George Bush photo

The President's News Conference

October 04, 1991

The President. Today's unemployment figures show the economy is moving in the right direction. The drop in unemployment is one more sign that the economy is strengthening. Data released just this week showed new car sales were up, housing sales were up, purchasing managers index was bullish on the manufacturing sector. And people should take note of the fact that interest rates are falling to levels that we haven't seen since 1977.

Although I believe that the economy is on the right track, let me be the first to say all is not well. I'm deeply concerned about those who are out of work. Unemployment benefits are important. Congress should provide a responsible extension of such benefits.

The bill that we've been for for some time, the Dole bill, does just exactly that. And I'll sign a bill that helps people and also protects the overall economy by keeping to the budget agreement. As I said, there is a bill in Congress to do that right now. And if Congress gives me that bill, I will sign it immediately.

I'll be glad to take some questions.

Situation in Haiti

Q. Mr. President -- --

The President. Yes, Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

Q. You said this morning that you're committed to the restoration of the democratically elected government in Haiti. Are you willing to go beyond economic pressure to use of multinational military intervention to defend democracy?

The President. Well, I am very hopeful that this matter can be resolved without such a multilateral force. The United States has been, and properly so, very wary of using U.S. forces in this hemisphere. There's a lesson out there for all presidents, and the lesson I've learned is that you've got to be very, very careful of using United States forces in this hemisphere.

So, I'd like to think that this mission by the Organization of American States will do it. We are committed to democracy in Haiti. We want to see Aristide restored to power. We had a long talk with him today, not only about the restoration of that, but he reiterated a commitment to human rights there. So, let's hope that that can be done without any kind of force. I hope that's what the result will be of this multinational mission that's going down there under the leadership of the OAS. I think that's the way to go.

They've had a hearing in the United Nations, and the United States clearly is upset when internal affairs result in the setting back of democracy. And that's what's happened. So we're committed to the restoration of democracy and a strengthening of democracy in Haiti. We feel very strongly about it.

I am reluctant to use U.S. forces to try to accomplish it, except if American citizens' lives are in any way threatened, of course. I feel that is a direct concern and responsibility of the President.

Q. Would you take part in a multinational force?

The President. Well, I think we've got to wait to see. I don't want to get out ahead of where this OAS mission is. And I would like to see it succeed without having to use force or having to put together such a force, say nothing of use it.

Unemployment Benefit Extension

Q. Mr. President, what should 10 million people who are out of work and the 95,000 people in Michigan who were taken off welfare rolls, what should they do now to survive until the economy does rebound?

The President. They should demand of their Congress to pass a bill that the President can sign. And I'm committed to such a bill to extend unemployment benefit compensation, and I'd like to have it passed and sent down here. And if it means vetoing a bad bill so that the people that are working and the people whose families are hurting but are just making ends meet so that they can have a better shot -- and I'm talking about not breaking the budget agreement -- that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to take something that's bad. And so what they ought to do is demand of their Congressmen, "Let's not just try to get it your way up there. Do something that the President can sign that will help us with unemployment benefits but will also protect the other taxpayer." Let's don't forget some of these people still pay taxes even though unemployed at the moment. And I'm trying to protect the economy as well as do something compassionate for those that are out of work.

And, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I was in Pittsburgh the other day talking to some friends after a political meeting up there. They didn't even know that we were for this proposal. There's been so little coverage of it. And I'm for unemployment benefit extension and doing something about it. And I am also for protecting all those that aren't working and that are working who pay taxes. And one way you do that is to keep the Democratic Congress from busting the budget agreement.

Q. Mr. President, will that feed the people, pay the rent, and help them to get jobs at this particular point?

The President. Yes, my program will.

Q. Mr. President, sir, we've heard that, from some of your advisers, that you are actually considering taking some kind of strong remedial action to boost the economy, to give it a kick-start. Any truth in that?

The President. As I've said, I'm very pleased with the unemployment numbers today. I remember back in my previous incarnation as Vice President when they were far higher than this, and it was resisted, some of these Government job proposals. I would like to see something done in the way of a growth package. I think that would stimulate the economy immediately.

It doesn't have to take effect. It just has to get the confidence that a reduction in capital gains would give it because it would create jobs, and people would see it. People would invest more. And this is kind of cynically looked at by some political leaders as a tax break for the rich. There's something that would help immediately. It didn't have to go into effect. It would send a message of confidence to investors. So, there are things of that nature that we've proposed in our growth package that I think would help.

