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President Meets with National Economic Council

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 25, 2003

President Meets with National Economic Council
The Cabinet Room


11:16 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I'm meeting with my National Economic Council, key members of my administration who have been traveling the country, listening to the voices of small business people, entrepreneurs, workers, listening to their concerns about our future. And at the same time explaining to them how we address the economic issues of our country.

This administration is firmly committed to the principle that if people have more of their own money, they're likely to spend it on a good or a service -- which means somebody is more likely to be able to find work. We're committed to the notion that investment of capital equals jobs.

And so, therefore, our policies are aimed at -- are aimed the encouraging investment and job creation, as well as consumer confidence and spending. And we are confident that when the Congress listens to the people, that they will support this plan. It's an important economic plan and it's one that we look forward to vigorously working with Congress to get it done here.

I'll be glad to take some questions. Let me start off with Angle.

Q Mr. President, what would it take at this point to avoid a war with Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Full disarmament.

Q Any particular stand on that, sir? I mean, what --

THE PRESIDENT: There's only one thing, that's full disarmament. The man has been told to disarm. For the sake of peace, he must completely disarm. I suspect we'll see him playing games; that he will -- the world will say disarm, and he will all of a sudden find a weapon that he claimed he didn't have.

Q Happened this morning, as a matter of fact.

THE PRESIDENT: I suspect that he will try to fool the world one more time. After all, he has had a history of doing that for 12 years. He's been successful at gaming the system. And our attitude is it's now time for him to fully disarm. And we expect the Security Council to honor its word by insisting that Saddam disarm. Now is the time.

David.

Q Mr. President, one of the uncertainties about the economy is the possibility of a war. Do you have any idea how much a war might cost and how it might affect our economy here at home?

THE PRESIDENT: David, there is all kinds of estimates about the cost of war. But the risk of doing nothing, the risk of the security of this country being jeopardized at the hands of a madman with weapons of mass destruction far exceeds the risks of any action we may be forced to take.

There are people who worry about the future. I understand that. And I worry about the future. I worry about a future in which Saddam Hussein gets to blackmail and/or attack. I worry about a future in which terrorist organizations are fueled and funded by a Saddam Hussein. And that's why we're bringing this issue to a head.

Heidi.

Q Will the outcome of any U.N. Security Council vote have any effect on whether or not we go to war in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously, we'd like to have a positive vote. That's why we've submitted a Security Council resolution, along with Great Britain and Spain. But as I said all along, it would be helpful and useful, but I don't believe we need a second resolution. Saddam Hussein hasn't disarmed. He may play like he's going to disarm, but he hasn't disarmed. And for the sake of peace and the security of the American people, he must disarm.

Fournier.

Q Sir, how big and exactly what kind of sacrifices will be asked of the U.S. troops, their families, the American public should you decide to go to war?

THE PRESIDENT: Any time you put a troop into harm's way, that in itself is a sacrifice. First of all -- and that's why war is my last choice. That's why I've said all along I would hope that the world would come together to convince Saddam to make the decision to disarm.

Perhaps the biggest risk in the theater, if we were to commit our troops, is Saddam, himself. He shows no regard for human life in his own country. After all, he's gassed them, he's used the weapons of mass destruction on his own people that he now claims he doesn't have. He tortures people. He brutalizes them. He could care less about human condition inside of Iraq.

And so I think one of the biggest dangers we face -- if we go to war -- is how he treats innocent life. And it is important for the Iraqi leadership and Iraqi generals to clearly understand that if they take innocent life, if they destroy infrastructure, they will be held to account as war criminals.

END 11:21 A.M. EST

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