Daniels Delivers Remarks To The National Press Club
conventional for a guest to indicate the honor they attach to the
occasion. This noon, as we say sometimes in the government, has
the additional virtue of being true, and you do me a great honor
by being here. His Honor former Mayor Richard Daley referred to
this sensation once as the pinochle of success. I view it that way,
on the other hand, that this esteemed and illustrious audience is
here, at least in case of many of you, out of a sense of duty. It
does come as a part of your job description. And I've learned to
be mindful and properly humble about that.
About 10 years
ago, I gave a speech to a group of, I think, fifth graders, who
then, I know on the instruction of their teacher, wrote the obligatory
thank you notes later, and I saved one from a young fellow named
Greg (ph), who wrote approximately this: "Mr. Daniels, thanks for
coming to our class. You are a very talented speaker and you had
a captive audience."
I know some
of you are in that position, but I'm grateful for your presence
just the same. Now on the other hand, given the erudition and well-informed
character of this audience, I do not expect to experience again
misinterpretation, as occasionally happened after one talk a few
years ago. A lovely, somewhat matronly lady rushed to the stage
afterward, said, ``Oh, Mr. Daniels, thank you so much. That was
And I said,
"Well, thank you, ma'am."
She said, "Will your remarks be published?"
And I said, "Oh, I doubt it, unless posthumously."
"Oh, I do hope that will be soon."
I have remarked,
and others have observed similarly that on September 11 the
two World Trade towers were not the only structures which were brought
down. And one could say that the twin towers of America's fiscal
health and strength were leveled at essentially that same time.
First of all, the economy, which had roared through the '90s and
given rise to surpluses that surprised everyone, was tipped into
As we learned
this week, the recession officially began early this year. President
Bush last year had essentially forecast economic weakness on the
way. The market--stock market, as you know, began to drop in March
of 2000, manufacturing production in June of that year. Unemployment
peaked in December.
So as the
NBER reported just this week, a recession was under way, but also
as they reported, was aggravated, perhaps confirmed, by the events
of the 11th. We may well have been on our way out of the slowdown
until that happened.
And the other
pillar of America's surprising fiscal health in the last few years,
in some resects perhaps the more important one, was the unwritten
but self-enforcing compact that we knew as the Social Security lockbox.
of course, an agreement across party lines. It connected both ends
of Pennsylvania Avenue. It was observed by the interest groups who
populate this town and who, in ordinary times, compete to see really
how much spending they can secure for the causes dearest to their
And the so-called
lockbox proved enormously effective in putting an overall ceiling
on our collective appetite in this democracy to spend money that
all too often seems free to those who spend it or seek to have it
that lockbox was possibly not the best metaphor for that situation;
that, in fact, lockdown might have been more apt, because in a way
this common agreement to maintain surpluses and to stop spending,
at least at the level attributable to Social Security surpluses,
did put, in a way, handcuffs on all parties to the public debate.
the extent to which all parties felt imprisoned by that common agreement
I think is evident in the alacrity with which all parties abandoned
it as soon as they have the opportunity; had all the characteristics
of a jailbreak with people running in all directions. And I might
hasten to add that the first escapees that I observed were representatives
of our own administration who promptly flooded my office with requests
for several times the amount of supplemental spending which we were
seeking and that Congress ultimately proposed.
In any event,
we have, within a very short time, experienced a costly convergence
of factors that has lead to a dramatic shift in both our near-and
long-term fiscal prospects. And it's a shift that demands our attention
and our careful response in the days just ahead.
factors are: the recession, the newly necessary spending--imperative
spending to deal with the two new threats--the two new needs to
defeat terrorism abroad, and to defend our homeland. There also
have been, coincident with this, new estimates of long-term growth
that are somewhat lower than those that all economists, ours, others
in the government and those in the private sector, agreed on just
a few short months ago. And these really trace to the impact and
the duration of the slow-down we're facing now, but they do mean
that now the same consensus that forecasts long-term growth rates
in a 3.5 percent range, or closer to 3 percent, are now looking
out. And this has profound effects, when compounded out over time
on the amount of money that we can expect to have available in the
these factors together, it is regrettably my conclusion that we
are unlikely to return to balance in the federal accounts before
possibly fiscal '05. That is within the next two years. Things will
have to break right for us to do that.
more importantly, the decisions just ahead of us, the decisions
we will make between now and the end of this fiscal year, and particularly
those we will make about the fiscal year to follow, the budget that
we will be submitting just a couple months from now will determine
whether we ever see another surplus. We will need a new agreement
of some kind about a proper rate of spending and spending growth
to replace the one that's served us well, but which disappeared
back in September.
