Interview of President Bush by Sabine Christiansen of Ard German Television

May 07, 2006, 01:00 ET from White House Press Office

    WASHINGTON, May 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of an
 interview of the president by Sabine Christiansen of Ard German Television:
     Diplomatic Reception Room
     May 4, 2006
     1:21 P.M. EDT
     Q Thank you very much, Mr. President, for joining us. We feel very
 honored by this. Mrs. Merkel invited you to Germany, as we heard, this
 summer, just before the G8 summit. And we feel very honored in Germany that
 you would come and visit us. And as I heard, you're going to visit for the
 first time the former GDR. Are you looking forward to that?
     THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I am. It was very kind of Chancellor Merkel -- who
 I call Angela, by the way -- to invite me to her residence. It's a gesture
 of friendship that I appreciate. And Laura and I are looking forward to it.
 And it will give me a chance to continue our dialogue on important issues.
 I'll get to know her a little better and she'll know me better. It will
 make the relationship be stronger over time. So I'm looking forward to it
 and I really appreciate it.
     Q Your father helped to make German reunification possible. And
 Chancellor Merkel told me that you've shown a lot of interest in her life,
 in her former life in the former GDR. What was the point of interest for
 you?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, last night we were sitting around in the private
 dining room upstairs here, and I thought it would be interesting for her to
 describe what it was like to grow up in a communist world. Laura and I
 certainly don't know what that's like, nor did Condi Rice or Steve Hadley,
 the members of my team. And I thought it would be good for all of us to
 hear what it was like.
     It was very interesting. She talked about -- you know, her dad was a
 pastor and she talked about the different pioneer clubs and the schools. It
 also gave me a chance to get a glimpse into her soul. As I said in the Oval
 Office yesterday, there's something really refreshing to work with somebody
 who understands firsthand what it means to be free. And certainly Angela
 Merkel has gone from a society which was repressive to a society which is
 open and free.
     So I wanted to hear the history, her history, and I also wanted to get
 a better feel for what she's like and why she thinks the way she thinks.
     Q That sounds more like a real transatlantic friendship than a
 partnership -- well, with difficulties we had before.
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, listen, first of all, I had a good relationship
 with Chancellor Schroder. The problem was, of course, that there was a
 disagreement over a very difficult decision I had to make, and that was
 Iraq.
     I fully understand why a government or a people would be, you know, I
 guess disappointed in me in a way, and not understand why somebody would
 commit troops to achieve an objective. And I like to remind people that
 September the 11th for us was a change in our history, and it certainly
 changed the way I thought. And for others, it was just a moment in passing.
 So there was a disagreement.
     On the other hand, U.S.-German relations were always important, and now
 we have a chance to turn a new chapter in our relationship, strengthen that
 alliance, strengthen that relationship, and work on matters that will make
 this world a better place.
     So I'm thrilled with my relationship with Chancellor Merkel. She's a
 really interesting person. She is -- first of all, I found her to be
 confident -- not over-confident, but confident in her beliefs, and that's
 very important -- for me, at least -- to be dealing with someone who has
 got strength of character and confident in her capacity to work to make
 things better.
     Q Now there is Iran on the agenda, and there you seem to be a team that
 plays together, in that. Are you confident after your meeting with Mrs.
 Merkel that the Europeans and others will support a resolution that might
 even open the door to sanctions?
     THE PRESIDENT: Look, first of all, the most important thing in
 achieving a diplomatic solution -- and I want the German people to
 understand -- I want this issue to be solved diplomatically and I think it
 can be solved diplomatically. And that the first objective of trying to get
 different countries to come together in a diplomatic front is to agree that
 Iran -- in this case, Iran should not have a weapon. And we've agreed --
 Germany, France, the United States, certainly agree with that. But so does
 Russia. So does China. And that's a really important part of putting
 together a coalition of people saying with a universal voice, or unified
 voice, "no" to Iran.
     Q Okay. At the --
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's right.
     Secondly, we're working with our allies to -- now that the Iranians, by
 the way, have basically said we don't care, what next? And "what next" is
 to go to the U.N. Security Council. And that's what we're working on now.
 And we're working on the language of the resolutions and the consequences.
 And as I told the press yesterday, it's best not to be describing the
 negotiations amongst ourselves on TV -- simply because the Iranians will be
 listening to everything we say.
     But the point is, is that we want a unified front. Iran must hear that
 the free world is unified in saying: no weapon; no knowledge of how to
 build a weapon; no capacity to make a weapon. It's almost a matter of will
 at this point in time. In other words, they're watching to see whether or
 not our coalition will crack, whether or not they can create different
 factions within our coalition.
     And as I've described to people here in this country, is that we must
 not crack. If we want to solve this diplomatically, there must be a common
 front with a common strategy to achieve the objective.
     Q If this doesn't work with the U.N., you trying to find wide coalition
 that is going against Iran --
     THE PRESIDENT:  Expand the coalition.
 
     Q  Exactly.  Exactly.
     THE PRESIDENT: And they're not mutually exclusive. And first of all, I
 think we ought to assume it can work in the U.N.. We want it to work in the
 U.N. Therefore, the strategy will be to see to it that it does work in the
 U.N. And that's why -- you know, I talked to Putin, President Putin the
 other day, right before Angela came. And she talked to President Putin in
 Siberia, as you know. And a lot of our conversations obviously revolve
 around Iran, since this is the most dangerous threat to peace right now.
     Q  And sanctions?
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Possibility, absolutely.
 
