Remarks Following a Meeting With Congressional Leaders and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Thank you all for coming. All of us here around the table are concerned about jobs, concerned about our economy. We want people to be able to find work. And we had a very good discussion about how Congress and the administration can work together to get a terrorism insurance bill done before Congress goes home. I asked the Members to get a— to work hard in the next couple of days and get an agreement by Friday. They're going to work hard to see if they can't come up with an agreement.
There's over $15.5 billion worth of construction projects which aren't going forward because they can't get insurance on their projects, can't insure the buildings or the project. And therefore, there's 300,000 people who—jobs aren't going forward. And this is a way for us to work together to put people back to work here in America. It's a really important piece of legislation. And I appreciate the spirit of both Republicans and Democrats, Senators and Congressmen, to get this thing done before they go home.
I'll answer a couple of questions. Laidlaw—Lindlaw [Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press], excuse me. Laidlaw—Lindlaw.
Alternative Resolution on Iraq
Q. Thank you, sir. There's a resolution being circulated by Senators Biden and Lugar, an alternative resolution on authorizing force in Iraq. What's wrong with that alternative?
The President. Well, I—first of all, I appreciate all the Members of Congress working to come up with a resolution. It sends a clear signal to the world that this country is determined to disarm Iraq and thereby bring peace to the world. Members of both parties are working to get a consensus. Secondly—and we'll continue to work with the Members of Congress. But I don't want to get a resolution which ties my hands, a resolution which is weaker than that which was passed out of the Congress in 1998. The Congress in 1998 passed a very strong resolution. They wisely recognized that Saddam Hussein is a threat—was a threat in '98, and he's more of a threat 4 years later.
My question is, what's changed? Why would Congress want to weaken the resolution? This guy's had 4 years to lie, deceive, to arm up. He's had 4 years to thumb his nose at the world. He is stockpiling more weapons. So I'm not sure why Members would like to weaken the resolution.
But we'll work with the Members, and I'm confident we can get something done. And we'll be speaking with one voice here in the country, and that's going to be important for the United Nations to hear that voice. It's going to be important for the world to hear that voice. All of us recognize a military option is not the first choice, but disarming this man is, because he faces a true threat to the United States. And we've just got to work together to get something done.
Patsy [Patricia Wilson, Reuters]. No, not Patsy. Holland—yes, sorry—Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters].
Longshoremen Labor Dispute
Q. Sir, does the West Coast longshoremen dispute represent the kind of threat to the U.S. economy that might require a Taft-Hartley injunction?
The President. Steven, we're worried about it. We're closely monitoring it. This is a—any strike's a tough situation, but this one happens to come at a—or a lockout is a tough situation, or no work is a tough situation. This is coming at a bad time. And so we're watching it very closely.
There's a Federal mediator on the ground, and I urge both parties to utilize the mediator. But we'll continue to pay attention to it. It's a problem, and it's something that we're just going to have to get these parties to work through and get back to work, open these ports up. It's important for our economy we do so.
Stretch [Richard Keil, Bloomberg News].
National Economy/Prospect of War With Iraq
Q. Mr. President, increasingly, investment fund managers are saying that the prospect of war with Iraq has contributed to the third-quarter performance this year, the worst since the crash in 1987. Are you concerned, first of all, about the shrinking investment and retirement portfolios for Americans? And do you think the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand a war with Iraq, should we end up in war in that region?
The President. Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with Iraq. I've made up my mind we need to disarm the man.
Secondly, yes, I think the U.S. economy is strong. Obviously, there's some—some rough spots in our economy. But we'll deal with them. Interest rates are low. Inflation's low. Productivity's high. This great country is going to recover. And yes, we're strong enough to handle the challenges ahead.
Yes, John [John Roberts, CBS News].
French Proposal to the U.N. Security Council
Q. Mr. President, the Permanent Five of the Security Council are meeting as you speak, and France is holding fast to its position of wanting a two-stage resolution. Are you willing to modify your position, sir, and come in line with France's position, in the spirit of cooperation, to achieve a tough U.N. resolution?
The President. What I won't accept is something that allows Saddam Hussein to continue to lie, deceive the world. He's been doing that for 11 years. For 11 years, he's told the United Nations Security Council, "Don't worry. I accept your resolution." Then he doesn't follow through. And we're just not going to accept something that is weak. It is not worth it. It's— the United Nations must show its backbone. And we will work with members of the Security Council to put a little calcium there, put calcium in the backbone, so this organization is able to more likely keep the peace as we go down the road.
Q. Are you suggesting the French proposal is weak?
The President. I'm suggesting that the same old stuff isn't going to work, John. And we won't accept the status quo. There needs to be a strong new resolution in order for us to make it clear to the world— and to Saddam Hussein, more importantly—that you must disarm.
And I look forward to looking at all their proposals. Just like we're dealing with everybody concerned, we will listen to points of view. But the final, bottom line has got to be a very strong resolution, so that we don't fall into the same trap we have done for the last 11 years, which is nothing happens.
Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at the world. He's a threat to the neighborhood. He's a threat to Israel. He's a threat to the United States of America. And we're just going to have to deal with him. And the best way to deal with him is for the world to rise up and say, "You disarm, and we'll disarm you." And if not—if at the very end of the day nothing happens, the United States, along with others, will act.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:26 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
George W. Bush, Remarks Following a Meeting With Congressional Leaders and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/211658