[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 42, Number 45 (Monday, November 13, 2006)]
[Pages 2023-2033]
[Online from the Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

<R04>
The President's News Conference

November 8, 2006

    The President. Thank you. Say, why all the glum faces?
    Yesterday the people went to the polls, and they cast their vote for 
a new direction in the House of Representatives. And while the ballots 
are still being counted in the Senate, it is clear the Democrat Party 
had a good night last night, and I congratulate them on their victories.
    This morning I spoke with Republican and Democrat leadership in the 
House and Senate. I spoke with Republican leaders, Senator Frist and 
Senator McConnell and Speaker Hastert and John Boehner and Roy Blunt. I 
thanked them for their hard-fought contests. I appreciated the efforts 
they put in for our candidates.
    I'm obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election, and as 
the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the 
responsibility. I told my party's leaders that it is now our duty to put 
the elections behind us and work together with the Democrats and 
independents on the great issues facing this country.
    This morning I also spoke with the Democrats. I spoke with Senators 
Reid and Durbin. I congratulated them on running a strong campaign in 
the Senate, and I told them that, regardless of the final outcome, we 
can work together over the next 2 years. I also congratulated 
Congresswoman Pelosi and Congressman Hoyer. They ran a disciplined 
campaign. Their candidates were well-organized and did a superb job of 
turning out their vote.
    I told Congresswoman Pelosi that I look forward to working with her 
and her colleagues to find common ground in the next 2 years. As the 
majority party in the House of Representatives, they recognize that in 
their new role, they now have greater responsibilities. And in my first 
act of bipartisan outreach since the election, I shared with her the 
names of some Republican interior decorators who can help her pick out 
the new drapes in her new offices.
    I believe that the leaders of both political parties must try to 
work through our differences. And I believe we will be able to work 
through differences. I've reassured the House and Senate leaders that I 
intend to work with the new Congress in a bipartisan way to address 
issues confronting this country. I invited them to come to the White 
House in the coming days to discuss the important work remaining this 
year and to begin conversations about the agenda for next year.
    The message yesterday was clear: The American people want their 
leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences, conduct 
ourselves in an ethical manner, and work together to address the 
challenges facing our Nation.
    We live in historic times. The challenges and opportunities are 
plain for all to see: Will this country continue to strengthen our 
economy today and over the long run? Will we provide a first-class 
education for our children? And will we be prepared for the global 
challenges of the 21st century? Will we build upon the recent progress 
we've made in addressing our energy dependence by aggressively pursuing 
new technologies to break

[[Page 2024]]

our addiction to foreign sources of energy? And most importantly, will 
this generation of leaders meet our obligation to protect the American 
people?
    I know there's a lot of speculation on what the election means for 
the battle we're waging in Iraq. I recognize that many Americans voted 
last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being 
made there. Yet I also believe most Americans and leaders here in 
Washington from both political parties understand we cannot accept 
defeat.
    In the coming days and weeks, I and members of my national security 
team will meet with the members of both parties to brief them on latest 
developments and listen to their views about the way forward. We'll also 
provide briefings to the new Members of Congress so they can be fully 
informed as they prepare for their new responsibilities.
    As we work with the new leaders in Congress, I'm also looking 
forward to hearing the views of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, 
cochaired by Secretary James Baker and Congressman Lee Hamilton. This 
group is assessing the situation in Iraq and are expected to provide--
and the group is expected to provide recommendations on a way forward. 
And I'm going to meet with them, I think, early next week.
    The election has changed many things in Washington, but it has not 
changed my fundamental responsibility, and that is to protect the 
American people from attack. As the Commander in Chief, I take these 
responsibilities seriously. And so does the man who served this nation 
honorably for almost 6 years as our Secretary of Defense, Donald 
Rumsfeld. Now, after a series of thoughtful conversations, Secretary 
Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the 
Pentagon.
    Our military has experienced an enormous amount of change and reform 
during the last 5 years while fighting the war on terror, one of the 
most consequential wars in our Nation's history. Don Rumsfeld has been a 
superb leader during a time of change. Yet he also appreciates the value 
of bringing in a fresh perspective during a critical period in this war. 
Don Rumsfeld is a patriot who served our country with honor and 
distinction. He's a trusted adviser and a friend, and I'm deeply 
grateful to his service to our country.
    I've asked Bob Gates to serve as the Secretary of Defense. Bob is a 
former Director of the CIA and current president of Texas A&M 
University. If confirmed by the Senate, Bob will bring more than 25 
years of national security experience and a stellar reputation as an 
effective leader with sound judgment. He's served six Presidents from 
both political parties and rose from an entry-level employee in the CIA 
to become the Director of Central Intelligence. During his service at 
the CIA and at the National Security Council, Bob Gates gained firsthand 
knowledge that will help him meet the challenges and opportunities our 
country faces during the next 2 years. He is serving as a member of the 
Baker-Hamilton Commission. He's a steady, solid leader who can help make 
the necessary adjustments in our approach to meet our current 
challenges.
    I will have more to say about Secretary Rumsfeld and Bob Gates later 
today here at the White House.
    Amid this time of change, I have a message for those on the 
frontlines. To our enemies: Do not be joyful; do not confuse the 
workings of our democracy with a lack of will. Our Nation is committed 
to bringing you to justice. Liberty and democracy are the source of 
America's strength, and liberty and democracy will lift up the hopes and 
desires of those you are trying to destroy.
    To the people of Iraq: Do not be fearful. As you take the difficult 
steps toward democracy and peace, America is going to stand with you. We 
know you want a better way of life, and now is the time to seize it.
    To our brave men and women in uniform: Don't be doubtful. America 
will always support you. Our Nation is blessed to have men and women who 
volunteer to serve and are willing to risk their own lives for the 
safety of our fellow citizens.
    When I first came to Washington nearly 6 years ago, I was hopeful I 
could help change the tone here in the Capital. As Governor of Texas, I 
had successfully worked with both Democrats and Republicans to find 
commonsense solutions to the problems facing our State. While we made 
some

