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Public Papers - 1992 - October

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session in Lafayette, Louisiana

1992-10-24

The President. Kind of the Phil Donahue of southern Louisiana. [Laughter] But let me just say to all the people in this great State, a State in which I used to work, and in an area, this one, an area in which I used to work, that we have just come from signing a very important piece of national legislation. I signed the national energy strategy bill. And those who work in the oilfields and do either drilling or production or the service work should know that the IPAA has just suggested that the legislation we signed will result in 45,000 more jobs in the oil patch next year and many more rigs running.

That brings us to a major difference that I have with the Clinton-Gore ticket on this question of energy. Senator Gore was quoted in California -- and I don't have, I didn't write down the exact quote, but it is going to be played verbatim with his voice tomorrow -- that he thought the ban on offshore drilling that exists in California should be extended to all the coastal waters of the United States.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. And I don't agree with that. And that's an exact quote. It will be played with his voice. Obviously, he is now doing what Governor Clinton is doing, and that's waffling; say, ``Well, I didn't mean it like that.'' But you can't do that. You cannot go to Santa Barbara, California, and say one thing and then come to southern Louisiana or the coast of Texas and say another. Not if you want to be President of the United States.

You caught me on an up day. I am absolutely -- I am going to get to some questions, but I've got to finish this one pitch. We've had a long, long, long trail here and one of the worst years I've ever seen in terms of politics. My favorite bumper sticker is ``Annoy the Media. Reelect Bush.'' And people know what I mean. People know fairplay when they see it.

But the great thing about this kind of event is you can take the questions, you can take your case directly to the people, in this instance, the people of Louisiana. So I'll be glad to take -- I don't know how we're going to proceed here, but I'll be glad to follow my leader.

Campaign Issues

Dud Lastrapes. I personally think some good things are going to be in store for you in this great country of ours November 3d. How do you feel about the election on Tuesday?

The President. Better than I do about this mike. [Laughter] No, I do feel that, I have said all along, I believe we're going to win. I believe we're going to win because we have the best program.

We are caught up in a global slowdown, a global recession. To listen to Clinton and Gore, they would say it's all my fault. Unlike them, when I make a mistake, I say so. But we are caught up in something global, and what we're trying to do is lead the way out of this by increasing our exports, by holding the line on Government spending and taxes, and by providing incentives to small business. That will get this economy going. And that is why I believe I will win.

Also there's another thing, and it's called character and trust. And in the debate Governor Clinton said, in Richmond, Virginia, he said it's not the character of the President but ``the character of the Presidency.'' Wrong. They are interacted. They're locked. And you better be -- if you're going to be there in the Oval Office and a situation comes up like Desert Storm, you can't have it both ways. He said, I favored the minority position -- that's a paraphrase, and this is the exact quote -- ``but I guess I would have voted with the majority.'' You cannot do that if you want to lead. You can't be all things to all people.

So, I believe character and trust are making a difference. And I think Barbara and I -- we've tried very hard to uphold the trust that any President gets who is privileged to serve in the Oval Office. And I think in the final analysis, when people go into the voting booth, that is what's going to make me reelected for 4 more years.

Go ahead, get them going. You've got the question? There's one right behind you. He's next. This guy's next. Go ahead.

Q. I just want to say that we're rooting for you. And I want to ask you how you like AHS so far.

The President. Like what?

Q. How you like Acadiana High so far?

The President. All right. I like it so far, a very compatible group and very friendly people. And I would repeat I used to have offices down here, our company, little companies down in Morgan City and Cameron and Ulma and indeed for Lafayette for a while. And so I feel comfortable and at home here.

All right. Yes, sir.

Government Gridlock

Q. Clinton and them can't touch you on foreign policy, so they're trying to play this game that somehow or the other they have something better for us in the economic area. And what I don't understand is that for years you've been sending plans on education, on the economy, and so forth to Congress, but it doesn't seem to get out to the people. And I would like to get some comments on that.

The President. Well, let me comment. And it's a very important point. We were able to get some key things done in the early days before the Democrats, and I'd say liberal Democrats, who control both Houses of Congress made a determination, and that determination was about a year and a half ago, that nothing good was going to happen on my watch. Early on, I held out my hand to them. In the first State of the Union, I said, let's put aside the bickering, and let's get something done.

