pakistan. We don't know. But I will tell you
this: We're going to find him.
And one of the things I said early on in this war was that -- I told the American
people that this administration would be patient and would be relentless. And
you're talking to a patient man when it comes to achieving the objectives, because
I understand the degree of difficulty has increased significantly.
The first part of the objective was to destroy the Taliban's military. That
was relatively easy. Secondly, the objective was to hold those accountable who
had harbored al Qaeda. It took a while, but once we were able to bring our military
strength, made our military strength -- air strength, in particular -- with
boots on the ground, commitment of troops, it unfolded well.
Now we're on the hunt. And we're chasing one or two, three or four, 20 individuals
at a time. And this is pretty rugged country, as you know. And so we're slowly,
but surely chasing down every single lead. And as our friends and allies take
over more and more of the country, and as the new government gets, in the beginning,
gets into place, we'll continue to get good intelligence and we'll continue
to chase Mr. bin Laden -- and others -- Abu Zabeda, Zawahari. I could give you
the list of names.
But if they think they can hide from the United States, they're making a terrible
mistake again. And we'll get him, we'll bring him to justice. I wish I could
give you the exact moment, but I can't. And frankly, since this administration
is in the fight against terror for the long pull, I am not the least bit anxious
about bringing a particular individual to justice. I know that we've disrupted
the al Qaeda network.
Today I was briefed that there are hundreds of al Qaeda fighters being held
hostage. And by the way, we're in the process of developing a system to deal
with each and every fighter, depending upon the nature of the fighter -- how
to deal with them, legally. And I've instructed the National Security Council
to take their time and to come up with a process to deal with foreign al Qaeda
fighters, Taliban, Walker. I have no answer on Walker yet, because I want the
process to be able to address all the different circumstances that may arise,
and then we'll be able to brief the country as to how we're going to deal with
QUESTION: Are you nearing, though, a decision? Can you describe who you're consulting
with, and have you --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I tasked the National Security Council to work up a strategy
on how to deal with each and every person that we capture. And obviously, Walker
is unique in that he's the first American al Qaeda fighter that we have captured.
And we will announce to the country when we have made up our mind on all --
on how to deal with a wide variety of cases.
Walker, himself, is being well-treated on a ship of ours that is -- I suspect
he's finding his berth a little better than it was when he was placed in the
prison in Afghanistan. And we've heard, the administration has heard from his
lawyer and we've told his lawyer that at the appropriate time we'll let everybody
know, including his family, how we're going to proceed with Walker, as well
as others that have become captured during this war.
But, no, we don't have an announcement today.
QUESTION: And nothing has been ruled out? Like treason -- have you ruled out treason?
THE PRESIDENT: No, nothing has been ruled out because I want to make -- obviously,
every decision we make at this point will set precedent for future decisions.
And I want us to fully think through all the ramifications of the different
options. And Defense and the Justice Department are taking the lead on preparing
This ought to be a strategy, by the way, that when we capture somebody who has
a certain characteristic to him, that then the process ought to automatically
kick in as to how that person is dealt with. And I think we owe that to the
country, to take our time. And then I'll make it clear -- somebody will make
it clear once the decision is made.
QUESTION: Sir, would you consider bringing -- or asking Congress to come back early
and finish the economic stimulus?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
QUESTION: Are you angry at anyone in Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not angry at all. I'm joyous. I welcome the holiday season.
No, but I don't intend to bring them back early.
QUESTION: What is the impact of not passing a stimulus before the end of the year?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the impact was it was disappointing.
QUESTION: What about for the American people?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we'll just have to see. We'll have to see what the effects
are. And we'll have time when they come back to take a look-see at the state
of the economy. We're continuing to get mixed signals; hopefully, the economy
will be good, but we'll just have to -- we'll deal with it when we get back.
But I think the people, a lot of people are going to ask the question, why couldn't
they get something done. And one of my jobs was to facilitate an agreement.
And I went up to Capitol Hill, as you know -- one of my rare appearances up
there -- and sat down with Democrats and Republicans from both bodies who had
made the commitment to work together to get a bill. And there was a great --
it's a very good bill, by the way -- billions of dollars of help for displaced
workers. And the will to get something done just wasn't there.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you think a stimulus is a must?