     Q  But regarding Russia and China?  That will be difficult --
     THE PRESIDENT: No. It may seem difficult at this point in time, but
 there's time. As I explained, again, to people in our country, we're at the
 beginning of the diplomatic process, not the end of the diplomatic process.
 I know -- we live in a world where everything has to be solved instantly. I
 wish problems could be solved instantly, but that's not how the world
 works, particularly when you're dealing with a non-transparent regime.
     See, they have an advantage, "they" being the Iranians. They don't have
 a press like the German press and the United States press, that is
 constantly reporting. They don't have democracies that are holding leaders
 to account. They're non-transparent. So, therefore, their negotiating
 position is much stronger than ours in many ways.
     So we must double our efforts, constantly talking to each other,
 reminding each other about the need to stay unified, and that's what Angela
 and I spent a lot of time talking about yesterday.
     Q Why isn't Washington talking directly to the Iranians?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, because it's much better to have a united front.
 In other words, we will achieve this diplomatically. If there's more than
 one country involved -- we are very much involved. Yesterday, we were part
 of putting down a U.N. Security Council Resolution. The Iranians know we're
 involved. But what I don't want to have happen is this unified effort fall
 apart because everybody depends upon one country to solve the problem.
     Q If all diplomatic efforts fail, what's worse at the end: a nuclear-
 armed Iran, or an American military action?
     THE PRESIDENT: You're asking me the classic hypothetical question. I
 believe we can achieve this diplomatically. And that's what I want to do. I
 want to achieve this diplomatically, because it's -- and it's necessary we
 do so. And an armed Iran will be a threat to peace. It will be a threat to
 peace in the Middle East, it will create a sense of blackmail, it will
 encourage other nations to feel like they need to have a nuclear weapon.
 And so it's essential that we succeed diplomatically.
     Q Are you worried that Israel might not try to solve this
 diplomatically, because Mr. Olmert already said, "We can defend ourselves?"
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, if I were an Israeli, I'd be concerned about the
 combination of a president that said, I want to wipe Israel off the map,
 and had a nuclear weapon. And so, obviously, Israel is a factor. It's a
 little country that will defend herself. Again, I keep repeating this, but
 that's why it's essential we continue to work together, like we're doing
 now, to convince the Iranians to give up their weapon.
     They will be isolated. What they need to understand is that they're
 going to be isolated from the rest of the world, and that will harm their
 people, in my judgment. And it's a tough issue, and it's why I ran for
 office, to solve these problems.
     Q Let's go over to Iraq. Two German hostages who were held in Iraq for
 months, they just returned home safely, but Iraq remains a major terrorist
 base. Despite more than, I think, 130,000 U.S. soldiers there, are in the
 country, what do you say to the many Europeans who feel the Iraq war has
 made the world a less safer place?
     THE PRESIDENT: I would say that they need to look at the facts, that
 Saddam Hussein was a very dangerous person in the world. Saddam Hussein had
 used weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, we didn't find them like
 everybody thought we would, but we did know he had the capacity to make
 them. He had harbored terrorists. He had invaded his neighborhood. And the
 removal of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do.
     And now there's a new democracy developing. And the best way to defeat
 the terrorists in the long-run is to defeat their ideology with an ideology
 based upon liberty. And one of the most amazing events in modern history
 took place in December of last year, when 12 million Iraqis went to the
 polls. It's just a -- it's a joyous moment for them.
     Now what's happened is, is there's a unified government formed.
 Obviously, it took a little longer than we wanted, but, nevertheless, they
 are together. There is a tough Shia as the Prime Minister-designate,
 there's a Sunni rejectionist who is now reconciled with the country. And
 what you'll see is a democracy that will grow to be an example for others,
 and a country that will deny safe haven to the terrorists.
     I disagree with the assessment that there are more terrorists in Iraq
 now. As a matter of fact, slowly but surely we're defeating them. But
 what's important for people in Germany to listen to is what I listen to,
 which is the voices of an enemy. Zarqawi and al Qaeda has announced that
 it's just a matter of time for America and the coalition to leave so we can
 have our safe haven from which to plot and plan further attacks on America
 and free nations.
     And the only way we can lose Iraq is if we lose our nerve, if we
 retreat, if we pull out before the job is done. And that's not going to
 happen so long as I'm the President.
     Q So the development in Iraq, in Palestine, hasn't made you stop
 half-way, let's say, in the democratization process --
     THE PRESIDENT: Oh, quite the contrary. I really believe it's necessary
 to promote democracy. One of the interesting examples in history is
 democracies don't fight each other. And Europe today is whole, free and at
 peace. You have your disagreements, but those disagreements are not
 determined on a battlefield anymore.
     Japan was a country that my nation fought with, and today, one of my
 best friends in keeping the peace is the Prime Minister of Japan. What
 happened between World War II and today is Japan took on a Japanese-style
 democracy. What's really interesting is when you go back and look at some
 of the writings and musings of people after World War II, there was great
 criticism about trying to help the Japanese become a Japanese-style
 democracy: "We can't do that, they're the enemy." Well, today the enemy is
 the friend. So I think all the more reason to promote democracy is the
 elections in Iraq.
     I was not pleased that Hamas has refused to announce [sic] its desire
 to destroy Israel. On the other hand, the elections did say to people in
 the Palestinian Territories, we're sick and tired of corruption. We want
 leaders who don't steal from us. We want leaders who help us educate our
 children and provide health for our citizens.
     And so elections can be good signals of what people are really
 thinking. I believe that there's still work after elections to be done, but
 there's no doubt that we've got to spread liberty and freedom if we're
 going to defeat this ideology that really says there should be no rights
 for women, there should be no religious freedom, and by the way, we'll
 carry out our foreign policy through acts of violence and murder.
     Q We Germans seem to be more involved -- have been more involved in the
 Iraq war than anybody else knew -- involuntarily, I would like to say.
 Because the U.S. intelligence services used German airports for secret
 rendition flights, and interrogated, even, German citizens -- hardly what
 you'd expect, I would say, from a friend and ally.
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, on intelligence matters, it's my
 policy not to talk about them, otherwise they're not intelligence matters
 anymore. And the questions you ask will be all -- in some cases, analyzed
 through courts, in some cases through press inquiry. But Germany is a
 friend.
     Q  But the behavior itself?  Is it behavior for an ally --
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, like, what are you talking about?
     Q I mean that you do this, that you don't ask for help for some of the
 ally, that you don't inform the ally and so on.
     THE PRESIDENT:  On like what subject, for example?
 
