at Photo Op With Congressional Leadership
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt
White House Oval Office
October 2, 2001
8:13 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank the leaders of the Congress for coming down for
breakfast this morning. We had a really good discussion, starting with the progress
we're making on the war against terrorism. I briefed the members about the fact
that we're beginning to make progress in freezing assets -- freezing assets
of the al Qaeda organization.
I also talked about that the net we're casting is wide and strong, that we've
put together an international coalition that is impressive and that the members
of that coalition are staying steady.
It is my desire to make sure that, as this war unfolds, that the leaders of
both the Senate and the House are fully informed of what the government is doing.
I can't think of a better way to conduct foreign policy than to consult regularly
with the leadership.
We also talked about airport security. I told the members that I'm going to
be going to Reagan Airport today to announce its opening, and that we need to
work together to make sure that the package that's evolving in the House and
Senate is put together pretty quickly.
We talked about economic stimulus. There is agreement that we've got to come
together with a vision about how big the package ought to be, to make sure that
we affect the economy in the short-run in a positive way, but don't affect it
in the long-run in a negative way.
We agree on principles, that we've got to make sure that demand for U.S. products
stay strong; demand for products throughout our economic stays strong. Therefore,
we talked about ways to stimulate demand. We understand that investment has
fallen off in the corporate sector, and we talked about constructive ways to
stimulate investments so that the manufacturing sector, for example, of the
United States has got some added wind, in order to grow, to make sure that people
find work. We talked about worker displacement. And we had a good discussion.
And there's one thing that the American people must understand, that as we work
through these important subjects, we will do so in a spirit of cooperation and
And, finally, all of us want to get a budget done as quickly possible, get the
appropriations process done. We're making very good progress on coming up with
the size of the ultimate budget. And once that's decided, we pledged to work
together to get the appropriations bills moving as quickly as possible. That
would be a welcome relief from the old budget battles of the past.
And I'm most pleased with the conversations we've had. I admired all four Leaders
prior to September 11th; I admire them even more after September 11th, because
they're dedicated patriots, anxious to bring our government together to make
sure that we respond to the American people in a positive way.
I'll answer a couple questions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, is the time running out on the Taliban regime? Are you prepared,
sir, to recognize the Palestinian state as a part of a broader Middle East peace
THE PRESIDENT: Those are two questions, Major.
QUESTION: It's been a while since I've seen you.
THE PRESIDENT: Don't take it personally.
QUESTION: I never do, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: The idea of a Palestinian state has always been part of a vision,
so long as the right to Israel to exist is respected.
But first things first, when it comes to the Middle East, we've got to get to
Mitchell, the Mitchell Accord. Senator Mitchell put together a viable blueprint
that most of the world agrees with is a necessary path to ultimately solving
the problems of the Middle East. And we are working diligently with both sides
to encourage the reduction of violence so that meaningful discussions can take
Secondly, there is no time table for the Taliban, just like there are no negotiations.
I have said that the Taliban must turn over al Qaeda organization living within
Afghanistan, and must destroy the terrorist camps. And they must do so, otherwise
there will be a consequence. There are no negotiations, there's no calendar.
We'll act on our time, and we'll do it in a manner that not only secures the
United States as best as possible, but makes the freedom in the world more likely
to exist in the future.
QUESTION: Mr. President, to follow up on the Middle East, sir. Were you prepared to
support the idea of a Palestinian state before the United Nations conference
that was canceled?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I read all kinds of speculation about what this administration
was or was not going to do. What I'm telling you is, is that we are fully committed
to the Mitchell process. And we are fully committed to working with both sides
to bring the level of terror down to an acceptable level for both. And I fully
understand that progress is made in centimeters in the Middle East. And we believe
we're making some progress.
QUESTION: How big a stimulus package do you think is needed, sir, and what do you think
is the best way to stimulate demand?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the definition -- a stimulus package big enough -- that
what is needed is big enough to get the economy moving in the short-run, but
small enough so it doesn't affect long-term interest rates, for example. We
are -- all of us are listening to the voices of leading economists. We're all
open for suggestions. The best way to stimulate demand is to give people some
money, so they can spend it.
QUESTION: Mr. President, out of this terror comes fear.
THE PRESIDENT: What? Out of what?
QUESTION: Out of this terror on September 11th comes fear. Many Americans are still
gripped with this fear, and they're buying gas masks in exuberant numbers. And
they're also looking to -- for anthrax vaccinations. What do you say to those
people? Is their fear warranted?
THE PRESIDENT: I say that America ought to be on alert, but we need to get back
to business. That's why I'm opening up Reagan Airport. That's why we had Cabinet
members get on commercial airlines over the weekend. The good news is, is that
some of the load factors on American airlines looked like they increased over
the weekend. Americans know their government is doing everything they can to
disrupt any terrorist activity that may occur. We're following every lead, we're
interrogating every possible suspect. We're on full alert in America.
But the good news is, Americans also realize that in order to fight terrorism,
they're going to go about their lives in a normal way. And Americans are.
QUESTION: Are we in a recession, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Are we in a what?
QUESTION: Are we in a recession?
THE PRESIDENT: You let the number-crunchers tell us that. But there's no question
our economy is hurt as a result of September 11th. And the Leaders here understand
that. These members go back to their districts and hear the plight of families
who have been laid off. I, of course, hear it all the time, as well. And we're
going to do something about it. That's exactly what these discussions are about.
In terms of how you call it, what the numbers look like, we've got statisticians
who will be crunching the numbers and let us know exactly where we stand. But
we don't need numbers to tell us people are hurting.