George Bush photo

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a White House Luncheon for Journalists

March 31, 1989

The President. Well, first, let me just say, welcome to Washington. And I've been traveling some, but I like this much better -- you all coming here. And we're delighted that you are here.

We've got a broad cross-section of both print and broadcast journalists here, and what I really want to do is to take your questions. I'm delighted that you heard from our drug czar, Bill Bennett, this morning, and Roger Porter, as well. And I'll be glad to follow on to any subjects that you have taken up with them. Our Chief of Staff John Sununu came over here with me -- hey, you don't get off that easy, Joe. You haven't heard my speech. [Laughter]

No, I'm not going to spend a lot of time, but I do want to indicate that certain important things have taken place at the outset. We went up with a good budget agreement -- we hope we'll get an agreement -- a good budget proposal. We've thrown an idea, a plan out there for the savings and loans, and I think that is an important thing to have happen. We've introduced a child-care initiative in keeping with the philosophical approach that I talked about in the campaign: parental choice. We've done that one. We've made a vigorous start in the narcotics area, and I want to congratulate Bill Bennett, who really -- antinarcotics area -- hit the ground running. And he has to formulate under the law a specific plan, but we're not going to wait for that to move forward in various ways.

Next week, we'll be sending up new legislation on ethics and education. The ethics guidelines will enable us to sustain an honesty and integrity in public service. I've been talking some about my belief in public service: those not that are in and out on the political basis, but those who serve in a career basis. Though we have no legislation on that, I want to keep saying how important I think that is.

We recognize that the major problem facing us is the budget deficit. And Dick Darman is doing a very good job. Nobody declared our budget dead on arrival, which pleased me very, very much. Nobody has anointed it, either, in every possible way. [Laughter] But nevertheless, we are making progress.

On the national security-foreign affairs side, we're going to have a vigorous week next week with President Mubarak here, Prime Minister Shamir here. And then we're going to have several of the Central Americans up here very soon. You've seen our new approach, you might say, on Nicaragua, where we are working with the Congress, we're together with Congress. One of my regrets is that we were sending two signals. We'd have one signal out of the executive branch and then another signal coming out of Capitol Hill. And I think that now we've laid that to rest, and we're going to do what we can to move forward -- help move forward the democracy that I believe the people of Nicaragua want and the democracy that they've been denied.

So, we've got a big agenda there with forthcoming meetings on Europe, on the NATO summit coming up at the end of May, and then, of course, we'll have a big meeting in Paris in July. So, the agenda is full. We're moving forward on our national security reviews. I remain optimistic about working with the Soviets, but I've said and I'll repeat to you all: I'm not going to precipitously move just to have some meeting going on out there. There's a lot happening, and when I come forward with a proposal, I want it to be sound. I want it to have the full support of the NATO alliance, and I want it to have a credibility, an instant credibility that shows our commitment, not only to enhancing the peace but to preserving the alliance and keeping it strong.

So, there's a lot happening out there. I'm just delighted all of you are here. And now let's just go to the questions.

Substance Abuse and Alaskan Oil Spill

Q. Mr. President, I was wondering whether you, in the light of the Alaskan oil spill, whether you think the Federal Government should take measures in perhaps two areas: one, to tighten up the requirements -- the restrictions on alcohol and drug abuse by the people who are in charge of these ships, and perhaps more importantly, to ensure that there is a quicker response on the cleanup efforts?

The President. I would certainly support constitutional steps in the former area. I feel that substance abuse is wrong. I want to see a drug-free workplace, and I would certainly think we could expand that to reasonable requirements in terms of people who are fulfilling important functions like taking crude oil through straits.

I will say it's awful hard to guard against abuse of this nature when you're making laws. And I think one of the things I learned from our meeting with our EPA Administrator [William K. Reilly] and the head of the Coast Guard [Adm. Paul A. Yost] and our able Secretary of Transportation [Samuel K. Skinner] was that this strait was pretty wide and that I don't think there is any way you could plan, as you're making the pipeline, against this kind of abuse. But in terms of testing, I do favor that. You noticed I used the word "constitutional."

