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Transcript: Bush's Remarks to Unity

I wanted to ask you about protecting all Americans, as well. There are many Arab-Americans and Muslims in this country who find themselves unfairly scrutinized by law enforcement and by society at large.

Just yesterday we had arrests in Albany, New York. Immediately afterwards, some neighbors in the community said they feared that the law would come for them, unfairly, next.

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We have a new book out today that suggests perhaps we should reconsider internment camps.

How do we balance the need to pursue and detain some individuals from not-well-known communities while, at the same time, keeping innocent people from being painted by the broad brush of suspicion?

BUSH: Yes, I appreciate that.

First, we don't need internment camps. I mean, forget it.

(APPLAUSE)

Look, right after 9/11, I knew this was going to be an issue in our country. I knew that people would say, you know, there goes a Muslim-looking person, therefore, that person might be viewed as a terrorist. I knew that was going to be a problem.

That's why I went to a mosque to send a signal right after the attacks that said, you know, let's uphold our values. People are innocent until judged guilty. Religious people, people who go to mosques, you know, need to be -- Americans need to be viewed as equally American as their neighbor. Be tolerant. Let law enforcement, to the best of their ability, determine guilt or innocence.

BUSH: But our fellow citizens need to treat people with respect. By far, most Americans in this country did that -- not because I asked them to, just because, by far, the vast majority of Americans are decent people. They care about their neighbors.

I don't care where you're from or what your walk of life is, by far, the vast majority of our citizens are willing to reach out to somebody who is different. And that needed to be done. As a matter of fact, the anecdotal stories of neighbors helping neighbors across religious lines were heart-warming.

Now, in terms of the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice obviously is -- we need to be very sensitive on that.

Lackawanna, for example, there was a cell there. And it created a lot of nervousness in the community because the FBI skillfully ferreted out intelligence that indicated that these people were in communication with terrorist networks.

And I thought they handled the case very well, but at the time there was a lot of nervousness. People said, well, you know, "I may be next." But they weren't next, because it was just a focused, targeted investigation.

And, by the way, some were then incarcerated and told their stories, and it turned out the intelligence was accurate intelligence.

I guess my answer to your question is, is that we've always got to make sure that people are judged innocent before guilty. That's the best insurance policy for law enforcement overstepping its bounds.

I will also tell you, however, that the threats we're dealing with are real. And, therefore, we must do everything we can to ferret out the truth and follow leads.

It's a -- we cannot -- again, you know, it's interesting, these recent threats, they're becoming more and more enriched, as you're finding out. There was more than one thread line, threat line. People are now saying there was other reasons why we took the action we took.

You know, when we find out intelligence that is real, that threatens people, I believe we have an obligation as government to share that with people.

BUSH: And imagine what happens if we didn't share that information with the people in those buildings and something were to happen? Then what would you write? What would you say?

And so we have, in terms of law enforcement, we have a duty to uphold innocence and guilt. In terms of a government, we have the solemn duty to follow every lead we find and share information we have with people that could be harmed. And that's exactly what we've, done and I'll continue to do as a president.

This is a dangerous time. I wish it wasn't this way. Now, I wish I wasn't "the war president." Who in the heck wants to be a war president?

(LAUGHTER)

I don't. But this is what came our way. And this is our duty: to protect our people. And it's a solemn duty. And I'll continue to do it to the best of my ability.

MARK TRAHANT, SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER: Good morning. My name is Mark Trahant. I'm the editorial page editor of the Seattle Post Intelligencer and a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

(APPLAUSE)

Most schoolkids learn about government in the context of city, county, state and federal. And of course, tribal governments are not part of that at all.

Mr. President, you've been a governor and a president, so you have a unique experience looking at it from two directions.

What do you think tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century? And how do we resolve conflicts between tribes in the federal and state governments?

BUSH: Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.

Now, the federal government has got a responsibility on matters like education and security to help, and health care. And it's a solemn duty. And from this perspective, we must continue to uphold that duty.

I think that one of the most promising areas of all is to help with economic development. And that means helping people understand what it means to start a business. That's why the Small Business Administration has increased loans. It means, obviously, encouraging capital flows.

But none of that will happen unless the education systems flourish and are strong. And that's why I told you we've spent $1.1 billion in the reconstruction of Native American schools.

(APPLAUSE)

RAY SUAREZ, PBS'S "NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER": Good morning, Mr. President. Thanks for coming.

I'm Ray Suarez, a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

(APPLAUSE)

There's a couple of others here, too.

And senior correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS."

BUSH: Yes. I recognized you.

(LAUGHTER)

SUAREZ: In one of the most closely watched cases of the 2003 term, the Supreme Court split the difference on affirmative action, allowing Bakke to stand, but rejecting the numerical formulas used by the University of Michigan undergraduate schools.

I'd like to hear your own view about when, and if, race and ethnicity are admissible as factors for consideration, both in college admissions and in hiring in the workplace.

BUSH: I think...

(APPLAUSE)

I didn't get to answer.

Yes, I agreed with the court in saying that we ought to reject quotas. I think quotas are discriminatory by nature. I think they discriminate on the bottom, and I know they discriminate on the top. And so, I agreed with their assessment that a quota system was an unfair system for all.

As you might remember, we also agreed with the finding that, in terms of admissions policy, race-neutral admissions policies ought to be tried. If they don't work to achieve an objective which is diversification, race ought to be a factor. I agree with that assessment.

I think it's very important for all institutions to strive for diversity. And I believe there are ways to do so.

When I was the governor of Texas, there was concerns that our big institutions were not -- big educational institutions were not diversified enough. So I went to the legislature and said, "Why don't we work together and say that there's automatic admission to our universities if you finish in the top 10 percent of your high school class, no matter what high school you go to?"

BUSH: And it worked. It worked, because the student bodies began to diversify at the University of Texas and at Texas A&M.

That's an inside joke up here.

(LAUGHTER)

You're about to hear why.

You know, I have a responsibility to work for diversity as well, and the administration, I've met the obligation. If you look at my administration, it's diverse. And I'm proud of that.

I mean, Condi Rice is there because she happens to be a very competent, smart, capable woman. She's also African-American. And she is my closest foreign policy advisor. I see her every day. When I see Condi, I think, you know, brilliant person. And I'm glad she's there.

Colin Powell, he was here yesterday evidently. Rod Paige. Rod Paige was a superintendent of schools in Houston. You know, I wanted somebody who knew what it meant to run a school district, not a theorist; somebody who knows what it means to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. He had; he's there.

Alfonso Jackson, Elaine Chow, Norm Mineta. You know, Mel Martinez was in my Cabinet. I mean, we've got a diverse Cabinet. I've got a diverse administration.

I hope that sets an example for people when it comes to hiring, including news organizations.

(APPLAUSE)

ROLAND MARTIN, CHICAGO DEFENDER: Mr. President, Roland Martin...

BUSH: Tell them what it's about, Martin.

MARTIN: Oh, I will.

Nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate and also the editorial consultant for the Chicago Defender, the nation's only daily black newspaper.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Get to the (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: I will.

And representing the National Association of Black Journalists...

(APPLAUSE)


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