The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark in Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
Prime Minister Rasmussen. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here today with my good friend, the President of the United States. Even more so because you chose to visit us, your friends in Denmark, on this very special day, your 59th birthday. So happy birthday, Mr. President.
President Bush. Thank you.
Prime Minister Rasmussen. We have already celebrated the event in a small way with a traditional Danish birthday breakfast, together with our families.
Denmark and the United States have long been close friends and allies. We share the same fundamental goals and values. The close personal ties between the Danes and the Americans are highlighted every year when the biggest Fourth of July celebration outside the United States takes place here in Denmark. Thousands of Danish Americans gather in the Rebild Hills to manifest not just family ties but also shared beliefs. It's our common desire to spread liberty and promote democracy. We do not accept the thesis that certain peoples and nations are not yet ready for democracy and therefore, better suited for dictatorship. We share the belief that freedom is universal, and we share the belief that in the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, you cannot stay neutral.
This is why Denmark contributes with more than 500 troops in Iraq, why we make an active contribution to the joint allied effort in Afghanistan, why we wish to promote democracy and reform in the Middle East, and why we urge all parties to find a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
On these and other global challenges, the United States needs the European Union as a strong and active partner. The present internal difficulties must not distract the European Union from its global responsibilities.
Nobody needs a strong and generous Europe more than Africa. As other regions progress, Africa remains haunted by poverty, war, and epidemics. I feel a strong obligation to focus more on Africa, and I'm going to pay an official visit to the region in October. The President and I share the view that the upcoming G-8 summit should focus on how to make poverty history in Africa. I see five main challenges.
Firstly, Africa needs to overcome epidemic diseases. AIDS in Africa is a fully blown disaster. The Copenhagen Consensus meeting last year concluded that combating AIDS should be the world's absolute top priority. It is a fight we must win. During the last 4 years, Denmark has increased funding for the combat of AIDS with more than 60 percent. I urge the G-8 to make a similar extra effort.
Secondly, Africa needs trade. Free trade and better access to the world market provide the means to improve economic growth and fight poverty. When trade advances, poverty retreats. The European Union and the United States have already granted very generous access to their markets for the poorest African countries. We should go further and dismantle trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. I urge the G-8 to do their part in creating a new, balanced, and fair trade regime to benefit Africa.
Thirdly, Africa needs peace. No peace, no progress. Africans, themselves, must prevent conflicts and manage crisis, but we must help them to do this. That is why Denmark has developed a new African program for peace to support the promising endeavors of the African Union. I urge the G-8 to support this program and the peacekeeping efforts of the African Union.
Fourthly, Africa needs more aid—help to self-help. It therefore pleases me greatly that you, President Bush, has just announced your intention to double American assistance to Africa. Denmark is one of the most generous donors, and we're going to focus even more on Africa in the future. In fact, if all G-8 countries matched our effort, Africa would get $90 billion a year, instead of only 25. I therefore urge all G-8 countries to follow our good example.
And finally, Africa needs better governance. All our aid will come to nothing if countries are ruled by corrupt dictators. When aid and trade are linked to good policies, more people are lifted out of poverty. We should generously reward countries that fight corruption, ensure political liberty and economic freedom, invest in health and education of their people, and promote women's rights. And we should not be afraid to stop aid to dictators like Zimbabwe's Mugabe. I urge the G-8 to make no compromise in the demand for good governance.
We must all join efforts to make poverty history. We must fight poverty because human decency requires it, because hope for each individual is essential for human dignity. We must take action so that despair and darkness can be replaced with hope and light for hundreds of millions of people. The ball is in our court. Let us not waste our chances. The G-8 should not miss this golden opportunity.
President Bush. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thanks for the birthday breakfast. I would strongly recommend the Danish birthday cake. [Laughter] I am really honored to be here in Copenhagen. I appreciate your friendship, and I appreciate the friendship the Danish people have for my country, and vice versa.
Denmark is a close ally and a partner of the United States. Mr. Prime Minister, America values its longstanding relationship with Denmark, and that's why I've come. I've come to reaffirm my Nation's respect for Denmark and our ties that bind us forever and the fact that we share common values. I've also come because I want to let the people know how much I admire your leadership and your character and your vision.
I appreciate your nation's support in advancing freedom in Eastern Europe and the broader Middle East and around the world. We are grateful for your understanding and the people's understanding that freedom is a universal right and that as we promote freedom and democracy, we'll lay the foundation for peace for generations to come. Under your leadership, Mr. Prime Minister, your commitment has been steadfast and strong in the fight against terror.