[[Page 2025]]

progress on changing the tone, I'm disappointed we haven't made more. 
I'm confident that we can work together. I'm confident we can overcome 
the temptation to divide this country between red and blue. The issues 
before us are bigger than that, and we are bigger than that. By putting 
this election and partisanship behind us, we can launch a new era of 
cooperation and make these next 2 years productive ones for the American 
people.
    I appreciate your interest. Now, I'll answer some questions. Terry 
[Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Does the departure of Don Rumsfeld 
signal a new direction in Iraq? A solid majority of Americans said 
yesterday that they wanted some American troops, if not all, withdrawn 
from Iraq. Did you hear that call, and will you heed it?
    The President. Terry, I'd like our troops to come home too, but I 
want them to come home with victory, and that is a country that can 
govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And I can understand 
Americans saying, ``Come home.'' But I don't know if they said come home 
and leave behind an Iraq that could end up being a safe haven for Al 
Qaida. I don't believe they said that. And so, I'm committed to victory. 
I'm committed to helping this country so that we can come home.
    Now, the first part about----
    Q. A new direction.
    The President. Oh, a new direction. Well, there's certainly going to 
be new leadership at the Pentagon. And as I mentioned in my comments, 
that Secretary Rumsfeld and I agree that sometimes it's necessary to 
have a fresh perspective, and Bob Gates will bring a fresh perspective. 
He'll also bring great managerial experience.
    And he is--I had a good talk with him on Sunday in Crawford. I 
hadn't--it took me a while to be able to sit down and visit with him, 
and I did, and I found him to be of like mind. He understands we're in a 
global war against these terrorists. He understands that defeat is not 
an option in Iraq. And I believe it's important that there be a fresh 
perspective, and so does Secretary Rumsfeld.
    Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters].

Resignation of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Last week you told us that Secretary 
Rumsfeld will be staying on. Why is the timing right now for this, and 
how much does it have to do with the election results?
    The President. Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil [Richard Keil, 
Bloomberg News] came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question 
one week before the campaign, and basically it was, ``Are you going to 
do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President?'' And my answer was, 
they're going to stay on. And the reason why is, I didn't want to inject 
a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so 
the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another 
question was to give you that answer.
    The truth of the matter is, as well--I mean, that's one reason I 
gave the answer, but the other reason why is, I hadn't had a chance to 
visit with Bob Gates yet, and I hadn't had my final conversation with 
Don Rumsfeld yet at that point.
    I had been talking with Don Rumsfeld over a period of time about 
fresh perspective. He likes to call it fresh eyes. He himself 
understands that Iraq is not working well enough, fast enough. And he 
and I are constantly assessing. And I'm assessing, as well, all the 
time, by myself about, do we have the right people in the right place or 
do we--got the right strategy? As you know, we're constantly changing 
tactics, and that requires constant assessment.
    And so he and I both agreed in our meeting yesterday that it was 
appropriate that I accept his resignation. And so the decision was 
made--actually, I thought we were going to do fine yesterday. Shows what 
I know. But I thought we were going to be fine in the election. My point 
to you is, is that, win or lose, Bob Gates was going to become the 
nominee.
    Let's see here. Bret [Bret Baier, FOX News].

