President Discusses Iraq, Economy, Gas Prices in Cabinet Meeting


Wednesday May 19, 2004

Remarks by the President After Cabinet Meeting
The Cabinet Room

12:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for coming. I've just met with my Cabinet to discuss a variety of issues. We spent a lot of time talking about the situation in Iraq. I detailed our plan and our strategy to transfer full sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June the 30th. I reminded them that a lot of progress has been made already toward that transfer. Eleven ministries are now run by Iraqi citizens -- I might add, capably run by Iraqi citizens.

I discussed with the Cabinet the plans of Mr. Brahimi, the U.N. representative who is consulting with Iraqi leadership and Iraqi citizenry, as well as our own government officials there about the interim government and who will occupy the positions of responsibility in that government. I anticipate in the next couple of weeks decisions will be made toward who will be the president and the vice presidents, as well as the prime minister and other ministers.

Thirdly, we talked about the U.N. Security Council resolution, which is -- the Secretary is moving forward. He's in consultations with Security Council members -- a Security Council resolution which will embrace the new interim government, and the need to provide security so that free elections will happen as promised to the Iraqi people.

We've got hard work to do. I told my Cabinet we've got hard work to do. After all, we saw the vivid savagery of the enemy; the decapitation of a U.S. citizen reminds us all about the barbaric nature of those who are trying to stop progress toward freedom. We understand the nature of that enemy. We also understand the nature of our brave troops. They're motivated, they're skilled, they're well-trained. They will accomplish the mission.

Then I talked about the economy. We're pleased with the economic progress here in America. After all, the growth rates are high. New jobs are being created; 1.1 million new jobs since last August have been created by the entrepreneurs and small business owners and risk-takers of America. And that's positive.

I am concerned about the price of gasoline at the pump. I fully understand how that affects American consumers, how it crimps the budgets of moms and dads who are trying to provide for their families, how it affects the truck driver, how it affects the small business owner.

I anticipated this three years ago. I asked my team to put together a strategy to make us less dependent upon foreign sources of energy. I submitted that plan to the United States Congress. Now we want people to have it both ways, just like they've tried to have it both ways over the last couple of years. On the one hand, they decry the price at the pump, and on the other hand, they won't do anything about it. They won't take action. Congress needs to pass the energy plan.

We had a very interesting discussion about capacity. For example, had ANWR been passed -- had it not been vetoed in the past, we anticipate an additional million barrels of oil would have been coming out of that part of the world, which would obviously have a positive impact for today's consumers.

And so it's time for some action here to get us less dependent. They need to pass that which I have submitted to Congress, so this country will become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

All in all, we're upbeat about the spread of freedom and peace and the ability for our fellow citizens to find work.

Let me answer two questions, starting with Lindlaw.

Q Thanks, Mr. President. You've called for maximum restraint from both sides in the Middle East. Today, Israel's military acknowledged they fired four tank shells, machine guns, a missile into a crowd of demonstrators. One, was it justified? Two, what are you telling them and what are you hearing?

THE PRESIDENT: I continue to urge restraint. It is essential that people respect innocent life, in order for us to achieve peace. And we'll get clarification from the government. I haven't had a chance to speak to the government; I'll be briefed. But I am -- I will continue to speak out about the need for all parties to respect innocent life in the Middle East.


Q Sir, Senator Kerry has suggested halting shipments to the emergency oil reserves. Your energy bill is a long-term strategy. What are some short-term steps that can be taken?

THE PRESIDENT: If people had acted on my energy bill when I submitted it three years ago, we would be in a much better situation today.

Secondly, we will not play politics with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That Petroleum Reserve is in place in case of major disruptions of energy supplies to the United States. The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve plays -- would put America in a dangerous position in the war on terror. We're at war. We face a tough and determined enemy on all fronts. And we must not put ourselves in a worse position in this war. And playing politics with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would do just that.

Thank you.

END 12:11 P.M. EDT


Copyright 2003  Q Madp