Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Decider Says You're Just Feeling "UNSETTLED"

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, on your immigration plan, Republican critics have been outspoken. The California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called the deployment of National Guard troops a mere Band-Aid, and House Republicans who are key to this debate have also been outspoken.

This is what Charlie Norwood said of Georgia. Quote, “The people in my district are ready to throw anybody and everybody out of office that won‘t bring this nightmare to a stop. The plan the president proposed,” he said, “is not what the American people want.” Why are conservative Republican critics wrong?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I get criticized from the right and the left, David. There are some who say you should be for amnesty, which I think is a mistake. There are some who, I guess, they‘re for deportation, which I don‘t think will work.

What I‘m for is a comprehensive border plan that recognizes that we can—we need to increase the Border Patrol, and until we get 6,000 additional agents stood up, there needs to be National Guard here to help the people who are doing the job down here.

And we need fencing along parts of the border, we need infrared, we need motion detectors, UAVs, all aimed to helping to secure this border. But you cannot secure the border, in my judgment, without a temporary worker plan, because we‘ve got people coming here to work, who are doing jobs Americans aren‘t doing. They‘re sneaking across the border.

It seems like if we‘re trying to enforce the border, it makes sense to let them come here on a temporary basis to do jobs Americans aren‘t doing, provided they can pass a criminal background check.

GREGORY: So what do you do to get House Republicans on board?

BUSH: Well, the first thing is to get a bill out the Senate. You‘re

talking about the House Republicans. We got a—they‘ve got a bill out

GREGORY: But that‘s where the conference will be. That‘s where it will be hardest.

BUSH: Let‘s get it out of the Senate first. First thing‘s first. A lot of people didn‘t think there would be a bill coming out of the Senate. And now it looks like they‘re going to get a comprehensive bill out of the Senate and we‘ll get it in conference and continue to work the issue.

GREGORY: Let me ask you about your leadership. In the most recent survey, your disapproval rating is now one point lower than Richard Nixon‘s before he resigned the presidency. You‘re laughing, but ...

BUSH: I‘m not laughing, I just ...

GREGORY: ... why do you think that is?

BUSH: Because we‘re at war, and war unsettles people. We got—listen, we‘ve got a great economy. We‘ve added 5.2 million jobs in the last two-and-a-half years. But there‘s a—but people are unsettled. They don‘t look at the economy and say life is good. They know we‘re at war and I‘m not surprised that people are unsettled because of war.

The enemy has got a powerful tool, and that is to get on your TV screen by killing innocent people, and my job is to continue to remind the people it‘s worth it. We‘re not going to retreat hastily. You know, we‘re not going to pull out of there before the job is done and we‘ve got a plan for victory.

GREGORY: But they‘re just not unsettled, sir. They disapprove of the job you‘re doing.

BUSH: That‘s unsettled.

GREGORY: That‘s how you see it.

BUSH: Yes, I do. I see it as the war is difficult and I understand that. I understand why people wonder whether we could win the war or not, but there‘s a big difference between some of us who believe that we‘re doing the right thing in moving forward and a group of people who want to pull out before the job is done.

GREGORY: Do you think it‘s possible that like Nixon and Watergate, that the American people have rendered a final judgment of disapproval on you and your war in Iraq?

BUSH: Of course not. I have got two-and-a-half years left to be president of the United States, and I intend to get he a lot done, including immigration reform. Yesterday I signed the extension of tax relief. We‘re making good progress on cutting this deficit in half.

I have got a lot to do, and I‘m going to continue to work with the Congress to get things done on behalf of the American people. We‘ve got a positive agenda that is making a difference in people‘s lives.

I‘m also not going to retreat in the face of adverse polls. I‘m going to do what I think is right and complete the mission in Iraq, and I believe a free Iraq is going to make the world a better place.

GREGORY: Let me ask you a little something about your style. You said, and have said in this immigration debate that you want to find rational middle ground on this issue. What other areas can the American people expect you to urge a more centrist approach to policy?

BUSH: Well, you know, I think cutting people‘s taxes is rational, particularly since it‘s work. It‘s caused the economy to grow.

GREGORY: Is that middle ground?

BUSH: I think it is but, you know, you‘re the person—you‘re the people that put labels on people. I don‘t. And I think—I said rational, and I think rational—cutting taxes is rational. I think keeping taxes low is rational because it‘s working.

I think the Medicare bill was rational middle ground. I mean, we‘ve said to seniors the system wasn‘t working, we‘re going to reform it. You‘ve now got a prescription drug benefit that helps low-income seniors in particular. No longer do seniors have to choose between food and medicine. To me, that‘s—another way to look at it is just common sense policies.

GREGORY: You mentioned two-and-a-half years. What‘s the momentum changer in your mind for your presidency, to turn it around?

BUSH: You know, I guess Iraq. I mean, that‘s what colors everybody‘s vision, it seems like. People are worried about Iraq and when people see progress in Iraq, they‘ll realize that we can win. Most Americans want us to win. They want us to do well if Iraq. They don‘t want to retreat. And a unity government will help in Iraq, and the fact that more Iraqis are in the fight will help.

GREGORY: Will the finished product be as you envisioned it there?

BUSH: In Iraq? Yes, it will, a nation that can sustain itself, govern itself, defend itself, and a strong ally in the war on terror. And we will have denied safe haven to al Qaeda.

GREGORY: Thank you, Mr. President.

BUSH: David, thank you.


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