[[Page 2026]]

Bipartisan Cooperation in Congress

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. You said you're interested in changing 
the tone and committed to changing the tone in Washington. Just a few 
days before this election, in Texas, you said that Democrats, ``No 
matter how they put it, their approach to Iraq comes down to terrorists 
win; America loses.'' What has changed today, number one? Number two, is 
this administration prepared to deal with the level of oversight and 
investigation that is possibly going to come from one chamber or two in 
Congress?
    The President. What's changed today is the election is over, and the 
Democrats won. And now we're going to work together for 2 years to 
accomplish big objectives for the country. And secondly, the Democrats 
are going to have to make up their mind about how they're going to 
conduct their affairs. And I haven't had a chance to talk with the 
leadership yet about these issues, but we'll begin consultations with 
the Democrat leadership starting Thursday and Friday.
    David [David Gregory, NBC News].

Implications of 2006 Elections/War on Terror

    Q. Mr. President, thank you. You acknowledged that this is a message 
election on the war in Iraq. And so the American public today, having 
voted, will want to know what you mean in terms of ``course correction 
on Iraq.'' And particularly in light of this fact, that last week the 
Vice President pointed out that you and he aren't running for anything 
anymore, and that it's full speed ahead on Iraq. So which is it? Are you 
listening to the voters, or are you listening to the Vice President? And 
what does that mean?
    The President. David, I believe Iraq had a lot to do with the 
election, but I believe there was other factors as well. People want 
their Congress--Congressmen to be honest and ethical. So in some races, 
that was the primary factor. There were different factors that 
determined the outcome of different races, but no question, Iraq was on 
people's minds. And as you have just learned, I am making a change at 
the Secretary of Defense to bring a fresh perspective as to how to 
achieve something I think most Americans want, which is a victory.
    We will work with Members of Congress; we will work with the Baker-
Hamilton Commission. My point is, is that while we have been adjusting, 
we will continue to adjust to achieve the objective. And I believe 
that's what the American people want.
     Somehow it seeped in their conscious that my attitude was just 
simply, stay the course. ``Stay the course'' means, let's get the job 
done, but it doesn't mean staying stuck on a strategy or tactics that 
may not be working. So perhaps I need to do a better job of explaining 
that we're constantly adjusting. And so there's fresh perspective--so 
what the American people hear today is we're constantly looking for 
fresh perspective.
    But what's also important for the American people to understand is 
that if we were to leave before the job is done, the country becomes 
more at risk. That's what the Vice President was saying--he said, ``If 
the job is not complete, Al Qaida will have safe haven from which to 
launch attacks.'' These radicals and extremists have made it clear they 
want to topple moderate governments to spread their ideology. They 
believe that it's just a matter of time before we leave so they can 
implement their strategies. We're just not going to let them do that. 
We're going to help this Government become a government that can defend, 
govern, and sustain itself, and an ally in the war on terror.
    Yes, sir.
    Q. The message today is not full speed ahead? Is that right, that 
it's not----
    The President. We've got another man with the mike, David, please.

Robert M. Gates

    Q. Mr. President, thank you. Can I just start by asking you to 
clarify, sir, if, in your meeting with Steve and Terry and Dick, did you 
know at that point----
    The President. I did not.
    Q. ----you would be making a change on Secretary Rumsfeld?
    The President. No, I did not. And the reason I didn't know is 
because I hadn't visited with his replacement--potential replacement.
    Q. But you knew he would be leaving, just not who would replace him?

[[Page 2027]]

    The President. No, I didn't know that at the time.
    Q. Okay. May I ask you about Nancy Pelosi----
    The President. The other thing I did know, as well, is that that 
kind of question, a wise question by a seasoned reporter, is the kind of 
thing that causes one to either inject major military decisions at the 
end of a campaign, or not. And I have made the decision that I wasn't 
going to be talking about hypothetical troop levels or changes in 
command structure coming down the stretch.
    And I'll tell you why I made that decision. I made that decision 
because I think it sends a bad signal to our troops if they think the 
Commander in Chief is constantly adjusting tactics and decisions based 
upon politics. And I think it's important in a time of war that, to the 
extent possible, we leave politics out of the major decisions being 
made. And it was the right decision to make, by the way.
    And secondly, I hadn't visited with Bob Gates. I told you I visited 
with him last Sunday in Crawford. You can't replace somebody until you 
know you got somebody to replace him with. And finally, I hadn't had my 
last conversation with Secretary Rumsfeld, which I had yesterday.

