Public Papers - 1990 - October
Remarks on Signing a Resolution Providing Funding for Continued Government Operation and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in New York, New York
The President. The bill that I'm signing here today will keep the Government operating through October 5th, pending passage by Congress of a budget resolution which reflects the summit agreement. It also provides the important supplemental funds for Operation Desert Shield.
This bill represents the first step in implementing the budget summit agreement. And now it's up to Congress. The budget agreement we've reached is a good package. This budget is the right package at the right time. It is important to our nation. And it represents our best chance to get the deficit under control.
To the American people, I would say this agreement is balanced, it is fair, and it is absolutely critical to our country that we get an agreement through the Congress. We cannot keep mortgaging the futures of our children and our grandchildren, and we will not.
To the Congress, I would say that this is a time for leadership. We must put aside partisanship for the sake of our nation. We must act now to solve this budget problem.
I would also say this to Congress: Many of us in the political leadership have spoken for years about the need to deal with the deficit. As is usually the case in politics, many different approaches have been urged. We now have a deficit reduction package. It is a good package. It is a compromise. Certainly, I didn't get everything I wanted, and the Democrat leadership didn't get everything they wanted. But like most compromises, it's certainly not going to satisfy everyone. But this is the time to move beyond these individual concerns and exercise leadership for the good of the country.
The deficit reduction package is a balanced package. It cuts spending. It provides incentives for jobs and economic growth. It cleans up the budget-process mess. And it raises needed revenues without raising personal tax rates. And most important, these deficit measures are real; they have real teeth. It's time to end the talk about the deficit. It is time for action on the deficit. And it's time -- I think past time -- to put the interest of the country first.
And so, I will now sign this joint resolution and keep things moving.
[At this point, the President signed the resolution.]
I'd be glad to take a couple of questions on this or any other subject before I go on -- at the United Nations. It's been a busy one, and I'll be glad to take a few, and then have to go.
Federal Budget Agreement
Q. Is there a planned attack to sell those conservative Republicans, who are already saying they're not going to vote for this?
The President. Well, I want to sell the Democrats who are saying they won't vote for it, and I want to sell the Republicans who are saying they won't -- absolutely. When I go back, I'll do my best. I'll take the case, as I'm doing to some degree here, to the American people. I've already been on the telephone. And I think back to what President Reagan had to do in the early eighties. And I heard the hue and cry from Democrats and Republicans, and I could understand it. I mean, if I were in the Congress, maybe I'd be screaming about something I wanted the most. But the time for this is passed. This is too serious now. And the leadership have worked hard. And so, you bet I'll be selling to everybody I can get to listen to me.
Q. But does it concern you, sir, that the loudest voices come from within your own party -- --
The President. I don't think -- --
Q. -- -- especially on the issue of taxes?
The President. I don't think it's the loudest. Depends who you -- I was watching on the tube last night, and I put down a few of the Democrats as unenthused. But look, expect that. What you've got to do is explain the country's at stake here, and that's what I plan to do.
Persian Gulf Crisis
Q. Mr. President, your speech today is being interpreted as having a little bit of a conciliatory tone. And you also brought in the Arab-Israeli conflict that would seem to be along Mitterrand's [President of France] pattern. Is there something new you were offering?
The President. No.
Q. Is there some sort of an olive branch in all of this that -- --
The President. No.
Q. What do you mean, no?
The President. I mean, no, there's no change in my position.
Q. But you did offer negotiations, and you seem to be holding out -- --
The President. Let me -- I thought I might get this question, so I've underlined it in this yellow pen here. [Laughter] ``In the aftermath of Iraq's unconditional departure from Kuwait, there may be opportunities.'' Now, unconditional is what the United Nations is calling for, and that's what the United States -- so there's no flexibility here. And I was surprised when I heard that some were interpreting it as such.
We've got to keep together. The thing that I've garnered through many, many talks up here is almost that -- well, it's totally solid support for the U.N. position and the U.S. position. So, there isn't flexibility. And I'm glad to get a chance to clear that up.
