George Bush photo

The President-Elect's News Conference in Gulf Stream, Florida

November 14, 1988

I hate to do this, but there's been a tremendous demand to answer a couple of questions, thus violating what I had planned to do to give you a little reprieve for four days, but nevertheless, let me just say at the outset that we've had a wonderful, relaxed time here. We'll leave tomorrow morning -that's all right, you're not missing a thing -head back to Washington fairly early tomorrow, and then I expect I'll be seeing, with the President, Chancellor Kohl and visiting with him, I think, on, just myself, maybe one or two advisers. So we'll be back to work. This has been very restful. It's exactly what Barbara and I needed. We're grateful to our host here, Will Farish. And I'll be glad to take a few questions.


The Dollar Is Falling

Q: The dollar is falling on world markets. I'd like to know if you favor a stable dollar or if the dollar should be allowed to drop any further? If youy favor a stable dollar, would you propose any specific steps to make that happen.

A: The policy, is, in effect, is the Administration's policy. It's built around policy coordination and exchange market stability. These are words of art. That's the policy of the existing Administration. It will be the policy of the George Bush Administration. And the dollar apparently is stronger this morning, and apparently the Tokyo market is up, so these gyrations happen, but that is the policy.

Q: Are you in favor of a stable dollar, or should it be allowed to drop further?

A: I've said what our exchange market stability is the key, but nobody is going to peg the dollar to any existing currency. Yes?

Treasury Secretary

Q: Are you going to name Nicholas Brady as your Treasury Secretary, as the papers are saying.

A: When I name my Treasury Secretary, I'll be sure you all are among the first to know, because you've been good about traveling with me and everything else. But there will be no Cabinet announcements from these sands here, and I will - it is very early -I've done a little research, and most Cabinet announcements come a little later into the transition. We may have some this week, but I just can't help you on who the - can't tell you - I haven't confirmed that any particular one will come this week, but there might be announcements relating to the future of the Bush Administration. But I don't feel under any great pressure, having had one day in the office since the election, and I just don't feel inclined to meet somebody else's timetable. I will do it when I am ready. I will spell out who the key people will be in this Administration.

Q: Don't you think it'll send a stabilizing message to the market if you name your economic team this week?

A: I think the appointment of James Baker was - did send a good message - an excellent person of experience. And I think it was, that one sent a very good message, and I hope every other appointment I make will send similarly reassuring messages.

Action on Deficit

Q: The financial community is also waiting for you to show signs of your taking some sort of aggressive action on the deficit, or are prepared to. Is there any action on that?

A: I don't become President until Jan. 20, but I am convinced that the deficit remains a major problem, and I will address myself to that early on in my Presidency, and will be talking, perhaps before then, to key Congressional leaders and others about it. It is a matter of grave urgency. I know it. I think the country knows it, and I want to be in the forefront of trying to do something about it after I become President. I said down there in Houston, and I just repeat, I do not want to start acting like I'm President of the United States. Yes?

What Baker Will Do

Q: On Mr. Baker, can you outline some of his duties? There's been some talk about him being a deputy President. Can you clarify that for us?

A: You haven't heard. Take your guidance from me on those matters. You haven't heard that here. He'll have his hands full as Secretary of State. I think everybody knows that he is a close confidant of mine, and I value his judgment on a wide array of matters. But this - I did see some reference to that and I simply would look here for guidance on who's going to be calling the shots other than the new President.

Q: What about a troika, three people for your chief of staff as has been reported, is that under consideration?

A: Stay tuned, stay tune. I'll have announcements on that fairly soon.

Q: Are you disturbed by all the jockeying for power, after only a week?

A: Hey listen, I'm so relaxed I don't even read about all that stuff anymore. And I don't get as uptight as I used to about it. Doesn't mean anything. I'm going to make the decision. They know I'm going to make the decisions. Everybody knows that. And so it doesn't matter. The speculation doesn't bother me.

Steps by P.L.O.

Q: P.L.O. leaders, sir, have recently approved Resolution 242 to recognize Israel's right to exist. What does that mean for the Middle East Peace process?

A: If the P.L.O. leaders have definitively stated their support for 242, that is very, very good. I want to hold back in my acquiescence to the question, because I'm just not sure that is exactly what has happened. But it would be a very important step if they have done that, and if there is a - certainly if there is unanimity, and you don't have divisive factions that resist that. It would be very good. Yeah?

Farm Foreclosures

Q: As you know, 80,000 farms are going to be foreclosed very shortly and it's been alleged that the timing of it is politically motivated, so as not to negatively affect your election.

A: I don't believe there is any political motivation related to the agriculture policies at all.

Q: What about these foreclosures? Do you see any way they could be forestalled or do you think they should go ahead?

A: I simply would - I will get briefed on that when I get back.

Meeting World Leaders

Q: When you return to Washington you're going to be meeting with Chancellor Kohl and later in the week with Margaret Thatcher. What kinds of issues do you expect to be taking up with them, domestic issues or foreign policy conerns like the Middle East?

