The President's News Conference
Secretary of Transportation Nominee
The President. Let me just say that I am nominating Andy Card, Andrew H. Card, Jr., to be the Secretary of Transportation. His distinguished career in government service at both the State and the national level give him the unique background for serving the Nation's transportation interests. He's a friend of many years who started his career as a legislator in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. I have valued that experience often in the last 3 years here in Washington.
As Deputy Chief of Staff, he has offered wise and loyal counsel on legislation, on management of Federal programs, and on intergovernmental relations. Scores of people from all walks of life know him as the White House manager who will listen to their concerns and get things done. That's true here. That's true on Capitol Hill.
And I also want to express my appreciation once again to Sam Skinner for his expert and dedicated stewardship over at that Department, culminating in the landmark Transportation Act. He was known over there for his foresight and innovation, and he's brought that same energy, distinctive energy, to the White House.
Our Nation's transportation system faces many important challenges in the years ahead. And a vast new highway system is taking shape under the Surface Transportation Act that was just signed into law. Whether it be in aviation, railroads, mass transit, shipping, or the Coast Guard, I know that Andy Card's leadership will be an important ingredient in providing the most effective transportation system possible.
I look forward to having him in this important position on the administration team, look forward to having him as a valued counselor and member of the President's Cabinet. And he will do a first-rate job at Transportation, just as his predecessor did.
Thank you very much. Andy, do you want equal time here?
Mr. Card. I'm honored and quite privileged to be part of the President's team, and I'm flattered that he would choose me to be part of his Cabinet. I look forward to working with the other members of the Cabinet, with the rest of the Bush administration, and I want to carry on the fine tradition that Secretary Skinner brought to the Department of Transportation.
Mr. President, I'm proud to be part of your team. Thank you.
The President. We're scooting over to the State Department for an event. But maybe I should take a question or two. I know you're all interested in this appointment.
State of the Union Message
Q. Mr. President, are you going to go for a middle-income tax cut? And are you going to cut the Pentagon budget by $50 billion? And are you going to break the budget agreement?
The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], you have 6 days to wait for answers to all those questions. So, I'm not going to now start taking specifics on the State of the Union. I'm confident that what we suggest will be widely received, well-received by the American people. I think we're transcending politics. So, I'm confident what I propose will have strong support from all elements on the Republican side -- --
Q. How about the conservatives?
The President. -- -- strong support there. And I think we're going to have a very good package. But we're going to eschew some of the pure political approaches. We're going to try to do something that will stimulate the economy and avoid these things that may have strong primary political appeal but would hurt the economy in the long run by shooting interest rates up. So, just stay tuned, and I'll give you all the answers to that one.
Q. Can I follow that on a nonspecific -- --
The President. Yes, you can.
Q. Do you agree with those who say, even from among your own party, that you really don't have a message that you've presented so far?
The President. No, I don't agree with them.
Q. Why not?
The President. But I think the State of the Union will give us a strong opportunity to get it across. Because we're in a political season, Ann [Ann Compton, ABC News]. And I point out what we've done in various areas, the benefits of a transportation bill, what we're doing in terms of a brand new education program. And it's pretty hard when you're out there getting hammered by the -- the only way for the opposition to win in the political season is to tear down the President. The American people see that.
So, what I've got to do is get out and above all that by this State of the Union and then following up vigorously, which we will do.
Japan-U.S. Trade Agreements
Q. Mr. President, there's concerns from comments from Prime Minister Miyazawa and other industrialists in Tokyo that there may be some backsliding in Japan on agreements they made during your trip. What is your reaction?
The President. I was pleased with the correction or the comments coming out of Japan yesterday. I was not pleased with the statements that challenged the ability of American workers. I have full confidence in the American workers' competence, their ability. I do think that our products have to be competitive, and there's no question about that. But we've got the best workers in the world. So, when I saw a statement challenging that, I was upset.
But I was also pleased when I saw a reaffirmation of these goals that were established, and we'll have more to say on that, on a computer agreement that has had strong support, and I've seen very little coverage on that. It's a very good agreement. And the Japanese have every intention of fulfilling that agreement.
So, you know, I hope they don't judge American policy by some of the outrageous statements I've seen against them. And I won't judge Japanese policy by some of the outrageous statements I've seen against us. You need a steady hand here. You need to build on the progress we've made.
Economic Growth Initiatives
Q. Mr. President, you used much the same words that you used this morning, eschewing a political approach, avoiding something that would send interest rates shooting up -- --
The President. Right.
Q. -- -- earlier this, or last year, in saying you would oppose a broad, general tax cut. Can we construe from your comments today that you will oppose a middle class -- --
The President. You just have to wait and see. But I'll stay with what I've said here in terms of definition of our approach. And I think it will be well-received. And what it will do is to target growth of jobs in this economy. And I saw last year one program, I forget which it was, on the Democratic side that was just kind of a broadly -- do away with the constraints on spending. People are tired of all this Government spending. They want to see the caps on the spending held. That program would have done away with the caps, give everybody a tax cut. And interest rates shot up the very next day.