What was the second part, Joe? [Joseph Day, WNEV - TV, Boston]

Q. Regarding the cleanup, sir. There's been criticism in Alaska that, for a number of reasons, that the cleanup didn't begin -- --

The President. I think there were some reasons that it didn't go fast enough, and yes, I think we will have to do everything we can to see that the Federal Government, working with the States and private industry, has as rapid response time as possible. And I will say, I feel very concerned about the environmental damage up there. When you look at those pristine shores and then see the threat to the fisheries and certainly the loss of life that's taken place so far -- birds and animals -- you have to be concerned about the environmental damage. And we have a very able Administrator of EPA, a man with unquestioned credentials in environment. And I expect that he and his people will learn from this, and then maybe there are things we can do to guarantee quicker cleanup. Gabe? [Gabe Pressman, WNBC - TV, New York]

Nuclear Proliferation

Q. Mr. President, Iraq is reported as seriously engaged in a program to build nuclear warheads and missiles. Does the prospect of this tiny, sometimes warlike nation being able to wage nuclear war -- does it give you great concern for the future?

The President. Well, one, I don't want to give credibility to the reports. Two, I strongly stand against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We must strengthen IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards to be sure that there is as much inspection as possible. But I don't want to give credence to the fact that Iraq is in the process of building nuclear weapons. I cannot confirm that. And so, I don't want to go beyond that, Gabe. Anytime you see representations that there will be nuclear proliferation it has got to concern us. And we will be making those representations, if we feel it's about to take place, to any country.

Q. Is it a matter that you feel that the Soviet Union and the United States should take action on in connection with small countries developing -- other countries developing those weapons?

The President. Well, I think we do agree with the Soviet Union, who has also made its statements against proliferation. And you look around the world and there's some very worrisome areas. You know our position on Pakistan. Pakistan's very concerned about Indian proliferation. And so you can just keep going and find areas that we have to be alert to the dangers, and then try to find ways to see that nuclear proliferation does not happen. But I just don't want to be pushed into giving credence to the reports.

Oil Exploration and Drilling

Q. Mr. President, if I might follow up on the Alaskan situation for just a moment.

The President. Please.

Q. Might this cause you to review and possibly change your support for oil exploration and/or drilling in the northeastern part of Alaska, near that wildlife refuge up there? Might you now review the policies on this because of this oil spill?

The President. No.

Q. No? [Laughter]

The President. You asked me if I would review the policies about ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge], about somebody bringing oil out of a strait 10 miles wide who was allegedly intoxicated. And the answer to your question is no.

Q. The reason I ask is because environmentalists now are very concerned, as they were after the Santa Barbara spill of 1969, which I think you remember -- --

The President. I do.

Q. -- -- about transporting this oil from Alaska down the coastline.

The President. Well, we have to transport oil. We are becoming increasingly dependent on foreign oil. And that is not acceptable to any President who is responsible for the national security of this country. So what we will do is not go backwards; what we will do is redouble every effort to provide the proper safeguards. And I think most people are reasonable enough and fair enough to look back at the record over the years in terms of the pipeline, and found that there had been very little damage, if any. Certainly there's been no lasting environmental damage.

Now you have a ship that runs on a reef at 12 knots and driven by somebody or in command by a person who allegedly had been under the influence. And I'm not sure you can ever design a policy anywhere to guard against that. The logical suggestion would be, well, should we shut down the Gulf of Mexico? Should we shut down the oil fields off of Louisiana because of this? And the answer would be no, that would be irresponsible.

So what you do is do the best you can, express the genuine concern that you feel on the environment -- and I do feel a concern -- but not take irresponsible action to guard against an incident of this nature.

