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Text: Bush on Enron, Economy

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Following is the partial text of President Bush's speech following a meeting with his economic team. Bush discussed what he and his team covered and answered questions on his relationship with Enron and foreign policy on Iraq.

BUSH: Thank you all for coming.

I met with my economic security team last week to talk about ways to create jobs. We're meeting again with the components of the team to talk about one part of economic security, and that's pension security. One of the things that we're deeply concerned about is that there have been a wave of bankruptcies that have caused many workers to lose their pensions and that's deeply troubling to me.

And so I've asked the secretary of treasury, secretary of labor and the secretary of commerce to convene a working group to analyze pension rules and regulations to look into the affects of the current law on hardworking Americans and to come up with recommendations of how to reform the system to make sure that people are not exposed to losing their life savings as the result of a bankruptcy, for example.

As well, the secretary of treasury, along with the SEC, the Fed and the CFTC are going to convene a working group to analyze corporate disclosure rules and regulations in light of the most recent bankruptcy of Enron. There needs to be a full review of disclosure rules to make sure that the American stockholder or any stockholder is protected.

And so, I think this is an important part of, obviously, other investigations that are ongoing. The Justice Department announced and informed us late yesterday that they're in the process of investigating aspects of the Enron bankruptcy. The administration is deeply concerned about its effects on the economy. We're also deeply concerned about its effects on the lives of our citizenry.

I'll be glad to answer a few questions.


QUESTION: When was the last time you talked to either Mr. Lay or any other Enron official about anything and did the discussions involve the financial problems of Enron?

BUSH:I have never discussed with Mr. Lay the financial problems of the company. The last time that I saw Mr. Lay was at my mother's fundraising event for literacy in Houston. That would have been last spring.

I do know that Mr. Lay came to the White House early in my administration, along with I think 20 other business leaders, to discuss the state of the economy. It was just kind of a general discussion. I have not met with him personally.


BUSH:Well, first of all, Ken Lay is a supporter, and I got to know Ken Lay when he was the head of what they call the Governor's Business Council in Texas.

He was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994, and she had named him the head of the Governor's Business Council, and I decided to leave him in place just for the sake of continuity. And that's when I first got to know Ken and worked with Ken, and he supported my candidacy.

But what anybody's going to find is that this administration will fully investigate issues, such as the Enron bankruptcy, to make sure we can learn from the past and make sure that workers at protected.

QUESTION: Mr. President, isn't it true that Iran is flexing its muscles in western Afghanistan and does that threaten the U.S. war on terrorism in that region?

BUSH:Well, first of all, Iran must be a contributor in the war against terror. Our nation, in our fight against terror, will uphold the doctrine, ``Either you're with us or against us.'' And any nation that thwarts our ability to root terror out where it exists will be held to account one way or the other.

We had some positive signals early in this war from the Iranians. We would hope that they would continue to be a positive force in helping us bring people to justice. We would hope, for example, they wouldn't allow Al Qaeda murderers to hide in their country. We would hope that if that be the case, if someone tries to flee into Iran, that they would hand them over to us. If they're a part of the coalition, then they need to be an active part of the coalition.

In terms of Afghanistan, we would like to work with the Iranians, as well as other neighboring countries, to bring a stable interim government--to stabilize the interim government. And to the extent that they're involved, we would hope that they would participate. If they try, in any way, shape or form try to destabilize the government, the coalition will deal with them and, you know, in diplomatic ways, initially.

And we would like very much for them to be active participants in a stable Afghanistan. It's to their advantage, by the way, that Afghanistan be stable.

QUESTION: Mr. President, based on the evidence the Israeli delegation presented to the State Department yesterday, about this arms shipment, do you believe it is time for the United States to either break or suspend relations with Mr. Arafat and his Palestinian Authority?

BUSH:I think it's very important for our administration to remain engaged with both parties.

Obviously, I want to make sure that the evidence is definitive, but, I, like many, am beginning to suspect that those arms were headed in the wrong--to promote terror. And terror will never enable us to achieve peace in the Middle East. As long as there are terrorists trying to disrupt the peace process, there won't be peace.

I do believe that, once the evidence is in, that those responsible will need to be held to account. On the other hand, I also believe that our country must stay engaged in the process. I intend to ask Zinni to go back to the region at the appropriate time to keep pushing for a dialogue, to keep pushing for the process to go forward.

And Mr. Arafat must renounce terror, must reject those who would disrupt the peace process through terror and must work hard to get to the peace table. It seems like it's up to him to make these decisions.

QUESTION: But has he been less than truthful in speaking to Secretary Powell, General Zinni and others in saying he nothing to do with this (inaudible)

BUSH:We will find out the facts. But he is--you asked the question, should we basically disengage? And the answer is no, we won't disengage from the Middle East. We will stay involved in the Middle East peace process or trying to get to the peace process, and it starts with making the region more secure.

Mr. Arafat must renounce terror and must reject those in the region that would disrupt the peace process by the use of terrorist means.

STAFF: Thank you all. Bye. Thank you.


QUESTION: ... what can you...


QUESTION: What can you do about (inaudible) or now, isn't that horse already out of the barn...

BUSH:Our group is meeting, and they will bring recommendations here. They'll look at--fully investigate what went on.

My concern, of course, is for the shareholders of Enron, but my--I have great concerns for the stories--for those I read about in the stories who put their life savings aside and, for whatever reason, based upon some rule or regulation, got trapped in this awful bankruptcy and have lost life savings. And one of the things this group is going to do is take a good hard look at it.

Thank you all.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


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