You know, for some in Europe, September the 11th was a tragic date, a terrible moment. For me and many in the American public, September the 11th was a change of attitude, a recognition that we're involved with a global war against ideological extremists who will kill the innocent in order to achieve their objectives.
I want to thank you very much for your steadfast support for freedom and peace in Afghanistan and Iraq. I particularly want to thank the loved ones, the family members of the troops stationed abroad for the sake of peace and freedom, for their sacrifice. I know many miss their loved ones, and I know how hard it is for families during times of deployment. And I appreciate them very much. I also want to thank you very much for being such a key contributor to our common security within NATO.
You know, one of the interesting initiatives that we worked together on, and I don't think a lot of people pay attention to, is what's called the Proliferation Security Initiative. It's a group of free nations that have bound together to help interdict the transport of weapons of mass destruction. One of the most harmful aspects of the war on terror could be if these killers were able to gain weapons of mass destruction, which in my mind—no doubt in my mind, they'd use on a moment's notice. And the Proliferation Security Initiative is an attempt by free countries to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And you've played a leading role.
We've had a great discussion today. We talked about the upcoming G-8 meeting. We talked about Africa and climate change. As well, we talked about Guantanamo. The Prime Minister is concerned about what the situation on Guantanamo says about America and our view of liberty. Let me tell you what I told him. I said, "First, the prisoners are well-treated in Guantanamo. There's total transparency. The International Red Cross can inspect any time, any day. And you're welcome to go." The press, of course, is welcome to go down to Guantanamo.
Secondly, we have sent many home. These people were picked up on the battlefield. They didn't wear uniforms. They weren't associated with a government, but they were on the battlefield. And so we put them in Guantanamo. We wanted to find out as much as we could about what they knew about this war on terror, in order to protect our citizens. Many, it turned out, were sent home.
Thirdly, I assured the Prime Minister there's got to be a way forward for people held in Guantanamo, and there will be. The reason why you haven't seen any adjudication of individuals is because our court system is determining where best to try people, whether it be in a military tribunal where a person would have all—lawyers and rights or whether it be in the civilian courts. And once the judicial branch of our Government makes its decision, then we'll proceed forward, giving people fair and open trials.
I just want you to remember we are in a war against these terrorists. My most solemn obligation is to protect the American people from further attack. These people are being treated humanely. There's very few prison systems around the world that have seen such scrutiny as this one. And for those of you here on the continent of Europe who have doubt, I'd suggest buying an airplane ticket and going down and look—take a look for yourself.
We also talked about Africa. I told the Prime Minister I was proud of my country's tripling of aid to Africa since I've been the President. And as he mentioned, I proposed to double aid to Africa once again.
Our primary focus in Africa is going to be to focus efforts on solving people's problems. They've got a problem in HIV/AIDS, and we're leading the world when it comes to contributions—along with Denmark, by the way—in making sure antiretroviral drugs get to people who need help and helping set up an infrastructure so that prevention programs begin to work and follow up with programs that will help the orphans of HIV/AIDS families. Denmark has put a robust effort in place, as had the United States, and I'm proud of our efforts.
Over a million people die of malaria on the continent of Africa on an annual basis, most of whom are under 5 years old. This is a problem we can solve. I laid out an initiative the other day for $1.2 billion to help eradicate the scourges of malaria on the continent of Africa. This is an area where we can work together. And I agree strongly with what the Prime Minister said: We expect there to be good governance on the continent of Africa. I don't know how we can look our taxpayers in the eye and say, "This is a good deal, to give money to countries that are corrupt." What we're interested in, in our countries, is helping people, and therefore, we have said that we'll give aid, absolutely. We'll cancel debt—you bet—but we want to make sure that the governments invest in their people, invest in the health of their people, the education of their people, and fight corruption.
And then we talked about climate change as well. I'm looking forward to going to the G-8. Listen, I recognize that the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem. Kyoto didn't work for the United States, and it, frankly, didn't work for the world. The reason it didn't work for the world is many developing nations weren't included in Kyoto.
I've also told our friends in Europe that Kyoto would have wrecked our economy. I don't see how you can be President of the United States and sign and agree to an agreement that would have put a lot of people out of work. See, I think there's a better way forward. I would call it the post-Kyoto era, where we can work together to share technologies, to control greenhouse gases as best as possible.
Listen, the United States, for national security reasons and economic security reasons, needs to diversify away from fossil fuels. And so we've put out a strategy to do just that, and I can't wait to share with our G-8 friends, just like I shared with the Prime Minister, our strategy. We spent about over $20 billion last year on research and development on new technologies that we are willing to share with the world.
