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Exchange With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine

May 28, 1990

U.S.S. "Iowa" Explosion

Q. Mr. President, can I ask you a quick Memorial Day question?

The President. Yes.

Q. Do you believe Clayton Hartwig -- --

The President. Who?

Q. Do you believe Clayton Hartwig -- --

The President. I have no opinion on that.

Q. -- -- is owed an apology by the Navy?

The President. I have no opinion on it. I think they're looking into it, and I really have no judgment. But if the man is proved innocent of these allegations, clearly there should be a statement to that effect. But I can't judge it from what -- I haven't read the report, and just all I've seen is the headlines on it.

Q. Do you think it's a testament of how the Navy conducted its investigation, sir?

The President. Can't assess it until I get all the facts.

Q. Have you requested one -- requested a report from -- --

The President. They'll get that to me within about -- well, I don't know how long, but clearly, I'm interested in it. I haven't requested it, but it will come to me, I'm sure.

Upcoming Summit With President Gorbachev

Q. Are you ready for Thursday?

The President. Thursday? Yes. I've got some more work to do, but I've been reading my briefing books. We have two big ones here. I've got about -- almost through the first one, and I'll get the second one done tonight. And then we'll have 2 days of intensive consultations to bring us up to date on where we go. But I think I know the issues, and I'm sure that all our people do. There's nothing that's changed in the last few days.

So, German unification, Germany's role in NATO, arms control, START, conventional forces, chemical weapons, nuclear treaties. We've got some commercial agreements. We've got a discussion of their political problems and ours. And we've got a big agenda, and I'm looking forward to the meeting.

Soviet Political Stability

Q. -- -- for Gorbachev. Every day a new headline, things are getting worse -- --

The President. Well, because he has enormous problems. But it's not our business as the United States to sort out the other person's economic problems. We've got some of our own. But it is our business to understand them, to make clear to him what we can do and those things we can't do, and so, I'm taking a lot of time to try to assess the economic situation there. We had some very good briefings on that the other day by some outside experts -- Steve Cohen and others.

Q. Do you agree with Secretary Baker that he's in more danger of being overthrown from below than -- --

The President. I don't think that's my business to sort that out. I deal with the Soviet leader that's there in place, coming to the United States to discuss these matters. And I think we spend too much time trying to figure out how long a leader in any country will be there. I mean, this man has survived. I've given him, I think, appropriate credit for the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe, conducting himself in a manner that none of us would have predicted possible 2 years ago. And so, I'll deal with him. And my own personal opinion is that he's pretty darn strong there, and I say that after talking to an awful lot of Soviet experts.

Q. Is most-favored-nation status become even more critical now, considering the economic straits -- --

The President. Well, it's not on the table because, as you know, there's an emigration law that's required; and there's no evidence that such a law is going to be on the agenda at this time. We thought it was, but it doesn't look like it. So, I don't think that issue will be an action item. I expect it will be talked about because as they move towards a free-market economy, trade with the West is vitally important to them. And I'd say that certain items are very important to us as well, and I've told you that the Baltic States is one situation that concerns me enormously.

We'd better get going.

Q. Do you expect any "Gorby" surprises?

The President. I don't think so. I don't know. You always hear about that. I don't think so.

You guys got the honor.

Q. Do you have any surprises for him?

The President. No. [Laughter]

Q. You can tell us. [Laughter]

The President. I hope golf doesn't come to the Soviet Union. If he has to put up with what I put up with, why, it might shatter him. These guys! [Laughter]

Note: The exchange began at 7:20 a.m. on Cape Arundel Golf Course. Gunner's Mate Clayton M. Hartwig, USN, was accused by the Navy of setting off an explosion aboard the U.S.S. "Iowa." Experts outside the Navy suggested that the cause of the explosion was accidental. Stephen F. Cohen was director of the Russian studies program at Princeton University.

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

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