For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 13, 2001
Remarks by the President
In Telephone Conversation with New York Mayor Guiliani
and New York Governor Pataki
the Oval Office
11:00 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, men.
MAYOR GIULIANI: Good morning, Mr. President.
GOVERNOR PATAKI: Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much for taking my phone call. First of all, I can't tell you how sad I am, and America is, for the people of New York City and the tri-state area. I want to let you know there is a quiet anger in America that really is real.
Also, though, I can't tell you how proud I am of the good citizens of your part of the world, and the extraordinary job you all are doing. You're doing, really, a great job on behalf of the citizens of New York City, New York State and in the tri-state area. So I want to thank you very much for your leadership and dedication.
MAYOR GIULIANI: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Secondly, I've been in touch with you all. You've extended me a kind invitation to come to New York City. I accept; I'll be there tomorrow afternoon, after the prayer service at the National Cathedral. I look forward to joining with both of you in thanking the police and fire, the construction trade workers, the restaurant owners, the volunteers -- all of whom have really made a huge display for the world to see of the compassion of America, and the bravery of America and the strength of America.
Every world leader I've talked to in recent days has been impressed by what they have seen about our nation, and the fabric of our nation. And I want to thank everybody when I come; so thank you for your hospitality.
GOVERNOR PATAKI: Well, Mr. President, thank you for coming to New York. I'm sure it's going to be a great inspiration to all of us and, particularly, those thousands of men and women still downtown trying to help us with the rescue efforts.
I also want to thank you for all the help we've gotten from the federal government, it's been tremendous; and for your words. You are right, our nation is united as never before and we will triumph over this evil with your leadership and your inspiration. And I also have to congratulate the Mayor for the tremendous effort he has made.
Mr. President, you would be proud of the leadership and the cooperation we've seen here. The city has taken the lead. Your people have been enormously supportive and we're very grateful.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks, George, and Rudy; thank you all. I know you've put in a request, and I've directed the Attorney General to expedite any payments of benefits for those fallen public safety officers to their families, any benefits to their families. And the Attorney General, as I understand it, will be making a formal announcement of your request today.
I told Allbaugh, anything -- anything it takes to help New York. I have been in touch with the Congress, they are expediting a supplemental. We've worked in great cooperation with members of the Congress in both political parties. So just keep in touch -- I know you will. This isn't the first time we've talked, and I really appreciate the fact that you all are in charge and I know the citizens of New York and the tri-state area, people of New Jersey and Connecticut are appreciative, as well.
MAYOR GIULIANI: Mr. President, the uniformed officers, the police, the fire, the emergency services officers, their families will really appreciate this. We're going to sustain a tremendous loss of our bravest and our best people. And the relief that you're now making available to the families is going to mean a lot to them. They're going to be able to think about the fact that their children are going to be taken care of, that they're going to be able to go to college, that they're going to be able to carry on.
So I can't express to you how appreciative we are of your acting so swiftly. And, also, on that terrible day when our city was being attacked, you were in immediate communication with us, Mr. President, and helped to secure the city. And the work you've done for us, we all eternally appreciate. You've been a terrific leader and we're taking direction from you, and we're following your example. You've done a terrific job, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks, Rudy; and thanks, George. Let me make it clear to you all as my close friends that my mind set is this: one, I weep and mourn with America. I'm going to a hospital right after this to comfort families. I wish I could comfort every single family whose lives have been affected.
But make no mistake about it, my resolve is steady and strong about winning this war that has been declared on America. It's a new kind of war. And I understand it's a new kind of war. And this government will adjust. And this government will call others to join us, to make sure this act, these acts, the people who conducted these acts and those who harbor them are held accountable for their actions. Make no mistake.
And as we do so, I urge -- I know I don't need to tell you all this, but our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab Americans who live in New York City who love their flag just as much as the three of us do. And we must be mindful that as we seek to win the war that we treat Arab Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve. I know that is your attitudes, as well; it's certainly the attitude of this government, that we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror. We will hold those who are responsible for the terrorist acts accountable, and those who harbor them.
You'll see -- and I look forward to visiting with you in person tomorrow -- about the resolve of this government. And so I thank you very much for your leadership on the ground. I wish I was visiting under better circumstances. But it will be a chance for all three of us to thank and hug and cry with the citizens of your good area.
MAYOR GIULIANI: Thank you very much, Mr. President. We really appreciate this very much.
THE PRESIDENT: We'll see you tomorrow.
GOVERNOR PATAKI: Mr. President, we're looking forward to your visit. It will inspire us all. And we will be with you when the United States takes firm and appropriate action to those who conducted this evil.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. See you tomorrow.
GOVERNOR PATAKI: Thank you.
MAYOR GIULIANI: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: God bless.
