RUSH: President Bush had a press conference, final press conference for the summer before heading on vacation. Gas taxes came up predictably from the drive-by media, Terry Hunt, the Associated Press, ‘Mr. President, the former chairman of House transportation committee said there is about 500 bridges around the country like the one that collapsed in Minneapolis. They now have other transportation committee members who are recommending an increase in federal gas taxes to pay for repairs. Would you be willing to go along with an increase in gasoline taxes of 5 cents a gallon or more?’
PRESIDENT BUSH: It’s an interesting question about how Congress spends and prioritizes highway money. My suggestion would be that they revisit the process by which they spend gasoline money in the first place. The public works committee is the largest committee, or one of the largest committees in the House of Representatives. The way it seems to have worked is that each member on that committee gets to set his or her own priority first, and then whatever is left over is sent to a spending formula. That’s not the right way to prioritize the people’s money. So before we raise taxes, which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities. And if bridges are a priority, let’s make sure we set that priority first and foremost before we raise taxes.
RUSH: Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant answer because the priority for raises taxes to fix bridges is not to fix bridges. The priority in raising tacks is more control over your life. It’s just a knee-jerk thing. Any kind of an accident, any event, the first liberal knee jerk reaction, we got to raise taxes. Gas tax, 5 cents. We have the highway trust fund that is already bloated already with money. We went through yesterday how Minneapolis is spending all this money on a light rail system from downtown to the airport. They have plenty of money. They just didn’t allocate it. Of course, the priority here is not really fixing the bridge. The priority is new projects. You cut a ribbon and say, ‘See what I’m doing for you. Look what I’m doing. I’m building this new sewer treatment, ground breaking on this today. I’m going to cut the blue ribbon here.’ Blah, blah, blah. ‘I’m your Congressman.’ It’s all about getting votes, getting re-elected. Not about fixing problems. He’s absolutely right on prioritizing.
Next question, David Greene, NPR, ‘You’re a big believer in accountability, and you’ve talked about it with regards to the public schools. Given the performance of Iraqi leaders, the sentence of Libby, you both have stood by the attorney general recently. There’s a lot of questions about your commitment to accountability. Can you give the American people some clear example of how you have held people accountable?’
BUSH: Lewis Libby was held accountable. He was declared guilty by a jury, and he paid a high price for it. Al Gonzales, implicit in your questions is that Al Gonzales did something wrong. I haven’t seen Congress say he’s done anything wrong. I think that’s a typical Washington D.C. assumption. I know you’re a kind, open minded fellow. But you suggested holding the attorney general accountable for something he did wrong. As a matter of fact, I would hope Congress would become more prone to deliver a piece of legislation that matter as opposed to being the investigating body.
RUSH: He didn’t do anything wrong. What’s there to hold him accountable for? Another assumption that has taken on a life of its own. The Drive-by Media just echoing whatever the Democrat talking points are of the day, or vice-versa. Next question. This is Jim Ruttenberg of the New York Times. ‘The pictures from the visit are very warm.’ This is about Maliki. The Drive-Bys are going to try to topple Nuri Al-Maliki. ‘I’m wondering: Do you and your Iraqi counterparts see eye to eye on Iran, and what kind of message do those images send to your allies in the region and Americans who are skeptical about the prime minister?”
BUSH: I haven’t seen the picture. Look, generally, in the way these things work is you try to be cordial to the person you’re with, and so you don’t want the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out. Okay, put up your dukes. That’s an old boxing expression.
RUTTENBERG: In your previous conversations with Prime Minister Maliki, have you been confident that he shares your view on Iraq?
BUSH: On Iran? Yes. He knows that weaponry being smuggled in to Iraq from Iran and placed into the hands of extremists — over which the government has no control, all aimed at killing innocent life — is a destabilizing factor. He absolutely understands that.
RUSH: And the Drive-Bys tie the tax increase they want for bridges to the war in Iraq, because that’s what the Democrats are doing. That is what liberals do. Ann Compton, ABC news: ‘Can you do justice to the programs the government needs for bridges, for housing and also continue to spend as much as you do with the war in Iraq?”
BUSH: The problem in Congress is they have trouble actually focusing on priorities. Appropriators take their titles seriously and they all feel like they got to appropriate, which means there’s a myriad of priorities. One thing we shouldn’t have a debate over is whether or not it’s important to fund our troops in this war against the radicals, extremists, the war on terror, and I think we’ll be able to get that kind of cooperation.
ANN: You can continue to sustain the kind of level of spending that you’ve invested in Iraq?
BUSH: I know there’s a lot of members who don’t agree with the decisions I’ve made. I would certainly hope they would agree however that once someone is in combat or in harm’s way, that they get the full support of the Federal government. That’s exactly what their families expect, and that’s what the commander in chief expects as well.
RUSH: Brief time-out here. President Bush, nice, nice work today at the press conference.