The Corner

Bush On Ports, Pt 2

Earlier, on board Air Force One, Bush took questions from reporters about the port deal:

Q Mr. President, leaders in Congress, including Senator Frist, have said that they’ll take action to stop the port control shift if you don’t reverse course on it. You’ve expressed your thoughts here, but what do you say to those in Congress who plan to take legislative action?

THE PRESIDENT: They ought to listen to what I have to say about this. They ought to look at the facts, and understand the consequences of what they’re going to do. But if they pass a law, I’ll deal with it, with a veto.

Q Why is it so important to you, sir, that you take on this issue as a political fight? Clearly, there’s bipartisan –

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t view it as a political fight. So do you want to start your question over? I view it as a good policy.

Q Why is it — clearly –

THE PRESIDENT: Are you talking about the energy issue?

Q No, I’m sorry, the ports issue.

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not a political issue.

Q But there clearly are members of your own party who will go to the mat against you on this.

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not a political issue.

Q Why are you — to make this, to have this fight?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t view it as a fight. I view it as me saying to people what I think is right, the right policy.

Q What’s the larger message that you’re conveying by sticking to this UAE contract, by saying that you’re not going to budge on this, or you don’t want to change policy?

THE PRESIDENT: There is a process in place where we analyze — where the government analyzes many, many business transactions, to make sure they meet national security concerns. And I’m sure if you — careful review, this process yielded a result that said, yes, a deal should go forward.

One of my concerns, however, is mixed messages. And the message is, it’s okay for a British company, but a Middle Eastern company — maybe we ought not to deal the same way. It’s a mixed message. You put interesting words in your question, but I just view — my job is to do what I think is right for the country. I don’t intend to have a fight. If there’s a fight, there is one, but nor do I view this as a political issue.

Q I say it because you said you’d be willing to use the veto on it.

THE PRESIDENT: I would. That’s one of the tools the President has to indicate to the legislative branch his intentions. A veto doesn’t mean fight, or politics, it’s just one of the tools I’ve got. I say veto, by the way, quite frequently in messages to Congress.

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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