George Bush photo

Exchange With Reporters Aboard Air Force One

April 13, 1990

Good Friday Sunrise Service

The President. -- -- very nice service.

Q. Were you the only person there?

The President. No. No. It was surprising. Well, there was, I'd say, about 30 - 40 people. Patty Presock and some came, even though they're not on the trip. But it was sweet, and it was very thoughtful of John Harper to do this -- 20 minutes. I'm sorry that those of you who would like to have been couldn't make it. But we just had -- --

Bermuda Kite-Flying Exhibition

Q. Have you ever flown a kite before?

The President. Yes. I have a large inventory of kites.

Q. You do?

The President. I'm one of the better kite flyers. And I'm often told to go fly my kite. And I have a bunch of them.

Q. What do you expect to accomplish?

Q. Mrs. Thatcher seems a little leery of the event.

The President. Of the kite-flying? It's a tradition down here.

Q. She's afraid that it might be seen as frivolous on her part.

The President. On my part?

Q. On her part.

The President. Why?

Q. It'll loosen her up a little, won't it? [Laughter]

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]! [Laughter]

Meeting With British Prime Minister Thatcher

Q. What do you expect to accomplish on this trip? Is it simply -- --

The President. A continued series of consultations. First, we had the Canadians, about 3 hours of talks. We'll probably have a little more here. Next week, Francois Mitterrand [President of France]. And it is extremely important that close allies stay in close touch during these times of dramatic change in Europe.

So, I would think a lot of it will be about Europe, post-German unification Europe, the present standing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as the Soviet Union and Western Europe. So, I think that will probably dominate the conversations.

Q. Is she on the same wavelength with you on these issues in terms of -- --

The President. Yes. I think we're very close together on our assessment of the changes that are taking place inside the Soviet Union. But this is something I want to find out. And in this kind of a meeting, why, you can get into the nuances, and if there are differences, talk about them. And there may be some.

Q. She says she wants to persuade you that nuclear missiles should be put on German soil -- modernized.

The President. We'll probably discuss that subject, and of course, our position is that this matter is really a collective decision for NATO still -- and obviously with a lot of concern for how Germany will treat this. But listen, we'll talk about this and -- --

Q. Who seems to be the most reluctant on the pace of German unification?

The President. I don't think I can say that. I don't think I can say that, but I'll get a better feeling for that after this meeting. But we've got a special relationship with the U.K. We always have. I feel I have a very frank and open relationship with Margaret Thatcher, for whom I have tremendous respect. When I was Vice President she accorded me many courtesies, which included frank discussions at 10 Downing and over here at the Vice President's House, and then that's continued.

But if that's right, Charles [Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network], then it's important we know that and important that I explain to her as clearly as I can U.S. policy. And then things have a way of coming together. So, I'm very -- --

Soviet Reforms

Q. Do you think there is a rise in Soviet military power? I mean, the hard-liners coming back in?

The President. Well, I don't know.

Q. There seems to be a lot of stories now.

The President. There's some speculation on that, but I think today is not unlike yesterday. We cannot read the tea leaves with total clarity when it comes -- --

Q. It's not unlike yesterday?

The President. -- -- to pressures inside the Kremlin. And so, we'll have to see. And I think she has some good judgment on that. Mr. Hurd is just back from -- I believe he's back, her Foreign Minister -- and will have talked to high Soviet leaders, has talked to them.

Q. Mr. President, are you being -- --

The President. And so, she'll have a good input on it. She has a very clear view of the realities of the world. That's a good subject for us to talk about.

Meeting With British Prime Minister Thatcher

Q. Sir, will you be discussing her domestic problems at all?

The President. I would be inclined to think not. I would not expect that she'd dwell on mine. [Laughter]

Q. What are those?

Q. What are yours?

The President. Congress. Deficits. Moving on Nicaragua-Panama. Thousands of things I want to see different.