     Q  Like these flights, for example.
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, again, you're asking me to talk about intelligence
 matters that I'm not going to talk about. And people can say whatever they
 want to say, but we work closely with Germany on all kinds of fronts in
 order to protect ourselves.
     Q Then let me ask you about the image of the United States, especially
 for us Germans after the war, the United States stood as the symbol of
 liberty, for democracy. And then we saw these -- we saw Abu Ghraib, we saw
 Guantanamo, and these seemed suddenly to be signals that you're abandoning
 these values of democracy and liberty. And how do you want to repair them?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, it's absurd to say America is
 abandoning our values. No question Abu Ghraib was a disgrace for our
 country. But I think people ought to take a look at what happened
 afterwards -- and those who are responsible for that disgraceful behavior
 have been held to account, have been tried, have been, in some cases,
 dismissed from our military.
     We're at war with an enemy. And we've got to protect ourselves. And,
 obviously, the Guantanamo issue is a sensitive issue for people. I very
 much would like to end Guantanamo; I very much would like to get people to
 a court. And we're waiting for our Supreme Court to give us a decision as
 to whether the people need to have a fair trial in a civilian court or in a
 military court.
     But in either case, they will get a trial which they, themselves, were
 unwilling to give to the people that they're willing to kill -- "they," the
 enemy.
     And so it's -- no, listen, our country is strong on human rights and
 civil rights. That's why we're leading the case in funding for HIV/AIDS in
 Africa. That's why we're trying to rally the nation to do something about
 Darfur -- the genocide in Darfur. That's why we provide food for the
 hungry. That's why we try to liberate people when we find them in the
 clutches of tyranny.
     Q  So you said you had to do  more?
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we are doing a lot.
     Q I understand, like, $320 billion that the Iraq war cost -- a lot of
 people are saying --
     THE PRESIDENT: It's worth it. It's worth it. I wouldn't have spent it
 if it wasn't worth it. Any time we put a troop in harm's way, they will get
 support. We're not going -- I'm not going to ask a parent -- I'm not going
 to be able to tell a parent, nor will I tell a parent your son, who
 volunteered, or your daughter who volunteered is not going to get the full
 support of the federal government. And so long as we've got people in
 harm's way, this government is going to support them.
     Q Let me ask you another question to the war on terrorism. How do you
 want, really, to fight terrorism when you are so dependent on Arabian oil?
     THE PRESIDENT: That's an interesting question. I've never thought of it
 that way. The first thing we ought to do is get off oil.
     Q  That's what you said.
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  And I mean that.  Yes, I know.
 
     Q  Do you mean that, really?
     THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Oil has become -- it's an economic risk for
 us. I mean, after all, if the oil -- if the demand for oil goes up in India
 or China, fast-growing economies, it affects the price of gasoline in the
 United States and in Germany. It's also a national security issue,
 obviously. Oil comes from unstable parts of the world. So I'm absolutely
 serious about getting off of oil.
     Q Because we, in Europe, we asked this when we heard your speech, and
 we said oil is now --
     THE PRESIDENT: You don't believe old George W.?
     Q Gasoline is now, let's say $70 a barrel. And we said if we look at
 the United States, your gasoline is still so -- I mean, the prices are so
 low, and we are paying so much money. Why haven't you raise taxes, energy
 taxes or something if you really mean it?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, because the best way to do it is through
 technological change. You don't have to tax the working people. And, well,
 in order -- what?
     Q That's what we do. (Laughter.)
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, we don't. We try not to. Listen, the price of
 gasoline just went up from $2.70 to $3 a gallon, which is about, I guess,
 40 percent of what it costs in Germany. And people are screaming, because
 it's like a tax. And it affects low-income Americans.
     And so the best way to solve the problem is to spend money on research
 and development and come up with alternative ways to drive our automobiles.
 And we're making interesting progress. We think we're close to a
 breakthrough to have a battery in our vehicles that will enable an urban
 dweller to drive the first 40 miles without using gasoline. So it's that
 effect of reducing demand for gasoline that will ultimately help our
 consumers. Obviously, we're trying to do all we can to make sure that
 supplies of gasoline don't get interrupted in the short term, but in the
 long term, I can see cars being powered by hydrogen, for example.
     Q Let me ask one more question to that climate topic. After Katrina,
 and after a lot of new evidence of rapid climate change, are you now
 convinced that this is really a serious problem?
     THE PRESIDENT: No, I've always said greenhouse gasses are a problem.
 There is an argument there as to whether or not they're naturally made or
 man- made. And my attitude is, let's just get beyond that argument and do
 something about it. I believe that we need more nuclear power. If you're
 really interested in solving greenhouse gas problems, nuclear power is one
 of the great renewable sources of energy. I know it's controversial.
     Q Very interesting and controversy debate in Germany, as well.
     THE PRESIDENT: And here in America. But if people are genuinely serious
 about solving greenhouse gas problems around the world, countries like the
 United States and India and China ought to be promoting civilian nuclear
 power.
     There's other things we're doing. One, as I just told you, we've got to
 change our habits when we're driving our cars. One of the real promising
 areas besides battery research is ethanol research, you know, use corn to
 be able to fuel automobiles in the United States. Solar energy can work,
 and is becoming more economically feasible. Wind energy is making a
 marginal difference in the United States, but nevertheless, a difference.
     And so my -- what I'm saying is, is that we're spending a lot -- clean
 coal technology, for example, we're spending billions of dollars on clean
 coal technology to figure out how to have zero-emission coal-fired plants.
 And all this research is going to pay off. And the United States will be
 able to make sure our economy continues to grow and, at the same time, be
 good stewards of the environment.
     The debate -- let me just cut to the chase. I said I didn't support
 Kyoto -- and all of a sudden everybody said, well, George W. Bush doesn't
 care about clean air -- it's just rubbish. Of course I care about the
 quality of the air. As a matter of fact, the quality of the air has
 improved since I've been the President of the United States. But what I
 didn't want to do is wreck our economy, nor did I think it made sense to
 sign on to a treaty that didn't include countries like India and China. And
 so my attitude is, let's get beyond the debate and work in a cooperative
 fashion to share technologies, to share that which we're researching with
 each other, and have a new era of energy that is wise about how we treat
 the environment, too.
     Q I'm very mindful of our time, but I would like to have a look to the
 G8 summit and Russia, and about the Russian-American friendship, as well.
 Perhaps another question. You had felt quite warm about President Putin,
 but there is rising criticism from the Vice President, for example, in the
 moment, and others, on a lack of democracy in Russia. Have you talked to
 Putin directly about this? And will you, perhaps, raise any obstacles
 regarding the G8?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, of course, I've talked to him -- a lot.
 