When a budget
goes to war, what should it look like? I think there are, sort of,
two fundamental courses we can take, and colloquially I would describe
them as battle stations or business as usual. If we go to battle
stations, we will work on the new priorities of winning the war
against terror and defending Americans, whatever it takes here at
home, and we will make all necessary adjustments enable to fund
those new imperatives. Business as usual means what it says. In
this context it would mean we would pile those new costs on top
of the entire edifice of everything we're doing now, almost $2 trillion.
that might appear to be the preferred course of a number of people
at this stage. Senator John McCain wrote in The Washington Post
a week or so ago, "Yes, we ought to get to normal in America, but
do things have to be this normal in Washington?"
The idea of
reallocating assets from less important to more important things,
especially in a time of genuine emergency, makes common sense and
is applied everywhere else in life. I discovered that this organization
furnishes a pretty good model recently. I'm not a member, I regret
to say. With Groucho, I probably don't want to be a member of any
organization that would have me.
But a friend
who is shared with me the letter that your board, so ably lead by
Dick (ph) and Rick (ph), sent out recently. And it says that the
press club, like every other organization in the country, has been
severally affected economically, and lists some steps that you have,
quite prudently, taken: a reduction of hours, not filling open management
staff positions, temporarily closing the Fourth Estate restaurant.
Here is swift, decisive action to deal with a new budget situation.
Now I must
complement you, because the board did identify the top priorities
which ought to be fully and protectively funded: free breakfast...
... and, and
I was especially impressed with this, the low happy hour drink prices
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Now there's an organization that
can separate priorities.
lots of history we can look to also. Let me read you some--three
quick quotes from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to his budget
director, one Harold D. Smith, like all budget directors, now anonymous,
forgotten and unlamented, I'm afraid. October 1939. But Roosevelt
tells Smith he wants the departments, quote, "held at the present
level and below if possible, and all new works project trimmed out."
years before the war, let's recall--he tells Smith, "The administration
will not undertake any new activities even if laudable ones." And
a year later, as they prepared the next budget in November of '40,
Roosevelt told a press conference his policy for the next year would
be to, "cut down to the bone on non-military purposes."
Now they did.
Between 1939 and 1942 spending on non-defense purposes in the federal
government was cut by 22 percent, and by 37 percent within the next
two years til 1944. The Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Project
Administration, the National Youth Administration, three hallmarks
of the New Deal, were gone entirely by 1943. In 1939, they represented
13 percent of the federal budget; all gone four years later in the
service--not because they were, I'm sure, deemed unimportant, but
in the service of greater national needs.
terms, that would be as though we propose to end the Medicare program,
or alternatively to close up shop at HHS, the Department of Education,
HUD, DOJ, Energy, Ag, Treasury, Interior and Labor combined.
War II was the greatest conflict in our history, and not necessary
an analog for what we face today. But take Korea. In one year, from
'50 to '51, non-defense spending dropped by one-fourth.
Now the counter-example,
perhaps you've already been thinking about, was Vietnam, which gave
rise, as far as I know, certainly gave currency, to the phrase,
"guns and butter," when a different approach was employed. In 1963,
defense and non-defense spending were roughly equal. By 1970, defense
had risen 54 percent to fund that conflict. But instead of being
financed by restraint in the rest of the budget, non-defense spending
doubled, with consequences, fiscal and economic, that we remember
Felix Frankfurter, I once wrote, told her husband that he made just
two mistakes in speaking: He digressed from his text and he returned
to digress, but just for a moment, to point out that President Roosevelt,
Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and President Johnson enjoyed one
advantage that this administration does not, that is to say, they
had much greater flexibility over public spending, in the sense
that what we call mandatory spending, that now two-thirds of the
budget which is on autopilot until fundamental change in underlying
law is made, not subject to annual appropriations, was then either
non-existent or very, very small.
And I do believe,
to digress, that it would be a very important step forward in public
policy if we were to begin to reverse this trend, and long before
September 11, had begun collecting examples in the federal
budget of things which are on the automatic spending side and for
no good reason.
