Most of President Bush's long Wednesday Rose Garden press conference focused on the threat of North Korea.
On a question about House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) Bush once again gave him a boost....the third since the Mark Foley cyberspace page sex scandal started on Sept. 29.
``Denny is very credible, as far as I am concerned,'' said Bush
Bush flies to Chicago on Thursday to headline a fundraiser--estimated to raise a total of $1 million--to benefit the House races of GOP contenders in the hot Roskam v Duckworth and McSweeney v Bean contests.
Do you think Hastert is credible?
Bush said Hasterts' ``strong statements'' that he wants to ``find out the facts'' was commendable.
Foley's interest in pages: ``This is disgusting behavior,'' Bush said, ``...when a member of Conress betrays a trust..''
Bush said he ``appreciates Speaker Hastert'' and his ``desire to get to the bottom'' of who knew what, when, about Foley.
He implied that Foley and Hastert would not be a factor in the November congressional voting.
``I think the elections will be decided by the security and the economy,'' Bush said.
Q Mr. President, with growing numbers of House members and staffers saying that they knew of, and told others about a problem with Mark Foley some years ago, has House Speaker Hastert lost touch within his own ranks? And has the scandal damaged Hastert's credibility and effectiveness in maintaining party control in the mid- term elections?
PRESIDENT BUSH: No. I think -- I think the speaker's strong statements have made it clear to not only, you know, the party members, but to the country, that he wants to find out the facts. All of us want to find out the facts. I mean, this is -- you know, this is disgusting behavior when a -- you know, a member of Congress betrays the trust of a -- of the Congress and, you know, a family that sent a young page up to serve in the Congress.
And I appreciated Speaker Hastert's strong declaration of his desire to get to the bottom of it. And, you know, we want to make sure we understand what Republicans knew and what Democrats knew in order to find the facts. And I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Q His credibility, sir, and the impact on elections?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, Denny is very credible, as far as I'm concerned. And he's been a -- he's done a fine job as speaker, and when he stands up and says "I want to know the truth."
And I believe yesterday he said that if somebody on his staff, you know, didn't tell him the truth, they're gone. I respect that and appreciate that and believe him.
And no, I think the elections will be decided by security and the economy. I really do, Mark. I mean, I -- I -- you know, I know this is a -- this Foley issue bothers a lot of people, including me. But I think when they get in that booth, they're going to be thinking about, you know, how best to secure the country from attack, and, you know, how best to keep the economy growing. I think the last time I was out here with you I reminded you that I understand that the economy is always a salient issue in campaigns. We've had some experience with that in my family I think I said. I still believe the economy's an important issue, and I believe on this issue there is a huge difference of opinion.
The other day, by the way, Don, I did bring up the words of the leader of the House when she said, "I love tax cuts," and then, I reminded everybody that if she loved them so much, how come she voted against a lot of tax cuts. In other words -- again, back to your question about whether it's fair to use people's words -- I think to say, "I love tax cuts," and then vote against tax cuts it's just -- it's worthy. It's worthy of people's consideration in the political process.
I believe taxes are a big issue in the campaign, Mark, and I know how -- I know that, you know, how best to protect the country is a big issue, really big issue. And you know, there's just a kind of law enforcement mentality that says, "Well, we'll respond after a(n) attack."
It's not going to work. It's just not going to work. We've got to deal with these problems before they come to -- before they come to our territory.
I -- I -- you know, I understand that some are saying, "Well, he's just trying to scare us." My job is to look at the intelligence and to -- and I'm going to tell you, there's an enemy out there that would like to do harm again to the United States because we're in a war. And they have objectives. They want to -- they want to drive us out of parts of the world to establish a caliphate. It's what they have told us. And it's essential that we listen to the words of the enemy if we want to protect the American people.
And in this debate about, you know, which party can handle it better, I -- I will -- it's very important that no one question the patriotism or the -- you know, the loyalty to the country. There is a different mind-set, however, that is worth discussing in the course of a campaign, and I'm going to continue to do it. And I believe those two issues will be the issues that drive the election.