     Q  About this problem?
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, absolutely.  Yes, a lot.
 
     Q  What does he say?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first let me -- let me share how I conduct my
 relations with people. I like Putin, but that doesn't mean I have to agree
 with some of the decisions he's made. I know this, that if I stand up and
 constantly criticize Putin publicly, he's not going to be interested in
 listening to what I have to say -- and neither would I. When somebody feels
 like they can lecture to me publicly and doesn't do me the courtesy of
 coming to tell me what's on their mind, one-on-one, then I may not be
 interested in listening to them -- if you know what I mean.
     So I'm the kind of person that tries to establish a good personal
 relationship with somebody, and then we can sit down and talk and I tell
 them what's on my mind, and they tell me what's on his. And I have
 expressed our nation's concerns about -- for example, when they shut down
 parts of the press corps, I said, Vladimir, people are wondering why you're
 making the decision you're making. A free press is an indication of a
 healthy democracy. And he had an answer.
     But, nevertheless, as you know, I'm a religious person and I believe
 religious liberty is an important part of a society. And I've got friends
 in the Catholic Church who asked me to talk to him about Catholic bishops
 being allowed to move in the country and to practice their faith. And so I
 bring up all these issues with him.
     But there's a difference in scolding somebody to try to gain editorial
 approval, and somebody who is in a position to be effective. I'd much
 rather be an effective person than a popular person, let me put it to you
 that way.
     Q As I said, we're very mindful of your time, it's been a great
 conversation. If you have two minutes -- because I would like to have two
 questions, one on women, and one on football. Do you agree to that?
     THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I will.
     Q Very short ones. (Laughter.) You seemed to get along very well Angela
 Merkel, a lot of women, strong women around you, here around the Oval
 Office. We're have a big debate in Germany about women working and having
 children and the family. And your wife, for example, you seem to be a very
 good team in working together --
     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.
 
     Q  And how do you strike this balance?
     THE PRESIDENT: Yes. First of all, I have been raised by an incredibly
 strong woman who I love, and that's my mother. And I'm married to an
 incredibly strong woman who I love, and that's my wife. I hope that Laura
 and I have raised two incredibly strong women who will have confidence to
 go out and explore life, and to achieve. I don't think that encouraging my
 daughters to live life to its fullest means that they can't be good mothers
 at the same time. As a matter of fact, I think a good mother is somebody
 who is strong in her own right, confident and independent.
     And one of the things I do try to remind people is that the most
 important responsibility a person can have is to love their child with all
 their heart. That is by far the most important thing. I'll never forget --
 I'll give you one quick -- we're fine on time. I'll tell you a quick
 anecdote. One of my dearest friends in political life is Karen Hughes. She
 was one of the most powerful women ever in the White House, simply because
 she had complete access to the President and I trusted her. At the same
 time, by the way, in an office down the hall was Condoleezza Rice, also a
 very strong woman who I am very fond of and very close to.
     And Karen, one time, came into see me and she said, "Mr. President, I'm
 having trouble at home," -- not that she -- she wasn't having trouble with
 her husband or her son -- but "my son is unhappy." And my reaction
 instantly was, "Karen, do whatever is necessary to make your family happy.
 That's the most important thing." And so she left and she went back to
 Texas, and I missed her dearly. But priorities matter in life and people
 are able to set priorities and, at the same time, live life to the fullest.
     And Karen is a good example. She got her son squared away, he's now at
 Stanford University. She's now back in Washington, working with Condi at
 the State Department. And my only advice is to, one, welcome women in
 society. I welcome them in the White House. My presidency is more complete
 because some of my top advisors are very strong, capable women.
     Angela Merkel is somebody who is a joy to deal with. She bring an
 interesting --
     Q Why?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, because she's got a straightforward manner about
 herself that is -- when she says something you know she means it. She is
 what she is. She's not a fake. And when I sit there talking to Angela, I'm
 not saying I'm talking to -- I don't think gender, I think strength of
 character. I think reliability. I think clear-headed thinking. I think of a
 fellow strategist as to how to solve problems.
     So, anyway, that's a long answer to a short question.
     Q I think for the two of us, we don't have soccer expert teams sitting
 here together, but anyway, I think you're a baseball fan --
     THE PRESIDENT: I am a baseball fan, you're right.
     Q You are. Do you think you've turned a little bit into a soccer fan? I
 mean, your team is doing so well at the moment and --
     THE PRESIDENT: That's what they tell me. I do know a little bit about
 the World Cup because I read a very interesting article about the German
 coach -- and evidently he's a dynamic -- you know, he's spending some time
 in California. And the World Cup is such a huge event that I think most
 Americans like me, who weren't raised on soccer, are beginning to pay
 attention to it. Now, I know that sounds like heresy in Germany.
     Q In Germany, yes. But think of just -- I mean, that the American team
 could meet the Iranian team.
     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, could be.
 
