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Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Elizabeth Hanford Dole as Secretary of Labor

December 24, 1988

Well, I would say I'm sorry to impose on you on Christmas Eve day, but I'm not because I have a piece of good news to deliver before the holiday, and that is that Elizabeth Hanford Dole has agreed to be the Bush administration Secretary of Labor.

And the skills that will be required of America's work force will be increasingly great in the years ahead, and the work force itself is in dramatic change, with women especially continuing to enter the work force in ever larger numbers. And in this environment, it is essential that we have a Secretary of Labor who understands the challenges out there and who has the experience, the stature and the ability to deal with them effectively. And the point is that these changes are coming, and there is no getting around it. And we need as the head of the Labor Department someone who understands change and can help us as a nation manage it well.

I am absolutely certain that Elizabeth Dole will be such a Secretary of Labor. She is a woman of talent, integrity, great skill and, of course, tremendous experience. And as you know, she served for five years as Secretary of Transportation in the Reagan-Bush Administration, and prior to that she was Assistant to the President for Public Liaison in the White House, and in that job had a lot of contacts, I might add, with the great labor leaders of this country, and prior to that she served for six years as a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission.

She and I have spoken about some of the tasks. I know you're always interested in the mechanics of how these appointments are arrived at. When did we first talk, Liddy? MRS. DOLE: Thursday morning. MR. BUSH: Thursday morning on this job, and we talked about a wide array of assignments, what, a couple of weeks ago? MRS. DOLE: Yes. Safety in the Workplace MR. BUSH: Something of that nature. And we talked about training and retraining our workers, insuring that every worker has a safe and healthy workplace, respecting the rights of workers and their representatives, and we agree that there's much important work to be done.

And one mission that we both care a great deal about is the creation of more private-public partnerships with greater private involvement in meeting our nation's, our nation's public needs.

As America seeks to become more competitive and more compassionate in the 90's, we will be well served by having Liddy Dole at work in the Cabinet as Secretary of Labor, building the kind of a future that, that enriches the lives of all Americans.


Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. President-elect, for those kind words, and thank you for having the confidence in me to name me to your Cabinet, to give me an opportunity to serve the people once again, this time as Secretary of Labor. It's a great privilege and certainly, sir, your Presidency is going to be an outstanding one and once confirmed - if confirmed - by the Senate, I certainly will regard moving into, to the Cabinet position as Secretary of Labor as one which is a great honor, and I will do it with pride to serve in your Administration.

When you accepted your party's nomination last August, you said that you seek the Presidency to build a better America. It's that simple, you said, and that big.

The most precious resource we have in that effort is our people, the men and women, young and old, working every day with their hands and minds and hearts and the sweat of their brows to build better lives for themselves and for their children - their families.

Waiting for a Chance

Equally precious are those who still stand on the sidelines waiting for a chance. We need their help, too. And if we are to meet the challenge that awaits us, it's very important that they be involved as well.

Last Sunday, Bob and I visited a place called Martha's Table. It's in inner city Washington at 14th and W Streets. And we had Christmas lunch there with people who needed a helping hand and a hot meal, and they got both. But I'll aways remember one man in particular who said: 'All I need is a job. All I need is a job.'

Now at this point, unemployment is at a 14-year low, and we have more people working than ever before. And I think what that man said demonstrates the dignity, the respect, the independence that a good job can provide. And I'm sure that you agree with me that one person who needs a job - a good job - and can't find it is one too many. And if that job is out there, and that American doesn't have the skills, that's the tragedy too.

I look forward to working with you, Mr. President-elect, to focus on issues in the workplace which are so key and so important as we proceed with your vision of a kinder, gentler, nation to make certain that every American is within reach of that goal.

Thank you very much.


MR. BUSH: Now I'll be glad to take a few questions. Dave and then Jeff.

On the Minimum Wage

Q: Will you ask, on two labor issues you talked about in the campaign, will you ask Congress in your first year to raise the minimum wage and to enact parental leave legislation?

A: Not sure what we're going to do in the first year on either of those two issues. Jeff.

Q: But are - you're not retreating from your commitment to raise the minimum wage?