Q. Your polls are falling. Did you know that -- slightly?

The President. Well, it doesn't surprise me. As I've told you, I don't believe in them. Nor does Daniel Ortega. Get that one down. [Laughter] You've heard that before? Well, that's why I keep saying I don't go on these polls. I'm preparing the way when they fall further, Helen. Then I can keep saying: Don't you remember? I'm the guy who doesn't believe in these things.

Q. Is the rain going to stop you from playing golf?

The President. No. If it rains, I'm going to play. I'm going to play golf.

Q. We were afraid of that. [Laughter]

The President. No, but you want to -- I mean, it's a Saturday morning. Why not?

Q. Well, even if it's storming? Don't you remember Malta?

The President. Yes. What else to do? What else is there to do?

Q. I hear they're bringing the Gorky back.

The President. The Gorky -- [laughter] -- --

Lithuanian Independence

Q. Gorbachev says he'll get things accomplished in Lithuania without lectures. Are you lecturing him?

The President. I can understand his position, I mean, why he says that. Up until this point, he has viewed that largely, if not entirely, as an internal matter for him to work out with the Lithuanians. And because of the history, we don't view it that way. So, I can understand why he might suggest that that's in order, but I will continue to say what I think on this subject and convey my thoughts to him.

But I didn't view that as a hostile comment, but I viewed it as one of reiteration of his well-known position, just as we reiterated our well-known position when I met with those Baltic leaders the other day.

East German Apology for World War II Atrocities

Q. Mr. President, the East Germans have asked the world for forgiveness for the Holocaust. Should the world forgive them?

The President. Well, I'm one who believes in forgiveness. And for those of us who have faith, most of the teachings have ample room for forgiveness and moving on. And there's -- I don't know -- for our family, Easter is a very special time of year, and it's a time to take stock, and it's a time to be glad. So, I'm inclined to think we ought to forgive -- not forget, necessarily, because I think you learn from history, learn what not to do wrong, how to conduct oneself.

But I'm a Christian, and I think forgiveness is something that I feel very strongly about. So, that's a personal observation. That's not a statement for our country.

Strategic Arms Reduction Talks

Q. Gorbachev -- Shevardnadze [Soviet Foreign Minister] thinks that there will be a START treaty initialed -- at least initialed -- sort of a general agreement, framework.

The President. Well, I noticed he was quite upbeat there, and what he said about instructing his people to move forward. I viewed that as a very positive statement. And we're sending the same signals to our negotiators and policymakers, so I view that as positive.

Q. So it's possible, then, huh?

The President. Well, I don't know, Helen. I had hoped that, as you know, before. Then I think there was our feeling that things had walked back a little bit. But now that's most encouraging. I'm anxious to see [Senator] George Mitchell and get a little more detail on that.

Upcoming Summit With President Gorbachev

Q. Are you thinking of a side trip after the summit, maybe up to Maine, still?

The President. I'm not thinking anything yet on the logistics. Haven't gone beyond our last public statements on that.

Q. Do you plan to brief the NATO alliance after that summit?

The President. Personally?

Q. Yes.

The President. I don't know. There are so many visits. There's some talk about that, but then we have the G - 7 meetings [economic summit] right after that. So, I don't have a plan to do it. But it is essential that they be filled in on every single detail. Maybe the Secretary of State does that.

Listen, Happy Good Friday. Nice to see you.

Note: The exchange began at approximately 7 a.m., prior to the President's departure from Andrews Air Force Base for a meeting with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Hamilton, Bermuda. Earlier in the morning, the President attended a Good Friday sunrise service at St. John's Church at Lafayette Square. Rev. John Harper was rector of the church. Patricia Presock was a Deputy Assistant to the President. During the exchange, a reporter referred to the Soviet passenger liner "Gorky," which was used as a meetingplace during the 1989 Malta summit. A tape was not available for verification of the content of the exchange.

George Bush, Exchange With Reporters Aboard Air Force One Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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