     Q  What then?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't view it that way. I view it as I hope the
 American team does well. But this is a big event for Germany, and Germany
 will be a great host for the games. And, obviously, I hope the American
 team does well -- they're supposedly a good team.
     Q If they get world champion, you're coming for the final game?
     THE PRESIDENT: I don't know -- do you think I possibly would be
 invited? I don't know.
     Q We're very happy that you come over in July.
     THE PRESIDENT: I'm looking forward it. And I want to thank you for this
 good interview.
     Q Thank you very much, Mr. President.
     END                     1:50 P.M. EDT
 
 

SOURCE White House Press Office
    WASHINGTON, May 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of an
 interview of the president by Sabine Christiansen of Ard German Television:
     Diplomatic Reception Room
     May 4, 2006
     1:21 P.M. EDT
     Q Thank you very much, Mr. President, for joining us. We feel very
 honored by this. Mrs. Merkel invited you to Germany, as we heard, this
 summer, just before the G8 summit. And we feel very honored in Germany that
 you would come and visit us. And as I heard, you're going to visit for the
 first time the former GDR. Are you looking forward to that?
     THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I am. It was very kind of Chancellor Merkel -- who
 I call Angela, by the way -- to invite me to her residence. It's a gesture
 of friendship that I appreciate. And Laura and I are looking forward to it.
 And it will give me a chance to continue our dialogue on important issues.
 I'll get to know her a little better and she'll know me better. It will
 make the relationship be stronger over time. So I'm looking forward to it
 and I really appreciate it.
     Q Your father helped to make German reunification possible. And
 Chancellor Merkel told me that you've shown a lot of interest in her life,
 in her former life in the former GDR. What was the point of interest for
 you?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, last night we were sitting around in the private
 dining room upstairs here, and I thought it would be interesting for her to
 describe what it was like to grow up in a communist world. Laura and I
 certainly don't know what that's like, nor did Condi Rice or Steve Hadley,
 the members of my team. And I thought it would be good for all of us to
 hear what it was like.
     It was very interesting. She talked about -- you know, her dad was a
 pastor and she talked about the different pioneer clubs and the schools. It
 also gave me a chance to get a glimpse into her soul. As I said in the Oval
 Office yesterday, there's something really refreshing to work with somebody
 who understands firsthand what it means to be free. And certainly Angela
 Merkel has gone from a society which was repressive to a society which is
 open and free.
     So I wanted to hear the history, her history, and I also wanted to get
 a better feel for what she's like and why she thinks the way she thinks.
     Q That sounds more like a real transatlantic friendship than a
 partnership -- well, with difficulties we had before.
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, listen, first of all, I had a good relationship
 with Chancellor Schroder. The problem was, of course, that there was a
 disagreement over a very difficult decision I had to make, and that was
 Iraq.
     I fully understand why a government or a people would be, you know, I
 guess disappointed in me in a way, and not understand why somebody would
 commit troops to achieve an objective. And I like to remind people that
 September the 11th for us was a change in our history, and it certainly
 changed the way I thought. And for others, it was just a moment in passing.
 So there was a disagreement.
     On the other hand, U.S.-German relations were always important, and now
 we have a chance to turn a new chapter in our relationship, strengthen that
 alliance, strengthen that relationship, and work on matters that will make
 this world a better place.
     So I'm thrilled with my relationship with Chancellor Merkel. She's a
 really interesting person. She is -- first of all, I found her to be
 confident -- not over-confident, but confident in her beliefs, and that's
 very important -- for me, at least -- to be dealing with someone who has
 got strength of character and confident in her capacity to work to make
 things better.
     Q Now there is Iran on the agenda, and there you seem to be a team that
 plays together, in that. Are you confident after your meeting with Mrs.
 Merkel that the Europeans and others will support a resolution that might
 even open the door to sanctions?
     THE PRESIDENT: Look, first of all, the most important thing in
 achieving a diplomatic solution -- and I want the German people to
 understand -- I want this issue to be solved diplomatically and I think it
 can be solved diplomatically. And that the first objective of trying to get
 different countries to come together in a diplomatic front is to agree that
 Iran -- in this case, Iran should not have a weapon. And we've agreed --
 Germany, France, the United States, certainly agree with that. But so does
 Russia. So does China. And that's a really important part of putting
 together a coalition of people saying with a universal voice, or unified
 voice, "no" to Iran.
     Q Okay. At the --
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's right.
     Secondly, we're working with our allies to -- now that the Iranians, by
 the way, have basically said we don't care, what next? And "what next" is
 to go to the U.N. Security Council. And that's what we're working on now.
 And we're working on the language of the resolutions and the consequences.
 And as I told the press yesterday, it's best not to be describing the
 negotiations amongst ourselves on TV -- simply because the Iranians will be
 listening to everything we say.
     But the point is, is that we want a unified front. Iran must hear that
 the free world is unified in saying: no weapon; no knowledge of how to
 build a weapon; no capacity to make a weapon. It's almost a matter of will
 at this point in time. In other words, they're watching to see whether or
 not our coalition will crack, whether or not they can create different
 factions within our coalition.
     And as I've described to people here in this country, is that we must
 not crack. If we want to solve this diplomatically, there must be a common
 front with a common strategy to achieve the objective.
     Q If this doesn't work with the U.N., you trying to find wide coalition
 that is going against Iran --
     THE PRESIDENT:  Expand the coalition.
 
     Q  Exactly.  Exactly.
     THE PRESIDENT: And they're not mutually exclusive. And first of all, I
 think we ought to assume it can work in the U.N.. We want it to work in the
 U.N. Therefore, the strategy will be to see to it that it does work in the
 U.N. And that's why -- you know, I talked to Putin, President Putin the
 other day, right before Angela came. And she talked to President Putin in
 Siberia, as you know. And a lot of our conversations obviously revolve
 around Iran, since this is the most dangerous threat to peace right now.
     Q  And sanctions?
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Possibility, absolutely.
 