Q. But you don't think there's solid support for military action, do you?
The President. I don't know. As I've said, I want to see a peaceful resolution if at all possible. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. But I have heard rather encouraging words on two points: one, that Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq] is beginning to understand that it is he against the world; and secondly, there's more optimism in various quarters that the sanctions are really beginning to bite hard.
So, both of those have been reinforced for me. And so, we'll just have to wait and see. But this was not designed to convey flexibility or shift in position.
Q. But, Mr. President, your words were that after this unconditional withdrawal there may be opportunities for Iraq and Kuwait to settle their differences permanently. We were told, you were told last week by the Amir [Amir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah of Kuwait] that Kuwait is being dismantled by Iraq.
The President. They are, and that's why they have to get out now.
Q. They're taking away everything that can be moved. Are you suggesting that perhaps Iraq can get these disputed islands if they pull out now?
The President. No.
Q. What are you suggesting?
The President. No, let me be very clear. I'm just suggesting that you've got to make whole Kuwait the way it was -- and absolutely not that there can be any giving away by the United States or the United Nations of anything. The restoration of Kuwait, its leaders, is a terribly important part of this. They should go back there. And Iraq should unilaterally and unconditionally withdraw.
Q. And if I could follow: You mentioned today the eight major resolutions. Do you want a ninth major resolution clearly stating that the U.N. multilateral force is authorized to go in and do combat with Iraq?
The President. We have not been pressing for that at this point. You heard Prime Minister Thatcher [of the United Kingdom] on that, I guess, this morning. But we're still pursuing the road that let's get these sanctions to work, let's get the forces in place. And let's hope that the little optimism I'm picking up around here about the sanctions will prevail.
There's also another theme that this man, if you look at his record, will do a 180. You look at the history with Iran, and he's done a 180-degree turn and done exactly what he said he wouldn't do. So, some people are basing their hopes on that, some of the diplomats I've talked to.
Q. Mr. President, you don't come to the United Nations very often, and certainly, you were trying to emphasize something here that you haven't said in the past. I wondered what it might have been, if anything.
The President. Now, Saul [Saul Friedman, Newsday], why would you say I would want to emphasize something? I want to keep emphasizing what I have been saying in the past, and that is that the United Nations has done a superb job. These resolutions are unprecedented. We have the broadest possible support to stand up against this aggression, and we want to see the unilateral withdrawal, unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. It's a question of emphasis, but I'm not trying to convey something new in that. I know you're a foreign affairs -- you love the nuance. [Laughter] But seriously, you're reading too much into this. There's not any nuance to this that you think you might be missing.
Q. Do you agree with Mrs. Thatcher, who also said on television this morning that the United States or the allies would not need any further permission from the United Nations in the use of military force?
The President. Well, we felt that under article 51 that authorization was there. And I think she was talking about 51. However, you may remember that we waited until we got a resolution before interdicting ships that more directly confirmed the right to do that. But, no, I agree with her on that point.
Q. Mr. President, given the brutality of the Iraqi occupation and their efforts to develop the germ warfare capability, how long can we afford to wait for Saddam to do a 180?
The President. Well, it's a very good question to which I don't have the answer; I don't know the answer to that question. And it goes back to this question about what the Amir told me about the dismantling, rape, pillage, and plunder of that country. So, I can't put a timeframe on that for you. I wish I had a clearer answer for the American people. I don't.
Q. Mr. President, do you believe that Saddam Hussein is capable of a 180 at this point? And if he does pull a 180, doesn't that still leave him as an irritant in the region, a major military threat?
The President. The answer is: I'm just taking on board what I've been told by people that have studied it carefully -- that he is capable of that. I should tell you this, though. That's the one hand. On the other hand, there are those who say that if he withdraws from Kuwait that is the end of him because of having had to withdraw from Iran. So, you have to weigh the two.
But I don't have to act on these opinions. I have to just keep this consensus together; keep getting the sanctions as tight as possible; and hope that that makes him understand that, alone against the rest of the world, he has to do what the United Nations called for.
