Public Papers - 1991 - January
Remarks on the Nomination of Edward R. Madigan To Be Secretary of Agriculture and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters
The President. I wanted to walk in here to this news room to say that I intend to nominate Edward Madigan, a good friend and outstanding Member of the United States Congress, to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. Ed Madigan has served for 19 years in the House of Representatives. He's been an aggressive leader on all agricultural issues, serving as the ranking minority member on the House Agricultural Committee. And I've known him for a long time. I've known him as a friend, as a leader in our party, and as a man who cares deeply about the farm policies of our government and the people from agricultural America. He has walked in the shoes of Illinois farmers. He knows their needs, their concerns, and most importantly, their dreams for a future in agriculture.
These aren't easy times for the family farmer, but they are important times. And we have been -- the United States -- a role model for the world in the production of food. And yet, American farm families have not always enjoyed the prosperity that they deserve. I believe that Ed Madigan is the man to go to work on these problems. He stands tall, and he'll cast a big shadow in the Oval Office there as we consider America's agricultural future.
And so, I want to introduce him to you, ask him to say a few words, and then I'll be glad to take a few questions and turn it over to Ed again for questions.
Representative Madigan. Mr. President, I want to thank you for the confidence that you have expressed in me and for this opportunity to serve you and the farmers and ranchers of America.
As you know, agriculture is the largest industry in the United States, employing nearly 20 percent of our total work force, and agriculture exports amount to nearly billion each year. So, this will be a job that touches everyone in the country.
My goal, Mr. President, is to carry out your desire that rural Americans have a strong voice in the councils of the government. Many issues have a major impact on the family farmers of America. And I'm going to work hard with you to ensure that their concerns are heard in these councils of government. Ensuring that America has an abundant and affordable and a safe food supply is a big job, but I will work hard for you and for these farmers, Mr. President, to justify that your confidence in me is warranted and that we can get this job done.
Thank you very much.
The President. Thank you, Ed, and I'm just delighted you're doing it. Big shoes to fill, and I'm glad you're taking it on.
Persian Gulf Conflict
Now, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International].
Q. Mr. President, what can you do about the Iraqi dumping of oil in the Gulf? Is there any way you can offset it?
The President. Well, there's a lot of activity going on right now trying to figure out what the best course of action is to clean this mess up, to stop this spill.
Saddam Hussein continues to amaze the world. First he uses these Scud missiles that have no military value whatsoever. Then he uses the lives of prisoners of war, parading them and threatening to use them as shields; obviously, they have been brutalized. And now he resorts to enormous environmental damage in terms of turning loose a lot of oil. No military advantage to him whatsoever in this. It's not going to help him at all -- --
Q. It won't stop an invasion?
The President. Absolutely not. It has nothing to do with that. And so, I don't know. I mean, he clearly is outraging the world. But back to your question, there were some meetings that were concluded about 2 hours ago. A course of action that I will not comment -- I think is close to agreement. I'm not going to comment on what it is, but I can assure you that every effort will be made to try to stop this continuing spill into the Gulf and also to stop what has been done from moving further south. It's a little hard to do when the man has taken over this other country, Kuwait, and is using their assets in this way. But we will try hard, and you can be rest assured that the scientists and the oil people, the military are all involved -- the Saudis and the Kuwaitis and the U.S. side -- all involved in the closest consultation.
Q. Are you speaking of a retaliation?
The President. No, I'm speaking of what we do about this spill right now. We'll get to that later.
Q. Mr. President, you said the other night that no one should cry for Saddam Hussein when he's brought to justice. Do you envision war crime trials for Saddam? And also, can you say categorically that when this is all over Saddam will not be allowed to remain in power?
The President. No, I'm staying with our objectives. And the violation of the Geneva conventions are clear, and we'll have to see how that works out. We'll have to see what a post-liberation Kuwait looks like there in Iraq. But our objectives remain the same, Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].
Q. As you pointed out, Saddam has done a number of things, none of them really a military offensive. Are you coming to the conclusion that he's not going to fight?
The President. No, I haven't reached that conclusion at all, because these Scud missile attacks certainly invite instant retaliation if you can find the mobile launchers. And we're keeping on in that quest, as I indicated the other day.