Representative Nancy Pelosi

    Q. Mr. President, I'd like to ask you: Nancy Pelosi has been quite 
clear about her agenda for the first 100 hours. She mentions things like 
raising minimum wage, cutting interest rates on student loans, 
broadening stem cell research, and rolling back tax cuts. Which of those 
can you support, sir?
    The President. I knew you'd probably try to get me to start 
negotiating with myself. I haven't even visited with Congresswoman 
Pelosi yet. She's coming to the Oval Office later this week; I'm going 
to sit down and talk with her. I believe on a lot of issues we can find 
common ground, and there's a significant difference between common 
ground and abandoning principle. She's not going to abandon her 
principles, and I'm not going to abandon mine. But I do believe we have 
an opportunity to find some common ground to move forward on.
    In that very same interview you quoted, one of these three 
characters asked me about minimum wage. I said, there's an area where I 
believe we can make some--find common ground. And as we do, I'll be, of 
course, making sure that our small businesses are--there's compensation 
for the small businesses in the bill.
    Q. What about tax cuts?
    The President. Keil.

Vice President Cheney

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. In our discussion with you last week, 
which you've referenced here several times----
    The President. Are you bringing this up so everybody else gets kind 
of jealous? [Laughter]
    Q. Certainly. Certainly.
    The President. Like Gregory, for example--he wishes he were there. 
[Laughter]
    Q. This is a very competitive environment. No, but we asked you 
about the fate of Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney. Vice 
President Cheney, of course, has made--takes many of the same positions 
that Secretary Rumsfeld did on the war. Does he still have your complete 
confidence?
    The President. Yes, he does.
    Q. Do you expect him to stay----
    The President. The campaign is over. Yes, he does.
    Q. And he'll be here for the remainder of your term?
    The President. Yes, he will. Thank you.
    Suzanne [Suzanne Malveaux, Cable News Network].

Bipartisan Cooperation in Congress

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has 
called you incompetent, a liar, the emperor with no clothes, and as 
recently as yesterday, dangerous. How will you work with someone who has 
such little respect for your leadership and who is third in line to the 
Presidency?
    The President. Suzanne, I've been around politics a long time; I 
understand when campaigns end, and I know when governing begins. And I 
am going to work with people of both parties.
    Look, people say unfortunate things at times. But if you hold 
grudges in this line

[[Page 2028]]

of work, you're never going to get anything done. And my intention is to 
get some things done. And as I said, I'm going to start visiting with 
her on Friday, with the idea of coming together.
    Look, this was a close election. If you look at race by race, it was 
close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close--it was a 
thumping. But nevertheless, the people expect us to work together. 
That's what they expect. And as I said in my opening comments, there 
comes responsibility with victory. And that's what Nancy Pelosi told me 
this morning. She said in the phone call she wants to work together. And 
so do I. And so that's how you deal with it.
    This isn't--this isn't my first rodeo. In other words, I haven't--
this is not the first time I've been in a campaign where people have 
expressed themselves, and in different kinds of ways. But I have learned 
that if you focus on the big picture, which, in this case, is our Nation 
and issues we need to work together on, you can get stuff done. For 
example, the No Child Left Behind Act is going to come up for 
reauthorization. There's an area where we must work together for the 
sake of our children and for the sake of a competitive America. And I 
believe we can get a lot done. And I know it's the spirit of the new 
leadership to try to get a lot done, and I look forward to talking to 
them about it.
    Rutenberg [Jim Rutenberg, New York Times].

