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National Archives

Public Papers - 1991

Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Aboard Air Force One

1991-08-06

The President. This is my pre-vacation goodwill stop here.

Hostages

Q. Hear anything on the hostages? On the deal?

The President. Haven't heard an official word at all. Seen those hopes get raised over and over again, and -- --

Q. Have you had a lot of communications with various -- different countries that seem to have raised your hopes?

The President. No, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying all this public attention to it, which comes in cycles, it seems to me, in waves. And I do not want to make any statement of any kind that will contribute to the concern of the families involved. So, we'll leave it there. If something happens, so much the better. The story will come out on what the United States, you know, has done on the question of connecting countries. But it is just totally counterproductive to raise the hopes of families, as has happened over and over again, only to have them destroyed.

I've told the American people that we're doing everything we can, but I simply do not want to get into any details here at this point -- for that very reason.

Q. Is there any reason why the whole chemistry would have changed at this point and these hostages -- --

The President. Well, I can think of a lot of reasons, but you could have thought of the same reasons years ago in terms of better relations with one or another. But I'm not going to do -- don't try to get me to do what I don't want to do here because it really is unfair on the human dimension to these families. It really is.

Q. Have you talked to Perez de Cuellar?

The President. We're in touch with -- and have been consistently for a long period of time about these matters. And I'm simply not going to contribute to the speculation until we're sure of something. It's not fair to the families.

Had a good meeting with -- debrief with Jim Baker at lunch. Brent, John Sununu, and I met with him. He's very tired, obviously, but, as you know, there were predictions months ago that we'd never be this far, and so I salute him for what he's doing, what he's tried to do -- those leaders around the world with whom he's met and with whom I've been in contact. And let's just hope that the whole process goes forward. It's very, very important for world peace.

Middle East Peace Conference

Q. Does it look like the PLO, though, is now kind of pulling back after making -- --

The President. Well, one spokesman did. But Jim was not altogether discouraged. There's an awful lot of sentiment amongst Palestinians everywhere, amongst certainly the Arab countries, wanting this peace process to go forward. So, let's hope that reason prevails and that all sides keep leaning forward; that's what's needed now.

And I -- I don't know -- again, it's hard to quantify your feelings as to how it -- whether it's all going to come together or not, but I'm much more optimistic now than I was a month ago, put it that way.

President's Vacation

Q. Are you glad to be out of here?

The President. I'm out -- yes, just couldn't be more pleased.

Resignation of L. William Seidman

Q. Do you have any comments on Mr. Seidman's resignation?

The President. No. I think it was -- except that I think he's done a very good job and I don't think it's unexpected. I think the term expires, and I think he's indicated some time ago that he was willing to stay until around this period of time. I just saw the letter.

Q. Are you considering Mr. Taylor to replace -- --

The President. I'm not -- I just saw his letter, so we're not speculating. The fix is not on.

Q. Hadn't you indicated at one time that you'd like to see him -- --

The President. Well, we'll start over and take a hard look. There will be some names coming my way. But I don't -- well, I guess, if there's a letter of resignation made, it may be they send them up here. We have a whole system for those things, so I don't want to get ahead of where we are. There's no firm decision.

Iran-contra Investigation

Q. Any reaction on the Iran-contra investigation by Congress?

The President. No, just so it's fair. As I've said before, if they've got some evidence, and it's hard evidence, and it's not just based on outrageously flimsy sources, fine. I've told you my opinion about the charges that were made against me about being in Paris -- or being anywhere -- and I've told you a flat denial with any knowledge, direct or indirect. So, I'd like to think that this will be done responsibly and certainly will approach it in that way. But I hope it's just not, as Bob Michel said, a wild goose chase, or -- you know, when you're dealing with flimsy evidence and people who are less than reliable in terms of their backgrounds, you've got to be very careful. But if they've got something, and they can get to the bottom of this and prove it one way or another, so much the better. But if it's simply something else, as we approach a political season, that wouldn't be good.

But I have no reason to question Speaker Foley on this.

Q. Any thoughts on the timing of this, though, coming into the campaign year?

The President. No, I don't -- no, just let them go forward. Unless -- the American people are going to be saying: What have you got, what's your evidence, who are your sources, how firm is it, is it political, or not? I'm sure that Foley and Mitchell do not intend to conduct a political trial of some sort here. But the people are going to be saying: What's your evidence, what's the hard evidence here? But I've said before, hey, if you've got something, go forward and fully investigate. And in the process I've defended myself against a lot of scurrilous, scandalous rumors. And I'll be prepared to do that all along the way.

Hostages

Q. Have we had any corroboration at all from the British, or the Syrians, for that matter, on this Tehran Times article?

The President. I'm not sure I know which article you're talking about.

Q. I'm talking about the article related to the hostages.

The President. I can't, again, comment any further on it. But I think everybody is extraordinarily interested in this and hoping for something. But again, I don't want to contribute to that.

I'd better get down there and sit down. I'm glad you guys are with us.

Q. See you at golf. Golf this afternoon?

Note: The session took place while the President was en route to Kennebunkport, ME. In the session, the following persons were referred to: Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar de la Guerra of the United Nations; Secretary of State James A. Baker III; Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; John H. Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President; L. William Seidman, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Chairperson of the Resolution Trust Corporation; William Taylor, Director of Division of Banking Supervision and Regulation of the Federal Reserve System; Robert H. Michel, Republican leader in the House of Representatives; Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives; and George J. Mitchell, Senate majority leader. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this session.

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