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Exchange With Reporters in Alexandria, Virginia

October 31, 1990

The President. -- -- anticrime legislation that I sent up to Congress a long time ago, talking about many issues that I think are of benefit not just to the people of northern Virginia but of the whole country. We need more people like Stan Parris, and I'll be telling them that, too.

Q. Mr. President, are you using the situation at the Kuwaiti Embassy -- --

The President. Just to say the things I like about it and the things I don't, but we'll be talking about some of that. But the main thing is the positive agenda and the things that he has stood for and fought for. And my view is that if I had more support like that in the Congress, not only would we not have fiscal problems out there -- the same ones that we're trying to do something about -- but we'd be much better off on a positive agenda for all America.

I think we're on the right track, but we just need to be sure we have this kind of support. We talk about this in family values and the values and incentives, and growth and opportunity. His voting record is the kind we need. We don't need more of where the Government has to do everything -- the mandated program. I think they don't work. So, it's a great positive agenda that I'll be discussing in there.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Kuwaiti Embassy, Mr. President? What's the situation this morning, and is this situation -- --

The President. I haven't talked -- this morning -- I haven't seen the intelligence. I came right here from the White House.

Q. Well, Mr. President -- --

Q. Is this situation being used as a pretext for a confrontation?

The President. No, there's no pretext. You don't use pretext when you have force deployed. You don't need any pretext; you just do what's right. I am concerned about the lives of Americans held against their will. So are the American people. When you see the United Nations act in concert, the United Nations is concerned. So, there's no pretext involved. I'm simply trying to have the American people understand how strongly I feel about the brutality of Saddam Hussein's policy. And it's been condemned by the world, and we ought to do something about it. These are American citizens that are held against their will. There are a lot of other citizens that have been just destroyed in Kuwait as he has dismantled it. I think world opinion is saying he's got to stop it.

Q. Well, Mr. President, yesterday in that meeting with congressional leaders there was some concern that that distress for the hostages, for the Embassy in Kuwait, not provoke the U.S. into a premature military response. Do you feel at all that your hand is being forced at this point?

The President. No. I don't think so at all.

Q. Mr. President, is Secretary Baker going to be discussing, during his trip, scenarios for possible military responses?

The President. He will cover a wide array of issues with these leaders over there. I was trying hard to keep our coalition partners fully informed. I will share with them, through Secretary Baker, the concerns that I feel about Americans that are held hostage and other citizens that are held hostage. We will discuss, obviously, the United Nations resolutions condemning the treatment of embassy personnel. And so, it's going to be a wide array of topics to discuss. I'm very pleased that the coalition is together. So, we just have to stay in close touch. I'll be doing some, I'm sure, by phone myself. But the Baker trip is very important.

Q. What are you going to do about resupplying the Embassy at this point?

The President. Well, I can't tell you exactly what I'm going to do.

Q. Well, how soon? Let's put it that way.

Q. Mr. President, what is the end line? In other words, how do you know you've reached the end?

The President. Well, it's a very difficult -- appropriate question and very difficult. But we're still moving force, and we have a significant coalition of armed forces on the ground. We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, we will send a steady, strong message to Saddam Hussein that we are not going to tolerate this aggression.

Q. You haven't mentioned sanctions at all.

The President. And when you look at world opinion and statements from world leaders, there is an enormous coalition there still together, unanimous in its condemnation. So, we've just got to keep that in focus and keep doing what we're doing: quietly, but significantly, being prepared.

Q. Do you have a timeframe in mind?

The President. A timeframe for what?

Q. Action in Iraq.

Q. Is time running out for the sanctions?

The President. There's no date of that nature in mind. But we're doing absolutely everything to be sure we safeguard American life, protect Saudi Arabia against aggression, and also to see that we are in a position to help fulfill the United Nations resolution.

Q. Are you becoming impatient, Mr. President? Are you becoming impatient?

The President. I'm not impatient, no. Just going steadily, doing my job.

Q. But, sir -- --

The President. And so are all our allies.

Q. Because of your concerns, though, sir, can you afford to continue on, waiting for sanctions to take effect?

The President. I am prepared at this juncture to wait to see if economic sanctions will work -- at this juncture.

