THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT UPON DEPARTURE The South Lawn
THE PRESIDENT: I would just like to make a brief statement about the acceptance by the IRA of the proposals by Prime Ministers Blair and Ahern. This is a very good day for the people of Northern Ireland. It is a truly historic step. For the first time, the IRA is clearly committed to decommissioning and a process to get there. I applaud that. I want to thank the Prime Ministers and Gerry Adams and everyone else who was involved in this. But this is a very good day.
Q Do you think it will stick?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I do. Of course, the Unionists still have to formally accept it, but this idea of storing the weapons and having the storage site monitored I think is a way for both of them to achieve their previously stated objectives, both sides. So it's a very, very good day.
Q Weren't we at this point once before, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we never got this far on the details of the implementation. We always knew, I think, that the sequencing of decommissioning and the full implementation of the accords by both sides and by the British government would be a problem. And that's really what this last year-plus has been about. For all of us who've worked on it, this is a very happy.
But I really appreciate the work done by Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern, and the fact that the IRA has accepted it and the Sinn Fein has obviously had a role in that. So this is a big step. And they've reached out to the Unionists now. Of course, I hope it will be fully accepted by all parties and we can get the government back up and go on.
Q Why do you think the two Texas senators -- did they reject your nominee because he's Hispanic, Mexican-American?
THE PRESIDENT: There are only two conceivable alternatives, I think. That, or they just don't want to confirm any judges unless they're right wing ideologues. I mean, this man had unbelievable academic credentials; he was endorsed by every conceivable professional association; he was consistent with the judges I've appointed for over seven years now; highly qualified and clearly in the mainstream of the American judiciary.
But, you know, they like judges that are more results-oriented, and it may be that they just want to use this opportunity to try to seize control of the judiciary again. For them, it's all too often a political arm of the government. But to do this to a Hispanic judge from Texas, who has made himself into an excellent lawyer and a superbly qualified person is just unconscionable. I mean, it's unbelievable.
If their committee didn't find this man qualified, I'd certainly be interested in knowing what the criteria of their committee is.
Q But you're not charging that two U.S. senators are prejudiced against Hispanics, are you?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm saying that -- you have to ask them, and people can draw their own conclusions. They may or may not be. But since he's clearly well-qualified, and everybody virtually in the world with an opinion has endorsed him, if it's not that, it's that they want somebody who's more politically malleable.
As I said, all you have to do is look at the way so many of their judges perform. They're highly results-oriented when they appoint judges. I just try to appoint people I thought would be fair and interpret the law and be balanced and represent this country. So it might be politics and ideology. But it's a terrible, terrible day for the Hispanic community and for the idea of fairness in the judiciary.
Q What's this going to do -- election, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I don't have a comment on that. I'd rather -- to me this is -- I made this appointment; this man was qualified on the merits, superbly qualified. And he's from a state with a huge Hispanic population and a big caseload, and he deserved a hearing and he deserved to be confirmed. I think it's just disgraceful.