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Transcript: Bush News Conference

Secondly, I applaud Secretary Rice's decision to include Karen in the process.

BUSH: I thought that was very wise of her to call upon Karen's talents.

Bush Speaks to Reporters
Bush Speaks to Reporters
President Bush acknowledged to reporters Wednesday that Social Security is "a difficult issue" that may require a "tough vote." (AP Photo)

_____Bush News Conference_____
Video: Bush News Conference
Bush Vows to Press Ahead on Social Security (The Washington Post, Mar 16, 2005)

And Dina Powell from my office, an Egyptian-American, is also going over, leaving the White House compound to work with Karen because she believes deeply in the American experience and American values and wants to share those values with people around the world.

And, you know, I think when people also see that we do what we say we're going to do -- for example, that we help feed the hungry and that we believe all folks should be free and that women should have an equal say in society -- I think when people see we actually mean that and then when it comes to fruition, it'll help the people around the world better understand our good hearts and good nature.

QUESTION: Mr. President, earlier this year you told us you had wanted your administration to cease and desist on payments to journalists to promote your agenda. You cited the need for ethical concerns and the need for a bright line between the press and the government.

Your administration continues to make the use of video news releases, which are prepackaged news stories sent to television stations, fully aware that some or many of these stations will air them without any disclaimer that they are produced by the government.

The comptroller general of the United States this week said that raises ethical questions.

Does it raise ethical questions about the use of government money to produce stories about the government that wind up being aired with no disclosure that they were produced by the government?

BUSH: There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are within the law so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy.

BUSH: And I expect our agencies to adhere to that ruling, to that Justice Department opinion.

This has been a longstanding practice of the federal government to use these types of videos.

The Agricultural Department, as I understand it, has been using these videos for a long period of time. The Defense Department, other departments have been doing so.

It's important that they be based upon the guidelines set out by the Justice Department.

Now, I also -- I think it would be helpful if local stations then disclosed to their viewers that this was based upon a factual report and they chose to use it.

BUSH: But evidently in some cases that's not the case.

QUESTION: But the administration could guarantee that's happening by including that language in the pre-packaged report?

BUSH: You mean a disclosure, “I'm George W. Bush and I... “

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Well, some way to make sure it couldn't air without the disclosure that you believe is so vital.

BUSH: You know, Ken, I mean, there's a procedure that we're going to follow and the local stations ought to -- since there's a deep concern about that -- ought to tell their viewers what they're watching.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you think there should be regime change in Iran, and if so, what are you prepared to do to see that happen?

BUSH: Richard, I believe that the Iranian people ought to be allowed to freely discuss opinions, read a free press, have free votes, be able to choose amongst political parties.

BUSH: I believe Iran should adopt democracy. That's what I believe.

QUESTION: Do you believe that nativity scenes and the 10 Commandments should continue to be displayed on federal property or in schools?

BUSH: We had a display of the 10 Commandments on the statehouse grounds in Texas and I supported that display.

QUESTION: Mr. President, back to Social Security if I may, you said right at the top today that you urge members of Congress to go out and talk about the problem with their constituents.

But...

BUSH: No, about solutions to the problem.

QUESTION: But also talk about solutions.

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: And it's that part that I want to ask about. Aren't you asking them to do something that you really haven't?

BUSH: No, I'm interested in -- first of all, I have laid out, in the State of the Union address -- I haven't looked at all previous State of the Union addresses, but I think I'm the first president ever to say all options are on the table and named a series of options.

BUSH: I think. Now, maybe somebody could go back and find out. If you've got some idle time on your hand you might want to go read previous State of the Union address and see if that's true.

I don't believe a member should go write a bill, but I do believe a member should start discussing ideas with constituencies about how to solve the problem, as opposed to blocking ideas, to say, “Here are some ideas, “ and come back and present them.

That's what's happening, by the way. There's a lot of members are talking about different concepts. I've called a lot of them into the White House compound. I've listened to them. There's a variety of ideas. And that's positive. I view that as a positive sign that members of Congress, one, take the problem seriously.

I thought it was helpful yesterday when the United States Senate said, you know, that Social Security is a serious problem that requires a permanent solution.

And now it's time for people, when they get back from Easter, having talked to different constituency groups, to come back and sit down and start sharing ideas about how to move the process forward.

And my pledge is that I will not take somebody's idea and use it as a political weapon against them.

BUSH: That's what's changed in this debate.

In other words, the Social Security, they used to call it the third rail of American politics, because when you talked about it, you got singed at the minimum. And it's now time to talk about it in a serious way, to come up with a permanent solution.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you talked earlier about going to...

BUSH: Can't call on Herman and not on Jackson, he's a Texas boy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

You're talking about going to the Security Council if Iran turns down this E.U.-3 deal. Iran says they're not making nuclear weapons.

Are we looking at a potential military confrontation with Iran?

BUSH: No, that we've got a lot of diplomacy, you know.

I mean, there's a lot of diplomacy in this issue. And that's why I was so pleased to be able to participate with our friends France and Great Britain and Germany, to say to the Iranians, “We speak with common voice. And we share suspicions, because of your past behavior.

BUSH: “And the best way to ensure that you do not develop a nuclear weapon is for you to have no enrichment of plutonium -- have no highly enriched uranium program or plutonium program that could lead to a weapon. “

That's what we've said.

And we've just started the process. We just had the discussion.

How long ago was I in Europe? Maybe 10 days or so? Two weeks? Yes, two weeks.

I mean, it takes a while for things to happen in the world. I know there's a certain impatience with a never-ending news cycle, you know. But things don't happen necessarily overnight the way some would like them, you know, “Solve this issue and we go to the next issue. “

There a certain patience required in order to achieve a diplomatic objective.

BUSH: And our diplomatic objective is to continue working with our friends to make it clear to Iran we speak with a single voice.

Listen, whoever thought about modernizing this room deserves a lot of credit.

(LAUGHTER)

It's like there's very little oxygen in here anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

And so for the sake of a healthy press corps and a healthy president, I'm going to end the press conference.

But I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come by and visit. I wish you all -- genuinely wish you all a happy Easter holiday with you and your family.

Thank you.

END


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