     Q  But regarding Russia and China?  That will be difficult --
     THE PRESIDENT: No. It may seem difficult at this point in time, but
 there's time. As I explained, again, to people in our country, we're at the
 beginning of the diplomatic process, not the end of the diplomatic process.
 I know -- we live in a world where everything has to be solved instantly. I
 wish problems could be solved instantly, but that's not how the world
 works, particularly when you're dealing with a non-transparent regime.
     See, they have an advantage, "they" being the Iranians. They don't have
 a press like the German press and the United States press, that is
 constantly reporting. They don't have democracies that are holding leaders
 to account. They're non-transparent. So, therefore, their negotiating
 position is much stronger than ours in many ways.
     So we must double our efforts, constantly talking to each other,
 reminding each other about the need to stay unified, and that's what Angela
 and I spent a lot of time talking about yesterday.
     Q Why isn't Washington talking directly to the Iranians?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, because it's much better to have a united front.
 In other words, we will achieve this diplomatically. If there's more than
 one country involved -- we are very much involved. Yesterday, we were part
 of putting down a U.N. Security Council Resolution. The Iranians know we're
 involved. But what I don't want to have happen is this unified effort fall
 apart because everybody depends upon one country to solve the problem.
     Q If all diplomatic efforts fail, what's worse at the end: a nuclear-
 armed Iran, or an American military action?
     THE PRESIDENT: You're asking me the classic hypothetical question. I
 believe we can achieve this diplomatically. And that's what I want to do. I
 want to achieve this diplomatically, because it's -- and it's necessary we
 do so. And an armed Iran will be a threat to peace. It will be a threat to
 peace in the Middle East, it will create a sense of blackmail, it will
 encourage other nations to feel like they need to have a nuclear weapon.
 And so it's essential that we succeed diplomatically.
     Q Are you worried that Israel might not try to solve this
 diplomatically, because Mr. Olmert already said, "We can defend ourselves?"
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, if I were an Israeli, I'd be concerned about the
 combination of a president that said, I want to wipe Israel off the map,
 and had a nuclear weapon. And so, obviously, Israel is a factor. It's a
 little country that will defend herself. Again, I keep repeating this, but
 that's why it's essential we continue to work together, like we're doing
 now, to convince the Iranians to give up their weapon.
     They will be isolated. What they need to understand is that they're
 going to be isolated from the rest of the world, and that will harm their
 people, in my judgment. And it's a tough issue, and it's why I ran for
 office, to solve these problems.
     Q Let's go over to Iraq. Two German hostages who were held in Iraq for
 months, they just returned home safely, but Iraq remains a major terrorist
 base. Despite more than, I think, 130,000 U.S. soldiers there, are in the
 country, what do you say to the many Europeans who feel the Iraq war has
 made the world a less safer place?
     THE PRESIDENT: I would say that they need to look at the facts, that
 Saddam Hussein was a very dangerous person in the world. Saddam Hussein had
 used weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, we didn't find them like
 everybody thought we would, but we did know he had the capacity to make
 them. He had harbored terrorists. He had invaded his neighborhood. And the
 removal of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do.
     And now there's a new democracy developing. And the best way to defeat
 the terrorists in the long-run is to defeat their ideology with an ideology
 based upon liberty. And one of the most amazing events in modern history
 took place in December of last year, when 12 million Iraqis went to the
 polls. It's just a -- it's a joyous moment for them.
     Now what's happened is, is there's a unified government formed.
 Obviously, it took a little longer than we wanted, but, nevertheless, they
 are together. There is a tough Shia as the Prime Minister-designate,
 there's a Sunni rejectionist who is now reconciled with the country. And
 what you'll see is a democracy that will grow to be an example for others,
 and a country that will deny safe haven to the terrorists.
     I disagree with the assessment that there are more terrorists in Iraq
 now. As a matter of fact, slowly but surely we're defeating them. But
 what's important for people in Germany to listen to is what I listen to,
 which is the voices of an enemy. Zarqawi and al Qaeda has announced that
 it's just a matter of time for America and the coalition to leave so we can
 have our safe haven from which to plot and plan further attacks on America
 and free nations.
     And the only way we can lose Iraq is if we lose our nerve, if we
 retreat, if we pull out before the job is done. And that's not going to
 happen so long as I'm the President.
     Q So the development in Iraq, in Palestine, hasn't made you stop
 half-way, let's say, in the democratization process --
     THE PRESIDENT: Oh, quite the contrary. I really believe it's necessary
 to promote democracy. One of the interesting examples in history is
 democracies don't fight each other. And Europe today is whole, free and at
 peace. You have your disagreements, but those disagreements are not
 determined on a battlefield anymore.
     Japan was a country that my nation fought with, and today, one of my
 best friends in keeping the peace is the Prime Minister of Japan. What
 happened between World War II and today is Japan took on a Japanese-style
 democracy. What's really interesting is when you go back and look at some
 of the writings and musings of people after World War II, there was great
 criticism about trying to help the Japanese become a Japanese-style
 democracy: "We can't do that, they're the enemy." Well, today the enemy is
 the friend. So I think all the more reason to promote democracy is the
 elections in Iraq.
     I was not pleased that Hamas has refused to announce [sic] its desire
 to destroy Israel. On the other hand, the elections did say to people in
 the Palestinian Territories, we're sick and tired of corruption. We want
 leaders who don't steal from us. We want leaders who help us educate our
 children and provide health for our citizens.
     And so elections can be good signals of what people are really
 thinking. I believe that there's still work after elections to be done, but
 there's no doubt that we've got to spread liberty and freedom if we're
 going to defeat this ideology that really says there should be no rights
 for women, there should be no religious freedom, and by the way, we'll
 carry out our foreign policy through acts of violence and murder.
     Q We Germans seem to be more involved -- have been more involved in the
 Iraq war than anybody else knew -- involuntarily, I would like to say.
 Because the U.S. intelligence services used German airports for secret
 rendition flights, and interrogated, even, German citizens -- hardly what
 you'd expect, I would say, from a friend and ally.
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, on intelligence matters, it's my
 policy not to talk about them, otherwise they're not intelligence matters
 anymore. And the questions you ask will be all -- in some cases, analyzed
 through courts, in some cases through press inquiry. But Germany is a
 friend.
     Q  But the behavior itself?  Is it behavior for an ally --
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, like, what are you talking about?
     Q I mean that you do this, that you don't ask for help for some of the
 ally, that you don't inform the ally and so on.
     THE PRESIDENT:  On like what subject, for example?
 