Q Mr. President, is it safe to fly? And, specifically, would you want a close member of your family to get on a commercial air flight today?
THE PRESIDENT: We have taken every precaution to make sure that it is safe to fly in America. There is beefed-up security at airports. There is increased presence on the airplanes. Yes, I would -- if a family member asked whether they should fly, I'd say, yes.
Q Mr. President, how close are you, sir, to finding out, to nailing down who is responsible for these acts? And what kind of international coalition are you trying to build? Is it similar to the one your father built for the Persian Gulf War?
THE PRESIDENT: First, let me condition the press this way. Any sources and methods of intelligence will remain guarded and secret. My administration will not talk about how we gather intelligence, if we gather intelligence and what the intelligence says. That's for the protection of the American people. It is important as we battle this enemy to conduct ourselves that way.
Secondly, I've been on the phone this morning, just like I was yesterday, and will be on this afternoon, on the phone with leaders from around the world who express their solidarity with this nation's intention to rout out and to whip terrorism.
They understand, fully understand that an act of war was declared on the United States of America. They understand, as well, that that act could have as easily been declared on them; that these people can't stand freedom; they hate our values; they hate what America stands for. Many of the leaders understand it could have easily have happened to them.
Secondly, they understand that, unlike previous war, this enemy likes to hide. They heard my call loud and clear, to those who feel like they can provide safe harbor for the terrorists, that we will hold them responsible, as well. And they join me in understanding not only the concept of the enemy, but that the enemy is a different type of enemy. They join me also in solidarity about holding those who fund them, who harbor them, who encourage them, responsible for their activities.
I'm pleased with the outpouring of support. Jiang Zemin, Vladimir Putin; had a great visit this morning with His Royal Highness, Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. I will continue to stay on the phone. And there is universal support for the American people, sadness in their voice; but understanding that we have just seen the war of the 21st century. And there is universal approval of the statements I have made, and I am confident there will be universal approval of the actions this government takes.
Q Mr. President, if this is a different kind of war it might require, perhaps, a different kind of coalition. Many people believe that for a real war on terrorism to work you'll need cooperation from governments that haven't necessarily done so in the past -- specifically, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Have you made any progress on that front, and do you have a message for those --
THE PRESIDENT: I would refer you to the statements that the Pakistani leader gave about his -- I don't have the exact words in front of me -- but his willingness to work with the United States. And I appreciate that statement and now we'll just find out what that means, won't we?
We will give the Pakistani government a chance to cooperate and to participate, as we hunt down those people who committed this unbelievable despicable act on America.
Q Mr. President, how confident are you that Osama bin Laden is behind these attacks? Do you know what his whereabouts are? And, secondly, what kind of support are you looking for from Congress, in terms of your willingness to act?
THE PRESIDENT: We are -- we will not discuss intelligence matters, how we gather intelligence and what we know -- about anybody. When our government acts, you'll be informed.
Secondly, I am -- we had a great meeting yesterday here in the Cabinet Room with leadership of the House and the Senate. I was touched by their response, their encouragement and their willingness to work together. And I would be very pleased to see a strong resolution come out of Congress supporting the administration and what we intend to do, and we're working closely with Congress.
Secondly, progress is being made on a supplemental. I thought that was very swift action and I'm most appreciative, again, of Senator Daschle and Representative Gephardt, as well as my Republican colleagues, for really showing solidarity again and uniting the nation. Now is the time for the country to be united.
You know, through the tears of sadness I see an opportunity. Make no mistake about it, this nation is sad. But we're also tough and resolute. And now is an opportunity to do generations a favor, by coming together and whipping terrorism; hunting it down, finding it and holding them accountable. The nation must understand, this is now the focus of my administration. We will very much engage in domestic policy, of course. I look forward to working with Congress on a variety of issues.
But now that war has been declared on us, we will lead the world to victory, to victory.
Q Mr. President, what is your understanding of the threat to Air Force One? And do you believe that the terrorists attempted to assassinate you, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I will not discuss the intelligence that our country has gathered.
Q Do you believe they tried to assassinate you?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe I took the -- I know -- I don't believe, I know I took the appropriate actions as the Commander in Chief, to be in a position to be able to make the decisions necessary for our government to handle the crisis.
You didn't hear the end of the phone call with the Mayor and George Pataki -- both of whom thanked me for the fact that we were immediately on the phone with them from Air Force One, and our government responded quickly.
Q About the prayer day tomorrow, Mr. President. Could you give us a sense as to what kind of prayers you are thinking and where your heart is for yourself, as you --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think about myself right now. I think about the families, the children. I am a loving guy, and I am also someone, however, who has got a job to do -- and I intend to do it. And this is a terrible moment.
But this country will not relent until we have saved ourselves and others from the terrible tragedy that came upon America.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
END 11:17 A.M. EDT