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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 14, 2004
Interview of the Vice President by WNDB-AM Radio
3:05 P.M. EDT
Q Mr. Vice President, welcome back to the Marc Bernier Show. How are you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, Marc. It's good to talk with you.
Q Good to talk with you. I appreciate your time today. I want to ask you, in light of the prisoner release today, 300 being released in that prison camp, will this go a long way toward making right the situation so the insurgents might sort of give it up, or pull back a little bit, thus making it possible to turn over control on June 30th?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're clearly going to go forward as announced and planned to turn over sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government on the 30th of June. That's not going to be affected by any of this. That's a firm date, we're moving aggressively towards it. And it's important that the folks out there that -- understand that, the Iraqis who are working with us, but also our adversaries, the terrorists, like Zarqawi, who are doing everything they can to try to disrupt this process.
And we don't want to let that happen. I think it's important to remember here that there are -- I'm sure there are Iraqis with concerns about the U.S. and so forth. But I think the main thing to remember here is that the people that are trying to disrupt this process don't want us to succeed under any circumstances. And those are the folks we've got to beat.
Q And you would concur, would you not, sir, that the visit by the Defense Secretary yesterday went a long way towards showing we're still united, the soldiers are united in their efforts, to send a message to our enemies that our mission will be completed?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think so. I thought Don Rumsfeld's visit out there was exactly the right thing to do. He was great with the troops. I watched some of his town hall meeting he did with our folks over there. And it's important for all Americans to remember that men and women are serving over there, doing a superb job. They're doing a great job for all of us, and it's vitally important that we succeed in this mission. And when we do, well, we already do -- we owe them a deep debt of gratitude.
But Don going over personally to talk to them, and let them know we support them, and answer questions and meet with our senior commanders over there is an important part of that.
Q Mr. Vice President, the President has asked the Senate and the Congress for the extra $25 billion to continue our work in Iraq. There's some resistance. It seems that they want to put some qualifiers, and we know that there's always political posturing in this year. Do you expect the President will get that wish by the Senate and the Congress?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do. I believe we will. I think there's every indication Congress will support the request. It's a contingency fund to some extent. It's hard to tell in this kind of operation exactly how much you're going to need. You have to put together this budget that's now being considered by the Congress -- it was actually pulled together a year ago by the Department of Defense, and then it goes to the White House, gets submitted to Congress in January, gets acted along in the summer, and it doesn't really kick in until the 1st of October. And it's to carry us all the way then through '05. So it's hard lots of times to make hard and fast forecasts that far in advance exactly what you're going to need, especially under these kinds of circumstances. So we thought it was important to go ahead and ask for some additional funds in case we need them for our military operations, in particular, in Iraq.
Q Mr. Vice President, as this issue smooths out with the peace process in Iraq, will it be easier to call upon some of the Arab neighbors in the region to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq when they can see the progress of the insurgents eventually going away?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, some of them are helping now. That is to say we've got -- we're getting help from Jordan, for example. Jordan is running a police training academy for Iraqi police. So there's some assistance being provided at present. Kuwait has been very supportive. We've still got major operations in Kuwait, a lot of flow of fuel and goods and so forth up into Iraq from Kuwait. So the record is mixed. Turkey has been fairly active, and a lot of their companies are in there helping out -- contractors and so forth.
In terms of the active participation by, say, troops from the region, many of the Iraqis haven't been all that eager to have that happen. Part of it has to do with the historic relationships there between Iraq, for example, and Iran to the east. They fought a bloody war in the 1980s. So it's a difficult neighborhood to work in, and you have to be careful who, in fact, does go in there.
Q After the Secretary of Defense appeared at the 9/11 Commission, Mr. Vice President, there was some light level talk about perhaps offering compensation to those who may have been mistreated in the prisons in Iraq. We're not going to get into a whole lot of this, are we -- of repaying these people? Because you know where that will go.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'm unaware of anything that's planned in that regard. It's conceivable somebody over there is planning on doing something, but I don't have any personal knowledge of that, Marc.