And I don't
know if there will be any takers, but I do believe that the Appropriations
Committees of the Congress ought to have control over more than
they do. And hope to interest leadership of those committees in,
perhaps, begin to bring back at least a few small things to get
started to the discretionary side of the budget, where they can
be subject to annual review and decision-making.
budget, I think, will test our maturity as a democracy, as an administration
in the cooperation with Congress, and we will find out whether we
understand the assignment that history has given us. I hope we will
budget for victory, and while we're at it, organize for victory
and manage this government for victory. We will need to perform
well in our jobs, we will need the cooperation of Congress, the
press and the public to do this.
which has been so manifest in the last two months--two-plus--here
in town, I think, has been uplifting for us all. It has been very
real. It has, I think, led to dramatic action and a new mentality
that I think will carry on for a long time to the benefit of the
country. It must said, however, that bipartisanship is pretty easy
when there are no tradeoffs involved.
On the night
of September 11, I sat in the Roosevelt Room while the president
was speaking to the nation across the hall and began cobbling together
a request for the new emergency spending that clearly would be needed
to respond to those events. And from a rough tally we produced a
request quickly for $20&bsp;billion, which the Congress responded
to and, in fact, responded by doubling to $40 billion.
I was put
in mind of John Jacob Astor's alleged comment in the State Room
of the Titanic, when he was supposed to have said, "I rang for ice,
but this is ridiculous."
We need the
bipartisanship that emerged so productively in these last two months
to carry over into a mature conduct of the public's affairs when
tradeoffs will be required. And we're not talking about tin drives
and ration cards here. This is not, it appears, the kind of conflict
that will demand enormous sacrifices or enormous changes in the
rest of government.
But for goodness
sakes, will we be able to differentiate priorities now that two
transcendent ones are so patently in front of us. People who are
not able, really, to separate must-do from nice-to-do items before,
I hope will find it more clear now. And I hope that those for whom
protection of turf and jurisdiction was more important than effective
organization and administration of government will think again about
their points of view.
Flynn said that his great problem in life lay with reconciling his
gross habits with his net income. We will have to so reconcile.
We won't have
any trouble, I don't believe, agreeing on what's important, on what's
imperative. Churchill taught that, "The responsibility of ministers
for the public safety is absolute, requiring no mandate. It is,
in fact, the first object for which governments are brought into
So the conquest
of evil and the protection of Americans in their homes and in their
homeland require no mandate and we will err on the side of being
thorough. It may be an unfamiliar sensation to my colleagues at
OMB, but the guidance I gave them as we began to put next year's
budget together was anything touching those two goals, we will err
on the side of action and we will break ties in the direction of
yes. This is not our typical MO.
The real question
is not, "Will we adequately, thoroughly fund these imperative priorities?"
The real question is, "Will we be able, collectively, to scrutinize
in any other realm with which I'm familiar, business, nonprofit
administration, the National Press Club, this is the normal part
of proper budgeting and business.
in building U.S. Steel, began every year's budget discussion by
asking, "What can we throw away this year?" Peter Drucker says that
"organized abandonment" is the operating principle of today's successful
enterprises. But in the federal government we have not proven particularly
successful at ever throwing away anything or abandoning anything,
however obsolete, however duplicative or however poorly it may perform.
Now long before
September 11 we were at work in the Bush administration hoping to
do better about that; hoping that very seriously, even with the
inaccuracy and imprecision that may attend this, to identify those
programs and those aspects of government that work well and reinforce
them. And as your guest today, I was offered very generously the
chance to bring three guests with me to the head table, and I have
taken that opportunity to invite three managers of excellent federal
programs, who I hope you will welcome and salute.
And so, General
Jack Kelly is here from the National Weather Service, an organization
which has staked itself to specific goals and met them and surpassed
them. Tornado warning times have doubled, flash flood lead times
have more than doubled, and they have been recognized by Government
Executive magazine as the only agency to get straight A's on that
publication's recent assessment. So please welcome General Jack
the Women, Infants and Children Program, the WIC program, the slogan
of which I learn is "WIC Works," the associate administrator of
the Food and Nutrition Service, George Braley.
you for your work and for being here today.