War on Drugs

Q. Mr. President, I'll ask you a question I asked Mr. Bennett earlier today. We've seen a number of antidrug programs -- --

The President. You didn't like his answer? [Laughter]

Q. -- -- in the last couple of decades, and my question is: Are you confident that the Federal Government, working with local governments and -- I'm here in Washington at WMAL -- that you will be able to come up with something this time that will actually have an impact on the Nation's drug problem?

The President. I hope so. I would never suggest that the Federal Government will design a program and implement it that will be imposed on every locality. We can't do that. I believe the Federal Government has a certain role, and I believe that the control and power rests with the States and the localities.

But we have a responsibility, and there's no better person to fulfill that responsibility than Bill Bennett in making suggestions in terms of training programs, or educational programs, or enforcement programs, or programs that relate to prison space, programs that relate to utilization of the military assets -- and we are using them in the interdiction field -- than Bill Bennett.

American Hostages in Lebanon

Q. Mr. President, what is the administration's plan to obtain the freedom of the American hostages in Lebanon?

The President. The plan to do it?

Q. Well, what is the plan? What is the administration's plan -- --

The President. The administration's plan is to do its level best to try through intelligence to find who is holding these hostages and where they are, and then to do what we can to release them. The plan is not to knuckle under to demands that will put American citizens at risk all around the world. That's the plan.

Two Forks Dam

Q. Mr. President, I gather you had a meeting this morning with Senator Armstrong of Colorado about the Two Forks Dam. Are you willing to ask the EPA to change its decision on that dam at all? What do you have to say to the people who feel they haven't been given a fair shake by the EPA?

The President. Well, I have a feeling that -- you ask what I plan to do -- I heard from Bill Armstrong a very strong presentation representing the need to go forward with the dam. And what I have asked is that our Administrator, Bill Reilly, be there for that presentation. He was, and he will be back in touch with me. It is a matter that is decided by the EPA Administrator, and I was very anxious that Bill Armstrong have him in attendance so that he hear this side of it. And I have confidence that Bill Armstrong, a very fair individual -- and we'll just see what is recommended. But it was a good meeting, and I was given a lot more detail on it than I had had before. But there's -- no final decision has been taken on that matter.

Dependence on Foreign Oil

Q. Mr. President, during the campaign, the general and primary, you were asked several times to protect the textile industry from foreign imports. Invariably, your response was that you would enforce existing laws. Since you've come into office, can you point to a single specific instance in which you have taken some action to -- --

The President. No, no, I can't.

Q. The question is on U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Would -- --

The President. Let me go back. Existing laws, to my knowledge, are being enforced. I can't think of any new existing law that's in force that wasn't before.

Q. Okay. On the question of U.S. dependency on foreign oil, can we reach a point where your administration would take steps such as an oil import fee or other stances that would help the domestic oil industry?

The President. Well, the domestic oil industry is doing a little better now, the price of crude oil having risen to some $20 or $18 -- I don't know what west Texas crude is today -- $18.50, something of that nature. The industry is doing a little better; the rig count is still very low. I repeat: There is no security for the United States in further dependency on foreign oil. I have made proposals that would stimulate domestic production and I'd like to see the Congress move on those proposals. And so I have not changed my view on the oil import tax.

Drug Abuse Education

Q. Mr. President, what do you envision for the role of education, especially in the fight against drug abuse? Do you see a blending together of the two?

The President. I think it is absolutely essential. We are not going to win the fight against narcotics on the interdiction front alone. And I think Bill Bennett agrees with me that the demand side is the place where we've got to do better, and that means education.

Representative Gingrich of Georgia

Q. Mr. President, we've been hearing about the new whip in the House, and all we hear is: He's a pretty tough guy. Are you going to meet the Congressman, and are you going to talk to him -- I mean, talk to him about the style that he's known for with respect to what you have at stake in legislation over there?

The President. I am absolutely convinced, having known Newt Gingrich, that we are going to work together very, very well. I don't think he needs any lectures from me. I think that every Congressman that I've talked to since then feels that he'll be what he said he'd be: a team player. He's not going to suddenly become a shrinking violet, but we don't want that. He's going to be a good leader. And I'm going to work with him, and I'm going to work with him productively. He's got his style, and I got mine.