On the other hand, I am encouraged that the statistics that I've given you, and there are other ones, indicate an improvement. My problem is there's a different, there's a disconnect between the statistics and the order books. And I want to see this good news of today followed on now by more orders and more employment. But I must say I think that it's moving in the right direction.

Economic Strategy

Q. Sir, as we move into a Presidential election, the Democrats think you are vulnerable on the economy, and there is a feeling around the country that you've decided to let Alan do it -- Greenspan, with the Fed Reserve lowering interest rates. That really is your only strategy, other than -- --

The President. I beg your pardon, I just gave you a strategy, John. You must have missed what I said about capital gains reductions, about IRAs, about R&D extension. You see, these are things that would help stimulate the economy. And I don't know why people are tone deaf up on Congress about this. It would help. And it wouldn't bust the budget agreement.

And that's what I'm trying to do. And things are moving, and they're moving in the right direction. Thank God this recession hasn't been as deep as previous recessions. But when people are still hurting, I want to do what I can to help. But it doesn't help to simply add more to an already intolerable deficit. And so therein lies the big difference.

But we've got a good program for growth. And I'd like to see the Congress move on it. But when you don't have the control of it, it's pretty hard to even get it considered.

Capitol Hill Ethics Issues

Q. One matter that has received quite a lot of coverage around the country is this latest episode on Capitol Hill with the checks bouncing and the restaurant bills going unpaid, and so forth -- --

The President. Checks and balances? [Laughter]

Q. Yes. We've seen you -- --

The President. I'm sorry. [Laughter] Go ahead, Brit [Brit Hume, ABC News]. Excuse me.

Q. You've gone to some lengths to provide, or to attempt to provide leadership on ethical matters in the executive branch. What's your reaction, sir, to these goings-on on the Hill?

The President. I say they ought to sort it out themselves.

Q. Well, don't you have some opinion on it?

The President. What? [Laughter]

Q. Do you have some view of it?

The President. I'm afraid that anything I say on it will be considered political. And you know how I'm trying to avoid that. [Laughter] No, I'll let them sort that matter out themselves. And I do think that it's hurt the Congress in the eyes of the American people. And I think they're trying to move to correct that.

Middle East Peace Conference

Q. Mr. President, there are reports from Paris today that the Mideast peace conference will convene in late October. What is the status of preparations for those talks and has the time and place been set?

The President. There are no preparations in the sense of logistics for that that I know of. No dates have been set. And a lot depends on what happens in the next couple of weeks as to whether such a conference will take place at that time. I certainly would like to think that we could get on with this. But I don't want to mislead you. I was briefed just before I walked in here about a statement out of Paris that sounded to me a little more firm than where we are right now.

Israeli Loan Guarantees

Q. There have been complaints in Israel that by delaying these loan guarantees you're prejudging the settlement issue and tilting toward the Arabs. How do you -- --

The President. I disagree with that. My position has been one, in a sense, of reiteration of longstanding U.S. position. And I think it was the right thing to do. I'm very pleased with the strong support from the American people for the position I've taken. The support from around the world is strong. And I think it's not prejudging or getting on one side or another of this ageless dispute.


Q. If we can get back to the economy for a minute. The Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show that there are now 300,000 fewer jobs today in this country than there were when you took office. What does that say about your overall economic performance? And why do you think -- --

The President. I was hoping that you'd ask that. Go ahead.

Q. Why do you think the recovery has been so slow?

The President. Let me tell you something. The statistics that came out today take even the household survey, which has been the one that was cited, and raise it up. So the fact is no longer true, the statistics that some of the Congressmen were using. It's no longer true. In addition, there is the establishment survey that shows a very substantial increase in employment, as will the household survey now. So, you asked the wrong question, or a day late because of -- --

Q. Let me ask another question.

The President. Yes, try another one.

Q. Do you still think that you can adhere to your promise to create, I think it was, 30 million new jobs in 8 years?

The President. Thirty million? Eight years? Yes. [Laughter] Well, I, gosh, I don't remember being quite that optimistic about being elected at the convention. But I think the economy is recovering. I think it will be more robust as we go along here. Job creation is fast. Now, whether I could live up to 30 million in 8 years, I don't know. But I -- get through these first 4 years, that's what I'm focusing on right now.

