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8:13 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank the leaders of the Congress for coming down for breakfast this morning. We had a really good discussion, starting with the progress we're making on the war against terrorism. I briefed the members about the fact that we're beginning to make progress in freezing assets -- freezing assets of the al Qaeda organization.
I also talked about that the net we're casting is wide and strong, that we've put together an international coalition that is impressive and that the members of that coalition are staying steady.
It is my desire to make sure that, as this war unfolds, that the leaders of both the Senate and the House are fully informed of what the government is doing. I can't think of a better way to conduct foreign policy than to consult regularly with the leadership.
We also talked about airport security. I told the members that I'm going to be going to Reagan Airport today to announce its opening, and that we need to work together to make sure that the package that's evolving in the House and Senate is put together pretty quickly.
We talked about economic stimulus. There is agreement that we've got to come together with a vision about how big the package ought to be, to make sure that we affect the economy in the short-run in a positive way, but don't affect it in the long-run in a negative way.
We agree on principles, that we've got to make sure that demand for U.S. products stay strong; demand for products throughout our economic stays strong. Therefore, we talked about ways to stimulate demand. We understand that investment has fallen off in the corporate sector, and we talked about constructive ways to stimulate investments so that the manufacturing sector, for example, of the United States has got some added wind, in order to grow, to make sure that people find work. We talked about worker displacement. And we had a good discussion.
And there's one thing that the American people must understand, that as we work through these important subjects, we will do so in a spirit of cooperation and consultation.
And, finally, all of us want to get a budget done as quickly possible, get the appropriations process done. We're making very good progress on coming up with the size of the ultimate budget. And once that's decided, we pledged to work together to get the appropriations bills moving as quickly as possible. That would be a welcome relief from the old budget battles of the past.
And I'm most pleased with the conversations we've had. I admired all four Leaders prior to September 11th; I admire them even more after September 11th, because they're dedicated patriots, anxious to bring our government together to make sure that we respond to the American people in a positive way.
I'll answer a couple questions.
Q Mr. President, is the time running out on the Taliban regime? Are you prepared, sir, to recognize the Palestinian state as a part of a broader Middle East peace process, itself?
THE PRESIDENT: Those are two questions, Major.
Q It's been a while since I've seen you.
THE PRESIDENT: Don't take it personally.
Q I never do, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: The idea of a Palestinian state has always been part of a vision, so long as the right to Israel to exist is respected.
But first things first, when it comes to the Middle East, we've got to get to Mitchell, the Mitchell Accord. Senator Mitchell put together a viable blueprint that most of the world agrees with is a necessary path to ultimately solving the problems of the Middle East. And we are working diligently with both sides to encourage the reduction of violence so that meaningful discussions can take place.
Secondly, there is no time table for the Taliban, just like there are no negotiations. I have said that the Taliban must turn over al Qaeda organization living within Afghanistan, and must destroy the terrorist camps. And they must do so, otherwise there will be a consequence. There are no negotiations, there's no calendar. We'll act on our time, and we'll do it in a manner that not only secures the United States as best as possible, but makes the freedom in the world more likely to exist in the future.
Q Mr. President, to follow up on the Middle East, sir. Were you prepared to support the idea of a Palestinian state before the United Nations conference that was canceled?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I read all kinds of speculation about what this administration was or was not going to do. What I'm telling you is, is that we are fully committed to the Mitchell process. And we are fully committed to working with both sides to bring the level of terror down to an acceptable level for both. And I fully understand that progress is made in centimeters in the Middle East. And we believe we're making some progress.
Q How big a stimulus package do you think is needed, sir, and what do you think is the best way to stimulate demand?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the definition -- a stimulus package big enough -- that what is needed is big enough to get the economy moving in the short-run, but small enough so it doesn't affect long-term interest rates, for example. We are -- all of us are listening to the voices of leading economists. We're all open for suggestions. The best way to stimulate demand is to give people some money, so they can spend it.
Q Mr. President, out of this terror comes fear.
THE PRESIDENT: What? Out of what?
Q Out of this terror on September 11th comes fear. Many Americans are still gripped with this fear, and they're buying gas masks in exuberant numbers. And they're also looking to -- for anthrax vaccinations. What do you say to those people? Is their fear warranted?
THE PRESIDENT: I say that America ought to be on alert, but we need to get back to business. That's why I'm opening up Reagan Airport. That's why we had Cabinet members get on commercial airlines over the weekend. The good news is, is that some of the load factors on American airlines looked like they increased over the weekend. Americans know their government is doing everything they can to disrupt any terrorist activity that may occur. We're following every lead, we're interrogating every possible suspect. We're on full alert in America.
But the good news is, Americans also realize that in order to fight terrorism, they're going to go about their lives in a normal way. And Americans are.
Q Are we in a recession, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Are we in a what?
Q Are we in a recession?
THE PRESIDENT: You let the number-crunchers tell us that. But there's no question our economy is hurt as a result of September 11th. And the Leaders here understand that. These members go back to their districts and hear the plight of families who have been laid off. I, of course, hear it all the time, as well. And we're going to do something about it. That's exactly what these discussions are about.
In terms of how you call it, what the numbers look like, we've got statisticians who will be crunching the numbers and let us know exactly where we stand. But we don't need numbers to tell us people are hurting.
MR. JOHNDROE: Thank you all very much.
THE PRESS: Thank you very much, sir.
END 8:22 A.M. EDT
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