US's Global Role and National Identity - Interview With Bush

ON Wednesday, April 18, World Monitor anchor John Hart interviewed President Bush in Washington D.C. The following are excerpts from that interview. We're in a kind of new world now, aren't we?

Yes.

And our old role has more or less been fulfilled, the role of protecting ourselves and the free world against communism? Communist armies are fading. What is our new role?

Our new role is to continue to set the standard for human rights, for democracy around the world; it is to engage in international trade in a way that will help the lives of our people and help the lives of those people in the emerging democracies of Central America, South America, and Eastern Europe.

If we had more, would we give more?

What do you mean by ``give''? You mean write out a check? For what? ... When the prime minister of Poland was here, he didn't come here with a request for cash; he came here with a request for the kind of advice on restructuring that he is getting.... This concept, John, that some have that if you just write out a bigger check, you'll have instant democracy or something of that nature, is absurd. Now, does that mean that we have all the resources we want for foreign aid? No. I'm in a big battle right now for Nicaragua and Panama support.... So there are places where it would be nice to be able to do what we've asked for, and to do more.

A survey [on the environment last week] indicates that most of the people say no standards are too high, we don't care if taxes are raised, we are willing to lose local jobs. A fair-minded person, Mr. President, reading that survey might say that you're behind and not ahead of the people on that.

I don't live by the polls.... I'm not going to let this environmental movement - to which I am committed - be driven by the extremes.... I am not going to take action that I know is going to needlessly throw American men and women out of work.... I believe, John, we can have clean air and still have a vibrant economy.

A question on national identity: We are the richest and freest country, you can argue. But at the same time there are 30 million people in poverty, hundreds of thousands of people living on the streets, two-thirds of them families; 30 million people who can't read and write well enough to get through the day; two-thirds of the savings-and-loan associations taken over by the government are involved in fraud; infant mortality, 50 percent higher than Canada, equal to East Germany. What's happened to us?

... It is my intention to work to solve these problems.... But, John, it's not going to be done by the federal government alone. ... What I'm trying to do is use the ``bully pulpit'' of the White House to encourage the involvement of one American in the life of another.... If we do that and then couple it with, say, the education goals that the governors and I agreed on, we can do better in education - and other points as well, fighting drugs.

A number of presidents have been in a position to do extraordinary things. What are you in a position to do that's extraordinary, because of who you are?

I'd like to be the president that turns around this narcotics business and gets everybody to understand on the demand side that what we may have condoned years ago should be condemned, so we clean up a lot of our society and in the process ... have a much better chance to fight disease. I'm talking about drug addicts using needles and then the AIDS problem. I'd like to be the president who around the world helps solidify this democratic change that's taking place. This is the most exciting time for a person to be president ... certainly in our history in the nuclear age. And I want to handle that well. I want to handle the relations with the Soviets right. I want to handle my dealings with Europe right so that these dramatic changes can be solidified.

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