Q. What's your goal? What do you think you'll be able to do? What do you see -- --

The President. I can't give it to you in exact figures. I've learned just to void all the predictions now, including 30 million in 8 years. But I am very encouraged with the way it's happened. And the statistic you asked about is outmoded by just a tenth of one percentage point. That's the thing that's amazing about this economy. The 300,000 was so totally wiped out. I can't give you the exact figure, but maybe one of our experts can.

CIA Director Nominee

Q. Mr. Bush, do you totally dismiss the testimony that the Senate heard this week that your nominee, Bob Gates, cooked the analysis to CIA for political reasons?

The President. If that's the charge, I totally dismiss it. I think it's an outrageous assertion against a very honest man, a thoroughgoing professional. And that's the worst charge that can be leveled against an intelligence officer. And I know Bob Gates, and I know he would never cook the estimates.

Q. Does it trouble you, however, that these people who might end up working for him put a good deal on the line to tell Congress their opinion with presumably nothing to gain?

The President. No, I think they have every right to do that. I haven't seen, sitting here as President of the United States, these allegations before. These people haven't felt to come -- I don't know that they went to the Inspector General of the agency before. I hope the record shows they did. It would be something to look into. Have they accused this good man of the worst kind of sin you can have as an intelligence officer, which is politically slanting estimates?

But I'm saying I don't believe it about Bob Gates. I know enough about how estimates are achieved that I know sometime, somebody has to make a decision. And every analyst, every junior analyst cannot have his or her estimate be the one that comes to the President of the United States, you see.

So, I just have total confidence in Bob, and I certainly will defend him against that charge, which is really -- you have to know and have a feel for the intelligence community to understand how serious a charge that is in that business.

Presidential Candidates

Q. Mr. President, the field of Democrats who want your job are now pretty much announced. What is your assessment of your competition?

The President. When I become a candidate and if I become a candidate, I will be glad to assess -- I'm not even sure I'll do it then. I'll let the Democratic primary process go forward, let the voters sort that out without any editorializing from me on it. And they're all going after the nomination. And then I think the process will work as it traditionally does, that when you have a general election there will be a lot of to and fro on assessing.

But I don't really think it would be helpful for me to kind of analyze and point out. It's like the questions I get here, "Please tell us your three greatest weaknesses as President of the United States, sir." The Saturday Night Live over there. I want to stay out of that.

Q. Mr. President, do you agree with some other Republicans that your reelection is basically at this point a lead-pipe cinch?

The President. No, I certainly don't. And I'm not going to approach it that way. If I become a candidate with finality I'm not going to approach it in that way at all.

G - 7 Finance Ministers' Meeting

Q. The G - 7 finance ministers will meet with the Soviet Union and amongst themselves in Bangkok next week. Do you support the idea of a temporary bridge loan to the U.S.S.R. if it becomes necessary, and/or additional agricultural credits or U.S. purchases of Soviet oil for our strategic -- --

The President. I'm waiting for our Agricultural Secretary to come back, Ed Madigan. We're having meetings going on right now with the Secretary of the Treasury, who's come back; the Secretary of State, who also met with the leaders. So it's too early for me to say anything other than, if people are starving or there's a shortage of medical supplies, the United States will not be found wanting. I just don't want to go into it any further.

Q. Could I follow on the domestic: Do you have a message for the G - 7 ministers as far as promoting world growth? Would you like to see interest rates come down?

The President. Yes, I'd like to see lower interest rates, and I'm glad that that's being accommodated here with very, very low incidences of inflation. You know, they used to have a thing called the misery index. Some of the people that followed politics remember that. That was unemployment and inflation added together. Thank God, even when people are hurting, that that misery index is lower than at some of the times in the recent past, within the last 15, 20 years. It's not doing badly.

Having said that, I don't want to sound that I am unconcerned about the people that Helen asked about.

Confidence in the Economy

Q. You said a minute ago something I didn't quite understand, that capital gains didn't have to go into effect to have an effect. What did you -- --

The President. I mean confidence in the economy. You see, what I think is that what the economy needs is a shot of confidence. Banks have money to loan, and they're not particularly willing to loan it. Good banks should make good loans, for example. Now, some of that can be blamed on regulatory excess. Some of it, I think, is a lack of confidence. But I think as soon as they see in place steps that will strengthen, that clearly benefit the economy, before those benefits are actually felt, I think people will start moving and investing and see this economy take off more. That's what I was talking about.

Q. Besides jawboning the issue, sort of what we're doing here, is there anything you can do unilaterally, though, to help the recovery along?

