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Text: Bush News Conference on Iraq

BUSH: I think American people, now that they've realized I'm going to seek reelection, expect me to seek reelection. They expect me to actually do what candidates do.

And so you're right, I'll be spending some time going out and asking the American people to support me.

_____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)

But most of my time, as I say in my speeches--as I'm sure you've been bored to tears listening to--is that there's a time for politics, and that's going to be later on. I've got a lot to do and I will continue doing my job. And my job will be to work to make America more secure.

Steve asked the question about this Al Qaida possible attack. Every day I am reminded that our nation is still vulnerable. Every day I'm reminded about what 9/11 means to America.

That's a lesson, by the way, I'll never forget, the lesson of 9/11, because--and I remember right after 9/11 saying that this will be a different kind of war, but it's a war. And sometimes there'll be action and sometimes there won't, but we're still threatened. And I see that almost every day. And therefore, that is a major part of my job.

And the other part of my job that I talked about is, you know, the economic security of the American people. And I spend a lot of time on the economy, going out and talking to the American people about the economy, and will continue to do so.

But, no, listen, since I've made the decision to run of course I'm going to do what candidates do. And we're having pretty good success. It's, kind of, an interesting barometer, early barometer about the support we're garnering.

QUESTION: As you said just a few moments ago and say frequently in your speeches, the deficit was caused variously by the war, by recession, by corporate scandals, the 9/11 attacks. But just a couple of weeks ago, on July 15th, the Office of Management and Budget put out a report saying that without the tax cuts that Congress passed the budget would be back in surplus by 2008, but with those tax cuts factored in we have deficits that year and further years out of at least $200 billion, to use the phrase, as far as the eye can see.

Aren't tax cuts in part responsible for the deficits and does that fact concern you? Are we now in a period where we have deficits as far as the eye can see?

BUSH: Look, we would have had deficits with or without tax cuts, for this reason: The slowdown in the economy, the decline in the stock market starting March of 2000, plus the recession, reduced the amount of revenues coming into the federal treasury.

Secondly, we spent money on the war and we spent money on homeland security. My attitude is, if we're going to put our troops into harm's way, they must have the very best. And there's no doubt we increased our budgets on defense and homeland security, so there would be recessions.

So given--I mean there would be deficits--so given the fact that we're in a recession, which had it gone on longer than it did, could have caused even more revenues to be lost to the treasury, I had a policy decision to make. And I made the decision to address the recession by a tax cut.

And so part of the deficit, no question, was caused by taxes: about 25 percent of the deficit. The other 75: 50 percent caused by lack of revenues and 25 percent caused by additional spending on the war on terror.

Now, we have laid out a plan which shows that the deficit will be cut in half over the next five years. And that's good progress toward deficit reduction. That's assuming Congress holds the line on spending. I presented them with a 4 percent increase in the discretionary budget to help them hold the line on spending. They passed the budget. Now they've got to meet the budget in their appropriations process.

My first concern was for those folks who couldn't find a job. And I addressed unemployment, and I addressed economic stagnancy with a tax cut that affected growth or the lack of growth in a positive way.

And I'm optimistic about our economy. But I'm not going to stop working until people can find a job who are looking for work.

QUESTION: Staying with that theme, although there are some signs of improvement in the economy, there are sectors in the work force who feel like they are being left behind. They're concerned about jobs going over seas, that technology is taking over jobs, and these people are finding difficulty finding work.

And, although you've recommitted yourself to your tax cut policy, do you have any ideas or any plans within the administration of what you might do for these people who feel like there are fundamental changes happening in the work force and in the economy?

BUSH: Sure. Listen, I fully understand what you're saying. As technology races through the economy, a lot of times worker skills don't keep up with technological change. And that's a significant issue that we've got to address in the country.

I think my idea of reemployment accounts makes a lot of sense. In essence it says that you get $3,000 from the federal government to help you with training, day care, transportation, perhaps moving to another city. And if within a period of time you're able to find a job, you keep the balance as a reemployment bonus.

I know the community colleges provide a very important role in worker training, worker retraining. I look forward to working with our community colleges through the Department of Education; coordinate closely with states, particularly in those states in which technology is changing the nature of the job force.