Implications of 2006 Elections

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. You just described the election results 
as a ``thumping.''
    The President. I said the cumulative--make sure--who do you write 
for?
    Q. The New York Times, Mr. President.
    The President. Oh, yes, that's right. [Laughter] Let's make sure we 
get it--the facts. I said that the elections were close; the cumulative 
effect----
    Q. Is a thumping.
    The President. ----thumping. [Laughter]
    Q. But the results----
    The President. It's a polite way of saying--anyway, go ahead. 
[Laughter]
    Q. But the results are being interpreted as a repudiation of your 
leadership style in some quarters. I wonder what your reaction is to 
that. And do you--should we expect a very different White House? Should 
we expect a very different leadership style from you in these last 2 
years, given that you have a whole new set of partners?
    The President. You know, I really haven't--I'm still going to try to 
speak plainly about what I think are the important priorities of the 
country, and winning this war on terror is, by far, the most important 
priority. And making sure this economy continues to grow is an important 
priority. And making sure our children have a good education is an 
important priority.
    Obviously, there's a shift in the Congress and, therefore, in order 
to get legislation passed, we've got to work with the Democrats. They're 
the ones who will control the committees; they're the ones who will 
decide how the bills flow. And so you'll see a lot of meetings with 
Democrats and a lot of discussion with Democrats.
    And in terms of the election, no question Iraq had something to do 
with it. And it's tough in a time of war when people see carnage on 
their television screens. The amazing thing about this election, and 
what surprised me somewhat--which goes to show I should not try 
punditry--is that this economy is strong. And a lot of times, off years 
are decided by the economy. And yet, obviously there was a different 
feel out there for the electorate. The economy--the good news in the 
economy was overwhelmed by the toughness of this fight and toughness of 
the war.
    And so, Jim, look, I understand people don't agree--didn't agree 
with some of my decisions. I'm going to continue making decisions based 
upon what I think is right for the country. I've never been one to try 
to fashion the principles I believe or the decisions I make based upon 
trying to--kind of short-term popularity. I do understand where the 
people--the heart of the people. I understand they're frustrated. I am 
too, as I said the other day. I wish this had gone faster. So does 
Secretary Rumsfeld. But the reality is, is that it's a tough fight, and 
we're going to win the fight. And I truly believe the only

[[Page 2029]]

way we won't win is if we leave before the job is done.
    Yes, Jim.

Bipartisan Cooperation in Congress

    Q. May I follow that, sir?
    The President. I know, terrible principle. I'm sorry.
    Q. Thank you, sir.
    Q. [Inaudible]
    The President. You think I'm nuts? [Laughter] You think my 
sensibility has left me as a result of working hard on the campaign 
trail, Gregory? [Laughter]
    Q. But to follow, we were speaking about the war, and during the 
campaign, two very different viewpoints of the war came out. You spoke a 
lot, as Bret mentioned, about what you saw as the Democratic approach to 
the war, which you were greatly concerned about. Are you worried that 
you won't be able to work with the Democrats, or do you feel like you 
have to prevail upon them your viewpoint?
    The President. Well, I think we're going to have to work with them, 
but--just like I think we're going to have to work with the Baker-
Hamilton Commission. It's very important that the people understand the 
consequences of failure. And I have vowed to the country that we're not 
going to fail. We're not going to leave before the job is done. And 
obviously, we've got a lot of work to do with some Members of Congress. 
I don't know how many Members of Congress said, ``Get out right now''--I 
mean, the candidates running for Congress in the Senate. I haven't seen 
that chart. Some of the comments I read where they said, ``Well, look, 
we just need a different approach to make sure we succeed''--well, you 
can find common ground there.
    See, if the goal is success, then we can work together. If the goal 
is, get out now regardless, then that's going to be hard to work 
together. But I believe the Democrats want to work together to win this 
aspect of the war on terror.
    I'm also looking forward to working with them to make sure that we 
institutionalize, to the extent possible, steps necessary to make sure 
future Presidents are capable of waging this war. Because Iraq is a part 
of the war on terror, and it's--I think back to Harry Truman and Dwight 
Eisenhower. I mean, Harry Truman began the cold war, and Eisenhower, 
obviously, from a different party, continued it. And I would hope that 
would be the spirit that we're able to work together. We may not agree 
with every tactic, but we should agree that this country needs to secure 
ourselves against an enemy that would like to strike us again. This 
enemy is not going away after my Presidency.
    And I look forward to working with them. And I truly believe that 
Congresswoman Pelosi and Harry Reid care just about as much--they care 
about the security of this country, like I do. They see the--no leader 
in Washington is going to walk away from protecting the country. We have 
different views on how to do that, but their spirit is such that they 
want to protect America. That's what I believe.
    Just like I talked about the troops. I meant what I said. Look, the 
people that's--are going to be looking at this election--the enemy is 
going to say, ``Well, it must mean America is going to leave.'' And the 
answer is, no, that doesn't--what it means. Our troops are wondering 
whether or not they're going to get the support they need after this 
election. Democrats are going to support our troops just like 
Republicans will. And the Iraqis have got to understand, this election--
as I said, don't be fearful. In other words, don't look at the results 
of the elections and say, ``Oh, no. America is going to leave us before 
the job is complete.'' That's not what's going to happen, Jim.
    Yes, sir, Fletcher [Michael Fletcher, Washington Post].

