I Fill in the Blanks I have filled in the blanks, in red where the President or the Prime Minister left out something. Best parts include the President discussing debating himself, a new, classic Bushism. PRESIDENT BUSH: There will be two opening statements, and then we'll take two questions per side. Thank you for coming and participating in this sham.
Silvio, it's great to welcome you back to our country. I think it's fitting that one of the first world leaders to have visited after our elections is my friend, Silvio Berlusconi who changes the law to prevent his own prosecution, owns the Italian media (cutting out the middle man) and aligns with the neo-fascii for things like tax reform. He is a close personal friend who has declared that Mussolini was a "benevolent dictator" and that Mussolini sent the Jews "on holiday". He is a friend of the United States of America , by which I mean, me. I told the Prime Minister I look forward to working with him over the next four years to make the world a better place for all. And I've got work to do in Europe because I am the Leader of the World, which includes parts of Europe, and he gave me some very good advice about my upcoming trip. He said "If I were you, I'd stay home.". But he always gives me good advice. And I'm proud to have his advice I'm proudest when people tell me what to do, because I don't have to do it, I'm the Puh-resident.
We talked about peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I think there's a very good chance that we can achieve that peace. I look forward to working toward that end. The Prime Minister had good advice on that subject, as well. He said "Giorgio, what you smoke? Stop, for me, for the sake of the children, please stop."
He expressed his concerns about the relationship between the dollar and the euro. I told him we're going to take this issue on seriously with the Congress, although usually, it's all chuckles and yum-yums when Congress and I get together. The best thing that we can do from the executive branch of government in America, as opposed to the other Executive Branches I am in charge of, is to work with Congress to deal with our deficits which I have so woefully mismanaged. One deficit is a short-term budget deficit. Another deficit is the unfunded liabilities that come with Social Security and some of the health programs for the elderly. There is neither an Iraq nor Afghanistan deficit. There is no Military-Industrial-Complex. I told the Prime Minister that Social Security reform will be at the top of my agenda because he asked about not weakening the dollar anymore, so I told him about how I plan to run up new, massive deficits, to weaken the dollar. I campaigned on the issue I must have mentioned it, didn't I?. I look forward to working with members of Congress to resolve this long-term, unfunded issue as compared to the Pentagon, which is self-funding, so that the world financiers can take comfort ah, world financiers taking comfort! Let's dwell on who is taking comfort (world financiers), and from what (screwing the poor)for a moment more, I feel better already, in the fact that this government will address one part of the budget deficit. There's a trade deficit. That's easy to resolve; people can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit. I have been told not to mention the trade deficit and the weak dollar in the same sentence, but I did it.
But , there is that but again we've had a good visit. And I'm proud my friend is here. When my friends visit, I become proud as a peacock. See what great friends I have? I've gotten one whole leader, in the last six weeks, to come visit. When was the last time anyone came to your house?
And finally, we discussed our mutual desire to spread freedom and peace. We spread freedom and peace with guns and bombs, the age-old spreading knife of peace and freedom. I want to thank the Prime Ministerand Foreign Minister for his understanding about the need for the free world to succeed in Afghanistan and Iraq because most people just don't get it. He's the kind of man, when he gives you his word, he keeps his word, which is the sign of an impressive, strong leader.
So thank you for coming.
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words. Thank you for the friendship you showed to me, to my government, and my country.
And my behavior and the behavior of my government is based on the fact that we share the same values namely, protecting the powerful from the laws, enshrining the selfish in the halls of power, you get the idea. We appreciate strongly the fact that America has taken on the responsibility of defending and spreading peace and democracy all over the world and I thank God, every day, that Bush doesn't know Italy has a Marxist Party. And we appreciate the fact the United States do that with sacrifices and a lot of suffering at least among the poor. So we fully share the work carried out by the American administration. And the political agenda, the program which has been announced for the next four years the four-year plan, is something we fully agree on. The President hasn't actually said with the Social Security reform will be like, but I agree with it.
We share the same opinion as to the need of reforming the United Nations in order to make it an institution which will be able to tackle the problems affecting this century these last four, terrible years, and the multilateralism which has to take into account results to be achieved, and complete facts. We agree on the fact that we have to continue to fight the war on terror together. And we agreed on the fact that it is now the appropriate time to solve the Middle East issue.
And in particular, I agree on the way in which we keep on and carry on our relationship , namely, secret meeting with limiteed press interaction. It's a very frank, direct, straightforward and spontaneous way, full of truth. (Laughter.) And I think this was the deepest reason why President Bush succeeded so much, especially, with the Americans as compared to, say, the Israelis. It is not politics. There is no politics which makes people say things which people do not believe in or think that, my friends, is only acting, pure and simple. President Bush tells me and all of the others always what's in his mind , nothing. And it is very positive that "yes" means really "yes" to him, and "no" means "no." And I want to reassure President Bush that we'll do any possible accord to strengthen the relationship between the United States of America and Europe. Because I agree with him, the West is only one. Everyone else can eat cake.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Welcome. Anybody representing AP here? Oh, you are.
Q Iraq's Defense Minister says that Iran and Syrian intelligence agents are supporting al Zarqawi and that Iran is trying to sway the January 30 elections. Do you believe these charges are accurate, sir? And is there anything the United States can do besides simply telling Iran and Syria to refrain? In other words, I am going to echo to you the words of your puppet, to see if you can't repeat it more forcefully, and to pave the way for any future warplans against either other country. You, Mr. President, are impeccable in these matters. What? I have something on my nose?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We have made it very clear to the countries in the neighborhood, including the two you mentioned, that we expect there to be help in establishing a society in which people are able to elect their leaders; and that we expect people to work with the Iraqi interim government to enforce border, to stop the flow of people and money that aim to help these terrorists. We made that very clear. And we'll continue to make it clear. We, in fact, have a perfect record in that regard, so there is no chance they will take us for hypocrites.