There's no doubt in my mind that we'll be driving a different kind of automobile within a reasonable period of time, one powered by hydrogen. And the Prime Minister is most interested in this subject, and I look forward to sharing technologies, not only with our G-8 friends but also with countries like India and China, who will be at the G-8.
I want to thank you again, Mr. Prime Minister, for being such a steadfast person. You know, a lot of times people in politics chase opinion polls. I don't know if you poll this much in Denmark. We poll way too much in America, it seems like to me. [Laughter] It's a growth industry. [Laughter] What I appreciate is a leader who has a vision and the strength of character to do what he thinks is right, and that's what your Prime Minister has done. I'm proud to call him friend. And thanks for hosting me today.
Prime Minister Rasmussen. Thank you, Mr. President.
And we are ready to answer some questions from Danish side, from American side.
War on Terror
Q. Thank you. Mr. President, you are visiting a country which you call a close ally and a partner. You're visiting a man whom you call your friend, and you just said you admire him and you are grateful for his support. Yet, I know you don't like the polls, but when you look at the opinion polls, when you look at what the public, the Danish people say, they don't quite agree with this strong support. They don't quite agree with your policies. One opinion poll said, less than 20 percent—over the weekend, said less than 20 percent support your foreign policy. Now, this is your chance—I'm sure you think what you're doing is right. This is your chance to tell these people, say something to convince them that you are right. What are you going to say to them?
President Bush. Well, I appreciate that. You just made my point about relying on polls. But that's fine, I mean, that's the current wisdom these days.
Look, we are laying the foundation for peace. Democracies don't war with each other. There is a debate going on around the world about the nature of this war on terror. I readily concede, some think it's just a law enforcement matter. I believe we're in for an ideological struggle. I believe the people that cause such great harm, not only in America but in other spots around the world, have an ideology that is vastly different from our ideology, one that's based upon human rights, freedom of religion, the ability for people to express themselves in the public square without fear of reprisal. And they use tactics that are trying to drive us from the world. They will kill on a moment's notice. They kill innocent women and children because they want to shake our will. That's what they're trying to do, and they have objectives. Their objective is to topple government. Their objective is to control. They use power, and we just can't let them do that.
And so I understand people aren't going to agree with decisions I make, but my job is to make decisions that I think are right and to lead. You know, I tell the American press corps all the time, following public polls is like chasing your tail, a dog chasing a tail. I truly believe we're laying the foundation for peace. I know the only way to defeat this ideology is with a better ideology, based upon freedom and human rights and dignity—human dignity. And it's—it hasn't been an easy period of time for a lot of people. I know that, but I feel strongly in my heart of hearts that the decisions we have made will make it easier for our grandchildren to look back at this point—to grow up in a peaceful—and look back and say, "Thank goodness these people had the courage of their convictions."
Tom [Tom Raum, Associated Press].
Upcoming Supreme Court Nomination
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. If I can ask you about a very important nomination you have to make back at home——
President Bush. Yes.
Q. You said you'd have a——
President Bush. This is the Supreme Court nomination.
Q. This is the Supreme Court nomination. You said you would fill it by October, by the new term of the Court. But would you consider delaying up until that point as much as possible to minimize the opposition's massive campaign against your choice? And when you do sit down and actually talk to prospective nominees, what kind of questions will you ask them?
President Bush. Thanks, Tom. The—first of all, I want the person confirmed and sitting by the time the Court meets again in October. And—in other words, that's the backstop, and we'll work backwards to determine what is best for the Senate calendar to get the hearing and to get the vote, up or down, on the floor of the Senate.
Secondly, I've begun the review process of prospective candidates. On Air Force One, flying over, I've been reading about the different backgrounds and different opinions and different attitudes of the prospective nominees. As you know, I'm not a lawyer, thankfully. [Laughter] And so I will let my legal experts deal with the ramifications of legal opinions. I'll talk to people about just—I'll try to assess their character, their interests. I'm looking forward to the review process, the interview process as well.
When I first get back, I will consult with Members of the Senate—I have done so far; our staff continues to do so—and then I'll begin the interview process.
Q. Mr. President, when will you extend the fight for freedom and democracy to the African Continent? And could that involve use of military power, and if so, a new coalition of the willing, maybe including Danish forces?
Last part of the question is for the Prime Minister.
