Bush: No Tax Cut for Corporations

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, August 9, 2007; 2:54 PM

President Bush said today that he is not considering cutting corporate taxes -- but rather is beginning to mull over a proposal that would simplify IRS rules for corporations while not reducing their overall tax burden.

At a surprise press conference this morning, Bush disputed the impression left by a Washington Post report that he was considering a plan to cut corporate tax rates. "If you read carefully the penetrating report," he said, "[I] made it clear that we're at the very early stages of discussion and that in my own judgment, anything that would be submitted to Congress, if submitted at all, would have to be revenue-neutral. And therefore what we'd really be talking about is a simplification of a very complex tax code that might be able to lower rates and at the same time simplify the code, which is like shorthand for certain deductions would be taken away."

Here is the transcript of the press conference. And here (exclusively on the Internet) is the transcript of Bush's roundtable discussion with reporters yesterday, upon which The Post story was based.

Here's what Bush said about taxes yesterday: "I think there's a chance that we may be able to devise a simplification that will enable us to have a tax code that is more competitive and, at the same time, either without raising or decreasing revenues to the treasury. That's really going to be the, I think, determinant factor of whether or not we can go forward with some kind of legislation.

"I know it's in the country's interest to begin a serious dialogue, and that's what [Treasury Secretary] Hank [Paulson] has done. The fundamental question you ought to ask is, will we be in a position of developing a legislative package that has a credible chance of succeeding? And I don't know yet, because we've just started the discussions. I'm inclined to want to push hard, but I've got to know, push hard on what? And today literally is the first day that Hank brought the findings from the group."

So in other words: No actual tax cut -- at least in part because Bush recognizes there's no way Congress would go for it.

The Press Conference

Bush made relatively little news at today's press conference, held shortly before he headed off on vacation first to Maine and then to Texas. More on this tomorrow, but a few takeaways:

* Bush joined the " I can't recall" brigade when he was asked when he learned that former NFL player Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan in April 2004, was the victim of "friendly fire" rather than enemy action. "I can't give you the precise moment, but obviously the minute I heard that the facts that people believed were true were not truth, that I expect there to be a full investigation and get to the bottom of it," Bush said. More than three years and seven investigations later, the family still doesn't know the truth about Tillman's death or the cover-up.

* Bush was asked about his commitment to accountability in light of his commutation of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence for obstruction of justice, his loyalty to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and his failure to hold anyone accountable for mistakes in Iraq. Bush said that Libby was held accountable. "He was declared guilty by a jury and he paid -- he's paid a high price for it." He asked of Gonzales: "Why would I hold somebody accountable who has done nothing wrong?" And rather than address who was responsible for the mistakes in Iraq, he shifted into a long and repetitious recital of his feelings about the universality of freedom and the threat that withdrawal from Iraq poses to the homeland.

* When it came to Iraq, Bush said at least one thing that was untrue, and one thing that was only too true. "In the July 15th report that I submitted to Congress, there were indications that they had met about half the benchmarks and some of the political benchmarks they were falling short," he said. The White House's own report found "progress" in only eight of 18 benchmarks -- not that the benchmarks had been met. And even that assessment is highly debatable. By contrast, Bush expressed a keen awareness of public sentiment about the Iraq government: "A lot of Americans look at it and say: There's nothing happening there; there's, like, no government at all -- I expect they're saying." Bush then attempted to refute that notion by pointing out that the central government has sent money to provincial governments.

* Bush was asked about an International Committee of the Red Cross report first described by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, in which the treatment of prisoners at CIA interrogation sites is called "tantamount to torture." Bush's response in full: "I haven't seen it. We don't torture."

* Bush had an unusual take on the 19 al-Qaeda members in their 20s and 30s, most from Saudi Arabia, who carried out the 9/11 terror attacks. In the midst of a long explanation of why winning in Iraq is so important, he said: "It matters to the security of people here at home if we don't work to change the conditions that cause 19 kids to be lured onto airplanes to come and murder our citizens." Kids? Lured? And how is the war in Iraq changing conditions in Saudi Arabia?

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