Private Enterprise and the Space Program

Q. Mr. President, a few days ago, a small company out of Houston called Space Services launched a private rocket. What are your plans to incorporate private enterprise in space? How is that going to work with NASA?

The President. It's going to work that we're going to encourage it. I've had a feeling -- and I can't document this -- that there has been some reluctance in some quarters of the government against privatization, against the commercial aspects of this. David Hannah, who was the founder, certainly one of the key honchos in that company, has risked a lot of capital. He's gone out and done what he believed in. He had one dramatic failure -- and a lot of people were giving him grief over that -- and he stayed with it. And he's had a successful launch -- he and Deke Slayton and others -- and I applaud them.

My role will be to tell the bureaucracy, NASA, that we want to encourage the privatization. NASA has a role that's a government role, and it'll continue to be a government role. But when you have enterprise like this, I think it is nothing but good for the United States. And we need alternate ways to put things into space, and this is good.

Q. Can I just follow that up, Mr. President?

The President. Yes.

Q. Are you saying then, that at some time private enterprise will take over NASA's role of the R&D?

The President. No.

Q. Do you see that coming?

The President. No. No, I don't. But I see NASA making room for a significant private role in terms of putting things into space. And I don't sense, at the highest levels of NASA, a total resistance to this. But I've had a feeling that some involved in the process, not just in NASA but along the way, have not been pushing the concept of privatization -- not being as cooperative as we might. So, I see NASA's role continuing in R&D. And I see it continuing in its shuttle business, space station business. I hope to see come to fruition, but I just think that we need to support and applaud those who, in the private sector, have big dreams like David Hannah has had.

Aid to the Contras

Q. Mr. President, you have come under criticism in some conservative circles due to your policy toward the Nicaraguan contras. The fact that apparently you have no plans to request military aid for the contras -- is that a tacit admission on your part that the Reagan administration policy, which you had a part in for 8 years -- of asking for military aid for the contras -- was a failure in forcing out the Sandinista government or making it make reforms in Nicaragua?

The President. No, I think the Reagan policy brought the Sandinistas to the table. And I think, had there been no pressure, the Sandinistas would have gone about their merry revolutionary ways without keeping their commitment to the Organization of American States, a commitment for free press, for freedom of worship -- democratization, if you will. So, I think now we are -- the problem we had is you go to recommend aid and you have a different foreign policy set on Capitol Hill. Now we're saying -- and my own view is there was no way, not a snowball's chance in hell, of getting a dime for lethal aid -- military aid -- from Congress. And I think anybody that's familiar with Congress would acknowledge that.

So, what we've done is get together with the Congress -- with strong conservative support, I might say. I'm not suggesting your question is wrong, because I hear some voices out there hitting us. But it's not bad; the policy has been well received. And we're speaking with one voice, and we are going to push for democratization. And by getting humanitarian aid that goes through this election, I am hopeful that the Nicaraguans will go forward and do that which they give rhetorical support for, but that which they've failed to implement, and that means democracy -- free, certifiable elections.

And you hear some criticism of Salvador and what's taken place down there recently. You don't hear it from me because I want to give Cristiani a chance. Those elections were certifiably free -- Democrats and Republicans on our commission going down there and saying that. So, we will treat the Salvadoran winner on his word: that he wants to continue the democracy; that we salute Duarte for moving forward; that he stands against the extremes. And I think he's got some big problems with these Marxist-backed guerrillas coming at him. But we're going to support that, just as we're going to support the Central American Presidents as they now, hopefully, push Ortega to do what Ortega should have done long before now.

Foreign Trade

Q. Secretary Yeutter and Ambassador Hills, Mr. President, go to Geneva next week for very important trade negotiations that I've been told will determine the shape of the U.S. foreign policy in the next decade and how the world reads it. What are your expectations from that meeting? Are you optimistic?