What was the second part, Mick [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News]?
Q. Well, doesn't that leave him -- a 180 -- wouldn't that leave him an irritant, a potential military threat in the area?
The President. You mean just if he went back to the status quo ante? Yes, it would be a problem, and it would have to be resolved in some way.
Q. If I may follow up -- --
The President. That's the third followup. Go ahead. What's the second followup?
Q. Was that your reference to chemical weapons in today's speech? In other words, after Iraq pulls out of Kuwait, if that happens, was that what you were referring to in terms of eliminating chemical weapons in the region?
The President. No, I wasn't specifically referring to that. But this is a very troublesome capability he has, and it does worry us. But I think there would be great unease about the simple status quo ante. But we've been talking here about the dismantling of Kuwait. I'm sure there would be claims in that regard. The international community would have to have something to say about that. I'm sure that neighbors would want to know that there was not a risk of another reckless invasion of this nature. And then that would lead you to say, Well, what kind of security provisions would be put into effect?
So, it's not a clear withdrawal to the status quo ante that would solve everything, but it is what's called for under these resolutions.
Federal Budget Agreement
Q. This budget agreement that you have, Mr. President, is it one that's likely to look better in '92 when you're running for reelection than it does to Republicans now?
The President. I think what matters at this juncture is not who's running in the fall of '90 and not who's running in the fall in '92 but what's best for the country in the fall of 1990, what is essential for the country. And I think getting this deficit down with a realistic program is essential for our country.
I've said -- and I'm not looking at this in a political way -- we've got to get it done. I've had to compromise; the Democrats have had to compromise. And I hope that other voices who are troubled by one aspect or another of this or something that wasn't in it that they wanted would also compromise. Every once in a while, you come to a position, come to a time, when you have to do that to get something done.
I don't control the Congress. I don't control either House of the Congress as the President. My party doesn't control it. But I was elected to govern. And I can stand; I can veto; I can do a lot of things. But the time, in my view, has come, because of the seriousness of the deficit, to lay aside getting it done exactly the way I want; to make a compromise, which I think is a good one, to preserve many of the things I want; and to go forward and get it put into effect.
So, it's in that spirit and not in the spirit of elections. And I would refer those on either side who worry about their election to look at the debate around the two tax increases that President Reagan had to go forward with. And there wasn't a political fallout because I think the country understands when the President concludes that a deal is necessary; they're inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Q. What then does it say about campaign promises, such as ``cut capital gains tax'' and ``read my lips''?
The President. It says you need more Republicans, and then we'll do it exactly my way. But we don't have that right now, so you have to do the best you can, Charles [Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network]. It's funny, but that's the way it works. I'll be glad to take my case out there. I'll say: If you want all these things, give me some more Republicans. That comes after we get a deal. And then we go right through the election cycle again. I've tried that.
We don't control the Congress. They're not going to do it exactly my way. So, I've had to compromise, and the Republican leadership has compromised, and so have the Democrat leaders. So, I'm not about to start flailing away on that. I want this deal through. It would be unproductive to start unleashing a fall of '90 campaign during these critical days here.
Q. You haven't broken your promises?
The President. I'm not interested in talking about that. I'm interested in governing. But let me tell you this. I expect others will be talking about that. Fine. Take the heat, take the hit. There have been changed times. It didn't work the way I want. I don't have the horses in the Congress to do it exactly my way. So, you have to govern, you have to lead, and that's what I'm trying to do.
Q. You say you are not pressing for an additional sanction now for military action. Is it because you don't have support for that kind -- --
The President. No, because we're still giving sanctions the time to work, the time to be effective. And I'm a little encouraged that perhaps they are having a strong effect. But so, we're not pressing for that right now.
Federal Budget Agreement
Q. When you made the big concessions, sir, especially on taxes and on capital gains, how motivated were you at that point about the fear of recession?
