These are very reasonable requests. They're requests all aimed at making the world more peaceful.
I look forward to working with our European friends on my upcoming trip to talk about how we can work together to convince the Syrians to make rational decisions.
John Negroponte appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he was named ambassador to Iraq.
(Larry Downing - Reuters File Photo)
QUESTION: Europeans want more support from the U.S. in their negotiations with Iran. Would the U.S. consider joining these talks?
BUSH: Well, first, a couple of points.
One, we are a party to the talks or a party to the process as a result of being a member of the IAEA. In other words, we're on the IAEA board with some 30 odd nations. So we've been very much involved with working with the Iranians and the world to achieve a goal that we share with the Europeans, and that is for Iran not to develop a nuclear weapon.
I look forward to, again on this trip, discussing strategies, ways forward with the Europeans to make sure we continue to speak with one voice, and that is Iran should not have a nuclear weapon and how to work together to make sure they don't.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in your answer to Jennifer's question I heard several reasons for recalling the ambassador from Syria, but not an indication of whether you believe Syria bears some responsibility for the assassination.
BUSH: Well, I can't tell you that. I don't know yet because the investigation is ongoing. And so, I'm going to withhold judgment until we find out what the facts are.
You know, hopefully by the time I get overseas, we'll have a clearer understanding of who killed Mr. Hariri and it'll be an opportune time to talk with our friends to determine what to do about it.
But it's important that this investigation go on in a thoughtful way. And I'm convinced it will. We supported the international...
QUESTION: Would you like it to be an international investigation?
BUSH: Yes, we support the international investigation.
QUESTION: Mr. President, I recall a conversation a small group of us had with a very senior administration official about a year ago and in that conversation the subject of Iran and Israel came up. And I'm just wondering, what's your level of concern that if Iran does go down the road to building a nuclear weapon that Israel will attack Iran to try to prevent that from happening?
BUSH: Well, of course, first of all, Iran has made it clear, you know, they don't like Israel, to put it bluntly. And the Israelis are concerned about whether or not Iran develops a nuclear weapon, as are we, as should everybody.
And so the objective is to solve this issue diplomatically, is to work with friends, like we're doing with France, Germany and Great Britain, to continue making it clear to the Iranians that developing a nuclear weapon will be unacceptable.
But clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well.
And in that Israel is our ally and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened.
QUESTION: Do you believe there's a real possibility Israel could attack?
BUSH: Oh, I think that there's -- the need for us to work together to convince the Iranians not to develop a nuclear weapon.
And we will work with the Europeans and the Israelis to develop a strategy and a plan that is effective. And that's one of the reasons I'm going to Europe.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you've made clear that Social Security reform is your top legislative priority.
The top Republican leader in the House has said you cannot jam change down people's throats. And in your interviews with the regional newspapers, you made very clear that you would not rule out raising the cap on payroll taxes.
If you were to do that, why would that not be seen as going back on your pledge not to raise taxes?
BUSH: A couple questions there.
One, I agree, you can't cram an issue down people's throats.
As a matter of fact, the best way to get this issue addressed in the halls of Congress is for the American people to say, "Why don't we come together and do something?"
And so the first priority of mine is to convince the people we have a problem, and I'm going to do that a lot.
As a matter of fact, I enjoy traveling the country, and I hope you do, too, because I'm going to be doing a lot of it.
And I fully understand that nothing will happen if the members of Congress don't believe there's a problem that needs to be solved. And so you'll see a lot of travel.
And the problem is plain to me: You got baby boomers getting ready to retire, they've been promised greater benefits than the current generation, they're living longer, and there are fewer people paying into the system. And the system goes negative starting in 2018 and continues to do so. There's the problem.
Nothing will happen -- I repeat -- unless that Congress thinks there's a problem.
But once Congress -- once the people say to Congress, "There's a problem, fix it," then I have a duty to say to members of Congress, "Bring forth your ideas."
And I clarified a variety of ideas that people should be encouraged to bring forward, without political retribution.
BUSH: It used to be in the past people would step up and say, "Well, here's an interesting idea." Then they would take that idea and clobber the person politically.
What I'm saying to members of Congress is that, "We have a problem, come together and let's fix it, and bring your ideas forward, and I'm willing to discuss them with you."
And so, that's why I said what I said and will continue to say it.
And I've got some ideas of my own, obviously. I think personal accounts are an important part of the mix and want to continue working with members of Congress to understand the wisdom of why personal accounts make sense to be a part of a long-term solution for Social Security.
QUESTION: Regarding the director of national intelligence, in this town power is often measured in a couple of ways: by who controls the money and how close that person is to the president, sometimes physically. So let me ask you about that.
You said that Mr. Negroponte will determine budgets for all intelligence agencies. A lot of people feel the Pentagon's going to fight that, that the Pentagon wants to control its intelligence money. Would you address that?