A: I think it'll be a combination of domestic issues and foreign policy issues. It just so happens that you have two esteemed world leaders coming to town, and I am Vice President of the United States, and every time they come to town I have met with both of them. We have had private meetings with both of them, as Vice President, over the years. I can't tell you how many, but a lot of them. And so this is simply a continuation of that policy. Obviously there's some interest on their part and mine as well in talking about where we go after I become President, but it is - it should be viewed as a continuation of existing policy.

Savings and Loan Plan

Q: The Savings and Loans crisis was something that didn't come up too much during the campaign. Do you have a specific plan in hand at this point?

A: No, but I will by the time I get to be President of the United States. I will probably have some ideas as to how to proceed. I will be talking to the Secretary of the Treasury soon - a little more detail about that. You're second - coming, coming? Go ahead.

Talks With Soviets

Q: You've held open the possibility of conferring with congressional leaders on the deficit problem before you're sworn in as President. Another pressing area is the whole area of Soviet-American relations. Would you also be open to the suggestion that maybe your Secretary of State should have some preliminary discussions with the Soviets even before Jan. 20.

A: I'd be careful about that. I do not want to pre-empt the official foreign policy machinery of this Administration. And so I would be wary of, you know, special missions involving the future Secretary of State. I just don't want to get crosswise. One of the things about this transition - both Martin Van Buren and I found this - is that it's smoother than in other transitions because you're a part of an Administration; you're part of an Administration where you don't have the radical policy shift. Yes?

Contra Position Clear

Q: How long do you suspect you'll have before contra aid becomes a non-issue because of the disappearance of the contras.

A: Well, my position, I hope, is very clear on that one. I just think it is essential to support those that are fighting for freedom, the quest being freedom and democracy in Nicaragua. And so I don't know, Ralph, in terms of a timetable. But again, those who are looking for radical policy shifts won't find them. Now, if you're looking for new initiatives or something of that nature, maybe we'll have something to say on that. But in terms of reiterating my support for the freedom fighters, I'm glad to keep on doing that. Yes Jane?

Makeup of Cabinet

Q: You promised during your campaign that you would appoint a Hispanic to the Cabinet. Do you intend to keep that promise?

A: The promise will be kept, and beyond that, I won't have any comments right now on the makeup of the Cabinet.

Boston Harbor Cleanup

Q: When you become President, Mr. Vice President, do you expect to release some E.P.A. funds to clean up Boston Harbor?

A: I will take that under advisement.

Political Director's Job

Q: Will the White House political director's job be more important in your white house than it has been in last few years?

A: We're debating now how to structure the - we're just starting to talk about how to structure any political office in the White House, if there is to be one, how it will be structured. So it's too early for me to answer that. Yes?

Vice President's Duties

Q: What specific functions do you now have in mind for your Vice President?

A: No specifics yet. I had a very good meeting with Senator Quayle. We discussed my perception of the job, starting with how it worked under the Carter-Mondale Administration, and how it's worked in the Reagan-Bush Administration, and how I expect it to work in the Bush-Quayle Administration. But we didn't get into - if your question is specific assignments - I did not go into that at all, and again, it's too early to resolve that.

Q: During the campaign you talked as though he would take over the space council and and also be the drug czar. Is that your thinking?

A: Space council, yes, and again, we didn't go into detail. That's a given. The drug czar has been complicated a little by the new legislation. And I, it may be I will be able to do that which I think should be done, but I have to get - we're getting a good legal opinion on the legislation. I must comply with the law, but I think a President can have people report to him any way he wants. But I want to know more about it before I go further with that one. Yeah?

Talks With Ortega

Q: Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega has called for talks between you and him when you're president of the United States. Are you willing to talk with the Nicaraguan president?

A: My view is that the Sandinistas should keep their commitment to the Organization of American States. The argument is not between Daniel Ortega and the United States of America. The argument is between Daniel Ortega and the other democracies in this hemisphere that are seeking to enhance their democracies, not just in their countries, but for the peoples of Central America. So I'm not interested, I mean I would not jump at an opportunity to have a bilateral chat, meeting, with Daniel Ortega. What is needed is to work out the commitment that the Nicaraguans have made to the Organization of American States, and I would encourage that in every way possible. But there's no point having a bilateral meeting and giving them a certain standing that I think is uncalled for until they go forward and do that which they pledged to do, and which everybody wants - democracy and freedom. And I'm talking about certifiably free elections. I'm talking about a free press. I'm talking about freedom of the church and a lot of freedoms that they have crunched down on in Nicaragua today.

Advice From Nixon

Q: What advice did Richard Nixon give you when he called? Did he offer anything specific?

A: No, he didn't. It was just a courtesy. He called me and I just returned his call. It was a very very short chat.

Q: Have you gotten advice from anyone, your mother, anyone, this week about how to do the new job?

A: Advice?

You try.

Ban Ocean Dumping

Q: Mr. Vice President, as I was walking up the beach to get here today, I saw a hypodermic needle on the beach. What can you do about it?