Q. Well, what's he doing?
The President. I think what he's trying to do is to rally support in some of the countries where he may have some. I think he's trying with the attacks on Israel to divide the coalition and to mount anti-Israel sentiment in parts of the world.
What he is doing with -- when you dump oil reserves out, unless he's trying to show how tough he will be for Saudi Arabia or something like that, I can't figure out. What he's doing when he brutally parades American prisoners, I can't figure that out either -- or British prisoners, or an Italian airman. But it is not a performance that is winning him any points anywhere in my view.
Q. Mr. President, a lot of Americans would like to know -- since all these problems seem to get back, at least in your statements, to Saddam Hussein -- why you don't target him. Is it because of the embarrassment you encountered in trying to bring Manuel Noriega to ground?
The President. Hey, there's no embarrassment in that. It took 6 or 7 days, but there wasn't any embarrassment. I felt no embarrassment at all. There was a man who was wanted for crimes in this country, and he's in prison, and he's going to have his day in court. So, I would like to argue with the predicate a little bit because there wasn't any embarrassment. But we've set our objectives. Our coalition partners are in accord with these objectives, and we will stay with these objectives.
Q. But why not go after Saddam Hussein?
The President. Because we've set our objectives. We've got our objectives in accord with the coalition, and we'll stay with them -- that's why.
Q. Can I switch topics a moment? You're going to be meeting with the Soviet Foreign Minister on Monday after he meets with Jim Baker on Saturday. According to some of your aides, the scenario goes something like this: you now lean somewhat strongly toward postponing the February summit in Moscow, but if Bessmertnykh comes here and has good news on START and also says, listen, if you cancel this summit Mikhail Gorbachev is likely to be overthrown by more conservative people in Moscow, within the Kremlin, that you might change your mind. Any truth to any of that?
The President. I am looking forward to the consultations that Secretary Baker will have with Mr. Bessmertnykh. Mr. Bessmertnykh knows the United States very well and he knows the difficulties that we have with any use of force in the Baltics. And so I would stop it right there, John [John Cochran, NBC News]. I am not going to go into some hypothesis that some aide may have discussed with you or anybody else. We're going to see how this plays out. And we have an arms control agenda that I want to see fulfilled, but whether it would be ready in time for the meeting that is now scheduled, I don't know. We're having some difficulties there, frankly. And I expect Jim Baker will be discussing these difficulties.
We have some problems, obviously, on the Baltic States. We have a lot of common ground still with the Soviet Union. It is a country that has been strongly supportive of our objectives in the Persian Gulf. And we have an agenda that Baker and Bessmertnykh will talk about, and then I look forward to seeing Mr. Bessmertnykh, and then I'd be in a better position to respond definitively to your question.
Q. Sir, could I just ask, is it less important than it used to be for you to help Gorbachev survive politically? Are you so disappointed in his actions in the Baltics that you have a different view of it?
The President. I am disappointed in the Soviet actions in the Baltics because use of force is not the way to resolve that problem. And I've had an opportunity to discuss that with the President, and I know the difficulties that he faces. And I have not lost sight of the fact that Mr. Gorbachev was the catalyst, really, for much of the change that has taken place in Eastern Europe; had a lot to do with the reunification of Germany, which is obviously in the German interests and I think in the interests of the United States; a lot to do with common ground in the Persian Gulf.
But the problems in the Baltic States, the use of force there, causes us great difficulty. And so the Bessmertnykh-Baker talks will touch on a wide array of issues -- some where we have very much common ground, some where we have common objectives that are not fulfilled, and some where we might have clear differences. And at that point I will take a look again at the whole problem and see what must be done. And I'm sure the Soviets will be doing the same thing.
Persian Gulf Conflict
Q. Mr. President, the reports from Israel now indicate that the injuries to civilians, perhaps deaths, may have been caused by Patriot missiles themselves not striking their targets, or at least if they struck them parts of them fell back on the civilian population -- which raises anew the question of the sufficiency of the Patriot missile and the question about whether you are now contemplating additional measures to try to deal with this obviously persistent problem?
The President. We are certainly dealing with that all the time and we want to find ways to stop it. We want to find ways to stop these brutal, senseless, nonmilitary-value attacks on civilian populations.