The President. I don't know exactly what one can do unilaterally except jawboning. We're taking the steps that are not unilateral steps and trying to get steps taken that are not unilateral. So, as you see this economy recovering. I think it's all right to try to instill confidence in the marketplace. But I don't want to be unrealistic about it -- I don't want to be euphoric in my optimism -- that I do feel optimistic about the economy.

I don't want to be unrealistic. There are some things -- maybe there is more we can do, you might say, unilaterally in terms of regulatory excess. But we're taking a look to see. And we've taken some steps. And they have not corrected the problem frankly. So, we'll be trying to find out.

Central Intelligence Agency

Q. One of the most serious charges leveled during these Gates confirmation hearings really doesn't have anything to do with Gates personally but the agency as a whole: that it's been dead wrong on everything from moderates in Iran to the fall of the Government in the Soviet Union. Are you concerned that there's been some degradation of the agency over the past decade?

The President. No. You see, I'm perhaps the, I guess I'm the ultimate consumer of intelligence as President. I'm briefed every morning in a very select document called the PDB, the President's Daily Brief. I see as much as I want to, under my way of running the Presidency. The Director comes down almost every morning, but a briefer is in there every morning at 8 a.m. I see the intelligence product.

And, yes, there's some mistakes made. But when you're dealing with measuring intentions, please understand it is unlike counting beans or counting rockets or counting tanks. They're very different. And so when you're measuring intentions, of course there's going to be people that make mistakes. But as far as I'm concerned, as the ultimate consumer of the intelligence product, I think it's been very, very good. And I am absolutely confident that we have the best intelligence service in the world. I know it. I know that for fact certain. And we share intelligence, very carefully, with foreign leaders from time to time. And they are always impressed.

So, I have no hesitancy in representing that to the American people. It's something I know something about.

Q. These aren't just some mistakes. I mean, these could be considered monumental mistakes.

The President. Well, if you'd cite one, I would be glad to comment on it. I don't know which ones -- --

Q. The situation in Iran with moderates in Iran and the collapse of the Soviet Government.

The President. I don't remember the estimates. I'd have to look at it myself to tell you whether I thought ex post facto that there was anything -- how egregiously wrong they were. Of course, there are mistakes that are going to be made when you're looking for needles in a haystack or when you're looking for moderates in Iran.

But let me just tell you this: Does anybody think today, is there anybody out here that would say that this regime under Mr. Rafsanjani is less moderate than Khomeini? Absolutely not.

And so again, I'd have to refresh my memory on what the charge is, but there is clearly a move now in Iran to be a little more on, what I would say, the reasonable side, moderate side. And I hope that continues because I want better relations with Iran. I think they know, and we know, the American people know, what it's going to take. It's going to take a full accounting for these hostages. If Iran has one iota of influence they ought to release the hostages. Then we can get back together a little.

So again, Jim [James Miklaszewski, NBC News], I'm not trying to avoid your question, I'm simply saying you're dealing in degrees here. I think most observers of Iran would say things are a little different than they were under the more radical Khomeini regime.

Q. Mr. President? Mr. President?

Q. Could you say --

Q. Mr. President?

The President. No, right here in front of me.

Parental Leave Legislation

Q. Mr. President, I think the United States is the only Western industrialized nation that does not guarantee a pregnant woman the right to have her job back and does not allow parents with legitimate family emergencies to take leaves. You vetoed a bill last year that would have provided that, and now you have another one. Are you perhaps entertaining a change of heart?

The President. I'd look at the bill, but I don't -- I'm not entertaining any change of heart. I don't want to see any more mandated benefits. I want to see these matters resolved the way they should be. And I don't think that we need a larger Federal participation in the problem you outlined.

And I've been very consistent on it. I was that way all along. And I think that we're here talking about jobs, we're here talking about competitive, and we're here talking about how we can show more compassion. One way is to have a more vibrant economy where they can do a lot more things of that nature. So, I'm not inclined to change my position at all.

Last one back there.

I've got to go to Camp David on a domestic education program we're working on there. Lamar Alexander's up there with this school; we're trying to revolutionize the schools. And he's got together a group of people, private sector that are willing to -- private sector to contribute fantastic sums of money to help us -- --

Q. Mr. President --

The President. -- Sarah [Sarah McClendon, McClendon News Service], please let me finish -- to really do a job on revolutionizing the schools. And it's a wonderful program, and I want to go up there and give it strong support.