The President. Well, it's hard to say. So far, I've been pleased with what came out of Canada, for example. I had a talk with both Clayton Yeutter and Carla Hills two days ago. I would say that Carla expressed a certain optimism about moving forward with the agenda, and that would include agriculture. But I'd just say I'm reserved on it. I'm reserved on how that's going to come out. But I think it is very, very important, if you believe as I do in free trade. I also think we need to get the emphasis on fair trade. And so I'm hopeful that they can make more progress. But I think they think there will be progress, if I had to give you the judgment of both the Secretary of Agriculture and the USTR.

Q. Did you give them any advice that you could share with us?

The President. No. I just said I hope they're right, and they're both professionals. They know my view on opening up agricultural markets. They know my view on fair trade. They know my abhorrence to more protectionist measures, but they also know that I support selective shots. I supported the wheat flour shot that was fired several years ago. And where the United States is being unfairly treated, I think we have every right to fire a selective shot, but I don't want to see us unleash the hordes of protectionist legislation. It gets back to the textile question: I'm not supporting legislation. Fortunately, that industry is doing fairly well right now.

District of Columbia War on Drugs

Q. Can you be more specific about your intentions in dealing here in Washington with drugs and drug-related crime?

The President. Well, I'd have to defer to Bill Bennett in more specificity. But it's going to be across the board where we can help: education, law enforcement, prison -- maybe expansion of prisons and prosecutors and judges, if we can help on that area. I'd say those are some broad fields, but I really would have to, on a 5-point program, defer to Bill Bennett on that.

Tritium Production

Q. The Department of Defense has expressed concern over tritium supply to fuel nuclear weapons and such.

The President. What was that?

Q. The tritium supply to fuel nuclear weapons.

The President. Yes, sir.

Q. Do you plan to have the Savannah River Plant be started this year, and what is -- --

The President. I'm waiting to hear from Secretary [of Energy] Watkins on that, but I do share the concern about it. I am one who believes that it is important that we not -- in this era where some are proclaiming no need, almost, to keep our guard up -- that we not succumb to that and that we recognize we have got to have a tritium production capability. But I can't give you a time frame yet or anything of that nature.

Illinois Foreign Trade

Q. Mr. Bush, thank you for calling on me. I have a regional question to ask you. Governor Thompson [of Illinois] is in Moscow to establish a trade bureau with the Soviets there. I'd like to know if he went with your blessing, and do you encourage similar initiatives on the parts of other States? And why didn't the Republican Party support Ed Vrdolyak in the Chicago mayoral race?

The President. Very good questions -- somewhat unrelated, but let me try to help. [Laughter] I have absolutely nothing but admiration for those Governors that try to expand trade between their States, thus the country, and other countries. We have certain laws governing them and Jim Thompson is very familiar with them. I must confess that I personally did not bless this mission because I wasn't familiar with it. He's done other such missions that he's done on his own, as a Governor of a State should do. So that would handle the Thompson one. The other one was on Ed Vrdolyak?

Chicago Mayoral Race

Q. Fast Eddie.

The President. Fast Eddie?

Q. -- -- support of the Republican National Party as Rich Daley with -- be a -- Democrats. So, we were wondering why didn't the committee support him -- --

The President. Well, I don't know. We'd have to refer that to Lee Atwater. If you want to know whether I'd support the Republican nominee, I do -- Ed Vrdolyak amongst the nominees. And he supported me, and I don't forget those things. If the question is, how much in the way of assets or stuff, I really would have to refer you to the National Committee.

Federal Aid to Cities

Q. Mr. President, I've just come from Philadelphia, where the mayor last night unveiled the most austere budget they've seen in decades, and he's planning on eliminating city services that have been long protected. And the feeling is that much of the problem is the elimination of revenue sharing and other forms of Federal aid, that cities are being abandoned by Washington. What hope can you offer the mayor of Philadelphia and the citizens there that Washington will begin to help them with some of the social problems they're trying to deal with?

