George W. Bush photo

Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters in Greenville, South Carolina

March 27, 2002

President's Visit

The President. I'm looking forward to getting down to Texas. But first, I'm really looking forward to campaigning here in South Carolina for Lindsey Graham. And I'm looking forward to making some announcements about homeland security, both in South Carolina and in Georgia. And then I'm going on from there to help my friend Saxby Chambliss. Then I'll be heading home tonight.

It's good to be back in South Carolina. I've got a lot of friends down here, and it's always good to stay in touch with your friends.

Campaign Finance Reform

Q. On campaign finance——

The President. Yes, I signed the bill this morning.

Q. But without much fanfare—a signal that you're really unhappy with it?

The President. No, I wouldn't have signed it if I was really unhappy with it. I think it improves the system. And it improves the system because it enables an individual to give more money. And I want to do—is have a system that encourages more individual participation as well as more disclosure.

I've always been concerned about a system where money is given to entities and stakeholders have no say. So I was concerned about shareholders of corporate America not having a say, as well as labor union members not having a say about how their money is being spent. This bill improves the system.

Q. Mr. President, the objection you raised in the last week of debate on the bill is that it didn't take effect immediately, the ban on soft money would not take effect until after the election. Do you find it ironic that given that that was your opposition, today, right after signing the bill, you're out raising——

The President. I'm not going to lay down my arms. I'm going to participate in the rules of the system. The Senate races are very important for me. I want the Republicans to take control of the Senate, and I want Denny Hastert to be the Speaker of the House. And these are the rules. And that's why I'm going to campaign for like-minded people.

Situation in the Middle East

Q. Do you have any plans to talk to Prime Minister Sharon?

The President. I don't today. I'm sure the Secretary of State is in touch in the area, with the leaders of the area. But let me say this—and I think the important thing about the Middle East is that we're making very good progress on the Tenet accord. In other words, there's a chance we'll have an agreement on the security arrangements necessary to hopefully then get into Mitchell.

General Zinni is still in the area. Let me put it this way: I'm optimistic that progress is being made. And I've asked General Zinni to continue to work with both parties, regardless of whether or not they're headed to Beirut or not. The most important thing is getting into Tenet, getting into a security arrangement. And we're optimistic, and we'll see.

Q. ——Arafat's absence today?

The President. That the most important thing for my administration is to—is to work with both parties to make progress on a settlement in the area. And the first stage of any progress is going to be an agreement on what's been called the Tenet agreement, which is the security arrangements. And I believe we're making—I know we're making very good progress. Whether or not we're able to sign an accord soon or not remains to be seen. But progress has been made, and that is where the focus of this administration is, to get into Tenet.

Textile Industry

Q. Mr. President, are you going to do anything for the textile industry, like you did for the steel industry, in terms of tariffs?

The President. One of the things that I want the people of Greenville to know is, I've worked very closely with Jim DeMint, and we've laid out a strategy to help the textile industry. And Representative DeMint, Congressman DeMint, has been very forceful about this. We had a very good agreement with the Commerce Department. The Commerce Department is now following through.

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Q. Mr. President, what was your reaction to Crown Prince Abdullah's speech in Beirut?

The President. You mean the one this morning? I haven't seen the text yet. I haven't seen the speech—let me get the speech. I may have a comment later on, once I get the text of the speech.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. at the city's main firehouse. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel; and U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.). The President also referred to the Tenet plan, the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire and security plan of June 13, 2001, negotiated by Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet; and the Mitchell report, the Report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, issued April 30, 2001. A reporter referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters in Greenville, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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