So, our proposal will try to avoid that kind of politically popular approach, but will focus on those things that will encourage jobs, investment, savings, whatever.
Q. Mr. President, you talked a few minutes ago about political opponents tearing apart the Presidency.
The President. The President.
Q. The President.
The President. To some degree the Presidency, the President.
Q. But Republican conservatives are tearing apart your economic advisers. They're saying they haven't been bold enough. There are reports that you're considering some kind of staff shakeup. First of all, have the proposals not been bold enough? Are you going to become more bold in that approach? And do you have a shakeup in the works?
The President. One, I feel confident that we'll have strong support in our party. There's some, one or two out on a real fringe running around up there, that might find it difficult to support me for political reasons. I mean, we all know we're in a political season. But I think the broad numbers of Republicans in the House and in the Senate will be supportive when they see what this package is.
What was the second part?
White House Staff
Q. Staff shakeup.
The President. Well, anytime you have a new Chief of Staff, I tell him, "Hey, take a look at the structure here; see what we can do to do a better job." We're moving into a very complicated and difficult year. And I have full confidence in the people around us, but whether there will be some structural changes that will facilitate one end or another of our responsibilities, let's wait and see.
Aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States
Q. Mr. President, on the C.I.S. conference you're about to host, a number of European countries are complaining that the U.S. is not in a good position to lead this because this country lags behind the rest of the world in aid for the Soviet Union. The French, in particular, have been outspoken. Do you feel they have a point, and do you anticipate adding more to the U.S. contribution?
The President. Look, it's always been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy, and I think of the heartbeat of this country, that if people are hurting, health reasons, famine, food reasons, that the United States is willing to help. So, I would anticipate our stepping up and trying to do as much as we possibly can. We have already made significant contributions. And I'm very proud that we have. That's the heartbeat of our country, trying to help people, home and abroad.
And so I would expect that we'll do some more. But what we're doing now over at State is making sure everybody understands what really has been done. And yes, I've seen some comments out of the EC, for example, that they've done more. I don't think it's a question of who's doing the most. It's a question of each country in there doing its best. And I'm very proud that there's such fine attendance for this coordinating conference here. And we will do our level-best to help.
We've got enormous problems here that need attention, but we're not going to change the view that when people are hurting the United States ought not to help. And we do have a big stake in this, in the success of the democracies in the Commonwealth. We've got an enormous stake.
And isn't it better to send some money to help people who are hungry or perhaps need medical attention than it is to be ever increasing your nuclear weapons, one against the other? We're living in an exciting age where this country has much less to fear from nuclear weapons. And I am very proud that we have made a real contribution to that.
So, we'll do what we can. But we have and I think everyone around the world has restricted funds on all of this. So, I think we'll have a good answer over there.
Q. Do you feel Americans don't understand the need?
The President. No, I think Americans do understand the need, particularly, I hope, the way I've explained it here. And I think in Congress most people seem to. They understand we have a big stake in the peaceful, democratic evolution of the Commonwealth. I think it's an enormous stake. And whether it's popular politically or not, I mean, we've got to continue to conduct ourself as the United States of America and not knuckle under to every political charge from right or left. I mean, it's in a funny time now, as we all know. And I'm going to keep a steady hand on this and do our very best. And we've got a good program.
The last one.
Q. Mr. Burbulis, who's the Deputy Prime Minister, this morning in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post is asking for significantly more money, specifically 6 billion for a type of stabilization program and another 6 billion for food and medicine. What is your reaction to that?
The President. I've just given my answer to it here. I can't comment. One, I didn't see his comment. And secondly, we are in touch with the Soviet, the Russian leadership, the leadership of the republics at the highest level. And I'll take a look at what he says, but I can't comment on a story I haven't seen. But I gave the answers to what we want to try to do here.
Economic Growth Initiatives
Q. You've promised a dramatic economic growth plan in your State of the Union, but the Democrats are already planning their own growth plan. The Democratic candidates have already planned a press conference the night of your speech. How likely do you think it is that you'll actually get cooperation from Congress?
The President. I think the American people want action. I think they'd like to think that even in an election year we can lay politics aside long enough to get something done to help the American people. And yes, the Democrats control both Houses of the Congress. And I think the American people see that there's blame to be shared all around on all of this.
But I will make the strong view that, "Hey, this is a tough one, but let's try to get something done that's going to get this country back to work, that's going to create jobs." And we'll see. That's the approach I'll take. And I will resist and fight against things that won't do that, that will make the situation worse. And I'll fight very hard for things that I think will make it better.
And indeed, looking back over my shoulder, I just wish that the growth initiatives that I've been proposing for 3 years had been passed by the Congress. And so, I will now challenge the Congress and ask the American people's support for a sound package. It won't have everything I'd like to see get done, I'm sure, but I think in that spirit, maybe we can get something accomplished.
Q. You'll set a deadline, sir?`
The President. You wait now and see about this message.
Note: The President's 119th news conference began at 8:40 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Gennadiy Burbulis was First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
George Bush, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/266744