We did. We got a child care act that gives parents the choice of where to put their kids and what kind of child care. We've got an ADA, an Americans with Disabilities bill, the best piece of civil rights legislation in a long time. And it says to somebody disabled, we're going to help you get into the mainstream, not be on some program but work your way into the mainstream with the kind of assistance we can give. And we had several other accomplishments. We got a good highway bill last year, 0 billion to start building the infrastructure. We got homeownership going.

But in the last few, couple of years, the last year or so, they've made a determination. The only way they can win is if they convince the American people how bad everything is and that I'm not doing anything about it. And so I have had to veto legislation that's come my way, to protect the taxpayer.

We've got a good energy program, fortunately, we did get through, and to give credit, it was bipartisan to get that passed. We've got a good energy program. But we're hung up on things that would help the city. I believe in enterprise zones to bring jobs into the cities, give tax credits. I believe in much more in the way of homeownership. I believe our ``Weed and Seed'' program to ferret out the criminals and then help people in the neighborhoods stay, fight against drugs is a very important program. And we're not getting the support from the Congress, and there's a gridlock.

But here's why it will change. Because the Congress, controlled by one phase of the Democratic Party for 38 years, 38 years they've controlled the House of Representatives. Those guys can't run a two-bit post office or a lousy little bank. And now, though, because of that, you're going to see at least 100 new Members. And I'm going to say, look, the country is tired of gridlock. Here's my agenda for America's renewal. Here are our priorities. Now let's work together, Democrat, Republican, whoever, form new coalitions. And in that first 120 days, let's get something done for the people, the people that are hurting in this country.

Taxes

Q. Mr. President, I'm a senior here at Acadiana. I was wondering, we've been hearing all this talk about the middle class. What parts of Governor Clinton's economic policy should the middle class America be worried about?

The President. I'd be worried about tax increases. He says, ``I want to raise taxes 0 billion, and I want to spend 0 billion.'' And he says, don't worry about it, though, this will come out of the rich. There aren't enough rich guys around. There aren't enough to, out of the top 2 percent, raise the revenues he wants.

I believe -- and I was told this, I don't watch these deadly talk shows any Sunday anymore. I can't stand them. All they do is make me angry. But I heard that one of them, that his spokesman kind of admitted that they were going to have to sock it to people that made over -- I don't know what it was -- ,000 or ,000. I'm telling you it's going to hit ,000 if you do all the things he talked about on top of the 0 billion that he's got.

Health care is a good example. We've got a good program through tax credits and through vouchers to bring insurance to the poorest of the poor. It keeps the quality of medicine up. It goes against these crazy malpractice lawsuits that are costing medical care billion to billion. And it does not sock a tax on the middle class.

But the Clinton program was at one point -- I don't know whether it's changed recently -- but was at one point aimed directly at about a 7 percent tax on the middle class, the small-business people that would end up hitting the middle class. Small-business people are not big, rich guys with over 0,000.

So we've got big differences in those and many other areas.

Small Business

Q. Mr. President, I just want to say it's an honor to be in this room with you. Concerning small business, my family owns a small construction company. We do a lot of Federal highway work. And I want to know, when you're reelected, how you can help us to cut back on insurance, because insurance is eating all small businesses alive.

The President. Andy, I wish I had an easy answer for you on that one. I'm thinking here as to how that can be done. The only way it's going to be done is through more competition. Maybe that will come with more growth. But in terms of saying to you there's a Government program to do it, I must tell you, I don't think there is.

Q. Is there any way small businesses can be grouped together?

The President. Well, that's the program we're using in health care, and yes, that might be a very good approach for business. But I believe it ought to be done through the auspices of business without the Government in it. But it can be done, because when you pool like we're talking about for health care, a small grocery store in a -- somebody, a mom-and-pop shop across the street, that they all get together, and we facilitate, that prices will go down and the insurance coverage will be more extensive.

So the principle is good. I'm just not sure that I can say that the Government ought to do it. But it's a very valid principle.

1990 Budget Agreement

Q. Mr. President, in 1988, when you were running, you said, ``No new taxes.'' And then you sought to compromise with the Democrats. In hindsight I think we all see that we can't compromise with serpents. Are you willing to stand fast when you are reelected and say, ``Override my veto''?

