White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett on Bush Tax Cuts

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This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, May 28, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-Conn.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Under President Bush's outdated economic policies, America's economic performance has deteriorated badly. 2.7 million jobs have been lost in the last two-and-a-half years. 1.5 million people have fallen out of the middle class back into poverty.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, count Joe Lieberman no big fan of the president's massive tax cut signed into law at the White House today. The president trumpeting the immediate boost the $350-billion package will give the economy, beginning in July, when most Americans should see some fatter take-home pay.

With us now, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett.

Mr. Bartlett, good to have you. Thanks for coming.


CAVUTO: What does this mean? I mean, obviously, you guys have crunched the numbers. I don't want to go nauseatingly into all that detail. But, obviously, you're hoping for a quick stimulus to the economy. What do you think?

BARTLETT: Well, I think just that. Major economists have looked at this package, have looked at the things that President Bush's package outlined, and that was to help America's families, help America's small businesses, and help America's investors, particularly seniors, and that's exactly what this package will do.

It will get money immediately into the pockets of working families all across America and the job creators of America, small businesses, as well as investors. And that's very important for this economy — to get this type of help right away. That's exactly what today's signature will do, and President Bush was very proud to sign it.

CAVUTO: There have been some critics of the president who say that this is kind of his Hail Mary pass for the 2004 election, that he's got to hope that this does it because it's pretty much all he's got in his arsenal. Is it?

BARTLETT: Well, no. I think what you're seeing is a president that is responding aggressively to the facts as he sees them. When he came into office, he inherited a recession. He took aggressive action then with the tax relief package of 2001, which economists say made it one of the shortest and shallowest recessions on recorded history.

CAVUTO: Do you believe that, though, Mr. Bartlett?


CAVUTO: You do?

BARTLETT: I very much believe that it helped stave off the recession, helped put money in the pockets of consumers at the critical time. It was very important to our economy.

We had a situation where we had the attacks of 9/11, we had corporate scandals, so the economic recovery has not been robust enough. The president believes that we ought to get relief back into the pockets of the consumers, back into the job creators, the small businessmen, as well as to help investors, and that's exactly what this economy needs.

And those people up on Capitol Hill that agreed because they understand what the president understands, and that is that money in the pockets of consumers and small businesses means more jobs. That's what this economy needs more than anything else.

CAVUTO: When all is said and done — you can talk game plan now — was it your goal to really get all the marginal rates pushed through quickly and that, if you got anything on the dividend side, it would just be gravy?

BARTLETT: Well, I think the way the president approached this was that there are specific ailments in this economy that needed specific action. The specific ailment is the fact that the burden of this economic recovery has been shouldered by America's families and taxpayers. That's why he wanted to move up the already passed tax rates.

He also saw the unfair double taxation of dividends that was hurting capital formation, that was hurting the stock markets, that could be a good corporate responsibility measure. That's why he pushed so hard for it. He was pleased to sign a law today that will cut it by 60 percent approximately, and that's good for the markets. It's good for the American investors. It's good for creating jobs in America. He was glad that he was able to sign it.

CAVUTO: All right. Now you obviously handle the communications part of this. As we speak, sir, we've got Condoleezza Rice talking to reporters about the president's planned trip this week and next and particularly when he goes to the Middle East.

Which is going to weigh more on Americans' minds, do you think — what's happening in the Middle East, the progress we're making on terror, or the economy?

BARTLETT: Well, I don't think the American people divide these things and think that their leaders in Washington ought to spend all their attention on one at the expense of the other. They expect their leaders to focus on all the big issues.

This president has consistently focused on our country's national security and this country's economic security. He has spent a lot of time in the past month to get this jobs and growth package passed. He's spending a lot of time in protecting the homeland, hunting down terrorists, and he's spending a lot of time on achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East.

It's going to be very difficult, and the American people expect their leaders to focus on it. It's what the president is focusing his time on — and equally to both measures, both our national security and our economic security.

CAVUTO: But you're more worried, I would assume, about the economic security, are you not? I mean, ultimately, that — not all the time, but most of the time — decides elections.

BARTLETT: Well, I think the president is worried about innocent civilians dying in the United States of America. If there's another attack, that is first and foremost on his mind.

But he's also worried about not creating enough jobs in America. That's why he's traveled the country to talk about his policies, his agenda to create economic growth in America. He's going to spend time on both measures because that's what the American people expect.

CAVUTO: You know, it's interesting, too. I think there's something to what you say, Mr. Bartlett. I mean, obviously, in the midterm elections, the attention shifted a little bit away from "It's the economy, stupid" to "It's being alive, stupid," and that, obviously, registered. So I guess you guys are still working on the belief that [this threat] will continue to be the focus for next year?

BARTLETT: Well, again, unfortunately, the war on terror doesn't take breaks for elections or for other periods of time. As President Bush said after the days of 9/11, this war is going to take time, that as we hunt down the Al Qaeda terrorist network, we're going to have to be persistent, we're going to have to be patient, we're going to have to work with other countries.

This is something that we can't tidy up in one month or six months or a year. We are pursuing them, we are gaining the advantage, we continue to knock out top Al Qaeda leaders. But as the events in the last couple of weeks have showed, they are still very dangerous, and it's going to require the attention of not only the United States of America, but many countries around the world.

CAVUTO: Dan Bartlett, thank you very much. Good having you on.

BARTLETT: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett at the White House.

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