Congress to Pass Iraq Resolution Promptly
The Cabinet Room
The White House
September 24, 2002
11:00 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. We just had a very productive Cabinet meeting.
We realize there's little time left in -- before the Senate and the House goes
home, but we're optimistic a lot can get done before now and then. Congress
must act now to pass a resolution which will hold Saddam Hussein to account
for a decade of defiance.
It's time to get a homeland security bill done, one which will allow this President
and this administration, and future Presidents -- give us the tools necessary
to protect the homeland. And we're working as hard as we can with Phil Gramm
and Zell Miller to get this bill moving. It's a good bill. It's a bill that
both Republicans and Democrats can and should support.
My message, of course, is that, to the senators up here that are more interested
in special interests, you better pay attention to the overall interests of protecting
the American people.
We can get budget going. I need a defense bill. The Senate needs to get, and
the House needs to get, their differences reconciled and get a defense bill
to my desk before they go home. That's a very important signal to send. And
at the same time, since there is no budget in the Senate, they've got to be
mindful of over-spending. Very important for those up there who keep talking
about budget -- balanced budget, and all that, to not over-spend. If they're
truly that concerned about the deficit, then one way they can help is to be
fiscally sound with the people's money.
We talked about the need to get pension reform and an energy bill, terrorism
insurance. There's time to get all this done, and we look forward to working
with the members of Congress to get it done.
I'll answer a couple of questions, starting with Fournier of the AP.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Can I have your reaction to two recent assessments
on the situation in Iraq? First, Tony Blair said today that Saddam has tried
to acquire significant quantities of uranium and can quickly deploy chemical
and biological weapons. But there seems to be little new information in the
dossier. Secondly, former Vice President Al Gore --
THE PRESIDENT: He explained why.
QUESTION: Pardon me, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Explained why he didn't put new information -- to protect sources.
QUESTION: If you could explain why, I'd appreciate it. And secondly, Vice President
Al Gore --
THE PRESIDENT: That's right, I forgot our different roles. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I couldn't even get on the ballot. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Did that have something to do with the background check? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: When I have something on that, I'll let you know, sir. (Laughter.)
The Vice President yesterday said that you've managed to replace the world's
sympathy on Iraq with fear, anxiety and uncertainty. And you're using the issue
to steer attention away from the inability to get Osama bin Laden.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm confident a lot of Democrats here in Washington, D.C. will
understand that Saddam is a true threat to America. And I look forward to working
with them to get a strong resolution passed.
Prime Minister Blair, first of all, is a very strong leader, and I admire his
willingness to tell the truth and to lead. Secondly, he has -- continues to
make the case, like we make the case, that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace;
that for 11 years he has deceived the world. For 11 years, he's ignored the
United Nations, and for 11 years he has stockpiled weapons. And we shouldn't
deceive ourselves about this man. He has poisoned his people before. He has
poisoned his neighborhood. He is willing to use weapons of mass destruction.
And the Prime Minister continues to make the case, and so will I.
And I again call for the United Nations to pass a strong resolution holding
this man to account. And if they're unable to do so, the United States and our
friends will act, because we believe in peace; we want to keep the peace. We
don't trust this man -- and that's what the Blair report showed today.
The reason why it wasn't specific is because -- I understand why -- he's not
going to reveal sources and methods of collection of sensitive information.
Those sources and methods may be -- will be used later on, I'm confident, as
we gather more information about how this man has deceived the world.
QUESTION: Sir, do you want to specifically respond, please, to Al Gore, instead of just
generally about Democrats? What did you think about his --
THE PRESIDENT: About his response -- I mean, there's a lot of Democrats in Washington,
D.C. who understand that Saddam Hussein is a true threat, and that we must hold
him to account. And I believe you'll see, as we work to get a strong resolution
out of the Congress, that a lot of Democrats are willing to take the lead when
it comes to keeping the peace.
QUESTION: Sir, Arab leaders are warning the terrorism coalition and your efforts in
Iraq are at risk because of the Arafat siege. Why didn't U.S. support last night's
U.N. resolution, and what can you say to get to Israel to end the siege?
THE PRESIDENT: What we do support is this, Steve -- and our abstention should
have sent a message that we hope that all parties stay on the path to peace.
And I laid out what the path to peace -- what the path to peace was here at
the -- in the Rose Garden: First of all, we all have got to fight terror. But
as we fight terror, particularly in the Middle East, they've got to build the
institution necessary for a Palestinian state to emerge; that we've got to promote
the leadership that is willing to condemn terror and, at the same time, work
toward the embetterment of the lives of the Palestinian people. There are a
lot of suffering people there and we've got to help end the suffering.
And I thought the actions Israelis take -- Israelis took were not helpful in
terms of the establishment and development of the institutions necessary for
a Palestinian state to emerge. We will continue to work with all parties in
the region, Israel and everybody else who wants to fight off terror, we'll do
In order for there to be peace we must battle terror. But at the same time,
we must have a hopeful response. And the most hopeful response of all for the
Palestinian people is for -- to work for a state to emerge. And that is possible;
I believe strongly it can happen. I believe it's -- I believe in peace in the
Middle East. And I would urge all governments to work toward that peace.
And we're making progress, and that's what's important for the world to know.
We're making progress on the security front, we're making progress on the political
reform front. We're making progress to make it clear that if there is to be
a peaceful settlement, that the Palestinians must be given the opportunity to
bring forth leadership which is willing to work toward peace. And it was not
helpful what happened recently.
QUESTION: Mr. President, we haven't asked you about the economy in quite some time.
Consumer confidence numbers out today -- not real good. Later this month, lots
of Americans are going to receive their 401(k) statements, many of them probably
cringing about what they're going to see in there. Do you feel like the economy
is on the right track, that the stock market can mount any kind of a recovery
in coming months? And if you are optimistic, what are your reasons for your
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, I'm optimistic because, one, I'm optimistic about
America in general. I mean, the American people are resilient, they're strong,
we've got the best workers in the world, inflation is down, interest rates are
low. So when you combine the productivity of the American people with low interest
rates and low inflation, those are the ingredients for growth.
But there's more to do. That's why we need a terrorism insurance bill. We need
to get our hard-hats working again. We need to make the tax cuts permanent so
that entrepreneurs and small businesses have got certainty in the tax code.
We need to make sure Congress doesn't over-spend. If Congress over-spends, it
will send a chilling signal to markets. And so there are things that Congress
and the administration can do, working together to make sure people work.
But I'm an optimist. I'm optimistic because this is America -- that's what makes
me optimistic. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong. And we're really good at
a lot of things we do. But, no question that, you know, that things changed,
I mean, from the boon days. The market started to decline in March of 2000 --
that's when it peaked. The sellers outnumbered the buyers starting in March
And then in the summer of 2000, the economy began to slow down, people began
to see a serious slowdown. And then we came into office and we had three quarters
of negative growth. That's called a recession. And we're dealing with it. We're
dealing with a sound -- a fiscal policies, starting with letting people have
more of their own money. See, the tax cut was actually necessary, a necessary
part of economic recovery. And there are some up here in Washington, D.C. who
would like to raise the taxes on the people. And that's just -- that's bad economics,
that's bad policy. People up here want to stop the reduction in income taxes
to the American people. That's bad policy in the face of an economic slowdown.
So you bet I'm optimistic. But I understand we've got a lot of work to do. And
we will. We will continue to work hard to make sure that people can find work.