The President. I've done that many times. And he's right. I made what I admitted was a mistake. At the time I thought it was the right thing to do, because we -- one good thing about that 1990 bill, we got a cap, a firm cap on the discretionary domestic spending.

For the kids here, two-thirds of the budget is mandatory spending; the President never gets a shot at it. It's called entitlements. One-third of it is the rest of the Government spending. It's very extensive, but it's not as much as the two-thirds.

There we did, out of that bill, we got a cap on it so that they cannot spend more than provided under the budget, which is something that's quite different. But to go with a tax increase, I think, was a mistake. And since then I have vetoed bill after bill, and I'm going to keep on vetoing, but with a new Congress I believe we can do much better.

Campaign Advertising

Q. Mr. President, first of all, I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for my family and my two daughters for what you did with Reagan's great years and what you've done for the last 4 years, first of all.

The President. Thank you, Butch.

Q. I have a two-part question. I don't presume to know what your national campaign does or knows or how they try to run their business. But it seems like on the national and local news here in this area that the Clinton-Gore commercials are running three and four to one of your commercials. So I don't know if you have people who are supposed to monitor that and take care of it -- and wait, the second part is, in the last debate, Slick Willie -- pardon the term -- when he summarized the debate, said that his differences with Perot were, number one, how long it would take to bring down the deficit; and number two, how much to tax the middle class. How could -- why has that not been made into an ad and run it, run it, run it, run it?

The President. We need this guy up there telling our -- [applause]. Butch, I don't know, Butch, the answer to the numbers of ads that are running. I'll tell you this, though: Louisiana is priority. I must and I believe I will carry this State. But I can't give you the formulation on it.

But on the major ads we are running we are spelling out as clearly as we can the differences that get to this gentleman's question about socking it to the middle class. And I did have a chance in the debates to spell that out. We're going to keep on hitting it because the fundamental philosophical difference is tax and spend versus constraint on spending and taxes. So we're going to keep hitting that theme.

And I don't know the numbers of ads that are being used, but we're not neglecting this key State. It's a battleground, and we've got to win it.

The Media

Q. I'm about to graduate from college in journalism. And you started out by saying ``Annoy the Media. Vote for Bush,'' and that sort of thing. What exactly is your problem in detail with the media, and what advice could you have for me as I start out in that field?

The President. My advice to you in the field is be objective if you want to be a journalist, if you want to be a journalist. If you want to be a columnist or an editorialist, then, of course, that's a different ball game. But I think be objective. I have never seen media having these programs at night analyzing each other, saying, are we being fair? They know very well they wouldn't be having these programs if there was some question about that.

Look, they got the last word. I'm going to pay for telling you this, because they've been all over me like ugly on a whatever it is out here. But nevertheless -- [laughter] -- but I've gotten tired of it. And everybody knows it's been unfair. But the great thing about winding up a campaign is, you get out and take your case to the people.

But seriously, there's a new wave of journalism where the journalists themselves slant the stories. And this isn't a charge, this is a fact. And you say how to do it? I would like to see more objectivity in the news columns and let them slug me in the cartoons and the editorials and the columns and these nuts that come on there on these talking heads.

I'll tell you one other thing. I'll tell you another thing while I'm at it: The minute these debates are over you have a commentator saying who won it. Why can't -- let the American people decide who won?

Ross Perot

Q. Mr. President, after you are reelected would you consider using Ross Perot as one of your advisers?

The President. Well, it depends what he would be advising on. I mean, I've got some differences with him because, for example, I don't believe that we need a 50-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax. I just don't think that is -- [applause]. But on other things, he's a successful man. He's been a big success. He's been very -- be fair about it -- he's been very helpful on the prisoner of war thing at various times. And so, you know, the door would be open to a lot of people. I'll reach out as best I can across a wide spectrum, because God knows I don't have a lock on all the answers.

But there are some differences. I don't believe we need to tax Social Security benefits. I've been the President that said Social Security is sacrosanct; leave it alone; don't mess with it. And I have a difference.

So on your question generally, look, I could take all the advice and all, especially from very successful people. So the answer is affirmative.

The Economy

Q. Mr. President, with a little more than one week until election, will your campaign focus on the continuing signs of improvement in the economy?