THE PRESIDENT: Is a --
QUESTION: Is a must.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, a must. We'll see. I thought it was important to get a good
stimulus package out. As well as I thought it was very important to take care
of displaced workers. And the bill that I supported and my administration helped
craft with both the Democrats and Republicans would have done just that. But
we'll see when we come back and take a look.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you had said that the next phase of the war following the defeat
of the military in Afghanistan would be hunting down these groups wherever they
-- across the globe, and that countries who didn't work with us were against
us. So do we have any sort of time lines or goals that we've set up for these
countries where we know al Qaeda and other groups that we've put on our list
of terrorism are functioning, where we're going to say at a certain point, you're
not doing as much as we had expected of you?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I hear what you're saying. Well, I also said that sometimes
the war will take place and actions will take place that the American people
won't be able to see. And by that I mean that this is a multifront war that
will be effective when we cut off money, or encourage governments to round up
al Qaeda cells. And we are encouraging governments to try to round up and sometimes
-- and bring to justice al Qaeda cells.
But it wouldn't be very wise for me to describe those to you because the al
Qaeda cell we're trying to round up may flee. But, yes, we're constantly talking
to countries, reminding them that if you're with us, perform. I'm a performance-oriented
person. I believe in results.
And many of the world leaders that have been here in the Oval Office will tell
you that one of the strong messages that I send is, thank you for your condolences;
I appreciate your flowers; now arrest somebody if they're in your country. And
we will help you. We'll give you the intelligence necessary to show you who
they are and where they are. And we will -- if you need be, we'll be glad to
lend some troops. Now, that hasn't happened yet, but the enemy needs to know
that we're on the hunt. And part of being -- and friends need to know, if you're
a member of the coalition we expect you to perform.
QUESTION: Are there any -- I mean, obviously, you're not going to delineate for us the
conversations that are happening, but are there any phone calls going to countries,
friends or allies --
THE PRESIDENT: All the time. All the time we're reminding people that this is
a performance-oriented world. If you want to win the war on terror, you must
perform. And a good area, for example, is in the financial area, where we're
constantly working with nations to help them chase down money that is moving
illegally. There's a lot of cooperation.
But you asked a very interesting question -- do you keep a scorecard. And the
answer is, I do. I do, because I'm an old baseball guy and I like to keep the
score. I like to see who's performing and who's not performing. It's a part
of being a coalition.
Tommy Franks said something interesting the other day -- and by the way, he
was one year ahead of Laura at Midland Lee High School. (Laughter.) They were
"fighting rebels" together. (Laughter.) But Tommy said, this war --
the phase of this war is kind of like a baseball game. Of course, my ears perked
up. He said there will be a lot of moments of boredom, and then there would
be some great joy as we -- what he was saying was that we're in a slow pursuit
to achieve the objective that Ron talked about.
QUESTION: Sir, can you say that the country is more secure today and less vulnerable
to terrorism than it was before September 11th?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir. The country is more secure today and less vulnerable
to attack than before September the 11th, because the enemy has made it clear
that we are a target, and we responded.
America never dreamt before September the 11th anybody would attack us. We knew
there were threats. During the summer there had been some threats to overseas
assets that we responded to. But we really never felt that -- we had the sense
that we're invulnerable. And now they've made it clear that they're not afraid
to attack us.
And so, one, we're aware. Secondly, we have got a much better system of sharing
information -- information we gather overseas to agencies here at home. When
we get a hint -- and by the way, as a result of the coalition, there is much
more intelligence sharing going on. So, oftentimes, we'll get a lead from an
intelligence service, say, in the Middle East, or in Europe, and that piece
of information will be analyzed and passed immediately on to the FBI, that has
now shifted its culture from one of doing important work, like white-collar
crime or spy-on-spy work, to prevention. That is the most, primary job of the
FBI, is to prevent a further attack.
And there's over 4,000 agents working on every single lead we get -- leads that
sometimes prove to be false, but sometimes indicate that there could be somebody
here in the country that is -- intends to do us harm. And we will use whatever
resources necessary to haul them in if that's the case.
So, yes, the country is safer. Is it still -- totally safe? No. And that's why,
as I've told you, my main job, my main worry for America is to prevent another
attack. Every morning at 6:50 a.m. in the morning, I come in here and I think
about the possibilities. And every day I meet with the FBI Director and Tom
Ridge and John Ashcroft, along with George Tenet, reminding them that we have
an awesome responsibility to do whatever we can to protect the American people.
And we've made great progress since September the 11th.
The American people need to know that even though we go into a holiday season,
this government will be doing everything we can to keep our country safe. We're
keeping CAPs up, we're keeping -- those are military flights around -- just
to make sure if somebody tries to attack us, there will be -- we'll have the
measures in place to prevent it.
Listen, I hope you all have a great holiday. Thank you.