Q. Can you give us a sense of your level of confidence in the Israelis continuing to show restraint here? Obviously, it can't be any easier for them now than before.
The President. No, although this one -- I felt I might be asked that question walking in here -- and there's still -- I'm still not certain that we know all the details exactly of what happened on this. I will again express enormous confidence in the Patriots. They are doing very, very well. But whether this was debris falling down from an intercept, or not, I simply don't want to comment on it because we don't yet know it for sure.
Q. Sir, one more try on Saddam Hussein. Given that your military commanders have said that they're hoping that this army quits rather than fights and results in a bloody ground offensive, why wouldn't it be entirely militarily appropriate to target Saddam Hussein?
The President. Because we are not in the business of targeting Saddam Hussein. I've set out our goals, and I think that -- I will say this, as I said the other day in echoing my support for what Prime Minister Major of the United Kingdom said, no one will weep when he's gone. But having said that, we have spelled out our objectives and I will stay with them.
But who knows what would happen if he left today? I would like to think that what I have said over and over again would resonate in Iraq, and that is that we have no argument with the people of Iraq. We don't want to see a destabilized Iraq when this is all over. But we also don't want to see a continuation of this aggression. We will not tolerate a continuation of this brutality. And so we have a mix of problems. But the problems are not with the people in the streets of Baghdad.
Q. Mr. President, a couple of questions as to how the Gulf relates domestically. First of all, can you give the American people some sense of what this war is going to cost, especially insofar as you and your Secretary of State are turning to allies and coalition partners and others to help defray some of this cost? What are your projections? What sense can you give the American people? And secondly, on the domestic front, how do you respond to Clayton Yeutter and others who are seeking to turn this issue politically against many Democrats who may have voted against the force resolution?
The President. On the first part of it, I would leave that to the Pentagon. That is still being computed. There have been some -- that will be presented, obviously, to the United States Congress, that not only has a right to know, but has the prime obligations when in terms to funding these matters. I am very pleased with the cooperation and participation from foreign countries. I think Jim Baker today had or will have a statement regarding Kuwait participation. You saw yesterday what the Prime Minister of Japan stepped up to the plate to do. And we salute that. There will be more such information forthcoming, hopefully, next week.
So, the burden-sharing, which is very, very important, is coming along pretty well. And Congress is very interested in this, and of course, I'm very interested in it. So, we'll be presenting that along with the cost figures to the Congress. But I can't give you the specific figures.
Q. And may I ask you for the second part of that question?
Mr. Fitzwater. Final question.
The President. Oh, yes. My position on this is that this is not a partisan effort. I thought Lee Hamilton answered that question pretty well. I can't remember exactly what he said, but he said, look, I'm prepared to defend my vote one way or another. And I think everybody views it that way. And I don't want to comment on something because I did not see exactly what Clayton Yeutter said. I heard that he said today that he had absolutely no intention of making the war a partisan issue, because we have strong bipartisan support and, in my view, it is a nonpartisan approach.
And so, I have conducted myself that way; I will continue to conduct myself that way. And every once in a while, you get some shots, I would say, that come my way, come against us on this. But I don't elect to think when I hear something of that nature that the Democratic Party is trying to make this a partisan issue, nor do I think Clayton Yeutter is trying to make this a partisan issue.
Upcoming Summit With the Soviet Union
Q. You say you are going to have a look at the whole range of U.S.-Soviet issues, but a summit has officially been set already. Can you tell us will you be in Moscow on February 11th?
The President. I'm going to have to wait and discuss all this with Mr. Bessmertnykh after he has a chance to discuss it with Secretary Baker. Because, you may recall, this was to be a summit at which we were going to sign an arms control agreement, and I am told that we aren't there yet. So we've got to see. There's a war on in the Persian Gulf. There's a lot of reasons that this should be discussed by Jim Baker.
Yes, right back there in the middle.
Mr. Fitzwater. Final question, please.
Q. In your budget plan that you will be sending up in February, do you plan to resubmit your capital gains proposal?
The President. Stay tuned. Stay tuned.
You get another one. You get one more. That was Sarah [Sarah McClendon, McClendon News]. Let's see, did you have one last time?