The President. Well, first, I'd tell there isn't any revenue to share, and say it respectfully, but make sure he understands that. And the best hope that we can do for Mayor Goode or for anybody else, is to get our Federal deficit down, because that's going to have a major impact on interest rates in this country. So we've got to get an agreement. And I would ask people who are pressed for funds and certainly a majority of a major urban area would fit that description -- not just Philadelphia, a lot of cities -- but you say what can we do? What we can do is get the Federal budget deficit solved and get the deficit going downward in accordance with Gramm-Rudman-Hollings.

And that is the best thing to do because if we do that we keep the economic growth going -- the longest in a long, long time in American history. That means job creation -- the new job creation reached, I think it was 20 million jobs, in the last announcement that I have seen. Interest rates have been creeping up, and this worries me. We've got to always be on guard against inflation, but I don't want to see an interest crunch slow down this economy. And that means then that we are going to have to do the best we can on the spending side. And we are going to have $80 billion more revenue to the Federal Government this year than last -- under existing law, no change in law -- $80 billion more coming in.

Now some programs have claim on that, many in the entitlements area, I will concede that. But we've got to take that money and use some of it to meet our obligations to get this deficit under control. And that is the best thing -- that is the priority thing that the Federal Government can do for any city. And there are a lot of programs that are still amply funded or well funded, and we're going to try to continue as many of those as possible.


Q. Mr. President, you promised a kinder, gentler nation, yet your budget calls for a $5 billion cut to Medicare beyond the current law. How can that help but not adversely affect beneficiaries?

The President. Well, what we want to do is take it out of the side on terms of efficiency, of delivering services, and that's what the proposals that we have sent up to the Congress and that Dick Darman is discussing with the various committees -- that's the emphasis that our recommendations take. And I hope they'll be implemented. There will probably be some give-and-take on that recommendation, I think.

Q. Won't there be adverse effects, though, to beneficiaries with such a deep cut?

The President. Well, as I'm saying, it needn't be. It depends what's worked out with the Congress. Our proposal took it out mainly on the side of services, so we're not talking about drastic cuts of monies to families.

Last one. Once, twice, then I'll go peacefully.

Former Presidents

Q. Your resident scholar, Dr. Porter, gave us a brief history lesson this morning on the Presidency. And he recalled a conversation he had with you about the great Presidents of the past, and why we don't have great leaders today -- talking about Jefferson and Monroe and Madison. Who are your two favorite great Presidents?

The President. First, I'd make a point that everybody looks better over time. [Laughter]

Q. But who are your two?

The President. Herbert Hoover looks better today than he did 40 years ago, doesn't he?

Q. No.

The President. People remember -- [laughter] -- not to you, but to a lot of people, they do. They remember the compassionate side of the man. You couldn't even talk about that 30 or 40 years ago.

Q. Is he your model?

The President. No he's not. [Laughter] But I was trying to make the point that time is generous to people. I remember the hue and cry around Harry Truman from guys like me and Republicans. Now we're all kind of moderated and think the good things and leave out some of the contentious matters.

So history is basically kind to American Presidents. A model, I think -- I was talking to some people the other day about it -- would be Teddy Roosevelt. He comes out of the same elitist background that I do. [Laughter] And he had the same commitment to the environment I did, although the rules on hunting have changed dramatically since he used to shoot with no limits out there in South Dakota, or North Dakota.

But he was a man of some action; he was a person that understood government, didn't mind getting his hands dirty in government. I remember part of his life being on the Police Board in New York City. Ask Gabe Pressman about that. Probably combat pay was required in those days. So, he was an activist.

I have great respect for Eisenhower. I'm not trying to compare myself to any of these people, but in Eisenhower's case, he was a hero. He was a man that, I'm old enough to remember, was our hero. He led the Allied Forces, and helped free the world from imperialism and nazism. And he brought to the Presidency a certain stability. Others may have had more flair, and he presided, I will concede to you -- and I take it you're a student of history -- in fairly tranquil times, but he did it. He was a fair-minded person, strong leader, and had the respect of people. And I think he was given credit for being a compassionate individual. So, those are two who I would throw out there. And you can't live in this house and do as I do: have my office upstairs, next door to the Lincoln Bedroom in which resides one of the signed, handwritten copies of the freedom doctrine that will live forever -- Emancipation Proclamation -- right there in our house. So I think all of us -- I think almost all Americans put Lincoln on that list some place.

