Insurance Agreement Needed by Friday
Remarks After Meeting with Members of Congress
The Cabinet Room
The White House
October 1, 2002
10:26 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. All of us here around the table are
concerned about jobs, concerned about our economy. We want people to be able
to find work. And we had a very good discussion about how Congress and the administration
can work together to get a terrorism insurance bill done before Congress goes
home. I asked the members to get a -- to work hard in the next couple of days
and get an agreement by Friday. They're going to work hard to see if they can't
come up with an agreement.
There over $15.5 billion worth of construction projects which aren't going forward
because they can't get insurance on their projects, can't insure the buildings
or the project. And therefore, there's 300,000 people whose jobs aren't going
forward. And this is a way for us to work together to put people back to work
here in America. It's a really important piece of legislation. And I appreciate
the spirit of both Republicans and Democrats, senators and congressmen, to get
this thing done before they go home.
I'll answer a couple of questions. Laidlaw -- Lindlaw. Laidlaw -- Lindlaw.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. There's a resolution being circulated by Senators
Biden and Lugar, an alternative resolution on authorizing force in Iraq. What's
wrong with that alternative?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I -- first of all, I appreciate all the members of Congress
working to come up with a resolution. It sends a clear signal to the world that
this country is determined to disarm Iraq, and thereby bring peace to the world.
Members in both parties are working to get a consensus. Secondly -- and we'll
continue to work with members of Congress. But I don't want to get a resolution
which ties my hands, a resolution which is weaker than that which was passed
out of the Congress in 1998. The Congress in 1998 passed a very strong resolution.
They wisely recognized that Saddam Hussein is a threat -- was a threat in '98,
and he's more of a threat four years later.
My question is, what's changed? Why would Congress want to weaken a resolution?
This guy's had four years to lie, deceive, to arm up. He's had four years to
thumb his nose at the world. He is stockpiling more weapons. So I'm not sure
why members would like to weaken the resolution.
But we'll work with the members, and I'm confident we can get something done.
And we'll be speaking with one voice here in the country, and that's going to
be important for the United Nations to hear that voice. It's going to be important
for the world to hear that voice. All of us recognize military option is not
the first choice. But disarming this man is, because he faces a true threat
to the United States. And we've just got to work together to get something done.
Patsy -- no, not Patsy. Holland -- sorry -- Steve.
QUESTION: Sir, does the West Coast longshoremen dispute represent the kind of
threat to the U.S. economy that might require a Taft-Hartley injunction?
THE PRESIDENT: Steven, we're worried about it. We're closely monitoring it.
This is a -- any strike's a tough situation, but this one happens to come at
a -- or a lockout is a tough situation, or no work is a tough situation. This
is coming at a bad time. And so we're watching it very closely.
There's a federal mediator on the ground, and I urge both parties to utilize
the mediator. But we'll continue to pay attention to it. It's a problem and
it's something that we're just going to have to get these parties to work through
and get back to work, open these ports up. It's important for our economy we
QUESTION: Mr. President, increasingly, investment fund managers are saying that
the prospect of war with Iraq has contributed to the third-quarter performance
this year, the worst since the crash in 1987. Are you concerned, first of all,
about the shrinking investment and retirement portfolios for Americans? And
do you think the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand a war with Iraq,
should we end up in war in that region?
THE PRESIDENT: Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with
Iraq. I've made up my mind we need to disarm the man.
Secondly, yes, I think the U.S. economy is strong. Obviously, there's some --
some rough spots in our economy. But we'll deal with them. Interest rates are
low, inflation's low, productivity's high. This great country is going to recover.
And, yes, we're strong enough to handle the challenges ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, the Permanent Five of the Security Council are meeting
as you speak, and France is holding fast to its position of wanting a two-stage
resolution. Are you willing to modify your position, sir, and come in line with
France's position, in the spirit of cooperation, to achieve a tough U.N. resolution?
THE PRESIDENT: What I won't accept is something that allows Saddam Hussein to
continue to lie, deceive the world. He's been doing that for 11 years. For 11
years, he's told the United Nations Security Council, don't worry, I accept
your resolution; then he doesn't follow through. And I'm just not going to accept
something that is weak. It is not worth it. It's -- the United Nations must
show its backbone. And we will work with members of the Security Council to
put a little calcium there, put calcium in the backbone, so this organization
is able to more likely keep the peace as we go down the road.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting the French proposal is weak?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm suggesting that the same old stuff isn't going to work, John.
And we won't accept the status quo. There needs to be a strong new resolution
in order for us to make it clear to the world -- and to Saddam Hussein, more
importantly -- that you must disarm.
And I look forward to looking at all their proposals. Just like we're dealing
with everybody concerned, we will listen to points of view. But the final bottom
line has got to be a very strong resolution, so that we don't fall into the
same trap we have done for the last 11 years, which is nothing happens.
Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at the world. He's a threat to the neighborhood.
He's a threat to Israel. He's a threat to the United States of America. And
we're just going to have to deal with him. And the best way to deal with him
is for the world to rise up and say, you disarm, and we'll disarm you. And if
not -- if, at the very end of the day, nothing happens -- the United States,
along with others, will act.