George Bush photo

Interview With Steve Schiff of KPLR - TV in St. Louis, Missouri

November 13, 1991

Linkage Between Domestic and Foreign Affairs

Q. Mr. Bush, you've been getting a lot of criticism from your detractors who say that you've been spending too much time abroad. Have you been spending too much time abroad?

The President. No.

Q. How do you respond to them?

The President. I responded -- when I go to The Hague on a GATT meeting, trade meeting, the purpose of which is to open up agricultural markets to American products, that that's good for the American farmer. It's good for the American agricultural worker. When I go to the peace conference in Madrid, I happen to think that it is in the national interest to try to help bring peace to that troubled corner of the world. When we stand up against Saddam Hussein's aggression and beat back that, I think it's in the American interest. When I go to the Soviet Union and work with Yeltsin and Gorbachev in turning over that whole system, helping them now move down democracy's road, that's in our pure economic interest. And when I'm going to go to Japan, it will be in the same thing. We've got to open up those markets.

So, I think there's a frustration on the part of the Democrats, some of them that make these silly charges because they don't put it in the perspective of a global economy. We're in a small world. And thank God we have the exports we've got, or you'd have much tougher economic times right here in this State that's hurting.

That's the way I'd respond to it.

'92 Presidential Election

Q. Mr. President, what is your domestic agenda with election right around the corner? Are there certain things that you want to address more than others?

The President. Well, definitely. The crime bill, it's been up there, challenged them in March to 100 days to pass, and it hasn't passed. A transportation bill that is job-concentrated that would help the economy immediately. I challenged them to 100 days. It's now, what, 265 days later or something like that. I want to see us do much better in terms of growth. I happen to believe -- and they dump on me, the Democrats on capital gains -- I think that would stimulate small business and create new businesses and new jobs, and it would make us more competitive abroad. We've got IRA's that would kick off first-home buyers savings. We've got all kinds in growth programs; enterprise zones is another one that I think would help.

But we're up against the Democrats in the Congress who want to try to do it their way. I think I was elected to do the things I've told you I'm trying to do. But it makes it very difficult.


Q. What about this extension of the unemployment benefits? There seems to be some bickering today between Democrats and Republicans in Washington; some of the Democrats saying that it's going to lead to a tax increase.

The President. We just got a breakthrough on that a few minutes ago. And I talked to Bob Dole, Bob Michel, thanked them; thanked Speaker Foley, the leader of the Democrats in the House; Chairman Rostenkowski, the Democratic leader of the Ways and Means because we've come to agreement now in a way that operates within the budget agreement and, thus, won't raise people's taxes.

My argument with the unemployment bill that was passed before is they just wanted to bust the budget agreement, just added to the burden for the 94 percent of the people who are working. And so we finally prevailed on this, provided the Senate votes for it. So, I think there's good news there on the economic front, certainly on the front for those who should have been getting these checks long ago. We want to help people that are hurting, whose benefits have run out.

But it's the President that has to protect all the people. And that's what I think we've done now. So, I don't know that criticism is relevant anymore. I hope not.


Q. Let's turn to the AIDS issue. Why don't we have a national AIDS bill?

The President. To do what? What would an AIDS bill do?

Q. Well, I don't know, I'm asking you.

The President. Well, if you're asking me, we're doing a good job on research. We're spending far more per victim on AIDS research than we are on heart disease or cancer, which are far greater killers. We've got to do more in the education front on AIDS. When I talked to the researchers at National Institutes of Health, I think they feel that they could use more money, but I don't think they feel a shortage of research funds is what's important.

We are trying to speed AIDS research drugs to market even though some are going to accuse us of getting them there before they've been fully tested. I think maybe we need to do more in terms of education. And that's one reason I'd like to see Magic Johnson on our National AIDS Commission, if he feels that it's something he's interested in doing.

But I don't think there's an AIDS bill. The reason I asked you is because I thought maybe there was some AIDS bill I'm not familiar with. And I think this approach to sensitize people on the health considerations is important. AIDS is a disease where behavior has a lot to do with whether you get the disease or not, unlike cancer or unlike some of these other diseases. So, maybe we need to do more in the education field here.

Q. Well, it just seems that the former Surgeon General, Mr. Koop, did a lot of talking until he was criticized about it -- too much talking about AIDS. And now Ms. Novello doesn't seem to be talking too much about it at all.

The President. Well, I don't know that that's a fair criticism because I think she's out there discussing it, trying to encourage people to look at it as a major national health problem, trying to dispel some of the myths about AIDS. I've tried to do that. My wife is wonderful at that. When you hold an AIDS baby in your arms to show that, look, this isn't something that's going to be passed just from casual touching like this.

But, look, if you asked me am I happy with my role; can I do more? Of course, I want to try to do more. But it's not a function of money, is the point I'm trying to make here, I don't believe. I think it's a function of education, getting people to stop doing things that put their own lives at risk, educate people to that end, and show a certain sense of compassion for the victims of AIDS.

Louisiana Gubernatorial Election

Q. One final question, Mr. President. A member of your party is running very strongly down in Louisiana. And you have been -- --

The President. You really know how to hurt a guy. [Laughter]

Q. And you have been quoted as saying that if you lived in Louisiana, you'd vote for Edwin Edwards. Do you feel that way?

The President. I haven't felt too happy about the choice; I'll be honest with you. But, look, here's a deal where normally a President, or this President, wouldn't get into a local race of this nature. Normally I'd been in there on the side of a Republican, if it's a Republican versus Democrat. But this one's a matter of conscience. This is a matter of saying to the Nation, in my judgment, we must not condone bigotry, anti-Semitism, racism, the ugliness that's coming out as a result of this man, Duke's, past.

And I'm sorry I -- what I hope I haven't done is to inadvertently let him use this to get sympathy inside the State. But here I have a responsibility in the Nation to say, "Look, this is too much." A denial of the Holocaust, when I've been to some of those places and seen the grim tale with my own eyes. I mean, the white sheets, I'm sorry, it's too ugly to sit silent. And perhaps I've helped the opponent. Perhaps I've helped him. But I have to speak out when I see that.

Q. Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.

The President. Nice to see you. Thanks a lot for coming over.

Note: The interview began at 4:50 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel, St. Louis Airport. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George Bush, Interview With Steve Schiff of KPLR - TV in St. Louis, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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