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Text: Bush News Conference on Iraq

Now, of course, the question is, you know, "Will Iraq ever be free? And will be it peaceful?'' And I believe it will.

I remind some of my friends that it took us a while to go from the Articles of Confederation to the United States Constitution. Even our own experiment with democracy, it didn't happen overnight. I've never expected Thomas Jefferson to emerge in Iraq in a 90-day period. And so this is going to take time.

_____Bush Press Conference_____
Video: The Post's Dana Milbank and washingtonpost.com's Terry M. Neal evaluate the president's news conference.
Video Excerpt: Bush on Hunt for Hussein
Video Excerpt: Bush Defends Iraq Claims
Video Excerpt: Bush on Gay Marriage
Text: Complete Transcript
Excerpts
_____From The Post_____
Bush Takes Responsibility for Iraq Claim (The Washington Post, Jul 31, 2003)
Upbeat Tone Belies Downside Risks (The Washington Post, Jul 31, 2003)

And the world will see what I mean when I say a free Iraq will peace in the Middle East, and a free Iraq will be important for changing the attitudes of the people in the Middle East. A free Iraq will show what is possible in a world that needs freedom in a part of the world that needs freedom.

Let me finish for a minute, please. Just getting warmed up.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm, kind of, finding my feet.

Saddam Hussein was a threat. The United Nations viewed him as a threat. That's why they passed 12 resolutions. Predecessors of mine viewed him as a threat.

We gathered a lot of intelligence. That intelligence was good, sound intelligence on which I made a decision.

And in order to, you know, placate the critics and the cynics about intention of the United States we need to produce evidence. And I fully understand it, and I'm confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe: that Saddam had a weapons program.

I want to remind you, he actually used his weapons program on his own people at one point in time, which was pretty tangible evidence.

But I'm confident history will prove the decision we made to be the right decision.

Hold on for a second. You're through.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. President, many of your supporters believe that homosexuality is immoral. They believe that it's been given too much acceptance in policy terms and culturally. As someone who's spoken out in strongly moral terms, what's your view on homosexuality?

BUSH: Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners. And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own.

I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country.

On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage. And that's really where the issue is headed here in Washington, and that is the definition of marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that.

QUESTION: Since taking office, you've signed into law three major tax cuts, two of which have had plenty of time to take effect, the third of which, as you pointed out earlier, is taking effect now. Yet the unemployment rate has continued rising, we now have more evidence of a massive budget deficit the taxpayers are going to be paying off for years or decades to come, the economy continues to shed jobs.

What evidence can you point to that tax cuts, at least of the variety that you have supported, are really working to help this economy, and do you need to be thinking about some other approach?

BUSH: Yeah. No, to answer the last part of your question.

First of all, let me just--quick history--recent history: The stock market started to decline in March of 2000. Then the first quarter of 2001 was a recession, and then we got attacked on 9/11, and then corporate scandal started to bubble up to the surface which created a lack of confidence in the system. And then we had the drum beat to war.

I remember on our TV screens--I'm not suggesting which network did this, but it said: "March to war,'' every day from last summer until the spring: "March to war, march to war, march.'' That's not a very conducive environment for people to take risks when they hear "march to war'' all the time.

And yet, our economy is growing. In other words, what I'm telling you is, is that we've had a lot of obstacles to overcome.

The '01 tax cuts affected the recession this way: It was a shallow recession. That's positive, because I care about people being able to find a job. You know, some have said, "Well, maybe the recession should have been deeper in order for the rebound to be quicker.'' My attitude is, a deeper recession means more people would have been hurt. And I view the actions we've taken as a job's program--job-creation program.

Now, secondly, there are hopeful signs. I mean, most economists believe that over the next 18 months we'll see positive economic growth. Interest rates are low. Housing starts are strong. Manufacturing indexes are improving.

There are other things we can do in Washington. As I said, we need an energy bill. We certainly need tort reform. I think the class action reform has moved out of the House and into the Senate. Something can be done, and it ought to be done quickly.

In other words, what I'm saying to you is, is that there's still work to do, but I'm optimistic about the future. And I believe you'll see more jobs created, and that's going to be good for the country.

QUESTION: You just explained that your approach to your job is to try to produce results. It has been roughly a year since North Korea apprised the United States government that it is seeking to reactivate its nuclear weapons program. In that year, you and your aides have repeatedly said that you seek a diplomatic approach to that problem, and yet over that year all we've seen from the North Koreans are more bellicose statements and more steps taken to add to their stockpile of nuclear weapons that they already have.

What can you point to in the record over the last year by your administration for Americans to look at and say, "This president has produced results''?

BUSH: Yeah. I think that one of the things that is important to understanding North Korea is that the past policy of trying to engage bilaterally didn't work. In other words, the North Koreans were ready to engage, but they didn't keep their word on their engagement. And that ought to be a clear signal to policy-makers of what to expect with North Korea.

Secondly, in my judgment, the best way to convince the North Koreans to change their attitude about a nuclear weapon program is to have others in the neighborhood assume responsibility alongside the United States.

So this morning, interesting enough, I'm glad you asked that question, because I can tell you that I talked to Hu Jintao this morning not in anticipation of your question but as part of an ongoing process to encourage him to stay involved in the process of discussions with Mr. Kim Jong Il, all attempting to say to him that it is not his nation's interest to continue developing these weapons and we would like to see him dismantle those weapons programs. As well as I told President Hu that I think it's very important for us to get Japan and South Korea and Russia involved as well.

So the progress that is being made is we're actually beginning to make serious progress about sharing responsibility on this issue in such a way that I believe will lead to the--to an attitudinal change by Kim Jong Il, which will be very positive for peace in the region.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you often speak about the need for accountability in many areas.

I wonder then why is Dr. Condoleezza Rice not being held accountable for the statement that your own White House has acknowledged was a mistake in your State of the Union address regarding Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium? And also, do you take personal responsibility for that inaccuracy?

BUSH: I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course. Absolutely. I also take responsibility for making decisions on war and peace. And I analyzed a thorough body of intelligence--good, solid, sound intelligence that led me to come to the conclusion that it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

We gave the world a chance to do it. We had--remember, there was--again, I don't want to get repetitive here but it's important to remind everybody that there was 12 resolutions that came out of the United Nations because others recognized the threat of Saddam Hussein. Twelve times the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions in recognition of the threat that he posed. And the difference was is that some were not willing to act on those resolutions. We were, along with a lot of other countries, because he posed a threat. Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person, and America is lucky to have her service. Period.

QUESTION: Mr. President, with no opponent, how can you spend $170 million or more on your primary campaign?

BUSH: Just watch.

(LAUGHTER)

Keep going.

QUESTION: And with 15 fund-raisers scheduled for the summer months, do you worry about the perception that you're unduly attentive to the interests of people who can afford to spend $2,000 to see you?


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