WIC is a program
that has provable results in lowering health care costs that are
occasioned by the people it serves, proven health care improvements
in anemia rates and a variety of other hard, tangible measures and
increased immunizations and other measures of success that prove
that it is a sound investment on the public's and the taxpayer's
thank you for your work.
representing another of the truly--true centers of excellence in
this government, the National Science Foundation, where more than
95 percent of the funds you provide as taxpayers go out on a competitive
basis directly to researchers pursuing the frontiers of science,
a very low overhead cost. It has supported eight of the 12 most
recent Nobel Prize awards earned by Americans at some point in their
I was to have,
as our guest today, Dr. Margaret Lynon (ph), who helps runs that
program, but she is in Antarctica, studying very carefully, I'm
sure, one of the grantees, and in her stead, Dr. Robert Eisenstein,
who you met earlier, assistant director for mathematical and physical
and the foundation for all you do.
this, and there are many, many others, that perform well, that are
accountable to you as taxpayers for reaching for real results and
measuring and attaining those results, deserve to be singled out,
deserve to be fortified and strengthened.
programs that make no such attempt or fail to deliver or can provide
no evidence of success really need to be scrutinized, and the money
we are now investing them redeployed to higher purposes, either
in the ongoing programs I've just been talking about, or to the
urgent business of winning a two-front war.
that there a number of people in Washington, who have appeared to
have attended the Debbie Boone school of public policy, where the
school song is, "It Can't Be Wrong If It Feels So Right."
not enough for a program to feel right, to have a nice title. If
we're going to take a tax dollar from a citizen in Indiana or any
other state and spend it on that program, at some point there must
be a reckoning, there must be an accounting. And if the performance
isn't there, we ought to be looking for a better place to make that
And I must
appeal to the nation's press support and demand this sort of accounting.
And it's very striking to me now that the press does this very well
on the military front. Every newspaper for the last several weeks
has been filled with analysis and reporting dissecting the effectiveness
or not of our military operations in Afghanistan. I'm all for this,
by the way.
E. Lee once wrote that the one great tragedy of the Confederacy
was, "All the best generals were writing for newspapers."
alone in this, by the way. On the other side of the lines, General
Sherman was saying, "With the press unfettered as they are today,
we are defeated to the ends of time."
I don't agree
with that. This is, of course, a vital function of the press in
peace or war. I'm only hoping and suggesting that we need the same
insistence on performance and high standards and accountability
in the rest of government. And too often, frankly, I think that
much of the press seems not very interested in that, and even protective
of the status quo.
at it, while we're budgeting and redeploying resources for success,
we need to organize and manage for effectiveness, too--and that's
a sermon for another Sunday. But I will say that the next budget
and subsequent budgets must try to rationalize, consolidate and
sometimes move from place to place well-intentioned programs, which
at this point are littered across the government in sometimes very
Why do 10
departments of our government in 48 separate programs try to train
people for jobs? Is our border defense truly optimally rationalized?
The subject that Governor Ridge is working on very hard right now.
And can we achieve greater freedom to manage for this president
and future presidents, from a Congress, which, I think, inadvertently
in many cases, has tied many of our departments up in a morass of
Lilliputian does and don'ts?
So I think
the next budget will be a telling and maybe decisive one. We can--I
hope we will--budget and govern as adults should in a time of crisis
and urgency. Whether we do or don't will decide whether we head
back in the direction of balance--I hope--surpluses and reduction
of our national debt, or lose contact with that objective for good.
will need, I hope, to shake ourselves out of the natural human tendency,
as someone once said, to mistake the edge of the rut for the horizon.
And I'm not
unrealistic about the difficulties of bringing any of this off.
But one of your great giants, Edward R. Murrow, taught us that,
"The one excuse history never accepts is difficulty." And so neither
shall we. And with your support and active assistance, perhaps we'll
make the progress the American public deserves.
for this gracious invitation.
First of all, Mitch, I'd like to know who leaked that Press Club
memo to you.
that you know about it, you are invited to taco night with the free
happy hour drinks.
Daschle said today he would like to add to the homeland security
package about $7.5 billion and try to attach it to the defense
bill. What is your position on that? And do you think, or would
the administration agree to a spending plan of that size?
president has asked that Congress refrain from further spending
at this point to give him, to give Tom Ridge, Secretary Rumsfeld,
as the commanders, if you will, of each of the two fronts of this
conflict, the opportunity to define the need--the nature of the
need and the size of the need.