Q. Any Democrats in your pantheon, sir?

The President. Well, there could well be. Sure.

Q. One?

The President. Well, I respect certain things about Harry Truman. He liked to go for walks. [Laughter] But he was tough -- said what he thought and had respect from people. Won them over, did it his way, and I respect him being a fighter. They had him written off in '48. I bet 10 bucks against him and on Tom Dewey. And I lost. So did a lot of other people who thought that the polls were going to be correct. So I respect a guy that fights back, and Truman did that.

So there's -- and you can walk down -- I had a lot of differences with Lyndon Johnson, but there are certain things about him that were good. And he was certainly a very gracious freshman Congressman in those days to Barbara and me. So, we had a little insight that came from a personal knowledge of the man. And he got all caught up in Vietnam, but people forget that -- for his legislative agenda -- he got through what President Kennedy couldn't get through. We ought to give a little credit for somebody that can do that. He controlled both Houses of the Legislature, which is slightly different than the 41st President is facing.

But it's interesting, because when you live in the house here, you think about the question that you just asked. And again, I'm no student of history. You can't live here without becoming more of a student of history, but you learn the redeeming features. You begin to pick up the redeeming features of those that maybe you hadn't had down as a hero, or hadn't even thought much about in the history of this country.

So I don't think that -- I would argue with your premise. I could just go on forever here -- [laughter] -- but I would argue with what I thought was the premise that great leaders were all back there somewhere. I'm not sure of that.

Let me just end on one that -- I learned a lot from Ronald Reagan. And one thing I was telling these guys at lunch here: One thing I learned from him is, I never once in 8 years, no matter how difficult the problem, heard him appeal to me or to others around him for understanding about the toughest, loneliest job in the world -- how can anybody be asked to bear the burden singlehandedly? Never -- and when Reagan left office, you never heard the Presidency is too big for one man -- never heard it.

Back in 1980, people like Lloyd Cutler, for whom I have great respect, were saying, look, this is so complex today that maybe we need a parliamentary system. He wasn't proposing it; he was saying it ought to be looked at. Reagan came in, stood on certain principles, stayed with them, and never asked for sympathy or never asked for understanding of the great overwhelming burden of the Presidency, and left with 61 percent of the people saying, "Hey, wait a minute! He did a good job." Good lesson right here in modern history.

Last one.

Federal Drought Relief

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. In the State of Kansas, about a third of the wheat crop has already been destroyed by drought, and there were indications that the rest may be in jeopardy. Given the current budget problems, what's realistic for those farmers to expect in the way of disaster aid?

The President. I can't give you any numbers on it. Current law addresses itself to disaster aid, and we can fulfill our obligations there. But I really am not up to speed enough to tell you exactly what I can propose on that, or what will be proposed in terms of disaster aid.

Q. Are you aware Senator Dole and Senator Kassebaum are trying to get some -- --

The President. Well, they're talking to our Secretary of Agriculture right now in terms of trying to come up -- but I just can't tell you what the administration is going to come up with on it.

Fairness Doctrine

Q. Are you going to sign the fairness doctrine -- passed by Congress -- expect to veto?

The President. I never talk about what I'm going to sign until I know exactly what's in it -- read the fine print. Or better still, given the size of some of this stuff that comes around, have somebody else read the fine print that you have confidence in.

Thank you all. Listen, I've got to run. Thank you all very, very much. Hope you've enjoyed your stay.

Note: The President spoke at 12:45 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Roger Porter was Assistant to the President for Economic and Domestic Policy.

George Bush, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a White House Luncheon for Journalists Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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