The President. Well, we will do it, and we need some help, because for 3 straight months, unemployment has gone down. And all I hear is: Bad news for President Bush; job market shrinks. For five straight quarters -- I'm talking quarters, a year-and-a-half, maybe six, because those figures will be out, I believe this week -- we have had growth in this economy, albeit anemic growth. It's been very slow. But there hasn't been any negative growth.

Germany was down this past month, a negative growth. Japan, we're growing twice as fast as they are. Our economy, with interest rates down and inflation down, is far better than most of the European economies. But to listen to Clinton-Gore and their friends jump on me, they say it's all my fault. I'll take the blame. I make a mistake, I admit it.

Ninety-three percent of the people are working. Now, they're afraid. They're scared they might not have that job tomorrow. So I'd like -- all I ask is a fair presentation and then an objective look at who has the best answers to stimulate the economy, particularly small business, and lift these people out of this fear that I understand they have. And I believe it can be done.

One last point: Governor Clinton can only win if he convinces everybody that things are really bad, worse than they are. He says that the American economy is something -- I don't have the exact quote, but I'll paraphrase with accuracy -- less than Germany but something more than Sri Lanka and that we are the mockery of the world. That is not right. We are the most respected nation in the world, and we are going to lead the world into recovery, if we don't go the tax-and-spend route.

Hurricane Andrew Recovery Efforts

Q. I'd like to welcome you to Lafayette. And before I ask a question, I'd like to thank you for your concern and personal help during our recent hurricane. That was quite an experience for our State.

The President. Let me interrupt just simply to say one, thank you. And I think the Federal Government did respond. But in fairness, a lot of the local officials, some Democrat, some Republican, responded masterfully. And something else happened, something else happened in that hurricane. And I saw this community; the community responded. And sometimes it's what we call the Points of Light, one citizen helping another. So I think the congratulations should very well go to the people of the community. Excuse the interruption.

Confidence in United States

Q. That leads into my question. Each evening when I get home, I watch the 6 p.m. news or the 5:30 p.m. news, and I see stories about what's wrong with our country. And yet in that same news hour, I look at the coverage of what's going on in the rest of the world and how many countries are in turmoil, and their economies are in trouble. You mentioned the Points of Light. How can we send a message out to the Americans that we live in the best country in the world? We may have our problems from time to time, but things are good here.

The President. Well, I think people have a fundamental confidence in the United States. And our Points of Light program, where we recognize a thousand -- it could be, it's just a sample of all the good that's being done for others -- I think helps in that regard. Voluntarism helps. But I don't know the answer to how to project it out across the world.

I do know this, that most countries still look to us with envy in terms of the economy and with gratitude because we do respond, like in the suffering in Bosnia and Sarajevo and the suffering in Somalia. It's the United States, it's us, it's you, your money that responds.

So we'll continue to do that in a -- showing the concern we feel whether it's for the hurricane victims. But in terms of the overall status, I think people just have to have a quiet confidence that the United States is not in decline and that with the programs we're talking about and with a new Congress we can really lift up the kids and give them a little more hope.

You know -- you didn't ask for this, but let me just say, they ask me a lot and they ask Barbara a lot, what is it that you -- maybe you're a failure, or what did you do wrong or sometimes what did you do right? One of the things that gives me the greatest sense of pride and joy, literally joy in my heart, is that the young people go to bed at night, because of a lot of the way my predecessor worked and the way we've worked, without that same fear of nuclear war. And I think that's a major accomplishment, and I think it's significant.

And yet, if you listen to these critics out there that are on my case all the time, the accomplishments in world peace and the demise of international communism, they say, don't talk about that, nobody cares. I think there's a feeling in America, well, we've done something noble, we've done something good. And it's the taxpayers and the citizens who stayed with the policy of peace through strength that finally can say, we've made the world a little better for others. And there's something there. It doesn't help the guy that's out of work, but it's good for our soul to know that there is some decency around.

All right, now, where? We're coming to this side? Yes, ma'am.

Education and Health Care

Q. Hi, Mr. President, I'm so happy you came to Lafayette to give a personal visit to us. But my concern is how do you plan to help middle class Americans with funding their child's education, their college education? And what about the soaring health costs for middle class Americans? I'm really concerned about that.