We have made it clear that, for the good of the area, that there ought to be a peaceful country where the different religions can come together under the TAL which has been passed by an unelected, US appointed body, signed into "law" by Bremer, the go-by for what a new constitution should look like because all constitutions should have a go-by. And we will continue to make it clear to both Syria and Iran that -- as will other nations in our coalition, including our friend, the Italians, that meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interest.
You want to call on somebody from the Italian press?
President Bush's remarks translated into Italian.
THE PRESIDENT: I'll be more polite to the translator from now on. I pretended I understood, and everyone laughed! Want to call on somebody from the --
Q You said you've discussed the euro-dollar ratio, and, therefore, you discussed your relations between the two economic blocs. Can you say something more in detail about what you talked about, and if there is, in the future, the possibility of a better balance between the euro and the dollar in terms of the exchange rate?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The policy of my government is a strong dollar policy.
ITALIAN TRANSLATOR: I'm sorry, I didn't hear -- (laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: She might not agree with it. (Laughter.) We believe that the markets should make the decision about the relationship between the dollar and the euro. Therefore, to the extent that the federal government is involved with strengthening -- making the conditions such that a strong dollar will emerge, we'll do everything we can in the upcoming legislative session to send a signal to the markets that we'll deal with our deficit, which, hopefully, will cause people to want to buy dollars. Most importantly is the upcoming multi-hundred billion dollar prescription drug plan, which I pushed, and then signed into law, not understanding it. Also important in this regard is the multi-trillion transformation cost of the Social Security reform which I also don't understand. The wars will also help keep deficits down. I am always, if nothing else, a simple, honest man (Laughter.).
Independently, the Federal Reserve, under the leadership of Alan Greenspan, raised the interest rates yet again, a signal to the world markets that the Chairman is also aware of the relative currency valuations between the euro and the dollar. I'm not that generous yet.
We love April, but there's a limited number of questions. Soon we will be moving to the no-question rule, methinks.
Q Sir, you're going to this conference today. Some Democrats call the private accounts in Social Security a risky scheme. What happens if people lose money on their investments? Does the government bail them out?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Look, Steve, this is the issue about addressing the long-term liability issue. This is a Social Security issue. This is a risky issue. Like many nations in Europe, there's an issue with Social Security systems. Baby boomers are getting ready to retire and there's not enough workers to sustain that which -- that which has been promised. So the fundamental question I placed before the Congress is, we have a problem, let's work together to deal with it. I know that isn't really actually a question, but what, is this, Jeopardy?
I believe there's a consensus beginning to grow that members of both political parties understand now is the time to address this problem, and what I believe, goes. I believe one way to help make sure the system meets the needs of a younger generation is to allow younger workers to take some of their own taxes and invest in a personal savings account -- under certain conditions. The people in our country have heard this notion, so-called "risky scheme" adjectives in the 2000 campaign and the 2004 campaign. I took the message to them. They realize, like I realize, now is the time to deal with the problem. And I look forward to working with both members -- members of both parties to solve this problem. Heh, I almost said both members of Congress, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist.
But let me just give you one -- this is a chance now to kind of start laying the groundwork for future questions. The great desire for people in Congress is for me to negotiate with myself. You notice I said the great desire for members of Congress, not members of the press so enough with the questions already!. And therefore, I will continue to articulate principles that I think are important and reach out to members of both parties to fashion a plan that solves the problem.
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: The problem of Social Security is common to all of the Western world. And this is, luckily, due to the fact that we live longer because of the better standard of living and because of the discoveries made by medicine. In Europe, all governments are dealing with reforming Social Security systems, but one thing is for sure, that it needs to be done. That is, we have to extend the working life of the people. Bush has talked a lot about increasing the commodity value of humans, in general.
I'm one of the strongest believers in that, because at my age, I'm convinced that one -- at my age you can keep on working pretty well. (Laughter.) And you can tap on the experience you kind of piled up over your working life. I work in coal mine on my off days.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You look like a baby boomer. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: I thank you very much. It's medicine, as well. So -- credit medicine. (Laughter.) Medicine that is more expensive in America than Italy, I have noticed, but I am a billionaire!
PRESIDENT BUSH: Final question. Do you want to call on somebody?
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: I want to say something -- we have already reformed our Social Security system in Italy. And this is one of the 24 reforms through which we are modernizing our country. And I've just said to President Bush that at the end of its term, my government will have completed many more reforms than all of the previous governments in the Italian republic. Most of which lasted about a year.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Very good. Go to the head of the class.
A final question from the Italian press?
Q Did you debate the possibility that the President of the United States will soon fly on Italian helicopters? (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, no chance on Earth. I appreciate that --
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: -- Italian helicopters almost completely made, manufactured in the United States.
PRESIDENT BUSH: With U.S. parts. I've got the message, yes but now it is starting to get irritating. Laughter.
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: I can only say that I've been flying these helicopters for 30 years, and I'm still here.
PRESIDENT BUSH: And you never crashed. (Laughter.) That's a good start. (Laughter.)Thirty more years and we'll talk.
The Prime Minister brought up the issue. I'm very familiar with it. As I just said, I've got the message already! As you know, we delayed a decision until after this meeting, I mean later on in the spring. I'm very aware of the joint venture. I understand the nature of U.S. jobs that will be created in this venture, and I assured him the venture will be treated fairly. Like I treated Saddam.
Thank you for coming. Happy holidays. Happy Hanukkah. Because, as you all know, Hannukah isn't a holiday.
END 12:17 P.M. EST