We have all
the money we need for now. At the end of this month, in two days,
by our best estimate, 84 percent of the supplemental funds, the
$40 billion Congress has appropriated, will remain unobligated and
unspent. So we do have the funds available, and it will be a while
before we know where and when and for exactly what purposes additional
money may be needed.
And so we
have asked the Congress' restraint in this, and the president has
indicated its importance that we do keep the deal we made with the
Congress, which calls for discretionary spending of $686 billion
and $40 billion of extra spending for the near term. It's plenty
enough. And again, we would hope that the administration would be
given the opportunity to propose to Congress the best ways to spend
any new money that may be required.
Is it possible to prevent the $40 billion emergency supplemental
spending from becoming a permanent addition to the baseline budget?
Will the administration try to separate those funds in the next
will to an extent. Some of that money will become a recurring cost
of government. The needs for homeland security will grow and will
extend, I suppose, now permanently, because this threat's not going
away. The president has often pointed out, this is likely to be
a long, perhaps indefinite, struggle.
On the other
hand, the majority, the big majority of the $40 billion does involve
one-time costs: the reconstruction of New York, fortifying cockpit
doors in airplanes only needs to be done once, vaccine for enough
to cover the entire American population is a one-time expenditure
and so forth.
So we will
separate those items that plausibly need to recur year on year,
and those would become part of our baseline, but not the rest.
This questioner would like to know how the homeland defense office
will influence the agencies in their expenditures. Will the office
have to go through OMB or will they have direct authority over the
certain expenditures within the agencies themselves?
Ridge will have, I think, very direct impact. We have put our organization
at his disposal, built a dedicated unit to work with and for him
and his team. And everybody at OMB understands this is really job
So we will
assist him in every way we can. We will implement, give effect to
his decisions, as the president ratifies them. And I think, if it's
not already apparent from some of the actions he's taken, it will
quickly become clear to one and all that he has the authority to
make these decisions and make them stick.
Given the current situation with the homeland defense, do you see
any situation in which the country might need to return to, sort
of, the World War II situation in which there was rationing for
such things as sugar and gasoline and all that?
not foreseeable to me. I suppose if this conflict were ever going
to broaden in a way that would require any real sacrifice of that
kind, Secretary Rumsfeld and the president would so indicate.
But I tried
to say in my opening comments that we're not in that position, and
that the measures that we will recommend really at the margin of
a $2 trillion budget to redeploy funds to winning the war,
from and to high-performing programs, from important but less important
priorities, and from programs that don't work very well, these should
be very, very minor. They'll be transparent and undetectable I would
say to the average citizen; perhaps not to interest groups deeply
committed to these individual items, but to the general public absolutely.
Can you tell us what is the best combination of spending increases
and tax cuts for the stimulus bill? How big should each of them
president indicated that a stimulus package somewhere in the neighborhood
of $75 billion seemed appropriate, and that is still his guidance.
Spending at that level and higher, actually, has already occurred
or been built in by previous decisions, and the president was very
clear that that's really all the spending he thought was necessary,
apart perhaps from direct assistance to dislocated workers, which
was part of his proposal.
But the balance
of any stimulus--and he still hopes there will be such a bill--to
further propel the recovery that people are beginning to sense and
to forecast, but is certainly not guaranteed, and for which we ought
to provide ourselves an insurance policy, that the bulk of that
stimulus--the remaining stimulus ought to come in the form of tax
relief that provides not only a boost to near-term demand, but also
incentives and better expectations that will lead to investments
and longer-term job-producing measures.
This questioner would like to know if the White House would, under
any circumstances, negotiate an economic stimulus package with Congress
before the Senate acts, or will you wait for the Senate Republicans
or Democrats to cut a deal before the White House gets involved.
a tactical call that I'm really not certain how to answer. I think
the president does believe that having laid out both boundary conditions
and clear specifications about the kind of stimulus that is needed,
that the Congress ought to act and bring him something that is consistent
with those principles, and is disappointed that the Senate seems
unable to do that. The Senate leadership seems incapable of bringing
that about. But we're still hopeful, and the president met with
the leadership again this morning as he has done essentially every
week since the 11th, and we're still very hopeful that Senator Daschle
and the Democratic leadership there will produce a bill, and produce
one that he can sign.