``District of Columbia Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act of 2006''

    Q. Thank you, sir. There's a bill that could come before the 
lameduck session of Congress that would extend voting rights to the 
District of Columbia, in Congress, and also give an extra seat to Utah. 
You've been passionate about democracy in Iraq. Why not here in DC, and 
would you support this bill?
    The President. Yes, I haven't--it's the first I've heard of it. I 
didn't know that's going to come up from the lameduck.
    Q. ----Congressman Davis's bill.

[[Page 2030]]

    The President. Yes, well, it may or may not come up. I'm trying to 
get the Indian deal done, the Vietnam deal done, and the budgets done. 
But I'll take a look at it. It's the first I've heard of it. Thanks.
    Let's see here. Yes, sir.

Iraq/Vietnam Analogy

    Q. Mr. President, you mentioned the prospect that your successor 
would be dealing with the war. You'll be making your first trip to 
Vietnam in roughly a week. Some people are still--are looking at the war 
as another Vietnam war. Are they wrong to do so? And if so, why?
    The President. I think they are. I think they are. First of all, 
Iraq is--after the overthrow of the tyrant, voted on a Constitution that 
is intended to unite the whole country. And then they had elections 
under that Constitution where nearly 12 million people voted for this 
unity Government. Secondly--which is different from Vietnam.
    Secondly, in terms of our troops, this is a volunteer army. Vietnam 
wasn't a volunteer army, as you know. And in this volunteer army, the 
troops understand the consequences of Iraq and the global war on terror. 
That's why reenlistment rates are up, and that's why enlistment is high.
    Thirdly, the support for our troops is strong here in the United 
States, and it wasn't during the Vietnam era. So I see differences; I 
really do. And you hear all the time, ``Well, this may be a civil war.'' 
Well, I don't believe it is, and the Maliki Government doesn't believe 
it is. Zal, our Ambassador, doesn't believe it is. But we've got to make 
sure it isn't by implementing a strategy which helps--a politics 
strategy which helps unify the country, and a security strategy that 
makes sure that the Iraqis are better capable of fighting off the 
extremists and the radicals that want to stop progress in Iraq.
    So I don't think it is a parallel.
    Mike [Michael Allen, Time].

President's Decisionmaking

    Q. Thank you, sir. During this campaign season some religious 
conservatives expressed support and appreciation for the work you've 
done. But some also expressed that they felt like they expended a lot of 
effort on your behalf without a lot of results. I wonder if you could 
tell us what parts of their agenda are still on your radar screen, and 
if you think they're right to be frustrated? And also, Mr. President, 
may I ask you if you have any metrics you'd be willing to share about 
your reading contest with Mr. Rove.
    The President. I'm losing. I obviously was working harder in the 
campaign than he was. [Laughter]
    Audience members. Oooooh!
    The President. He's a faster reader.
    You know, Michael, I must confess, I cannot catalog for you in 
detail the different criticisms. In this line of work you get criticized 
from all sides. And that's okay; it's just part of the job. And so I'm 
not exactly sure what you're talking about, but I can tell you that I 
believe the faith-based and community-based--the Faith and Community-
Based Initiative is a vital part of helping solve intractable problems 
here in America. And I would hope that I could work with Congress to 
make sure this program, which has been invigorated, remains invigorated.
    And the reason why I believe in it so much is that there are just 
some problems that require something other than government help, and it 
requires people who have heard a call to help somebody in need. And I 
believe we ought to open up grants to competitive bidding for these 
types of organizations, and we have done that. And it's very important 
that that program stay strong.
    But, you know, Michael, you're probably following all these--the 
different lists of concerns people have with my Presidency, and I 
respect that. I just--frankly, I'm not sure exactly what you're talking 
about in this question. I'm sure there are some people who aren't 
perfectly content, but there are some people that aren't perfectly 
content from different parties and different philosophies. All I know to 
do is to make decisions based upon principles that I believe are 
important, and now work with Democrat leaders in the Congress because 
they control the committees and they control the flow of bills. And I'm 
going to do that for the good of the country.
    Let's see here--yes, McKinnon [John McKinnon, Wall Street Journal].

