Transcript: President Bush's News Conference
Wednesday, January 26, 2005; 10:58 AM
BUSH: Good morning.
With a second term under way and a new Congress at work, we're moving forward on great goals for our country. In my inaugural address, I renewed this nation's commitment to expanding liberty at home and promoting liberty abroad.
Because our own freedom is enhanced by the expansion of freedom in other nations, I set out the long-term goal of ending tyranny in our world. This will require the commitment of generations. But we're seeing much progress in our own time.
In late 2004, the people of Afghanistan defied the threats of terrorists and went to the polls to choose their leaders. The Palestinian people have elected a president who has renounced violence. This week, Ukraine inaugurated a new president, President Yushchenko. And just four days from now, the people of Iraq will vote in free national elections.
BUSH: Millions of Iraqi voters will show their bravery, their love of country and their desire to live in freedom.
Across the world, freedom has deadly enemies. Yet across the world freedom has great and growing momentum.
And there have been enormous sacrifices made by some of our citizens in the spread of freedom. Families suffer as a result of the loss of a loved one.
Continue to offer condolences and prayers for those who do suffer. We will honor the memories of their loved ones by completing our missions.
BUSH: I'm open to good ideas from members of Congress. I'll work with both parties to get results.
Any solution must confront the problem fully and directly by making the system permanently solvent and providing the option of personal accounts.
For this new term, I've assembled an exceptional Cabinet and several members are taking office this week. In addition to speedy action on all my nominees, I especially urge the Senate to confirm Condoleezza Rice today and to promptly act and confirm Judge Al Gonzalez.
We have a full agenda. I'm looking forward to the work ahead and now I'm looking forward to answering some of your questions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, the insurgents in Iraq are threatening to kill anyone who comes out to vote on Sunday. Do you think they'll succeed in killing or scaring away enough people so that the elections will be rendered seriously flawed or not credible?
BUSH: We anticipate a lot of Iraqis will vote.
Clearly, there are some who are intimidated. Surveys show that the vast majority of people do want to participate in democracy. And some are felling intimidated.
I urge all people to vote. I urge people to defy these terrorists.
These terrorists do not have the best interests of the Iraqi people in mind. They have no positive agenda. They have no clear view of a better future. They're afraid of a free society.
I am impressed by the bravery of the Iraqi citizens.
I am heartened by the strong words of Prime Minister Allawi. I talked to him yesterday on the phone. He is determined to lead his country forward into the elections.
I appreciate the hard work of the United Nations, which is providing good leadership on the ground. And I anticipate a grand moment in Iraqi history.
BUSH: And if we'd have been having this discussion a couple of years ago and I just stood up in front of you and said the Iraqi people would be voting, you would look at me like some of you still look at me, with a, kind of, blank expression.
People are voting. And this is a part of a process to write a constitution and elect a permanent assembly. And it's exciting times for the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: What would be a credible turnout number?
BUSH: The fact that they're voting in itself is successful.
Again, this is a long process. It is a process that will begin to write a constitution and then elect a permanent assembly.
BUSH: And this process will take place over this next year.
QUESTION: Your inaugural address has been interpreted as a new aggressive posture against certain countries, in particular, Iran. Should we view it that way?
BUSH: My inaugural address reflected the policies of the past four years that said -- that we're implementing in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it talked about a way forward.
I think America is at its best when it leads toward an ideal. And certainly a world without tyranny is an ideal world.
The spread of freedom is important for future generations of Americans. I firmly believe that free societies are peaceful societies. And I believe every person desires to be free.
QUESTION: (inaudible) a policy shift?
BUSH: No. As I said, it reflects the policy of the past, but it sets a bold new goal for the future. And I believe this country is best when it heads toward an ideal world, we are at our best.
And in doing so, we're reflecting universal values and universal ideas that honor each man and woman, that recognize human rights and human dignity depends upon human liberty.
And it's -- I'm looking forward to the challenge. And I'm looking forward to reaching out to our friends and allies to convince them the necessity to continue to work together to help liberate people.
QUESTION: Mr. President, let me take you up on that if I may.
Last month in Jordan, a gentleman named Ali Hattar was arrested after delivering a lecture called "Why We Boycott America." He was charged under Section 191 of their penal code for slander of government officials. He stood up for democracy, you might say.
QUESTION: And if you won't, sir, then what, in a practical sense, do your fine words mean?
BUSH: I am unaware of the case. You've asked me to comment on something that I didn't know took place.
I noticed today that he put forth a reform that will help more people participate in future governments of Jordan. I appreciate His Majesty's understanding of the need for democracy to advance in the greater Middle East.
We visited with him at the G-8 and he has been a strong advocate of the advance of freedom and democracy.
Obviously we're discussing a process. As I said in my speech, not every nation is going to immediately adopt America's vision of democracy and I fully understand that.
BUSH: But we expect nations to adopt the values inherent in a democracy, which is human rights and human dignity, that every person matters and every person ought to have a voice. And His Majesty is making progress toward that goal.
I can't speak specifically to the case. You're asking me to speak about a case and I don't know the facts.
QUESTION: Will you then -- does your inaugural address mean that, when it comes to people like Mr. Hattar, you won't compromise because of a U.S. ally, and you will stand...
BUSH: Again, I don't know the facts. You're asking me to comment on something. I don't know the facts.
Perhaps you are accurate in your description of the facts, but I have not seen those facts.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in the debate over Dr. Rice's confirmation, Democrats came right out and accused you and the administration of lying in the run up to the war in Iraq. Republicans, in some cases, conceive it that mistakes have been made.
Now that the election is over, are you willing to conceive that any mistakes were made? And how do you feel about that?
BUSH: Let me talk about Dr. Rice. You asked about her confirmation.
Dr. Rice is an honorable, fine public servant who needs to be confirmed. She will be a great secretary of state.
And Dr. Rice and I look forward to moving forward. We look forward to working to make sure the Iraqis have got a democracy. We look forward to continue to make sure Afghanistan is as secure as possible from potential Taliban resurgents. We look forward to spreading freedom around the world. And she is going to make a wonderful secretary of state.