George Bush photo

Interview With Gerald Boyd of the New York Times and Katherine Lewis of the Houston Post

January 25, 1989


Q. We just had a few things we wanted to get your views on.

Q. What has Sullivan [Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate] told you about his views on Roe versus Wade? Can you straighten that out?

The President. Exactly what you heard him say when he was announced. He has supported my position 100 percent.

Q. Even privately on Roe versus Wade?

The President. One hundred percent. The only thing he said, and that's what he said.

Q. So, you don't envision dropping him under any circumstances?

The President. None. And I've not heard anyone suggesting that he will not be confirmed. I haven't heard one single person suggest that.

Q. If Roe versus Wade is overturned, as you support, how concerned would you be about women being allowed to have abortions in cases of rape, incest, and -- --

The President. We'll have to wait and see what the decision is on Roe versus Wade. Obviously you have to comply with the law, and what the law is is defined by the courts.

Savings and Loan Crisis

Q. What about this new Brady [Secretary of the Treasury-designate] option we're hearing about on S&L's -- the idea of charging for insurance for depositors?

The President. That's one option. It hasn't come to me as a formal recommendation. And so, I'm not going to say what I'm going to do, but that is one option.

Q. Would that not be a tax?

The President. I will answer the question with a question. Is it a tax when the person pays the fee to go to Yosemite Park?

Q. Well, on that point -- --

The President. Using the park -- there will be a lively debate on this, but I would simply leave that rhetorical question out as one way of answering your question.

Q. Well, Governor Sununu [Chief of Staff to the President] is -- --

The President. I don't want to signal that this is what we're going to do. I'm not trying to suggest that.

Q. But it sounds like you're receptive to the idea, though?

The President. I'm receptive to any idea that will solve this problem. I'm not receptive to a tax increase.

Tax Increases

Q. Governor Sununu said over the weekend -- he was talking about whether your no-tax pledge increase is a 1-year increase or is it throughout your term. Can you sort of clarify your thinking on that?

The President. I'm not thinking beyond anything other than to say I will not raise taxes, and I've got to stay with that approach. And again, we're going to, you know, just send a proposal up there that solves this budget problem without raising taxes. And the fundamental reason for that is, I want to keep the economy going. I want to keep the recovery -- not recovery, but the growth going in this economy. I do not want to kill off investment or employment opportunity. And the higher the taxes, the more you do that. So, I really feel strong on that particular point, and I haven't thought beyond 1 year, Jerry, or anything of that nature.

Q. So, no timeframe.

War on Drugs

Q. You mentioned in your Inaugural Address that you wanted to eliminate the scourge of drugs. How can you do that? I mean, what do you have in mind when President Reagan was unable to eliminate drugs?

The President. I think the elimination of drugs is going to stem from vigorous change in the society's approach to narcotics. It's going to be successful only if our education is successful. The answer to the problem of drugs lies more on solving the demand side of the equation than it does on the supply side, than it does on interdiction or sealing the borders or something of that nature. And so, it is going to have to be a major educational effort, and the private sector and the schools are all going to have to be involved in this.

Q. More money on that?

The President. I don't know what resources are going to be available yet. I would like to think that we can funnel more money into it, but I also have this overriding problem of the deficit to contend with. So, the question is, we cannot permit the measure of concern on any issue -- drugs or education or environment -- to be determined simply by how much Federal money goes after the problem. We can't do it. We have got to use this office to encourage all elements in our society to participate in the fight against drugs, in the fight to improve education, or working to make the environment better. Because we're dealing with scarce resources in terms of Federal money. And the law has constraints on all of us in that regard.

Human Rights Summit Meeting

Q. Secretary [of State-designate] Baker said in the confirmation hearing that he was concerned about going ahead with the Moscow summit on human rights in 1991. Are you concerned about that?

The President. Well, I think that we need to look for performance. And there will be time in which to see performance in that regard. And I think the Soviets know that we feel this way after the Secretary's testimony. And I think that Mr. Gorbachev knows of my commitment to human rights because I had several meetings with him. And I'd say that there has been definite improvement in some ways there. But let's see what develops as we move towards that conference date.

Interest Rates and Inflation

Q. What are your views on Mr. Greenspan's [Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System] comments on inflation from yesterday?

The President. I haven't read them yet, and I want to be sure to read them. I must say I'm encouraged that the markets, at least recently, have been saying that things are reasonably stable and certainly not there's no signals out there in the markets that this economy is in real trouble. I haven't talked to Alan lately, but I don't want to see us move so strongly against fear of inflation that we impede growth. We have to keep expanding opportunities for the working men and women of this country. I just saw this little summary of what Greenspan said.

Mr. Fitzwater. I think his comments were a lot closer to our position than was reported, too.

Q. That's what I was told.

The President. That's why I don't want to get into commenting on his -- --

Visit to China

Q. Are we going to China?

The President. Stay tuned.

Q. Sounds like yes.

The President. We may have it. We may have something on that -- you know, yea or nay -- before the close of business today. But I just don't know yet.

President's Agenda

Q. There's talk that you're hitting the ground walking.

The President. Where'd you get "we"? Are you going?

Q. Yes, she's going.

The President. Oh, great. Oh, that's right, you don't go off till -- --

Q. November.

The President. Oh, November.

Q. There's a lot of talk that you're hitting the ground walking rather than running, that you're taking -- or that you're starting slow. Are you concerned about that?

The President. In what sense starting slow? In sense of -- talking about -- --

Mr. Fitzwater. You missed the 7 a.m. starts at the South Ground races.

Q. No, but you're not moving ahead on the budget. You're not moving ahead on any agenda.

The President. Moving ahead on the budget -- I mean, we're spending a lot of time on it. I know we've got some meetings -- meeting with budget team, 10 a.m. Can't do anything about that for 15 minutes. But you mean in terms of sending up legislation or -- --

Q. Yes, and that there's no sort of an active agenda that you're pursuing from day one and that you're putting things off, you're studying things, you're waiting.

The President. Well, I've been a President since January 20th, and I think it's a little early to make conclusions one way or another on all that.

Environmental Issues

Q. The environmentalists say they're going to be making a litmus test out of ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge]. Is there any chance you're going to reconsider the Interior seat?

The President. I'm in favor of prudent development there. I remember the pipeline. I remember the arguments against it. And I also know the effect it did not have on the caribou. You may remember that. Phrases that lived on from campaign history about caribou bumping up against the pipeline. [Laughter]

Mr. Fitzwater. We've got to stop.

Mr. President. No -- so, I mean, I think I'm determined to be an environmentalist. I am one, and I'm concerned that we not do irreparable damage to the environment. On the other hand, I remember some of the same arguments being made against the Alaska pipeline. And we have some national security interests at stake here, and I'm one who believes we can find the balance between environmental interests and national security interests that dictate prudent development of our domestic oil and gas resources.

President's Style

Q. A lot's been made about how you're doing things differently -- you have a different way of doing business. Was it important to you to particularly demonstrate that in this first week in office?

The President. Not to do it differently, but it's important to me to do it my way. And that's what we're trying to do, and what I will do. I have to do that. Like the old advice from Jackman -- you remember the guy that came out -- character. He says, "And then I had some advice: Be yourself." That proved to be the worst advice -- [laughter] -- I could possibly have. And I'm going to be myself -- do it that way.

Note: The interview began at 9:38 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. Marlin Fitzwater was Assistant to the President and Press Secretary.

George Bush, Interview With Gerald Boyd of the New York Times and Katherine Lewis of the Houston Post Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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