The President. I've been concerned about the fear of a recession. I'm concerned about a slow economy. And I believe a good budget agreement will result in lower interest rates. I would look to the Federal Reserve to lower the rates. I hope they would once they see that a sound budget agreement has been put into effect. And I would hope they think this is a sound budget agreement. So, I am concerned, but I don't want to talk ourselves into recession. The President has to be very careful in commenting on prices, on markets. But I believe -- and I must say the initial market response just today -- I don't know how it's going to play out over the days -- has been rather encouraging, saying, well, markets are looking for a deal.
Q. I'm going to ask you a long question so the camera has time to put in fresh videotape because I think we've run out.
The President. You want me to come back?
Q. No, no. I wanted to ask you: Mr. Shevardnadze [Soviet Foreign Minister] came downstairs sounding very encouraged about both CFE and the possibility of a START agreement by the end of the year. He even said it's at the point of talking about a time for you coming to Moscow. Do you think that you could finish this year with both those treaties signed, and will you go to Moscow by the end of the year?
The President. I don't think by the end of the year. However, I told Mr. Gorbachev in Helsinki and repeated it here to Shevardnadze that I'm looking forward to it. That would be a return summit, you see, as opposed to the Helsinki, which we tried to point out was an exceptional meeting.
And he was very confident that CFE would be ready for a Paris agreement late this fall. And he did mention to me that he hoped that the START agreement would be done and that we could have an early -- I thought he said early next year. Maybe he said end of this year. But in any event, I'd like to see it finished -- the agreement -- before the first of the year. I'm a little more optimistic about CFE getting done than START right now. But I came out of the meeting encouraged also and asking for flexibility so that these negotiators can polish off the remaining differences.
Q. Are you sorry you missed the celebration in Berlin?
The President. Yes. I can understand the excitement. I can understand the pride that the Germans feel in a unified Germany. We've tried to be an integral part. I remember there were some skeptics around when we talked about a unified Germany being full members of NATO. And I remember some of the difficulties about whether this could even happen before there were agreements signed with Poland on the borders. There have been a lot of problems along the way. So, I think our diplomacy has been helpful. But I think much more important, obviously, is the dream fulfilled, the dream of the German people of having one country again. And it is very, very moving.
And I can say this -- not in a big ``I'' sense or an egotistical sense -- but every German that I encounter along the way, in the field of diplomacy or their leaders from business or whatever it is, express their gratitude to the American people. It is a very moving thing. And it's not just for recent events; it's for the way that we help Germany and have stood with Germany and understand Germany and recognize that a new and unified Germany has an enormously constructive role to play in the world. It is very emotional. So, yes, I wish I could have been a part there, but I just couldn't be there -- been on the road quite a bit.
Q. Mr. President, several of the leaders that -- --
Mr. Fitzwater. Last question.
Q. -- -- you met with came out of your parlor here saying that you had expressed concern to them that speculators were driving up the price of oil. Do you have a plan to combat or bring that speculation down or end it?
The President. Well, I'd like to see market forces determine it rather than excessive speculation. And I'm confident in the long run that supply and demand will set the price, not speculations in some futures market. I have no plan to intervene in the markets or anything of that nature.
Q. What do you think is a reasonable price for a barrel of oil -- ?
The President. It's not for me to decide. It's for the market to set the price. But the best analysis I've seen on supply and demand points out that on this day there are no shortages. There are no shortages. Certainly there is no fear of shortage that should drive the market in the range. Somebody told me it came off about today. And we have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that could be drawn down. Other countries are endeavoring to step up their oil production, including the Saudis.
I talked at length to some in our own hemisphere about increased production -- Mexico and Venezuela. So, I would caution the high-flying speculator: Hey, be careful. Because most of the estimates that I've seen on what supply and demand would do to the market would have the market price significantly below current October future levels -- significantly below it. So, it's not for me to try to price oil. I've got enough problems out here.
Q. Where would you be comfortable with it?
The President. Let the market set it. But I'm just telling you that the analysts all say that the supply and demand situation cannot support a price where the October futures have been selling.
