Discusses War and Economy with Press
America II Electronics
St. Petersburg, Florida
March 8, 2002
11:06 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank Mike and the good folks here at America II for
welcoming me and Jeb and members of the Florida congressional delegation. We've
just had a fantastic discussion about why this is a unique company. It's unique
because it has got a culture that understands that the worker is an incredibly
important part of the vitality of the company and therefore its success.
I'm real proud of Mike. Mike started this company in 1989. He had a dream. He
worked hard to achieve it. He's wise enough to understand that he's only as
successful as the good folks who work with him. And so it's an honor to be here.
In the room, I'm going to talk about the opportunities for this country to usher
in a period of responsibility. Part of a responsible society is for there to
be a responsible attitude for corporate management toward employees and shareholders
and disclosure, if you're a publicly traded company.
America II is really the best of the best here in America and I want to thank
you for letting me come, Mike. And I want to thank you all very much for sharing.
I'll answer a couple of questions here.
QUESTION: Mr. President, when you looked down on the ruins of the Pentagon on September
11th, didn't you in your heart of hearts expect that by the time you celebrated
the sixth anniversary, that you would know where bin Laden was and where Omar
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I knew that we were in for a very different kind of
war. And on 9/12 and the days following we put the war plan in place, I wasn't
sure how long this was going to take. I knew we were in for a long struggle,
though. And I never had any artificial deadlines. The good news is the American
people also understand we're in for a long war and that when it comes to defending
freedom, we'll take however long it takes to defend our freedom.
A little later on here, I'll have the privilege of meeting a mom and a dad of
a soldier who just died in Afghanistan. And I'm going to remind them that those
lives were not lost in vain and that we will fight terror wherever terror exists.
I will tell you, I am pleased at the progress we have made in a quick period
of time. Six months is not a very long period of time when you think about the
enemy we fight. We've made tremendous progress, thanks in part to the coalition
and thanks in part to the brave men and women who wear our uniform. And I am
grateful and so is the nation grateful.
Those who are preoccupied with one individual do not understand the struggle.
We fight terror wherever terror exists. And for those people who say, well,
one person matters, they elevate that person to a status that he does not deserve.
I don't know whether Mr. bin Laden is alive or is dead. I do know we haven't
heard from him in a long period of time.
QUESTION: Sir, employment grew for the first time in seven months. Is the economy now
out of the woods? And the Senate has passed your stimulus plan. Your reaction,
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I am glad the Senate passed the stimulus plan. I
think it's going to be really good for workers whose lives have been affected
as a result of 9/11. And it's good for entrepreneurs and business owners because
it encourages investment, it encourages employment.
And the best stimulus plan is one that focuses on jobs.
And I applaud the House that stayed with this, and I'm glad the Senate finally
passed it. I look forward to signing it. It is a good piece of news for workers
and entrepreneurs alike.
Look, Steve, in terms of the numbers, there's going to be a lot of statistics
thrown around about our economy. But let me tell you bluntly how I feel. People's
lives were deeply affected on September the 11th. A lot of people got hurt as
a result of that attack. And I'm concerned about it. I'm concerned about anybody
who's not working and wants to work. And so we'll let the numbers talk. But
in terms of policy and the focus of this administration, we're going to do everything
we can to increase jobs so people can find work.
One of the reasons we came here is Mike, in the midst of a significant downturn
in his business, laid nobody off. There wasn't one layoff at America II. If
he was -- well, you know, what about the numbers? Well, the numbers here show
that he was in a big slowdown. Sales dropped by 40 percent. And yet, he understood
his responsibility as a decent citizen, and nobody got laid off.
And I'm real proud of that, Mike, and I want to thank you for it. And it's the
kind of thing, by the way, that workers years from now in America II are going
to remember, that in the midst of this unbelievable, despicable act of evil
on America that affected our economy -- I don't care what the number crunchers
say, it affected our economy and it affected a lot of people's lives -- this
man understood the importance of the work force and kept people employed here.
QUESTION: Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Who are you with?
QUESTION: St. Petersburg Times.
Anything to say to Janet Reno, who's tooling around on the other side of the
Bay -- (laughter) --
THE PRESIDENT: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Anything to say about Janet Reno, who's campaigning on the other side of the
Bay today against your brother?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't have anything to say. All I've got to know is the
people of Florida have got a really good governor. They would be wise to keep
QUESTION: Mr. President, the battle going on outside of Gardez. There's some rumors
now from the Afghan -- our Afghan allies that there may be some real top leadership,
maybe even bin Laden up there. What do you know about that?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know of any specific names, John. I do know we're making
great progress. I do know that any time we find al Qaeda bunched up like that,
we'll get them. And it's going to be -- there's going to be more battles like
this one and American people just need to understand that the best way to secure
a homeland is to bring them to justice and to get them. And that's exactly what's
happening as we speak.
Our military is tough. Our coalition is strong. And, by the way, we're fighting
fierce fighters. These people evidently don't -- they don't want to give up.
And that's okay. If that's their attitude, we'll just have to adjust, and they
will have made a mistake. Because we're going to be relentless and we're steady
and we're supporting our military and they'll have the tools necessary to achieve
victory. But as of specific names, I don't know.
Look, here's the thing. We're fighting leaders of the murderers that sent people
to commit suicide missions. They're real brave. They say, you go ahead and commit
suicide, I'm going to find a cave -- we'll send youngsters to their death; in
the meantime I'm going to try to find a deep cave somewhere. And so when you
fight people like that, you never know.
You know, we've closed up a lot of caves in Afghanistan and one of these days,
you know, we might find some people still in there. But I just don't know. Nor
am I that focused on it individually.
I realize we're in for a long struggle. And I'm giving a speech on Monday that
will outline where we are in this war on terror. And I'm going to remind the
American people that we've still got a task at hand in Afghanistan, which is
to deny sanctuary to al Qaeda killers. We have achieved a significant victory
in Afghanistan by routing the Taliban.
I'm also going to remind people that we're denying sanctuary in other countries
as well. I don't want to give you the whole speech; I'd like for you to come
and listen to it. (Laughter.)