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Posted: 12/19/2005 9:12:55 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/19/2005 9:16:06 AM EDT by warlord]
For those who didn't see or hear Bush's news conference:
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TEXT: President Bush's Press Conference
Full text of the president's opening statement as delivered this morning.
From Associated Press

December 19, 2005

PRESIDENT: Welcome. Please be seated. Thanks.

Last night I addressed the nation about our strategy for victory in Iraq and the historic elections that took place in the country last week.

In a nation that once lived by the whims of a brutal dictator, the Iraqi people now enjoy constitutionally protected freedoms and their leaders now derive their powers from the consent of the governed. Millions of Iraqis are looking forward to a future with hope and optimism.

The Iraqi people still face many challenges. This is the first time the Iraqis are forming a government under their new constitution. The Iraqi constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the parliament for certain top officials, so the formation of the new government will take time as Iraqis work to build consensus.

And once the new Iraqi government assumes office, Iraq's new leaders will face many important decisions on issues such as security and reconstruction, economic reform and national unity.

The work ahead will require the patience of the Iraqi people and the patience and support of America and our coalition partners.

As I said last night, this election does not mean the end of violence. But it is the beginning of something new: a constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East.

And we will keep working toward our goal of a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.

Our mission in Iraq is critical to victory in the global war on terror. After our country was attacked on September the 11th, and nearly 3,000 lives were lost, I vowed to do everything within my power to bring justice to those who were responsible.

I also pledged to the American people to do everything within my power to prevent this from happening again.

What we quickly learned was that al-Qaida was not a conventional enemy. Some lived in our cities and communities and communicated from here in America to plot and plan with bin Laden's lieutenants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Then they boarded our airplanes and launched the worst attack on our country in our nation's history.

This new threat required us to think and act differently. And as the 9/11 Commission pointed out, to prevent this from happening again, we need to connect the dots before the enemy attacks, not after. And we need to recognize that dealing with al-Qaida is not simply a matter of law enforcement: It requires defending the country against an enemy that declared war against the United States of America.

As president and commander in chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article 2 of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it.

And after September the 11th, the United States Congress also granted me additional authority to use military force against al-Qaida.

After September the 11th, one question my administration had to answer was, using the authorities I have, how do we effectively detect enemies hiding in our midst and prevent them from striking us again?

We know that a two-minute phone conversation between somebody linked to al-Qaida here and an operative overseas could lead directly to the loss of thousands of lives. To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks.

So, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorize the interception of international communications of people with known links to al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations.

This program is carefully reviewed approximately every 45 days to ensure it is being used properly. Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program.

And it has been effective in disrupting the enemy while safeguarding our civil liberties. This program has targeted those with known links to al-Qaida.

I've reauthorized this program more than 30 times since September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill our American citizens.

Another vital tool in the war on terror is the Patriot Act. After September the 11th, Congress acted quickly and responsibly by passing this law, which provides our law enforcement and intelligence community key tools to prevent attacks in our country.

The Patriot Act tore down the legal and bureaucratic wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing vital information about terrorist threats. It allows federal investigators to pursue terrorists with tools already used against other types of criminals.

America's law enforcement personnel have used this critical tool to prosecute terrorist operatives and their supporters and to break up cells here in America.

Yet key provisions of this law are set to expire in 12 days. The House of Representatives voted for reauthorization, but last week a minority of senators filibustered the Patriot Act, blocking the Senate from voting to reauthorize key provisions of this vital law.

In fact, the Senate Democratic leader boasted to a group of political supporters that the Senate Democrats had, quote, killed the Patriot Act, end quote.

Most of the senators now filibustering the Patriot Act actually voted for it in 2001. These senators need to explain why they thought the Patriot Act was a vital tool after the September the 11th attacks but now think it's no longer necessary.

The terrorists want to strike America again. And they hope to inflict even greater damage than they did on September the 11th. Congress has a responsibility to give our law enforcement and intelligence officials the tools the need to protect the American people.

The senators who are filibustering the Patriot Act must stop their delaying tactics and the Senate must vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment.

As we fight the war on terror, we're also continuing to work to build prosperity for citizens. Because we cut taxes and restrained nonsecurity spending, our economy is strong and it is getting stronger.

We added 215,000 new jobs in November. We've added nearly 4.5 million new jobs since May of 2003.

The unemployment rate is down to 5 percent; lower than the average of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Despite hurricanes and high gas prices, third-quarter growth was 4.3 percent. More Americans own their own homes than at any time in our history. Inflation is low, productivity is high and consumer confidence is up.

We're heading into a new year with an economy that is the envy of the world. And we have every reason to be optimistic about our economic future.

We've made other important progress this year on the priorities of American families. We passed a good energy bill, and we're putting America on the path to make our economy less dependent on foreign sources of oil.

We were wise with taxpayers' money and cut nonsecurity discretionary spending below last year's level. We passed the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement to open up markets and help level the playing field for America's workers and farmers and small businesses. We passed bankruptcy reform and class-action lawsuit reform.

I appointed John Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States. Chief Justice Roberts is poised to lead the Supreme Court with integrity and prudence for decades to come.

We've got more work to do in this coming year. To keep our economy growing we need to keep taxes low and make the tax relief permanent. We must restrain government spending. And I'm pleased that the House today has voted to rein in entitlement spending by $40 billion, and I urge the United States Senate to join them.

We must reduce junk lawsuits and strengthen our education system and give more Americans the ability to obtain affordable health insurance.

We must pass comprehensive immigration reform that protects our borders, strengthens enforcement and creates a new temporary worker program that relieves pressure on the border but rejects amnesty.

I look forward to the Senate holding an up-or-down vote on Judge Sam Alito and confirming him by January 20th as associate justice of the Supreme Court. Judge Alito has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years. He's a highly respected and principled jurist. And he will make our nation proud as a member of the high court.

As we prepare to spend time with our families this holiday season, we also stop to count our blessings. We're thankful for our courageous men and women in uniform who are spending the holidays away from loved ones standing watch for liberty in distant lands.

We give thanks for our military families, who love and support them in their vital work and who also serve our country.

And we pray for the families of the fallen heroes. We hold them in our hearts and we lift them up in our prayers and we pledge that the sacrifice of their loved ones will never be forgotten.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
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