[[Page 2031]]

Analysis of 2006 Elections

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. If you had any do-overs to do in this 
race----
    The President. You don't get to do them. [Laughter] Sorry.
    Q. Or if Mr. Rove had any do-overs to do in this race----
    The President. You don't get do-overs. Anyway, go ahead.
    Q. Well, what would they be? I mean, are there any tactical--
[laughter].
    The President. Look--yes, well--I, frankly, haven't analyzed the 
election nearly as much as some of you have. You know, again, I think 
when you really look close at the results--first of all, there's a lot 
of close elections. No question Iraq had an impact. But it's hard to win 
an election when you're trying to win a write-off--a write-in campaign 
in our State of Texas. I mean, you could have the greatest positions in 
the world on issues and be the most articulate person on an issue, but 
to try to get--to win on a write-in is really hard to do.
    We had the race in Florida, the Foley seat. That's a hard race to 
win in a Republican district because people couldn't vote directly for 
the Republican candidate. And all I'm telling you, John, is that there's 
a--when you dig into the races, there's a--look, I had to go down to 
Houston, in Sugar Land, and act as the secretary of state: Take your 
pencil into the box, and then write it in. And my only--the reason I 
bring that up is, I'm not sure Iraq had much to do with the outcome of 
that election.
    Now, it certainly did in other places. One of the interesting 
observations I had from last night was that if you take a look at New 
York State, Senator Clinton ran a very strong race, but she ran a race 
that appeared to me to be on--just a Senate race. She wanted to show 
people she had the capacity to help others win. And the same thing 
happened in Pennsylvania with Governor Rendell. He ran a very strong 
race, as did Senator-elect Casey. And my only point to you is, is that 
I'm sure Iraq had something to do with the voters' mind, but so did a 
very strong turnout mechanism in those two important States.
    So they're just going to have to analyze all the different results. 
As far as do-overs, look, talk to them.
    Ann [Ann Compton, ABC News].

Bipartisan Cooperation in Congress

    Q. Americans have heard it before, ``There's going to be 
cooperation; we're going to get along.'' What can you do to show 
Americans that there--that you'll stop and avoid any gridlock? Because 
they've seen it come anyway.
    The President. Well, we had some pretty good success early on in 
this administration. We got the No Child Left Behind Act passed, which 
was an important piece of bipartisan legislation. We got some tax cuts 
passed with Democrat votes.
    Q. ----partisan----
    The President. Let me--I know you're anxious, but--but so we've just 
now got to show people we're capable of doing it. I mean, you're right; 
there's--people are skeptical, and the way you defeat skepticism is 
perform. And I was very pleased with my conversation with Congresswoman 
Pelosi. It was a very gracious conversation and--albeit a little early 
in the morning, I must confess, but nevertheless, it was a good one. And 
my fault, since I was the person who initiated the call.
    But I do believe we can get some things done. I think we can set an 
agenda--I hope so. I hope so. I didn't come to Washington just to occupy 
the office; I came to get some positive things done on behalf of the 
country. And there are some big issues we got to deal with. No Child 
Left Behind is one. Entitlements, that's going to be an interesting 
issue to try to deal with. And it's going to be very important in 
entitlements for people to feel comfortable about bringing ideas to the 
table and--people being Republicans and Democrats. If we do not have 
Republicans and Democrats at the table for entitlements, nothing is 
going to happen.
    And therefore, I've instructed Secretary Paulson to reach out to 
folks on the Hill to see if we can't at least get a dialog started that 
will enable us, hopefully, to move forward on a very important issue 
that will affect this country for a long time if we don't solve it. And 
that is the unfunded liabilities inherent in these entitlement programs.
    We need to continue to talk about energy. Dependency upon foreign 
oil is a national

[[Page 2032]]

security and economic security problem, and it's a problem that requires 
bipartisan cooperation. I know the Democrats are concerned about this 
issue, as am I.
    So, in other words, there's areas where I believe we can get some 
important things done. And to answer your question, though, how do we 
convince Americans that we're able to do it? Do it. That's how you do 
it. You get something done. You actually sit down, work together, and I 
sign legislation that we all agree on. And my pledge today is, I'll work 
hard to try to see if we can't get that done.
    Herman [Ken Herman, Austin American-Statesman].

Analysis of 2006 Elections

    Q. I wanted to ask you about the thumpin' you took at yesterday's 
rodeo. You said you were disappointed; you were surprised----
    The President. There you go. Rutenberg, you notice that? Taking 
one----
    Q. And that was ``thumpin' '' without a ``g,'' correct? I just want 
to make sure we have it right for the transcript. [Laughter] You said 
you were surprised; you didn't see it coming; you were disappointed in 
the outcome. Does that indicate that after 6 years in the Oval Office, 
you're out of touch with America, for something like this kind of wave 
to come and you not expect it? And on a somewhat related note, does 
Nancy Pelosi look much like Bob Bullock to you?
    The President. [Laughter] That's an inside joke; I'm not commenting 
on it.
    Secondly, I'm an optimistic person, is what I am. And I knew we were 
going to lose seats; I just didn't know how many.
    Q. How could you not know that and not be out of touch?
    The President. You didn't know it, either.
    Q. A lot of polls showed it.
    The President. Well, there was a--I read those same polls, and I 
believe that--I thought when it was all said and done, the American 
people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of 
security. But the people have spoken, and now it's time for us to move 
on.
    Ken [Kenneth T. Walsh, U.S. News and World Report].

