George Bush photo

Interview With Doug Adair of WCMH - TV in Columbus, Ohio

November 25, 1991

Columbus Anniversary Celebration

Q. Mr. President, I wondered if you had a chance to see our replica of Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria.

The President. Not yet, I haven't, but I expect that that commemoration next year is going to be fantastic, knowing the spirit of this place.

Q. Have you been invited to come, and do you plan to come?

The President. Well, I'm not sure I've had a formal invitation. I'll have to check with the schedulers. But obviously, I'd like to come. I am going to be participating in many events, because this is American. This is Columbus, Ohio, but it's American. It's broad, and it's big. And it will be wonderfully exciting, the various events. So I hope I get a chance to come here.


Q. We're right now planning a special program on AIDS aimed at teenagers. I know you were in Europe when Magic Johnson made his announcement. I wondered if there was anything more you wanted to say about him or that you would say to teenagers.

The President. Well, simply that Magic is coming onto the National AIDS Commission. And I believe from what I've heard him say that he'll be, because of his fame, he'll be a marvelous advocate for education, helping teenagers understand how to avoid getting AIDS. You can't do it in every instance, but AIDS is one disease where behavior has a lot to do, a lot to do, with whether you get it or not, shooting dope or promiscuous sex. Those are areas where we need more education to the teenagers. And I think that that commission and I think that that individual can be extraordinarily helpful, saying here's what I've learned, here's what I believe.

In the meantime, we're going forward with a vigorous and large funding in research. And we've got some great research that's hopeful research going on at NIH, National Institutes of Health, in Washington.

Saddam Hussein

Q. Headlines all across the country today are talking about "President Bush Reviews Plans for Saddam's Ouster" and "Move Would Counter Democratic Critics", like Mario Cuomo, who says you waged the war well enough but lost the objective in that you did not get Saddam Hussein. Is there an effort now, an increased effort, to overthrow him?

The President. If I could, without being argumentative; that wasn't an objective. You remember the U.N. resolutions. It was to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and teach the aggressor a lesson. And that was a lesson that he got loud and clear. So we've got to be careful about redefining objectives for the American people. But if your question is would I like to see him out of there and would we like to help in some way or another, the answer is, yes. But I did see that story. It's a little speculative. We never comment on anything that we're doing of a clandestine or covert nature and never should, because people's lives -- if they were doing this, and I'm not confirming or denying anything -- could be put in danger by this. But I'd like to see him out.

I'll tell you what there is -- this is the first time I've said this -- there's some interesting information coming out of Iraq of increasing dissent. People are tired of this man. They're tired of seeing food and medicines go in only to have them ripped off and be sent to the Republican Guard or to the people in Tikrit. And so I think we're watching a situation with growing dissent, growing discouragement about this brutal dictator, regret at being isolated by the world community. And who knows what the dynamics inside Iraq will eventually be when that move that I mentioned now just becomes paramount, when everybody feels that way?

Public Opinion Polls

Q. Is it difficult having been such a hero of the Gulf war and to see the popularity polls reflecting that and then to see the popularity rating come down with the economy? Do people expect too much of a President that way?

The President. No, I think a President has to -- I think people, when they are frustrated on an economic sense, they'll blame Congress, they'll blame the President, they'll blame the Governor. They'll blame anybody. But people are hurting. And so I can understand it. I would like to say, without being rancorous about it, that if Congress has passed some of the economic growth package that I put forward in the State of the Union and the programs that I've put forward since then, I think we'd be much further along in terms of a boisterous recovery, a robust recovery.

But, look, I don't think the American people want blame. I'm going to try to constrain myself a little. I'll go to some political events, and I'll hammer away at the Democrats as they're doing on me right now. But more important is, what can we do to help people? And I am going to continue to fight for the programs that I think will help the American people. And we can take care of the politics later on. And you can't live or die by polls. I didn't live euphorically at 86 percent, nor am I wringing my hands now.