Yes, last one.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President -- --

Q. Have you given any more thought to -- -- [Laughter]

The President. Come on.

Government of Iraq

Q. Mr. President, at the General Assembly, you said you thought that you'd like to see the cooperative effort that led to Desert Storm lead to a just government in Baghdad. And that seemed to be the first time you've actually suggested that the U.N. take on the job of replacing Saddam. Did you mean that they should take an active part? And what are you going to do to implement that? What do you have in mind?

The President. Well, I've got in mind all along what I said is that I'd like to see Saddam Hussein out of there so we could have more normalized relations. Our argument is not with the people; never has been; never was at the height of the war. And I made that very, very clear as we went along. And so it is with Saddam Hussein, who is continuing to brutalize his own people. And that's just the way it's going to be.

Q. Sir, you've said that all along. But you've always said nature would have to take its course, that that wasn't the U.N. mandate. But it seemed that at the U.N. when you said you'd like to see that cooperative effort actually bring it about, you said when it does that you were going beyond that in asking the U.N. to take steps here.

The President. Well, I'll have to review. You're getting me with the context not quite so clear in my mind. But if there's any question about wanting Saddam Hussein out of there, let me reiterate, we want him out. And if there's any question that it would benefit the people of Iraq, let me lay that one aside. It would be of great benefit to the people of Iraq and the United States. And most of the other countries I know are going to keep these economic sanctions on until there's dramatic change there. And we're going to still continue under the U.N. resolution to permit the sale of oil, properly supervised, so that the funds from that go to the people, in terms of food and medicine. So that's policy.

Frances [Frances Harden, CNN], this is the last one, because -- --

Q. Mr. President, have you given -- --

Q. What about public schools, Mr. President -- --

The President. Sarah, come on, lighten up, will you.

Q. What about public schools?

Nuclear Arms Reductions

Q. Have you given any more thought to Mitterrand's call for a four-power summit to discuss nuclear arms reductions?

The President. I've not heard from him directly on that. I am pleased, incidentally, with the way the response is coming in from around the world on our initiative of a week ago -- very pleased, indeed -- including the Soviet Union. But, look, we'll participate in whatever it is in order to hurry the day that we have lower levels of nuclear weapons. But I've not, I just don't want to address myself to a specific proposal because I haven't seen it, have it analyzed or anything of that -- --

Q. You would be willing to go to a summit to discuss that? Is that what you're saying?

Foreign vs. Domestic Affairs

The President. I've got to watch foreign travel. I don't want to have it leveled against me that I'm interested in only one area here. But this brings home -- I'm just thinking of this press conference. I kept a little score sheet here. This brings home a point I'd like to raise. I think we've got a very good domestic agenda. And I know I'm very concerned when people are out of work. And I think we've got a good alternative to help; alternative from what the leaders in the Congress are putting forward. But, for obvious reasons, there continues to be understandable fascination with and interest with what's going on abroad. I didn't take a question here on Haiti. I thought I would. So I understand -- --

Q. Yes, you did, the first question.

The President. I consider that a question, let me revise it. [Laughter] But, okay, so we got one question on Haiti. [Laughter] But I'm making a point. Please let me finish the point. The point is a President has to deal with these things. You could have every Congressman and every group can deal much more openly and be much more engaged on the domestic side. But on foreign policy there's a disproportionate responsibility on the President for national security, whatever it is.

So, you all ask a lot of international questions, and I answer them. But I just hope it doesn't come out that this is all I'm interested in, because it isn't. There is a funny thing now going on when we go out and we talk about education or we talk about the crime bill, people say, "Well, this is political season." And so I will keeping plodding along here and making clear what our domestic priorities are. And I will not neglect my responsibilities to try to keep the American people informed on national security matters, lowering the threat from nuclear weapons, or events such as Terry asked about in Haiti, so that people know what we're doing.

And that's it.

Q. You once said you enjoy foreign policy.

The President. I do. I like all kind of policy and that's a -- --

Q. You said you'd rather talk about foreign policy than talk about Rostenkowski.

Note: The President's 105th news conference began at 11:47 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. In the news conference, the following people were referred to: President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti; Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board; Robert Gates, nominee for Director of Central Intelligence; Secretary of Agriculture Edward R. Madigan; Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas F. Brady; Secretary of State James A. Baker III; President Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Khomeini, former religious leader of Iran; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander; and Representative Dan Rostenkowski. Following the news conference, the President and Mrs. Bush departed for Camp David, MD.

George Bush, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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