Social Security Reform

    Q. Mr. President, you mentioned entitlements, and one of the big, 
hot-button issues for the Democratic Party is Social Security and the 
idea of partial privatization, which you have talked about. And I wonder 
if there's anything in your agenda in that way that you're willing to 
adjust in the spirit of bipartisanship or back off from, given how 
important that is to the core of the Democratic Party?
    The President. I told--Ken, I told Hank Paulson to tell the Members 
that we'd sit down and we'd listen to everybody's ideas. I put out my 
ideas, as you recall, I think in the State of the Union last time. And 
we want to hear their ideas. And hopefully out of this concept of folks 
sitting around a table sharing ways forward, that we will come up with 
commonality, that we are able to then say to the American people, 
``We've helped solve this problem.''
    But this is a tough issue. Look, I fully understand how hard it is. 
Social Security is--people are generally risk-adverse when it comes time 
to Social Security. My problem with that is, is that the longer you 
wait, the more difficult the issue is going to become. And some will 
keep pushing it, and hopefully we can get something done.
    Richard [Richard Wolffe, Newsweek].

National Security

    Q. A little earlier you said that you truly believe that the 
Democratic leaders care about the security of this country as much as 
you do. Yet just about at every campaign stop, you expressed pretty much 
the opposite. You talked about them having a different mindset----
    The President. I did.
    Q. ----about having a different philosophy, about waiting--about 
being happy that America gets attacked before responding.
    The President. What did you just say, ``happy''?
    Q. You said they will be satisfied to see America----
    The President. No, I didn't say, ``happy.'' Let's make sure.
    Q. You left that impression, forgive me.
    The President. With you. Go ahead.

[[Page 2033]]

    Q. Well, I'm wondering, looking back at the campaign and previous 
campaigns, do you think that it's been harder to pull the country 
together after the election by making such partisan attacks about 
national security?
    The President. Richard, I do believe they care about the security. I 
don't--I thought they were wrong not making sure our professionals had 
the tools, and I still believe that. I don't see how you can protect the 
country unless you give these professionals tools. They just have a 
different point of view. That doesn't mean they don't--want America to 
get attacked. That's why I said what I said.
    Yes, Jackson [David Jackson, Dallas Morning News].

Immigration Reform

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. On immigration, many Democrats had more 
positive things to say about your comprehensive proposal than many 
Republicans did. Do you think a Democratic Congress gives you a better 
shot at comprehensive immigration reform?
    The President. You know, I should have brought this up. I do. I 
think we have a good chance. And thank you. It's an important issue, and 
I hope we can get something done on it. I meant to put that in my list 
of things that we need to get done.
    I would hope Republicans have recognized that we've taken very 
strong security measures to address one aspect of comprehensive 
immigration reform. And I was talking to Secretary Chertoff today; he 
thinks that these measures we're taking are beginning to have measurable 
effects and that catch-and-release has virtually been ended over the 
last couple of months. And that's positive.
    And that's what some Members were concerned about prior to advancing 
a comprehensive bill. In other words, they said, ``Show me progress on 
the border, and then we'll be interested in talking about other 
aspects.'' Well, there's progress being made on the border in terms of 
security, and I would hope we can get something done. It's a vital 
issue. It's an issue that--there's an issue where I believe we can find 
some common ground with the Democrats.
    Q. What are the odds for a guest-worker provision?
    The President. Well, that's got to be an integral part of a 
comprehensive plan. When you're talking comprehensive immigration 
reform, one part of it is a guest-worker program, where people can come 
on a temporary basis to do jobs Americans are not doing. I've always 
felt like that would be an important aspect of securing the border. In 
other words, if somebody is not trying to sneak in in the first place, 
it makes--decreases the work load on our Border Patrol and lets the 
Border Patrol focus on drugs and guns and terrorists. But that's a--I 
appreciate you bringing that up. I should have remembered it.
    Listen, thank you all very much for your time. I appreciate your 
interest.

Note: The President's news conference began at 1 p.m. in the East Room 
at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to former President 
Saddam Hussein and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq; U.S. 
Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad; and Gov. Edward G. Rendell and 
Senator-elect Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.