For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 19, 2001
Remarks by the President
At Photo Opportunity
with House and Senate Leadership
the Oval Office
4:39 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to
welcome the members of the leadership of the Congress here, and I want
the nation to know how proud I am of how they have helped unite our
country. Senator Daschle and the Speaker and Senator Lott
and Representative Gephardt have really showed that in times of
emergency and crisis, that our government can function in a way that is
just exemplary. And I want to thank them for coming down.
I'm also so pleased to accept the
invitation of the Speaker and the leaders to come and address the
Congress tomorrow night. I look forward to the opportunity
to explaining to the American people who it is and who would do this to
our great country, and why -- why would people choose America?
A lot of our citizens have got a lot of
questions about what has taken place on September the 11th and
subsequent to that. And I owe it to the country to give an
explanation. And I want to thank the Congress for giving me
a chance. I can't think of a better place than to talk about
freedom and the battle to maintain freedom in one of the greatest halls
of freedom. And that is in the United States Congress.
So, thank you for the
invitation. I accept wholeheartedly, and I will see you all
I would be glad to answer a couple of
Q Mr. President,
will you be able to tell all Americans whether they're going to be safe
while you prepare to retaliate, or could terrorists strike again while
we prepare for war?
THE PRESIDENT: Ron, I think
America needs to know that we in government are on alert; that we
recognize life around the White House or around the Congress is not
normal, or is not the way it used to be, because we're very aware that
people have conducted an act of war on our country; and that all of us
urge our fellow Americans to go back to work and to work hard, but we
must be on alert. Our government is working hard to make
sure that we run down every lead, every opportunity, to find someone
who would want to hurt any American.
The American people are
united. They're united in their resolve to help heal the
nation. But they're also united in the understanding that
we've entered into a new day, and we'll deal with it.
Q Sir, you've been
stressing that this is not a war against Islam. However, there are
some around the world who view the coming battle along religious
lines. I'm wondering how worried you are that some view this
as a holy war. And are declarations of jihad at all
affecting U.S. plans
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate
that question. First of all, it is so important for my
fellow Americans, as well as everybody in the world to understand that
America will hold those evil-doers accountable. We don't
view this as a war of religion, in any way, shape or
form. As a matter of fact, Islam preaches
peace. The Muslim faith is a peaceful faith. And
there are millions of good Americans who practice the Muslim faith who
love their country as much as I love the country, who salute the flag
as strongly as I salute the flag.
And for those who try to pit religion
against religion, our great nation will stand up and reject that kind
of thought. We won't allow that to creep into the
consciousness of the world. We're going to lead the world to
fight for freedom, and we'll have Muslim and Jew and Christian
side-by-side with us.
Q Mr. President,
you promised only to dip into the Social Security surplus in an
emergency, a recession, or war. And in your words, this
constitutes a war. How much of the Social Security surplus
are you prepared to spend?
THE PRESIDENT: We are -- not
only has someone conducted an act of war on us, our economy has slowed
way down and this is an emergency. We've had all three, it
seems like to me. And I'm going to work with Congress to
send a clear message to America, American workers, American business
people, that this government will respond to this emergency.
We'll respond to the emergency in terms of
working on a package for the airline industry that has been severely
affected. We'll respond to work to fight
terrorism. The Congress has already responded, with a
supplemental that will not only help fund our military, but as
importantly, will send a clear message to the people of New York and
New Jersey and Connecticut that we'll help you rebuild.
And this is exactly the subject we talked
about. The definition of how much -- is enough to get
America going again as to be able to endure this emergency.
Q And if that means
all the surplus, are you prepared to spend all the surplus?
THE PRESIDENT: We're reasonable
people. The members here, the leaders from the Congress are
very reasonable. And they are mindful about government money
as well as anybody else. But we're dedicated, we're
dedicated to saying to the American people, this is an emergency, the
likes of which we have not seen in a long time in this country, and
this government will come together and deal with it. And
that's exactly what's going to happen.
Q Sorry to ask
another one, but did you mean to say just now that we are in a
recession? You said, it looks to me like we've got all
THE PRESIDENT: No, I said --
well, I said -- let me put it this way -- tough economic
times. There's no question it's tough times. And,
Ron, I don't have all the numbers, but let me just say
this: I can pick up all the statistics, but make no mistake
about it, this has affected our economy in a big way. Now,
I've still got faith that we'll recover. The strength of the
American economy has always been our entrepreneurial spirit and our
workers, and that's still prevalent. But you've seen the
statistics on the airlines -- they're beginning to lay off
people. Big airline manufacturing companies
responding. And this government will respond.
Now, I don't have -- don't get me wrong, I
don't have all the numbers at my disposal because they have to start
counting them up, but this has shocked our economy. And
we're going to respond. And that's exactly what this
leadership and I have been talking about.
Q Mr. President, do
you feel like you've got the full support of President
Musharraf? And how hard is it going to be for him to live up
to his pledges, given his domestic situation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there's no
question that President Musharraf has taken a bold position, which is
to say he will work to the extent he can with America and our allies as
we deal with the prime suspect in the case. And we appreciate so very
much his statement of support.
I said we'll give the President a chance
to perform, and I believe he has done -- done so. We will
work and consult closely with Pakistan and India to make sure that that
part of the world is as stable as can possibly be stable.
Let me say that, in terms of foreign
policy and in terms of the world, this horrible strategy has provided
us with an interesting opportunity. One of the opportunities is in the
Middle East. I'm pleased with the fact that Chairman Arafat
and Prime Minister Sharon have taken positive steps toward bringing
peace to the region. I think we have an opportunity to
refashion the thinking between Pakistan and India. I think
there's some interesting opportunities to shake terrorism loose from
And this government, working with
Congress, are going to seize the moment. Out of our tears I
said I see opportunity, and we will seek opportunity, positive
developments from this horrible tragedy that has befallen our nation.
Thank you all.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
4:47 P.M. EDT