A: No. You just talked about when, I thought you asked about the timing, and I want to get a good, strong opinions out of our - our new team before I commit to -

Contacts With Bob Dole

Q: Mr. Vice President, were your hopes for a good relationship with Senator Dole a factor in the appointment of Liddy Dole to the Cabinet?

A: Not necessarily. I mean, I've told you why I appointed her to the job, but if there's a dividend in there, I accept it. But I don't think - I think Bob Dole and I are on a very good footing, as I think he told you all. We had a very productive meeting. I've been in contact with him since then. And so, like a lot of other myths of strained relationships that might plague things in the future, that's been dis -exploded.

So this appointment stands on its merits. This appointed - appointment is made because I think she is the best one to do this job, and I'm convinced of it for the reasons I spelled out. But a harmonious relationship with the - the leader in the Senate are very important to me . . .

Armenia and Human Rights

Q: Yeah. Your son and grandson are going to Armenia to help with the cleanup of the earthquake there. There are reports that under the cover of this earthquake, a number of Armenian nationalist leaders have been arrested and some of [inaudible] some of them were hunted down and killed by some of the K.G.B. troops under the cover of this earthquake. My question is: are you going to speak out on the question of the nationalist movements inside the East block, or are you going to simply treat that as an internal situation for the Soviets to decide what to do about it?

A: You have some objective standards of human rights and how people are treated, the Helsinki accords being foremost. And so, as President, when I become President of the United States, I will keep - I will follow on what President Reagan has done, continuing to speak out for human rights wherever human rights abuses take place.


On Kirkland's Reaction

Q: I'm curious about - you met with Lane Kirkland, I think, a couple of weeks ago. Do you expect Mrs. Dole's appointment to be warmly received by the labor leaders? And, also, I'm curious if you expect the Labor Department to be activists on issues like worker retraining and etc.?

A: Certainly, on the latter the answer is yes. And I have every reason to believe Lane Kirkland will be supportive of this appointment. It was not specifically discussed with him when I met before, but I subsequently have discussed it with him.


Stance on Sandinistas

Q: Mr. Vice President, the Sandinista Government published a relatively conciliatory letter that you wrote to President Ortega. Do you plan further more substantive words with that Government as you seek [inaudible] pressure probe upon Central American policy?

A: If they consider that conciliatory, why, I'd, I, I considered it a, a proper response to his congratulatory message when I was elected President of the United States. But it wasn't, I wasn't trying to be conciliatory, nor was I trying to be hostile, I was trying to be polite in response. . . .

New Faces in Cabinet

Q: You said in your campaign that you would bring fresh faces to government. With the exception of Dr. Sullivan, Mr. Skinner, most of the people seem to be people who have served in government only. What message are you trying to send for your appointments?

A: Well, fresh in the sense that - what I was saying, I think, is that there would be a lot of new faces in the Cabinet. And we kept, retained, several Cabinet officers in their -in their particular jobs. And as you know, I think there's been wholesale turnover at the Cabinet level, and there will be in the under secretary, deputy secretary, assistant secretary level as well.

So, the, the, but, the message I'm trying to send is: experience, people in, in jobs where they have some, some. feel passionately about the problems facing that department and - I think Elizabeth has explained her interest in this - and capability to do the job; men and women of excellence. I also said there would be minority representation in this Cabinet, and there, and there is: two Hispanics, one black American in Dr. Lou Sullivan and one place to go. We've got one appointment to go, and tomorrow at - No.

We had one back there.

Ahead of Schedule

Q: [Inaudible] completing your Cabinet before Christmas, unless you're planning to have us back here tomorrow. Has it be much tougher than you thought to fill up that final job?

A: No, it's been - well, I still think we're ahead of schedule. I think that, that this last one, which is the Department of Energy, will be taken care of in a week or so. I hadn't really felt that if I failed to have every Cabinet appointment named by Dec. 24 that I would have failed in some way or another. This one is, is a very critical one, Energy, also, because of the, the attention to some of the nuclear-related problems. But, I can't say tougher than I thought, but it, it, we, we've tried to take enough time to, to get men and women of excellence, and I think we're doing that. So I'm not going to be under the gun on this last one to meet a timetable of some sort.

Yeah, yeah, two - two here.

