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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Cabinet Meeting

Aired October 7, 2003 - 11:58   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're awaiting that videotape, the audio, the sound from the president of the United States. He's been meeting at the White House with his cabinet, a regularly scheduled meeting, the president going over a wide range of issues on this day, a day that there will be a recall election here in California. The polls now wide open. We are anticipating the president might be asked about that. We'll see what the president has to say in his statement and question and answer session.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... security matters and economic security matters.

We're making good progress on the economy. Looks like we're growing, and that's important. And last month people are finding work.

But we're not satisfied with the progress that is being made. We talked about ways to continue the economic vitality of our country. The tax cuts need to be made permanent so there's certainly in the tax code.

We need an energy plan so that our businesses and employers, both large and small, know there's a reliable source of energy available.

We talked about trade and this administration's commitment to free and fair trade; that administrative officials will continue to press certain countries to open up their markets to U.S. product.

We talked about the need to have an associated (ph) health care plan so that our small businesses have affordable health care.

And finally, we talked about the need for legal reform. There's just too many lawsuits -- junk lawsuits which drive up the cost of health care.

And in a lot of these matters the Congress needs to join with administration to pass good law so that the American people can find work. We're an optimistic administration, because good things are beginning to happen in our country. But we will not rest until everybody who's looking for work can find a job.

I want to thank the members of the Cabinet for serving our nation with such class and distinction, and I'd be glad to answer some questions, starting with the AP man. QUESTION: Thanks, Mr. President. Back in August you said you thought Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a good governor. We've learned some new things about him. It's Election Day. Still feel that way?

I feel like the California people are going to make a wise decision; that they are now in charge of the process.

And it looks like there's a pretty active turnout on the absentee ballots, and people are taking this seriously. And I have no idea how the election is going to turn out.

QUESTION: Is he the kind of guy you could work with?

If he's the governor, I'll work with him, absolutely.

And he's obviously waged a spirited campaign. He's captured a lot of people's imagination. And I haven't been paying that close attention to it, because I got a job to do here in Washington. But the process is about over. The people of California are going to speak. And I look forward to seeing what the results are.

I may not stay up for -- until -- all night long, but I'll be reading your stories first thing in the morning.

QUESTION: Mr. President, beyond the actual leak of classified information, there are reports that someone in the administration was trying to, after it was already out, actively spread the story, even calling Ambassador Wilson's wife "fair game." Are you asking your staff would anyone do that? Would it be wrong? Are you going to fire (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

Well, the investigators will ask our staff about what people did or did not do. This is a town of -- that -- where a lot of people leak, and I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information. And I want to know, I want to know the truth. I want to see to it that the truth prevails. And I hope we can get this investigation done in a thorough way, as quickly as possible.

But the Justice Department will conduct this investigation. The professionals in the Justice Department will be involved in ferreting out the truth. These are citizens who will -- were here before this administration arrived and will be here after this administration leaves. And they'll come to the bottom of this and we'll find out the truth. And that'll be -- that's a good thing for this administration.

QUESTION: A survey of economists that we published yesterday found that -- between 40 and 50 of them -- they think that the growth rate early next year may only been in the low 3 percent range and that's below the 4 percent range that you and your economic advisers have said will be needed to create the kind of jobs that will keep the growth going.

QUESTION: Does that concern you? Do you think those (OFF-MIKE)

Well, one thing is certain that the growth rate's going to be positive, as opposed to the negative growth rate we inherited.

In other words, we came into office and dealt with a recession, then dealt with attacks, then dealt with corporate scandals, dealt with the march to war, all of which affected the confidence of the people. And we put forth a very aggressive tax plan, because we believe that that is the best way to help this country grow out of recession.

I've just outlined other things that need to happen, in order to make sure that the people are able to find work.

I am not very good about, you know, guessing about the economy. There's all kinds of experts. You'll probably find all kinds of opinions. But I do know that the actions we have taken were necessary actions and they were good actions for economic vitality and growth.

The Congress needs to work with us for an energy plan. They need to work with us for good liability reform.

We will continue to press to open up foreign markets. I'm a free trader, but I'm also a fair trader. And I believe our manufacturing sector, for example, must be treated fairly in foreign markets.

We need an energy plan. We've debated an energy plan for too long. This administration has put forth a very good energy plan.

And Congress needs to quit debating the idea, get the differences reconciled and get a bill to my desk. I'm confident Senator Domenici and Representative Tauzin want to do just that.

So there are other things to do to get this economy moving and we'll see what happens. I will tell you, I'm optimistic and I'm optimistic because things are improving. But there's a lot more to do.

QUESTION: Mr. President, how confident are you the investigation will find the leakers in the CIA case? And what do you think of Sharon's comment that Israel will (OFF-MIKE)

This is the dual quetion.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm trying to figure out if I want to answer either of them, since you violated a major rule.

(LAUGHTER)

At least it's not a cell phone.

(LAUGHTER)

You tell me: How many sources have you had that's leaked information that you've exposed or had been exposed? Probably none. I mean, this town is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official.

Now, this is a large administration and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea.

I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators; full disclosure and everything we know that the investigators will find out.

I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out.

In terms of Prime Minister Sharon, I have constantly said Israel should defend herself, but I've also told, as I mentioned to you at the press availability yesterday, that it's important for the prime minister to avoid escalation.

The decisions he makes to defend her people are valid decisions. We would be doing the same thing. This country will defend our people.

But we are also mindful when we make decisions, as the prime minister should be, that he fully understand the consequences of any decision. And that while he defends his people, that there is not -- you know, that he doesn't create the conditions necessary that would cause the escalation -- the violence to escalate.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) strike on Syria?

The prime minister must defend his country. It's essential. This is a country which recently was attacked by a suicider that killed innocent children and women, people that were celebrating in a restaurant. And he must do what is necessary to protect himself.

At the same time, as I said yesterday and will continue to say to Ariel Sharon, avoid escalating violence.

Listen, thank you all. Anybody else did not get a question in this vaunted press corps?

(CROSSTALK)

Listen, I'm excited about the playoffs.

I was tuned in after the state dinner that was somewhat covered in the press yesterday.

(LAUGHTER)

But it was -- you know, it's good for baseball. My team, of course, was eliminated in June.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you all. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The president of the United States former, co-owner of the Texas Rangers, laughing about the dismal record that that team had, although expressing same about the baseball situation now with the playoffs moving.

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