When you talked about the factors affecting long-term budget deficits,
why didn't you include the president's $1.3 billion tax cut as one
of those factors?
that we know that the economic slow-down that the president sensed
a year plus ago was real, and, in fact, became a recession essentially
around the time of his coming to town, one can only say thank goodness
for tax cuts that are a major reason why this recession, many are
saying, may prove short and shallow.
But the last
thing anybody should be suggesting or should want in a time of recession
is to strip away the long-term growth-inducing policies of that
tax cut, which are very much a part of the near-term as well, since
some of those reductions have just occurred, or will very soon.
So what the president asserted was wise when not everybody agreed,
now looks very, very prescient indeed.
Looking toward the new budget that will coming up, this questioner
wants to know if the administration will submit a fiscal 2002 budget
that reforms Social Security, adds drug coverage to Medicare, and
does not tap the Social Security trust fund.
it says '02, but I know that must mean '03, the budget just ahead
of us. And I'm not here today to unveil a budget that's still in
the process of preparation.
But the one
piece of the question that I can answer is that, the next budget
will--to use the terminology here--tap the Social Security trust
fund. That is to say, there will be excess receipts from payroll
taxes and the interest we credit to the trust funds that do greatly
exceed the surplus, which will quite possibly be zero or less that
the books show. So we are, as I mentioned earlier, now living in
a post-lockbox world and we're going to have to be very, very disciplined
and work together very closely if we want to return to one.
Do you have, sort of, a target figure on how large a deficit that
would be acceptable to the administration?
not set a target figure. The president had said, throughout his
campaign and long before these events were visible to us, that he
hoped to always operate in the black and, in fact, at levels beyond
the Social Security surplus, but that there were three conditions
under which a deficit would be acceptable. Those being war, recession
or emergency. And as he said to me, shortly after the 11th, "Lucky
me, I hit the trifecta."
So he and
the economic team believe that running deficits in a time like this
is acceptable, but the task for us all, as I've indicated, is to
keep our heads and to work every day to make sure that this is a
temporary and not a permanent condition.
One thing that helped to produce the huge budget surpluses that
we had for a while was the so-called peace dividend. Obviously,
this factor is now appears to no longer be with us. So this questioner
wants to know how much will defense add to the budget next year
and over the long term.
will be additive. The president has not picked a number yet. But
we will have a multi-year, a five-year defense plan and the budget,
I believe, will forecast the rebuilding of our defenses. The president
was planning this, campaigned on it, of course, well before we entered
war-time conditions. And the 11th, I think, will only--those events
will only accent the need to rebuild and transform our national
So you can
look for increases, but the extent of those is not knowable yet.
You talked about, in your speech, shifting some programs from automatic
spending to discretionary spending and that would have to be renewed
each year. Which programs are you talking about?
would like to review these with the leaders of the Appropriations
Committees first, but I'll just make a couple of general--give a
couple of general examples.
We do have
some programs in which the administrative costs--we tend to think
of mandatory programs as the entitlements, and in the main they
are, where checks go to people or benefits go to people based on
their eligibility under the authorizing statute. But in many cases,
if you look a little further beneath the covers, you find that we
have slid pure administrative costs of government in some of these
programs in under the same umbrella. That's not good policy. Somebody
ought to be looking each year at whether these programs are being
well-run, as well-run as the National Weather Service or the National
Science Foundation at 5 percent, for instance.
And so as
I say, at like to at least start small. I'd like to see if we can't
begin moving this tanker back a little bit in the direction of the
Congress having greater annual control of the purse strings, as
A couple questions came up when talking about that stimulus package,
and in both cases the questioner notes that there is quite a bit
of stimulus already in the pipeline, and that we are doing more
spending, and the question is do you think that we really do indeed
still need a stimulus package, or is it just simply a feel-good
it's the former. I think the president believes that it is only
smart to try to take out an insurance policy, or to take steps necessary
to make sure we get people back to work as fast as possible.
are many promising signs. And the market seems to sense some recovery
not to far ahead. Certainly energy and commodity prices are increasing.
Consumers' discretionary income, that's a big plus that may be a
bigger than was evident not too long ago.
