THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT BEGINNING OF CABINET MEETING The Cabinet Room
3:16 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, first of all, I called this Cabinet meeting in part just to thank publicly the members of this Cabinet for eight extraordinary years of service. A number of them have been with me the whole way. And for all of them, I am very grateful.
The policies we have worked on together have been very good for America. They have sparked the longest economic expansion in history, our welfare rolls were cut in half; We have crime at a 28-year low; and more land has been protected in the lower 48 states than at any time since Theodore Roosevelt's administration almost a century ago. This is a record that all of them can be proud of, and only a small fraction of the record that they established.
Our country is now moving forward. And in the final weeks of this administration, we are committed to maintaining a steady course. That means providing a smooth transition to the next president, whether it is Vice President Gore or Governor Bush. As you know, an appropriate legal process is now underway. That process will take a few more days to play itself out. Our job is to do what we've done for eight years now: to focus on the business at hand.
That is why I'm signing today an executive order creating a transition-coordinating council. The council will provide the president-elect's team with coordinated services, especially regarding personnel matters.
This action and other efforts by the Cabinet will well ensure that we are as prepared as we can possibly be for an orderly transition to the new administration. Meanwhile, we will be doing what we can to get ready when Congress comes back to town in a few days.
Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, do you think Governor Bush was presumptuous in declaring victory last night?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think I should comment on what he or the Vice President says. There is an election challenge. Both of them have litigation involved; at least one case involves the U.S. Supreme Court and the election challenge will play itself out.
I will say what I have said from the first day. In all this interplay, it is easy to lose what is really important, which is the integrity of the voter -- Every single vote. On election day, every person who voted had a vote that counted just as much as mine. So they have to sort that out in Florida -- whose vote should be counted, can every vote be counted; if every vote can't be counted, is there a good reason why you're not counting that vote.
And I think those are the things that will be resolved in this election challenge, and I think we just have to let -- both sides are very well represented, and they all both have litigation and we'll just watch it play itself out.
Q Mr. President, so you don't accept Florida's certification of George Bush as the winner?
THE PRESIDENT: It's not up for me to accept or reject. There is a legal process here. Both of them have filed lawsuits, and the Supreme Court of Florida, when they issued their opinion a couple of days ago, or a few days ago, actually anticipated a challenge. And if you read the opinion, they explicitly acknowledged that it was almost a certainty. So let's just watch this happen. It will be over soon, and we will be ready for the transition.
Q Mr. President, to what extent were you or was anyone in the White House staff involved in the decision by the General Services Administration to withhold transition funding from the Bush-Cheney team?
THE PRESIDENT: I was not involved in it at all. And as far as I know, no one else here was. But there is a procedure that we actually went back and reviewed the congressional deliberations on this legislation. And I think the General Services Administration believes that it cannot offer transition assistance to both of them, which is what I would otherwise be inclined to do.
I think they're doing what they think the law requires. But I, personally -- I can't answer for anyone else in the White House, but I was personally not involved in it. I think they're trying to do what they think the law requires while this election challenge plays itself out. It won't be long now.
Q Have you spoken to the Vice President at all, or --
THE PRESIDENT: I talked to him on Thanksgiving, called him and wished him and his family a Happy Thanksgiving.
Q But he hasn't called you for advice or anything?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
END 3:21 P.M. EST