The Economy

Q. You try to assure everyone that the economy is doing well enough, and yet 69 percent of the people, according to the Associated Press, say that the economy is not doing well.

The President. It's not, and I don't try to assure them it's doing well enough. Please, that is not what I try to do. I try to put things in perspective. When people talk about Herbert Hoover depressions, they simply don't know what they're talking about. When you see interest rates where they are and you see inflation under control, these are good fundamentals. But still people are hurting.

So I think you need to -- I think a President owes the American people his judgment. And I don't think that we ought to try to talk ourselves, as seems to be happening by some, into worse times. You see, I have this funny feeling that some of the political opponents think that the only way they can propel themselves to victory is to make America think that everything is wrong. Things are wrong. They can be corrected.

I'm in Ohio talking about a revolutionary new education program, America 2000. That will help enormously. And it will help fairly short run. We moved forward on unemployment benefits. That's helping those now who are hurting. So, we've got some programs that can be short run and some much longer run.

Presidential Safety

Q. Interesting in "Reader's Digest" this month, a little quote that says you were asked one time what was your favorite Presidential speech, the one you admire the most. And you said it was one that Teddy Roosevelt had carried in his pocket that helped to deflect an assassin's bullet. And I wondered, is that something that concerns a President a great deal all the time, the concern about yourself or about your family being in a position like that?

The President. Not really. Not in terms of security. We have the best Secret Service and dedicated young men and women that really go the extra mile for protection. So I don't wake up worrying about that kind of threat. On the family side, I worry more about what you put your kids through, what you put your family through by just being in the arena. It's a little ugly out there, charge and countercharge. And what troubles me is it might get a little worse as the political season goes on. There's a certain ugliness, and I'd like to try to avoid that. But that's on the family side what concerns me, not personal security. I honestly don't think about that.

Interest Rates

Q. Your call for reducing credit card interest rates got part of the blame for the plunge 120 points on the stock market. Is that fair?

The President. I don't think so because I've also jawboned the Fed, saying wouldn't it be nice to have lower interest rates. And no Congressman went out and tried to pass usury laws and put them on the Fed. And, yes, I'd love to see all interest rates as low as possible. But here, where I differ with what Congress did, I don't think we can go in and legislate that kind of cap that they tried to do. Because I honestly would like to see these rates lower. And indeed, some have come down since I said that. But capping it and putting Federal legislation on, that was passed by overwhelming Democrat and Republican support, I don't think is the answer. So whether I should be accorded some of the blame, I don't know. I didn't get the blame when I urged that the Fed lower the interest rates, and indeed, they did lower.

Ohio State vs. Michigan

Q. I know you're a sports fan. I wonder if there's anything you want to say to Ohio State fans who are feeling badly about having lost to Michigan for the fourth straight time, and the coach gets a renewal on his contract. Anything that you -- --

The President. No, other than that I saw the game. It was a tough game. Michigan was tough. We all know that. I saw some of it, a lot of it. And I'm not a guy that bashes the coach. I knew Woody Hayes pretty well. Indeed, not only knew him as a political supporter but as a friend. And I learned from Woody, stay in there and drive, and so I wish the coach well. I don't know enough about it to get involved in Ohio State politics and all. But he's a good man. We have ups and downs in the world of politics like he does on the gridiron.

Federal Debt

Q. Finally, with interest rates coming down as they have, have you given any thought to refinancing the White House? [Laughter]

The President. I'd like to refinance -- actually, we're refinancing the Federal deficit, the Federal debt as these rates are lower. And that's not a bad thing. So I'm glad the rates are down. And at some point they'll kick in. Housing rates are down. And sometime when confidence gets restored, people will say, this is a good time to buy a house. In the meantime, we've got to help those people who don't have the money to buy a house and are trying to make ends meet.

Q. Mr. President, thank you very much. It was a privilege for me. Thank you.

The President. Thanks for coming over.

Note: The interview began at 12:45 p.m. in the chorus room at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George Bush, Interview With Doug Adair of WCMH - TV in Columbus, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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