WASHINGTON – Saying he was "troubled" by the new report on steroid use in baseball, President Bush said Friday that baseball owners should take note of the eye-popping Mitchell Report but said people "should not jump to conclusions" about individual players who were alleged to have taken steroids.
"I love the sport. I love the game. Like many fans, I've been troubled by the steroid allegations. I think it's best that all of us not jump to any conclusions on any individual players named," Bush said, speaking to reporters at the White House Rose Garden.
On the Thursday, the Mitchell Report — named after the person who headed the investigation, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell — fingered several current, prominent baseball players as steroid users, and called for changes by Major League Baseball to end the abuse.
"But we can jump to this conclusion: that steroids have sullied the game," Bush said. "And players, the owners, must take the Mitchell Report seriously. I'm confident they will. And my hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us."
Bush is a former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and said that baseball players who use steroids make bad role models.
"When they violate their bodies, they're sending a terrible message to America's young," Bush said.
In his 2004 State of the Union address, Bush called for a voluntary crackdown on steroids. But this past August when Barry Bonds surpassed home run king Hank Aaron, Bush called Bonds to congratulate him, and did not comment at the time regarding the Bonds' steroid-use allegations, which have swirled around him for years.
Bonds, who made his career with the San Francisco Giants, is one of those named in the Mitchell Report. He also is facing federal charges for allegedly lying to investigators probing a West Coast performance-enhancement operation out of the Bay-Area Laboratory Cooperative, or BALCO.
"There is a lot of speculation about Barry Bonds, and my only advice for people is to just let history be the judge," Bush said during a television interview at the time. "Let's find out the facts, and then everybody's opinion — one way or the other — will be verified or not verified."
If it's later proven that a lot of Bonds' strength came from drug use, Bush said, there will be a lot of disappointed people.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush does not recall being aware of any steroid use during his time as a baseball executive.
Pushed about whether Bush regrets being in the dark about that, Perino said: "The president said he thought long and hard about it. He just does not recall hearing or seeing it. And I don't think it's time for regret. I think it's time to do what the president has done, which has been to take time in his State of the Union to shine a light on the issue. Now we have the result of a report that is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so."
Congressional Spending, Korean Letter
Bush's comments Friday came following a morning meeting with his cabinet. The president continued to press Congress on the point of spending, which he has done for most of the year. Lawmakers have only sent one of 12 spending bills to the president for his signature — the president has issued several veto threats for several reasons, including war-spending restrictions, over spending, over taxing, and lawmakers' pet projects.
Bush again called on Congress to pass spending bills to fund the federal government for the next year.
But this time, Bush said that should Congress be unable to work out a deal before the holidays, they should pass a one-year continuing resolution — a bill that would keep federal funding levels the same from now through September 2008.
He said that was a better option than a bill that would be laden with war-funding restrictions or personal projects for lawmakers' home states.
Bush also fielded a question about the letter he received from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, although the president did not directly answer what the leader said.
"I got his attention with a letter, and he can get my attention by fully disclosing his programs, including any plutonium he may have processed, and converted ... and whatever he's used it for. We just need to know," Bush said, also calling on Kim to disclose proliferation activities.
The president ended his brief remarks by ribbing reporters with a joke about the previous evenings' White House correspondents' holiday party.
"I hope you enjoyed the holiday bash as much as I did. I noticed some of the silverware's missing. We'll be taking a full inventory," Bush said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.