Q. Are you disappointed with the progress today? Marlin said yesterday it was clear they hadn't been successful.

The President. I wouldn't say that they had not been successful at all, but they certainly haven't driven the man to do what he should have done, which is to get out of Kuwait and reverse this aggression. But I think that that's what Marlin was saying -- they had not been totally effective.

Q. Did you think they'd have a quicker effect?

The President. Well, Norm [Norman Sandler, United Press International], there's been differences of opinion. I know some of our partners thought that the economic pressure by now would have come close to compelling him to withdraw. I've not had a view on that because it's such a major undertaking -- economic sanctions -- that I haven't really been thinking in terms of time lines.

Q. Are the hostages becoming a more important factor in the equation, in what you do?

The President. No more important, but they are tremendously important. Any factor -- and I've always said this -- anytime an American or anybody else is held against their will in direct contravention of international law, it concerns me. I wouldn't say more, but I am very, very concerned about it. I think any President would have to be. I know that other leaders to whom I've talked around the world feel the same way about their citizens. I mean, the Soviets do; I mean, the Japanese have. And so, it's brutal what he's doing. It is total brutality and in direct contravention of international law. I think it is important that Saddam Hussein know just how seriously we view this matter -- --

Q. You suggested, sir -- --

The President. -- -- so it's worth repeating from time to time.

Q. You suggested early on, I think, that the hostages wouldn't drive U.S. policy. Is that still -- --

The President. Exactly.

Q. -- -- is that still your position?

The President. Yes, it is still my firmly held position.

Q. Are you still comfortable with that?

The President. Yes. Very comfortable with it, very comfortable.

Q. But you're elevating the importance of the situation at the Kuwaiti Embassy and the importance of the hostages. Are you, in fact -- --

The President. The Kuwaiti Embassy is being starved. The people out there are not being resupplied. The American flag is flying over the Kuwaiti Embassy, and our people inside are being starved by a brutal dictator. And do you think I'm concerned about it? You're darn right I am. And what I'm going to do about it? Let's just wait and see. Because I have had it with that kind of treatment of Americans. And I know others feel that way. I know Margaret Thatcher feels that way about the Brits. I think the whole world feels outraged by this. So, of course I'm concerned. As each day goes by and these Americans are isolated, cut off from supplies, who wouldn't be concerned? The American people are concerned -- those that understand this have this message. So, you should think very carefully about what he's doing there.

Q. Do you have a plan in mind for resupplying the Embassy, or how are you going to do that?

The President. If I did, I wouldn't discuss it here.

Civil Rights Bill

Q. What was in the civil rights bill that told you it would lead to quotas?

The President. The public -- the necessity -- part of it. And I sent a civil rights bill up there that they didn't even vote on. And why? Because they didn't want to give the President a chance to continue a strong civil rights record. It was a good piece of legislation, and the Congress wouldn't even permit a vote unless it was done just the way a handful of leaders -- civil rights leaders -- wanted it done.

I've compromised; I've tried to work it out. We had a deal with Ted Kennedy, and he reneged on the deal. So, I am for civil rights, and I am strongly opposed to quotas. It's that public necessity part that inevitably would have led to quotas. It's not fair to black Americans; it's not fair to Hispanic Americans; it's not fair to Asian-Americans. So, I am glad to have a chance to set the record straight on that one, and I will push for civil rights legislation that removes discrimination in the workplace, but I will not accept quotas. That message has to get through loud and clear, because there's been a lot of demagoguery on the other side of that now. I am right, and I think the American people will strongly support me.

It's highly technical. It's highly technical. But I'm glad to have the opportunity to say that I will continue to push for strong civil rights legislation, and I will continue to fight against legislation that will result in quotas in the workplace.

Any others? It's been a pleasure -- so early, and a beautiful day.

Note: The exchange began at 7:35 a.m. on the lawn of Belle Haven Country Club, prior to a fundraising breakfast for Representative Stan Parris. In his remarks, President Bush referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to the President; Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom; and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

George Bush, Exchange With Reporters in Alexandria, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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