For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 31, 2001
President Discusses Foreign Policy for Year Ahead
Remarks by the President to the Press Pool
The Coffee Station
12:44 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I wish everybody a Happy New Year; 2002 is going to be a great year for America. And we will continue to pursue our mission in fighting terror. We'll work hard to make sure our economy rebounds.
But, most of all, the nation will continue to embrace the culture of compassion, which really, really flourished right after September the 11th.
I'm looking forward to an early evening tonight. I guess at the age of 55, it's expected that -- or it's okay for a guy to go to bed at about 9:00 p.m., maybe 10:00 p.m. So I don't plan anything glamorous for New Year's Eve.
I've got to tell you, there's nothing more relaxing than being in Crawford, Texas. I'm spending as much time outdoors as I can. I spent -- after my briefing this morning with National Security Council, I was able to spend about three hours in the canyons, cleaning underbrush. And I feel refreshed and fortunate that we've got such a beautiful piece of land to live on.
I'll be glad to answer a few questions, then I'm going to go have a cheeseburger.
Q Any information on the whereabouts of bin Laden or Omar? Is there a new pursuit underway now?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Yes, I mean, the same pursuit: we're going to get him and it's just a matter of when. You know, you hear all kinds of reports and all kinds of rumors. You've got people saying he's in a cave, people saying he's dead, people saying he's in Pakistan. And all I know is that he's running -- and any time you get a person running, it means you're going to get him pretty soon.
And same with Mullah Omar. It's just a matter of time, and I'm patient and so is our military. There is no artificial time lines or, you know, deadlines. The definition of success is making sure the Taliban is out of existence, helping rebuild Afghanistan and disrupting this international terrorist network. And we're doing a darn good job of it, too.
Q Sir, are tensions easing in India and Pakistan, now that Pakistan has arrested the leader of a militant group? And just one more.
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q Would you urge President -- or Prime Minister Vajpayee to meet with President Musharraf next week?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, a couple of days ago I had a good talk with both Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf. I urged President Musharraf to do everything he could to crackdown on the terrorist network that had bombed the Indian Parliament, or raided the Indian Parliament.
In my conversation with the Prime Minister I said, I can understand how he feels -- if someone attacked the U.S. Capitol I'd feel angry, too.
I urged -- however, I urged -- I explained to the Indian Prime Minister that while I understood his anger, I was hoping that they were not headed for war. I said, give us all a chance to work with President Musharraf to bring the terrorists to justice. And, today, as you know, he apprehended the head of what they call LAT. That's after he had apprehended the head of GEM. So he's cracking down hard and I appreciate his efforts.
Terror is terror, and the fact that the Pakistani President is after terrorists is a good sign.
Q Mr. President, with the middle class now rioting in Argentina, are you concerned that that country's economic crisis is developing into a real political crisis? And has the time come for the U.S. to do something more substantial --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I talked to President -- interim President Saa, and no longer President Saa -- and I'm, you know, obviously, I'm worried about it. Argentina is a very important part of our hemisphere. I've heard that they're thinking about expediting elections, and that will be good. And as soon as they can get -- I'm confident the country will stay together until they get elections.
And once they elect a President, we'll work with him. But the future President has got to deal with the economic crisis at hand. And once they come up with a plan that will sustain economic growth, then we're willing to work with them. We're willing to provide technical assistance to the government, through the IMF. And, hopefully, they'll get their house in order here pretty quickly.
Q Still no need for more direct U.S. intervention or aid?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure what that means. You know, Argentina is a vibrant democracy, they've been around a long time, they have elections. You know, they're going to have elections here pretty quickly. As soon as they get a democratically elected President in place, we'll work with him as -- as a matter of fact, I anticipate I'll be calling the person as soon as he wins.
Q What can Americans expect in the upcoming year, in terms of homeland security? What's next, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what's next is really a focus on health, a focus on -- in terms of making sure the public health systems work. We're reviewing all our visa policies. We're looking at our immigration policies. We're looking at border policies, both with Canada and with Mexico. And we'll continue doing what we're doing now, which is any time we get a lead, we're going to disrupt -- we're going to bring them in and give them a chance to protect Americans.
The FBI, the whole culture of the FBI has changed, for the better. The FBI's main task now is to protect Americans from further attack. The country is on alert. And a classic case was the person who tried to put the bomb in his shoe and a flight attendant on the American flight alertly notified people and they got it. And he's now -- we're now giving him a chance to tell us what he knows about terror and about al Qaeda.
But 2002 will -- the country will still be on alert, we'll still be working hard to protect the American people.
Q Is there a special alert now? The terrorists have shown an inclination to strike around New Year's --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, or Christmas. I mean, there's all kinds of excuses for them to attack. Let's just put it this way, that the administration and the government has not -- is on alert and have been since 9/11. And the American people realize we have a new culture. And that is one of being vigilant. We've got people working overtime during the holidays. You know, we've got CAPs still flying around; anybody tries to harm an American, there's a good chance we're going to get him.
Q -- for the American people?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is that we're a blessed nation. God has richly blessed America. And for that, we ought to be grateful. We're a nation that has gone through incredible suffering and hardship. Yet, as a result of it, we're a strong nation and a united nation. And 2002, in my judgment, is going to be a great year.
It's going to be a great year because people are going to be able to find work again. It's going to be a great year because our military is going to do the job the Americans expect. It'll be a great year because at home we'll protect the American people. And it's going to be a great year primarily because Americans have taken a look inward, reassessed their values; have realized that some of the basics in life are that which is most important -- love of faith, love of family. And as a result, our communities have been stronger. So I'm really looking forward to 2002.
I'm also looking forward to my cheeseburger. (Laughter.)
Q Any resolutions?
THE PRESIDENT: Resolutions? Eat fewer cheeseburgers. (Laughter.) Thank you, all.
Q Do you have friends coming over tonight?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we've got two couples from Austin and a couple from Lubbock. And the Lubbock couple are generally -- has spent, I guess, New Year's Eve with us for, like, a decade now, I think. And that's it.
Have fun, enjoy yourselves. Thanks.
END 12:53 P.M. EST