I have always found the community college--and this is from my days as the governor of Texas--found the community college to be a--you know, a very appropriate place for job training programs, because they're more adaptable. Their curriculums are easier to change. They're accessible; community colleges are all over the place.

But you're right. I mean, I think we need to make sure that people get the training necessary to keep up with the nature of the jobs as jobs change.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you've been involved now in the Mideast peace process and have certainly learned firsthand how developments like creation of a fence can complicate progress. Based on that, when you stood there about a year ago and proposed your road map, you spoke about a Palestinian state in 2005. Do you think that that goal is still realistic, or is it likely to slide, just because it's so hard to make headway?

BUSH: I do think it's realistic. I also know when we start sliding goals, it makes progress less realistic. Absolutely I think it's realistic.

And I think we're making pretty good progress in a short period of time. I'm impressed by Prime Minister Abbas' vision of a peaceful Palestinian state. I believe him when he says that we must root out terror in order for a Palestinian state to exist. I believe he's true.

I think Mr. Dahlan, his security chief, also recognizes that. And we've got to help those two leaders in a couple of way to realize that vision of a peaceful Palestinian state.

One is to provide help and strategy to Mr. Dahlan so that he can lead Palestinian security forces to the dismantlement of bomb-making factories, rocket-making factories inside Gaza and the West Bank. It's going to be very important part of earning the confidence of the world, for that matter.

We've also got to recognize that there are things that can happen on the ground that will strengthen Mr. Abbas's hand relative to the competition. For example, movement throughout the country. So I spent time talking to Prime Minister Sharon yesterday about checkpoints. We discussed the difference between a checkpoint for security purposes and a checkpoint that might be there that's there for inconvenience purposes, let me put it to you that way.

We talked about all the thorny issues. But the most important thing is that we now have an interlocutor in Mr. Abbas who's committed to peace and who believes in the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

One of the most interesting visits I've had on this issue took place in the Oval Office there with the finance minister of the Palestinian Authority. I was pleased to discover that he--I think he received a degree from the University of Texas, which gave me even more confidence when he spoke.

But he is a--he talked about how a free state, free country will flourish when the Palestinians are just given a chance. See, he believes in the Palestinian people to the point where he's willing to take risks for peace.

As I understand it, he's put the Palestinian budget on the web page. That's what we call transparency in the diplomatic world. It means that, you know, he's willing to show the finances to make it clear they are not stealing money. That's another way to put it. That's a positive development.

So what I first look at is attitudes.

I also believe Prime Minister Sharon is committed to a peaceful Palestinian state. He's committed because he understands that I will in no way compromise the security of the Israeli people, or the Palestinian people, for that matter, to terror; that he knows when I say we're willing to fight terror, we mean it because we proved it.

I thought it was interesting yesterday, by the way, that he spoke clearly about Iraq and the importance of Iraq in terms of Middle Eastern peace as well, and I believe he's right on that. I believe that a free Iraq will make it easier to achieve peace in that part of the world.

I also know that we've got to get others in the neighborhood to continue to remind certain countries that it will be frowned upon if they destabilize the process.

The stated objective of Iran is the destruction of Israel, for example. And we've got to work in a collective way with other nations to remind Iran that, you know, they shouldn't develop a nuclear weapon.

It's going to require more than one voice saying that, however. It's going to require a collective effort of the Europeans, for example, to recognize the true threat of an armed Iran to achieving peace in the Middle East.

But I'm pleased by the attitudes. You know, when I was in Aqaba, I don't know if you remember, but I asked Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas to go outside. I wanted to watch the body language first and foremost just to make sure we weren't fooling ourselves, that, you know, when leaders commit to being able to work with each other, you can get a pretty good sense of that commitment.

What was also interesting on the outside meeting--I mean, it was a very cordial discussion and there was a desire for these leaders to talk. And they have talked since the Aqaba meeting. And that's a positive development. But it was also interesting, as Condi reported to me later, to watch the discussion between the different--both cabinets. And we were watching carefully to determine if there's the will for peace.


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