THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT WITH SURGEON GENERAL NOMINEE DOCTOR HENRY FOSTER
The Rose Garden
8:54 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Doctor Foster and I have just had coffee. We discussed some of the issues we always discuss in terms of the health challenges our country faces. And, of course, we discussed the upcoming vote in the Senate committee on the question of his confirmation. I want to say again, he has my strong support. I believe that he should be voted out of the committee and he certainly should be confirmed by the United States Senate.
In the hearings, he clearly demonstrated his qualifications to be America's doctor. And as I have said repeatedly, I hope the American people will never forget the group of young people who came up from his home state and his home town to talk about the work he has personally done to urge them to live upright and healthy and productive lives, and the work that he had done to rescue them from difficult circumstances. If he is not qualified to be America's doctor, it's hard to imagine who would be.
There have been a lot of politics and a lot of talk back and forth on this nomination, but now the time has come to do the right thing. And I trust that the committee and, ultimately, the Senate will do the right thing and confirm Dr. Foster as Surgeon General.
Q Do you think they will -- the committee and the Senate?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe they will.
Q What do you base your optimism on?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I base my optimism on the fact that usually in this country, right prevails over political pressure over the long run. They have -- we have dragged this thing out. You know, Dr. Foster was never a political football before -- President Bush thought enough of him to make him one of the Points of Light -- and because we had a hearing, and he demonstrated in the hearing why he should be a Surgeon General and he answered all the questions.
Q Do you think you can overcome the filibuster, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Let's get out of committee first. I think you've got to get out of the committee, and then I think he certainly should be. We'll have lots of arguments to make about that in the appropriate time. I think if the majority of the United States Senate is for him he should certainly be confirmed.
Q Mr. President, it looks like the rescission bill is going to pass today. Do you still intend to veto it? And what happens next?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the answer to your question is, yes, if it passes in this form.
I want to emphasize, first of all, I am for a rescission bill that cuts this much spending. I have sent a bill to the Congress that cuts even more from the deficit. I have been very specific about it.
My objection is that having -- after I negotiated with the Senate on spending reductions, we got politics as usual, congress went behind closed doors and cut a lot of education and training out and put some pork in the bill for specific congressmen and specific congressional districts and states. That's the old politics. What we're doing here now is new and different, and we can't continue to do it.
So if the bill comes to me in the same form, without the restoration of the education and training, yes, I will veto it. Well, what happens next? Then -- well, they have a bill right now which they could vote on today and send to me before they go on recess, which would cut the spending, restore the education by not protecting the pork. Now, that's my position. And that's what I think should be done.
If instead I get the bill and there's a veto and they go home for their break, then when they come back, we ought to get together and restore the education and the training funds, reduce the deficit by as much or even more than is in this present bill, and then let them send it to me and I will sign it. I am for making a down payment on the deficit reduction in this rescission bill.
I certainly want to get the money out to Oklahoma City, to finish our obligations in the California earthquake, to deal with the floods in the south, and of course, we've got some other problems in other parts of the country, to fulfill the commitment of the United States on the Jordan issue as part of our Middle East peace process. I want to do all of that -- to cut the spending and to get that money out there. But if we're going to be cutting around here, we cannot afford pork protection, politics as usual. We have to do what we're going to do in the open, not go behind closed doors and change all the priorities. We need to do this in a disciplined, good way.
So that is my position. It is very clear and it has nothing to do with deficit reduction. I am for as much -- I will support more spending reduction, but not in this form.
Q Do you support, sir -- do you support NATO air strikes around Sarajevo today?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, my position is that NATO should be prepared to react when our commanders on the ground need them. And you know, I've been -- of all of our NATO allies, the United States has been the most vigorous proponent of the use of NATO air strikes in all appropriate circumstances. And we've laid those out repeatedly.
Q Mr. President, after still one more attack on the White House, are you starting to think, why me?
THE PRESIDENT: No. (Laughter.) I do think -- first of all, the American people should know that the system here worked and the Secret Service did a terrific job. And the two agents in question immediately put themselves in harm's way to do their job. And the system worked exactly as it is supposed to work. And the whole rest of the system worked. It was amazing. It worked, it worked quickly. And it's something that every citizen of this country can be very proud of.
I, to answer your other question, I don't, no. I just think that in a couple of cases, we've had people who, for their own personal reasons, have seen this as a symbol of something that they could attach themselves to in some way or another.
I do -- I will say again that in our country today, we all need to try to reach out to each other and to talk and to reach across our divides when a lot of people out there may be like this gentlemen, in trouble, and maybe can be brought back just by people reaching out to them and by trying to avoid letting things get to that point. And certainly I think that about the political rhetoric and dialogue.
So I hope that we'll take another opportunity to reexamine, all of us, how we might make this country work better and have more thoughtful words, and try to keep people from getting to extreme positions in their lives. But, in this case, I don't feel badly at all. The Secret Service did a terrific job, and I'm very proud of them.
Q Do you have no fears?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:02 A.M. EDT