     Q  Like these flights, for example.
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, again, you're asking me to talk about intelligence
 matters that I'm not going to talk about. And people can say whatever they
 want to say, but we work closely with Germany on all kinds of fronts in
 order to protect ourselves.
     Q Then let me ask you about the image of the United States, especially
 for us Germans after the war, the United States stood as the symbol of
 liberty, for democracy. And then we saw these -- we saw Abu Ghraib, we saw
 Guantanamo, and these seemed suddenly to be signals that you're abandoning
 these values of democracy and liberty. And how do you want to repair them?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, it's absurd to say America is
 abandoning our values. No question Abu Ghraib was a disgrace for our
 country. But I think people ought to take a look at what happened
 afterwards -- and those who are responsible for that disgraceful behavior
 have been held to account, have been tried, have been, in some cases,
 dismissed from our military.
     We're at war with an enemy. And we've got to protect ourselves. And,
 obviously, the Guantanamo issue is a sensitive issue for people. I very
 much would like to end Guantanamo; I very much would like to get people to
 a court. And we're waiting for our Supreme Court to give us a decision as
 to whether the people need to have a fair trial in a civilian court or in a
 military court.
     But in either case, they will get a trial which they, themselves, were
 unwilling to give to the people that they're willing to kill -- "they," the
 enemy.
     And so it's -- no, listen, our country is strong on human rights and
 civil rights. That's why we're leading the case in funding for HIV/AIDS in
 Africa. That's why we're trying to rally the nation to do something about
 Darfur -- the genocide in Darfur. That's why we provide food for the
 hungry. That's why we try to liberate people when we find them in the
 clutches of tyranny.
     Q  So you said you had to do  more?
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we are doing a lot.
     Q I understand, like, $320 billion that the Iraq war cost -- a lot of
 people are saying --
     THE PRESIDENT: It's worth it. It's worth it. I wouldn't have spent it
 if it wasn't worth it. Any time we put a troop in harm's way, they will get
 support. We're not going -- I'm not going to ask a parent -- I'm not going
 to be able to tell a parent, nor will I tell a parent your son, who
 volunteered, or your daughter who volunteered is not going to get the full
 support of the federal government. And so long as we've got people in
 harm's way, this government is going to support them.
     Q Let me ask you another question to the war on terrorism. How do you
 want, really, to fight terrorism when you are so dependent on Arabian oil?
     THE PRESIDENT: That's an interesting question. I've never thought of it
 that way. The first thing we ought to do is get off oil.
     Q  That's what you said.
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  And I mean that.  Yes, I know.
 
     Q  Do you mean that, really?
     THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Oil has become -- it's an economic risk for
 us. I mean, after all, if the oil -- if the demand for oil goes up in India
 or China, fast-growing economies, it affects the price of gasoline in the
 United States and in Germany. It's also a national security issue,
 obviously. Oil comes from unstable parts of the world. So I'm absolutely
 serious about getting off of oil.
     Q Because we, in Europe, we asked this when we heard your speech, and
 we said oil is now --
     THE PRESIDENT: You don't believe old George W.?
     Q Gasoline is now, let's say $70 a barrel. And we said if we look at
 the United States, your gasoline is still so -- I mean, the prices are so
 low, and we are paying so much money. Why haven't you raise taxes, energy
 taxes or something if you really mean it?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, because the best way to do it is through
 technological change. You don't have to tax the working people. And, well,
 in order -- what?
     Q That's what we do. (Laughter.)
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, we don't. We try not to. Listen, the price of
 gasoline just went up from $2.70 to $3 a gallon, which is about, I guess,
 40 percent of what it costs in Germany. And people are screaming, because
 it's like a tax. And it affects low-income Americans.
     And so the best way to solve the problem is to spend money on research
 and development and come up with alternative ways to drive our automobiles.
 And we're making interesting progress. We think we're close to a
 breakthrough to have a battery in our vehicles that will enable an urban
 dweller to drive the first 40 miles without using gasoline. So it's that
 effect of reducing demand for gasoline that will ultimately help our
 consumers. Obviously, we're trying to do all we can to make sure that
 supplies of gasoline don't get interrupted in the short term, but in the
 long term, I can see cars being powered by hydrogen, for example.
     Q Let me ask one more question to that climate topic. After Katrina,
 and after a lot of new evidence of rapid climate change, are you now
 convinced that this is really a serious problem?
     THE PRESIDENT: No, I've always said greenhouse gasses are a problem.
 There is an argument there as to whether or not they're naturally made or
 man- made. And my attitude is, let's just get beyond that argument and do
 something about it. I believe that we need more nuclear power. If you're
 really interested in solving greenhouse gas problems, nuclear power is one
 of the great renewable sources of energy. I know it's controversial.
     Q Very interesting and controversy debate in Germany, as well.
     THE PRESIDENT: And here in America. But if people are genuinely serious
 about solving greenhouse gas problems around the world, countries like the
 United States and India and China ought to be promoting civilian nuclear
 power.
     There's other things we're doing. One, as I just told you, we've got to
 change our habits when we're driving our cars. One of the real promising
 areas besides battery research is ethanol research, you know, use corn to
 be able to fuel automobiles in the United States. Solar energy can work,
 and is becoming more economically feasible. Wind energy is making a
 marginal difference in the United States, but nevertheless, a difference.
     And so my -- what I'm saying is, is that we're spending a lot -- clean
 coal technology, for example, we're spending billions of dollars on clean
 coal technology to figure out how to have zero-emission coal-fired plants.
 And all this research is going to pay off. And the United States will be
 able to make sure our economy continues to grow and, at the same time, be
 good stewards of the environment.
     The debate -- let me just cut to the chase. I said I didn't support
 Kyoto -- and all of a sudden everybody said, well, George W. Bush doesn't
 care about clean air -- it's just rubbish. Of course I care about the
 quality of the air. As a matter of fact, the quality of the air has
 improved since I've been the President of the United States. But what I
 didn't want to do is wreck our economy, nor did I think it made sense to
 sign on to a treaty that didn't include countries like India and China. And
 so my attitude is, let's get beyond the debate and work in a cooperative
 fashion to share technologies, to share that which we're researching with
 each other, and have a new era of energy that is wise about how we treat
 the environment, too.
     Q I'm very mindful of our time, but I would like to have a look to the
 G8 summit and Russia, and about the Russian-American friendship, as well.
 Perhaps another question. You had felt quite warm about President Putin,
 but there is rising criticism from the Vice President, for example, in the
 moment, and others, on a lack of democracy in Russia. Have you talked to
 Putin directly about this? And will you, perhaps, raise any obstacles
 regarding the G8?
     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, of course, I've talked to him -- a lot.
 
