Remarks Following a Meeting With Economists and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Thank you all for coming. I just had a very interesting discussion with some of our Nation's finest economists about the state of our economy and how we can work together to make sure that the economy continues to grow. Today we received news that indicates that the economy is strong and getting stronger. Fourth quarter growth in 2003 was at 4 percent.
We also discussed ways for Congress to make sure we sustain growth. We need to make sure the tax cuts are permanent. If Congress doesn't make the tax cuts permanent, they will have raised taxes on the working people of this country at the exact wrong time. We need to make sure we continue to be a nation which trades freely. We need to make sure that we have less regulation. We need to do things that are wise to control the cost of medicine without nationalizing health care.
We had a really good discussion. I want to thank you all for coming. These economists are optimistic about our future, and so am I. And the American people can know that we continue to work hard to make sure this economy is vibrant and robust and strong so our fellow citizens can find good jobs.
I'll be glad to answer a couple of questions. Scott [Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press], have you got one today, perhaps?
Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction
Q. Yes, sir, I do. Thanks, Mr. President. Senator McCain, David Kay, among many others, say it's time for an independent investigation into weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and intelligence. Why resist this kind of inquiry now, when your own weapons inspector says it's needed?
The President. I want the American people to know that I too want to know the facts. I want to be able to compare what the Iraqi Survey Group has found with what we thought prior to going into Iraq.
One thing is for certain, one thing we do know from Mr. Kay's testimony as well as from the years of intelligence that we had gathered, is that Saddam Hussein was a danger. He was a growing danger. And given the circumstances of September the 11th, this country went to the United Nations and said, "Saddam Hussein is a danger. Let us work together to get him to disarm." He was defiant. He ignored the request of the international community, and this country led a coalition to remove him. We dealt with the danger, and as a result, the world is a better place and a more peaceful place, and the Iraqi people are free. And a free Iraq is in this Nation's national interest. A free Iraq will bring a much-needed change in a part of the world that has fostered terror.
Caren [Caren Bohan, Reuters].
Q. Are you dead set against it?
The President. Caren.
Q. Ruling it out?
The President. I want to know the facts.
Q. Are you against the idea of a new——
The President. Is this a followup to Scott's question?
The President. Let me repeat, I just— let me repeat what I just said.
The President. I want to know the facts. And I want to know exactly—I want to compare what the ISG finds with what we thought going in.
Keil [Richard Keil, Bloomberg News].
Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003
Q. Mr. President, are you concerned at all that the new ballooning cost of Medicare bill will get you in trouble, political trouble, with members of your own party who voted for it only on the assurance that it wouldn't go above $400 billion?
The President. Well, I, 2 weeks ago, received an estimate about Medicare. I asked two questions to the estimators. One, does the Medicare reform do what we want it to do still, which is to provide modern medicine for our seniors and to introduce competition, which will eventually hold down costs of Medicare. And secondly, the new estimate of Medicare costs fulfilled my promise to reduce the deficit in half over a 5-year period of time.
And the budget we'll submit on Monday does fulfill that promise, that we'll reduce the deficit in half. Now, it's going to require Congress to be wise with the taxpayers' money. The Medicare reform we did is a good reform, fulfills a long-standing promise to our seniors. Congress is now going to have to work with us to make sure that we set priorities and are fiscally wise with the taxpayers' money. I'm confident they can do that if they're willing to make tough choices. And so the budget we submit will show that we can cut the deficit in half over a 5-year period.
NOTE: The exchange began at 11:34 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to David Kay, former CIA Special Advisor for Strategy Regarding Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs, and former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.
George W. Bush, Remarks Following a Meeting With Economists and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/214410