Status of Drug Czar

Q: I was going to ask what the status is on the individual to look after the drug combat programs, the so-called drug czar. Is this - ?

A: That will come probably after the first of the year. We may move sooner than that. It's a Cabinet-level job, but it's not a member of the Cabinet.

But, what I'm, here's what I'm going to do: and this job fits, the, the one you mentioned, drug czar, is going to require a lot of attention from me. But as I go now for the next step, what I'm going to start doing after the first of January is focusing on the first hundred days, on legislative initiatives, on working with the Secretaries-designate to try to be able to come up pretty early on with our own program, whether it's in labor or health or whatever. And so I want to get a little less actively involved in the personnel business, but I still want to be sure, at the deputy and assistant secretary level, that I feel comfortable with the choice. . . .

Mrs. Dole's Suitability

Q: Given that Ann McLaughlin has the job now, and given the emphasis you say you want to put on women's issues at Labor, did you specifically want a woman in this job?

A: Well, not specifically. I told Lane Kirkland that it wasn't, you know, I don't want any jobs to become, that only one gender can fill it. But as we looked at the numbers of people to do this job it just became more and more clear to me that Liddy Dole was the one to, to fill it. But having said that, man or woman will be the standard, and she just, because of the experience I outlined, I think will be just the best for that.

Selections Strongly Defended

Q: How many people commented on the suggestion that what you created here is a two-tier Cabinet, with white men in traditional power positions in the Cabinet and Hispanics, women and blacks in Cabinet positions not being historically more powerful. Are you - ?

A: Yeah, I'd be glad to comment. I think that's crazy. Absolutely absurd. And I think it's denigrating to the labor movement to suggest that. The health problems of this country to suggest that. The great conservation problems of this country to suggest that. And all the great transportation needs of this country to suggest that. . . .

The Economic Commission

Q: Mr. Vice President, now that you have appointed your choices for the national economic commission, do you find it more useful to you in your drawing up the deficit reduction plan for that body to report to you early in the year or late in the year?

A: Not sure yet. I've talked to both Secretary Brady and Dick Darman about this. We're, we've been asked incidentally to, to make clear to the commission which approach we would favor. They were very open-minded on, on receiving suggestions from me, and again, I haven't decided what to ask them to do. They're independent; do what they want. But I, I - that is something I have to get on very early in the year and get back to Drew Lewis and Bob Strauss on that, and we just literally have not decided. There's, the people are torn on it. Is it better to have them report early or late; or is it better to have them report and then go out of business, or is it better to have them report and then be available for future consultation or suggestions? Yes. Last one.

Complex Energy Issues

Q: If I could back a moment to the Energy Department post. You indicated the other day that you were leaning towards trying to find someone with a background in nuclear and research. I'm curious, given that you said it's going to take another week or so for you to finish, whether that's still what you're primarily looking for; whether there are other criteria that you're considering for that job, and what the factors are that you're going for?

A: Listen, if you can find a guy from Texas who will tell you that he doesn't think hydrocarbons are important, why, send him in for a little psychiatric work. Because I, in saying that the nuclear problems are front and center in the Department of Energy, they are, but you're talking to one that understands thet domestic oil and gas business, understands its importance to the national security of this country. And so as I look at the, the Energy Department I want to see that we have both compatibility on, with my views on nuclear, compatibility with my views on hydrocarbons in the Department. Incidentally, on the time, the time problem is simply I'm going away down to south Texas on Monday, and I don't get back from there till Thursday, and then you have a, you know, one day before we have the New Year holiday. So it's not a question of being on high center, I'm just not going to be available. . .


I, too, thank you for standing out in this cold weather this morning. It really is pretty chilly, and I know you want to get on with, hopefully, a very happy holiday season. But I will be happy to answer questions. I would just mention, as the Vice President said, that with a confirmation hearing coming up, obviously, you have to defer all the detailed substantive questions to the Senators and those who are going to confirm you. Yes?

On the Labor Agenda

Q: Why don't you try anyway? What would you recommend to the new President on the labor agenda that he do early, particularly, you know, he did make a commitment on the minimum wage. Is that an early piece of business, do you think?