     Q  About this problem?
 
     THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, absolutely.  Yes, a lot.
 
     Q  What does he say?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first let me -- let me share how I conduct my
 relations with people. I like Putin, but that doesn't mean I have to agree
 with some of the decisions he's made. I know this, that if I stand up and
 constantly criticize Putin publicly, he's not going to be interested in
 listening to what I have to say -- and neither would I. When somebody feels
 like they can lecture to me publicly and doesn't do me the courtesy of
 coming to tell me what's on their mind, one-on-one, then I may not be
 interested in listening to them -- if you know what I mean.
     So I'm the kind of person that tries to establish a good personal
 relationship with somebody, and then we can sit down and talk and I tell
 them what's on my mind, and they tell me what's on his. And I have
 expressed our nation's concerns about -- for example, when they shut down
 parts of the press corps, I said, Vladimir, people are wondering why you're
 making the decision you're making. A free press is an indication of a
 healthy democracy. And he had an answer.
     But, nevertheless, as you know, I'm a religious person and I believe
 religious liberty is an important part of a society. And I've got friends
 in the Catholic Church who asked me to talk to him about Catholic bishops
 being allowed to move in the country and to practice their faith. And so I
 bring up all these issues with him.
     But there's a difference in scolding somebody to try to gain editorial
 approval, and somebody who is in a position to be effective. I'd much
 rather be an effective person than a popular person, let me put it to you
 that way.
     Q As I said, we're very mindful of your time, it's been a great
 conversation. If you have two minutes -- because I would like to have two
 questions, one on women, and one on football. Do you agree to that?
     THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I will.
     Q Very short ones. (Laughter.) You seemed to get along very well Angela
 Merkel, a lot of women, strong women around you, here around the Oval
 Office. We're have a big debate in Germany about women working and having
 children and the family. And your wife, for example, you seem to be a very
 good team in working together --
     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.
 
     Q  And how do you strike this balance?
     THE PRESIDENT: Yes. First of all, I have been raised by an incredibly
 strong woman who I love, and that's my mother. And I'm married to an
 incredibly strong woman who I love, and that's my wife. I hope that Laura
 and I have raised two incredibly strong women who will have confidence to
 go out and explore life, and to achieve. I don't think that encouraging my
 daughters to live life to its fullest means that they can't be good mothers
 at the same time. As a matter of fact, I think a good mother is somebody
 who is strong in her own right, confident and independent.
     And one of the things I do try to remind people is that the most
 important responsibility a person can have is to love their child with all
 their heart. That is by far the most important thing. I'll never forget --
 I'll give you one quick -- we're fine on time. I'll tell you a quick
 anecdote. One of my dearest friends in political life is Karen Hughes. She
 was one of the most powerful women ever in the White House, simply because
 she had complete access to the President and I trusted her. At the same
 time, by the way, in an office down the hall was Condoleezza Rice, also a
 very strong woman who I am very fond of and very close to.
     And Karen, one time, came into see me and she said, "Mr. President, I'm
 having trouble at home," -- not that she -- she wasn't having trouble with
 her husband or her son -- but "my son is unhappy." And my reaction
 instantly was, "Karen, do whatever is necessary to make your family happy.
 That's the most important thing." And so she left and she went back to
 Texas, and I missed her dearly. But priorities matter in life and people
 are able to set priorities and, at the same time, live life to the fullest.
     And Karen is a good example. She got her son squared away, he's now at
 Stanford University. She's now back in Washington, working with Condi at
 the State Department. And my only advice is to, one, welcome women in
 society. I welcome them in the White House. My presidency is more complete
 because some of my top advisors are very strong, capable women.
     Angela Merkel is somebody who is a joy to deal with. She bring an
 interesting --
     Q Why?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, because she's got a straightforward manner about
 herself that is -- when she says something you know she means it. She is
 what she is. She's not a fake. And when I sit there talking to Angela, I'm
 not saying I'm talking to -- I don't think gender, I think strength of
 character. I think reliability. I think clear-headed thinking. I think of a
 fellow strategist as to how to solve problems.
     So, anyway, that's a long answer to a short question.
     Q I think for the two of us, we don't have soccer expert teams sitting
 here together, but anyway, I think you're a baseball fan --
     THE PRESIDENT: I am a baseball fan, you're right.
     Q You are. Do you think you've turned a little bit into a soccer fan? I
 mean, your team is doing so well at the moment and --
     THE PRESIDENT: That's what they tell me. I do know a little bit about
 the World Cup because I read a very interesting article about the German
 coach -- and evidently he's a dynamic -- you know, he's spending some time
 in California. And the World Cup is such a huge event that I think most
 Americans like me, who weren't raised on soccer, are beginning to pay
 attention to it. Now, I know that sounds like heresy in Germany.
     Q In Germany, yes. But think of just -- I mean, that the American team
 could meet the Iranian team.
     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, could be.
 
     Q  What then?
     THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't view it that way. I view it as I hope the
 American team does well. But this is a big event for Germany, and Germany
 will be a great host for the games. And, obviously, I hope the American
 team does well -- they're supposedly a good team.
     Q If they get world champion, you're coming for the final game?
     THE PRESIDENT: I don't know -- do you think I possibly would be
 invited? I don't know.
     Q We're very happy that you come over in July.
     THE PRESIDENT: I'm looking forward it. And I want to thank you for this
 good interview.
     Q Thank you very much, Mr. President.
     END                     1:50 P.M. EDT
 
 SOURCE White House Press Office