Q. But perhaps the market fears war.
The President. I think you're right, Saul. I think there is speculative fever. And anytime there's some bellicose statement it will slip back up. I can understand that. That's a different point than the one I'm making.
Q. Any less bellicose today than usual?
The President. I'm the same gentler and kinder self. What are you talking about?
Q. How can you stop it then? How can you stop this?
Q. But your budget assumes , Mr. President. Is that where you think it should be?
Q. How can you stop it?
The President. Talk sense out there. What?
Q. Twenty-one dollars is what your budget assumes. Is that where you think it should be?
The President. What budget? This agreement?
Q. Mr. Darman's [Director of the Office of Management and Budget] budget.
Q. It's based on a -a-barrel oil price.
The President. He's entitled to his opinion. It's like telling what level the stock market ought to be or how much the dollar ought to be worth against the yen or the deutsche mark. I've got enough difficulties without getting into that business, and I shouldn't do it. I've already done that. You heard me out there. You didn't make the trip to the middle west the other day. [Laughter] You missed the substance and reported only on the politics. [Laughter]
Q. I'm sorry about that. [Laughter]
Persian Gulf Crisis
Q. Are you more optimistic, sir, after the 21 or 22 one-on-ones [bilateral meetings held in New York City] or whatever it is?
The President. On the Middle East?
Q. On the Persian Gulf.
The President. Well, what I'm optimistic about is that there isn't one single breach in the armor. I didn't hear one single voice. And I haven't listened to all the speeches, but some respected diplomats over there tell me nobody rose to the podium to defend Saddam Hussein. They said they've never seen it quite this united on any question of any kind. And let's hope then that he'll understand that he stands alone. And let's hope that that, coupled with the economic sanctions, will cause him to do what he's done in the past: do a 180 and get out.
Federal Budget Agreement
Q. Speaking of a breach, Mr. President, what about Newt [Representative Newt Gingrich]?
The President. I just told you, I understand the Republicans that don't like certain aspects of this deal. I understand Democrats that don't like certain aspects of this deal. And I'm going to be encouraging all those Republicans and all those Democrats to vote for it. And I don't like some aspects of it, and I don't expect George Mitchell and Tom Foley do, or Bob Dole and Bob Michel. Every once in a while in your country's history you've got to lay aside what you feel the most strongly about and come together. And I'm going to urge as many Democrats and Republicans as possible to come together.
Q. But wouldn't you at least expect one of the Republican budget negotiators to support the package?
The President. I'd expect all Republicans and all Democrats to support me, but that's not the way it works in real life.
I'd like to raffle -- [laughter]. No -- --
Q. What happened to Gingrich and [Senator] Packwood?
The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], you be the start here. Are you the senior representative of the press corps?
The President. You get the pen that shows the signing of -- would you like this memorialized -- --
Q. Great. A 5-day pen. [Laughter]
The President. Thank you. This counts on Marlin's books as a full press conference, the equivalent of an East Room press conference. He said if I made it for 10 minutes that we'd rack it up as the 71st. As long as we've survived for 25, it's the equivalent of one of those that we used to do with everybody all dressed up, you know. [Laughter]
Trip to Saudi Arabia
Q. Are you going to Saudi Arabia?
The President. Hey, listen, I'm tired. I've got to go. What?
Q. Are you going to Saudi Arabia for Thanksgiving?
The President. Not set, not settled. I've been reading in the paper that I'm going.
Address to the Nation
Q. -- -- about the budget? Do you think that's needed?
The President. Not set yet, but if it would help, I would be glad to do it. In fact, some of the Democrats raised that and others too, some of the Republicans. I'm going to get home now, and then we'll try to figure out what's the best way to get this message across.
Note: The President spoke at 2:07 p.m. at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to George J. Mitchell, Senate majority leader; Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Robert Dole, Senate minority leader; and Robert H. Michel, Republican leader in the House of Representatives. Marlin Fitzwater is Press Secretary to the President. H.J. Res. 655, approved October 1, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 403.