A: Well, that is something that really does have to wait for us to have a chance to sit down and really go through a number of issues, and to talk extensively. We, we have had a number of conservations, but I think on the substantive issues you want to have a chance to present your faults first to the members of the committee who are going to confirm you. Certainly in terms, broadly, though, the, the real challenge and the joy of this job is to be able to promote the welfare of working families. Working men and women.

And I think there's no question that this provides a whole range of issues where you can really be involved in some of the most pressing needs today. Inner city problems, problems with minorities, women. And I really look forward to the challenge. Whether it's the education, because the work force is changing so, and we've got to anticipate those changes and be ready with job training, education, continuing education, trying to eliminate illiteracy in our work force.

Also, so many women in the work force today and the child care issue, I think, is a very important one. And the Vice President has an excellent position on that, which I will look forward to advocating to the Congress. And then there are the issues of eliminating discrimination, fairness in the workplace, safety in the workplace, pensions. They're just so many challenging and interesting issues, but the agenda will have to be laid out at a later time. Yes, Sarah?

For Equal Rights

Q: You formerly have declared that you were for equal rights for women and the amendment to the Constitution. I wonder if you would feel that way?

A: My view is, that issue is, is not moving at this time and if we, if we, if we believe in equal rights for women, what we must do is roll up our sleeves and make sure that we've eliminated vestiges of discrimination in our laws and regulations. In other words, let's go to work and do something about it, and that's what I've been trying to do through the years of the Reagan Administration. And I'll continue to do that.

Plight of the Homeless

Q: Before the President left, in an interview, he expressed surprise that people are jobless because there are so many want ads in the paper. Do you have a similar problem understanding why people are jobless if there are, indeed, so many jobs advertised?

A: Well, I think, I think that, the issue is, obviously we have the lowest unemployment now in 14 years. More people are working than ever before. There are still some who are looking for, for a job, and one of the things that I would be most concerned to do is to, to try through setting kinds of policies at the Department of Labor that will be conducive to employment, to assist in that area.

I think we have a lot of homeless people because of changes in life style. It's not just the problems of those who suffer a mental illness, those who have a problem with alcoholism or drugs; it's also a number of women with children . . .

Rapport With the Unions

Q: One more question. Whether deserved or not, there's a perception in some areas that the current Administration has not been totally the friend of organized labor. How will you work to overcome that perception, how will you work to make sure it doesn't occur in your time?

A: I started out in the Reagan Administration by reaching out to labor, sitting down and talking with members of labor unions across the board, and I feel that the relationships are good there. I've worked, for example, when I was in the White House with the maritime unions extensively and then at the Department of Transportation with the railroad unions and many others.

And I think the main thing is that there be communication. That you have an opportunity to get their input, to understand their views on the issues and to be in touch, on a regular basis, and certainly I'll do that. I'll meet with them regularly; I'll meet with them often.

Life Style Changes

Q: Mrs. Dole, when you spoke of life style changes causing homelessness, particularly among women. What were you referring to?

A: Well, there are just a number of changes that have occurred. It's not always the, the traditional family setting as you know over the last year. There have been changes, and there are many single mothers with children where there's not the father, and I think that these sorts of changes, you know, have produced a difference. A change. It's not always the traditional family these days.

Child Care Problems

Q: I'd like you to answer one question on the issue of child care. How do you balance off your role as Labor Secretary concerned with the life style, care with the offsetting concerns about the effects of child care centers and so forth on young children and there's a lot of families, pro-family groups, and so forth who are beginning to now talk about this?

A: If I'm understanding your question correctly, are you saying that many of the pro-family groups are not in favor of a child care provision?

Q: They're expressing a lot of concerns about the effect of children going into child care centers in the first few months of life.

A: Well, let me just say very briefly that I think the child care proposal that the Vice President has outlined is a very good one, because it provides choice for families. In other words, you get a tax credit. You can determine who you want to supervise your children. If they're people who share your values, for example. You may choose a religious institution or neighborhood center. Or neighbors' homes. You have a choice. And also it provides that the woman who chooses to work in the home, as well as the woman who chooses to enter the work force, will receive that child care. That tax credit to be used for child care.

George Bush, Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Elizabeth Hanford Dole as Secretary of Labor Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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