A: No more ocean dumping. These beaches, I must say, are refreshingly clean, but we've got to end ocean dumping, and that is - you know, you've got not just hypodermic needles, but other things as well floating up onto these beaches, and we've got to renew our conscience as a country to preserve the natural resources of this country. And the beach is just part of it.

Roe v. Wade

Q: Would you look forward to seeing Roe v. Wade overturned?

A: Yes.

Campaign for Son

Q: Would you campaign for your son for governor of Texas?

A: I never intervene in primaries, and I expect if any of the Bush boys ran, they would have primaries, but I have no reason to believe that he's going to do that which you ask about. But I can take this opportunity to say how grateful I am to our five kids, who started out with varying degrees of enthusiasm for the campaign, and all ended up doing a superb job for their dad. And we have great pride in them, and I feel a - you know, that our family is stronger than ever before, but I - Jane, I have no way of knowing what George's future political plans are.

New Job Sinks In

Q: When you talked to us the morning after the election, you seemed happy but a little shell-shocked. I wonder if you've jad a chance to reflect on what the next four years are going to bring?

A: It has sunk in a little more clearly. I'd hate to think of myself as shell-shocked, but nevertheless, that's one way of describing how one feels after the end of a campaign, and finding himself elected to be the next President of the United States. The great thing about this, the few days we've had here - and you probably wonder why I stand out here fishing all the time - the great thing is you get to clear your mind. You get to think a little bit about the future. You see these tremendous problems, but you just get refurbished in your desire to do the best job you can, and you recognize that the problems are tremendous. But I'm blessed with a lot of good people out there willing to help, and so I think my mental attitude is in much better shape. I know my body is. I'm sure everybody can attest to that - to these long lenses - these long penetrating lenses which cause us to wear T-shirts when we go swimming and all this kind of thing, because we don't want to be analyzed by the doctors from The New York Times. So, it's - no, it's been just great. And I'm being serious, it is wonderful to take four days - whatever it is - five nights here, and just totally relax with friends, close, dear friends, who give us plenty of elbow room. I've been able to run every day. I love the fishing. It doesn't matter what you catch. It's the fact you're out there, and fishermen know that. And so I'm still of the Isaac Walton school, that the days I spend fishing should not be deducted from the time I - deducted from the time I spend on earth. We've got time for a couple more. This beautiful lady in the - yes?

Fish Are Winning

Q: Fish four, Bush zero - is that the score here?

A: Wait a minute. I've just said it doesn't matter if you catch anything. You get another question. You get a more serious question.

Soviet Relations

Q: The Soviets are saying that they look forward to your Presidency because of the continuation of policy but also because they anticipate you'll be more flexible on S.D.I.

A: Well, I have indicated nothing to give them hope, if they need hope, on that question, because I - my position on S.D.I. is stated, and it is not changing, not changeable, so - I haven't seen that in any of the utterances out of the Soviet Union on the subject, but I think that there will be a certain stability, and I understand the equation. I think the challenge for the rest of this decade and into the next is how you manage this. There's enormous opportunities for a more tranquil world - if you look at Eastern Europe you see problems, but you also see opportunities. And, so, I think I'm knowledgeable, in that what the Soviet equation means. I'm very interested in it. I will be sure that anybody who works the problem in the Bush Administration knows of my commitment to keeping this country strong and to enhancing the peace, and I think they go hand in hand, and the Soviets obviously are important. I know the change. I understand what's happening there, I think, as well as anybody could, because I've taken a keen interest in it. So I'm - I look forward to working with the Soviet leaders to enhance the peace.

Concern of Conservatives

Q: Have you been made aware of the concern of certain conservative leaders with Housing, H.H.S. and the Attorney General spot? They're worried that you'll fill them with people that in their view will let them down after, in their view, they gave you so much help in the election.

A: (Laughs.) You want to rephrase your question? There's great interest from all quarters on what each Secretary - who he or she will be. And I understand that, and I will make selections that will be well accepted, in my view, and I can't go any further beyond that. I keep hearing people on all sides have concerns about who's going to run this department or that. That's understandable. That's part of our - hey, wait a minute, two more. Where's your stripes? I didn't recognize you.

Women in Cabinet

Q: This is virtually an all-female press corps, sir. Will there be a woman in your Cabinet or more than one, sir?

A: I have no numbers, no numbers selected, but - send him over here. This guy's gonna conclude the press conference. Come on over here. But there are no quotas, no numbers, but I would anticipate that there will be female representation in my - but it's not a -I don't like to put it like that. That sounds kind of quota-ific. There will be men and women of excellence. Now what you're supposed to say is thank you very much. Wait a minute.

No Talk With Quayle

Q: Have you talked to Senator Quayle since you've been here?

A: I've talked to very few people. I talked to Jimmy Baker last night and Fuller and that's been all, I think. The phone rings and we don't answer it. I'm going to go do a little work now for two hours and get back out here fishing.

George Bush, The President-Elect's News Conference in Gulf Stream, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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