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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Bush Holds Meeting with Three Judicial Nominees

Aired November 13, 2003 - 08:44   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: In a moment here, we're going to hear from the president, talking about three issues. One is Iraq, this huge argument between the U.S. and European countries that developed earlier in the week. And also the case of three judicial nominees right now being held up by the Senate. Republicans continue that marathon talk session in the Senate. They want to go 30 hours to draw attention to the issue that they say these three judges deserve an up- down vote.
Waiting on the videotape. Here it is now from the White House a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll answer a few questions in a minute.

I have the job of nominating people to serve on the federal benches. I have handled my duty in the right way, by picking superb men and women to serve our country as federal judges, people with integrity and honor, people of high intelligence, three of whom are with me today: Carolyn Kuhl, Janice Brown, Priscilla Owen. Really represent the best of America; superb, superb women. And yet these three women are being denied a chance to serve on the bench because of ugly politics in the United States Senate. And these folks deserve an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. If they get an up-or- down vote on the Senate floor, they will be confirmed because the majority of justices believe they should serve. And yet a few senators are playing politics. It's wrong and it's shameful and it's hurting the system.

I have told these three ladies I will stand with them until the bitter end because they're the absolute right pick for their respective positions. And the senators who are playing politics with their nominations are acting shamefully.

And I want to thank you all for being such stalwarts for justice and fairness and decency. And I appreciate you standing here.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you, Mr. President.

BUSH: Let me answer a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, could you tell us your ideas about how you're going to speed up the transfer of power in Iraq?

BUSH: Yes. QUESTION: Are you interested in setting up, for example, an interim government before a constitution is written?

BUSH: What I'm interested in doing is working with Ambassador Bremer and the governing council to work on a plan that will encourage the Iraqis to assume more responsibility. Ambassador Bremer sat right here yesterday and talked to me about the Iraqis' desire to be more involved in the governance of their country.

BUSH: And that's a positive development, because precisely that's what we want. We want the Iraqis to be more involved in the governance of their country.

And so Ambassador Bremer, with my instructions, is going back to talk to the governing council to develop a strategy. And he'll report back after he's consulted with the very people that we want to assume more responsibility.

QUESTION: What's your timetable for deciding on whether to lift the steel sanctions? And how far do you think the U.S. industry has gone now in (INAUDIBLE)?

BUSH: Well, that's exactly what I'm reviewing now.

Part of -- the decision was based upon the International Trade Commission's finding that our industry had been harmed and therefore I imposed some tariffs in order to allow for a restructuring of the industry.

I am in the process of reviewing the extent to which the industry has been restructured. I'll make a decision within a reasonable period of time.

Yes, Stretch, excuse me. I couldn't tell if you wanted to ask a question or not today. Is this about the judges?

QUESTION: Yeah.

BUSH: OK.

QUESTION: If I had time, I would.

What are you prepared to do about the fact and how worried are you about the fact that ordinary Iraqis appear to be more irritated with the presence of U.S. troops and more supportive of Iraqi insurgents?

BUSH: You know, first of all, the goal of the terrorists, whether they be Baathists or mujahedeen fighters or Al Qaida-type fighters, is to create terror and fear amongst average Iraqis, is to create the conditions where people are just so fearful for their lives that they cannot think positively about freedom. That's their goal.

Our goal, of course, is to continue to work with those Iraqi citizens who understand that freedom is a precious commodity, those who understand that there is a hopeful life possible in a part of the world where a lot of hope has been diminished in the past. And that's the struggle. That's the struggle.

And we're going to prevail because, one, we've got a good strategy to deal with these killers; two, I believe by far the vast majority of Iraqis do understand the stakes and do want their children to grow up in a peaceful environment and do want their children going to a school and do want to be able to live a free life that is prosperous.

BUSH: That's what I believe.

Recently I was told by -- for example, Bremer was telling me about a survey done by an American firm in Baghdad, for example, and it said that by far the vast majority of people understand that if America were to leave and the terrorists were to prevail in their desire to drive us out, the country'd fall into chaos and no one wants that.

And so, I'm confident we'll prevail in the long run and I'm confident we're doing good work right now.

Yes? Do you have a follow-up on the judges?

QUESTION: Yes. Well, you know, the Democrats they have confirmed 98 percent of your judges; by focusing on the few that they are opposing, that you're picking essentially an unfair fight.

BUSH: Well, our circuit courts remain in some cases dangerously vacant. And here are three cases where people are being treated unfairly.

My question is why won't they give these three ladies an up-or- down vote? Where's the justice? These are eminently qualified people. These are three women who represent the best of American juris prudence. And why won't they let them come to the floor? If they're so fair, bring them up to a vote today. Let these three nominees get onto the floor of the United States Senate for an up-or- down vote and then I will listen to whether or not they're fair or not.

Yes, last question and then I've got to go.

QUESTION: Are you concerned, Mr. President, that the massive amount of protesters that are going to be in London in next week will undercut your message of unity?

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I am so pleased to be going to a country which says that people are allowed to express their mind. That's fantastic. You know freedom is a beautiful thing and the fact that people are willing to come out and express themselves says I'm going to a great country.

And secondly, I don't expect everybody in the world to agree with the positions I've taken, but certainly those should agree with the goals of the United States which is peace and freedom. You see, we believe that freedom is not America's gift to the world, we believe freedom is the Almighty's gift to everybody in the world.

BUSH: We believe free societies are peaceful societies. We believe in human justice and human dignity and human rights.

We cry when we hear stories about people being tortured, women being raped in rape rooms. We weep when we discover mass graves of innocent Iraqis.

We understand that tyranny is not the form of government that will bring hope and justice. And therefore we're not only willing to defend our own security, we're also willing to defend the rights of others.

Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: That's the word from the White House. Again, the three topics, the steel tariffs, the judicial nominees flanking the president there in the White House, urging their up/down vote in the Senate as that marathon talk-a-thon continues on Capitol Hill.

But on the topic of Iraq, we know Paul Bremer is at the White House over the past few days, the president saying that Paul Bremer tells the president the Iraqi governing Council wants more authority and they want it soon. And now he's going back to Baghdad to try to develop a strategy with that council. The president saying, and I'm quoting, "I am confident we will prevail," regarding Iraq. That's the word from the White House.

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