Q Okay, moving to the economy, sir, new statistics that came out today -- inflation a little bit lower than they originally thought it was going to be, 0.2 percent. That's a good sign for the economy, that it continues its growth -- 600,000 new jobs in the last two months. But, Mr. Vice President, knowing that we've still absorbed a good deal of debt from the rebuilding after 9/11 and our efforts in the Middle East, how will we do with the possible of inflation and higher interest rates because of the debt, sir?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you got to remember that we're already at a point where interest rates are at historic lower. The federal funds rate is about 1 percent. It's been there now for, I guess, the better part of a year. And in spite of having very low interest rates, we also have a high rate of growth. Our economic growth over the last three quarters now has been running about 5.2 percent. It's the highest rate in nearly 20 years. The employment is looking better and better all the time, more and more jobs coming back. So the economy is in good shape. It's heading in the right direction.
At some point I would expect there will be an increase in interest rates. That's the normal part of the business cycle as we pick up activity here, considering that we're starting from a very low level. But I don't foresee anything on the horizon at this point that indicates anything other than continued robust economic growth. That's what we see in our forecast, as well as in the blue chip forecast from outside government. So I think we're in pretty good shape there.
We watch it carefully. We do need to be restrained with respect to the federal deficit. But the deficit outlook should improve significantly here going forward as we get more and more revenue in as a result of greater economic activity. As the economy picks up speed, we collect more taxes, and that, in turn, will reduce the deficit. And we'll have another forecast here -- I think they do a mid-session review in the middle of July. We don't have those hard numbers yet, obviously, won't until then. But I think every indication is that the original deficit forecast will, in fact, probably be reduced somewhat because we're doing so well on the economy.
Q Some states, Mr. Vice President, are mulling over the possibility of putting limits or not allowing companies to outsource jobs of the United States to preserve employment in this country. I don't know if the administration will offer an opinion on it, but, Mr. Vice President, is it good policy to put those limits to protect jobs? Does it take away freedom from American companies to reap profits?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the important thing to remember, we're part of a global economy. We've got a lot of outsourcing coming our way. If you've got a BMW plant or Honda plant here in the United States, those are German or Japanese companies that have built plants here to manufacture goods to sell. So a lot of terms thrown around here, but the bottom line is, we've got the strongest economy in the world. We've got more people employed now in terms of our total employment than ever before in our history. We are the most dynamic, major economy in the world today. The Europeans and the Japanese haven't been able to hold a candle to us in terms of their growth and so forth. And I think on balance, overall, we do very well by going out aggressively competing. I think our people can compete with anybody in the world, given a level playing field. So that's what we're working for.
Q Mr. Vice President, there is the under-employed part of our population. We spoke with Elaine Chao, Labor Secretary, about that. Is it your belief that as the economy continues to expand, there'll be less and less of those people who are serving in the under-employed category?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think so. I think that's what usually happens. It's also important to remember some of our problems -- when you get down to the lower levels of unemployment, when you get down into the 3 percent, 4 percent range, there's a number of things we need to do that are longer term than just the short-term business cycle -- like education, and training, and getting professional skills for our people so they can take the jobs that do become available.
We also need to work in a number of other areas to reduce to the maximum extent possible the burden that we impose on our companies in terms of their ability to invest and expand and create new jobs, and help deal with things, for example, like health care costs, which are becoming a very important cost item, if you will, for many companies. We need to do things like medical liability reform so that we don't have malpractice insurance driving up health care costs to the point where companies are reluctant to hire people because they can't afford to provide the health benefits.
Q One final question, Mr. Vice President, and that is how you're doing. I know that you had your check-up this week. Everything worked out okay. You're on the road in the campaign, all prepared for a big, hot summer?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's right. They certified me for another 30,000 miles, Marc. (Laughter.) So everything looks good at this point, and as I say, I'm out actively campaigning part of the time now. And that will pick up during the course of the summer. And of course, we'll have our convention at the end of August. And September and October, we'll be hot and heavy in the campaign -- although some days it feels like the campaign started a couple months ago.
Q It sure does. We'll look forward to seeing you out there. Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for your time. Continuing good health and all the best to you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks, Marc. It's good to talk to you.
Q Good to talk to you. Bye-bye, sir.
END 3:15 P.M. EDT