President Bush. Go ahead. Do you want to ask him the question first, before I finish? Okay—you said African Continent? Our attitude is that the best way for the African Continent to be peaceful and to resolve disputes is to have African troops do the work. The Prime Minister is right in calling for more training for peacekeepers. As a matter of fact, America has strongly thought that was the best way to go forward, and I think we promoted this concept at the last G-8.
I'm sure you're aware that the Sudan has been of great interest for my Government. As a matter of fact, thanks to the good efforts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Ambassador Jack Dan-forth, we actually negotiated a treaty between north and south that we're now in the process of implementing. And then, of course, Darfur broke out. And we've been greatly concerned about the human suffering—as a matter of fact, I believe the only nation thus far to call the conditions there genocide.
And we've been deeply involved in providing, first, aid, but also a strategy that will help calm the situation down so that there can be a settlement, a peaceful settlement of the situation. And that requires the transportation of African Union forces. I believe we're going to go from about— the world, that is—is going to go from 2,200 African Union forces to 7,100 African Union forces. The United States, in working with NATO and the EU, will be providing airlift capacity to help get those troops on the ground. The other day I announced that we're going to work with the folks on the ground there to help construct new camps so that the refugees will have better conditions.
The whole idea is to, one, get aid to people as quickly as possible, so as to prevent any mass starvation and, secondly, get a political settlement moving forward. But no, the best way to deal with dispute and the civil war that make it awfully hard for the human condition to improve on the continent is for African nations to be trained and equipped and prepared to do the job.
You've got a question for him? Give him a question.
Prime Minister Rasmussen. Yes, the last part of it. We have engaged ourselves in peacekeeping missions in Africa. We have provided funds for the African Union to enable the Africans to prevent and manage crisis themselves. And we will pursue that strategy in the future.
President Bush. Reuters man, Toby [Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters]. Woman—excuse me. I can see that. [Laughter] So how long have you been on the Presidential beat?
Q. Since February.
President Bush. Yes. Well, make yourself less scarce.
Upcoming Supreme Court Nomination
Q. I also wanted to ask you a question about your Supreme Court nomination.
President Bush. Here I am, trying to talk to the people of Denmark, and you're asking me about local news. That's fine.
Q. What do you think of the criticism of Attorney General Gonzales as a potential nominee? And will there be a litmus test on abortion and gay marriage when you consider your choice?
President Bush. Thanks. First of all, as I said during both of my campaigns, there will be no litmus test. I'll pick people who, one, can do the job, people who are honest, people who are bright, and people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from. That's what I campaigned on, and that's what I'm going to do.
She's referring to the fact that my Attorney General, longtime friend, a guy who was my—close when I was the Governor of Texas, came up to Washington with me as part of the movement of Texans south to north during the Government. He's been my lawyer in the White House. He's now the Attorney General. He's under—he's being criticized. I don't like it when a friend gets criticized. I'm loyal to my friends. And all of a sudden this fellow, who is a good public servant and a really fine person, is under fire. And so, do I like it? No, I don't like it at all.
I look forward to making the pick. And I look forward to doing what I said I was going to do when it comes to making that pick. This is a very important selection, and I understand its importance. I will take my time. I will be thorough in my investigation. My staff has already done a lot of work. They continue to work today, not only in reaching out to the Senate but also spending time making sure that all the candidates will be put forward in a proper way.
The other thing about this debate is, I hope the United States Senate conducts themselves in a way that brings dignity to the process and that the Senators don't listen to the special interest groups, particularly those on the extremes that are trying to exploit this opportunity for not only their—what they may think is right but also for their own fundraising capabilities. The Senate needs to conduct themselves in a dignified way and have a good, honest debate about the credentials of the person I have put forward, no matter who he or she is, and then give the person an up-or-down vote. That's how the process ought to work.
And so this is an opportunity for good public servants to exhibit a civil discourse on a very important matter and not let these groups, these money-raising groups, these special interest groups, these groups outside the process dictate the rhetoric, the tone. And I'm confident the Senators, most Senators want to conduct themselves this way.
It will be a really interesting moment, and I'm sure you're interested in watching the process, for those of you in the Danish press. It's going to be quite an interesting exercise in democracy. I just hope that the people responsible for hearing—holding the hearings and voting up or down are able to have a civil discourse. It would be good for the country; it would be good for people's understanding of how democracy works.
Listen, Her Majesty is fixing to host a lunch, for which I am grateful. Thank you all for coming. Thank you, Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Rasmussen. Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 10:02 a.m. in the Marienborg. In his remarks, he referred to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Prime Minister Rasmussen referred to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark in Kongens Lyngby, Denmark Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/216575