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Public Papers - 1992 - March

Exchange With Reporters in Pensacola, Florida

1992-03-07

The President. That is amazing. He said, and this man's entitled to his opinion, that we set the course record for going down there and back, 2 miles.

Q. Do you believe it? [Laughter]

Q. They tell that to all the Commanders in Chief.

The President. Do you believe I'm going to win the primaries?

Arms Shipments in Persian Gulf

Q. Are you worried about the Scuds, sir?

The President. Scuds? Yes. But the man who ought to be worried about it is Saddam Hussein.

Q. Have you ordered boarding of those ships, of the Marine ships, sir?

Q. Are you contemplating some options?

The President. We're always contemplating options, yes.

Can you turn those cameras around because I want to take my shirt off, privacy. How many are honoring this?

Q. Everybody.

The President. Promise? No reporting on the body? [Laughter]

Q. Is it okay if we hoot a little bit?

The President. Yes, you can go like that. But no, I'm serious. Otherwise, I'll do it. Come on, Larry [Larry Downing, Newsweek], promise. Word of honor.

Presidential Primaries

Q. How are you going to do in the primaries, Mr. President?

The President. We're going to win them all and then keep on going and winning every one of them. All across the national campaign, I'm going to conduct myself with a certain amount of dignity and making very clear I'm not a candidate of hatred and trying to appeal broadly to this country.

When I look at the Democrats' side, I give them credit for working hard and doing their number out there, and I'm not about to intervene in the primaries. But I've got to tell you, I feel confident about winning in the fall. And I feel good about today and Tuesday. And so, it's not been easy out here, as you know, but we're going very well, indeed, making clear I understand the problems of this country. We've got good answers for it. And when we get into the fall campaign I'm ready to put my values, my programs on the line against some of these other things I hear out there.

Today is a nonpolitical day in terms of the visit itself, but I'll be talking about the defense of this country and the need to keep strong and the need to guard against any contingency. Sorry, but when I listen to the debate on the other side, I don't hear that concern for the national security. I am the President. I have a constitutional responsibility to keep this country strong, and I'm going to do it. So it's those issues, though, you see, are not in focus at all; they're not even being discussed.

So, we'll wait until the fall. But you caught me on a good day. I really feel pretty good. Marlin feels good. Marlin feels very good today.

Q. Why do you feel you can afford not to campaign tomorrow or Monday?

The President. Well, I think we're in good shape. I think we're in very good shape in the primary States. I don't know how you all felt, but I've felt that the response we've been having is very enthusiastic. The crowds have been superb, and so I'm just coming at it from a position of real confidence. But not enough confidence that I didn't get on the phone this morning and talk to the Governor of South Carolina, the Senator from South Carolina, both of whom reiterated their confidence. Talked to our campaign manager in Florida, my boy Jeb. Talked to our son George who was campaigning in Mississippi yesterday and been going, crisscrossing Texas. And all of them are very upbeat. So, the voters will decide this on Tuesday and somewhat today.

Q. Mr. President, do you think the voters are getting the message from you, though it's thinly veiled, against Buchanan, that he is insensitive to -- --

The President. The message there I get is what George Bush stands for. And I've tried to stand for this every day of my Presidency. And I hope our Presidency has been one of decency, a sense of honor, a sense of fairplay, and I'm just going to continue to emphasize these themes.

I mean, I think Americans like a political battle, but I think they expect their President to express some of these fundamental values. And when I speak out against hatred, bigotry, anti-Semitism, racism, it's not aimed at anybody; it's aimed at values that this country really has, whatever side of the aisle you're on. And so, it's something that I just feel I must do. And it just didn't start with this campaign, if you'll go back and look at my speeches over the last few years.

So, it's really appealing to the better nature of the American people, and the American people are well-intentioned on these matters of fairplay. And so, I'll keep speaking out on it.

Q. How long do you think Buchanan will stick it out?

The President. Have no idea.

We'll see you guys. Thank you for the run.

Note: The exchange began at 7 a.m. at Pensacola Naval Air Station. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

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