The President. Everyone is, in both areas. Education: we have doubled, almost doubled Pell grants. Education: I happen to believe for K through 12 that before you get to K, Head Start is important. We have increased dramatically the funding for the Head Start program, which is a really good program.

On education generally, we've got to revolutionize education. We simply can't go with putting a Band-Aid here and a Band-Aid there. And we have a program, I hope you've heard of it, called America 2000. And what it does is to literally -- it bypasses the educational establishment. It says to the community, we're going to help you, Federal help, to literally reinvent the schools. Some are going to want longer hours, some shorter. Some are going to want different size classrooms. Some are going to want to try a different curriculum. Some are going to want -- okay, you kids hold your nose -- to have year-round schools. Some are going to want to try it one way or another. And we've got to do that in this country. We have to innovate and make that elementary part of education better.

What was the second part? You said education and health care?

Health care: Our health care proposal provides insurance through vouchers to the poorest of the poor and to the middle class you asked about, tax credits. And it does what this gentleman was asking about in small business, but in health care it pools the insurance, which will get the cost down. It goes after malpractice. And I believe that that is the answer.

And the reason I like this one better than ``pay or play'' or the Canada system is we do have the best quality of health care, and we've got to keep that quality by keeping the Government's role to what I've said it is. I think both would bring relief to families that are really worried about health care costs.

Energy Policy

Mr. Lastrapes. One last question.

The President. My gosh, it goes fast when you're having fun.

Q. Thanks for coming, Mr. President. I'm a small independent producer and operator in this State, and I would like to focus a little bit more on the energy policy, which I also endorse. Thank you for being here on that.

I produce and operate here in this State. I live in this State. I work in this State, I work other people in this State and I spend my money in this State. My point is, one, we need to come home. And secondly, about that energy policy, how is it going to affect me here in this State? And secondly, what is it going to do? I know it's going to do a lot internationally and create jobs here and focus our economy here, but where is that going to come back on us, coming home on that?

The President. You mean the energy strategy, or what?

Q. What's the timetable on that?

The President. Well, the estimate by the IPAA, you know who they are, and they estimate 45,000 jobs. Our Secretary of Energy is here, got much more detail. But the reason they do that is we changed the alternative minimum tax. And that alternative minimum tax, as you know, just took the incentive right out of doing any drilling. It just slammed the oil industry in the effort to try to level out all taxes. It was a tremendous mistake back several years ago. So that is the biggest thing that's going to help the domestic drilling and producing business. That one won't help internationally. I mean, it will make us less dependent on foreign oil because we'll stimulate drilling and production in this country.

One thing it did not have in it that I favor is the opening up of ANWR. I think that can be done, but it doesn't help us, a small independent or an independent. But it does help the national security because it will have more energy coming from inside the United States.

And the super-environmentalists, the ones way out on the extreme, use the same argument against that that they used against the pipeline. They kept talking about those -- what was that animal? The caribou? They said if you put the Alaska pipeline in, you're going to have -- the caribou is going to be extinct. The caribou are having one hell of a time up in Alaska with that pipeline. There are more of them around than you can shake a stick at. It's the best thing that ever happened to those caribou.

And the same arguments are now being used on ANWR. And I have a good record on the environment, but it is not an extreme. I believe you need to find the balance between good strong environmental protection for the future of these kids and for growth and families.

I've got a big argument out there with Gore and Clinton on the spotted owl. I mean, I'm all for the spotted owl, a feathery, fine-looking little bird, but I'm also worried about those 30,000 families that might be thrown out of work.

Well listen, I see that the ripcord has been pulled and thousands of hands -- I'm sorry, I really do have to run. We're going back to Washington, my last night tonight in Washington before the election. Then we'll be campaigning and ending up in Houston, Texas, on Monday night.

But thank you all for this wonderful welcome. And please go to the polls. Do not neglect it. The guy that stays home is not doing his part by citizenship. And I am absolutely confident that if you go to the polls and you work the phone banks and you do the sometimes tough but always effective things in politics, that you have seen the man who is going to be President for 4 more years.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 5:50 p.m. at Acadiana High School. Dud Lastrapes, former Mayor of Lafayette and district chairman, Bush-Quayle '92, served as moderator for the session. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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