Q. No, sir.
The President. Please go ahead then.
The President's Security
Q. Thank you, sir. Next Tuesday night when you go and give the State of the Union message in that great Hall of the House, where there's a joint session of House and Senate, all those Members there, all the Cabinet and the Supreme Court and the diplomats, and your wife and yourself, that presents a great opportunity for terrorists if they can get by. Why don't you give the State of the Union message quietly from the White House?
The President. Well, many Presidents have given the State of the Union message by post office -- messengers, sent it up there. And I don't know that any of them have been done from the White House. But if I -- when I go to the Capitol -- put it that way -- I will have total confidence in the security apparatus in this country. It doesn't bother me one single bit.
And I know this man has sponsored terrorism, and we continue to be safeguarding in every way we can against it. But the Capitol of the United States will be secure, and the people that are there will be safe. And so, it just doesn't worry me, Sarah. Maybe it should. I'm not a fatalist, exactly, about this because I think we are doing things to keep the people's Capitol secure.
Q. But you remember the time -- shot up the Capitol.
The President. Yes. Every once in a while you find some outbreak, none quite like that, though. That was probably the most violent, but it doesn't concern me. I'll be standing up there giving that speech with total confidence in the men and women of our security system. And they are the best. And see, that's why I hadn't considered changing. I am not going to be held a captive in the White House by Saddam Hussein of Iraq. And you can make a note of that one. We're going about our business and the world goes on.
Somebody asked me a while back about the Super Bowl. Do you think we ought to cancel the Super Bowl because of this situation? One, the war is a serious business and the Nation is focused on it. But two, life goes on. And I'd say one thing: The kids over there in the Gulf -- somebody told me to stop saying ``kids.'' They look like kids to me, frankly, but I say it with a great affection. I say it with affection. But the boys and men and women in the Gulf, they want to see this game go on, and they're going to get great instant replays over there.
And so, life goes on. And this is priority, getting this war concluded properly. But we are not going to screech everything to a halt on terms of our domestic agenda. We're not going to screech everything to a halt in terms of the recreational activities, and I cite the Super Bowl. And I am not going to screech my life to a halt out of some fear about Saddam Hussein. And I think that's a good, clear signal for all Americans to send halfway around the world.
I admit he does irrational things. This thing today troubles me very much because there's no rationality to it. It looks desperate. It looks last gasp. It doesn't measure up to any military doctrine of any kind. But it's kind of sick. And yet, we are not going to be held captive to this kind of outrageous expression; nor will we be to the bombing of population centers or the brutal parading of American prisoners. And, boy, that one has hit me right square in the heart, I'll tell you. It's just outrageous what he's done.
I really do have to go.
Q. Mr. President -- --
Q. -- -- amphibious landings?
The President. Education is the subject at hand. Ed -- --
Q. Agriculture. [Laughter]
The President. Education to the Agriculture Secretary. [Laughter]
Q. Is it desperation, Mr. President?
Q. Sir, couldn't the oil -- Mr. President -- --
The President. Ed, I apologize.
Persian Gulf Conflict
Q. Sir, couldn't the oil interfere with amphibious landings, though? Doesn't that make military sense?
The President. No, it doesn't interfere with anything.
Representative Madigan. I think I'll leave with you.
Q. Mr. Madigan?
The President. Agriculture.
Q. Mr. Madigan?
Representative Madigan. Yes.
Q. Sir, the farmers' wives say -- women involved in farm economics say a half a million family farmers will go out of business with this new 1990 agriculture bill. Can you do something about it? Can you take it back for reconsideration?
Representative Madigan. Well, I don't think that's true. I was a cosponsor of the 1990 farm bill. It received overwhelming support from Members of both parties in both the House and Senate. I think it's a very workable bill. The implementation of the bill hasn't even begun, and I think these are very premature remarks.
Note: President Bush spoke at 3:02 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh of the Soviet Union; Secretary of State James A. Baker III; Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; Prime Minister John Major of the United Kingdom; Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan; Representative Lee H. Hamilton; and Secretary of Agriculture Clayton K. Yeutter, nominee for chairman of the Republican National Committee. Marlin Fitzwater was Press Secretary to the President.