In terms of the trade deficit, it is important for us to make sure that -- in countries that are -- that countries treat their currencies in market fashion. I've been working with China, in specific, on that issue. Secondly, that people knock down their barriers to our goods and services. Thirdly, that we continue to grow our economy at home by making -- by some of the reforms I've just discussed.
QUESTION: Mr. President, Senator Ted Kennedy recently repeated his characterization of Iraq as a "quagmire" and has called it your Vietnam. And the questioning of Alberto Gonzales and Condi Rice in the Senate has been largely used by Democrats to criticize your entire Iraq program, especially what you're trying to do postwar. I wonder if you have any response to those criticisms. And what kind of an effect do you think these statements have on the morale of our troops and on the confidence of the Iraqi people that what you're trying to do over there is going to succeed?
THE PRESIDENT: I think the Iraqi people are wondering whether or not this nation has the will necessary to stand with them as a democracy evolves. The enemy would like nothing more than the United States to precipitously pull out and withdraw before the Iraqis are prepared to defend themselves. Their objective is to stop the advance of democracy. Freedom scares them. Zarqawi said something interesting the other day, that -- he was talking about democracy and how terrible democracy is. We believe that people ought to be allowed to express themselves, and we believe that people ought to decide the fates of their governments.
And so I -- the notion that somehow we're not making progress I just don't subscribe to. I mean, we're having elections. And I think we need to put this moment in history in proper context. That context, of course, starts with whether or not the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power, and whether or not America would be more secure. After all, I've always felt the Iraqi theater is a part of the war on terror.
And I am encouraged and I am heartened by the fact the Iraqi citizens are showing incredible bravery. They're losing a lot of people. Obviously, these targeted assassinations of innocent civilians is -- is having an effect on Iraqi families. But they want to vote. They want to participate in democracy. They want to be able to express themselves. And, to me, that is encouraging. There is a notion in some parts of the world that certain people can't self-govern; certain religions don't have the capacity of self-government. And that condemns people to tyranny. And I refuse to accept that point of view.
I am -- I am optimistic about the advance of freedom, and so should the American people. After all, look what's happened in a brief period of time -- Afghanistan; Palestinian elections, which I think are incredibly hopeful elections; as well as the Ukraine; and now Iraq. It is -- we're witnessing amazing history. And the fundamental question is: Can we advance that history? And that's what my inauguration speech said. It said, yes, we can. I firmly planted the flag of liberty, for all to see that the United States of America hears their concerns and believes in their aspirations. And I am excited by the challenge and am honored to be able to lead our nation in the quest of this noble goal, which is freeing people in the name of peace.
QUESTION: Mr. President, the Senate Republicans recently listed their priorities, and immigration reform wasn't on it. Do you think this means it's dead for this year? And why are you having so much trouble with your own party on that?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I appreciate that question. It will be one of my priorities. I believe it's necessary to reform the immigration system. I'm against amnesty; I've made that very clear. On the other hand, I do want to recognize a system where a willing worker and a willing employer are able to come together in a way that enables people to find work without jeopardizing a job that an American would otherwise want to do.
I also happen to believe immigration reform is necessary to help make it easier to protect our borders. The system right now spawns coyotes and smugglers and people willing to break the law to get people in our country. There is a vast network of kind of shadowy traffickers. And I believe by making a -- by advancing a program that enables people to come into our country in a legal way to work for a period of time, for jobs that Americans won't do, will help make it easier for us to secure our borders. And so --
QUESTION: Why the resistance in your party so much?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think -- I'm looking forward to discussing it with members of both parties. I believe it's a very important issue that we need to address. I've had a lot of experience with dealing with borders, as the governor of Texas. I know there's a compassionate, humane way to deal with this issue. I want to remind people that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming to our country to do jobs that Americans won't do, to be able to feed their families. And I think there's a humane way to recognize that, at the same time protect our borders, and at the same way to make sure that we don't disadvantage those who have stood in line for years to become a legal citizen. And I'm looking forward to working with people of both parties on the issue.
QUESTION: Mr. President, we saw the Democrats yesterday devote nine hours to Ms. Rice. We may see something similar with regard to Judge Gonzales. There's just simply a lot of anger on the Hill by Democrats at you, personally, and at your administration. And isn't this going to dog your efforts at whatever you do down the line, from the Supreme Court to immigration to whatever?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, we're all here to serve the people. And as I say, I'm going to go out and explain why I think it's important for us to address big issues, like Social Security reform; and take my case to the people and let them hear the rationale about why even address big issues, much less the reason why I think, for example, in Social Security there is an issue. As I just laid out the math, it is clear that now is the time to act.
And I don't know about hostility and all that business. That's -- I guess that's your job to gauge that. When I've talked with people, I feel like people are looking forward to working with us.
QUESTION: Well, you had a Democratic Senator basically call your Secretary of State nominee a liar. That's pretty harsh language coming from --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there are 99 senators other than that person. And I'm looking forward to working with as many members as we can. Condi Rice is a fine, fine public servant, greatly admired here in America, and greatly admired around the world. And she will make a great Secretary of State. And I'm looking forward to working with her.
Listen, thank you all, very much, for your time. I appreciate this. And I'm looking forward to working with you all as we have a productive 2005.