But this economy
is still far too shaky. And talk to people in businesses, as I try
to do on my regular trips home, it is--at the street level, at the
factory floor level, at the payroll clerk level, it is not yet obvious
that sufficient recovery is in near-term prospect.
A couple of questions dealing with the farm bill. One would like
to know, "What farm bill approach does the Bush administration support,
and how strongly are you pushing for Senator Lugar's farm bill proposal?"
president's secretary of agriculture issued a tremendous book back
in August that will tell you the kind of farm bill that this administration
would support. It's an expression of principles, and really a great
little tutorial if you have the time--short time it takes to read
it, about how agriculture has changed in America, who is farming,
what the distribution of our farmers is and so forth, and the kind
of policy that ought to point you to.
bill need not occur this year. We have a farm bill that runs out
until next fall. It would be better to do this more reflectively,
and that may still be the result.
But the alternative
farm bill which was proposed by Senators Cochran and Roberts, and
got almost half the votes in the Senate Ag Committee, is pretty
faithful to those principles. It's very important that any farm
bill that Congress passes be fully consistent with our trade, and
our free trade obligations; this is one big problem with the bill
the House passed. And likewise, that it'd be progressive and not
retrograde in terms of not distorting markets, not artificially
inducing surplus production, that only serves to depress prices
and makes matter worse.
There are a number of questions here that deal with you and Congress.
This one asks, "How would you characterize your relations with Congress?
Do you consider the snarly comments members of Congress have made
about you a badge of honor?" And this, "What do you really think
first of all, I think that, in general, it's my job to have good
relations with Congress. I think, in general, I have enjoyed tremendous
cooperation in Congress.
There is a
part of Congress, those who are responsible for the appropriation
of monies, with whom I think there is a natural and inevitable tension.
And I need to be careful to manage this, and not to aggravate that
tension ever through careless remarks. I recently observed on at
least one occasion my brain went on vacation and left my mouth in
charge. And I regret that will be careful here and elsewhere not
to repeat it.
there is some natural friction, of course, between folks who are
very zealously pursing--sincerely pursuing the public interest as
they see it perhaps in one piece of the budget, and those of us
whose responsibility is to try to keep the whole rational and under
I think beyond that, I want to be careful not to say much more.
state trooper stopped a married couple one night for speeding. And
as he was interrogating the husband, the wife broke in and said,
"Oh, officer, my husband's a very good driver. We were just on our
way home from friends." And the husband said, "Agnes, please, don't
say any more. You'll just make things worse like you always do."
And the trooper was naturally offended and said, "Ma'am, does he
always treat you that way?" She said, "Officer, only when he's drinking."
Inappropriate at the time, I suspect.
I have a couple
of questions here, and we're nearing the end. But these deal with
you personally. And this one says, "Indiana media reports you plan
to return to Indiana to run for the Senate or as the governor. What
is your plan for the future? Are you considering running for governor
in Indiana in 2004? What factors will go into your decision in whether
to run for governor of Indiana in 2004?" You get the idea.
a strange idea, but I get it.
No, I'm not.
I got a job I find fulfilling. And the only attractive about those
suggestions is, I'd be home with Cheri (ph) and the girls.
But I have
an assignment that is at the pleasure of the president, and any
day I'm not useful to him I'll leave or he'll tell me to. But I
have no such intentions and you won't see that.
Before asking the last question, I do have a little bit of business
I'd like to do up here.
First of all,
I'd like to present you with a certificate of appreciation for your
appearance here at the press club this afternoon. And secondly,
a famous National Press Club mug that I hope that you will use and
put on your desk and fill it with whatever you seem to think appropriate.
I read, Mitch,
that you once said that, "The difference between Washington and
Indianapolis, was that Indianapolis had a better football team."
Well, Indianapolis now has a four and six record and Washington
has a five and five record. I wonder what your comments now might
I'm versatile enough to maintain dual allegiance, and I even rooted
for the Redskins when--all those years at home. But, yes, I'm a
little surprised to find the Colts with the worse record.
But I want
to thank you for this, by the way. And I tempted as I might be,
I won't hock it; I'll keep it.
And if I may,
I'll bring it to taco night.
Very good. And we can put a happy hour drink in there.
Mitch. It's been a personal pleasure for me for you to have been
And I want
to thank all of you for being here in the audience today and those
of you who watched on C-SPAN or listened to this program on National
all, and we are adjourned.