President Bush, in an election-anniversary news conference, said today he hopes that the U.S. decision to return $567 million in frozen assets to Iran will help get "underbrush cleaned out" and lead to the eventual release of hostages.
"I carry the fate of the hostages with me every single day," Bush told reporters at the White House. He said he knows of no reason to be encouraged at this time, however, on an issue that has bedeviled his predecessors and complicated the first 10 months of his term.
Bush began with an introductory statement that summed up his satisfaction with his first 10 months in office.
"I enjoy it; I like the challenge," he said of his 10 months in office.
Bush also dismissed criticism--most recently from former President Jimmy Carter--of his policies toward Eastern Europe, saying that the Administration is dealing properly with the changes there and that his opponents just want to spend more money on aid.
He challenged them to come up with specific ideas "other than triple the spending" on aid to Poland and Hungary.
Asked about the emergence of abortion as a critical issue in gubernatorial elections being held today in Virginia and New Jersey, Bush asserted "that issue ranks about 9th to 14th."
"People are not for the most part single-issue voters," Bush said of an issue that often seemed to cut against Republicans during the campaign period. He added, "I have no intention of changing my position. It's so personal. I just come down on the side of life."
Bush rejected criticism that he has failed to exert leadership in worldwide efforts to combat global warming. He said he is not prepared to join the roughly 60 nations meeting in the Netherlands on a resolution to cap carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2000, saying such a move is too early and too extreme.