THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHONE CONVERSATION WITH ASTRONAUTS OF DISCOVERY CREW
The Oval Office
4:52 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello.
COMMANDER WETHERBEE: Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I didn't know you were on the line. Congratulations.
COMMANDER WETHERBEE: Well, thank you very much, sir. And it's an honor to be talking to you. Thanks for calling.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad to do it. We're all following you with great anticipation, and we're all so impressed. You know, this really proves, I think, that Russians and Americans can work together and that we can make this international space station project successful. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the work that all of you have done to that end.
COMMANDER WETHERBEE: Well, we agree, sir. What I kept thinking as we were rendezvousing on Mir was it's a great world. They have a beautiful spaceship and we have a beautiful spaceship built by Americans. We met the people that built their spaceship. They love their space program and we love our space program, and I think together it will be a lot better.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're confident that it will. As you know, this whole mission is a number of firsts. You're the first person to ever command our efforts to rendezvous with a Russian space vehicle, and I know that Eileen Collins is the first woman ever to pilot a space shuttle. So, Eileen, I suppose you have literally shown young women all across the world they can fly as high as their dreams will take them.
ASTRONAUT COLLINS: Yes. I'd like to say I think this is one of the greatest jobs in the world. And for any young people out there, if you work hard enough, you can always, always reach your dreams.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you certainly proved that. Look at that. We enjoy watching the microphone there. (Laughter.)
I want to ask Dr. Harris to pick it up as it flies toward him. I want to -- he's going to set another milestone by becoming the first African American to walk in space. So you'll be floating on air, but be sure you come back.
DR. HARRIS: I'm really looking forward to that a couple of days from now, but I know I won't be -- I maybe the first, but I won't be the last.
THE PRESIDENT: No, you won't be the last. We'll have a lot more if you as an example.
I'd also like to say something to our Russian partner in space, Vladimir Titov, who is one of the world's most experienced space travelers, and he's the first cosmonaut to see the Mir from an American spacecraft.
So I'd like to give you a chance to say anything you'd like to the American people, Mr. Titov.
COSMONAUT TITOV: And good day, Mr. President. Thank you very much. And I'm very happy of the possibility to have this great flight. And right now, our press conference, our organization listened on the Station Mir, and the crew on board Station Mir sent for you great hello.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. I want to say to all of you again, this is very exciting for us. You know, the Vice President's here with me, along with Dan Goldin, and our Science Advisor, Dr. Jack Gibbons. And we have supported this space program so strongly, and it's been, as you know, somewhat controversial in the United States in the past, but I think that people all over our country and all over the world will be seeing you today and will say, you know, this is something worth doing. All of you have made us very proud. I can't thank you enough.
COMMANDER WETHERBEE: Well, we thank you very much for your support, Mr. President. We know you've done a lot of work over the last several years in getting us this far. There's a lot of people around our country and a lot of people in Russia that we owe a great deal of thanks and, of course, it starts right at the very top. So thank you very much for your support.
THE PRESIDENT: You're welcome. and of course we want to say hello to Michael and Janice, too, with whom we haven't talked. We're proud of all of you. Have a wonderful time, and come home safe and sound.
Give a speech. We're all --
ASTRONAUT VOSS: -- that you saw today. Jim Wetherbee does a great job of flying this vehicle, and we're looking forward to seeing his landing.
THE PRESIDENT: I'll bet you are. (Laughter.)
COMMANDER WETHERBEE: Sir, it will be a very good one, I'm quite sure.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, come home to us. We're proud of you. Good-bye. (Applause.)
That's the best connection we've had, I think -- wasn't it?
Q Would you like to be up there?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I would. That's pretty impressive.
Q How are you going to salvage Dr. Foster's nomination?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, we're going to have hearings and he's going to go forward. If the facts are no different than I understand them to be, I don't understand why he would even be in trouble.
Q How hard are you willing to fight for his confirmation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to fight for him. Like I said, if the facts are as I understand them to be, here's a man who has delivered -- what -- 10,000 babies, who was recognized by President Bush for his work in fighting teenage pregnancies, and in the process, reducing the number of abortions -- if what he has done is what he has said he has done, I don't think that is disqualifying. And it is, after all, the law of the land.
So I'm going to be -- I'm going to be very interested to see how the hearings unfold and what arguments people would give against the person who has plainly devoted his life to bringing babies into the world in a healthy and happy condition, and then try to make sure they live successful lives, that they do not have children prematurely, that they do not engage in the kind of conduct that's caused so much trouble in our society today.
I'm impressed with his career and with his record, and I think he'll do well.
Q What do you hear from baseball?
THE PRESIDENT: We're working -- I just keep telling them to play ball, it's time to go. You know, this is a -- it's just a few hundred folks trying to figure out how to divide nearly $2 billion. They ought to be able to figure that out in time for the rest of America to enjoy this baseball season.
Q Do you have any hope that it will be finished tonight?
THE PRESIDENT: I just don't know. I don't know. I don't have a recent enough update to know that. But they're working, at least, and talking, and that's hopeful.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END5:55 P.M. EST