WASHINGTON: heard that.
Undated (AP) _ Q: Mr. President, in the interest of party unity, and since he has indicated that he is going to endorse you at the Houston convention, would you like Pat Buchanan to have the prime-time speech that he wants to have at the Republican convention in August?
A: Susan, I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t focused on that at all. I welcome the support of all Republicans, and let’s see how he handles this, and let the people handling the convention work it out. That is not on my agenda.
Q: With the benefit of in hindsight, do you think his primary challenge was damaging to you or helpful, or what?
A: Well, I can’t say it’s particularly helpful. But he got into a long line of people criticizing me: five on the Democratic side and one there. But maybe I’m a little stronger for it. Maybe I’m a little better - be a little better candidate when it comes to the fall.
I did not engage with Pat Buchanan; I don’t plan to do that now. But I’ll grope around to see if I can think of some reason it’s helpful. (Laughter.) But I have no hard feelings about that at all.
Yes, right here.
Q: Mr. President, critics of yours on Capitol Hill have said your policies towards Saddam Hussein before the Gulf War strengthened him and made it more likely to make an attack against one of his neighbors. How would you respond to that? I’ve got a followup.
A: Yeah. I’ll respond that that’s not right, as I said at my last press conference. We tried, not through strengthening his nuclear or biological or chemical weapons, as has been alleged, not by giving him part of Kuwait, as has been alleged; but we tried to work with him on grain credits and things of this nature to avoid aggressive action.
And it failed. It failed. That approach, holding out a hand, trying to get him to renounce terrorism and join the family of nations, didn’t work. And the minute he moved aggressively, we moved aggressively and set back aggression.
You’ve got a lot of people that opposed what happened on the war, stood there and didn’t want to move, that are now trying to revise history. And so I am not persuaded by the critics at all. I know what we did. There wasn’t anything illegal. We tried hard, and I’ve said so. And it didn’t work. But we were not going to let aggression stand. And when he moved into Kuwait, I decided this will not stand, and it didn’t.
Yeah, what’s the followup?
Q: To follow up, the House Judiciary Committee looks like they are going to recommend special prosecutor, independent counsel, to investigate it and ask that -
A: I wonder whether they’re going to use the same prosecutors that are trying out there to see whether I was in Paris in 1980 and flew home in an SR- 71 Blackbird. I mean, where are we going with the taxpayers’ money in this political year? So, let them look at it. It’s no problem to me.
But I think at some point somebody ought to say, ″Where is all this money going that goes to pay for these special prosecutors rummaging through files and proving nothing?″ I was not in Paris, and we did nothing illegal or wrong here. We tried, and it didn’t work. And we moved. And that’s the answer to it.
Q: Mr. President, since you know Ross Perot, if you were to run into him while you are out campaigning for re-election, for example, what would you say to him to convince him to -
A: Support me?
Q: Support you, give up his quest for the presidency. What would you say?
A: Well, I would say, ″Ross, I think I’ve been a good president. I believe a man of your ability and talent ought to support me. And we’ve known each other a long time and in my view it’s been favorable.″ And just leave it there. I would admit I’d be - might be a little bit of a long shot in persuading him.
Q: But if he says, ″Well, George, I hear what you’re saying, you want me to follow you, but you’ve got to tell me where you’re going.″ What would you say?
A: Well, I’d say, ″Good, let me refresh you on our domestic agenda. Please give me your support for the balanced-budget amendment that we are trying to pass right now, and bring along Bill Clinton if you’ve got any influence on him. We’re talking about issues here. We’ve got a tough crime bill before the Congress. Help me pass it. We have got an education reform bill that literally revolutionizes education. Give me a hand with this one. If you know anybody in the Congress - it appears you may - give them a call.″
And I’d take this approach, you see, to him. And I’d try to enlist his help on support for our approach to the environment. I’d say, ″Help me help these democratic countries around the world. Help me help them secure their democracy. And, you see, I think we have a good agenda.″ And that’s the approach I’d take anyway.
Q: Mr. President, you’ve spent much of your life as part of the two-party system. You’ve headed one of the major parties. In this unusual political year, how do you assess the viability of the two-party system in the future, and why would any candidate submit himself to grueling primaries if he could just announce and run?